Matthew 5:18

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Matthew 5:18 is the eighteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has just reported that he came not to destroy the law, but fulfil it. In this verse this claim is reinforced.

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

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.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven
and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter
or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away
from the law, until all things are accomplished.

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 5:18

The opening "for truly I say to you," which can also be translated as "amen I say to you," is the first occurrence of one of the author of Matthew's favourite turns of phrase. Boring notes that it occurs thirty-two more times in the Gospel.[1]Schweizer states that it was a typical statement among Koine Greek speaking Jews, but could also have sometimes been used by Aramaic speakers like Jesus.[2]

This verse is the origin of two common English expressions. In Greek the word translated as jot in the KJV is iota, and "not one iota" is used to refer to something with not even the smallest change. The expression "dotting the Is and crossing the Ts", meaning paying attention to detail or putting the final touches on something, also has its origin in this verse.

Jesus probably would have been speaking about the Aramaic alphabet, see Aramaic of Jesus, and scholars have long tried to guess what would originally have been referred to by this phrase. Iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet, and was often left out by transcribers, however, since only capitals were used at the time the Greek New Testament was written (Ι), it probably represents the Aramaic yodh (י) which is the smallest letter of the Aramaic alphabet, and like iota it was frequently forgotten. Lachs notes that this expression only works with the Aramaic alphabet or square script, and not the Ancient Hebrew alphabet. This is historically consistent as the Aramaic script had largely displaced the ancient one by this period.[3]

The word translated as tittle in the KJV in Greek is keraia, and there is much debate as to what it might have referred to. The word keraia literally translates as horns.[4] One possibility is that it refers to the decorative crowns placed atop some Hebrew letters, this would not work for Jesus, however, as such markings only began to be used in the later part of the first century.[5] Burkitt feels it would have been waw, the second smallest letter. Gundry notes that it could also have referred to the small projections that separate certain letters.[6] It could refer to accents in Greek but more likely hooks on Aramaic letters, (ב) versus (כ), or additional marks such as crowns (as Vulgate apex) found in Jewish Bibles.

The main debate over the interpretation of this verse is just how absolute it is. Schweizer feels that "until heaven and earth pass away" means that the Mosaic Law will only last until the end times, and will be superseded in the messianic age. He argues that the opening "for truly I say to you" is "typical of statements concerning the eschaton." He also believes that this verse is a modification of the clearly eschatological one at Mark 13:31.[7] France disagrees feeling that "until heaven and earth pass away" is simply an idiom for the inconceivable.[8]

"Until all things are accomplished" is also the subject of controversy. It is uncertain what all is referring to and how it will be accomplished. France lists three interpretations: until the end of the world, until all the requirements of the Law are met, until the arrival of the messiah. The three interpretations all imply very different understandings of how absolute Mosaic law is for Christians in the current era (see also antinomianism).[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Boring, Eugene "Gospel of Matthew." The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 8 Abingdon, 1995 pg. 187
  2. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
  3. ^ Lachs, Samuel Tobias. "Some Textual Observations on the Sermon on the Mount." The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1978 pg. 106
  4. ^ The standard reference for NT Greek is A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, Bauer, Gingrich, Danker, et al. Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon for keraia is here: [1]
  5. ^ Lachs, Samuel Tobias. "Some Textual Observations on the Sermon on the Mount." The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1978 pg. 107
  6. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
  7. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
  8. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  9. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.


Preceded by
Matthew 5:17
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 5
Succeeded by
Matthew 5:19