corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24
Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28

Book Overview - Matthew



THE General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.


THE general design of the Commentary, to which this is the first contribution, has been elsewhere stated. But it may be permitted me for the sake of clearness to name some of the points kept in view in the preparation of these notes.

One of the objects aimed at has been to connect more closely the study of the Classics with the reading of the New Testament. To recognise this connection and to draw it closer is the first task of the Christian scholar. The best thoughts as well as the words of Hellenic culture have a place, not of sufferance, but of right in the Christian system. This consideration will equally deepen the interest in the Greek and Latin Classics, and in the study of the New Testament. But the Greek Testament may become the centre towards which all lines of learning and research converge. Art, or the expressed thought of great painters, often the highest intellects of their day, once the great popular interpreters of Scripture, has bequeathed lessons which ought not to be neglected. Every advance in science, in philology, in grammar, in historical research, and every new phase of thought, throws its own light on the words of Christ. In this way, each successive age has a fresh contribution to bring to the interpretation of Scripture.

Another endeavour has been to bring in the aid of Modern Greek (which is in reality often very ancient Greek), in illustration of New Testament words and idioms. In this subject many suggestions have come from Geldart’s Modern Greek Language; and among other works consulted have been: Clyde’s Romaic and Modern Greek, Vincent and Bourne’s Modern Greek, the Modern Greek grammars of J. Donaldson and Corfe and the Γραμματικὴ τῆς Ἀγγλικῆς γλώσσης ὑπὸ Γεωργίου Λαμπισῆ.

I have wished also to call attention to the form in which St Matthew has preserved our Lord’s discourses. And here Bishop Jebb’s Sacred Literature has been invaluable. His conclusions may not in every instance be accepted, but the line of investigation which he followed is very fruitful in interesting and profitable results. Of this more is said infra, Introd. ch. v. 2.

The works principally consulted have been: Bruder’s Concordance of the N.T. and Trommius’ of the LXX Schleusner’s Lexicon, Grimm’s edition of Wilkii Clavis, the indices of Wyttenbach to Plutarch and of Schweighäuser to Polybius, E. A. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon (Roman and Byzantine period); Scrivener’s Introduction to the Criticism of the N.T. (the references are to the second edition); Hammond’s Textual Criticism applied to the N.T.; Dr Moulton’s edition of Winer’s Grammar [1870]; Clyde’s Greek Syntax, Goodwin’s Greek Moods and Tenses; Westcott’s Introduction to the Study of the Gospels; Bp Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision of the N.T.; Lightfoot’s Horœ Hebraicœ; Schöttgen’s Horœ Hebraicœ et Talmudicœ, and various modern books of travel, to which references are given in the notes.

I have to thank very sincerely several friends who have helped me with suggestions, and have looked over the sheets as they passed through the press. In the preparation of the text and in the revision of the notes I owe a great deal to the kind assistance and accurate scholarship of Dr W. F. Moulton.

A. C.


December 21, 1880.


IN undertaking an edition of the Greek text of the New Testament with English notes for the use of Schools, the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press have not thought it desirable to reprint the text in common use*[1]. To have done this would have been to set aside all the materials that have since been accumulated towards the formation of a correct text, and to disregard the results of textual criticism in its application to MSS., Versions and Fathers. It was felt that a text more in accordance with the present state of our knowledge was desirable. On the other hand the Syndics were unable to adopt one of the more recent critical texts, and they were not disposed to make themselves responsible for the preparation of an entirely new and independent text: at the same time it would have been obviously impossible to leave it to the judgement of each individual contributor to frame his own text, as this would have been fatal to anything like uniformity or consistency. They believed however that a good text might be constructed by simply taking the consent of the two most recent critical editions, those of Tischendorf and Tregelles, as a basis. The same principle of consent could be applied to places where the two critical editions were at variance, by allowing a determining voice to the text of Stephens where it agreed with either of their readings, and to a third critical text, that of Lachmann, where the text of differed from both. In this manner readings peculiar to one or other of the two editions would be passed over as not being supported by sufficient critical consent; while readings having the double authority would be treated as possessing an adequate title to confidence.

A few words will suffice to explain the manner in which this design has been carried out.

In the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, wherever the texts of Tischendorf and Tregelles agree, their joint readings are followed without any deviation. Where they differ from each other, but neither of them agrees with the text of Stephens as printed in Dr Scrivener’s edition, the consensus of Lachmann with either is taken in preference to the text of Stephens. In all other cases the text of Stephens as represented in Dr Scrivener’s edition has been followed.

In the Gospels, a single modification of this plan has been rendered necessary by the importance of the Sinai MS. (א), which was discovered too late to be used by Tregelles except in the last chapter of St John’s Gospel and in the following books. Accordingly, if a reading which Tregelles has put in his margin agrees with א, it is considered as of the same authority as a reading which he has adopted in his text; and if any words which Tregelles has bracketed are omitted by א, these words are here dealt with as if rejected from his text.

In order to secure uniformity, the spelling and the accentuation of Tischendorf have been adopted where he differs from other Editors. His practice has likewise been followed as regards the insertion or omission of Iota subscript in infinitives (as ζῆν, ἐπιτιμᾶν), and adverbs (as κρυφῆ, λάθρα), and the mode of printing such composite forms as διαπαντός, διατί, τουτέστι, and the like.

The punctuation of Tischendorf in his eighth edition has usually been adopted: where it is departed from, the deviation, together with the reasons that have led to it, will be found mentioned in the Notes. Quotations are indicated by a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence. Where a whole verse is omitted, its omission is noted in the margin (e.g. Matthew 17:21; Matthew 23:12).

The text is printed in paragraphs corresponding to those of the English Edition.

Although it was necessary that the text of all the portions of the New Testament should be uniformly constructed in accordance with these general rules, each editor has been left at perfect liberty to express his preference for other readings in the Notes.

It is hoped that a text formed on these principles will fairly represent the results of modern criticism, and will at least be accepted as preferable to “the Received Text” for use in Schools.





LEVI the son of Alphæus[2] was a tax-gatherer at Capernaum. His special duty would be to collect tolls from the fisheries on the Lake, and perhaps from the merchants travelling southward from Damascus. One day Jesus coming up from the Lake side passed near the custom-house where Levi was seated in Oriental fashion, and He saith unto him, Follow me, and he arose and followed Him (ch. Matthew 9:9). That Jesus ever addressed Levi before, we are not told; but it is reasonable to suppose that he was expecting the summons, that he was already a disciple of Jesus, and prepared as soon as Christ gave the word to leave all for His sake. At any rate, Levi must have heard of the Great Rabbi and of His preaching, and have already resolved to adopt the view of the kingdom of God which Jesus taught.

When Levi became a follower of Jesus he changed his name from Levi to Matthew[3], which means “the Gift of God,” and is the same as the Greek name Theodore. This practice was not unusual, and may be illustrated by the instances of Saul and of Simon, who also adopted new names in the new life.

The same day Matthew made a feast—perhaps a farewell feast to his old associates—to which he invited Jesus and His disciples. We may conceive what a joyous banquet that was for Matthew, when for the first time as an eye-witness he marked the words and acts of Jesus, and stored within his memory the scene and the conversation which he was inspired to write according to his clerkly ability for the instruction of the Church in all after ages.

After this Matthew is not once named in the Gospel history, except in the list of the Twelve; in the other Gospels he appears seventh on the list, in his own Gospel eighth—the last in the second division. In his own Gospel again—a further mark of humility—he designates himself as “Matthew the publican.” His nearest companion seems to have been Thomas (whose surname Didymus has led to the belief that he was Matthew’s twin-brother), and in the same group or division were Philip and Bartholomew. Such are the scanty details which the Gospels record of St Matthew. These few notices however suggest some inferences as to the religious position, character and teaching of the Evangelist.

Since Capernaum was in the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, it may be inferred that Levi was an officer in the service of that prince, and not in the service of the Roman government, as is sometimes tacitly assumed. This is not unimportant in estimating the call and conversion of St Matthew.

A Hebrew who entirely acquiesced in the Roman supremacy could hardly have done so at this period without abandoning the national hopes. Jesus alone knew the secret of reconciling the highest aspirations of the Jewish race with submission to Cæsar. But to acknowledge the Herodian dynasty was a different thing from bowing to Rome. Herod was at least not a foreigner and a Gentile in the same sense as the Roman. Idumea had coalesced with Israel. It is therefore conceivable that a Jew who was waiting for the Messiah’s reign may in very despair have learned to look for the fulfilment of his hopes in the Herodian family. If it was impossible to connect Messianic thoughts with an Antipas, or even with the more reputable Philip, still might not a prince hereafter spring from that house to restore the kingdom to Israel? Might not God in His providence fuse by some means the house and lineage of Herod with the house and lineage of David? It was not impossible, and probably the tyrannical Antipas owed the stability of his throne in some measure to a party among the Jews who cherished these ideas.

No one can read St Matthew’s Gospel without perceiving that he was no Hellenist, but a Hebrew of the Hebrews, deeply learned in the history and prophecies of his race, and eagerly looking forward to their realization; but he had been content to find, or at least to expect, that realization in the family of Herod. These views were suited to his nature in two ways. For we may infer first, that he was influenced by what is almost an inherent passion in his race—the love of gain (had it not been so he would never have chosen a career which at its best was despised and odious); secondly, that he loved a life of contemplation and quiet, and was well pleased to separate himself from the fiery enthusiasm and headstrong schemes of the Galileans who surrounded him. Such may have been the hopes to which Levi clung. But when the plan and teaching of Jesus were unfolded to his mind stored with national memories, he instantly recognized the truth and beauty and completeness of that ideal, and gave himself up heart and soul to the cause of the Son of David. For that cause and for the kingdom of God he resigned all his hopes of advancement in Herod’s kingdom, his lucrative calling, and the friends he had made.

It may be that Matthew’s wealth was not in an absolute sense great, but it was great for the little Galilean town. It was great to him. And if like St Paul he had left a record of his personal religious feelings, he might have related how he counted up all the several items of gain, and found the sum total loss compared with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus[4].

If we may judge from the silence of the Gospels, the position which Matthew held among his fellow-disciples was a humble one. He was not among the chosen three. No incident connects itself with his name, as with the names of Andrew and Simon, of Philip, of Thomas, or of Bartholomew, of Judas [the brother] of James, of the sons of Zebedee. No one word of his to Christ is recorded. Even when he was called he rose and followed in silence.

We may picture Matthew to ourselves as a silent, unobtrusive, contemplative man, “swift to hear and slow to speak,” unobservant of the minutiæ of outward action but with a mind teeming with the associations of his nation and deeply conscious of the momentous drama which was being enacted before him, of which he felt himself called upon to be the chronicler and interpreter to his own people.

No special mention is made of St Matthew in the Acts of the Apostles, or in the Epistles, but some light is thrown upon his after life by fragmentary notices of early Christian writers.

We gather that he remained in Palestine longer than the rest of the Apostles, and that he made his fellow-countrymen familiar with the words and works of Jesus. More will be said below as to the nature and special scope of his teaching; but an interesting point of Christian history, and one that bears upon St Matthew’s character, recorded by Eusebius, may be mentioned here. St Matthew, says the historian, being about to depart for distant lands to preach to others also, left as a memorial to his Palestinian converts the story of the New Covenant committed to writing in their own tongue, the Aramaic or Hebrew dialect which they used. This parting gift of the Evangelist was the origin of the written Gospels.

Later authorities have named Æthiopia, Parthia, Egypt and Macedonia, as fields of his missionary work. Clement of Alexandria states that Matthew devoted himself to a strictly ascetic life, abstaining from the use of animal food.

By the most ancient testimony the death of this apostle is attributed to natural causes. The traditions of the Greek Church and the pictures of the Greek artists represent him dying peacefully. But the Western Church has placed Matthew on the list of martyrs, and in the works of Italian painters he is portrayed perishing by the executioner’s sword. It is characteristic of this silent, unmarked life, in which the personality of the Evangelist is lost in the voice of the message which he was inspired to utter, that Matthew’s name has been less prominent in the Churches and nations of Christendom than others of his co-apostles, or even than many saints, whose services to the Church of Christ have been infinitely less. None of the great Churches of Christendom have been called by his name, no guild or fraternity, no college in our great Universities, no state or nation, has chosen him for a patron. Scarcely one famous picture has taught the lesson of his call. The personal memory, like the personal life of St Matthew, withdraws itself from the observation of men.



1. The authorship of the first Gospel has been ascribed by an unbroken tradition to the Apostle Matthew.

2. The date is uncertain. Irenæus however states that St Matthew wrote his Gospel when SS. Peter and Paul were founding the Church in Rome: and the fact that it was published first of the written Gospels rests upon early and uncontradicted testimony. The date of publication then should probably be fixed not many years after the Ascension.

3. St Matthew’s Gospel was primarily intended for the use of the Jewish converts in Palestine. It is this fact that gives its special character to this Gospel. No other of the evangelists has so completely developed the idea that in Christ the nation lived again, that towards Christ all prophecy moved, that in Him all national aspirations were centred and satisfied. No other inspired writer has pictured so vividly the critical interest of the Messianic days as the meeting-point of the world’s past and future.

According to St Matthew Jesus is from first to last Christ the King, the King of whom all the prophets spake in the past, but He is also the one figure round whom the historical interest of the future was destined to gather. Hence the twofold aspect of this Gospel; on the one hand it is the most national and the most retrospective of the Gospels; on the other it is the most universal and the most prophetic; in one sense St Matthew is more gentile than St Luke, in another he is truly a Hebrew of the Hebrews.

The very depth of St Matthew’s patriotism impels him to glory in the universality of the Messianic reign. The Kingdom of God must over-pass the limits of the Chosen race. Hence it is no matter of surprise that the Hebrew historian should alone commemorate the coming of the Magi and the refuge in Egypt, and that he and not St Luke should tell the story of the Canaanitish woman.

The following points confirm the received account of the origin of this Gospel and indicate its special reference to the Jews.

[1] The numerous quotations from prophecy.

[2] The appeals to history as fulfilled in Christ.

[3] The rare explanation of Jewish words and customs.

[4] The strong and special denunciation of the Jews and of their rulers.

[5] The special reference to the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.

[6] The Genealogy traced from Abraham and David.

[7] The Mission of the Seventy omitted.

[8] The absence of Latin words, with very few exceptions.

[9] The prominence given to the Jewish thought of a Kingdom of Heaven: (a) in the general scope of the Gospel; (b) in the parables; (c) in the account of the Passion.

4. The style of St Matthew’s Gospel is sufficiently distinctive in the use of special words and idioms, in constructions and transitional particles[5], to mark it as an original work, though in part derived from sources common to the other Synoptic Gospels. St Matthew has preserved faithfully and sympathetically the poetical beauty of the discourses of Christ; but in the descriptive passages his manner is less vivid and picturesque than St Mark’s, more even and unvaried than St Luke’s, whose diction is greatly influenced by the various sources whence he derived the details which he incorporates in his Gospel. Consequently although no passages in St Matthew’s Gospel recall the classical ring like the introduction to St Luke’s Gospel; on the other hand the Hebrew idiom never so manifestly shews itself in the first Gospel as in the opening chapters of the third.

St Matthew was an eyewitness of the events which he chronicles, yet it is often remarked that his descriptions are less graphic and full of detail than those of St Mark, who wrote what he had heard from the lips of others. This need not be a matter of surprise. It is indeed a phenomenon that meets us every day. It is not the contemporary and the eyewitness, but the historian of a succeeding age who takes the keenest interest in minute detail and records with faithful accuracy the less prominent circumstances of a great event. It is the Herodotus or the Macaulay—the historian, the ‘questioner’—who gathers from every source materials for a minute and brilliant picture, rather than the actual spectator who is often too deeply absorbed by the one point of supreme interest in a scene to notice the looks and acts of other bystanders, or so impressed by the speaker’s glowing thoughts as to deem them alone worthy of record.

But though St Mark enables us to realize more exactly the external accessories of the various incidents. St Matthew has treasured up for the Church more fully than the other synoptists the words and discourses of Jesus; such especially as present Him in the character of the Great Prophet, who, like the prophets of old time, denounces national sins and predicts the future of the nation and the Church. Instances of this characteristic are the full report of the Sermon on the Mount (ch. Matthew 5:6-7), the charge to the Apostles ch. 10; the great series of prophetic parables in ch. 13 peculiar to this Gospel; the denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees in ch. 23, the parables of the Passion ch. 25, the predictions of the fall of Jerusalem, and of the second Advent, chs. 24 and 25.

5. The ablest critics are agreed that St Matthew does not observe the chronological order of events. By the arrangement followed by this Evangelist, as may be seen by the accompanying analysis of the Gospel, special incidents and sayings are so grouped together as to illustrate the different aspects of our Lord’s life and teaching.

6. The most interesting literary question in connection with this Gospel concerns the language in which it was written. Is the Hellenistic Greek version which we possess, [1] the original Gospel, or [2] a translation from a Hebrew or Aramaic original; further, if a translation by whom was the translation made, by (a) St Matthew himself, or (b) by some other?

Apart from the antecedent probability of a Hebrew Gospel—a version of the New Covenant to correspond with the Hebrew of the Old Covenant, and to meet the requirements of those Jews who gloried in their knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, and their adhesion to Hebrew customs, who would listen more gladly to the Gospel if it were preached to them in the language of their fathers—direct testimony to the existence of an Aramaic original of St Matthew’s Gospel is borne by a succession of the earliest Christian writers.

[1] Papias in the beginning of the second century writes:—‘΄ατθαῖος μεν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο ἡρμήνευσε δʼ αὐτὰ ὡς ἐδύνατο ἕκαστος.’ The best scholars are agreed that by τὰ λόγια the Gospel of St Matthew is meant.

[2] Irenæus says: ‘ὁ μὲν ΄ατθαῖος ἐν τοῖς Ἑβραίοις τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ αὐτῶν καὶ γραφὴν ἐξήνεγκεν εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Πέτρου καὶ τοῦ Παύλου ἐν Ῥώμῃ εὐαγγελιζομένων καὶ θεμελιούντων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν.’

[3] Pantænus, according to Eusebius (H. E. V. 10), is said to have gone to preach to the Indians and to have found among them a copy of the Hebrew Gospel according to St Matthew which had been left by the Apostle Bartholomew.

[4] In later times evidence for the belief in a Hebrew original is drawn from the writings of Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and many others.

Against this testimony in favour of a Hebrew original, arguments tending to an opposite conclusion are grounded on [1] the disappearance of the Hebrew Gospel: [2] the authority which the existing Version has always had in the Church: [3] the similarity of expression to certain portions of the other Gospels: [4] the apparent originality of style.

[1] That no copy of the Hebrew Gospel is extant need not excite surprise. With the destruction of Jerusalem the Hebrew-speaking Christians would be for the most part scattered far and wide over the limits of the Roman Empire. Necessity would impel them to become familiar with the Greek tongue. Their Jewish compatriots in foreign countries would be acquainted with no other. Everywhere the credit of the Greek version of St Matthew’s Gospel would be fully established; to that version the original Hebrew edition would soon give place. It seems probable too that copies of this Gospel were purposely altered and mutilated to serve the ends of heretical sects, and thus the genuine Hebrew text would become more and more difficult to obtain, and finally would be discredited and lost to the Church. The preface of St Luke’s Gospel suggests the thought that many more or less complete ‘Gospels’ once extant have disappeared. Moreover, most critics are agreed that the existing Epistles of St Paul do not comprise the whole number which he wrote to the Churches.

The points raised in the second [2] and third [3] arguments are considered below.

[4] The question of originality cannot be decisively settled by an appeal to the Greek style. There are, however, some characteristics that seem to indicate a translation, or rather, perhaps, a Greek edition of the Gospel by St Matthew himself or some other author of Apostolic authority. Such an inference would fall in with the tradition of the ‘Hebrew Gospel,’ and of St Matthew’s preaching in other countries beyond the limits of Palestine. The style is uniform, and almost monotonous. Hebraisms are regularly and evenly distributed, not as in St Luke, prominent in some parts and altogether absent in others; and the number of actual Hebrew words is inconsiderable.

In citations from the Old Testament a distinction can be observed. When the narrative is closely parallel with the other Synoptic Gospels, the quotations are also parallel following generally the text of the LXX., but presenting the same variations from that text which appear in the other Synoptic Gospels. But in those portions of this Gospel which are independent of the others, the quotations approach more nearly to the Hebrew text.

Taking these features of the Gospel into account, we remark: 1. While they are not consistent with a literal translation of an Aramaic original, such as would have been produced by a scribe who wished to give an exact transcript of the idioms and even the words of his author: 2. They are consistent with a free rendering by the Evangelist versed in both tongues. 3. If the Gospel had been presented in a Greek from to the Hebrews of Palestine we should have expected citations from the Hebrew Bible throughout, and freer use of Aramaic diction. 4. On the other hand, Hebrew thought combined with freedom from literal Aramaic form is precisely what we should expect to find in a Hellenistic edition of an Aramaic original.

The following theory is advanced as a natural way of satisfying the traditional statements and the notes of style. St Matthew, in accordance with the patristic citations (p. xx.), composed in the first instance an Aramaic Gospel for the use of the Hebrew Christians in Palestine, to whom such a Gospel, and perhaps such only, would be fully acceptable. But on the disruption of the Jewish polity Aramaic would cease to be intelligible to many, and the demand would come for a Greek version of the Gospel according to St Matthew. How would this demand be met? Either St Matthew himself, or else some faithful scribe, would use the Hebrew Gospel as the basis of a Greek version. Many of the familiar parables and sayings of Jesus, which were orally afloat in all the Churches, he would (for the sake of old association) incorporate with little alteration, but he would preserve throughout the plan of the original, and, in passages where the special teaching of this Gospel came in, the version would be a close rendering of the Aramaic. This theory explains the verbal coincidence of some parts of St Matthew’s Gospel with the parallel Synoptic passages, and accounts for the facts in regard to the quotations stated above.

Such a version, especially if made by St Matthew himself, would indeed be rather an original work than a translation, and would speedily in either case acquire the authority of the original Aramaic. Accordingly we find that even those writers who speak of the Hebrew Gospel themselves quote from the Greek version as authoritative[6].


(A) Miracles, (B) Parables, (C) Discourses, (D) Incidents peculiar to this Gospel

(A) Miracles.

[1] Cure of two blind men Matthew 9:27-31.

[2] The stater in the fish’s mouth Matthew 17:24-27.

(B) Parables.

[1] The tares Matthew 13:24-30.

[2] The hid treasure Matthew 13:44.

[3] The pearl of great price Matthew 13:45-46.

[4] The draw-net Matthew 13:47-50.

[5] The unmerciful servant Matthew 18:23-35.

[6] The labourers in the vineyard Matthew 20:1-16.

[7] The two sons Matthew 21:28-32.

[8] Marriage of the king’s son Matthew 22:1-14.

[9] The ten virgins Matthew 25:1-13.

[10] The talents Matthew 25:14-30.

(C) Discourses.

[1] A large part of the sermon on the Mount.

[2] Invitation to the heavy laden Matthew 11:28-30.

[3] Idle words Matthew 12:36-37.

[4] The blessing pronounced on Peter Matthew 16:17-19.

[5] The greater part of ch. 18 on humility and forgiveness.

[6] The rejection of the Jews Matthew 21:43.

[7] The denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees as a connected discourse 23.

[8] The description of the judgment Matthew 25:31-46.

[9] The last commission and promise Matthew 28:18-20.

(D) Incidents.

[1] The whole of ch. 2.

(α) The coming of the Magi, guided by the star in the east.

(β) The massacre of the innocents.

(γ) The flight into Egypt.

(δ) The return to Nazareth.

[2] The coming of the Pharisees and Sadducees to John’s baptism Matthew 3:7.

[3] Peter’s attempt to walk upon the water Matthew 14:28-31.

[4] Payment of the Temple Tax Matthew 17:24-27.

[5] In connection with the Passion:

(α) The covenant of Judas for thirty pieces of silver; his repentance, and his end Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 27:3-10.

(β) The dream of Pilate’s wife Matthew 27:19.

(γ) The appearance of Saints in Jerusalem Matthew 27:52.

[6] In connection with the Resurrection:

(α) The watch placed at the sepulchre Matthew 27:62-66.

(β) The soldiers bribed to spread a false report Matthew 28:11-15.

(γ) The earthquake Matthew 28:2.




The Birth and Childhood of the King:—1–2:23

[1] The lineage of Jesus Christ Matthew 1:1-17.

[2] His birth Matthew 1:18-25.

[3] The visit of the Magi Matthew 2:1-12.

[4] The flight into Egypt and the return Matthew 2:13-23.

According to St Matthew’s plan Jesus Christ is represented as (α) the King; (β) descended from David; (γ) who fulfils the words of prophecy; (δ) whose Kingdom is recognized by the Gentiles; (ε) who is the representative of His nation, and fulfils their history.


The beginning of the Kingdom:—3–4:11

[1] The forerunner of the Kingdom Matthew 3:1-12.

[2] The baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:13-17.

[3] The Temptation Matthew 4:1-11.

This part corresponds to the opening verses of St Mark’s Gospel; it contains the announcement and victory of the King, and His entrance upon His reign; the true kingdom of God is opposed to the false conception of the Kingdom.


The Works and Signs of the Kingdom of God:—Matthew 4:12 to Matthew 16:12

Section (i). At Capernaum Matthew 4:1 to Matthew 8:17.

(α) Preaching of repentance (Metanoia) Matthew 4:17.

(β) Call of four disciples Matthew 4:18-22.

(γ) Various diseases are cured Matthew 4:23-25.

(δ) The sermon on the mount 5, 6, 7.

(ε) Cleansing of a leper Matthew 8:1-4.

(ζ) Cure of the centurion’s servant Matthew 8:5-13.

(η) Cure of Peter’s wife’s mother Matthew 8:14-17.

The preparation for the Kingdom is amendment of life, a changed heart. It is a kingdom of love shewn by deeds of mercy. The Law of the Kingdom is the highest fulfilment of the old Law.

Section (ii). Jesus crosses the Lake Matthew 8:18-34.

(α) Fitness for discipleships Matthew 8:18-22.

(β) The winds and the sea obey Him Matthew 8:23-27.

(γ) The Gergesene demoniacs Matthew 8:28-34.

Jesus shews that self-denial is essential to His subjects; He exhibits His power over nature, and over the spiritual world.

Section (iii). Return to Capernaum Matthew 9:1 to Matthew 13:52.

(α) Cure of a paralytic Matthew 9:1-8.

(β) Call of Levi Matthew 9:9.

(γ) Feast in Levi’s house. Jesus the friend of sinners Matthew 9:10-13.

(δ) Fasting Matthew 9:14-17.

(ε) The daughter of Jairus.—The woman with an issue Matthew 9:18-26.

(ζ) Two blind men cured Matthew 9:27-31.

(η) The dumb demoniac Matthew 9:32-34.

(θ) The good works of Christ Matthew 9:35.

(ι) The labourers are few Matthew 9:36-38.

(κ) The choice and mission of the Twelve 10.

(λ) John the Baptist—his message to Jesus—his position as a prophet Matthew 11:1-19.

(µ) The unrepentant cities—The yoke of Christ Matthew 11:20-30.

(ν) The observance of the Sabbath Matthew 12:1-13.

(ξ) Plot of the Pharisees—Retirement of Jesus Matthew 12:14-21.

(ο) Cure of the blind and dumb man—Blasphemy of the Pharisees Matthew 12:22-37.

(π) Rebuke to those who ask for a sign Matthew 12:38-45.

(ρ) The kinsfolk of Jesus Matthew 12:46-50.

(σ) Teaching by parables Matthew 13:1-52.

In these Chapters the teaching of the Kingdom is further developed in its relation [1] to John, as the greatest of the Prophets before the Kingdom; [2] to the religious system of the Pharisees. The Church of Christ is founded by the call of His disciples. Its future is foreshewn in the charge to the Twelve, and in the Parables of ch. 13.

Section (iv). At Nazareth.

His own receive Him not Matthew 13:53-58.

Section (v). In different parts of Galilee Matthew 14:1 to Matthew 16:12.

(α) Herod, who has slain John, asks concerning Christ Matthew 14:1-12.

(β) Jesus retires Matthew 14:13-14.

(γ) The feeding of Five Thousand Matthew 14:15-21.

(δ) The passage to Gennesaret—Jesus walks on the sea Matthew 14:22-36.

(ε) The tradition of the elders—Hypocrisy Matthew 15:1-20.

(ζ) The Canaanite woman Matthew 15:21-28.

(η) Cure of many sick Matthew 15:29-31.

(θ) The feeding of Four Thousand Matthew 15:32-38.

(ι) A sign refused Matthew 16:4.

(κ) The leaven of the Pharisees Matthew 16:5-12.

Here the Kingdom of God is brought into contrast with [1] the kingdom of Herod—a point of special interest to Matthew; and [2] with legal righteousness. Jesus indicates the extension of His Church to the Gentiles. He manifests His creative power.


The Predictions of the Passion:—Matthew 16:13 to Matthew 20:34

Section (i). Near Cæsarea Philippi Matthew 16:13-28.

(α) Peter’s acknowledgment of the Son of God—The first prediction Matthew 16:13-20.

(β) Peter rebuked—The true subjects of the King Matthew 16:21-28.

The Confession of St Peter is the central point of interest in the education of the disciples. The importance of the crisis is shewn by the expression ‘from that time’ (Matthew 16:21). Possessing this truth the disciples may learn the other truth—the sufferings of the Son of Man. Each prediction presents the same contrast—a lesson of glory, and a lesson of humiliation.

Section (ii). The second prediction of the Passion Matthew 17:1 to Matthew 18:35.

(α) The Transfiguration Matthew 17:1-13.

(β) Cure of the lunatic boy Matthew 17:14-21.

(γ) The prediction Matthew 17:22-23.

(δ) The Temple Tax Matthew 17:24-27.

(ε) Contention for greatness Matthew 18:1-6.

(ζ) Offences and forgiveness Matthew 18:7-35.

A glimpse of the glorified Kingdom of God contrasted with the misery of earth. All that follows the prediction shews the inability of the disciples to understand as yet the truth about the Kingdom.

Section (iii). The third prediction of the Passion Matthew 19:1 to Matthew 20:34.

(α) Journey through Peræa Matthew 19:1-2.

(β) Question of divorce Matthew 19:3-12.

(γ) Children brought to Christ Matthew 19:13-15.

(δ) The rich young ruler Matthew 19:16-22.

(ε) Riches—Rewards of Christ’s followers Matthew 19:23-30.

(ζ) Parable of the labourers in the vineyard Matthew 20:1-16.

(η) The prediction Matthew 20:17-19.

(θ) The petition of Salome for her sons Matthew 20:20-28.

(ι) Two blind men are cured Matthew 20:29-34.

Compare the exactness of detail in this third Prediction with the less definite first and second Predictions.

The social life of the subjects of the King—marriage and the use of riches—must be moulded to the laws of the Kingdom. There are great rewards in store for Christ’s faithful followers.


The Triumph of the King:—21–25

Sunday and Monday, Nisan 9 and 10

(α) The King enters the Holy City in triumph Matthew 21:1-11.

(β) The cleansing of the Temple Matthew 21:12-14.

(γ) The children’s praise Matthew 21:15-16.

(δ) Bethany—The cursing of the fig-tree Matthew 21:17-22.

(ε) The victories of the King Matthew 21:23-23.

[1] Over the Sanhedrin—The parables of the Two Sons, the Vineyard, and the Marriage Feast Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 22:14.

[2] Over the Pharisees—The tribute money Matthew 22:15-22.

[3] Over the Sadducees—The Resurrection Matthew 22:23-33.

[4] Over a certain lawyer—the greatest commandment Matthew 22:34-40.

[5] By a counter-question—David’s Son Matthew 22:41-46.

[6] Rebuke of the Pharisees 23.

(ζ) Discourse concerning the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world—Type and antitype 24.

Here Jesus is set forth [1] as the King who triumphs; [2] as victorious over all adversaries; [3] as the Prophet who must perish in Jerusalem.


The Passion:—26, 27

Wednesday, Nisan 12–Friday, Nisan 14

(α) A fourth prediction of the Passion Matthew 26:1-2.

(β) A meeting of the Sanhedrin Matthew 26:3-5.

(γ) The feast in Simon’s house—Judas agrees to betray Jesus Matthew 26:6-16.

(δ) The Last Supper Matthew 26:17-30.

(ε) All shall be offended Matthew 26:31-35.

(ζ) The agony in the garden of Gethsemane Matthew 26:36-46.

(η) The arrest of Jesus Matthew 26:47-56.

(θ) The trial before Caiaphas Matthew 26:57-68.

(ι) The denial of Peter Matthew 26:69-72.

(κ) The formal trial before the Sanhedrin Matthew 27:1.

(λ) The remorse of Judas—The Roman trial Matthew 27:2-26.

(μ) The mockery by Roman soldiers Matthew 27:27-30.

(ν) The crucifixion and death of Jesus Matthew 27:31-56.

(ξ) The entombment Matthew 27:57-66.

The Triumph of the King is followed by the Humiliation, true to the Predictions of Jesus. “He humbled Himself even unto the death upon the Cross.”


The Resurrection:—28

(α) The empty sepulchre Matthew 28:1-8.

(β) The appearance of the Lord to the women Matthew 28:9-10.

(γ) The soldiers bribed to silence Matthew 28:11-15.

(δ) Jesus in Galilee Matthew 28:16-17.

(ε) The last commission Matthew 28:18-20.

The Gospel of the Kingdom ends fittingly with the victory over death; with the declaration by the Lord Jesus of His universal power, and His commission to the disciples to teach all nations.



1. Summary

B.C. 3. (see note ch. Matthew 2:1) Octavianus Augustus had been sole ruler of the Roman Empire from B.C. 30. Twice during that period the temple of Janus had been closed in sign of peace.

B.C. 1. Death of Herod. Rising of the Jews against the Procurator Sabinus. Repression of the revolt by Varus: 2000 Jews crucified.

A.D. 6. Resistance to the Census of Quirinus by Judas the Gaulonite and his Galilæan followers.

A.D. 7. Banishment of Archelaus.

1–12. Campaigns against the Germans, Pannonians, and Dalmatians, conducted by Tiberius and Germanicus. The disastrous defeat of Varus in Germany. Final success and triumph of the Roman Generals.

14. Death of Augustus and succession of Tiberius.

15–17. Germanicus continues the war against the Germans, and triumphs.

18. Death of Ovid and of Livy.

19. Death of Germanicus.

Jews banished from Italy.

20–31. Hateful tyranny of Tiberius. Ascendancy of Sejanus.

Fall of Sejanus A.D. 30.

26. Pontius Pilate appointed as the sixth Procurator of Judæa.

2. The Imperial Rule

It will be seen from this summary, that while Jesus was passing a quiet childhood in the Galilæan valley, few startling events disturbed the peace of the world. But it was an epoch of the greatest historical interest. It was a crisis in the kingdoms of the world as well as in the Kingdom of God. Rome had completed her conquests—no formidable rival was left to threaten her power in any direction. But the moment when the Roman people secured the empire of the world, they resigned their own liberties into the hands of a single master.

Cæsar Octavianus, afterwards named Augustus, the successor of the great Julius Cæsar, was the first to consolidate this enormous individual power; it was he who bequeathed to the world the proudest titles of despotic rule—Emperor—Kaiser—Czar. With him the true nature of the monarchy was veiled over by the retention of Republican forms, and by a nominal re-election at intervals. The justice and clemency of his rule kept out of sight the worst abuses of unlimited power. And partly owing to the fact that the most brilliant age of Roman literature coincided with the reign of Augustus, his name is associated rather with literary culture and refinement, than with despotic sway.

When Jesus grew up to manhood, the grace and culture and the semblance of liberty which had gilded the despotism of Augustus vanished under the dark influence of the morose and cruel Tiberius. If ever men suffered from hopeless tyranny and wrong, it was in this reign. It is a miserable history of lives surrounded by suspicion and fear, and of the best and purest citizens yielding to despair or removed by secret assassination.

It can perhaps be scarcely a matter of surprise, that a Jewish patriot, alive to the horrors of this despotism and recalling the prophetic images of a triumphant Messiah, should sometimes have dreamed that the Kingdom of God would be manifested by the overthrow of this monstrous evil, and in turn establish itself as an external power stronger and more resistless than Rome. It is this thought that gives point to the third temptation presented to our Lord. (ch. Matthew 4:8-9.)

3. The Provincial System

A glance at the Provincial system of Rome with especial reference to Palestine will shew how truly, in an external sense, Christ came in the fulness of time.

Under the Empire the condition of the provinces was happier than formerly. The rapacity of individual governors was checked by the imperial supervision. Moreover, great consideration was in many cases shewn to a conquered people. National customs were allowed to continue; even native princes were in several instances confirmed in their rule on condition of becoming tributary to Rome.

In accordance with this principle, the Herodian dynasty was tolerated in Palestine. Observe how the changes in that dynasty affected the life of Christ. When Jesus was born, Herod was reigning in Jerusalem; hence the events that led to the flight into Egypt. On the return of Jesus with Mary and Joseph, the kingdom was divided; hence the possibility of taking refuge from the cruelty of an Archelaus under the more tolerant Antipas in the home at Nazareth. The banishment of Archelaus a few years afterwards brought about the establishment in Judæa of the Roman government, which with its accustomed liberality left the national system represented by the Sanhedrin, not wholly unimpaired, indeed, but still influential.

Important consequences followed this precise political position. The Jewish nation was still responsible. It was Israel and not Rome that rejected the Messiah—Israel that condemned to death the Lord of Life. But it was Rome that executed the will of the Jewish people. Jesus suffered, by the law of Rome, death on the Roman cross, with all its significance, its agreement with prophecy, and its divine fitness. The point to be observed is that under no other political conditions could this event have taken place in that precise manner, which was wholly in accordance with the Scriptures that foretell the Messiah.

4. A time of Peace

The lull of peace that pervaded the Roman world, was another element in the external preparation for the advent of Christ. In the generation which preceded and in that which followed the life of Christ on earth, Palestine, and indeed the whole empire, was disquieted by the greatest political confusion. In the generation before the Christian Era, Antony and Augustus were contending for the mastery of the world, and a disputed succession disturbed the peace of Palestine. The succeeding generation was filled with the horrors of the Jewish war, of which Galilee was the focus, and which culminated in the fall of Jerusalem. It is clear that the conditions of Christ’s ministry could not have been fulfilled in either of these conjunctures.

5. The various nationalities in Palestine

A further point of interest at the particular period when Jesus lived on earth, is the variety of nationalities which the special circumstances of the time brought together in Palestine.

A political epoch that found a Roman governor in the south (where the native ecclesiastical rule still prevailed), Idumean kings in the north and east, wild mountain and desert tribes pressing on the frontiers in one direction, peaceful Phœnicians in another, involved a mixture and gathering of populations which made Palestine an epitome of the whole world. The variety of life and thought, which must have resulted from these different social elements, is one of those external circumstances which have rendered the Gospel so fit to instruct every age and every condition of men.

6. The religious condition of the Empire

The wider and more interesting question of the religious state of the world at this epoch, cannot be fully discussed here. In Greece and in Rome, the most civilized portions of the earth, Religion allowed, or at least was ineffectual to prevent, a state of morality which St Paul describes with terrible plainness in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. Gross immorality entered even into the ritual of worship; Religion raised no voice against the butchery of gladiatorial shows, or against infanticide, or slavery, or suicide, or even against the horrors of human sacrifice.

Little real belief in the gods and goddesses remained; and though ancient superstitions still lingered among the vulgar, and interested motives on the part of priests and communities kept alive the cult of special deities, and supported shrines and temples in various parts of the world, and though, credulity gaining ground as true religious feeling passed away, the mysterious rites of Egypt and the East, the worship of Isis and of Mithras, flourished at Rome in spite of repressive edicts—all this was external and unreal, a thin cover for deep-seated and widespread scepticism.

Philosophy did but little to fill the void. Stoicism, the favourite creed with the practical Roman, though apparently nearest to Christianity in some respects, was deeply opposed to the Christian spirit by its pride, its self-sufficiency, its exclusiveness, its exaltation of human nature, its lack of love, its approval of suicide. Epicurism had degenerated from a high ideal to a mere pursuit of sensual pleasure.

It was in the midst of a world thus corrupt to the core, that the beautiful and novel conception rose of a religion which, recognizing no limits of race or language, should without distinction draw all men to itself by its appeal to the sin-stricken conscience, and by the satisfaction it brought to the deepest needs of humanity.



HEROD THE KING (ch. Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:16; Matthew 2:19) married ten wives, among whom were:

1. MARIAMNE, grand-daughter of Hyrcanus and so connected with the Maccabees.


Herod Philip I. ch. Matthew 14:3 = Herodias. ch. Matthew 14:3-11.

Archaelaus. ch. Matthew 2:22.

Antipas = 1. d. of Aretas.

= 2. Herodias. ch. Matthew 14:3.

Herod Philip II. = Salome, the Tetrarch. ch. Matthew 14:6-11, ch. Matthew 14:13, Luke 3:1.

Herodias. ch. Matthew 14:3-11

Salome. ch. Matthew 14:6-11.

4. Cleopatra of Jerusalem.3. Malthake, a Samaritan.2. Mariamne, d. of Simon a high-priest.




The Alexandrian Greek dialect or Hellenistic Greek in which the N.T. is written was a result of the Macedonian conquests which swept away the ancient barriers of many forms of Greek speech. The mingled fragments of diverse elements gradually took shape in the κοινὴ διάλεκτος or the New Macedonian dialect as distinguished from the old Doric Macedonian. This in turn gathered to itself fresh forms and peculiarities in the various communities which adopted it, and thus separated off into distinct dialects.

One of these offshoots growing up in the newly founded city of Alexandria with characteristics of its own in tense-forms in vocabulary and in construction became the language of those Jews who gathered in Alexandria in large numbers, partly attracted by the privileges granted them by its founder, partly driven to take refuge there from the cruelties of the Seleucidæ. It is probable that with these settlers Hebrew soon ceased to be the language of daily life. Constant intercourse with the Greek-speaking population that surrounded them would necessitate the use of a common language. To this fact the LXX. itself bears witness. That version was made at various periods not, as is sometimes said, to satisfy the curiosity of a Ptolemy, but to meet the religious necessities of the Jew. Thus from the first the Alexandrian dialect became strongly tinged by an infusion of Hebrew words and phraseology. The LXX. version stereotyped those new elements, and gave to the Greek of Alexandria a deep impress of Oriental idiom. This dialect thus dignified and consolidated by a great literary work was carried to all parts of the world by the Hellenist or Greek-speaking Jew.

At this stage Hellenistic Greek, as contrasted with Attic Greek, was distinguished by a simplicity of idioms and of syntax, by a restriction in the use of connecting particles, by less discrimination in the force of prepositions, by a growing disuse of the middle voice, and of the optative mood, by a preference for formulæ which, though rare in Greek, are common to that language and the Hebrew, by certain peculiar tense-forms, and by an increased employment of analytic tenses. The vocabulary was enriched by words unknown to the fastidious Attic of the literary style. 1. Vernacular words, which though long on the people’s lips, now, for the first time, appear in literature; just as the vernacular Latin of Gaul rose to be the most polished European speech. 2. Words of ancient literature, Epic or Lyric, which had not held their own in Attic prose writers, emerging once more into the light of culture. 3. Words with a strong or a coarse meaning in classical days now weakened into the expression of gentler or more refined thoughts. 4. Outlandish words which could not have been in use when Marathon was fought—Macedonian—Persian—Egyptian—Hebrew, and later still, Latin.

When Hellenistic Greek became the language of the N.T. its vocabulary was further modified, partly by the rejection of words too deeply steeped in heathen vice or in false religious thought, partly by the addition of higher and holier ideas to the words which Christianity selected. In three ways at least such a tongue was admirably suited to the work of evangelizing the world. 1. It was universally recognized and understood. 2. It was the language of the common people, not of a refined and exclusive caste. 3. The very loss of the old subtlety has been a gain to it as the channel of religious ideas.

Thus, though the language has lost some of its charms for the scholar, and though it has ceased to give, as once it did, the most perfect expression to human conceptions, yet it has been the chosen instrument through which the thoughts have been conveyed, which, far beyond any other thoughts, have moved and influenced the world.

And it has a wonderful interest of its own. For the scholar it is the stepping-stone between Classical and Modern Greek. To the theologian it is the starting-point of sacred terminology. Each is concerned to detect the exact force of a word, the drift and associations of every phrase. The variety in the word-history of the New Testament, the diverse fortunes and lives, so to speak, of Hellenistic terms make the search interesting and the solution difficult. Some words are purely Hellenistic, they begin and die with that stage of the language; others lived on to the present day and are still in the mouths of the Athenian citizens and Bœotian peasants, expressing daily wants and simple thoughts. Some existing obscurely for long, disclaimed by Attic culture, are now lifted to a diviner height than if Plato had employed them. Others, though known to the purest classical diction, out of an ancient variety and wide range of thought, survive in a single meaning. Some seem to have been kept especially sacred and intact from heathen association as by a particular providence to enshrine the pure conceptions of Christianity. Others, teeming with Pagan thought, have come to Christ to be purified, or to lay at His feet the riches of the Gentiles—the high and inspiring ideas which had been given to men who ‘felt after’ God in the dark heathen days.


There are many a priori reasons which make it improbable that the poetry of the Bible would close with the canon of the O.T. It was not to be expected that the epoch which fulfilled the hopes expressed and vivified in successive ages by inspired odes of surpassing beauty should present the realization of them in a form less excellently perfect. Nor indeed was it to be expected that the greatest of Hebrew prophets should alone refrain from clothing His divine message in the glowing phrases, or in the exact and beautiful forms of Hebrew poetry. We should expect that in Him, who spake as never man spake, consummate excellence of thought and speech should be cast in the most perfect mould of human art.

Investigation shews that it is so. Poetry as real, as exquisite in art and feeling, as inventive and varied in device, as full of fancy and of pathos and delicate turns of expression, is to be found in the New as in the Old Testament. Indeed it is an interesting question how much of the literary charm of many parts of the N.T. is due to the latent influence of poetical form.

It is of course possible that much has been lost through translation from the Aramaic into Greek. If our knowledge of Hebrew poetry had come through the LXX. alone many a delicate turn and point of the poetical original would have been lost to view. But as St Matthew has rendered the passages cited from the Hebrew Scriptures more faithfully than the LXX., and with a truer sense of poetic beauty, it may be inferred that our Saviour’s Aramaic speech has lost little by its transference to another language.

Here a question of great interest may present itself. How far, it may be asked, is this form due to the Evangelist? How far is it an exact transcript of the Saviour’s words? The point might be argued at length, but the decision could scarcely fail to be that in the poetical discourses and sayings recorded by St Matthew we have not only the subject-matter of Christ’s teaching, but the very manner in which the sacred truths were delivered.

At the same time it is manifest that St Matthew is the most appreciative among the Evangelists of the form of the Saviour’s teaching. He is the Hebrew prophet of the N.T. His writings are λόγια—the prophetic oracles of God. If to any the gift of poetical expression were granted in those days surely it was granted to him, if to any the kindred soul to catch and retain the accents of poetry falling from the Master’s lips surely to him.

One argument for the existence of the poetical element in the Gospel might be found in the a priori probability that Christ would deliver His laws in a form which would lend itself easily to the memory of His disciples; and in the observed fact that wherever the discourse rises to matters of the highest consideration—wherever maxims are delivered essential to the Christian life, in one or other of its many forms the element of poetry is discernible. Instances of this are:—the rule of devotion and of childlike humility (Matthew 10:37-42)—the new social laws in the Christian Commonwealth (Matthew 20:25-28)—the sentence on the Last Day (Matthew 25:35-46).

If this decision be established its bearing on another subject of deep and mysterious import will at once suggest itself—the education of Jesus. We find Him, who is the end of all prophecy, not only trained or training Himself in the thoughts and aspirations of Hebrew prophecy, but growing familiar with the form in which it was couched—and here it may be noted that next to the words of Christ the most poetical expression in the N.T. is to be found in the epistle of James, the Lord’s brother. The divine breath of Hebrew poetry lingered as an inheritance in the home of the Son of David.

Such are some of the inferences and underlying questions that indicate the interest of the subject.

Some remarks may now be made, [1] on the principles and mode of Hebrew poetry, [2] on its special laws.

[1] Hebrew poetry is not like classical poetry, Greek or Latin, or like modern European poetry, in having a fixed metre or measurement of words and a rhythm subject to strict laws, though it does possess a rhythmic structure. The chief characteristic of Hebrew poetry is parallelism—the correspondence of one clause to another, sometimes by way of antithesis, sometimes by way of gradation and climax. The response is sometimes effected in a very complicated and artistic way, sometimes in the simplest possible manner.

This system has the charm of greater variety than English rhyming poetry, more freedom and less danger of straining the sense to suit the rhyme. The ear is caught with the first line and eagerly listens for the response—one of sense and not of sound—perhaps the second, third and even fourth line keep up the suspense and tension, and the answering refrain falls line after line in perfect correspondence, often with a delicate difference of word or structure to give a fresh delight, or to draw attention to a special point. The restraining element in Hebrew poetry then does not consist in the exigency of rhyme or metre but the need of an antithetical expression—possibly one cause of ἅπαξ λεγόμενα and of new words.

[2] The special laws of Hebrew poetry. (The following remarks are founded to a great extent on the works of Bishop Lowth, who was the first English theologian to explain and apply the principles of Hebrew poetry in the interpretation of the O.T., and of Bishop Jebb, who extended the application of them to the N.T.)

Parallelisms are of three kinds. (α) Synonymous, or better cognate, where the second line or couplet or stanza answers to the first in expression or in structure, or in both, but enhances the effect of it by adding a further and deeper meaning. (β) Antithetic, where two propositions are contrasted with greater or less exactness. Sometimes they answer to one another, word for word, construction for construction; sometimes the opposition is only in general sense. (γ) Constructive, when the likeness or opposition does not turn upon the sense or meaning of the propositions, but consists in a balance and likeness of structure, word answering to word in the several lines.

Each of these classes of parallelisms admits of many variations. Sometimes the lines answer to each other alternately; sometimes there is a double parallelism; lines 1 and 3 and 2 and 4 answering to each other, as well as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Sometimes again a quatrain is so constructed that, besides the obvious way of reading the stanza lines 1 and 3 and 2 and 4, or 1 and 4 and 2 and 3, can be read continuously. A simple instance of this is ch. Matthew 7:6, where the connection might be shewn by placing the fourth line second and reading thus:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,

Lest they turn again and rend you:

Neither cast ye your pearls before swine,

Lest they trample them under their feet.

This artifice is sometimes extended to stanzas of 8 lines.

Apart from this careful regard to form in Hebrew poetry great use is made of the climax. Of this many examples occur in this Gospel. It is at this point that it becomes difficult to draw the line with precision between rhetorical prose and poetry. There are passages of Cicero, for instance, where the balance of contrasted periods and the structure of the climax are so perfect and symmetrical that it would scarcely be possible to form a definition of Hebrew poetry which would exclude such passages as these. The distinction however between rhetoric and poetry is often one of feeling rather than of definition. Many of the ornaments of style and diction are common to both, and the difference consists not in the exclusive possession of these but in the use made of them.

Imagery and figurative language are characteristic of all poetry, but of Hebrew poetry they are eminently characteristic. Nature and all the objects of nature, the skies and the luminaries of heaven—man, his works and aims and several employments—his schemes and ambitions—the different social conditions—the various forms of government all enrich and exemplify the thoughts of Hebrew Christian poetry. This richness of imagery has even been a source of danger. It has given brightness and life to the expression of ideas, but it has led into error through tropes and figures familiar to an Oriental mind finding too literal an interpretation in the West.

The value of parallelism in exegesis

It is clear that when a close relation of parallelism is established between two clauses they mutually elucidate one another. The effect of a seemingly slight change is deepened by the involuntary comparison. The absence or the presence of a corresponding word, which would otherwise pass unnoticed, throws into prominence the thought suppressed or added. A clause obscure from its position is made clear by referring it to the words with which the system of parallelism shews it to be really connected.

Contrasted ideas briefly expressed at the beginning or the end of a discourse will often prove the key to the right understanding of the whole. Again, this system has the power of throwing special words into prominence by placing corresponding emphatic terms first and last in their respective clauses, the less important expressions between. The meaning of such relative positions cannot be ignored by the interpreter of Scripture.

Comp. in illustration of these remarks, notes on Matthew 2:18, Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 7:6-8, Matthew 10:34-42, Matthew 12:31, Matthew 19:12, Matthew 20:25, Matthew 21:5, Matthew 25:31-46.


Two great questions must present themselves to every reader of the Gospels. [1] What did the words mean to those who first heard them? [2] What do they mean to us?

In one sense we dare not persuade ourselves that we know, or ever shall know, the exact import of all the expressions in the N.T. The gesture or the look that accompanied the speech, the tone in which it was said, the memories it stirred, its associations, depend on such very slight and delicate threads that we may not hope to have preserved intact and complete the whole thought that flashed on the souls of the men to whom Jesus spoke. To realize this it is only necessary to remember how a line half quoted, even a single passing phrase, recalls a whole poem, a chain of reasoning, a school of politics or theology, and the more familiar the conception the shorter the quotation needed to awaken it.

Some light of meaning must have vanished in this way, more still perhaps in the loss of the original words of Jesus. Few remember that, except here and there a word, the thoughts of Jesus have not reached us in the language in which (according to the most reasonable view) He first expressed them.

In part the New Testament is a translation of Aramaic speech, in part it is a transcript of Aramaic thought. Every word must be weighed with those considerations in view. The scholar must not be tempted to press the classical force too much in exegesis. So far as the moment of utterance is concerned only so much of the Greek thought should be taken into account as is covered by the meaning of the Hebrew or Aramaic word which it represents. Certainly other meanings soon flowed in upon the words of the Gospel, but such meanings would not be present to the minds of those who first listened to the preaching of Christ.

But this is only the first step. The word uttered by Christ meant more than the first group of listeners could fathom. The thought of the Cross—the sayings of the Last Supper—the Sacrifice of Christ—the baptism of fire—the gift of the Paraclete—the growth of the Kingdom,—all these conceptions and many more have received the interpretation of time, and we believe of the Holy Spirit moving through history. It is thus a part of the interpreter’s task reverently in this light to search for the meaning of Christ and of His evangelists.

Here the work of interpretation might seem to have found a limit. But there are further steps. The interpreter of a classical work is concerned to discover the precise meaning of the text as it conveyed itself to the contemporaries of his author. The commentator on the N.T. must look on to mark the effect of the sacred words in successive epochs and in differing civilisations. The same discharge from the sky is snow when it touches the mountain-tops and rain when it reaches the warmer lowland, and there too it is coloured by the ground on which it falls. In like manner Scripture changes form and colour in different ages and in different hearts. Such changes must be noted in order that the abiding essence may remain. The stains of controversy, of passion and of ignorance must be removed and the native brightness of the gem restored to its original setting.

Again, because false interpretation has had enormous influence on history and religion, the commentator must take note even of false interpretation. In this point too Biblical criticism differs from the work of a classical annotator.

A further point must be noted. A Greek word, whatever its Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent may have been, must have carried much of the old Greek thought with it as it came in contact with Greek-speaking men. It is an interesting question how far this was meant, how far the thoughts thus infused into Christianity are true and wholesome thoughts, how far through that channel any harmful elements may have flowed in upon the original purity of truth.

This subject might be pursued, but enough has been said to shew the endless interest and usefulness of such researches, and the almost infinite directions in which they may be extended. In the limits of the brief notes which follow little more can be done than to indicate such lines of thought, and here and there to point to results.



The evidence for the text of the N.T. is derived from three sources.

1. MSS. of the whole or portions of the N.T. Such portions are sometimes contained in lectionaries. 2. Patristic quotations. 3. Versions.

1. No classical work has so many valuable ancient MSS. on which to establish its text as the New Testament. The earliest of these MSS. are beautifully written on fine vellum (prepared skin of calves or kids) in uncial or large capital letters. The later MSS. are called cursive, from being written in a cursive (curro) or running hand.

The subjoined brief account of the more important uncial and cursive MSS. will explain the references in the Critical notes.

א. Sinaiticus. This is probably the oldest MS. of the N.T. now extant, and is assigned to the century. It was discovered by Tischendorf in the Convent of St Catharine on Mount Sinai, in 1859. “It contains both Old and New Testaments—the latter perfect without the loss of a single leaf. In addition it contains the entire Epistle of Barnabas and a portion of the ‘Shepherd’ of Hermas” (Tischendorf). This Codex is now at St Petersburg.

A. Codex Alexandrinus. This MS. belongs to the fifth century. It contains, with very few exceptions, the whole of the LXX. Version of the O.T.; in the N.T. the missing portions are Matthew 1:1 to Matthew 25:6, John 6:50 to John 8:52, 2 Corinthians 4:13 to 2 Corinthians 12:6. It is now in the British Museum, having been presented to Charles I. by Cyrillus Lucaris, Patriarch of Constantinople, who had previously brought it from Alexandria in Egypt.

B. Codex Vaticanus also contains the LXX. Version of the O.T. with the exception of a large portion of Genesis and Psalms 105-137; in the N.T. the latter part of the Epistle to the Hebrews is lacking (from ch. Matthew 9:14–end), also the Pastoral Epistles and the Apocalypse. It is probably either contemporary with א, or a little later. This MS. is now, as the name implies, in the Vatican Library.

C. Codex Ephraemi rescriptus: a palimpsest; i.e. on the vellum which contained the worn-out ancient letters (the value of the MS. not being recognised) were written the works of the Syrian Saint Ephraem. In the seventeenth century the older writing was observed beneath the more modern words, and a great portion of this valuable fifth-century Codex has been recovered and published. It contains portions of the LXX. Version of the O.T., and fragments of every book of the N.T. with the exception of 2 John and 2 Thessalonians, which are entirely lost. This Codex is in the National Library of Paris.

D. Codex Bezœ: a MS. of the sixth or seventh century, with a Latin Version as well as the Greek text, contains the Gospels and Acts, between which the Catholic Epistles once stood. Of these, 3 John, vv. 11–15, is the only extant portion. The interpolations and various readings of this MS. are of a remarkable character. There are several lacunæ. It is now in the Cambridge University Library, to which it was presented by Beza in 1581.

L. Codex Regius, written about the eighth century, though later than the foregoing should be named as of great critical value. It bears a strong resemblance to B and to the citations of Origen. It contains the four Gospels except Matthew 4:22 to Matthew 5:14; Matthew 28:17-20; Mark 10:16-30; Mark 5:2-20; John 21:15-25.

The cursive MSS. date from the tenth century onward, of these the two numbered 1 and 33 respectively have the highest authority.

1. Codex Basiliensis, of tenth century according to Scrivener, who says of this MS.: ‘In the Gospels the text is very remarkable, adhering pretty closely to the uncials BL and others of that class.’

33. Assigned to eleventh century. ‘In text it resembles BDL more than any other cursive MS., and whatever may be thought of the character of its readings, they deserve the utmost attention.’—Scrivener.

209 may also be named as valuable in the Gospels. Its text resembles B. It belongs to the eleventh or twelfth century.

2. Quotations from the Fathers.

The full value of this source of evidence will not be reached until the early patristic writings shall have been critically edited. This has been only partially done. (See Dr Sanday’s paper, Expositor, Vol. XI:171 foll.) Patristic citations are valuable as affording testimony to the existence of a reading at a date fixed within certain limits. In some cases this evidence reaches an antiquity far beyond that of any existing MSS.; it is of special weight when an appeal is made in the patristic work from one MS. to another of greater authority, or where a reading is cited and defended in support of an argument, as in ch. Matthew 1:18 of this Gospel. But it often fails to render aid in the more delicate points of textual criticism.

3. Versions or translations from the original Greek into other languages.

The evidence of Versions is chiefly useful in determining questions of omission of words or passages. The literal character of some Versions indicates the order of the original language. But in many important questions as to connecting particles, tenses and construction, a translation brings precarious aid. In many cases the text of the Version is itself far from being critically settled, the language of others lies beyond the reach of most scholars. The following are among the more important Versions:

[1] Latin—(α) Vetus Latina. Made in Africa in the second century.

The three principal codices are Cod. Vercellensis (fourth century), Cod. Veronensis (fourth or fifth century), Cod. Colbertinus (eleventh century).

(β) The Vulgate. The revision by St Jerome of the Vetus Latina. The best codices are Cod. Amiaticus and Cod. Fuldensis, both of the sixth century. The present authorised Vulgate is the result of a further revision at the end of the 16th century.

[2] Syriac or Aramaic Versions

(α) The Peshito (meaning ‘simple,’ perhaps = ‘faithful’). This very ancient Version omits 2 Peter , 2 and 3 John, Jude, and the Apocalypse.

(β) The Curetonian Syriac probably represents an older text than the Peshito. This MS. was discovered by Dr Cureton and published in 1858.

(γ) The Philoxenian or Harclean Syriac. A literal rendering from the Greek made under Philoxenus, bishop of Hierapolis in Syria, A.D. 508, and revised by Thomas of Harkel A.D. 616. This is probably ‘the most servile version of Scripture ever made.’ The various readings in the margin are a valuable feature in this version.

(δ) The Jerusalem Syriac (fifth or sixth century), also made from the Greek, and independent of the Peshito. It is written in a peculiar dialect, resembling the Chaldee rather than the Syriac.

(ε) The Karkaphensian Syriac (so called probably from Carcuf, a city of Mesopotamia), discovered by Cardinal Wiseman in the Vatican, contains the same books as the Peshito, and bears a general resemblance to that Version.

Other Versions of critical value are—[3] The Coptic or Ægyptian, in which are included the Memphitic and the Thebaic Versions. For an account of these see a paper by Bp Lightfoot, printed in Scrivener’s Introduction, &c., p. 319 foll. [4] The Gothic Version made by Ulfilas, bishop of the Goths, A.D. 348–388. The most valuable codex of this version is the Codex Argenteus (fifth or sixth century) preserved at Upsala. [5] The Æthiopic Version (date unknown). [6] The Armenian Version (fifth century).

Among easily accessible authorities on this subject are: Scrivener’s Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament; Prof. Westcott’s articles in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible on the New Testament, and on the Vulgate; the Prolegomena to Alford’s edition of the New Testament; Hammond’s Outlines of Textual Criticism applied to the N.T.


Palestine (Philistia) or the Holy Land was about 140 miles in length. The distance from Dan to Beersheba was less than that between London and Manchester; the distance from Capernaum to Jerusalem was nearly the same as that from Rugby to London. The average breadth was 40 miles.

The political divisions are indicated as they existed during our Lord’s ministry. At the date of His birth all the districts included in this map were comprised in the Kingdom of Herod the Great. After Herod’s death, Archelaus ruled over Samaria and Judæa. When Archelaus was banished these divisions were placed under the rule of a Roman Procurator.

Mount Hermon, called also Sirion (the Glitterer), and Shenir (Deuteronomy 3:9), and Sion (Deuteronomy 4:48), ch. Matthew 17:1.

Cœsarea Philippi, ch. Matthew 16:13.

Syro-Phœnicia or Canaan, ch. Matthew 15:22 and Mark 7:26.

Nazareth, ch. Matthew 2:23.

Mount Tabor, the traditional scene of the Transfiguration; at this time its summit was probably occupied by a fortress. Ch. Matthew 17:1.

Gerasa, not mentioned in this Gospel; see ch. Matthew 8:28, and cp. Mark 5:1, where one reading is Gerasenes, inhabitants of a different Gerasa or Gergesa.

Ephraim, the supposed site of the Ephraim mentioned John 11:54, to which Jesus retired shortly before His last Passover.

Ramah, ch. Matthew 2:18.

Arimathœa, ch. Matthew 27:57.

Jericho, ch. Matthew 20:29.

Bethphage, ch. Matthew 21:1.

Bethany, ch. Matthew 21:17, Matthew 26:6.

Bethlehem, ch. Matthew 2:1.

Machœrus, the scene of John Baptist’s imprisonment and death, ch. Matthew 4:12 and Matthew 14:10.


1. Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre. Several explorers have pointed out the probability of the site indicated on the plan. It is outside the city gates. It is near one of the main roads, that leading to Shechem, and by the side of the road rises a rounded knoll (see note, ch. Matthew 27:33) now called El Heidhemîyeh. Jewish and Christian tradition alike point to this as the ancient place of execution. It is named by the Jews Beth has Sekilah (the place of stoning). Near to this ‘barren hillock’ on either side of the road was the ancient Jewish burying-place (now a Mahometan cemetery), within which it is reasonable to place the site of the ‘new tomb in the garden’ (see Bædeker’s Palestine and Syria, p. 189, and Conder, Tent Work in Palestine, ch. 12). The Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the traditional site, now abandoned.

2, 2, 2, 2. The Haram or Temple platform covered (α) wholly, or (β) in part by the Temple (τὸ ἱερόν), with its various courts. The first theory (α) is now held by few. But Col. Warren and others consider that the Temple occupied the whole of the Southern part (i.e. about 2/3) of the present enclosure. The mean measurement of the Haram is 982 feet by 1565 feet. [2], [2], [2], [2] represents the ἱερὸν according to other authorities. Both the Talmud and Josephus describe the Temple area as square, but their measurements do not agree. The Temple was surrounded by porticos or arched colonnades. The substructures of massive stones surmounted by ‘Solomon’s Porch’ on the eastern side were the οἰκοδομαὶ of ch. Matthew 24:1 (see note). Here possibly was the πτερύγιον of ch. Matthew 4:5.

In the north-west corner of the Temple area stood the Tower Antonia [4]. It was built on a rock fifty cubits high (Joseph. B. J. V. 5. 8), and thus commanded the Temple. Here the Roman garrison was stationed. See ch. Matthew 27:27.

3. ὁ ναός (indicated by the spot of darker colour), the Sanctuary or Holy House, to be carefully distinguished from the ἱερόν. See chs. Matthew 23:16; Matthew 23:35, Matthew 26:61, Matthew 27:51. It was situated on the highest point of the Temple Hill, 2440 feet above the Mediterranean, now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. In front of the ναός, to the east of it, was the θυσιαστήριον, ch. Matthew 23:35.

5. The Asmonean Palace, probably the residence of Herod Antipas while in Jerusalem. Joseph. Ant. XX. 8. 11.

6. The palace of Herod (Herodis Prætorium), in the Upper City, the residence of the Roman Procurator (Philo de leg. ad Caium, p. 1033 E cp. p. 1034 E Joseph. B. J. II. 14. 8, V. 4. 4). Between these two palaces Christ was led when Pilate ‘remitted’ Him to Herod. (For a description of this palace see Joseph. B. J. V. 4. 4, and Farrar’s Life of Christ, II. 364.)

7. Valley of the Kedron, or of Jehoshaphat. See note ch. Matthew 26:31.

8. Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna [Γέεννα]. See note, ch. Matthew 5:22.

9. Aceldama (τὸν ἀγρὸν τοῦ κεραμέως, ch. Matthew 27:7).

10. Gethsemane. Ch. Matthew 26:36.

11. Bethesda, and 12, Pool of Siloam, not named in this Gospel.


called the Lake of Gennesareth (Luke 5:1), the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1; John 21:1)

Bethsaida Julias, rebuilt by Herod Philip, the tetrarch, and called Julias after Julia, daughter of Augustus. See note, ch. Matthew 14:19.

Kerazeh, identified by Capt. Wilson with Chorazin. Ch. Matthew 11:21.

Highland or The Mountain, the probable scene of the Sermon on the Mount and of the appearance of Jesus Christ, ch. Matthew 28:16.

Tell Hûm, the site of Capernaum, according to Thomson (Land and Book), Capt. Wilson, Dean Stanley latterly, and others.

Et Tabigah, by some thought to be the Bethsaida (“House of Fish”), mentioned as being the home of Peter, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44); see chs. Matthew 8:14 and Matthew 11:21. Near Et Tabigah is a large fountain, probably “the fountain of Capharnaum” mentioned by Josephus, B. J. III. 10. 8, from which water was conveyed by an aqueduct to the plain of Gennesareth. Traces of this aqueduct and of an octagonal reservoir are distinctly visible. See Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 349.

Khan Minyeh, the site of Capernaum, according to Dean Stanley in S. and P. (in Preface to Rec. of Jerusalem the Dean inclines to the Tell Hûm site), Dr Robinson, Mr Macgregor (Rob Roy), and others.

El Ghuweir or The Land of Gennesareth, a fertile plain 2½ miles in length, about 1 mile in breadth; ch. Matthew 14:34.

Mejdel, the Magdala of ch. Matthew 15:39.

Tiberias. Not mentioned in this Gospel. But possibly Herod Antipas was holding his court here when John Baptist was put to death at Machærus; ch. Matthew 14:6 foll. It was built by Herod Antipas and named Tiberias in honour of the Emperor. See note, ch. Matthew 14:13-21, and cp. John 6:1; John 6:23.

K’hersa, identified with Gergesa. Gerasa (not the well-known Gerasa N. of the Jabbok; see Smith, Bib. Dic. sub voc.) is probably another form of the same name. See ch. Matthew 8:23.

Gadara, the capital of “the country of the Gadarenes,” to which district Gergesa belonged.

A and B, disputed sites for the miracle of feeding 5000; ch. Matthew 14:13-21.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology