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Matthew 5 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Matthew 5 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

(5:7) "Blessed are the merciful."
But the author of the SAB doesn't mean it, see Acts 26:21.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

(5:9) "Blessed are the peacemakers."

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

(5:16) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works."
Should we let others see our good works?
In order to make sense of the argument of the author of the SAB, I'll just concentrate on the contraduction he sees between this verse and verse 16. See chapter 23:3 where it seems we have a different kind of argument.
The supposed contraduction is according to this logic:
  1. Giving alms is a good work.
  2. According to thise verse, you should do good works publicly as this is shining a light.
  3. According to chapter 6:1 you should not do good works publicly.
And we have a contradiction. The key point in this contradiction is the word “publicly.” What is meant by the phrase “men” in this verse? Does it mean that we should do good works to as many men as possible? Not do them if no one watches, or only a few? Obviously that is nonsense. This verse just explains the phrase “love your neighbour as thyself.” I.e. we should do good works to others. Even if we help just a single person. The intent of this verse is to shine a light to those persons. The intent of our good works is not to shine a light to others who are not being helped. They are not the target.
The giving of alms is therefore an entirely different thing, for two reasons:
  1. It is not an immediate helping of another. Therefore we are not shining a light as per this verse. If we give alms to show off, it's actually the opposite of shining a light.
  2. Also, the giving of alms is optional. It's different from giving a tenth of your incoming (tithing): if the believer follows Jakob, who no doubt followed the father of all believers, Abraham, in giving tithes, Gen. 28:22, a believer does what he should, no more. Alms are on top if that. But we actually give only back to God what he has given us. So what can we boast about God's gifts?

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

(5:17) "Think not that I am come to destroy the law."
Jesus strongly approves of the law and the prophets. He hasn't the slightest objection to the cruelties of the Old Testament.
Cruelty is done only by man. God's punishment might be harse, but is always deserved.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

(5:18) "Till heaven and earth pass"
Jesus says that the Old Testament laws are binding on everyone forever.
Must Christians obey Old Testament laws?
Will the earth last forever?
BOM: Alma 34:13
The laws in the Old Testament can be divided into three parts, The moral and civil parts were specific for Israel and for a certain time. Jesus refers here to the moral law, i.e. the Ten Commandments, which is given to us all, and lasts till the end of time.
On if the earth will last forever, Jesus doesn't say here if the earth will pass or not. He only says that no jot or tittle shall pass from the law until the earth has passed. Jesus doesn't make a claim here about any passing of the earth or not. Just that the law will last as long as the earth will.

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 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.

(5:19) "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Is salvation by faith alone?
Has there ever been a righteous person?
What must you do to be saved? On the Law of Moses On Anger and Insults
What Jesus wants to say here is that it is impossible to be more righteous than the pharisees. It cannot be done. So yes, salvation is by faith alone, see Mark 16:16.

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause 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 hell fire.

Leaving out crucial parts of a verse is a technique best left to the devil (Matthew 4:6). The author of the SAB should have a good look at the words “without a cause” at the beginning of this verse. A fool can still be called a fool as Jesus himself did. But unlike Jesus we are not infallible and unlike Paul we're not inspired by the Holy Ghost, so even if there is a cause we do best if we read chapter 7:3 before doing so.

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

"Whosoever shall say, Thou fool"
Jesus says that "Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Yet he often calls his critics and disciples fools. Paul is also in danger of going to hell since he liked to call people fools.
Is it OK to call someone a fool?

25 Agree with 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.

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

(5:27-28)"Thou shalt not commit adultery."
If a man who looks at a woman with lust commits adultery, and the penalty for adultery is death (Lev.20:10), then shouldn't the man (and the woman?) be put to death?On Lust
I agree with the author of the SAB that such adultery deserves death. But how does the author of the SAB think he can admonish such punishment? As God knows the heart of man, Gen. 6:5, God will judge the heart of man. We do not know what people think, so of course we cannot judge consciences. But God will.

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

(5:29-30) "Pluck it out. Cut it off."
Jesus recommends that to avoid sin we cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes. This advice is given immediately after he says that anyone who looks with lust at any women commits adultery.
What the Bible says about amputation
Isn't it better that one of the members perished instead of the whole body? Surgeons sometimes remove a leg to save the body. Jesus uses the same image here to warn people that God will punish sin. That there whole body is in danger. If we should take this advice literally is a personal interpretation, but we should heed the warning that our whole body is in danger of eternal fire

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

"Saving for the cause of [her] fornication"
In Mark (10:11) and Luke (16:18), Jesus condemns all divorces without exception. But in this verse, Jesus says that divorce is permissible when the wife is guilty of fornication. But what if the husband is unfaithful? Jesus doesn't seem to care about that.
Is divorce ever permissible?
Jesus addresses here a controversy that had arisen about divorce, see the previous verse (verse 31). John Gill says that this controversy was between the schools of Hillell and Shammai. Jesus here affirms the original principle that a marriage is broken by adultery only. The controversy was probably about when males were allowed to divorce their wives, that's why Jesus only addresses males here. But from other verses (Ex. 20:14) of the Bible we know that it doesn't matter who commits the adultery:

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

It is ridiculous to suggest that Jesus didn't know this commandment or believed it only addressed women.
On when divorce is allowed, see the texts cited by the author of the SAB where he claims to read contradictions.

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

“to forswear” means to swear falsely.

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

(5:34-37) "Swear not at all."
Jesus forbids the taking of any kind of oath. Yet Christians in courtrooms throughout the United States place their right hand on the Bible swear to tell the truth.
Is it OK to take oaths?
Jesus opposes swearing in trivial situations here. We can see this in verse 37. Our fellowmen should not have to assume that we lie unless we confirm our statements by swearing. Calling upon God to confirm our statements is a holy occasion and should not be done unless the matter is solemn. Jesus does not oppose such as we see in chapter 23:22 where Jesus addresses swearing yet another time.
In the previous verse (verse 33) Jesus affirms that swearing is according to the law by quoting Lev. 19:12. In verse 18 Jesus says that jot nor title of the law shall pass. Would he be saying here, as the author of the SAB claims, that swearing is now abolished?

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

(5:40) "If any man will sue thee at the law ..." Don't defend yourself in court.
In the Old Testament we see Moses appointing persons to help him judge (Ex. 18:25), we have a book called Judges (Jg. 1:1) and in the New Testament Paul appeals to Ceasar (Acts 25:10). Just a few examples where courts have been used in the Bible. So no, this verse does not mean that you cannot use the courts.
The author of the SAB is simply mistaken that that “sue thee at the law” means going to court. It should be taken as in Luke 6:29 and as John Gill explains:

not contest the matter, or try the cause in an open court of judicature, a sense our version inclines to; but will wrangle and quarrel in a private way, in order to take away thy coat, by force and violence.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

(5:44) "Love your enemies."
Well, it's a nice thought. But it seems strange coming from someone who damns his enemies to hell.
How should enemies be treated?
How should nonbelievers be treated?
(5:45) "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, , and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Is anyone good?
Has the ever been a just person?
What the Bible says about weather
Does this verse mean criminals should not be prosecuted? That a judge should let go a murderer free? That we should not protect our wife or children if they are endangered even if that means being not nice to a thug? Of course it does not. But the meaning is that we, as ordinary citizens, should leave it to God to bring justice to them that hate us and persecute us because we believe in Jesus Christ, and not try to be judge and executioner ourselves. It also means we should not render evil for evil, but we should do good to our enemies as God has loved us who before were God's enemies. Jesus gives us his own example (Luke 23:34) and another is set by Stephen (Acts 7:60).

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.


46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.