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Matthew 5:19

Matthew 5:19 is the nineteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has reported that he came not to destroy the law, but fulfil it. In this verse he perhaps continues to reinforce this claim.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

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.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these
least commandments, and teach others to do so,
shall be called least in the Kingdom of
Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them
shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 5:19

Both the WEB and KJV have the prohibition refer to breaking the commandments. France feels this is incorrect as the Greek is closer to "shall set aside one of these."[1]

The sentence structure makes it seem as though this verse is a restatement of the last two in the importance of the Mosaic law, but some disagree. Hill notes that Jesus refers to "these least commandments," but previously and throughout this gospel the law was a singular entity and is not described as a set of rules. Thus some interpret this passage as referring to the collection of rules Jesus is about to set out (the Sermon on the Mount), not the Old Testament ones called the Mosaic Law such as the Ten Commandments or Noahide Laws.[2]

Hill also notes that in Jesus' time mainstream Judaism did make a distinction between lesser and greater commandments and supported the notion that the punishment for breaking a lesser one would be less than for breaking a great one. Some Jewish sects did disagree strongly with this view, however.[3] There is some dispute about what Jesus meant by "least in the Kingdom of Heaven." Schweizer feels that this phrasing is just for literary effect and that it actually means that the law breakers would be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Others feel that this verse does indicate that the Kingdom of Heaven with by divided into grades and that those who break minor commandments will be allowed in, but those who break major ones will not.[4]

Hill notes that some scholars have read this verse as an attack on Paul, who is generally seen to have placed less importance on Mosaic law than the author of Matthew does. Those who support this view see it as based on Paul's description of himself in 1 Corinthians 15:9, where he calls himself "least of the apostles." Most scholars reject this view as there is little evidence that the author of Matthew had read Paul's works.[5]


  1. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  2. ^ Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
  3. ^ Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
  4. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
  5. ^ Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981

Preceded by
Matthew 5:18
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 5
Succeeded by
Matthew 5:20