Matthew 5:48

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Matthew 5:48 is the forty-eighth and final verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the final verse of the final antithesis, and it is a summary of Jesus' earlier teachings.


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

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your
Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

Therefore you shall be perfect, just
as your Father in heaven is perfect.


The formulation is this verse is known as the Imitatio Dei a similar verse appears at Luke 6:36 and may have originally been in Q. The verse might be modelled on Leviticus 19:2.

There is much debate about what exactly this verse means. Being as perfect as God is seen by most as an impossibility. Some scholars believe that Jesus is here setting a goal that is certain to be impossible, so that we will realize this and be humble. The pursuit of perfection is important, even if the attainment of it impossible.[1]

An alternative view is that this is a limited form of perfection that is being asked. Fowler notes that elsewhere in the New Testament, it is stated that those who believe in Jesus and rely fully upon him for all things is perfect. In Jewish scripture certain individuals such as Abraham and Noah are referred to as perfect because of their perfect obedience to God. In these passages perfect is used as a synonym for complete, and perfect obedience to God is simply complete obedience to God. The Qumran followers described themselves as the followers of the "perfect way," in that they were followers of what they believed was perfect dedication to God.[2]

A third view is to link the word perfect, or telios, to how it is used by the Greek philosophers. To them something was perfect if it fully be its intended function. Barclay argues that the previous verses made clear that man's function is to love, and anyone who does that absolutely can be considered perfect.[3]

This command is somewhat different than the earlier one's in that it is in the future tense. This makes it seem like something of a promise as well as a command.

Further reading[edit]

  • Matthew 5:48 - a collection of other versions of the verse


  1. ^ Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1992.
  2. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
  3. ^ Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 1 Chapters 1-10. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1975.

Preceded by
Matthew 5:47
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 5
Succeeded by
Matthew 6:1