Biblical Nuggets: Antitheses

Antitheses: In the New Testament studies, we find Jesus’ six contrasting teaching on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21-48 to the teachings of Moses in the Old Testament. Those six contrasting teachings of Jesus is called antitheses. It is also known as “six antitheses,” because Jesus quotes or paraphrases Moses’ command to Israelites but adding his own antithetical or oppositional statements to make it stronger. Each anthesis is set in motion with the distinctive formula, “You have heard that it was said,” immediately followed by the antithetical response, “But I [Jesus] say to you.”

Six Antitheses:

1. Murder/Anger (5:21-26)

Moses (OT): You have heard it was said… “You shall not kill”

Jesus (NT): But I say to you … that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

2. Adultery/Lust (5:27-30)

Moses (OT): You have heard it was said…”You shall not commit adultery”

Jesus (NT): But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

3. Divorce (5:31-32)

Moses (OT): “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

Jesus (NT): But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

4. Oaths (5:33-37)

Moses (OT): “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’

Jesus (NT): But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

5. Retaliation/Revenge (5:38-42)

Moses (OT): “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 

Jesus (NT): But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…

6. Love your Enemies (5:43-48)

Moses (OT): “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 

Jesus (NT): But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


The key verses are from English Standard Version (ESV), Zondervan.


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