Acts 18:18 NASB

Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow

In the above text Paul seems to have taken a vow which somehow seems to contradict what Christ had been teaching.

Matthew 5:33 NASB 33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin..

Did Paul contradict Christ?

  • 1
    An 'oath' is different from a 'vow'. If I say more than 'yes' or 'no' and attempt to demonstrate vehemence by invoking God's name or God's house : that is sinful, an improper 'oath'. A 'vow' is a promise made to do something (or not to do something). And a man may shave his head to remind himself (and others) of his promise. I would say these are different things and not contradictory. I think your question may be purely a matter of the English language.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 7, 2021 at 7:45
  • @NigelJ,Sorry i had highlighted the wrong portion of the text,Christ was actually referring vows which they used to undertake in the old testament.It seems Paul had undertaken such a kind of vow which Christ had discouraged in the above text. Jul 7, 2021 at 8:34
  • Yes, I understand that but Paul had not said anything. He was keeping a vow ('fulfilling a vow to the Lord' as Jesus says) but not uttering an oath.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 7, 2021 at 9:10
  • You should use a bible software like theWord or use sites like biblehub that doesn't have the footnotes markings unlike biblegateway, for better quoting the text.
    – Michael16
    Jul 7, 2021 at 12:43
  • @Michael16,thank you Jul 7, 2021 at 12:47

3 Answers 3


In this case, the translation of the NASB is misleading as it translates two different words with the same English word. Worse than this, one in the original is a noun and the other is a verb and the NASB renders both as nouns!

A more literal rendering of Matt 5:33 is provided by the BLB:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, 'You shall not swear falsely, but you shall keep your oaths to the Lord.'

Further, the text in Acts 18:18 uses a different word again. Here are the facts:

Matthew 5:33

  • "swear" = ἐπιορκήσεις, verb, to swear to tell the truth. Jesus commands that we do not swear to tell the truth when we have no intention of doing so. He also commands that we not swear to keep a vow that cannot be kept.
  • "oaths" = ὅρκους, noun, an oath to do something.

Acts 18:18

  • "vow" = εὐχήν, noun, an vow to do something for the Lord.

Thus, the circumstances, language and context of these two verse are different.

  • The problem with NASB is probably because swear has been used for cursing. Here it has the meaning "so solemnly swear," like the legal term,
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 7, 2021 at 15:15

Jesus is not banning the vows and oaths. The saying is idiomatic that instructs "make no oath at all"; it is instructed relatively to a negative that is breaking oaths, being dishonest and untrustworthy, like all other similar sayings in the Sermon on the mount such about anger, adultery, gouging your eye, divorce, not resisting the evil, loving your enemy, and hating your family (Luke 14:26) etc. These are idiomatic and hyperbolic in nature. The goal is to be perfect, as your father is perfect (Matt 5:48). Better to take no oath at all and be truthful, than to be habitual of taking oaths and even breaking them, because nobody trusts you.


[NASB Matt 23:6-10] "They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. "Do not call [anyone] on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, [that is], Christ.

[NASB Matt 12:7]"But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent.

[NASB Mic 6:6-8] With what shall I come to the LORD [And] bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn [for] my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

It does not mean that he is banning the nouns of father, leader, Rabbi, teacher for anyone but the wrongful use of them. It is better to walk humbly with justice and righteousness than to transgress and offer reparation to correct the wrongdoing. The new covenant does not prohibit some Jewish customs and rituals, so Paul's vow was not contrary to the law of the new covenant. I will quote David Stern's Jewish NT commentary on Acts 18:18 to show some context, despite the fact his understanding of the grace and Mosaic law is off, like all other commentators:

Sha'ul remained for some time. Except where his own life was in immediate peril Sha'ul never left at a lime of crisis or under duress. Having his hair cut short in Cenchrea because he had taken a vow, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. Pnscilla is mentioned first; she may have been the more notable of the couple. Some suggest, and the Greek text allows, that it was Aquila and not Sha'ul who took the vow; but since the overall narrative is about Sha'ul, this is unlikely.

Yeshua rules out oaths for Messianic believers (Mt 5:33-37) but not vows, although the distinction beiween them is not a clear one (see Mt 5:33N). The Greek word for "vow" occurs only here and at 21:23. What kind of vow did Sha'ul take, and what did cutting his hair have to do with it? Nothing is said of what he vowed to do, but Numbers 6:1-21 describes the Nazirite vow, which involves allowing the hair to grow during the days of the vow; and Mishna tractate Nazir spells out the details of such vows, including their minimum length, thirty days. Strictly speaking, however, this cannot have been a Nazirite vow; for if it had been, Sha'ul would not have been shaved in Cenchrea but would have waited till he arrived in Yerushalayim (v. 22) to shave his head and offer the obligatory sacrifice at the Temple (compare 2I:23-24&NN). Furthermore, if we assume that the patterns described in the Mishna, compiled around 220 C.E., were already being followed in Sha'ul's time, he would have had to spend at least thirty days in Israel to validate his vow (Nazir 3:6, 7:3), since a Nazirite vow undertaken in a "land of the Gentiles" is invalid. Perhaps this was a Diaspora adaptation of the Nazirite vow.

No matter what the details of Sha'ul's vow were, this verse proves that he did not abandon the Torah; on the contrary, even when he became as a Gentile among Gentiles he continued to observe Jewish practices. See 13:9N, 1С 9:20-22&NN.


The words and context are different.

Matt. 5:33 - οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις - not swear - synonym with next verse

Matt. 5:34 - μὴ ὀμόσαι - not swear (as if you would not need to tell the truth otherwise)

Matt. 5 subject is honesty.

Acts 18:18 - εὐχήν - a religious vow )that has nothing to to with back up what one says as being true)

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