Question on Matthew 5:29

A question of fundamentalism versus spirituality dawned on me the other day… per Matthew 5:27-30…

Are there any known cases where someone has actually had one of their “members” removed in the interest of this statement?

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

The first part actually sounds kind of Oedipal, so I guess it is possible… But - other than that - I dont know that anyone has actually physically altered their body to avoid what seems to be a pretty common situation…


These statements are hyperboles for effect.


“Members” We are members of Christ’s Body teaches Saint Paul. Here is what the Rev. George Leo Haydock comentary has to say:

Ver. 29. Whatever is an immediate occasion of sin, however near or dear it may be, must be abandoned (M.), though it prove as dear to us, or as necessary as a hand, or an eye, and without delay or demur. A.


That’s kind of the strange part about it, if you think about it.

Even taken in the spiritual sense, adultery is still considered a mortal sin.

So what, then, is it ultimately saying?

If it is mere hyperbole, and the recommendation to remove an eye or a limb is an exaggeration said for effect - does that correspondingly diminish the consequences? And, if it doesn’t diminish the consequences, and the kingdom of Heaven is really at stake - then why not go ahead and remove a limb? We never know when we’re going to go.

BTW, I’m pushing the envelope here, so please know I agree with you.

I’ve met one Priest who agreed with the dismemberment notion, although he was analogizing lust to something like cancer.

In a somewhat different sense, there’s also an old story about a young boy who once kicked his mother, and St Anthony corrected him by saying, “He who kicks his mother should have his foot could off.” The legend claims the boy actually did it, and, when St Anthony heard of it, he was shocked and went back and miraculously healed the boy. That’s all I’ve ever heard of where it could be taken literally.

One interesting point of discernment is - the quote actually says “body”, not “soul”…

I tend to think lust effects the soul more than the body… so maybe my Priestly friend’s likening it to a surgery for cancer holds a bit of merit… meaning - in addition to the temptation - there could have been a public health side to what Jesus was saying, as evidenced by the reference to a body possibly being infected…

One might inquire at the local hospital emergency room. :thinking:

There is a vague traditional account that Origen castrated himself in vein of the above quoted passage of Matt but also Matt 19:11-12 (those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven).

Likewise the Cathars are said to have practised castration as a sort of radical equalising between men and women. Skoptsy, a Russian Christian movement, have also been described as having a similar castration practice.

The above accounts are - to an extent - a bit tenuous as it’s rather difficult to distinguish between these groups’ actual practices versus rumours. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they were true as Christianity has had its fair share of kooks.

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No hyperbole.

The context is clearly marriage and if a spouse makes you stumble you must (with surgeon’s care) take him-her from your intimacy and decidedly throw him-her away.

You need to read up on the skopsi…people in great numbers have over the years taken this reading to levels that are unimaginable.

What is immediate occasion of sin?

Many times it is a friend, a spouse, a relative who must be removed and thrown away.

I had 80% of my stomach cut out about a month ago. I guess that might count. I’ve struggled with morbid obesity for over 20 years and gluttony is a major sin. It’s been helping greatly so far. Interestingly, it has also greatly helped me in struggles with pornography. The whole process has helped me lose 40 pounds. The mental fog has lifted a lot and it’s since the surgery that I’ve felt pulled to the Catholic faith again. I tried twice before but left the RCIA process because of varying issues. Those issues have been fixed and there are no personal/theological barriers or obstacles in my path now.


Both of your comments are at least partially wrong, if one is married to someone who causes them to sin, the two are one flesh, and what God has joined, no man may separate, and human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore must never be “thrown away” which is something you would do to an object. This is the epitome of the sort of objectification that Pope St. John Paul the Great warned against, while distance may need to be created in situations of temptation, one can never discard a person as one would an object, instead we must work for mutual perfection, which may sometimes mean decreasing the intimacy of a relationship (ie a friend, SO, etc.) or else having a conversation and establishing reasonable boundaries with a married spouse.

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In Jesus’ time, a common tool used for teaching was hyperbole/exaggeration, Christ sends a message with this passage, namely that something that is bad must be removed, more referring to actions and situations, and extreemly close relationships rather than to a specific person entirely.

If you are married with someone who causes you to sin you are free to stay with him/her and sin.

The relationships that must be removed and “thrown away”, when necessary, are as intimate as with your spouse who has the handle of all your affairs (your hand) or is more intelligent than you and you have full confidence in him/her (your eye).

It must be thrown away, even after cutting off and removal, otherwise the sinful situation will repeat itself.

The context of Matthew 5:29 is marriage.

I might gently suggest that you re-read the passage. The context there isn’t ‘marriage’, but ‘adultery’. Huge difference, there!

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From verse 25 and especially from verse 27 to verse 32 it’s all about marital vows.

Adultery can be a matter of thought only,

but no sane person will ruin his marriage following his own sole desire. It requires that the married man or woman has a willing unmated counterpart.

The adulterer must throw away his/her lover even more precious, more intelligent than his eye and more useful than his hand.

vv31-32 are moving on to another topic: divorce.

The context of 5:29 is ‘adultery’.

I don’t think that Christ is telling us that the people we have affairs with are “more precious”, “more intelligent” and “more useful” than our own selves. YMMV. :wink:

Yup. Self castration was not unknown among early Christians.

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