Matthew 5:13-20

Matthew 5:13-20
Ordinary A11


13 “You are the saltA of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste,B how can its saltiness be restored?C It is no longer goodD for anything, but is thrown out and trampledE under foot.

Notes on verse 13

A “salt” = halas. 8x in NT – 6x in this passage and parallels of it in Mark and Luke. From hals (salt, a body of saltwater). This is salt, figuratively meaning prudence.
B “lost its taste” = moraino. 4x in NT. From moros (dull, stupid, foolish, flat; literally, not having an edge; used figuratively for someone whose understanding is dull, is sluggish, acts in a brainless way, or does not fully have a grip on reality). This is being foolish or making something foolish. It an also mean to taint, make something useless, or make it tasteless. The root of this word is where “moron” comes from.
C “saltiness be restored” = halizo. Related to “salt” in v13. From hals (see note A above). To salt or make salty. Could be salt as part of the ritual to make sacrifice or as applied to keep something fresh.
D “good” = ischuo. From ischus (strength, might, power, force, ability; power that engages immediate resistance). 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.
E “trampled” = katapateo. 5x in NT. From kata (down, against, throughout, among) + pateo (to step on or trample literally or figuratively) {from patos (trodden); perhaps from paio (to strike or sting; to hit with a single blow)}. This is to step or trample on. Figuratively, it means to reject disdainfully or to spurn something.

14 “You are the lightF of the world.G A cityH builtI on a hill cannotJ be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lampK puts it under the bushel basket,L but on the lampstand,M and it gives lightN to all in the house. 

Notes on verses 14-15

F “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.
G “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 were “cosmos” and “cosmetics” come from.
H “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.
I “built” = keimai. To lie, be place, set, recline, be outstretched in a literal or figurative sense.
J “cannot” = ou + dunamai. Dunamai is to be able or to have power or ability. The noun from it is used for one of the Greek words for miracle.
K “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.
L “bushel basket” = modios. 3x in NT – in this and its parallel passages in Mark and Luke. From Latin modius (modius, a unit of measurement that is about the same as a peck); from modus (measure, limit, way, method, mode); from Proto-Indo-European mod-os (measure) {from med (to measure) + –ius (suffix that makes adjectives)}. This is modius, a unit of measurement for dry goods that is about the same as a peck or two English gallons. It is also a container for dry goods holding this amount. See
M “lampstand” = luchnia. Related to “lamp” in v15. 12x in NT. From luchnos (see note K above). This is lampstand or candlestick.
N “gives light” = lampo. 7x in NT. This is to shine or give light in a literal or figurative sense.

16 In the same way, let your light shineO before others,P so that they may seeQ your goodR works and give gloryS to your Father in heaven.T

Notes on verse 16

O “shine” = lampo. Same as “gives light” in v15.
P “others” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.
Q “see” = horao. To see, perceive, attend to, look upon, experience. Properly, to stare at and so implying clear discernment. This, by extension, would indicate attending to what was seen and learned. This is to see, often with a metaphorical sense. Can include inward spiritual seeing.
R “good” = kalos. This is good, noble, beautiful, 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.
S “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.
T “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill) with the notion of height. 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 thinkU that I have come to abolishV the lawW or the prophets;X I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.Y 18 For trulyZ I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away,AA not one letter,BB not one stroke of a letter,CC will passDD from the law until all is accomplished.EE

Notes on verses 17-18

U “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.
V “abolish” = kataluo. 17x in OT. 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.
W “law” = nomos. Related to “think” in v17. See note U above.
X “prophets” = prophetes. From pro (before, in front of, earlier than) + phemi (to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view). Phemi is 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
Y “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.
Z “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.
AA “pass away” = parerchomai. Related to “come” in v17. From para (from beside, by) + erchomai (to come, go). This is to pass by, pass away, become void, disregard, approach, or arrive. Figuratively it can mean to perish or neglect.
BB “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
CC “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.
DD “pass” = parerchomai. Same as “pass away” in v18.
EE “accomplished” = ginomai. This is 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.

19 Therefore, whoever breaksFF one of the leastGG of these commandments,HH and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousnessII exceedsJJ that of the scribesKK and Pharisees,LL you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Notes on verses 19-20

FF “breaks” = luo. Related to “abolish” in v17. See note V above.
GG “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.  
HH “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.
II “righteousness” = diakiosune. From diakios (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.
JJ “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.
KK “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.
LL “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 religion engagement was lively debate with one another. To argue religion with another teacher was to recognize that they had something of value to offer.

Image Credit: “Teaching Christ,” a Gothic stained glass stained glass window inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, France.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply