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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Luke 10

Verses 1-99

Ch. 10:1 24. The Mission of the Seventy

1 . After these things ] i. e. after finally leaving Galilee, and starting on His great Peraean progress.

other seventy also ] Rather, also others (besides the Twelve) seventy in number . Some MSS. read seventy-two (B, D, M, &c.). The number had evident reference to the Elders of Moses (Numbers 11:16 ), where there is the same variation; the Sanhedrin; and the Jewish belief (derived from Genesis 10:0 ) as to the number of the nations of the world. The references to Elim with its 12 wells and 70 palm-trees are mere plays of allegoric fancy.

two and two ] The same merciful provision that we see in the brother-pairs of the Twelve.

into every city , &c.] Clearly with the same object as in 9:52. It may have been all the more necessary because hitherto He had worked less in the Transjordanic regions.

2 . The harvest truly is great ] Compare Matthew 9:37 ; John 4:35 .

send forth ] The word literally means ‘drive forth,’ and though it has lost its full force implies urgency and haste. See similar uses of the word in John 10:4 , Matthew 9:38 , Mark 1:12 .

3 . as lambs ] ‘as sheep,’ Matthew 10:16 (of the Twelve). The slight variation must not be pressed. The impression meant to be conveyed is merely that of simplicity and defencelessness. A tradition, as old as Clemens Romanus, tells us that St Peter had asked (on the previous occasion), ‘But how then if the wolves should tear the lambs?’ and that Jesus replied, ‘Let not the lambs fear the wolves when the lambs are once dead,’ and added the words in Matthew 10:28 . There is no reason to doubt this interesting tradition, which may rank as one of the most certain of the ‘unwritten sayings’ ( agrapha dogmata ) of our Lord.

4 . neither purse ] Compare 9:1 6, and notes; Matthew 10:1-40.10.42 . St Luke uses the Greek balantion ; St Mark the Oriental zonên ‘girdle.’

salute no man by the way ] A common direction in cases of urgency (2 K. 4:29), and partly explicable by the length and loitering elaborateness of Eastern greetings (Thomson, Land and Book , ii. xxiv.).

5 . Peace be to this house ] Adopted in our service for the Visitation of the Sick. God’s messengers should begin first with prayers for peace, not with objurgations. Bengel.

6 . the son of peace ] Rather, a son of peace , i. e. a man of peaceful heart . Comp. for the phrase 16:8, 20:36; John 17:12 ; Ephesians 5:6 , Ephesians 5:8 .

it shall turn to you again ] Matthew 10:13 . “My prayer returned into mine own bosom,” Psalms 35:13 .

7 . eating and drinking such things as they give ] As a plain right. 1 Corinthians 9:4 , 1 Corinthians 9:7-46.9.11 .

the labourer is worthy of his hire ] Referred to by St Paul, 1 Timothy 5:18 . Doubtless he may have been aware that our Lord had used it, but the saying was probably proverbial.

9 . The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you ] So that our Lord’s last messages resembled His first preaching, Matthew 4:17 .

11 . Even the very dust ] Acts 13:49-44.13.51 , Acts 18:5-44.18.7 .

12 . more tolerable in that day for Sodom ] The great principle which explains these words may be found in 12:47, 48 (compare Hebrews 2:2 , Hebrews 2:3 , Hebrews 2:10 :28, 29).

13 . Woe unto thee, Chorazin ] The mention of this town is very interesting because this is the only occasion (Matthew 11:21 ) on which the name occurs, and we are thus furnished with a very striking proof of the fragmentariness of the Gospels. The very site of Chorazin was long unknown. It has now been discovered at Keraseh , the ruins of an old town on a wady, two miles inland from Tel Hum (Capernaum). At a little distance these ruins look like mere rude heaps of basaltic stones.

Bethsaida ] See on 9:10.

mighty works ] Literally, “ powers .”

they had a great while ago repented ] like Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-32.3.10 ), “Surely had I sent thee unto them they would have hearkened unto thee,” Ezekiel 3:6 ; comp. James 4:17 .

14 . more tolerable … at the judgment ] A very important verse as proving the ‘intermediate state’ (Hades) of human souls. The guilty inhabitants of these cities had received their temporal punishment (Genesis 19:24 , Genesis 19:25 ); but the final judgment was yet to come.

15 . And thou, Capernaum ] Christ’s “own city.”

exalted to heaven ] by inestimable spiritual privileges. “Admitted into a holier sanctuary, they were guilty of a deeper sacrilege.” A better reading is (for ἡ … ὑψωθεῖσα ) μὴὑψωθήσῃ ; “Shalt thou be exalted to heaven? Thou shalt be thrust down …!”

shalt be thrust down to hell ] Rather, as far as Hades . When our Lord uttered this woe these cities on the shores of Gennesareth were bright and populous and prospering; now they are desolate heaps of ruins in a miserable land. The inhabitants who lived thirty years longer may have recalled these woes in the unspeakable horrors of slaughter and conflagration which the Romans then inflicted on them. It is immediately after the celebrated description of the loveliness of the Plain of Gennesareth that Josephus goes on to tell of the shore strewn with wrecks and putrescent bodies, “insomuch that the misery was not only an object of commiseration to the Jews, but even to those that hated them and had been the authors of that misery ,” Jos. B. J. iii. 10, § 8. For fuller details see my Life of Christ , ii. 101 sq.

16 . despiseth ] Literally, “ setting at nought .” For comment on the verse see 1 Thessalonians 4:8 ; Matthew 18:5 ; John 12:44 .

17 . returned again with joy ] The success of their mission is more fully recorded than that of the Twelve.

the devils ] Rather, the demons . They had been bidden (vs. 9) to “heal the sick;” but these are the only healings that they mention.

are subject ] Rather, are being subjected .

18 . I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven ] Rather, I was observing Satan as lightning fallen from heaven , Isaiah 14:9-23.14.15 . We find similar thoughts in John 16:11 , John 16:12 :31, “now shall the prince of this world be cast out;” 1 John 3:8 ; Hebrews 2:14 .

19 . I give ] Read, I have given, with א , B, C, L, &c.

power ] Rather, the authority .

to tread on serpents and scorpions ] Compare Mark 16:17 , Mark 16:18 . So far as the promise was literal , the only fact of the kind referred to in the N. T. is Acts 28:3-44.28.5 . In legend we have the story of St John saved from poison, which is represented in Christian art as a viper escaping from the cup (Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art , i. 159). But it may be doubted whether the meaning was not predominantly spiritual as in Genesis 3:15 ; Romans 16:20 ; Psalms 91:13 ; Isaiah 11:8 .

nothing shall by any means hurt you ] Romans 8:28 , Romans 8:39 .

20 . are written in heaven ] Rather, have been recorded in the heavens (reading ἐγγέγραπται ). On this ‘Book of God,’ or ‘Book of Life,’ see Exodus 32:32 ; Psalms 69:28 ; Daniel 12:1 ; Philippians 4:3 ; Hebrews 12:23 ; Revelation 13:8 , Revelation 20:12 , Revelation 21:27 . It is the opposite to being “written in the earth,” Jeremiah 17:13 .

21 . rejoiced ] Rather, exulted , a much stronger word, and most valuable as recording one element the element of exultant joy in the life of our Lord, on which the Evangelists so rarely touch as to have originated the legend, preserved in the spurious letter of P. Lentulus to the Senate, that He wept often, but that no one had ever seen Him smile.

I thank thee, O Father ] Literally, “ I make grateful acknowledgment to Thee .”

from the wise and prudent … unto babes ] Here we have the contrast between the ‘wisdom of the world,’ which is ‘foolishness with God,’ and the ‘foolishness of the world,’ which is ‘wisdom with God,’ on which St Paul also was fond of dwelling, 1 Corinthians 1:21 , 1 Corinthians 1:26 ; 2 Corinthians 4:3 , 2 Corinthians 4:4 ; Romans 1:22 . For similar passages in the Gospels see Matthew 21:17 , Matthew 21:18 :3, Matthew 21:4 .

unto babes ] i. e. to all who have “the young lamb’s heart amid the full-grown flocks” to all innocent childlike souls, such as are often those of the truly wise. Genius itself has been denned as “the heart of childhood taken up and matured into the power of manhood.”

22 . All things are delivered to me of my Father ] Rather, were delivered to me by , cf. 20:14. This entire verse is one of those in which the teaching of the Synoptists (Matthew 28:18 ) comes into nearest resemblance to that of St John, which abounds in such passages (John 1:18 , John 1:3 :35, John 1:5 :26, John 1:27 , John 1:6 :44, John 1:46 , 14:John 1:6-43.1.9 , John 1:17 :1, John 1:2 ; 1 John 5:20 ). In the same way we find this view assumed in St Paul’s earlier Epistles (e. g. 1 Corinthians 15:24 , 1 Corinthians 15:27 ), and magnificently developed in the Epistles of the Captivity (Philippians 2:9 ; Ephesians 1:21 , Ephesians 1:22 ).

23 . Blessed are the eyes ] Comp. Matthew 13:16 .

24 . prophets and kings ] e. g. Abraham, Genesis 20:7 , 23:6; Jacob, Genesis 49:18 ; Balaam, Numbers 24:17 ; David, 2 Samuel 23:1-10.23.5 .

and have not seen them ] John 8:56 ; Ephesians 3:5 , Ephesians 3:6 ; Hebrews 11:13 .

“Save that each little voice in turn

Some glorious truth proclaims;

What sages would have died to learn ,

Now taught by cottage dames .”


25 37. The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 . a certain lawyer ] A teacher of the Mosaic Law differing little from a scribe, as the man is called in Mark 12:28 . The same person may have had both functions that of preserving and that of expounding the Law.

tempted him ] Literally, “ putting Him fully to the test ” (4:12); but the purpose does not seem to have been so deliberately hostile as in 11:54.

what shall I do to inherit eternal life ?] See 18:18, and the answer there also given. It is interesting to compare it with the answer given by St Paul after the Ascension, Acts 16:30 , Acts 16:31 .

26 . how readest thou ?] The phrase resembled one in constant use among the Rabbis, and the lawyer deserved to get no other answer because his question was not sincere. The very meaning and mission of his life was to teach this answer.

27 . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God ] This was the summary of the Law in Deuteronomy 6:5 , Deuteronomy 6:10 :12; Leviticus 19:18 .

and thy neighbour as thyself ] Hillel had given this part of the answer to an enquirer who similarly came to put him to the test, and as far as it went, it was a right answer (Romans 13:9 ; Galatians 5:13 , Galatians 5:14 ; James 2:8 ); but it became futile if left to stand alone, without the first Commandment.

28 . Thou hast answered right ] “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” Genesis 4:7 ; “which if a man do, he shall live in them,” Leviticus 18:5 ; Romans 10:5 ; but see Galatians 3:21 , Galatians 3:22 .

this do ] As the passage from Deuteronomy was one of those inscribed in the phylacteries (little leather boxes containing four texts in their compartments), which the scribe wore on his forehead and wrist, it is an ingenious conjecture that our Lord, as He spoke, pointed to one of these.

29 . willing to justify himself ] “before men” a thing which the Pharisees were ever prone to do, 16:15.

who is my neighbour ?] He wants his moral duties to be labelled and defined with the Talmudic precision to which ceremonial duties had been reduced.

30 . A certain man ] Clearly, as the tenor of the Parable implies, a Jew.

went down from Jerusalem to Jericho ] A rocky, dangerous gorge (Jos. B. J. iv. 8, § 3), haunted by marauding Bedawin, and known as ‘the bloody way’ ( Adommim , Jerome, De loc. Hebr . and on Jeremiah 3:2 ). The “went down” is strictly accurate, for the road descends very rapidly from Jerusalem to the Jordan valley. The distance is about 21 miles. For Jericho, see 19:1.

thieves ] Rather, “ robbers ,” “ brigands .” Palestine was notorious for these plundering Arabs. Herod the Great had rendered real service to the country in extirpating them from their haunts, but they constantly sprung up again, and even the Romans could not effectually put them down (Jos. Antt. xx. 6, § 1; B. J. xi. 12, § 5). On this very road an English baronet Sir Frederic Henniker was stripped and murdered by Arab robbers in 1820. “He was probably thinking of the Parable of the Samaritan when the assassin’s stroke laid him low,” Porter’s Palestine , i. 151.

wounded him ] Rather, laying blows on him .

half dead ] Some MSS. omit the τυγχάνοντα , ‘chancing to be still alive.’ So far as the robbers were concerned, it was a mere accident that any life was left in him.

31 . by chance ] Rather, by coincidence , i. e. at the same time. The word ‘chance’ ( τυχὴ ) does not occur in Scripture. The nearest approach to it is the participle τυχὸν in 1 Corinthians 15:37 (if τυγχάνοντα be omitted in vs. 30). Chance, to the sacred writers, as to the most thoughtful of the Greeks, is ‘the daughter of Forethought:’ it is “God’s unseen Providence, by men nicknamed Chance” (Fuller). “Many good opportunities work under things which seem fortuitous.” Bengel.

a certain priest ] His official duties at Jerusalem were over, and he was on his way back to his home in the priestly city of Jericho. Perhaps the uselessness of his external service is implied. In superstitious attention to the letter, he was wholly blind to the spirit, Deuteronomy 22:1-5.22.4 . See 1 John 3:17 . He was selfishly afraid of risk, trouble, and ceremonial defilement, and, since no one was there to know of his conduct, he was thus led to neglect the traditional kindness of Jews towards their own countrymen (Tac. Hist. v. 5, Juv. xiv. 103, 104), as well as the positive rules of the Law (Deuteronomy 22:4 ) and the Prophets (Isaiah 58:7 ).

that way ] Rather, on that road . It is emphatically mentioned, because there was another road to Jericho which was safer, and therefore more frequently used.

32 . came and looked on him ] This vivid touch shews us the cold curiosity of the Levite, which was even baser than the dainty neglect of the Priest. Perhaps the Priest had been aware that a Levite was behind him, and left the trouble to him: and perhaps the Levite said to himself that he need not do what the priest had not thought fit to do. By choosing Galatians 3:16-48.3.23 as the Epistle to be read with this Gospel (13th Sunday after Trinity) the Church indicates her view that this Parable implies the failure of the Jewish Priesthood and Law to pity or remove the misery and sin of man.

33 . a certain Samaritan ] A Samaritan is thus selected for high eulogy though the Samaritans had so ignominiously rejected Jesus (9:53).

as he journeyed ] He was not ‘coming down’ as the Priest and Levite were from the Holy City and the Temple, but from the unauthorised worship of alien Gerizim.

had compassion on him ] Thereby shewing himself, in spite of his heresy and ignorance, a better man than the orthodox Priest and Levite; and all the more so because he was an ‘alien’ (see on 17:18), and “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9 ), and this very wounded man would, under other circumstances, have shrunk from the touch of the Samaritan as from pollution. Yet this ‘Cuthaean’ this ‘worshipper of the pigeon’ this man of a race which was accused of misleading the Jews by false fire-signals, and of defiling the Temple with human bones whose testimony would not have been admitted in a Jewish court of law with whom no Jew would so much as eat (Jos. Antt. xx. 6, § 1, xviii. 2, § 2; B. J. ii. 12, § 3) shews a spontaneous and perfect pity of which neither Priest nor Levite had been remotely capable. The fact that the Jews had applied to our Lord Himself the opprobrious name of “Samaritan” (John 8:48 ) is one of the indications that a deeper meaning lies under the beautiful obvious significance of the Parable.

34 . pouring in oil and wine ] The ordinary remedies of the day. Isaiah 1:6 ; Mark 6:13 ; James 5:14 . See Excursus VII.

set him on his own beast ] The word implies the labour of ‘lifting him up,’ and then the good Samaritan walked by his side.

brought him to an inn ] Pandocheion . See on 2:7. There the word is kataluma , a mere khan or caravanserai. Perhaps this inn was at Bahurim. In this and the next verse a word or two suffices to shew the Samaritan’s sympathy, helpfulness, self-denial, generosity, and perseverance in kindliness.

35 . took out ] Literally, “ throwing out ” of his girdle.

two pence ] i. e. two denarii ; enough to pay for the man for some days. The Parable lends itself to the broader meaning which sees the state of mankind wounded by evil passions and spiritual enemies; left unhelped by systems of sacrifice and ceremonial (Galatians 3:21 ); pitied and redeemed by Christ (Isaiah 61:1 ), and left to be provided for until His return by spiritual ministrations in the Church. But to see in the “two pence” any specific allusion to the Old and New Testaments, or to ‘the two sacraments,’ is to push to extravagance the elaboration of details.

to the host ] The word occurs here only in the N. T., and the fact that in the Talmud the Greek word for ‘an inn with a host’ is adopted, seems to shew that the institution had come in with Greek customs. In earlier and simpler days the open hospitality of the East excluded the necessity for anything but ordinary khans.

37 . He that shewed mercy on him ] Rather, the pity . By this poor periphrasis the lawyer avoids the shock to his own prejudices, which would have been involved in the hated word, ‘the Samaritan.’ “He will not name the Samaritan by name, the haughty hypocrite.” Luther.

Go, and do thou likewise ] The general lesson is that of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:44 .

38 42. The Sisters of Bethany

38 . into a certain village ] Undoubtedly Bethany, John 11:1 . Both this and the expression “ a certain woman ” are obvious traces of a tendency to reticence about the family of Bethany which we find in the Synoptists (Matthew 26:6 ; Mark 14:3 ). It was doubtless due to the danger which the family incurred from their residing in the close vicinity of Jerusalem, and therefore of “the Jews,” as St John always calls the Pharisees, Priests, and ruling classes who opposed our Lord. By the time that St John wrote, after the destruction of Jerusalem, all need for such reticence was over. It is mere matter of conjecture whether ‘Simon the leper’ was the father of the family, or whether Martha was his widow; nor can Lazarus be identified with the gentle and holy Rabbi Eliezer of the Talmud. This narrative clearly belongs to a period just before the winter Feast of Dedication, because Bethany is close to Jerusalem. Its introduction at this point by St Luke (who alone preserves it, see Introd. p. 27) is due to subjective grouping, and probably to the question “what shall I do?” vs. 25.

39 . which also sat at Jesus’ feet ] The “also” shews that Mary too, in her way, was no less anxious to give Jesus a fitting reception. Here, in one or two lines, we have a most clear sketch of the contrasted character of the two sisters, far too subtly and indirectly accordant with what we learn of them in St John to be due to anything but the harmony of truth. This is one of the incidents in which the Evangelist shews such consummate psychologic skill and insight that he is enabled by a few touches to set before us the most distinct types of character.

and heard his word ] Rather, was listening to His discourse .

40 . cumbered about much serving ] The word for “cumbered” literally means ‘was being dragged in different directions,’ i. e. was distracted (1 Corinthians 7:35 ). She was anxious to give her Lord a most hospitable reception, and was vexed at the contemplative humility which she regarded as slothfulness.

came to him ] Rather, but suddenly coming up (20:1; Acts 23:27 ). We see in this inimitable touch the little petulant outburst of jealousy in the loving, busy matron, as she hurried in with the words, “Why is Mary sitting there doing nothing ?”

left me ] The Greek word means ‘left me alone in the middle of my work’ to come and listen to you.

bid her therefore that she help me ] We almost seem to hear the undertone of ‘It is no use for me to tell her.’ Doubtless, had she been less ‘fretted’ ( τυρβάζῃ ), she would have felt that to leave her alone and withdraw into the background while this eager hospitality was going on was the kindest and most unselfish thing which Mary could do.

41 . Martha, Martha ] The repeated name adds additional tenderness to the rebuke, as in 22:31; Acts 9:4 .

thou art careful and troubled about many things ] “I would have you without carefulness,” 1 Corinthians 7:32 ; Matthew 6:25 . The words literally mean, ‘Thou art anxious and bustling.’ Her inward solicitude was shewing itself in outward hastiness.

but one thing is needful ] The context should sufficiently have excluded the very bald, commonplace, and unspiritual meaning which has been attached to this verse, that only one dish was requisite . Clearly the lesson conveyed is the same as in Matthew 6:33 , Matthew 16:26 , even if our Lord’s first reference was the lower one. The various readings ‘but there is need of few things,’ or ‘of few things or of one’ ( א , B, various versions, &c.) seem to have risen from the notion that even for the simplest meal more than one dish would be required. This, however, is not the case in the simple meals of the East.

that good part ] Rather, portion (as of a banquet, Genesis 43:34 , LXX.; John 6:27 ) or inheritance , Psalms 73:26 . ἥτις = quippe quae . The nature of the portion is such that , &c.

which shall not be taken away from her ] To speak of such theological questions as ‘indefectible grace’ here, is to use the narrative otherwise than was intended. The general meaning is that of Philippians 1:6 ; 1 Peter 1:5 . It has been usual with Roman Catholic and other writers to see in Martha the type of the active, and in Mary of the contemplative disposition, and to exalt one above the other. This is not the point of the narrative, for both may and ought to be combined as in St Paul and in St John. The gentle reproof to Martha is aimed not at her hospitable activity, but at the ‘fret and fuss,’ the absence of repose and calm, by which it was accompanied; and above all, at the tendency to reprobate and interfere with excellence of a different kind.

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"Commentary on Luke 10". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.