Now You See It, Now You Don't: Ethical Reflections on a Textual Variant in Matthew Six

James H. Burtness

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 4/1/1986

Issue: The Way of the Christian (Vol. 6, No 2, Spring, 1986)

The first eighteen verses of chapter six of Matthew consist of a preface, a triad of highly- structured exhortations, and a parenthesis which includes the Lord’s Prayer. The preface warns against practicing one’s piety in public in order to be seen doing it. The exhortations about almsgiving and praying and fasting advise strongly that these pieties should be practiced in secret. It is stated in each case that the piety practiced in secret will be seen by the God who sees in secret, and that this God “will reward you” (6:4, 6, 18). The full stop is placed, rather abruptly, precisely there. Had the rhythm of the last sentence of each exhortation been allowed to follow its natural course, it would have stated that the piety should be practiced in secret, and that the God who sees in secret will reward you in secret.

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