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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
Matthew 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

is said here, does not follow immediately what was said in the preceding chapter. See Luke vi.


Verse 2

Opening his mouth. It is a Hebraism, to signify he began to speak. (Witham) --- This is a common expression in Scripture, to signify something important is about to be spoken. Thus it is used in various other places, as "Job opening his mouth cursed his day, and said," &c. Daniel, chap. x. et alibi. (Jansenius) --- And why is it added, says St. John Chrysostom "and opening his mouth," without doubt that we might know, that not only when he spoke, but even when silent, he gave instruction: sometimes, therefore, he opened his mouth; at other times he spoke by his very actions. (Hom. xv.)


Verse 3

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

The humble. See St. John Chrysostom hom. xv. in Matt. St. Jerome on this place in his Commentary on St. Matt. St. Augustine, Serm. Domini in Monte. tom. iii, part 2 p. 166, &c.


Verse 4

land of the living, or the kingdom of heaven. The evangelist prefers calling it the land of the living in this place, to shew that the meek, the humble, and the oppressed, who are spoiled of the possession of this earth by the powerful and the proud, shall obtain the inheritance of a better land. (Menochius) "They shall possess the land," is the reward annexed by our Saviour to meekness, that he might not differ in any point from the old law, so well known to the persons he was addressing. David, in psalm xxxvi, had made the same promise to the meek. If temporal blessings are promised to some of the virtues in the beatitudes, it is that temporal blessings might always accompany the more solid rewards of grace. But spiritual rewards are always the principal, always ranked in the first place, all who practice these virtues are pronounced blessed. (Hom. xv.)


Verse 5

Not those that mourn for worldly motives, but such as mourn for their sins, are blessed. The sorrow that is according to God, says St. Paul, worketh penance steadfast unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians vii. 10.) The same is promised in St. John; (xvi. 20,) you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (Menochius)


Verse 6

Hunger and thirst; i.e. spiritually, with an earnest desire of being just and holy. But others again understand such as endure with patience the hardships of hunger and thirst. (Witham) --- Rupertus understands those to whom justice is denied, such as poor widows and orphans. Maldonatus those who from poverty really suffer hunger and thirst, because justice is not done them. (Menochius) --- They shall be filled with every kind of good in their heavenly country. I shall be filled when thy glory shall appear. (Psalm xvi.)


Verse 7

only the giving of alms, but the practice of all works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, are recommended here, and the reward will be given on that day when God will repay every one according to his works, and will do by us, as we have done by our brethren. (Haydock)


Verse 8

clean of heart are either those who give themselves to the practice of every virtue, and are conscious to themselves of no evil, or those who are adorned with the virtue of charity. For nothing is so necessary as this purity in such as desire to see God. Keep peace with all and chastity, says St. Paul, for without this none can see God. Many are merciful to the poor and just in their dealings, but abstain not from luxury and lust. Therefore our Saviour, wishing to shew that mercy was not sufficient, adds, that if we would see God, we must also be possessed of the virtue of purity. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xv.) By this, we shall have our heart exempt from all disordinate love of creatures, and shall be exclusively attached to God. (Haydock) --- The clean of heart, i.e. they who are clean from sin: who are pure in body and mind, says St. John Chrysostom. It seems to be a particular admonition to the Jews, who were mostly solicitous about an outward and legal cleanness. (Witham)


Verse 9

be peaceful ourselves and with others, and to bring such as are at variance together, will entitle us to be children of God. Thus we shall be raised to a participation in the honour of the only begotten Son of God, who descended from heaven to bring peace to man, and to reconcile him with his offended Creator. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xv.)


Verse 10

and malefactors suffer occasionally, but they are not on this account blessed, because they suffer not for justice. For, says St. Augustine they cannot suffer for justice, who have divided the Church; and where sound faith or charity is wanting, there cannot be justice. (Cont. epis. Parm. lib. i. chap. 9. ep. 50. ps. 4. conc. 2.) (Bristow) --- By justice here we understand virtue, piety, and the defence of our neighbour. To all who suffer on this account, he promises a seat in his heavenly kingdom. We must not think that suffering persecution only, will suffice to entitle us to the greatest promises. The persecutions we suffer must be inflicted on us on his account, and the evils spoken of us must be false and contradicted by our lives. If these are not the causes of our sufferings, so far from being happy, we shall be truly miserable, because then our irregular lives would be the occasion of the persecutions we suffer. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xv.)


Verse 12

, in Latin merces, in Greek misthos, signifies wages done for hire, and due for work, and presupposes merit. (Bristow) --- If you participate in the sufferings of the prophets, you will equally participate in their glory, their reward. (Haydock)


Verse 13

former instructions Jesus Christ gave to the multitude. Now he addresses his apostles, styling them the salt of the earth, meant to preserve men from the corruption of sin, and to make them relish the truths of salvation. He tells them not to suffer their faith or their charity to slacken, in which all their power consists, lest they come to be rejected by God, and despised by man. (Calmet) --- I send you, says Jesus Christ, not to two, ten, or twenty cities, not to one single nation, as the prophets were sent, but to the whole world, a world oppressed with numberless iniquities. It is not the property of salt to restore what is already corrupted, but to preserve from corruption. Therefore the virtue of the merits of Christ delivers us from the corruption of sin; but the care and labour of the apostles preserves us from again returning to it. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xv.) --- It appears from Luke xiv. 34, that this comparison is taken from agriculture. We observe these properties of salt in the different manures that fertilize the soil, but suffer the salts to evaporate, and all their virtue is lost. (Haydock)


Verse 15

light of the world, city on a mountain, and candle upon a candlestick, signify the Catholic Church, so built upon Christ, the mountain, that it must be visible, and cannot be hidden or unknown. (St. Augustine, cont. Fulg.) Therefore the Church being a candle not under a bushel, but shining to all in the house, i.e. in the world, what shall I say more, saith St. Augustine than that all are blind, who shut their eyes against the candle which is set on the candlestick? (Tract ii. in ep. Jo.)


Verse 17

Not to destroy the law, &c. It is true, by Christ's coming, a multitude of ceremonies and sacrifices, and circumcision, were to cease; but the moral precepts were to continue, and to be complied with, even with greater perfection. (Witham) --- To fulfil. By accomplishing all the figures and prophecies, and perfecting all that was imperfect. (Challoner) --- Our Saviour speaks in this manner, to prepare the minds of the Jews for his new instructions. For although they were not very solicitous about fulfilling the law, still they were extremely jealous of any change exacted a more perfect morality. Our Lord fulfilled the law three several ways: 1. By his obedience to the prescribed rites; therefore he says, it behoveth us to fulfil all justice: and who shall accuse me of sin? 2. He observes the law, not only by his own observance of it, but likewise by enabling us to fulfil it. It was the wish of the law to make man just, but found itself too weak; Christ therefore came justifying man, and accomplished the will of the law. 3. He fulfilled the law, by reducing all the precepts of the old law to a more strict and powerful morality. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xvi.)


Verse 18

Amen. That is, assuredly, of a truth. This Hebrew word Amen, is here retained by the example and authority of all the four evangelists, who have retained it. It is used by our Lord as a strong asseveration, and affirmation of the truth. (Challoner) --- Not one jot (or not one jota), nor one tittle, i.e. not the least letter, nor stroke of a letter; that is, not the least moral precept. Besides every type and figure of the former law, now by my coming shall be fulfilled. (Witham) --- Greek: Amen, is retained in the Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Armenian languages, aw well as in all vulgar idioms. It is a term of asseveration, and equivalent to an oath; and in many places, to make the asseveration still stronger, it is repeated. St. Luke very accurately translates it into Greek: nai. St. Paul and St. John unite them Greek: nai and Greek: amen. (Haydock)


Verse 19

He shall be called; i.e. (by a frequent Hebrew idiom) he shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven; that is, according to St. Augustine he shall not be there at all; for none but the great in sanctity and virtue shall find admittance into heaven. (Witham) --- Do not then imitate the Scribes and Pharisees, who content themselves with instructing other in the precepts of the law, without practising them themselves, or if they observe the letter, neglect the spirit of the law, performing what it ordain, not to please God, but to satisfy their vanity. (Calmet)


Verse 20

Of the Scribes and of the Pharisees. The Scribes were the doctors of the law of Moses; the Pharisees were a precise set of men, making profession of a more exact observance of the law: and upon that account greatly esteemed among the people. (Challoner) --- See how necessary it is, not only to believe, but to keep all the commandments, even the very least. (Bristow) --- Our Saviour makes this solemn declaration at the opening of his mission, to shew to what a height of perfection he calls us. (St. Thomas Aquinas) --- "Your justice." It is our justice when given us by God. (St. Augustine, in Ps. xxx. lib. de. spir. & lit. chap. ix.) So that Christians are truly just, and have in themselves inherent justice, by observing God's commandments, without which justice of works, no man can be saved. (St. Augustine, de fide & oper. chap. xvi.) Whereby we see salvation, justice and justification, do not come by faith only, or imputation of Christ's justice. (Bristow)


Verse 21

Shall be liable to the judgment. That is, shall deserve to be punished by that lesser tribunal among the Jews, called the judgment, which took cognizance of such crimes. (Challoner) --- Among the Jews at the time of Christ, there were three sorts of tribunals: the first composed of three judges to try smaller causes, as theft; there was one in each town: the second of twenty-three judges, who judged criminal causes, and had the power of condemning to death. This was called the Little Sanhedrim, and of this it is supposed Jesus Christ speaks: the third, or Great Sanhedrim of seventy-two judges, who decided on the most momentous affairs, relating to religion, the king, the high priest, and the state in general. It is this last that is designated under the name of council in the next verse. (Haydock)


Verse 22

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Greek: eike, sine causa, is in most Greek copies at present, as also in St. John Chrysostom; and so it is in the Protestant translation. But St. Jerome, who examined this reading, says positively that Greek: eike was wanting in the true copies. In quibusdam Codicibus additur sine causa, Cæterum in veris definita sententia est, et ira penitus tollitur.

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Raca. St. Augustine (Serm. Domini in Monte. p. 174) affirms it to be, non vocem significantem aliquid, sed indignantis animi motum, &c.

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

reus erit Concilii, Greek: to sunedrio.

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

gehennæ ignis, Greek: enochos estai eis ten geennan tou puros.


Verse 23

commands us to leave unfinished any work we may have begun, though in its own nature most acceptable to God, in order to go and be reconciled to our brother; because God will have mercy and not sacrifice. Thus he in a manner seems to prefer the love of our neighbour to the love of himself. (Menochius)


Verse 24

Leave thy offering. This is not to be understood, as if a man were always bound to go to the person offended; but it is to signify, that a man is bound in his heart and mind to be reconciled, to forgive every one, and seek peace with all men. (Witham) --- Beware of coming to the holy table, or to any sacrament, without charity. Be first reconciled to your brother, and much more to the Catholic Church, which is the whole brotherhood of Christian men. (Hebrews xiii. 1.) (Bristow)


Verse 25

-26 whilst you are in the way, or wayfaring men, i.e. in this life, lest you be cast into prison, i.e. according to Sts. Cyprian, Ambrose, and Origen, into purgatory; according to St. Augustine, into hell, in which, as the debt is to be paid to inflexible justice, it can never be acquitted, and of course no release can be hoped for from that prison. (Haydock)


Verse 27

Christ here perfects the old law, which makes no mention of the acts of the mind and will. (Menochius)


Verse 29

is an immediate occasion of sin, however near or dear it may be, must be abandoned (Menochius), though it prove as dear to us, or as necessary as a hand, or an eye, and without delay or demur. (Haydock)


Verse 32

Excepting the cause of fornication. A divorce or separation as to bed and board, may be permitted for some weighty causes in Christian marriage; but even then, he that marrieth her that is dismissed, commits adultery. As to this, there is no exception. The bond of marriage is perpetual; and what God hath joined, no power on earth can separate. See again Matthew xix. 9. (Witham) --- The know of marriage is so sacred a tie, that the separation of the parties cannot loosen it, it being not lawful for either of the parties to marry again upon a divorce. (St. Augustine, de bon. conjug. chap. vii.) (Bristow)


Verse 34

Swear not at all. We must not imagine that here are forbidden all oaths, where there is a just and necessary cause of calling God to witness. An oath on such an occasion is an act of justice and religion. Here are forbidden unnecessary oaths in common discourse, by which the sacred name of God, which never ought to be pronounced without reverence and respect, is so frequently and scandalously profaned. (Witham) --- 'Tis not forbidden to swear in truth, justice and judgment; to the honour of God, or our own or neighbour's just defence; but only to swear rashly, or profanely, in common discourse, and without necessity. (Challoner)


Verse 35

Anabaptists and other sectarists, following the letter, and not the spirit of the Scripture, and walking in the footsteps of their predecessors, the Waldenses, and the Pelagians, will allow of no oath to be lawful, not even before a judge. (Bristow)


Verse 38

your doctors have concluded that revenge, equal to the injury, was permitted.


Verse 39

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Non resistere malo, Greek: to ponero, as before, a malo est, Greek: ek tou ponerou estin. In both places Greek: o poneros, seems to signify an evil spirit, or an evil man.


Verse 41

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Vade cum eo et alia duo. In the ordinary Greek copies, we only read Greek: upage met autou duo. But in other manuscripts Greek: upage met autou eti alla duo.

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Verse 43

And hate thy enemy. The words of the law (Leviticus xix. 18.) are only these: thou shalt love thy friend as thyself; but by a false gloss and inference, these words, and hate thy enemy, were added by the Jewish doctors. (Witham)


Verse 44

come to establish the purity of the law, which they have corrupted. (Haydock)


Verse 46

The publicans. These were the gatherers of the public taxes: a set of men, odious and infamous among the Jews, for their extortions and injustice. (Challoner)


Verse 48

Christ here sums up his instructions by ordering us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect; i.e. to imitate, as far as our exertions, assisted by divine grace, can reach, the divine perfection. (Witham) --- See here the great superiority of the new over the old law. But let no one hence take occasion to despise the old. Let him examine attentively, says St. John Chrysostom, the different periods of time, and the persons to whom it was given; and he will admire the wisdom of the divine Legislator, and clearly perceive that it is one and the same Lord, and that each law was to the great advantage of mankind, and wisely adapted to the times of their promulgation. For, if among the first principles of rectitude, these sublime and eminent truths had been found, perhaps neither these, nor the less perfect rules of mortality would have been observed; whereas, by disposing of both in their proper time, the divine wisdom has employed both for the correction of the world. Hom xviii. Seeing then that we are thus blessed as to be called, and to be the children of so excellent a Father, we should endeavour, like Him, to excel in goodness, meekness, and charity; but above all in humility, which will secure to us the merit of good works, through the infinite merits of our divine Redeemer, Master, and model, Christ Jesus the Lord. (Haydock)

 


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Bibliography Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 5:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-5.html. 1859.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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