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Bible Commentaries
Luke 8

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

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Verse 1


(1) And it came to pass afterward.—The last word is the same as that translated “in order,” in Luke 1:3, and is interesting as showing the continuance of St. Luke’s purpose to narrate events, so far as he could, in their exact sequence. He is the only writer in the New Testament who uses it. The verse sums up an undefined and otherwise unrecorded range of work.

Verse 2

(2) And certain women.—The words bring before us a feature in this period of our Lord’s ministry not elsewhere recorded, though implied in Luke 23:49. The Master and the disciples formed at this period one travelling company. When they arrived at town or village, they held what we, in the current Church-language of our time, should call a Mission, the Twelve heralding His approach, and inviting men to listen to Him as He taught in synagogue, or market-place, or open plain. Another company, consisting of devout women, mostly of the wealthier class, travelled separately, journeying, probably, in advance, arranging for the reception and the food of the Prophet and His followers. In the history of Elisha (2 Kings 4:10) we have something analogous to this way of helping the preachers of repentance. It is said to have been a not uncommon practice in Judæa in our Lord’s time, for women of independent means to support a Rabbi in his work as a teacher.

Mary called Magdalene.—On the legends and conjectures connected with her name, see Notes on Luke 7:37 and Matthew 27:56. Here it may be enough to note that (1) as being of Magdala, a town near Tiberias (see Note on Matthew 15:39), she had probably heard our Lord in one of His early mission journeys; (2) that the “seven devils” or “demons” point, as in the parable of Matthew 12:45, to a specially aggravated form of possession. with paroxysms of delirious frenzy, like those of the Gadarene demoniac; (3) that her presence with the mother of our Lord and St. John at the Crucifixion (John 19:25) seems to imply some special tie either of sympathy or of earlier connection with them; (4) that she appears, from the names with which she is associated, and from the fact that she too “ministered of her substance,” to have belonged to the more wealthy section of Galilean society. Later Western legends tell of her coming with Lazarus and Martha to Marseilles, and living for thirty years a life of penitence in a cave near Arles. The Eastern form of the legend, however, makes her come to Ephesus with the Virgin and St. John, and die there.

Verse 3

(3) Joanna, the wife of Chuza.—Here again we have a convert of the upper class. The name was the feminine form of Joannes, and appears in modern languages abbreviated into Joanne, Joan, or Jane. Nothing further is known of Chuza—but the “steward” (the same word as in Matthew 20:8, and the “tutor” or “guardian” of Galatians 4:2) of the Tetrarch, the manager of his income and expenditure, must have been a man of some mark. We may think of him and his wife as having probably come under the influence of the Baptist or of Manaen, the foster-brother of the Tetrarch, probably also of one of the “servants” to whom Antipas imparted his belief that John the Baptist was risen from the dead. Joanna appears again in the history of the Resurrection (Luke 24:10). It is possible, as suggested in the Note on John 4:46, that he may have been identical with the “nobleman” or “member of the royal household” at Capernaum. On this supposition her ministration may have been the result of overflowing gratitude for the restored life of her son.

Susanna.—The name, which meant a “lily” (comp. Rhoda, “a rose,” in Acts 12:13, and Tamar, “a palm,” in Genesis 38:6, 2 Samuel 13:2, as parallel instances of feminine names derived from flowers or trees), meets us in the well-known Apocryphal addition to the Book of Daniel known as Susanna and the Elders. Nothing further is known of the person thus named.

Many others.—It seems clear that St. Luke must have come into personal contact with some, at least, of those whom he describes so fully. They were, we may well believe, among the “eye-witnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2) from whom he derived much of his information. (See Introduction.)

Verse 4

(4) And when much people were gathered . . .—The narrative is less precise than that in St. Matthew. It is possible that the parable may have been repeated more than once.

Verses 5-15

(5-15) A sower went out to sow.—See Notes on Matthew 13:3-23. Better, the sower. The vivid touch that the seed was “trodden down” is peculiar to St. Luke.

Verse 6

(6) Upon a rock.—Better, upon the rock. Note here also the use of a more accurate word than the “stony (or rocky) ground” of the other two reports, and the statement that it withered “because it lacked moisture.” This is obviously not without its force in the spiritual interpretation of the parable, the “moisture” being the dew and rain of God’s grace, without which the seed could not put forth its roots. This represents one aspect of what was lacking, as the having “no depth of earth “represents another.

Verse 7

(7) The thorns sprang up with it.—Here again there is a distinctive feature. What made the thorns so fatal to the good seed was that they “grew with its growth, and strengthened with its strength,” and finally overpowered it.

Verse 8

(8) Bare fruit an hundredfold.—The graduated scale of fertility common to the other two reports is wanting in St. Luke, who dwells only on the highest.

Verse 10

(10) That seeing they might not . . .—St. Luke, like St. Mark, gives the words of Isaiah, but not as a quotation. On the difficulty presented by their form, as thus given, see Note on Mark 4:12.

Verse 11

(11) The seed is the word of God.—This takes the place in St. Luke’s interpretation of “the word of the kingdom” in St. Matthew. The “word of God” is obviously to be taken in its widest sense, as including every form by which a revelation from God is conveyed to the mind of man.

Verse 12

(12) Then cometh the devil.—Note St. Luke’s use of this word instead of the “Satan” of St. Mark and “the wicked one” of St. Matthew, and his fuller statement of the purpose, “lest they should believe and be saved.”

Verse 13

(13) In time of temptation.—The form of the temptation (or better, trial) is explained by the “tribulation or persecution” of the other two reports. So St. Luke gives “fall away” where the others give “they are offended.”

Verse 14

(14) Cares and riches and pleasures of this life.—Better, simply, of life, St. Luke’s word (bios) being different from that in the other two Gospels (œon, a time, or period—and so used for “the world”). The insertion of “pleasures” is peculiar to St. Luke, as is also the specific “bring no fruit to perfection “instead of “becometh unfruitful.” The one Greek word which St. Luke uses, and for which the English version substitutes five, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and belonging, as it does, to the vocabulary of a more polished literature, is characteristic of his general culture.

Verse 15

(15) In an honest and good heart.—The Greek for “honest” has a somewhat higher meaning than that which now attaches to the English, and may be better expressed by noble or honourable. The two adjectives were frequently joined together by Greek ethical writers (kalok’agathos), the nobly-good, and so applied to the best forms of an aristocracy, or claimed by those who professed to represent it, to express the highest ideal of moral excellence.

With patience.—Better, with perseverance, or steadfastness. The word implies something more vigorous than the passive submission which we commonly associate with “patience.” The thought is the same as in “he that endureth to the end” (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13), but the noun does not occur in the other Gospels. It occurs thirteen times in St. Paul’s Epistles.

Verse 16

(16) No man, when he hath lighted a candle.—Better, a lamp; and for “a candlestick,” the lampstand. See Notes on Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21. In St. Matthew the proverb comes into the Sermon on the Mount; in St. Mark it occupies a position analogous to that in which it stands here, and this agreement favours the view that it was actually spoken in connection with the interpretation of the parable, as a special application of what had before been stated generally.

Note St. Luke’s more general term, “a vessel,” instead of “the bushel,” as in St. Matthew and St. Mark, and the somewhat wider range of the lamp’s illumining power, not only to those who are “in the house,” but to those also who are in the act of “entering” into it. We may, perhaps, venture to connect the choice of the latter phrase with St. Luke’s personal experience as a convert from heathenism. As such, he had been among those that entered into the house; and as he did so, he had seen the light of the lamp which the Apostles of Christ had lighted.

Verse 17

(17) For nothing is secret.—Another of the maxims which were often in our Lord’s lips, and applied as circumstances presented themselves. In Matthew 10:26 (where see Note) it forms part of the charge to the twelve Apostles; here it follows on the interpretation of the parable of the Sower; in Luke 12:2 it points the moral of the uselessness of hypocrisy.

Verse 18

(18) Take heed therefore how ye hear.—This again meets us in different contexts. Here and in Matthew 13:12 (where see Note), after the interpretation of the Sower; in Matthew 25:29, as the lesson of the parable of the Talents; in Luke 19:26, in an analogous position, as the lesson of the parable of the Pounds.

That which he seemeth to have.—Better, with the margin, as 1 Corinthians 10:12, that which he thinks he hath. It is only in this passage that the close of the proverb takes this form. The man who does not use his knowledge has no real possession in it; and shallow and unreal as it is, he will lose even that. The work of education in all its many forms, intellectual or spiritual, in boyhood or manhood, presents but too many instances of the operation of this law.

Verses 19-21

(19-21) Then came to him his mother and his brethren.—See Notes on Matthew 12:46-50, and Mark 3:31-35. There cannot be any doubt that we have in those passages a report of the same incident; but it may be noted that St. Luke places it after the teaching by parables, and the other two Gospels before. In this instance the evidence preponderates in favour of the latter sequence of events.

For the press.—Better, by reason of the multitude.

Verse 20

(20) It was told him by certain which said, . . .—Better, more simply, it was told Him. Looking to the greater fulness of St. Mark’s report, we may, perhaps, infer that this was one of the facts which St. Luke learnt from St. Mark when they met at Rome. (See Introduction.)

Verse 21

(21) My mother and my brethren.—The answer agrees very closely with that in the other Gospels. But note the use of “the word of God,” instead of “the will of God” in St. Mark, and “the will of my Father” in St. Matthew, as throwing light on the meaning of the former phrase, and showing its fulness and width of meaning.

Verse 22

(22) It came to pass on a certain day.—See Notes on Matthew 8:18; Matthew 8:23-27, and Mark 4:35-41. Literally, on one of the days. The vagueness of St. Luke’s note of time, as compared with the more precise statements in St. Matthew (Matthew 8:18) and St. Mark (Mark 4:35), is perhaps characteristic of this Evangelist as an inquirer coming late into the field, aiming at exactness, not always succeeding in satisfying himself as to the precise sequence of events, and honestly confessing when he has failed to do so.

Unto the other side of the lakei.e., from the western to the eastern shore. It would seem from the Greek name of the district, Peræa (= “the other-side country”), as if the term was a colloquial designation of the eastern shore, even without reference to the starting-point.

The lake.—The uniform use of the more accurate term by St. Luke as a stranger, as contrasted with the equally uniform use of the more popular and local designation of the “sea” in the other three Gospels, written by, or under the influence of. Galileans, is characteristic of one who may have been a student of Strabo. (See Introduction.)

Verse 23

(23) He fell asleep.—The verb so rendered differs from the “was asleep” of the other Gospels, and this is the only place of the New Testament in which it occurs. It is a somewhat more technical word, and is so far -characteristic of the physician-historian.

They were filled.—Better, they were filling, the tense describing the process, not the completion.

Verse 24

(24) Master, master.—We note another characteristic feature of Luke’s phraseology. The Greek word (epistatès) which he, and he only, uses in the New Testament, is his equivalent, here and elsewhere, for the “Rabbi” or “Master” (didaskalos), in the sense of “teacher,” which we find in the other Gospels. St. Luke uses this word also, but apparently only in connection with our Lord’s actual work as a teacher, and adopts epistatès (literally, the head or president of a company, but sometimes used also of the head-master of a school or gymnasium) for other occasions. It was, as this fact implies, the more classical word of the two.

The raging of the water.—Literally, the wave or billow of the water. The term is peculiar to St. Luke’s Gospel.

Verse 25

(25) What manner of man.—Better, Who then is this?

And water.—Better, and the water.

Verses 26-39

(26-39) And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes.—See Notes on Matthew 8:28-34, and Mark 5:1-20. Here again St. Mark and St. Luke agree in their order, and differ from St. Matthew. The better MSS. give “Gerasenes” or “Gergesenes.” See Note on Matthew 8:28 for the localities.

Which is over against Galilee.—St. Luke’s description of the region, which the other two Gospels name without describing, is characteristic of a foreigner writing for foreigners.

Verse 27

(27) And ware no clothes.—The English is stronger than the Greek warrants. Better, wore no cloak, or outer garment. (Comp. Note on Matthew 5:40.) Singularly enough, St. Luke is the only Evangelist who mentions this fact. It is as though he had taken pains to inquire whether this case of frenzied insanity had presented the phenomenon with which his experience as a physician had made him familiar in others.

Verse 28

(28) What have I to do with thee?—Note the exact agreement with St. Mark’s report rather than St. Matthew’s, both as to there being but one demoniac, and as to the words used by him.

Verse 29

(29) Driven of the devil . . .—Better, by the demon, to show that it is still the unclean spirit, and not the great Enemy, that is spoken of.

Into the wilderness.—The Greek word is plural, as in Luke 1:80; Luke 5:16. St. Luke, it may be noted, is the only writer who so uses it.

Verse 30

(30) Legion.—Here again St. Mark and St. Luke agree.

Verse 31

(31) To go out into the deep.—Better, into the abyss. The word is not found in the other Gospels, and it clearly means, not the deep waters of the Galilean lake, but the pit, the “bottomless pit” of Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11. The man, identifying himself with the demons, asks for any doom rather than that.

Verse 33

(33) Down a steep place.—Better, down the cliff.

Verse 34

(34) In the country.—Better, in the farms. The noun is in the plural, and is so rendered in Matthew 22:5.

Verse 35

(35) Sitting at the feet of Jesus.—This feature is peculiar to St. Luke’s narrative. The demoniac was now in the same attitude of rapt attention as that in which we find afterwards Mary the sister of Lazarus (Luke 10:39).

Verse 36

(36) By what means . . .—Better, how; stress being laid on the manner rather than the instrumentality.

Verse 37

(37) They were taken with great fear.—Better, they were oppressed.

Verse 39

(39) Throughout the whole city.—The city was, of course, according to the reading adopted, Gerasa, or Gadara.

Verse 40

(40) When Jesus was returned.—The narrative implies that our Lord and His disciples re-crossed the lake from the eastern to the western shore, and that the crowd that waited belonged to Capernaum and the neighbouring towns.

Verses 41-56

(41-56) And, behold, there came a man named Jairus.—See Notes on Matthew 9:18-26, and Mark 5:21-43. St. Luke’s narrative agrees with St. Mark’s more closely than with St. Matthew’s.

Verse 42

(42) About twelve years of age.—St. Luke, as with the precision of a practised writer, names the age at the beginning of the narrative, St. Mark incidentally (Mark 5:42) at its close.

Verse 43

(43) Neither could be healed of any.—It is, perhaps, worth noting that while St. Luke records the failure of the physicians to heal the woman, he does not add, as St. Mark does, that she “rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26).

Verse 45

(45) Master.—The same word as in Luke 8:24, where see Note.

Verse 46

(46) Somebody hath touched me.—What St. Mark gives historically as a fact, St. Luke reports as uttered by our Lord Himself.

That virtue is gone out of me.—See Note on Mark 5:30. To St. Luke the word was probably familiar as a technical term.

Verse 48

(48) Go in peace.—See Note on Luke 7:50.

Verse 50

(50) Believe only.—There is a slight difference in the shade of meaning of the Greek tense as compared with the like command in St. Mark’s report, the latter giving “Believe” as implying a permanent state—Be believing—St. Luke’s report laying stress on the immediate act of faith.

Verse 51

(51) Save Peter, and James, and John.—It will be noticed that St. Luke agrees with St. Mark in giving the names; St. Matthew omits them. St. Mark, however, states more definitely that none others were allowed even to go with Him.

Verse 52

(52) All wept, and bewailed her.—Better, all were weeping and bewailing her.

Verse 55

(55) Her spirit came again.—The precise form of expression is peculiar to St. Luke, and is, perhaps, characteristic of the more accurate phraseology that belonged to him as a physician.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/luke-8.html. 1905.
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