Bible Commentaries
Matthew 7

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Verses 1-99

(b) 7:1-5. Judgement of others. Cf. Luke 6:37-42.

(L) 1, 2. Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged. And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.] Lk. has: “And judge not, and ye shall not be judged. For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured back to you.” Lk., who has nothing in his Sermon corresponding to 6:1-34, connects this saying about judgement with his saying: “Be ye merciful,” which is parallel to Matthew 5:48. There is a good connection between the ideas of compassion and fair treatment of others. In Mt. there is no connection between 7:1 and 6:34. The verse probably stood in the Logia after 6:20. Mt. has drawn together 6:21-34 from other parts of the Logia. The compiler of the Sermon as it lay before Lk. omitted 6:1-18, just as he had omitted 5:17-39a, 43 because of its controversial tone.

The sayings in this verse are of the nature of proverbs, and were probably current maxims of life. For μὴ κρίνετε, cf. Rosh ha Sh 16b “Who accuses his neighbour, will himself be punished first.” ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ, κ.τ.λ., occurs in Mark 4:24b, where Mt. omits it. It is common in the Jewish literature, e.g. Mechilta (Ugol.) 136, 140, Siphri (Ugol.) 884, 904, cf. 512, Sotah 8b, Sanhedrin 100a. The meaning here seems to be that hasty or unjustifiable condemnation of others will provoke the just judgement of God.

(L) 3. And why dost thou behold the mote that is in the eye of thy brother, and considerest not the beam which is in thine own eye ?] Lk. has the same, with a slight variation in order. Cf. Arachin 16b where R. Tarphon (end first cent. a.d.) says: “If one says, Take the mote from thy eye; he answers, Take the beam from thine eye.”

The thought is, that so far from judging others, a man should consider that in himself which will expose him to judgement.

(L) 4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, the beam is in thine own eye ?] Lk. has: “How canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me cast out the mote which is in thine eye, when thyself seest not the beam in thine own eye?”—ἄφες ἐκβάλω] See Blass, p. 208; Moulton, p. 175, who quotes Ox. Pap. 413: ἄφες ἐγὼ αὐτὴν θρηνήσω.

(L) 5. Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.] Lk. has: “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine eye; and then shalt thou see clearly the mote which is in thy brother’s eye to cast out”; cf. Grenfell and Hunt, Sayings of Our Lord, 11. 1-4.

(c) 6. Perverted zeal.

(L) 6. Give not that which is holy to dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them with their feet, and turn and rend you.] This saying occurs only in Mt., and has no particular connection with the preceding. But it may have stood here in the Logia. 6:19-20, 7:1-5 and this verse form a group of three prohibitions.

The “swine” and the “dogs” symbolise alien and heathen men. For “dogs,” cf. Philippians 3:2, Revelation 22:15. The “pearls” symbolise religious truth; cf. 13:46.

The verse is, of course, capable of infinite adaptation. As it stood in the Logia (and here in the mind of the editor?) it may express the Jewish-Christian point of view with regard to the preaching of Christianity to pagans; cf. Introduction, p. lxxvii, and the application of κυνάρια to Gentiles in 15:26. It was applied to the Eucharist in the second century. Cf. Didaché ix.; Tert. de Prœscr. xli.

7-23. Three Commands.

(a) 7-12. Prayer.

7-11 occur in a different context in Luke 11:9-13. Mt. probably drew them from the Logia, where they probably did not stand in the Sermon.

(L) 7. Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.] So Lk. with: “And I say to you,” at the beginning.

κρούετε] Cf. R. Benaiah (c. 200 a.d.) in Pesikta 176a with reference to the study of the Mishna: “If he knocks, it will be opened to him.”

(L) 8. For every one who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.] So Lk.

(L) 9, 10. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask for bread,—will he give him a stone ? Or also (if) he shall ask for a fish, will he give him a serpent ?] Lk. has: “But which of you being a father, shall his son ask a fish, will he give him instead of a fish a serpent? or also shall he ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion?”

(L) 11. If ye therefore, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those who ask Him.] Lk. has: “If ye, therefore, who are (ὑπάρχοντες) evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will the Father who is from heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

(L) 12. All things therefore whatsoever ye wish that men should do to you, so also do ye to them: for this is the law and the prophets.] Luke 6:31 has: “And as ye wish that men should do to you, do ye to them likewise.” Lk. has this saying after the parallel to Matthew 5:42. Mt. no doubt found it in the Logia in the Sermon, possibly after 7:1, 2. But it seems more in place in Lk.’s connection, i.e. to say somewhere within Matthew 5:38-48 which concern the treatment of others. In its present connection in Mt. the verse seems out of place, but 7:1, 2 deal with behaviour to other people, and so does 7:6. If vv. 3-5 and 7-11 are interpolations from other parts of the Logia, 7:12 may have stood in connection with 7:1, 2, 6. A negative form of this saying was attributed to Hillel: “What is hateful to thee, do not do to thy neighbour,” Shabbath 31a; and is found in To 4:16 ἂ μισεῖς μηδενὶ ποιήσης. Cf. Philo apud Eus. Prœp. Ev. viii. 7. 6: ἄ τις παθεῖν ἐχθαίρει μὴ ποιεῖν αὐτόν1 (b) 13-14. The narrow gate. Cf. Luke 13:24.

(L) 13. Enter in through the narrow gate: because broad and wide is the way which leadeth to destruction, and many are they that go in through it.] Lk. has: “Strive to enter through the narrow door: because many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.”

(L) 14. How narrow is the gate, and contracted is the way, which leads to life, and (how) few are they who find it !]

14. The narrow gate or narrow door (Lk.) is the gate or door into the kingdom of heaven. Lk. has the phrase in an eschatological context. Here the meaning is less definitely eschatological, but it is not improbable that we should interpret the words in the light of vv. 22ff. with reference to the future kingdom. “Enter through the narrow gate” will then mean, “remember that the gate by which you must enter into the kingdom is a narrow one”; cf. 19:24 “It is easier to go through the eye of a needle than—into the kingdom”; and 2 Ezra 7:3-14. The metaphor of the narrow gate suggests the parallel and more common metaphor of the two ways. And the speaker states the first member of that simile: “Because broad and wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that go in through it.” For δἰ αὐτῆς = διὰ τῆς ὁδοῦ, cf. 2:12. Then instead of simply stating the second member of the simile, the speaker breaks into an exclamation which combines both metaphors: “Ah ! how narrow is the gate and contracted is the way which leads to life, and few there are who find it.” For the two ways, cf. Jeremiah 21:8; Siphri on Deuteronomy 11:26 (Ugol.) 604, where “blessing and cursing” are interpreted as “two ways; the one at first level and at last full of thorns, the other at first full of thorns and at last level.”—ὀλίγοι εἰσίν, κ.τ.λ.] cf. 2 Esther 8:3 “There be many created, but few shall be saved.”—εἰς τὴν ζωήν] cf. 18:8, 9, 19:17. In 19:16, 29, 25:46 we have “eternal life.” For “life” as equivalent to “eternal life,” see Dalm. Words, 156 ff.; Volz, Jüd. Eschat. pp. 306, 326, 368.

13. ἡ πύλη] is omitted by א* a b c h k m for and by many Fathers. S1 is unfortunately wanting. The words have probably been inserted by the copyists to complete the parallelism with v. 14.

14. τί] So א b vid et c B2 E al S2 latt. ὄτι, א* B*, is perhaps due to assimilation to the previous verse.

(c) 15-23. False prophets. Cf. Luke 6:43-49, Luke 13:26-27.

(L) 15. Beware of false prophets, such as come to you in sheep’s clothing, but are inwardly ravening wolves.]

(L) 16. From their fruits ye shall recognise them. Do men gather from thorns grapes, or from thistles figs !] Luke 6:44 has: “For not from thorns do they gather figs, nor from a bramble-bush do they pluck grapes.”

(L) 17. So every good tree makes sound fruit; but the rotten tree makes evil fruit.] Luke 6:48 has: “For there is not a sound tree making rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree making sound fruit.”

(L) 18. A good tree cannot make evil fruit, nor a rotten tree make good fruit.]

(L) 19. Every tree which does not make good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.]

(L) 20. Therefore from their fruits ye shall recognise them.] Mt. has an application of this saying about trees and their fruit containing sayings parallel to Luke 6:44a and 45 in 12:33-15. He probably found in the Logia after the saying about false prophets, v. 15, the words:�

(L) 21. Not every one who saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens; but he who doeth the will of My Father who is in the heavens.] Cf. Luke 6:46.

ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα, κ.τ.λ.] Cf. Aboth 5:22 (R. Jehudah ben Thema): “Be bold as a leopard, and swift as an eagle, and fleet as a hart, and strong as a lion to do the will of thy Father which is in heaven”; 2:4 (R. Gamaliel iii., c. 210 a.d.): “Do His will as if it were thy will”; Siphri (Ugol.), 872: “If any one keeps the law and does the will of his Father who is in heaven.” The phrase to do the will is common in Jewish writings; cf. Mechilta (Ugol.) 220, 222, 230, 240, 242; Siphri (Ugol.) 956; Berakhoth 16b “It is our will to do Thy will.”

(L) 22. Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out demons ? and in Thy name do many miracles?] Cf. Luke 12:26.

ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. For “that day” as a technical eschatological term, see Volz, Jüd. Eschat. p. 188.

(L) 23. And then will I confess to them that I never knew you: depart from Me, ye workers of lawlessness.] Cf. Luke 13:27.

24-27. Closing parable. Cf. Luke 6:47-49.

(L) 24. Every one, therefore, who hears these My words, and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.] Lk. has: “Every one who cometh to Me and heareth My words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like. He is like a man building a house, who digged and went deep, and laid the foundation upon the rock.”

(L) 25. And the rain came down, and the streams (ποταμοί) came, and the winds blew, and fell upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on the rock.] Lk. has: “And when there was a flood, the river (ποταμός) beat against that house, and could not shake it, because it was well founded.”

βροχή] is a late and rare word. The lexicons quote Orac. ap. Clem. Alex. 50. In Ox. Pap. iii. 593, a.d. 172, ii. 280. 5, a.d. 88-89, βροχαί are artificial inundations of land.

(L) 26. And every one who heareth these My sayings, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.] Lk. has: “But he who heard and did not, is like to a man who built a house upon the soil without a foundation.”

(L) 27. And the rain came down, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and fell upon that house; and it fell: and its fall was great.] Lk. has: “Upon which the stream beat, and straightway it fell: and the destruction of that house was great.”

(E M) 28. And it came to pass when Jesus finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at His teaching.] Cf. Luke 7:1 “When He had fulfilled all His words (ῥήματα) in the hearing of the people.”

καὶ ἐγένετο, κ.τ.λ.] For the formula, see Introduction, p. lxiv.—ἐξεπλήσσοντο οἱ ὄχλοι ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ] With these words Mt. returns to Mark 1:22 after his long insertion, 5-7:27.

(M) 29. For He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.] Mk. has the same without αὐτῶν.

The relation of the Sermon to S. Luke 6:20-49.

The Introduction, 5:1, 2.

Lk. introduces His Sermon at a later period in the narrative. After borrowing Mark 3:1-6 = Luke 6:6-11, he passes on to the appointment of the Twelve, Mark 3:13-19=Luke 6:12-16. This took place, according to Mk., on a mountain. He then records the descent into the plain again, καὶ καταβὰς μετʼ αὐτῶν ἒστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, 6:17, and then turns back in order to summarise Mark 3:7-12 = Luke 6:7-19, thus obtaining an audience for the Sermon which he introduces in 6:20 with the words: “And He, lifting up His eyes upon His disciples, said.” It is clear that the two Evangelists independently create a suitable time and place and audience for the Sermon. Mt. places it early in his Gospel to illustrate Mark 1:21, Mark 1:22 “He was teaching—at His teaching—He was teaching.” Lk. places it after the formal appointment of the Twelve, and provides an audience by transposing Mark 3:13-19 and 7-12. Mt.’s τὸ ὄρος and Lk.’s τόπου πεδινοῦ may both represent a tradition that the Sermon was spoken on a hillside. But Mt.’s τὸ ὄρος may equally well be due to the Evangelist. It was fitting that the exposition of the Christian law of the kingdom should have been given on a mountain as the Old Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Cf. in this Gospel the mountain of temptation (4:8), the mountain of transfiguration (17:1), and the mountain upon which the Lord gave His final commands to the disciples (28:16). Lk.’s καταβὰς—ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ is probably an editorial connecting link. It was more natural to represent the Lord as descending from the mountain upon which He had appointed the Twelve to find an audience for His Sermon in the plain than to bring the multitudes from Judæa and Tyre and Sidon up into the mountain. Lastly, Mt. has provided an audience for His Sermon by collecting phrases from Mk. (see on 4:23-25), whilst Lk. provides an audience by transposing Mark 3:7-12 and 13-19.

There is therefore no necessary connection between the introduction to the Sermon in Mt. and Lk. other than a common use of Mk.’s Gospel.

A. The Beatitudes, 5:3-13.

Lk. has a corresponding section, consisting of four blessings and four woes, 6:20-26. The four blessings are addressed in the second person (Mt. in the third) to οἱ πτωχοί (Mt. πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι), οἱ πεινῶντες (Mt. οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην), οἱ κλαίοντες (no parallel in Mt.), and to those who are hated and persecuted; cf. Mt vv. 11, 12. It is clear that the Evangelists in this section are independent of one another, and that they did not use a common written source. The Sermon traditionally began with Beatitudes, but the number and form of these varied in different recensions.

B. The two metaphors of discipleship, Matthew 5:13-16, do not occur in Lk.’s Sermon. They have probably been inserted here from other parts of the Logia. Lk. has parallels to 5:13, 15 in 14:34, 35, 8:16, 11:33. See notes on vv. 13-16. He drew the sayings from some source, or sources, other than the Logia.

C. Relation to the Old Law, 5:17-48.

Lk. has no parallel in his Sermon to 5:17-39a. But in 6:27-36 he has parallels to Matthew 5:39-48. The�Matthew 5:44 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν) suggests that Lk. himself, or the source which he follows, has omitted from the Sermon matter parallel to Matthew 5:17-39a on account of its polemical character. On the other hand, Mt. has probably added to this section of the Sermon as it stood in the Logia sayings from other parts of the Logia. Such additions are probably vv. 18-19, 22b.c. 25-26. 33-37. See the notes on these passages.

D. Three illustrations of righteousness, Matthew 6:1-18.

No parallels to this occur in Lk.’s Sermon. The Sermon in the Logia may have contained it; but if so, Mt. has probably added 7-15 from other sections of the Logia. Lk. has parallels to 8 in 12:30, and to 9-12 in 11:2-4. He was drawing from independent sources.

E. Three prohibitions, Matthew 6:19.

Lk. has no parallels in his Sermon to 6:19-34, but has sayings corresponding to 6:19-21 in 12:33-34, to 6:22-23 in 11:34-35, to 6:24 in 16:13, and to 6:25-34 in 12:22-31. The Sermon in the Logia may have contained Matthew 6:19-20, which Mt. has enlarged by adding 21-34 from other parts of the Logia. Lk. drew from independent sources. Lk. has parallels in his Sermon to 7:1-5 in 6:37-42. Mt. probably drew from the Logia, Lk. from his independent source.

F. Three commands, Matthew 7:7-23.

Lk. has parallels in his Sermon to 7:12a. 16-18 and 21 = Luke 6:43-44, Luke 6:46. The section probably stood in the Logia, but may have been enlarged by Mt., e.g. vv. 16b-20, from other parts of the Logia.

G. Concluding parable, Matthew 7:24-27, is found at the end of Lk’s Sermon, 6:47-49.

These facts seem most easily explained on some such lines as these:

Mt. found in the Logia a sermon containing—

A. Beatitudes, 5:2-12.

B. Relation to Old Law, 5:17, 20, 21-24, 27-30, 31-32, 33-42, 43-48.

C. Three illustrations of righteousness, 6:1-4, 5-6, 16-18.

D. Three prohibitions, 6:19-21, 7:1-5, 6, 12.

E. Two commands, 7:13-14, 15-16a.

F. A warning and concluding parable, 7:21-23, 24-27.

This sermon he has enlarged by adding to it sayings which also were probably contained in the Logia, viz. 5:13-16, 18-19, 25-26, 33-37, 6:7-15, 22-34, 7:7-11, 16b-20.

Lk. also had in one of his sources (not the Logia) a Sermon which was parallel in outline to that of the Logia. It contained, A, a section of blessings and woes (6:20-26), and then passed, B, to a series of exhortations to Christian love (6:27-38), followed by, C, various precepts (6:39-45), and ended by D, a parable (6:46-49). Either Lk. himself or, more probably, an editor at an earlier stage, in the transmission of the Sermon, omitted before B a section dealing with Christ’s relation to the Old Law. Of course, the Hebrew or Aramaic Logia may be the ulimate source of both Mt. and Lk.’s Sermon. But if so, it is probable that the sermon was excerpted from the Logia, and passed through several stages before it reached S. Luke. Mt., on the other hand, seems to have used a Greek translation of the Logia itself. That Mt. and Lk. were not using the same Greek source for the Sermon is suggested by their frequent divergence in language, and is decisively proved by the remarkable differences in the section containing blessing, with which the Sermon opens. Lk. also has, not in the Sermon, but elsewhere in his Gospel, sayings corresponding to sayings which Mt. has in the Sermon. Whilst Mt. drew these probably from the Logia, where some of them need not have stood in the Sermon, Lk. borrowed them from oral tradition or from other sources. That the two Evangelists did not draw them from the same Greek source is proved by the variations in setting and in language, and by other differences. The Lord’s Prayer alone, with its striking variation in the two Gospels, proves that the Evangelists took it from quite independent sources or streams of tradition. For it is very improbable that Lk. should have shortened Matthew 6:9-13, or that Mt. should have expanded Luke 11:2-4. On the other hand, it is very probable that the Prayer should have received different forms in the period of transmission prior to our two Gospels. The Logia may be the ultimate source of tradition. But if Mt. drew directly from a Greek translation of the Logia, LK. borrowed from some source in which the Prayer had been borrowed from the Logia after passing through several stages of transmission. The fact that in both Gospels the Sermon is followed by an entry into Capharnaum (Matthew 8:5=Luke 7:1), and by the miracle of the centurion’s servant, has led to the supposition that both Evangelists used a source in which this connection was already made. But this is very doubtful. In Matthew 8:5 Εἰσελθόντος δὲ αὐτοῦ εἰς Καφαρναούμ may be purely editorial. The editor places immediately after the Sermon Mk.’s narrative of the leper, 8:1-4. He now wishes to continue with the story of the centurion’s servant. Capharnaum was the obvious place in which to locate this, cf. Matthew 4:13, especially as the editor intends to continue with Mark 1:29-31, which did take place in Capharnaum. He was therefore obliged to insert a statement of the return to that city somewhere, and 8:5 was an obvious opportunity for doing so. In Lk. also, if we allow that Capharnaum was the natural place for the miracle, there was an obvious reason for inserting 7:1 between the Sermon and the miracle. Of course, there are other possibilities. The statement in Matthew 8:5 may be editorial, whilst in the source which Lk. was following the Sermon may have been immediately followed by the return to Capharnaum and the miracle. In that case the agreement of Mt. and Lk. in linking the Sermon to the miracle by the entry into Capharnaum may be accidental. Or this may be just one of those points in which the first Gospel has influenced Lk. He remembered the closing formula of Matthew 7:28 “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words,” and reproduced them in 7:1 in the form, “When He had fulfilled all His sayings in the ears of the people.” Then, passing over Matthew 7:28-29 and 8:1-4 because he has them in other contexts in Mk., he came to Matthew 8:5, and recorded the entry into Capharnaum and the miracle, not slavishly following Mt., but giving the miracle in the form known to him from another source. The view that Mt. and Lk. were both following a source in which Sermon and miracle were already linked by the statement of the entry into Capharnaum, would have everything in its favour if it did not make it impossible to understand the variations in the Sermon in the two Gospels.

L the Matthæan Logia.

Ox. Pap. Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

Tert. Tertullian.

Eus. Eusebius.

1 Cf. also Isocrates, Nicocl. 39 C: ἂ πάσχοντες ὑφʼ ἑτέρων όργίζεσθε, ταῦτα τοῖς ἄλλοις μὴ ποιεῖτε.

Dalm. Dalman.

S Syriac version: Sinaitic MS.

E editorial passages.

al i.e. with other uncial MSS.

S Syriac version: Curetonian.

latt. Manuscripts of the Old Latin Version.

Clem. Alex. Clement of Alexandria.

M the Second Gospel.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Matthew 7". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.