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Matthew 12:36-50 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

36 [a]I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. 37 By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Demand for a Sign.[b] 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher,[c] we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful[d] generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 40 Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,[e] so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 [f]At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. 42 At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

The Return of the Unclean Spirit.[g] 43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation.”

The True Family of Jesus.[h] 46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. 47 [Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.”][i] 48 But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”


  1. 12:36–37 If on the day of judgment people will be held accountable for even their careless words, the vicious accusations of the Pharisees will surely lead to their condemnation.
  2. 12:38–42 This section is mainly from Q (see Lk 11:29–32). Mk 8:11–12, which Matthew has followed in Mt 16:1–4, has a similar demand for a sign. The scribes and Pharisees refuse to accept the exorcisms of Jesus as authentication of his claims and demand a sign that will end all possibility of doubt. Jesus’ response is that no such sign will be given. Because his opponents are evil and see him as an agent of Satan, nothing will convince them.
  3. 12:38 Teacher: see note on Mt 8:19. In Mt 16:1 the request is for a sign “from heaven” (Mk 8:11).
  4. 12:39 Unfaithful: literally, “adulterous.” The covenant between God and Israel was portrayed as a marriage bond, and unfaithfulness to the covenant as adultery; cf. Hos 2:4–14; Jer 3:6–10.
  5. 12:40 See Jon 2:1. While in Q the sign was simply Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites (Lk 11:30, 32), Matthew here adds Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, a prefigurement of Jesus’ sojourn in the abode of the dead and, implicitly, of his resurrection.
  6. 12:41–42 The Ninevites who repented (see Jon 3:1–10) and the queen of the south (i.e., of Sheba; see 1 Kgs 10:1–13) were pagans who responded to lesser opportunities than have been offered to Israel in the ministry of Jesus, something greater than Jonah or Solomon. At the final judgment they will condemn the faithless generation that has rejected him.
  7. 12:43–45 Another Q passage; cf. Mt 11:24–26. Jesus’ ministry has broken Satan’s hold over Israel, but the refusal of this evil generation to accept him will lead to a worse situation than what preceded his coming.
  8. 12:46–50 See Mk 3:31–35. Matthew has omitted Mk 3:20–21 which is taken up in Mk 3:31 (see note on Mt 12:22–32), yet the point of the story is the same in both gospels: natural kinship with Jesus counts for nothing; only one who does the will of his heavenly Father belongs to his true family.
  9. 12:47 This verse is omitted in some important textual witnesses, including Codex Sinaiticus (original reading) and Codex Vaticanus.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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