Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Case of the Missing Object (Matt 5:25)

I have been enjoying reading the CSB, the new version of the former HCSB. Tom Schreiner and his group of translators have done an excellent job at updating an already good translation.

I was reading in Matt 5 this morning and came across v 22. “Everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment (κρίσει). Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court (συνεδρίῳ). Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire (τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός).”

The progression of the three punishments has always been a difficult exegetical decision. But as I was reading on, it actually became a little more difficult. In v 25 Jesus says, “Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court (ὅτου εἶ μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ), or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.” Notice that ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ (“on the way”) has no object, and the CSB has added, “to the court.”

This is not a bad practice in and of itself since Greek is quite comfortable leaving out objects that English requires. If you simply say, “Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him,” the problem is that “on the way” leaves a huge question in the reader’s mind. What “way”?

This is why most translations add in something. The NIV adds “who is taking you to court” to the preceding phrase: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court” (see also the NLT). Most add “to court” (ESV, NRSV, NET) as does the CSB.

The problem of adding “to court” is that is creates a false concordance with “court” (συνέδριον) in v 22, and the untrained reader may use “court” in v 25 to define “court” in v 22.

I am not sure there is a solution to this conundrum since “Sanhedrin” (συνέδριον) can designate a governing board and not just the high council (see BDAG), and so you don’t want to use “Sanhedrin” in v 22.

Catch 22.


Hi Bill, Thanks for your insight. Might the solution be to leave out the object in v 25 and actually provoke the "huge question in the reader's mind"? You ask, "What 'way'?" Precisely. That is an interesting question that seems worth exploring, especially since the answer seems unclear in the Greek and (as you mention) 'court' poses its own set of issues.

The believer has to reach settlement with each of the adversaries. It should not be a judgement of which adversary to settle with.a settlement.

My sense is that no addition is required, and I don't see the need for an object in English. The where we are going is unimportant. If we are out and about and someone chooses to be our adversary, we must agree with them quickly to avoid entanglements. That is all I see the Savior saying here. The where we are going is pointless, at least in my mind.

Why do some translators & publishers assume their readers are stupid? Only God can judge the heart... is this a language problem, or a cultural conundrum?

Why do you assume that publishers assume people are "stupid"? Translations have to make sense; this is what translations do, and transitive verbs require an object in English.

I think that not addition is needed if the translation of ἀντίδικος is correct. This word doesn't mean just a simple enemy, but a plaintiff that is going with the person to initiate a lawsuit against the other one. If that is understood, in the translation of that word, it is automatically understood too that they are on the way to the court.

By including court into the verse, will make this verse meaning reference at a legal matter only (hint...court). However the whole passage must be considered and you call see why the Holy Spirit did not have Matthew to write it. It all started with Jesus saying, you have heard that it was said...thou shall not kill. Jesus is hitting us right in the self-righteous hearts. Inner anger...Agree with your adversary quickly, the quickly speaks of right not in the heat of the moment so anger will lead to sin...however, most are unable to agree with someone after they establish that we are in disagreement. This also speaks against the pride that lead men into sin. So in the way speaks of while we in the heat of it. This is way no object is listed here...In the way, is the state that the attitude is in, that if goes uncheck will lead to sin...thinking in your heart evil about your adversary, which will ultimately lead to either of the three judgement. However, someone who is filled with and empower by the Holy Spirit will not continue down this path and eventually make the right decision. So please remove court from this verse.