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Yeshua in Context » Applying the Gospels, DHE (Delitzsch Gospels), Idioms, Spectacular Commentary, Study Tips, Teaching of Yeshua » DHE Nuggets: Whole Eye vs. Evil Eye

DHE Nuggets: Whole Eye vs. Evil Eye

DHE stands for Delitszsch Hebrew English Gospels, which you can see here. The “whole eye vs. evil eye” is a reference to Matthew 6:22-23.

Here is how the RSV (Revised Standard Version) translates this saying of Yeshua:

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

For reasons I will argue below, this translation is definitely substandard.

In my opinion, the worst translation of the verse is the NET version (New English), though I do like a lot of things about the NET. But their books are all translated by different scholars with little consistency in translation philosophy. I think they did harm on this verse:

The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

The CJB (Complete Jewish Bible and also the Jewish New Testament) does much better, but loses any illusion of close translation by paraphrasing:

‘The eye is the lamp of the body.’ So if you have a ‘good eye’ [that is, if you are generous] your whole body will be full of light; but if you have an ‘evil eye’ [if you are stingy] your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

The nice thing about the CJB here is that the reader gets help understanding the idiom (the good eye = generosity) and this interpretation is, in my opinion as argued below, correct.

The strangest is the King James, but then perhaps in Elizabethan English “single” had some denotation I am not familiar with:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Here are some comments I have written about Matthew 6:22-23 and then I will talk about Delitzsch’s choice of Hebrew words in his translation and how the DHE helps readers see a meaning within the orbit of Jewish discussion and terminology (as it should be):

The saying about the eye as the lamp of the body is hard for moderns to grasp. It is evident that Yeshua, and the ancients, are thinking of the eye as giving light and not just receiving it. Yeshua combines the idea of bright eyes (a sign of goodness) with the opposing idea of an evil eye, one that curses and does not bless others (the evil eye is an idiom for a curse). Yeshua teaches his disciples that their eyes should be filled with generosity and devotion to good deeds. A person with shining eyes has an interior light, their whole being is good. So with the eyes we see the needs of others and bless, but with bad eyes, darkness issues from the body and continues the world’s curse.

Now, on the Delitzsch’s translation via the English rendering in the DHE:

The lamp of the body is the eye, and if your eye is whole, your entire body will be illuminated. But if your eye is evil, your entire body will be darkened — and if the light within you is darkened, how great is the darkness!

The DHE’s whole translates תמים or “without blemish.” In the preface to the DHE, the editors thought perhaps Delitzsch should have chosen a term more familiar from rabbinic writings (“beautiful eye” instead of “whole eye”). On the other hand, Delitzsch’s choice of “whole eye” relates the saying of Yeshua to the sacrificial terminology, the offerings of animals that are “whole” or “without blemish.”

As for “evil eye,” you are probably familiar with the idea of a person with an evil eye, one who has the ability to curse and looks at people in order to curse them. It does not matter whether the curse has any valid power behind it. The motive of an evil eye is enough to suggest a great darkness within us when we choose to wish others ill.

So, following the DHE, I think we see a great contrast, a moving lesson.

The generous person is “whole,” even “without blemish” before God. The one who denounces, speaks rudely, and wishes ill of others is filled with darkness.

Generosity erases many sins. Having an evil eye toward others erases many good deeds.

And the DHE helps us, in the limited way a translation can, as opposed to a commentary. Matthew 6:22-23 is another reason I use the DHE and value it.

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Filed under: Applying the Gospels, DHE (Delitzsch Gospels), Idioms, Spectacular Commentary, Study Tips, Teaching of Yeshua

One Response to "DHE Nuggets: Whole Eye vs. Evil Eye"

  1. Although I really enjoy the insights from the DHE, this particular passage is actually one with which I am disappointed. For some reason, Delitzsch has chosen a more theologically biased translation (תמים) over the more accurate and theologically correct translation of טוב (tov, “good”).

    There are numerous passages within the Tanach that use either the Hebrew idiom “good eye” (symbolizing generosity) or “bad eye” (symbolizing greediness). In last week’s parasha (Deut 15:9) says that when a fellow Israel slave is release, one is to send him away with material possessions, and be cautious against “your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother.” The Hebrew phrase for “your eye look grudgingly” is ורעה עינך (literally “and your eye is evil”).

    Proverbs 23:6 uses the phrase רע עין (“evil eye”) to refer to a man who is “stingy.”

    Proverbs 22:9 uses the phrase טוב עין (“good eye”) to refer to someone who is generous.

    This is a common Hebrew idiom that fits the context of the Matthean teaching of Yeshua (verses 19-23 are all in the context of material treasures vs. spiritual treasures). However, we’ve super-spiritualized this phrase and therefore miss the true & simple meaning.

    FYI – In regard to the KJV’s translation of “single” it is the more literal translation of the Greek ἁπλόος (haploos) from the Textus Receptus, which literally means “simple” (which the KJV translators must have associated with being the opposite of “duplicity”).

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