Matthew 7:16

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Matthew 7:16
← 7:15
7:17 →
De Bergrede Vierentwintig scènes uit het Nieuwe Testament (serietitel), RP-P-OB-44.078.jpg
Sermon on the mount. Jan Luyken (1681 - 1762).
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament

Matthew 7:16 is the sixteenth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse continues the section warning against false prophets.


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

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men
gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

By their fruits you will know them. Do you
gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?

For a collection of other versions see here: Matthew 7:16


The previous verse warned against false prophets, and in this one Jesus tells his followers how to identify them. He does so by beginning a new metaphor, wholly separate from the wolves and sheep one of the previous verse. The new metaphor turns to botany. It specifically refers to grapes and figs, which were both common crops in the region. Thornbushes and thistles also flourished in the region, and were a constant problem to farmers.[1][2] Jesus states that one will be able to identify false prophets by their fruits. False prophets will not produce good fruits. Fruits, which are a common metaphor in both the Old and New Testaments, represent the outward manifestation of a person's faith, thus their behaviour and their works.

This warning is paralleled in Luke 6:44 and appears again at Matthew 12:33, a similar fruit metaphor also appears in Matthew 3. In those other places the verse is an attack on the Pharisees, but here it targets false Christian prophets. Matthew also differs in wording from Luke 6:44. In Luke Jesus' words are a declarative statement, while in Matthew they are a rhetorical question. Matthew reverses the order of the grapes and figs from Luke. He also replaces Luke's briarbush with thistles. Gundry feels that thistles were added to create a rhyme with thornbush in the original Greek. He also feels that the author of Matthew is imagining a thornbush as a corrupted version of a grapevine and a thistle as version of a fig tree.[3]

This verse is thus usually understood as saying that one should not simply judge a prophet by their words, but what is implied by fruits has been much debated. F. Dale Bruner notes that there are two competing views.[4] Fruits can be read as referring to the behaviour and life of these false prophets. If their behaviour is not pious, one should not expect their words to be.[5] This opinion was first advanced by John Chrysostom and is supported by many modern scholars such as Eduard Schweizer and Ulrich Luz. The alternate view is that fruits refers to the teachings of the false prophets, that the false prophets will be noticeable by teachings that don't conform to correct doctrine. This understanding has been supported by Augustine, Jerome, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.[6]


  1. ^ Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 198
  2. ^ Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press, 1991 pg. 337
  3. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
  4. ^ Bruner, Frederick Dale. Matthew: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004 pg. 355
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Bruner, Frederick Dale. Matthew: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004 pg. 355

Preceded by
Matthew 7:15
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 7
Succeeded by
Matthew 7:17