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22 ‘Without God’: Some Notes on a Greek Expression

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Chapter Summary

There is a famous passage in the New Testament where, in the context of a discussion about persecution, Jesus says that not even one sparrow will fall to the ground "without your Father". Many translators and commentators have racked their brains over the precise sense of the apparently simple expression ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν. These translations can roughly be divided into two categories: "without God's knowledge" versus "without God's will". Commentators, who are equally divided over this issue, frequently refer to a couple of passages in early rabbinic literature where one finds a comparable expression. Since Matthew wrote in Greek and there is a long history of expressions meaning 'without god' in Greek literature, this chapter reviews some of the most pertinent passages from Greek authors, ranging over a period of more than a thousand years, in a roughly chronological order.

Keywords: ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν; God's knowledge; God's will; Greek literature; Matthew; New Testament; rabbinic literature



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