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Is Jesus referring to Matthew 12:30 and using it to explain Matthew 12:31 when He uses Διὰ τοῦτο? Or does the rest of Matthew 12:31 explain Matthew 12:30?

Matthew 12:30, 31 NIV

30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven

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  • dia tauto basically means due-to-this. It refers to the preceding reason.
    – Michael16
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 18:02

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We may get a clearer answer to this question by comparing it to Mark's account. I agree with @Dottard's answer concerning Matthew's version, but this is a little like looking at a object with only one eye, when you have two. In Matthew, Jesus' opponents are identified differently and, more importantly, his reason for saying what he did is also different.

Mark 3 NIV

28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.

The scene is the same: a crowded house where Jesus is speaking. His mother and brothers come to take him away, and the scene ends with the famous question: "who are my mother and my brothers."

Jesus' critics in Mark are not the Pharisees but the "teachers of the Law." (Personally I see this as a distinction without difference although some would not agree.) More importantly, in Mark, Jesus does not say "so I tell you" ( Διὰ τοῦτο) but "truly I say to you." (Ἀμὴν λέγω) The saying in Mark comes after Jesus' teaching about a house not being divided against itself, rather than after Matthew's "he who is not with me is against me." Moreover in Mark the narrator himself explains in the text verse: 'He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”' Matthew, on the other hand, portrays Jesus as referring to the statement "he who is not with me is against me."

Conclusion: Matthew reports Jesus saying something different than what Mark reports in this scene. So we do not know exactly what Jesus said, only what Matthew and Mark reported him to have said. The meaning of the saying is similar but there is also a difference: In Mark, Jesus said this in reference to the claim that he had (was possessed by) an unclean spirit. In Matthew he said it in reference to "he who is not with me is against me." Having two accounts of the same event enables us get a more complete picture, although it also creates a degree of uncertainty about why Jesus made this statement.

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  • "Matthew reports Jesus saying something different than what Mark reports in this scene.". Could it not be two different scenes? Jesus would have commented about the unforgivable sin many times, and the two authors recorded different instances of it. Commented Jul 8 at 13:54
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Grammatically in Matt 12:31, Διὰ τοῦτο ("because of this") refers to that which comes before. The Cambridge commentary is entirely correct when it observes:

Matthew 12:31. Διὰ τοῦτο] refers back to all that has been said since Matthew 12:25 : On this account—because, in bringing such an accusation against me, Matthew 12:24, you have as my enemies (Matthew 12:30) resisted the most undoubted evidence of the contrary (Matthew 12:25 ff.),—on this account I must tell you, and so on.

Ellicott explains just how the preceding made the Pharisees come close to the sin against the Spirit:

  1. The Pharisees were warned against a sin to which they were drawing perilously near. To condemn the Christ as a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, as breaking the Sabbath, or blaspheming when He said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” was to speak a word against the Son of Man. These offences might be sins of ignorance, not implying more than narrowness and prejudice. But to see a man delivered from the power of Satan unto God, to watch the work of the Spirit of God, and then to ascribe that work to the power of evil, this was to be out of sympathy with goodness and mercy altogether. In such a character there was no opening for repentance, and therefore none for forgiveness. The capacity for goodness in any form was destroyed by this kind of antagonism.
  2. We dare not say, and our Lord does not say it, that the Pharisees had actually committed this sin, but it was towards this that they were drifting. And in reference to later times, we may say that this is the ultimate stage of antagonism to God and to His truth, when the clearest proofs of divine power and goodness are distorted into evidence that the power is evil. The human nature in that extremest debasement has identified itself with the devil nature, and must share its doom.

The exclusion of the work of the Spirit from one's life, the only divine agency by which we are convicted of sin (John 16:8) and guided into truth (John 16:13), is to preclude the mechanism by which one becomes enlightened as the need to confess and draw near to God. Little wonder such a sin is unforgivable because without the Spirit, one does not sense sinfulness and the need of Christ.

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