Matthew 5:29

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Matthew 5:29 is the twenty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is the third verse of the discussion of adultery. Jesus has just stated that looking at a woman in lust is equal to the act of adultery itself and in this verse he recommends gouging out one's eye to prevent sinning.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out,
and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for
thee that one of thy members should perish, and
not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it
out and throw it away from you. For it is more
profitable for you that one of your members should
perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 5:29

The Greek is literally "causes you to stumble," but stumble is a common metaphor for sin and some versions translate it this way for greater clarity. This loses the wordplay. Where normally eyesight is what prevents one from stumbling, Jesus here states that eyesight should be sacrificed to prevent the greater stumbling of sin. The verse is similar to Mark 9:47, and a version much closer to that in Mark appears at Matthew 18:9.[1]

This verse, along with the next one, is the most extreme part of the Sermon on the Mount. France notes that the severity of this verse is unparalleled in the contemporary literature.[2] It advocates an action that is extremely drastic. No major Christian denomination has ever taken this verse literally, no monk has ever plucked out his eye to prevent temptation (though the early church father Origen castrated himself, i.e. removed a body part that caused him to sin). Most commentators take this verse as a clear example of hyperbole, Jesus is using an extreme example to make sure his audience understands the importance of his teachings. Jones notes that the mention of only the right eye makes it clear that Jesus is not meaning for this to be taken literally, as the left eye would be just as likely to lead into sin. The obvious hyperbole of this passage have led some commentators to see other difficult parts of the Sermon as hyperbole, such as Matthew 5:39 and 40.[3]

Nolland notes that within the harshness of this verse, there is also a message of redemption. If the sinner acts quickly to avoid sin, Gehenna will be avoided.[4]

As with Matthew 5:22, the word translated in many versions as hell is Gehenna, and there is great debate about whether Jesus was talking about the physical valley of fire or an afterlife of damnation. Gundry feels that the reference to Gehenna is eschatological. He notes that the reference to the "whole body" implies that the wicked will also enjoy full body resurrection in the end times, prior to being thrown into Hell. This is counter to the standard understanding of only the worthy being resurrected.[5] Gehenna appears six other times in the Gospel of Matthew: 5:22, 5:30, 10:28, 18:19, 23:15, and 23:33[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
  2. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  3. ^ Jones, Alexander. The Gospel According to St. Matthew. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1965.
  4. ^ Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 239
  5. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
  6. ^ France, R.T.. The Gospel of Matthew. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007 pg. 202


Gospel of Matthew
Preceded by:
Matthew 5:28
Chapter 5Followed by:
Matthew 5:30