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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > M > Mammon

Mammon

Mamona; the spelling Mammona is contrary to the textual evidence and seems not to occur in printed Bibles till the edition of Elzevir. The derivation of the word is uncertain, perhaps from mmn as seen in mtmwn, though the Targums, which use the word frequently, never regard it as the equivalent of mtmwn, which the Greek always renders thesauroi, cf. Job 3:4; Proverbs 2:4. But cf. also Hebrew Sirach 42:9, bth l'b mtmnt sqr where the margin reads mtmwn, "to the father his daughter is as ill-gotten treasure." In the New Testament only Matthew 6:24, and Luke 16:9-13, the latter verse repeating Matthew 6:24. In Luke 16:9 and 11 Mammon is personified, hence the prevalent notion, emphasized by Milton, that Mammon was a deity. Nothing definite can be adduced from the Fathers in support of this; most of their expressions which seem to favour it may be easily explained by the personification in Luke; e.g. "Didascalia", "Do solo Mammona cogitant, quorum Deus est sacculus"; similarly St. Augustine, "Lucrum Punice Mammon dicitur" (Serm. on Mt., ii); St. Jerome in one place goes near to such an identification when (Dialogue Against the Luciferians 5 ) he quotes the words: "No man can serve two masters", and then adds, "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" But in his "Commentary on Matt," and in Epistle 22.31, he lends no countenance to it: "'Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.' Riches, that is; for in the heathen tongue of the Syrians riches are called Mammon." But Mammon was commonly regarded as a deity in the Middle Ages; thus Peter Lombard (II, dist. 6) says, "Riches are called by the name of a devil, namely Mammon, for Mammon is the name of a devil, by which name riches are called according to the Syrian tongue." Piers Plowman also regards Mammon as a deity.

The expression "Mammon of iniquity" has been diversely explained, it can hardly mean riches ill-gotten, for they should of course be restored. If we accept the derivation from 'mn we may render it "riches in which men trust", and it is remarkable that the Septuagint of Psalm 37:3, renders 'mwgh by plouto, or "riches", as though hinting at such a derivation. The expression is common in the Targums, where mmwn is often followed by sqr corresponding to the adikias of Luke, thus see on Proverbs 15:27; but it is noteworthy that Sirach 5:8 "goods unjustly gotten" chremasin adikois, reads in Hebrew nks-sqr and not mtmwn. For the various explanations given by the Fathers see St. Thomas, II-II.32.7 ad 3um.

Sources

TRENCH, Notes on the Parables of our Lord (15th ed., London, 1886); DALMANN, Die Worte Jesu (tr., Edinburgh, 1902).

About this page

APA citation. Pope, H. (1910). Mammon. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09580b.htm

MLA citation. Pope, Hugh. "Mammon." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09580b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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