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Teaching About Oaths. 33 [a](A)“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 (B)But I say to you, do not swear at all;[b] 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 [c]Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

Teaching About Retaliation. 38 [d]“You have heard that it was said,(C) ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 (D)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,[e] go with him for two miles.(E) 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.(F)

Love of Enemies.[f] 43 (G)“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’(H) 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[g] do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?[h] 48 So be perfect,[i] just as your heavenly Father is perfect.(I)

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Footnotes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 5:41 Roman garrisons in Palestine had the right to requisition the property and services of the native population.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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