Luke 16:9 ...Make to yourselves friends of the mammon

KJV Verse: 

Luk 16:9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Also I teach you [this]: Make your friends away from the security of dishonesty because when you might fall away, they would welcome you into perpetual play-acting.

Hidden Meaning: 

We will return to John next posting. We looked at this verse as a special request from a reader.

This verse can be translated one of two ways and the wordplay seems intentional. I suspect that how is was interpreted by Christ's listeners depended largely on his tone of voice.

The two meanings hinge of the word "ek," which, in this context can mean "from among" or "away from." So is Christ commanding us to make friends from among the dishonest or far from the dishonest? Actually, I think he chose to say both things at once to leave a little confusion in his listeners. this is because this is a "set up" line for the punchline that follows.

The punchline is fairly simple though it seems like all NT translations I'v seen miss the point.

First of all, it is a punchline. It was meant to be humorous. The signs are all over it.

Christ uses a couple of rare words, at least for him. It is the first time I have translated either of these words and I have gone through all of Matthew, Mark, and most of John and not seen them before. My sense is that his choice of unusual words is part of the humor here. The human is like when a comedian uses a fancy like "perspicacious" instead of a simple word like "smart."

First, the word translated as "fail" in the KJV and "fall away" in the translation is used for a couple of reasons. It echoes the problematic "ek" in the setup line, combining it with a word that means "fail" and "leave behind." Christ also chooses it to tie this line to the parable that he just told, where the steward is afraid of losing and leaving his position. It is a subtle way of suggesting departing from life as well as failing in life.

The word translated as "receive" is not a rare one. However, "receive" is a little misleading since it means "receive" in the sense of "welcome."

The other rare word is the one translated in "habitation" in the KJV and "dwelling" or "home" in other NT translations. All of this translations miss the entire point. If Christ had wanted to say dwelling or home, he would have used the word that he has used scores of times, oikia. Instead he uses a word he never uses.

This word used means "tent" but it has the specific meaning of a tent used for entertainment, especially plays. As such, it took on a second meaning of "acting" and "unreality." It is this second meaning that Christ intends. And he doesn't use in kindly.

Of course, you have to know what Christ thinks of actors. The Greek word for "actor" is what Christ always calls his critics. That word is "hypocrite." In English, hypocrite means saying one thing while doing another, but it took this meaning from Christ's use of it in the NT. In Greek, it means simply "actor." Christ accuses his critics of pretending to be good when they really aren't.

What Christ suggest he is that if you make friends among the dishonest, you enter into a new life of perpetually playing pretend.

Of course, the NT always translated aionios as "eternal" so in the KJV it looks like he is referring to the afterlife, but that translation is misleading. The word actually means "life-long" and "for an age" so came to mean "perpetual". Here, it isn't clear if Christ is describing just the rest of a person's life or the afterlife.

Vocabulary: 

Καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ἐγὼ "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least", "for my part", "indeed," and for myself.

ὑμῖν "Say" is from legô (lego) means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," but it used to mean "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," nominate," and "command."

λέγω, "To you" is from humas (humas) and humôn (humon), which are the plural forms of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ἑαυτοῖς "Yourselves" is from heautou, is a reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself", "itself" "themselves," and "ourselves." It is an alternative to autos.

ποιήσατε (2nd pl aor imperat act "Make" is from poieô ( poieo), which means "to make", "to produce", "to create", "to bring into existence", "to bring about", "to cause", "to render", "to consider", "to prepare", "to make ready," and "to do."

φίλους "Friends" is from philos, which as an adjective means "loved", "beloved", "dear", "kith and kin", "nearest and dearest", "friends," and (of things) "welcome" and "pleasant."

ἐκ "From" is from ek, which means 1) [of motion] "out of", "from", "by", "away from;" 2) [of place] "beyond", "outside of", "beyond;" 3) [of succession] "after", "from;" 4) [of rest] "on", "in," 5) [of time] "since", "from", "at", "in;" 5) [of materials] "out of", "made from."

τοῦ μαμωνᾶ "Mammon" is from mamonas, which is not from any Greek term. There is some debate about both its source and its meaning. The most accepted view is that it is from Aramaic mamona, "riches" or "wealth," probably from Hebrew mamon, "security", "that which is trusted," or "deposit" or Hebrew matmon, "treasure." The term comes possibly from Akkardian "mimmu" meaning "property." Though supposedly Mammon was the name of a Syriac god of wealth, there is little evidence for this. The idea that Mammon was the god of avarice seems to arise in a much later period, probably from Milton. The best sense of the word seems to be "putting your trust in wealth."

τῆς ἀδικίας "Of unrighteousness" is from adikia, which means "wrongdoing", "injustice", "a wrongful act," and "offence."

,ἵνα "That" is from hina (hina), which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

ὅταν "When" is from (hotan), which means "whenever (as a condition)," and "since (as a cause)."

ἐκλίπῃ (2rd or 3rd sg aor subj act) "Ye fail" is from ekleipo which means "leave out", "pass over", "forsake", "desert", "abandon", "fail one," [of the moon] "eclipse", "faint", "leave off", "cease", "be wanting", "be left", "remain," or "depart."

δέξωνται ( 3rd pl aor subj mid) "They may receive" is from dechomai, (dechomai) which means "welcome", "accept," and "entertain" when applied to people. (It means "take", "accept," and "receive" when applied to things.)

ὑμᾶς "You" is from humas (humas) and humôn (humon), which are the plural forms of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

εἰς "Into" is from eis (eis), which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."

τὰς αἰωνίους ."Everlasting" is from aiônios (aionios), which means "lasting for an age", "perpetual," and "eternal." From "aion" which is used in the bible to mean an "age."

σκηνάς "Habitations" is from skene, which means "tent", "booth", "home of a stage", "acting", "unreality," and "entertainment in a tent."

Related Verses: