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Matthew 5:21-26 – 1. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 20:13

|| Luke 12:58, 59

MT5:21 “You heard it was said[1] to the Ancients: ‘Murder not’ [Exodus 20:13] but the murderer will be judged.[2] MT5:22 But, I tell you: Anyone angry[3] with his brother will be judged. But, anyone saying ‘Raca!’[4] to his brother will be liable to the Sanhedrin.[5] But, anyone saying ‘Moron!’[6] will be liable to the Gehenna[7] of the Fire. MT5:23 And so, when you bring your gift-offering to the Altar[8] and right then you remember your brother has something against you[9] MT5:24 leave your gift-offering at the Altar. First leave and be reconciled with your brother[10] and then return and offer up your gift. MT5:25 Think well of your adversary,[11] and quickly, while on the way, so your adversary never hand you over to the judge and the judge to the court-officer and he throw you into prison. MT5:26 I tell you the truth: You will not get out until you have repaid the last little coin![12]

Depiction of the Parable of the Unmerciful Ser...

Depiction of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Photograph of stained glass window at Scots’ Church, Melbourne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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[1] It was said: Here begins the first of six rabbinical commentaries by the Nazarene on the spirit of the law, or its fulfillment. James does something similar at James 2:8, 11.

[2] The murderer will be judged: The first of two commentaries on the Ten Commandments. It is interesting the Nazarene makes no comment on the abuse of the Divine Name (YHWH) or the Sabbath (Exodus 20:13; James 1:19; 5:6; 1 John 3:15).

[3] Anyone angry: Various renderings are: WMS: harbors malice; NEB: nurses anger; MOF: maligns. It is anger which is the root of murder. Mere anger makes one liable to judgment though Jesus does not explain what this is. Benjamin Wilson suggests: “The Jews had a Common Court consisting of 23 men.” Later in Matthew 12:36 he warns against speaking the unprofitable, probably about someone else in anger, and how this will not escape the Judgment. Meekness and peaceableness both oppose anger. The Nazarene Saint is on guard against anger which rises out of an egocentric heart.

[4] Raca: NJB: “The Aramaic word raqa, transliterated in Matthew, translated here, means: ‘empty-headed’, ‘nitwit’.” Various renderings are: NJB: fool.

[5] Sanhedrin: Jesus has the Jewish audience in mind and thus Raca! is something worthy of the attention of these judges.

[6] Moron: This is more exact to the Greek word, MORE. Various renderings are: LAM: I spit on you; BER: simpleton; BECK: empty-head; PHI: looks down on his brother as a lost soul; BWD: Apostate; NJB: Traitor!; NJB ftn: “Jewish usage added the much more contemptuous one of ‘apostate’.” Job, Moses, David, Jesus and Paul were all objects of wrathful contempt, often by the very ones professing a relationship with God. It is one thing to be reproached by the Gentile pagans and wholly another to have ‘endured the contradictions of sinners’ among your own fellow worshippers (Hebrews 12:3).

In all the Scriptures the word-group “apostate” occurs most often in the Book of Job as an accusation against that godly man (Job 8:13; 13:16; 17:8; 20:5; 27:8; 34:30; 36:13). In the Christian Bible it occurs as a charge against Paul (Acts 21:21). “Apostate” is a most dangerous word to use as Jesus makes the consequences clear. Jesus never uses it against his foes.

[7] Gehenna: See various lexicons, dictionaries or commentaries on this word. It alludes to the city dump where the dead bodies of criminals were thrown who were judged unworthy of a resurrection. The dump was kept burning night and day and at the edges were to be found worms which seem to never die (See Isaiah 66:24).

The Jewish commentator David Kimhi (1160?-1235?), in his comment on Psalm 27:13, gives the following historical information concerning Gehinnom: “And it is a place in the land adjoining Jerusalem, and it is a loathsome place, and they throw there unclean things and carcasses. Also there was a continual fire there to burn the unclean things and the bones of the carcasses. Hence, the judgment of the wicked ones is called parabolically Gehinnom.”

[8] Altar: The image is one of a Jewish worshipper approaching the Temple and about to hand over his sin-offering or communion gift to the priest serving at the Temple. The worshipper’s purpose is to give a sacrifice for his sin. In the Christian Age there is another “altar,” a spiritual one associated with the New Covenant (Hebrews 13:10, 12, 15, 16). In these verses the inspired writer outlines two aspects to this “altar”: a) praise; and, b) charitable care of the Saints. Using Jesus’ teaching, the Nazarene Saint will keep this in mind before offering ‘a sacrifice of praise’ or ‘sharing’ with others in some charity, to pause and ponder whether there is a fellow Saint who holds a grudge. Better to go and make peace with him or her before approaching this spiritual “altar.”

[9] Against you: Apparently a legitimate charge or accusation of which you are aware. Here the Nazarene shows that peaceful relations come before ceremonial worship. Seeking peace with God through a communion sacrifice is meaningless if relationships with fellows are jeopardized. James writes in a similar vein at James 1:26, 27.

[10] Be reconciled with your brother: Here is the “peaceable” of Matthew 5:9. Various renderings: TCNT: be ready to make friends with; WEY: comes to terms without delay; NEB: if someone sues you come to terms with him promptly.

[11] Adversary: Compare a similar thought at Luke 12:58, 59. Compare Leviticus 19:17 with Colossians 3:13. Various renderings are: KNX: some ground of complaint. Note the singular “you” as if now Jesus’ attention is directed to one individual, singled out in the crowd or among his disciples (who often had personal difficulties), who is not at peace with his fellow. Would not the eye contact of the Nazarene send this worshipper speedily to the door of his brother begging forgiveness?

The context here seems of a material or financial nature for when the worshipper leaves the altar to reconcile with his brother it is over a matter involving a court appearance. It is a financial debt and the Nazarene demonstrates how such matters can take priority over worship. Financial matters are often one of the chief areas of complaint and the cause of disunity among fellow worshippers. Nothing divides persons more than materialism (the god Mammon) with its greed, covetousness, business deceit, or fraud (Compare 1 Corinthians chapter 6; Luke 12:58: disputes; 1 Corinthians 6:7: fraud).

[12] Coin: Compare Luke 12:59: debts. How would one ever get out of prison without borrowing from another or selling some property in order to cancel the debt. From the Altar to Prison in one day! Of course, the other person has much to learn from the Nazarene’s Mountain Teachings about canceling debts if one wants God’s forgiveness.

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Preceding

Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:1-12 Nazarene Mountain teachings: Blessed and legal commentaries

Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:13-16 Salt and Light shining bright

Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:17-20 – The Nazarene Rabbi’s Commentary on the Torah

Next: Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:27-30 – 2. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 20:14

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Additional reading

  1. Let us become nothing, and Christ everything
  2. Lent, 40 days, meditation and repentance
  3. Growth in character
  4. Doest thou well to be Angry?
  5. A man who cannot forgive others
  6. He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass
  7. Forgiveness always possible
  8. Forgiveness is a blessing for the one who forgives
  9. Love is like playing the piano

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Further reading

  1. 2:2-5
  2. What’s in Your Heart?
  3. “The False and Confused Language of Our Hearts”
  4. A Study of the Sermon on the Mount
  5. The Beatitudes and being human
  6. The Beatitudes in the Law of Moses
  7. Denounced by his brothers, Pakistani Jew says he’s being thrown to an ‘apostate lynch mob’
  8. Egypt’s Al-Azhar university replaces head in apostasy row
  9. Reaching Muslims in Love
  10. Heretics
  11. “No In Between: The Sifting of Our Souls” (Matthew 3:12 sermon)
  12. “If an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him..” ~~Jesus
  13. Matthew 5:21-37 – First be reconciled to your brother or sister
  14. Word Study: Stumble, fall away, to be offended
  15. Summing Up the Sermon: The Greatest Sermon Ever {Part 1}
  16. Summing Up the Sermon: The Greatest Sermon Ever {Part 2}
  17. Thou Shalt Not Kill
  18. Video Games, Anger & Murder
  19. Anger and Insults
  20. Judgment, Rumors & War
  21. ‘Blessed are the Lawyers?’
  22. Jesus Longs for His People (Matthew 23:37-39)
  23. Hell and the Destruction of Souls
  24. Is Hell Real?
  25. Did Jesus ever actually say, “If you don’t believe in me you will go to hell”?
  26. Angry or Just Plain Mad
  27. What is Mercy…Really?
  28. Make me a channel of your Peace
  29. Editor’s Pick: The verdict is in! “Sorry” is the hardest word…
  30. What It Really Means To Behave Like A Christian
  31. Kindness
  32. Breathe In, Breathe Out, Forgive.
  33. Facing Forgiveness (Part I)What Happens When Mistakes Aren’t Forgiven? (1 min read)“Live generously.” ~~Jesus
    loved, forgiven, set free, and – yes – practitioners of holiness…

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Comments on: "Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:21-26 – 1. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 20:13" (2)

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