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?

  • 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 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. – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 8 at 21:07
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    All one can say is that in Jesus' comments no illicit sex is excluded and so masturbation is included. – Dottard Mar 8 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? – The Votive Soul Mar 10 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 at 22:24

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)

  • "entail lustful fantasizing" To clarify, would all lustful fantasizing be considered immoral? – One God the Father Mar 9 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 at 5:09

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.

  • Are you saying that the passage is not about a man committing adultery with someone else's wife and it is only about masturbation? – Tony Chan Mar 9 at 16:48
  • Are you now saying that the passage is more about masturbation than about a man committing adultery with someone else's wife? – Tony Chan Mar 9 at 18:24
  • I modified and soften my previous position some. – Tony Chan Mar 9 at 18:39

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

No. Later the Pharisees tested Jesus's saying on this:

John 8:1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

They didn't catch a man and asked Jesus about masturbation. They caught a woman and didn't ask her about masturbation either. It was about a man having illicit sex with a sinful woman. It is amazing how people can twist the words of Jesus and interpret them the way they wanted instead of what Jesus meant. Simply amazing and disturbing. No wonder non-believers are not interested in the words of Jesus.

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    How do you know that they were specifically testing what Jesus said in Matthew 5? – curiousdannii Mar 13 at 11:00
  • They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. – Glukrom Mar 14 at 20:22

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