Re: What is the meaning of "worthy" in Matthew 8.8

From: Antonio Eduardo Costa Pereira (
Date: Fri Apr 09 1999 - 21:55:40 EDT

Margaret Catambay wrote:
> I am interested finding out the root meaning of "worthy" in Matthew 8.8
> where the Centurion says, "I am not worthy."

Dear Madam.

I am C. Navarro, using Dr. Costa's email (since he almost
never reads B-Greek, I use his machine to do that for my own edification :)

METAFRASIN SOU = I haven't attained a level of proficiency
in English to analyze your translation of Matthew 8.8. In other words,
I don't know all nuances of meaning that the word "worthy" transmit.
However, my Greek is much better than my English, and I can tell
you that the word-root of hIKANOS is the verb hIKANW, which
means arrive, reach, attain.

The centurion says: I didn't attain a social position that would
allow me to receive you in my house. The Greeks make a clear difference
between ACIOS and hIKANOS. If a person is not ACIOS, he
is worthless. If he is not hIKANOS to do a thing, he is worthy, but his
strength is not enough to do that particular thing as yet. Of course, he
will possibly progress to the point of doing it.
A student who is in the elementary school has not attained the level of
proficiency do a given task. This does not
mean that he/she is unworthy, or that he/she is unable to do the
task. Wait a few years, and he/she may be able to perform as required..

As for the Centurion, he used the term technically, with the following
meaning: I haven't attained a position in the military (or social?)
hierarchy that allow me to receive you in my house.
OUK EIMI hIKANOS can be translated into Latin as
"non sum dignus ut..." (I don't hold a social position good
enough to do this or that). I am no scholar, and cannot give you
references of what I am saying. I read this in a commentary added to a
book by Ali Iezid Ibn-Salim Hanak, alias Malba Tahan
(in my own words, because I don't have his book with me; in fact,
I don't have any book with me, except for the Bible):

It seems that Roman soldiers had rules about
entering premises of his superiors or subordinates. For instance, only the
pretorians could enter the imperial palace, and only a given class of
officials (members of the Palatinian guard, if I am not mistaken)
could enter the house of a senator. The Dux wouldn't enter the Centurion
tent. Well, I don't think that things changed very much. Do you?

I am not sure about the information I gave you. As I told you, I am no scholar.
However, there are many Classical Scholars in the B-List,
who will produce precise information about Roman military rules, and social
behavior. As a curiosity, the traditional Portuguese translation of the Bible
renders Matthew 8-8 as:
"I am not a dignitary to receive you in my house..."

This is quite in the spirit of the Greek text.

P.S. If you come accross Malba Tahan's book (Legends About the Heavens
and the Earth), read the story of the Centurion's words. It is very beautiful!

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