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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Luke 6

Verses 1-99

Ch. 6:1 5. The Disciples pluck the ears of corn on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:1-40.12.8 ; Mark 2:23-41.2.28 )

1 . on the second sabbath after the first ] Better, on the second-first sabbath . St Luke gives this unique note of time without a word to explain it, and scholars have not and probably never will come to an agreement as to its exact meaning. The only analogy to the word is the deuterodekate or second tenth in Jerome on Ezekiel 45:0 . Of the ten or more suggested explanations, omitting those which are wholly arbitrary and impossible, we may mention the following.

α . The first Sabbath of the second month (Wetstein).

β . The first Sabbath after the second day of the Passover (Scaliger, Ewald, De Wette, Neander, Keim, &c.).

γ . The first Sabbath of the second year in the Sabbatic cycle of seven years (Wieseler).

δ . The first Sabbath of the Ecclesiastical year . The Jewish year had two beginnings, the civil year began in Tisri (mid-September); the ecclesiastical year in Nisan (mid-March).

The first-first Sabbath may therefore have been a name given to the first Sabbath of the civil year in autumn; and second-first to the first Sabbath of the ecclesiastical year in spring (Cappell, Godet).

ε . The Pentecostal Sabbath the Paschal Sabbath being regarded as the protoproton or first-first (Corn, à Lapide).

These and similar explanations must be left as unsupported conjectures in the absence of any decisive trace of such Sabbatical nomenclature among the Jews. But we may remark that

(1) The reading itself cannot be regarded as absolutely certain, since it is omitted in א , B, L, and in several important versions, including the Syriac and Coptic. Hence of modern editors Tregelles and Meyer omit it; Lachmann and Alford put it in brackets. [Its insertion may then be conceivably accounted for by marginal annotations. Thus if a copyist put ‘first’ in the margin with the reference to the “ other ” Sabbath of 5:6 it would have been corrected by some succeeding copyist into ‘second’ with reference to 4:31; and the two may have been combined in hopeless perplexity. If it be said that this is unlikely, it seems at least equally unlikely that it should either wilfully or accidentally have been omitted if it formed part of the original text. And why should St Luke writing for Gentiles use without explanation a word to them perfectly meaningless and so highly technical that in all the folio volumes of Jewish literature there is not a single trace of it?]

(2) The exact discovery of what the word means is only important as a matter of archaeology. Happily there can be no question as to the time of year at which the incident took place. The narrative seems to imply that the ears which the disciples plucked and rubbed were ears of wheat not of barley . Now the first ripe sheaf of barley was offered at the Passover (in spring) and the first ripe wheat sheaf at Pentecost (fifty days later). Wheat would ripen earlier in the rich deep hollow of Gennesareth. In any case therefore the time of year was spring or early summer, and the Sabbath (whether the reading be correct or not) was probably some Sabbath in the month Nisan.

he went through the corn fields ] Comp. Matthew 12:1-40.12.8 ; Mark 2:23-41.2.28 . St Mark uses the curious expression that ‘ He went along through the corn fields ’ apparently in a path between two fields “ and His disciples began to make a way by plucking the corn ears .” All that we can infer from this is that Jesus was walking apart from His Apostles, and that He did not Himself pluck the corn.

plucked the ears of corn ] This shews their hunger and poverty, especially if the corn was barley. They were permitted by the Law to do this “When thou comest into the standing-corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand,” Deuteronomy 23:25 . St Matthew in his “ began to pluck” shews how eagerly and instantly the Pharisees clutched at the chance of finding fault.

2 . certain of the Pharisees ] On the Jewish sects see Excursus VI. As the chronological sequence of the incident is uncertain, these may be some of the spy-Pharisees who as His ministry advanced dogged His steps (Matthew 15:1 ; Mark 3:22 , Mark 7:1 ), in the base and demoralising desire to convict Him of heresy or violation of the Law. Perhaps they wished to see whether he would exceed the regulated Sabbath day’s journey of 2000 cubits (Exodus 16:29 ). We have already met with some of the carping criticisms dictated by their secret hate, 5:14, 21, 30.

Why do ye ] In St Mark the question is scornfully addressed to Jesus. “See why do they do on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”

that which is not lawful to do ] The point was this. Since the Law had said that the Jews were “to do no manner of work” on the Sabbath, the Oral Law had laid down thirty-nine principal prohibitions which were assigned to the authority of the Great Synagogue and which were called abhôth ‘fathers’ or chief rules. From these were deduced a vast multitude of toldôth ‘descendants’ or derivative rules. Now ‘reaping’ and ‘threshing’ on the sabbath day were forbidden by the abhôth ; and by the toldôth it was asserted that plucking corn-ears was a kind of reaping, and rubbing them a kind of threshing. But while they paid servile attention to these trivialities the Pharisees “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith,” Matthew 22:23 ). The vitality of these artificial notions among the Jews is extraordinary. Abarbanel relates that when in 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state ‘ religiously avoided the violation of their sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands .’ To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of grovelling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth!

3 . Have ye not read so much as this ] Rather, Did ye not even read this ? He answers them in one of their own formulae, but with a touch of irony at their ignorance, which we trace also in the “Did ye never read?” of St Mark; never though ye are Scribes and devote all your time to the Scriptures? Perhaps the reproving question may have derived an additional sting from the fact that the very passage which our Lord quoted (1 Samuel 21:1-9.21.6 ) had been read on that Sabbath as the Haphtarah of the day. The service for the day must have been over, because no meal was eaten till then. This fact does not however help us to determine which was the second-first Sabbath, because the present Jewish lectionary is of later date.

and they which were with him ] That the day on which this occurred was a Sabbath results from the fact that it was only on the Sabbath that the new shewbread was placed on the table, Leviticus 24:8 , Leviticus 24:9 .

4 . did take and eat ] St Mark says that this was “in the days of Abiathar the high priest.” The priest who actually gave the bread to David was Ahimelech, the father of Abiathar.

the shewbread ] Literally, ‘loaves of setting forth;’ “continual bread,” Numbers 4:7 . “Bread of the Face,” i. e. set before the Presence of God, Leviticus 24:6 , Leviticus 24:7 . Comp. “Angel of the Face” Leviticus 24:6-3.24.8 ; Exodus 25:30 , Exodus 29:33 . They were twelve unleavened loaves sprinkled with frankincense set on a little golden table.

which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone ] “It shall be Aaron’s and his sons: and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him,” Leviticus 24:9 . Thus David, their favourite saint and hero, had openly and fearlessly violated the letter of the Law with the full sanction of the High Priest, on the plea of necessity, in other words because mercy is better than sacrifice; and because the higher law of moral obligation must always supersede the lower law of ceremonial. This was a proof by way of fact from the Kethubim or sacred books ( Hagiographa ); in St Matthew our Lord adds a still more striking argument by way of principle from the Law itself. By its own provisions the Priests in the laborious work of offering sacrifices violated the Sabbath and yet were blameless. Hence the later Jews deduced the remarkable rule that “there is no sabbatism in the Temple,” (Numbers 28:9 ). And Jesus added “But I say to you there is something greater ( μεῖζον ) than the Temple here.” The appeal to their own practice is given in 14:5.

5 . The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath ] Rather, ‘Lord even of the Sabbath,’ though you regard the Sabbath as the most important command of the whole Law. In St Mark we have further, “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

This was one of no less than six great occasions on which the fury of the Pharisees had been excited by the open manner in which our Lord set aside as frivolous and unauthoritative the burdens which the Oral Law had attached to the Sabbath. The other instances are the healing of the cripple at Bethesda (John 5:1-43.5.16 ); the healing of the withered hand (Luke 6:1-42.6.11 ); of the blind man at Siloam (John 9:1-43.9.41 ); of the paralytic woman (Luke 13:14-42.13.17 ); and of the man with the dropsy (Luke 14:1-42.14.6 ). In laying His axe at the root of a proud and ignorant Sabbatarianism, He was laying His axe at the root of all that “miserable micrology” which they had been accustomed to take for religious life. They had turned the Sabbath from a holy delight into a revolting bondage. The Apocryphal Gospels are following a true tradition in the prominence which they give to Sabbath healing, as a charge against Him on His trial before the Sanhedrin.

In the famous Cambridge Manuscript (D), the Codex Bezae , there is here added the following passage: “ On the same day, seeing one working on the Sabbath, He said to him, O man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed: but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed, and a transgressor of the Law ”. This very remarkable addition cannot be accepted as genuine on the authority of a single MS., and can only be regarded as one of the agrapha dogmata , or ‘unrecorded traditional sayings’ of our Lord. The meaning of the story is that ‘if thy work is of faith, if thou art thoroughly persuaded in thy own mind thou art acting with true insight; but if thy work is not of faith, it is sin.’ See Romans 14:22 , Romans 14:23 ; 1 Corinthians 8:1 . What renders the incident improbable is that no Jew would dare openly to violate the Law by working on the Sabbath, an act which rendered him legally liable to be stoned. The anecdote, as Grotius thought, may have been written in the margin by some follower of Marcion, who rejected the inspiration of the Old Testament.

6 11. The Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

6 . into the synagogue ] Matthew 12:9-40.12.14 ; Mark 3:1-41.3.6 . None of the Evangelists enable us to decide on the time or place when the healing occurred.

there was a man whose right hand was withered ] Obviously he had come in the hope of being healed; and even this the Pharisees regarded as reprehensible, 13:14. The Gospel of the Ebionites adds that he was a stonemason, maimed by an accident, and that he implored Jesus to heal him, that he might not have to beg his bread (Jerome on Matthew 12:10 ).

7 . the scribes and Pharisees watched him ] 20:20. The followers of Shammai, at that epoch the most powerful of the Pharisaic Schools, were so strict about the Sabbath, that they held it a violation of the Law to tend the sick, or even to console them on that day. Hence what the Pharisees were waiting to see was whether He was going to side with them in their Sabbatic views, or with the more lax Sadducees, whom the people detested. If he did the latter, they thought that they could ruin the popularity of the Great Prophet. But in this, as in every other instance, (1) our Lord absolutely refuses to be guided by the popular orthodoxy of the hour, however tyrannous and ostensibly deduced from Scripture; and (2) ignores every consideration of party in order to appeal to principles .

8 . their thoughts ] Rather, their reasonings .

9 . I will ask you one thing ] Rather, I further ask you . Implying that He had already addressed some questions to their consciences on this subject, or perhaps because they had asked Him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ Matthew 12:10 .

to do good, or to do evil ] He was intending to work a miracle for good; they were secretly plotting to do harm, their object being, if possible, to put Him to death. They received this question in stolid silence. Mark 3:4 .

to save life ] Rather, a life .

10 . looking round about upon them all ] St Mark adds ‘with anger , being grieved at the callousness ( pôrôsin , Romans 11:25 ) of their hearts.’

Stretch forth thy hand ] Compare 1 K. 13:4.

11 . they were filled with madness ] Rather, unreasonableness . The word implies senselessness , the frenzy of obstinate prejudice. It admirably characterises the state of ignorant hatred which is disturbed in the fixed conviction of its own infallibility. (2 Timothy 3:9 .) The two first Sabbath miracles (4:35, 39) had excited no opposition, because none of these religious spies and heresy-hunters (20:20) were present.

communed ] Rather, began to commune . This public miracle and public refutation clinched their hatred against Him (Matthew 12:14 . Comp. John 11:53 ).

one with another ] And, St Mark adds, with the Herodians. This shews the extremity of their hate, for hitherto the Pharisees had regarded the Herodians as a half-apostate political party, more nearly allied to the Sadducees, and ready with them to sacrifice the true interests of their country and faith. St Matthew (12:14) says that they actually “held a council against Him.”

what they might do ] The form used what is called the Aeolic aorist implies extreme perplexity.

12 19. The Selection of the Twelve Apostles

12 . in those days ] wearied with their incessant espionage and opposition. Probably these two last incidents belong to a later period in the ministry, following the Sermon on the Mount (as in St Matthew) and the bright acceptable Galilaean year of our Lord’s work. In any case we have here, from 6:12 8:56, a splendid cycle of Messianic work in Galilee in the gladdest epoch of Christ’s ministry.

into a mountain ] Rather, “into the mountain,” with special reference to the Kurn Hattîn, or Horns of Hattîn, the traditional and almost certainly the actual scene of the Sermon on the Mount.

in prayer to God ] The expression used is peculiar. It is literally “in the prayer of God.” Hence some have supposed that it should be rendered “in the Prayer-House of God.” The word proseuchē meant in Greek not only ‘prayer,’ but also ‘ prayer-house ,’ as in the question to a poor person in Juvenal, “In what proseucha am I to look for you?” The proseuchae were merely walled spaces without roof, set apart for purposes of worship where there was no synagogue, as at Philippi (Acts 16:13 ). There is however here an insuperable difficulty in thus understanding the words; for proseuchae were generally, if not invariably, in close vicinity to running water (Jos. Antt. xiv. 10, § 23), for purposes of ritual ablution, nor do we ever hear of their being built on hills. On the other hand, if τὸ ὄρος mean only ‘the mountainous district,’ this objection is not fatal. For another instance of a night spent on a mountain in prayer, see Matthew 14:23 .

13 . he chose twelve ] doubtless with a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.

whom also he named apostles ] The word means primarily ‘messengers,’ as in Philippians 2:25 . It is a translation of the Hebrew Sheloochim , who often acted as emissaries of the Synagogue (comp. Mark 3:14 , ἵνα ἀποστέλλαὐτούς ). In the other Gospels it only occurs in this sense in Mark 6:30 ; Matthew 10:2 ; and only once in the LXX., 1 K. 14:6. It has two usages in the N. T., one general (John 13:16 ; Romans 16:7 ; Hebrews 3:1 ), and one special (1 Corinthians 9:1 and passim). The call of the Apostles was now necessitated both by the widespread fame of our Lord, and the deadly animosity already kindled against Him. Their training soon became the most important part of His work on earth.

14 . Simon ] Lists of the twelve Apostles are given in four passages of Scripture in the following order:

Matthew 10:2-40.10.4 . Mark 3:16-41.3.19 . Luke 6:14-42.6.16 . Acts 1:13 . Simon Simon Simon Peter Andrew James Andrew James James John James John John Andrew John Andrew Philip Philip Philip Philip Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Thomas Thomas Matthew Matthew Bartholomew Matthew Thomas Thomas Matthew James of Alphaeus James of Alphaeus James of Alphaeus James of Alphaeus Lebbaeus Thaddaeus Simon Zelotes Simon Zelotes Simon the Kananite Simon the Kananite Jude of James Jude of James Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot In reading these four independent lists several facts are remarkable.

i. Each list falls into three tetrads, and the last two tetrads are arranged in slightly varying pairs. “The Apostolic College was formed of three concentric circles each less closely intimate with Jesus than the last.” Godet.

ii. In each tetrad the names refer to the same persons though the order is different.

iii. In each list the first of each tetrad is the same viz. Simon, Philip, and James son of Alphaeus; not as ‘supreme among inferior, but as first among equals.’

iv. In each list Simon stands first; and Judas Iscariot last, as the ‘son of perdition.’

v. Not only do the Apostles seem to be named in the order of their eminence and nearness to Christ, but the first four seem to stand alone (in the Acts the first four are separated by “and;” the rest are ranged in pairs). The first four were the eklektôn eklektoteroi the chosen of the chosen; the ecclesiola in ecclesia . Andrew, who is named last in St Mark and the Acts, though belonging to the inmost band of Apostles (Mark 13:3 ) and though the earliest of them all (John 1:40 ), was yet less highly honoured than the other three (who are the θεολογικώτατοι at the healing of Jairus’s daughter, Mark 5:37 ; at the Transfiguration, Matthew 17:1 ; and in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:37 ). He seems to have been a link of communication between the first and second tetrads (John 12:22 , John 6:8 ).

vi. The first five Apostles were of Bethsaida; and all the others seem to have been Galilaeans with the single exception of Judas Iscariot, who belonged to a Jewish town (see vs. 16). The only Greek names are those of Philip and Andrew (see John 12:21 , John 12:22 ). At this time however many Jews bore Greek names.

vii. In the second tetrad it may be regarded as certain that Bartholomew (the son of Tolmai) is the disciple whom St John calls Nathanael. He may possibly have been Philip’s brother. St Matthew puts his own name last, and adds the title of reproach the tax-gatherer . In the two other Evangelists he precedes St Thomas. The name Thomas merely means ‘a twin’ (Didymus), and one tradition says that he was a twin-brother of Matthew, and that his name too was Jude (Euseb. H. E . i. 13).

viii. In the third tetrad we find one Apostle with three names. His real name was Jude, but as there was already one Jude among the Apostles, and as it was the commonest of Jewish names, and as there was also a Jude who was one of the ‘brethren of the Lord,’ he seems to have two surnames Lebbaeus , from lebh , ‘heart,’ and Thaddaeus (another form of Theudas, Acts 5:36 ), from Thad , ‘bosom’ possibly, as some have conjectured, from the warmth and tenderness of his disposition. (Very few follow Clemens of Alexandria and Ewald in trying to identify Lebbaeus and Levi.) This disciple is called by St Luke (viz. here and in Acts 1:13 ) “Jude of James,” or “James’s Jude,” and the English Version supplies the word “brother.” There is however no more decisive reason to supply “brother” (which is at any rate a very unusual ellipse) than in the former verse, where James is called “James of Alphaeus” ( Chalpai , Klôpa, John 19:25 , perhaps also Kleopas (24:18), since Jews often Graecised the form of their names). This three-named disciple was probably a son of James, and therefore a grandson of Alphaeus, and a nephew of Matthew and Thomas. James the son of Alphaeus is sometimes called “ the Less ;” but this seems to be a mistaken rendering of ὁ μικρὸς (Mark 15:40 ), which means ‘the short of stature.’ The other James is never called ‘the Great.’

ix. Simon Zelotes is called by St Matthew ‘the Kananite’ ( ὁ Κανανίτης ), or according to the better readings ‘the Kananaean.’ The word does not mean “Canaanite,” as our Version incorrectly gives it, nor yet ‘inhabitant of Kana in Galilee,’ but means the same thing as ‘the Zealot,’ from Kineâh , ‘zeal.’ He had therefore once belonged to the sect of terrible fanatics who thought any deed of violence justifiable for the recovery of national freedom, and had been one of the wild followers of Judas the Gaulonite. (Jos. B. J. iv. 3, § 9, and passim.) Their name was derived from 1 Macc. 2:50, where the dying Mattathias, father of Judas Maccabaeus, says to the Assidaeans ( Chasidim , i. e. ‘all such as were voluntarily devoted to the law’) “Be ye zealous for the Law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers” (comp. 2 Macc. 4:2). It shews our Lord’s divine wisdom and fearless universality of love that he should choose for Apostles two persons who had once been at such deadly opposition as a tax-gatherer and a zealot.

x. For “Judas Iscariot who also betrayed him” St Luke uses the milder description, “ which also was the traitor ,” or rather who also became a traitor . Iscariot has nothing to do with askara , ‘strangulation,’ or sheker , ‘lie,’ but is in all probability Eesh Kerioth , ‘man of Kerioth,’ just as Istôbos stands in Josephus ( Antt. vii. 6, § 1) for ‘man of Tôb.’ Kerioth (Joshua 15:25 ) is perhaps Kuryetein , ten miles from Hebron, in the southern border of Judah. If the reading “Iscariot” is right in John 6:71 , John 13:26 ( א , B, C, G, L), as applied also to Simon Zelotes, then, since Judas is called “son of Simon” (John 6:71 ), the last pair of Apostles were father and son. If Judas Iscariot had ever shared the wild Messianic patriotism of his father it would partly account for the recoil of disgust and disappointment which helped to ruin his earthly mind when he saw that he had staked all in the cause of one who was rejected and despised.

xi. It is a deeply interesting fact, if it be a fact (and although it cannot be made out with certainty because it depends on data which are conjectural, and on tradition which is liable to error it is still far from improbable) that so many of the Apostles were related to each other. Simon and Andrew were brothers; James and John were brothers, and, if Salome was a sister of the Virgin (comp. Mark 15:40 , John 19:25 ), they were first cousins of our Lord; Philip and Bartholomew may have been brothers; Thomas, Matthew, and James were brothers and first cousins of our Lord; Lebbaeus, or ‘Jude of James,’ was His second cousin; Simon Zelotes and Judas Iscariot were father and son. Thus no less than half of the Apostles would have been actually related to our Lord, although His brethren did not believe on Him (John 7:5 ). The difficulty however of being sure of these combinations rises in part from the paucity of Jewish names, and therefore the extreme commonness of Simon, Jude, James, &c.

xii. The separate incidents in which individual Apostles are mentioned are as follows:

Peter: Prominent throughout; 12:41, 22:31; Matthew 16:16 , Matthew 16:17 :24, Matthew 16:19 :27, &c.

James, Both prominent throughout. Boanerges; calling down fire; petition for precedence, &c. John: James was the first Apostolic martyr; John the last survivor (Acts 12:2 ; John 21:22 ).

Andrew: the first disciple, John 1:40 ; with Jesus on Olivet, Mark 13:3 .

Philip: “Follow me,” John 1:43 ; his frankness, John 6:7 ; the Greeks, id. 12:22; “shew us the Father,” id. 14:8.

Bartholomew: “an Israelite indeed,” John 1:47 ; of Cana, John 21:2 .

Matthew: his call, 5:27, 28.

Thomas: despondent yet faithful, John 11:16 , John 14:5 , John 20:25 , John 21:2 .

James son of Alphaeus: no incident.

Jude son of James: his perplexed question, John 14:22 .

Simon Zelotes: no incident.

Judas Iscariot: the betrayal and ultimate suicide.

15 . called Zelotes ] Rather, who was called the Zealot .

16 . which also was the traitor ] Rather, who also becamé a traitor . “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70 ; 1 John 2:17 ; typified by Ahithophel, Psalms 41:9 . If it be asked why our Lord chose him, the answer is nowhere given to us, but we may reverently conjecture that Judas Iscariot, like all human beings, had in him germs of good which might have ripened into holiness, if he had resisted his besetting sin, and not flung away the battle of his life. It is clear that John (at least) among the Apostles had early found him out (John 12:6 ), and that he had received from our Lord more than one solemn warning (12:15, 18:25, &c.).

17 . And he came down with them, and stood in the plain ] Rather, And descending with them, He stopped on a level place . Topos pedinos also occurs in Isaiah 13:2 , LXX. If it be thus rendered there is no discrepancy between St Matthew, who says that “He went up into the mountain, and when He sat down His disciples approached Him” (Matthew 5:1 ). I believe that St Luke here meant to give such portions of the Sermon on the Mount as suited his design. Combining the two narratives with what we know of the scene we see that what occurred was as follows. The previous evening Jesus went to one of the peaks of Kurn Hattîn (withdrawing Himself from His disciples, who doubtless bivouacked at no great distance), and spent the night in prayer. In the morning He called His disciples and chose Twelve Apostles. Then going with them to some level spot, either the flat space (called in Greek plax ) between the two peaks of the hill, or some other spot near at hand, He preached His sermon primarily to His disciples who sat immediately around Him, but also to the multitudes. There is no need to assume two discourses one esoteric and one exoteric, &c. At the same time there is of course no difficulty in supposing that our Lord may have uttered the same discourse, or parts of the same discourse, more than once, varying it as occasion required.

out of all Judea ] St Matthew adds Galilee (which was to a great extent Greek), Decapolis, and Peraea; St Mark also mentions Idumaea. Thus there were Jews, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Arabs among our Lord’s hearers.

19 . to touch him ] Compare 8:44; Matthew 14:36 ; Mark 5:30 .

20 26. Beatitudes and Woes

This section of St Luke, from 6:20 to 9:6, resembles in style the great Journey Section, 9:51 18:34.

20 . Blessed be ye poor ] Rather, Blessed are the poor . The makarioi is a Hebrew expression ( ashrî ), Psalms 1:1 . St Matthew adds “in spirit” (comp. Isaiah 66:2 , “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word”). But (1) St Luke gives the address of Christ to the poor whose very presence shewed that they were His poor and had come to seek Him; and (2) the Evangelist seems to have been impressed with the blessings of a faithful and humble poverty in itself (comp. James 2:5 ; 1 Corinthians 1:26-46.1.29 ), and loves to record those parts of our Lord’s teaching which were especially ‘the Gospel to the poor’ (see 1:53, 2:7, 6:20, 12:15 34, 16:9 25). See Introd. p. 27.

“Come ye who find contentment’s very core

In the light store

And daisied path

Of poverty,

And know how more

A small thing that the righteous hath

Availeth, than the ungodly’s riches great.”

Cov. Patmore.

“This is indeed an admirably sweet friendly beginning … for He does not begin like Moses … with command and threatening, but in the friendliest possible way with free, enticing, alluring and amiable promises.” Luther.

for yours is the kingdom of God ] St Matthew uses the expression “the kingdom of the heavens.” The main differences between St Matthew’s and St Luke’s record of the Sermon on the Mount are explained by the different objects and readers of these Gospels; but in both it is the Inaugural Discourse of the Kingdom of Heaven.

(i) St Matthew writes for the Jews , and much that he records has special bearing on the Levitic Law (5:17 38), which St Luke naturally omits as less intelligible to Gentiles. Other parts here omitted are recorded by St Luke later on (11:9 13; Matthew 7:7-40.7.11 ).

(ii) St Matthew, presenting Christ as Lawgiver and King, gives the Sermon more in the form of a Code . Kurn Hattîn is for him the new and more blessed Sinai; St Luke gives it more in the form of a direct homily (‘yours,’ &c., not ‘theirs,’ 6:20; Matthew 5:3 ; and compare 6:46, 47 with Matthew 7:21 , Matthew 7:24 ).

(iii) Much of the Sermon in St Matthew is occupied with the contrast between the false righteousness the pretentious orthodoxy and self-satisfied ceremonialism of the Pharisees, and the true righteousness of the Kingdom which is mercy and love. Hence much of his report is occupied with Spirituality as the stamp of true religion, in opposition to formalism, while St Luke deals with Love in the abstract .

(iv) Thus in St Matthew we see mainly the Law of Love as the contrast between the new and the old; in St Luke the Law of Love as the central and fundamental idea of the new.

For a sketch of the Sermon on the Mount, mainly in St Matthew, I may refer to my Life of Christ , i. 259 264. The arrangement of the section in St Luke is not obvious. Some see in it the doctrine of happiness; the doctrine of justice; the doctrine of wisdom; or (1) the salutation of love (6:20 26); the precepts of love (27 38); the impulsion of love (39 49). These divisions are arbitrary. Godet more successfully arranges it thus: (1) The members of the new society (20 26; Matthew 5:1-40.5.12 ); (2) The fundamental principle of the new society (27 45; Matthew 5:13-40.7.12 ); (3) The judgment of God on which it rests (46 49; Matthew 7:13-40.7.27 ): in other words (1) the appeal; (2) the principles; (3) the sanction.

21 . Blessed are ye that hunger now ] Comp. 1:53; Psalms 107:9 . St Matthew here also brings out more clearly that it is the beatitude of spiritual hunger “after righteousness.”

ye shall laugh ] See 2 Corinthians 6:10 ; Revelation 21:4 .

22 . hate you … separate you … reproach … cast out your name as evil ] We have here four steps of persecution increasing in virulence: (1) General hatred, (2) Exclusion from the synagogue, a lesser excommunication, viz. the Nezîphah or exclusion for 30 days, or Niddouî for 90 days (Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils , i. 183; John 9:34 . Hence aphorismos means ‘ excommunication ’), (3) Violent slander, (4) The Cherem, Shammata , or greater excommunication, permanent expulsion from the Synagogue and Temple (John 16:2 ). The Jews pretended that our Lord was thus excommunicated to the blast of 400 ram’s horns by Joshua Ben Perachiah (Wagenseil, Sota , p. 1057), and was only crucified forty days after because no witness came forward in His favour.

as evil ] ‘Malefic’ or ‘execrable superstition’ was the favourite description of Christianity among Pagans (Tac. Ann. xv. 44; Suet. Nero , 16), and Christians were charged with incendiarism, cannibalism, and every infamy. (The student will find such heathen views of Christianity collected in my Life of St Paul , Exc. xv. Vol. i.)

for the Son of man’s sake ] The hatred of men is not in itself a beatitude, because there is a general conscience which condemns certain forms of wickedness, and a man may justly incur universal execration. But the world also hates those who run counter to its pleasures and prejudices, and in that case hatred may be the tribute which vice pays to holiness; 1 Peter 2:19 , 1 Peter 3:14 . “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;” John 17:14 . Still a man may well tremble when he is enjoying throughout life a beatitude of benediction. And ‘the world’ by no means excludes the so-called ‘religious world,’ which has hated with a still fiercer hatred, and exposed to a yet deadlier martyrdom, some of its greatest prophets and teachers. Not a few of the great and holy men enumerated in the next note fell a victim to the fury of priests. Our Lord was handed over to crucifixion by the unanimous hatred of the highest religious authorities of His day.

On the title Son of Man, which occurs in all the four Gospels, see p. 119. In using it Christ “chooses for Himself that title which definitely presents His work in relation to humanity in itself, and not primarily in relation to God or to the chosen people, or even to humanity as fallen.” Canon Westcott (on John 1:51 ) considers that it was not distinctively a Messianic title, and doubts its having been derived from Daniel 7:13 . “The Son of God was made a Son of Man that you who were sons of men might be made sons of God.” Aug. Serm. 121. As the “Second Adam” Christ is the representative of the race (1 Corinthians 15:45 ) in its highest ideal; as “the Lord from Heaven” He is the Promise of its future exaltation.

23 . Rejoice ye in that day ] See Acts 5:41 . “We glory in tribulation;” Romans 5:3 ; James 1:2 , James 1:3 ; Colossians 1:24 ; Hebrews 11:26 . They accepted with joy that ‘ignominy of Christ’ which made the very name of ‘Christian’ a term of execration; 1 Peter 4:14 , 1 Peter 4:16 .

in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets ] Elijah and his contemporaries, 1 K. 19:10. Hanani imprisoned by Asa, 2 Chronicles 16:10 . Micaiah imprisoned, 1 K. 22:27. Zechariah stoned by Joash, 2 Chronicles 24:20 , 2 Chronicles 24:21 . Urijah slain by Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 26:23 . Jeremiah imprisoned, smitten and put in the stocks, Jeremiah 32:38 . Amos slandered, expelled, and perhaps beaten to death (Amos 7:0 ). Isaiah (according to tradition) sawn asunder, Hebrews 11:37 , &c. See the same reproach against the Jews in Hebrews 11:36-58.11.38 ; Acts 7:52 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:14 , 1 Thessalonians 2:15 .

24 . But woe ] While sin lasts, there must still be woes over against Beatitudes, as Ebal stands for ever opposite to Gerizim. In St Matthew also we find (Matthew 23:0 ) eight woes as well as eight Beatitudes. See too Jeremiah 17:5-24.17.8 , but there the “cursed” precedes the “blessed.”

woe unto you that are rich ] The ‘woe!’ is not necessarily or wholly denunciatory; it is also the cry of compassion, and of course it only applies not to a Chuzas or a Nicodemus or a Joseph of Arimathaea, but to those rich who are not poor in spirit, but trust in riches (Mark 10:24 ), or are not rich towards God (12:21) and have not got the true riches (16:11; Amos 6:1 ; James 5:1 ). Observe the many parallels between the Epistle of St James and the Sermon on the Mount, James 1:2 , James 1:4 , James 1:5 , James 1:9 , James 1:20 , James 1:2 :13, James 1:14 , James 1:17 , James 1:18 , James 1:4 :4, James 1:10 , James 1:11 , James 1:5 :2, James 1:10 , James 1:12 .

ye have received your consolation ] Rather, ye have to the full , Philippians 4:18 ; comp. 16:25, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst good things.”

25 . you that are full ] “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread ,” Ezekiel 16:49 .

Woe unto you that laugh now ] Compare Ecclesiastes 2:2 , Ecclesiastes 2:7 :6; Proverbs 14:13 .

26 . Woe unto you ] Omit unto you with א , A, B, E, &c.

when all men shall speak well of you ] “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” James 4:4 . “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own,” John 15:19 .

for so did their fathers to the false prophets ] “The prophets prophesy falsely … and my people love to have it so,” Jeremiah 5:31 . The prophets of Baal and of Asherah, honoured by Jezebel, 1 K. 18:19, 22. Zedekiah, son of Chenaanah, supported by Ahab, 1 K. 22:11. “Speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits,” Isaiah 30:10 .

27 38. The Laws of Love and Mercy

[27 30. The manifestations of Love. 31. Its formula. 32 35. Its distinctiveness. 35 36. Its model. 37 45. Love as the principle of all judgment. Godet.]

27 . Love your enemies ] This had been distinctly the spirit of the highest part of the Law and the Old Testament. Exodus 23:4 , “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.” Proverbs 25:21 , “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat.” Yet in many passages it had practically been said “to men of old time,” at any rate in some cases , “thou shalt hate thine enemy,” Deuteronomy 7:2 , Deuteronomy 7:23 :6; 1 Chronicles 20:3 ; 2 Samuel 12:31 ; Psalms 137:8 , Psalms 137:9 , &c. On these passages the fierce fanaticism of the Pharisaic Jews, after the Exile, had so exclusively fed, that we find the Talmud ringing with precepts of hatred the most bitter against all Gentiles, and the ancients had, not unnaturally, been led to the conclusion that detestation of all but Jews was a part of the Jewish religion (“adversus omnes alios hostile odium,” Tac. Hist. v. 5; Juv. Sat. xiv. 103).

do good to them which hate you ] See the precept beautifully enforced in Romans 12:17 , Romans 12:19-45.12.21 .

28 . pray for them which despitefully use you ] The Greek word implies the coarsest insults, and is found in 1 Peter 3:16 . St Luke alone records our Lord’s prayer for His murderers, 23:34, from which St Stephen learnt his, Acts 7:60 .

29 . offer also the other ] The general principle “resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39 ; 1 Corinthians 6:7 ; 1 Peter 2:19-60.2.23 ) impressed for ever on the memory and conscience of mankind by a striking paradox. That it is only meant as a paradox in its literal sense is shewn by the fact that our Lord Himself, while most divinely true to its spirit , did not act on the letter of it (John 18:22 , John 18:23 ). The remark of a good man on reading the Sermon on the Mount, “either this is not true, or we are no Christians,” need not be correct of any of us. The precepts are meant, St Augustine said, more “ ad praeparationem cordis quae intus est ” than “ ad opus quod in aperto fit ;” but still, the fewer exceptions we make the better, and the more absolutely we apply the spirit of the rules, the fewer difficulties shall we find about the letter.

thy cloke … thy coat ] The himation was the upper garment, the shawl-like abba ; the chitôn was the tunic. See on 3:11.

30 . Give to every man that asketh of thee ] Literally, “ be giving ,” implying a habit , not an instant act. Here again we have a broad, general principle of unselfishness and liberality safely left to the common sense of mankind, Deuteronomy 15:7 , Deuteronomy 15:8 , Deuteronomy 15:9 . The spirit of our Lord’s precept is now best fulfilled by not giving to every man that asks, because in the altered circumstances of the age such indiscriminate almsgiving would only be a check to industry, and a premium on imposture, degradation, and vice. By ‘giving,’ our Lord meant ‘conferring a boon;’ but mere careless giving now, so far from conferring a boon, perpetuates a curse and inflicts an injury. The spirit of the precept is large-handed but thoughtful charity. Love must sometimes violate the letter as the only possible way of observing the spirit (Matthew 15:26 , Matthew 20:23 ).

31 . as ye would that men should do to you ] The golden rule of Christianity of which our Lord said that it was “the Law and the Prophets,” Matthew 7:12 . The modern ‘Altruism’ and ‘ vivre pour autrui ,’ though pompously enunciated as the bases of a new religion, are but a mutilated reproduction of this.

32 . for sinners also love those that love them ] Where St Matthew (5:46, 47), writing for Jews, uses the term “tax-gatherers” or ‘Gentile persons’ ( ethnikoi ), St Luke naturally substitutes the nearest equivalents of those words in this connexion, because he is writing for Gentiles. Our Lord meant that our standard must rise above the ordinary dead level of law, habit, custom, which prevail in the world.

34 . to receive as much again ] From this we see that ‘interest’ and ‘usury’ are not here contemplated at all.

35 . hoping for nothing again ] See Psalms 15:5 , with the Rabbinic comment that God counts it as universal obedience if any one lends without interest. The words may also mean despairing in nothing , or (if μηδένʼ be read) driving no one to despair .

he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil ] See the exquisite addition in Matthew 5:45 .

36 . Be ye therefore merciful ] Rather, Become , or Prove yourselves merciful (omit οὖν , א , B, D, L).

merciful ] St Matthew has “ perfect ,” 5:48; but that there is no essential difference between the two Evangelists we may see in such expressions as “the Father of Mercies ,” 2 Corinthians 1:3 ; “The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,” James 5:11 ; “Put on therefore as the elect of God … bowels of mercies, kindness,” Colossians 3:12 ; Isaiah 30:18 . “God can only be our ideal in His moral attributes, of which Love is the centre.” Van Oosterzee.

“It is an attribute to God Himself,

And earthly power doth then shew likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice.”


37 . Judge not ] For comment read Romans 2:1-45.2.3 , Romans 2:14 :10, “Why dost thou judge thy brother?… for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;” 1 Corinthians 4:3-46.4.5 , 1 Corinthians 4:13 , and the Lord’s prayer; James 2:13 , “he shall have judgment without mercy that hath shewed no mercy.” Hence a “ righteous judgment” of others is not forbidden, so long as it be made in a forbearing and tender spirit, John 7:24 .

forgive, and ye shall be forgiven ] For comment see the Parable of the Debtors, Matthew 18:23-40.18.35 .

38 . into your bosom ] Pockets were unknown to the ancients. All that was necessary was carried in the fold of the robe (Heb. Cheyk , Psalms 35:13 , &c.; Lat. sinus ) or in the girdle.

with the same measure that ye mete ] A proverb almost verbally identical with this is found in the Talmud (Duke’s Rabbin. Blumenlese , p. 162), but it must be remembered that the earliest parts of the Talmud were not committed to writing till more than two centuries after Christ, and long before that time His sayings may have been ‘in the air,’ i. e. they may have passed unconsciously into the store of the national wisdom even among His enemies.

39 45. Sincerity. Four Comparisons

39 . Can the blind lead the blind ?] Matthew 15:14 .Proverbs 19:27 , “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err.” St Paul taunts the Jew with professing to be “a guide of the blind,” Romans 2:19 . St Luke calls this “a parable” in the broader sense (see on 4:23); and in this Gospel the Sermon thus ends with four vivid ‘parables’ or similes taken from the sights of daily life blind leaders of blind; the mote and the beam; good and bad fruit; the two houses.

40 . every one that is perfect shall be as his master ] Rather, who has been perfected , 2 Timothy 3:17 . A favourite quotation of St John’s, 13:16, 15:20. See Matthew 10:25 .

41 . beholdest thou the mote ] The hypocrite sees ( blepei ) at the slightest glance the mote in his brother’s eye; but not the most careful inspection enables him to observe ( katanoein ) the very obvious beam in his own eye. The word mote is in the original karphos , a stalk or chip, and this is also the idea of mote . Thus in Dutch mot is dust of wood ; in Spanish mota is a flue on cloth.

the beam ] The entire illustration is Jewish, and was used to express impatience of just reproof ( Babha Bathra , f. 15. 2) so that ‘mote’ and ‘beam’ became proverbial for little and great faults. The proverb also implies, ‘How can you see others’ faults properly with a beam in the depth of your eye ( ἔλβαλεἐκ , Matthew 7:5 )? how dare you condemn when you are so much worse?’ Comp. Chaucer ( Reeve’s Prologue ),

“He can wel in myn eye see a stalke

But in his owne he can nought seen a balke.”

42 . Thou hypocrite ] Romans 2:1 , “Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” “If we condemn others when we are worse than they, we are like bad trees pretending to bear good fruit.” Bengel.

44 . do not gather figs ] The simile might have been illustrated by pointing to one of the common Eastern gardens or orchards with its festooning vines and fig-trees just beyond the rough hedges of prickly pear.

45 . of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh ] “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?” Matthew 12:34 ; “the vile person will speak villany,” Isaiah 32:6 .

46 49. False and true Foundations

46 . why call ye me, Lord, Lord ] “If I be a master, where is my fear, saith the Lord of hosts?” Malachi 1:6 . Painful comments are supplied by the language of two parables, Matthew 25:11 , Matthew 25:12 ; Luke 13:25 .

47 . and doeth them ] John 13:17 . “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,” James 1:22 .

48 . he is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock ] The E.V. here loses all the picturesque force of the original. Rather, he is like a man building a house, who dug, and kept deepening, and laid a foundation on the rock . The rock is Christ and the teaching of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4 ). Whether tested by flood, or by fire (1 Corinthians 3:11-46.3.15 ), only the genuine building stands. In another sense, too, “the wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand,” Proverbs 12:7 .

the flood ] Rather, an inundation ; the sudden rush of a spait.

for it was founded upon a rock ] Rather, for it had been founded upon the rock . In some MSS. ( א , L) we find, instead of this clause, “ because it was well built .”

49 . upon the earth ] In St Matthew, more graphically, “ upon the sand ,” e. g. the sand of superficial intellectual acceptance.

it fell ] Rather, it fell in a heap , reading sunepesen .

the ruin ] Literally, “ the breach .”

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 6". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.