Matthew 5:26

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Matthew 5:26 is the twenty-sixth 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 warned that if you do not reconcile with your enemies a judge is likely to throw you in jail. In this verse Jesus mentions that your debts must be paid completely before one can leave.

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

Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt
by no means come out thence, till
thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

Most certainly I tell you, you shall
by no means get out of there, until
you have paid the last penny.

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 5:26

This verse opens with a similar phrase to that of Matthew 5:22, often translated as "amen I say to you." This is a popular phrase in Matthew, that Schweizer notes usually introduces something eschatological.[1] This verse is normally taken as a metaphor for how God most be pleased. France notes that it is clear that for God has no half-measures, that even for a slight debt punishment will still be full.[2]

Nolland notes that there is no tradition of imprisonment until a fine is paid in the Jewish legal tradition. The allusions in the verse are to the Greco-Roman system of justice, which did have such punishments, and was in place at the time in Roman occupied Palestine.[3] The coin mentioned is also Roman. The word translated as farthing in the KJV and penny in the WEB in Greek is a quadrans, as implied by the translations this was a coin of low value. In the Roman currency system of the time the Quadrans was the lowest valued coin.[4] The very similar verse at Luke 12:59 mentions a mite, a Jewish coin worth even less than a quadrans.[5]

This is one of a small group of verses that have been advanced as Biblical references to purgatory, and one that was attacked by the early Protestant reformers.[6] Schweizer agrees and states that the waiting reference is simply a link to the analogy begun in the earlier verse. Schweizer also notes that this verse jars somewhat with the previous part of the parable as debt or fines have not been mentioned. To Schweizer this implies that Jesus is being metaphorical rather than discussing actual legal problems.[7]


  1. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
  2. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  3. ^ Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 234
  4. ^ Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press, 1991 pg. 26
  5. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
  6. ^ Davies, W.D. and Dale C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1988-1997. pg. 78
  7. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975

Preceded by
Matthew 5:25
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 5
Succeeded by
Matthew 5:27