Matthew 23:15 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 23:15, NIV: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Matthew 23:15, ESV: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

Matthew 23:15, KJV: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Matthew 23:15, NASB: 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Matthew 23:15, NLT: 'What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

Matthew 23:15, CSB: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are!

What does Matthew 23:15 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

These are some of Christ' harshest words against the religious teachers of ancient Israel. This is the second of seven statements of judgment made against them by the Son of God. The opening pattern is the same, declaring their impending judgment and labelling them as pretenders: as hypocrites.

The reference to extensive travel might be exaggeration for effect—hyperbole—rather than an indication that the Pharisees went to foreign territory to seek converts. Scribes and Pharisees made extensive efforts to create "proselytes." These are converts from one religious conviction to another. Some scholars and historians understand this to be a literal form of missionary work in which the Pharisees attempted to convert non-Jews to religious Judaism.

Some interpreters believe Jesus is referring to efforts by the scribes and Pharisees to win over current believers in Judaism. These might have been Gentiles who already believed in the God of Israel. The goal would have been to convince such people of their narrow views of the law, along with their teachings about the extra rules and regulations they required.

In either case, Jesus does not condemn the effort to win converts. He condemns what they are being won to: a belief system built around human regulations and a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. These hypocritical religious leaders were redirecting people onto a path leading to hell, rather than to God and heaven. Those converted were likely to follow the wrong teachings of the Pharisees even more closely than the Pharisees did themselves!