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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Matthew 15



Verse 1

1. ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων Φαρισαῖοι καὶ γραμματεῖς. Probably a deputation from the Sanhedrin, such as was commissioned to question John the Baptist. Cp. John 1:19.

Verses 1-20


Mark 7:1-23

These twenty verses sum up the great controversy of the N.T., that between the religion of the letter and external observances and the religion of the heart, between what St Paul calls ‘the righteousness which is of the law and the righteousness which is of God by (or grounded upon) faith,’ Philippians 3:9.

Verse 2

2. τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων. The elders, or presbyters, were the Jewish teachers, or scribes, such as Hillel and Shammai. The traditions were the rules or observances of the unwritten law, which they enjoined on their disciples. Many of these were frivolous; some actually subversive of God’s law; yet such was the estimation in which these ‘traditions’ were held that, according to one Rabbinical saying, ‘the words of the scribes are lovely, above the words of the law; for the words of the law are weighty and light but the words of the scribes are all weighty.’

Verse 3

3. διὰ τὴν παράδοσιν. ‘For the sake of your tradition;’ i.e. in order that ye may establish it: ἵνα τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν τηρήσητε, Mark 7:9.

Verse 4

4. ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἐνετείλατο, answering to τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ, as in Matthew 15:5, ὑμεῖς λέγετε refers back to διὰ τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν. St Mark has ΄ωϋσῆς γὰρ εἶπεν (Matthew 7:10), an instructive variation.

ὁ κακολογῶν. As a classical word κακολογεῖν or κακῶς λέγειν—the preferable form (Lob. Phryn. 200), means to ‘abuse,’ ‘revile;’ so in LXX. θεοὺς οὐ κακολογήσεις, Exodus 22:28. In many passages the Hebrew word represented here by κακολογεῖν is translated by ἀτιμάζειν and means ‘to treat with disrespect,’ ‘to despise.’ In one form, however, of the Hebr. verb the meaning is ‘to curse,’ but the first sense is to be preferred here: ‘whoever makes light of their claims to support,’ &c. See Guillemard, Hebraisms in N.T., ad loc.

Verse 5

5. δῶρον ὃ ἐὰν κ.τ.λ. ‘Let that by whatsoever thou mayest be profited by me (i.e. the sum which might have gone to your support) be a ‘gift’ (κορβᾶν, Mark), or devoted to sacred purposes.’

The scribes held that these words, even when pronounced in spite and anger against parents who needed succour, excused the son from his natural duty, indeed bound him not to perform it; and, on the other hand, did not oblige him really to devote the sum to the service of God or of the temple.

οὐ μὴ τιμήσει. The omission of καὶ before these words (see critical notes) obviates the need of the awkward ellipse supplied in A.V. by the words ‘he shall be free,’ and throws out with far more force and clearness the contrast between the ἐντολὴ τοῦ θεοῦ and the παράδοσις τῶν πρεσβυτέρων. God’s command was, ‘honour thy father and thy mother;’ ye say (in certain cases), ‘a man shall not honour his father and mother.’

οὐ μὴ with future indicative or with subjunctive, is an emphatic denial. See note, ch. Matthew 10:42.

Verse 6

6. τὸν λόγον for τὴν ἐντολὴν of textus receptus; τὸν νόμον the reading of Tischendorf has the authority of א and C and some cursives, and would explain τὴν ἐντολήν. τὸν λόγον may have been introduced from Mark.

Verse 7

7. καλῶς ἐπροφήτευσεν. A common Jewish formula in quoting a saying of the prophets.

Verse 8

8. The words ἐγγίζει μοιτῷ στόματι αὐτῶν καὶ, which fill up the quotation from the LXX., are omitted on the highest MS. authority.

Verse 8-9

8, 9., Isaiah 29:13. The quotation nearly follows the LXX. The Hebrew has nothing answering to μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με.

Verse 9

9. ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων. ‘Collections of ritual laws which were current in the times of the pre-exile prophets.’ (Cheyne, Isa. ad loc.) Thus Pharisaism had its counterpart in the old dispensation.

Verse 10

10. προσκαλεσάμενος τὸν ὄχλον. The moment our Lord turns to the people, His teaching is by parables.

This appeal to the multitude as worthier than the Pharisees to receive the divine truths is significant of the popular character of the Kingdom of heaven.

Verse 11

11. κοινοῖ. Literally, maketh common; cp. ‘common or unclean,’ Acts 10:14. ‘The Pharisees esteemed “defiled men” for “common and vulgar” men; on the contrary, a religious man among men is “a singular man.”’ Lightfoot ad loc.

Verse 12

12. οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ἐσκανδαλίσθησαν. A proof of the influence of the Pharisees. The disciples believed that Christ would be concerned to have offended those who stood so high in popular favour.

Verse 13

13. πᾶσα φυτεία. Not a wild flower, but a cultivated plant or tree; the word occurs here only in N.T.; in LXX. version of O.T. it is used of the vine, the most carefully cultivated of all plants; 2 Kings 19:29; Ezekiel 17:7; Micah 1:6; Aq. and Symm. have δένδρων φυτείαν in Genesis 21:33, of the tamarisk. Here the plant cultivated by human hands—the vine that is not the true vine of Israel—is the doctrine of the Pharisees.

Verse 14

14. ὁδηγοί εἰσιν τυφλοὶ τυφλῶν. The proverb which follows is quoted in a different connection, Luke 6:39; cp. also ch. Matthew 23:16.

εἰς βόθυνον πεσοῦνται. Palestine abounded in dangers of this kind, from unguarded wells, quarries, and pitfalls; it abounded also in persons afflicted with blindness. See note ch. Matthew 9:27.

Verse 16

16. ἀκμήν. Here only in N.T. Strictly, ‘at the point of time,’ in late authors, ‘even now,’ ‘still.’ Latin, adhuc. In the modern Greek versions ἔτι is used for ἀκμήν.

καὶ ὑμεῖς, as well as the crowds to whom the parables are spoken.

ἀσύνετοί ἐστε. Cp. συνέσει πνευματικῇ, Colossians 1:9, and τὴν σύνεσιν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, Ephesians 3:4.

Verse 19

19. ἐκ γὰρ τῆς καρδίας κ.τ.λ. The enumeration follows the order of the Commandments. Evil thoughts—(διαλογισμοὶ πονηροί) ‘harmful reasonings’—form a class under which the rest fall, indicating, too, that the transgression of the commandments is often in thought, by Christ’s law, not in deed only.

The plurals ‘murders, adulteries,’ &c., as Meyer points out, denote the different instances and kinds of murder and adultery. Murder includes far more than the act of bloodshed.

Verse 21

21. ἀνεχώρησεν. Perhaps to avoid the hostility which this attack upon the Pharisees would arouse. St Mark preserves the connection ἀναστὰς ἀπῆλθεν as if He had been teaching (καθίσας).

εἰς τὰ μέρη Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος. The reading adopted by the leading editors, Mark 7:31, ἦλθεν διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας, makes it certain that Jesus crossed the borders of Palestine and passed through a Gentile land.

Verses 21-28


Mark 7:24-30

This narrative of faith without external observance or knowledge of the Law affords a suggestive contrast to the preceding discourse. It is not related as we might have expected by the Gentile St Luke. St Mark has various points of particular description not given here.

Verse 22

22. γυνὴ Χαναναία. In Mark ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα (Matthew 7:26). The two expressions are in Hellenistic Greek identical. In Joshua 5:12, ‘The land of Canaan’ (Hebr.) appears in the LXX. version as τὴν χώραν τῶν Φοινίκων. Hecatæus (Tr. 254) states: Χνᾶ. [Canaan] οὕτω πρότερον ἡ Φοινίκη ἐκαλεῖτο. The term land of Canaan, literally the low lands or netherlands, at first applied to the whole of Palestine, was confined in later times to the maritime plain of Phœnicia. Still, according to Prof. Rawlinson, the Canaanites and Phœnicians were distinct races, possessing marked peculiarities. The former were the original occupants of the country, the latter ‘immigrants at a comparatively recent date.’ (Herod. Vol. IV. p. 199.) The relations between Phœnicia and Palestine had been with scarcely an exception peaceful and friendly. The importance of the narrative lies in the fact that this woman was a foreigner and a heathen—a descendant of the worshippers of Baal. She may have heard and seen Jesus in earlier days. Cp. Mark 3:8, ‘they about Tyre and Sidon … came unto him.’ This instance of mercy extended to a Gentile points to the future diffusion of the Gospel beyond the Jewish race.

ἐλέησόν με. Identifying herself with her daughter. Cp. the prayer of the father of the lunatic child: ‘Have compassion on us and help us,’ Mark 9:22.

υἱὸς Δαυείδ. A title that proves the expectation that the Messiah should spring from the house of David. It is the particular Messianic prophecy which would be most likely to reach foreign countries. The Tyrian woman’s appeal to the descendant of Hiram’s friend and ally has a special significance.

Verse 23

23. οὐκ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῇ λόγον. Jesus, by this refusal, tries the woman’s faith, that He may purify and deepen it. Her request must be won by earnest prayer, ‘lest the light winning should make light the prize.’

Observe that Christ first refuses by silence, then by express words.

ἠρώτουν. For the form cp. νικοῦντι, Revelation 2:7. the reading of Lachmann and Tischendorf (ed. 7); and see Winer, p. 104, note 3.

ἀπόλυσον αὐτήν. By granting what she asks, by yielding, like the unjust judge, to her importunity.

Verse 24

24. εἰς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα κ.τ.λ. Jesus came to save all, but his personal ministry was confined, with few exceptions, to the Jews.

The thought of Israel as a flock of sheep lost upon the mountain is beautifully drawn out, Ezekiel 34; ‘My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them’ (Matthew 15:6). Read the whole chapter.

Verse 25

25. προσεκύνει is probably right, though the evidence is evenly balanced between aor. and imperf.

Verse 26

26. τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων κ.τ.λ. The τέκνα are the Jews; the κυνάρια are the Gentiles. This was the name applied by the Jews to all outside the chosen race, the dog being in the East a symbol of impurity. St Paul, regarding the Christian Church as the true Israel, terms the Judaizing teachers τοὺς κύνας, Philippians 3:2. The same religious hostility, and the same names of scorn, still exist in the East between Mussulman and Christian populations. Christ’s words, as reported by St Mark (Mark 7:27), contain a gleam of hope, ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα.

Verse 27

27. καὶ γάρ. ‘For even’ (‘yet’ of the A.V. is misleading). The woman takes Jesus at His word, admits the truth of what He says, accepts the name of reproach, and claims the little that falls even to the dogs. ‘True, it is not good to cast the children’s bread to the dogs, for even the dogs have their share,—the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

τὰ κυνάρια ἐσθίει. St Mark has ἐσθίειν of the dogs and χορτασθῆναι of the children, so completely is the strict use of the two words reversed.

τῆς τραπέζης τῶν κυρίων. The ‘Masters’ must be interpreted to mean God, not, as by some, the Jewish people. Note the turn given by the introduction of the κύριοι. κυνάρια that have κύριοι are not the wretched outcasts of the streets—they have some one to care for them. Even the Gentiles may expect a blessing from the God of Israel.

Verse 28

28. St Mark has εὖρεν τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ τὴν κλίνην καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐξεληλυθός.

Verse 29

29. εἰς τὸ ὄρος. The mountain country; the high land, as distinguished from the low land, which He had left.

Verses 29-31


Mark 7:31-37, where, not content with the general statement, the Evangelist describes one special case of healing.

Verse 32

32. ἡμέραι τρεῖς. For this parenthetical introduction of the nominative see Winer, p. 704, § 2 and note 3.

Verses 32-38


Mark 8:1-9

Verse 35-36

35, 36. The omission of καὶ before εὐχαριστήσας makes the structure very harsh. It is the reading necessitated by the rules adopted for forming the present text. Tregelles omits the καὶ against Lachmann and Tischendorf. If the former had seen א it can scarcely be doubted that he would have inserted the conjunction so necessary to the flow of the sentence.

Verse 36

36. εὐχαριστήσας. εὐχαριστεῖν does not occur before Polybius in the sense of gratias agere. The decree in Demosth. de Cor. p. 257, where the word is found, (see Lob. Phryn. 18) is probably spurious. The classical expression is χάριν εἰδέναι.

τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων. See ch. Matthew 14:20. One side of the lesson is the lavishness of Providence. God gives even more than we require or ask for. But the leading thought is a protest against waste.

Verse 37

37. ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας. See note ch. Matthew 14:20, and Acts 9:25, where St Paul is said to have been let down from the wall of Damascus in a σπυρίς, probably a large basket made of rope-net, possibly a fisherman’s basket; in 2 Corinthians 11:33, where the same incident is related, the word σαργάνη is used. Why the people brought different kinds of baskets on the two occasions we cannot determine. The facts seem to point to a difference in nationality or in occupation. σπυρὶς connected with σπείρω, ‘to twist,’ is the Lat. sporta, or sportula. σαργάνη in Æsch. Suppl. 769 = ‘the mesh of a net’.

Verse 39

39. ΄αγαδάν. For the reading see critical note. It is probable that the familiar Magdala supplanted in the text the more obscure Magadan. Magdala or Migdol (a watch tower) is identified with the modern Mejdel, a collection of ruins and squalid huts at the S.E. corner of the plain of Gennesaret, opposite to K’hersa or Gergesa. This is the point where the lake is broadest. Prof. Rawlinson thinks that this Magdala may be the Magdolus of Herodotus, II. 159; unless indeed by a confusion curiously similar to that in the text, Herodotus has mistaken Migdol for Megiddo. Magdala was probably the home of Mary Magdalene.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Matthew 15:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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