Matthew 23:17
You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes it sacred?
Pharisees and SadduceesMarcus Dods Matthew 23:2-33
Ostentatious ProfanityR. Hall.Matthew 23:16-22
SwearingJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 23:16-22
The AltarC. H. Spurgeon.Matthew 23:16-22
Thoughtless ProfanityE. H. Chopin, D. D.Matthew 23:16-22
Unreasonable OathsM. Pool.Matthew 23:16-22

From the doings of the scribes and Pharisees the Lord passes to their teaching; and he commences with their refinement in respect to oaths. There is no reference here to judicial swearing, or deposing upon oath before a magistrate in the interests of public justice. The whole argument goes to show that the swearing here referred to is the voluntary and gratuitous.


1. Simple assertion, is the sufficient bond of a true man.

(1) By volunteering more, a man reflects upon his own honour, he that will not trifle with his word has no need to swear.

(2) By requiring more, he reflects upon the character of his neighbour.

(3) An oath is no increased guarantee for truth. He that can trifle with his word will trifle with an oath.

2. More than affirmation is from an evil source.

(1) It comes from the spirit of falsehood. This is the spirit of the devil. He is the father of lies.

(2) The spirit of falsehood will make lies as black as possible by calling in sacred things to witness them.


1. The Pharisees invented evasive distinctions.

(1) "An oath for confirmation is the end of all strife," because it is an appeal to God as witness to the truth.

(2) But the Pharisees made it "nothing," i.e. the oath has no force, or may be violated with impunity, to swear by the temple, provided the gold of the temple was left out of the question. So they made it "nothing" to swear by the altar, provided the gift upon the altar was excepted. Thus their swearing tended to lying.

2. These distinctions were false in fact.

(1) They inverted the order of importance. They preferred the gifts to the altar, and the gold to the temple. They preferred their own righteousness to the righteousness of God, in holding their gifts to be of greater consequence than God's appointment.

(2) The altar which sanctifies the gift is greater than the gift; so for the same reason is the temple greater than the gold. Note: Gold that touches the altar is more than gold, for it is consecrated to the Divine service. Things are great in proportion to their sacredness. Therefore seek first the kingdom of God.

(3) The value of material things is determined by their uses. A fortune coming to a sot is but a death warrant to him.

3. They are demoralizing.

(1) The object of attaching superior sanctity to the gifts of the altar and gold of the temple treasury was to heighten the idea of meritoriousness in presenting them.

(2) The scribes and Pharisees also probably derived pecuniary advantage from those gifts.


1. It is a breach of the commandments.

(1) It offends against the first and second. An oath is an appeal to God; to make this appeal to a creature is to put that creature in his place (see Deuteronomy 6:13). To swear by anything lower than God is to set aside the Author of truth and faith in favour of a creature.

(2) It offends against the third. It vulgarizes the most sacred things. Too much familiarity with them brings them into contempt. This is an offence which God will not lightly pass over (see Exodus 20:7).

2. It is a violation of the gospel law.

(1) Our Lord is most emphatic in his inhibition of swearing (see Matthew 5:33-37).

(2) Swearing is now, therefore, no longer a thing sacred, but, on the contrary, most profane.


1. The guides are blind.

(1) It is bad when the leaders of the people cause them to err (see Isaiah 9:16; Isaiah 56:10). It is bad for the people. When the conscience, by casuistry, is made the ally of vice, the condition of the dupe is hopeless.

(2) If it is bad for the people, it is worse for the guides. Their blindness is worse than ignorance. It is the blindness of a wilful, perverting casuistry.

(3) However keen sighted a man may be about his temporal interests, he is blind indeed if he be unable to discern what concerns his eternal welfare.

2. But God is not deceived.

(1) He will be no party to the fictitious distinctions of men by which they would fain release themselves from the obligation of their oaths. He holds the swearer by the temple to swear by the God of the temple.

(2) "By him that dwetleth," perhaps dwelt, in allusion to the Shechinah, which was the chief glory of the temple once, but was then wanting in the second temple. Taken in the present, the temple with the Shechinah was the body of Christ (see John 2:21). This is the greatest and most durable of temples - the "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Note: Every Christian is a living temple; so common things are sanctified. to him (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14; Titus 1:15).

(3) "By all things thereon." The substitution of this phrase here for the gold suggests a reference to the sacred fire, and to the ministration of the priests. Appurtenances pass with the principal (cf. Psalm 26:6; Psalm 43:4).

(4) All forms of oaths are by God reduced to the true intent of an oath. A man should never take advantage of his own fault. God will be his own witness, and will make the swearer answerable for his oaths. - J.A.M.

Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing.
Are there any before me who are accustomed to use God's name as an expletive, and to bandy it as a byword? Who employ it in all kinds of conversation, and throw it about in every place? Perhaps in their hearts they consider this an accomplishment! think it manly and brave to swear! Let me say, then, that profaneness is a brutal vice. He who indulges in it is no gentleman. I care not what his stamp ,nay be in society. I care not what clothes be wears, or what culture he boasts. Despite all his refinement, the light and habitual taking of God's name betrays a coarse nature and a brutal will. Nay, he tacitly admits that it is ungentlemanly, for he restrains his oaths in the presence of ladies; and he who fears not to rush into the chancery of heaven and swear by the Majesty there, is decently observant in the drawing-room and the parlour.

(E. H. Chopin, D. D.)

If there are hypocrites in religion, there are also, strange as it may appear, hypocrites in impiety — men who make an ostentation of more irreligion than they possess. An ostentation of this nature, the most irrational in the records of human folly, seems to lie at the root of profane swearing.

(R. Hall.)

He that sweareth by any person, or thing, doth two things.

1. He attributeth to the thing, or person, by which he sweareth, a knowledge of the heart and the secret intention.

2. He calleth upon the person, or thing, by which he sweareth, to be his judge, or to take a revenge upon him, in case lie doth not believe in his heart what he affirmeth or denieth with his words to be true or false; otherwise an oath is no security at all. From whence appeareth that it is unreasonable for any to swear by any other than God, who alone can have a knowledge of the truth and security of the heart; and that he who sweareth by any creature committeth idolatry in his heart, and indeed blasphemeth playing Divine homage to a creature, and attributing to the creature what belongs only to the Creator.

(M. Pool.)

The one altar which sanctifieth the gift is the person and merit of our Lord Jesus Christ.


1. The altar typifies our Lord if we consider the use of it. To sanctify that which was put upon it, and to sustain it while the fire was consuming it. Our Lord lifts up our gifts towards heaven.

2. The place of the altar. You saw it the moment you entered the door of the tabernacle. The most prominent thought of the soul is Jesus as Mediator.

3. The form of the altar. It was foursquare; stability and endurance.

4. The materials of which the altar was made. Shittim wood, overlaid with brass; the former represents the incorruptible human character of Jesus: the latter the endurance of Christ.


1. Have you always taken care to keep to the one spiritual altar?

2. Are there not some among you who have been offering to God without an altar at all? You have not respect to the Mediator in your life, and prayers, and acts.

3. Whether we have not often forgotten to attach the importance to the altar which we should have done. We must plead the merit of Christ.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Abel, Barachias, Berechiah, Hen, Jesus, Zachariah, Zacharias, Zechariah
Blind, Foolish, Fools, Gold, Greater, Holy, Important, Makes, Ones, Sacred, Sanctified, Sanctifies, Sanctifieth, Sanctifying, Sanctuary, Temple, Whether
1. Jesus admonishes the people to follow good doctrine, not bad examples
5. His disciples must beware of their ambition.
13. He denounces eight woes against their hypocrisy and blindness,
34. and prophesies of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 23:1-32

     8767   hypocrisy

Matthew 23:1-33

     5381   law, letter and spirit
     8749   false teachers

Matthew 23:1-36

     5379   law, Christ's attitude
     7552   Pharisees, attitudes to Christ

Matthew 23:2-33

     7464   teachers of the law

Matthew 23:13-33

     9250   woe

Matthew 23:13-39

     2318   Christ, as prophet

Matthew 23:15-18

     7540   Judaism

Matthew 23:16-17

     5149   eyes
     8756   folly, examples

Matthew 23:16-19

     5135   blindness, spiritual

Matthew 23:16-22

     5430   oaths, human

The Morality of the Gospel.
Is stating the morality of the Gospel as an argument of its truth, I am willing to admit two points; first, that the teaching of morality was not the primary design of the mission; secondly, that morality, neither in the Gospel, nor in any other book, can be a subject, properly speaking, of discovery. If I were to describe in a very few words the scope of Christianity as a revelation, [49] I should say that it was to influence the conduct of human life, by establishing the proof of a future state
William Paley—Evidences of Christianity

Jesus' Last Public Discourse. Denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees.
(in the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXIII. 1-39; ^B Mark XII. 38-40; ^C Luke XX. 45-47. ^a 1 Then spake Jesus ^b 38 And in his teaching ^c in the hearing of all the people he said unto ^a the multitudes, and to his disciples [he spoke in the most public manner], 2 saying, ^c 46 Beware of the scribes, ^a The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: 3 all things whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Christianity Misunderstood by Believers.
Meaning of Christian Doctrine, Understood by a Minority, has Become Completely Incomprehensible for the Majority of Men-- Reason of this to be Found in Misinterpretation of Christianity and Mistaken Conviction of Believers and Unbelievers Alike that they Understand it--The Meaning of Christianity Obscured for Believers by the Church--The First Appearance of Christ's Teaching--Its Essence and Difference from Heathen Religions-- Christianity not Fully Comprehended at the Beginning, Became More and
Leo Tolstoy—The Kingdom of God is within you

First Attempts on Jerusalem.
Jesus, almost every year, went to Jerusalem for the feast of the passover. The details of these journeys are little known, for the synoptics do not speak of them,[1] and the notes of the fourth Gospel are very confused on this point.[2] It was, it appears, in the year 31, and certainly after the death of John, that the most important of the visits of Jesus to Jerusalem took place. Many of the disciples followed him. Although Jesus attached from that time little value to the pilgrimage, he conformed
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

For which Cause Our Lord Himself Also with his Own Mouth Saith...
4. For which cause our Lord Himself also with His own mouth saith, "Cleanse what are within, and what are without will be clean." [1813] And, also, in another place, when He was refuting the foolish speeches of the Jews, in that they spake evil against His disciples, eating with unwashen hands; "Not what entereth into the mouth," said He, "defileth the man: but what cometh forth out of the mouth, that defileth the man." [1814] Which sentence, if the whole of it be taken of the mouth of the body,
St. Augustine—On Continence

Relation of the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes, and to the Gospel of Christ
On taking a retrospective view of Pharisaism, as we have described it, there is a saying of our Lord which at first sight seems almost unaccountable. Yet it is clear and emphatic. "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (Matt 23:3). But if the early disciples were not to break at once and for ever with the Jewish community, such a direction was absolutely needful. For, though the Pharisees were only "an order," Pharisaism, like modern Ultramontanism, had not only become
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Among the People, and with the Pharisees
It would have been difficult to proceed far either in Galilee or in Judaea without coming into contact with an altogether peculiar and striking individuality, differing from all around, and which would at once arrest attention. This was the Pharisee. Courted or feared, shunned or flattered, reverently looked up to or laughed at, he was equally a power everywhere, both ecclesiastically and politically, as belonging to the most influential, the most zealous, and the most closely-connected religions
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

The General Service to a Prophet.
At the Vespers, for O Lord, I have cried, the Stichera, Tone 4. Similar to: Called from above... Thou that hast in the purity of thy mind received the reflex of the God-emitted light and wast the herald of the divine words and seer and divine prophet, thou appearedst as the God-moved mouth of the Spirit, conveying that which was shewn by Him unto thee, O all-honoured (mentioned by name), and declaring unto all the peoples the salvation that was being granted and the Kingdom of Christ; do entreat
Anonymous—The General Menaion

Of the Power of Making Laws. The Cruelty of the Pope and his Adherents, in this Respect, in Tyrannically Oppressing and Destroying Souls.
1. The power of the Church in enacting laws. This made a source of human traditions. Impiety of these traditions. 2. Many of the Papistical traditions not only difficult, but impossible to be observed. 3. That the question may be more conveniently explained, nature of conscience must be defined. 4. Definition of conscience explained. Examples in illustration of the definition. 5. Paul's doctrine of submission to magistrates for conscience sake, gives no countenance to the Popish doctrine of the obligation
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Hints to Teachers and Questions for Pupils
Teacher's Apparatus.--English theology has no juster cause for pride than the books it has produced on the Life of Paul. Perhaps there is no other subject in which it has so outdistanced all rivals. Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul will probably always keep the foremost place; in many respects it is nearly perfect; and a teacher who has mastered it will be sufficiently equipped for his work and require no other help. The works of Lewin and Farrar are written on the same lines;
James Stalker et al—The Life of St. Paul

On Attending the Church Service
"The sin of the young men was very great." 1 Sam. 2:17. 1. The corruption, not only of the heathen world, but likewise of them that were called Christians, has been matter of sorrow and lamentation to pious men, almost from the time of the apostles. And hence, as early as the second century, within a hundred years of St. John's removal from the earth, men who were afraid of being partakers of other men's sins, thought it their duty to separate from them. Hence, in every age many have retired from
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

Machinations of the Enemies of Jesus.
Jesus passed the autumn and a part of the winter at Jerusalem. This season is there rather cold. The portico of Solomon, with its covered aisles, was the place where he habitually walked.[1] This portico consisted of two galleries, formed by three rows of columns, and covered by a ceiling of carved wood.[2] It commanded the valley of Kedron, which was doubtless less covered with debris than it is at the present time. The depth of the ravine could not be measured, from the height of the portico; and
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

The Early Ministry in Judea
113. We owe to the fourth gospel our knowledge of the fact that Jesus began his general ministry in Jerusalem. The silence of the other records concerning this beginning cannot discredit the testimony of John. For these other records themselves indicate in various ways that Jesus had repeatedly sought to win Jerusalem before his final visit at the end of his life (compare Luke xiii. 34; Matt. xxiii. 37). Moreover, the fourth gospel is confirmed by the probability, rising almost to necessity, that
Rush Rhees—The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

The Crossing of the Jordan
THE CROSSING OF THE JORDAN Just how did you feel at the time you were sanctified? I have heard some tell of how the holy fire of the Spirit seemed to go all through them. Others have told of a deeper, more complete peace. Some have shouted for joy. Others have wept for joy. And I am wondering how one ought to feel. Can you tell me? And how can I know that I am consecrated? Every teacher of entire sanctification that I ever heard says that the consecration must be complete; but how am I to know when
Robert Lee Berry—Adventures in the Land of Canaan

Subjects of Study. Home Education in Israel; Female Education. Elementary Schools, Schoolmasters, and School Arrangements.
If a faithful picture of society in ancient Greece or Rome were to be presented to view, it is not easy to believe that even they who now most oppose the Bible could wish their aims success. For this, at any rate, may be asserted, without fear of gainsaying, that no other religion than that of the Bible has proved competent to control an advanced, or even an advancing, state of civilisation. Every other bound has been successively passed and submerged by the rising tide; how deep only the student
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Letter Xliv Concerning the Maccabees but to whom Written is Unknown.
Concerning the Maccabees But to Whom Written is Unknown. [69] He relies to the question why the Church has decreed a festival to the Maccabees alone of all the righteous under the ancient law. 1. Fulk, Abbot of Epernay, had already written to ask me the same question as your charity has addressed to your humble servant by Brother Hescelin. I have put off replying to him, being desirous to find, if possible, some statement in the Fathers about this which was asked, which I might send to him, rather
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

Number and Order of the Separate Books.
The number of the books was variously estimated. Josephus gives twenty-two, which was the usual number among Christian writers in the second, third, and fourth centuries, having been derived perhaps from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Origen, Jerome, and others have it. It continued longest among the teachers of the Greek Church, and is even in Nicephorus's stichometry.(83) The enumeration in question has Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with Jeremiah. In Epiphanius(84) the number twenty-seven
Samuel Davidson—The Canon of the Bible

I. (Who first propounded these heresies, p. 11.) Hippolytus seems to me to have felt the perils to the pure Gospel of many admissions made by Clement and other Alexandrian doctors as to the merits of some of the philosophers of the Gentiles. Very gently, but with prescient genius, he adopts this plan of tracing the origin and all the force of heresies to "philosophy falsely so called." The existence of this "cloud of locusts" is (1) evidence of the antagonism of Satan; (2) of the prophetic spirit
Hippolytus.—The Refutation of All Heresies

"The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. So Then they that Are
Rom. viii. s 7, 8.--"The carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." It is not the least of man's evils, that he knows not how evil he is, therefore the Searcher of the heart of man gives the most perfect account of it, Jer. xvii. 12. "The heart is deceitful above all things," as well as "desperately wicked," two things superlative and excessive in it, bordering upon an infiniteness, such
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

We are not Binding Heavy Burdens and Laying them Upon Your Shoulders...
37. We are not binding heavy burdens and laying them upon your shoulders, while we with a finger will not touch them. Seek out, and acknowledge the labor of our occupations, and in some of us the infirmities of our bodies also, and in the Churches which we serve, that custom now grown up, that they do not suffer us to have time ourselves for those works to which we exhort you. For though we might say, "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the
St. Augustine—Of the Work of Monks.

Repentance and Impenitence.
In the discussion of this subject I shall show,-- I. What repentance is not. 1. The Bible everywhere represents repentance as a virtue, and as constituting a change of moral character; consequently, it cannot be a phenomenon of the intelligence: that is, it cannot consist in conviction of sin, nor in any intellectual apprehension of our guilt or ill-desert. All the states or phenomena of the intelligence are purely passive states of mind, and of course moral character, strictly speaking, cannot be
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

Second Sunday after Trinity Exhortation to Brotherly Love.
Text: 1 John 3, 13-18. 13 Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III

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