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.

 

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Great crowds (Mt 4:25-4:25)

“Great crowds

Followed Jesus

From Galilee,

From the Decapolis,

From Jerusalem,

From Judea,

And from beyond the Jordan.”

 

καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Δεκαπόλεως καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

 

Matthew finished off this unique section by talking about the huge crowds that followed Jesus in Galilee (καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας).  However, he added something that had not been talked about.  Matthew said that the people from Decapolis (Δεκαπόλεως), Jerusalem (καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων), Judea (καὶ Ἰουδαίας), and from beyond on the east bank of the Jordan River (καὶ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου) were following Jesus.  So far, Jesus has not done anything there.  Decapolis was an area of 10 cities or towns east of Galilee, with 9 of these cities on the east side of the Jordan River that included Damascus.  So that the news about Jesus may have spread there, as well on the east side of the Jordan.  However, the mention of Jerusalem and Judea, which were way south, at least 100 miles away, seems like a stretch.

Famous faith healer in Syria (Mt 4:24-4:24)

“So,

Jesus’ fame spread

Throughout all Syria.

They brought to him

All the sick.

This included

Those afflicted

With various diseases,

And with oppressive pains.

It also included

Demoniacs,

Epileptics,

And paralytics.

He cured them.”

 

καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν· καὶ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ πάντας τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας ποικίλαις νόσοις καὶ βασάνοις συνεχομένους, δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς, καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτούς.

 

Once again, Matthew has some unique information about the fame or the news of Jesus that had spread all over Syria (καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν) that was not in the other gospel stories.  This was not impossible since Syria was just north of Galilee and actually Damascus was closer to the Sea of Galilee than Jerusalem.  Besides, there was a large Jewish population in Syria also.  Perhaps this Gospel of Matthew came from Syria.  However, the key element was the healing power of Jesus that also was very strong in the Gospel of Mark.  Here in Matthew, Jesus is the faith healer per excellence.  They brought all kinds of sick people to Jesus (καὶ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ πάντας τοὺς κακῶς).  This included people with various diseases and oppressive pains (ἔχοντας ποικίλαις νόσοις καὶ βασάνοις συνεχομένους).  There was also demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics (δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς) who came to him.  He cured them all (καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτούς.).  There was no difference between spiritual and physical illness, so that healing those possessed of the devil was not out of the question.

The second temptation (Mt 4:5-4:6)

“Then the devil took Jesus

To the holy city.

He placed him

On the pinnacle

Of the temple.

He said to him.

If you are the Son of God,

Throw yourself down.

It is written.

‘He will command his angels

Concerning you.’

And

‘On their hands,

They will bear you up,

So that you will not dash

Your foot

Against a stone.’”

 

Τότε παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν, καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ,

καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Εἰ Υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ Θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω· γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε, μή ποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.

 

There is a difference between Matthew and Luke, chapter 4:5-11, since Luke has this temptation as the last temptation, not the second one. However, the wording is the same indicating a shared common source, perhaps Q. Interesting enough, the devil or the tempter cited Psalm 91:11-12, so that even the devil can quote scripture. This devil took Jesus to the holy city (Τότε παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν), which was Jerusalem. The devil placed Jesus on the top of the Temple (καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ). Once again, the devil said that if Jesus was truly the Son of God (καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Εἰ Υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ Θεοῦ), he could throw himself down (βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω). Then God’s angels would catch him (γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ). The devil, citing Psalm 91:11-12, said that God would command these angels to protect him (ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ). They could catch him in their hands (καὶ ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε), as if angels had hands. Thus, their feet would never touch a stone (καὶ ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε). Yahweh, in this original psalm was going to send his angels to protect the good ones, so that they would never stub their feet on any stones.

John baptized people (Mt 3:6-3:6)

“They were baptized

By him

In the Jordan River,

Confessing their sins.”

 

καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν.

 

Once again, Matthew followed Mark, chapter 1:5. All these people were baptized by John in the Jordan River (καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ), which would have been north of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Jewish baptisms were not that uncommon. Washing was a physical and spiritual cleansing for sins, as people were unclean or dirty. Thus, in the process of this spiritual cleansing, they would confess their sins (ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν). John’s baptism had a few unique qualities since it was a moral statement with an expectation of a coming Messiah or savior.

People went to John at the Jordan River (Mt 3:5-3:5)

“Then the people

Of Jerusalem,

The people

Of all Judea,

Were going out to him.

All the region

Along the Jordan

Were going out to him.”

 

Τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου,

 

Once again, Matthew followed Mark, chapter 1:5. Matthew, like Mark, mentioned all the people from Jerusalem (Ἱεροσόλυμα) and the Judean area (πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία) that were going out to see John the Baptist (Τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν). However, Matthew also added that the people from along the Jordan River (πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου), a little further north, were also coming out to see him.

Joseph goes to Nazareth (Mt 2:23-1:23)

“There Joseph

Made his home

In a town called

Nazareth.

Thus,

What was spoken

Through the prophets

Might be fulfilled.

‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”

 

καὶ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ· ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται.

 

Joseph took his family to a specific place in lower Galilee, a city called Nazareth (ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ). Somehow, this fulfilled a prophecy (ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν) about being called a Nazarene (ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται). Some of Jesus’ followers were called Nazarenes. He was also known as Jesus of Nazareth since this was his childhood home. People have been living in Nazareth for nearly 5.000 years, with over 75,000 people today, as the largest Arab city in Israel. Nazareth may have had a population of about 400 at the time of Jesus. The town of Nazareth is about 20 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about 6 miles west of Mount Tabor, but over 100 miles from Jerusalem. It is difficult to pinpoint where this prophecy comes from. In Judges, chapter 13:2-7, there is a comment that a boy will be a Nazirite from birth, so that no one should cut his hair. Thus, he would deliver Israel from the Philistines. According to Numbers, chapter 6:1-21, there were rules laid out for those who would take the Nazirite vows. They would not drink wine, nor shave their beards. They were not to go near a corpse. They had to bring special offerings to the Temple. This separation and special consecration may have been present among other ancient people, but here it is under Mosaic Law. The normal time period, according to some rabbinic schools, was about a month of Nazirite vows, although others may have been longer. Some have referred to John the Baptist as a Nazirite. On top of that, Jesus of Nazareth may have been confused with Jesus the Nazirite. Is that the case here?