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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Matthew 9



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. εἰς πλοῖον. In such adverbial expressions the article is often absent, as εἰς οἶκον. Cp. English ‘to take ship,’ ‘to go home.’

τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν. Capernaum, the city where He dwelt, thus designated here only: cp. ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν (Luke 2:3), his ancestral city.

Verses 1-8


Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:18-26.

Both St Mark and St Luke notice the crowding of the people to hear Jesus, and narrate the means by which the sufferer was brought into His presence.

Verse 2

2. παραλυτικόν, not in this case δεινῶς βασανιζόμενος (see ch. Matthew 8:6), therefore suffering from a less severe type of paralysis.

τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν: the faith of those who brought him as well as his own. Cp. Mark 9:23-24.

ἀφίενται, ‘are being forgiven,’ for ἀφέωνται of received text (see Crit. Notes). Comp. with this passage John 20:23, where ἀφέωνται is the true reading for ἀφίενται of the received text. The reversal of the readings in the two cases is important. With the divine Saviour the act of forgiveness is present and in progress, with the Apostles it is the spiritual gift to see, and authority to declare a sentence passed in heaven.

Verses 2-6

2–6. When Jesus said ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee’ the young man did not immediately rise (see Matthew 9:7). Instantly the Scribes thought with a sneer ‘this fellow blasphemes,’ i.e. pretends to a divine power which he does not possess. They said in their hearts it is easy to say, ‘Thy sins are forgiven,’ let him say, ‘Arise, and walk,’ then we shall discover his blasphemy. Jesus answers their thoughts. His words are not ‘whether’ as in A.V., but ‘why is it easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, than to say, Arise, and walk?’ In truth it was not easier to say, ‘Thy sins are forgiven’ as Jesus says those words, for to say them implied the cure of soul and of body too; but in order to convince the Scribes of His power He adds the words, ‘Arise, and walk;’ and implicitly bids them infer that the inner work of forgiveness had as surely followed the first words as the outward and visible result followed the command to rise and walk.

Verse 3

3. βλασφημεῖν. Construction τινά, εἴς τινα, τι or abs. [1] to speak evil of God or of sacred things βλ. εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, Mark 3:29 and Luke 12:10; ἠνάγκαζον βλασφημεῖν, Acts 26:11; ἵνα μὴ ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ βλασφημῆται, Titus 2:5. [2] to disparage the divine nature, to usurp the honour due to God, as here and generally in the Gospels. [3] ‘to calumniate men’ τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὖ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 1 Corinthians 10:30. As a classical word βλασφημεῖν is opposed to εὐφημεῖν: so βλασφημία, Eur. Ion. 1189, βλασφημίαν τις οἰκετῶν ἐφθέγξατο, ‘spake word of evil omen.’ The derivation is uncertain, perhaps from the same root as βλάξ, βλάζειν, see Buttmann, Lex, sub voc. βλίττειν, § 6. Others connect the word with βλάπτειν, cp. ‘all words that may do hurt.’

Verse 5

5. εὐκοπώτερον. A post-classical word, used only in the Synoptic Gospels, and always in the comparative degree.

Verse 6

6. ἆρόν σου τὴν κλίνην. The Oriental frequently spreads a mat upon the ground and sleeps in the open air, in the morning he rolls up his mat and carries it away.

Verse 8

8. ἐφοβήθησαν. ἐθαύμασαν of textus receptus is a gloss.

Verse 9


Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-28.

St Mark has ‘Levi, the son of Alphæus,’ St Luke ‘a publican named Levi.’ The identification of Matthew with Levi can scarcely be seriously disputed. The circumstances of the call are precisely similar as narrated by the Synoptists; and it was too usual for a Jew to have more than one name for this difference to be a difficulty. Probably the name Matthew, ‘Gift of Jehovah,’ was adopted by the Apostle when he became a follower of Jesus.

παράγων. ‘As he passed by,’ not passed forth, as A.V.

τὸ τελώνιον, the toll- or custom-house. For a longer notice of the call of St Matthew, see Introduction.

Verse 10

10. καὶ ἐγένετο. See note, ch. Matthew 11:1.

ἀνακεῖσθαι, late in this sense for the classical κατακεῖσθαι, ‘to recline at table.’

ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ. St Luke says ‘and Levi made him a great feast,’ which makes it clear that the meal was in Levi’s house.

πολλοὶ τελῶναι. The fact that the tax-gatherers were numerous enough to form a large class of society points significantly to the oppression of the country. ἁμαρτωλοί, men of impure lives, or esteemed impure by the Pharisees.

Verses 10-13


Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32.

Verse 11

11. ἰδόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι. The Pharisees were not guests, but came into the house,—a custom still prevalent in the East. A traveller writes from Damietta, ‘In the room where we were received, besides the divan on which we sat, there were seats all round the walls. Many came in and took their place on those side-seats, uninvited and yet unchallenged. They spoke to those at table on business, or the news of the day, and our host spoke freely to them. We afterwards saw this custom at Jerusalem … first one and then another stranger opened the door and came in, taking seats by the wall. They leaned forward and spoke to those at table.’ Scripture Manners and Customs, p. 185.

Διατί κ.τ.λ. St Mark represents the question to be asked by οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων, St Luke by οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν.

Verse 12

12. οἱ ἰσχύοντες κ.τ.λ. There is a touch of irony in the words. They that are ‘whole’ are they who think themselves whole. So below, the ‘righteous’ are those who are righteous in their own eyes.

Verse 13

13. πορευθέντες μάθετε. A translation of a common Rabbinical formula.

Ἔλεος θέλω. ‘I desire mercy.’ I require mercy rather than sacrifice, Hosea 6:6. It is a protest by the prophet against the unloving, insincere formalist of his day. It is closely parallel to our Lord’s injunction, ch. Matthew 5:23-24. Sacrifice without mercy is no acceptable sacrifice. To love sinners is a better fulfilling of the law than to stand aloof from them. See note ch. Matthew 12:7, where our Lord again quotes these words.

The neuter form ἔλεος is late: cp. κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος corrected from κατὰ τὸν πλοῦτον, Philippians 4:19.

καλέσαι. The underlying thought is invitation to a banquet; the word has a special significance in the circumstances: cp. the important Christian derived terms κλῆσις, [1] ‘the invitation,’ 2 Peter 1:10; [2] the body of the ‘called,’ 1 Corinthians 1:26, and κλητὸς as Romans 1:1, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος.

It was from scenes like this that Jesus was named φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν, ch. Matthew 11:19.

Verses 14-17


Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39.

It is not quite clear whether this further incident took place at Levi’s feast. St Luke leads us to draw that inference.

Verse 15

15. οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος. See note, Matthew 9:6. ‘The children of the bridechamber’ were the bridegroom’s friends or groomsmen who went to conduct the bride from her father’s house (see note, ch. Matthew 25:1). The procession passed through the streets, gay with festive dress, and enlivened with music and joyous shouts, and with the brilliant light of lamps and flambeaux. With the same pomp and gladness the bride was conducted to her future home, where the marriage-supper was prepared.

ὁ νυμφίος. The Jews symbolised the ‘congregation’ or ‘church’ by the image of a bride. Jesus sets himself forth as the Bridegroom of the Christian Church. See Herschell, Sketch of the Jews, pp. 92–97.

ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ. For the first time in this gospel Jesus alludes to his death.

νηστεύσουσιν. Herschell (quoted in Scripture Manners and Customs) observes that many Jews who keep voluntary fasts, if invited to a marriage are specially exempted from the observance of them. Jesus first gives a special answer to the question about fasting. There is a time of sorrow in store for my disciples when fasting will have a real meaning, now in my presence they can but rejoice. Note that fasting and mourning are regarded as quite synonymous. This they are to the perfectly sincere only. The words of Jesus are true also of Christian experience. There are joyous times when the presence of Christ is felt to be near. Then fasting would be out of harmony. But there are also seasons of despondency and depression, when Christ seems to be taken away, when fasting is natural and appropriate.

Verse 16

16. οὐδεὶς δέ, but no man. The particle δέ is omitted in A.V.; it marks a turn in the argument which is indicated still more clearly in Luke (Luke 5:36), ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτούς. The words of Jesus here take a wider range. He says in effect to John’s disciples: ‘Your question implies ignorance of my teaching. My doctrine is not merely a reformed Judaism like the teaching of John and Pharisaism, it is a new life to which such questions as these concerning ceremonial fasting are quite alien.’

ἀγνάφου, ‘new;’ literally, uncarded, from γνάπτω. The old garment is Judaism. Christianity is not to be pieced on to Judaism to fill up its deficiencies. This would make the rent—the divisions of Judaism—still more serious.

σχίσμα is used of the ‘schisms’ in the Corinthian Church, 1 Corinthians 1:10, and has so passed into ecclesiastical language.

Verse 17

17. οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς. The Oriental bottles are skins of sheep or goats. Old bottles would crack and leak. This may be regarded as a further illustration of the doctrine taught in the preceding verse. But it is better to give it an individual application. The new wine is the new law, the freedom of Christianity. The new bottles are those fitted to live under that law. The old wine is Judaism, the old bottles those, who trained in Judaism, cannot receive the new law, who say ‘the old is better’ (or ‘good’), Luke 5:39.

Our Lord’s answer then is threefold, [1] specially as to fasting, [2] as to Christianity in regard to Judaism, [3] as to individuals trained in Judaism.

[1] This is a joyous time, not a season for fasting, which is a sign of sorrow.

[2] Christianity is not a sect of Judaism, or to be judged according to rules of Judaism.

[3] It is not every soul that is capable of receiving the new and spiritual law. The new wine of Christianity requires new vessels to contain it.

εἰ δὲ μήγε, ‘otherwise.’ Literally, ‘unless he acts thus.’ Cp. Epict. Diss. I. 15, οὐκ ἐπαγγέλλεται ἔφη φιλοσοφία τῶν ἐκτός τι περιποιήσειν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ εἰ δὲ μὴ κ.τ.λ., where εἰ δὲ μὴ = nisi ita esset ut ego dico. (Schweighäuser).

οἶνον νέον. ‘New wine,’ i.e. wine of this vintage. ἀσκοὺς καινούς, ‘new skins,’ i.e. that have not been used before; cp. καινὸν μνημεῖον, a sepulchre that had never been used, not one that had been lately hewn out; νέα διαθήκη, a covenant that is quite recent; καινὴ διαθήκη, one that is distinct from the old covenant. See Trench, Synonyms, part 2, § 10.

Verse 18

18. ἄρχων. From Mark and Luke we learn that he was a chief ruler of the synagogue (ἀρχισυνάγωγος, Mark), Jairus by name. ἡ θυγάτηρ μου. τὸ θυγάτριόν μου (Mark). θυγάτηρ μονογενής (Luke). ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν. ἐσχάτως ἔχει (Mark). ἀπέθνησκεν (Luke).

Verses 18-26

18–26. THE DAUGHTER OF JAIRUS, 18, 19 and 23–26

Mark 5:22-24; Mark 5:35-43. Luke 8:41-42; Luke 8:49-56.


Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48.

Related with more detail by St Mark and St Luke. She had spent all her living on physicians. Jesus perceives that virtue has gone out of him. The woman tells all the truth before the people.

Verse 20

20. τοῦ κρασπέδου. See ch. Matthew 14:36 and Matthew 22:5.

Verse 21

21. ἔλεγεν γὰρ ἐν ἑαυτῇ. The imperfect denotes intensity of feeling, ‘she kept saying over and over to herself.’

Verse 22

22. Eusebius (H. E. VII. 18) states that in the city of Cæsarea-Philippi stood a bronze statue of this woman kneeling before the Saviour, who was represented extending his hand to her.

Verse 23

23. St Mark and St Luke mention the message to Jairus on the way, that his daughter was already dead, and name the three disciples whom Jesus permits to enter the house with him.

τοὺς αὐλητάς. The minstrels are mentioned by St Matthew only. Lane (Modern Egyptians) says ‘the women of the family raise the cries of lamentations called ‘welweleh’ or ‘wilwal;’ uttering the most piercing shrieks and calling upon the name of the deceased.’ The employment of hired minstrels for funeral lamentations seems to have been universal in the ancient world. Cp. Cantabat mœstis tibia funeribus, Ov. Trist. 9:1. 14; τί με ὁ κωκυτὸς ὑμῶν ὀνίνησι, Lucian, de luctu. 10. ‘Even the poorest among the Israelites will afford her not less than two pipes and one woman to make lamentation.’ (Talmud.)

τὸν ὄχλον θορυβούμενον. To join in lamentation for the dead and to assist in the preparation for the funeral rites were reckoned among the most meritorious works of charity.

Verse 24

24. τὸ κοράσιον. Diminutive of affection. This form is rejected by the Atticists in favour of κόριον, κορίδιον, κορίσκη, κορίσκιον. It is frequent in Epictetus, Lucian, and other late authors. See Lob. Phryn. 73, and Sturz, De dial. Maced. p. 42.

οὐ γὰρ ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καθεύδει. These words are reported without variation by the three Synoptists; it is open to question whether they ought not to be taken literally. For although κοιμᾶσθαι is frequently used both by classical authors and in the N.T. of the sleep of death, it is doubtful whether this metaphorical sense is ever attached to καθεύδειν in the N.T. or elsewhere. Λάζαρος ὁ φίλος ἡμῶν κεκοίμηται (not καθεύδει) John 11:11; καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐκοιμήθη, Acts 7:60. The Jews also spoke of death as sleep, but it is clear that in this instance they understood Jesus to speak of natural sleep.

κατεγέλων. For the force of κατὰ cp. καταφιλεῖν, ch. Matthew 26:49; Acts 20:37, and Thuc. III. 83, καταγελασθὲν ἠφανίσθη.

Verse 25

25. ἐξεβλήθη ὁ ὄχλος. The crowd which paid no regard to the repeated bidding (ἔλεγεν, Matthew 9:24, imperf.) of Jesus was now thrust forth.

Verse 27

27. υἱὸς Δαυείδ. See note ch. Matthew 1:1. The thought of the kingdom of heaven had been closely linked with the reign of a son of David, but doubtless with many Jews the glory of the Asmonean dynasty (the Maccabees) and the established power of the Herods had tended to obscure this expectation. To have clung to it was an act of faith.

Verses 27-31


Peculiar to St Matthew. Archbp. Trench alludes to the fact that cases of blindness are far more numerous in the East than in Western countries. ‘The dust and flying sand enter the eyes, causing inflammations … the sleeping in the open air, and the consequent exposure of the eyes to the noxious nightly dews, is another source of this malady.’

Verse 28

28. For ναὶ see Bp. Ellicott on Philippians 4:3. Here of assent to a question, as ch. Matthew 17:25, and as always in John. Sometimes of assent to a statement, as ch. Matthew 15:27, or strongly asseverative as always in Luke and ch. Matthew 11:9; Matthew 11:26.

Verse 30

30. ἐμβριμᾶσθαι. Lit. ‘to roar,’ leonis voce uti (Schleusner), then [1] ‘to charge with vehement threats:’ cp. εἰ συ βριμήσαιο, Aristoph. Knights, 851, where the Scholiast explains the word τὸ ὀργίζεσθαι καὶ ἀπειλεῖν, implying ‘fretful impatience,’ (Jebb on Soph. Ajax, 322); [2] ‘to enjoin strictly’ (here and Mark 1:43); [3] to be loudly indignant (Mark 14:5). In John 11:33, ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι probably means, ‘felt indignation in his spirit,’ possibly, expressed indignation, ‘groaned in his spirit;’ so also John 11:38.

Verses 32-34


Luke 11:14-15.

Verse 33

33. ἐκβληθέντος τοῦ δαιμονίου. An expression like this raises the question of demoniacal possession. We ask whether the instances described by the Evangelists point of forms of disease recognised in modern medical practice or to a distinct class of phenomena.

Jewish belief indeed appears to have attributed diseases, cases of insanity and even bodily infirmities such as dumbness, to the agency of indwelling personal evil spirits or δαιμόνια. The distinguishing feature of such demoniacal possession may be described as the phenomenon of a double consciousness. The occult spiritual power became as it were a second self ruling and checking or injuring the better and healthier self.

But on the other hand the use by the evangelists of a word or expression with which a theory is bound up, or even vivid and picturesque description in accordance with it, does not necessarily imply their acquiescence in that theory much less the actual truth of it. Accordingly the adoption of the word δαιμόνιον and its cognates cannot be considered as decisive on the point of the real existence of personal spiritual agents in disease. A hundred words and phrases implicitly containing false theories, are yet not rejected by correct thinkers. Christ left many truths to come to light in the course of ages, not needlessly breaking into the order by which physical facts are revealed.

At the same time not only is there nothing in the result of science (which does not deal with ultimate causes) inconsistent with some form of the belief in demoniacal possession, but certain phenomena of madness and infatuation are more naturally described by the words of the evangelists in their accounts of demoniacal possession than by any other; and our Lord’s own words, ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting,’ seem more than a mere concession to vulgar beliefs; for it is obvious a less definite expression might have been used if the belief itself was mistaken.

In the classical writers δαιμόνιος is used of acts, agencies, or powers that lie beyond human control or observation. Demosthenes e.g. in a striking passage speaks of the divine power or force which he sometimes fancied to be hurrying on the Hellenic race to destruction: ἐπελήλυθε καὶ τοῦτο φοβεῖσθαι, μή τι δαιμόνιον τὰ πράγματα ἐλαύνῃ, Phil. III. § 54. Of the return of Orestes, Electra says δαιμόνιον τίθημʼ ἐγώ, Soph. El. 1270. The δαιμόνιον of Socrates was the divine warning voice which apart from his own reasoning faculties checked him from entering upon dangerous enterprizes. Again δαιμόνιον had the meaning of a divine being or agent, a divinity or demi-god. The enemies of Socrates in their indictment used the word in this secondary sense not intended by him. He was charged with introducing καινὰ δαιμόνια (cp. Acts 17:18). It is in this sense of demigods or intermediate divine agencies that δαιμόνια is used 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, where the argument is obscured by the rendering of the A.V. ‘devils.’ As a classical word δαιμόνιον never means ‘evil spirit.’

Verse 34

34. ἔλεγον. ‘Used to say;’ this was their habitual argument. The answer to it is given, ch. Matthew 12:25-30.

Verse 35

35. νόσονμαλακίαν. See ch. Matthew 4:23.

Verses 35-38


This passage forms the preface to the mission of the twelve. The connection points to a regular sequence of thought in St Matthew’s plan. The work of Christ is described as the model for the work of the twelve; cp. Matthew 9:35 with ch. Matthew 10:7-8. The pity of Jesus for the lost and shepherdless flock was the motive for the mission; cp. Matthew 9:36 with ch. Matthew 10:6. The thought of the harvest of God and the labourers, Matthew 9:37-38, is raised again in the charge ch. Matthew 10:10. The A.V. unfortunately translates ἐργάτης by ‘labourer’ Matthew 9:37, and ‘workman’ Matthew 10:10.

Verse 36

36. ἐσπλαγχνίσθη. σπλάγχνα = the nobler organs, heart, liver, lungs, then specially the heart as the seat of various emotions. In a literal sense Acts 1:18; in the sense of ‘pity’ frequent in St Paul’s epistles. In the classics the meaning is extended to other feelings: μὴ πρὸς ὀργὴν σπλάγχνα θερμήνῃς, Aristoph. Ranæ, 844. ἀνδρὸς σπλάγχνον ἐκμαθεῖν, Eur. Med. 220. The verb, which is post-classical, is confined to the sense of ‘feeling pity,’ and occurs in the Synoptic Gospels only.

ἐσκυλμένοι. ‘Worn out, harassed.’ The literal meaning of σκύλλειν is ‘to flay,’ then to ‘vex,’ or ‘harass,’ τί ἔτι σκύλλεις τὸν διδάσκαλον, Mark 5:35. It is a striking instance of the softening and refining process in the meaning of words: cp. ἐρεύγομαι, χορτάζω.

ἐριμμένοι. Either [1] ‘prostrate,’ or [2] ‘neglected,’ set at naught by the national teachers.

μὴ ἔχοντα. ‘When they have no shepherd,’ the condition that excites pity is expressed by μή, οὐκ ἔχοντα would indicate the fact simply.

Verse 37

37. ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς. The same expression occurs Luke 10:2 on the occasion of sending forth the Seventy: cp. also John 4:35, θεάσασθε τὰς χώρας, ὅτι λευκαί εἰσιν πρὸς θερισμὸν ἤδη.

Verse 38

38. ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ. The verb ἐκβάλλειν, to thrust forth, send out, denotes the enthusiastic impulse of mission work: cp. Mark 1:12, τὸ πνεῦμα ἐκβάλλει αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν ἔρημον—driveth him like a wind; and Matthew 13:52, of the enthusiastic teacher, ὅστις ἐκβάλλει ἐκ τοῦ θησαυροῦ αὐτοῦ καινὰ καὶ παλαιά.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Matthew 9:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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