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The Definition of Mistrust: Adultery in Matthew 5

January 24, 2012

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”   -Matthew 5:27-3

 What does the sin of adultery include? (as the word is used in the passage) In other words, define “adultery” as used here.

The Word Jesus uses here in this passage for adultery is the Greek word “moiceuw” or (moi-keu-oh) which is used some 18 times in the New Testament for Adultery.  Those who were familiar with the Old Testament knew the Seventh Commandment “do not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14; Duet 5:18).  According to Scripture adultery was when a married man or woman had a “sexual relationship with someone other than his or her spouse.”[1]  It was a sin punishable by death under OT Law. (Duet 22:22; Lev 20:10)

Old Testament Israel’s covenant law prohibited adultery (Exodus 20:14) and thereby made faithfulness to the marriage relationship central in the divine will for human relationships. Many Old Testament regulations deal with adultery as the adulterous man’s offense against the husband of the adulterous wife. The severity of the punishment indicates the serious consequences adultery has for the divine-human relationship (Psalms 51:4) as well as for marriage, family, and community relationships.[2]

Adultery does not merely involved the married.  Deuteronomy 22:22 never defines the marital status of the adulterer.  So adultery here should be seen as extra-marital sex in any form. Whether husband with some other woman or man; a wife with some other man or woman; un-married individuals engaging in sex; the act of adultery begins in the heart with lust and is not restricted to any segment, group or individual.  Jesus explodes the traditional understanding of adultery, confronting those who had taken shelter in tradition.  Those who would have tried to explain away lust, even acts of adultery as understandable or “not my fault;” “she (or he) made me do it.” etc.  Jesus is removing the excuses for sin and exposing the heart.  For as we have seen, when that when an individual’s heart is pure, he/she shall see God and be blessed. (Matt 5:8)


[1] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s message to the modern church. Nashville: B&H Academic. 116.

[2] Holman Bible Dictionary, Butler, Trent C. Editor.. “Entry for ‘ADULTERY'”. “Holman Bible Dictionary”.
<http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T140&gt;. 1991.

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