Matthew 5:29
And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) If thy right eye offend thee.—The Greek verb means, strictly, to cause another to stumble or fall into a snare, and this was probably the sense in which the translators used the word “offend.” It is doubtful, however, whether it ever had this factitive sense in English outside the Authorised version, and the common use of the word gives so different a meaning that it cannot be regarded as a happy rendering. The difficulty of finding an equivalent is shown by the variations in the successive English versions: “offend,” in Tyndal’s; “hinder thee,” in Cranmer’s; “cause thee to offend,” in the Geneva; “scandalise,” in the Rhemish; “offend,” again in the Authorised version. Of these the Geneva is, beyond doubt, the best.

Pluck it out.—The bold severity of the phrase excludes a literal interpretation. The seat of the evil lies in the will, not in the organ of sense or action, and the removal of the instrument might leave the inward taint unpurified. What is meant is, that any sense, when it ministers to sin is an evil and not a good, the loss of which would be the truest gain. Translated into modern language, we are warned that taste, culture, æsthetic refinement may but make our guilt and our punishment more tremendous. It were better to be without them than

“Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.”

[“ And for life’s sake to lose life’s noblest ends.”]

It is profitable.—The element of prudential self-love, of a calculation of profit and loss, is not excluded from Christian motives. As addressed to a nation immersed in the pursuit of gain, it conveys the stern, yet pertinent, warning—“If you must think of profit, make your calculations wisely.”

Hell.—Gehenna, as in Matthew 5:22. The language is still symbolical. The horrid picture of a human body thrown into the foul, offal-fed flame of the Valley of Hinnom is again a parable of something more terrible than itself.

Matthew 5:29-30. If thy right eye offend thee — If any person or thing, as pleasant and as dear to thee as thy right eye, should be a stumbling-block in thy way, and an occasion of thy falling, or should be a means of insnaring thee, and leading thee into sin, pluck it out — With inexorable resolution: that is, give up and part with the beloved object. For it is profitable for thee — It will be to thine advantage, that one of thy members should perish — To suffer an apparent temporary loss of pleasure or profit, rather than that thy whole soul and body should perish eternally, which yet would be the fatal consequence of thy indulging a favourite lust. And if thy right hand offend, or insnare thee — Though it be so useful and necessary a part, do not spare it, but immediately cut it off and cast it from thee — “The greatest part of Christ’s auditors were poor people, who lived by their daily labour; and to these the loss of a right hand would be a much greater calamity than that of a right eye: so that there is a gradation and force in this passage beyond what has generally been observed.” — Doddridge. There is an allusion, in both instances, to the practice of surgeons, who, when any member of the body happens to be mortified, cut it off, to prevent the sound part from being tainted. And the meaning of the passage, stripped of the metaphor, is this: By the force of a strong resolution, founded on the grace of God, deny thyself the use of thy senses, though ever so delightful, in all cases where the use of them insnares thy soul. Turn away thine eye, and keep back thy hand from the alluring object. This, says Chrysostom, is a most mild and easy precept. It would have been much more hard, had he given commandment to converse with and look curiously on women, and then abstain from further commission of uncleanness with them. Upon the whole, we learn from these two verses, that the salvation of our immortal souls is to be preferred beyond all things, be they never so dear and precious to us; and that, if men’s ordinary discretion teaches them, for the preservation of their bodies, to cut off a particular member, which would necessarily endanger the whole body, it much more teaches them to part with any thing which would prevent the salvation of their souls.5:27-32 Victory over the desires of the heart, must be attended with painful exertions. But it must be done. Every thing is bestowed to save us from our sins, not in them. All our senses and powers must be kept from those things which lead to transgression. Those who lead others into temptation to sin, by dress or in other ways, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. If painful operations are submitted to, that our lives may be saved, what ought our minds to shrink from, when the salvation of our souls is concerned? There is tender mercy under all the Divine requirements, and the grace and consolations of the Spirit will enable us to attend to them.Thy right eye - The Hebrews, like others, were accustomed to represent the affections of the mind by the members or parts of the body, Romans 7:23; Romans 6:13. Thus, the bowels denoted compassion; the heart, affection or feeling; the reins, understanding, secret purpose. An evil eye denotes sometimes envy Matthew 20:15, and sometimes an evil passion, or sin in general. Mark 7:21-22; "out of the heart proceedeth an evil eye." In this place, as in 2 Peter 2:14, the expression is used to denote strong adulterous passion, unlawful desire, or wicked inclination. The right eye and hand are mentioned, because they are of most use to us, and denote that, however strong the passion may be, or difficult to part with, yet that we should do it.

Offend thee - The noun from which the verb "offend," in the original, is derived, commonly means a stumbling-block, or a stone placed in the way, over which one might fall. It also means a net, or a certain part of a net against which, if a bird strikes, it springs the net, and is taken. It comes to signify, therefore, anything by which we fall, or are ensnared; and applied to morals, means anything by which we fall into sin, or by which we are ensnared. The English word "offend" means now, commonly, to displease; to make angry; to affront. This is by no means the sense of the word in Scripture. It means to cause to fall into sin. The eye does this when it wantonly looks upon a woman to lust after her.

Pluck it out ... - It cannot be supposed that Christ intended this to be taken literally. His design was to teach that the dearest objects, if they cause us to sin, are to be abandoned; that by all sacrifices and self-denials we must overcome the evil propensities of our nature, and resist our wanton imaginations. Some of the fathers, however, took this commandment literally. Our Saviour several times repeated this sentiment. See Matthew 18:9; Mark 9:43-47. Compare also Colossians 3:5.

It is profitable for thee - It is better for thee. You will have gained by it.

One of thy members perish - It is better to deny yourself the gratification of an evil passion here, however much it may cost you, than to go down to hell forever.

Thy whole body should be cast into hell - Thy body, with all its unsubdued and vicious propensities. This will constitute no small part of the misery of hell. The sinner will be sent there as he is, with every evil desire, every unsubdued propensity, every wicked and troublesome passion, and yet with no possibility of gratification. It constitutes our highest notions of misery when we think of a man filled with anger, pride, malice, avarice, envy and lust, and with no opportunity of gratifying them forever. This is all that is necessary to make an eternal hell. On the word hell, see the notes at Matthew 5:22.

29. And if thy right eye—the readier and the dearer of the two.

offend thee—be a "trap spring," or as in the New Testament, be "an occasion of stumbling" to thee.

pluck it out and cast it from thee—implying a certain indignant promptitude, heedless of whatever cost to feeling the act may involve. Of course, it is not the eye simply of which our Lord speaks—as if execution were to be done upon the bodily organ—though there have been fanatical ascetics who have both advocated and practiced this, showing a very low apprehension of spiritual things—but the offending eye, or the eye considered as the occasion of sin; and consequently, only the sinful exercise of the organ which is meant. For as one might put out his eyes without in the least quenching the lust to which they ministered, so, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light," and, when directed by a holy mind, becomes an "instrument of righteousness unto God." At the same time, just as by cutting off a hand, or plucking out an eye, the power of acting and of seeing would be destroyed, our Lord certainly means that we are to strike at the root of such unholy dispositions, as well as cut off the occasions which tend to stimulate them.

for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell—He who despises the warning to cast from him, with indignant promptitude, an offending member, will find his whole body "cast," with a retributive promptitude of indignation, "into hell." Sharp language, this, from the lips of Love incarnate!

See Poole on "Matthew 5:30". And if thy right eye offend thee,.... Or "cause thee to offend", to stumble, and fall into sin. Our Lord has no regard here to near and dear relations seeking to alienate us from God and Christ, and hinder us in the pursuit of divine things; whose solicitations are to be rejected with the utmost indignation, and they themselves to be parted with, and forsaken, rather than complied with; which is the sense some give of the words: for both in this, and the following verse, respect is had only to the law of adultery; and to such members of the body, which often are the means of leading persons on to the breach of it; particularly the eye and hand. The eye is often the instrument of ensnaring the heart this way: hence the Jews have a (z) saying,

"whoever looks upon women, at the end comes into the hands of transgression.''

Mention is only made of the right eye; not but that the left may be an occasion of sinning, as well as the right; but that being most dear and valuable, is instanced in, and ordered to be parted with:

pluck it out, and cast it from thee: which is not to be understood literally; for no man is obliged to mutilate any part of his body, to prevent sin, or on account of the commission of it; this is no where required, and if done, would be sinful, as in the case of Origen: but figuratively; and the sense is, that persons should make a covenant with their eyes, as Job did; and turn them away from beholding such objects, which may tend to excite impure thoughts and desires; deny themselves the gratification of the sense of seeing, or feeding the eyes with such sights, as are graceful to the flesh; and with indignation and contempt, reject, and avoid all opportunities and occasions of sinning; which the eye may be the instrument of, and lead unto:

for it is profitable for thee, that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. This is still a continuation of the figure here used; and the meaning is, that it will turn to better account, to lose all the carnal pleasures of the eye, or all those pleasing sights, which are grateful to a carnal heart, than, by enjoying them, to expose the whole man, body and soul, to everlasting destruction, in the fire of hell.

(z) T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 20. 1.

And if thy {r} right eye {s} 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.

(r) He names the right eye and the right hand, because the parts of the right side of our bodies are the chiefest, and the most ready to commit any wickedness.

(s) Literally, do cause you to offend: for sins are stumbling blocks as it were, that is to say, rocks which we are cast upon.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 5:29.[409] Unconditional self-denial, however, is required in order not to stumble against the prohibition of adultery in its complete meaning, and thereby to fall into hell. Better for thee that thou decidedly deprive thyself of that which is so dear and indispensable to thee for the temporal life, and the sacrificing of which will be still so painful to thee, than that thou, seduced thereby, and so on. In the typical expression of this thought (comp. on Colossians 3:5) the eye and hand are named, because it is precisely these that are the media of lust; and the right members, because to these the popular idea gave the superiority over the left, Exodus 29:20; 1 Samuel 11:2; Zechariah 11:17; Aristotle, de animal. incessu, 4. The non-typical but literal interpretation (Pricaeus, Fritzsche, likewise Ch. F. Fritzsche in his Nov. Opusc. p. 347 f., Arnoldi) is not in keeping with the spirit of the moral strictness of Jesus; and to help it out by supplying a limitation (perhaps in the extreme case, to which, however, it cannot come; comp. Tholuck) is arbitrary. The view, however, which is, indeed, also the proper one, but hyperbolical, according to which the plucking, out is said to represent only the restraining or limiting the use, does not satisfy the strength of the expression. So Olshausen, comp. already Grotius. Only the typical view, which is also placed beyond doubt by the mention of the one eye, satisfies the words and spirit of Jesus. Yet, having regard to the plastic nature of the figures, it is not the thought “as is done to criminals” (Keim), but merely that of thoroughgoing, unsparing self-discipline (Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14; Romans 8:13).

σκανδαλίζει] a typical designation, borrowed from a trap (σκανδάλη and σκανδάλεθρον, the trap-spring), of the idea of seducing to unbelief, heresy, sin, etc. Here it is the latter idea. The word is not found in Greek writers, but in the LXX. and Apocrypha, and very frequently in the N. T. Observe the present. What is required is not to take place only after the completion of the seduction.

συμφέρει γάρ σοι, ἵνα, κ.τ.λ.] not even here, as nowhere indeed, does ἵνα stand instead of the infinitive (comp. Matthew 18:6), but is to be taken as teleological:it is of importance to thee (this plucking out of the eye), in order that one of thy members may be destroyed, and not thy whole body be cast into hell.” Thus Fritzsche alone correctly; comp. Käuffer. The alleged forced nature of this explanation is a deception arising from the customary usage of the infinitive in German.

καὶ μὴ ὅλονγέενναν] namely, at the closely impending establishment of the kingdom; comp. Matthew 10:28. Matthew 5:30 is the same thought, solemnly repeated, although not quite in the same words (see the critical remarks). “Sane multos unius membri neglecta mortificatio perdit,” Bengel.

[409] Comp. Matthew 18:8 f.; Mark 9:43 ff. Holtzmann assigns the original form to Mark. On the other hand, see Weiss.Matthew 5:29-30. Counsel to the tempted, expressing keen perception of the danger and strong recoil from a sin to be shunned at all hazards, even by excision, as it were, of offending members; two named, eye and hand, eye first as mentioned before.—ὁ ὀφ. ὁ δεξιὸς: the right eye deemed the more precious (1 Samuel 11:2, Zechariah 11:17). Similarly Matthew 5:30 the right hand, the most indispensable for work. Even these right members of the body must go. But as the remaining left eye and hand can still offend, it is obvious that these counsels are not meant to be taken literally, but symbolically, as expressing strenuous effort to master sexual passion (vide Grotius). Mutilation will not serve the purpose; it may prevent the outward act, but it will not extinguish desire.—σκανδαλίζει, cause to stumble; not found in Greek authors but in Sept[25] Sirach, and in N. T. in a tropical moral sense. The noun σκάνδαλον is also of frequent occurrence, a late form for σκανδάληθρον, a trap-stick with bait on it which being touched the trap springs. Hesychius gives as its equivalent ἐμποδισμός. It is used in a literal sense in Leviticus 19:14 (Sept[26]).—συμφέρειἵνα ἀπολ.: ἵνα with subjunctive instead of infinitive (vide on ch. Matthew 4:3). Meyer insists on ἵνα having here as always its telic sense and praises Fritzsche as alone interpreting the passage correctly. But, as Weiss observes, the mere destruction of the member is not the purpose of its excision. Note the impressive solemn repetition in Matthew 5:30 of the thought in Matthew 5:29, in identical terms save that for βληθῇ is substituted, in the true reading, ἀπέλθῃ. This logion occurs again in Matthew (Matthew 18:8-9). Weiss (Marc.-Evang., 326) thinks it is taken here from the Apostolic document, i.e., Matthew’s book of Logia, and there from Mark 9:43-47.

[25] Septuagint.

[26] Septuagint.29. thy right eye] suggested by the preceding verse. The eye and the hand are not only in themselves good and serviceable, but necessary. Still they may become the occasion of sin to us. So pursuits and pleasures innocent in themselves may bring temptation, and involve us in sin. These must be resigned, however great the effort implied in “cast it from thee.”

offend thee] “cause thee to fall.”Matthew 5:29. Ὁ δεξιὸς, the right) The right, strictly speaking in the case of the hands, is most useful and most precious, thence also, it is mentioned in the case of the eyes, feet, etc.—See Zechariah 11:17; Exodus 29:20.—σκανδαλίζει, is a stumbling-block to) so that you should see wrongly; as in the case of your hand, so that you should act wrongly.—ἔξελε αὐτὸν, pluck it out) not the eye absolutely, but the eye which is a stumbling-block, i.e., make all things hard to thyself, until it cease to be a stumbling-block to thee. Not the organ itself, but the concupiscence which animates the eye or hand is meant: for this is the soul of the eye where that organ proves a stumbling-block; in like manner as soon afterwards the body is said for the [whole] man [soul as well as body]. He who, where his eye proves a stumbling-block, takes care not to see, does in reality blind himself. On the other hand, a man might pluck out his material eye, and yet cherish concupiscence within. A similar mode of expression occurs in Coloss. Matthew 3:5, where the apostle says—Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth; fornication, etc. A negative maxim is frequently expressed by affirming the opposite.—See Matthew 5:39-40, and ch. Matthew 6:17.—βάλε, cast) with earnestness. The expression βληθῇ, be cast) in the next verse has reference to this.—συμφέρει, it is profitable) to thy salvation. Not only is it not hurtful, but also it will be glorious.—ἀπόληται, should perish) True self-abnegation is not of less amount than the loss of an eye, etc.: and it is so necessary that it is better to be deprived of an eye itself, than to sin with the eye, unless the sin may be separated from the eye. An eye which is actually plucked out, as in the case of a martyr, will be restored in the resurrection.—ἕν τῶν αελῶν σου, one of thy members) Many, indeed, have been destroyed by neglecting the mortification of one member, as, for example, the gullet.—ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου, thy whole body) If one member sin, the whole man sins and pays the penalty.—γέενναν, hell) of eternal fire.—See ch. Matthew 18:8, etc.Verses 29, 30. - Also in Matthew 18:8, 9 (parallel passage, Mark 9:43-47); the chief differences being

(1) that they are there adduced with reference to "offences" generally;

(2) that the foot is mentioned, as well as the eye and the hand. It seems not improbable that this saying was spoken twice.

The reason why our Lord did not mention the foot here may be either that that member is less immediately connected with sins of the flesh than the other two (cf. Wetstein, in loc., "Averte oculum a vultu illecebroso: arce manum ab impudicis contrectationibus"), or, as seems more probable, that the eye and the hand represent the two sets of faculties receptive and active, and together express man's whole nature. The insertion of the foot in ch. 18:8, 9, only makes the illustration more definite. "The remark in ver. 29f treats of what is to be done by the subjects of the kingdom when, in spite of themselves, evil desires are aroused" (Weiss, 'Life,' 2:149). Verse 29. - Right. Not in ch. 18, and parallel passage. Inserted to enhance the preciousness of the members spoken of (cf. Zechariah 11:17; cf. ver. 39). Offend thee; Authorized Version, do cause thee to offend; Revised Version, cause thee to stumble (σκανδαλίζει σε). Perhaps the verb originally referred to the stick of a trap (σκάνδαλον, a Hellenistic word, apparently equivalent to σκανδάληθρον) striking the person's foot, and so catching him in the trap; but when found in literature (almost solely in the New Testament) it has apparently lost all connotation of the trap, and only means causing a person to stumble (for an analysis of its use in the New Testament, vide especially Cremer, s.v.). Pluck it out, and cast it from thee. The second clause shows the purely figurative character of the sentence. Our Lord commands

(1) the removal of the means of "offence" out of the place of affection that it has long held;

(2) the putting it away so thoroughly, both by the manner of the act and the distance placed between the "offence" and the person, that restoration is almost impossible. In both verbs the aorist brings out the decisiveness of the action. For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish. It is better to lose one faculty, one sphere of usefulness, one part of those things which normally make a person complete, than that the person himself should be lost. Notice the sixfold personal pronoun in this one verse; "Our Lord grounds his precept of the most rigid and decisive self-denial on the considerations of the truest self interest" (Alford). Should be cast. For to One thy whole person will become as abhorrent as the offending member ought in fact now to be to thee (βάλε βληθῇ). Offend (σκανδαλίξει)

The word offend carries to the English reader the sense of giving offence, provoking. Hence the Rev., by restoring the picture in the word, restores its true meaning, causeth to stumble. The kindred noun is σκάνδαλον, a later form of σκανδάληθρον, the stick in a trap on which the bait is placed, and which springs up and shuts the trap at the touch of an animal. Hence, generally, a snare, a stumbling-block. Christ's meaning here is: "If your eye or your hand serve as an obstacle or trap to ensnare or make you fall in your moral walk." How the eye might do this may be seen in the previous verse. Bengel observes: "He who, when his eye proves a stumbling-block, takes care not to see, does in reality blind himself." The words scandal and slander are both derived from σκάνδαλον; and Wyc. renders, "If thy right eye slander thee." Compare Aeschylus, "Choephori," 301,372.

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