Matthew 5:44, the forty-fourth verse in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, also found in Luke 6:27–36,[1] is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the second verse of the final antithesis, that on the commandment to "Love thy neighbour as thyself". In the chapter, Jesus refutes the teaching of some that one should "hate [one's] enemies".

Matthew 5:44
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Sermon on the Mount, altarpiece by Henrik Olrik (1830–1890) at Sankt Matthæus Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark.
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament

Content edit

The Greek text of Matthew 5:42-45 with a decorated headpiece in Folio 51 recto of Lectionary 240 (12th century)

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

But 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;[2]

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,[3]

The Novum Testamentum Graece text is:

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς

Many modern translations (following the Alexandrian manuscripts) omit part of this verse. For example, the New International Version reads: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you".[4]

Precursors edit

Ulrich Luz states that the ideas expressed in this verse are "considered the Christian distinction and innovation", and that the commandment to "Love thy enemies" is what separates Christianity from all earlier religions.[5] Nolland disagrees with this, seeing a number of historical precedents. These include the second millennium BCE Babylonian text Counsels of Wisdom, which says "Do not return evil to the man who disputes with you; requite with kindness your evil-doer... smile on your adversary."[6] Nolland also cites the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope (also likely 2nd millennium BCE), which says:

Row that we may ferry the evil man away,
For we will not act according to his evil nature;
Lift him up, give him your hand,
And leave him [in] the hands of god;
Fill his gut with your own food
That he may be sated and ashamed.[7]

Similarly, the Book of Proverbs says:

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.[8]

Nolland claims that parallels should be seen in the works of Greek and Roman writers such as Cicero, Seneca, and the Cynics.[6] John Piper reports that the Greek Stoics also discouraged their followers from retaliating, but Piper states that they were concerned primarily with maintaining their tranquility, rather than seeking the benefit of the enemy, as Jesus commands.[9]

Historical context edit

"Enemies" is a broad term for all manner of foes and adversaries. In this verse, persecutors are specifically mentioned; at the time of its writing (approximately the last quarter of the 1st century), the Christian community had recently faced considerable persecution under Nero. The entire Jewish community at both the time of Jesus and the latter 1st century had been subject to persecution by the Romans[10][11] (see History of the Jews in the Roman Empire, Persecution of Christians in the New Testament, and Anti-Christian policies in the Roman Empire).

Interpretations edit

Love edit

The meaning of the word love is more restricted in Greek than in English. Barclay notes that Greek had four different words that are normally translated as love. The Greek words for love for a family member, stergein; sexual love, eros; and deep affection, philia; are not used in this verse. Rather the author of Matthew uses agapan, which Barclay translates as continued benevolence. This term occurs seven more times in Matthew, and 140 times in the NT.[12]

Reception edit

Christian tradition edit

The author of Matthew places this verse in the final antithesis, a summary of all that been stated in the Sermon. Early church thinkers also saw this as one of Jesus' most important teachings.

Activists and social theorists edit

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued in his treatise On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) that love of one's enemies is weakness and dishonesty (see Master–slave morality).[13][14][15][16][17][18]

Gene Sharp believed that it is not necessary for activists to express love for their opponents or to convert these opponents to their perspective in order for activists to achieve their desired policy changes. Instead, Sharp followed James Farmer in emphasizing that through nonviolent tactics, those in power can be forced by public pressure to concede to popular demands.[19] Martin Luther King said of this passage: "It's so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love."[20]

Commentary from the Church Fathers edit

Glossa Ordinaria: "The Lord has taught above that we must not resist one who offers any injury, but must be ready even to suffer more; He now further requires us to show to them that do us wrong both love and its effects. And as the things that have gone before pertain to the completion of the righteousness of the Law, in like manner this last precept is to be referred to the completion of the law of love, which, according to the Apostle, is the fulfilling of the Law."[21]

Augustine: "That by the command, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, all mankind were intended, the Lord showed in the parable of the man who was left half dead, which teaches us that our neighbour is every one who may happen at any time to stand in need of our offices of mercy; and this who does not see must be denied to none, when the Lord says, Do good to them that hate you."[21]

Augustine: "That there were degrees in the righteousness of the Pharisees which was under the old Law is seen herein, that many hated even those by whom they were loved. He therefore who loves his neighbour, has ascended one degree, though as yet he hate his enemy; which is expressed in that, and shalt hate his enemy; which is not to be understood as a command to the justified, but a concession to the weak."[21]

Glossa Ordinaria: "But it should be known, that in the whole body of the Law it is no where written, Thou shalt hate thy enemy. But it is to be referred to the tradition of the Scribes, who thought good to add this to the Law, because the Lord bade the children of Israel pursue their enemies, and destroy Amalek from under heaven."[21]

Pseudo-Chrysostom: "As that, Thou shalt not lust, was not spoken to the flesh, but to the spirit, so in this the flesh indeed is not able to love its enemy, but the spirit is able; for the love and hate of the flesh is in the sense, but of the spirit is in the understanding. If then we feel hate to one who has wronged us, and yet will not to act upon that feeling, know that our flesh hates our enemy, but our soul loves him."[21]

Gregory the Great: "Love to an enemy is then observed when we are not sorrowful at his success, or rejoice in his fall. We hate him whom we wish not to be bettered, and pursue with ill-wishes the prosperity of the man in whose fall we rejoice. Yet it may often happen that without any sacrifice of charity, the fall of an enemy may gladden us, and again his exaltation make us sorrowful without any suspicion of envy; when, namely, by his fall any deserving man is raised up, or by his success any undeservedly depressed. But herein a strict measure of discernment must be observed, lest in following out our own hates, we hide it from ourselves under the specious pretence of others' benefit. We should balance how much we owe to the fall of the sinner, how much to the justice of the Judge. For when the Almighty has struck any hardened sinner, we must at once magnify His justice as Judge, and feel with the other's suffering who perishes."[21]

Glossa Ordinaria: "They who stand against the Church oppose her in three ways; with hate, with words, and with bodily tortures. The Church on the other hand loves them, as it is here, Love your enemies; does good to them, as it is, Do good to them that hate you; and prays for them, as it is, Pray for them that persecute you and accuse you falsely."[21]

Jerome: "Many measuring the commandments of God by their own weakness, not by the strength of the saints, hold these commands for impossible, and say that it is virtue enough not to hate our enemies; but to love them is a command beyond human nature to obey. But it must be understood that Christ enjoins not impossibilities but perfection. Such was the temper of David towards Saul and Absalom; the Martyr Stephen also prayed for his enemies while they stoned him, and Paul wished himself anathema for the sake of his persecutors. (Rom. 9:3.) Jesus both taught and did the same, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34.)"[21]

Augustine: "These indeed are examples of the perfect sons of God; yet to this should every believer aim, and seek by prayer to God, and struggles with himself to raise his human spirit to this temper. Yet this so great blessing is not given to all those multitudes which we believe are heard when they pray, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."[21]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Luke 6:27–36
  2. ^ Matthew 5:44 KJV
  3. ^ Matthew 5:44 WEB
  4. ^ Matthew 5:44 NIV
  5. ^ Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. trans. Wilhem C. Linss. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1989.
  6. ^ a b Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 267
  7. ^ "The Instruction of Amenemope". Chapter 4. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  8. ^ Proverbs 25:21
  9. ^ Piper, J. (2012). Love Your Enemies: Jesus' Love Command in the Synoptic Gospels and the Early Christian Paraenesis. Crossway. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-4335-3478-2. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  10. ^ Sim, D.C. (1998). The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community. Studies of the New Testament and Its World. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-567-22085-1. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  11. ^ Sim, D.C.; Allen, P. (2012). Ancient Jewish and Christian Texts as Crisis Management Literature: Thematic Studies from the Centre for Early Christian Studies. The Library of New Testament Studies. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-567-55397-3. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  12. ^ Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 1 Chapters 1-10. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1975.
  13. ^ Souryal, S.S. (2014). Ethics in Criminal Justice: In Search of the Truth. Taylor & Francis. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-317-52264-5. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  14. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm; Tille, A.; Haussmann, W.A.; Gray, J. (1897) [1887]. A Genealogy of Morals. Macmillan. p. 50. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  15. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1921) [1887]. The Genealogy of Morals . Translated by Samuel, Horace B. Section I.14.
  16. ^ Reno, R. R. (2008). "Confession as self-culture: Nietzsche and the demands of faith". In Abraham, W.J.; Gavrilyuk, P.L.; Koskela, D.M.; Vickers, J.E. (eds.). Immersed in the Life of God: The Healing Resources of the Christian Faith: Essays in Honor of William J. Abraham. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-8028-6396-6. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  17. ^ Reno, R. R. (January 2008). "Nietzsche's Deeper Truth". First Things. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  18. ^ Brandes, Georg (2015). Friedrich Nietzsche. Translated by Chater, Arthur G. (English ed.). William Heinemann. ISBN 978-1-331-58841-2. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  19. ^ Engler, Mark (Fall 2013). "The Machiavelli of Nonviolence: Gene Sharp and the Battle Against Corporate Rule". Dissent Magazine. 60 (4): 59–65. doi:10.1353/dss.2013.0090. S2CID 145522166. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  20. ^ "Loving Your Enemies". Stanford University. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Catena Aurea: commentary on the four Gospels; collected out of the works of the Fathers. Oxford: Parker, 1874. Thomas Aquinas". Oxford, Parker. 1874.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links edit

Preceded by
Matthew 5:43
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 5
Succeeded by
Matthew 5:45