Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, Love your enemies,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 5:44 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;

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

I myself, however, teach you, "Embrace the ones who are hated [or hate you], and offer prayers over those hounding you.

Explanation of Greek: 

Modern Greek sources are very different than the source used by the translators of the KIV version. That is why modern Bibles have a much shorter version of this verse. This shorter version in explained here.

This verse starts with the phrase we first saw in Mat 5:22. This is a variation of the "amen" phrase. Go to that earlier verse or the related article to explore its meaning.

The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. When used in writing, it creates complex sentences, but when spoken, it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

The verse starts with the Greek pronoun "I". Since, as the subject of the sentence, it is part of the verb, its explicit use accentuates who is speaking "I, myself."

The word translated as "say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching. This Greek word rhymes with the Greek word used above meaning "I".

The first phase here condense the two opposing ideas in the previous verse, 5:43, into one verse. This phrase is a reversal of the traditional idea of tit-for-tat justice.

The word translated as "love" is associated with affection rather than passion. It is sometimes described as "brotherly love." It evokes a sense of caring. The Greek word for passionate love, especially in a sexual sense, is another word that is our root word for "erotic". To express "love" in the sense of "liking" someone, Christ uses another word, which is also translated in the Gospels "love," in the Gospels. (For more about the meaning of "love" go to this article.) The word translated as "love" is associated with affection rather than passion. One of its meanings is "to embrace with affection."

The Greek word translated as "enemies" has the primary meaning of is "the hated" or "the hateful". This gets more interesting because a secondary meaning of this Greek word is "the hating" and "the hostile," that is, those who hate us.

This phrase can be translated either as "Care for those who are hated", "care for those who hate [you]", "embrace the hating," and so on. Many of these ideas are contradictory, which is part of the fun here. Christ clearly doesn't mean to embrace the idea of hating but saying something that can be interpreted that way is provocative.

The word translated as "bless" is not related to the word translated as "blessed" at the beginning of each of the beatitudes. This word means "to pray to" "to pray for," or, more specifically, "to offer prayers for." It is usually translated as "pray" in the KJV. The Greek word is a combination of two words, a prefix meaning "towards" or "by reason of," and root word that means "to pray." It is the Greek word that Christ uses consistently to mean "pray."

The Greek word translated as "Them which persecute," is a verb used as a noun. The primary meaning of the verb is "to chase." It also means "to prosecute' in a legal sense. In English, we describe someone as being chased and harassed as "being hounded." That idea seems to come closest to capturing Christ's use of this word.


 Joining the two parts of the previous verse into one to create a phrase that has many levels of meaning, including some, such as "embrace hating" that are clearly provocative. 

The Spoken Version: 

“I myself, however, am telling you all,” he intoned.
This drew a small laugh, but the audience also sensed his intensity.
“Care for those haters of yours,” he said earnestly. “Pray for those who harass you.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἐγὼ (pron sg 1st nom) "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least", "for my part", "indeed," and for myself.

δὲ (partic) "But" is from de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "Say" is from llego means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," "nominate," and "command."

ὑμῖν (pron pl 2nd dat) "You" is from humas and humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ἀγαπᾶτε (2nd pl pres imperat) "Love" is from agapao, which means "to be fond of", "to greet with affection", "to persuade", "to caress", "to prize", "to desire", "to be pleased with," and "to be contended with." This love is more associated with affection than passion. See this article on love for more information.

τοὺς ἐχθροὺς (adj pl masc acc) "Enemies" is from echthros, which means "the hated", "the hateful", "the hostile", "the enemy", "the alienated," and "the hating."

ὑμῶν (pron pl 2nd gen) "Your" is from humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

προσεύχεσθε (2nd pl pres imperat) "Bless" is from proseuchomai, which means "to offer prayers or vows", "to worship," and "to pray for a thing. It is the combination of two Greek word, pros, meaning "towards" or "by reason of," and euchomai, meaning "to pray to God."

ὑπὲρ (prep) "For" is from hyper (huper), which means "over" (of place), "above' (in a state of rest), "off' (ships at sea), "over" and "across (in a state of motion), "over", "beyond", "on behalf of one (metaphor), "for", "instead of", "in the name of", "as a representative of" (in an entreaty), "for" and "because of" (of the cause of motive), "concerning", "exceeding" "above" and "beyond" (of measure), "above" and "upwards" (of numbers), "before" and "earlier than" (of time), "over much" and "beyond measure" (as an adverb), "for" and "in deference of" (doing a thing), and "above measure."

τῶν διωκόντων (part pl pres act masc gen) "Them which persecute" is dioko, which means "to pursue", "to chase", "to urge on", "cause to run," or "to drive." It means "prosecute" when used as a legal term.

ὑμᾶς: (pron pl 2nd acc) "You" is from humas and humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

Related Verses: 

Feb 9 2017