“Without a cause”

Matthew_513_28This afternoon I was reading an account of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the words “without a cause” stood out like neon:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21,22)

I suspect everyone thinks and feels that they have “cause” to be angry in the moment, but was that really what Jesus said or intended? It seems to contradict the life He lived. Particularly His words later in the same chapter:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5: 43,44)

The latter is a worthy goal yet difficult to achieve if we are holding a personal “cause” so closely that we justify our anger.

But what does the text say? What do the oldest available manuscripts say? I pulled a book off the shelf to find out. Out of 24 different manuscripts “without a cause” is absent from seven, including the oldest.

Manuscript name, includes “without a cause”?

1. Papyrus 67 [P67] “Barcelona” (AD 125–50): No
2. Coptic [copsa, meg, bo] (third–fifth century): Yes
3. Old Syriac [syrs, c] (third–fourth century): Yes
4. Vaticanus [B] (AD 400): No
5. Sinaiticus [χ] (AD 400): No
6. Sinaiticus [χ2] (after AD 400): Yes
7. Old Latin [ita,b,c,d,f,h,k,l,q] (fourth–thirteenth century): Yes
8. Vulgate [vg] (fourth–fifth century): No
9. Ethiopic [ethms] (about AD 500): No
10. Ethiopic [ethTH] (about AD 500): Yes
11. Georgian [geo] (fifth century): Yes
12. Armenian [arm] (fifth century): Yes
13. Peshitta/Palestinian [syrp,pal] (fifth–sixth century): Yes
14. Bezae Canta [D] (AD 500): Yes
15. Washington [W] (AD 500): Yes
16. Old Latin [itaur] (AD 700): No
17. Byzantine (Byz [E S]) (AD 600–800): Yes
18. Paris [L] (AD 800): Yes
19. Old Church Slavonic [slav] (ninth century): Yes
20. St. Gall [?] (AD 900): Yes
21. Tbilisi [?] (AD 900): Yes
22. Greek Lectionaries [Lect] (AD 900–1576): Yes
23. Family 1,13 [f 1,13] (eleventh–fifteenth century): Yes
24. Miniscule 1292 [1292] (thirteenth century): No

This isn’t a new discussion (That’s how I knew which book to check), it’s been debated for more than 1000 years and the debate will likely continue. My conclusion? I see the statement “without a cause” in verse 22, answered by verse 44 – 46:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?”

If I apply that message, it doesn’t allow much room for “cause” against anyone.

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