Posted by: Dan | October 26, 2006

Rejecting False Judgments: Lk 6.37a

I was doing a bit of work in Lk 6 with an interlinear Greek/English New Testament and I was struck by an alternate translation of verse 37a. Generally, in our English translations, the verse reads something like this:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (emphasis added).

Now, the thing is, the verb that is translated into English as “will” can also be translated as “may.” Thus, an equally valid translation of the text would read like this:

“Do not judge, and you may not be judged; and do not condemn, and you may not be condemned” (emphasis added).

I believe that this translation better captures what Luke has Jesus saying in this passage. While the first translation (“will”) captures the future-element of what Jesus is saying, the second translation (“may”) captures the present-element of what Jesus is saying (while also retaining the future-element). In light of the Lukan emphasis upon the poor, the oppressed, and Jesus' solidarity with socio-religious outcasts, this second translation means that Jesus is essentially saying this:

“If you do not buy into the popular way of judging others, if you refuse to judge others by the social standards that continually dehumanise and marginalise others, then you too can refuse to be judged by those who wish to marginalise and dehumanise you. You can reject those judgments because you may not be judged and condemned — so long as you do not then impose such judgments on others. Do no judge and any judgments of you are invalid; do not condemn and it is not permissible for you to be condemned. You can refuse to give such judgment and condemnation any authority over you.”

This reading ties in well with Jesus' proclamation of forgiveness to sinners as sinners (and not as penitent sinners).

The Church today would do well to think on how these thoughts tie into the way in which she journeys and speaks with those who are judged, condemned, and called “sinners” today.

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