Expounding of the Law  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Expounding of the Law, called by some the Antithesis of the Law, is a highly structured ("Ye have heard ... But I say unto you") part of the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It follows both the famed Beatitudes and the metaphors of salt and light.


The second exposition is on the subject of adultery. Firstly it quotes the commandment in the ethical decalogue at about adultery, and then goes on to state that looking at a woman in lust is equal to the act of adultery itself. This is often interpreted as Jesus expanding on the requirements of Mosaic law, but not rejecting it, and similar ideas were anciently expressed in the Testament of Issachar and Tractate Kallah.

When accompanied by a noun or pronoun in the genitive case or by a possessive adjective or when specified in some other way, the word "Template:Polytonic", which in itself means simply "a woman", is used to refer to a "wife". In this context there is no such specification of the word "Template:Polytonic". In any case, it would be quite unwarranted to conclude, perhaps on the basis of the reference to committing adultery, that Jesus was declaring that lustful looks at others than married women were permitted.

The discussion in Matthew continues with two now well known phrases that are also to a degree present in Template:Bibleverse,Template:Bibleverse-nb and Template:Bibleverse:

  • If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out
  • If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off

Rather than if...offend thee, the Greek text is literally if...causes you to stumble, which while a common metaphor for sin, also acts as a joke since plucking out one's eye will result in one stumbling about. No major Christian denomination has ever taken these commands literally, although Origen supposedly castrated himself in order to avoid sexual temptation. That almost everyone views them as deliberate hyperbole has led some commentators to see parts of the other expositions in the Sermon on the Mount as also being hyperbole.

The link between the right hand and the discussion of adultery is somewhat unclear, although in Jewish writings of the time it was common to a triple structure, XYZ eye ABC XYZ hand ABC XYZ foot ABC, seen in Mark 9:43-48 and Matthew 18:8-9. That the hand appears here but not the foot is felt by Hill to be a deliberate reference to theft, which at the time adultery was seen as being a form of. An alternative view is that the mention of a hand linked to lust is a reference to masturbation - though in a Semitic culture the left hand, rather than the right, would be mentioned in that context - and many who criticise masturbation use this verse to condemn it, making this one of the Bible phrases most often cited for that purpose. In the Babylonian Talmud there are similar statements about masturbation and mention is made of cutting off the hand and suffering bodily harm rather than going to the pit of destruction A third view is to see the hand reference as a connecting link to the next exposition, which is about divorce, as a metaphor for separation from a sinful spouse.

Jesus is portrayed in Matthew as making these statements because he considers it better that one cut oneself off from sin so as not to condemn the remainder of oneself to Gehenna. There is much debate as to quite in what way Gehenna is being referred to - whether Jesus was meant to be talking about a physical valley of fire, an afterlife of damnation, or whether the reference is eschatalogical. That the text refers to a whole body being thrown to Gehenna is regarded by some as implying that everyone, even the wicked, would have a full bodily resurrection in the end times, which conforms to the standard Protestant understanding of all being resurrected and judged.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Expounding of the Law" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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