Matthew 5:37
But let your communication be, Yes, yes; No, no: for whatever is more than these comes of evil.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(37) Let your communication.—One of the few instances in which our translators seem to have preferred a somewhat pedantic Latin word for the more literal and homely English speech. (Comp. Luke 24:17.)

Yea, yea.—St. James reproduces the precept in James 5:12 of his Epistle, but the phrase is found in the Talmud, and was probably proverbial. In all common speech a man’s words should be as good as his oath. Yes should mean yes, and No should mean no, even though there be no oath to strengthen it.

Cometh of evil.—The Greek may (as in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil”) be either neuter, “from evil in the abstract,” or masculine, “from the evil one.” With some hesitation, and guided chiefly by Matthew 13:19-38, I accept the latter as the more probable. These devices of fantastic oaths come not from Him who is the Truth, but from him who “when he speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own” (John 8:44).

5:33-37 There is no reason to consider that solemn oaths in a court of justice, or on other proper occasions, are wrong, provided they are taken with due reverence. But all oaths taken without necessity, or in common conversation, must be sinful, as well as all those expressions which are appeals to God, though persons think thereby to evade the guilt of swearing. The worse men are, the less they are bound by oaths; the better they are, the less there is need for them. Our Lord does not enjoin the precise terms wherein we are to affirm or deny, but such a constant regard to truth as would render oaths unnecessary.But let your communication - Your word; what you say.

Be, Yea - Yes. This does not mean that we should always use the word "yea," for it might as well have been translated "yes"; but it means that we should simply affirm or declare that a thing is so.

More than these - More than these affirmations.

Cometh of evil - Is evil. Proceeds from some evil disposition or purpose. And from this we may learn:

1. That profane swearing is always the evidence of a depraved heart. To trifle with the name of God, or with any of his works, is itself most decided proof of depravity.

2. That no man is believed any sooner in common conversation because he swears to a thing. When we hear a man swear to a thing, it is pretty good evidence that he knows what he is saying to be false, and we should be on our guard. He that will break the third commandment will not hesitate to break the ninth also. And this explains the fact that profane swearers are seldom believed. The man who is always believed is he whose character is beyond suspicion in all things, who obeys all the laws of God, and whose simple declaration, therefore, is enough. A man that is truly a Christian, and leads a Christian life, does not need oaths and profaneness to make him believed.

3. It is no mark of a gentleman to swear. The most worthless and vile. the refuse of mankind, the drunkard and the prostitute, swear as well as the best dressed and educated gentleman. No particular endowments are requisite to give finish to the art of cursing. The basest and meanest of mankind swear with as much tact and skill as the most refined, and he that wishes to degrade himself to the very lowest level of pollution and shame should learn to be a common swearer. Any person has talents enough to learn to curse God and his fellowmen, and to pray - for every man who swears prays - that God would sink him and others into hell. No profane person knows but that God will hear his prayer, and send him to the regions of woe.

4. Profaneness does no one any good. Nobody is the richer, or wiser, or happier for it. It helps no one's morals or manners. It commends no one to any society. The profane man must be, of course, shut out from female society, and no refined conversation can consist with it. It is disgusting to the refined; abominable to the good; insulting to those with whom we associate; degrading to the mind; unprofitable, needless, and injurious in society; and awful in the sight of God.

5. God will not hold the profane swearer guiltless. Wantonly to profane His name, to call His vengeance down, to curse Him on His throne, to invoke damnation, is perhaps of all offences the most awful. And there is not in the universe more cause of amazement at His forbearance, than that God does not rise in vengeance, and smite the profane swearer at once to hell. Verily, in a world like this, where His name is profaned every day, and hour, and moment by thousands, God shows that He is slow to anger, and that His mercy is without bounds!

37. But let your communication—"your word," in ordinary intercourse, be,

Yea, yea; Nay, nay—Let a simple Yes and No suffice in affirming the truth or the untruth of anything. (See Jas 5:12; 2Co 1:17, 18).

for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil—not "of the evil one"; though an equally correct rendering of the words, and one which some expositors prefer. It is true that all evil in our world is originally of the devil, that it forms a kingdom at the head of which he sits, and that, in every manifestation of it he has an active part. But any reference to this here seems unnatural, and the allusion to this passage in the Epistle of James (Jas 5:12) seems to show that this is not the sense of it: "Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." The untruthfulness of our corrupt nature shows itself not only in the tendency to deviate from the strict truth, but in the disposition to suspect others of doing the same; and as this is not diminished, but rather aggravated, by the habit of confirming what we say by an oath, we thus run the risk of having all reverence for God's holy name, and even for strict truth, destroyed in our hearts, and so "fall into condemnation." The practice of going beyond Yes and No in affirmations and denials—as if our word for it were not enough, and we expected others to question it—springs from that vicious root of untruthfulness which is only aggravated by the very effort to clear ourselves of the suspicion of it. And just as swearing to the truth of what we say begets the disposition it is designed to remove, so the love and reign of truth in the breasts of Christ's disciples reveals itself so plainly even to those who themselves cannot be trusted, that their simple Yes and No come soon to be more relied on than the most solemn asseverations of others. Thus does the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, like a tree cast into the bitter waters of human corruption, heal and sweeten them.

Same Subject—Retaliation (Mt 5:38-42). We have here the converse of the preceding lessons. They were negative: these are positive.

St. James saith much the same, Jam 5:12. Let your ordinary discourse in the world be mere affirmations or denials of things in terms or phrases of the same import with yea and nay, though you do not always use those terms. Let forms of swearing be preserved for special times, when the providence of God calls to you for them to determine strife, and make some weighty matters which you assert credible unto others who will not take your bare assertions. Have such a reverence for the name of God, as not to use it for every trifle; and let not my ordinance for the end of strife be made of no use by your common use of the name of God; for in ordinary discourse and common talk, whatsoever is more than bare affirmations and denials, cometh of an evil heart, or from the devil, or from the corruption of other men’s hearts. Some would make the communication mentioned here to be understood as if it were conversation; Let your ways of dealing with men be fitting, without fraud and guile; and so think our Saviour here strikes at the root and cause of so much idle and vain swearing, viz. the common falsehood, frauds, and cozenages of men in their dealings; but it seemeth hard so to interpret logov in this place, our Saviour especially being speaking concerning words and forms of speech. But let your communication be yea, yea,.... That is, let your speech, in your common conversation, and daily business of life, when ye answer to anything in the affirmative, be "yea"; and when ye answer to anything in the negative, "nay": and for the stronger asseveration of the matter, when it is necessary, double these words; but let no oaths be joined unto them: this is enough; a righteous man's yea, is yea, and his no, is no; his word is sufficient. Hence it appears, that our Lord is here speaking of rash swearing, and such as was used in common conversation, and is justly condemned by him. The Jews have no reason to reject this advice of Christ, who often use and recommend the same modes of expression. They endeavour to raise the esteem of their doctors and wise men, by saying, that their words, both in doctrines and dealings with men, are "yea, yea" (y). One of their (z) commentators on the word "saying", in, Exodus 20:1 makes this observation;

"hence we learn, that they used to answer, "concerning yea, yea, and concerning nay, nay".''

This way of speaking, they looked upon equivalent to an oath; yea, they affirm it was one.

"Says R. Eliezer (a), , "nay is an oath; yea is an oath", absolutely; "nay" is an oath, as it is written, Genesis 9:11 and Isaiah 54:9. But that "yea" is an oath, how does it appear? It is concluded from hence, that "nay" is an oath; saith Rabba, there are that say "nay, nay", twice; and there are that say "yea, yea", twice; as it is written, Genesis 9:11 and from hence, that "nay" is twice, "yea" is also twice said.''

The gloss upon it is,

"he that says either "nay, nay", twice, or "yea, yea", twice; lo! it is "as an after oath", which confirms his words.''

For whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil: that is, whatever exceeds this way of speaking and conversation, in the common affairs of life, is either from the devil, who is the evil one, by way of eminency; or from the evil heart of man, from the pride, malice, envy, &c. that are in it.

(y) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 20. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Dayot. c. 5. sect. 13. (z) R. Sol. Jarchi, in Exodus 20.1.((a) T. Bab. Shebuot, fol. 36. 1. Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Shebuot, c. 2. sect. 1.

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

(t) Whatever you affirm, affirm it alone, and whatever you deny, deny it alone without any more words.

(u) From an evil conscience, or from the devil.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 5:37. Let your manner of asseveration be affirmation or negation, without an oath. The repetition of the ναί and οὔ is intended to make prominent the earnest and decisive nature of the assurance.[417] Similar examples of חְן חְן and לֹא לֹא in the Rabbins, in Lightfoot, and Schoettgen, p. 41. Comp. the ΝΑῚ ΚΑῚ Οὒ ΠΥΘΑΓΟΡΙΚΌΝ in Ausonius, Idyll. 17 : “Si consentitur, mora nulla intervenit Esther est; Si controversum, dissensio subjiciet non.” As a matter of course, by this representation other asseverations—made, however, without an oath—are not excluded.

τὸ δὲ περισς. τουτ.] whatever is more than yea and nay (τούτων), that is swearing.

ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΠΟΝΗΡΟῦ] Euth. Zigabenus: ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΔΙΑΒΌΛΟΥ: auctorem habet diabolum. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Beza, Zwingli, Castalio, Piscator, Wetstein, and others; also Fritzsche, Keim. Comp. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:12. Others (Luther, Calovius, Bengel, Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Paulus, Tholuck, de Wette, Baumgarten Crusius, Ewald, Bleek, and others) take ΤΟῦ ΠΟΝΗΡΟῦ as neuter, so that it would have to be explained: is in the category of evil, is sinful. Comp. the use of ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ἘΜΦΑΝΟῦς, ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΕὐΠΡΕΠΟῦς, etc., Matthiae, p. 1334. But how insipid and devoid of meaning is the closing thought if this be the meaning! how energetic if Ὁ ΠΟΝΗΡΌς, Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:38, is intended! And by this energetic rejection of the oath amongst the ideal people of God, to whom the completed law applies, there is no opposition to the Old Testament sacredness of an oath. But if under the completed law the mere yea and nay are to have the weight and reliability of an oath, then this highest moral standard and ordinance of truthfulness would be again taken away and perverted by him who nevertheless should swear; while the yea and nay would again be deprived of the guarantee of truthfulness, which, like all opposition to the truth, would be diabolical (John 8:44). The oath by God could not be rejected by Jesus, in and by itself, as ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΠΟΝΗΡΟῦ, for it certainly rests upon the divine law; but (in answer to Keim) it has, upon the standpoint of the ΠΛΉΡΩΣΙς of the law, given way to the yea and nay, therefore its re-establishment would only be a desertion of these higher stages, a falling away from the moral ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗς, up to which Christ means to fulfil the law. This could not proceed from God, but only from the enemy of His will and kingdom. In a similar way, as Theophylact rightly saw, circumcision in the O. T. is ordained of God, and is worthy of honour; but to uphold its validity in Christianity to the injury of faith, and of righteousness by faith, is sinful, devilish; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14. So also with sacrifices, festival days, prohibition of meats, and so on.

[417] In answer to Beza’s erroneous explanation, “let your affirmative discourse be yea, and your negative, nay;” and, in answer to Grotius (comp. also Erasmus), who takes the second ναί and οὔ to refer to the act which corresponds to the assurance, so that the meaning would be: “fidem a nobis praestari debere in promissis etiam injuratis,” see Fritzsche on the passage. According to Hilgenfeld, the original text is said to have been, in accordance with the quotations in Justin (Apol. i. 16, p. 63) and the Clementines (Rom. 3:55, 19:2): ἔστω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ, καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ. Comp. Jam 5:12; 2 Corinthians 1:17. Matthew would appear again to introduce an assurance like an oath. Keim also deems the form of statement as given by Matthew to be less correct.Matthew 5:37. Ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν, your conversation) your daily ordinary speech. ναὶ, ναὶ. οὓ, οὓ, yea, yea; nay, nay) Let “yea,” or, “it is, be employed to affirm what is true,—“Nay,” or, “it is not,” to deny what is false.[221] Cf. Gnomon on 2 Corinthians 1:17-18, and Jam 5:12.—περισσὸν, exceeding, that which exceeds) Excess is faulty.—ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, of evil); the word is here in the neuter gender, [and signifies evil in the abstract]: see Matthew 5:39.

[221] Lit. Let the “It is” of fact be also the “It is” in your words: let the “It is not” of fact be also the “It is not” in your words.—ED.Verse 37. - Your communication. Similarly, the Authorized Version in Ephesians 4:29, in archaic usage for "talk." Yea, yea; Nay, nay. Christ permits as far as the repetition of the asseveration. The adoption here by a few authorities of the phrase in James 5:12 ("Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay," τὸ ναὶ ναὶ κ.τ.λ..)is unsuitable; for here the question is not of truthfulness, but of fervency in asseveration. Whatsoever is more than these; "that which is over and above these" (Rheims). There is a superfluity (περισσόν) in more fervent asseverations, which has its origin ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῖ. Cometh of evil. So the Revised Version margin, "as in ver. 39; 6:13.' Revised Version, is of the evil one (vide Matthew 6:13, note; and cf. 1 John 3:12).
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