Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

I Need Your Help with “Purse” (Luke 12:33)

I need to find a different word than “moneybags” in Luke 12:33, but I am drawing a blank. Can you help me?

I need to find a different word than “moneybags” in Luke 12:33. Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give alms. Make for yourselves moneybags (βαλλάντια) that do not wear out, a treasure unfailing in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

BDAG glosses βαλλάντιον as money-bag, purse. I suspect the closest thing we have today to a βαλλάντιον is a fanny pack. See the article on Purse at the library.

βαλλάντιον occurs three other times in the New Testament, all with the same basic meaning.

  • “Purse” sounds too feminine, and the NLT’s “purses of heaven,” while softening the feminine image, really doesn’t make much sense to me.
  • “Money-bag” is too old and reminds me of a “saddle-bag.”
  • “Fanny pack” is too colloquial.
  • The KJV “bags” is too non-descript.
  • Is “wallet” too modern a term?

Unless I hear otherwise, I would have to go with “money-bag” since you can parse its meaning from the two words. Or should it be “moneybag”?


I think moneybag is best even though I don't really like the term either. Wallet is too modern, and fanny pack would make me roll my eyes if I read that in a modern translation.

How do you feel about the NASB's "money-belt"? When you say "purse' sounds feminine, the word is used when referring to the 'public purse'. Bruce

I hadn't noticed it. Actually, it is pretty good. And it is in use today.

That's a great suggestion.

A very interesting conundrum. I heard somewhere that bible translation projects strive for consistency of prose which employs consistency of language. So that would dictate that the English translation of the Greek be consistent with the surrounding vocabulary, where possible. The etymology of wallet indicates it is a fairly recent word (late 14th century?). Back then it was common to carry coins (no bills yet) in a little pouch either tied to one's waist band or hidden somewhere. The use of moneybag, purse, money pouch all fit in with something Jesus might have said. But then there is the issue of the vocabulary of the writer and whether Jesus was speaking in Greek or Aramaic. Since this seems to be addressed to a larger audience Jesus was probably speaking in Greek. I have confidence in his fluency. And the writer (Luke) was equally fluent. So I would go with wallet or money belt if the surrounding language was more contemporary (NASB translates as money belt)

How about, “make for yourselves bags to hold money” or “make bags for your money” or “make bags to hold your money”.

By definition, 1. a small bag for money, 2. resources, funds or a sum of money offered as a prize.. Synonyms: bag, handbag, pocketbook. Per Merriam Webster. I've always carried a little change-purse thing to hold loose change and maybe a small bill or two. Far more convenient than keeping it loose in a pocket. And at the Scottish Games or RenFair when wearing the 'great kilt' you fold portions of the garment under your belt to "make" pockets of a sort - and there a small bag to hold your funds makes a lot of sense. I'd stick with Purse or Moneybag and let a person read the text notes.

Carried one for at least 50 years now. Worked great for a kid, and still does/ Easier to spot when falling out of a pocket when hanging from a tree branch by your knees, etc. Feminine? Masculine? Do they have little genitalia attached so you can tell? Hah! A purse is neither feminine or masculine - anyone may use one. They are manufactured items. Everyone knows what a purse is and may use one if they wish. I carry both a wallet and a coin purse. Usually the plastic squeeze coin purse type, but I have no problem whatsoever using a little change purse like my grandmother used. Just put words like that in a small dictionary at the back of the Bible. Interested folk may look it up and understand.