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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his
2 saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever
they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not
They tie up heavy burdens 3
(hard to carry) and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a
finger to move them.
4 All their works are performed to be seen. They
widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
5 They love places of honor at banquets, seats
of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation
6 As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have
but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father; you have but
one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one
master, the Messiah.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but
whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
7 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you
hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven 8 before human
beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying
10 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you
hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens
you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
11 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If
one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of
the temple, one is obligated.'
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the
temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, 'If one swears by the altar, it
means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.'
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or
the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and
all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it and
by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne
of God and by him who is seated on it.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you
hypocrites. You pay tithes 12 of mint and dill and cummin, and
have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and
fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
13 Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and
swallow the camel!
14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you
hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full
of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the
cup, so that the outside also may be clean.
15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you
hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the
outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
16 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, 17
you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of
and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of
our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets' blood.'
Thus you bear witness against yourselves that
you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you
flee from the judgment of Gehenna?
18 Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and
wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you
will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town,
so that there may come upon you all the
righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood
of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and
Amen, I say to you, all these things will come
upon this generation.
19 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the
prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were
Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.
I tell you, you will not see me again until you
say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
1 [1-39] The final section of the
narrative part of the fifth book of the gospel is a denunciation by Jesus of
the scribes and the Pharisees (see the note on ⇒ Matthew
3:7). It depends in part on Mark and Q (cf ⇒ Mark
12:38-39; ⇒ Luke 11:37-52;
⇒ 13:34-35), but in the main it is peculiar to
Matthew. (For the reasons against considering this extensive body of
sayings-material either as one of the structural discourses of this gospel or
as part of the one that follows in Matthew 24-25, see the note on ⇒ Matthew
19:1-⇒ 23:39.) While the tradition of a
deep opposition between Jesus and the Pharisees is well founded, this speech
reflects an opposition that goes beyond that of Jesus' ministry and must be
seen as expressing the bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and the church
of Matthew at the time when the gospel was composed. The complaint often made
that the speech ignores the positive qualities of Pharisaism and of its better
representatives is true, but the complaint overlooks the circumstances that
gave rise to the invective. Nor is the speech purely anti-Pharisaic. The
evangelist discerns in his church many of the same faults that he finds in its
opponents and warns his fellow Christians to look to their own conduct and
2 [2-3] Have taken their seat . . .
Moses: it is uncertain whether this is simply a metaphor for Mosaic teaching
authority or refers to an actual chair on which the teacher sat. It has been
proved that there was a seat so designated in synagogues of a later period than
that of this gospel. Do and observe . . . they tell you: since the Matthean
Jesus abrogates Mosaic law (⇒ Matthew 5:31-42),
warns his disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees
(⇒ Matthew 14:1-12), and, in this speech, denounces
the Pharisees as blind guides in respect to their teaching on oaths (Matthew
16-22), this commandment to observe all things whatsoever they (the scribes and
Pharisees) tell you cannot be taken as the evangelist's understanding of the
proper standard of conduct for his church. The saying may reflect a period when
the Matthean community was largely Jewish Christian and was still seeking to
avoid a complete break with the synagogue. Matthew has incorporated this
traditional material into the speech in accordance with his view of the course
of salvation history, in which he portrays the time of Jesus' ministry as
marked by the fidelity to the law, although with significant pointers to the
new situation that would exist after his death and resurrection (see the note
on ⇒ Matthew 5:17-20). The crowds and the disciples
(⇒ Matthew 23:1) are exhorted not to follow the
example of the Jewish leaders, whose deeds do not conform to their teaching
(⇒ Matthew 23:3).
3  Tie up heavy burdens: see the
note on ⇒ Matthew 11:28.
4  To the charge of preaching but
not practicing (⇒ Matthew 23:3), Jesus adds that of
acting in order to earn praise. The disciples have already been warned against
this same fault (see the note on ⇒ Matthew 6:1-18).
Phylacteries: the Mosaic law required that during prayer small boxes containing
parchments on which verses of scripture were written be worn on the left
forearm and the forehead (see ⇒ Exodus 13:9,
⇒ 16; ⇒ Deut 6:8;
⇒ 11:18). Tassels: see the note on
⇒ Matthew 9:20. The widening of phylacteries and the
lengthening of tassels were for the purpose of making these evidences of piety
5  Cf ⇒ Mark
literally, "my great one," a title of respect for teachers and
6 [8-12] These verses, warning
against the use of various titles, are addressed to the disciples alone. While
only the title "Rabbi' has been said to be used in addressing the scribes
and Pharisees (⇒ Matthew 23:7), the implication is
that Father and "Master' also were. The prohibition of these titles to the
disciples suggests that their use was present in Matthew's church. The Matthean
Jesus forbids not only the titles but the spirit of superiority and pride that
is shown by their acceptance. Whoever exalts . . . will be exalted: cf
⇒ Luke 14:11.
7 [13-36] This series of seven
"woes," directed against the scribes and Pharisees and addressed to
them, is the heart of the speech. The phrase woe to occurs often in the
prophetic and apocalyptic literature, expressing horror of a sin and punishment
for those who commit it. Hypocrites: see the note on ⇒ Matthew
6:2. The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees consists in the
difference between their speech and action ⇒ Matthew
23:3 and in demonstrations of piety that have no other purpose than
to enhance their reputation as religious persons (⇒ Matthew
8  You lock the kingdom of
heaven: cf ⇒ Matthew 16:19 where Jesus tells Peter
that he will give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of the
authority expressed by that metaphor is to give entrance into the kingdom (the
kingdom is closed only to those who reject the authority); here the charge is
made that the authority of the scribes and Pharisees is exercised in such a way
as to be an obstacle to entrance. Cf ⇒ Luke 11:52
where the accusation against the "scholars of the law" (Matthew's
scribes) is that they "have taken away the key of knowledge."
9  Some manuscripts add a verse
here or after ⇒ Matthew 23:12 "Woe to you,
scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You devour the houses of widows and, as
a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. Because of this, you will receive a very
severe condemnation." Cf ⇒ Mark 12:40;
⇒ Luke 20:47. This "woe" is almost
identical with ⇒ Mark 12:40 and seems to be an interpolation
derived from that text.
10  In the first century A.D.
until the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70), many Pharisees
conducted a vigorous missionary campaign among Gentiles. Convert: literally,
"proselyte," a Gentile who accepted Judaism fully by submitting to
circumcision and all other requirements of Mosaic law. Child of Gehenna: worthy
of everlasting punishment; for Gehenna, see the note on
⇒ Matthew 5:22. Twice as much as yourselves:
possibly this refers simply to the zeal of the convert, surpassing that of the
one who converted him.
11 [16-22] An attack on the casuistry
that declared some oaths binding (one is obligated) and others not (it means
nothing) and held the binding oath to be the one made by something of lesser
value (the gold; the gift on the altar). Such teaching, which inverts the order
of values, reveals the teachers to be blind guides; cf
⇒ Matthew 15:14. Since the Matthean Jesus forbids
all oaths to his disciples (⇒ Matthew 5:33-37), this
woe does not set up a standard for Christian moral conduct, but ridicules the
Pharisees on their own terms.
12  The Mosaic law ordered tithing
of the produce of the land (⇒ Lev 27:30;
⇒ Deut 14:22-23), and the scribal tradition is said
here to have extended this law to even the smallest herbs. The practice is
criticized not in itself but because it shows the Pharisees' preoccupation with
matters of less importance while they neglect the weightier things of the law.
13  Cf ⇒ Lev
11:41-45 that forbids the eating of any "swarming
creature." The Pharisees' scrupulosity about minor matters and neglect of
greater ones (⇒ Matthew 23:23) is further brought
out by this contrast between straining liquids that might contain a tiny
"swarming creature" and yet swallowing the camel. The latter was one
of the unclean animals forbidden by the law (⇒ Lev
11:4), but it is hardly possible that the scribes and Pharisees are
being denounced as guilty of so gross a violation of the food laws. To swallow
the camel is only a hyperbolic way of speaking of their neglect of what is
14 [25-26] The ritual washing of
utensils for dining (cf ⇒ Mark 7:4) is turned into a metaphor
illustrating a concern for appearances while inner purity is ignored. The
scribes and Pharisees are compared to cups carefully washed on the outside but
filthy within. Self-indulgence: the Greek word here translated means lack of
self-control, whether in drinking or in sexual conduct.
15 [27-28] The sixth woe, like the
preceding one, deals with concern for externals and neglect of what is inside.
Since contact with dead bodies, even when one was unaware of it, caused ritual
impurity (⇒ Numbers 19:11-22), tombs were
whitewashed so that no one would contract such impurity inadvertently.
16 [29-36] The final woe is the most
serious indictment of all. It portrays the scribes and Pharisees as standing in
the same line as their ancestors who murdered the prophets and the righteous.
17 [29-32] In spite of honoring the
slain dead by building their tombs and adorning their memorials, and claiming
that they would not have joined in their ancestors' crimes if they had lived in
their days, the scribes and Pharisees are true children of their ancestors and
are defiantly ordered by Jesus to fill up what those ancestors measured out.
This order reflects the Jewish notion that there was an allotted measure of suffering
that had to be completed before God's final judgment would take place.
18 [34-36] There are important
differences between the Matthean and the Lucan form of this Q material; cf
⇒ Luke 11:49-51. In Luke the one who sends the
emissaries is the "wisdom of God." If, as many scholars think, that
is the original wording of Q, Matthew, by making Jesus the sender, has
presented him as the personified divine wisdom. In Luke, wisdom's emissaries
are the Old Testament "prophets" and the Christian
"apostles." Matthew's prophets and wise men and scribes are probably
Christian disciples alone; cf ⇒ Matthew 10:41 and
see the note on ⇒ Matthew 13:52. You will kill: see
⇒ Matthew 24:9. Scourge in your synagogues . . .
town to town: see ⇒ Matthew 10:17,
⇒ 23 and the note on ⇒ Matthew
10:17. All the righteous blood shed upon the earth: the slaying of
the disciples is in continuity with all the shedding of righteous blood
beginning with that of Abel. The persecution of Jesus' disciples by this
generation involves the persecutors in the guilt of their murderous ancestors.
The blood of Zechariah: see the note on ⇒ Luke
11:51. By identifying him as the son of Barachiah Matthew understands
him to be Zechariah the Old Testament minor prophet; see
⇒ Zechariah 1:1.
19 [37-39] Cf ⇒ Luke
13:34-35. The denunciation of Pharisaic Judaism ends with this lament
over Jerusalem, which has repeatedly rejected and murdered those whom God has
sent to her. How many times: this may refer to various visits of Jesus to the
city, an aspect of his ministry found in John but otherwise not in the
synoptics. As a hen . . . under her wings: for imagery similar to this, see
⇒ Psalm 17:8; ⇒ 91:4.
Your house . . . desolate: probably an allusion to the destruction of the
temple in A.D. 70. You will not see me . . . in the name of the Lord: Israel
will not see Jesus again until he comes in glory for the final judgment. The
acclamation has been interpreted in contrasting ways, as an indication that
Israel will at last accept Jesus at that time, and as its troubled recognition
of him as its dreaded judge who will pronounce its condemnation; in support of
the latter view see ⇒ Matthew 24:30.
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