The Wartburg Project

September 29th, 2016

22. Why does the EHV use the term “mammon”?

This term appears only in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:9,11,13. So it is used only four times and in every case Jesus is the one speaking. He says in the Sermon on the Mount:

You cannot serve both God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 EHV)

In Luke 16:13, Jesus says the same thing:

You cannot serve both God and mammon. (EHV)

Some translations use “money” or “wealth” to translate mammon. However, the Greek language had other Greek terms available for “money” or “wealth.” The term mammon is an Aramaic word used in the Greek text.

The EHV follows a rubric that says:

“Hebrew/Aramaic words used in Greek text should remain Hebrew/Aramaic.”

Here we find a foreign word (in this case Aramaic) in the divinely inspired text instead of a more usual Greek term. As with “Hallelujah” and “Amen,” the EHV chooses to pass that information along as we have received it.

The EHV is not alone in this. Luther, KJV, and NKJV also used mammon in their translations. Translations must make choices. Most translations transliterate the term “Hallelujah” in Revelation 19:1, instead of translating that word into “Praise the Lord” or something like that. Sometimes translations have “Amen,” and in other places it might say “Truly” or “I tell you the truth.” (See FAQ #1 on “Amen.”) These are all translation choices.

What does mammon mean? The EHV has a footnote on Luke 16:9 that says this:

Mammon is an Aramaic word that is transliterated in the Greek. It refers to worldly wealth (sometimes personified). It also appears in verses 11 and 13, and Matthew 6:24. It may also be translated “money,” but a different word for money is used in verse 14.

While it may commonly be translated “money,” it is not certain that “money” is the precise meaning of the term mammon. It often included everything that made up someone’s wealth, such as money, property, servants/slaves, etc. Sometimes it stands for worldly goods personified. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament indicates that mammon appears “always with a derogatory sense of the materialistic, anti-godly and sinful,” and that the background of the term mammon involves a form of idolatry because, “it most likely comes from אמן = “that in which one trusts” (Kittel, Vol 4, pp. 388-389).

In general, mammon seems to refer to wealth with a strong negative connotation. Perhaps when considering the term in context it might means “filthy money” or “worldly wealth.” In any case, it does not seem to be precisely the same thing as the common term “money.” Notice that in Luke 16:13 there is the word mammon, [μαμωνᾷ] but in the very next verse there is a different Greek term for “lovers of money” [φιλάργυροι]. In other passages, there are other terms for money. The EHV tries to make a distinction here.