Matthew 5:47

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Matthew 5:47 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 5:47

And if you salute your brethren only
This does not mean salutation by embraces or kisses, but by words, asking of each other's welfare, and wishing prosperity and happiness to one another.

``The manner of salutation among the wise men was this F5; he that salutes says, a good day to my lord; and he replies, saying, a good, and long day to my lord: always he that replies doubles the salutation.''

The persons they usually gave their salutations to were those of their own nation, their countrymen, relations, and friends; and who are here designed by "brethren"; meaning, not brethren in the strict sense, but any kindred, acquaintance, or any of their own nation. Some copies read it "friends", who, generally speaking, only partook of such favours.

``A man, (says Maimonides F6,) might not salute his master, nor return a salutation to him in the manner they gave a salutation (Myerl) , to "friends": and they return it to one another.''

They were not very free in saluting any persons, as strangers and Gentiles: such advice as this is indeed given (Mda lk Mwlvb Mydqm ywh) {g}, "prevent every man with a salutation", or be first in saluting every man; upon which passage their commentators F8 say, even a Gentile in the streets. Accordingly, it is elsewhere F9 observed, that

``R. Abai used to say, let a man be always cunning with fear, for "a soft answer turns away wrath"; and multiply salutation with his brethren, and with his relations, and with every man, even with a stranger in the streets.''

But this proceeded not from any cordial hearty respect, but out of policy, and from fear; and in order to maintain peace; and for selfish ends, and with sinister views: otherwise their salutations were confined to their brethren and kinsfolk after the flesh. Now, this being the case, says Christ,

what do ye more than others? do not even publicans so?
Or, as some copies read it, Gentiles or Heathens; and accordingly the Ethiopic version, and the Vulgate Latin so render it: the Arabic renders it "idolaters". Now, what great matter was this to salute their brethren and their friends, when even the very Heathens, who had nothing but the light of nature to guide them, did the same?


F5 Sepher Chasidim, fol. 5. col. 2. apud Buxtorf. Florileg. Heb. p. 300, 301.
F6 Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 5. sect. 5.
F7 Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 15.
F8 Jarchi & Bartenora in ib.
F9 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1.

Matthew 5:47 In-Context

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.