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To whoever has more will be given
Matthew 13:12; 25:29 Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 19:26

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"For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance. But whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even that which he has" (Matthew 13:12)

This sounds like late 20th century capitalism with a redistribution of income from the rich to the richer rather than to the poor. Its actually closer to an unattributed 16th century proverb "Money makes money". Our response to the biblical revelation question as it is to the moneyed one is that it simply is not fair "to give to him who has and take from him who has not", Robin Hood redistribution in reverse.

Mark's context speaks of hearing, Luke's of things being revealed, although in Luke 19:26 the phrase occurs again attached to the Parable of the Minas where the person with one mina did not invest but hid the mina and had it taken away from him and given to the one who had ten minas. In Matthew's context it has to do with understanding, he who understands some will go on to understand more and receive the fruit of that understanding, eternal life; whilst he who understands nothing will receive nothing and even his life will eventually be taken from him.

The saying is typically Jewish as these Rabbinic citations demonstrate:

"He who does not increase his knowledge decreases it" (Mishnah, Pirqe Abôth 1.13)

"Observe how the character of the Holy One, blessed be He, differs from that of flesh and blood. A mortal can put something into an empty vessel but not into a full one, but the Holy One, blessed be He, is not so, He puts more into a full vessel but not into an empty one." (Babylonian Talmud, Berakôth, 40a; Sukkah 46a)

Perhaps the images here are that God will keep filling a full cup so that it continued to overflow whereas am empty cup cannot be filled at all unless it has its cover or lid taken off to allow filling in the first place.

"A woman asked rabbi Jose ben Chalaphta: 'what is the meaning of the verse 'He gives wisdom to the wise' (Daniel 11:21)? The text should say, surely, that He gives wisdom to them that are not wise and knowledge to them that are without understanding'. He answered her: 'I will explain it with a parable: If two people come to borrow money from you, one rich and the other poor, to whom would you lend, the richer or the poor?' She replied: 'to the rich man'. 'Why?' he asked. To which she answered: "Because he has the wherewithal to repay me, but if the poor man loses my money from where can he repay me?' He said to her: 'Do your ears hear what you have uttered with your mouth? If the Holy One, blessed be He, gave wisdom to fools, they should sit and meditate upon Torah in privies, theatres and bath-houses, but the Holy One, blessed be He, gave wisdom to the wise, who sit and meditate upon it in synagogues and houses of study, hence He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to them that know understanding.'" (Midrash to Ecclesiastes, Koh. Rabbah, 1.7)

The quotation above is very apt and is similarly explained with a rabbinic parable in the style of Jesus. Here, lending is to the rich since they have proved trustworthy and excellent at managing their finances and are likely to be able to repay, only a philanthropist or welfare state would give to those with no capacity to repay. Close to Matthew's usage the parable is an explanation of why the wise grow in God-given understanding and the foolish remain lost in their ignorance.

The instance below refers to the Serpent in Eden and how he lost what he even thought was his to keep - his legs!

"R. Issi and R. Hoshaya in the name of R. Hiyya the Elder said four things: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him [the serpent]: 'I made thee that thou shouldest be king over all cattle and beasts, but thou wouldst not have it; therefore, MORE CURSED ART THOU, etc.; I made thee that thou shouldest go upright like man, but thou wouldst not; hence, UPON THY BELLY SHALT THOU GO; I made thee that thou shouldst eat the food of man, but thou wouldst not; hence, AND EARTH SHALT THOU EAT; thou didst desire to kill the man [Adam] and take his wife: therefore, AND I WILL PUT AN ENMITY BETWEEN THEE AND THE WOMAN'. Thus what he desired was not given him, and what he possessed was taken from him." (Midrash to Genesis, Ber. Rabbah, 20.5)

Another reference in the Talmud similarly refers to the Serpent in Eden and continues with:

"Similarly do we find it with Cain, Korah, Balaam, Doeg, Ahitophel, Gehazi, Absalom, Adonijah, Uzziah and Haman, who set their eyes upon that which was not proper for them; what they sought was not granted to them and what they possessed was taken from them." (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah, 9b)

These serve to illustrate the argument that a disciple's understanding should and does grow but "to those outside" illumination may be just as far away as ever. On a separate basis Jesus did indeed talk about giving to those who cannot return and hence not expecting it back (Luke 6:30; 14:12), and he also praised God that he had revealed wisdom to babes and not to the apparently wise who actually turned out to be fools (Luke 10:21).

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Monday, November 30th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. The "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at

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