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The subject may be a bit dark for the website but in plain view of reasoning, the line of reason is that:

  • People who masturbate often look at women with lust.
  • For masturbation to occur (in general) people must use the hand.
  • Today, there is pornography. At Jesus' times the only way people could masturbate while thinking (in the heart/mind) about women was to first look at them.
  • What often causes people to masturbate is looking with a lustful intention.

The passage reads:

Matthew 5:27-30
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;
28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

I reason that Jesus considers the action higher than the intention, for the parable of two sons when one said he would work but didn't, the other said he wouldn't but did, the latter did his father's will.

Along with other passages mentioning that the body/flesh constantly desires pleasure and John teaching to deny the lust of the eye, implying that the eyes does lust.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The question is, is it possible that the passage is talking about the act of masturbation?

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  • It also seems that the word masturbation is a relatively new word (from: www.etymonline.com) which in itself contains a lot of information
    – snoopy
    Mar 8 '21 at 21:04
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    The sexual act of masturbation appears to date back to prehistoric times (source), so it's certainly possible that it was contemplated in Jesus's warnings against sexual sin. Mar 8 '21 at 21:07
  • 6
    All one can say is that in Jesus' comments no illicit sex is excluded and so masturbation is included.
    – Dottard
    Mar 8 '21 at 21:13
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    First, I do not think we should be concerned with the question being "too dark". The Scriptures do not shy away from addressing human sexuality in all its forms, from good to bad. Secondly, while I do not think Matthew 5:27-30 is specifically about masturbation, I cannot say that it does not preclude it. I would rather suggest focusing on why Jesus specified the "right" eye and the "right" hand, as clearly with lustful gazing and with masturbation, both of the eyes and possibly both of the hands are or can be involved. So, why only specify the right one of each? Mar 10 '21 at 3:29
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    @TheVotiveSoul, this is likely to be unrelated. It is estimated that 90% of the population is right-handed, and 70% right-eye dominant (source: quick google research). Subject aside, eye dominance is an interesting thing.
    – snoopy
    Mar 10 '21 at 22:24
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A prohibition against masturbation seems to be an implication of Jesus' teaching. "In Matthean ethics, if one does not break the letter of the commandments, but one wants to do so, one is guilty." While Matthew 5:27-30 explicitly mentions adultery, adultery seems to be a synecdoche for sexual immorality more broadly. As masturbation and pornography entail lustful fantasizing, they quality as sexual immorality.

Interestingly, some of Jesus's Jewish contemporaries also linked lust with visual adultery or fornication. Jesus differed from his context in squarely placing the onus on the one lusting to quell their sinful tendency, rather than placing the responsibility on women.

(Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary 186-187)

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  • "entail lustful fantasizing" To clarify, would all lustful fantasizing be considered immoral? Mar 9 '21 at 5:05
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    Ah, good catch! Entail "extramarital" or "illicit" lustful fantasizing may be more precise. Augustine may give you a different answer, but I'd reckon lust in the proper context to be licit according to Sermon on the Mount standards.
    – nobody77
    Mar 9 '21 at 5:09
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The line of reasoning that you listed is anecdotic.

Is there a possibility that Jesus in the whole Matthew 5:27-30 be talking about masturbation?

There is some possibility that masturbation is one of the things that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:27-30.

Here is a more reasonable interpretation:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;

Jesus introduces the topic of adultery (not masturbation).

This is the definition of adultery:

Thayer's Greek Lexicon STRONGS NT 3431: μοιχεύω τινα (γυναῖκα), to commit adultery with, have unlawful intercourse with another's wife

The woman is married and real, not some pic of an unmarried young woman.

30 And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you;

If your hand lustfully touches a physical woman who is not your wife, cut it off.

The passage could be interpreted as about adultery and to some extent masturbation. But to me, it is far more reasonable to interpret it as strictly about adultery only.

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I'm going to answer this in the negative. It's unlikely that Jesus was talking about masturbation.

In the Greek, the word used is μοιχεύσεις (root "μοιχαο"). This word always means adultery in the strict definition, sex between a married person and someone other than their spouse. There is another word "πορνεία," which is usually translated as "fornication" or "sexual immorality" and which includes adultery. Matthew could have used πορνεία, but he didn't.

Additionally, the word used for "woman" ("γυναῖκα", root "γυνε"), while it can just mean woman in general, often has the connotation of a married or respected woman and in fact is often translated as "wife"; there are different words meaning "virgin" (unmarried, desirable, not strictly sexually a virgin) and "widow".

The Sermon on the Mount in general is about the interpretation of Jewish law, and here quotes the seventh (or maybe sixth) of the Ten Commandments. The seventh commandment is definitely about adultery only (this explains Matthew's use of the more specific term). While Jesus gives stronger interpretations of the Law, here he's extending it to intent rather than new activities. This isn't a parable, there are no coded meanings to look for. He's being very straightforward.

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    – agarza
    Oct 27 '21 at 13:14
  • The key word in this passage is “epithumeó”. Jesus is saying, do whatever you have to do to avoid the sin of lust. Oct 27 '21 at 16:27
  • @agarza I will edit to remove the last line of my answer, which (while intended as simply a one line summary) could be interpreted as "prescription" rather than "description". Oct 28 '21 at 14:33
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I suppose it could be possible, but that would be speculation and can not be determined with hermeneutics. Here is what can.

This passage fits into the whole section on the Law beginning at 5:17.

17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees were very legalistic and focused on particular actions to determine whether a particular law had been broken or not. Jesus looked at the intent of the law and wanted people to examine what was going on in their hearts, so that they could live lives pleasing to God.

The key word in this passage is “epithumeó”. To lust after a woman, or desire to have sex with a woman who is not your wife (fantasizing) is sin according to Jesus. Jesus is simply saying that if a part of your body is contributing to sin (and we can assume that he is referring, due to context, to the sin of lust), it would be better for you to be rid of it than to participate in a sin that could affect your eternal destiny.

I don’t think Jesus is recommending such drastic action, one reason being that it is possible for people to sin without a physical action, according to this teaching. But he is emphasizing the extreme importance of keeping the spirit of the law, in this case, sexual purity, in all aspects of our lives. Jesus is saying throughout the entire passage that those who desire to enter the kingdom of God, must work to avoid at all cost, any thoughts or actions that displease God. Paul confirms this teaching in the area of sexual purity.

Col 3:5 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

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