Matthew 5:13-20

Matthew 5:13-20
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany A


13 “You are the saltA of the earth,B but if salt has lost its taste,C how can its saltiness be restored?D

Notes on verse 13a

A “salt” = halas. 8x in NT. From hals (salt or a body of salt water). This is salt, figurative for prudence.
B “earth” = ge. This is earth, land, soil, region, country, the inhabitants of an area.
C “lost…taste” = moraino. 4x in NT. From moros (dull, stupid, moronic, becoming detached from reality); perhaps from musterion (a mystery or a secret doctrine that requires initiation to learn); from mustes (an initiate); from mueo (to initiate someone into the secrets or mysteries of an order; to instruct learn, be disciples; properly, shutting your mouth and eyes to experience mystery); from muo (shutting eyes or mouth). This is to become a fool, taint, become insipid or useless. It can also mean tasteless.
D “saltiness be restored” = halizo. Related to “salt” in v13. 3x in NT. From halas (see note A above). This is to add salt or make salty.

It is no longer goodE for anything but is thrownF out and trampledG under foot.H

Notes on verse 13b

E “good” = ischuo. From ischus (strength, might, power, force, ability; power that engages immediate resistance); {perhaps from is (force) + echo (to have, hold, possess)}. This is to be strong or have power. It can also refer to being healthy and vigorous. Further, it can mean to prevail. It is strength in action against resistance, exercising force in a literal or figurative sense.
F “thrown” = ballo. This is to throw, cast, rush, place, or drop. It is throwing, but it could be with more or less velocity and with more or less force/violence.
G “trampled” = katapateo. 5x in NT. From kata (down, against, throughout, among) + pateo (to tread, trample on; to trample literally or figuratively); {from patos (trodden) OR from paio (to strike, smite, sting; a hit like a single blow)}. This is to trample, step on. Figuratively, it is to spurn or reject.
H “foot” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face); {from optanomai (to appear, be seen); perhaps from horao (become, seem, appear)}. This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.

14 “You are the lightI of the world.J A cityK

Notes on verse 14a

I “light” = phos. From phao (to shine or make visible, especially with rays of light); from the same as phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear). This is light, a source of light, fire, or radiance. This is light with specific reference to what it reveals. It is luminousness whether natural or artificial, abstract or concrete, literal or figurative.
J “world” = kosmos. Perhaps from the base of komizo (to carry, convey, recover); from komeo (to take care of). This is order, the world, the universe, including its inhabitants. Literally, this is something that is ordered so it can refer to all creation. It can also refer to decoration in the sense that something is better ordered and, thus, made more beautiful. This is where “cosmos” and “cosmetics” come from.
K “city” = polis. This is a city or its inhabitants. It is a town of variable size, but one that has walls. This is where “metropolis” and “police” come from.

builtL on a hillM cannotN be hid.O 

Notes on verse 14b

L “built” = keimai. This is to lie, recline, be set, appointed, destined. It is to lie down literally or figuratively.
M “hill” = oros. Perhaps from oro (to rise); perhaps akin to airo (raise, take up, lift, remove). This is mountain or hill.
N “cannot” = ou + dunamai. Dunamai is to be able, or something that is possible. It can also be empowered or being powerful. The Greek word for “miracle” (dunamis) comes from this root.
O “hid” = krupto. 18x in NT. This is to hide by covering, secret, hidden things. This is the root of the word “cryptography.”

15 People do not lightP a lampQ and putR it under the bushel basket;S

Notes on verse 15a

P “light” = kaio. 11x in NT. This is to kindle, light, blaze. It is light in a literal or figurative sense.
Q “lamp” = luchnos. 14x in NT. Perhaps from the base of leukos (bright, white, brilliant); from luke (light). This is a lamp that is portable and fueled by oil. It can mean light in a literal or figurative sense.
R “put” = tithemi. This is to put, place, set, fix, establish in a literal or figurative sense. Properly, it is placing something in a passive or horizontal position.
S “bushel basket” = modios. 3x in NT– in synoptic gospel parallels. This is a modius or bushel basket, which holds a peck. It can refer to the quantity or the container that holds that quantity. See

rather, they put it on the lampstand,T and it gives lightU to all in the house.V 16 In the same way, let your lightW shineX before others,Y so that they may seeZ

Notes on verses 15b-16a

T “lampstand” = luchnia. Related to “lamp” in v15. 12x in NT. From luchnos (see note Q above). This is lampstand or candlestick.
U “gives light” = lampo. 7x in NT. This is to give light or shine literally or figuratively. This is where the word “lamp” comes from.
V “house” = oikia. From oikos (house – the building, the household, the family, descendants; the temple). This is a house, household, goods, property, family, or means.
W “light” = phos. Same as “light” in v14. See note I above.
X “shine” = lampo. Same as “gives light” in v15. See note U above.
Y “others” = anthropos. Same as “foot” in v13. See note H above.
Z “see” = horao. Related to “foot” in v13. See note H above.

your goodAA worksBB and give gloryCC to your FatherDD in heaven.EE

Notes on verse 16b

AA “good” = kalos. This is good, noble, beautiful, correct, or worthy. This is external signs of goodness like beauty, demonstrations of honorable character, showing moral virtues. A different word, agathos, speaks of intrinsic good.
BB “works” = ergon. From ergo (to work, accomplish, do). This is work, task, deed, labor, effort.
CC “give glory” = doxazo. From doxa (glory, opinion, praise, honor, renown; particularly used as a quality of God or manifestation of God – splendor); from dokeo (to have an opinion, seem, appear, suppose; a personal judgment; to think); from dokos (opinion). This is to render or hold something as glorious, to glorify, honor, magnify, or celebrate. This is ascribing weight to something by recognizing its true value or essence.
DD “Father” = pater. This is father in a literal or figurative sense. Could be elder, senior, ancestor, originator, or patriarch.
EE “heaven” = ouranos. Related to “hill” in v14. May be related to oros (see note M above). This is the air, the sky, the atmosphere, and heaven. It is the sky that is visible and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Heaven implies happiness, power, and eternity.

17 “Do not thinkFF that I have comeGG to abolishHH

Notes on verse 17a

FF “think” = nomizo. 15x in NT. From nomos (what is assigned – usage, law, custom, principle; used for the law in general or of God’s law; sometimes used to refer to the first five books of the Bible or the entire Old Testament; also used to refer to theology or the practice and tradition of interpreting and implementing the law of God); from nemo (to parcel out, assign). This is to practice, think, consider, suppose, hold by custom. This is thinking that something applies given precedent and practice – to do by law.
GG “come” = erchomai. This is to come or go.
HH “abolish” = kataluo. 17x in NT. From kata (down, against, throughout, among) + luo (to loose, release, untie; figuratively, to break, destroy, or annul; releasing what had been withheld). Literally, this means thoroughly loosening. It can mean unharnessing or unyoking animals and so to lodge somewhere for a night. It can also mean to disintegrate or demolish in a literal or figurative sense. So, it can be destroy, overthrow, abolish, or tear down.

the LawII or the Prophets;JJ I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.KK 

Notes on verse 17b

II “Law” = nomos. Related to “think” in v17. See note FF above.
JJ “Prophets” = prophetes. Related to “light” in v14. From pro (before, in front of, earlier than) + phemi (to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view); {from phao (to shine) or phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear)}. This is a prophet or poet – one who speaks with inspiration from God.
KK “fulfill” = pleroo. From pleres (to be full, complete, abounding in, occupied with). This is to fill, make full or complete. Properly, this is filling something up to the maximum extent that it can be filled – an appropriate amount for its individual capacity. So, this is used figuratively for furnish, influence, satisfy, finish, preach, perfect, and fulfill.

18 For trulyLL I tellMM you, until heaven and earth pass away,NN

Notes on verse 18a

LL “truly” = amen. From Hebrew amen (verily, truly, amen, truth, so be it, faithfulness); from aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This word is literally firmness, but figuratively fidelity, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, trust, truth, steadfastness. Properly, it is to be sure, certain, or firm. This is a word of emphasis indicating that something crucial follows.
MM “tell” = lego. This is to speak, say, name, call, command. It is generally to convey verbally.
NN “pass away” = parerchomai. Related to “come” in v17. From para (from beside, by) + erchomai (see note GG above). This is pass by, neglect, disregard. Figuratively, it can mean to perish or to become void.

not one letter,OO not onePP stroke of a letter,QQ will pass from the law until all is accomplished.RR 

Notes on verse 18b

OO “letter” = iota. 1x in NT. From Phoenician yod (tenth letter of their alphabet). This is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet – used here to indicate the smallest portion of the Law. See
PP “one” = heis. This is one, a person, only, some.
QQ “stroke of a letter” = keraia.  2x in NT. From keras (a horn or a projection that sticks out like a horn from the altar; horns symbolized power). This is little horn or little hook – to indicate a stroke of a letter, accents and diacritical marks. Figuratively, this is the smallest part of a letter of the law.
RR “accomplished” = ginomai. This is to come into being, to happen, become, be born. It can be to emerge from one state or condition to another or is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth.

19 Therefore, whoever breaksSS one of the leastTT of these commandmentsUU

Notes on verse 19a

SS “breaks” = luo. Related to “abolish” in v17. See note HH above.
TT “least” = elachistos. 13x in NT. From elachus (short); used as a superlative for mikros (small). This is smallest or littlest in the sense of size, amount, rank, dignity, and so on.
UU “commandments” = entole. From entellomai (to charge, command, give orders or instructions) {from en (in, on, at, by, with) + tellomai (to accomplish); {from telos (an end, aim, purpose, completion, end goal, consummation, tax; going through the steps to complete a stage or phase and then moving on to the next one)}}. This is an order, command, ordinance, or law. It focuses on the purpose of the command and its end result.

and teachesVV others to do the same will be calledWW least in the kingdomXX of heaven, but whoever doesYY them and teaches them will be called greatZZ in the kingdom of heaven. 

Notes on verse 19b

VV “teaches” = didasko. From dao (learn). This is to teach, direct, instruct, or impart knowledge. In the New Testament, this is almost always used for teaching scripture.
WW “called” = kaleo. Related to keleuo (to command, order, direct); from kelomai (to urge on). This is to call by name, invite, to name, bid, summon, call aloud.
XX “kingdom” = basileia. From basileus (king, emperor, sovereign); probably from basis (step, hence foot; a pace); from baino (to walk, to go). This is kingdom, rule, authority, sovereignty, royalty, a realm.
YY “does” = poieo. This is to make, do, act, construct, abide, or cause.
ZZ “great” = megas. This is big in a literal or figurative sense – great, large, exceeding, abundant, high, mighty, perfect, strong, etc.

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousnessAAA exceedsBBB, CCC

Notes on verse 20a

AAA “righteousness” = dikaiosune. From dikaios (correct, righteous – implies innocent; this is that which conforms to God’s notion of justice, uprightness); from dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is judicial or divine approval of character or action. This is righteousness, justice, justness, divine righteousness.
BBB “exceeds” = perisseuo. From perissos (abundant, more, excessive, advantage, vehemently); from peri (all-around, encompassing, excess). This is more than what is ordinary or necessary. It is abounding, overflowing, being leftover, going above and beyond. It is super-abounding in number or quality.
CCC {untranslated} = pleion. From polus (much, many, abundant). This is many, more, great, having a greater value, more excellent.

that of the scribesDDD and Pharisees,EEE you will never enterFFF the kingdom of heaven.

Notes on verse 20b

DDD “scribes” = grammateus. From gramma (what is drawn or written so a letter of the alphabet, correspondence, literature, learning); from grapho (to write). This is a writer, scribe, or secretary. Within Judaism, it was someone learned in the Law, a teacher. Also used in the Bible of the town-clerk of Ephesus. See Sirach 38:24-39:11 for a lengthier, positive passage about who scribes were and what they meant in society.
EEE “Pharisees” = Pharisaios. From Aramaic peras (to divide, separate) and from Hebrew parash (to make distinct, separate, scatter). This is a Pharisee, a member of a Jewish sect active in the 1st century. Their name meant separate in the sense of wanting to live a life separated from sin. Whereas the Sadducees were part of the priestly line and inherited their religious position and responsibilities, Pharisees were regular people who studied the scriptures and offered guidance to regular folk. Sadducees were often wealthier and willing to sacrifice their identity to rub elbows with Roman society. Pharisees were often more concerned with what it meant to follow God without compromising what made them different as followers of God. Sadducees primarily believed in that which was written down (the first five books of the Bible) and Pharisees believed in the Bible and the traditions of the elders. Pharisees had a very wide range of interpretations and diversity of opinion. Their standard mode of religious engagement was lively debate with one another. To argue religion with another teacher was to recognize that they had something of value to offer.
FFF “enter” = eiserchomai. Related to “come” in v17 & “pass away” in v18. From eis (to, into, for, among) + erchomai (see note GG above). This is to go in in a literal or figurative sense.

Image credit: “Stained Glass Cross” at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas. Photo by Lars Hammar, 2012.

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