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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 5

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-16


Christ manifesting Himself in outward obscurity as the true Saviour, by His works; and proving Himself the promised Prophet, Priest, and King, in His continual conflict with the spurious notions entertained by the Jews concerning the Messiah (Matthew 5:1 to Matthew 16:12).


Structure of the Sermon on the Mount.—The grand fundamental idea of the Sermon on the Mount is to present the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven in its relation to that of the Old Testament theocracy. This idea is arranged in three parts. Part first, which comprises the Sermon on the Mount in the narrower sense, presents the nature and character of the righteousness of the kingdom of God, from the commencement of spiritual life to its completion. Matthew 5:1-16.—At the close of this section, the contrast between this righteousness and that of Jewish traditionalism is brought out in its fullest manifestation (to suffer persecution for Christ’s sake). This induces the Lord to explain, in Part 2, the relation between the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven (in doctrine and life) and that of the Jewish theocracy. The former is the genuine fulfilment of the Old Testament theocracy (of the Law and the Prophets), in opposition to that false development of Jewish traditionalism, which only preserved the letter of the law and the prophets. Matthew 5:17 to Matthew 7:6.—As the first section contained a description of the elevation of the blessed to their final reward in heaven, although their course seems to the world one of continual humiliation; so the second section exhibits the righteousness of the Pharisees in its real character and results, to the judgment which shall finally sweep it away (beneath “dogs and swine”), although to the world it seems to rise to the greatest height of exaltation. Lastly, Christ shows in the third and practical section, how to avoid the false and choose the right way; indicating, at the same time, the mode and manner of genuine spiritual life ( Matthew 7:7-27). The concluding verses ( Matthew 5:28-29) record the impression produced by this sermon of Jesus.

Literature:—Comp. Tholuck, Comment, on the Sermon on the Mount, 4th ed., 1856 [transl. into Engl. by R. Lundin Brown, Edinb. and Philad., 1860]; Kling, Die Bergpredigt Christi, Marburg. 1841; Arndt, Die Bergpredigt Jesu Christi, Magdeb., 1837 and 1838; Braune, Die Bergpredigt unseres Herrn Jesu Christi, 2d ed., Altenburg 1855.—For the older literature of the subject, see Winer, Danz, and Heubner.

The Sermon on the Mount in the narrower sense. The law of the Spirit. The fundamental laws of the kingdom of heaven as fundamental promises and beatitudes of the Gospel. Gradual progress upward to perfectness in righteousness, or, what is the same, in Christ.

Matthew 5:1-16

( Matthew 5:1-12, the Gospel for the 27th Sunday after Trinity.)

1And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set [had sat down], his disciples came unto [to] him: 2And he opened his mouth, and taught3them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.5Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: 6for they shall inherit the earth.1 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after 7righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain 9mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: 10for they shall be called the children of God. 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 againstyou falsely,2 for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which [who] were before you. 13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its 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 a hill cannot be hid.15Neither do men light a candle and put it under a [the]3 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 [who] is in heaven.


General Remarks on the Sermon on the Mount.—The Sermon on the Mount may be regarded as the central-point of Christ’s ministry in Galilee. It was delivered during the first year of His public career, some time between the winter of 781 and the spring of 782 A. U. “The activity of John by the banks of Jordan probably continued till toward the winter of the year 781. While he baptized in Galilee, Christ labored in Judæa. About the time that John was imprisoned in Galilee, the Sanhedrim of Jerusalem began to view with dislike the growing authority of Jesus. On this account, He left Judæa, and retired to Galilee. In the spring of the year 782, John was still in prison. At that time he sent the well-known embassy to Christ. From Matthew 11:1-2, we gather that this inquiry was made at the close of the first journey of Christ through Galilee; hence before His attending the feast of Purim, which is related in the Gospel of John ( Matthew 5:0). Soon afterward the execution of John took place, probably between Purim and Easter of the year 782” (see my Leben Jesu, ii. 1, p. 162).

We mark three stages in the journey of Jesus through Galilee. The first comprises the journey of Christ through the mountainous district of Upper Galilee. This is alluded to in general terms by Matthew in Matthew 4:23. The calling of the first four Apostles, together with the miraculous draught of fishes, Luke 5:1, and the sermon of the Lord by the Lake of Galilee, preceding that miracle, formed the commencement of this journey. Its close is marked by the Sermon on the Mount. On His second journey, the Lord passed beyond the bounds of Galilee proper into Upper Peræa. This tour commenced with His second sermon by the Lake of Galilee, on which occasion the Lord probably uttered the greater part of the parables concerning the kingdom of God. Other three Apostles were now added to the former. That journey closed with the expulsion of the Lord from Gadara, and some conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees, and a few of the disciples of John (Matthew 19:0). During His third tour, the Lord passed through the towns on the Lake of Galilee to Lower Galilee, and toward Samaria and Judæa. The number of the assistants and followers of Jesus was now increased from seven to twelve, who are set apart as His Apostles. The four companions of His first journey, and the seven who attended Him during the second, had only been His followers; but others are now added to their number. They are set apart to be His Apostles; and the Lord sends them before Him,—as yet, however, with limited powers, and for a definite purpose. The narrative of this journey commences with the calling of the Apostles, and with the instructions given to them. While the Apostles precede the Lord, holy women gather around and minister unto Him (Luke 8:1-3). The towns of Magdala, in the southern part of the western shore of the lake, and Nain, between the southern side of Mount Tabor and the Lower Hermon, are mentioned as special points touched during this journey. Its goal—as appears from the sending of the twelve Apostles—was Jerusalem, where, according to John 5:0, Jesus attended the feast of Purim. This journey, which was intended to terminate in Judæa, was interrupted by two events—the resolution of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem to compass the death of Jesus (John 7:1), and the execution of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:12; Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10).

A close review of this tour shows that Jesus undertook three public journeys to Jerusalem in order to awake the attention of His people, and to lead them to decide for the truth (John 2:13; John 5:0; John 12:9).

It is important to understand the relation between the Sermon on the Mount as given by Matthew and the account of it in Luke 6:12 sqq.

According to Augustine (De consensu evang. ii. 19), Andr. Osiander, Büsching, Hess, Storr, Gratz, and others, the two sermons were delivered at different times. But most modem interpreters are agreed that they are only two different accounts of one and the same sermon of Jesus. Calvin, Schneckenburger, and Olshausen hold that the account in Matthew is the less authentic of the two; while Tholuck, Ebrard, and Meyer (p. 168), think that Luke derived his narrative from Matthew. Lastly, according to Strauss, neither of the two accounts is strictly authentic. In our opinion, they should be regarded as two different sermons delivered in close succession,—the one on the summit of a mountain in Galilee, the other, on a lower ridge of the same mountain; the one, addressed only to His disciples; the other, to all the people who had followed Him. Still, so far as their fundamental ideas and real subject-matter are concerned, the two sermons are identical, differing only in form and adaptation,—that reported by Matthew being addressed to the disciples, and hence esoteric in its form; while that given by Luke is exoteric, being addressed to the people. The fundamental idea of both is evidently the same—the exaltation of the humble and the humiliation of the proud. This idea is couched so as to correspond to the description of the Jewish year of jubilee, and expressed in the form of beatitudes. But the different aspects under which this fundamental truth is presented, show that originally two sermons had been delivered by the Lord; for, 1. the number of the beatitudes is not the same in the two sermons, and the beatitudes themselves are differently couched; 2. in the Gospel by Luke, there is always a woe to correspond to each of the beatitudes. This contrast appears, indeed, also in that portion of the sermon, as reported by Matthew, which treats of the righteousness of the Pharisees and its consequences, but in a form quite different from that in Luke. Add to this, 3. the difference in the account of the locality and the audience. According to Matthew, Jesus delivered the sermon on the top of a mountain, and sitting; while Luke relates that He came down and stood in the plain or on a plateau, to preach to the people. According to Matthew, “seeing the multitudes,” He retired among His disciples; while Luke records that He came down with His disciples, and stood among the multitude in order to address them. “Thus we have evidently two different discourses on the same subject, and containing the same elements; and, before we adopt any hypothesis which would represent the one as inferior to the other, we should first endeavor to study them more closely, and to understand the peculiar characteristics of the two Gospels. Viewed in that light, these discourses bear each a distinctive character. The Sermon on the Mount, strictly so called, is a discourse which Christ could not, at the time, have addressed to the people generally. This remark specially applies to His description of the Pharisees and scribes, and of their righteousness, and to His exposition of the contrast between His own teaching and theirs. Manifestly, Jesus could not have addressed in this manner the Jewish people generally, without thereby needlessly exposing His own followers. Nor were the people prepared to understand or receive such doctrine. And even though we were to assume that the Evangelist had introduced into this discourse some things said on other occasions, yet this sermon is so thoroughly connected in its structure, that it is impossible to ascribe its composition, so far as its leading features are concerned, to the Evangelist himself.” (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 369.) Manifestly, this discourse is esoteric—an exposition of the fundamental doctrines of the kingdom of heaven in their relation to the teaching of the Old Testament, and to the ordinances and practices of a spurious traditionalism, which could only have been intended for the disciples. Hence the choice of the locality, the retirement from the multitude, and the gathering of the disciples around Him. The Evangelist, indeed, records at the close, “that the people were astonished at His doctrine;” but this apparent inaccuracy—on our supposition—only confirms the view that, after His descent from the mountain, the Lord addressed to the people generally the discourse communicated by Luke. The latter is just what we would have expected in the circumstances—a popular and lively address, short, and illustrated by similes. This exoteric form agrees with the context as mentioned by Luke, who records that Jesus delivered this address standing among the people, though His eye would, no doubt, chiefly rest in blessing upon the disciples.

The time when these two discourses were delivered.—From some events recorded by Luke before his account of the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 6:1, etc.), it might appear to have been delivered at a later period. But this apparent inaccuracy must have been occasioned by considerations connected with the structure of his Gospel. The context shows that both Evangelists record it as having taken place at the same time. Both in Luke and in Matthew the history of the centurion of Capernaum immediately follows the Sermon on the Mount. Manifestly, then, the two discourses were delivered during the same journey of Jesus through Galilee. Similarly, the circumstances mentioned by Luke prove that the discourse reported by him followed immediately upon that reported by Matthew. According to Matthew, Jesus left the multitude, and retired with His disciples to the top of the mountain; while Luke relates that He again descended from the mountain, with His disciples, “into the plain” (ἐπὶ τὀπου πεδινοῦ), among the waiting multitude. If to this we add the manifest internal connection between the two discourses, we obtain a very distinct view of the subject. On the top of the mountain Jesus addressed to His disciples the discourse about the kingdom of heaven in an esoteric form: while immediately afterward He repeated it in an exoteric form, in the midst of the people, on a plateau of the same mountain.

The locality, or the mountain.—According to Latin tradition, the Mount of Beatitudes was what is now called the “Horns of Hattin,” between Mount Tabor and Tiberias. Robinson gives the following description of this mountain (ii. p. 370): “The road passes down to Hattin on the west of the Tell; as we approached, we turned off from the path toward the right, in order to ascend the Eastern Horn.—As seen on this side, the Tell or mountain is merely a low ridge, some thirty or forty feet in height, and not ten minutes in length from east to west. At its eastern end is an elevated point or horn, perhaps sixty feet above the plain; and, at the western end, another not so high; these give to the ridge, at a distance, the appearance of a saddle, and are called Kurun Hattin, ‘Horns of Hattin.’ But the singularity of this ridge is, that, on reaching the top, you find that it lies along the very border of the great southern plain, where this latter sinks off at once by a precipitous offset, to the lower plain of Hattin, from which the northern side of the Tell rises very steeply, not much less than 400 feet..… The summit of the Eastern Horn is a little circular plain; and the top of the lower ridge between the two horns is also flattened to a plain. The whole mountain is of limestone.”—The situation and the appearance of this mountain agree well with the supposition that it was the Mount of Beatitudes. It lay in a southwesterly direction, about seven miles from Capernaum. We can well conceive that, when, on His return from the journey through Galilee, Jesus reached this point, He partly dismissed the multitudes who had followed Him. The description of the top of the mountain, and of “the plain,” agrees with the requirements of the case. Robinson has indeed shown that no weighty grounds can be urged in favor of this tradition (ii. p. 371). It is found only in the Latin Church, and is first mentioned in the 13th century by Brocardus [about a. d. 1283]; while this tradition is apparently contradicted by another, which designates the same mountain as the spot where Christ fed the five thousand with the five loaves. Still, no valid ground can be urged against it. A striking historical illustration, by way of contrast, is connected with the Horns of Hattin, assuming that ridge to be the Mount of Beatitudes. On the spot where Jesus had described the kingdom of heaven, and pronounced the meek and the peacemakers blessed, the most bloody battles have been fought! (See C. v. Raumer, p. 37.) On the 5th of July, 1187, the celebrated battle of Hattin took place, in which the last remnant of the Crusaders was destroyed on the height of Tell Hattin, after the army had been beaten by Sultan Saladin in the valley. Again, on the plain of Jezreel, Bonaparte defeated, in 1799, with 3000 men, an army of 25,000 Turks.—From the frequent repetition of the expression, Jesus went up into a mountain, εἰς τὸ ὄρος, Gfrörer and Bruno Bauer have inferred that the mountain was merely mythical, and that it always referred to one and the same locality. But in all these narratives, the term “mountain” is used in contradistinction to the places where the people were encamped (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 676). Ebrard (Kritik, etc., p. 349) suggests that the expression is sufficiently explained by the circumstance, that throughout Palestine there was no plain from which mountains rose, but that the country was an extended plain intersected by valleys. But this is only partially true, as there are considerable mountain-tops in the country; although the configuration of Palestine may partly have given rise to such a general mode of expression as “to go up into a mountain.”

Occasion of this address.—According to Wiescler (Chronologische Synopse, p. 205), the year from the autumn 779 to that of 780 had been a sabbatical year. Thus the remembrance of the jubilee was still fresh in the minds of the people. For, although the peculiar ordinances connected with the jubilee were no longer observed even at the time of the prophets, the symbolical import of the institution must still have been cherished by the people. The passage from Isaiah 61:0, which Jesus had shortly before read in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:14, etc.), referred to the year of grace of the Lord. The symbolical idea of this institution which had pervaded the song of Mary, was fully unfolded and developed in the Sermon on the Mount. (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 571.)

Relation between the Sermon on the Mount as reported by Matthew, and the parallel passages in Luke and Mark.—This relation is explained, 1. by the difference between the two discourses; 2. by the circumstance that Luke records in other passages the admonitions which were specially addressed to the disciples. This remark applies more especially to the Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:1-4; to the admonition to prayer, Matthew 5:9-13; to the simile in Matthew 5:34-36; and to the warning against excessive care for the things of this life, Luke 12:22-31. Still, it is possible that some of the statements in the first Sermon on the Mount, which recur in the other Gospels, may have been repeated on other occasions: for example, Mark 9:50; Luke 12:34; Luke 13:24; Luke 16:13; Luke 16:17-18. Others, again, may have been introduced by the Evangelist in another context: for example, Luke 12:58.

Matthew 5:1. And seeing the multitudes, ἰδὼνδὲ κ. τ. λ.—This is evidently meant to account for the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus frequently saw multitudes around Him, but here a peculiar emphasis is laid on that circumstance. The question then arises, whether the crowding of the multitude around had induced Him to deliver the Sermon on the Mount in their presence, and that with all which it contains concerning the scribes and Pharisees; or whether, on the contrary, it had induced Him to explain these truths in a confidential manner to His disciples alone. We adopt the latter view, which is supported by the analogy of Mark 3:12-13; Luke 6:12-13; John 6:23, comp. with Matthew 5:15.

His disciples.—It is evident that at that period Jesus had already made a separation between His disciples and the people. But Matthew distinguishes between this and the later choice of the twelve Apostles, Matthew 10:1. The expression implies that a larger circle of friends and assistants had gathered around Jesus, among whom the twelve occupied a prominent place.

Matthew 5:2. And He opened His mouth.—The phrase ἀνοίγειν τὸ στόμα, פָּהִח פֶּה, is, in the first place, oriental and pictorial; secondarily, it indicates an important element, that of confidential and solemn communication: Job 3:1; Daniel 10:16. This applies especially to the moment when the Incarnate Word opened His mouth to enunciate the eternal principles of the New Covenant. We note here the contrast, as between Sinai and the Mount of Beatitudes, the law and the Gospel, so also between the speaking of God during the Old Testament, accompanied as it then was by thunder and lightning, and Jesus “opening His mouth” under the New Testament.

Matthew 5:3-16. The Sermon on the Mount, in the narrower sense ( Matthew 5:3-16) comprises the seven beatitudes, and their application to the disciples of Jesus under the twofold simile of the salt of the earth, and the light of the world; the latter being again arranged under two similes—that of the city on the hill, and that of the candlestick. The seven admonitions are rightly characterized as so many beatitudes. From this we infer, above all, the evangelical character of this discourse of Jesus, since, 1. He designates each stage in the development of the spiritual life a beatitude, because it imparts beatitude. The blessedness which Himself at the first imparts, is succeeded by being blessed, even unto perfect beatitude in glory. 2. Since, on that account, He does not prescribe any course of action conformable to the law or to His teaching, but a life conformable to the law, as a manifestation of His teaching. 3. He presents the great outlines of New Testament righteousness as consisting in self-knowledge, felt want, suffering, emptiness, or susceptibility, which the Lord will meet out of the heavenly fulness of His own kingdom. 4. He presents the blessings of the kingdom of heaven in their perfectness as spiritual in their character, and as the property of the beatified. 5. In the succession of these beatitudes He marks the development of the new life from its commencement to its completion. Luther: “This is indeed a fair, sweet, and pleasant commencement of His preaching and teaching. For He does not come in like Moses, or like a teacher of the law, with commands, threats, and terrors, but in the most kindly manner, with attractions, and allurements, and most sweet promises.” The old arrangement into seven beatitudes is perfectly correct. The seventh beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” marks the climax: “They shall be called the children of God.” In the eighth beatitude, the other seven are only summed up under the idea of the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven in its relation to those who persecute it; while the ninth is a description of the eighth, with reference to the relation in which these righteous persons stand to Christ. The seven beatitudes, therefore, describe the blessedness of the righteousness of God, as it appears in the last instance, on the one hand, in being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and on the other, for Christ’s sake. This also casts a new light upon each of the seven beatitudes: they are a conflict with false righteousness for true righteousness’ sake: they are for Christ’s sake, and they are a conflict for His sake.

The seven beatitudes form an ascending line, in which the new life is traced from stage to stage, from its commencement to its completion. At the basis we have poverty in spirit, the grand final result of the Old Testament discipline. But, in studying this ascending line of Christian righteousness or virtue, which rests on the basis of spiritual poverty, we must not lose sight of the parallels which they contain. Manifestly, each of the beatitudes expresses a new (religious) relationship toward God, and, side by side with it, a new (moral) relationship toward the world. This will appear more clearly from the following table:—

Click image for full-size version

Blessed are ye, the disciples, if ye are such. Thus shall ye be:—
(a) The salt of the earth. (b)The light of the world.
1. A city set on a hill.

2. A candle put on a candlestick.

Matthew 5:3. Blessed, Μακάριοι, אִשְׁרֵי, Psalms 1:1.—“From the explanatory sentences, which commence with ὅτι ( Matthew 5:3-10), we gather what blessedness Jesus has in view—that of the kingdom of Messiah.” Again, Jesus declares those blessed whom the men of the world would hold to be most unhappy. He designates by that term circumstances which, to those looking merely at the outside, would appear far from enviable, and traits of character running directly contrary to the carnal views and the legal righteousness of the Jews. Hence these sentences are so many paradoxes. “Although these statements of Christ run directly counter to the carnal prejudices of His contemporaries, His utterances contain nothing that was either entirely new or unknown, since all these beatitudes are based upon passages of the Old Testament (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalms 34:11-19; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 73:1; 1 Samuel 2:5; Psalms 51:17; Ecclesiastes 7:4, etc.).” O. von Gerlach. It is worthy of notice, that, like the beatitudes of Jesus, that in Psalms 1:0 both presupposes a corresponding state of mind, and admonishes believers to cherish and seek such a spiritual disposition.

The poor in spirit, οἱπτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύ ματι.—The dative is here used to designate them more particularly: in their spirit, or in reference to their spirit, or spiritual life; those who feel themselves spiritually poor, and hence realize their deep and inexpressible want of the Spirit, and long for the religion of the Spirit (The opposite of this in Revelation 3:17.) Hence the expression does not imply poverty of spirit in reference to man, far less intellectual poverty (as Fritzsche thinks). The idea, that it refers to external poverty, voluntarily chosen, or to a vow of voluntary poverty, as some of the older Roman Catholic commentators imagine (Maldonatus, Cornelius à Lap.), deserves no further notice. The addition, τῷπνεύματι, forms a primary and essential characteristic of Christianity. Although wanting in the corresponding passage in Luke, the expression refers there also to spiritual poverty. Köstlin fancies that the omission in Luke is due to Ebionite leanings; while Matthew purposely added the words, “in spirit,” to mark the difference. But this hypothesis is only an attempt to carry out the theory of Baur, that the first Christians had been Ebionites. It is indeed true that the expression bears special reference to the poor and needy of the Old Testament theocracy (Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 66:2). But those Ebionites were not poor in the sense of their entertaining carnal expectations of the Messiah, but in that of spiritual longing for true righteousness. This feeling of spiritual poverty, which appeared at the time of the prophets, had now attained full maturity. It had been “fulfilled;” and hence coincided with the μετάνοια in its origin, as this grace unfolds in the two succeeding beatitudes, and forms the germ of the ταπεινοφροσύνη. The full meaning of the expression is brought out in the following remark of Tholuck:–“To translate accurately, we must render the term by egeni and mendici, for this is the meaning of πτωχός, while πένης corresponds to the Latin pauper.” On the humility cherished by Gentile sages, especially on that of Socrates, comp. Heubner, p. 50.

Matthew 5:4. They that mourn, οἱ πενθοῦντες, Isaiah 61:2.—We must not apply the term (with Chrysostom and most of the older interpreters) to deep mourning on account of sin, nor yet to sadness and sorrow in general. This state of mind is explained by the poverty in spirit from which it springs, and tends toward hungering and thirsting after righteousness. From the first, the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven was the great object aimed after,—even in poverty of spirit, much more in mourning. But as yet this object has not been clearly realized by the consciousness. Hence it implies spiritual mourning, divine sorrow, in opposition to the sorrow of the world (2 Corinthians 7:10). This mourning in God (by His Spirit), after God (His blessings), and for God (His glory), includes not only mourning on account of sin, but also on account of its consequences; more particularly, is it the expression of a state of mind when the world, with its possessions and pleasures, is no longer capable of satisfying, gladdening, or comforting. Those who thus mourn are to be comforted—of course, in the same sense in which they mourn; but their consolation is to be absolute (see Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; John 14:3). This comfort necessarily implies the forgiveness of sins; it also includes the promise that their godly sorrow shall, in every respect, be removed by the kingdom of heaven, which is promised to the poor in spirit.

Matthew 5:5. The meek.—Psalms 37:11, according to the Septuagint: οἱ δὲ πραεῖς κληρονομήσουσι γῆν. They who suffer in love, or love in patience; they who, in the strength of love, boldly yet meekly, meekly yet boldly, bear injustice, and thereby conquer. In this beatitude, the promise of the Holy Land (the enemies being driven out) is a symbol of the kingdom of heaven; still, outward possession, and that in all its fulness, is also referred to in the expression: the land, the earth.

Matthew 5:6. Hunger and thirst after righteousness.—A figurative mode of indicating a desire so intense as to be painful. Wetstein. (The substantive is here in the accusative, τὴν δικαιοσύνην, though commonly in the genitive.) Δικαιοσύνη, with the article, the only genuine righteousness, the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven; but, above all, righteousness not as a work of our own, but as a gift,—a fact not of the outer, but of the inner life. Hence the expression refers neither to the Christian religion (Kuinoel) nor to uprightness, the restoration of which was, according to Meyer, the grand object of Christ. Righteousness is correspondence to the law; the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, that to the law of the Spirit.

They shall be filled, i. e., with righteousness.—This promise applies neither exclusively to justification by faith, nor to final acquittal in judgment; but includes both justification, sanctification, and final acquittal,—all of which, indeed, are inseparably connected with justification.

Matthew 5:7. The merciful, according to the standard of the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. De Wette applies this in the first place to the members of the theocracy, who, victorious over the Gentiles, should not execute vengeance upon them. The idea is correct, if taken in a higher and a spiritual sense. They are the meek, who, having formerly been on the defensive, have now taken the offensive. The meek bear the injustice of the world; the merciful bravely address themselves to the wants of the world. They shall obtain mercy, as being the objects of mercy. As mourning, they are delivered from the sorrows of life; as longing after righteousness, from the guilt of life; and now as the merciful, from all the misery of life. But this is only the negative element; the positive appears in the gradation: they shall be comforted, they shall be satisfied, they shall obtain mercy, be inwardly renewed and restored. And all this, in accordance with the grand fundamental principle of the kingdom of God. See Matthew 7:2.

Matthew 5:8. The pure in heart, οἱκα θαραὶ τῇ κασ δίᾳ. —This must refer to righteousness as the ruling principle of the heart and inner life. Purity of heart consists in that steady direction of the soul toward the divine life which excludes every other object from the homage of the heart. Hence “inward moral integrity” is not sufficient; irrespective of the fact, that such integrity bears reference to an external moral standard. Our Lord, however, does not require absolute purity; else He would have said: They behold God. The term refers to a life pure in the inmost tendency and direction of the heart, because it is entirely set upon what is eternally and absolutely pure. Hence it applies to walking in the Spirit, or to a life of sanctification, or to being born of God (1 John 3:9). When thus the inmost heart is pure. its outgoings in life will also be pure. The inner life will ever manifest itself more and more clearly as “seeing God.”

They shall see God.—The expression does not refer merely to an internal knowledge of God (according to Gregory of Nyssa, Theophylact, Tholuck, etc.), nor (according to de Wette) to direct spiritual communion with God here and hereafter,—far less to Messianic beatitude generally (Kuinoel and others), under the Oriental figure of a man beholding his king, or appearing before him. These ideas are, however, included in the final and perfect seeing of God. But, on the other hand, we cannot agree with Meyer, that it refers to the beatific vision of saints, when in the resurrection body they shall behold the glory of God in the kingdom of His Son (Revelation 22:4). For it is evident that in all these seven promises no interval of space or time intervenes between the longing and the satisfaction. This vision of God commences when the eye of the soul opens, or when spiritual vision begins in the regenerate heart (Ephesians 1:18): it is perfected when in eternity we shall see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2).

Matthew 5:9. The peacemakers, οἱ εἰρηνο ποιοί.—The peacemakers of the true theocracy, not merely the peaceful, εἰρηνικοί, James 3:17. It denotes the exertions made by the pure heart on behalf of the kingdom of heaven, alluding more particularly to the messengers of peace under the New Testament,—not with reference to their official capacity, but to the power and truth of the word which they bear (Colossians 1:20; Proverbs 12:20). The promise which immediately follows, corresponds with their exalted position as here indicated.

They shall be called the sons of God (in the full theocratic sense, as children of age, υἱοί, and not merely τέκνα).—The term is not simply equivalent to such expressions as υἱοθεσία and κληρονομία, in Romans 8:17, and Galatians 4:5-7 (Meyer), nor to being beloved of God (Kuinoel), nor to being like unto God (Paulus); but indicates that, by their fellowship with the Son, and their dependence upon Him, they enjoy the exalted rank of full-grown children of God. They are the children of God as the messengers of Christ, the instruments of His kingdom, and the organs of the Holy Ghost. The term sons may have been used, because the only begotten Son had not yet fully revealed Himself in that character; after which they appear as His friends, His representatives, His messengers, and His organs. Their dignity and glory in the kingdom of heaven—viewed spiritually—constitutes the promise given to them. Hence “κληθήσονται, not erunt (Kuinoel), but what they really are, is here expressly recognized by the name given to them.”—Meyer.

Matthew 5:10. They which are persecuted, δεδιωγμένοι.—Here the conflict between the new spiritua theocracy and its old degenerate form is introduced forming a transition from the ideal representation of the disciples to the circumstances in which they were actually placed, and which are specially referred to in the following verse.—By righteousness is not merely meant here the grace alluded to in Matthew 5:6; it rather comprises the substance of all the seven beatitudes,—i. e., righteousness not merely in its grand manifestation, but also in its first origin and final completion, more especially in the form in which it appears in the peacemakers, exciting the resistance of the world (see Matthew 10:0; 1 Peter 3:14.)

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—The same expression as in Matthew 5:3. Nor, indeed, could the kingdom of heaven be here different from what it was at the outset; only the manner of its possession and enjoyment is now other than it had been. To the poor in spirit the kingdom of heaven consists, in the first place, in their being comforted; while those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will, according to Matthew 5:12, partake of that great reward in heaven itself which is promised to all who suffer for the sake of Christ. In Matthew 5:3, we have the kingdom of heaven with all that it implies,—here, with all that it imparts; there, as objectively set before us,—here, as our own personal and actual possession.

Matthew 5:11. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, etc., for my sake.—This is the special application of what the Lord had above declared, or the interpretation of the language used in Matthew 5:10. The disciples are those who are blessed; righteousness is personified in the Lord. Yet there is this difference: the Lord is so unconditionally; the disciples conditionally, viz., in as far as they prove themselves disciples. We are not inclined, with Beza, to limit the expressions, “revile and persecute,” to outward sufferings by the civil magistrate. The expression ἕνεκενἐμυῦ refers to all the three verbs, and the word ψευδόμενοι is accordingly superfluous.

By pointing to the great reward in heaven, the Lord sets the fact more clearly than ever before His hearers, that the kingdom of Messiah is not of this world, and that perfectness will only be attained there, while here we are to prepare for it by suffering and witness-bearing on behalf of Christ.

Matthew 5:12. For so persecuted they the prophets.—The example of the prophets was intended to show the disciples that this struggle between them and carnal Judaism was not of recent date, but had been carried on even at the time of the prophets (Acts 7:51-52). But it would also convince them that they stood on the same level with the seers of old, and that they were to continue and complete Divine revelation under the New Testament.

Matthew 5:16. The high calling of the disciples had been announced in the beatitudes. The Lord now proceeds to show more fully both its necessity and its glory. Viewing their calling, 1. in its spiritual and inward aspect, the disciples are the salt of the earth; 2. viewed externally, and in their corporate capacity, they are the light of the world, viz., (a) a city set on a hill, as being the Church of God, and (b) candle on a candlestick, in their capacity as Apostles. These two ideas, however, must not be viewed as exclusive of each other.

Matthew 5:13. The salt of the earth.—A figure of the element of nourishment and preservation in the kingdom of heaven, preventing corruption, preserving nutriment, giving savor to it, and rendering it healthy. A similar use of the term “salt” occurs in many of the proverbs and symbols of the ancients.—The idea, that the term salt is here used to indicate an indispensable commodity (Fritzsche), is far too vague; nor does it exclusively refer to the use of salt in sacrifices,—the expression implying that they were the salt of the whole earth.—The term “earth” is figurative, denoting, not mankind generally, but society as then existing, both in the theocracy and the Gentile world,—being the definite form which the world had assumed (Psalms 93:0; John 2:12; Revelation 13:11). The disciples were destined, as the salt of the ancient theocratic world, to arrest the corruption which had commenced, and to impart a fresh and lasting savor.

But if the salt have lost its savor, μωρανθῆ.—In Mark 9:50, ἄναλον γέιηται. Comp. with this the following extract from Maundrell’s Journey to Palestine: “In the salt-valley, about four hours from Aleppo, there is a declivity of about twelve feet, caused by the continual removal of salt. I broke off a piece where the ground was exposed to the rain, the sun, and the air; and found that, while it glittered and contained particles of salt, it had wholly lost its peculiar savor. But the portions within, which were in juxtaposition to the rock, still retained the savor of salt.” Comp. also Winer sub Salz [and other Biblical Encyclops]. Salt which is quite pure cannot lose its savor, but only if it have any, foreign admixture. The same remark applies to our spiritual life. Viewed in itself, it remains pure salt; but in its human form, and with the admixture of human elements, it may lose its savor. At the same time the Lord here speaks hypothetically: if the salt have lost its savor. The point of comparison in the figure lies in the idea: salt which has lost its savor cannot be salted again, nor a corrupted evangelist be evangelized anew. Jansen: non datur sal sails. (Comp., however, 2 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 6:4.) For the salt is the thing to be salted [as the Com. E. Vers, correctly translates: “wherewith shall it be salted?”], comp. the following εἰς οὐδὲν, etc., and not the food, as Luther’s version would make it: “Womit soll man salzen?” (“Wherewith shall men salt?”) An apostate from the faith has, so far as he is concerned, made void the saving power of salvation; nor is there another and higher substitute for the spiritual office of the ministry, if once it have become degenerate.

There remains, then, only the judgment. Salt which has lost its savor is only fit to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. Those who are henceforth to carry on and continue the history of the world, will tread it under foot as they pass on their way. According to Theophylact, it refers to exclusion from the office of teacher; according to Chrysostom, to greatest contempt; according to Luther, to rejection by Christ.

Matthew 5:14. Ye are the light of the world.—Comp. John 9:5. In all these descriptions of the disciples, the Lord presupposes that His Spirit and His righteousness have become the principle of their life. They are the light of the world, as deriving their light from Him who is the true light of the world (Ephesians 3:9; Philippians 2:15), just as they are the sons of God in Him who is the eternal Son of God.—Thus He awakens in them the knowledge of His own dignity by a sense of their destiny.

A city set on a hill.—It is generally supposed that Jesus had at the time the town of Sated in view, which lies on the top of a hill. But Robinson has shown [iii. p. 425] that this supposition is, to say the least, improbable, since it is doubtful whether Safed then already existed.

Matthew 5:15. Under a bushel.—The common measure used in houses, holding about a peck. “In the East, the practice is to place a candle on the floor, and to cover it with a measure used for corn, when it is desired to keep it burning and yet to prevent its effects for a time” (?).—Tholuck. Just as the candlestick is the means of diffusing the light, so the bushel that of confining it; or, realizing the full idea of an upturned bushel, confining it within very narrow limits. The same relation exists between the limited measure of officialism, of intellect, of asceticism, of traditionalism in life or teaching, and the infinite fulness of light issuing from living Christianity.

The candle on the candlestick.4—The ministry should not conceal the light of knowledge, but hold it up, so that its brightness may be diffused as widely as possible throughout the apartment.

Matthew 5:16. Your light.—This proves that the light by which they become candlesticks is not their own, but given from above. It is this light which is to shine before all men; in other words, they are openly and boldly to come forward with the message of the New Testament, in accordance with their vocation as disciples.

That they may see your good works.—From the wording of the passage, we infer, that by the good works something different is meant from the light mentioned above. We regard them as the special graces and manifestations of the disciples (such as miracles, the creation of a new life, the fruits of regeneration), which must be viewed in the light of Christianity, and may serve as a practical commentary on the word.

Glorify your Father.—A most glorious prospect is here opened up to those who are reviled and persecuted. A lively representation this, also, of the conviction wrought in men, and of the blessed certitude resulting from the conduct of the disciples. Men shall glorify the Father of the Christians; and hence, also, adopt their faith and their acknowledgment of God in Christ, and thus become blessed. But all the glory is to be the Lord’s.


1. In the Sermon on the Mount, the whole doctrine of Christ is exhibited in the first stage of its development, as afterward it is expounded in a somewhat analogous manner in the Epistle of James. We have here the new Christian life as the eternal law of the Spirit, or else the old law in its Christian transformation as a new life. If it is said that the Lord here exhibited the law, or Old Testament righteousness, in all its fulness, we add, that this fulness of the law removed the legal character of the law. The spirit of the law transforms the outward letter into something internal, into a power of life and vital principle; it substitutes one reality in place of many ordinances; and instead of the series of ten commandments (and ten is the number of the world, while seven is that of the sanctuary), a succession of seven stages of sacred and spiritual development of the new life. The former contrast between the demands of God and the performances of man—between the Judge and the guilty sinner—becomes now that of blessing and receiving, between a gracious Father and merciful Saviour, and the humble believer. In short, righteousness in all its fulness consists in this, that Christ Himself is all righteousness, and that His righteousness is imparted to man through the grand medium of reception, viz., poverty in spirit.

As the passage under consideration describes the kingdom of heaven in its principles, power, and graces, so Matthew 10:0 details its organization, which marks the second stage in the development of the teaching of Christ.

2. The contrast between the Old and the New Covenant is here strikingly brought out,—(a) In its representations and outward manifestation: Moses and Christ.—Mount Sinai in the rocky wilderness, and the Mount of Beatitudes in the midst, of a populous district in the Holy Land.—Moses alone, concealed from view by the clouds of an awful thunder-storm; Christ surrounded by His disciples, and sitting among them.—Mount Sinai, with bounds set about it, and the people at a distance; the Mount of Beatitudes encompassed by multitudes.—In the one case, the people fleeing from the mountain; in the other, crowding toward its summit, and waiting on its ridge. (b) In its essential characteristics: Moses received the law from Jehovah by the ministry of angels, while in a state of ecstasy; but Christ brought it forth from the depths of His theanthropic heart, in full and calm consciousness.—The law of Moses written upon tablets of stone, the word of Christ on the hearts of His disciples.—In the one case, thunder and lightnings; in the other, only beatitudes.—In the one case, successive demands, each isolated, and each taking away all hope of life; in the other, successive blessings, connected together and creative, almost like the six days of creation.—In the one case, the first tables of the law broken in pieces by Moses, in his wrath at the apostasy of the people, and other tables substituted with sacrificial injunctions, stricter than the former; in the other case, the first sermon delivered on the Mount, and at its second delivery, adapted to the wants and the weaknesses of the people.—In the one case, everything from without, in the objective form of outward commandments; in the other, everything committed to the heart—everything from within, wafted, so to speak, in the life-giving breezes of the holy mountain,—In the one case, the ancient Gospel-promise transformed into law; in the other, even the law with its demands—such as poverty of spirit, etc.—transformed into Gospel.—In the one case, the theocracy founded in the shadows of the letter; in the other, the kingdom of heaven in the reality and life of the Spirit. (c) In its results: Sinai was adapted to a particular era, to a particular nation, and for a definite educational purpose.5 But the word of Christ equally applies to all times and to all peoples, being the guide to salvation.—The law terrifies the people, and makes them flee; the Sermon on the Mount addresses itself to their hearts, and draws them to the Lord.

3. There is an obvious connection between the Mount of Beatitudes and the other holy mountains. The first beatitude (that of the poor in spirit) brings us to Sinai; the second and third (the mourning, and the meek) point to Moriah and Zion; the fourth and fifth (those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the merciful) direct to Golgotha, in its twofold import (as the Mount of the Curse and that of Reconciliation); while the sixth and seventh remind us of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives, and of Bethany and the Mount of Olives, or also of Mount Tabor.
4. It were a great mistake to place the seven beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount in the same category with the ten commandments of the law. This were not to enrich, but to make them all the poorer. Their fulness consists in this, that each of these beatitudes comprises all the ten commandments, only from a higher and more comprehensive point of view, as summed up in the law of the Spirit. Even the first quality of poverty in spirit comprises Mount Sinai, with all its commandments, inasmuch as this state of feeling is the aim, the object, the spiritual effect, and the substance of the entire legislation; and hence, also, the germ of the whole new life. It is impossible to feel poor in spirit, without at the same time longing for the riches of the Spirit of God, or of the kingdom of heaven. Hence we draw the following inferences as to the succession of the beatitudes: (1) Each new stage contains again the first stage in a new form. (2) Each new stage preserves all the former stages. (3) In the last, they are summed up and presented under the form of life which has attained its perfection. For, first, it is evident that the seven beatitudes are in reality only one beatitude. Secondly, the seven graces or spiritual states constitute one grand direction in reference to God and to our neighbor, even the direction of the heart unto truth. Lastly, the seven promises are not seven distinct elements, but seven successive forms under which the kingdom of heaven is presented. Under the first form, the kingdom of heaven itself is presented, but mainly objectively; while in the last form it reappears, but this time mainly subjectively, as finally possessed by the saints.
5. The following contrasts exhibit the relation between the apparent descent, and the actual ascent of souls, as presented in the seven beatitudes.

(1) To be poor in spirit, and

—To possess the kingdom of heaven, as the object set before us, or as possession of the heart.

(2) To mourn without measure,

—To be comforted without measure.

(3) Meekly to bear injustice upon earth,

—To obtain the dominion of the earth by spiritual triumphs.

(4) To hunger and thirst in spirit after righteousness (to bear the judgment of God),

—To be satisfied in the highest sense, and absolutely (to obtain food and drink).

(5) In the service of mercy, to devote our life to the wants of the world,

—To rest in the bosom of infinite mercy.

(6) Purity of heart: absolute renunciation of the world, death of our own will,

—To behold God. Absolute possession of all in this vision God. Blessed enjoyment of this vision.

(7) To be peacemakers. To be sent and cast into every burning controversy of the world. To descend as mediators to the very gates of hell,

—The glory and beauty of the sons of God, or of those who are princes in His eternal kingdom. The vehicles of the blessing which cometh’s from God. Transformed into the image of the Son of God.



To suffer for righteousness’ sake,

—Actual inward possession of the kingdom of heaven.

To suffer for Christ’s sake,

—A new world: the eternal inheritance, the great reward in heaven.

6. The paradox exhibited in these contrasting statements, which probably comes out most distinctly in the first beatitude, indicates the relationship between Christianity and the world, and the judgment of the world generally. Christianity itself is that “foolishness of God” which is wiser than the wisdom of this world, and that truth of God which sweeps away the delusive appearances of the world (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:17, etc.).

7. It is evident that the seven stages here described may be arranged under twice three stages, based upon poverty in spirit, and indicating a threefold relationship toward God and toward the world: 1, religious and moral relationship to God: mourning, hungering, and thirsting; purity of heart; 2. moral and religions relationship toward the world: meekness, mercy, peacemaking. But besides, it is important to notice how each of these stages is always the result of that which precedes it. Thus poverty in spirit leads to mourning; mourning renders meek; meekness obtains a view of eternal righteousness; hungering and thirsting after this righteousness renders infinitely merciful and compassionate; mercy surrenders everything, renounces all, and thus becomes purity of heart, which surrenders all, and devotes all. Purity of heart is the disposition requisite for the Divine commission of bringing peace into the world. The peacemakers necessarily suffer for righteousness’ sake (Isaiah 52:7); and in measure as they apprehend the kingdom of love in its essential features, will they see and understand that all is but suffering for Christ’s sake.

This progress from poverty in spirit to the highest stage of peacemaking and suffering for Christ’s sake, is the effect of Divine grace acting upon and influencing the soul which is humbled under a sense of spiritual poverty. Accordingly, the first effect of beholding the kingdom of heaven, is to mourn.—Similarly, to be really comforted, leads to meekness.—The consciousness of special victory achieved by bearing wrong, issues in hungering and thirsting after righteousness.—Those who are satisfied are merciful, etc.
8. The Sermon on the Mount, which embodies the spiritual principles of the kingdom of heaven in all its bearings and aspects, may be compared with other forms of religious and moral legislation. In the passage succeeding it, a comparison is instituted between this new form of the eternal law and the law of Moses and the traditions of the Pharisees. Not that the Sermon on the Mount is a rectification, but a harmonious development, the continuation and application, of the law of God under the Old Covenant; while the contrast with traditionalism is strongly and markedly brought out (On the relation between the Sermon on the Mount and the sayings of heathen sages, comp. Tholuck’s Commentary. On the false application of the Sermon on the Mount to civic and political relationship, by Quakers and other sectaries, Comp. Stier’s Discourses of Jesus.)


Glorious accomplishment of the prediction of Moses: “A Prophet like unto me,” etc.; Deuteronomy 18:15.—Mount Sinai, and the obscure, unknown Mount of Beatitudes.—The sacred mountains.—Import of the expression: “He went up into a mountain.”6—The law of the letter spiritually explained, and the law of the Spirit expressed in the letter.—Outward and inward tradition: Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Caiaphas and Christ.—The first and the second Sermon on the Mount, or the disciples and the people.—The place whence Christ taught, a symbol of Christian teaching: 1. A stone on the summit (let our doctrine be simple); 2. the summit of a mountain (let our doctrine be exalted); 3. a place of prayer (let it be holy, derived from heaven); 4. a place of pilgrimage (let it be from life, and for life).—“He opened His mouth:” this the completion of Revelation 7:0—The Old Covenant with its ten commandments; the New with its seven beatitudes.—The law given by Moses: grace and truth appeared by Jesus Christ.—The one beatitude of Christians unfolding into seven beatitudes.—“Blessed are:” we must be blessed in order to become blessed.—Necessity of a state of grace in the kingdom of God. 1. Such a state is the condition of further attainments. 2. It precedes all gracious action.—The seven beatitudes marking deepening humiliation.—The seven beatitudes marking growing exaltation.—Correspondence of this humiliation and exaltation.—“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for,” etc. (Similarly each of the other beatitudes by itself furnishing a theme for precious meditation.)—The kingdom of heaven in its grand outlines: comfort, gain, satisfaction, enjoyment of mercy, vision of God, adoption into the family of God.—Or again, the kingdom of peace and of joy; of love and of meekness; of righteousness; of mercy; of blessed knowledge; of heavenly peacemaking and of glory.—Poverty in spirit the fruit of the law (of the Old Covenant), and the germ of the Gospel (of the New Covenant).—The crowning glory of the law is poverty in spirit.—The triumph of the law consists in that it makes poor; that of the Gospel, in that it makes rich.—A well-marked and definite state consists in a definite and well-marked tendency of mind and heart: poverty in spirit is longing for the entire kingdom of heaven.—A view of the kingdom of heaven in its nearness leads to mourning.—He who has been comforted by a manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, becomes meek.—Victory over men and the earth leads to hungering and thirsting after the righteousness of God.—If we have been satisfied in the house of God, we shall learn to be merciful.—He who reposes on eternal mercy may well surrender all, and be pure in heart.—One glimpse of this vision of God converts man into a messenger of peace. 1. He has seen the peace of the Spirit, and carries it to other spirits; 2. he has seen the peace of the blessed, and brings it to men; 3. he has seen the peace of nature, and introduces it into society.—The children of God, the image of the Son of God.—The righteousness of the kingdom of heaven springing from a sevenfold sense of unrighteousness: poverty, mourning, etc.—To suffer for righteousness’ sake, is to suffer for Christ’s sake, and vice versâ.—Holy suffering the most glorious doing: 1. As the crown and seal of every deed of faith; 2. as the victory over temptation to evil-doing; 3. as the victory over the evil deeds of men; 4. as a testimony to the deed of God.—“Falsely,” or “for My sake.”—It is only if we really suffer for His sake that the Lord charges Himself with it.—Blessed are they which are persecuted for Christ’s sake.—Even revilers contribute to our blessedness.—Christians as companions of the prophets, 1. in their sufferings; 2. in their blessedness.—The persecutions of the world designed to prepare believers for being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.—The disciples of the Lord, the salt of the earth, the light of the world.—The disciples are to be the salt of the earth, 1. by consuming death, 2. by preventing corruption, 3. by promoting life.—If the salt have lost its savor, nothing can remedy the evil; so also with a dead profession, and a dead ministry.—Salt that has lost its savor is cast on the great road of life, as exemplified, 1. by heathen antiquity, 2. by theocratic Judaism, 3. by mediæval traditionalism.—The disciples of the Lord the light of the world through the great light of heaven.—Only in the light of the Lord can we diffuse light.—The Church of God a city set on a hill.—The candle of the ministry in the house of God.—The candle is not to be put under the bushel, but on a candlestick: (a) Not under the bushel of the letter merely, or of officialism, or of our limited understanding, or of our narrow sympathies; but (b) on the candlestick of a sound confession, of ecclesiastical order, of spiritual liberty, and of a Christian life.—The stake of martyrs the lofty candlestick of the Church.—Let your light shine, 1. to enlighten men, 2. to throw light on Christian works, 3. to glorify the Father of lights (James 1:0).—Our Father in heaven is glorified by poverty in spirit, 1. because He bestows it; 2. because it leads to Him; 3. because in Him it obtains the kingdom of heaven.

Starke:—Christ will give us also a mouth and wisdom, Luke 21:15.—A preacher must open his mouth without fear or hesitation; confess the truth without being afraid; nor spare any one, whoever he be, Isaiah 58:1.—The larger the audience, and the more anxious it is, the more gladly should the preacher open his mouth.—It ought to be the great concern of man to obtain eternal life, Philippians 2:12.—By pride have we fallen from the kingdom of God, and by humility must we again enter it, James 4:10.—God bestows all in return for all, or rather, in return for nothing.—The greater our faith, the deeper our humility.—The more wretched a man is in his own eyes, the more exalted and acceptable is he in the sight of God.—Sufferings borne for the sake of God, and tears shed for our own sins and for those of our neighbors (Psalms 119:136) are the well-spring of true comfort, Isaiah 61:3.—The comfort of man only increases our sorrow, Job 16:2; but Divine consolation makes the heart joyous and assured, Psalms 94:19.—Meekness builds up, while hot and rash zeal pulls down.—The ungodly have no title to their possessions in this world, and death shall at last deprive them of all, Psalms 49:16.—Luther: Where real hunger and earnestness are awanting, fair appearances will lead to no result.—True hunger seeks for that which affords nourishment and satisfaction.—Whoever showeth mercy shall obtain fresh mercy from God.—You forgive a small error, but God will forgive all your sins. But woe to the unmerciful, James 2:13; Matthew 25:42; Luke 16:25.—By nature no man is pure in heart, Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 8:21; Proverbs 20:9 : God creates it in us, Psalms 51:10.—Without holiness no man can see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14.—Happy he who, having been born blind, obtains his sight; but more blessed by far the man who, being born spiritually blind, is enabled to see God, Revelation 3:17-18.—Those who love to quarrel, to dispute, and to make strife, are the children of the devil.—It is a sign that we are the children of God, if we love peace and advance it.—Not only what we do, but what we suffer, is a fruit of faith, Hebrews 11:33; Hebrews 11:36.—Believers are hated, reviled, and persecuted on account of the things for which they should be loved and blessed, John 10:32.—Persecution for righteousness’ sake has a great reward.—The more painful to flesh and blood the preaching of the cross, the more readily should it be received, Luke 9:44.—Luther: What comfort that the Son of God Himself calls us blessed, let whoever may speak ill of us! 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.—Christians, and especially ministers, must submit to reviling and persecution: this has always been the lot of the Church; nor is it a good sign when a servant of God is without it, Galatians 6:12.—The Church is preserved despite the fury of Satan.—Let persecutors rage, since Christ offers us such blessed comfort.—He who in his inmost heart rejoices not in the cross of Christ, is not worthy of Him, James 1:2.—To be reviled and persecuted by the world for conscience’ sake, is to be commended and crowned, Revelation 2:10.—By suffering we enter into communion with the prophets and the Lord Jesus Himself.—The inheritance of the saints is in heaven.—Teachers are not only to have salt in themselves, but also to make right use of their salt, so as to apply neither too much nor too little of the pungent, 1 Timothy 4:16.—When the children and servants of God remain stedfast under persecutions, they prove themselves good salt; but if they give way, the salt has lost its savor.—While attempting to avoid persecution, we shall all the more expose ourselves to it.—Believers should be united, that the world may recognize a visible Church, Hebrews 10:25.—The eyes of all are set upon religious men, especially upon those who are teachers, and placed over a church: if they act in accordance with their profession, many are edified; if otherwise, the scandal is all the greater, 2 Corinthians 6:3.—Every Christian must be anxious to bring others to the light and knowledge of the truth, Luke 22:32.—A candle does not put itself upon a candlestick, neither does a minister take upon himself the sacred office, Ephesians 4:11.—He who hides the grace of sanctification, shall lose it.—Blessed the household over which even one believing soul sheds its light.—Faith alone leads to truly good works.—Faith does not stop to inquire whether it is necessary to do good works: it is its nature to manifest itself in good works.—The grand object of good works is the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Lisco:—In the kingdom of Christ, possession of the world is attained, not by might, but by meekness.—What the sun is to this world as the light of the earth, that the disciples of Christ should be to mankind generally.

Gerlach:—The first four beatitudes apply to those who are seeking; the last, to those who know how to preserve what they have found.—The meek shall inherit the earth. Possession of his inheritance commences, spiritually, immediately, since all things belong to believers, and all contributes to their salvation (1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Romans 8:28). But it also literally commences on earth, since the Church of God outlasts all the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 7:17-18), and is destined to become the most extensive kingdom of this world. Lastly, it shall be fully accomplished, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, and we shall appear with Him in glory.—The highest reward of love to God, is the love of God.—If salt is pungent, it is also savory; if light penetrate and reveal, it also quickens and revives: similarly the servants whom the Lord has furnished for His own work.

Heubner:—If we would listen to the Saviour, we also must ascend with Him from what is earthly to what is heavenly.—On the manifestations of God witnessed in sacred mountains.—When Jesus opens His mouth let us open our hearts.—Luther on the passage: These are the three points which go to make a good preacher: He must come boldly forward; 2. he must open his mouth before all men, and say something worth hearing; 3. he must know when and where to stop.8—Spiritual poverty, Psalms 34:19; Psalms 51:19; Isaiah 41:17; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 66:2.—Humility stands at the top of all the Beatitudes.—Luther: It is the prerogative of God to make something out of nothing.—To be destitute of spiritual poverty, is to be destitute of all practical religion.—Augustine, Enarr. in Psalms 134:0 : “multi flent fletu Babylonio, quia et gaudent gaudio Babylonio. Qui gaudent lucris et flent damnis, utrumque de Babylonia est. Flere debes sed recordando Sion.”—Let us always bear in mind Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4 : “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” But how can we hope to enjoy this blessed privilege, if we have not actually shed tears on earth?—Spiritual hungering and thirsting an evidence of spiritual health.—It is our highest honor to bear the cross of Christ.—We shall be rendered perfect by enduring affliction.—The gradation here indicated is absolutely necessary; not one of the steps may safely be left out.

Matthew 5:12. (Pericope.) The order of grace, or of beatitude: 1. It commences with repentance ( Matthew 5:3-5); 2. it rests on faith ( Matthew 5:6); 3. it requires continual sanctification ( Matthew 5:7-9); 4. it is evidenced by suffering (Matthew 5:10-12).



The Sinaitic Manuscript of the Bible, which Professor Tischendorf rescued from the obscurity of the Convent of St Catharine on Mount Sinai, and carefully edited in two editions in 1862 and 1863,* two years after the issue of the third edition of Dr. Lange’s Commentary on Matthew, has been carefully compared in preparing the American edition of this work from Chapter 8 to the close of the Gospel of Matthew. I thought I was the first to do so, but just before I finished the last pages of this volume, I found that Bäumlein, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John,** and Meyer, in the fifth edition of his Commentary on Matthew, both of which appeared in 1864, had preceded me, at least in print. No critical scholar can ignore this manuscript hereafter. For it is the only complete, and perhaps the oldest of all the uncial codices of the Bible, or at least of the same age and authority as the celebrated Vatican Codex (which is traced by some to the middle of the fourth century), and far better edited by the German Protestant Professor, Tischendorf, than the latter was by the Italian Cardinal, Angelo Mai. In the absence of a simpler mark agreed upon by critics (the proposed designation by the Hebrew א has not yet been adopted, and is justly objected to by Tregelles and others on the ground of typographical inconvenience), I introduce it always as Cod. Sin., and I find that Dr. Meyer in the fifth edition does the same. As I could not procure a copy of the printed edition of this Codex till I had finished the first seven chapters, I now complete the critical part of the work by adding its more important readings in the first seven chapters where they differ from the textus receptus, on which the authorized English, as well as all the older Protestant Versions of the Greek Testament are substantially based.

*Novum Testamentum Sinaiticum, sive Novum Testamentum cum Epistola Barnabœ et Fragmentis Pastoris (Hermæ). Ex Codice Sinaitico auspiciis Alexandri II., omnium Russiarum imperatoris, ex tenebris protracto orbique litterarum tradito accurate descripsit Ænotheus Friderious Constantinus Tischendorf, theol. et phil. Dr., etc. etc. Lipsiæ, 1863. The text is arranged in four columns and covers 148 folios; the learned Prolegomena of the editor 81 folios. There is besides a magnificent photo-lithographed fac-simile edition of the whole Sinaitic Bible, published at the expense of the Emperor of Russia, in 4 volumes (3 for the Old and 1 for the New Testament, the latter in 148 folios), under the title: Bibliorum Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. Auspiciis augustissimis imperatoris Alexandri II. ed. Const. Tischendorf. Petropoli, 1862. A copy of this rare edition I have also consulted occasionally, in the Astor Library of New York. For fuller information on this important Codex (in the words of Tischendorf: “omnium codicum uncialium solus integer omniumque antiquissimus”), we must refer the reader to the ample Prolegomena of Tischendorf, also to an article of Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie, vol. vii. (1864), p. 74 ff. (who is disposed to assign it to a somewhat later age), and to Scrivener’s treatise, which I have not seen.

**Hengstenberg, in his Commentary on John, concluded in 1863, pays no attention whatever to this Codex, and is very defective in a critical point of view

Matthew 5:11.—Cod. Sin. sustains the lect. rec. ψευδόμενοι (E. V. falsely), which was suspected by Griesbach, and thrown out of the text by Fritzsche, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Meyer, who says (fifth ed. p. 135) rather too dogmatically: “Das entbehrliche und den Nerv der Rede nur schwächende Wort ist ein frommer, ungefügiger, und daher auch verschieden gestellter Zuzatz. Comp Crit. Note 2 on p. 98.


[1] Matthew 5:5.—The transposition of the second and third beatitudes in Lachmann’s and Tischendorf’s editions is not sufficiently sustained by the testimony of Cod. D., the Vulgate, etc., and is at war with the logical order of the beatitudes.

[2] Matthew 5:11.—Falsely, ψευδόμενοι, is poorly supported, and superfluous on account of the words: for My sake. [The evidence against ψευδόμενοι is hardly sufficient to justify its removal from the text. The Vatican codex (as given by Buttmann) and other weighty MSS. and ancient versions have it, and Alford, Wordsworth, and Tregelles retain it, but Tregelles marks it as doubtful. As to the connection, ψευδόμενοι belongs to εἴπωσι, or all the three preceding verbs, but not to ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ.—P. S.]

[3] Matthew 5:15.—[The definite article here indicates the familiar household measure.—P. S.]

[4][Dr. Conant substitutes lamp on the lamp stand, since the C. V. may make a false impression; the candlestick being necessary to this use of the candle, whether hid under a vessel or not. “The lamp (λύχνος), being low, was placed on a support (λυχνία) sufficiently high to give light through the room; and this latter would be equally necessary to the candle with its candlestick, as we use the terms.”—P. S.]

[5]We Note here, how Sir Humphry Davy and Coccejus independently arrive at the same conclusion: “The usages and ceremonies which Moses instituted appear to have been superadded to its spiritual worship, for the purpose, of adapting that religion to a certain climate, and to the peculiar state of the Jewish people. They served rather as the garb of that religion, than as forming an essential part of it” We should rather say, that they were the legal and symbolical form of that religion,—a form in which even the moral law was clothed.

[6][Chr. Wordsworth, in Matthew 5:1 : “Christ had four places of spiritual retirement from the bustle of the world—all, in a certain sense, exemplary: 1. τὴν ἔρημον, for fasting and temptation, conflict with Satan. 2. τὸ ὄρος, for prayer, teaching, miraculous feeding, transfiguration, finally ascension. 3. τὸ πλοῖον (type of the Church), for teaching and miracles. 4. The garden of Gethsemane. agony.”—P. S.]

[7][Dr. Wordsworth, quoting from the fathers on ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αν̓τοῦ: “He who before had opened the mouth of Moses and all the Prophets, now opens His own mouth,—He who had taught the world by them concerning Himself, now teaches in His own Person—God with us and He delivers in the Sermon on the Mount a perfect code of Christian Duty.”—P. S.]

[8][If I remember rightly, Luther once gave this homiletical advice (derived from the words: He opened His mouth) in a more pointed form than Heubner, viz.: Tritt frisch auf; thu’s Maul auf; hör bald auf! i.e., “Get up boldly; open the mouth widely; be done quickly.”—P. S.]

Verses 17-19


The doctrine and righteousness of Christ the genuine development and fulfilment of the Old Testament, as being the true and absolute fulfilment of the law in contradistinction to spurious traditionalism, or the ossification and perversion of the law exhibited in the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes, in respect both of their teaching and in their practice. Christ and Moses; Christ and traditionalism.—Descent from the Mount of Divine Revelation to the arbitrary dispensations and ordinances of man. Matthew 5:17 to Matthew 7:6.

( Matthew 5:20-26, the Gospel for the 6th Sunday after Trinity.— Matthew 6:24-34, the Gospel for the 15th Sunday after Trinity.)

Christ and the Law; or, Christ the absolute fulfilment

Matthew 5:17-19

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 orone 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.


Matthew 5:17. Think not, μὴνομίσητε.—The choice of the expression, νομίζειν, in connection with the word νόμος immediately following, must not be overlooked. The verb implies: to recognize as use and custom—to be accustomed, to think, to imagin. (to suppose according to custom). Hence the expression here points to a legal prejudice: Do not suppose that I am come to destroy the law.9

The connection between this and what precedes, is evident, although Meyer denies it. Immediately before, Jesus had spoken of persecution for righteousness’ sake and for His sake. This implied a contrast between His righteousness and that of the Pharisees and scribes. Accordingly, the question would naturally arise as to the relation between His doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, the law, and the Old Testament generally, since the disciples could not, at the time, have been fully alive to the contrast between Jewish traditionalism and the law of Moses. Evidently the prejudice might arise in their minds, that Jesus intended to destroy the law.
This difficulty is immediately met by the declaration, that He was come, not to destroy, but to fulfil the law; nay that he was Himself its fulfilment, and that not merely in respect of its types, but of all the symbols of truth which were afloat among men, whether specially Jewish, or in heathen religions, or even of those presented by history and nature generally. Still, we must bear in mind that Matthew always chiefly points to the fulfilment of the Old Testament in Christ. The idea of an absolute fulfilment of all types, is brought out in the Gospel by John.

The law, or the prophets.—Not merely the Pentateuch as a book, or the prophets as the other portions of the Old Testament, but also the gradual spiritual development of Old Testament revelation which they embody. The ἤ is never used for καί, but always as a particle of distinction (comp. Winer, Gram. of the N. T.; Fritzsche ad Marc., p. 276 sqq.). “In the present instance it means, to abrogate the one, or the other.” The Jews were guilty of various kinds of abrogation of the law. The Sadducees destroyed the prophets, the Pharisees the law, the Essenes, in part, both the law and the prophets. But Christ preserved the Old Testament in all its entirety, and fulfilled it in its deepest meaning. As everywhere else, so here, the word νόμος refers to the whole law, and not merely to the Decalogue; although we recognize in the Old Testament a manifest distinction between the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the national or civil law. The ceremonial was intended to supplement the moral law; while the civil law supplemented both, and formed their basis. “The special quotations from the moral law which are afterward adduced by the Saviour, are only intended as examples of the whole law (or of what was most important)—consisting of some of those moral precepts which would most readily occur in the circumstances. He fulfilled the whole law,—not the smallest ceremonial or national ordinance being destroyed in its ultimate idea, while everything which the law prescribed, and of which the ancient ordinances were only the στοιχεῖα, was carried out to its full ideal” (Meyer). “The expression, τοὺς προφήτας, cannot possibly refer to the predictions contained in their writings (the Greek Fathers: Beza, Calovius, and others,—among them, Tholuck and Neander), as nobody would imagine that the Messiah would destroy them. Taken in connection with the νόμος (comp. also Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:40), it must refer to the injunctions of the prophetic writings.” But carnal Judaizers might regard the contrast between the life of Jesus and their fanciful and secularized views of what the language of the prophets conveyed, as destroying not only the law, but the prophets.

To destroy, καταλῦσαι,—in the sense of abrogating, a revolutionary destruction of existing institutions.

But to fulfil, ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι.—The expression is differently interpreted, as meaning: 1. actually to fulfil (Elsner, Wolf, Bleek, and others); 2. to complete doctrinally, = τελειῶσαι, to interpret more fully, to perfect, i.e., to bring out its spiritual meaning (Lightfoot, Hammond, etc.); 3. combining the two views: to make perfect as doctrine, and to exhibit perfectly in the life. In adopting the latter interpretation, we must keep in mind that this πλήρωσις is not to be understood as implying that an imperfect revelation was to be completed, but that a preliminary and typical revelation was to be presented in all its fulness, and completely realized by word and deed. [Dr. Wordsworth: “Christ fulfilled the law and the prophets by obedience, by accomplishment of types, ceremonies, rites, and prophecies, and by explaining, spiritualizing, elevating, enlarging, and perfecting the moral law, by writing it on the heart, and by giving grace to obey it, as well as an example of obedience, by taking away its curse; and by the doctrine of free justification by faith in Himself, which the law prefigured and anticipated, but could not give.” Augustine: “Ante Christi adventum lex jubebat, non juvabat; post, et jubet et juvat.” Maldonatus: “Abolet non dissolvendo sed absolvendo, non delendo sed perficiendo.”—P. S.]

Matthew 5:18. For verily, ἀμὴνγάρ; אָמֵן ἀληθῶς,—a solemn asseveration, used to introduce important announcements. In such cases, St. John 10:0 always repeated the word.

Till heaven and earth shall pass away.—1. In the sense of never: Calvin, Luther, Zwingle, etc.,—heaven and earth being regarded as everlasting: Bar 3:32, comp. Luke 16:17. Luke 16:2. To the end of the world: Paulus, Tholuck. The law shall last till a new order of things shall be introduced. Proof: According to the New Testament, heaven and earth are to pass away. The old and symbolical shape and arrangements of this world shall pass away sooner than the old symbolical law, just as the extremities of the body die before the centre, or the heart. But the law can only pass away in the letter by being accomplished in the spirit and in truth. Viewed as a shadow and type of things to come, the law disappears in Christ; but as to its substance, it is part of the word of God, and as such it abideth for ever, even in heaven.

The Iota refers to the smallest Hebrew letter י; the tittle, κεραία, to a still smaller mark, by which similar-looking letters were distinguished, or else to the little dot inserted in the י. The meaning is, that the most delicate and apparently smallest determinations and distinctions were to be preserved in the delicate and finer outlines of spiritual life.

Till all be fulfilled.—Thus the law has a twofold termination, a negative and a positive. Negatively, it terminates with the old world; positively, it is realized in the new and spiritual world, now inaugurated. Comp. Luke 16:17.

Matthew 5:19. Whosoever therefore shall break, ὅς ἐὰν οὖν λύσῃ.—In the Conj. Aor., indicating what may take place at some future period (the possible futurum exactum). The term used is λύσῃ, not καταλύσῃ, since, according to the Divine arrangement, none could in the old world achieve the καταλῦσαι of the law.

One of these least commandments; referring to the iota and tittle.—The expression, least, does not apply to the pharisaical distinction between great and small commandments (according to Wet-stein), but to the difference made by the Lord Himself, between the law generally and its iota and tittle. “Such a person is not entirely excluded from the kingdom, because his opposition is not one of principle, nor directed against the law itself, but only against its minutiæ.”—Meyer.


1. The humility and majesty of Christ in defining his relation to the law. He declares at once his subordination to the Old Testament, and his superiority over it.

2. Christ destroys nothing but sin, which indeed destroys itself. All that is divine in this world, nay, even all that is truly human, He elevates and spiritualizes. Thus Christ is the absolute fulfilment of the Old Testament and of the old world—and that, both in His life and doctrine. “All that is transient—it is only a likeness, incomplete here—but reality there.”11—“Generally, and in every respect, I have come, not to destroy aught that is right or true: the object of My advent has been to preserve, to carry on, and to perfect every commencement, preparation for, and expectancy of, the kingdom of God throughout humanity. Thus the Saviour lifts His eyes beyond Israel on the heathen world, for whose sake also He has come, and where his advent marks a fulfilment of spiritual aspirations, which, though dim, were already in existence, and only waited for their unfolding and accomplishment. He looks into the depths of humanity, as opened up before Him, and views all history in its highest import as tending toward, and as expectancy of, Himself.”—Stier.

3. The fulfilment of the law and prophets is implied in the appearance of Jesus: it has been carried out in His life; it is still developing in His Church; and will continue until it becomes perfectly manifest in the reappearing of Christ, or the manifestation of the new order of things, of which He is the centre.
4. “There is a fulfilment of the law in its mere letter, which is really a transgression of the law, as expressed in that true saying: summum jus, summa injuria. On the other hand, there is a transgression of the letter of the law, which may be a fulfilment of its spirit.”—Tholuck (p. 148). We add, that there is a seeming destruction of the old, which, in reality, is its fulfilment; while its spurious preservation implies real destruction.

5. The Lord here sets before us the contrast, not between entire opposition to the law and its perfect fulfilment, but between partial opposition and perfect fulfilment. To attempt destroying the law entirely, were to be an enemy of the kingdom of heaven, and hence beyond its pale. But even the attempt to destroy it partially in its least, but, at the same time, most delicate injunctions, brings down the punishment of being called least in the kingdom of heaven. So far as it goes, every such destruction is a revolution, not a reform. “He shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, because his spirit is least capacious, and because he finds it impossible to realize the life of the law without surrendering its special directions, and confining himself to a few abstract principles.”—Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 593.

6. The order which Christ establishes, is that of doing and teaching, not the reverse. But this order of life becomes a disorder, where doing and teaching have a negative tendency. If, on the contrary, we do and teach the law in a proper spirit, we shall be the means by which Christ fulfils and accomplishes His regeneration and transformation of the world. Hence we shall also be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
7. In connection with this subject, we recall to mind the various antinomian tendencies; not merely those in direct opposition to the law, but such, when, under the guise of obedience, the spirit of the law was contravened. The context shows that our Lord referred to the latter as well as to the former. For nothing is more revolutionary than rigid and tyrannical traditionalism.

8. Jesus carefully guards Himself against the suspicion that He was about violently to put an end to the Old Dispensation and the ancient theocratic order of things. The same line of argument was, at a later period, adopted by the Apostle Paul, when defending himself against a similar charge, Romans 3:31. When Paul speaks of the abrogation of the law, he always refers only to its temporary, transient, and traditional form (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). In this sense the law must pass away, in order that its real nature as the law of the spirit may appear.—But it is important to remember, that in this passage the Lord passed over the abolition of outward and temporary ordinances, while He laid emphasis upon the fulfilment of the law in the Gospel, and that not merely for the purpose of rebutting the antinomian expectations hitherto entertained, as if the revelation of the kingdom of heaven implied the destruction of the law. We rather conceive that His argument was mainly directed against the popular prejudice, that He intended to detract from the character and obligations of the law.


Even on His first appearance, Christ felt that He would be represented as a rebel and destroyer of the authority of the law.—Against such suspicions He solemnly protested.—Christ has guarded His Gospel and His Church from the suspicion of revolutionary tendencies.—The old error, which seeks to identify the religion of the Spirit with rebellion, as appearing, 1. in the history of Christ; 2. in that of His Church.—Christ the fulfiller of the law.—The law and the prophets.—The absolute fulfilment: 1. in His doctrine; 2. in His life; 3. in His history; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 13:8.—Import of the name of Jehovah, Revelation 1:4.—The law in its essence is eternal.—The law must be fulfilled in all its parts: 1. As spiritual requirement, which must be spiritually accomplished; 2. as an emblem of the Spirit, which is to be realized by the Spirit; 3. as a promise of the Spirit, which the Spirit will fulfil.—Every sacred emblem has its corresponding reality in the kingdom of Christ.—Christ has fulfilled the law: 1. The moral law by His obedience; 2. the sacrificial law by His sufferings; 3. the civil or national law by His institutions.—Even the laws and emblems of our lives must become reality.—The law fulfilled by the manifestation of the spirit of the law, since the Spirit brings out, 1. the one grand principle of the law, instead of its many injunctions; 2. the life of the law in the individual; 3. reveals the infinite depth of the law.—The law is transformed and glorified in its fulfilment.—A mere carnal observance of the letter may in reality be an abrogation of the law.—To resist the spiritual unfolding of the law, is, under the guise of allegiance, to rebel against its authority.—The Gospel presents the law in its spiritual aspect.—He who, by his interpretations of the law, attempts to make the kingdom of heaven small, cannot himself be great in the kingdom of heaven.—Grandeur of free obedience.—Doing and teaching: such is the order of Christ.—The righteousness of Christ, and that of the Pharisees and scribes.

Starke:—The word of God abideth for ever, Luke 16:17.—There is no commandment of God too small to be obeyed, James 2:10.

Gerlach:—The law was essentially spiritual; but on account of the hardness of the Jewish heart, it was fenced in under the Old Testament by outward ordinances, which, for the time, prevented the full manifestation of its depth. Hence, in order to “fulfil it,” Christ broke through the barriers, and thus unfolded its true glory; while the Pharisees contravened the spirit of the law by the observance of its letter, which in reality destroyed, instead of fulfilling it.


[9][German: das Gesets su entsetzen, which might perhaps be rendered: to illegalize or to outlaw the law.—P. S.]

[10][The Edinb. translator here erroneously substitutes the Baptist for the Evangelist. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in the discourses of the Saviour, uniformly (in more than 50 passages) use the single ἀμήν, while the Saviour, in the Gospel of John, always (in 24 passages) uses the double ἀμήν (a Hebrew epizeuxis, or emphatic repetition of the same word, comp. בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד). See John 1:51 (52); John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:11; John 5:19; John 5:24-25; John 6:53; John 6:53; John 8:58; John 8:58, etc. etc. The uniformity of this usage in the mouth of the Saviour, and the Saviour only, is significant. Tholuck, Olshausen, de Wette, and Meyer state the fact, but attempt no explanation. Bengel (Gnomon ad John 1:51) accounts for it on the ground that the Saviour spoke in the name of the Father and in His own, and adds that at the time when the first three Gospels were written it was not yet seasonable to record the double ἀμήν, and the argument for the Divinity of Christ implied in it. I venture to suggest that John, or rather Christ himself, desired to emphasize the fact that He was the absolute, the personal Truth, as He says, John 14:6, or the Amen, as He is called, Revelation 3:14. For no one else in the N. T. ventures to use the phrase: Verily (not even once) I say unto you.—P. S.]

[11] [Allusion to the mysterious conclusion of the second word of Goethe’s Faust:

Alles Vergaengliche ist nur ein Gleichnies;

Das Unzulaengliche hier wird’s Ereigness;
Das Unbegreifliche hier wird’s gethan;
Das swig Weibliche zicht uns hinan.
”—P. S.]

Verses 20-48

2. Relation, between the Doctrine of Christ and the Law; and between the latter and the Doctrine of the Pharisees and Scribes, or Jewish Traditionalism, as exhibited in five special instances,—showing the spurious in opposition to the genuine development of the Law, its narrowing by the letter, and its fulness in the spirit.

Matthew 5:20-48

( Matthew 5:20-26, the Gospel for the 6th Sunday after Trinity)

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 [to]12 them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be indanger of the judgment: 22But I say unto [to] you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause [without cause]13 shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but [and] 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 aught 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, while 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 [to] them of old time,14 Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28But I say unto [to] 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 [cause thee to offend], 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 [cause thee to offend], cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, 31and not that thy whole body should be cast [depart, ἀπέλθῃ] into hell. It 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 [save] 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 [to] them of old time, Thou shall 34not forswear thyself [swear falsely], but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But 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 [word, λόγος] 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 cloak also. 41And whosoever shall compel [impress] thee to go a mile, go with him twain [two]. 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,15 and pray for them which [who] despitefully use you, and16 persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which [who] 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 [that excels, τί περισσόν]? do not even the publicans [the heathen]17 so? 48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which [who] is in heaven is perfect.


General Remarks on the whole Section.—(1) Real abolition of the law under guise of rendering its injunctions more rigid; hedging in of the law in its spirituality and perfectness by the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees, resulting in perversion of doctrine by converting the law into a series of outward and finite ordinances.

First Instance: Abrogation of the law through observance of the letter, by the conversion of a moral precept into a purely civil law, thus secularizing it, and destroying its spirit—as shown in the traditions connected with the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Second Instance: Abrogation of the law by weakening its force, and converting a limited permission into an encouragement—as shown in the traditions connected with the commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Third Instance: Abrogation of the law by the perversion of a solemn asseveration into a common mode of assurance, or into cursing—as exhibited in the injunctions connected with oaths. Fourth Instance: Abrogation of the law by the conversion of an ordinance of criminal law intended to put an end to private vengeance into a moral law, which, in reality, sanctioned vengeance—as shown in the law of retaliation. Fifth Instance: Abolition of the law by sectarian interpretation and false inferences—as exhibited in connection with the great commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.”

(2) In opposition to these perversions, we have five instances of the fulfilment of the law by the teaching of Christ, in each of which the law is traced back to the mind and heart, or to the moral and religious life generally. In the first of the above instances, the law is traced back to the passion of anger; in the second, to adulterous desires; in the third, to the sinful want of reverence; in the fourth, to yielding to the power of evil; in the fifth, to selfishness and sectarianism, which are incompatible with the requirements of universal love. In reference to the first of these instances, the Lord requireth from us brotherly feeling; in reference to the second, He demandeth sanctity in the relationship between the sexes; in reference to the third, calm assurance in the fear of God, so that our “yea be yea, and our nay nay;” in reference to the fourth, meekness and mercy, which overcometh injuries; while in reference to the fifth, He points out the infinitude of ove.

(3) In all these examples, Christ shows that, viewed as a principle, in its true import and bearing, the law goes far beyond the mere letter, demanding not only a definite outward compliance, but reaching also the mind and heart. This boundless extent of the law in its application to the inner man is here presented in a definite form, and as special precepts; which, however, must not be interpreted literally, but regarded as so many symbols designed to illustrate the spirituality and depth of the law. Thus the carnal literalism and perversion of truth which appear in the rabbinical interpretation of “Thou shalt not kill,” is met by a more literal yet infinitely deeper application of the commandment. The dull stupidity of their literalism is met, so to speak, by a certain irony of literality. Similarly, the lustfulness which was legalized by the cunning perversion of the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” is met by an uncompromising demand of the most complete self-denial. In opposition to the third perversion of the law, by which that which was holy was thoughtlessly and sinfully dragged down, we have here a majestic prohibition uttered in the name of the highest authority. Instead of the spirit of strife, fostered by an abuse of the principle of retaliation, the Saviour inculcates readiness to surrender even our own rights; while, lastly, the national pride and narrow sectarianism of the Pharisees were to give place to the influences of a love so wide, as to break through all the narrow bounds of bigotry. Thus Jesus refutes the literalism of the scribes by literality; and shows that even in its literal interpretation, the letter of the law was from the first only the symbol of its spirit.

Matthew 5:20. Except your righteousness shall exceed, etc., ἐὰν μὴ περισσεύσῃ.—The general idea, to be better, or to excel, does not exhaust the expression, which implies to grow up beyond the righteousness of the scribes—to exceed it. The antithesis lies in the statement, that the Pharisees have all their reward here, while the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven is not only lasting, but extends to the kingdom of glory. The word δικαιοσύνη does not merely refer to righteousness by faith, but in general to the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven as a principle, both in respect of doctrine and of life.

The directions here given by the Lord are manifestly not intended by way of improvement upon the law (Maldonatus and others), but as expressing its true fulfilment in opposition to its destruction by the traditions of the Pharisees. At first sight, it might appear as if Christ were setting aside the letter of the Old Testament; while in reality He only refutes the literalism of tradition, by which the true import of the law was perverted. Against every other abrogation of the law, the Lord protested on every occasion.

Matthew 5:21. By them, or more correctly: To those of old, or to the ancients, τοῖς�.—Beza, Schöttgen, [our authorized version], and others, render, “by them of old.” But this interpretation is evidently strained, nor does it bring out the antithesis in the words of our Lord. “But I say unto you.” They of old, or the ancients, are evidently the old recipients of tradition, the Jewish synagogue,—not the Lawgiver himself. The reference to traditionalism in the word ἐῤῥέθη is peculiarly apt. It were impossible to fix upon any one who had first propounded these traditions; they rather originated from the general spirit of interpretation common in the synagogue.18

Thou shalt not kill, Exodus 20:13.—To this the traditions of the scribes added, “And whosoever shall kill,” etc.—a gloss which destroyed the spiritual and moral character of the law, and converted it into a rigid and merely external legal enactment. For, in the addition made by the scribes, the term kill manifestly referred only to actual murder; thus implying that the law itself applied only to the outward act of murder.—Shall be in danger of the judgment: κρίσις, which, according to Matthew 5:22, was subject to the Sanhedrim. Every town had such a local court, the Council of Seven (consisting, according to the rabbins, of twenty-three members), which had the power of pronouncing sentence upon crimes, and of inflicting execution by the sword (Joseph. Ant. iv. 8, 14; Deuteronomy 16:18). The Sanhedrim, or the Council of Seventy, alone had authority to pronounce sentence of stoning, or to adjudicate in cases of grievous heresy and of blasphemy.

Matthew 5:22. The word εἰκῆ (omitted in Cod. B, and by some of the Fathers) is not of doubtful authority; at any rate, it would have to be mentally supplied, as the Scriptures do not condemn anger on proper occasions, or moral indignation (see Ephesians 4:26; the example of the Lord and His parables).19 The passage not only condemns unjust anger, but also the want of love.—By the term brother, our Lord referred not merely to Jews, but to our neighbors generally.—Raca. Variously interpreted as, 1. A mere interjection by way of reproach; 2. רֵיקָא, empty head! a common term of reproach at the time. (See Buxtorf, Lex. Talm.; also Ewald, who derives it from the Aramæan רקעא, and renders it blackguard.) 3. From רָקַק, to spit out—the prolonged imperative: Spit out, used as an interjection to designate heretics, at whom it was customary to spit. In support of this interpretation it might be argued, that the party so reproached was thereby, as it were, arraigned before the Sanhedrim.—The word fool, μωρός, נָכִל, indicates the hopeless, helpless fool or atheist (Psalms 14:0).—Shall be in danger of hell fire, ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν. Here the dative is awanting, as mention is no longer made of any tribunal, but of the punishment at once awarded to such a person. The New Testament term γέεννα, or hell, must be carefully distinguished from the Jewish Sheol or Hades, which means merely the realm of the dead or the region of the departed.20 Originally, גֵּיא הִכֹּם, the Valley of Hinnom; more precisely, the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, at the southern declivity of Jerusalem. Afterward, the place where, during the apostasy, the service of Moloch was celebrated, 1 Kings 11:7. King Josiah converted it into a place of abomination, where dead bodies were thrown and burnt (2 Kings 23:13-14). Hence it served as a symbol of condemnation, and of the abode of lost spirits (comp. Lightfoot, Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, and others).

Accordingly, the following are, in symbolic language, the three gradations of punishment:—

(1) The sin of anger without a cause—in danger of the local court.
(2) The sin of imputing heresy—in danger of the Sanhedrim, or the highest spiritual judicatory.
(3) The sin of condemning one’s neighbor—in danger of immediate condemnation.
These awards of the Lord are evidently not harsh judgments, but in strict accordance with what is absolutely right. He who pronounces judgment without cause, is justly liable to the same judgment he had pronounced, in contravention of the law of love and of truth. The expression ἔνοχοςἔσται is peculiarly apt, as meaning, he is liable, or justly subject. This implies, not that he is lost in these judgments, but that he stands in need of Divine grace. In His explanation of the sixth commandment, the Lord does not allude to actual murder,—according to Meyer—because such a crime could not be supposed among believers, or, as we think, because the Lord intended to trace back every action to the state of mind from which it sprung. In that respect, he who is angry without cause stands on the same level with the murderer, just as lust in the heart is in reality adultery (1 John 3:15).

Matthew 5:23-24. Going to the temple. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar.—If thou art about to bring an offering. In accordance with the above principles, the party who deems himself offended is treated as if he were the offender, or as debtor to his brother. In short, the Lord addresses Himself to offenders generally. The passage teaches, 1. That when approaching the sanctuary, we learn to feel our personal guilt. 2. In such case, it is more urgent to pay our brother the debt of love than to discharge our debt to the temple; since an offering presented by one who is chargeable with wrong could not be acceptable to God, and the moral purification of man is the great object of the worship of God: see Matthew 9:13 (the πρῶτον must be connected with ὕπαγε).—In the ancient Church, it was customary for members of a family to ask each other’s forgiveness before going to the table of the Lord.

Matthew 5:25. Going to the judgment-seat. This may be regarded as supplementary to what preceded. Agree, show thyself agreeable, εὐνοῶν, ready for reconciliation, with thine adversary, or the opponent in thy cause,—applying to the legal accuser, not to the devil (Clement), nor to God (Augustine), nor to the conscience (Euthymius Zig.). It is a mistake to regard this as a mere prudential rule (Theophylact, Paulus); it embodies a principle of moral right in the form of a symbolic ordinance. Accordingly, the whole passage, as that about going to the temple, has a symbolical meaning. The term prison, φυλακή, does not refer to purgatory (Roman Cath. interpreters), but to the full measure of punitive justice, which may, indeed, extend to Sheol (Olshausen: “transition state”).

Matthew 5:26. Farthing.—The word κοδράντης, quadrans, a quarter of an as, implies that the debt is exacted to the last balance.21 Meyer suggests that ἕως, till, indicates a term, which, however, cannot be reached.

Matthew 5:28. Whosoever looketh upon a woman.—The explanation of our Lord here follows immediately upon the mention of the commandment in Exodus 20:14, to show that the scribes applied the commandment only to actual adultery. But while the matrimonial law of the Old Testament (although not the seventh commandment) accorded certain privileges to man in his relation to woman (such as the permission of polygamy and of divorce), the Lord here attacks and rebukes chiefly the sins of man.

To lust after her, ποὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαιαὐ τῆς.—“The word πρός manifestly indicates the mental object or aim” (Tholuck, p. 208). The statement, therefore, refers to intentional and conscious, not to unintentional desires.22 Even the latter are sinful; but, as Luther expresses it, a sinful thought, without the consent of the mind, is not mortal sin. “Nevertheless it is a sin, but included in the general forgiveness” (Tholuck, p. 210). In its strict grammatical bearing, the statement would imply that the most general, intentional desire of a carnal nature, is contrary to the spirit of marriage.—In his heart.—The heart as the centre of life, and the seat of feeling and desire.

Matthew 5:29-30. And if thy right eye offend thee.—The word σκανδαλίζειν refers to incitement to sin, which leads to the actual commission of it, and not merely to incitement generally. The eye and the hand are mentioned as the organs of temptation: the former, as the symbol of delight in locking (sense of beauty); the latter, as the symbol of converse and intercourse (social feeling, converse, friendship). The right eye and the right hand, i. e., according to the popular view, the best: in the present case, symbolically referring to the fairest view and the highest intercourse. The injunction must neither be taken literally (Fritzsche), nor as symbolical of self-denial in the right and lawful use (Grotius), but as a figure of absolute and painful renunciation.

It is profitable for thee.—This cutting off and tearing out will be useful to thee. The word ἵνα, which follows, shows that συμφέρει refers to the previous clause.—This painful self-denial, this seeming self-deprivation of life and enjoyment, is real gain. For in that case only one organ of life is lost (i. e., only in one particular aspect) for this world, while in the other the whole life—here indicated by the body—is given over to hell. The word body is used for life, on account of the nature of this sin.

Matthew 5:31. It has been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.—Christ here first takes up the later perversions of the law about divorce, and returns to the ordinances given by Moses, which He then further explains and develops. “According to Deuteronomy 24:1, צֶרְוַת דָּבָר—עֶרוָה, ‘uncleanness,’ ‘matter of nakedness,’ something abominable in a female—is admitted as a ground of divorce (Ewald, Alterthümer, p. 234). Rabbi Shammai and his school explained this as referring to adultery, while Hillel and his school applied it to anything displeasing to a husband (comp. Joseph. Antiq. iv. 8, 23). Rosenmäller, Schol. on Deuteronomy 24:1, sqq. Rabbi Akiba went even further, and permitted divorce in case a man should meet with a more pleasing woman; see Wetstein.”—Meyer. The difference between the two schools consisted not merely in this, that while Shammai limited divorce to adultery, Hillel allowed it in a great variety of cases; but that Shammai insisted on the necessity of a criminal and legal cause for divorce, while Hillel left it to the inclination of the individual. The terms employed by Moses implied at least the germ of those spiritual views concerning marriage which were the aim of the theocracy. But the teaching of Hillel destroyed that germ, and converted the law of Moses into a cloak for adulterous lust. As the Lord shows in another place, Moses allowed a bill of divorce in the case of moral aberrations on the part of a wife, in order to limit the number of divorces. The Rabbins reversed the meaning of the law by saying Moses has commanded, Matthew 19:7. The practice of divorce was an ancient and traditional custom, which Moses limited by insisting on a definite motive, and on a regular bill of divorce. Hence, ὅς ἂν� (according to custom), δότω� (according to the new arrangement in Israel). Its object was not merely to serve “as evidence that the marriage had been legally dissolved, and that the woman was at liberty to marry another man” (Ewald), but to render divorce more difficult.

Matthew 5:32. Save for the cause of fornication, παρεκ τὸς λόγου πορνείας.—This exceptional case is not mentioned in Mark 10:11, nor in Luke 16:18; but occurs again in Matthew 19:9 (εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ), and must be supplied in the parallel passages,—the more so, as, according to Leviticus 20:10, adultery was to be punished with death. Calov, Meyer, and others, maintain that the mention of this one ground of divorce excludes every other; while de Wette thinks that this one implies others also. But the question is not so simple as appears at first sight. We must distinguish between the legislation of the theocracy and that of the state which is intermediate between Moses and Christ; and again, between these two and the spiritual law binding upon Christians, and derived from the word of Christ. Moses permitted a bill of divorce, not to weaken, but to protect the marriage relationship. Absolutely to forbid all divorce, would have amounted to a practical sanction of the then customary low views on the subject of marriage, and to a rejection of the spiritual principles connected with it. Hence Moses introduced the bill of divorce, which rendered separation difficult, by requiring an adequate cause for it, as in Deuteronomy 24:1. This arrangement was intended as a lever gradually to elevate the views of the people from the former customary laxity to the spiritual ideal ultimately aimed at. It was left to the gradual development of spiritual life in Israel more clearly to determine and to settle the only sufficient motive for divorce, at which Moses had darkly hinted. This Christ did when He exhibited the full ideal of the law, by the words παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας. But the practical difficulty which the State has to encounter in its legislation on this point, is that it cannot anticipate this interpretation of the Lord without raising the legal ordinances higher than the idea of marriage commonly entertained by the people. Still, this interpretation must always be the goal aimed at. Standing at that goal, our Lord does not refer to the recognition of an actual divorce, but to a positive divorce, when a man repudiates his wife. To make such a divorce, is certainly not allowed except for the sake of fornication. But it is another question, whether, if the divorce is actually accomplished by the other party, we are warranted in regarding and accepting it as accomplished. To this question Paul gives an affirmative reply in 1 Corinthians 7:15. The only difficulty lies in the question, Under what circumstances other than fornication a divorce may be regarded as actually accomplished by the seceding party? In this respect, the explanations which our Lord adds, may be taken as a final directory.

Causeth her to commit adultery—viz., by contracting another marriage. Strictly speaking, the actual adultery consists in, and dates from, the re-marriage of the woman who had been divorced. The following is the state of the case as laid down by the Lord. In the passage under consideration, we are told that he causeth her to commit adultery; and in Matthew 19:0, that he who divorces a woman, and marrieth another, himself committeth adultery. In the former case, the husband who divorces his wife is morally the cause of her committing adultery, and in that respect even more culpable than she. Still, the stigma of adultery is only attached to marriage after divorce, or to fornication before divorce. This implies, that where the guilty or the divorcing party has not actually committed the act of adultery (as above defined), the other party is in Christian duty bound to wait in faith and patience. This is the intermediate stage, or separation a mensa et thoro, which is the only kind of divorce allowed by the Roman Church: another species of legalism, by which the words of our Saviour are first converted into a literal ordinance, and next, the letter of the commandment—the παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας—itself is annulled. The bad consequences of this arrangement are sufficiently notorious in the degeneracy of the marriage relation in Roman Catholic countries, especially in South America.

“Our Lord,” says Meyer, “does not refer to the case of adultery committed by the man,—there being no occasion for it, since a woman, according to the law of Moses, could not divorce her husband. But the spirit of Christian ethics fully justifies and requires the application of the statement to the other case.” However, it ought to be noted, that Christ speaks three different times of the sin of the man, but never of the woman: (1) Whosoever looketh on woman, etc.; (2) whosoever shall put away his wife, etc.; (3) whosoever shall marry her who is divorced, etc.—Comp. Heubner, p. 68.

Matthew 5:33. Thou shalt not forswear thyself, οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις (swear falsely): Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12.—In this instance, also, the Lord first reverts to the law as given by Moses, showing its full and spiritual import, and then condemns the perversions of it introduced by traditionalism. Like divorce, the practice of taking an oath was an ancient custom, which existed before the time of Moses. Considering it indispensable in civil causes, the legislator adopted it in his code (Exodus 22:11, comp. Hebrews 6:16), just as he admitted divorce. But as all license was restrained by the enactment concerning the bill of divorce, so all levity by the ordinances attaching to an oath, viz.: (1) by the condemnation of a false oath, Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12; (2) by the injunction to regard vows as sacred, and to fulfil them, Numbers 30:3; (3) by the direction to take an oath only in the name of the Lord, Deuteronomy 6:13. Hence, when Christ ordains, Swear not at all, He enters fully into the spirit of this legislation, and fulfils this law, or carries it to its ideal. The internal agreement between the saying of the Lord and the law of Moses is evident. As, in the case of the law of divorce, Jesus had brought out the latent prohibition of Moses, by presenting it without the temporary and conditional permission attaching to it; so here also the same latent prohibition appears when the Saviour carries out the spirit of the limitations introduced by Moses, which ultimately aimed at the complete abrogation of the oath. But the law of Moses was intended to bring out the spiritual nature of marriage, and not as absolute legislation on the subject. Similarly, his ordinances concerning oaths were not intended to abrogate them completely, but to bring out the ultimate idea of an oath—the yea, yea, nay, nay!—both as before God. In these instances, however, Christ aims not merely after a negative, but after a positive result,—in the present case, to introduce the oath in its spiritual aspect. Accordingly, He now shows the difference between it and the practice common among the Jews. This consists not merely in the fact, that what had been sanctioned for judicial procedure was now used in every-day life, but also in the introduction of additional asseverations and of self-imprecations in the common mode of taking oaths, όμόσαι. These asseverations by heaven, by earth, etc.—this pledging as it were of things over which we have no control—are manifestly sinful. In a certain sense, they convert an oath into a curse. Hence, rendering the words of Christ according to their import, we might almost translate them: But I say unto you, Curse not, not at all! Since the oath, in the proper sense of the term, had thus degenerated, and been almost completely perverted, it was to cease, but only in order to give place to what was implied in the true idea of the oath—the calm and solemn attestation: yea, yea; nay, nay; as in the presence of God. The relation in which the Christian State and the Christian citizen stand to this absolute spiritua law, is the same as we formerly noticed in reference to marriage. So far as our own personal conduct is concerned, we are to adopt in the fullest sense the New Testament direction (James 5:12); it is the duty of the State to aim after realizing the ideal here set before it, while the Christian citizen is bound humbly to submit. (In this, and in similar respects, it is important to distinguish between the duty of bearing testimony and that of obedience. There is no inconsistency, for example, in the Christian minister, who as an evangelist is opposed to all war, and yet acts as an humble and efficient military chaplain.) This explanation Christ has sanctioned by His example. Like the patriarchs of old (Genesis 21:23-24; Genesis 31:33; Genesis 47:31), He acknowledged the lawfulness of the adjuration before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:64). It is not an isolated error when certain sectarians—as the Anabaptists of the Reformation period, the Mennonites, and the Quakers—confound the duty of the individual Christian as such with that of the citizen; the mistake goes far deeper. They deny in principle the moral and educational character and object of the State, which is intended to be subservient to the kingdom of heaven and to promote it. From the example of Paul (Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 11:10) we gather how the spiritual nature of the oath appears, when the Christian appeals to his fellowship with God in support of the reality and certainty of his assertions. Viewed in this light, the oath of the Christian is based even on that of the Lord Himself (Isaiah 45:23; Hebrews 6:13). God swears by Himself, i. e., He appeals to His absolute and personal certitude; and the Christian swears before God, when he solemnly attests his statement under a calm sense of the presence of, and of communion with, God. It is the duty of the State more and more to modify the oath in conformity to the spirit of the gospel, and to acknowledge a simple Christian assurance as equivalent to an oath. The Church cannot require an oath without obscuring the consciousness of standing before the Lord with all the solemn affirmations and vows of her members. Comp. on the different explanations Heubner, Com. p. 71 [and Tholuck, Bergpredigt, p. 258–275].

The scribes insisted on the obligatory character of vows, but distinguished between oaths which were binding and others which were not binding. Maimonides: Si quis jurat per cœlum, per terram, per solem, non est juramentum. Comp. Matthew 23:16 Similarly, Philo regarded oaths by heaven, by earth, etc., as not very important, and advised that they should be employed rather than a direct appeal to the Most High God.

Matthew 5:34. Swear not at all.—For the different interpretations of this prohibition, comp. Tholuck.—To swear not at all, if it be incompatible with due reverence toward God (Tholuck).—Not to swear lightly in ordinary life (Berlepsch),—not to swear after the manner and in the sense of the Jews (Matthiä).—Strict prohibition which is binding, so far as the kingdom of heaven is concerned, but not applying to our duty as citizens in the State (de Wette, Meyer).—Absolute prohibition binding at all times, and under all circumstances (the Quakers) Comp. also Winer, Heubner, Göschel (Der Eid), etc.23

Matthew 5:34-36. Neither by heaven, etc.—“These modes of swearing were customary at the time among the Jews. Comp. Philo, De spec. leg. 776; Lightfoot; Meuschen, Novum Testam. ex Talm. illustr. p. 58.”—Meyer. [Dr. Thomson in his excellent work, The Land and the Book, vol. i., p. 284, says of the modern Orientals that they “are fearfully profane. Everybody curses and swears when in a passion. No people that I have ever known can compare with these Orientals for profaneness in the use of the names and attributes of God. … They swear by the head, by their life, by heaven, and by the temple, or, what is in its place, the church. The forms of cursing and swearing, however, are almost infinite, and fall on the pained ear all day long.”—P. S.]

Matthew 5:37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea, Nay, nay.—Similar expressions in the Rabbins, הֵן הֵן and לאֹ לאֹ. Beza: Let your affirmative communication be yea, your negative, nay. Grotius: Let your affirmation and negation be in accordance with fact. Meyer: The repetition in the formula indicates emphasis in the assurance. James 5:12 : Let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay. Luther: A yea that is yea. (The same as Grotius.) Undoubtedly, the intention is to combine decidedness of assurance with the certitude of the fact. But the positive import of the “yea, yea,” is overlooked by those who imagine that the Lord concludes with a mere negative result. The true oath consists in the simple asseveration, uttered in perfect consciousness and under a sense of the presence of God, before Him, and in Him.

Cometh of evil, ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ.—1. Euthym. Zig., ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου. Similarly Chrysostom, Theophylact, Beza, Zwingle, Fritzsche, Meyer, and others. 2. From the πονηρόν, of evil, as a neuter.—The two in so far agree, as Christ uniformly traces all πονηρόν, or evil in the world, to the πονηρός. The statement, however, is not to be interpreted as meaning, that the traditional mode of swearing is of the devil, but as implying that the kingdom of darkness has occasioned this kind of asseverations; and that actual evil also attaches to them, in as far as they indicate a want of reverence, a pledging of things which belong to God, and a kind of imprecation.

Matthew 5:38. An eye for an eye, Exodus 21:24.—The right of retribution, jus talionis. A general principle of law, presented here in the form of a proverb, and applied to a special case. This principle was undoubtedly introduced into the judicature, not to foster revenge (as de Wette imagines), but to substitute law for private vengeance (Leviticus 19:18). We agree with Tholuck, that the Pharisees, in this instance, converted a principle of judicature into a rule of everyday life. But Meyer is likewise right in adding, that a Christian should not exact even judicial vengeance from his neighbor, as also appears from the word κριθῆναι, which follows.

Matthew 5:39-42. But I say unto you, Resist not τῷπονηρῷ.—Chrysostom and Theophylact refer this to the devil; Augustin and Calvin, to wrong; Tholuck, to evil; de Wette and Meyer, to an evil person. The words ὅ στις σεῥαπίσει are apparently in favor of the latter interpretation. But, on the other hand, the idea of evil men scarcely applies to the various cases afterward enumerated. We are not to resist—as we understand it—the evil that is in the world (the combination of sin and evil):—

(1) As we encounter it in violent offenders;
(2) As we encounter it in litigious accusers;
(3) As we encounter it in intrusive applicants for favors, or else slavish instruments of superior powers;
(4) As we encounter it in beggars and borrowers.
Beggars and borrowers can scarcely be ranked among evil men. Hence our Lord must refer to the sin and evil in the world which is conquered by wise and Christian submission, rather than by strenuous resistance. In all the instances just mentioned, we do not yield from weakness to the course of events, but voluntarily desist from our just claims in the exercise of self-denying love. This yielding, in reality, constitutes true heroism, by which alone injustice can be conquered. To be merely passive or non-resistant were weakness; but a passiveness which springs from Christian principle, and has a spiritual object in view, is true strength and real victory. To present the left cheek to him who smites us on the right, is to return the blow in the right sense; to give the cloak, is to have gained the suit about the coat; to go two miles instead of the one that is imposed on us, is to overcome the arbitrary power that would coerce us; to meet the wants of others, is to render begging impossible; and not to turn away from him who would borrow, is to train him to right independence.

Of course, these expressions, in their paradox form, must not be taken literally. The fundamental idea of the passage is, that Christian love must make us willing to bear twice as much as the world, in its injustice, could demand. But in this case also, the requirements of the moral law must guide us in applying the principle here laid down to every particular instance (comp. the example of the Lord, John 18:22).

Matthew 5:40. Κριθῆναι, litigare, to sue at law.—Χιτών (coat), the under garment.—Ἱμάτιον, the more expensive upper garment or cloak, which was also used for a covering at night, and hence could not be retained as a pledge over night (comp. Luke 6:29).

Matthew 5:41. Compel.—’Α γγαρεύειν, a word introduced from the Persian into the Greek and into rabbinical language; meaning, to compel for the purposes of transport, or for conveying messengers, in accordance with the postal arrangements of Cyrus, who authorized messengers to compel others to convey them: Herod, viii. 98.24 This compulsion is mentioned third, because those who did it were officially obliged to resort to such measures. Besides, the word is here used in a more general sense, referring to a traveller who exacts under the stress of necessity. From the above we conclude, that those mentioned in the fourth example do not belong to a different category, as Ewald suggests.

Matthew 5:43. Thy neighbor, πλησίον, לְכַעֲךָ Leviticus 19:18.—This passage referred in the first instance, as the context shows, to Jews, although Matthew 5:34 proves that it includes love to our neighbors generally. The Pharisees argued, that the injunction to love our neighbor implied that it referred only to such, and that all Gentiles were to be hated. They went even further, and regarding those only as Jews who adhered to traditionalism, stigmatized as strangers not merely Gentiles, but publicans, and every one who shared not their peculiar views. But their great argument was, that every one who was not a Jew was an enemy, and that every enemy should be hated. Hence their pride and contempt of men, the odium generis humani. Meyer adds, that “the casuistic tradition of the Pharisees explained the word ‘neighbor’ as meaning friend, and inferring from it—perhaps in connection with Deuteronomy 25:17-19 (comp. Malachi 1:3)—that every enemy should be hated,—a principle, as is well known, shared also by the Greeks.” But we see no reason for identifying the system of the Pharisees with the popular prejudices of the Gentiles. According to Grotius, the inference—to hate our enemies—was derived by the Pharisees from the command of God to destroy the Canaanites, etc.,—a statement which scarcely deserves the serious refutation of Heubner and Gerlach. The latter was manifestly a special theocratic injunction, bearing reference to the heathen institutions of the Canaanites, and not to the people as individuals (as appears from the history of Rahab).

Matthew 5:44. Love your enemies,—is the principle from which all the following directions flow. The expression must be taken in all its literality, and the injunction is universally applicable.—By his very hatred, our enemy becomes our neighbor, since his hatred tempts us to retaliate, and leaves us no choice but to fall, or else to defend ourselves by the weapons of love. In the latter case, cursing is met with blessing; hatred, which leads to injuries, by well-doing; threatening, or calumniating in secret (ἐπηρεάζειν, from ἐπήρεια, threat, contumely), and persecution, by prayer and intercession on our part. Comp. Cyprian, De mortalitate, and Heubner, p. 76.

Matthew 5:45. That ye may be.—The expression refers not merely “to final salvation in the kingdom of heaven,” but means, that ye may prove yourselves really the children of God, His sons, in the peculiar sense explained in Matthew 5:9. For this constitutes the evidence of being “peacemakers,” whose great model is Christ Himself.—The Lord appeals to the example of His Father, in order to show the nature and universality of highest love; while the publicans and the heathen exemplify the egotism and narrow-mindedness of a selfish community,—a sin of which the Pharisees also were guilty, and which they sought to invest with the halo of special sanctity.

Matthew 5:46. The publicans, τελῶναι, partly natives and partly Romans, employed in the service of the Roman knights who had leased the taxes of the country. They were disliked as being the representatives of Roman domination, and for their rigor and exactions. The Pharisees no doubt regarded them as under the ban, and in the same category as Gentiles (comp. Matthew 18:17).

Matthew 5:47. And if ye salute.—The persons saluted are here designated as brethren, meaning co-religionists. Hence the salutation indicates friendliness and readiness to serve.25

Matthew 5:48. Be ye therefore perfect,—in the moral sense, perfectness being your ultimate aim.26


1. The Lord purposely makes no reference to pure Antinomianism, because such opposition to the law exposed or condemned itself. But He rends the veil of pretended adherence to the law under which traditionalism sought to hide its real Antinomianism, and shows how in all its essential features it is destructive of the law—a hostility which at last manifested itself in all its fulness in the crucifixion of Christ. This tendency springs from a rigid and carnal adherence to the letter, which takes away the symbolical import of the letter, and at the same time converts the law into a series of secular and external traditions. Traditionalism first converts the law itself into traditions, and then adds its own special traditions by way of explanation. It assumes various forms: externalism, which results from the spiritual deadness of legalism; perversion or detraction from the true import of the law, as prompted by the dictates of lust or passion; and, finally, apparent increase of rigidness resulting from egotism, fanaticism, and spiritual pride. Thus, what was meant to serve as the eternal foundation of humanity became changed into hatred of mankind.—What is here said of Old Testament traditionalism equally applies to that of the mediæval Church, in its relation to the Gospel.

2. Some have difficulty in regarding Christianity as the genuine development of the teaching of Moses and of the prophets. This partly arises from the circumstance that, notwithstanding the express statements of the Lord, many imagine that Christ abolished the law of Moses in its substance. The statements of Paul about the abolition of the law, so far as its temporary form was concerned (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14), are similarly misinterpreted, while his declaration in Romans 3:31 is entirely overlooked. It is only when we learn to trace throughout all history a double course of tradition—one internal and ideal, the other external and ever lapsing into secularism—that we fully understand the difference and the agreement between the Old and the New Dispensation. Hegel, too, only knew of the external tradition, and assumes that Socrates and Christ died according to law.

3. The positive idea underlying this section is, that in the doctrine of Christ the teaching of Moses was fulfilled and carried to its spiritual ideal. Murder, adultery, profane swearing, revenge, and the rancor and selfishness of party spirit, are destroyed, not merely in their outward manifestations, but in their root. In their stead, Jesus sets before us a holy, spiritual gentleness, a holy and spiritual marriage, a holy and spiritual oath, a holy and spiritual retribution, and a holy and spiritual love toward our neighbor. These, however, are only instances by which the whole law must be explained. Five are mentioned as being the symbolical number of liberty and moral development, whether for good or evil.

4. Christ is the end and the fulfilment of the law (Romans 10:4; Romans 13:10). Here, then, we have another picture of the life of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount presents to our view the righteousness of Jesus in itself; here, we have it in its contrast with that of the Pharisees and scribes. Himself, however, in holy meekness, stands in the background, and only presents to His disciples this picture, as constituting their heavenly calling.

5. It is strangely and sadly characteristic of the Church of Rome, that it should have converted these fulfilments of the law of Moses into so-called “consilia evangelica,” and thus declared them, (1) not universally binding; (2) a directory for a species of higher legal righteousness,—such, for example, as that of the monks. Similar instances of strange—we had almost said, fatal—misinterpretation by the same Church, occur in connection with the two swords, Luke 22:38, the Lord’s Prayer, the laws on matrimony, etc.

[6. Matthew 5:48. Be ye perfect, etc. “We who are created in God’s image, and restored in Christ, and made partakers of the divine nature in Him, are bound by the conditions of our creation, redemption, and sanctification, to endeavor to be like Him here, that we may have the fruition of His glorious Godhead hereafter. Ephesians 4:1; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 2:1.”]


The righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, and that of the Pharisees and scribes: 1. The former spiritual from the Spirit of God; the latter worldly, and from the spirit of the world. 2. The former implying a state of mind; the latter, outward and merely apparent service. 3. The former continuing throughout eternity; the latter passing away with the world.—A living and true faith, and dead ortho doxy.—Antagonism between the spirit of the law and the mere letter of the law.—True and false tradition.—The ordinances of man an abolition of the commandments of God.—While pretending to make a “hedge” around the law (which itself was a hedge), the Pharisees trod down the plants in the garden of the Lord.—The perversions of truth which appeal under the guise of enforcing truth.—On the difference between “It is written,” and “It has been said”—“It has been said,” as pointing to the impure source of tradition. 1. It has been said; but we know not by whom, where, or when; 2. It has been said, by religious indolence, by carnality and deadness.—“It has been said,” or the origin of tradition within the kingdom of God.—Our proper respect for what is ancient appears in proper reverence for what is eternal, which is at the same time both old and new.—The hearts of the fathers must be turned to the children, then shall the hearts of the children also be turned to the fathers (Malachi 3:7; Luke 1:17).—The word of the Lord: “But I say unto you.”—If the letter of the law were carried out to its full length, it would consume the world, as did the fire of Elijah.—Christ condemning the service of the letter by the spirit of the letter.—Contrast between “It has been said to them of old,” and “But I say unto you.” 1. In the one case, it is the general unspiritual mass that speaks; here, it is the highest Personage—the Lord Himself. 2. In the former case, it has been said to past generations; in this, the Lord speaks to those around Him. 3. The former is a tradition from the grave; the latter, a word of life to the living.—The explanation given by the Lord of the commandment, Thou shall not kill. 1. His correction of traditionalism; 2. the law of the spirit.—(The same remarks apply to our Lord’s explanation of the other commandments.)—The anger of passion, the way to judgment and to hell.—The passion of anger appearing in reproaches.—He that judgeth set right in judgment: 1. Sudden passion set right by the dignity of the secular judgment-seat. 2. He who charges others with heresy set right by the judgment of the Church. 3. He who condemns set right by history, or the prospect of condemnation.—Going to the temple, an admonition to reconciliation.—Going to the judge, an exhortation to render satisfaction.—The sanctity of marriage, as opposed both to concupiscence and to divorce.—The sacred oath under the New Covenant is Yea, yea; Nay, nay.—The law of retribution: 1. Private vengeance giving place to law; 2. vengeance left to the proper authorities; 3. vengeance left to the Lord.—Our enemy becomes our neighbor by his aggressions upon us, which leave us no choice but either to hate or to love.—Love toward our enemies the weapon of spiritual defence against them.—Sunshine and rain preaching toleration and love.—The Divine rule equally over the good and the evil.—Sacred meditations during sunshine.—Sacred meditations during the rain.—Party spirit only a different form of egotism.—Party spirit under the guise of sanctity: 1. So far as our own nation is concerned; 2. so far as our religion is concerned; 3. so far as our own ecclesiastical denomination is concerned.—Love the bond of perfectness in spiritual life.—To feel that malice is weakness leads to pity.—The children of the Father in heaven: 1. Like their Father, they care for the world; 2. they bring it sunshine and rain; 3. in their Father they are hid from the world.

Starke:—Pharisaical legalists cannot but explain the law falsely.—The law is spiritual.—The Gospel has regard to the spirit, not to the letter, 2 Corinthians 3:6.—As one sin is more grievous than another (John 19:11), so the temporal and eternal punishments of God also ( Matthew 5:11; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:24).—A genuine Christian will abstain from all opprobrious epithets.—All your worship is vain, so long as your heart retains enmity. Reconciliation is more necessary than anything else.—God has made our forgiveness the condition of His, Job 42:8; 1 Peter 3:7.—He who neither forgives nor asks forgiveness, nor makes restitution, renders himself unworthy of the Lord’s table.—Let us not lose the season of grace.—True repentance is painful, but salutary.—If thine eye offend thee, etc.; see Colossians 3:5.—Men like to interpret the Scriptures according to their corrupt inclinations.—We must enter into the married estate in the fear of God, if our union is to prove happy.—If we suffer violence and bear it patiently, we shall be able to derive advantage even from the injustice of men.—To give and to lend are both fruits of love, Psalms 112:5.—Even to love our enemies is regarded as too difficult; but who among us thinks of blessing them and of praying for them?—Oh where shall we find Christians among these Christians? Hosea 4:1.—By faith we become the children of God, Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26. But love proves that we resemble our Father (1 John 3:10), who is love, 1 John 4:8.—If God had not loved us when we were still His enemies, we should never have become His children, Romans 5:8-9; and now we should cease to be the children of God if we ceased to follow Him in love, Ephesians 5:1-2—God would disarm our enemies by His long-suffering and by our kindness.—Love toward our enemies is both an evidence of sonship and a means of strengthening it, 2 Peter 1:10.—Let us set more by the example of God than by that of the world, with its hatred and callousness, Luke 6:36.—God rewards only such virtue of which Himself is the beginning and the end.—God is willing to help all men, and His own people share the same mind, Romans 10:1.—Many are ready to imitate God in His punitive justice, but few in His love.

Lisco:—(The pericope Matthew 5:20-26.) Those who have part in the kingdom of heaven cannot rest satisfied with the righteousness which Judaism regarded as sufficient, and which consisted in mere legalism and outward morality, without regard to the mind and heart.—True love is the sacrifice of all sacrifices.—Sinful lust must die in our hearts, and purity spring up, Matthew 18:8; Mark 9:43.—Every oath is a solemn asseveration of truth, in which God is invoked as witness of the truth and avenger of untruth. Hence it always bears reference to God; and, whether it be in the form of witness-bearing or solemn promise, it is always an act of worship.—True love must bear and submit, and thus prevail. But this does not imply that we are not allowed to seek assistance or protection from magistrates or judges, who are instituted by God for that very purpose (Romans 13:4).—There is in these commandments of Christ a progression from what is easier to what is more difficult.—To love our enemies was commanded even in the Old Testament, Exodus 23:4-5; Proverbs 25:21. Hence it was a lying addition to the command of God, to say, Thou shalt hate thine enemy.—Christ says, Your Father and My Father, but never, Our Father; the distinction is always marked, John 1:12—Perfect love is perfect bliss.

Gerlach:—The Old Testament itself contained the germ which was destined to burst through all husks.—Luther: Thinkest thou that God refers only to thy fist when He says, “Thou shalt not kill”? Whosoever does not love is a murderer, 1 John 3:15.—Every one of us is on his way to the Judge, without knowing how long the road may be.—The heart belongs to God, it is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Who would not be afraid to commit adultery in a temple made of stone? and shall we not be afraid to do it in our hearts?27—Chrysostom: Have you noticed how many steps He has gone up, and how He has now placed us on the very summit of virtue? Look back! The first step upward was to do no wrong to our neighbor; the second, not to reward evil for evil, if he had done us wrong; the third, not to revile him, but to remain silent; the fourth, to offer our persons in order to take wrong; the fifth, to offer more than the offender demands; the sixth, not to hate him who had done us wrong; the seventh, even to love him; the eighth, to do him good; the ninth, to entreat God for him. Do you now perceive the full height of Christian virtue?—Every further explanation of His requirements on the part of God is based on a fresh manifestation of His holy character and love.

Heubner:—If you are angry with a child of your Father, how can you venture to approach the Father? Pericope for the 6th Sunday after Trinity: False and true righteousness: 1. their character; 2. their manifestations; 3. their effects.—Spener’s sermon on this text preached at Frankfort, a. d. 1669.—“Thou hast cleft my heart in twain. Oh! throw away the worsen part of it, and live the purer with the other half:” Shakspeare (Hamlet, Matthew 3:4).—Not to resist, does not mean to submit patiently and passively to all aggressions, but not to meet evil by evil.—Harms: The close connection between love to our neighbor and true religion. [1. Love to our neighbor is one of the grounds of true religion, and leads to it. 2. Love to our neighbor is part of true religion, and belongs to it. 3. Love to our neighbor is a consequence of true religion.]28Marheineke: What that righteousness is which excels the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes: 1. Love to the commandment, yet not disjoined from love to God; 2. love to God, yet not disjoined from love to man; 3. love to man, yet not disjoined from love to our neighbor.—Schleier macher (Sermons, vol. 4): What the Lord would have us to learn from these words, especially with reference to united worship and service.—Kniewel: The righteousness of the Pharisees (its character; how to avoid it).



The Sinaitic Manuscript of the Bible, which Professor Tischendorf rescued from the obscurity of the Convent of St Catharine on Mount Sinai, and carefully edited in two editions in 1862 and 1863,* two years after the issue of the third edition of Dr. Lange’s Commentary on Matthew, has been carefully compared in preparing the American edition of this work from Chapter 8 to the close of the Gospel of Matthew. I thought I was the first to do so, but just before I finished the last pages of this volume, I found that Bäumlein, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John,** and Meyer, in the fifth edition of his Commentary on Matthew, both of which appeared in 1864, had preceded me, at least in print. No critical scholar can ignore this manuscript hereafter. For it is the only complete, and perhaps the oldest of all the uncial codices of the Bible, or at least of the same age and authority as the celebrated Vatican Codex (which is traced by some to the middle of the fourth century), and far better edited by the German Protestant Professor, Tischendorf, than the latter was by the Italian Cardinal, Angelo Mai. In the absence of a simpler mark agreed upon by critics (the proposed designation by the Hebrew א has not yet been adopted, and is justly objected to by Tregelles and others on the ground of typographical inconvenience), I introduce it always as Cod. Sin., and I find that Dr. Meyer in the fifth edition does the same. As I could not procure a copy of the printed edition of this Codex till I had finished the first seven chapters, I now complete the critical part of the work by adding its more important readings in the first seven chapters where they differ from the textus receptus, on which the authorized English, as well as all the older Protestant Versions of the Greek Testament are substantially based.

*Novum Testamentum Sinaiticum, sive Novum Testamentum cum Epistola Barnabœ et Fragmentis Pastoris (Hermæ). Ex Codice Sinaitico auspiciis Alexandri II., omnium Russiarum imperatoris, ex tenebris protracto orbique litterarum tradito accurate descripsit Ænotheus Friderious Constantinus Tischendorf, theol. et phil. Dr., etc. etc. Lipsiæ, 1863. The text is arranged in four columns and covers 148 folios; the learned Prolegomena of the editor 81 folios. There is besides a magnificent photo-lithographed fac-simile edition of the whole Sinaitic Bible, published at the expense of the Emperor of Russia, in 4 volumes (3 for the Old and 1 for the New Testament, the latter in 148 folios), under the title: Bibliorum Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. Auspiciis augustissimis imperatoris Alexandri II. ed. Const. Tischendorf. Petropoli, 1862. A copy of this rare edition I have also consulted occasionally, in the Astor Library of New York. For fuller information on this important Codex (in the words of Tischendorf: “omnium codicum uncialium solus integer omniumque antiquissimus”), we must refer the reader to the ample Prolegomena of Tischendorf, also to an article of Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie, vol. vii. (1864), p. 74 ff. (who is disposed to assign it to a somewhat later age), and to Scrivener’s treatise, which I have not seen.

**Hengstenberg, in his Commentary on John, concluded in 1863, pays no attention whatever to this Codex, and is very defective in a critical point of view

Matthew 5:30.—Cod. Sin. sustains the Vatican Codex, Vulgata (eat), etc., Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Alford, in reading εἰς γέ εγς ας�, should depart into hell, instead of the lect. rec. βληθῇ εἰς γέενναν, should be cast into hell, which seems to be a correction to suit the preceding verse.

Matthew 5:44.—Cod. Sin. reads simply: αγαπατε τους εχθρους υμων και προσευχεσθευπερ των διωκον των love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, and omits after ῦμῶν the words from εὐλογεῖτε to μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς(bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you), and after ὑπὲρ τῶν the words: ἐπηρεαζόν των ὑμᾶς καί (who despitefully use you and). It agrees in this omission with Cod. B., Copt., Iren., Orig., Euseb., and other fathers. Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Alford, expunge the words referred to, as an interpolation from Luke 6:28; but de Wette and Meyer object, since the order of the clauses in Luke is different, and since the homœoteleuta could easily cause omissions. The words ἐπηρεαζόν των ὑμᾶς καί, however, are very suspicious, and in all probability inserted from Luke 6:28. Hence Meyer, also, gives them up.

Matthew 5:47.—Cod. Sin. sustains ἐθνικοί, heathen, with B., D., Z., verss. and fathers against τελῶναι, publicans, which seems to have been inserted from Matthew 5:46, as already remarked on p. 112, Crit. Note 6.

Matthew 6:1.—Cod. Sin. agrees here again with the Vatican MS. (also D., Syr., Hieros., Itala, Vulgata, several fathers, Lachm., Tischend., Treg., Alf.), in reading δικαιοσύνην, righteousness, instead of ἐλεημοσύνην (text, rec., Matthäi, Scholz), which is “a mistaken gloss, the general nature of this opening caution not being perceived.”


[12] Matthew 5:21.—[Τοῖς�, to the ancients, is the interpretation of the Greek fathers, the ancient versions, and all the English versions from Wiclif’s to the Genevan incl., and also that of Rheims. This is certainly much more natural than the rare and mostly questionable ablative use of the dative case, which Beza, in his later editions, preferred, and which passed into the E. V. of 1611. Bengel (Gnomon in loc.) remarks: “Antitheton, vobis; undo patet, τοῖς�, antiquis, (patribus, tempore Mosis) non esse casu sexto: faciliorque est constructio: dictum est antiquis, id est, ad antiquos, quam ab antiquis.” The word ἐῤῥήθη is always followed in the N. T. or the Septuagint by the substantive which denotes the person to whom (not by whom) the words were spoken, comp. Romans 9:12; Romans 9:26; Galatians 3:16; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 9:4. Comp. also Com.—P. S.]

[13] Matthew 5:22.—Εἰκῆ, without cause, omitted by Cod. B., several minuscule MSS., translations, and fathers. [Lachmann and Tischendorf omit it, and Tregelles marks it as very doubtful. Alford retains it, and there is sufficient ancient authority for it to justify its continuance in the popular translations.—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 5:27.—[The critical authorities are against τοῖς� of the text. rec. in this verse, and throw it out of the text. But Dr. Lange retains it in his transl. Comp. Matthew 5:31; Matthew 5:38; Matthew 5:43, where these words are likewise omitted.—P. S.]

[15] Matthew 5:44.—[The clauses of the received text: “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” are marked as doubtful by Griesbach, and omitted in the modern critical editions; but they are genuine in the parallel passage, Luke 6:27-28. Hence Dr. Lange retains them here in his translation.—P. S.]

[16] Matthew 5:44.—The words: “which despitefully use you and [τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς καί] are omitted by some authorities. [Lachmann Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Alford omit them, and Meyer is disposed to regard them as an interpolation from Luke 6:28.—P. S.]

[17] Matthew 5:47.—[Dr. Lange translates: die Heiden, the heathen, following the reading: οἱ ἐθνικοί (Vulgata: ethnici), which is better authenticated in Matthew 5:47 than τελῶναι, publicani. The latter seems to have been taken from Matthew 5:46, where τελῶναι is universally sustained. See Tischend., Lachm., Tregelles, and Alford ad loc.—P. S.]

[18][Dr. Alford, ad loc.: “Meyer (Exodus 2:0) has well observed [Dr. Bengel did it before him] that ἐῤῥήθη τοῖς� corresponds to λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, and the ἐγώ to the understood subject of ἐῤῥ. He has not, however, apprehended the deeper truth which underlies the omission of the subject of ἐῤῥ., that it was the same Person who said both. It will be noticed that our Lord does not here speak against the abuse of the law by tradition, but that every instance here given is either from the law itself, or such traditional teaching as was in accordance with it. The contrasts here are not between the law misunderstood and the law rightly understood, but between the law and its ancient exposition, which in their letter, and as given, were κενά—and the same as spiritualized, πεπληρωμένα, by Christ; not between two lawgivers, Moses and Christ, but between οἱ� and ὑμεῖς; between (the idea is Chrysostom’s) the children by the same husband, of the bondwoman and of the freewoman.” Dr. Wordsworth: “τοῖς�—to those of old (Chrys., Theoph., Maldon., Beng.), at the beginning of God’s written revelation, contradistinguished from ὑμῖν, ‘to whom I now speak face to face.’ Our Lord not only opposes the Pharisaic corruptions of the decalogue, but He unfolds it. He gives the kernel of it, its spirit, in opposition to those who dwelt only on the letter; for the letter (i. e., taken alone) killeth, but the spirit (added to it) giveth life, Romans 7:14; 2 Corinthians 3:6.”—P. S.]

[19][Grotius, ad loc., makes the appropriate remark: “Merito εἰκῆ additum. Neque eum iracundus est quisquis irasci solet, sed qui οἶς οὐ δεῖ, καὶ ἐφ’ οἶς οὐ δεῖ, καὶ μᾶλλον ἢ δεῖ, at Aristoteles loquitur.”—P. S.]

[20][The English C. V., as also Luther’s German V., have almost obliterated the distinction between hell and hades in the popular mind, by translating γέεννα and ᾅδης alike hell Hölle). The term γέεννα occurs 12 times in the N. T., viz., Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:15; Matthew 23:33; Mark 9:43; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6, and is always correctly rendered hell. The term ᾅδης (sheol, spirit-world, region of the departed, underworld, Todtenreich, Unterwelt) occurs 11 times in the N. T., viz., Matthew 11:23; Matthew 16:18; Luke 10:15; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27; Act 2:31; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 20:13-14, and is inaccurately rendered hell in all cases except 1 Corinthians 15:55, where the authorized Version translates grave. The difference of the two terms has an important bearing on the doctrine of Christ’s descent into Hades, and of the status intermedius between death and the resurrection.—P. S.]

[21][As κοδράντης is one of the smallest denominations of coin, the English farthing and the German Heller are the precise equivalents as to meaning, and therefore good translations.—P. S.]

[22][Dr. Alford, ad loc.: “The βλέπων πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθ, must not be interpreted of the casual evil thought which is checked by holy watchfulness, but the gazing with a view to feed that desire (for so πρὸς τό with an infinitive must mean).”—P. S.]

[23][We add the explanations of the latest English and American commentators on Matthew. Dr. Alford (Episcopalian), 4th Engl. ed. ad loc.: “In the words. Swear not at all, our Lord does not so much make a positive enactment by which all swearing is to individuals forbidder, e. g on solemn occasions, and for the satisfaction of others (for that would be a mere technical Pharisaism wholly at variance with the spirit of the Gospel, and inconsistent with the example of God Himself, Hebrews 6:13-17; Hebrews 7:21; of the Lord when on earth, whose ἀμὴν� was a solemn asseveration, and who at once respected the solemn adjuration of Caiaphas, Matthew 26:63-64; of His Apostles, writing under the guidance of His Spirit, see Galatians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:8, and especially 1 Corinthians 15:31; of His holy angels, Revelation 10:6), as declare to us, that the proper state of Christians is, to require no oaths; that when τὸ πονηρόν is expelled from among them, every ναί and οὐ will be as decisive as an oath, every promise as binding as a vow. We observe (a) that these verses imply the unfitness of vows of every kind as rules of Christian action; (b) that the greatest regard ought to be had to the scruples of those, not only sects, but individuals, who object to taking an oath, and every facility given in a Christian state for their (?) ultim to entire abolition.”—(Does their refer to scruples, or is it a mistake for its, i. e. the oath’s?)—Dr. Wordsworth (Episcopalian) gives a similar interpretation, though not so fully, and quotes from St Augustine: Non ames, non affectes as, non appetas jusjurandum, which is hardly sufficient. He also remarks that the corresponding Hebrew verb שִׁבַע (from שִׁבַצ, seven, the holy number of the covenant) is used only in Niphal (i. e., to be made to swear, or rather to seven oneself, i. e., to take an oath confirmed by seven victims offered as sacrifice to God, Genesis 21:28 sq.. or before seven witnesses), and in Hiphil (i. e., to cause to swear, to bind by an oath): as much as to intimate that no one ought to swear except when compelled to do so.—Alb. Barnes (N. S. Presbyterian): “Swear not at all. That is, in the manner which He proceeds to specify. Swear not in any of the common and profane ways customary at that time.”—Dr. Jos. Addis. Alexander (O. S. Presbyterian): “Christ teaches that the sin, where there is any, consists not in swearing falsely, which is a distinct offence punished both by God and man, nor in any particular form of oath, but in swearing at all without necessity or warrant.”—Dr. D. D. Whedon (Methodist) ad loc.: “Neither in his prohibition of swearing nor of violence (38–42) is our Lord giving any law for the magistrate or the governmental regulations, but for private conduct. The officer of government has still a right to use force, and the magistrate to administer an oath. In fact, to forbid these things in private life secures that they may be done magistratively with better effect. None of the oaths which our Lord adduces as specimens are judicial oaths, but the ordinary profanities of the Orientalists.”—P. S.]

[24][Also Xenophon, Cyrop. Matthew 8:6; Matthew 8:17. Comp. the classical dictionaries sub verbo Angaria, and Tholuck, Meyer, Conant, and Alford ad loc. The corresponding English word for ἀγγαρεύειν in its proper technical sense is to impress, i. e., to press or force into public service by public authority. The word occurs three times in the N. T., here. Matthew 27:32, and Mark 15:21, where it is used of Simon who was impressed to bear the cross of our Saviour to Calvary. The Jews were strongly opposed to the duty of furnishing posts for the hated Roman government. The ἐπισταθμία, or billeting of the Roman soldiers and their horses on the Jews, was one kind of this ἀγγαρία.—P. S.]

[25][̓Ασπάσησθε may as well be taken, with Alford and others, in its literal sense. Jews did not salute Gentiles, as Mohammedans oven now in the East do not salute Christians.—P. S.]

[26][Comp. Alford, Wordsworth, Whedon, and other English commentators on this passage and its bearing on the doctrine of perfectibility or the attainability of moral perfection in this life, which Alford opposes as inconsistent with the whole discourse, especially Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29; Matthew 5:32, as well as with Philippians 3:12; while Wordsworth and Whedon favor it, the former in the patristic sense, quoting from St. Jerome, the latter in the sense of modern Methodism.—P. S.]

[27][This sentence should be credited to Starke, from whom Otto von Gerlach (ad Matthew 5:28) almost literally borrowed it. Starke remarks on Matthew 5:28 (N. T., vol. i., p. 137): ‘Man scheuet sich vor den Augen der Menschen in einer steinernen Kirche einen dusserlichen Ehebruch zu begehen; und scheuet sich nicht vor Gottes Augen viel Ehebruche im Tempel seines Herzens zu begehen.”—P. S.]

[28][Omitted in the third edition, but retained hero from the transl. of the first.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/matthew-5.html. 1857-84.
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