21. "For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed
the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven;"77 i.e., unless ye shall fulfil not only those
least precepts of the law which begin the man, but also those which are
added by me, who am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, ye shall
not enter into the kingdom of heaven. But you say to me: If, when He was
speaking above of those least commandments, He said that whosoever shall
break one of them, and shall teach in accordance with his transgression,
is called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but that whosoever shall
do them, and shall teach [men] so, is called great, and hence will be already
in the kingdom of heaven, because he is great: what need is there for additions
to the least precepts of the law, if he can be already in the kingdom of
heaven, because whosoever shall do them, and shall so teach, is great?
For this reason that sentence is to be understood thus: "But whosoever
shall do and teach men so, the same shall be called great in the kingdom
of heaven,"-i.e. not in accordance with those least commandments, but in
accordance with those which I am about to mention. Now what are they? "That
your righteousness," says He, "may exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees;"
for unless it shall exceed theirs, ye shall not enter into the kingdom
of heaven. Whosoever, there fore, shall break those least commandments,
and shall teach men so, shall be called the least; but whosoever shall
do those least commandments, and shall teach men so, is not necessarily
to be reckoned great and meet for the kingdom of heaven; but yet he is
not so much the least as the man who breaks them. But in order that he
may be great and fit for that kingdom, he ought to do and teach as Christ
now teaches, i.e. in order that his righteousness may exceed that of the
scribes and Pharisees. The righteousness of the Pharisees is, that they
shall not kill; the righteousness of those who are destined to enter into
the kingdom of God, that they be not angry without a cause. The least commandment,
therefore, is not to kill; and whosoever shall break that, shall be called
least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall fulfil that commandment
not to kill, will not, as a necessary consequence, be great and meet for
the kingdom of heaven, but yet he ascends a certain step. He will be perfected,
however, if he be not angry without a cause; and if he shall do this, he
will be much further removed from murder. For this reason he who teaches
that we should not be angry, does not break the law not to kill, but rather
fulfils it; so that we preserve our innocence both outwardly when we do
not kill, and in heart when we are not angry.
22. "Ye have heard" therefore, says He, "that it was said to them of
old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger
of the judgment. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother
without a cause78 shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall
say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever
shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the gehenna of fire." What
is the difference between being in danger of the judgment, and being in
danger of the council, and being in danger of the gehenna of fire?79 For
this last sounds most weighty, and reminds us that certain stages were
passed over from lighter to more weighty, until the gehenna of fire was
reached. And, therefore, if it is a lighter thing to be in danger of the
judgment than to be in danger of the council, and if it is also a lighter
thing to be in danger of the council than to be in danger of the gehenna
of fire, we must understand it to be a lighter thing to be angry with a
brother without a cause than to say "Raca;" and again, to be a lighter
thing to say "Raca" than to say "Thou fool." For the danger would not have
gradations, unless the sins also were mentioned in gradation.
23. But here one obscure word has found a place, for "Raca" is neither
Latin nor Greek.The others, however, are current in our language. Now,
some have wished to derive the interpretation of this expression from the
Greek, supposing that a ragged person is called "Raca," because a rag is
called in Greek rakoj; yet, when one asks them what a ragged person is
called in Greek, they do not answer "Rata;" and further, the Latin translator
might have put the word ragged where he has placed "Raca," and not have
used a word which, on the one hand, has no existence in the Latin language,
and, on the other, is rare in the Greek. Hence the view is more probable
which I heard from a certain Hebrew whom I had asked about it; for he said
that the word does not mean anything, but merely expresses the emotion
of an angry hind. Grammarians call those particles of speech which express
an affection of an agitated mind interjections; as when it is said by one
who is grieved, "Alas," or by one who is angry, "Hah." And these words
in all languages are proper names, and are not easily translated into another
language; and this cause certainly compelled alike the Greek and the Latin
translators to put the word itself, inasmuch as they could find no way
of translating it.80
24. There is therefore a gradation in the sins referred to, so that
first one is angry, and keeps that feeling as a conception in his heart;
but if now that emotion shall draw forth an expression of anger not having
any definite meaning, but giving evidence of that feeling of the mind by
the very fact of the outbreak wherewith he is assailed with whom one is
angry, this is certainly more than if the rising anger were restrained
by silence; but if there is heard not merely an expression of anger, but
also a word by which the party using it now indicates and signifies a distinct
censure of him against whom it is directed, who doubts but that this is
something more than if merely an exclamation of anger were uttered? Hence
in the first there is one thing, i.e. anger alone; in the second two things,
both anger and a word that expresses anger; in the third three things,
anger and a word that expresses anger, and in that word the utterance of
distinct censure. Look now also at the three degrees of liability,-the
judgment, the council, the gehenna of fire. For in the judgment an opportunity
is still given for defence; in the council, however, although there is
also wont to be a judgment, yet because the very distinction compels us
to acknowledge that there is a certain difference in this place, the production
of the sentence seems to belong to the council, inasmuch as it is not now
the case of the accused himself that is in question, whether he is to be
condemned or not, but they who judge confer with one another to what punishment
they ought to condemn him, who, it is clear, is to be condemned; but the
gehenna of fire does not treat as a doubtful matter either the condemnation,
like the judgment, or the punishment of him who is condemned, like the
council; for in the gehenna of fire both the condemnation and the punishment
of him who is condemned are certain. Thus there are seen certain degrees
in the sins and in the liability to punishment;81 but who can tell in what
ways they are invisibly shown in the punishments of souls? We are therefore
to learn how great the difference is between the righteousness ofthe Pharisees
and that greater righteousness which introduces into the kingdom of heaven,
because while it is a more serious crime to kill than to inflict reproach
by means of a word, in the one case killing exposes one to the judgment,
but in the other anger exposes one to the judgment, which is the least
of those three sins; for in the former case they were discussing the question
of murder among men, but in the latter all things are disposed of by means
of a divine judgment, where the end of the condemned is the gehenna of
fire. But whoever shall say that murder is punished by a more severe penalty
under the greater righteousness if a reproach is punished by the gehenna
of fire, compels us to understand that there are differences of gehennas.
25. Indeed, in the three statements before us, we must observe that
some words are understood. For the first statement has all the words that
are necessary."Whosoever," says He, "is angry with his brother without
a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." But in the: second, when
He says, "and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca," there is understood
the expression without cause,82 and thus there is subjoined, "shall be
in danger of the council." In the third, now, where He says, "but whosoever
shall say, Thou fool," two things are understood, both to his brother and
without cause. And in this way we defend the apostle when he calls the
Galatians fools,83 to whom he also gives, the name of brethren; for he
does not do it without cause. And here the word brother is to be understood
for this reason, that the case of an enemy is spoken of afterwards, and
how he also is to be treated under the greater righteousness.
26. Next there follows here: "Therefore, if thou hast brought84 thy
gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against
thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled
to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." From this surely it
is clear that what is aid above is said of a brother: inasmuch as the sentence
which follows is connected by such a conjunction that it confirms the preceding
one; for He does not say, But if thou bring thy gift to the altar; but
He says, "Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar." For if it is
not lawful to be angry with one's brother without a cause, or to say "Raca,"
or to say" Thou fool," much less is it lawful so to retain anything in
one's mind, as that indignation may be turned into hatred. And to this
belongs also what is said in another passage: "Let not the sun go down
upon your wrath."85 We are therefore commanded, when about to bring our
gift to the altar, if we remember that our brother hath ought against us,
to leave the gift before the altar, and to go and be reconciled to our
brother, and then to come and offer the gift.86 But if this is to be understood
literally, one might perhaps suppose that such a thing ought to be done
if the brother is present; for it cannot be delayed too long, since you
are commanded to leave your gift before the altar. If, therefore, such
a thing should come into your mind respecting one who is absent, and, as
may happen, even settled down beyond the sea, it is absurd to suppose that
your gift is to be left before the altar until you may offer it to God
after having traversed both lands and seas. And therefore we are compelled
to have recourse to an altogether internal and spiritual interpretation,
in order that what has been said may be understood without absurdity.
27. And so we may interpret the altar spiritually, as being faith itself
in the inner temple of God, whose emblem is the visible altar. For whatever
offering we present to God, whether prophecy, or teaching, or prayer, or
a psalm, or a hymn, and whatever other such like spiritual gift occurs
to the mind, it cannot be acceptable to God, unless it be sustained by
sincerity of faith, and, as it were, placed on that fixedly and immoveably,
so that what we utter may remain whole and uninjured. For many heretics,
not having the altar, i.e. true faith, have spoken blasphemies for praise;
being weighed down, to wit, with earthly opinions, and thus, as it were,
throwing down their offering on the ground. But there ought also to be
purity of intention on the part of the offerer. And therefore, when we
are about to present any such offering in our heart, i.e. in the inner
temple of God ("For," as it is said, "the temple of God is holy, which
temple ye are; "87 and, "That Christ may dwell in the inner man88 by faith
in your hearts") if it occur to our mind that a brother hath ought against
us, i.e. if we have injured him in anything (for then he has something
against uswhereas we have something against him if he has injured us, and
in that case it is not necessary to proceed to reconciliation: for you
will not ask pardon of one who has done you an injury, but merely forgive
him, as you desire to be forgiven by the Lord what you have committed against
Him), we are therefore to proceed to reconciliation, when it has occurred
to our mind that we have perhaps injured our brother in something; but
this is to be done not with the bodily feet, but with the emotions of the
mind, so that you are to prostrate yourself with humble disposition before
your brother, to whom you have hastened in affectionate thought, in the
presence of Him to whom you are about to present your offering. For thus,
even if he should be present, you will be able to soften him by a mind
free from dissimulation, and to recall him to goodwill by asking pardon,
if first you have done this before God, going to him not with the slow
movement of the body, but with the very swift impulse of love; and then
coming, i.e. recalling your attention to that which you were beginning
to do, you will offer your gift.89
28. But who acts in a way that he is neither angry with his brother
without a cause, nor says "Raca" without a cause, nor calls him a fool
without a cause, all of which are most proudly committed; or so, that,
if perchance he has fallen into any of these, he asks pardon with suppliant
mind, which is the only remedy; who but just the man that is not puffed
up with the spirit of empty boasting? "Blessed" therefore "are the poor
in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Let us look now at what
29. "Be kindly disposed,"90 says he, "toward thine adversary quickly,
whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver
thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou
be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come
Out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." I understand who
the judge is: "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment
unto the Son."91 I understand who the officer is: "And angels," it is said,
"ministered unto Him:"92 and we believe that He will come with His angels
to judge the quick and the dead. I understand what is meant by the prison:
evidently the punishments of darkness, which He calls in another passage
the outer darkness:93 for this reason, I believe, that the joy of the divine
rewards is something internal in the mind itself, or even if anything more
hidden can be thought of, that joy of which it is said to the servant who
deserved well, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord;"94 just as also, under
this republican government, one who is thrust into prison is sent out from
the council chamber, or from the palace of the judge.
30. But now, with respect to paying the uttermost farthing,95 it may
be understood without absurdity either as standing for this, that nothing
is left unpunished; just as in common speech we also say "to the very dregs,"
when we wish to express that something is so drained out that nothing is
left: or by the expression "the uttermost farthing" earthly sins may be
meant. For as a fourth part of the separate component parts of this world,
and in fact as the last, the earth is found; so that you begin with the
heavens, you reckon the air the second, water the third, the earth the
fourth. It may therefore seem to be suitably said, "till thou hast paid
the last fourth," in the sense of "till thou hast expiated thy earthly
sins:" for this the sinner also heard, "Earth thou art, and unto earth
shall thou return."96 Then, as to the expression "till thou hast paid,"
I wonder if it does not mean that punishment which is called eternal.97
For whence is that debt paid where there is now no opportunity given of
repenting and of leading a more correct life? For perhaps the expression
"till thou hast paid" stands here in the same sense as in that passage
where it is said, "Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies
Thy footstool;"98 for not even when the enemies have been put under His
feet, will He cease to sit at the right hand: or that statement of the
apostle, "For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet;"99
for not even when they have been put under His feet, will He cease to reign.
Hence, as it is there understood of Him respecting whom it is said, "He
must reign, till He hath put His enemies under His feet" that He will reign
for ever, inasmuch as they will be for ever under His feet: so here it
may be understood of him respecting whom itis said, "Thou shalt by no means
come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing," that he will
never come out; for he is always paying the uttermost farthing, so long
as he is suffering the everlasting punishment of his earthly sins. Nor
would I say this in such a way as that I should seem to prevent a more
careful discussion respecting the punishment of sins, as to how in the
Scriptures it is called eternal; although in all possible ways it is to
be avoided rather than known.
31. But let us now see who the adversary himself is, with whom we are
enjoined to agree quickly, whiles we are in the way with him. For he is
either the devil, or a man, or the flesh, or God, or His commandment.100
But I do not see how we should be enjoined to be on terms of goodwill,
i.e. to be of one heart or of one mind, with the devil. For some have rendered
the Greek word which is found here "of one heart," others "of one mind:"
but neither are we enjoined to show goodwill to the devil (for where there
is goodwill there is friendship: and no one would say that we are to make
friends with the devil); nor is it expedient to come to an agreement with
him, against whom we have declared war by once for all renouncing him,
and on conquering whom we shall be crowned; nor ought we now to yield to
him, for if we had never yielded to him, we should never have fallen into
such miseries. Again, as to the adversary being a man, although we are
enjoined to live peaceably with all men, as far as lieth in us, where certainly
goodwill, and concord, and consent may be understood; yet I do not see
how I can accept the view, that we are delivered to the judge by a man,
in a case where I understand Christ to be the judge, "before" whose "judgment-seat
we must all appear,"101 as the apostle says: how then is he to deliver
me to the judge, who will appear equally with me before the judge? Or if
any one is delivered to the judge because he has injured a man, although
the party who has been injured does not deliver him, it is a much more
suitable view, that the guilty party is delivered to the judge by that
law against which he acted when he injured the man. And this for the additional
reason, that if any one has injured a man by killing him, there will be
no time now in which to agree with him; for he is not now in the way with
him, i.e. in this life: and yet a remedy will not on that account be excluded,
if one repents and flees for refuge with the sacrifice of a broken heart
to the mercy of Him who forgives the sins of those who turn to Him, and
who rejoices more over one penitent than over ninety-nine just persons.102
But much less do I see how we are enjoined to bear goodwill towards, or
to agree with, or to yield to, the flesh. For it is sinners rather who
love their flesh, and agree with it, and yield to it; but those who bring
it into subjection are not the parties who yield to it, but rather they
compel it to yield to them.
32. Perhaps, therefore, we are enjoined to yield to God, and to be well-disposed
towards Him, in order that we may be reconciled to Him, from whom by sinning
we have turned away, so that He can be called our adversary. For He is
rightly called the adversary of those whom He resists, for "God resisteth
the proud, but giveth grace to the humble;"103 and "pride is the beginning
of all sin, but the beginning of man's pride is to become apostate from
God;"104 and the apostle says, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled
to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be
saved by His life."105 And from this it may be perceived that no nature
[as being] bad is an enemy to God, inasmuch as the very parties who were
enemies are being reconciled. Whoever, therefore, while in this way, i.e.
in this life, shall not have been reconciled to God by the death of His
Son, will be delivered to the judge by Him, for "the Father judgeth no
man, but hath delivered all judgment to the Son;" and so the other things
which are described in this section follow, which we have already discussed.
There is only one thing which creates a difficulty as regards this interpretation,
viz. how it can be rightly said that we are in the way with God, if in
this passage. He Himself is to be understood as the adversary of the wicked,
with whom we are enjoined to be reconciled quickly; unless, perchance,
because He is everywhere, we also, while we are in this way, are certainly
with Him. For as it is said, "If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there;
if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of
the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall
Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me."106 Or if the view
is not accepted, that the wicked are said to be with God, although there
is nowhere where God is not present,-just as we do not say that the blind
are with the light, although the light surrounds their eyes,-there is one
resource remaining: that we should understand the adversary here as being
the commandment of God. For what is so much an adversary to those who wish
to sin as the commandment of God, i.e. His law and divine Scripture, which
has been given us for this life, that it may be with us in the way, which
we must not contradict, lest it deliver us to the judge, but which we ought
to submit to quickly? For no one knows when he may depart out of this life.
Now, who is it that submits to divine Scripture, save he who reads or hears
it piously, deferring to it as of supreme authority; so that what he understands
he does not hate on this account, that he feels it to be opposed to his
sins, but rather loves being reproved by it, and rejoices that his maladies
are not spared until they are healed; and so that even in respect to what
seems to him obscure or absurd, he does not therefore raise contentious
contradictions, but prays that he may understand, yet remembering that
goodwill and reverence are to be manifested towards so great an authority?
But who does this, unless just the man who has come, not harshly threatening,
but in the meekness of piety, for the purpose of opening and ascertaining
the contents of his father's will? "Blessed," therefore, "are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth."
77 "With all their care, they had not understood the
true spirit off the law" (Schaff). The rest of the Sermon is largely a
comment on this verse, Christ giving His interpretation of the law, and
the righteousness following upon its observance; showing that the purport
goes beyond the external act of obedience to the purpose of the heart,
and that in the external act of obedience the real purport might be ignored.
78 Sine causa. The weight of critical evidence is against
this clause, which is omitted by Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort, the Vulgate
and the Revised Version.
79 The "judgment" (kri/sij) was the local court of seven,
which every community was enjoined to have (Deut. xvi. 18). The "council"
was the Sanhedrin, consisting ot seventy-two members, sitting in Jerusalem.
The "gehenna" was the vale of Hinnom, on the confines of Jerusalem, where
sacrifices were offered to Moloch, and which became the place for refuse
and the burning of dead bodies. In the New Testament it is equivalent to
80 r@eiv)#&)ew$iv is from the Chald. )qyr , and is
a term of contempt equivalent to empty-headed (Thayer's Lexicon). Trench
translates, "Oh, vain man!"
81 It is important "to keep in mind that there is no
distinction in kind between these punishments, only of degree. The `judgment
0' (kri/sij) inflicted death by the sword, the Sanhedrin death by stoning,
and the disgrace of the gehenna followed as an intensification of death;
but the punishment is one and the same,-death. So also in the subject of
the similitude. All the punishments are spiritual; all result in eternal
death, but with various degrees, as the degrees of guilt have been" (Alford).
82 Augustin helps us to understand how the word e0kh=
(without cause) in the preceding clause crept into some of the Mss. In
Retract. I. xix. 4 he makes the critical note and correction: "Codices
graeci non habent sine causa."
83 Gal. iii. 1.
84 Obtuleris; Vulgate, offers.
85 Eph iv. 26.
86 The performance of an act of worship does not atone
for an offence against a fellow-man. The duties toward God never absolve
from man's duties to his neighbour. Inter rem sacram magis subit recordatio
offensarum, quam in strepitu negotiorum (Bengel).
87 1 Cor. iii. 17.
88 Eph. iii. 17. In interiore homine, a different construction
from the Greek, which has ei=j with the accusative. So Vulgate,in interiorem
89 "Discharge of duty to men does not absolve from duty
to God." The passage has strong bearing upon the relation of morality an
90 Benevolus; Vulgate, consentiens. What is matter of
prudence in a civil case, becomes matter of life and death in spiritual
things. The Lord does not intend to inculcate simply a law of worldly prudence
as asserted by a few modern commentators.
91 John v. 22.
92 Matt. iv. 11.
93 Matt. viii. 12.
94 Matt. xxv. 23.
95 The word translated "farthing" means literally "a
fourth part" and on this original sense Augustin's second interpretation
96 Gen. iii. 19.
97 Universalists have quoted the passage to prove the
doctrine that punishment will not be endless, others in favor of purgatory.
The main idea is the inexorable rigor of the divine justice against the
impenitent. "The whole tone of the passage is that of one who seeks to
deepen the sense of danger, not to make light of it; to make men feel that
they cannot pay their debt, though God may forgive it freely" (Plumptre).
98 Ps. cx. 1.
99 1 Cor. xv. 25.
100 "The devil" (Clemens Alex.); "conscience" (Euthymius,
Zig.); "the man who has done the injury" (Meyer, Tholuck Lange, Trench,
101 2 Cor. v. 10. Exhiberi; Vulgate, manifestari.
102 Luke xv. 7.
103 Jas. iv. 6.
104 Ecclus. x. 13, 12.
105 Rom. v. 10.
106 Ps. cxxxix. 8-10.