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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 7

Verses 1-99

Ch. 7. C. Characteristics of the Kingdom, 1 27

After contrasting the New Law with the Mosaic Law and with Pharisaic rules and conduct, Jesus proceeds to lay down rules for the guidance of His disciples in the Christian life.

(a) Judgment on others, 1 6.

The passage occurs in St Luke’s report of the Sermon on the Mount (ch. 6:37, 38), with a different context, and a further illustration of “full measure.”

1 . Judge not , &c.] This is the form which the “lex talionis,” or law of reciprocity, takes in the kingdom of heaven.

The censorious spirit is condemned, it is opposed to the ἐπιείκεια , “forbearance,” “fairness in judgment,” that allows for faults, a characteristic ascribed to Jesus Christ Himself, 2 Corinthians 10:1 ; cp. also Romans 14:3 foll.

that ye be not judged ] by Christ on the Last Day.

2 . judgment ] The same Greek word is used Romans 2:2 , Romans 2:3 of the divine sentence or decision: see that passage and context which are closely parallel to these verses: cp. also Mark 12:40 , where the same word is translated “damnation.”

3 . the mote ] The English word is either connected with mite (the coin) from a Latin root (minutum), or mite (the insect) from an Anglo-Saxon root meaning “to cut,” “sever,” or from one meaning “to eat.” The Greek word = a “dry particle” of dust, wool, &c.

beholdest … considerest ] It is the contrast between judging from the outside, and examination of the heart. The Greek verbs in this, and the Greek prepositions in the following verses, convey this contrast.

4 . a beam is in thine own eye ] Which (1) ought to prevent condemnation of another for a less grave offence; and which (2) would obscure the spiritual discernment, and so render thee an incapable judge. The Pharisaic sin of hypocrisy (see next verse) was deeper and more fatal to the spiritual life than the sins which the Pharisee condemned.

out of ] Greek ἀπό (a reading which rests on the highest MS. authority) = “from the outside surface,” which alone the Pharisee discerns

5 . out of ] Greek ἐκ = “from within,” of the deep-seated root of sin which the Pharisee may discern only when he has cast out the beam from his own eye.

( b ) The Father’s love for the children of the Kingdom shewn by answering prayer, 7 11.

6 . The connection between this verse and the preceding section is not quite obvious. It seems to be this. Although evil and censorious judgment is to be avoided, discrimination is needful. The Christian must be judicious, not judicial.

that which is holy ] i. e. “spiritual truths.” Some have seen in the expression a reference to the holy flesh of the offering (Haggai 2:12 ). But this allusion is very doubtful; see Meyer on this passage.

dogs … swine ] Unclean animals; see the proverb quoted 2 Peter 2:22 ; cp. Philippians 3:2 , “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers;” also Hor. Ep. i. 2. 25, “vel canis immundus vel amica luto sus.” See note on ch. 15:26.

pearls ] The only gems mentioned in the Gospels, twice named by Jesus: here, where they signify the deepest spiritual thoughts of God and heaven, and ch. 13:46, where “the pearl of great price” is the kingdom of heaven itself. The general sense is “use discrimination, discern between holy and unholy, between those who are receptive of these high truths and those who are not.” The profane will despise the gift and put the giver to shame. Want of common sense does great harm to religion.

7 . Ask, and it shall be given ] The connection is again difficult. The verse may be the answer to the disciples’ unspoken questions: (1) “How shall we discriminate?” or (2) “Who are fit to receive these divine truths?” The words of Christ teach, (1) that discernment will be given, among other “good things,” in answer to prayer; (2) that prayer in itself implies fitness, because it implies desire for such truths.

8 . The triple formula covers every kind of want. The prayer shall be granted, the treasure found, the gate of heaven opened. St Luke 13:24 , Luke 13:25 . Observe the climax: ask seek knock; the fervour of the prayer must grow more and more intense.

9 . bread … a stone … fish … a serpent ] The things contrasted have a certain superficial resemblance, but in each case one thing is good, the other unclean or even dangerous.

11 . good things ] For this St Luke (11:13) has “the Holy Spirit,” shewing that spiritual rather than temporal “good things” are intended.

12 . Therefore ] The practical result of what has been said both in regard to judgment and to prayer is mutual charity. The thought of the divine judgment teaches forbearance; the thought of the divine goodness teaches kindness.

( c ) The narrow entrance to the Kingdom, 13, 14

These verses are linked to the preceding by the thought of prayer, for it is by prayer chiefly that the narrow entrance must be gained.

13 . The broad and the narrow way , Luke 13:24 , Luke 13:25 . The illustration seems to be drawn from a mansion having a large portal at which many enter, and a narrow entrance known to few.

strait = narrow.

14 . because ] To be taken after “enter ye” as in preceding verse, or it gives a reason why many go in at the wide gate.

narrow ] Literally, pressed, confined .

( d ) The false guides to the narrow entrance, and the test of the true, 15 23

15 . false prophets ] who will not help you to find the narrow way.

in sheep’s clothing ] Not in a literal sense, but figuratively, “wearing the appearance of guilelessness and truth.”

16 . thorns ] The Greek word means, probably, a kind of acacia, or perhaps “thistles.” There is a Greek proverb οὐ γὰρ ἄκανθαι , “no thistles,” i. e. “nothing useless.”

thistles ] Rather, caltrop , a prickly water-plant.

19 . Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit , &c.] To this day in the East trees are valued only so far as they produce fruit.

22 . in that day ] The day of judgment. This is a forecast far into the distant future, when it would be worth while to assume Christianity, when hypocrisy would take the form of pretending to be a follower of the now despised Jesus. (See Canon Mozley’s sermon On the reversal of human judgment .)

For the pathetic repetition, Lord, Lord, cp. ch. 23:37; Luke 22:31 .

prophesied ] i. e. preached. The greatest of preachers dreads such a sentence. 1 Corinthians 9:27 , “Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

devils ] See note, ch. 4:24.

23 . I never knew you ] “Never recognised you as my disciples. While my name was on your lips, your hearts were far from me.” Clement of Rome ( Ep. ii:4), referring to this passage, says: “let us then not only call Him ‘Lord,’ for that will not save us;” he then quotes the words of v. 21.

iniquity ] Literally, lawlessness .

( e ) A description of the true subjects of the Kingdom as opposed to the false. The wise and foolish builders, 24 27

Luke 6:47-49 , where the phraseology differs a good deal from St Matthew. St Matthew, who living near the lake had often witnessed such sudden floods as are described, uses more vigorous language and draws the picture more vividly. St Luke marks the connection with the insincere “Lord, Lord,” more distinctly, but omits the reference to the last day and to the future of the Church.

24 . whosoever heareth ] Cp. v. 26, every one that heareth . Both classes of men hear the word. So far they are alike. In like manner the two houses have externally the same appearance. The great day of trial shews the difference. The imagery is from a mountain country where the torrent-beds, sometimes more than half a mile in width in the plain below the mountain, are dry in summer, and present a level waste of sand and stones. We may picture the foolish man building on this sandy bottom, while the wise or prudent man builds on a rock planted on the shore, or rising out of the river bed, too high to be affected by the rush of waters. In the autumn the torrents stream down filling the sandy channel and carrying all before them. For the spiritual sense of the parable see 1 Corinthians 3:10 foll.

27 . the rain descended , &c.] In the original both the tense and the position of the verbs give great vivacity to the description.

29 . having authority ] He was Himself a lawgiver. His teaching was not a mere expansion of the old law. Much less did he confine himself to the words of any particular Rabbi.

the scribes ] Sopherim = either (1) “those who count;” because the Scribes counted each word and letter of the Scriptures; or (2) “those occupied with books.” The Scribes, as an organized body, originated with Ezra, who was in a special sense the “ Sopher ” or Scribe. This order of Sopherim , strictly so called, terminated b. c. 300. Their successors in our Lord’s time were usually termed Tanaim , “those who repeat, i. e. teach the Law.” They are called “lawyers” (ch. 22:35; Luke 5:17 ; Acts 5:34 ), also “the wise,” “Elders,” and “Rabbis.”

A scribe’s education began as early as in his fifth year. At thirteen he became a “son of the precept,” Bar-mitsvah . If deemed fit, he became a disciple. At thirty he was admitted as a teacher, having tablets and a key given him. See note, ch. 16:19. His functions were various; he transcribed the law (here the greatest accuracy was demanded); he expounded the law, always with reference to authority he acted as judge in family litigation, and was employed in drawing up various legal documents, such as marriage contracts, writings of divorce, etc. (See Kitto’s Cycl. Bib. Lit. and Smith’s Bib. Dict. art. Scribes.)

The alliance between Scribes and Pharisees was very close, each taught that the law could be interpreted, fenced round and aided by tradition, in opposition to the Sadducees, who adhered to the strict letter of the written law.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 7". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.