Friday, October 14, 2016

Matthew 6:9b-c (Betz and the Divine Name)

Matt. 6:9b-c reads:


I am primarily interested in how one might undeerstand the sentiments of 6:9c. What is meant when someone petitions God the Father to sanctify His name? H.D. Betz suggests that the request could either mean (1) That God is the implied subject who is being asked to sanctify His name (the Jewish idea of passivum divinum) or (2) Human worshipers are the subject (the worshipers of Jehovah God are asking Him to ensure that we humans sanctify His name).

Someone once associated John 12:28 with Matt. 6:9, which appears to show that God is the implied subject in Matt. 6:9c. This example also illustrates that certain exegetical problems aren't solvable by grammar alone. Betz is inclined to say that there is no easy answer to this question, and that the passage may be a case of deliberate ambiguity: "Which of these possibilities is the right one and whether we must make a choice of one over the other is difficult to say . . . Since prayer language tends to be general, one need not decide on only one of the possibilities of interpretation. Probably all shades of meaning are intended, or at least suggested" (Betz 389-390).

In the end, however, Betz admits that God must ultimately be the subject of
the Pater Noster prayer since Jesus follows the first petition with a second
concerning the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, the OT background of this verse strongly indicates that God is the subject who will sanctify, magnify, and make holy His peerless name (Ezek. 38:23).

In Ezek. 20:9, 41 we read: "But I acted for the sake of my name, that it
should not be profaned in the sight of the nations . . . I will manifest my
holiness among you in the sight of the nations."

These OT verses coupled with John 12:28 and the context of Matt. 6:9 point
to God as the One who will hallow His name.

See Betz, Hans D. The Sermon on the Mount (Hermeneia Series). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1995.

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