Matthew 5:20

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
i.e., unless you shall fulfil not only those least precepts of the law which begin the man, but also those which are added by me, who am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. But you say to me: If, when He was speaking above of those least commandments, He said that whosoever shall break one of them, and shall teach in accordance with his transgression, is called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but that whosoever shall do them, and shall teach [men] so, is called great, and hence will be already in the kingdom of heaven, because he is great: what need is there for additions to the least precepts of the law, if he can be already in the kingdom of heaven, because whosoever shall do them, and shall so teach, is great? For this reason that sentence is to be understood thus: But whosoever shall do and teach men so, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven,— i.e. not in accordance with those least commandments, but i...

Chromatius of Aquileia

AD 407
He finds fault with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, for they were not concerned with faith in the divine promise but with human praise and worldly glory. We have an example of this in the puffedup and proud Pharisee who seemed to prefer the merits of his own righteousness and shamelessly made himself conspicuous in God’s sight with his smugness and complacent words. The scribes and Pharisees therefore stressed the appearance of righteousness, not that they might please God but that they might seek the fame of human glory and acquire earthly gain and material comforts. Hence the Lord urges us to give priority to the works of heavenly righteousness and the merits of faith over that detestable righteousness of human praise. . ...

George Leo Haydock

AD 1849
Of the Scribes and of the Pharisees. The Scribes were the doctors of the law of Moses; the Pharisees were a precise set of men, making profession of a more exact observance of the law: and upon that account greatly esteemed among the people. (Challoner) See how necessary it is, not only to believe, but to keep all the commandments, even the very least. (Bristow) Our Saviour makes this solemn declaration at the opening of his mission, to show to what a height of perfection he calls us. (St. Aquinas) "Your justice. "It is our justice when given us by God. (St. Augustine, in Ps. xxx. lib. de. spir.lit. chap. ix.) So that Christians are truly just, and have in themselves inherent justice, by observing God's commandments, without which justice of works, no man can be saved. (St. Augustine, de fideoper. chap. xvi.) Whereby we see salvation, justice and justification, do not come by faith only, or imputation of Christ's justice. (Bristow) ...


AD 420
He therefore rebukes the Pharisees, who showed contempt for God’s commandments and set up their own traditions, for their teaching among the people is of no value if they destroy even a small part of what is in the law. We can understand this in another sense, namely, that a teacher’s learning, even if tainted by a small sin, demotes him from the highest place. It does not profit him to teach a righteousness that he undermines by the slightest fault. The Beatitude is perfected if what you teach with your words you practice with your works. . ...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
Here by righteousness He means the whole of virtue; even as also discoursing of Job, He said, He was a blameless man, righteous. According to the same signification of the word, Paul also called that man righteous for whom, as he said, no law is even set. For, says he, a law is not made for a righteous man. 1 Timothy 1:9 And in many other places too one might find this name standing for virtue in general. But observe, I pray you, the increase of grace; in that He will have His newly-come disciples better than the teachers in the old covenant. For by Scribes and Pharisees here, He meant not merely the lawless, but the well-doers. For, were they not doing well, He would not have said they have a righteousness; neither would He have compared the unreal to the real. And observe also here, how He commends the old law, by making a comparison between it and the other; which kind of thing implies it to be of the same tribe and kindred. For more and less, is in the same kind. He does not,...

John Chrysostom

AD 407
Jesus speaks of righteousness here as virtue in its fullness. In speaking of Job, Jesus said, “He was a blameless man, righteous.” According to the same meaning of the word, Paul even called that person righteous for whom, as he said, no law is laid down: “For the law is not made for a righteous person.” One might find “righteous” in many other passages rendered as “virtuous in general.” But I urge you to observe how grace has abounded under the new covenant. Jesus desires to have his prospective disciples considered as greater than the teachers under the old covenant. For by “scribes and Pharisees” here he meant the upright, not the lawbreakers. If they were not acting in a commendable fashion, he would not have spoken of them as righteous. Nor would he have compared the unreal to the real. Note how Jesus also in this passage commends the old law. He does so by comparing it with the new, a comparison that implies that it is of the same family, so to speak. More or less, it does share ...

Theophylact of Ochrid

AD 1107
. "Righteousness" means all the virtues, as in "Job was a righteous man, holy and blameless" (Job 1:1) Tremble then, O man, when you have understood how much is required of us. Then He teaches us how we can exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and He enumerates the virtues.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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