[B-Greek] Matthew 5:44

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Fri Oct 2 02:59:19 EDT 2009

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <rhutchin at aol.com>
To: <cwconrad2 at mac.com>; <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 1. oktober 2009 22:50
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Matthew 5:44

> OK.? Given that we are dealing with plurals, does this influence our earlier 
> discussion of ENTOS hUMWN (Luke 17:20-21) where Jesus tells the Pharisees that 
> the kingdom of God is within them and where I understood the conclusion there 
> was that Jesus meant that the kingdom was within them as a group but not 
> within them as individuals.? The sense of Matthew 5:44 seems to be that Jesus 
> is talking to a group of people but means what he says to be applied to each 
> as individuals.? Why could we not apply this sense analogously to Luke 17:21 
> and read it to mean that Jesus meant that the kingdom of God was within each 
> of the Pharisees individually?
> We also see this here:
> Matt 5:16 - ...LAMYATW TO FOS hUMWN EMPROSQEN TWN ANQRWPWN... and I think we 
> understand that each individual is to let his light shine versus a light 
> shining from the group.
> Roger Hutchinson

What you have noticed is the flexibility of the second person imperative. The 
plural imperative is normally used when speaking to a group of people, but it 
does not necessarily mean communal action. In many cases the imperative is 
implied by context or content to be directed to each individual in the group for 

On the other hand, a singular imperative is often used even when speaking to a 
group of people. The purpose is to single out each individual and make the 
command more focused on each person in the group doing this.

In 5:43 the singular is used, probably reflecting Lev 19:18 where the Hebrew and 
therefore also LXX use the singular:

Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου. 44 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, 
ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς.
(You-sing will be loving your-sing neighbour and you-sing will be hating 
your-sing enemy. But I tell you-pl: Love-pl your-pl enemies and pray-pl for 
those who persecute you-pl.) (Unfortunately, standard, modern English is 
deficient in not indicating the difference between singular and plural second 
person pronouns. I am not aware of other languages with such a deficiency.)

The first part is a quote from Lev 19:18 about loving your enemy. The fact that 
"enemy" is singular does not imply only one enemy.
The second part about hating your-sing enemy does not seem to be a direct quote 
from the OT, but the sense is found in passages like Deut 7:2, 32:40-43, 2 Sam 
22:41 and Ps 139:22. Maybe it was a common rabbinic saying at the time?

The flexibility of the imperative does not apply to Luke 17:21 since the 
statement about ENTOS hUMWN does not use imperatives.

Iver Larsen 

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