Matthew 5:18

18 For truly, I say to you, 1until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Matthew 5:18 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 5:18

For verily I say unto you
Or "I Amen say unto you", which is one of the names of Christ; see ( Revelation 3:14 ) or the word "Amen" is only used by Christ as an asseveration of what he was about to say; and which, for greater confirmation, is usually doubled in the Evangelist John, "Amen, Amen", or "verily, verily". The word is used by the Jews F23 for an oath; they swore by it; and it is a rule with them, that whoever answers "Amen" after an oath, it is all one as if he had pronounced the oath itself. The thing so strongly affirmed in this solemn manner is,

till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise
pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
The (iwta) "or jot", in the Greek language, answers to "jod" in the Hebrew, the least of all the letters in the alphabet; hence a little city is called by this name, and this reason is given for it, F24 (twytwab hnjq dwyv) , "because that jod is the least among letters". We read also of Rabbi Jod F25, perhaps so called because (Njq hyh) , he was little, as the author of Juchasin observes F26. This shows in what language the law was written; not in the Samaritan language, for the jod in that is a large letter, but in the Hebrew, in which it is very small; and particularly is written in a very diminutive character, in ( Deuteronomy 32:18 ) "by one tittle" some think is meant one of those ducts, dashes, or corners of letters, which distinguish one letter from another, that are much alike; others have thought that one of the pricks or vowel points is intended; others, one of those little strokes in the tops of letters, which the Jews call F1 "crowns" and "spikes", is here meant, in which they imagined great mysteries were contained; and there were some persons among them, who made it their business to search into the meaning of every letter, and of everyone of these little horns, or pricks, that were upon the top of them. So says R. Meir F2,

``in the time of the prophets there were such who very diligently searched every letter in the law, and explained every letter by itself; and do not wonder at this that they should expound every letter by itself, for they commented (twaw twa lk lv Uwqw Uwq lk le) , upon everyone of the tops of each letter.''

Such an expounder was Akiba ben Joseph F3. To which custom Christ is here supposed to have respect: however, certain it is that he speaks very much in the language, and agreeably to the mind of the Jewish doctors; and some things in their writings will serve to illustrate this passage,

``If, (say they F4,) all the nations of the world were gathered together, "to root one word out of the law", they could not do it; which you may learn from Solomon, who sought to root "one letter out of the law", the letter "jod", in ( Deuteronomy 17:16 Deuteronomy 17:17 ) but the holy blessed God said, Solomon shall cease, and an hundred such as he (in the Talmud F5 it is a thousand such as he) (Mlwel hlyjb hnya Kmm) (dwyw) , "but, jod shall not cease from thee (the law) for ever".''

And elsewhere the same expression is used F6, and it is added,

``(ljbm ynya Kmm huwqw) , "but a tittle from thee shall not perish."''

The design of Christ, in conformity to the language of the Jews, is to declare, that no part of the law, not one of the least commandments in it, as he explains himself in the next verse, should be unaccomplished; but all should be fulfilled before "heaven and earth pass" away, as they will, with a great noise and fervent heat, as to their present form and condition; or sooner shall they pass away, than the least part of the law shall: which expresses the perpetuity of the law, and the impossibility of its passing away, and the superior excellency of it to the heavens and the earth. It is a saying of one of the Jewish doctors F7, that

``the whole world is not equal even to one word out of the law,''

in which it is said, there is not one letter deficient or superfluous.


F23 T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 60. 4. Misn. Bava Kama, c. 9. sect. 7, 8. T. Bab. Shebuot, fol. 36. 1. Debarim Rabba, fol. 242. 2. Maimon Hilch. Shebuot, c. 2. sect. 1.
F24 T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 21. 2. & Gloss. in ib.
F25 T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 22. 2.
F26 Fol. 93. 2.
F1 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 29. 2.
F2 In Semitis fidei, fol. 104. 4. & 105. 1. apud Capell. in loc.
F3 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 29. 2.
F4 Vajikra Rabba, fol. 160. 3. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol 20. 2.
F5 T. Hieros. Sanhedrim, fol. 20. 3.
F6 Shemot Rabba, fol. 96. 1.
F7 T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 4.

Matthew 5:18 In-Context

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Cross References 1

  • 1. Luke 16:17; [Matthew 24:35]
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.