In the previous blog I discussed the idiom “evil eye.” Now I will focus on the idiom that is used in parallel to it – good eye.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If you have a good eye, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22)
In the Greek text we find it is the phrase o ofqalmoV sou aplouV that creates a problem for translators. It proves to be a more difficult challenge than evil eye was for many translators. Below are the different ways they translated the Greek phrase above.
● eye be single (King James Version)
● eye be true (Basic Bible in English)
● eyesight is good (Weymouth New Testament)
● eye is sound (World English Bible)
● eye may be perfect (Young’s Literal Translation)
● eyes are healthy (New International Version)
No wonder people get confused when they read English translations of Yeshua’s words. Let’s do a quick review of the linguistic basics I discussed in the previous blog because they apply to this study too. The above options present readers with options that mean from “poor eyesight” to “an evil power.” The more you learn about how words work (take a moment to read this if you haven’t), the more amazed you will become about how much theology affects “educated scholars” when it comes to the words of the Bible.
Culturally correct meanings are the meanings that best reflect the ancient author’s culture. We think, act, and communicate in ways that are primarily predetermined by our cultures. We did not choose our culture any more than we chose our parents and were immediately immersed in our culture the day we were born.
Yeshua’s culture was the Jewish culture of the Late Second Temple Period. If translators looked there first for the meanings of his words, there wouldn’t be hundreds of English translations of the Bible and thousands of Christian denominations.
We all use idioms when we speak – and so did Yeshua. Every language is laden with idioms and euphemisms. They are words that cannot be translated literally into another language. They usually create some very difficult situations for both Bible readers and translators.
● An idiom is a word or phrase that cannot be translated literally into another language and the meaning of it cannot be understood by defining its component parts. The underlined phrase is the idiom -- He really put his foot in his mouth this time.
● A euphemism is the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. The underlined phrase is the euphemism – Do you want to go powder your nose?
Think about what someone from another culture and language would think if they took the words literally of the idiom and euphemism in the above examples. What if that person translated them into his or her language? This why it is good to use resources, like our BHC Bible Tools, that provide you with multiple English translations of the Bible for you to use in your Bible studies. If you encounter a word or phrase that is translated multiple ways, there is a chance that it might be an idiom or euphemism.
When it comes to the words of Yeshua, the primary source to use to find the accurate meaning of an idiom or euphemism is the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). When an idiom is used in a parallelism, we can unlock its meaning by locating the word or words used in parallel with it. Below is a parallelism that contains the idiom “good eye.”
He that has a good eye shall be blessed;
for he gives his bread to the poor.[i]
As we saw in the last blog, a good method for working with parallelisms is to make the first part of the parallelism a question and use the second part to answer it.
Question: Who is the one that has a “good eye?”
Answer: It is the one who “gives his bread to the poor.”
In the above verse, a person with a “good eye” is a “generous person that gives his bread to the poor.” A person with a good eye is one that helps the needy. Now let’s update Jesus’s words with the culturally accurate information for the meanings of good eye and evil eye.
The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if you are a generous person that gives to the poor your whole body will be full of light. But if you are a stingy or greedy person who gives his poor needy brother nothing, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)
In the next blog I will discuss the terms light and darkness.
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