Re: Mammon

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Sat Jan 29 2000 - 07:22:53 EST

To: Joseph Garnier,

<< I am working in Luke 16: 9-13, and have difficulty with the word MAMMON. To my understanding Mammon was a personifiication of selfish wealth and extravagance in opposition to God that was well-known among those of Aramaic culture. That quality of personification is lost on today's readers when the word is transliterated Mammon, as in most translations, or wealth as in the rest. >>

That seems to me to be a "bourgeois" interpretation of a very non-"bourgeois" passage. BAGD for MAMWNAS simply gives "wealth, property" (also noting that it was used as a personification). On the other hand, the Louw & Nida lexicon gives: "wealth and riches, with a strong negative connotation -- 'worldly wealth, riches'" (57.33). Commenting on the term MAMWNAS Davies & Allison [1988] write: "It had, according to some scholars, already gained a pejorative connotation in first-century Judaism (so F. Hauck, TWNT 4, p. 391), but this is far from established" (1.643). But even if one assumes, following Louw & Nida, that MAMWNAS had a negative connotation, I would suggest that such would probably be true merely because all wealth was considered (more or less) to be "filthy lucre." I would suspect that the real problem here is that it is very difficult for middle-class Christians to makes sense of sayings attributed to Jesus about wealth which were written in an era where there was no real "middle-class" society to speak of. Personally, I think translating MAMWNAS as "wealth" is the right idea, and I would be weary of re-interpreting this passage so as to make it more palpable for a middle-class audience.

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)
FWIW: I'm neither a clergy-person, nor an academic (and I have no post-grad degrees).
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