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Seven Woes

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The[a] experts in the law[b] and the Pharisees[c] sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.[d] They[e] tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them. They[f] do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries[g] wide and their tassels[h] long. They[i] love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues[j] and elaborate greetings[k] in the marketplaces,[l] and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ.[m] 11 The[n] greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, experts in the law[o] and you Pharisees, hypocrites![p] You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven![q] For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.[r]

15 “Woe to you, experts in the law[s] and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert,[t] and when you get one,[u] you make him twice as much a child of hell[v] as yourselves!

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple is bound by nothing.[w] But whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing.[x] But if anyone swears by the gift on it he is bound by the oath.’ 19 You are blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and the one who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, experts in the law[y] and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth[z] of mint, dill, and cumin,[aa] yet you neglect what is more important in the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You[ab] should have done these things without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel![ac]

25 “Woe to you, experts in the law[ad] and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup,[ae] so that the outside may become clean too!

27 “Woe to you, experts in the law[af] and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs[ag] that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, experts in the law[ah] and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You[ai] build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves[aj] of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,[ak] we would not have participated with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 By saying this you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up then the measure of your ancestors! 33 You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?[al]

34 “For this reason I[am] am sending you prophets and wise men and experts in the law,[an] some of whom you will kill and crucify,[ao] and some you will flog[ap] in your synagogues[aq] and pursue from town to town, 35 so that on you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah,[ar] whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth,[as] this generation will be held responsible for all these things![at]

Judgment on Israel

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,[au] you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you![av] How often I have longed[aw] to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but[ax] you would have none of it![ay] 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate! 39 For I tell you, you will not see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”[az]


  1. Matthew 23:2 tn Grk “saying.” The participle λέγων (legōn) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
  2. Matthew 23:2 tn Or “The scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  3. Matthew 23:2 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  4. Matthew 23:3 tn Grk “for they say and do not do.”
  5. Matthew 23:4 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  6. Matthew 23:5 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  7. Matthew 23:5 sn Phylacteries were small leather cases containing OT scripture verses, worn on the arm and forehead by Jews, especially when praying. The custom was derived from such OT passages as Exod 13:9; 16; Deut 6:8; 11:18.
  8. Matthew 23:5 tn The term κράσπεδον (kraspedon) in some contexts could refer to the outer fringe of the garment (possibly in Mark 6:56). This edge could have been plain or decorated. L&N 6.180 states, “In Mt 23:5 κράσπεδον denotes the tassels worn at the four corners of the outer garment (see 6.194).”sn Tassels refer to the tassels that a male Israelite was obligated to wear on the four corners of his outer garment according to the Mosaic law (Num 15:38; Deut 22:12).
  9. Matthew 23:6 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  10. Matthew 23:6 sn See the note on synagogues in 4:23.
  11. Matthew 23:7 sn There is later Jewish material in the Talmud that spells out such greetings in detail. See H. Windisch, TDNT 1:498.
  12. Matthew 23:7 sn See the note on marketplaces in Matt 11:16.
  13. Matthew 23:10 tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”sn See the note on Christ in 1:16.
  14. Matthew 23:11 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  15. Matthew 23:13 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  16. Matthew 23:13 tn Grk “Woe to you…because you…” The causal particle ὅτι (hoti) has not been translated here for rhetorical effect (and so throughout this chapter).
  17. Matthew 23:13 tn Grk “because you are closing the kingdom of heaven before people.”
  18. Matthew 23:13 tc Many of the most significant mss (א B D L Z Θ ƒ1 33 892* and several versional witnesses) lack 23:14 “Woe to you experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ property, and as a show you pray long prayers! Therefore you will receive a more severe punishment.” Part or all of the verse is contained (either after v. 12 or after v. 13) in W Γ Δ 0102 0107 ƒ13 565 579 700 1241 1424 M and several versions. Note also that Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 are very similar in wording and are not disputed textually. It is difficult to see this verse as authentic in Matthew in light of the two locations, variants withing this addition, and the key witnesses, early and diverse, that lack the verse itself. It almost certainly is not original. The present translation follows NA28 in omitting the verse number as well, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.
  19. Matthew 23:15 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  20. Matthew 23:15 tn Or “one proselyte.”
  21. Matthew 23:15 tn Grk “when he becomes [one].”
  22. Matthew 23:15 tn Grk “a son of Gehenna.” Expressions constructed with υἱός (huios) followed by a genitive of class or kind denote a person belonging to the class or kind specified by the following genitive (L&N 9.4). Thus the phrase here means “a person who belongs to hell.”sn See the note on the word hell in 5:22.
  23. Matthew 23:16 tn Grk “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing.”
  24. Matthew 23:18 tn Grk “Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing.”
  25. Matthew 23:23 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  26. Matthew 23:23 tn Or “you tithe mint.”
  27. Matthew 23:23 sn Cumin (alternately spelled cummin) was an aromatic herb native to the Mediterranean region. Its seeds were used for seasoning.
  28. Matthew 23:23 tc ‡ Many witnesses (B C K L W Δ 0102 33 565 892 pm) have δέ (de, “but”) after ταῦτα (tauta, “these things”), while many others lack it (א D Γ Θ ƒ1, 13 579 700 1241 1424 pm lat mae bo; SBL). Since asyndeton was relatively rare in Koine Greek, the conjunction may be an intentional scribal alteration, and is thus omitted from the present translation. NA28 includes the word in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.
  29. Matthew 23:24 tn Grk “Blind guides who strain out a gnat yet who swallow a camel!”
  30. Matthew 23:25 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  31. Matthew 23:26 tc A very difficult textual problem is found here. The most significant Alexandrian and Byzantine, as well as key Western, witnesses (א B C L W Γ Δ 0102 0281 ƒ13 33 565 579 1241 1424 M lat co; SBL) have “and the dish” (καὶ τῆς παροψίδος, kai tēs paropsidos) after “cup,” while a few major witnesses (D Θ ƒ1 700 and some versional and patristic authorities) omit the phrase. On the one hand, scribes sometimes tended to eliminate redundancy; since “and the dish” is already present in v. 25, it may have been deleted in v. 26 by well-meaning copyists. On the other hand, as Metzger notes, the singular pronoun αὐτοῦ (autou, “its”) with τὸ ἐκτός (to ektos, “the outside”) in some of the same witnesses that have the longer reading (viz., B* ƒ13 al) hints that their archetype lacked the words (TCGNT 50). Further, scribes would be motivated both to add the phrase from v. 25 and to change αὐτοῦ to the plural pronoun αὐτῶν (autōn, “their”). Although the external evidence for the shorter reading is not compelling in itself, combined with these two prongs of internal evidence, it is to be slightly preferred.
  32. Matthew 23:27 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  33. Matthew 23:27 sn This was an idiom for hypocrisy—just as the wall was painted on the outside but something different on the inside, so this person was not what he appeared or pretended to be (for discussion of a similar metaphor, see L&N 88.234; BDAG 1010 s.v. τοῖχος). See Ezek 13:10-16; Acts 23:3.
  34. Matthew 23:29 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  35. Matthew 23:29 tn Grk “Because you.” Here ὅτι (hoti) has not been translated.
  36. Matthew 23:29 tn Or perhaps “the monuments” (see L&N 7.75-76).
  37. Matthew 23:30 tn Grk “fathers” (so also in v. 32).
  38. Matthew 23:33 tn Grk “the judgment of Gehenna.”sn See the note on the word hell in 5:22.
  39. Matthew 23:34 tn Grk “behold I am sending.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1).
  40. Matthew 23:34 tn Or “scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  41. Matthew 23:34 sn See the note on crucified in 20:19.
  42. Matthew 23:34 tn BDAG 620 s.v. μαστιγόω 1.a states, “of flogging as a punishment decreed by the synagogue (Dt 25:2f; s. the Mishna Tractate Sanhedrin-Makkoth, edited w. notes by SKrauss ’33) w. acc. of pers. Mt 10:17; 23:34.”
  43. Matthew 23:34 sn See the note on synagogues in 4:23.
  44. Matthew 23:35 sn Spelling of this name (Βαραχίου, Barachiou) varies among the English versions: “Barachiah” (RSV, NRSV); “Berechiah” (NASB); “Berachiah” (NIV).
  45. Matthew 23:36 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amēn), I say to you.”
  46. Matthew 23:36 tn Grk “all these things will come on this generation.”
  47. Matthew 23:37 sn The double use of the city’s name betrays intense emotion.
  48. Matthew 23:37 tn Although the opening address (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem”) is direct (second person), the remainder of this sentence in the Greek text is third person (“who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her”). The following sentences then revert to second person (“your…you”), so to keep all this consistent in English, the third person pronouns in the present verse were translated as second person (“you who kill…sent to you”).
  49. Matthew 23:37 sn How often I have longed to gather your children. Jesus, like a lamenting prophet, speaks for God here, who longed to care tenderly for Israel and protect her.
  50. Matthew 23:37 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
  51. Matthew 23:37 tn Grk “you were not willing.”
  52. Matthew 23:39 sn A quotation from Ps 118:26.