New American Bible (Revised Edition)
21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,(A) ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’[a] 22 [b]But I say to you, whoever is angry[c] with his brother will be liable to judgment,(B) and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. 23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,(C) 24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.(D) Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
Teaching About Adultery. 27 [d]“You have heard that it was said,(E) ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 [e]If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.(F) It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
Teaching About Divorce. 31 [f]“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’(G) 32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.(H)
Teaching About Oaths. 33 [g](I)“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ 34 (J)But I say to you, do not swear at all;[h] not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 [i]Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.
Teaching About Retaliation. 38 [j]“You have heard that it was said,(K) ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 (L)But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile,[k] go with him for two miles.(M) 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.(N)
Love of Enemies.[l] 43 (O)“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’(P) 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors[m] do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?[n] 48 So be perfect,[o] just as your heavenly Father is perfect.(Q)Read full chapter
- 5:21 Cf. Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17. The second part of the verse is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament, but cf. Ex 21:12.
- 5:22–26 Reconciliation with an offended brother is urged in the admonition of Mt 5:23–24 and the parable of Mt 5:25–26 (// Lk 12:58–59). The severity of the judge in the parable is a warning of the fate of unrepentant sinners in the coming judgment by God.
- 5:22 Anger is the motive behind murder, as the insulting epithets are steps that may lead to it. They, as well as the deed, are all forbidden. Raqa: an Aramaic word rēqā’ or rēqâ probably meaning “imbecile,” “blockhead,” a term of abuse. The ascending order of punishment, judgment (by a local council?), trial before the Sanhedrin, condemnation to Gehenna, points to a higher degree of seriousness in each of the offenses. Sanhedrin: the highest judicial body of Judaism. Gehenna: in Hebrew gê-hinnōm, “Valley of Hinnom,” or gê ben-hinnōm, “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” southwest of Jerusalem, the center of an idolatrous cult during the monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice (see 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31). In Jos 18:16 (Septuagint, Codex Vaticanus) the Hebrew is transliterated into Greek as gaienna, which appears in the New Testament as geenna. The concept of punishment of sinners by fire either after death or after the final judgment is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature (e.g., Enoch 90:26) but the name geenna is first given to the place of punishment in the New Testament.
- 5:27 See Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18.
- 5:29–30 No sacrifice is too great to avoid total destruction in Gehenna.
- 5:31–32 See Dt 24:1–5. The Old Testament commandment that a bill of divorce be given to the woman assumes the legitimacy of divorce itself. It is this that Jesus denies. (Unless the marriage is unlawful): this “exceptive clause,” as it is often called, occurs also in Mt 19:9, where the Greek is slightly different. There are other sayings of Jesus about divorce that prohibit it absolutely (see Mk 10:11–12; Lk 16:18; cf. 1 Cor 7:10, 11b), and most scholars agree that they represent the stand of Jesus. Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” are understood by some as a modification of the absolute prohibition. It seems, however, that the unlawfulness that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage must be broken refers to a situation peculiar to his community: the violation of Mosaic law forbidding marriage between persons of certain blood and/or legal relationship (Lv 18:6–18). Marriages of that sort were regarded as incest (porneia), but some rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism who had contracted such marriages to remain in them. Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity; cf. the similar prohibition of porneia in Acts 15:20, 29. In this interpretation, the clause constitutes no exception to the absolute prohibition of divorce when the marriage is lawful.
- 5:33 This is not an exact quotation of any Old Testament text, but see Ex 20:7; Dt 5:11; Lv 19:12. The purpose of an oath was to guarantee truthfulness by one’s calling on God as witness.
- 5:34–36 The use of these oath formularies that avoid the divine name is in fact equivalent to swearing by it, for all the things sworn by are related to God.
- 5:37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’: literally, “let your speech be ‘Yes, yes,’ ‘No, no.’” Some have understood this as a milder form of oath, permitted by Jesus. In view of Mt 5:34, “Do not swear at all,” that is unlikely. From the evil one: i.e., from the devil. Oath-taking presupposes a sinful weakness of the human race, namely, the tendency to lie. Jesus demands of his disciples a truthfulness that makes oaths unnecessary.
- 5:38–42 See Lv 24:20. The Old Testament commandment was meant to moderate vengeance; the punishment should not exceed the injury done. Jesus forbids even this proportionate retaliation. Of the five examples that follow, only the first deals directly with retaliation for evil; the others speak of liberality.
- 5:41 Roman garrisons in Palestine had the right to requisition the property and services of the native population.
- 5:43–48 See Lv 19:18. There is no Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy, but the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as one’s fellow countryman. Both in the Old Testament (Ps 139:19–22) and at Qumran (1QS 9:21) hatred of evil persons is assumed to be right. Jesus extends the love commandment to the enemy and the persecutor. His disciples, as children of God, must imitate the example of their Father, who grants his gifts of sun and rain to both the good and the bad.
- 5:46 Tax collectors: Jews who were engaged in the collection of indirect taxes such as tolls and customs. See note on Mk 2:14.
- 5:47 Jesus’ disciples must not be content with merely usual standards of conduct; see Mt 5:20 where the verb “surpass” (Greek perisseuō) is cognate with the unusual (perisson) of this verse.
- 5:48 Perfect: in the gospels this word occurs only in Matthew, here and in Mt 19:21. The Lucan parallel (Lk 6:36) demands that the disciples be merciful.