28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 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.

  • Murder is considered a sin in Judaism (Matthew 5:21), and so is maiming (Exodus 21:26-27). By extension, so are suicide and self harm. The purpose of the passage is to draw attention to the (less obvious) harmfulness of adultery (which is at least physically pleasant), not to in any way annul or mitigate the (plainly obvious) harmfulness of the other sins listed for comparison.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 6:32
  • This is not a legitimate hemeneutics question, so it gets a down vote. See my answer below for an extended discussion.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 11:24
  • A legitimate question would simply be: Is this hyperbole or does Jesus really want us to cut off body parts. The answer is that he means what he says, but you don't understand what he says. Answer this: Why just the right hand or eye? It is a riddle.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 11:29
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? What are good contextual clues that a passage is meant to be read as hyperbole? Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 14:50
  • 1
    @James Shewey if you would read my answer posted below, you will see why it is NOT hyperbole.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 2:04

5 Answers 5


(If you already know the answer, please what is it?)

I'd say it's figurative, not hyperbole. Meaning He identifies where sin dwells: our flesh, our body. He identifies that our soul, our "us," chooses to go along with it (see also Jam 1:14-15). But then figuratively shows the drastic active choice needed for believers. To choose Christ's Spirit. He carried it out in His own body:

Who Himself bore up our sins in His body on the tree, in order that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose bruise you were healed. 1 Pet 2:24.

Therefore, coming into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.' Heb 10:5.

Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry. Col 3:5.

If you live according to the flesh, you must die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body, you will live. Rm 8:13.

Just as you presented your members as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. Rm 6:19.

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your right eye stumbles you, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna. And if your right hand stumbles you, cut it off and cast it from you, for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to pass away into Gehenna.

  • Nice answer to a bad question. Answer to the riddle: The right side is your spiritual side. We are both a sheep and a goat, which causes Paul to cry out "I do what I don't want to do ..." hands represent works, and eyes represent understanding. If your works or your understanding lead you to sin, then get rid of them. If you have a job in a strip joint; leave. If you have bad doctrine, that leads you to sin, then get rid of it. You are correct. It is figurative.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 11:37
  • @Bob Jones what are you implying, other than saying "it is riddle, and nice answer to BAD question? "You are correct. It is figurative" -do you mean it is just an exaggeration? Are we forgetting Jesus "maimed Himself on the cross" for our sins , the consequences of our sin - that we may not maim thru repentance and confession?
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 1:07

Mt.5:28-30, does Jesus “mean what He say, say what He mean”? If yes, why they take as "hyperbole?

The question is a classic "Greek" question which Paul says to avoid:

2Ti 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. Tit 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Consider the first part of the question: does Jesus "mean what he say, say what he mean". This is forcing an idea or concept feeding in the question. One is inclined to answer in the affirmative without considering the nuances of the trap.

What is the meaning of this: "mean what he say, say what he mean"?

Does it ask if Jesus ever joked around? or if Jesus spoke in hyper literal terms not using any figure of speech?

The answer is an emphatic "No!" , which is the exact opposite of the answer given by anyone attempting to answer the second part.

Jesus spoke in such a way as to obfuscate his sayings so they would not understand.

Mt 13:13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. Mt 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

Mr 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and [their] sins should be forgiven them.

Lu 8:10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

Jesus spoke very precisely so that they would not understand.

Let's lay to rest at least one silly argument : But this isn't a parable! Yes it is. The Greek word παραβολή means 'a pithy and instructive saying, involving some likeness or comparison and having preceptive or admonitory force an aphorism, a maxim, a proverb' not simply a story as so many would assume, '

Jesus did not wish to forgive their sins AT THIS TIME. Doing so would nullify the cross. He wouldn't have to die since men could be saved by teaching alone. So NO. Jesus did not speak plainly so that people could understand. He spoke in parable, riddle or 'dark sayings', prophecy, mystery. He hid his meaning in such a way that they would not understand until after the cross.

If Jesus's saying and doings are interpreted in a simple way which is easy to understand, then his intended meaning is missed. 'Perspicuity' is another idea imposed on scripture in the same manner as the OP.

  • It is a colloquialism. When Jesus uses the figure of speeches and speaks in parables, there is an identifier, i.e. "kingdom is like..; "parable, etc. Ascribing Jesus' words, such as this, especially a "prescriptive" statement (e.g. Doctor's prescription) to figure of speeches, an exaggeration to stress His points opens a door for questioning the validity of His Words.
    – Sam
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 23:45
  • " When Jesus uses the figure of speeches and speaks in parables, there is an identifier, "... this is an imposed system of interpretation. "παραβολή means 'a pithy and instructive saying" whether an identifier is used or not.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 11:46

There is a difference between hyperbole, and the doctrine taught by use thereof being optional or somehow not serious - everyone who uses hyperbole always means the non-hyperbolized thing it is they are conveying by means of it. Hyperbole is a form of rhetoric wherein one exaggerates what it is they wish to convey for emphatic effect (and in Jesus' case, for its didactic utility or memorability/shock factor). It isn't used (or shouldn't be used) to say anything which someone means on no level at all (here, this would take the form of claiming Jesus didn't teach we ought to avoid occasions of sin under pains of going to hell because of said).

The recognition of rhetoric is something which is inherent in the reading process; if one isn't prepared or able to recognize hyperbole (which Jesus makes profuse use of, by the way), they are by no means equipped to understand the teaching of Jesus, or really the words of anyone in the Bible (or day to day life).

As such, it should be obvious that the Son of God does not want everyone to be without eyes and arms and presumbly every member of their body, with which, at some point, everyone has sinned. Instead, it's clearly rhetorical in nature: if any thing, person, place, event, word, book, song, causes you to sin, avoid it absolutely, and 'throw it away.' Get rid of it, because it causes you to sin, and - the thrust of the teaching fundamentally - sin leads to hell.

So He means what He says, just as He does with, "If anyone does not hate father or mother..." (Lk. 14:26) He expects us to understand the basics before all basics of Christian faith ("honor thy father and mother" 18:20) and to interpret His teaching in that light: contextually (i.e. is not willing to break ties with family in favor of the gospel, "he is not worthy to be my disciple" 14:33). Clearly, Jesus doesn't want us to hate our father and mother ever, for any reason - He taught us to love even our enemies.

If one isn't allowing for rhetoric in Jesus (or perhaps worse, confuses rhetoric or non-serious teaching), that can make for a disaster of Christian theology.

The long and the short: Jesus gives the most radical measure for avoiding sin possible for rhetorical effect, in order to get us thinking about much easier, less radical measures, which are self-evident: why pluck out your eye, or amputate a limb, when you can train yourself in virtue, for example, not to look with lust?

Jᴏʙ 31:1-2 I made a covenant with my eyes, not to so much as give thought to a virgin. For what part would God above have in me, or inheritance the Almighty from on high?

This ties in with Jesus' teaching on sin beginning with (and in a way ending in) the heart (Mt. 15:19): if sin begins, really, in the heart, then hatred and murder are degrees of the same sin, in a way (Mt. 5:21-30; 1 Jn. 3:15). To avoid murder, first avoid hatred. By this teaching, He's teaching we should avoid sins by first avoiding things which provide temptation to those sins.

  • Jesus uses fig. of speeches to convey spiritual things for US, yet the weight of the message intact. Parable in question, of prescriptive ones, highlites the seriousness of sin & consequence thereof. Just stressing the "sin" only, has no practical use. Lk. 14:26 -no consequences attached, by the way- He speaks in context of cost of disciplesship. In a situation, like going to war, to choose to follow Jesus "carrying our cross", means abandoning families, etc, & such decision has implication of morally -hating (μισέω -on a comparative basis) We cannot choose both the same.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 0:33
  • If you read my Notes below.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 0:44

Jesus himself told us how we should interpret his sayings in John 6:63:

Spirit gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

The important point is not the flesh but the spirit. No need to gouge your eye out or chop off your hand. Understand that sin causes eternal death. Let this understanding enter your mind and more importantly enter your spirit, which produces life or behavior change to not sin. It is your spirit that empowers you to overcome sins through the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is no hyperbole here or in Jesus words, only spiritual realities.

Paul got Jesus' point:

2 Corinthians 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

  • Granted. But which ever rout you take, the spirit, the letters, the Words (ῥήματα) Jesus spoken, He speaks using series of words - and words has specific meaning - and in the prescriptive statement such as in question consist of two parts: the body & consequences. If you read my comments above, Jesus who bore the consequences of our sin-maimed Himself on the cross - has given us away NOT to maim -repent and confess!
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 0:59
  • ( I assume, Jn 6:63-NIV )-"The Spirit gives life...-they are "full of the" Spirit and life," Jesus in the same verse identifies the Spirit gives life is "the word (ῥήματα)"that I speak to you are spirit and life, He is NOT speaking "spirit of His word, i.e. "spirit of law, etc. By the way, "full of the" is NOT in the Gr. text, it is NIV's presumption.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 3:20
  • I agree with everything you wrote in your two comments and have made modifications in my answer.
    – user35953
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 11:21

Q: Mt.5:28-30, does Jesus "means what He says, says what He means? If yes, why they take as "hyperbole?

This is one of the most perplexing text that many wished Jesus never have said it. So, they say, Jesus spoke in hyperbole.

1. Why they want it to be "Hyperbole?"

For three major reasons:

1). The unpalatable languages and morbid implications - the mutilation of body parts.

2). It clashes with the images of God, the God of Holy, Good, and Loving God.

3). It suggests the possibility of losing one’s salvation.

Therefore, for them, hyperbolizing is one solution to “kill three birds with one stone.”

The statement emphatic and extreme languages, yet not as offensive and extreme in comparison with Matthew 16:24-25:

For a whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or d what shall a man give in return for his soul?

(Note: No one has claimed that this also is "Hyperbole!)

Therefore, even if it is unpalatable emotionally and doctrinal, the integrity of Jesus’ Word must remain intact.

God does NOT need our help to keep His reputation for the Word He utters, nor should we fear the stated consequences of His Word and acts. Also, our loving heavenly Father sent Jesus to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), but NOT to mutilate His children. (See summary and Q/A).

Besides, the Bible is the ultimate source of theology/doctrine and not vice versa. Therefore, arbitrary hyperbolizing of the Word of Jesus constitutes a breaking of the Scripture.

2. And the text, Jesus did NOT speak in hyperbole:

a). Hyperbole - one of the many figures of speech- is rhetorical and the literary technique in which speakers intentionally exaggerate to an extreme to inject emphasis into his statement but not meant to be taken literally. Typical examples of Hyperbole are:

  • There is enough food in the cupboard to feed an entire army"
  • I've told you to clean your room a million times!
  • If I can't get a smartphone, I will die.
  • My mom would kill me if I don't clean up this mess by this evening!

b). In comparison, in the text in question, the absence of markers and the characteristics of Hyperbole, but the elements of a code- the offense(the acts), and the consequence - identifies it as an explicit divine code of conduct for His people. Let us examine the text:

"But I say to you that everyone who looks (βλέπων) at a (πρὸς τὸ) 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 is thrown into hell. And if you 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 goes into hell."

Important Notes

  • "looks"(= looking βλέπων), denotes the act of continued looking;

  • "at a (πρὸς τὸ)" denotes to "with a view to";

  • "causes" (σκανδαλίζει) is indicative, present, active; "hand" (χεὶρ"), refers to harming others with hands, as in Isa. 58:4;59:3; Gen. 4:11.

The case in point is the ongoing, continuous, habitual sinning. It is a warning of the love of Jesus for believers living dominated by such sins to avoid the eternal consequence. For, the Scripture says in Revelation 21:8:

"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Also see 1 Cor. 6:9-10)

c. Jesus' word has the strikingly same pattern of the first commandment of God to Adam!

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17)


a. The clues/markers in the text as observed identifies Jesus did not speak a hyperbole nor an exaggeration. And besides,

  • Jesus is "truth" and He speaks the truth, He "means what He says."**

  • It is a "prescriptive" statement (i.e. Doctor's prescription) with specific instruction and the warning of the dire eternal consequence.

b. Any word Jesus has spoken and recorded by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit should NOT arbitrarily be lessened of its original weight of the message. Because Jesus Himself said,

  • "Not an iota, not a dot will pass" (Matt. 5:18); "my word will not pass away"(24:35); Peter said, the Word of the Lord remains forever (1 Peter 1:25)

Note: Jesus spoke more of the same nature - i.e. if say Raca! to your brother (Matt. 5:22); "anyone cause one of little..better hung millstone" (Mk 9:43-47), etc.

c. Arbitrary hyperbolizing the text is not the right biblical hermeneutics approach, rather it would constitute a "breaking the Word of God"(John 10:35).

Q/A: Do we really have to mutilate our body as Jesus said?

Jesus maimed Himself on the cross for our sin once for all, that through the repentance and continuous confession, we may NOT maim each time our right eye or arm sin. Scripture says:

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that He will forgive your sins." (Acts 3:19)

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."(1 John 1:9)

  • We, as children of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, must take all sins seriously, including sins acted out and sins in thought and words.

  • Moreover, the vicious destructive chain of the ongoing, habitual sin as Jesus addresses in the context must be dealt with REPENT & CONFESSION in obedience to the leading, unction of the Holy Spirit and the Word before it gets too late as Jesus warned in the text!

  • "Repent and confession" must be taken seriously and make it an essential part of our Christian daily prayer life, holding on to His promises, e.g. 1 John 1:9). However, it should not be taken for granted as an "excuse" and "license" to sin more.


"Always repentant and confessing" life, it will not only keep us less sinning but leads us to "Holiness," and removes the "wall" between us and God, so that His blessings, favors, and grace would flow unhindered, and our prayer will be heard.

Lord God is a good God! He says in Jeremiah 29:11-12:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jesus maimed Himself on the cross for our sin once for all, that we may NOT maim but through repentance, and continues confession (e.g. washing our feet) press forward toward the holiness while we live.

  • It is interesting that you nevertheless conclude that Jesus does not want his disciples to follow his teaching literally. Your basis is that "Jesus maimed himself on the cross". This is incorrect. Being executed for a crime that one did not commit is not at all the same thing as maiming oneself. Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 23:01
  • Where did I say that Jesus does not want His disciples to follow hHis teaching literally? Diddnot Jesus allowed in obedience to God it to happen to Himself?
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 23:45
  • "that we may NOT maim". What are you trying to say then? That Jesus maimed himself so that we don't maim ourselves, but that he nevertheless wants us to maim ourselves? Submitting to one's death sentence is not maiming oneself nor is it suicide for that matter. Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 0:28
  • @Rayan Stephen If you would read my comments carefully: because of what Jesus took upon Himself for us, we who are in Him but fall into the old trap of sins, through repent and confessing when we sin, we will be forgiven. Ref. "by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh" (Heb. 10:20)
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 3:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.