Having A Single Eye
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. Matthew 6:22-23 KJV
What does Jesus mean in the strange passage above in terms of having "a single eye"? The best way to understand it is to look at figures of speech in other documents from that time. Several idioms that spoke about the "eye" were about a person's attitude toward others. A person who had a "good eye" was generous toward others, and a person with a "bad eye" was stingy and self-centered. It has been suggested that Jesus was speaking of having a "good eye," but the Greek of the passage actually does not say "good" (kalos), rather it says "single" (haplous).
In fact, the idiom of being "single" is found in that time. Throughout the New Testament the idea of "singleness" (haplotes) is used to mean "sincere" or "undivided," often in exhortations to have a "single heart" (See 2 Cor. 1:12, 11:3, Eph. 6:5, Col. 3:22). Sincerity and lack of duplicity seems to be the idea of the following passage:
This passage talks about a man's "eye" in terms of his caring for the needs of others, and contrasts an "eye of darkness" to a disposition of "singleness". The contrast seems to be between pretending to care about others with an inward attitude of self-advancement, instead of having a genuine concern for others, without hidden motives.
And, we do actually find the idiom of having a "single eye" in Jesus' time too:
Here, the idea of "singleness" was associated with a freedom from envy of money. "Singleness" in this passage refers to a person of sincerity who does not have a secret agenda of self-advancement. This translates into a lack of covetousness and greed.
©2006 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All rights
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