In Matthew 5:34-6, and in Matthew 23:16-22 are recorded the lambastings Christ gave the Pharisees for vowings: "ye blind guides which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for which is greater the gift or the altar that sanctified the gift?" Christ goes on to illustrate Pharisee silliness. Do not swear by anything, is the gist of the Matthew 5:34 passage, not by your head for you cannot "make one hair white or black."
One can only appreciate His words after reading hundreds of pages of drivel about vows in the Talmud books of Nazir and Nedarim. (Title pages, Exhibit 164 and Exhibit 170)
The Talmud Mishna on the Heifer and the Door is illustrative (not reproduced). The Mishna opens with the Door saying if the man doesn't open it, and the heifer saying if the man does not make it stand up, he must be a "Nazir." (A Nazirite [to vow] was one who had vowed not to cut his hair or drink or eat any product of the grape for a certain time.) Three pages of haranguing "Gemara" following the Talmud . . "Mishna" discuss the fact that the heifer then got up of its own volition. The door is quiet, apparently, for nothing more is said by it. The Jewish school of Shammai holds that since the man did not of his own power force the heifer up, he must be a "Nazir," but the Hillel Jews say that the essence of the vow is the upping of the heifer which was "recumbent" and is now standing up, so the man does not have to be a "Nazir." The schools of the Hillel and Shammai were in full flower in the Holy Land when Christ lived and, no doubt, this and other nonsense presently preserved for the Jewish religion, existed then.
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