Matthew 5:14 is the fourteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and is one of a series of metaphors often seen as adding to the Beatitudes.
In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:
- Ye are the light of the world. A city
- that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- You are the light of the world. A city
- located on a hill can't be hidden.
This verse has a fairly sudden shift of metaphor from "salt of the earth" to "city on a hill." It may be related to the expression "salt and light" which was then used to describe the Law. This verse is unparalleled elsewhere in the New Testament, but a version of it is found in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. In Thomas the focus of the verse is on the city's security and impregnability rather than its symbolism. Gundry notes that at this time cities would frequently have been located on hills for defensive reasons. Schweizer notes that this might be a reference to Mount Zion at the start of Isaiah 2. Scholars are divided on whether this is a specific reference to the idea of a New Jerusalem. Albright and Mann note that Cicero described Rome as light to the world, but that it is unlikely that this verse borrows from him. See also Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3.
This verse is most famous for forming the basis of John Winthrop's City upon a Hill sermon outlining his vision of the new American colonies as a beacon to the rest of the world. This phrase has been used in the same sense by both Presidents John F. Kennedy and more famously by Ronald Reagan.
- Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
- Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
- Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
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