Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:12

Matthew 7:12
“In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.”
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

Summarizing the Law

The sign on the auto dealer’s wall said, “We operate this business according to the Golden Rule.” I recall thinking skeptically, “I wonder if that rule reads ‘The one who has the gold makes the rules.’”

Which of these two golden rules is the one you honor? Which one did Jesus teach?

We have reached a watershed point in the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s verse summarizes “the ethics of discipleship”[1] that Jesus has presented up to this point. Jesus has described the righteousness that exceeds that taught by the scribes and Pharisees (5:20), and now he sums it up by this variant of the law of love for your neighbor.

Before discussing the details of the verse, I will compare two translations of it.

(NET) “In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.” [italics added] NIV 2011 is similar to NET Bible.

(HCSB) “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them— this is the Law and the Prophets.” [italics added]

Of the two translations, HCSB is closer to the Greek text of Matthew 7:12. Note carefully that HCSB begins with a disciple thinking about how they wish to be treated by others. In other words, the disciple first imagines a scenario about how they would prefer to be treated in the future. Only then does the focus turn to using that analysis to determine how to treat others. I want to be shown love, and so I show love to others.

We all know by experience that our showing love in human relationships does not always result in getting love in return. In spite of that fact, Jesus places his disciples under obligation to lead off with love. There is no bail-out point at which we get to switch tactics and start hating the other person. Recall that we have already been commanded to love our enemies (5:44).

According to R.T. France, “The common description of this saying as the ‘Golden Rule’ is traditionally traced to the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus (A.D. 222–35), who, though not a Christian, was reputedly so impressed by the comprehensiveness of this maxim of Jesus as a guide to good living that he had it inscribed in gold on the wall of his chamber.”[2]

HCSB is again more literal at the end of the verse by saying “this is the Law and the Prophets,” while NET leans a bit farther out to say “this fulfills the law and the prophets.”

The point is, if you want to be Jesus’ disciple, obeying this command is the place to start.

Seeking the minimum

Of course, the problem is that some Christians want to see the Golden Rule as the end of what Jesus requires of them. If you ask such a person if they are a Christian, they may say, “I try to live by the Golden Rule.” That probably means they also attend church on Easter but not otherwise!

The world has tried to distort the teaching of Jesus by replacing it with a cleverly-worded alternative: Do unto others before they do unto you! To the contrary, Jesus wants us to be loving and merciful, but we know that he did it for us first!

“But ‘when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.’” (Tit. 3:4–6)

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 282.

[2] France, Matthew, 284.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 2:24-25

Genesis 2:24-25

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.
(NET Bible)

First Family

Any counselor can tell you that the relationship with in-laws is one of the greatest stressors on many marriage relationships. Knowing the relative priorities of these relationships can save you a world of heartache.

But who has the wisdom and authority to set those priorities? What priorities have been set? What is the nature of the husband-wife relationship?

Genesis 2:24 is very familiar to many Christians who have heard some form of it used in wedding ceremonies. However, a Bible student must always be aware that the interpretation of such heavily used verses may have been shifted away from the original meaning toward a contemporary adaptation.

To begin understanding what the verse is saying, consider Gordon Wenhams historical input:

The traditional translation leaves suggests that the man moves from his parents and sets up home elsewhere, whereas in fact Israelite marriage was usually patrilocal, that is, the man continued to live in or near his parents home. . . . On marriage a mans priorities change. Beforehand his first obligations are to his parents: afterwards they are to his wife.[1]

The uniting of the man and woman is a powerful bond. The NET Bible Notes say, In this passage it describes the inseparable relationship between the man and the woman in marriage as God intended it.[2]

The NET Bibles shift from one flesh (KJV, ESV, RSV, NIV 1984, NIV 2011) to a new family seems to replace a powerful metaphor of marital unity with a much weaker abstraction. The semi-poetic nature of Genesis 1-11s language resists the incursion of such anachronistic language. Further, the Hebrew word for family does not occur here. Since the language here is figurative rather than idiomatic, there is not adequate justification for replacing the metaphor (one flesh) with the paraphrased abstraction (a new family).

Genesis 2:25 gives us a last, idyllic glimpse at the unaffected happiness of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden. The environment did not require clothing, and there was no other reason to have it; unfortunately, there would be a reason before long. Wenham says, They were like young children unashamed at their nakedness.[3] The man and woman are together with nothing to hide from one another; that too would soon change.

Victor Hamilton explains that the significance of nakedness changed over time: With the exception of this verse, nakedness in the OT is always connected with some form of humiliation.[4] In Genesis 3 we will find out why.

The verb used for the phrase they were not ashamed needs clarification due to cultural differences between us and the ancient Israelites. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, [The English phrase] to be ashamed stresses the inner attitude, the state of mind, while the Hebrew means to come to shame and stresses the sense of public disgrace, a physical state.[5] With our current cultural stress on individualism, we find it less natural to think of shame as a public status rather than a private feeling.

With sadness we look back to a lost Eden that we might have inherited. But our sorrow gives way to joy in knowing that we can regain all that was lost and much more through faith in Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 70.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 2:24.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 71.

[4] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 181.

[5] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980) 1:97, bosh, to be ashamed, q.v.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 2:21-23

Genesis 2:21-23

21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the mans side and closed up the place with flesh.
22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23
Then the man said, This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken out of man.
(NET Bible)

A really big moment!

In 1970 an obscure Australian student said, A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.[1] Really? If true, that would mean it is good for woman to be alone, even though we already know it is not good for man. That seems an unbiblical conclusion, to say the least!

God was not compelled to create the man and woman for close companionship with each other. Why did he do so? How does Gods creative intention affect us in our attempt to please him?

The deep sleep which God brings upon Adam (Gen. 2:21) occurs rarely in the Bible, and it is not well understood. The standard Hebrew lexicon says it is not only an unusually deep sleep . . . but also a sleep which marks an event as one of the high-points of the actions of Yahweh.[2] The creation of woman is one such high point; others are the making of a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:12), revelations from God to Daniel through an angel (Dan. 8:18, 10:9), Jonahs sleep during the great storm (Jon. 1:5), and a famous encounter of David and Saul (1 Sam. 26:12). The mystery remains as deep as the sleep. But in Genesis 2 we can understand why Adam needed deep sleep!

The NET Bible bravely deviates from saying God used one of the ribs (KJV, ESV, RSV, NASB, NIV 1984, NIV 2011) from the man to make the woman (Gen. 2:21b). Old Testament scholar Victor Hamilton says, Gen. 2:21 is the only place in the OT where the modern versions render this [Hebrew] word as rib.[3] They do so due to the power of the King James Version in setting peoples expectations in familiar passages. NIV 2011 only had the courage to put the correct translation in a footnote.

Instead of following the pack, NET offers he took part of the mans side and closed up the place with flesh. In support of this choice the NET translators say: Traditionally translated rib, the Hebrew word actually means side. The Hebrew text reads, and he took one from his sides, which could be rendered part of his sides. That idea may fit better the explanation by the man that the woman is his flesh and bone. The argument is convincing.

Using a verb suitable for a potter, God fashioned Adam from the earth (Gen. 2:7). In Genesis 2:22 the language figuratively shifts to that for a builder when God literally builds Eve from the tissue taken from Adam. Then, in what must have been an unforgettable scene, God presents the woman to Adam.

In Genesis 2:23 — Then the man said, This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken out of man — Adam sounds awestruck, does he not? By expressing his words in poetry, the author captures the emotion of the moment. The phrase at last conveys Adams relief in finding his companion from the vast array of life he has examined.

Concerning the phrase bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Hamilton says:

[The phrase] speaks not of a common birth but of a common, reciprocal loyalty. Thus when representatives of the northern tribes visit David at Hebron and say to him, we are your bone and flesh (2 Sam. 5:1), this is not a statement of relationship (we have the same roots) but a pledge of loyalty (we will support you in all kinds of circumstances).[4]

The next important issue is whether the fact that the man names the woman means he has authority over her. We agree with the NET Bible Notes, which answer no:

Some argue that naming implies the mans authority or ownership over the woman here. Naming can indicate ownership or authority if one is calling someone or something by ones name and/or calling a name over someone or something (see 2 Sam. 12:28; 2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 4:1; Jer. 7:14; 15:16), especially if one is conquering and renaming a site. But the idiomatic construction used here . . . does not suggest such an idea.[5]

The reader is already aware that almost every verse in the early chapters of Genesis is awash with thorny issues of interpretation and theology. We have only begun to face the challenges of this amazing book!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Irina Dunn, a student at the University of Sydney (Australia) in 1970.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) tardemah, deep sleep, q.v.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 178.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 180.

[5] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 2:23.