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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 8

Verses 1-4


St Mark 1:40-44; where this incident is placed in the course of a Galilæan circuit, and before the return to Capernaum. St Luke 5:12, where the cure is placed ἐν μιᾷ τῶν πόλεων, and precedes the Sermon on the Mount. With these discrepancies which meet us at every turn in the Gospels, it appears to be a hopeless task to construct a chronological arrangement of our Lord’s ministry. On the other hand such divergences of plan form the strongest evidence of the independence of the narratives.

Verse 2

2. λεπρός. St Luke has ἀνὴρ πλήρης λέπρας, a term implying the gravity of the disease. In Leviticus 13:13, where a man appears to be pronounced clean if ‘the leprosy have covered all his flesh,’ there is probably, as it is pointed out in the Speaker’s Commentary, a misconception which has caused much difficulty to commentators. The plague there described is not true leprosy or elephantiasis, but the common white leprosy. The priest shall consider and pronounce clean the plague, i.e. declare that it is not true leprosy. Leprosy is to be regarded as especially symbolic of sin: [1] the beginning of the disease is almost unnoticed, [2] it is contagious (this point is disputed, but see in Speaker’s Commentary note preceding Leviticus 13:13, and Belcher, Our Lord’s Miracles of Healing, ch. IV., also Meyer ad loc. who takes the same view), [3] in its worst form it is incurable except by the touch of Christ; [4] it separated a man and classed him with the dead.

προσεκύνει. The imperfect marks that persistency in prayer, which Jesus had just promised should win acceptance; while the leper’s words imply a faith which is another condition of acceptance.

For the word see note ch. Matthew 2:2. Κύριε bears out the idea of Oriental sovereignty conveyed by the verb. In Mark the reading γονυπετῶν is doubtful, St Luke has πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον.

Verse 3

3. ἥψατο. An act that would bring with it legal defilement. St Mark gives the motive of Jesus in the cure σπλαγχνισθείς, ‘from compassion;’ both he and St Luke express the healing somewhat more vividly: ἀπῆλθεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα.

Verse 4

4. λέγει αὐτῷ. St Mark has ἐμβριμησάμενος ἐξέβαλεν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπεν.

ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς. Christ enjoins the cleansed leper to tell no one, thus instructing us that He would not have people converted by His miracles. Christ addresses Himself to men’s hearts, not to their eyes or ears. He will not fling Himself from the height of the temple to persuade men. But the injunction was doubtless also for the sake of the cured leper. It was not for his soul’s health to publish to others the work that Christ had done on him.

προσένεγκον 1 aor. προσένεγκε 2 aor. (Mark and Luke). For the classical use of these two aorists see Veitch sub voc. φέρω.

ὃ προσέταξεν ΄ωϋσῆς. ‘Two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet and hyssop.’ And on the eighth day ‘two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil;’ or if poor, ‘he shall take one lamb for a trespass offering to be waved, and one tenth deal of flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, and a log of oil and two turtle doves or two young pigeons such as he is able to get.’ Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 14:21-22.

Dr Edersheim says of this twofold rite that the first was to restore the leper to fellowship with the congregation, the second to introduce him anew into communion with God.

αὐτοῖς. Either [1] to the priests, or [2] to the people who were following Jesus; in either case to shew that Jesus came to fulfil the law, and as an evidence that the cure was real and complete.

Verse 5

5. ἑκατόνταρχος, i.e. a captain or commander of a century—a company nominally composed of a hundred men, the sixtieth part of a legion in the Roman army. This centurion was probably an officer in the army of Herod Antipas, which would be modelled after the Roman fashion, and not, as is often understood, a Roman Centurion.

This form appears to be used indifferently with the form in -ης which the best criticism has restored in Matthew 8:13.

Verses 5-13


St Luke 7:1-10, where the incident is placed immediately after the Sermon on the Mount. The centurion sends a deputation of Jewish elders to Jesus, who speak of the worthiness of the centurion and of his love to the nation, ‘he built us a synagogue.’ St Luke does not introduce our Lord’s comparison between Jew and Gentile, and the promises to the latter. This last point is characteristic—the rejection of the Jews is not dwelt upon when the Gospel is preached to the Gentiles. This might be further illustrated from the Acts.

Verse 6

6. ὁ παῖς. ‘Slave,’ not ‘son;’ the meaning is determined by the parallel passages; in Luke 7. where though the centurion himself uses the more affectionate term παῖς (Matthew 8:7), the messenger (Matthew 8:3) and the Evangelist (Matthew 8:10) call the servant δοῦλος.

παραλυτικός. Stricken with palsy or paralysis, a disease often free from acute suffering, but when it is accompanied by contraction of the muscles, the pain, as in this case, is very grievous. St Luke does not name the nature of the disease.

δεινῶς βασανιζόμενος. ‘Terribly tortured.’ For βάσανος see ch. Matthew 4:24. The invariable practice of extracting evidence from slaves by torture gives βασανίζεσθαι the secondary force ‘to torture,’ ‘to put to the question.’

Possibly the actual experience of this poor slave suggested the word; by no other could he describe to his master the agony he was enduring; it was the agony of torture.

Verse 8

8. ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἑκατόνταρχος. The argument lies in a comparison between the centurion’s command and the authority of Jesus. ‘If I who am under authority command others, how much more hast thou power to command who art under no authority? If I can send my soldiers or my slave to execute my orders, how much more canst thou send thy ministering spirits to do thy bidding?’ The centurion was doubtless acquainted with the Jewish belief on the subject of angels, their subordination and their office as ministers of God.

ἱκανὸς ἵνα. The construction belongs to the consecutive and later use of ἵνα. The classical idiom would require the infinitive.

Verse 9

9. καὶ γάρ, ‘for indeed.’ καὶ connects the reason why Christ should not enter more closely with the facts of the centurion’s position.

ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν, ‘under authority,’ e.g. that of the χιλίαρχος or tribunus militum: cp. Acts 21:32, ὅς (χιλίαρχος) παραλαβὼν στρατιώτας καὶ ἑκατοντάρχας.

τούτῳ [στρατιώτῃ] … τῷ δούλῳ μου. Observe a distinction in the centurion’s orders, his soldiers come and go, i.e. march when he bids them. His slave he orders to do this, i.e. perform any servile work. In the household of the centurion Cornelius we find as here οἰκέται and στρατιῶται (Acts 10:7).

Mark this as the first contact of Jesus with slavery. With such relations between master and slave as these slavery would soon pass away.

It was no express enactment of Christ, but the Spirit of Christ, which this centurion had caught, that abolished slavery.

Verse 11

11. ἀνατολῶν. See note ch. Matthew 2:1.

ἀνακλιθήσονται, i.e. recline at a feast. The image of a banquet is often used to represent the joy of the kingdom of heaven. Luke 14:15; Luke 22:29-30; Revelation 19:9. Cp. Isaiah 25:6.

Verse 12

12. τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον, i.e. the darkness outside the house in which the banquet is going on.

ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμός. The article, ignored in A.V., means ‘that wailing and gnashing of teeth which you speak of;’ τὸ λεγόμενον, it was a common figure.

Verse 13

13. ὕπαγε, ‘go,’ the ordinary modern word in this sense, and so used colloquially before it was established in literary language. Cp. Aristoph. Ranœ, 174, ὑπάγεθʼ ὑμεῖς τῆς ὁδοῦ. See note ch. Matthew 4:10. ὑπάγειν is especially frequent in St John’s gospel.

Verse 14

14. εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν Πέτρου. From John 1:44 we learn that Bethsaida was the city of Andrew and Simon Peter. Either then [1] they had changed their home to Capernaum, or [2] Bethsaida was close to Capernaum.

τὴν πενθεράν. St Peter alone of the Apostles is expressly named as being married. It is however a probable inference from 1 Corinthians 9:5, that all the Apostles were married: μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς. It is worthy of note that no wives or children of Apostles are known to Church history.

βεβλημένην καὶ πυρέσσουσαν. St Luke has συνεχομένη πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ. συνεχ. is a technical word implying the ‘constraint’ of sickness; the symptoms of πυρετὸς μέγας as described by ancient physicians resemble those of typhus fever.

βεβλημένην denotes the great and sudden prostration characteristic of this kind of fever.

Verses 14-17


Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39.

St Luke’s description bears special marks of scientific accuracy. Both St Mark and St Luke mention that the incident took place when ‘he came out of the synagogue;’, and St Mark adds that he went into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.

Verse 15

15. ἥψατο. The touch of Jesus is not mentioned in Luke.

ἀφῆκεν αὐτήν. The addition of εὐθέως in Mark is probably a gloss. St Luke however has παραχρῆμα ἀναστᾶσα. To the physician the completeness and suddenness of the cure proves the miraculous nature of it.

διηκόνει. In the proper sense of serving at table; see note ch. Matthew 4:11.

Verse 16

16. λόγῳ. Not by a touch, as in the case of leprosy and fever. Christ never laid his hand on demoniacs.

Verse 17

17., Isaiah 53:4.

Verses 18-22


Luke 9:57-62.

St Luke names three instances, and places the scene of the incident in Samaria.

The instances are typical of the way in which Jesus deals with different characters. To one attracted by the promises of the Gospel and full of eagerness, Jesus presents the darker side—the difficulties of the Christian life; the half-hearted discipleship of the other is confronted with the necessity of absolute self-renunciation.

Verse 19

19. εἷς. To be taken in connection with ἕτερος δέ, the first in the enumeration.

γραμματεύς. The accession of a Scribe to the cause of Christ must have appeared to the people as a great success. Language of the most extravagant adulation is used to express the dignity and influence of the Scribes. Yet Jesus discourages him. No secondary motives are named, but the Scribe may have expected a high position in the kingdom of a temporal Messiah. We are not told whether, thus brought face to face with privation and hardship, he was daunted like the young ruler (ch. Matthew 19:16), or persevered like the sons of Zebedee (ch. Matthew 20:22).

Verse 20

20. φωλεούς. A word used by Piutarch and other late authors. Theocritus has φωλάδες ἄρκτοι, I. 115, and κνώδαλα φωλεύοντα, XXIV. 83, a heteroclite plural φωλεὰ is found.

κατασκηνώσεις. Cp.

‘In which all trees of honour stately stood,

And did all winter as in summer bud,

Spreading pavilions for the birds to bower.’


ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. The origin of this expression as a Messianic title is found in Daniel 7:13 : ‘I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with (in) the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.’ Hence to the Jews it would be a familiar designation of the Messiah—the King whose ‘everlasting dominion’ is described in the next verse (Daniel 7:14). (See Dr Pusey, On Daniel, Lecture II.)

The Hebraism may be considered in the light of similar expressions, ‘sons of light,’ ‘son of perdition,’ ‘son of peace,’ &c., in all of which the genitive denotes a quality inherent in the subject. Sons of light = the spiritually enlightened, sons of wisdom = the wise. By the Son of man then is meant He who is essentially man, who took man’s nature upon Him, who is man’s representative before God, shewing the possibilities of purified human nature, and so making atonement practicable.

The title ‘Son of man,’ so frequently used by our Lord of Himself, is not applied to Him except by Stephen (Acts 7:56), ‘I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.’ In Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14, where the expression occurs without the definite article the reference to the Messianic title is not certain.

οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῃ. A saying attributed to Tib. Gracchus is sometimes quoted as parallel: τὰ μὲν θηρία τὰ τὴν Ἰταλίαν νεμόμενα καὶ φωλεὸν ἔχει καὶ κοιταῖον ἐστὶν αὐτῶν ἑκάστῳ καὶ καταδύσεις· τοῖς δὲ ὑπὲρ τῆς Ἰταλίας μαχομένοις καὶ ἀποθνήσκουσιν ἀέρος καὶ φωτὸς ἄλλου δὲ οὐδένος μέτεστιν, Plut. p. 828, c.

Verse 22

22. θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς. The exact force of this is not quite clear. The word ‘dead’ is used first in a figurative, secondly, in a literal sense, as in John 11:25-26. In a figurative sense by the ‘dead’ are intended those who are outside the kingdom, who are dead to the true life. Perhaps a brother or brothers of the disciple had rejected Christ, ‘let them bury their father.’

St Luke, after ‘let the dead bury their dead,’ adds, ‘but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.’

Perhaps no incident marks more decisively the height of self-abandonment required by Jesus of His followers. In this instance the disciple is called upon to renounce for Christ’s sake the last and most sacred of filial duties. The unswerving devotion to Christ is illustrated in the parallel passage (Luke 9:62) by ‘the man who puts his hand to the plough.’

Verse 23

23. τὸ πλοῖον. The ship or fishing-boat, i.e. the boat which Jesus always used.

Verses 23-27


Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25.

St Mark, as usual, adds some interesting details: ‘it was evening—there were other boats with Him—a great storm (λαῖλαψ) of wind—the waves beat into the boat—He was asleep on the cushion (τὸ προσκεφάλαιον) in the hinder part of the boat.’

With all these points of difference in seven short verses, how can it be said that St Mark’s Gospel is an abridgment of St Matthew’s?

Verse 24

24. σεισμός, elsewhere of earthquakes, Luke and Mark have the more descriptive λαῖλαψ.

αὐτὸς ἐκάθευδεν. ‘He—the Master—continued to sleep.’ It is the only place where the sleep of Jesus is named.

The nominative of αὐτὸς is very rare in Matthew and Mark but very common in Luke. It has the proper classical force of contrast in this passage, but there is also some evidence that αὐτὸς was used of Christ in relation to his disciples as the Master in the sense of αὐτὸς ἔφα, cp. 2 Peter 3:4; 1 John 2:12; 2 John 1:6, where αὐτοῦ is used of Christ without any expressed antecedent.

Verse 25

25. σῶσον, ἀπολλύμεθα. The brevity of speech that wastes no words adds to the impression of danger. Cp. ch. Matthew 26:45-46. St Luke has ἐπιστάτα repeated. St Mark the pathetic διδάσκαλε οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα. Cp. with σῶσον,—the aorist of earnest and instant request—the aorists in the Lord’s prayer.

Verse 26

26. δειλοί, ‘cowardly:’ ὁ δὲ τῷ φοβεῖσθαι ὑπερβάλλων δειλός, Arist. Eth. Nic. III. 7, 10. The sea was a recognised test of courage, οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν θαλάττῃἀδεὴς ὁ ἀνδρεῖος (Arist.). Neither ἀνδρεῖος nor θρασὺς occur in N.T. Cowardice and want of faith are classed together as grievous sins in Revelation 21:8, δειλοῖς καὶ ἀπίστοις.

ἐπετίμησεν τοῖς ἀνέμοις. Cp. ἐπετίμησεν τῷ πυρετῷ (Luke 4:39). The vivacity of Eastern speech personifies the disease as well as winds and waves. ἐπιτιμᾶν, first of fixing a penalty (τιμή), then of judicial rebuke, then of rebuke generally.

Verse 27

27. οἱ ἄνθρωποι. The disciples, and other fishermen who were also on the Lake: see account in Mark.

Verse 28

28. Γαδαρηνῶν. The readings vary between Γερασηνῶν, Γαδαρηνῶν and Γεργεσηνῶν in the Synoptic accounts. Gerasa and Gergesa are forms of the same name. Gadara was some distance to the south of the Lake. It was, however, the capital of Peræa, and the more important place; possibly Gergesa was under its jurisdiction. Gergesa is identified with the modern Khersa; in the neighbourhood of which ‘rocks with caves in them very suitable for tombs, a verdant sward with bulbous roots on which the swine might feed’ (Macgregor, Rob Roy), and a steep descent to the verge of the Lake, exactly correspond with the circumstances of the miracle. (See Map.)

ὑπήντησαν. The force of ὑπὸ in this word may be illustrated by ὑποκρίνεσθαι, ‘to answer back,’ ὑπολογίζεσθαι, ‘to reckon on the opposite side’ (per contra), ὑποστρέφειν, ‘to turn in an opposite direction;’ here ὑπαντᾶν is to meet from an opposite direction. ὑπωμοσία and ὑποτιμᾶσθαι are similar instances of the use of ὑπὸ cited by Riddell, Plato, Apol. Socr., Digest. 131.

μνημείων. Tombs hewn out of the mountain-sides formed convenient dwelling-places for the demoniacs.

Verses 28-34


Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39.

St Mark and St Luke make mention of one demoniac only. St Mark relates the incident at greater length and with more particularity. St Matthew omits the name ‘legion,’ the prayer not to be sent into the ‘abyss’ (Luke), the request of one of the demoniacs to be with Jesus, and the charge which Jesus gives him to tell his friends what great things the Lord had done for him.

Verse 29

29. ἰδοὺ ἔκραξαν. Cp. Verg. Aen. IV. 490, Mugire videbis | sub pedibus terram; but ἰδοὺ in Hellenistic Greek is little more than a vivid transitional particle, drawing attention to what follows.

Verse 31

31. δαίμονες. The masculine form occurs nowhere else in N.T. In the parallel passages Mark 5:12 and Luke 8:29, the best criticism rejects this form. It is an interesting instance of the tendency with copyists to assimilate parallel passages even in minor particulars.

Verse 32

32. τοῦ κρημνοῦ. Translate, the steep place. The slope of Gergesa, familiar to Matthew and to the readers of his Gospel.

Verse 33

33. οἱ δὲ βόσκοντες. It does not appear whether these were Jews or Gentiles, more probably the latter; if the former, they were transgressing the law.

[1] This narrative may be regarded as a signal instance of μετάνοια, or change from the old evil state to the new life. [2] It recalls the connection between sin and disease. The majority of cases of mania may be traced to sins of impurity; the impurity expelled, the man becomes sound in body as well as in mind. [3] The destruction of the swine should present no difficulty. The same God, who, for purposes often hidden, allows men to die by thousands in war or by pestilence, here, by the destruction of a herd of swine, enforces a moral lesson which the world has never forgotten.

Verse 34

34. ὅπως μεταβῇ. The motive for the request was fear lest a greater disaster should follow (Meyer).

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 8". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.