Matthew 5

  (Redirected from Expounding of the Law)

Matthew 5 is the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It contains the first portion of the Sermon on the Mount, which will also take up chapters 6 and 7. Portions are similar to the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6, but much of the material is found only in Matthew. It is one of the most discussed and analyzed chapters of the New Testament. Warren Kissinger reports that among Early Christians no chapter was more often cited by early scholars. The same is true in modern scholarship.

Matthew 5
P086-Mat-5 13-16-IV.jpg
Matthew 5:13–16 on Papyrus 86 (4th century)
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Christian part1

In the Middle Ages an interpretation was developed that the chapter only applied to a select group, and not to the general populace. Reformer Martin Luther, in a discussion of this chapter, was highly critical of the Catholic view. He wrote that "there have fallen upon this [fifth] chapter the vulgar hogs and asses, jurists and sophists, the right hand of the pope and his Mamelukes."[1]

In John Wesley's analysis of the Sermon on the Mount, chapter five outlines "the sum of all true religion", allowing chapter 6 to detail "rules for that right intention which we are to preserve in all our outward actions, unmixed with worldly desires or anxious cares for even the necessaries of life" and chapter 7 to provide "cautions against the main hinderances of religion".[2]

The source of Matthew 5 is uncertain. It contains only a handful of parallels with Mark, but does have a number of loose parallels with Luke's Sermon on the Plain. For those who believe in the two-source hypothesis, it indicates that much of this text likely came from Q. However, Harvey King McArthur[3] notes that the parallels in Luke tend to be very loose, far further away than most areas they overlap. There are also a considerable number of verses that have no parallel in Luke. McArthur thus theorizes that there was an extra step between the sources Matthew and Luke used than usual.


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 48 verses.

Textual witnessesEdit

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:


The New King James Version organises this chapter as follows:


The Sermon on the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch.
Codex Sinaiticus (AD 330–360), Matthew 4:19–5:22

After a brief introduction (verses 12) the chapter contains the section known as the Beatitudes, which includes some of Jesus' most famous teachings. Theologian Robert H. Gundry suggests the Beatitudes can be divided into two quartets. The first group outlines the persecuted nature of Jesus' disciples, and the rewards they will receive for enduring this condition. The second four list the righteous behaviour which can led to such persecution. Most scholars feel the ninth Beatitude at Matthew 5:11 is separate from the first eight, as demonstrated by its shift to the second person. Four of the Beatitudes seem to be also in Luke, the rest are only found in Matthew.

The English word used to show the positive nature of the Beatitudes is blessed. A number of scholars note that this is not an ideal translation as in modern English, blessed often means "blessed by God", a meaning not implied by the Greek. William F. Albright and C. S. Mann use the more general word fortunate instead of blessed. R. T. France feels that it should be read as "worthy of congratulation". Lapide supports the New American Bible usage of happy; it directly translates the word beatus in the Vulgate, and it carries the meaning of the Greek. After the Beatitudes there are a series of metaphors, called Salt and Light, that are often seen as commentaries upon them. These include a number of famous phrases such as salt of the earth and city on a hill.

Teachings on the lawEdit

The role and importance of the lawEdit

  • Verse 17 – Jesus states that he has not come to "abolish[a] the law" but to "fulfill"[b] it.
  • Verse 18 – Jesus then declares the law to be valid until "Heaven and Earth pass away" and "all things are accomplished[c]".
  • Verse 19 – Shows a direct correlation between the act of adhering to the Biblical Code, and the righteousness of the individual.
  • Verse 20 – Jesus identifies Greater Righteousness[d] as a condition for inclusion in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The NIV translation entitles Matthew 5:17–20 "The Fulfillment of the Law", the NRSV translation entitles it "The Law and the Prophets", the United Bible Societies' "The Greek New Testament", edited by Kurt Aland, Bruce Metzger and others, entitles it the "Teaching about the Law."

This pericope is at the core of the argument about the relationship between the views attributed to Jesus, such as Gospel, Grace, New Covenant, New Commandment, Law of Christ, and those attributed to Moses or the Mosaic Law, and hence on the relationship between the New Testament and Old Testament, Christian views on the old covenant, Law and Gospel, and as a basis of Christian ethics.

The reason for this argument is a disagreement about the proper interpretation of the word "fulfillment" (πληρῶσαι; plerosai). This goes back at least as far as Marcion of Sinope and continues until today. Many modern scholars now consider these four verses to be a prelude to the Antitheses, but this position is not universally accepted, and many continue to interpret Matthew 5:17–20 independent of its textual neighbors.


The sermon then moves to a highly structured discussion ("Ye have heard… But I say unto you") of the "Law and Prophets"[4] or Old Covenant. This section (Matthew 5:17 to Matthew 5:48) is traditionally referred to as the Antitheses, or the Six Antitheses.[5] An antithesis is a form of parallelism in which one phrase or clause contrasts with a second phrase or clause.[6]

Gundry disputes this title: "The sayings are traditionally called 'the Antitheses'. But this designation seems to imply that after stoutly affirming the Law in Matthew 5:17–20, Jesus contradicts it". Instead Gundry argues that Jesus escalates the Law towards "the goal toward which it was already headed, so that we should stop calling these sayings "the Antitheses" and perhaps start calling them "the Culminations".[7]

After the introduction (5:1720), the next verses are commentaries on six specific topics where Jesus recites a law, starting with two of the Ten Commandments, and then comments on it. This generally sees Jesus impose more rigorous standards. The six antitheses are on:

  1. You shall not murder in verses 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
  2. You shall not commit adultery in verses 27, 28, 29, 30
  3. Divorce in verses 31 and 32
  4. Oaths in verses 33, 34, 35, 36, 37
  5. Eye for an eye in verses 38, 39, 40, 41, 42
  6. Love thy neighbour as thyself in verses 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
Codex Sinaiticus (AD 330–60), Matthew 5:22–6:4

The Jewish Encyclopedia states:

As Schechter in J.Q.R. x. 11, shows, the expression "Ye have heard…" is an inexact translation of the rabbinical formula (שומע אני), which is only a formal logical interrogation introducing the opposite view as the only correct one: "Ye might deduce from this verse[Lev 19:18] that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy, but I say to you the only correct interpretation is, Love all men, even thine enemies."[8]

Jesus' six antitheses are on six topics. In each of them, Jesus opens the statement with words to the effect: "You have heard it said… but I say to you…" These antitheses only appear in Matthew. At the outset, Jesus made it clear that he greatly respects Old Testament Law in the Torah, and fulfilling the Law was one of his purposes for coming to Earth.

Daniel J. Harrington believes that the community for which Matthew wrote primarily but not exclusively were Jewish Christians. If so, that may explain why Matthew could use Jewish rhetoric and themes without explanation. Harrington says that is not the case for 21st-century Americans and others who read the Gospel today. In the six antitheses Jesus either extends through the Commandment's scope by going to the root of the abuse (avoiding anger and lust to prevent murder and adultery) or going beyond a biblical commandment as in the case of divorce and oaths. Harrington writes that Matthew presents the six antitheses as examples of the principle that Jesus came not to abolish but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.[9]

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:17–20


The first antithesis (verses 21–22) attacks anger as the root of murder. The two loosely connected illustrations (23–24, 25–26) point out the value of reconciling with one's enemy.[9]

²¹You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder,[Ex 20:13] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." ²²But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[e] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, "Raca,"[f] is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:21–22


The second antithesis (verses 27–28) attacks lust as the root of adultery. The sayings about the right eye and the right-hand as causes of scandal (29–30) are further instances of going to the sources of sin.[9]

²⁷You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery."[Ex 20:14] ²⁸But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ²⁹If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. ³⁰And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:27–30


The third antithesis (verses 31–32) explains Jesus' prohibition of divorce as a way of avoiding the divorce procedure outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1.[9]

³¹It has been said, "Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce."[Deut. 24:1] ³²But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:31–32


The fourth antithesis (verses 33–37) about oaths says to avoid oaths entirely so as never to swear falsely.[9]

³³Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord." ³⁴But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; ³⁵or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. ³⁶And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. ³⁷Simply let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No"; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:33–37

An eye for an eyeEdit

The fifth antithesis on non-retaliation (verses 38–39a) also urges the followers of Jesus to not seek revenge through violence. The examples not only prohibit violence, but also require that brutality and force be met with goodness.[9]

³⁸You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth."[Ex 21:24] [Lev 24:20] [Deu 19:21] ³⁹But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. ⁴⁰And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. ⁴¹If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. ⁴²Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:38–42

Love for enemiesEdit

The final antithesis (verses 43–48) defines "neighbor". Here Jesus urges that love include even enemies instead of restricting love only to those who either can benefit us or who already love us.[9]

⁴³You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor[Lev 19:18] and hate your enemy." ⁴⁴But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, ⁴⁵that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. ⁴⁶If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? ⁴⁷And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? ⁴⁸Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:43–47


The chapter ends with an exhortation to perfection, the Greek: τέλειος, teleios, meaning also "full grown" or "of full maturity".[10]


Full textEdit

In the King James Version chapter five reads:

¹And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: ²And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
³Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
⁴Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
⁵Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
⁶Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
⁷Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
⁸Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
⁹Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
¹⁰ Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
¹¹Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. ¹²Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
¹³Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
¹⁴Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. ¹⁵Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. ¹⁶Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
¹⁷Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. ¹⁸For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. ¹⁹Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ²⁰For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
²¹Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: ²²But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. ²³Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; ²⁴Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. ²⁵Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. ²⁶Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
²⁷Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: ²⁸But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. ²⁹And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. ³⁰And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
³¹It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: ³²But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
³³Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: ³⁴But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: ³⁵Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. ³⁶Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. ³⁷But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
³⁸Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: ³⁹But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. ⁴⁰And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. ⁴¹And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. ⁴²Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
⁴³Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. ⁴⁴But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; ⁴⁵That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. ⁴⁶For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? ⁴⁷And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? ⁴⁸Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Old Testament referencesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ kataluo (Strong's #2647)
  2. ^ pleroo (Strong's #4137)
  3. ^ ginomai (strong's #1096)
  4. ^ dikaiosune (Strong's #1343)
  5. ^ Some manuscripts say "brother or sister without cause"─NIV notes.
  6. ^ "Raca" is an Aramaic term of contempt.─NIV notes


  1. ^ Luther, Martin. "Commentary on Sermon on the Mount". Translated by Charles A. Hay. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  2. ^ Wesley, J., Sermon 21, Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount: Discourse One, accessed 10 August 2019
  3. ^ McArthur, Harvey King (1978). Understanding the Sermon on the Mount. Greenwood, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0313205699.
  4. ^ Miller, Robert J., ed. (1992). The Complete Gospels. Salem, OR: Polebridge Press. p. 66. 5:17 Law and Prophets refer to the first two parts of the Hebrew Bible: Law, Prophets, and Writings. "The Law" can stand for the whole of the Hebrew Bible as well as for the first five books (The Pentateuch).
  5. ^ Jeremias, J., The Sermon On The Mount. The Ethel M. Wood Lecture delivered before the University of London on 7 March 1961, London: The Athlone Press, 1961.
  6. ^ James L. Resseguie, "A Glossary of New Testament Narrative Criticism with Illustrations," in Religions, 10 (3: 217), 18.
  7. ^ Commentary on Matthew, Robert H. Gundry, Baker Academic 2011.
  8. ^ "Brotherly Love", Jewish Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew . Liturgical Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-81465964-9.
  10. ^ Matthew 5:48
  11. ^ Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Book IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 839. Retrieved February 28, 2019.


  • Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew". The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971.
  • Betz, Hans Dieter. Essays on the Sermon on the Mount. Translations by Laurence Welborn. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.
  • Clarke, Howard W. The Gospel of Matthew and its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
  • France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  • Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982.
  • Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981.
  • Kissinger, Warren S. The Sermon on the Mount: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1975.
  • Kodjak, Andrej (1986). A Structural Analysis of the Sermon on the Mount. New York: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3110108330.
  • Lapide, Pinchas. The Sermon on the Mount, Utopia or Program for Action? translated from the German by Arlene Swidler. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986.
  • McArthur, Harvey King. Understanding the Sermon on the Mount. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978.
  • Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Matthew 4
Chapters of the New Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Succeeded by
Matthew 6