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Ch. 8:1 3. The Ministering Women
1 . And it came to pass afterward ] The expression marks a new phase, a new departure, in Christ’s mode of action. Hitherto He had made Capernaum His head-quarters; regarded it as “His own city,” and not gone to any great distance from it. At this period the exact beginning of which is only vaguely marked He began a wider range of missions.
shewing the glad tidings ] The Baptist had preached ‘repentance’ as the preparation for the Kingdom: our Lord preached of the Kingdom itself, and this was ‘glad tidings,’ because the Kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17 .
2 . certain women ] This most remarkable circumstance is prominently mentioned by St Luke alone, though alluded to in Matthew 27:55 , Matthew 27:56 ; Mark 15:41 . It accords alike with the probability that some of his peculiar sources of information had been derived from women; and with the certainty that he is fond of dwelling on the graciousness and tenderness of Jesus even to a class so much despised and neglected as Eastern women. See Introd. p. 26. At an earlier period (John 4:27 ) the disciples had been amazed to see Jesus even talking with a woman.
Mary called Magdalene ] i. e. Mary, who to distinguish her from numerous others who bore that very common name (Miriam), was known from her native place as Mary of Magdala. We have already seen that, as far as tradition is concerned, we cannot be certain that the Christian world is right in generally identifying her with ‘the sinner’ of the last chapter. Origen rejects the identification; St Ambrose, St Augustine, and St Jerome are doubtful. The identification is first confidently accepted by Gregory the Great (died a. d. 604). There is nothing however to disprove the fact. In the earlier scene her name might well have been suppressed from the spirit of loving and delicate reticence. The locality of the scene, and the stage of the ministry at which she is introduced, agree with the supposition, as well as the intense absorbing affection of one who “loved much.”
out of whom went seven devils ] St Mark (16:9) uses a similar expression. Some have thought that this excludes the possibility of the life indicated by the words “a sinner in the city.” On the contrary it agrees well with it. Early Christian writers see in the “many sins” (7:47) a reference which accords with, if it be not the same as, “seven devils,” and that this may be the meaning is quite certain from 11:26. Apart from the general question as to demoniac possession in particular cases, it is quite certain that Jewish colloquial usage adopted the expression to describe many forms of disease (as for instance hydrophobia, epilepsy, &c.), and many forms of sin (as drunkenness, &c.). The Talmudists (as we have seen) have many wild stories to tell of Mary of Magdala, but they agree in describing her as a flagrant sinner rather than as a demoniac.
3 . Joanna ] She is mentioned only in 24:10, but had apparently been healed of some infirmity.
the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward ] The court of Antipas was well aware of the ministry and claims of Jesus. Not only had John the Baptist been a familiar figure there, but Manaen, Herod’s foster-brother, early became a Christian (Acts 13:1 ), and whether Chuzas be the courtier ( basilikos , E. V. ‘nobleman’) of John 4:46 or not, that courtier could only have been in the retinue of Antipas, and must have made known the healing of his son by Jesus. The word epitropos , ‘administrator,’ conveys the impression of a higher rank than steward ( oikonomos ). The Rabbis adopted the word in Hebrew letters, and said that Obadiah was Ahab’s epitropos . Manaen at Antioch was perhaps the source of St Luke’s special knowledge about the Herodian family.
Susanna ] The name means ‘Lily.’
many others ] See Matthew 27:55 .
which ministered unto him of their substance ] or ‘to them ,’ B, D, F, G, H, &c. This notice is deeply interesting as throwing light on the otherwise unsolved problem of the means of livelihood possessed by Jesus and His Apostles. They had a common purse which sufficed not only for their own needs but for those of the poor (John 13:29 ). The Apostles had absolutely forsaken their daily callings, but we may suppose that some of them (like Matthew and the sons of the wealthier fisherman Zebedee) had some small resources of their own, and here we see that these women, some of whom (as tradition says of Mary of Magdala) were rich, helped to maintain them. It must also be borne in mind (1) that the needs of an Oriental are very small. A few dates, a little parched corn, a draught of water, a few figs or grapes plucked from the roadside trees, suffice him; and in that climate he can sleep during most of the year in the open air wrapped up in the same outer garment which serves him for the day. Hence the maintenance of a poor man in Palestine is wholly different from the standard of maintenance required in such countries as ours with their many artificial needs. And yet (2) in spite of this our Lord was so poor as to be homeless (9:58) and without the means of even paying the small Temple-tribute of a didrachm (about 1 s . 6 d .), which was demanded from every adult Jew. Matthew 17:24 ; 2 Corinthians 8:9 .
4 15. The Parable of the Sower
4 . when much people were gathered together ] Rather, were coming together . Our Lord, though ready at all times to utter the most priceless truths even to one lonely and despised listener, yet wisely apportioned ends to means, and chose the assembling of a large multitude for the occasion of a new departure in His style of teaching.
and were come to him out of every city ] Rather, and (a multitude) of those throughout every city resorting to Him . A comparison of this Parable and the details respecting its delivery, as preserved in each of the Synoptists (Matthew 13:2-13 ; Mark 4:1-20 ), ought alone to be decisive as to the fact that the three Evangelists did not use each other’s narratives , and did not draw from the same written source such as the supposed Proto-Marcus of German theorists. The oral or written sources which they consulted seem to have been most closely faithful in all essentials, but they differed in minute details and expressions as all narratives do. From St Matthew (13:1) we learn that Jesus had just left “the house,” perhaps that of Peter at Capernaum; and therefore the place which He chose for His first Parable was probably the strip of bright hard sand on the shore of the Lake at Bethsaida. Both St Matthew and St Mark tell us that (doubtless, as on other occasions, to avoid the pressure of the crowd) He got on one of the boats by the lake-side and preached from thence.
by a parable ] St Luke here only reports the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation. St Mark adds that of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26-29 ), and that of the grain of mustard seed (30 32; Luke 13:18-21 ). St Matthew (13:24 53) gives his memorable group of seven Parables: the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the Hid Treasure, the Pearl, the Drag-net. This is no doubt due to subjective grouping. Our Lord would not bewilder and distract by mere multiplicity of teachings, but taught “as they were able to hear it” (Mark 4:33 ). ‘Parable’ is derived from paraballo ‘I place beside’ in order to compare.
A Parable is a pictorial or narrative exhibition of some spiritual or moral truth, by means of actual and not fanciful elements of comparison. It differs from a fable by moving solely within the bounds of the possible and by aiming at the illustration of deeper truths; from a simile in its completer and often dramatic development, as also in its object; from an allegory in not being identical with the truth illustrated. The moral objects which our Lord had in view are explained below (vs. 10), but we may notice here the unapproachable superiority of our Lord’s Parables to those of all other teachers. Parables are found scattered throughout the literature of the world. They abound in the poems and sacred books of later religions (Ecclus. 1:25, “Parables of knowledge are in the treasures of wisdom,”) and they have been frequently adopted in later days. But “never man spake like this Man,” and no Parables have ever touched the heart and conscience of mankind in all ages and countries like those of Christ. “He taught them by Parables under which were hid mysterious senses, which shined through their veil, like a bright sun through an eye closed with a thin eyelid.” Jer. Taylor. For Old Testament parables see 2 Samuel 12:1-7 ; Ecclesiastes 9:14-16 ; Isaiah 28:23-29 . St Luke is especially rich in Parables. The word ‘parable’ sometimes stands for the Hebrew mashal ‘a proverb’ (4:23; 1 Samuel 10:12 , 1 Samuel 24:13 ); sometimes for a rhythmic prophecy (Numbers 23:7 ) or dark saying (Psalms 78:2 ; Proverbs 1:6 ); and sometimes for a comparison (Mark 13:28 ).
5 . A sower went out ] Rather, The sower ; as also the rock, the thorns. St Mark (4:3) preserves for us the graphic detail that Jesus prefaced this new method of teaching by the one emphatic word “ Hearken !” as though to prepare them for something unusual and memorable.
some fell by the way side ] The nature of the land in the plain of Gennesareth would, as Dean Stanley noticed ( Sin. and Palest . p. 496), and as many have subsequently remarked, furnish an immediate illustration of the words. In the fields close to the shore may be seen the hard beaten paths into which no seed can penetrate; the flights of innumerable birds ready to peck it up; the rocks thinly covered with soil, and the stony ground; the dense tangled growth of weeds and thistles in neglected corners; and the rich deep loam on which the harvests grew with unwonted luxuriance.
it was trodden down ] This touch is found in St Luke only.
6 . upon a rock ] St Matthew and St Mark say “upon stony places,” and add its speedy growth, and its withering after sunrise from want of root; St Luke dwells rather on the lack of moisture than on the lack of soil.
7 . thorns ] In rich soils and hot valleys like Gennesareth the growth of weeds and thorns is as rapid and luxuriant as that of good seed. In summer and autumn there are parts of the plain which are quite impervious from the forest of gigantic thistles which covers them “so tall and so dense that no horse can break through” (Porter, Palestine , ii. 403). It was natural that this circumstance should suggest several of Christ’s illustrations.
8 . bare fruit an hundredfold ] St Luke passes over the ‘growing and increasing’ of the fruit (Mark 4:8 ) and its various degrees of productiveness thirty and sixty as well as an hundredfold.
he cried ] This word spake with a loud voice shews, like the “ Hearken !” in St Mark, the special attention which our Lord called to His new method.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear ] In other words, ‘this teaching is worthy the deepest attention of those who have the moral and spiritual capacity to understand it.’
9 . his disciples asked him ] St Mark says “those about Him, with the Twelve;” and that they came to Him afterwards when they found Him alone.
10 . And he said ] This verse is rather an answer to the other question, recorded in St Matthew, “ why dost thou speak to them in parables?”
it is given ] Rather, it has been given .
to know the mysteries ] i. e. to grasp the revealed secrets, the ‘apples of gold’ hid in these ‘networks of silver.’ The proper use of the word ‘mystery’ is the opposite of its current use. It is now generally used to imply something which we cannot understand; in the New Testament it always means something once hidden now revealed, Colossians 1:26 ; 1 Timothy 3:16 ; Matthew 11:25 , Matthew 11:26 ; Revelation 17:5 , &c. It is derived from μύω , ‘I initiate.’ “God is a revealer of secrets ,” Daniel 2:47 .
“What if earth
Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein
Each to the other like, more than on earth is thought?”
to others ] Rather, to the rest ; “to them that are without,” Mark 4:11 . It has been granted you to grasp these mysteries unveiled; to the rest it has been only given to grasp them under the veil of parables.
that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand ] These words are difficult, and (without dwelling on the fact that the particle ἵνα loses in later Greek some of its final force) must not be pressed with unreasonable and extravagant literalism to mean that the express object of teaching by parables was to conceal the message of the kingdom from all but the disciples. This would have been to put the kindled lamp under a couch or a bushel. On the contrary they were addressed to the multitudes, and deeply impressed them, as they have impressed the world in all ages, and have had the effect, not of darkening truth but of bringing it into brighter light. The varying phrase of St Matthew, “ because seeing they see not, &c.,” will help us to understand it. Our Lord wished and meant the multitudes to hearken and understand, and this method awoke their interest and deepened their attention; but the resultant profit depended solely on the degree of their faithfulness . The Parables resembled the Pillar of Fire, which was to others a Pillar of Cloud. If they listened with mere intellectual curiosity or hardened prejudice they would only carry away the parable itself, or some complete misapplication of its least essential details; to get at its real meaning required self-examination and earnest thought. Hence parables had a blinding and hardening effect on the false and the proud and the wilful, just as prophecy had in old days (Isaiah 6:9 , Isaiah 6:10 , quoted in this connexion in Matthew 13:14 , comp. Acts 28:26 , Acts 28:27 ; Romans 11:8 ). But the Prophecy and the Parable did not create the hardness or stolidity, but only educed it when it existed as all misused blessings and privileges do . It was only unwillingness to see which was punished by incapacity of seeing . The natural punishment of spiritual perversity is spiritual blindness.
Nothing can be better than the profound remark of Lord Bacon, that “a Parable has a double use; it tends to vail , and it tends to illustrate a truth; in the latter case it seems designed to teach, in the former to conceal.”
“Though truths in manhood darkly join,
Deep seated in our mystic frame,
We yield all blessing to the name
Of Him who made them current coin.
For Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,
Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
Shall enter in at lowly doors.”
11 . The seed is the word of God ] We have the same metaphor in Colossians 1:5 , Colossians 1:6 ; 1 Corinthians 3:6 ; and a similar one in James 1:21 , “the engrafted word;” 2 Esdr. 9:31, 33, “Behold, I sow my law in you, and it shall bring fruit in you … yet they that received it perished, because they kept not the thing that was sown in them.”
12 . Those by the way side ] These are hearers who are hardened either beaten (i) flat by lifeless familiarity heartless formalists, Pharisaic theologians, and insincere professors; or (ii) by perversity and indifference, the habit and custom of a worldly and dissolute life. Notice the intensity of thought which identifies the scattered seeds with those in whose hearts they are sown. “The way is the heart beaten and dried by the passage of evil thoughts.” H. de S. Victore.
the devil ] The Accuser or Slanderer. St Mark has “the wicked one,” St Matthew “Satan.”
taketh away ] “Snatches,” Matthew 13:19 . It is done in a moment; by a smile at the end of the sermon; by a silly criticism at the Church door; by foolish gossip on the way home. These are “the fowls of the air” whom the Evil One uses in this task.
lest they should believe ] Rather, that they may not believe . “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip,” or rather “ drift away from them,” Hebrews 2:1 .
13 . They on the rock ] Shallow, impulsive listeners, whose enthusiasm is hot and transient as a blaze in the straw.
with joy ] “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways,” Isaiah 58:2 . “Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice … for they hear thy words, but they do them not,” Ezekiel 33:32 . Herod “heard John gladly‘ ” Mark 6:20 .
in time of temptation ] Temptation in any form of “affliction or persecution” (Matt., Mk.) which tests the moral nature.
fall away ] Literally “ stand aloof ,” “ apostatise ;” “immediately they are offended,” Matt., Mk. See a very striking instance of this in John 6:66 .
14 . that which fell among thorns are they ] Here the grand paradox which identifies the seed with its recipient is very marked. See especially Matthew 13:0 , where “ he that received the seed by the way side, &c.” should be “ he that was sown by the way side, &c.” The class here described are worldly, ambitious, preoccupied, luxurious listeners who feel the “expulsive power” of earthly careers and pleasures crowding out the growth of the good seed. The former class was more superficially touched; this class have not “broken up their fallow ground,” and therefore “sow among thorns.”
cares ] Catullus talks of ‘sowing thorny cares in the heart.’
riches ] “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matt., Mk.).
bring no fruit to perfection ] Literally, “ do not perfect ” (anything).
15 . keep it ] Comp. 11:28; John 14:21 . “Thy word have I hid in my heart , that I might not sin against Thee,” Psalms 119:11 . The opposite of the “forgetful hearers,” James 1:25 . For them the seed does not fall ‘on the way.’
bring forth fruit with patience ] not as in thorns, not as on the rocky ground. The hundredfold harvest does not come at once, but “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.” These words are added by St Luke alone. Patience or persevering consistency is a favourite word with St Paul. It is “strength of mind sustained by good hope … The sum of Christianity.” Bengel.
16 18. How to use the Light
16 . a candle ] Rather, a lamp .
with a vessel ] St Luke uses this word as more intelligible to his Gentile readers than “bushel.”
under a bed ] Rather, under a couch . The ancient Jews had nothing resembling our bed . They slept on divans, or on mats laid upon the floor, as is still the case in the East. The best comment on this verse is Matthew 5:14 , Matthew 5:16 , “Ye are the light of the world.… Let your light so shine before men, &c.” John the Baptist is compared to ‘a lamp kindled and shining,’ and here the disciples are compared to it. Christ lighted the flame in their souls to be a beacon to all the world.
setteth it on a candlestick ] Rather, places it on a lamp-stand .
17 . For nothing is secret ] This verse, like the parallel (which occurs in a different connexion in Matthew 10:26 ), is usually quoted of the discovery of secret crimes. The truth which would in that case be illustrated is often mentioned elsewhere in Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:5 ), but here in both instances the context shews that the first meaning of Christ was entirely different from this. He is not thinking of the discovery of crimes, but of the right use and further dissemination of divine light. The truths now revealed privately to them, and only dimly shadowed forth to others, should soon be flashed over all the world. Parables first yielded their full significance to the disciples, but found “a springing and germinant fulfilment in every age.”
18 . Take heed therefore how ye hear ] and also “ what ye hear,” Mark 4:24 .
to him shall be given ] Comp. 19:26. It was evidently a thought to which our Lord recurred, John 15:2 .
that which he seemeth to have ] Rather, that which he thinketh he hath . This fancied possession is mere self-deception.
19 21. Christ’s Mother and His Brethren
19 . Then came to him his mother and his brethren ] Our text has the plural; the reading paregeneto ( sing .) would imply that the Virgin took a specially prominent part in the incident. Joseph is never mentioned after the scene in the Temple. This incident can hardly be the same as those in Mark 3:31-35 ; Matthew 12:46-50 , because in both of those cases the context is wholly different. St Luke may however have misplaced this incident, since here, as in the other Evangelists, relatives of Jesus are represented as standing outside a house of which the doors were densely thronged; whereas the explanation of the Parable had been given in private. It is here merely said that they wished to see Him; but the fact that they came in a body seems to shew that they desired in some way to direct or control His actions. The fullest account of their motives is found in Mark 3:21 , where we are told that they wished “to seize Him” or “get possession of His person,” because they said “He is beside Himself,” perhaps echoing the feelings which had been encouraged by the Pharisees. We must remember that His brethren “did not believe in Him” (John 7:5 ), i. e. their belief in Him was only the belief that he was a Prophet who did not realize their Messianic ideal. It needed the Resurrection to convert them.
his brethren ] James, Joses, Simon, Judas. Possibly (Matthew 12:50 ; Mark 3:35 ) His sisters also came.
21 . are these ] The word implies the “looking round at those sitting in a circle about Him” of Mark 3:34 , and the “stretching forth His hand towards His disciples” of Matthew 12:49 . “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you,” John 15:14 (comp. 2:49; John 2:4 , John 2:14 :24; Hebrews 2:11 ). His earthly relatives needed the lesson that they must recognise in Him a Being who stood far above all relationships “after the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16 ). Even disciples must “hate” father and mother in comparison with Christ (comp. Deuteronomy 33:9 ).
22 25. Christ stilling the Storm
22 . Now it came to pass on a certain day ] Rather, on one of the days . From Mark 4:35 ; Matthew 8:18 , we should infer that this event took place in the evening on which He began to teach the crowd in parables, and that attracted by the beauty and novelty of His teaching they lingered round Him till, in utter weariness, He longed to escape to the secluded loneliness of the Eastern shore of the lake. Possibly the interference of His kinsmen may have added the last touch to the fatigue and emotion which imperatively demanded retirement and rest.
into a ship ] St Matthew says ‘ the boat,’ which usually waited on His movements; very probably the one which had belonged to Peter. Before the boat pushed off, we learn that three aspirants for discipleship came to Him, Matthew 8:19-22 (Luke 9:57-62 ).
unto the other side ] The Peraean side of the Lake of Galilee has always been comparatively uninhabited, mainly because the escarpment of barren hills approaches within a quarter of a mile of the shore. Its solitude contrasted all the more with the hum of crowded and busy life on the plain of Gennesareth.
of the lake ] See on 5:1.
they launched forth ] Such was His weariness and eagerness to get away that they took Him “ as He was ” without even pausing for any food or refreshment into the boat, Mark 4:36 .
23 . he fell asleep ] Rather, He fell into deep sleep . The day had been one of incessant toil; and He was resting (as St Mark tells us, reflecting the vivid reminiscence of St Peter) ‘in the stern on the steersman’s leather cushion,’ Mark 4:38 : contrast with this Jonah 1:5 .
there came down a storm of wind ] The suddenness and violence of this ‘hurricane’ is in exact accordance with what we know of the Lake. The winds from the snowy peaks of Hermon rush down the Peraean wadies into the burning tropical air of the lake-basin with extraordinary suddenness and impetuosity (Thomson, Land and Book , ii. 25). The lake may look like a sheet of silver, when in one moment there will be a darkening ripple, and in the next it will be lashed into storm and foam. The outburst of this storm perhaps frightened back the boats which started with Him, Mark 4:36 .
were filled with water ] Rather, were being filled . ‘The waves were dashing into the boat, so that it was getting full,’ Mark 4:37 ; ‘the boat was being hidden under the waves,’ Matthew 8:24 . The tossing ship ( Navicella ) has been accepted in all ages as the type of the Church in seasons of peril.
24 . we perish ] Rather, we are perishing ! “Lord! save! we are perishing,” Matthew 8:25 . “Rabbi, carest thou not that we are perishing?” Mark 4:38 . The peril was evidently most imminent.
Then he rose ] Rather, But He, being roused from sleep .
rebuked the wind ] speaking to the wind and the billows of the water as though they were living powers (Psalms 106:9 , “He rebuked the Red Sea also”), or to the evil powers which may be conceived to wield them to the danger of mankind. St Mark alone preserves the two words uttered “Hush! be stilled!” the first to silence the roar, the second the tumult. St Matthew tells us that He quietly uttered ‘Why are ye cowards, ye of little faith?’ and then , having stilled the tumult of their minds, rose and stilled the tempest.
Where is your faith ?] “They had some faith, but it was not ready at hand.” Bengel.
25 . What manner of man ] Rather, Who, then . The ara expresses the same surprise and emotion conveyed by the potapos , ‘what kind of Being,’ of St Matthew. Psalms 107:23-30 .
26 39. The Gergesene Demoniac
26 . at the country of the Gadarenes ] In all three narratives, here, Matthew 8:28-34 ; Mark 5:1-19 , the MSS. vary between Gergesenes, Gadarenes, and Gerasenes, and Tischendorf follows א in reading Gadarenes (by a clerical error Gazarenes) in St Matthew, Gerasenes in St Mark, and Gergesenes here.
i. Gadara , of which the large ruins are now seen at Um Keis , is three hours’ distance from the extreme south end of the Lake, and is separated from the scene of the miracle by the deep precipitous ravine of the Hieromax (Jarmuk). Gadarenes may be the right reading in St Matthew ( א , B, C, M, Δ and MSS. mentioned by Origen) but, if so, it only gives the name of the entire district . Gadara was essentially a Greek city, and had two amphitheatres, and a literary Greek society, and the worst features of Hellenic life.
ii. Gerasenes may be the right reading in St Mark ( א , B, D, &c.). Gerasa , now Djerash , is fifty miles from the Lake, and almost in Arabia, but it was an important town (Jos. B. J. iii. 3), and like Gadara may have been used as the name of the entire district .
iii. Gergesenes is almost certainly the right reading here ( א , L, X). It was the reading which, because of the distance of Gerasa and Gadara, Origen wished to introduce into Matthew 8:28 , being aware that there was a small town called Gergesa in the Wady Semakh which was known also to Eusebius and Jerome, and was pointed out as the scene of the miracle. Yet the reading, “Gergesenes” of א , in St Luke, could hardly have been due to the mere conjecture of Origen in the parallel passage of St Matthew, for it is found in other uncials, in most cursives, and in the Coptic, Ethiopic and other versions. Gergesa has however nothing to do with the ancient Girgashites (Deuteronomy 7:1 ; Joshua 24:11 ), who were probably at the West of the Jordan. The question as to the place intended as the scene of the miracle (whatever reading be adopted) may be considered as having been settled by Dr Thomson’s discovery of ruins named Kerzha (the natural corruption of Gergesa) nearly opposite Capernaum. The name of this little obscure place may well have been given by St Matthew, who knew the locality, and by so accurate an enquirer as St Luke. The reading may have been altered by later copyists who knew the far more celebrated Gadara and Gerasa.
27 . there met him out of the city a certain man ] This rendering contradicts what follows. Rather, there met him a man of the city . He had been a native of Gergesa till his madness began. St Matthew (as in the case of Bartimaeus) mentions two demoniacs, but the narrative is only concerned with one. There may of course have been another hovering in the neighbourhood. The variation in St Matthew is at least a valuable proof of the independence of the Evangelists.
which had devils ] Rather, having demons . The daimonia were supposed by the Jews to be not devils (i. e. fallen angels), but the spirits of wicked men who were dead (Jos. B. J. vii. 6, § 3). See on 4:33; 8:2.
long time, and ware no clothes ] Rather (with א , B), and for a long time wore no cloke . He may have been naked, since the tendency to strip the person of all clothes is common among madmen; here however it only says that he wore no himation . He may have had on the chitôn , or under-garment. Naked, homicidal maniacs who live in caves and tombs are still to be seen in Palestine. Warburton saw one in a cemetery fighting, amid fierce yells and howlings, with wild dogs for a bone. Crescent and Cross , ii. 352.
but in the tombs ] This was partly a necessity, for in ancient times there were no such things as penitentiaries or asylums, and an uncontrollable maniac, driven from the abodes of men, could find no other shelter. This would aggravate his frenzy, for the loneliness and horror of these dark rocky tombs (traces of which are still to be seen near the ruins of Kherza or the sides of the Wady Semakh) were intensified by the prevalent belief that they were haunted by shedim , or ‘evil spirits,’ the ghosts of the wicked dead ( Nidda , f. 17 a , &c.). St Mark gives (5:4) a still more graphic picture of the superhuman strength and violence of this homicidal and ghastly sufferer.
28 . What have I to do with thee ] i. e. Why should’st thou interfere with me? 2 Samuel 16:10 ; 2 Samuel 19:22 . See 4:24. Baur refers to obvious imitations of this narrative in the story of the Lamia expelled by Apollonius of Tyana (Philostr. iv. 25).
Son of God most high ] Probably the epithet was customary in exorcisms or attempted exorcisms, and hence we find it used by another demoniac (Acts 16:17 ). Jesus is not so called elsewhere, except in 1:32.
torment me not ] “The demons … believe and tremble,” James 2:19 . On this conception of torment see Mark 1:24 ; Matthew 18:34 .
29 . he had commanded ] Rather, He commanded .
oftentimes ] Pollois chronois usually means “ for a long time .”
he was kept bound with chains and in fetters ] This rendering misses a curious point in the narrative, preserved by St Luke only, namely, that “he was bound in chains and fetters, being under guard .”
into the wilderness ] Rather, into the deserts , regarded as a peculiar haunt of Azazel and other demons. Matthew 12:43 ; Tobit 8:3; see on 4:1. (There are obvious allusions to the Gospel narrative of this demoniac and the demoniac boy in Lucian, Philopseudes , 16.)
30 . What is thy name ?] The question was no doubt asked in mercy. Gently to ask a person’s name is often an effectual way to calm the agitations and fix the wavering thoughts of these sufferers.
And he said, Legion ] A legion consisted of 6000 soldiers, and this man (who was probably a Jew) would have become familiar with the name since the Roman conquest of Palestine. The ancient Megiddo was now called Legio, still Ledjûn . The answer shewed how wildly perturbed was the man’s spirit, and how complete was the duality of his consciousness. He could not distinguish between himself and the multitudes of demons by whom he believed himself to be possessed. His individuality was lost in demoniac hallucinations.
31 . they besought ] If parekalei be the right reading, it should be rendered “ he besought Him,” for the plural is used in the next verse.
to go out into the deep ] The ‘abyss’ (Hebrew tehôm ) intended is perhaps the prison of wicked spirits (Romans 10:7 ; Jude 1:6 ; Revelation 20:3 ). St Mark says “that He would not send them out of the country.”
32 . a herd of many swine ] St Mark says “about 2000.” Of course, if the owners of these swine were Jews, they were living in flagrant violation of the law; but the population of Peraea was largely Greek and Syrian.
that he would suffer them to enter into them ] The Jews, as we have already seen, believed that physical and mental evil was wrought by the direct agency of demons, and attributed to demons not only the cases of “possession,” but many other classes of illness (melancholia, brain-disease, heart-disease, &c.) which we do not usually regard in this light. They also believed that demons could take possession even of animals, and they attributed to demons the hydrophobia of dogs and the rage of bulls. “Perhaps,” says Archbishop Trench ( On the Miracles , p. 185), “we make to ourselves a difficulty here, too easily assuming that the whole animal world is wholly shut up in itself, and incapable of receiving impressions from that which is above it. The assumption is one unwarranted by deeper investigations, which lead rather to an opposite conclusion not to the breaking down of the boundaries between the two worlds, but to the shewing in what wonderful ways the lower is receptive of impression from the higher, both for good and for evil.” Further than this the incident leads into regions of uncertain speculation, into which it is impossible to enter, and in which none will dogmatize but those who are least wise. Milton seems to find no difficulty in the conception that evil spirits could ‘incarnate and imbrute’ their essence into a beast: in at the serpent’s mouth
“The devil entered; and his brutal sense
The heart or head possessing, soon inspired
With act intelligential.” Par. Lost .
Comp. Dante, Inf. xxv. 136,
“L’anima, ch’era fiera divenuta
Si fugge,” &c.
33 . down a steep place ] Rather, down the precipice . Near Kherza is the only spot on the entire lake where a steep slope sweeps down to within a few yards of the sea, into which the herd would certainly have plunged if hurried by any violent impulse down the hill. If it be asked whether this was not a destruction of property, the answer is that the antedating of the death of a herd of unclean animals was nothing compared with the deliverance of a human soul. Our Lord would therefore have had a moral right to act thus even if he had been a mere human Prophet. Besides, to put it on the lowest ground, the freeing of the neighbourhood from the peril and terror of this wild maniac was a greater benefit to the whole city than the loss of this herd. Jesus did not command the spirits to go into the swine; if He permitted any thing which resulted in their destruction it was to serve higher and more precious ends. “God the Word,” says Lord Bacon, “wished to do nothing which breathed not of grace and beneficence;” and after mentioning the stern miracles of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, St Peter and St Paul, he adds, “but Jesus did nothing of this kind … the spirit of Jesus is the spirit of the Dove. He wrought no miracle of judgment, all of beneficence.” Meditt. Sacr. on Mark 12:37 . The miracles of Christ were all redemptive acts and spiritual lessons.
34 . what was done ] Rather, what had happened .
35 . clothed ] Perhaps one of the disciples had thrown a cloke ( himation ) over his nakedness or his rags.
37 . besought him to depart ] The opposite to the request of the Samaritans (John 4:40 ). Unlike Peter, they meant what they said. Preferring their swine to Christ, they felt that His presence was dangerous to their greed. And our Lord acted on the principle of not casting that which was holy to dogs, nor pearls before men whose moral character tended to become like that of their own swine. At Gadara the worst iniquities were prevalent. It may be that if they had not deliberately begged Christ to leave them they might have been spared the fearful massacre and ruin fire, and sword, and slavery which befel them at the hands of the Romans in less than 40 years after this time (Jos. B. J. iii. 7, § 1, iv. 7, § 4). But
“We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good.”
For other instances of prayers fatally granted see Exodus 10:28 , Exodus 10:29 ; Numbers 22:20 ; Psalms 78:29-31 ; on the other hand, a refused boon is sometimes a blessing. 2 Corinthians 12:8 , 2 Corinthians 12:9 . The result of their wilful sensuality was that the time never came when
“E’en the witless Gadarene,
Preferring Christ to swine, shall learn
That life is sweetest, when ’tis clean.”
they were taken ] Rather, they were oppressed .
39 . shew how great things God hath done unto thee ] This command valuably illustrates one of the reasons why our Lord commanded reticence in other instances. To the region of Gadara He did not intend to return, and therefore the proclamation of a miracle would not cause Him to be surrounded by curious crowds.
40. The waiting Multitude
40 . the people gladly received him ] They would see the sail of His boat as it started back from Gergesa, and the storm had probably driven back the other boats. He would naturally sail to Bethsaida or Capernaum. It is impossible here to enter into the uncertain question as to the exact order of events. For all details on that subject I must refer to my Life of Christ .
41 56. The Daughter of Jairus and the Woman with the issue of Blood
41 . behold ] St Matthew places this message of Jairus after the farewell feast which he gave to his friends before abandoning for ever his office of tax-gatherer. At that feast arose the question about fasting, and St Matthew (9:18) says that Jairus came “while Jesus was yet speaking these things,” and in so definite a note of time, on a day to him so memorable, he could hardly be inexact. On the other hand, St Mark says, and St Luke implies, that the message reached Jesus as He disembarked on the sea-shore. Hence it has been supposed that Jesus heard the first entreaty from Jairus on the shore when his daughter was dying (vs. 42; Mark 5:23 ), but instead of going straight to the house of Jairus went first to Matthew’s feast; and that Jairus then came to the feast in agony to say that she was just dead (Matthew 9:18 ). The very small discrepancies are however quite easily explicable without this conjecture, and it was wholly unlike the method of Jesus to interpose a feast between the request of an agonised father and His act of mercy.
Jairus ] Jair, Judges 10:3 .
a ruler of the synagogue ] The synagogues had no clergy, but were managed by laymen, at the head of whom was the “ruler,” whose title of Rosh hakkenéseth was as familiar to the Jews as that of Rabbi. His functions resembled those of a leading elder. The appeal of such a functionary shews the estimation in which our Lord was still held among the Galileans.
that he would come into his house ] Jair had not the faith of the heathen centurion.
42 . one only daughter ] St Luke, whose keen sympathies are everywhere observable in his Gospel, mentions the same touching fact in the case of the son of the widow of Nain (7:12), and the lunatic boy (9:38).
she lay a dying ] St Matthew says “ is even now dead .” Perhaps we catch in these variations an echo of the father’s despairing uncertainty.
43 . which had spent all her living ] Literally, ‘having in addition spent’ her whole means of livelihood.
neither could be healed of any ] St Luke, perhaps with a fellow-feeling for physicians, does not add the severer comment of St Mark, that the physicians had only made her worse (5:26). The Talmudic receipts for the cure of this disease were specially futile, such as to set the sufferer in a place where two ways meet, with a cup of wine in her hand, and let some one come behind and frighten her, and say, Arise from thy flux; or “dig seven ditches, burn in them some cuttings of vines not four years old, and let her sit in them in succession, with a cup of wine in her hand, while at each remove some one says to her, Arise from thy flux.” (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad loc.)
44 . came behind him, and touched the border of his garment ] Rather, approaching from behind touched the tassel of His outer robe . This is a miracle ‘by the way’ ( obiter ), but, as Fuller says, “His obiter is more to the purpose than our iter .” She sought to steal (as it were) a miracle of grace, and fancied that Christ’s miracles were a matter of nature , not of will and purpose . Probably the intense depression produced by her disease, aggravated by the manner in which for twelve years every one had kept aloof from her and striven not to touch her, had quite crushed her spirits. By the Levitic law she had to be “put apart, and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean” (Leviticus 15:19 , Leviticus 15:25 ). The word translated “border” ( kraspedon , Heb. tsitsith ) is a tassel at each “wing” or corner of the tallith or mantle (Matthew 14:36 ). The Law (Numbers 15:38-40 ) required that it should be bound with a thread (not as in E. V. ribband ) of blue, the colour of heaven, and so the type of revelation. The strict Jews to this day wear these tassels, though they are usually concealed. The Pharisees, to proclaim their orthodoxy, made them conspicuously large, Matthew 23:5 . One of the four tassels hung over the shoulder at the back, and this was the one which the woman touched. (For full particulars of the Rabbinic rules about these tassels see an article by the present writer, in the Expositor , v. 219.) The quasi-sacredness of the tassels may have fostered her impulse to touch the one that hung in view.
45 . Peter and they that were with him ] St Mark merely says His disciples, but the question is in exact accordance with that presumptuous impetuosity which marked the as yet imperfect stage of Peter’s character.
46 . Somebody hath touched me ] Rather, Some one touched me . “They press; she touches.” Aug. “Flesh presses; faith touches.” Id. Our Lord’s question was meant to reach the woman’s heart, comp. Genesis 3:9 , Genesis 3:4 :9; 2 Kings 5:25 .
I perceive that virtue is gone out of me ] Literally, “ I recognised power going forth from me ;” or perceived that power had gone forth from me , if we read exeleluthuian . Comp. 6:19.
47 . she came trembling ] Because by her touch she had communicated to Him Levitical uncleanness; and this by one of the Rabbis or Pharisees would have been regarded as an intolerable presumption and wrong. To this day the Jewish Rabbis (or Chakams) in the East are careful not even to be touched by a woman’s dress (Frankl., Jews in the East , ii. 81).
48 . Daughter ] The only recorded occasion on which our Lord used that tender word to a woman.
thy faith hath made thee whole ] Literally, “ hath saved thee ” Thy faith not the superstitious and surreptitious touch of my tallith’s fringe. Jesus thus compelled her to come forth from her timid enjoyment of a stolen blessing that He might confer on her a deeper and fuller blessing.
go in peace ] Literally, to , or for peace . Tradition says that the name of this woman was Veronica ( Evang. Nicodem . v. 6), and that it was she who gave to our Lord the famous legendary handkerchief to wipe His face on the way to Calvary. At Paneas (Caesarea Philippi) there was a bronze statue which was supposed to be her votive offering, and to represent this scene (Euseb. H. E. vii. 18; Sozomen, H. E. v. 21); and on this account Julian the Apostate or Maximin is said to have destroyed it. All this is very improbable. Early Christian writers were too credulous about these statues. Justin Martyr took a statue of the Sabine god Semo Sancus for one of Simon Magus.
49 . trouble not the Master ] Literally, “ worry not the Rabbi .” For the colloquial verb preserved also in St Mark see 7:6.
50 . when Jesus heard it ] The remark was addressed to Jairus, and St Mark says that Jesus “ overheard it.”
51 . save Peter, and James, and John ] as at the Transfiguration and at Gethsemane, Mark 9:2 , Mark 14:33 .
52 . bewailed her ] The word means that they were beating their breasts for her (Nahum 2:7 ). St Mark gives a graphic picture of the tumult, and loud cries, and wailings ( alalai , the Egyptian wilweleh ). Even the poorest were obliged to provide for a funeral two flute-players and one wailing woman. See Ecclesiastes 12:5 ; Jeremiah 9:17 ; Amos 5:16 ; 2 Chronicles 35:25 . These public mourners were called sappedans .
52 . she is not dead, but sleepeth ] To take this literally is to contradict the letter and spirit of the whole narrative. It is true that in “our friend Lazarus sleepeth” the verb used is not katheudein but koimasthai ; but that is in a different writer (John 11:11 ), and the word better suits one who had been four days dead. Our Lord’s object was to silence this idle uproar.
53 . laughed him to scorn ] Literally, “ were utterly deriding Him .” ‘To laugh to scorn’ is used by Shakespeare, e. g.
“Our castle’s strength
Will laugh a siege to scorn.”
Macbeth , v. 5.
54 . he put them all out ] These words being omitted by א , B, D, L, X, are probably interpolated here, from the other Synoptists. Our Lord could not feel the smallest sympathy for these simulated agonies of people, who (to this day) “weep, howl, beat their breasts, and tear their hair according to contract” (Thomson, Land and Book , i. viii.). And further these solemn deeds required calm and faith, Acts 9:40 ; 2 Kings 4:33 .
took her by the hand ] St Luke preserves this gentle detail, as well as the kind order to give her food. St Mark gives the two Aramaic words which our Lord used, Talitha cumi ! On these occasions He always used the fewest possible words (7:14; John 11:43 ).
56 . that they should tell no man ] See on 5:14. And as usual the injunction was probably unheeded. Matthew 9:26 .
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"Commentary on Luke 8". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany