Matthew 2323 NASB

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

In the above text is tithing a lighter provision of the law as compared to the three mentioned above?

  • Also compare the ranking of commandments Jesus is happy to do when citing the two greatest. But to be fair, I don't think he's only speaking of tithing but also of tithing herbs, which my NIV Study Bible identifies as one of the hair-splitting issues of the day between the different sects (what counts as food for tithing purposes). It represents the endless fascination with minutiae, the gnats strained out, that blinds you to the core principles, the camel swallowed. Jan 27 '19 at 9:41

The word βαρύς (Strong 926) 'weightier' indicates a burden. It is a responsibility.

The whole range of requirements is a spectrum of responsibilities. Some, however, are easier. Some are heavier. In answer to your question - yes, I agree that if one is 'weightier' then the other is 'lighter'

But to focus wholly on the easier ones reveals a lack of responsibility - a superficiality. It reveals that one is only concerned to give an appearance of obedience. One is not burdened with the real intent of fulfilling the commandment as a whole.

This is the hypocrisy of which Jesus accuses the Pharisees in other places - demanding burdens of others which they touched not with one of their little fingers.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. [Matthew 23:24 KJV.]

In short, it all proves hypocrisy.


I think the answer is implied in the very verse: "weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith". So yes, lighter.


The words attributed to Jesus in Matthew 23 should be seen in the context of the tension that exists between giving attention to the normative commandments of the faith and the moral imperatives implied by the faith. This tension exist in all faiths such as Catholicism, Islam and Judaism, that have both fixed, normative commandments, and also have moral imperatives. This tension, and the polemics that spring from this tension, are a permanent feature of all of these faiths.

There is no evidence in the NT to suggest that Jesus intended to abrogate any of the Mosaic law in his lifetime (Matthew 5:18). That abrogation that occurred later, in the time of Paul. Furthermore, the normative Jewish position regarding the weight of various commandments at the time of Jesus was that we must conduct ourselves as if all commandments had equal weight, because we have no way of actually knowing how to ascribe relative weights to commandments. The second chapter of the contemporary "Ethics of the Fathers" states:

Be as careful with a minor commandment as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the commandments. Consider the cost of a commandment against its rewards, and the rewards of a transgression against its cost.

So, it would appear that the intention of Mathew 23:23 is to say that in the context of the social circumstances of the time, that more weight needs to be given to the moral imperatives of the commandments because without them the normative commandments don't make sense, but that there is no intention to state that the the normative commandments are inherently of lesser weight.

Note that the contemporary language of the Ethics of the Fathers itself recognizes a catagorization of commandments into lighter and heavier like the catgorizement thst Jesus makes, while at the same time indicating that we cannot use our ideas of lighter and heavier to discriminate between commandments, we need to fulfill all of them.

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