6

Closely Related:
- In Luke 16 : Are the Uses of "Mammon" Contradictory, in the Same Context?


1. Question - Historical Interpretation And Lexical Semantics :

  1. How is "Mammon" understood in Greek literature?
  2. If "Mammon" appears in Hebrew or Aramaic literature, how is it understood?
  3. Should "Mammon" really be interpreted as wealth?

Note: Philology: Comparative Linguistics based on historical texts, (to derive meaning, in this case).

Please do not copy/paste concordance definitions - it defeats the point of this question - which is to validate those concordance definitions.


2. The Text, and Issue :

In Matthew, and Luke - both contexts seem to contradict interpretations that "Mammon" is actually "Wealth" :

NASB, Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and [mammon (wealth???)].

NASB, Luke 16:9 - And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the [mammon, (wealth???)] of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.

  • See מאמינם 'the believing ones' . He says: take no thought of your life.. not your money. You cannot serve God and self.. even if you are a believing one. <-- yeah , minority opinion. – Bob Jones Dec 27 '17 at 19:27
  • @BobJones - You know I love minority opinions - if there are enough "bread crumbs" (evidences) that might lead a person to that conclusion, (right or wrong). It might still be a great / valid answer. I happen to think that knowing even the wrong answers is great - if the answer can make sense. It helps rethink things. Though, this question is entirely different from, "How should Mammon be interpreted, in this context". – elika kohen Dec 28 '17 at 20:26
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The word is Aramaic (ממון in Hebrew script) and means something like "wealth". μαμωνᾶς is simply the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic word. Here is Jastrow's entry for it:

mamon-jastrow

It appears throughout the Targumim - Aramaic translations/paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures written in Aramaic script. The Greek word appears only 4 times in the New Testament (in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), but not at all in the Septuagint, suggesting that it does not relate to any pure Hebrew word. Augustine (Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount II.14) had speculated that the word was either Carthaginian ("Punic") or "of the Hebrews", while Jerome thought the word was from the "Syrians" (Letter XXII) - both somewhat on the mark.

From what I can determine, these are some of the occurrences in the Targum:

Exodus 15:9 (Cairo Geniza Targumic Fragment MS G)

דַּהֲוָה אַמָר סַנְאָה אֶרְּדֹּוף אַדבִיק בִתקֹוף יְדִי אֵפַלִּיג בִזְּתָא מָמֹונָא וּכְסֹותָא ומָן דִכְסָף וְמָן דִּדְהַב לְהַעֲדִי תִשְׂבָע מנּהֹון נַפשִי כַד אַקִּיף עְָלֵיהֹון בְחֵילֵי וְבִגְדֹודִי אֶשלֹוף חַרבִי תְשִיצָנּוּן יְדִי

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’

Exodus 18:21 (Targum Neofiti)

ואת תחמי מכל עמא גברין גברי חיל דחלין מן קדם ייי גברין קושטנין סניין ממונא דשיקרא ותשוי עליהון רברבני אלפין ורברבני מאוון ורברבני חמשן ורברבני עשרה׃

Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.

1 Chronicles 26:24 (Codex Urbaniti/Targum Chronicles)

ושבואל הוא יונתן בר גרשם בר משה תב לדחלתא דייי וכד חמא דוד דהוה מתבהיל על ממונא מנייה נגידא על תסבריא׃

And Shebuel the son of Gershom, son of Moses, was chief officer in charge of the treasuries.

Jeremiah 22:17 (Mikraot Gedolot HaKeter edition/Targum Jonathan to the Prophets)

אֲרֵי לֵית עֵינָך וְלִיבָך אֲלָהֵין עַל מָמֹונָא לְמֵינַס וְעַל דַם זַכַי לְמִשפַך וְעַל עֻשקָא וְעַל דְבִרעוּת נַפשָך לְמַעֲבַד׃

But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.

I understand that these are translations out of the Masoretic Text (I show the RSV), so I am making some assumptions about what matches what is in the Targum.

I have no idea how to determine whether the word is used in any secular Aramaic/Syriac works that have been written. I also searched the Perseus search engine and found absolutely no use of the Greek transliteration in any secular Greek works.

  • 1
    Thanks! +1 A.) Could you point out which Targum? Onkelos, Neofiti, Jonathan, etc; B.) If okay, I can go back and add citations/links from sefaria.org/texts/Tanakh, (at the bottom). Thank you again. – elika kohen Mar 9 '17 at 3:14
  • I added what I think is the correct source. Practically everything I know about the Targum I just learned researching your question, so there is a little bit of the monkey at the typewriter. Feel free to edit however you want. – user33515 Mar 9 '17 at 3:22
2

māmōnā with the meanings “wealth” and “money” is found in most dialects of Middle Aramaic (Judaean, Jewish Babylonian, Christian Palestinian, Samaritan, Syriac and Mandaic). The fact that it occurs in Mandaic, and also in Syriac secular texts, shows that it is not an exclusively Christian/Jewish usage.

References are readily found in the online Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon entry.

-1

This is not really an answer, i'm just not sure why in the original examples "both contexts seem to contradict interpretations that "Mammon" is actually "Wealth" - they both seem to fit fine to me! Interesting though that Mammon isn't necessarily a "God of money" as i had originally learned, and which i think developed centuries later, in that it seems to be just a regular word (as with most Biblical words), which means wealth and so could be used in the same variety of ways such as "a wealth of knowledge" or even a "wealth of poverty" if one wanted to be ironic(?).

The phrase in Matt 24 "You cannot serve God and mammon" doesn't necessarily mean we can't have wealth, just that we can't serve it over God; God has to be first, partly because he may ask us to give it up, or to others.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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