‘Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth’—The Nature Of The Suffering Of The Wicked In Matthew -- By: Zoltan L. Erdey

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 15:1 (Mar 2013)
Article: ‘Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth’—The Nature Of The Suffering Of The Wicked In Matthew
Author: Zoltan L. Erdey


‘Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth’—The Nature Of The Suffering Of The Wicked In Matthew

Zoltan L. Erdey

and Kevin G Smith1

Abstract

Matthew records six instances in which Jesus expressed the idiom ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:45; 25:30). The phrase refers to the eschatological fate of the wicked. This article investigates whether those who weep and gnash their teeth suffer physically, or merely spiritually and emotionally. A word study of the ‘weeping’ and ‘gnashing’ revealed that both these terms contain within their connotation the aspect of weeping and gnashing of teeth that is a direct result of physical pain. The use of the ‘furnace of fire’ and ‘cut him in pieces’ similarly seems to associate the idiom with suffering as a direct result of physical pain.

1. Introduction

Upon reading Matthew’s gospel, one is struck by the author’s periodic use of the idiom ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων (‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’). This phrase appears seven times in the synoptic gospels—six times in the gospel of Matthew (8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13;

24:51; 25:30) and once in Luke’s gospel (13:28). Commentators in general recognise the unique character of the phrase, rightly affirming that it is a reference to the eschatological fate of the wicked. This article is an inquiry into the meaning and implication of the phrase, with particular consideration of the existential state of the heritors of this judgment. The problem that this article hoped to answer is, ‘are those who weep and gnash their teeth in a state of emotional torment, physical pain, or both?’

Because the phrase en bloc was not used in the ancient literature, it has become evident from the surveyed commentaries that scholars seem to have diverse opinions on its range of semantic meaning, belonging to two opposed camps in terms of the six Matthean texts.

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