Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Thursday, January 16

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 BiblicalTraining.org 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”?

Comments

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)