Do not swear (Jas 5:12)

“My brothers!

Above all,

Do not swear,

Either by heaven

Or by earth,

Or by any other oath.

Let your ‘Yes’

Be yes

And your ‘No’

Be no,

So that you may not fall

Under condemnation.”

Πρὸ πάντων δέ, ἀδελφοί μου, μὴ ὀμνύετε, μήτε τὸν οὐρανὸν μήτε τὴν γῆν μήτε ἄλλον τινὰ ὅρκον· ἤτω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ Ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ Οὒ οὔ, ἵνα μὴ ὑπὸ κρίσιν πέσητε.

James said, “My brothers (ἀδελφοί μου)!  Above all (Πρὸ πάντων δέ), do not swear (μὴ ὀμνύετε), either by heaven (μήτε τὸν οὐρανὸν) or by earth (μήτε τὴν γῆν μήτε), or by any other oath (ἄλλον τινὰ ὅρκον).  Let your (ἤτω δὲ ὑμῶν) ‘Yes (τὸ Ναὶ)’ be yes (ναί) and your ‘No (καὶ τὸ Οὒ)’ be no (οὔ), so that you may not (ἵνα μὴ) fall (πέσητε) under condemnation (ὑπὸ κρίσιν).”  James wanted his readers to be exact in their speech.  They should not be involved with any kind of swearing oaths.  They should not swear by heaven, earth, or anything at all.  They should be straight talkers without ambiguity.  When they say yes or no, they should mean it.  They should not be wishy washy in their speech.  Otherwise, they might be judged badly or condemned.  Are you a straight talker?

Do not swear (Mt 5:34-5:36)

“But I say to you!

‘Do not swear at all!

Either by heaven,

It is the throne of God,

Or by the earth,

It is his footstool.

Do not swear

By Jerusalem!

It is the city

Of the great king.

Do not swear

By your head!

You cannot

Make one hair

White or black.’”


ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως· μήτε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὅτι θρόνος ἐστὶν τοῦ Θεοῦ·

μήτε ἐν τῇ γῇ, ὅτι ὑποπόδιόν ἐστιν τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ· μήτε εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, ὅτι πόλις ἐστὶν τοῦ μεγάλου Βασιλέως·

μήτε ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ σου ὀμόσῃς, ὅτι οὐ δύνασαι μίαν τρίχα λευκὴν ποιῆσαι ἢ μέλαιναν.


Matthew has this unique presentation where Jesus has a solemn saying (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν) about ending all oaths, which would have been radical for his time.  They were not to swear by anything at all (μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως).  They should not swear by heaven (μήτε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ) since that is the throne of God (ὅτι θρόνος ἐστὶν τοῦ Θεοῦ).  They should not swear by earth (μήτε ἐν τῇ γῇ) since that is the footstool for the feet of God (ὅτι ὑποπόδιόν ἐστιν τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ).  They should not swear by Jerusalem (μήτε εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα) since that is the city of the great king (ὅτι πόλις ἐστὶν τοῦ μεγάλου Βασιλέως).  They should not swear or take an oath by their own head (μήτε ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ σου ὀμόσῃς) since they could not change one hair of their head to black or white (ὅτι οὐ δύνασαι μίαν τρίχα λευκὴν ποιῆσαι ἢ μέλαιναν).  This was a blanket statement.  There would be no more taking oaths, no more swearing by anything, anywhere.