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Jehovah’s Witnesses

English
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Matthew 5:1-48

5  When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he opened his mouth and began teaching them, saying:  “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need,+ since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.  “Happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted.+  “Happy are the mild-tempered,+ since they will inherit the earth.+  “Happy are those hungering and thirsting+ for righteousness, since they will be filled.*+  “Happy are the merciful,+ since they will be shown mercy.  “Happy are the pure in heart,+ since they will see God.+  “Happy are the peacemakers,+ since they will be called sons of God. 10  “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake,+ since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.+ 11  “Happy are you when people reproach* you+ and persecute you+ and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.+ 12  Rejoice and be overjoyed,+ since your reward+ is great in the heavens, for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.+ 13  “You are the salt+ of the earth, but if the salt loses its strength, how will its saltiness be restored? It is no longer usable for anything except to be thrown outside+ to be trampled on by men. 14  “You are the light of the world.+ A city cannot be hid when located on a mountain. 15  People light a lamp and set it, not under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it shines on all those in the house.+ 16  Likewise, let your light shine before men,+ so that they may see your fine works+ and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.+ 17  “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill.+ 18  Truly I say to you that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for one smallest letter or one stroke of a letter to pass away from the Law until all things take place.+ 19  Whoever, therefore, breaks one of these least commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in relation to the Kingdom of the heavens. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in relation to the Kingdom of the heavens. 20  For I say to you that if your righteousness does not surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees,+ you will by no means enter into the Kingdom of the heavens.+ 21  “You heard that it was said to those of ancient times: ‘You must not murder,+ but whoever commits a murder will be accountable to the court of justice.’+ 22  However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful+ with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; and whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Ge·henʹna.+ 23  “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar+ and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24  leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away. First make your peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift.+ 25  “Be quick to settle matters with your legal opponent, while you are with him on the way there, so that somehow the opponent may not turn you over to the judge, and the judge to the court attendant, and you get thrown into prison.+ 26  I say to you for a fact, you will certainly not come out of there until you have paid over your last small coin. 27  “You heard that it was said: ‘You must not commit adultery.’+ 28  But I say to you that everyone who keeps on looking at a woman+ so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.+ 29  If, now, your right eye is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.+ For it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be pitched into Ge·henʹna.+ 30  Also, if your right hand is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you.+ For it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to land in Ge·henʹna.+ 31  “Moreover, it was said: ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’+ 32  However, I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of sexual immorality, makes her a subject for adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.+ 33  “Again you heard that it was said to those of ancient times: ‘You must not swear without performing,+ but you must pay your vows to Jehovah.’+ 34  However, I say to you: Do not swear at all,+ neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35  nor by earth, for it is the footstool of his feet;+ nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.+ 36  Do not swear by your head, since you cannot turn one hair white or black. 37  Just let your word ‘Yes’ mean yes, your ‘No,’ no,+ for what goes beyond these is from the wicked one.*+ 38  “You heard that it was said: ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’+ 39  However, I say to you: Do not resist the one who is wicked, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.+ 40  And if a person wants to take you to court and get possession of your inner garment, let him also have your outer garment;+ 41  and if someone in authority compels you into service for a mile, go with him two miles. 42  Give to the one asking you, and do not turn away from one who wants to borrow from you.+ 43  “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor+ and hate your enemy.’ 44  However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies+ and to pray for those who persecute you,+ 45  so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens,+ since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.+ 46  For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have?+ Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47  And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48  You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.+

Footnotes

Or “satisfied.”
Or “insult.”
Or possibly, “from what is wicked.”

on the mountain: Evidently close to Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee. Jesus apparently climbed to a higher spot on the mountain, where he began teaching the crowds spread out on a level place before him.Lu 6:17, 20.

he sat down: The custom among Jewish teachers, especially for formal teaching sessions.

his disciples: The first occurrence of the Greek word ma·the·tesʹ, a noun rendered “disciple.” It refers to a learner, or one who is taught, and implies a personal attachment to a teacher, an attachment that shapes the disciple’s whole life. Although large crowds were gathered to listen to Jesus, it seems that he spoke mainly for the benefit of his disciples, who sat closest to him.Mt 7:28, 29; Lu 6:20.

he opened his mouth: A Semitic idiom meaning that he began his speech. (Job 33:2; Da 10:16) At Ac 8:35 and 10:34, the same Greek expression is rendered “began to speak.”

Happy: Not simply a state of lightheartedness, as when a person is enjoying a good time. Rather, when used of humans, it refers to the condition of one who is blessed by God and enjoys his favor. The term is also used as a description of God and of Jesus in his heavenly glory.1Ti 1:11; 6:15.

those conscious of their spiritual need: The Greek expression rendered “those conscious,” literally, “those who are poor (needy; destitute; beggars),” in this context is used about those who have a need and are intensely aware of it. The same word is used in reference to the “beggar” Lazarus at Lu 16:20, 22. The Greek phrase that some translations render those who are “poor in spirit” conveys the idea of people who are painfully aware of their spiritual poverty and of their need for God.

them: Refers to Jesus’ followers, since Jesus was primarily addressing them.Mt 5:1, 2.

mild-tempered: The inward quality of those who willingly submit to God’s will and guidance and who do not try to dominate others. The term does not imply cowardice or weakness. In the Septuagint, the word was used as an equivalent for a Hebrew word that can be translated “meek” or “humble.” It was used with reference to Moses (Nu 12:3), those who are teachable (Ps 25:9), those who will possess the earth (Ps 37:11), and the Messiah (Zec 9:9; Mt 21:5). Jesus described himself as a mild-tempered, or meek, person.Mt 11:29.

inherit the earth: Jesus is likely referring to Ps 37:11, where “the meek” are said to “possess the earth.” Both the Hebrew (ʼeʹrets) and the Greek (ge) words for “earth” can refer to the entire planet or to a specific land area, such as the Promised Land. The Scriptures indicate that Jesus is the foremost example of one who is mild-tempered. (Mt 11:29) Various Bible verses show that as King he would inherit authority over the entire earth, not just a portion of it (Ps 2:8; Re 11:15), and his anointed followers would share in this inheritance (Re 5:10). In another sense, those of his mild-tempered disciples who would be his earthly subjects would “inherit,” not the ownership of the earth, but the privilege of enjoying life in Paradise, the earthly realm of the Kingdom.—See study note on Mt 25:34.

those hungering and thirsting for righteousness: That is, those who long to see corruption and injustice replaced with God’s standards of right and wrong; they strive to conform to those standards.

merciful: The use of the Bible terms rendered “merciful” and “mercy” is not limited to forgiveness or leniency in judgment. It most often describes the feelings of compassion and pity that move a person to take the initiative to assist those in need.

pure in heart: Inwardly clean, referring to moral and spiritual cleanness, including one’s affections, desires, and motives.

see God: Not necessarily to be understood literally, since “no man can see [God] and live.” (Ex 33:20) The Greek word used here for “see” can also mean “see with the mind, perceive, know.” Jehovah’s worshippers on earth thus “see God” by gaining insight into his personality through faith-building study of his Word and by observing his actions in their behalf. (Eph 4:18; Heb 11:27) When resurrected to spirit life, anointed Christians will actually see Jehovah “just as he is.”1Jo 3:2.

peacemakers: Those who not only maintain peace but also bring peace to where it is lacking.

salt: A mineral used for preserving and flavoring food. In this context, Jesus likely focused on the preserving quality of salt; his disciples could help others to avoid spiritual and moral decay.

loses its strength: In Jesus’ day, salt was often obtained from the Dead Sea area and was contaminated by other minerals. If the salty portion was removed from this mixture, only a tasteless, useless residue remained.

A city . . . located on a mountain: Jesus did not specify a particular city. In his day, many cities were located on mountains, often to make them less vulnerable to attack. Such cities were surrounded by large walls, making them visible for miles and impossible to hide. This would have been true even of small villages with their typically whitewashed houses.

a lamp: In Bible times, a common household lamp was a small earthenware vessel filled with olive oil.

a basket: Used for measuring dry commodities, such as grain. The type of “basket” (Greek, moʹdi·os) mentioned here had a capacity of about 9 L (or 8 dry qt).

Father: The first of over 160 occurrences in the Gospels in which Jesus refers to Jehovah God as “Father.” Jesus’ use of the term shows that his listeners already understood its meaning in relation to God by its usage in the Hebrew Scriptures. (De 32:6; Ps 89:26; Isa 63:16) Earlier servants of God used many lofty titles to describe and address Jehovah, including the “Almighty,” “the Most High,” and the “Grand Creator,” but Jesus’ frequent use of the simple, common term “Father” highlights God’s intimacy with his worshippers.Ge 17:1; De 32:8; Ec 12:1.

the Law . . . the Prophets: “The Law” refers to the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. “The Prophets” refers to the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, when these terms are mentioned together, the expression could be understood to include the entire Hebrew Scriptures.Mt 7:12; 22:40; Lu 16:16.

Truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”Joh 1:51.

sooner would heaven and earth pass away: Hyperbole that is equivalent to “never.” The Scriptures indicate that the literal heavens and earth will remain forever.Ps 78:69; 119:90.

smallest letter: In the Hebrew alphabet current at that time, the smallest letter was yod (י).

one stroke of a letter: Certain Hebrew characters featured a tiny stroke that differentiated one letter from another. Jesus’ hyperbole thus emphasized that God’s Word would be fulfilled down to the smallest detail.

You heard that it was said: This phrase can refer both to things stated in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures and to teachings of Jewish tradition.Mt 5:27, 33, 38, 43.

accountable to the court of justice: Subject to trial in one of the local courts located throughout Israel. (Mt 10:17; Mr 13:9) These local courts had the authority to judge murder cases.De 16:18; 19:12; 21:1, 2.

continues wrathful: Jesus associates such a wrong attitude with hatred that can lead to actual murder. (1Jo 3:15) Ultimately, God may judge the person as being a murderer.

an unspeakable word of contempt: This expression renders the Greek word rha·kaʹ (possibly derived from Hebrew or Aramaic), meaning “empty” or “empty-headed.” Someone addressing a fellow worshipper with such a derogatory term would not only be nurturing hatred in his heart but also be giving vent to it by contemptible speech.

the Supreme Court: The full Sanhedrin—the judicial body in Jerusalem made up of the high priest and 70 elders and scribes. The Jews considered its rulings to be final.—See Glossary, “Sanhedrin.”

You despicable fool: The Greek word for this expression sounded like a Hebrew term meaning “rebellious” or “mutinous.” It designates a person as morally worthless and an apostate. To address a fellow man in this way was tantamount to saying that he should receive a punishment fit for a rebel against God, that is, everlasting destruction.

Gehenna: This term comes from the Hebrew words geh hin·nomʹ, meaning “valley of Hinnom,” which lay to the W and S of ancient Jerusalem. (See App. B12, map “Jerusalem and Surrounding Area.”) By Jesus’ day, the valley had become a place for burning refuse, so the word “Gehenna” was a fitting symbol of complete destruction.—See Glossary.

your gift to the altar: Jesus did not limit his comments to particular offerings or specific transgressions. The gift could include any sacrificial offering presented at Jehovah’s temple in fulfillment of the Mosaic Law. The altar refers to the altar of burnt offering in the priests’ courtyard of the temple. Ordinary Israelites were not allowed to enter this courtyard; instead, they handed over their gifts to the priest at the entrance to it.

leave your gift . . . , and go away: In the scene Jesus describes, a worshipper is at the very point of handing over his sacrifice to the priest. Yet, he first needed to resolve an issue with his brother. Before offering his gift in a way that would be acceptable to God, he needed to go away and find his offended brother, who was likely among the many thousands of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the seasonal festivals, the usual time for bringing such sacrifices to the temple.De 16:16.

make your peace: The Greek expression has been defined “to change from enmity to friendship; to become reconciled; to be restored to normal relations or harmony.” So the goal is to effect a change by removing, if possible, ill will from the offended person’s heart. (Ro 12:18) Jesus’ point is that maintaining good relations with others is a prerequisite for enjoying good relations with God.

your last small coin: Lit., “the last quadrans,” 1/64 of a denarius. A denarius equaled a full day’s wage.—See App. B14.

You heard that it was said: See study note on Mt 5:21.

commit adultery: That is, marital sexual unfaithfulness. The Greek verb moi·kheuʹo is used in this quote from Ex 20:14 and De 5:18, where the corresponding Hebrew verb na·ʼaphʹ is found. In the Bible, adultery refers to voluntary acts of “sexual immorality” between a married person and someone who is not his or her mate. (Compare the study note on Mt 5:32, where the term “sexual immorality,” rendered from the Greek word por·neiʹa, is discussed.) During the time when the Mosaic Law was valid, having voluntary sexual relations with another man’s wife or fiancée was considered to be adultery.

Gehenna: See study note on Mt 5:22 and Glossary.

certificate of divorce: The Mosaic Law did not encourage divorce. A certificate was provided as a deterrent to a hasty breakup of marriages and as a protection for women. (De 24:1) A husband who wanted to obtain a certificate likely had to consult duly authorized men who might encourage the couple to reconcile.

sexual immorality: The Greek word por·neiʹa is a general term for all sexual intercourse that is unlawful according to the Bible. It includes adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexuality, and bestiality.—See Glossary.

you heard that it was said: See study note on Mt 5:21.

Jehovah: Although this is not a direct quote from one specific passage in the Hebrew Scriptures, the two commands that Jesus refers to allude to such scriptures as Le 19:12, Nu 30:2, and De 23:21, which do contain the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), in the original Hebrew text.—See App. C.

Do not swear at all: Jesus did not here prohibit the making of all oaths. God’s Law, which allowed for the swearing of oaths or vows on certain serious occasions, was still in force. (Nu 30:2; Ga 4:4) Rather, Jesus was condemning frivolous and indiscriminate swearing that amounted to a perversion of oath-taking.

neither by heaven: In order to add weight to their word, people would swear “by heaven,” “by earth,” “by Jerusalem,” and even “by [the] head,” or life, of another person. (Mt 5:35, 36) But controversy existed among the Jews as to the validity of such oaths based on created things rather than on the name of God, and some evidently felt that they could retract such sworn statements with impunity.

the great King: That is, Jehovah God.Mal 1:14.

what goes beyond these is from the wicked one: Any who feel compelled to go beyond a simple “yes” or “no” by continually swearing to what they say are basically revealing themselves to be untrustworthy. They manifest the spirit of Satan, “the father of the lie.”Joh 8:44.

You heard that it was said: See study note on Mt 5:21.

Eye for eye and tooth for tooth: In Jesus’ day, these words from the Law (Ex 21:24; Le 24:20) were misapplied to condone personal vengeance. However, this law was properly applied only after cases came to trial and the appointed judges determined the appropriate punishment.De 19:15-21.

slaps you on your right cheek: In this context, the Greek verb rha·piʹzo, “to slap,” is used with the meaning “to strike with the open hand.” Such an action would likely have been intended to provoke or insult rather than to injure. Jesus thus indicated that his followers should be willing to endure personal insult without retaliating.

let him also have your outer garment: Jewish men often wore two garments, an inner garment (Greek, khi·tonʹ, a shirtlike tunic with long sleeves or half sleeves, reaching to the knees or ankles and worn next to the skin) and an outer garment (Greek, hi·maʹti·on, a loose robe or coat, possibly consisting of a simple rectangular piece of material). A garment could be used as a pledge to guarantee payment of a debt. (Job 22:6) Jesus is saying that for the sake of peace, his followers should be willing to give up not only their inner garment but also their more valuable outer garment.

compels you into service: A reference to the compulsory service that the Roman authorities could demand from a citizen. They could, for example, press men or animals into service or commandeer whatever was considered necessary to expedite official business. That is what happened to Simon of Cyrene, whom Roman soldiers “compelled into service” to carry Jesus’ torture stake.Mt 27:32.

mile: Probably the Roman mile, measuring 1,479.5 m (4,854 ft).—See Glossary and App. B14.

borrow: That is, borrow without interest. The Law forbade the Israelites to charge interest on loans to a fellow Jew (Ex 22:25), and it encouraged them to lend generously to the needy (De 15:7, 8).

You heard that it was said: See study note on Mt 5:21.

You must love your neighbor: The Mosaic Law directed the Israelites to love their neighbor. (Le 19:18) While the term “neighbor” simply meant one’s fellow man, some Jews narrowed the meaning to include only fellow Jews, especially those who kept the oral traditions; all other people were to be considered enemies.

hate your enemy: The Mosaic Law contained no such command. Some Jewish rabbis believed that the command to love their neighbor implied that they should hate their enemy.

Continue to love your enemies: Jesus’ counsel is in harmony with the spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures.Ex 23:4, 5; Job 31:29; Pr 24:17, 18; 25:21.

tax collectors: Many Jews collected taxes for the Roman authorities. People hated such Jews because they not only collaborated with a resented foreign power but also extorted more than the official tax rate. Tax collectors were generally shunned by fellow Jews, who put them on the same level as sinners and prostitutes.Mt 11:19; 21:32.

greet: Greeting others included expressing good wishes for their welfare and prosperity.

brothers: Refers to the entire nation of Israel. They were brothers, offspring of one common father, Jacob, and they were united in worship of the same God, Jehovah.Ex 2:11; Ps 133:1.

people of the nations: Refers to non-Jews who had no relationship with God. The Jews viewed them as godless and unclean and as ones to be avoided.

perfect: The Greek term used here can mean “complete,” “mature,” or it can mean “faultless” according to standards set by an authority. Only Jehovah is perfect in an absolute sense, so when the term is applied to humans, it describes relative perfection. In this context, “perfect” refers to the completeness of a Christian’s love for Jehovah God and for fellow humans, something that is possible, even though a person is sinful.

Media

North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, Looking Northwest
North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, Looking Northwest

1. Plain of Gennesaret. This was a fertile triangle of land, measuring about 5 by 2.5 km (3 by 1.5 mi). It was along the shoreline in this area that Jesus invited the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James, and John to join him in his ministry.Mt 4:18-22.

2. Tradition locates Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount here.Mt 5:1.

3. Capernaum. Jesus took up residence in this city, and it was in or near Capernaum that he found Matthew.Mt 4:13; 9:1, 9.

First-Century Oil Lamp
First-Century Oil Lamp

The common clay lamps used in homes and other buildings were filled with olive oil. A wick was used to draw up the oil to feed the flame. Lamps were often set on clay, wood, or metal lampstands to provide indoor light. They were also placed in wall niches or on shelves, or they were suspended from the ceiling by means of a cord.

Domestic Lampstand
Domestic Lampstand

This domestic lampstand (1) is an artist’s concept based on first-century artifacts found in Ephesus and Italy. A lampstand of this kind was likely used in a wealthy household. In poorer homes, a lamp was hung from the ceiling, placed in a niche in the wall (2), or put on a stand made of earthenware or wood.

The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna)
The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna)

The Valley of Hinnom, called Gehenna in Greek, is a ravine to the south and southwest of ancient Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, it was a place for the burning of refuse, making it a fitting symbol of complete destruction.

Modern-Day Valley of Hinnom
Modern-Day Valley of Hinnom

The Valley of Hinnom (1), called Gehenna in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The Temple Mount (2). The first-century Jewish temple complex was located here. The most prominent present-day structure on the temple mount is the Muslim shrine known as the Dome of the Rock.—See map in Appendix B-12.

Certificate of Divorce
Certificate of Divorce

This certificate of divorce, dated 71 or 72 C.E., was written in Aramaic. It was found on the north side of Wadi Murabbaat, a dry riverbed in the Judean Desert. It states that in the sixth year of the Jewish revolt, Joseph, son of Naqsan, divorced Miriam, daughter of Jonathan who was living in the city of Masada.