Let Your Yes Be Yes and No Be No: What Does Matthew 5:37 Mean?

Matthew 5:37 reads, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” King James Version (KJV)

TranslationMatthew 5:37
ESVLet what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
NASB“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’ anything beyond these is of evil.
NIVAll you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
NLTJust say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Let Your Yes Be Yes and No Be No: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

5:33-37 There is no reason to consider that solemn oaths in a court of justice, or on other proper occasions, are wrong, provided they are taken with due reverence.

But all oaths taken without necessity, or in common conversation, must be sinful, as well as all those expressions which are appeals to God, though persons think thereby to evade the guilt of swearing.

The worse men are, the less they are bound by oaths; the better they are, the less there is need for them. Our Lord does not enjoin the precise terms wherein we are to affirm or deny, but such a constant regard to truth as would render oaths unnecessary.

Matthew 5:37 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Verse 37. – Your communication. Similarly, the Authorized Version in Ephesians 4:29, in archaic usage for “talk.” Yea, yea; Nay, nay. Christ permits as far as the repetition of the asseveration.

The adoption here by a few authorities of the phrase in James 5:12 (“Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay,” τὸ ναὶ ναὶ κ.τ.λ..)is unsuitable; for here the question is not of truthfulness, but of fervency in asseveration.

Whatsoever is more than these; “that which is over and above these” (Rheims). There is a superfluity (περισσόν) in more fervent asseverations, which has its origin ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῖ.

Cometh of evil. So the Revised Version margin, “as in ver. 39; 6:13.’ Revised Version, is of the evil one (vide Matthew 6:13, note; and cf. 1 John 3:12).

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