Matthew 5:21-37 Gospel Lection Feb. 16, 2014

Feb 16, 2014-01-29

Matthew 5:21-37

Comments on the Greek Text

Mt 5:21 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις· Οὐ φονεύσεις[A]· ὃς δ’ ἂν φονεύσῃ, ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει[B]. You heard that it was said to the ancient ones, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.”
Mt 5:22 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει· ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ· Ῥακά[C], ἔνοχος ἔσται τῷ συνεδρίῳ[D]· ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ· Μωρέ[E], ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν[F] τοῦ πυρός. But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.  Whoever ways to his brother, “Idiot,” will be liable to the Sanhedrin.  And whoever says, “Moron” will be liable to the Hell of fire.
Mt 5:23 ἐὰν οὖν προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ[G], So if you are offering your gift on the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you,
Mt 5:24 ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, καὶ τότε ἐλθὼν πρόσφερε τὸ δῶρόν σου. leave your gift there before the altar, and go, first be reconciled with your brother, and then coming [back], offer your gift.
Mt 5:25 ἴσθι εὐνοῶν[H] τῷ ἀντιδίκῳ[I] σου ταχὺ ἕως ὅτου εἶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, μήποτέ σε παραδῷ ὁ ἀντίδικος τῷ κριτῇ, καὶ ὁ κριτὴς τῷ ὑπηρέτῃ, καὶ εἰς φυλακὴν βληθήσῃ·[J] Make friends with your adversary quickly during the time you are with him in the road, lest the adversary hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the assistant, and you are thrown into jail.
Mt 5:26 ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως ἂν ἀποδῷς τὸν ἔσχατον κοδράντην.[K] Truly I tell you, you will surely not go out from there until you pay back the last penny.
Mt 5:27 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· Οὐ μοιχεύσεις. You heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”
Mt 5:28 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς[L] τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ.[M] But I tell you that everyone who looks at a woman for the purpose of desiring her [lustfully] already committed adultery [with] her in his heart.
Mt 5:29 εἰ δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ὁ δεξιὸς σκανδαλίζει[N] σε, ἔξελε αὐτὸν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ, συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν[O] σου καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ σμά σου βληθῇ εἰς γέενναν. And if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it [away] from you.  For it is better for you that one of your body parts is destroyed, and your whole body is not thrown into Hell.
Mt 5:30 καὶ εἰ ἡ δεξιά σου χεὶρ σκανδαλίζει σε, ἔκκοψον αὐτὴν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ, συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου εἰς γέενναν ἀπέλθῃ. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw [it away] from you, for it is better for you that one of your body parts is destroyed, and your whole body does not depart into Hell.
Mt 5:31 Ἐρρέθη δέ· Ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα[P] αὐτοῦ, δότω αὐτῇ ἀποστάσιον. It was said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.”
Mt 5:32 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ παρεκτὸς λόγου[Q] πορνείας[R] ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι, καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ μοιχᾶται. But I tell you that everyone who divorces his wife (apart from a case of sexual immorality) makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced [woman] commits adultery.
Mt 5:33 Πάλιν ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις· Οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις[S], ἀποδώσεις[T] δὲ τῷ κυρίῳ τοὺς ὅρκους σου. Again, you heard that it was said to the ancient ones, “You shall not make a false vow, but you shall give back to the Lord your vows.”
Mt 5:34 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως· μήτε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὅτι θρόνος ἐστὶν τοῦ θεοῦ· But I tell you not to take an oath at all,  neither by heaven, since it is the throne of God,
Mt 5:35 μήτε ἐν τῇ γῇ, ὅτι ὑποπόδιόν ἐστιν τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ· μήτε εἰς[U] Ἱεροσόλυμα, ὅτι πόλις ἐστὶν τοῦ μεγάλου βασιλέως· nor by earth, since it is the footstool of his feet, nor toward Jerusalem, since it is the city of the great king.
Mt 5:36 μήτε ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ σου ὀμόσῃς, ὅτι οὐ δύνασαι μίαν τρίχα λευκὴν ποιῆσαι ἢ μέλαιναν. Neither shall you take an oath by [i.e. invoking] your head, since you can’t make one hair white or black.
Mt 5:37 ἔστω δὲ ὁ λόγος[V] ὑμῶν ναὶ ναί, οὒ οὔ· τὸ δὲ περισσὸν τούτων ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ[W] ἐστιν. Let your “yes” statement be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.”  What is beyond these [statements] is from the evil [one].

[A] This is the same word that is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible used in Jesus’ day, and it tends to have the more specific connotation of murder.  Greek has another word that is more generic for any sort of killing:  ἀποκτείνω.  But that’s not what we have here.

[B] The word can have either a neutral connotation (“judgment”) or a negative one (“condemnation”).

[C] The Aramaic word here literally connotes “empty” or “empty-headed.”

[D] The word can also connote a more generic council, rather than the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, though in light of Jesus’ love of hyperbole, I wonder whether that more specific reference is in view.

[E] The Greek word for “fool.”

[F]Literally the valley of Hinnom, a ravine south of Jerusalem where God’s final judgment was supposed in some texts to take place.   In the gospels, this is commonly used of the place of punishment in the next life—Hell.

[G] Note that it’s the perpetrator, not the victim, who is in view here.  The other side comes into view in Matthew 18:15ff., when the one who is sinned against is called to initiate the reconciliation process.

[H] Literally “be of a good mind.”

[I] Adversaries are not usually among the folks we are most inclined to make friends with!

[J] Again here, the assumption is that the person addressed is the perpetrator, not the victim.

[K] An interesting prudential sort of argument:  reconciliation will make your life easier than it would be otherwise.

[L] προς with the infinitive commonly expresses purposes in Greek.

[M] Hence the inclination to a sinful act is as culpable as the sinful act itself.  This is one of the things that makes me quite hesitant about the way in which so many want to distinguish between same-sex orientation (OK) and same-sex behavior (not OK).  I don’t think Jesus lets us get away with that sort of distinction.

[N] Often in Matthew, this verb is used of people inappropriately taking offense at Jesus.  But cf. 18:6ff. for another strong rejection of anything which genuinely causes another to stumble.

[O] Literally “members” which in English doesn’t always still carry the connotation of “body parts.”

[P] The same Greek word can mean “wife” or “woman,” depending on context.

[Q] The word is flexible enough to mean either “case” or “charge.”

[R] A general word for sexual immorality of a variety of sorts.  Cf. Mark 10:11 which lacks this exception clause.  Some commentators say that Mark simply presupposes this.  Others argue that Matthew softens Jesus’ strong convicting statement to make it more practical in a community seeking to implement this teaching in difficult circumstances.

[S] Or “swear falsely,” “perjure oneself.”

[T] Could be either “give back” or “pay back.”

[U] Note the shift in pronoun with this last clause.

[V] Or more literally, “Let your yes-word be yes.”

[W] or “from an evil [motive].”