Matthew 5:21-37

Matthew 5:21-37
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany A


21 “You have heardI that it was said to those of ancientII times, ‘You shall not murder,’III

Notes on verse 21a

I “heard” = akouo. This is hear or listen, but it also means to understand by hearing. This is where the word “acoustics” comes from.
II “ancient” = archaios. 11x in NT. From arche (origin, beginning, rule; can refer to the power of a magistrate or a king; it is the first thing as being the starting point or the most important); {from archomai (to begin or rule); from archo (to rule, begin, have first rank or have political power)}. This is old, ancient, original. It is where the word “archaic” comes from.
III “murder” = phoneuo. 12x in NT. From phoneus (a murderer); from phonos (killing, murder, or slaughter; one of the crimes that Barabbas and Saul are accused of); from pheno (to slay). This is to kill or murder. It is killing on purpose without justification.

and ‘whoever murders shall beIV liableV to judgment.’VI 

Notes on verse 21b

IV “be” = eimi. This is to be, exist.
V “liable” = enochos. 10x in NT. From enecho (to hold in, ensnare, be angry at); {from en (in, on, at, by, with) + echo (to have, hold, possess)}. This is bound by, liable to, deserving, guilty, subject, in danger of.
VI “judgment” = krisis. From krino (to judge, decide, think good, condemn, determine, pass judgment, stand trial, sue; judging whether in court or in a private setting; properly, mentally separating or distinguishing an issue – to come to a choice or decision, to judge positively or negatively in seeking what is right or wrong, who is innocent or guilty; can imply trying, condemning, punishing, or avenging). This is a judging or a sentence. It is often used of God’s judgment, but can also be any accusation or condemnation. This is where the word “crisis” comes from.

22 But I sayVII to you that if youVIII are angryIX with a brotherX or sister, you will be liable to judgment,

Notes on verse 22a

VII “say” = lego. This is to speak, say, name, call, command. It is generally to convey verbally.
VIII “you” = pas. This is all or every.
IX “angry” = orgizo. 8x in NT. From orge (impulse, wrath, anger, passion, punishment); from orgao (something that teems or stews; this is anger rising from prolonged personal contact that is fixed rather than an angry outburst; it can also be anger that stems from an individual’s sense of right and wrong, justice, etc.). This is being angry, enraged, exasperated. It is a fixed, sustained anger.
X “brother” = adelphos. From a (with, community, fellowship) + delphus (womb). This is a brother in a literal or figurative sense. It is also used of another member of the Church.

and if you insultXI a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council,XII and if you say, ‘You fool,’XIII you will be liable to the hellXIV of fire.XV 

Notes on verse 22b

XI “insult” = rhaka. 1x in NT. Related to Aramaic roq (empty); from Hebrew reqam (emptily, in vain, undeservedly); from riq (to be empty or make empty; vanity, emptiness); from ruq (to pour out in a literal or figurative sense; to be or make empty). This is empty, foolish, or senseless – used to show contempt.
XII “council” = sunedrion. From sun (with, together with) + hedra (convening, siting together, being firm and faithful); {from aphedron (seat, well-seated; figuratively, this is firm in purpose, steadfast); from hedra (a seat)}. This is Sanhedrin – literally a sitting together. It was the high court for Jews and had 71 members. This term could also mean council or meeting place and was used for the lower courts that were throughout the land and had 23 members.
XIII “fool” = moros. 12x in NT. This is foolish, dull, stupid. It is something lacking an edge so figuratively it refers to someone who has a loose grasp of reality or whose understanding is dull. It is someone who acts as though they have not brain.
XIV “hell” = geenna. 12x in NT. From Hebrew Gehinnom (valley of Hinnom); from gay (valley; a gorge that is not a winter torrent) + Hinnom (most likely of foreign origin, perhaps from the Jebusites). This is Gehenna or hell, referring to a valley outside of Jerusalem and used figuratively for hell.
XV “fire” = pur. This is fire, lightning, heat from the sun. Figuratively, it can refer to strife or trials.

23 So when you are offeringXVI your giftXVII at the altar,XVIII if you rememberXIX that your brother or sister hasXX something against you, 

Notes on verse 23

XVI “offering” = prosphero. From pros (at, to, with, towards, advantageous for) + phero (to bear, bring, lead, make known publicly; to carry in a literal or figurative sense). This is to offer gifts or sacrifices, to bring up.
XVII “gift” = doron. 19x in NT. From didomi (to give in a literal or figurative sense). This is gift, offering, sacrifice; emphasizes that the gift is given freely, voluntarily
XVIII “altar” = thusiasterion. From thusia (a sacrifice or offering; the act of sacrifice or the thig being sacrificed; a sacrifice in a literal or figurative sense.); from thuo (to breathe violently, seethe, rage; properly, to rush as breathing heavy; so smoke as in offering an animal sacrifice by fire; by extension, killing or slaying in general). This is altar that is used for sacrifice.
XIX “remember” = mimnesko. From mnaomai (to remember; by implication give reward or consequence); perhaps from meno (to stay, abide, wait, endure). This is to remind or remember. It is memory through an active, intentional process or being mindful of. It is not incidentally or accidentally remembering.
XX “has” = echo. Related to “liable” in v21. See note V above.

24 leaveXXI your gift there before the altar and go;XXII firstXXIII be reconciledXXIV to your brother or sister, and then comeXXV and offer your gift. 

Notes on verse 24

XXI “leave” = aphiemi. From apo (from, away from) + hiemi (to send). This is send away, release, permit, forgive, allow to depart, discharge, or send forth.
XXII “go” = hupago. From hupo (by, under, under the authority of) + ago (lead, bring, guide, spend, drive, carry). This is to lead under so to depart, go away, or die. It is to lead away under the command of someone else, being given a mission or objective to carry out.
XXIII “first” = proton. From protos (what is first, which could be the most important, the first in order, the main one, the chief); from pro (before, first, in front of, earlier). This is firstly, before, in the beginning, formerly.
XXIV “reconciled” = diallasso. 1x in NT. From dia (through, because of, across, thoroughly) + allasso (to change, transform) {from allos (other, another; another of a similar kind or type)}. This is to change, exchange, or reconcile.
XXV “come” = erchomai.  This is to come or go.

25 Come to termsXXVI quicklyXXVII with your accuserXXVIII

Notes on verse 25a

XXVI “come to terms” = eimi + eunoeo. Literally, “be favorable.” Eimi is the same as “be” in v21. See note IV above. Eunoeo is 1x in NT. From eu (good, well, well, done) + noeo (to think, understand, conceive, realize, see; one who thinks things through sufficiently to reach a conclusion or value judgment; moral reasoning.); {from nous (mind, understanding, reasoning faculty, intellect, capacity to reflect); from noos (mind); probably from the base as ginosko (to know, recognize, realize, perceive, learn; gaining knowledge through personal experience)}. This is to think well towards or be favorable.
XXVII “quickly” = tachu. 12x in NT. From tachus (quickly, promptly; without unreasonable delay). This is quickly, but not immediately. It is without undue delay.
XXVIII “accuser” = antidikos. 5x in NT– 4x meaning opponent in court and 1x referring to Satan. From anti (opposite, instead of, against) + 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 an opponent or adversary, whether in court or the devil. It is someone bringing former charges and seeking damages.

while you are on the wayXXIX to court with him, or your accuser may hand you overXXX to the judgeXXXI and the judge to the guard,XXXII

Notes on verse 25b

XXIX “way” = hodos. This is way, road, path, or journey. It can imply progress along a route.
XXX “hand…over” = paradidomi. Related to “gift” in v23. From para (from beside, by) + didomi (see note XVII above). This is literally to hand over – hence to deliver, abandon, or betray. It implies a personal involvement.
XXXI “judge” = krites. Related to “judgment” in v21. 19x in NT. From krino (see note VI above). This is judge or ruler.
XXXII “guard” = huperetes. From huper (by, under, subordinate to another) + eresso (to row). This is originally a rower or someone who crewed a boat on the lower deck. It came to mean underling, servant, or attendant. It is also used in the New Testament of disciples under the gospel.

and you will be thrownXXXIII into prison.XXXIV 26 TrulyXXXV I tellXXXVI you,

Notes on verses 25c-26a

XXXIII “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.
XXXIV “prison” = phulake. From phulasso (to guard something so that it doesn’t escape – to watch over it vigilantly; being on guard in a literal or figurative sense); related to phulaks (military guard, sentry, watcher). This is the act of guarding, the person who guards, the place where guarding occurs (i.e. a prison), or the times of guarding (the various watches).
XXXV “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.
XXXVI “tell” = lego. Same as “say” in v22. See note VII above.

you will never get outXXXVII until you have paidXXXVIII the lastXXXIX penny.XL

Notes on verse 26b

XXXVII “get out” = exerchomai. Related to “come” in v24. From ek (from, from out of) + erchomai (see note XXV above). This is to go out, depart, escape, proceed from, spread news abroad.
XXXVIII “paid” = apodidomi. Related to “gift” in v23 & “hand…over” in v25. From apo (from, away from) + didomi (see note XVII above). This is to give back, return, give away. It is to restore as when one makes payment – to rend what is due, to sell.
XXXIX “last” = eschatos. Related to eschaton (end, last); perhaps from echo (to have, possess, hold). This is last, end, extreme, final. It is often used to discuss the end times, prophecies of the future, and the afterlife. The branch of theology focusing on all these topics is called “eschatology.”
XL “penny” = kodrantes. 2x in NT– also the widow’s two coins are worth a penny in Mk 12:42. Of Latin origin – quadrans; from quattuor (four). This word is quardrans; one fourth of an “as” or “assarion,” which was the smallest Roman unit of money – a copper coin that was 1/16 of a sesterius and equaled two leptas (in KJV translated “mites”).

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’XLI 28 But I say to you that everyoneXLII who looksXLIII

Notes on verses 27-28a

XLI “commit adultery” = moicheuo. 15x in NT. From moichos (adulterer; a man who has been with a married woman; used figuratively of an apostate). This is committing adultery or adultery itself. Used of a man with a married woman or a married man with anyone other than his wife.
XLII “everyone” = pas. Same as “you” in v22. See note VIII above.
XLIII “looks” = blepo. This is literally to see – it is primarily used in the physical sense. However, figuratively it can be seeing, which includes attention and so to watchfulness, being observant, perceiving, and acting on the visual information. It can also mean beware.

at a womanXLIV with lustXLV has already committed adultery with her in his heart.XLVI 

Notes on verse 28b

XLIV “woman” = gune. Perhaps from ginomai (to come into being, to happen, become, be born; to emerge from one state or condition to another; this is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth). This is woman, wife, or bride. This is where the word “gynecologist” comes from.
XLV “lust” = epithumeo. Literally “in order to lust after her.” Related to “altar” in v23. 16x in NT. From epi (on, upon, fitting) + thumos (passion, wrath; actions emerging from passion or impulse) {from thuo (see note XVIII above)}. This is desire, lust, longing for, setting one’s heart on. It is a longing whether good or bad. In either case, passion and yearning is set on the object of desire.
XLVI “heart” = kardia. Literally the heart, but figuratively mind, character, inner self, will, intention, thoughts, feelings. Also, the center of something. The word heart is only used figuratively in the Old and New Testaments. This is where “cardiac” comes from.

29 If your rightXLVII eyeXLVIII causes you to sin,XLIX tear it outL and throw it away;

Notes on verse 29a

XLVII “right” = dexios. Perhaps from dechomai (to warmly receive, be ready for what is offered, take, accept, or welcome; to receive in a literal or figurative sense). This is right, right side, or the right hand.
XLVIII “eye” = ophthalmos. From optanomai (to appear, be seen by). This is eye or sight. It is used figuratively for the mind’s eye, a vision, or for envy.
XLIX “causes…to sin” = skandalizo. From skandalon (the bait or portion of the trap that closes down on the victim – the trap’s trigger; a stumbling block, offense, or cause for error; something that sets into motion a negative cause and effect; something that causes one to stumble); perhaps from kampto (to bend or bow). This is to put a stumbling block in someone’s way. Figuratively, causing someone to sin or preventing them from good action. It can also mean to shock or offend. Literally, this is falling into a trap or tripping someone up. So, here, enticing someone to sin or apostasy.
L “tear…out” = exaireo. 8x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + haireo (to take, choose, or prefer) {probably related to airo (raise, take up, lift, remove)}. This is to remove, pluck, tear, or choose. Properly, it refers to a complete removal or a complete rescue.

it is betterLI for you to loseLII oneLIII of your membersLIV than for your wholeLV bodyLVI to be thrown into hell. 

Notes on verse 29b

LI “is better” = sumphero. Related to “offering” in v23. 17x in NT. From sun (with, together with) + phero (see note XVI above). This is to collect, bring together, or be profitable to. It is combining things such that there is gain or profit or advantage.
LII “lose” = apollumi. From apo (from, away from) + ollumi (to destroy or ruin; the loss that comes from a major ruination). This is to destroy, cut off, to perish – perhaps violently. It can also mean to cancel or remove.
LIII “one” = heis. This is one, a person, only, some.
LIV “members” = melos. This is a limb or an organ of the body. So, it is a member of a greater whole. It is used figuratively for the body of Christ.
LV “whole” = holos. This is whole, complete, or entire. It is a state where every member is present and functioning in concert. This is the root of the word “whole.”
LVI “body” = soma. Perhaps from sozo (to save, heal, rescue); from sos (safe, well, rescued). This is body or flesh. It can be body in a literal or figurative sense (as the body of Christ). This is where the word “somatic” comes from.

30 And if your right handLVII causes you to sin, cut it offLVIII and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to goLIX into hell.

Notes on verse 30

LVII “hand” = cheir. This is the hand in a literal sense. Figuratively, the hand is the means a person uses to accomplish things so it can also mean power, means, or instrument.
LVIII “cut…off” = ekkopto. 10x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + kopto (to cut, strike, cut off; beating the chest to lament and so to mourn). This is to cut off, down, out, or away. It can also mean to remove, prevent, hinder, or frustrate.
LIX “go” = aperchomai. Related to “come” in v24 & “get out” in v26. From apo (from, away from) + erchomai (see note XXV above). This is to depart, follow, or go off in a literal or figurative sense.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorcesLX his wife,LXI let him giveLXII her a certificate of divorce.’LXIII 

Notes on verse 31

LX “divorces” = apoluo. From apo (from, away from) + luo (to loose, release, untie; figuratively, to break, destroy, or annul; releasing what had been withheld). This is letting go, setting free, or releasing. So, it can be to discharge, dismiss, divorce, pardon, or set at liberty.
LXI “wife” = gune. Same as “woman” in v28. See note XLIV above.
LXII “give” = didomi. Related to “gift” in v23 & “hand…over” in v25 & “paid” in v26. See note XXX above.
LXIII “certificate of divorce” = apostasion. 3x in NT. From apo (from, away from) + histemi (to stand, place, set up, establish, stand firm). This is a repudiation or a forsaking. Properly, it is something that marked separation and so it was used specially for a bill of divorce. This is also the same root as the word “apostasy.”

32 But I say to you that anyoneLXIV who divorces his wife, exceptLXV on the groundLXVI of sexual immorality,LXVII

Notes on verse 32a

LXIV “anyone” = pas. Same as “you” in v22. See note VIII above.
LXV “except” = parektos. 3x in NT. From para (beside, by, in the presence of) + ektos (exterior, besides, beyond, unless); {from ek (from, from out of)}. This is in addition, outside, apart from, besides.
LXVI “ground” = logos. Related to “say” in v22. From lego (see note VII above). This is word, statement, speech, analogy. It is a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying. It could refer to a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words. By implication, this could be a topic, line of reasoning, or a motive. It can be used for a divine utterance or as Word – Christ.
LXVII “sexual immorality” = porneia. From porneuo (to fornicate – used figuratively for practicing idolatry or doing immoral things); from porne (prostitute, whore); from pornos (fornicator or immoral person); perhaps from pernemi (to sell off or export); related to piprasko (to sell with travel involved; to sell into slavery; to be devoted to); from perao (to travel); from peran (over, beyond). This is sexual immorality or unchastity. It could include adultery or incest.

causesLXVIII her to commit adultery, and whoever marriesLXIX a divorced womanLXX commits adultery.LXXI

Notes on verse 32b

LXVIII “causes” = poieo. This is to make, do, act, construct, abide, or cause.
LXIX “marries” = gameo. From gamos (a wedding, whether the ceremony, the feast, or the marriage itself). This is to marry.
LXX “divorced woman” = apoluo. Same as “divorces” in v31. See note LX above.
LXXI “commits adultery” = moichao. Related to “commit adultery” in v27. 5x in NT. From moichos (see note XLI above). This is to commit adultery – used for men and women.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely,LXXII but carry outLXXIII the vowsLXXIV you have made to the Lord.’LXXV 

Notes on verse 33

LXXII “swear falsely” = epiorkeo. 1x in NT. From epiorkos (a perjurer, take a false oath); {from epi (on, upon, what is fitting) + horkos (an oath or vow; something with limits, done for a sacred purpose); {akin to erkos (fence, enclosure); akin to horion (boundary, territory); from horos (limit, boundary)}}. This is to commit perjury, make a false oath.
LXXIII “carry out” = apodidomi. Same as “paid” in v26. See note XXXVIII above.
LXXIV “vows” = horkos. Related to “swear falsely” in v33. 10x in NT. See note LXXII above.
LXXV “Lord” = Kurios. From kuros (authority, supremacy). This is a respectful address meaning master or sir. It refers to one who has control or power greater than one’s own. So, it was also applied to God and Jesus as Master or Lord.

34 But I say to you: Do not swearLXXVI at all,LXXVII either by heaven,LXXVIII for it is the throneLXXIX of God,LXXX 

Notes on verse 34

LXXVI “swear” = omnuo. This is to swear, to make an oath.
LXXVII “at all” = holos. Related to “whole” in v29. 4x in NT. From holos (see note LV above). This is altogether, wholly, completely, everywhere.
LXXVIII “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill); probably related to airo (raise, take up, lift, remove). 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.
LXXIX “throne” = thronos. Probably from thanos (bench); from thrao (to sit). This is throne or seat – the place where the king sits. So, it is used figuratively to mean power, dominion, or a potentate. This is where the word “throne” comes from.
LXXX “God” = Theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.

35 or by the earth,LXXXI for it is his footstool,LXXXII, LXXXIII or by Jerusalem,LXXXIV

Notes on verse 35a

LXXXI “earth” = ge. This is earth, land, soil, region, country, the inhabitants of an area.
LXXXII “footstool” = hupopodion. 7x in NT. From hupo (by, under, about, under one’s authority) + pous (foot in a figurative or literal sense). This is literally under the feet. So, it is a footstool or footrest. It is also used figuratively to depict a king as one who has conquered his enemies. This is the same root that “podium” comes from.
LXXXIII {untranslated} = pous. Related to “footstool” in v35. See note LXXXII above.
LXXXIV “Jerusalem” = Hierosoluma. From Hebrew Yerushalaim (probably foundation of peace); {from yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach) + shalam (to make amends, to be complete or sound)}. This is Jerusalem, dwelling of peace.

for it is the cityLXXXV of the greatLXXXVI King.LXXXVII 36 And do not swear by your head,LXXXVIII

Notes on verses 35b-36a

LXXXV “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.
LXXXVI “great” = megas. This is big in a literal or figurative sense – great, large, exceeding, abundant, high, mighty, perfect, strong, etc.
LXXXVII “King” = basileus. Probably from basis (step, hence foot; a pace); from baino (to walk, to go). This is king, emperor, or sovereign.
LXXXVIII “head” = kephale. This is head or chief. It can be a literal head or, figuratively, a ruler or lord. It can also refer to a corner stone. This is where the word “cephalic” comes from.

for you cannotLXXXIX makeXC one hairXCI whiteXCII or black.XCIII 

Notes on verse 36b

LXXXIX “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.
XC “make” = poieo. Same as “causes” in v32. See note LXVIII above.
XCI “hair” = thrix. 15x in NT. This is hair, whether human or animal.
XCII “white” = leukos. Related to luke (light). This is bright, white, or brilliant.
XCIII “black” = melas. 3x in NT. This is black or ink. It is the root of the word “melanin.”

37 Let your word be ‘Yes,XCIV Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more thanXCV this comesXCVI from the evil one.XCVII

Notes on verse 37

XCIV “yes” = nai. This is yes, truly, indeed. It is a strong affirmation.
XCV “more than” = perissos. From peri (all-around, encompassing, excess). This is abundant, more, excessive, advantage, vehemently.
XCVI “comes” = eimi. Same as “be” in v21. See note IV above.
XCVII “evil one” = poneros. From poneo (to toil); related to ponos (pain, trouble, labor, distress, suffering; toil, which implies anguish); from the base of penes (a laborer, poor person, starving or indigent person; someone who works for their living); from pernomai (working for a living; laborer, poor person; to work for daily bread); from peno (to toil to survive day by day). This is bad, evil, wicked, malicious, grievous, or toilsome. Properly, it is something that bears pain – it emphasizes the miseries and pains that come with evil. By contrast, the Greek kakos refers to evil as part of someone’s core character. Also contrasting the Greek sapros, which deals with falling away from a previously embodied virtue. This word can mean ill, diseased, morally culpable, derelict, vicious, malicious, or guilt. It can also refer to the devil or sinners.

Image credit: “Jacob Deceives Isaac” by Richard Gunther.

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