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Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

In Strong's Concordance we see πονηρός defined (in the primary sense) this way:

1) full of labours, annoyances, hardships

This word, ponēros, is translated "evil" in most versions, and "bad" ("as bad as you are") in the CEV. Why do translators so uniformly render this word as "evil," when it could be translated in the primary sense, as in

"If you then, who are full of labors, annoyances, and hardships, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

Is it possible that, traditional doctrine notwithstanding, Jesus could have been teaching about giving good gifts in spite of our troubles? We know that Jesus' compassion for the poor in their difficult lives was exemplary; did he really think that all people are evil and wicked, or just that in our harried and trudging existences, we make imperfect decisions, and miss the mark of our higher calling, to completely trust that God has our best interests at heart?

It seems clear that in many places Strong brings his own religious bias to his translations, rendering words and phrases according to established doctrine (e.g. "Satan", a proper name with an entire doctrine behind it, instead of ha-satan, "the adversary", a title for an office occupied by a messenger of God.) Could it be that early translators also made the mistake of eisegesis?

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Strong's is a concordance, not a lexicon. Your resource must be using Strong's to link to another lexicon. Be sure to check out meta.hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/642/423 to learn more about reliable, scholarly, up-to-date Greek-English lexica. –  Daи Aug 9 '13 at 22:24
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2 Answers 2

The Greek sentence fragment 'bad / to be' πονηροι οντες only occurs in two places in the Bible.

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34, ESV)

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11, ESV)

Bad πονηροι when used with respect to a person such as in the cases above it is rendered in the moral sense. For example here is each instance of πονηροι in Matthew in reference to a person/s.

Mt 5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Mt 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Mt 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Mt 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Mt 12:35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Mt 12:39 But he answered them,“ An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Mt 12:45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Mt 13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.

Mt 13:38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,

Mt 13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

Mt 16:4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

Mt 18:32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

Mt 22:10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Mt 25:26 But his master answered him,‘ You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?

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Yes, I suppose that someone will have to give me a more technical explanation. Yours begs the question of whether 'you bad be' is correct. You simply state that it is so, & you reason that it does not leave room for the other interpretation. Logically, it could just as easily be not 'you bad suffer,' but 'you suffer be.' Your assertion uses 'bad' as the constant instead of the variable. Also, exegetically, by your reasoning, Christ suffered & thereby increased in faith & goodness. We know that he was perfect in faith & goodness, & so needed no increase, so your assertion is not logical. –  Thomas Kemper Mar 11 '13 at 19:39
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@ThomasKemper - I understand your desire for a more technical term. Actually even though my answer is correct I am going to delete it as it is a lazy answer. If I gather a more technical response I will bring it back up. Cheers. –  Mike Mar 11 '13 at 23:03
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@ThomasKemper - I had a few minutes to kill and gave a technical response. –  Mike Mar 12 '13 at 15:47
    
Thanks, Mike. Although I still don't think the answer you originally gave was correct. Your logic was stilted. But, really. Thanks for the follow-up. –  Thomas Kemper Mar 13 '13 at 17:31
    
Thank you so much Mike for going through all that work. If anyone had any reservations of the meaning of poneroi... those reservations got canceled. Nice work! –  Joshua Robison May 1 '13 at 13:26
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An intuitive leap it came up in the communion reading today , I puzzled over it and thought to whom was Jesus really addressing this again my sense is the Pharisees in their hypocrisy , the word is referring to their religious egoic nature and their actual separateness from God , and in sense from which we can all suffer ie "i am a Christian, with attendant feelings of superiority masking the possibility for insight " by this reference he then defines evil in this context.

For me explanations are to be found not so much by a technical interpretation but through reflection and meditation I draw also from other Faiths Hinduism , Buddhism as well as from my own practices in Yoga , body work and meditation.

I do not feel Jesus was making a statement about Human nature in general , although he may have been , again if we take a similar stance . No I feel the tone of gospels is set by his opposition to the way the Pharisees nave been behaving , not in Faith but legalistically whilst inwardly being at odds with His father's Will, i.e. you brood of vipers , your father Satan and so on.

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The answers we want here stem from and work up from the text –  Jack Douglas Aug 9 '13 at 22:31
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