3. Law and Grace, 5:1-7:29

iii] Righteousness and love, 5:21-48

a) Jesus' demand for perfection under the law


Continuing with the Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks on the law as it related to murder, adultery, divorce and lying.


In further identifying the righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus outlines a number of commandments from the law of Moses which were central to rabbinic teaching, and in doing so, exposes the impossible ideals which transcend the law, ideals which must be rightly performed if a person is to "enter the kingdom of God."


i] Context: See Introductory Notes for the Great Sermon.


ii] Structure: The structure of v21-37 is fairly straightforward: Jesus first examines the sixth commandment, with particular reference to anger, linking inward malevolence with the outward act of murder, v21-26, then he examines the seventh commandment, again linking a person's inward disposition with the external act of adultery, v27-30, while commenting on the related issue of divorce, v31-32. Finally, Jesus examines the third commandment as it relates to truth-telling, v33-37.


iii] Interpretation: Although Jesus' exposition of the law in this chapter does provide guidance for living the Christian life, its prime purpose is to expose sin, thus forcing the child of God to rest, as did Abraham, on a righteousness which is apart from works of the law, a righteousness which is found in the mercy of God realized in faithfulness of Christ and appropriated through faith. For the eschatological validity of the Law see Introductory Notes for the Great Sermon, and Matthew 5:17-20.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5:21

Exceeding righteousness, v21-48: i] Murder stems from malevolence and both lead us to hell's fire, v21-22.

akousate (akouw) aor. "you have head" - you heard. In the sense of understand; "you know very well that", Barclay.

oJti "that" - that. Forming a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what the disciples have come to understand, namely that it was said long ago ......

toiV arcaioV dat. adj. "to the people long ago" - to the old ones, ancients. Adjective serving as a substantive. Dative of indirect object, the direct object being what was said, namely "do not murder." Possibly not "the ancients / forefathers", but "the ancient law" = "the law of Moses", so "what was said in the ancient law."

ou foneuseiV (foneuw) fut. "do not murder" - you shall not murder. The future tense functions as an imperative. The sense is "murder / assassination", not "kill".

d (de) "and" - but, and. Here coordinative, "and".

oJV .... an + subj. "anyone who" - whosoever. Introducing a clause which may be classified as a relative conditional clause, 3rd. class, but usually just classified a introducing an indefinite relative clause, cf. BDF 380.1..

th/ krisei (iV) dat. "[will be subject] to judgment" - [will be liable] to judgment, condemnation. Dative of direct object after enocoV "liable to." Probably the judgment of the local court, but possibly divine judgment.


Note the ascending order of courts, the local court, the Sanhedrin (full council of priests, elders and scribes) and the heavenly court, and this with "a descending scale of offences", Albright, ie. from anger down to verbal abuse. This well reinforces the truth that a righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees is beyond the doing. Thankfully someone has done it and in his doing we may stand.

de "but" - but, and. Adversative, as NIV.

uJmin dat. "[I tell] you" - [I say] to you. Dative of indirect object; emphatic by position. The Old Testament prophets would say "thus says the Lord", but Jesus says "I say unto you", serving as "a definitive declaration of the will of God", France.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct speech, expressing what Jesus is telling the disciples.

oJ orizomenoV (orizw) pres. pas. part. "who is angry" - the one being angry. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone / anyone", as NIV. "Anyone who gives vent to anger", Cassirer.

tw/ adelfw/ (oV) dat. "with [his] brother" - Dative of association, as NIV. "Brother man", Morris, but possibly "fellow Jew" = "brother in the Lord."

th/ krisei (iV ewV) dat. "[will be subject to] judgment" - Dative of direct object after enocoV, "liable to."

d (de) "again" - and, but. Coordinative, "and".

o}V ... an + subj. "anyone who" - whoever. Forming an indefinite relative clause, as above.

rJaka "Raca" - empty-head. "A brainless idiot", Barclay.

mwre adj. "you fool" - foolish, stupid. Adjective used as a noun. "A critical ejaculation", Morris, so "if you say someone is worthless", CEV.

eiV "-" - [will be liable] to, into. Spacial, of movement toward; "as in "to be cast into."

tou puroV "the fire of [hell]" - [the hell] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting Gehenna, "fiery hell" = "hell-fire", Barclay. Gehenna, the place of wailing, was the rubbish tip outside of Jerusalem which was constantly burning, with smoke and smell from dead corpses, human and otherwise.


Two parables concerning the need to address the problem of sin in the face of impending eschatological crises, ie. the coming kingdom of God, v23-26. Matthew now links two independent saying (illustrations / applications / short parables - similes / metaphors) with the saying concerning the exceeding righteousness expected of the sixth commandment, v23-26. Both parables are usually treated as "two little parables about reconciliation", France, urging a situation where "reconciliation replaces hatred", Davies & Allison, ie. they are ethical in intent, so Carson, Hagner, Nolland, Gundry, Strecker, Luz, France, Fenton, ..... Morris, who also takes the ethical line, seeks to address the incongruous fact that the parables concern, not our own ranker, but the ranker we have prompted in another. "It is not enough to control one's own temper (though that is important); one must not arouse other people's anger [as well]", Morris. Of all the ethical approaches, this seems best. Yet, an ethical application (eg. be reconciled / don't provoke anger in others) may not be the intended purpose of these parables. As Dodd says of parables, they are concrete pictures which express an abstraction. Teaching parables illustrate the abstraction, while kingdom parables encapsulate the abstraction, usually unexplained. It is likely that these particular parables are of the riddle / parabolic / kingdom kind. Although somewhat allegorical, the worst possible approach is to allegorize them. The task is to identify a singular truth, a truth always framed by the immediacy of the coming kingdom of God. Jeremias in Parables calls such parables "crisis parables". So, what is the abstraction here? Possibly something like the necessity of establishing covenant compliance in the face of impending eschatological crisis.

The first parable, v23-24, as already noted, seems to encourage a disciple to deal with an offense caused to a brother before approaching God in prayer, ie. the parable has ethical intent, establishing "reconciliation [with an aggrieved brother] as a precondition for acceptable worship", Nolland. Yet, if the purpose of Jesus' exposition of exceeding righteousness serves to expose sin and its inevitable consequence, namely, divine condemnation, then it is likely that the primary focus of the parable is theological rather than ethical. The parable pictures a situation we all know well enough. We approach God in prayer, and yet we do so with a string of brothers and sister we have offended / hurt over the years. We would be well advised to sort out these issues before coming into the presence of the Lord, and yet where do we start? So, what is the abstraction? Sin needs to be sorted before we stand at the judgment seat of God. The issue here concerns the issue of covenant noncompliance in the face of the coming kingdom of God.

oun "therefore" - Possibly inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, as NIV etc., but better resumptive, "now if ....", or even just left untranslated. Either way, the parable reinforces the directive of v21-22.

ean + subj. "if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, ...... then (v24a, imperative) ......."

prosferh/V (prosferw) aor. subj. "you are offering [your gift]" - you might bring, offer [the gift of you]. The "you" is now singular indicating that personal application is in mind.

to qusiasthrion (on) "the alter" - The depiction is of a person involved in the solemn act of sacrifice.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the person remembers.

kata + gen. "[has something] against [you]" - Here expressing opposition. Similarities between this verse, particularly this phrase, and Mark 11:25, have been noted, although in Matthew a brother has something against the worshipper, whereas in Mark the worshipper has something against another / a brother. Mark, in 11:12-25, records Jesus' cleansing of the temple and his symbolic cursing of the fig tree as an image of impending judgment upon Israel. To this incident Mark attaches three independent parabolic sayings which serve to reinforce a right approach to God in the face of eschatological judgment. The first saying identifies faith as the ground of covenant standing and thus true worship, v23, and the second identifies the redemptive focus of a prayer of faith for the covenant mercy of God, v24. The third saying, v25, links the receiving of mercy, on the basis of a prayer for mercy, with the giving of mercy. The links between Matt.5:23-24 and Mk.11:25 are tenuous, but interesting. The context is that of eschatological judgment and its avoidance, and this with Matthew's removal of reciprocal mercy, indicates that Matthew may well be using the parable with a similar intent to Mark.


afeV (afihmi) aor. imp. "leave" - Imperative; "you must leave your offering in front of the alter", Cassirer.

emprosqen + gen. "in front of [the alter]" - before [the alter]. Spacial.

tote adv. "then" - then. Temporal; "then come back and offer your gift to God", CEV.

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "come" - coming. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, "then, when you have come back, ...."


The second parable, v25-26, again seems to encourage a disciple to deal with an offense caused to an adversary while still with him on the way to court, ie., it seems to have ethical intent, illustrating "reconciliation between disciples at odds with each other", Gundry. Yet, it is likely that ethical intent is secondary. Luke uses the self same illustration within the context of eschatological judgment, warning God's people to be reconciled with God before it is too late, cf. Lk.12:57-59. Both Jeremias and Dodd, along with most commentators, take the parable in the Lukan context as a picture of crisis in the face of eschatological judgment / the coming kingdom of God, requiring the urgent necessity of immediate action, yet they assume that Matthew uses it to teach "the importance of being always ready and anxious to take the first step towards the healing of a quarrel between neighbors", Dodd, Parables. If the purpose of Jesus' exposition of exceeding righteousness serves to expose sin and its inevitable consequence, divine condemnation, then this parable in Matthew proclaims the same message as it does in Luke - that "the kingdom of God is at hand; it has begun to come; man is on the way to final judgment; God will punish the man who does not seek at once the forgiveness that Jesus offers to the penitent", Filson. Given our failure to comply with covenant law in the face of divine judgment, we need to sort things out with God before it's too late. It is often argued that Matthew constructed his gospel with a knowledge of both Mark and Luke. If this is the case, it is hard to believe that he would turn a Lukan crisis parable into a moral tale.

isqi eunown (eunoew) pres. part. "settle matters" - you be agreeing, having good will. The present imperative of the verb to-be with the present participle forms a periphrastic present construction; "Settle the dispute", TEV.

tacu adv. "quickly" - The type of language common to a crisis parable; "while there is time", TEV.

to antidikw/ (oV) dat. "with [your] adversary" - opponent. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "be well-disposed to / friendly with your accuser" = "come to terms speedily with your opponent", Cassirer.

e{wV o{tou "who is taking you to court. Do it while [you are still with him]" - This construction forms an indefinite temporal clause, as NIV.

en + dat. "on [the way]" - Local, expressing space / sphere; "while you are going with him to court", ESV.

mhpote + subj. "or [he may hand you over]" - lest [the opponent might deliver you]. Forming an indefinite conditional clause; "lest you accuser hand you over to the judge ........... then come to terms quickly ......"

tw/ krith/ (hV ou) dat. "to the judge" - Dative of indirect object.


amhn legw soi "I tell you the truth" - truly (amen) I say to you. A phrase that serves to emphasize the point being making, cf. v18, obviously, the point is made indirectly in a parable. "I promise you", CEV, makes the point. Further indicating that the parable is anything but a moral tale. Note the other common phrase used by Jesus at the end of a set piece, "he who has eyes to see, let him see" = "wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more!" (said with raised eyebrows!!!!). "Probably Matthew sees behind this saying the final court, at which the Son of Man will be the judge and the prison will be Gehenna", Fenton.

soi dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

ou mh + subj. "[you will] not [get out]" - not in any way [will you get, come out. Subjunctive of emphatic negation reinforcing the parable's intended abstraction.

ekeiqen adv. "-" - from there. Adverb of place.

e{wV a]n + subj. "until [you have paid]" - until [you pay back]. Forming an indefinite temporal clause referring to a future time in relation to the main verb "get out."


Exceeding righteousness: ii] Adultery stems from lust and both lead to hell's fire, v27-28.

hkousate (akouw) aor. "you have heard" - "You know that the law states you must not commit adultery", Barclay.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they have heard.

ou moiceuseiV (moiceuw) "do not commit adultery" - you shall not commit adultery. Technically, adultery is sex with another person's partner, more specifically, with another man's wife. Under the Mosaic law, consensual sex between two unmarried person's was settled in marriage and so is not technically adultery. Sexual union, of itself, establishes a marriage, whether it is formalized or not, and so a sexual union that follows on from a former union that was not formalized in marriage is adulterous because it intrudes on the previous one-flesh union. Of course, all this is rather academic since, when it comes to God's perfect law, lust is as good as the deed, thus all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, ie. we are all 0 out of 10 (despite the claim of some to be 2 out of 10, or the less righteous, 1 out of 10. In any case, 2 out of 10 is as good as 0 out of 10; only 10 out of 10 wins the prize for goodness, and, as my uncle, who worked in the building trade, used to say, "there has only ever been one good carpenter!!!")


egw de legw uJmin "but I tell you" - As above.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, as above.

oJ blepwn (blepw) pres. part. "[anyone] who looks at" - the one looking at. The participle is adjectival, limiting "everyone / anyone."

gunaika (h aikoV) "a woman" - As above, "a married woman."

proV to epiqumhsai (epiqumew) aor. inf. "lustfully" - to desire [her]. This construction, the preposition proV with the articular infinitive, usually forms a purpose clause. He looks at her with intent / having as a purpose / in order to have intercourse with her, and in so doing he has committed adultery in his heart. The construction may also express result, ie. he looks at a woman in a way that results in lustful feelings. "Any man who looks at a woman with desire has already committed adultery with her", Rieu.

hdh "already" - now already. Temporal The intent itself immediately breaks God's law.

en + dat. "in [his heart]" - in the heart [of him]. Local, expressing space / sphere. The "heart" being the center of one's will; "in your thoughts", CEV; "in intention", Barclay


In two parabolic sayings Jesus seemingly "emphasizes the crucial importance of taking whatever measures are necessary to control natural passion that tend to flare out of control", Mounce, so Filson, Morris, Nolland ("radical moral seriousness"), Carson, Hagner, Gundry ("radical self discipline), ...... v29-30. Yet, is this the abstraction represented by these concrete pictures. These parabolic sayings, which are likely to be of the riddle / kingdom kind, are repeated in 18:6-9, cf. Mark 9:42-50. The context usually prompts different interpretations, with the context here taken to indicate an ethical instruction that addresses the temptations which promote lust. Yet, these parabolic sayings probably carry their own general abstraction which applies to both contextual settings, something like: the haze of self-righteousness must be radically expunged if we are to escape the inevitable judgment of the coming kingdom., ie. they are more likely crisis parables than ethical illustrations. So, the message is that "Jesus' disciples must deal radically with sin", Carson: not by censoring dirt from the imagination (worthy as that may be - although flagellation, even castration, has proved ineffectual), but by expunging self-righteousness in the grace of divine mercy before it's too late. Note how commentators find it necessary to qualify an ethical approach: "He (Jesus) is not, of course, advocating self mutilation, nor is he suggesting that if people engage in this kind of surgery their evil desires will be exorcised", Morris.

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case (for argument sake), ..... then ....." The apodosis is imperatival.

oJ dexioV (oV) "right" - Most people are right-handed and for them the right eye is the more important, although "right" here may just parallel "right hand", v30.

oJ ofqalmoV (oV) "eye" - The reference to an "eye" naturally prompts an ethical see no evil approach.

skandalizei (skandalizw) pres. "causes [you] to sin" - The word is used of entrapment, but came to mean "cause to stumble, sin."

exele (exairew) aor. imp. "gouge" - remove. The language of hyperbole expressing radical action.

apo + gen. "[throw it away]" - [throw] from [you]. Expressing separation; "away from."

gar soi "[it is better] for you" - for [you]. Matthew sometimes adds gar to introduce the dative personal pronoun, dative of interest, advantage. Mark uses the more grammatically acceptable accusative personal pronoun without gar. Another indication that separate oral sources may lie behind both Mark and Matthew.

iJna + subj. "[to lose]" - that [be lost]. Here forming a noun clause, subject of the verb "is better", a construction usually formed by an infinitive (Mark actually uses an infinitive in his construction); "that you lose one part ........ is better for you / is an advantage for you."


The construction of this verse is as v29.

ceir "hand" - Those leaning toward an ethical interpretation usually see the hand in sexual terms, often referring to masturbation. Genesis 38:9 is often used to support the contention that masturbation / sex without the possibility of conception / contraception is against God's will - a rather dubious textual support!


Exceeding righteousness: iii] Divorce is against the will of God, v31-32. The righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees is a righteousness which complies with God's intention that the one-flesh relationship between a man and a women be permanent. It is not a righteousness which complies with the limited requirements of the Mosaic law on divorce. The divorce ideal is well developed in Matthew 19:3-12. Even the disciples get the point, exclaiming "if such is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry." Marriages do break down and so if covenant standing / inclusion depends on an unbroken marriage then indeed it is better not to marry. So again Jesus drives his disciples to seek a righteousness that it apart from works of the law.

o}V a]n + subj. "anyone" - whoever. Serving to introduce an indefinite relative clause making a general assertion or assumption, cf. BDF 380.1.

apolush/ (apoluw) aor. subj. "divorces" - may release, send away. "The law states that if a man divorces his wife ....", Barclay.

auth/ dat. pro. "her" - [give a notice] to her. Dative of indirect object.

apostasion (on) "certificate of divorce" - a notice. A paraphrase of Deuteronomy 24:1 where the Mosaic law, recognizing the human condition, regularizes marital separation by the requirement of a "document of dismissal", Nolland, a process which had become in Jesus' day little more than "publicly sanctioned adultery." Of course, this is not to say that the Mosaic model of bringing justice to bear on the human condition is no longer relevant today. The church's attempt to regularize Jesus' idealistic law has spawned gross pharisaic legalism where marriages are annulled for no other purpose than to provide an ecclesiastically sanctioned system of divorce and remarriage. Jesus' idealistic law serves to expose our state of sin, not burden us with a weight too hard to bear - it is an ideal to aim at, not a law to be obeyed.


de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, "but".

egw ... legw uJmin "I tell you" - Again Jesus underlines what he is about to say; "but I say unto you", AV.

oJti "that" - Serving to introduce a dependent statement of indirect speech.

oJ apoluwn (apoluw) pres. part. "who divorces" - the one divorcing. The participle functions as an adjective, limiting paV, "everyone", as NIV.

parektoV + gen. "except" - except, apart from. Only Matthew records this exceptive clause, whereas Mark and Luke's accounts of Jesus teaching on divorce provide no grounds whatsoever for a breaking of the one-flesh union of marriage. It is totally out of character for Jesus, particularly within the context of his exposition on exceeding righteousness, to compromise God's perfect law. Even a conservative commentator like Morris views the exception as Matthew's own comment rather than a word from Jesus. Matthew is "simply spelling out [to Jewish believers] what was implicit in the first century", namely that a person was "required to divorce an adulterous wife." Other commentators go further, eg. "we have here in all probability an editorial addition", Davies & Allison, although it should be noted that there is no textual evidence for this. Other commentators see evidence of early church tradition, of the authority of the church to bind and loose, to make laws and make exceptions to laws. None-the-less, the exception may simply be a recognition that where the one-flesh union has been destroyed by porneia, "sexual unfaithfulness", then the marriage, by this act, is therefore no longer a divinely sanctioned union, it is legally void, although not to the extent that remarriage is sanctioned - legal separation is sanctioned, not the separation of the one-flesh union. Such may properly be recognized by divorce. So, the exception clause may just be a statement of the obvious, cf. France. "Apart from the circumstance where the marriage has already been destroyed by sexual unfaithfulness."

logou (oV) gen. "-" - word. As in a word contained in a charge sheet; "except on the ground of", Cassirer.

porneiaV (a) gen. "marital unfaithfulness" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting logou, "word / on the ground." The word was originally used of sex with a prostitute, but took on a wider sense to include all sexual acts outside of marriage. Alluding to the law outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where the ground for a divorce was "something indecent." This phrase was variously interpreted from a burnt dinner to adultery. Jesus (Matthew?) severely limits the "indecent" act.

moiceuqhnai (moiceuw) aor. pas. inf. "to become an adulteress" - to commit adultery. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb poiew, "makes", "causes [her] to commit adultery." In Jewish society it would be extremely difficult for a woman to survive without a husband. A divorced woman would be forced to take another husband and thus form an adulterous one-flesh union. The responsibility for this situation properly rests on the one who divorced her.

o}V ean + subj. "anyone who [marries]" - whoever [marries]. This construction forms an indefinite relative clause, as above..

apolelumenhn (apoluw) perf. pas. part. "the divorced woman" - a divorced woman. The participle functions as a substantive.


Exceeding righteousness: iv] Truthfulness, v33-37. Jesus supersedes the Old testament law on the giving of oaths (Ex.20:7, Lev.19:12, Num.30:2, Deut.5:11, 6:3, 22:21-33) and calls for total truth-telling - that our yes be yes and our no be no. The exceeding righteousness demanded for covenant inclusion is perfect honesty. Of course, such honesty in a fallen world can only be aimed at, never done. So again we are forced to find an honest man in whose house we can weather the coming storm!!! As for the giving of oaths, in Jesus' day they had become a vale behind which a person could evade the truth. Even today the reinforcement of a statement with something like "I'm telling you the truth here ...", usually indicates dissembling!

palin adv. "again" - again. Laying down the next point; "to take another example", Barclay.

hkousate (akouw) aor. "you have heard" - you heard. Best rendered in English with a perfect tense, as NIV.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they heard, namely "that it was said."

toiV arcaioiV (oV) dat. "to the people long ago" - to the ancients. Dative of indirect object; "to our ancestors", NJB.

ouk epiorkhseiV (epiorkew) fut. "do not break your oath" - do not swear falsely, break an oath, commit perjury. Following Old Testament form a negated future in the NT often expresses a prohibition, although usually only in Old Testament quotations, as here. "Do not use the Lord's name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it", CEV.

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "[fulfill] to the Lord" - Dative of indirect object; "you shall perform what you have sworn to the Lord."

touV oJrkouV (oV) "the oaths" - the vows. "What you have sworn", ESV.


de "but" - but, and. Obviously adversative here.

egw ... legw uJmin "I tell you" - Formula saying for emphasis, as above; "but I say unto you."

mh omosai (omnuw) aor. inf. "do not swear" - not to swear. The infinitive forms a dependent statement, direct speech, as NIV. Although sometimes taken literally as a command to not take an oath, it is usually accepted that Jesus is denouncing the use of formula oaths for the purpose of deception, cf. 26:63-64. The issue here is truth-telling, so as for swearing an oath to confirm a truth, "there must never be a need for it", Morris.

oJlwV adv. "at all" - altogether. With the negative "not at all".

mhte ... mhte .... mhte ..... mhte ... "either .... or ... or ... - ...." - neither ... nor .... nor .... nor [by the head of you] (v34-36).

en + dat. "by [heaven]" - Instrumental, expressing means, as NIV. The reference to "heaven", as with "earth" and "Jerusalem" in v35, and "your head" in v36, are all examples of oath-taking verifications which allowed varying degrees of authenticity. A vow which was supported by the name of God is particularly binding, but as Jesus points out, God is associated with all oath verifications, eg. heaven is the throne of God so to not mention God's name doesn't lessen the degree to which the vow is binding.

oJti "for" - Expressing cause / reason; here introducing a causal clause explaining why we should not swear by heaven, etc.....; "because".

tou qeou gen. "[it is] God's [throne]" - [it is the throne] of God. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. It is just as improper to swear by heaven, or by earth, or by Jerusalem, since they belong to God.


eiV "by [Jerusalem]" - to, toward [Jerusalem]. A rare example of eiV replacing en, so still instrumental, as NIV, although it has been suggested that a vow which is supported by "toward Jerusalem" is not binding, but "by Jerusalem" is binding (or the reverse?). Either way, Jesus makes the point that the vow is binding because Jerusalem is Zion, God's city.


th/ kefalh/ (h) "head" - the head. The vow is that the person would "give his head if he were not speaking the truth", Ridderbos, ie. he would take his life.

poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "[you cannot] make" - [you are not able] to make. The infinitive is complementary, completing the negated verb "are able." A person cannot change the natural color of their hair, only God can do that. So God is even linked with a vow to give up one's head on a plate if it's not true. To swear by one's head is to swear by God.


de "-" - but, and. Possibly adversative, "but", although serving here as a connective makes more sense, so left untranslated.

estw (eimi) pres. imp. "[simply] let [your]" - let be [the word of you]. "Let what you say be simply ....", ESV.

nai nai "yes be yes" - yes yes. The doubling is possibly for emphasis, so a simple "yes"; "a simple yes or no is all you aught to say", Cassirer. Or possibly, as expressed in James 5:12, as NIV. "When you mean yes, say yes - nothing more", Barclay.

de "-" - but, and. Again serving as a connective.

to ... perisson adj. "anything beyond" - that which remains (ie. after the yes and no). The adjective serves as a substantive.

toutwn gen. pro. "this" - these. The genitive is ablative, expressing separation; "that which remains from the yes and no", or possibly comparison, "that which exceeds beyond the yes and no", Zerwick. In simple terms, oaths usually indicate dissembling and so should be avoided. "Anything else comes from the Devil", CEV.

ek + gen. "from" - Expressing source / origin.

tou ponhrou (oV) gen. "the evil one" - The neuter substantive to ponhron takes the same genitive form so rather than the masculine "the evil one", we can read "that which is evil." Most translations read the masculine.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]