Matthew 12:37

37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”

Matthew 12:37 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 12:37

For by thy words thou shalt be justified
Theophylact seems to take these words to be a passage of Scripture cited by Christ, in proof of what he had said, but does not point to any; nor is any such Scripture to be found. They are rather proverbial expressions, in common use among the Jews; or refer to the usual methods of proceeding in courts of judicature, upon the acknowledgments and confessions of persons.

``Says Resh Lakish F5, such an one and such an one, they justify; and such an one and such an one, they condemn. R. Eliezer replies, (ynwlp hkdzg Nhyrbdm) , "by their words such an one and such an one are justified".''

The gloss upon it is,

``upon hearing the difference there is between them, and between their words, they are justified.''

Our Lord's meaning is, that not only works and actions, but words of all sorts, will come into account in the day of judgment, and will be evidences for, or against a man, to acquit or condemn him:

and by thy words thou shalt be condemned:
according to these, the sentence of justification, or of condemnation, will be pronounced; as these will appear to be evidences for, or against a man's being in a state of grace and righteousness: thus for instance, a man that has spoken for Christ, and has freely confessed that all his hope of justification before God, and acceptance with him, is solely upon the account of the righteousness of Christ imputed; such a man will be declared a justified man according to the tenor of his own words: on the other hand, a man that has spoken hard speeches against Christ, and his righteousness; declaring he has no dependence on it, expects no justification by it; he will be convinced of these ungodly sayings, and out of his own mouth will be condemned. Some have thought, that Christ here strikes at a notion which obtained among the Jews, that little or no account would be taken of a man's words in the day of judgment; provided his life and actions were good, and regular; but whatever were the sentiments of the Pharisees, or of any of Christ's present hearers, it is certain, that it is the opinion of Jewish writers, that words, as well as actions, will be accounted for hereafter: they say F6,

``When a man dies, he lifts up his eyes and sees two come to him, and write before him all that he has done in this world, (hymwp Nm qypad hm lkw) , "and all that has proceeded out of his mouth", (alk le anyd byhyw) , "and he gives an account for all"; and a little after, (Nylm Nwnya lk) , "all the words" of a man in this world, are prepared before him, and not one of them lost; and in the hour he goes to his grave, they are all set before him.''


F5 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 30. 1.
F6 Zohar in Num. fol. 53. 2.

Matthew 12:37 In-Context

35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.
36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.
37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”
39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.