Matthew 5:21
You have heard that it was said of them of old time, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) By them of old time.—There is no reasonable doubt that the marginal reading, to them of old time, is right. The construction is identical with that of Romans 9:12; Romans 9:26; Galatians 3:16; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 9:4. Two questions present themselves for answer: (1) Who were “they of old time”? (2) Who was the speaker of the words quoted? (1) The words are very general, and, as interpreted by the use of “old time” in Acts 15:21, seem to point to the time when synagogues began to be established, i.e., after the return from Babylon. (2) The impersonal form, the contrast between “it was said,” and “I say unto you,” the tone of authority imposing a new law for that which it supersedes, seem conclusive against referring the words, even when they are found in the Law, to that Law as given by God through Moses. Stress is laid on the words “Ye heard that it was said.” “This was the report of the Law given you by your teachers in school and synagogue. I give you another and truer report. Not what you so heard, but what I now say unto you is the true completion of the Law and the Prophets, and therefore the abiding law of my kingdom.”

Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.—The fact that these words are not found in the Old Testament confirms the view that our Lord is speaking of the traditional comments on the Law, and not of the Law itself. The phrase “in danger” had a somewhat more technical sense in A.D. 1611 than it has now, and meant “legally liable to.” The “judgment” spoken of was that of the local courts of Deuteronomy 16:18. They had the power of capital punishment, but the special form of death by stoning was reserved for the Sanhedrim, or Council.

Matthew 5:21-22. Ye have heard — Namely, from the scribes reciting the law, that it was said by them of old time, or to the ancients, as ερρεθη τιος αρχαιοις, might be properly rendered. Thou shalt not kill — Words which they interpreted barely of the outward act of murder; and whosoever shall kill — Or be guilty of that act, shall be in danger of, or, obnoxious to the judgment — To understand this, it is necessary to observe, that the Jews had, in every city, a common court of twenty-three men, which, before the Roman government was established in Judea, had the power of life and death, so far as its jurisdiction extended, and could punish criminals with strangling or beheading. This was called the judgment, and the meaning of the clause is, that such a criminal should be capitally punished in the common courts of judicature. But I say unto you — Which of the prophets ever spake thus? Their language was, Thus saith the Lord. Who hath authority to use this language, but the one Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy? Whosoever is angry with his brother — With any child of man, for we are all brethren; without a cause — Or further than that cause warrants; shall be in danger of the judgment — Shall be liable to a worse punishment from God than any that your common courts of judicature can inflict. It must be observed, that the word εικη, here rendered without cause, and which might properly be translated rashly, or inconsiderately, is wanting in some old versions and manuscripts, and, it seems, ought not to be inserted, being “utterly foreign to the whole scope and tenor of our Lord’s discourse. For if he had only forbidden the being angry without a cause, there was no manner of need of that solemn declaration, I say unto you; for the scribes and Pharisees themselves said as much as this. Even they taught men ought not to be angry without a cause. So that this righteousness does not exceed theirs. But Christ teaches that we ought not, for any cause, to be so angry as to call any man raca, or fool. We ought not, for any cause, to be angry at the person of the sinner, but at his sin only. Happy world, were this plain and necessary distinction thoroughly understood, remembered, and practised.” — Wesley. Raca, means a silly man, or an empty, worthless fellow. Κενε, vain man, used James 2:20, seems to be a translation of it; for, as Jerome observes, it is derived from the Hebrew, rick, which signifies vain, or empty. Shall be in danger of the council — In the Greek, συνεδριον; “a word which the Jews adopted into their language, and giving it a Hebrew termination, sanhedrim, appropriated it to their supreme council, whose business was to judge in the most important affairs; for instance, in all matters relative to religion, as when any person pretended to be a prophet, or attempted to make innovations in the established worship. This court could, while the republic lasted, inflict the heaviest punishments; particularly stoning, or burning, with melted lead poured down the throat of the criminal, after he was half strangled.” — Macknight. Whosoever shall say, Thou fool — Or, Thou graceless, wicked villain: so the word fool generally signifies in Scripture: for as religion is the highest wisdom, vice must be accounted the extremest folly: the meaning here is, Whosoever shall break out into open revilings and reproaches against any man, shall be in danger of hell fire Ενοχος εσται εις γεενναν του πυρος, shall be obnoxious to a gehenna of fire, that is, by a common figure of speech, “obnoxious to the fire of the valley of Hinnom,” obnoxious to a degree of future punishment, which may fitly be represented by that fire. Of the valley of Hinnom, called also Tophet, see notes on Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23:10; Isaiah 30:33. It was the scene of the detestable worship of Moloch, that horrid idol of the Ammonites, to which the Israelites burned their children alive as sacrifices. “In later times, continual fires were kept in this valley for burning the unburied carcasses and filth of the city, that, being thus polluted, it might be unfit for the like religious abominations. The Jews, from the perpetuity of these fires, and to express the utmost detestation of the sacrifices which were offered to Moloch in this valley, made use of its name to signify hell. Hence our translators have given Tophet, or gehenna, its metaphorical meaning in the present passage, whereas it ought rather to have had its literal signification. For our Lord, intending to show his hearers that the punishment of causeless anger, contemptuous speeches, and abusive names, shall, in the life to come, bear a proportion to the guilt that is in these sins; and finding no name in the language of men by which those different degrees of punishment could properly be expressed, he illustrated them by the punishments which the Jews were acquainted with.”5:21-26 The Jewish teachers had taught, that nothing except actual murder was forbidden by the sixth commandment. Thus they explained away its spiritual meaning. Christ showed the full meaning of this commandment; according to which we must be judged hereafter, and therefore ought to be ruled now. All rash anger is heart murder. By our brother, here, we are to understand any person, though ever so much below us, for we are all made of one blood. Raca, is a scornful word, and comes from pride: Thou fool, is a spiteful word, and comes from hatred. Malicious slanders and censures are poison that kills secretly and slowly. Christ told them that how light soever they made of these sins, they would certainly be called into judgment for them. We ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with all our brethren; and if at any time there is a quarrel, we should confess our fault, humble ourselves to our brother, making or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed: and we should do this quickly; because, till this is done, we are unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances. And when we are preparing for any religious exercises, it is good for us to make that an occasion of serious reflection and self-examination. What is here said is very applicable to our being reconciled to God through Christ. While we are alive, we are in the way to his judgement-seat; after death, it will be too late. When we consider the importance of the case, and the uncertainty of life, how needful it is to seek peace with God, without delay!Ye have heard - Or, this is the common interpretation among the Jews. Jesus proceeds here to comment on some prevailing opinions among the Jews; to show that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was defective; and that people needed a better righteousness, or they could not be saved. He illustrates what he meant by that better righteousness by showing that the common opinions of the scribes were erroneous.

By them of old time - This might be translated to the ancients, referring to Moses and the prophets. But it is more probable that Jesus here refers to the interpreters of the law and the prophets. He did not set himself against the law of Moses, but against the false and pernicious interpretations of the law prevalent in his time.

Thou shalt not kill - See Exodus 20:13. This properly denotes taking the life of another with malice, or with an intention to murder him. The Jews understood it as meaning no more. The comment of our Saviour shows that it was spiritual, and was designed to extend to the thoughts and feelings as well as the external act.

Shall be in danger of - Shall be held guilty, and be punished by. The law of Moses declared that the murderer should be put to death, Leviticus 24:21; Numbers 35:16. It did not say, however, by whom this should be done, and it was left to the Jews to organize courts to have cognizance of such crimes, Deuteronomy 16:18.

The judgment - This was the tribunal that had cognizance of cases of murder, etc. It was a court that sat in each city or town, and consisted commonly of seven members. It was the lowest court among the Jews, and from it an appeal might be taken to the Sanhedrin.

21. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time—or, as in the Margin, "to them of old time." Which of these translations is the right one has been much controverted. Either of them is grammatically defensible, though the latter—"to the ancients"—is more consistent with New Testament usage (see the Greek of Ro 9:12, 26; Re 6:11; 9:4); and most critics decide in favor of it. But it is not a question of Greek only. Nearly all who would translate "to the ancients" take the speaker of the words quoted to be Moses in the law; "the ancients" to be the people to whom Moses gave the law; and the intention of our Lord here to be to contrast His own teaching, more or less, with that of Moses; either as opposed to it—as some go the length of affirming—or at least as modifying, enlarging, elevating it. But who can reasonably imagine such a thing, just after the most solemn and emphatic proclamation of the perpetuity of the law, and the honor and glory in which it was to be held under the new economy? To us it seems as plain as possible that our Lord's one object is to contrast the traditional perversions of the law with the true sense of it as expounded by Himself. A few of those who assent to this still think that "to the ancients" is the only legitimate translation of the words; understanding that our Lord is reporting what had been said to the ancients, not by Moses, but by the perverters of his law. We do not object to this; but we incline to think (with Beza, and after him with Fritzsche, Olshausen, Stier, and Bloomfield) that "by the ancients" must have been what our Lord meant here, referring to the corrupt teachers rather than the perverted people.

Thou shall not kill:—that is, This being all that the law requires, whosoever has imbrued his hands in his brother's blood, but he only, is guilty of a breach of this commandment.

and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment—liable to the judgment; that is, of the sentence of those inferior courts of judicature which were established in all the principal towns, in compliance with De 16:16. Thus was this commandment reduced, from a holy law of the heart-searching God, to a mere criminal statute, taking cognizance only of outward actions, such as that which we read in Ex 21:12; Le 24:17.

See Poole on "Matthew 5:22". Ye have heard,.... That is, from the Scriptures being read to them, and the explanations of the ancients, which were called "hearing", being read in the schools, and heard by the scholars (o); so that to "hear", was along with the recital of the text, to receive by tradition, the sense the elders had given of it: of this kind is the instance produced by Christ. Thus Onkelos, and Jonathan ben Uzziel, render the phrase, "him shall ye hear", in Deuteronomy 18:15 by , "from him shall ye receive"; so those phrases (p), , "they learn from hearing", or by report from others; and "they speak from hearing", or from what they have heard, are often used for receiving and reporting things as they have them by tradition. That "it was said", or "it hath been said"; this is also a Talmudic form of expression; often is this phrase to be met with in the Talmud, "it has been said" (q); that is, by the ancient doctors, as here, "by them of old time", or "to the ancients", so in Munster's Hebrew Gospel; not to the Israelites in the time of Moses, but to the ancestors of the Jews, since the times of Ezra; by the elders, who were contemporary with them; and who by their false glosses corrupted the law, when they recited any part of it to the people; or "by the ancients", the ancient doctors and commentators, which preceded the times of Christ, whom the Jews often call "our ancients" (r). Now, upon that law, "thou shalt not kill", they put this gloss, or added this by way of interpretation,

and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment; which they understood only of actual murder, either committed in their own persons, or by the means of others. Their rules for the judgment of such persons were these;

"everyone that kills his neighbour with his hand; as if he strikes him with a sword, or with a stone that kills him; or strangles him till he die; or burns him in fire; seeing he kills him in any manner, in his own person, lo! such an one must be put to death , "by the house of judgment", or the sanhedrim (s).''

Not that which consisted of three persons only, but either that which consisted of twenty three, or the supreme one, which was made up of seventy one; which two last had only power of judging capital offences. Again,

"if a man hires a murderer to kill his neighbour, or sends his servants, and they kill him, or binds him, and leaves him before a lion, or the like, and the beast kills him, everyone of these is a shedder of blood; and the sin of slaughter is in his hand; and he is guilty of death by the hand of heaven, i.e. God; but he is not to be put to death by the house of judgment, or the sanhedrim (t).''

A little after, it is said, "their judgment" is delivered to heaven, i.e. to God; and this seems to be the sense of the word "judgment" here, namely, the judgment of God, or death by the hand of God; since it is manifestly distinguished from the council, or sanhedrim, in the next "verse". The phrase,

in danger of judgment, is the same with (u) , "guilty of judgment", or deserves condemnation.

(o) Vid. Buxtorf. Lex. Rabbin, fol. 2453. (p) Maimon. Hilch. Issure Mizbeach, c. 1. sect. 2, 4, 5, 7, 10. & passim, & T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 88. 1.((q) Vid. Edzardi Not. in Avoda Zara, c. 2. p. 284. (r) Vid. R. Aben Ezra in Exodus 21.17. & in Isaiah 52.13. & lxvi. 24. (s) Maimon. Hilch. Rotseach, c. 2. sect. 1.((t) Maimon. Hilch. Rotseach, c. 2. sect. 2.((u) In Targ. in 2 Chronicles 19.10.

{5} Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

(5) The true meaning of the first commandment.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 5:21. There now follow on to the end of the chapter six—neither five (Hilgenfeld) nor seven (Köstlin)—antithetic examples of the fulfilling of the law of Jesus, not merely derived from the Decalogue, or from its second table (Keim), but from the Pentateuch generally; not, however, of an antinomian kind, consequently not in opposition to the divine law itself (Chrysostom and many Fathers, Maldonatus, Neander, Bleek, Socinians and Arminians), but opposed, indeed, to all the manifold limitations and one-sided apprehensions and applications of the same, as it was represented and followed out in life by the common traditional Judaism, and specially by the Pharisees, without insight into the deeper unity and the purely moral absolute meaning. Comp. also Hofmann, Schriftbew. I. p. 599 f.; Harless, d. Ehescheidungsfrage, 1861, p. 7 f.; Weiss, Keim. That use of the law produced a false legalism, without sincerity and virtue, in opposition to which Jesus wishes to develope and assert the true and full righteous morality out of the divine law.

ἠκούσατε] from the law which is read before you (John 12:34; Romans 2:13; Galatians 4:21; Acts 15:21), and from the instruction which you have received regarding its exposition.

τοῖς ἀρχαίοις] may grammatically be taken not only as a dative (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Luther, Erasmus, Grotius, Wetstein, Bengel, and many others; also Tholuck, Neander, de Wette, Ritschl, Bleek, Weizsäcker), but also as an ablative: by the ancients (see Kühner, II. 1, p. 368 f.; Winer, p. 206 [E. T. 277]); so Beza, Piscator, Schoettgen, Raphel, and many; also Paulus, Kuinoel, Fritzsche, Olshausen, Baumgarten, Ewald, Lechler, Keim. On the first rendering, which most obviously suggests itself (Romans 9:12; Romans 9:26; Galatians 3:16; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 9:4), the ancients are the Jewish generations of earlier times (before Christ), to which Moses and his followers (Matthew 23:2 f.), the scribes, spoke (de Wette, Ritschl), not simply the Israelites in the time of Moses, to whom the latter spoke (Neander, Bleek); on the latter view it is Moses (who would not have to be excluded, as Keim maintains), and his ancient expositors learned in the Scripture; for there follow their sayings, which are partly without, partly accompanied with, additions proceeding from the scribes. The decision between these two views is given not merely by the constant usage of the N. T., which joins ἐῤῥέθη with the dative, but also by the antithesis ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, in which ἐγώ corresponds to the logical subject of ἐῤῥέθη, and ὑμῖν to τοῖς ἀρχαίοις; the latter consequently cannot itself be the subject. Luther therefore rightly renders: that it is said to them of old time.[406] Pointless objections are made by Keim, II. p. 248, who even finds in this view something opposed to the sense; because the people of the present day have not yet heard of that which was enjoined on them of old time, but of what has been enjoined upon themselves. On the other hand, it is to be recollected that it was precisely a peculiarity of the Jewish method of instruction, and still is so, to refer the present generation to those of old time, to inculcate upon the former the παράδοσις which had been common in ancient times, and had been already given to their forefathers. Thus the people of the present time have certainly heard in the synagogues what was said to them of old time. Comp., moreover, Diodorus Siculus xxii. 20 : καλῶς εἴρηται τοῖς παλαῖοις, ὅτι, κ.τ.λ.

οὐ φονεύσεις] Exodus 20:12. The prohibition refers to the act, though not by itself, but as the effect of anger, of hostility, and so on; for there is also a putting to death which is permitted, nay, even commanded. The Pharisaic explanation and application of the legal saying was confined to the literal prohibition of the act; the fulfiller of the law lays open the whole disposition that deserves punishment, which, as the ethical condition of the act, was aimed at by the prohibition of the latter. The following words contain a traditional addition, although one not alien to the law, by the scribes, who interpreted that prohibition externally.

κρίσις, according to Matthew 5:22, opposed to the Sanhedrin, is the local court, found, according to Deuteronomy 16:18, in every city of Palestine, to which it belonged to take cognizance of and to punish even murder (execution by the sword), 2 Chronicles 19:5; Josephus, Antt. iv. 8. 14. According to the Rabbins, it consisted of twenty-three members; according to Josephus, of seven. See generally, Tholuck, Keil, Arch. II. p. 250 ff. To the higher court of justice, the Sanhedrin, Matthew 5:22, it belonged to take cognizance also of crimes punishable by stoning.

[406] Instead of ἐῤῥέθη, Lachmann and Tischendorf have, after B D E K V, the form ἐῤῥήθη. Both forms are found in Plato (see Heindorf, ad Gorg. p. 46), to whom, however, Schneider, ad Pol. V. p. 450 A, everywhere assigns the latter as the proper one. The first is the more common in the later Greek, and therefore to be preferred in the N. T. See in general, Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 447. Comp. on Romans 9:12; Galatians 3:16.Matthew 5:21-26. First illustration of Christ’s ethical attitude, taken from the Sixth Commandment. In connection with this and the following exemplifications of Christ’s ethical method, the interpreter is embarrassed by the long-continued strifes of the theological schools, which have brought back the spirit of legalism, from which the great Teacher sought to deliver His disciples. It will be best to ignore these strifes and go steadily on our way.(a) Instances from the Decalogue, Matthew 5:21-37. (a) Murder, Matthew 5:21-26.

21. Ye have heard] Rather, ye heard either in the service of the synagogue or in the teaching of the scribes.

by them of old time] Better, to them of old time.

in danger of] Lit. bound by them, liable, exposed to.Matthew 5:21. Ἠκούσατε, ye have heard) From public readings, to which you have given your assent. In the New Testament the teachers are referred to their reading of the law, the people to their hearing of it. See John 12:34; Romans 2:13; Romans 2:18.—ὅτι ἐῤῥέθη, that it has been said) An impersonal form of speech, to which is elegantly opposed, I say. Moses said it truly; the interpreters of Moses said it with altered meaning: the hearers did not distinguish the meaning of Moses from that of his interpreters. The name of Moses occurs, but with a less forcible contrast, in ch. Matthew 19:8-9, sc. Moses permitted, but [I] say unto you, where I is not expressed in the original, for there is no contention between Moses and Christ: the Jews had departed from both Moses and Christ. The language of Christ does not exceed the law of Moses (see ch. Matthew 7:12); for concupiscence, proscribed in Matthew 5:28, is also prohibited by the law: see Romans 7:7. He however restores the truths which the Scribes had taken from the law, and clears away the falsehoods which they had added; see Matthew 5:43. The phrase, “But I say,” is an antithetic formula, by which Christ, as if Moses had never existed (for the servant gives place to his Lord), orders all things simply, not in the guise of a Legislator or Interpreter, but as the Son declaring the will of His Father: see ch. Matthew 7:21, and cf. ch. Matthew 3:17. The law is perfect: whatever the Saviour prohibits or commands in this passage, the law had previously prohibited or commanded: it judges the secrets of the heart (see Romans 7:14); but on account of the hard heart of the people, it more frequently expresses outward acts. Therefore the Lord says, “But I say unto you,” not, “Moses however said unto you.” The Jews were in many things otherwise circumstanced in the time of the Pharisees than in the time of Moses.—τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, to them of old time[197]) sc. the fathers in the time of Moses. The Scribes wished to appear to be in conformity with the ancient and primitive rule. Antiquity should be maintained, but it should be genuine antiquity.[198]—ὑμῖν, to you) This word is antithetic[199] to τοῖς ἀρχαιοῖς, from whence it is evident, that τοῖς ἀρχαίοις (antiquis) is not in the ablative, but in the dative case; and the construction is more easy if we render the passage thus, “it was said TO them of old time, than thus, “it was said BY them of old time.”—οὐ φονεύσεις, thou shalt not kill) Our Lord begins with the clearest precept.—τῇ κρίσει, to the judgment) The Hebrew דִּין, rendered κρίσις, was the inferior tribunal existing in the several towns, and consisted of twenty-three judges, who had the power of life and death. The dative, τῇ κρίσει, signifies, as far as belongs to[200] the judgment, or municipal tribunal: in like manner, in the next verse τῷ συνεδρίῳ signifies as far as belongs to the Sanhedrim: for ἔνοχος, criminal, is here used absolutely.

[197] E. V. by them of old time.—(I. B.)

[198] In fact, it was not in the time of Moses, and to the ancients [“to them of old time”], that the rather lax interpretation of the law was set forth, but in the time of the Scribes and Pharisees, and to the men of that age. The Scribes themselves were the persons who crusted over with the plea of antiquity their own innovations, as generally happens in religious controversies, or when morals are being corrupted.—Vers. Germ.

[199] See Explanation of technical terms in Appendix.—(I. B.)

[200] In the original, “quod ad judicium attinet,” where in the phrase, “quod attinet,” generally rendered “with respect to,” “as regards,” etc., attinet seems to have its own more peculiar and precise force of pertains;—and to signify, “is the province of,” “comes under the jurisdiction of;”—a meaning which appears to coincide with Bengel’s observations on the next verse.—(I. B.)Verses 21-48. - (a) Our Lord is still concerned with the relation of himself and his followers to the religion of the day, of which the Old Testament (ver. 17), and more especially the Law (ver. 18), was the accepted standard. But after having spoken of the need of careful attention to (vers. 17,18), and observance of (ver. 19), even the least commands of the Law, he goes on to point out the far-reaching character of these commands, whether they are such as we should call more (vers. 21, 27, 81) or less (vers. 33, 38, 43) impotent. It is essential to notice that our Lord refers to these commands, not merely as statements contained in the Law, but as part of the religion of the day, and that he contrasts their true bearing on life and conduct with that false bearing on this which was commonly predicated of them. By this it is not meant that our Lord was only opposing such narrow glosses and interpretations as had arisen at various times during the centuries after the promulgation of the Law (for these were for the most part perfectly natural and legitimate developments of the earliest possible interpretations of it), still less that he was thinking only of the worst of the misrepresentations of its commands, comparatively recently made by the Pharisees; but that he was now going back, beyond this so far natural and normal development of the earliest interpretations, to the first principles underlying the revelation contained in the Law. While the Jews, not unnaturally, clung to the primary, but temporary, meaning of the Law as a revelation of God's will for them as a nation, our Lord was now about to expound its commands as a revelation of God's permanent will for them and all men as men. Our Lord was now, that is to say, wishing to do more than merely cut off the excrescences that, chiefly through the Pharisaic party, had grown up round the Law, but less than root up the Law itself. He rather cuts down the whole growth that had been, notwithstanding some mere excrescences, the right and proper outcome of the Law in its original environment, in order that, in fresh environment, which corresponded better to its nature, the Law might produce a growth still more right and proper. Verses 21-26. - The sixth commandment. Verses 21-24 Matthew only; vers. 25, 26 have parts common to Luke. Verse 21. - Ye have heard (ἠκούσατε, frequentative aorist). Our Lord does not say, "ye have read" (cf. Matthew 21:42), for he was not now speaking to the learned classes, but to a large audience many of whom were probably unable to read. "Ye have heard," i.e. from your teachers whose teaching claims to be the substance of the Law. So, probably, even in John 12:34, where the multitude say that they "have heard out of the Law that the Christ abideth for ever," which, since this is hardly expressed in so many words in the Old Testament, must mean that the instructions they have received on this subject truly represent the substance of its teaching. So here our Lord says, "You have heard from your teachers (cf. Romans 2:18) that the substance of the sixth commandment is so-and-so." It is thus quite intelligible that in some of these utterances there should be found added to (vers. 21, 43) or intermingled with (ver. 33) the words of a passage of Scripture, other words which are either taken from Scripture, but from another place in it (perhaps ver. 33), or do not occur in Scripture at all, but merely help to form a compendious statement of a definite interpretation (here and ver. 43). It must remain doubtful whether our Lord himself formulated these statements of the popular teaching, or quoted them verbally as current. If the latter, as is perhaps more likely, there remains the at present still more insoluble question whether they were only oral or (cf. the case of the 'Didaehe') had already been committed to writing (cf. in this connexion Bishop Westcott, 'Hebr.,' p. 480). That it was said by them of old time (ὅτι ἐῥῤέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις). By; Revised Version, to. Similarly ver. 33. Although "by" may be defended (cf. Madvig, § 39 g), "to" (Wickliffe and Tyndale downwards) is certainly right, because

(a) it is the common usage with a passive verb;

(b) it is the constant usage with ἐῥῤέθη in the New Testament (e.g. Romans 9:12, 26);

(c) the parallelism with ἐγὼ δέ κ.τ.λ., is more exact;

(d) the popular teaching claimed to be, even in its strictest esoteric form of oral tradition, derived ultimately, not from the words of any human teachers, however primitive, but from the words of God spoken by him to them. In the case before us our Lord accepts the popular teaching of the time as truly representing the Divine utterance in the giving of the Law, so far as that utterance was then intended to be understood. Them of old time. This can hardly be limited to "the original founders of the Jewish Commonwealth," to use Trench's curiously unbiblical expression ('Syn.,' § 67.). It probably includes all who lived a generation or more before our Lord's time (cf. Weiss). Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. The substance, according to the popular teaching, of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). This the current form of it (based partly on Leviticus 24:21; Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 19:12) was that murder was not to be committed, and that if it was committed the murderer was to be brought up for trial. Shall be in danger of (ἔνοχος ἔσται); i.e. in legal danger - legally guilty of a charge which involves the judgment (cf. Matthew 26:66). The judgment; i.e. the local Sanhedrin (cf. Matthew 10:17), of apparently seven men in a smaller, twenty-three in a larger, town (cf. Schurer, II. 1. pp. 149-154). This answers to "the congregation," or "the elders" of the town to which the murderer belonged, before whom he was to be tried (Numbers 35:12, 16, 24; Deuteronomy 19:12).
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Matthew 5:20
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