Was Swearing Forbidden By Jesus?

The Question: Did Jesus Forbid Us to Swear?

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Jesus’ statement is usually taken to mean that from Christ onward, a believer is not allowed to swear.  Instead, he or she must simply be truthful. But like everything else, this statement had its own context.

“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King … let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Mat. 5:34-37)

Swearing was mostly done not by the Name of God, therefore, it was considered less binding, working very much against the whole idea of guaranteeing the promise made.
However, in Numbers 30:2 we read: “When a man makes a vow to the Lord … he must not break his word; he must do whatever he has promised.” This is the basic meaning of not taking God’s Name in vain (Ex.20:7). Instead of presenting something new, Jesus recalls that which the Torah already specified.

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This becomes even clearer when we read that: “… everyone who swears by God will exult, because the mouths of liars will be silenced.” (Ps.63:11) Even the apostle Paul, when he was accused by his enemies of doing great evil in the sight of God, called the Lord to be his witness that he was telling the truth (Gal. 1:20).

The upshot is that swearing must be limited only to extra-ordinary situations, and if one is going to swear, he or she must swear by the Lord God Himself. Nothing else will do.

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Did Jesus call Gentiles dogs?

How can Jesus call Gentiles dogs?

In his interaction with Sidonian – Canaanite woman Jesus compares Gentiles to dogs and Jews to children. This comparison has rightly disturbed millions of people (Christians and Jews alike).

What are we missing here?

Two Gospels record a meeting between Judean Jesus and a Greek woman – Canaanite (Mk.7:24-29; Matt.15:21-28). Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon (allotment territory of the tribe of Asher that was never fully taken over by Israelite). There he meets a desperate mother willing to do anything for her suffering child: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” (Mat. 15:21-22)

As we continue reading we see that Jesus first gave her the silent treatment. Then, when his Jewish disciples demanded he answer her, he responded: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” However, the woman was relentless. “She came, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, help me!” He answered her: “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Mat. 15:23-26)

The most offensive statement, of course, has to do with Jesus’ comparison of Greek Gentiles to dogs. The key to understanding this text is found in realization that only in the modern Western world dogs are thought to be part of the family. Dogs (often) live inside and not outside of the family home, but it was not so in the ancient times in the East. In other words, the comparison to dogs was not meant to dehumanize the Greek woman but to emphasize that Jesus’ primary mission was to Israel – to those inside of God’s family, not outside of it.

Understood this way, we see that there was nothing dehumanizing in Jesus’ response.  It is no different from what Apostle Paul would later write: “…the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” In spite of some misunderstood statements about his seeming disregard for the physical family, Jesus here says – family first!

But what made Jesus act different towards her now? Clearly it was her response: “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” (Matthew 15:27-28)

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This Sidonian woman displayed the true faith of Israel exemplified in the Torah by both Abraham and Moses. Just like them, she was willing to argue with God, believing with unwavering faith that He is just, good, and merciful.

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Did God Really Hate Esau? – Something Does Not Add Up.

There are certain texts in the Bible that make modern Christ-followers cringe. One of the most difficult is Jesus’s statement about hating one’s father and mother in order to be his true disciple (Luke 14:26). The key to resolving this difficulty is hidden in the ancient meaning of the Hebrew word שנא (pronounced: soneh) inaccurately translated as “hate”.

We read that God loved Jacob, but “hated” Esau (Malachi 1:3). However, we can see that God actually blessed Esau greatly (Gen.33:9), even warning the Israelites not to attack the sons of Esau or risk the withdrawal of His protection from them if they were to do so (Deut.2:4-6).

In fact, the Torah narrative is developed in such away that anyone hearing the story of the stolen blessing and Jacob’s deception of Isaac would sympathize with Esau instead of Jacob! There is no question that God loved Jacob with his covenantal love (a different kind of love and care than he had for Esau), but He did not “hate” him in modern sense of the word. The translation also tells us that Jacob “hated” his first wife Leah. Upon closer reading, however, it becomes clear that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen.29:31). So the best I can tell in Biblical Hebrew soneh meant “loving someone/something less”.

In the Torah God permits divorce based upon certain stringent circumstances that would make a marital relationship impossible to continue. In other words, God’s Word itself allows for divorce under some circumstances. When our translation says that God “hates” divorce (Malachi 2:16), here too we must challenge our English translation and demand a more nuanced (and accurate) meaning. We all know that divorce is one of the most painful experiences that any human being can go through in life. But there is one thing that is even worse than divorce – an abusive marriage. Torah protected people from needing to continue in this ungodly bond. Naturally, divorce and remarriage (even under biblical grounds) is not ideal, but to translate Mal.2:16 as, “God hates divorce” in general, is a horrible misrepresentation of the loving God of our broken world.

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