Matthew 5:18
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
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(18) Verily.—The first occurrence in the Gospel of the word so common in our Lord’s teaching seems the right place for dwelling on its meaning. It is the familiar Amen of the Church’s worship—the word which had been used in the same way in that of the wilderness (Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15) and of the Temple (Psalm 41:13; Psalm 72:19, et al). Coming from the Hebrew root for “fixed, steadfast, true,” it was used for solemn affirmation or solemn prayer. “So is it,” or “so be it.” For the most part, the Greek LXX. translates it; but in 1Chronicles 16:36, and Nehemiah 5:13, it appears in its Hebrew form. From the worship of the synagogue it passed into that of the Christian Church, and by the time the Gospels were written had become so familiar that it was used without hesitation by all the Evangelists, sometimes singly, sometimes (uniformly in St. John) with the emphasis of reduplication.

Till heaven and earth pass.—The formula was probably one in common use by our Lord to express the unchangeableness of the divine word. It was afterwards used, we must remember, by our Lord, with even augmented force, in reference to His own words (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).

One jot or one tittle.—The “jot” is the Greek iota (0, the Hebrew yod (’), the smallest of all the letters of the alphabet. The “tittle” was one of the smaller strokes, or twists of other letters, such, e.g., as distinguished ד (D) from ר (R), or כ (K) from ב (B). Jewish Rabbis used to caution their scholars against so writing as to cause one letter to be mistaken for another, and to give examples of passages from the Law in which such a mistake would turn a divine truth into nonsense or blasphemy. The yod in its turn was equally important. It distinguished Joshua from Hoshea, Sarai from Sarah. The Jews had indeed a strange legend that its insertion in the former name was given as a compensation for its exclusion from the latter. The meaning is obvious enough,” Nothing truly belonging to the Law, however seemingly trivial, shall drift away and be forgotten until it has done all that it was meant to do.”

Till all be fulfilled.—Literally, Till all things have come to pass. The words in the English version suggest an identity with the “fulfil” of Matthew 5:17, which is not found in the Greek. The same formula is used in the Greek of Matthew 24:34. The “all things” in both cases are the great facts of our Lord’s life, death, resurrection, and the establishment of the kingdom of God. So taken, we find that the words do not assert, as at first they seem to do, the perpetual obligation even of the details of the Law, but the limit up to which the obligation was to last; and they are therefore not inconsistent with the words which speak of the system of the Law as a whole as “decaying and waxing old, and ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). The two “untils” have each of them their significance. Each “jot” or “tittle “must first complete its work; then, and not till then, will it pass away.

Matthew 5:18. For verily I say unto you — This expression, whereby our Lord often prefaces what he is about to say, always imports the great importance, as well as certain truth of it. Till heaven and earth pass away — Till the whole visible frame of nature be disjointed and dissolved, one jot or one tittle — “The word ιωτα, which we render jot, undoubtedly answers to the Hebrew letter י, jod, whence the English word here seems to be derived, and which, being the least letter of the alphabet, might properly be used proverbially on this occasion. Κεραια, which we render tittle, properly signifies one of those little ornamental curvatures or flourishes, which, when Hebrew is elegantly written, are generally used at the beginning and end of a letter, and sometimes at the corners too. I think it might well have been rendered, not the least letter, or stroke, &c., and so much the rather, as jot and tittle, in English, signify the same.” — Doddridge. Shall in no wise pass from, the law — Or, from the prophets, till all be fulfilled — Till all things which the law requires, or the prophets foretel, shall be effected. This seems to be the literal translation of the original words, εως αν παντα γενηται: for the law has its effect when its sanctions are executed, as well as when its precepts are obeyed. And the predictions of the prophets have their proper effect and confirmation, when they are accomplished. Some, however, understand the words as meaning, till the end, or, consummation of all things shall come, or, till the heavens and the earth shall pass away, or be destroyed. The meaning of our Lord’s words, according to this interpretation, is, that there is nothing in the universe so stable as the truths contained in the moral law, and nothing so certain as the fulfilment of the predictions of the prophets: the heavens may fall, and the whole frame of nature be unhinged, nay, every part of it may be dissolved; but the rules of righteousness, and the declarations of the divine word, with their sanctions, shall remain immutable and eternal: for the word of the Lord endureth for ever, 1 Peter 1:25. Our Lord therefore proceeds, in the two next verses, to command his disciples, on the severest penalties, to enforce, both by their doctrine and example, the strict observation of all the moral precepts contained in the sacred writings, and that in their utmost extent.

5:17-20 Let none suppose that Christ allows his people to trifle with any commands of God's holy law. No sinner partakes of Christ's justifying righteousness, till he repents of his evil deeds. The mercy revealed in the gospel leads the believer to still deeper self-abhorrence. The law is the Christian's rule of duty, and he delights therein. If a man, pretending to be Christ's disciple, encourages himself in any allowed disobedience to the holy law of God, or teaches others to do the same, whatever his station or reputation among men may be, he can be no true disciple. Christ's righteousness, imputed to us by faith alone, is needed by every one that enters the kingdom of grace or of glory; but the new creation of the heart to holiness, produces a thorough change in a man's temper and conduct.Verily - Truly, certainly. A word of strong affirmation.

Till heaven and earth pass - This expression denotes that the law never would be destroyed until it should be all fulfilled. It is the same as saying everything else may change; the very earth and heaven may pass away, but the law of God shall not be destroyed until its whole design has been accomplished.

One jot - The word "jot," or yod (י y), is the name of the Hebrew letter I, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

One tittle - The word used here, in the Greek, means literally a little horn, then a point, an extremity. Several of the Hebrew letters were written with small points or apices, as in the Hebrew letter, shin (שׁ sh), or the Hebrew letter, sin (שׂ s), which serve to distinguish one letter from another. To change a small point of one letter, therefore, might vary the meaning of a word, and destroy the sense. The name "little horn" was given to these points probably from the manner in which they were written, resembling a little horn. Professor Hackett says of a manuscript which he saw a Jew transcribing: "One peculiarity, that struck me at once as I cast my eye over the parchment, was the horn-like appearance attached to some of the letters. I had seen the same mark, before this, in Hebrew manuscripts, but never where it was so prominent as here. The sign in question, as connected with the Hebrew Letter Lamedh (ל L) in particular, had almost the appearance of an intentional imitation of a ram's head. It was to that appendage of the Hebrew letters that the Saviour referred when he said, "'Not one jot or little horn' (as the Greek term signifies, which our version renders 'tittle,') 'shall pass from the law until all be fulfilled.'" - Illustrations of Scripture, p. 234. Hence, the Jews were exceedingly cautious in writing these letters, and considered the smallest change or omission a reason for destroying the whole manuscript when they were transcribing the Old Testament. The expression, "one jot or tittle," became proverbial, and means that the smallest part of the law should not be destroyed.

The laws of the Jews are commonly divided into moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The moral laws are such as grow out of the nature of things, and which cannot, therefore, be changed - such as the duty of loving God and his creatures. These cannot be abolished, as it can never be made right to hate God, or to hate our fellow-men. Of this kind are the ten commandments, and these our Saviour has neither abolished nor superseded. The ceremonial laws are such as are appointed to meet certain states of society, or to regulate the religious rites and ceremonies of a people. These can be changed when circumstances are changed, and yet the moral law be untouched. A general in an army may command his soldiers to appear sometimes in a red coat and sometimes in blue or in yellow. This would be a ceremonial law, and might be changed as he pleased. The duty of obeying him, and of being faithful to his country, could not be changed.

This is a moral law. A parent might permit his children to have 50 different dresses at different times, and love them equally in all. The dress is a mere matter of ceremony, and may be changed. The child, in all these garments, is bound to love and obey his father. This is a moral law, and cannot be changed. So the laws of the Jews. Those designed to regulate mere matters of ceremony and rites of worship might be changed. Those requiring love and obedience to God and love to people could not be changed, and Christ did not attempt it, Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9. A third species of law was the judicial, or those laws regulating courts of justice which are contained in the Old Testament. These were of the nature of the ceremonial law, and might also be changed at pleasure. The judicial law of the Hebrews was adapted to their own civil society. When the form of their polity was changed this was of course no longer binding. The ceremonial law was fulfilled by the coming of Christ: the shadow was lost in the substance, and ceased to be binding. The moral law was confirmed and unchanged.

18. For verily I say unto you—Here, for the first time, does that august expression occur in our Lord's recorded teaching, with which we have grown so familiar as hardly to reflect on its full import. It is the expression manifestly, of supreme legislative authority; and as the subject in connection with which it is uttered is the Moral Law, no higher claim to an authority strictly divine could be advanced. For when we observe how jealously Jehovah asserts it as His exclusive prerogative to give law to men (Le 18:1-5; 19:37; 26:1-4, 13-16, &c.), such language as this of our Lord will appear totally unsuitable, and indeed abhorrent, from any creature lips. When the Baptist's words—"I say unto you" (Mt 3:9)—are compared with those of his Master here, the difference of the two cases will be at once apparent.

Till heaven and earth pass—Though even the Old Testament announces the ultimate "perdition of the heavens and the earth," in contrast with the immutability of Jehovah (Ps 102:24-27), the prevalent representation of the heavens and the earth in Scripture, when employed as a popular figure, is that of their stability (Ps 119:89-91; Ec 1:4; Jer 33:25, 26). It is the enduring stability, then, of the great truths and principles, moral and spiritual, of the Old Testament revelation which our Lord thus expresses.

one jot—the smallest of the Hebrew letters.

one tittle—one of those little strokes by which alone some of the Hebrew letters are distinguished from others like them.

shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled—The meaning is that "not so much as the smallest loss of authority or vitality shall ever come over the law." The expression, "till all be fulfilled," is much the same in meaning as "it shall be had in undiminished and enduring honor, from its greatest to its least requirements." Again, this general way of viewing our Lord's words here seems far preferable to that doctrinal understanding of them which would require us to determine the different kinds of "fulfilment" which the moral and the ceremonial parts of it were to have.

Amen I say unto you, so it is in the Greek, a phrase, as some observe never used but by God and Christ himself; who is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, Revelation 3:14, though the servants of God have sometimes used it, as an adverb of wishing. It is by most concluded a form of an oath, God by it swearing by his truth and faithfulness.

Till heaven and earth pass, & c.; that is, the law is the certain and unchangeable will of God concerning reasonable creatures, and it shall never be altered in the least tittle, nor ever be abolished; you may therefore be secure that I come into the world upon no such errand.

For verily I say unto you,.... Or "I Amen say unto you", which is one of the names of Christ; see Revelation 3:14 or the word "Amen" is only used by Christ as an asseveration of what he was about to say; and which, for greater confirmation, is usually doubled in the Evangelist John, "Amen, Amen", or "verily, verily". The word is used by the Jews (w) for an oath; they swore by it; and it is a rule with them, that whoever answers "Amen" after an oath, it is all one as if he had pronounced the oath itself. The thing so strongly affirmed in this solemn manner is,

till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. The "or jot", in the Greek language, answers to "jod" in the Hebrew, the least of all the letters in the alphabet; hence a little city is called by this name, and this reason is given for it, (x) , "because that jod is the least among letters". We read also of Rabbi Jod (y), perhaps so called because , he was little, as the author of Juchasin observes (z). This shows in what language the law was written; not in the Samaritan language, for the jod in that is a large letter, but in the Hebrew, in which it is very small; and particularly is written in a very diminutive character, in Deuteronomy 32:18 "by one tittle" some think is meant one of those ducts, dashes, or corners of letters, which distinguish one letter from another, that are much alike; others have thought that one of the pricks or vowel points is intended; others, one of those little strokes in the tops of letters, which the Jews call (a) "crowns" and "spikes", is here meant, in which they imagined great mysteries were contained; and there were some persons among them, who made it their business to search into the meaning of every letter, and of everyone of these little horns, or pricks, that were upon the top of them. So says R. Meir (b),

"in the time of the prophets there were such who very diligently searched every letter in the law, and explained every letter by itself; and do not wonder at this that they should expound every letter by itself, for they commented , upon everyone of the tops of each letter.''

Such an expounder was Akiba ben Joseph (c). To which custom Christ is here supposed to have respect: however, certain it is that he speaks very much in the language, and agreeably to the mind of the Jewish doctors; and some things in their writings will serve to illustrate this passage,

"If, (say they (d),) all the nations of the world were gathered together, "to root one word out of the law", they could not do it; which you may learn from Solomon, who sought to root "one letter out of the law", the letter "jod", in Deuteronomy 17:16 but the holy blessed God said, Solomon shall cease, and an hundred such as he (in the Talmud (e) it is a thousand such as he) , "but, jod shall not cease from thee (the law) for ever".''

And elsewhere the same expression is used (f), and it is added,

"ljbm ynya Kmm huwqw, "but a tittle from thee shall not perish."''

The design of Christ, in conformity to the language of the Jews, is to declare, that no part of the law, not one of the least commandments in it, as he explains himself in the next verse, should be unaccomplished; but all should be fulfilled before "heaven and earth pass" away, as they will, with a great noise and fervent heat, as to their present form and condition; or sooner shall they pass away, than the least part of the law shall: which expresses the perpetuity of the law, and the impossibility of its passing away, and the superior excellency of it to the heavens and the earth. It is a saying of one of the Jewish doctors (g), that

"the whole world is not equal even to one word out of the law,''

in which it is said, there is not one letter deficient or superfluous.

(w) T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 60. 4. Misn. Bava Kama, c. 9. sect. 7, 8. T. Bab. Shebuot, fol. 36. 1. Debarim Rabba, fol. 242. 2. Maimon Hilch. Shebuot, c. 2. sect. 1.((x) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 21. 2. & Gloss. in ib. (y) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 22. 2.((z) Fol. 93. 2.((a) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 29. 2.((b) In Semitis fidei, fol. 104. 4. & 105. 1. apud Capell. in loc. (c) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 29. 2.((d) Vajikra Rabba, fol. 160. 3. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol 20. 2.((e) T. Hieros. Sanhedrim, fol. 20. 3.((f) Shemot Rabba, fol. 96. 1.((g) T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 4.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Matthew 5:18. Ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν] for verily (ἀμήν = ἀληθῶς, Luke 9:27), that is, agreeably to the truth, do I tell you. What He now says serves as a confirmation of what preceded. This form of assurance, so frequently in the mouth of Christ, the bearer of divine truth, is not found in any apostle.

ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ, κ.τ.λ.] until heaven and earth shall have passed away. These words of Jesus do not indicate a terminus, after which the law shall no longer exist (Paulus, Meander, Lechler, Schleiermacher, Planck, Weizsäcker, and others), but He says: onwards to the destruction of the world the law will not lose its validity in the slightest point, by which popular expression (Luke 16:17; Job 14:12) the duration of the law after the final catastrophe of the world is neither taught nor excluded. That the law, however, fulfilled as to its ideal nature, will endure in the new world, is clear from 1 Corinthians 13:3 (ἀγάπη); 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 3:3 (δικαιοσύνη). The unending authority of the law is also taught by Bar 4:1; Tob 1:6; Philo, vit. Mos. 2. p. 656; Joseph, c. Ap. ii. 38, and the Rabbins. See Bereschith R. x. 1, “omni rei suus finis, coelo et terrae suus finis, una excepta re, cui non suus finis, haec est lex.” Schemoth R. vi., “nulla litera aboletur a lege in aeternum.” Midrash Cohel. f. 71, 4, (lex) “perpetuo manebit in secula seculorum.” The passage in 1 Corinthians 15:28 is not opposed to our explanation; for if God is all in all, the fulfilled law of God yet stands in its absolute authority.

ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται] not: until all the prophecies are fulfilled, that would then be down to the Parousia (Wetstein, J. E. Meyer, comp. Ewald); nor even till all is carried out theocratically which I have to perform (Paulus), or what lies shut up in the divine decree (Köstlin), or even until the event shall occur by means of which the observance of the law becomes impossible, and it falls away of itself (Schleiermacher); but, in keeping with the context, until all which the law requires shall he accomplished (Matthew 6:10), nothing any longer left unobserved. This sentence is not co-ordinate to the first ἕως, but subordinate (Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 2. 36): “So long as the world stands shall no iota[401] of the law pass away till all its prescriptions shall be realized.” All the requirements of the law shall be fulfilled; but before this fulfilment of all shall have begun,[402] not a single iota of the law shall fall till the end of the world. Fritzsche: till all (only in thought) is accomplished. He assumes, accordingly, agreeably to the analogous use of conditional sentences (Heindorf and Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phaed. p. 67 E; Kühner, II. 2, p. 988 f.), a double protasis: (1) ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ, κ.τ.λ., and (2) ἝΩςΓΈΝΗΤΑΙ. But the parallel passages, Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32, are already opposed to this; and after the concrete and lively ἝΩς ἊΝ ΠΑΡΈΛΘῌ Ὁ ΟὐΡΑΝῸς Κ. Ἡ Γῆ, this general and indefinite ἝΩς ἊΝ ΠΆΝΤΑ ΓΈΝΗΤΑΙ would be only a vague and lumbering addition. As correlative to ἝΝ and ΜΊΑ, ΠΆΝΤΑ can only mean all portions of the law, without, however, any definite point of time requiring to be thought of, in which all the commands of the law will be carried out, according to which, then, the duration of the present condition of the world would be conformed. This thought is rendered impossible by the nearness of the Parousia, according to Matthew 24:29; Matthew 24:34, as well as by the growth of the tares until the Parousia, according to Matthew 13:30. The thought is rather, the law will not lose its binding obligation, which reaches on to the final realization of all its prescriptions, so long as heaven and earth remain.

Observe, moreover, that the expression in our passage is different from Matthew 24:35, where the permanency of the λόγοι of Christ after the end of the world is directly and definitely affirmed, but that in this continued duration of the ΛΌΓΟΙ of Christ the duration of the law also is implied, i.e. according to its complete meaning (in answer to Lechler, p. 797); comp. on Luke 16:17. “The δικαιοσύνη of the new heavens and of the new earth will be no other than what is here taught,” Delitzsch. So completely one with the idea of the law does Jesus in His spiritual greatness know His moral task to be, not severed from the latter, but placed in its midst.

[401] Ἰῶτα, the smallest letter, and κεραία, horn, a little stroke of writing (Plut. Mor. p. 1100 A, 1011 D), especially also in single letters (Origen, ad Psalms 33), by which, for example, the following letters are distinguished, כ and ב, ר and ד, ה and ח. See Lightfoot, Schoettgen, and Wetstein. Both expressions denote the smallest portions of the law; see ver. 19.

[402] In this is contained the perpetually abiding obligation of the law; for that condition of things, in which no part of the law remains unfulfilled, in which, consequently, all is accomplished, will never occur until the end of the world. Of the πάντα, moreover, nothing is to be excluded which the law Contains, not even the ritualistic portions, which are to be morally fulfilled in their ideal meaning, as e.g. the Levitical prescription regarding purification by moral purification, the sacrificial laws by moral self-sacrifice (comp. Romans 12:1), and so on, so that in the connection of the whole, in accordance with the idea of πλήρωσις, not even the smallest element will perish, but retains its importance and its integral moral connection with the whole. Comp. Tholuck; Gess, Christi Pers. und Werk, I. p. 292; and before him, Calvin on ver. 17.

Matthew 5:18-19. These verses wear on first view a Judaistic look, and have been regarded as an interpolation, or set down to the credit of an over-conservative evangelist. But they may be reconciled with Matthew 5:17, as above interpreted. Jesus expresses here in the strongest manner His conviction that the whole O. T. is a Divine revelation, and that therefore every minutest precept has religious significance which must be recognised in the ideal fulfilment.—Ἀμὴν, formula of solemn asseveration, often used by Jesus, never by apostles, found doubled only in fourth Gospel.—ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ, etc.: not intended to fix a period after which the law will pass away, but a strong way of saying never (so Tholuck and Weiss).—ἰῶτα, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.—κεραία, the little projecting point in some of the letters, e.g., of the base line in Beth; both representing the minutiae in the Mosaic legislation. Christ, though totally opposed to the spirit of the scribes, would not allow them to have a monopoly of zeal for the commandments great and small. It was important in a polemical interest to make this clear.—οὐ μὴ π., elliptical = do not fear lest. Vide Kühner, Gram., § 516, 9; also Goodwin’s Syntax, Appendix ii.—ἕως ἄν π. γεν., a second protasis introduced with ἕως explanatory of the first ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ; vide Goodwin, § 510; not saying the same thing, but a kindred: eternal, lasting, till adequately fulfilled; the latter the more exact statement of Christ’s thought.

18. verily …] The Hebr. Amen is retained in the Greek text. This particle is used (a) to confirm the truth of what has been said. (b) To affirm the truth of what is about to be said. The second (b) is a Syriac use, and therefore more usual in the N.T. than in the O.T. where the use is nearly limited to (a).

one jot …] “yod” (י) the smallest of the Hebr. characters, generally a silent letter, rather the adjunct of a letter than an independent letter. Still a critical interpretation might turn on the presence or absence of yod in a word. The controversy as to the meaning of Shiloh, Genesis 49:10, is an instance of this. The letter yod makes the difference between Sarai and Sarah. It is the first letter in Jehovah and in the Hebrew form of Jesus or Joshua.

tittle] The English word means a “point,” from Anglo-Saxon thyd-an to prick, connected with “thistle.” The Greek word means lit. a horn. Here the extremity of a letter, a little point, in which one letter differs from another.

fulfilled] The Greek word is different from that which has the same rendering in Matthew 5:17.

Matthew 5:18. Ἀμὴν, Amen, verily) Jesus alone employed this word at the commencement of His addresses, to give them greater force and solemnity. No apostle did so. Wagenseil,[185] in his Sota, p. 379, says, that this word had sometimes with the Jews the force of an oath. And wherever חי אני (I, living) occurs in the Hebrew, the Chaldee Paraphrast has אנא קים, I, constant: and קים, to confirm, etc., is found there passim for נשבע, to swear. See Louis le Dieu on this passage; and Kimchi interprets אמן, amen, itself by קיום, stability.[186]

[185] John Christopher Wagenseil was born at Nuremberg in 1633, and educated at the University of Altdorf, where he was appointed Professor of History in 1667, and of Oriental Languages about 1675. He died in 1705. The full title of the work referred to in the text is, Sota, hoc est liber Mixlenicus de uxore adulterii suspecta, una cum libri ex Jacob excerptis Gemaræ, versione Latina et commentario perpetuo, in quo multa sacrarum literarum ac Hebræorum Scriptorum loca explicantur.—(I. B.)

[186] Firmitas, stabilitas, duratio.—BUXTORF.—(I. B.)

In the New Testament, however, it is not, strictly speaking, an oath: for it corresponds with ναὶ, yea, and ἀληθῶς, truly; cf. Luke 11:51; Luke 21:3, with Matthew 23:36, and Mark 12:43. It is, however, a most grave asseveration, exclusively suitable to Him who asseverates by Himself and His own truth, and from the dignity of the Speaker, is equivalent to an oath, especially when it is uttered twice, sc. “verily, verily:” see note to John 1:51. The Hebrew word is preserved in all languages.[187]—λέγω ὑμῖν, I say unto you) This formula, frequent and peculiar to the Lord, possesses the highest authority, and denotes frequently a matter declared by Him, which, for special reasons, is neither written expressly in the Old Testament, nor can be clearly proved from any other source, but is first produced by Himself from the secret treasuries of wisdom and knowledge, so that the assent of the hearers may rest on His sole affirmation, and the dull in heart may be deprived of all excuse for the future. The prophets were wont to say in the third person, נאם,[188] saith the Lord; the apostles, It is written; but Christ, in the first person, I say unto you; see Matthew 5:20; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:26; Matthew 5:28; Matthew 5:32; Matthew 5:34; Matthew 5:39; Matthew 5:44, ch. Matthew 6:2; John 3:3; John 14:12; John 14:25, etc. Cf. notes on John 4:21; John 14:25. St Paul, when again and again compelled to speak in the first person, takes especial care not to trench on the Divine prerogative. See Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 7:6. Faith is the correlative of this, “I say unto you” and by this formula is, suitably to that time (Proverbs modo illius temporis), placed, as it were, as the foundation on the very threshold of the New Testament. Christ seldom quotes passages of Scripture, and not except for some special reason: He befittingly rests on His own authority.—ἝΩς ἌΝ ΠΑΡΈΛΘῌ, until pass away) The verb, παρέλθῃ, leaves undetermined the manner of the end of the world.—ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, Heaven and earth) The whole system of nature.—ἸῶΤΑ, jot) iota, yod. Yod, the smallest and most elementary letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and one in which Keri and Kethib[189] very frequently differ, so that it almost appears to be indiscriminately absent or redundant. In the course of the Hebrew Scriptures, 66,420 yods are numbered. The Greeks frequently write the iota below, or omit it altogether.—ΚΕΡΑΊΑ, a tittle) An appendage to a portion of a letter, a mark by which one letter is distinguished from another, as ב, Beth (B), from כ, Kaph (K), or ר, Resh (R), from ד, Daleth (D), or one sound from another, as a vowel point or an accent; in short, anything which in any way belongs to the signification of the Divine will, or assists to declare that signification as revealed in the law.—οὐ μὴ, a double negative) Οὐ ΜῊ always has a subjunctive, and its emphasis ought not to be stretched too far; cf. Matthew 5:20; Matthew 5:26.—Οὐ ΜῊ ΠΑΡῈΛΘῌ, shall not pass away) From hence may be inferred the entireness of Scripture; for, unless the Scripture were entire, it could not be entirely fulfilled.—ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, from the law) Understand and supply, “or from the prophets.” The smallest portion of the law is contrasted with the whole world.—ἕως ἅν, κ.τ.λ., until, etc.) For righteousness shall dwell in new Heavens and a new Earth. See 2 Peter 3:13.—πάντα, all particulars) sc. of the law. Observe the contrast between this and ΜΊΑΝ, one, in the next verse.[190]—γένηται, be fulfilled) They have been fulfilled, and they are being fulfilled by Jesus Christ, [not only in Himself, but] even in Christians: they had not been fulfilled before His coming.

[187] And it (the Hebr. amen) ought to be retained in translation, as in the end, so also in the beginning of sentences. The same principle holds good of other Hebrew words.—Not. Crit.

[188] “נאם … to mutter, to murmur, to speak in a low voice; specially used of the voice of God, by which oracles were revealed to the prophets. By far the most frequent use is of the part. pass. constr. in this phrase, נְאֻם יְיָ נְאֻם יְהוֹה, צְבָאוֹת. ‘The voice of Jehovah (is);’ or (so) hath Jehovah revealed. This the prophets themselves were accustomed either to insert in the discourse, like the Lat. ait, inquit Dominus, Amos 6:8; Amos 6:14; Amos 9:12-13, or to add at the end of a sentence.”—Gesenius.—(I. B.)


[190] In the original, “Antitheton, unum, in v. seq.” I have endeavoured in this, as in other instances, to give such a rendering as shall convey Bengel’s meaning to the general reader.—(I. B.)

“The margin of the Hebrew Bible exhibits a number of various readings of an early date, called קְרִי (to be read), because, in the view of the Jewish critics, they are to be preferred to the reading of the text, called כְּתִיב (written). Those critics have therefore attached the vowel signs, appropriate to the marginal reading, to the consonants of the corresponding word in the text; e.g. in Jeremiah 42:6, the text exhibits אֲנַוְּ, the margin אנחנו קרי. Here the vowels in the text belong to the word in the margin, which is to be pronounced אֲנַחְנוּ; but in reading the text אנו, the proper vowels must be supplied, making אֲנוּ. A small circle or asterisk over the word in the text always directs to the marginal reading.”—Gesenius, Heb. Gr. Sect. 17.—(I. B.)

Verse 18. - Cf. Luke 16:17, "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the Law to fail" (Revised Version). The words are so similar that the two evangelists probably record the same utterance, the difference in the form of the sentence pointing rather to an oral than a written common source. St. Luke places it in an attack on the Pharisees, who had scoffed at our Lord for his parable of the dishonest steward. Verily; ἀμήν (אמן, literally, "established," "sure"). It has hardly been sufficiently noticed by commentators that the New Testament usage of the word "Amen" often slightly differs from that found in the Old Testament. "Amen" in the Old Testament always involves the personal acceptance of the statement to which it refers ("so be it"), whether this be a statement upon oath (Numbers 5:22, perhaps), or a statement of penalties incurred under certain circumstances (Numbers 5:22, probably; Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Nehemiah 5:13); or a statement expressing a pious hope uttered either by another (1 Kings 1:36; Jeremiah 28:6; Jeremiah 11:5 (?); cf. Nehemiah 8:6; cf. also 1 Corinthians 14:16); or by one's self (Psalm 41:13). Hence the LXX. either leaves it untranslated or, with but one exception, translates it by γένοιτο. In Hellenistic Greek, however, it became often used as little more than a mere asseveration ("verily"). The earliest trace of this usage is found in Jeremiah 28:6, where the LXX. renders אמןby ἀληθῶς (Aquila much better πιστθήτω, though generally elsewhere πεπιστωμένως), and it is frequent in the New Testament, cf. especially Luke 9:27, λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, with parallels, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (cf. also Luke 12:44 with Matthew 24:47, and Luke 21:3 with Mark 12:43). Yet this usage of "Amen" in Hellenistic Greek does not seem to have ever spread into Hebrew or Aramaic. W. H. Lowe ('Fragm. Pesach.,' p. 70) says, and apparently truly, "The Jews never used 'amen in the sense of 'verily.' They say באמת, be'emeth', 'in truth,' הימנותא, hemanutha, 'Faith!' or אמנם, 'omnam, 'verily.'" If so, the fact is interesting, for it implies that, notwithstanding the usage of "Amen" in Greek, our Lord himself, as speaking Aramaic, probably did not use it in the mere sense of strong asseveration, but rather always with its connotation of his entire concurrence in the statement he was making. In his mouth, that is to say, it always emphasized the thought of his personal acceptance of the statement with its legitimate issue. Observe that it makes no difference (cf. Jeremiah 28:6) whether the "Amen" comes at the beginning or at the end of his utterance. N.B. - Ναί (Luke 11:51; cf. Matthew 23:36) may be taken as intermediate between ἀληθῶς and ἀμήν. Ἀληθῶς states a truth; ναί assents with the intellect; ἀμήν, in at least Hebrew and Aramaic usage, accepts it with all its consequences (cf 2 Corinthians 1:19, 20). Till heaven and earth pass; Revised Version, pass away (παρέλθῃ); and so in the next clause. The same almost archaic sense of "pass" recurs in Psalm 148:6, Authorized Version (Revised Version, "pass away"). Observe that our Lord does not say that the Law will then pass away. He says, not till then; i.e. he affirms, as in Luke 16:17, that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the Law. For, in fact, as being constantly fulfilled in its ideal and therefore permanent character, it must necessarily remain in the new world; cf. 1 Peter 1:25 (the everlasting duration of the word of the Lord); 1 Corinthians 13:13 (love); 2 Peter 3:13 (righteousness); cf. Meyer. The belief in the permanence of the Law which the Jews had (vide references in Meyer, and especially Weber, 'Altsynag. Theol.,' §§ 5, 84) here finds its true satisfaction. "The least element of holiness which the Law contains has more reality and durability than the whole visible universe" (Godet on Luke). Comp. also Mark 13:31, "My words shall not pass away" - a claim only seen in its full three when put beside these words about the Law. One jot. The permanence of even every yod (y, j), though the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is not infrequently referred to by Jewish writers (cf. e.g. in Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.;' Edersheim, 'Life,' 1.537). Observe:

(1) The mention of yod, evidently because of its small size, is one proof of the fact that the Hebrew characters in use in our Lord's time were much more similar to the usual form under which we know them (Quadrate schrift) than to the form found on the Moabite Stone (Phoenician), where the god is no smaller than other letters (vide Euting's very complete table of forms of the Hebrew alphabet in Chwolsen, 'Corp. Inscript. Hebr.,' 1882; vide pp. 404-415 of the same work for Chwolson's much-controverted theory of the gradual development of the Quadrat-sehrift, roughly from the time of Ezra till the eighth or ninth century A.D., out of old Aramaic forms slightly removed from Phoenician; and for the early history of the Hebrew alphabet generally, see the introduction to Driver's 'Samuel.'

(2) We may, perhaps, see in our Lord's reference to yod and a "tittle" an indication that even already scrupulous care was taken of the text. The objection to this, derived from the non-literal quotations in the New Testament is due to a misunderstanding of Jewish methods of quotation. Or one tittle. So Wickliffe and Tyndale downwards; "apparently a diminutive of tit, small" (Aid. Wright, 'Bible WordBook'); κεραία (κερέα, Westcott and Heft, vide Appendix, p. 151), probably "a horn," then anything projecting like a horn. Used by the early Greek grammarians, like apex by the Latin, to designate:

(1) A little projection in a letter, especially the top, the apex; Nicander, "the top and bottom are each called κεραία (κεραία λέγεται τὸ ἄκρον καὶ ἔσχατον; gloss, κεραία γράμματος ἄκρον); cf. Plutarch, "disputing about syllables and κεραιῶν (λογομαχεῖν περὶ συλλαβῶν καὶ κεραιῶν); " vide Wetstein.

(2) Accents. So Thayer's Grimm; cf. Sophocles' 'Lex.' (1870) s.v. κεραία, "Apex, a mark over a letter, as in 5 (Philon., 2:536. 27);" but Philo in this passage only refers to κεραίαν ἑκάστην, without defining it. This double use of the Greek word forbids absolute certainty as to what our Lord was referring to, especially as the Hebrew word (קוצ, literally, "thorn") of which κεραία is a translation has itself a double sense, viz.:

(1) The end of a letter, especially the "thorn-like" small upward stroke of yod. So most interpreters since Origen (in Wetstein), who says that the Hebrew letters eaph (כ) and beth (ב) differ only by a short κεραία. They also quote the well-known Jewish examples (e.g. in Wetstein) of the effect of negligence in writing similar letters; e.g. if one writes resh (ר) for daleth (ד), "one" (Deuteronomy 6:4) becomes "another;" if heth (ח) for he (ה), "praise" (Psalm 150.) becomes "profane." It must be noticed that the extremities of such Hebrew letters as we possess, which were actually written in our Lord's time on earth, are much more "thorn" "horn"-like than those of our printed texts. I cannot, however, find קוצ actually used in this sense of other letters than yod.

(2) Some distinguishing mark over a letter to indicate care in writing and reading it, or to remind readers of some interpretation or rule attached as a peg to it or to the word of which it forms a part. It was much later, indeed, that such marks became very elaborate, but it is probable that the rudiments of them were known in our Lord's time (for such קוצים, cf. Weber, 'Altsynag. Theol.,' § 27, 2 a, and the article on Akiba in 'Dict. of Christian Biogr.'). If it be objected that our Lord could hardly refer to these marks of traditional explanation as of such permanence, the answer is that in so far as these expressed legitimate issues (vide infra, ver. 21) of the Mosaic Law, he could place them on the same level as that Law itself. Till all; Revised Version, till all things; i.e. all things in the Law - all the requirements of the Law, in contrast to the one "jot" or "tittle" just mentioned. Till all be fulfilled; Revised Version, be accomplished (γ´ενηται). The clause is probably epexegetical of "till heaven and earth pass away." Nothing in the Law shall pass away till heaven and earth pass away, when, with a new heaven and earth, all the contents of the Law will be completely realized (cf. Nosgen) so that even then nothing in the Law shall pass away (vide infra). On the contrary, every part of it, moral or ceremonial (Weiss), shall then, by being fully understood and obeyed in its true meaning, enter on its full and complete existence (γένητα). Matthew 5:18Jot, tittle (ἰῶτα κεραία)

Jot is for jod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Tittle is the little bend or point which serves to distinguish certain Hebrew letters of similar appearance. Jewish tradition mentions the letter jod as being irremovable; adding that, if all men in the world were gathered to abolish the least letter in the law, they would not succeed. The guilt of changing those little hooks which distinguish between certain Hebrew letters is declared to be so great that, if such a thing were done, the world would be destroyed.

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