Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An Article About Jesus And Anger In The Baylor Series

Stephen Voorwinde, author of Jesus' Emotions in the Gospels (Bloombury 2011), has a chapter in Baylor University's Christian Reflection series on anger, published in 2014. The title of his chapter is "Jesus and Anger: Does He Practice What He Preaches?" (available here). Since Dave Black and I published our update on the textual issue in Matt. 5:22a back in 2013 (available here), I figured I would just make a few quick comments in light of this article in the Baylor series.

The textual issue in Matt. 5:22 (whether Jesus condemns all anger or just unjustified anger) is extremely important. Failure to at least comment on this textual issue in Matt. 5:22, especially when someone is dealing with the emotions of Jesus, is really inexcusable. Believe it or not, Stephen Voorwinde did not mention the issue in his book, which is why Dave and I didn't mention it in our analysis of "what the scholars are saying" back in 2013. This unfortunate oversight––I hope it was an oversight––came as a surprise to me given Voorwinde's topic and the fact that he mentions textual issues in other places––both in the LXX and the NT. He discusses a textual issue, for example, in Luke 18:24. Not even a footnote was given to the issue in Matt. 5:22 though.

When I saw the article in the Baylor series, I was obviously interested to see if, by some chance, Voorwinde would discuss the issue and, if so, what he might say. Obviously, given the fact that he commented not a word in his book on Jesus' emotions, I figured he probably landed his plane in the same place most do, that the word εἰκῇ was unoriginal. He did say something about the textual issue. Here's what he wrote:
"One of Jesus' genuinely 'hard sayings' is found in the Sermon on the Mount, 'I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment' (Matthew 5:22a). From as early as the second century Christian scribes sought to soften this statement by adding the phrase 'without cause,' a reading that has been retained by both the King James and the New King James translations. Popular as this addition has become, it is unlikely to have been original. [Footnote placed here] Jesus does not qualify anger in this way. He is not referring to anger 'without cause,' but to anger pure and simple. His claim is stark and absolute. Anger will lead to judgment." (30)
The footnote (marked in the text above) reads as follows: "Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition (Stuttgart , Germany: United Bible Societies, 1994), 11." And here is the paragraph in Metzger that Voorwinde references: "Although the reading with εἰκῇ is widespread from the second century onwards, it is much more likely that the word was added by copyists in order to soften the rigor of the precept, than omitted as unnecessary."

I'm pleased to see that Voorwinde mentions the early nature of the reading that includes εἰκῇ. A lot of people fail to mention this when they talk about Matt. 5:22a. The reading is quite early. And we have to acknowledge that, as Voorwinde does. Metzger mentions that it is "widespread" as well, though if all you read were the Baylor series, you might think that it's only as widespread as the KJV and NKJV.

Voorwinde has to wrestle with the issue of how anger can equal sin and then what implications there are for the anger Jesus exhibits during his life and ministry. This is the most interesting part of the paper. I don't want to give it all away, but I'll share the first example with you. Remember when Jesus goes flip mode in the temple and drives out the vendors and money-changers? Well, it looks like there was a little more calculation and a little less just flipping out at what he saw. Peter mentions how Jesus went straight to the temple upon entering Jerusalem. He observed everything going on, did not react, but waited until the following day to return. Voorwinde writes, "Far from being an expression of uncontrolled rage, Jesus' actions in the temple are well thought through and carefully premeditated" (31). Guess what, though . . . Voorwinde says Jesus wasn't angry in the temple. So what was he? Zealous (see John 2:17). Voorwinde is correct that the authors of the Gospels do not specifically name an emotion when Jesus does this. True. But it's not that hard to figure out what emotion it is, and building a case on semantics is weak in my opinion. Voorwinde discusses Mark 3:1–6 as well, which specifically calls attention to Jesus' anger. If anger means judgment, then how can Jesus be angry? Or, like Voorwinde asks, does Jesus live up to his own high standard? You can go read the ending.

I'm not convinced. And part of the reason why I don't give more consideration to this argument is because it begins with a weak discussion of the textual evidence. I actually think we need to start there, and I think we ought to do a little more than just quote Metzger. For example, what about the fact that the reading without εἰκῇ is restricted to a single geographical region? You have to wrestle with that issue.

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