The Six Antitheses

The Word “Antithesis.” 
(plural: antitheses)

n     The word “antithesis” means “a contrast.” 

n     Six times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts the teaching of the Law of Moses with his new and more perfect teaching--the New Law.

n     Each antithesis has a pattern.

n    “It was said…” introduces the teaching of the Law of Moses. 

n    “But I say to you….” introduces the New Law of Jesus.


1. Anger

n     Law of Moses: It was said… “You shall not kill”

n     Jesus’ New Law: But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….

·   Explanation

·      Jesus teaches the wrongfulness of anger and hatred, not simply as feelings, but as deliberately chosen attitudes.

n  anger:  to desire revenge

n  hatred: to wish evil on another person

·      The more serious the revenge desired or the evil wished, the more serious the sin.

·      If we have hurt anyone, and they are rightfully angry at us, we should make amends.


Raqa and Gehenna

n     Raqa is an Aramaic word that meant “idiot,” “empty-head,” or “fool.”

n     Gehenna, a valley near Jerusalem, had once been a place of pagan worship where children were sacrificed.  Later, people dumped their garbage there and burned it.  Jesus chose gehenna, this valley filled with burning garbage, as an image of the place of eternal punishment.


2. Lust

n     Law of Moses: It was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”

n     Jesus’ New Law: But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

·   Explanation

·      We should not look at a person of the opposite sex with an intention to commit a sexual sin.

·      We should not look at a person of the opposite sex for the purpose of exciting our own sexual desire (e.g. pornography).


3. Divorce

n     Law of Moses: It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.”

n     Jesus’ New Law: But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife…causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

·   Explanation:

·      Under the Law of Moses, a man was allowed to divorce his wife by giving her a “get,” a written decree affirming that he had in fact divorced her.  The woman could use the “get” to protect herself in case her ex-husband tried to deny the divorce and make her come back.

·      In Jesus’ New Law, the marriage bond cannot be broken and divorce is no longer possible.

·      A “divorced” person is really still married to the ex-husband or ex-wife.  Hence sexual relations with a “new” husband or wife is an act of adultery. 

·      The “unlawful marriage” Jesus referred to was a marriage within forbidden bonds of kinship.  Persons in such a marriage can divorce, because there is no real marriage to begin with.


4. Oaths  (Mt 5:33-37)

n     Law of Moses:  It was said..., “Do not take a false oath….”

n     Jesus’ New Law: But I say to you, do not swear at all….

·   Explanation:

·      Every oath calls to mind the presence of God, before whom we must be perfectly truthful.

·      Jesus forbad evasive oaths that avoided explicit mention of God.  Such oaths were considered to be non-binding.

·      If we are truthful, and we really mean “yes” or “no” when we say it, we don’t need to swear at all.


5. Revenge

·   Law of Moses: It was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

·   Jesus’ New Law: But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil….

·   Explanation:

·      Turn the other cheek:  never seek revenge.

·      Give your coat:  don’t stubbornly insist on your rights.

·      Go two miles:  Roman soldiers had the right to force people to help them.  If someone asks you to help, do it willingly, generously, and cheerfully.


6. Love for enemies

n     Law of Moses: It was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

n     Jesus’ New Law: But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you….

·   Explanation:

·      To love one’s enemies means to wish good upon them, even if they have done evil to us.

·      We should pray for our enemies and ask God to help them to be sorry for the evil they did to us or to those we love.

·      Wishing good upon everyone, even upon enemies, makes us like our heavenly Father, who is good to all.