Matthew 3:10 is the tenth verse of the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The verse occurs in where John the Baptist is berating the Pharisees and Sadducees. He has previously called them a brood of vipers and warned them of the wrath to come and has urged them to repent. This verse returns to the fruit metaphor of Matthew 3:8 adding a promise of eventual punishment.
In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:
And now also the axe is laid
unto the root of the trees:
therefore every tree which
bringeth not forth good fruit is
hewn down, and cast into the fire.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
"Even now the axe lies at the
root of the trees. Therefore,
every tree that doesn't bring
forth good fruit is cut down,
and cast into the fire.
For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 3:10
In Matthew 3:8 John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that they must manifest the fruit of repentance if they are to avoid the wrath of God. This verse threatens that every tree that does not bear fruit will be destroyed, i.e. that people who do not repent will face divine punishment. As in Matthew 3:2 this punishment is said to be in the very near future. Most scholars feel that this verse originally referred to the last judgement. When the last judgement failed to occur the verse was reinterpreted to refer to individual damnation.
The imagery is of God as a lumberjack cutting down trees and then burning them. Specifically it refers to an axe being placed at the base of a tree just above the roots, which would be the final action before beginning to chop down the tree.
Similar imagery is used in Isaiah 10:34 and in Jeremiah 46:22, which France feels may be the inspiration for this verse. France also notes that in Aramaic the word for root is ikkar while the word for cut down is kar thus this verse may be another example of wordplay.
This verse is almost identical to Luke 3:9, but is not found anywhere in Mark. Thus supporters of the two source hypothesis feel that it was likely part of Q, as with the preceding verses.