The previous question on Matt 6:22-23 elicited a good number of comments, and I especially appreciate Suzanne’s recent comments on the difficulty of getting a clear sense of the Greek word haplous (ἁπλοῦς).
What can we do to get a better understanding of the meaning? I don’t think we get it by looking at current English translations. Rather, we can look at the standard dictionaries as well as the actual usage of the word, especially in the LXX and the NT.
Unfortunately the adjective ἁπλοῦς is very rare. It only occurs in Mat 6:22 and the parallel in Luke 11:34, plus an obscure passage in Prov 11:25. This is not enough data to make any conclusions from.
The adverb ἁπλῶς is also very rare. It only occurs in James 1:5 and 3 times in the LXX (Prov 10:9, Wis 16:27, 2 Macc 6:6).
However, we are much better off with the noun ἁπλότης. It occurs 8 times in the NT and 7 times in the LXX. You may see them here if you want.
Looking first at the LXX lexicon, I find: “simplicity, sincerity, integrity, frankness 1 Chr 29,17; simplicity, innocence 2 Sm 15,11.” I am sceptical about the frankness, but certainly the idea of sincerity and integrity is there. Other possible translations are: innocence, in good faith, without a hidden agenda, with pure motives, undivided devotion to God.
LSJ suggests: “I. singleness, τῆς φωνῆς Arist.Aud.801a19.
2. of persons, simplicity, frankness, sincerity, … ἡ εἰς τὸν Χριστὸν ἁ. 2Ep.Cor.11.3.
3. open-heartedness: hence, liberality, ib.8.2, 9.11, cf. IG14.1517.
4. ignorance, back-wardness”
It is the same basic idea of sincerity. They do suggest “liberality” but that is disputed and unlikely to be correct.
BDAG suggests: “In our lit. esp. of personal integrity expressed in word or action … simplicity, sincerity, uprightness, frankness ἐν ἁ. τῆς καρδίας ὑπακούειν obey w. a sincere heart (as vs. 6 indicates, not with an outward show that conceals improper motivation) Eph 6:5; cp. Col 3:22 (Diod S 5, 66, 4, ἁπλότης τῆς ψυχῆς =inmost sincerity; 1 Ch 29:17; Wsd 1:1; TestReub 4:1; TestSim 4:5; TestLevi 13:1); w. εἰλικρίνεια 2 Cor 1:12; cp. the Syr. rendering of 1 Cl 60:2 (text: ὁσιότης). ἐν ἁ. λέγειν speak simply, plainly, i.e., without ambiguity B 8:2 (cp. Dionys. Hal., Ars Rhet. 9, 14). ἐν ἁ. δηλῶσαι 17:1. ἐν ἁ. εὑρίσκεσθαι be found sincere Hm 2:7. ἡ ἁ. ἡ εἰς Χριστόν sincere devotion to Christ 2 Cor 11:3 (WWood, Exp. 9th ser., 2, 1925, 450–53).—Of simple goodness, which gives itself without reserve, ‘without strings attached’, ‘without hidden agendas’ (Jos., Bell. 5, 319, Ant. 7, 332; TestIss 3:8) ingenuousness Ro 12:8; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:11, 13. Hermas is esp. fond of this mng.: w. ἀκακία (Philo, Op. M. 170) Hv 1, 2, 4; 3, 9, 1; w. ἐγκράτεια Hv 2, 3, 2; w. νηπιότης Hs 9, 24, 3; ἐμμένειν τῇ ἁ. continue in your sincerity Hv 3, 1, 9. For this ἁ. ἔχειν m 2:1. Personif. w. other Christian virtues Hv 3, 8, 5 and 7; Hs 9, 15, 2.”
Now BDAG notes that another, quite different sense, has been suggested, but they also say that this sense is disputed and probably incorrect:
The interpretation generosity, liberality has frequently been proposed for Ro 12:8; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:11, *13 (w. support sought in TestIss 3:8 [s. RCharles, Test12Patr, 1908, on TestIss 3:1, 2, 8]; Kaibel 716, 5=IG XIV, 1517 [s. L-S-J-M s.v. II, 3]), but this sense (adopted by NRSV et al.) is in dispute, and it is prob. that mng. 1 in the sense of sincere concern, simple goodness is sufficient for all these pass.
When I look at all these passages, it seems to me that “with pure motives”, “without a hidden agenda” and with “pure and sincere devotion to God” fit very well in all the Biblical passages.
The idea of liberality was apparently introduced into English translations in the first of these disputed passages by the RSV and in the other three already by KJV. (I have not checked all the English versions):
Rom 12:8 KJV: he that giveth, [let him do it] with simplicity
RSV: he who contributes, in liberality
NET: if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity
Here the idea of “without a hidden agenda”, “with pure motives”, “with undivided devotion and obedience to Christ” fits well. The point can hardly be that you must give generously, but rather that whatever you give, be it much or little, is to be given without ulterior motives, with a sincere heart.
2 Cor 8:2 KJV: unto the riches of their liberality.
Here the liberality notion was already present in the KJV and that is why it has crept into English translations in contradiction to the normal meaning of the word. Paul is describing the churches in Macedonia, their joy in the midst of persecutions and extreme poverty. That great joy and deep poverty overflowed into a wealth of pure, undivided and sincere devotion in action. Verse 3 continues by saying that it was from this pure devotion to Christ (and his body) that they gave not only to their ability (which was very small) but they gave beyond. Verse 4 describes how they were so devoted to Christ that they begged to be involved in giving to their needy fellow Christians. I see no linguistic or contextual reason to introduce the idea of liberality. They were generous in their giving, but that is expressed in v. 4 by other words rather than ἁπλότης. A generous gift may well result from a wholehearted attitude, but it is not the meaning of ἁπλότης.
2 Cor 9:11 is quite similar to the preceding case, and the idea of “full devotion to Christ without selfish motives” fits the context well enough so that I don’t see a need to introduce the liberality notion into the word. In Paul’s writings it is a great virtue to give with a sincere heart and devotion to God. It is not crucial how much you give, since people have different resources, but your attitude and motives in giving are important. Think of the poor widow that Jesus commended.
2 Cor 9:13 is again similar. Paul commends them “because of your obedience to your confession in the gospel of Christ” (NET) and their sincere and pure devotion to Christ which led them to share what they had with fellow Christians in need. As BDAG suggests there is no good reason to introduce a sense 2 for ἁπλότης when the basic and normal sense 1 works fine in all these contexts.
For the rest of the passages in the NT and all of the LXX ones, no one has suggested that liberality or generosity is part of the meaning.
In the single occurrence of ἁπλῶς in James 1:5 the idea of liberality has also crept in where it probably does not belong. Here it is God who gives wisdom to the person who lacks it and asks for it. He does this with pure motives, no strings attached, no hidden agenda and without reproach.
Based on this study I cannot accept “sound, healthy” for Matt 6:22. Such words are too far removed from the semantic range of the word. Nor can I accept liberality or generosity connected to that eye. I much prefer pure motives, sincerity, and an undivided devotion to God which is closely related to obedience. The bad/evil eye is then impure motives, insincerity, divided or mixed allegiances and a lack of obedience. Jesus can hardly be extolling the moral virtue of generosity here, but rather the desire to allow the spiritual light that he brings to penetrate and enlighten every part of that person. Only then can this person be a light to others. It all depends on how you look at Jesus and receive his teaching.