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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Luke 20

Verses 1-8

2. The Question of the Sanhedrim: Luke 20:1-8.

Vers. 1-8. This account is separated from the preceding, in Mark and Matthew, by the brief mention of two events: in Mark 11:16, the prohibition of Jesus to carry vessels across the temple, the court was probably used as a thoroughfare (Bleek); in Mat 21:14 et seq., the cures wrought in the temple, and the hosannas of the children. The authority which Jesus thus assumed in this sacred place was well suited to occasion the step taken by the Sanhedrim. If we follow Mark, it must have taken place on the day after the purification of the temple and the cursing of the barren fig-tree, and consequently on the Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Luke omits those events, which were unknown to him, as well as the cursing of the barren fig-tree, which related specially to Israel.

Since the evening before, the members of the Sanhedrim had been in consultation ( ζητεῖν of Luk 19:47 ); and their seeking had not been in vain. They had succeeded in inventing a series of questions fitted to entangle Jesus, or in the end to extract from Him an answer which would compromise Him either with the people or with the Jewish or Gentile authorities. The question of Luk 20:2 is the first result of those conclaves. Luk 20:1 enumerates the three classes of members composing the Sanhedrim; it was therefore a formal deputation, comp. Joh 1:19 et seq. The elders are mentioned here also (comp. Luk 19:47 ) as secondary personages, beside the high priests and scribes. The first part of the question relates to the nature of Jesus' commission: is it divine or human? The second, to the intermediate agent through whom He has received it. The Sanhedrim made sure that Jesus would claim a divine commission, and hoped to take advantage of this declaration to bring Jesus to its bar, and to sit in judgment on the question. On the one hand, Jesus avoids this snare; on the other, He avoids declining the universally recognised competency of the Sanhedrim. He replies in such a way as to force His adversaries themselves to declare their incompetence.

The question which He lays before them is not a skilful manoeuvre; it is dictated by the very nature of the situation. Was it not through the instrumentality of John the Baptist that Jesus had been divinely accredited to the people? The acknowledgment, therefore, of Jesus' authority really depended on the acknowledgment of John's. The second alternative, of men, includes the two possible cases, of himself, or of some other human authority.

The embarrassment of His adversaries is expressed by the three Syn. in ways so different, that it is impossible to derive the three forms from one and the same written source. This question has sufficed to disconcert them. They, the wise, the skilled, who affect to judge of everything in the theocracy, they shamefully decline a judgment in face of an event of such capital importance as was the appearing of John! There is a blending of indignation and contempt in the neither do I of Jesus ( Luk 20:8 ). But that answer which He refuses them, they who have refused Him theirs, He goes on to give immediately after in the following parable. Only it is to the whole people that He will address it ( πρὸς τὸν λαόν , Luk 20:9 ), as a solemn protestation against the hypocritical conduct of their chiefs.

Why did Luke omit the cursing of the barren fig-tree? He was well aware, answers Volkmar, that it was simply an idea represented by Mark in the form of a fact; and he restored to it its true character by presenting it, Luke 13:6-9, in the form of a parable. So the description of God's patience toward Israel, the barren fig-tree ( Luk 13:6-9 ), is one and the same lesson with the cursing of that same figtree! Why does Matthew make the cursing of the fig-tree, and the conversation of Jesus with His disciples on that occasion, fall at the same period and on the same day, two facts which are separated in Mark by a whole day? Holtzmann answers: On reading ( Mar 11:12 ) the first half of this account, Matthew determined to leave it out. But on coming to the second half ( Mar 5:20 ), he took the resolution to insert it; only he combined them in one. So, when the evangelist was composing his narrative, he read for the first time the document containing the history which he was relating! In view of such admirable discoveries, is there not reason to say: Risum teneatis?

Verses 1-47

Second Cycle: The Reign of Jesus in the Temple, Luk 19:45 to Luke 21:4 .

From this moment, Jesus establishes Himself as a sovereign in His Father's house; He there discharges the functions not only of a prophet, but of a legislator and judge; for some days the theocratic authorities seem to abdicate their powers into His hands.

These are the days of the Messiah's sovereignty in His temple ( Mal 3:1-2 ).

This section contains the following facts: Jesus driving out the sellers ( Luk 19:45-48 ); His answer to an official question of the Sanhedrim regarding His competence ( Luk 20:1-8 ); His announcing their deprivation of authority ( Luk 20:9-19 ); His escape from the snares laid for Him by the Pharisees and Sadducees ( Luk 20:20-40 ); His putting to them a question respecting the person of the Messiah ( Luk 20:41-44 ); His guarding the people against those seducers ( Luk 20:45-47 ); His setting up, in opposition to their false system of moral appreciation, the true standard of divine judgment ( Luk 21:1-4 ).

Verses 9-19

3. The Parable of the Husbandmen: Luke 20:9-19. This parable, in Matthew, is preceded by that of the two sons. If, as the terms of the latter suppose, it applies to the conduct of the chiefs toward John the Baptist, it is admirably placed before that of the husbandmen, which depicts the conduct of those same chiefs toward Jesus.

Vers. 9-12. We have just attested the accuracy of the introduction, and especially that of the words to the people, Luke 20:9. Holtzmann judges otherwise: “A parable inappropriately addressed to the people in Luke,” says he. Is it possible to pronounce a falser judgment? The vine denotes the theocratic people, and the husbandmen the authorities who govern them. Luke speaks neither of the tower meant to receive the workmen's tools and to guard the domain, which perhaps represents the kingly office; nor of the wine-press, the means of turning the domain to account, which is perhaps the image of the priesthood (comp. Matthew and Mark). The absence of the proprietor corresponds to that whole period of the O. T. which followed the great manifestations by which God founded the theocracy the going out of Egypt, the giving of the law, and the settlement of Israel in Canaan. From that moment Israel should have offered to its God the fruits of a gratitude and fidelity proportioned to the favour which it had received from Him. The three servants successively sent represent the successive groups of prophets, those divine messengers whose struggles and sufferings are described (Hebrews 11:0) in such lively colours. There is a climax in the conduct of the husbandmen: Luke 20:10, the envoy is beaten; Luke 20:11, beaten and shamefully abused; Luke 20:12, wounded to death and cast out of the vineyard. In this last touch, Jesus alludes to the fate of Zacharias ( Luk 11:51 ), and probably also to that of John the Baptist. In Mark, the climax is nearly the same: ἔδειραν ( to beat), ἐκεφαλαίωσαν (here, to wound in the head), ἀπέκτειναν ( to kill). Mark speaks also of other messengers who underwent the same treatment; it is perhaps this last description which should be applied to John the Baptist. Matthew speaks only of two sendings, but each embracing several individuals. Should we understand the two principal groups of prophets: Isaiah, with his surrounding of minor prophets, and Jeremiah with his? The Hebraistic expression προσέθετο πέμψαι ( Luk 20:11-12 ) shows that Luke is working on an Aramaic document. No similar expression occurs in Matthew and Mark.

Vers. 13-16. The master of the vineyard rouses himself in view of this obstinate and insolent rejection: What shall I do? And this deliberation leads him to a final measure: I will send my beloved son. This saying, put at that time by Jesus in the mouth of God, has a peculiar solemnity. There is His answer to the question: By what authority doest thou these things?

Here, as everywhere, the meaning of the title son transcends absolutely the notion of Messiah, or theocratic king, or any office whatever. The title expresses above all the notion of a personal relation to God as Father. The theocratic office flows from this relation. By this name, Jesus establishes between the servants and Himself an immeasurable distance. This was implied already by the question, What shall I do...? which suggests the divine dialogue, Genesis 1:26, whereby the creation of inferior beings is separated from that of man. ῎Ισως , properly, in a way agreeable to expectation; and hence, undoubtedly (E. V. improperly, it may be). But does not God know beforehand the result of this last experiment? True; but this failure will not at all overturn His plan. Not only will the mission of this last messenger be successful with some, but the resistance of the people as a whole, by bringing on their destruction, will open up the world to the free preaching of salvation by those few. The ignorance of the future which is ascribed to the master of the vineyard belongs to the figure. The idea represented by this detail is simply the reality of human liberty.

The deliberation of the husbandmen ( Luk 20:14 ) is an allusion to that of the chiefs, Luke 20:5 ( διελογίζοντο or σαντο ; comp. with συνελογίσαντο ). Jesus unveils before all the people the plots of their chiefs, and the real cause of the hatred with which they follow Him. These men have made the theocracy their property (John 11:48: our place, our nation); and this power, which till now they have turned to their advantage, they cannot bring themselves to give up into the hands of the Son, who comes to claim it in His Father's name.

At Luke 20:15, Jesus describes with the most striking calmness the crime which they are preparing to commit on His person, and from which He makes not the slightest effort to escape. Is the act of casting out of the vineyard, which precedes the murder, intended to represent the excommunication already pronounced on Jesus and His adherents ( Joh 9:22 )? In Mark the murder precedes; then the dead body is thrown out.

The punishment announced in Luk 20:16 might, according to Luke and Mark, apply only to the theocratic authorities, and not to the entire people. The ἄλλοι , the other husbandmen, would in this case designate the apostles and their successors. But the sense appears to be different according to Matthew. Here the word to others is thus explained, Matthew 21:43: “The kingdom of God shall be given to a nation ( ἔθνει ) bringing forth the fruits thereof.” According to this, the point in question is not the substitution of the chiefs of the N. T. for those of the Old, but that of Gentile peoples for the chosen people. What would our critics say if the parts were exchanged, if Luke had expressed himself here as Matthew does, and Matthew as Luke? Matthew puts the answer of Luk 20:16 in the mouth of the adversaries of Jesus, which on their part could only mean, “He shall destroy them, that is evident; but what have we to do with that? Thy history is but an empty tale.” Yet, as it is said in Luk 20:19 that it was not till later that His adversaries understood the bearing of the parable, the narrative of Luke and Mark is more natural. The connection between ἀκούσαντες and εἶπον is this: “they had no sooner heard than, deprecating the omen, they said...”

Vers. 17-19. ᾿Εμβλέψας , having beheld them, indicates the serious, even menacing expression which He then assumed. The δέ is adversative: “Such a thing, you say, will never happen; but what meaning, then, do you give to this saying...?” Whether in the context of Psalms 118:0 the stone rejected be the Jewish people as a whole, in comparison with the great world-powers, or (according to Bleek and others) the believing part of the people rejected by the unbelieving majority in both cases, the image of the stone despised by the builders applies indirectly to the Messiah, in whom alone Israel's mission to the world, and that of the believing part of the people to the whole, was realized. It is ever, at all stages of their history, the same law whose application is repeated.

The acc. λίθον is a case of attraction arising from the relative pron. which follows. This form is textually taken from the LXX. ( Psa 118:22 ). The corner-stone is that which forms the junction between the two most conspicuous walls, that which is laid with peculiar solemnity.

A truth so stern as the sentence of Luk 20:18 required to be wrapped up in a biblical quotation. The words of Jesus recall Isaiah 8:14-15, and Daniel 2:44. In Isaiah, the Messiah is represented as a consecrated stone, against which many of the children of Israel shall be broken. Simeon ( Luk 2:34 ) makes reference to this saying. The subject in question is the Messiah in His humiliation. A man's dashing himself against this stone laid on the earth means rejecting Him during the time of His humiliation. In the second part of the verse, where this stone is represented as falling from the top of the building, the subject is the glorified Messiah crushing all earthly oppositions by the manifestations of His wrath. In Dan 2:44 the word λικμᾲν is also found ( λικμήσει πάσας τὰς βασιλείας ), strictly: to winnow, and hence to scatter to the wind. It is therefore dangerous to encounter this stone, either by dashing against it while it is yet laid on the ground, as Israel is doing, or whether, when it shall be raised to the top of the building, men provoke it to fall on their own head, as the other nations shall one day do.

A new deliberation among the rulers follows this terrible shock ( Luk 20:19 ). But fear of the people restrains them. There is a correspondence between the two καί before ἐφοβήθησαν and before ἐζήτησαν . The two feelings, fearing and seeking (to put Him to death), struggle within their heart. The for at the end of the verse bears on the first proposition; and the πρὸς αὐτούς signifies, with a view to them (Luke 20:9, Luk 19:9 ).

In Matthew there occurs here the parable of the great supper. It is hardly probable that Jesus heaped up at one time so many figures of the same kind. The association of ideas which led the evangelist to insert the parable here is sufficiently obvious.

Verses 20-26

4. The Question of the Pharisees: Luke 20:20-26.

The official question of the Sanhedrim served only to prepare a triumph for Jesus. From this time forth the different parties make attempts on Him separately, and that by means of captious questions adroitly prepared.

Vers. 20-26. The introduction to this narrative presents in our three Syn. (Matthew 22:15; Mar 12:13 ) some marked shades of meaning. The simplest form is that of Luke. The priests and scribes ( Luk 20:19 ) suborn certain parties, who, affecting a scruple of conscience (“ feigning themselves just men ”), interrogate Jesus as to whether it is lawful to pay tribute to Gentile authorities. The snare was this: Did Jesus answer in the affirmative? It was a means of destroying His influence with the people by stigmatizing His Messianic pretensions. Did He reply in the negative? He fell as a rebel into the hands of the Roman governor, who would make short work with Him. This is brought out in Luk 20:20 by the emphatic accumulation of the terms ἀρχή , ἐξουσία , military power and judicial authority. Once given over to that power, Jesus would be in good hands, and the Sanhedrim would have no more concern about the favour with which the people surrounded Him. Λόγου and αὐτοῦ ought both to be taken, notwithstanding Bleek's scruples, as immediately dependent on ἐπιλάβωνται : “to take Him by surprise, and to catch a word from Him by surprise.” According to Mark and Matthew, the Pharisees in this case united with the Herodians. Bleeks thinks that the bond of union between the one party, fanatical zealots for national independence, and the other, devoted partisans of Herod's throne, was common antipathy to foreign domination. The presence of the Herodians was intended to encourage Jesus to answer in the negative, and so to put Himself in conflict with Pilate. But the attitude of the Herodians toward the Roman power was totally different from Bleek's view of it. The Herods had rather planted themselves in Israel as the vassals of Caesar. The Herodians, says M. Reuss, “were the Jews who had taken the side of the family of Herod against the patriots,” that is to say, against the Pharisees. We have therefore here, what so often occurs in history, a coalition of two hostile parties, with the view of crushing a third, dangerous to both. In Galilee we have already seen a similar combination (Mark 3:6; Luk 13:31-32 ). There was a perfectly good reason for it in this case. If the answer of Jesus required to be denounced to the people, this task would fall to the Pharisees, who stood well with the multitude. If, on the contrary, it was necessary to go to Pilate, the Herodians would take this part, so disagreeable to the Pharisees.

According to Matthew ( Mat 22:16 ), the heads of the pharisaic party took care to keep aloof. They attacked Him first through some of their disciples. In reality, their alliance with the Herodians compromised those well-known defenders of national independence.

The address of the emissaries is variously rendered in our three Gospels. ᾿Ορθῶς : without deviating from the straight line. Λέγειν and διδάσκειν , to say and to teach, differ as pronouncing on a question and stating the grounds of the decision. The Hebraistic phrase λαμβάνειν πρόσωπον , which must have been a frightful barbarism to Greek ears ( to take the countenance, for: to accept men's persons), is found only in Luke. It would therefore be himself, if he was copying Matthew or Mark, who had added it at his own hand he who was writing for Greek readers! ῾Οδὸς Θεοῦ , the way of God, denotes the straight theocratic line traced out by the law, without regard to accomplished facts or political necessities. They think by their praises to render it impossible for Him to recoil. There was, in reality, and this is what formed the apparently insurmountable difficulty of the question, a contradiction between the pure theocratic standard and the actual state of things. The normal condition was the autonomy of God's people, normal because founded on the divine law, and as such, sacred in the eyes of Jesus. The actual state of things was the subjection of the Jews to the Romans, a providential situation, and as such, not less evidently willed by God. How was this contradiction to be got over? Judas the Galilean, rejecting the fact, had declared himself for the right; he had perished. This was the fate to which the rulers wished to drive Jesus. And if He recoiled, if He accepted the fact, was this not to deny the right, the legal standard, Moses, God Himself?

Is it lawful for us ( Luk 20:22 )? They have a scruple of conscience! Jesus at once discerns the malicious plot which is at the bottom of the question; He feels that never was a more dangerous snare laid for Him. But there is in the simplicity of the dove a skill which enables it to escape from the best laid string of the fowler. What made the difficulty of the question was the almost entire fusion of the two domains, the religious and political, in the Old Covenant. Jesus, therefore, has now to distinguish those two spheres, which the course of Israelitish history has in fact separated and even contrasted, so that He may not be drawn into applying to the one the absolute standard which belongs only to the other. Israel should depend only on God, assuredly, but that in the religious domain. In the political sphere, God may be pleased to put it for a time in a state of dependence on a human power, as had formerly happened in their times of captivity, as is the case at present in relation to Caesar. Did not even the theocratic constitution itself distinguish between the tribute to be paid to the king and the dues to be paid to the priests and the temple? This legal distinction became only more precise and emphatic when the sceptre fell into Gentile hands. What remained to be said was not God or Caesar, but rather, God and Caesar, each in his own sphere. The Gentile money which passed current in Israel attested the providential fact of the establishment of the Roman dominion, and of the acceptance of that state of things by the theocratic people. Ubicunque numisma regis alicujus obtinet, illic incolae regem istum pro domino agnoscunt, says the famous Jewish doctor Maimonides (quoted by Bleek). The piece of Roman money which Jesus calls His adversaries to show, establishes by the image and inscription which it bears the existence of this foreign power in the political and lower sphere of the theocratic life; it is to this sphere that the payment of tribute belongs; the debt should therefore be discharged. But above this sphere there is that of the religious life which has God for its object. This sphere is fully reserved by the answer of Jesus; and He declares that all its obligations can be fulfilled, without in the least doing violence to the duties of the other. He accepts with submission the actual condition, while reserving fidelity to Him who can re-establish the normal condition as soon as it shall seem good to Him. Jesus Himself had never felt the least contradiction between those two orders of duties; and it is simply from His own pure consciousness that He derives this admirable solution. The word ἀπόδοτε , render, implies the notion of moral duty toward Caesar, quite as much as toward God. De Wette is therefore certainly mistaken here in limiting the notion of obligation to the things which are God's, and applying merely the notion of utility to the things which are Caesar's. St. Paul understood the thought of Jesus better, when he wrote to the Romans ( Luk 13:1 et seq.): “Be subject to the powers..., not only from fear of punishment, but also for conscience' sake. ” Comp. 1Ti 2:1 et seq.; 1Pe 2:13 et seq. Dependence on God does not exclude, but involves, not only many personal duties, but the various external and providential relations of dependence in which the Christian may find himself placed, even that of slavery ( 1Co 7:22 ). As to theocratic independence, Jesus knew well that the way to regain it was not to violate the duty of submission to Caesar by a revolutionary shaking off of his yoke, but to return to the faithful fulfilment of all duties toward God. To render to God what is God's, was the way for the people of God to obtain anew David instead of Caesar as their Lord.

Who could find a word to condemn in this solution? To the Pharisees, the Render unto Caesar; to the Herodians, the Render unto God. Each carries away his own lesson; Jesus alone issues triumphantly from the ordeal which was to have destroyed Him.

5. The Question of the Sadducees: Luke 20:27-40.

We know positively from Josephus that the Sadducees denied at once the resurrection of the body, the immortality of the soul, and all retribution after death ( Antiq. 18.1. 4; Bell. Jude 1:2; Jude 1:2.8. 14). It was not that they rejected either the O. T. in general, or any of its parts. How, in that case, could they have sat in the Sanhedrim, and filled the priesthood? Probably they did not find personal immortality taught clearly enough in the books of Moses; and as to the prophetic books, they ascribed to them only secondary authority.

Verses 27-33

Vers. 27-33. The Question.

The Sadducees, starting from the Levirate law given by Moses ( Deu 25:5 ), agreeably to a patriarchal usage (Genesis 38:0) which is still allowed by many Eastern peoples, seek to cover with ridicule the idea of a resurrection; ἀντιλέγοντες : who oppose ( ἀντί ), maintaining that ( λέγοντες ).

The whole statement Luk 20:29-33 has in it a touch of sarcasm.

Verses 34-40

Vers. 34-40. The Answer.

This answer is preceded in Matthew and Mark by a severe rebuke, whereby Jesus makes His questioners aware of the gross spiritual ignorance involved in such a question as theirs.

The answer of Jesus has also a sarcastic character. Those accumulated verbs, γαμεῖν , ἐκγαμίζεσθαι , especially with the frequentative γαμίσκεσθαι or ἐκγαμίσκεσθαι , throw a shade of contempt over that whole worldly train, above which the Sadducean mind is incapable of rising. Although from a moral point of view the αἰὼν μέλλων , the world to come, has already begun with the coming of Christ, from a physical point of view, the present world is prolonged till the resurrection of the body, which is to coincide with the restitution of all things. The resurrection from the dead is very evidently, in this place, not the resurrection of the dead in general. What is referred to is a special privilege granted only to the faithful ( which shall be accounted worthy; comp. Luke 14:14, the resurrection of the just, and Php 3:11 ).

The first for, Luke 20:36, indicates a causal relation between the cessation of marriage, Luke 20:35, and that of death, Luke 20:36. The object of marriage is to preserve the human species, to which otherwise death would soon put an end; and this constitution must last till the number of the elect whom God will gather in is completed. While the for makes the cessation of death to be the cause of the cessation of marriage, the particle οὔτε , neither, brings out the analogy which exists between those two facts. The reading οὐδέ is less supported.

Jesus does not say ( Luk 20:36 ) that glorified men are angels, angels and men are of two different natures, the one cannot be transformed into the other, but that they are equal with the angels, and that in two respects: no death, and no marriage. Jesus therefore ascribes a body to the angels, exempt from the difference of sex. This positive teaching about the existence and nature of angels is purposely addressed by Jesus to the Sadducees, because, according to Acts 23:8, this party denied the existence of those beings.

Jesus calls the raised ones children of God, and explains the title by that of children of the resurrection. Men on the earth are sons of one another; each of the raised ones is directly a child of God, because his body is an immediate work of divine omnipotence. It thus resembles that of the angels, whose body also proceeds directly from the power of the Creator, a fact which explains the name sons of God, by which they are designated in the O. T. The Mosaic command could not therefore form an objection to the doctrine of the resurrection rightly understood. Jesus now takes the offensive, and proves by that very Moses whom they had been opposing to Him ( καί , even, before Moses), the indisputable truth of the doctrine ( Luk 20:37-38 ). The scribes of the pharisaic party had probably often tried to discover such a proof; but it was necessary to dig deeply in the mine to extract from it this diamond.

In the phrase ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου , ἐπί denotes the place where the account of the bush is found. The choice of the word μηνύω , to give to understand, shows that Jesus distinguishes perfectly between an express declaration which does not exist, and an indication such as that which He proceeds to cite. He means simply, that if Moses had not had the idea of immortality, he would not have expressed himself as he does. When Moses put into the mouth of God the designation: God of Abraham, etc., many generations had passed since the three patriarchs lived here below; and yet God still calls Himself their God. God cannot be the God of a being who does not exist. Therefore, in Him they live. Mark the absence of the article before the words νεκρῶν and ζώντων : a God of dead, of living beings. In Plato, it is their participation in the idea which guarantees existence; in the kingdom of God, it is their relation to God Himself. The dative αὐτῷ , to Him, implies a contrast to to us, to whom the dead are as though they were not. Their existence and activity are entirely concentrated in their relation to God. All; not only the three patriarchs. The for bears on the word living. “For they live, really dead though they are to us.”

This prompt and sublime answer filled with admiration the scribes who had so often sought this decisive word in Moses without finding it; they cannot restrain themselves from testifying their joyful surprise. Aware from this time forth that every snare laid for Him will be the occasion for a glorious manifestation of His wisdom, they give up this sort of attack ( Luk 20:40 ).

Verses 41-44

6. The Question of Jesus: Luke 20:41-44.

Vers. 41-44. Matthew and Mark place here the question of a scribe on the great commandment of the law. This question was suggested to the man, as we see from Mark 12:28, by the admiration which filled him at the answers which he had just heard. According to Matthew, he wished yet again to put the wisdom of Jesus to the proof ( πειράζων αὐτόν , Mat 22:35 ). Either Luke did not know this narrative, or he omitted it because he had related one entirely similar, Luk 10:25 et seq.

At the close of this spiritual tournament, Jesus in His turn throws down a challenge to His adversaries. Was it to give them difficulty for difficulty, entanglement for entanglement? No; the similar question which He had put to them, Luke 20:4, has proved to us that Jesus was acting in a wholly different spirit. What, then, was His intention? He had just announced His death, and pointed out the authors of it (parable of the husbandmen). Now, He was not ignorant what the charge would be which they would use against Him. He would be condemned as a blasphemer, and that for having called Himself the Son of God (John 5:18; John 10:33; Mat 26:65 ). And as He was not ignorant that before such a tribunal it would be impossible for Him to plead His cause in peace, He demonstrates beforehand, in presence of the whole people, and by the Old Testament, the divinity of the Messiah, thus sweeping away from the Old Testament standpoint itself the accusation of blasphemy which was to form the pretext for His condemnation. The three Syn. have preserved, with slight differences, this remarkable saying, which, with Luk 10:21-22 and some other passages, forms the bond of union between the teaching of Jesus in those Gospels, and all that is affirmed of His person in that of John. If it is true that Jesus applied to Himself the title of David's Lord, with which this king addressed the Messiah in Psalms 110:0, the consciousness of His divinity is implied in this title as certainly as in any declaration whatever of the fourth Gospel.

According to Luke, it is to the scribes, according to Matthew ( Mat 22:41 ), to the Pharisees, that the following question is addressed. Mark names no one. The three narratives differ likewise slightly in the form of the question: “How say they?” (Luke); “How say the scribes?” (Mark.) In Matthew, Jesus declares to the Pharisees at the same time the doctrine of the Davidic sonship of the Messiah, very natural diversities if they arise from a tradition which had taken various forms, but inexplicable if they are intentional, as they must be, supposing the use of one and the same written source. The Alex. read: “ For he himself...;” that is to say: “there is room to put this question; for...” The Byz.: “ And (nevertheless) he himself hath said...” Luke says: in the book of Psalms; Matthew: by the Spirit; Mark: by the Holy Spirit.

The non-Messianic explanations of Psalms 110:0 are the masterpiece of rationalistic arbitrariness. They begin by giving to וד Ó לְדָתִהךֵ meaning: “addressed to David,” instead of: “composed by David,” contrary to the uniform sense of the ל auctoris in the titles of the Psalms, and that to make David the subject of the Psalm, which would be impossible if he were its author (Ewald). And as this interpretation turns out to be untenable, for David never was a priest (Luke 20:4: “Thou art a priest for ever”), they transfer the composition of the Psalm to the age of the Maccabees, and suppose it addressed by some author or other to Jonathan, the brother of Judas Maccabeus, of the priestly race. This person, who never even bore the title of king, is the man whom an unknown flatterer is supposed, according to Hitzig, to celebrate as seated at Jehovah's right hand! It is impossible to cast a glance at the contents of the Psalm without recognising its directly Messianic bearing: 1. A Lord of David; 2. Raised to Jehovah's throne, that is to say, to participation in omnipotence; 3. Setting out from Zion on the conquest of the world, overthrowing the kings of the earth ( Luk 20:4 ), judging the nations ( Luk 20:5 ), and that by means of an army of priests clothed in their sacerdotal garments ( Luk 20:3 ); 4. Himself at once a priest and a king, like Melchisedec before Him. The law, by placing the kingly power in the tribe of Judah, and the priesthood in that of Levi, had raised an insurmountable barrier between those two offices. This separation David must often have felt with pain. Uzziah attempted to do away with it; but he was immediately visited with punishment. It was reserved for the Messiah alone, at the close of the theocracy, to reproduce the sublime type of the King-Priest, presented at the date of its origin in the person of Melchisedec. Comp. on the future reunion of those two offices in the Messiah, the wonderful prophecy of Zechariah 6:9-15. Psalms 110:0, besides its evidently prophetic bearing, possesses otherwise all the characteristics of David's compositions: a conciseness which is forcible and obscure; brilliancy and freshness in the images; grandeur and richness of intuition. It was from the words: Sit Thou at my right hand, that Jesus took His answer to the adjuration of the high priest in the judgment-scene ( Mat 26:64 ): “Henceforth shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power.” With what a look of severity, turned upon His adversaries at the very moment when He quoted this Psalm before all the people, must He have accompanied this declaration of Jehovah to the Messiah: “ until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.

To answer satisfactorily the question of Luke 20:44, put by Jesus, it was absolutely necessary to introduce the idea of the divinity of the Messiah, which is the soul of the entire Old Testament. Isaiah called the Son born to us: Wonderful, mighty God ( Isa 9:5 ). Micah had distinguished His historic birth at Bethlehem, and His pre-historic birth from everlasting ( Luk 20:2 ). Malachi had called the Messiah, “ Adonai coming to His temple ” ( Luk 3:1 ). There was in the whole of the Old Testament, from the patriarchal theophanies down to the latest prophetic visions, a constant current toward the incarnation as the goal of all those revelations. The appearance of the Messiah presents itself more and more clearly to the view of the prophets as the perfect theophany, the final coming of Jehovah. No doubt, since the exile, exclusive zeal for monotheism had diverted Jewish theology from this normal direction. This is the fact which Jesus sets before its representatives in that so profound argument of His, John 10:34-38. It was exactly in this way that Rabbinical monotheism had become petrified and transformed into a dead theism. Jesus has taken up the broken thread of the living theology of the prophets. Such is the explanation of His present question. To resolve it, the scribes would have required to plunge again into the fresh current of the ancient theocratic aspirations: The descendant promised to David ( 2Sa 7:16 ) will be nothing less than Adonai coming to His temple ( Mal 3:1 ); to His human birth at Bethlehem there corresponds His eternal origin in God ( Mic 5:2 ): such only is the reconciliation of the two titles son and Lord of David given to the person of the Messiah.

The meaning and appropriateness of Jesus' question appear to us equally manifest. It has been sought, however, to explain it otherwise.

1. Some think that Jesus argues, from the fact that Messiah is to be David's Lord, to prove that He cannot be his descendant. For it is incongruous, say they, that an ancestor should call his descendant his Lord. According to this meaning, it must be admitted that Jesus Himself knew very well that He did not descend from David, although among the people they ignorantly gave Him the title son of David, because they took Him for the Messiah. The Christians, it is said, yielded at a later period to the popular Jewish instinct; and to satisfy it invented the two genealogies which seem to establish the Davidic descent of Jesus (Schenkel). But, ( a) In this case, Jesus would have acted, as Keim observes, in a manner extremely imprudent, by Himself raising a question which more than any other might have prejudiced His standing with the people. “The character son of David could not be wanting to Him who thus publicly made it a subject of discussion” (Keim). ( b) It would not only be the forgers, the authors of the two genealogical documents preserved by Matthew and Luke, who had admitted and propagated this late error; it would also mean the author of the Apocalypse (Luke 22:16: “I am the root and offspring of David”). St. Paul himself would be guilty, he who should least of all have been inclined to make such a concession to the Judaizing party (Romans 1:3: “ of the seed of David according to the flesh;2 Timothy 2:8: “ of the seed of David ”). The whole Church must thus have connived at this falsehood, or given in to this error, and that despite of the express protestation of Jesus Himself in our passage, and without any attempt on the part of our Lord's adversaries to show up the error or falsehood of this assertion! ( c) The argument thus understood would prove far too much; the rationalists themselves should beware of ascribing to Jesus so gross a want of logic as it would imply. If it was dishonouring to David to call any one whatsoever of his descendants his Lord, why would it be less so for him to give this title to that descendant of Abraham who should be the Messiah? Was not the family of David the noblest, the most illustrious of Israelitish families? The reasoning of Jesus would logically end in proving that the Messiah could not be an Israelite, or even a man! ( d) Jesus would thus have put Himself in contradiction to the whole Old Testament, which represented the Christ as being born of the family of David (2 Samuel 7:0; Psalms 132:17; Isa 9:5-6 ). ( e) Luke would also be in contradiction with himself, for he expressly makes Jesus descend from David (Luke 1:32; Luk 1:69 ). ( f) How, finally, could Jesus have contented Himself with protesting so indirectly against this attribute son of David ascribed to Him by the multitude, if He had known that He did not possess it?

2. According to M. Colani also, Jesus means that the Messiah is not the son of David, but in this purely moral sense, that He is not the heir of his temporal power; that His kingdom is of a higher nature than David's earthly kingdom. But, ( a) It is wholly opposed to the simple and rational meaning of the term son of David, not to refer it to sonship properly so called, but to make it signify, a temporal king like David. ( b) It would be necessary to admit that the evangelist did not himself understand the meaning of this saying, or that he contradicts himself, he who puts into the mouth of the angel the declaration, Luke 1:32: “The Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David” (comp. Luk 1:69 ).

3. Keim admits the natural meaning of the term Son. He places the notion of spiritual kingship not in this term, but in that of David's Lord. “The physical descent of Jesus from David is of no moment; His kingdom is not a repetition of David's. From the bosom of the heavenly glory to which He is raised, He bestows spiritual blessings on men. None, therefore, should take offence at His present poverty.” But, ( a) If that is the whole problem, the problem vanishes; for there is not the least difficulty in admitting that a descendant may be raised to a height surpassing that of his ancestor. There is no serious difficulty, if the term Lord does not include the notion of a sonship superior to that which is implied in the title son of David. ( b) So thoroughly is this our Lord's view, that in Mark the question put by Him stands thus: “David calls Him his Lord; how, then, is He his son? ” In Keim's sense, Jesus should have said: “David calls Him his son; how, then, is He his Lord? ” In the form of Matthew (the Gospel to which Keim uniformly gives the preference, and to which alone he ascribes any real value), the true point of the question is still more clearly put: “ Whose son is He? ” The problem is evidently, therefore, the Davidic sonship of Jesus, as an undeniable fact, and yet apparently contradictory to another sonship implied in the term David's Lord. Finally, ( c) If it was merely the spiritual nature of His kingdom which Jesus meant to teach, as Colani and Keim allege in their two different interpretations, there were many simpler and clearer ways of doing so, than the ambiguous and complicated method which on their supposition He must have employed here. The question put by Jesus would be nothing but a play of wit, unworthy of Himself and of the solemnity of the occasion.

4. According to Volkmar, this whole piece is a pure invention of Mark, the primitive evangelist, who, by putting this question in the mouth of Jesus, skilfully answered this Rabbinical objection: Jesus did not present Himself to the world either as David's descendant or as His glorious successor; consequently He cannot be the Messiah, for the O. T. makes Messiah the son of David. Mark answered by the mouth of Jesus: No; it is impossible that the O. T. could have meant to make Messiah the son of David, for according to Psalms 110:0 the Messiah was to be his Lord. But, ( a) It would follow therefrom, as Volkmar acknowledges, that in the time of Jesus none had regarded Him as the descendant of David. Now the acclamations of the multitude on the day of Palms, the address of the woman of Canaan, that of Bartimeus, and all the other like passages, prove, on the contrary, that the Davidic sonship of Jesus was a generally admitted fact. ( b) How was it that the scribes never protested against the Messianic pretensions of Jesus, especially on the occasion of His trial before the Sanhedrim, if His attribute son of David had not been a notorious fact? ( c) The Davidic descent of the family of Jesus was so well known, that the emperor Domitian summoned the nephews of Jesus, the sons of Jude His brother, to Rome, under the designation of sons of David. ( d) St. Paul, in the year 59, positively teaches the Davidic descent of Jesus ( Rom 1:3 ). And Mark, the Pauline (according to Volkmar), denied to Jesus this same sonship in 73 (the date, according to Volkmar, of Mark's composition), by a reasoning ad hoc! Still more, Luke himself, that Pauline of the purest water, reproduces Mark's express denial, without troubling himself about the positive teaching of Paul! Volkmar attempts to elude the force of this argument by maintaining that Paul's saying in the Epistle to the Romans is only a concession made by him to the Judeo-Christian party! To the objection taken from the genealogy of Jesus ( Luk 3:23 et seq.), Volkmar audaciously replies that Luke mentions it only to set it aside (“ um sie zu illudiren ”). And yet this same Luke, as we have seen, expressly asserts this sonship (Luke 1:32; Luk 1:69 ). ( e) Let us add a last discovery of Volkmar's: Matthew found it useful, in the interest of the Judeo-Christian party, to accept in spite of Mark the idea of the Davidic descent of Jesus as he found it contained in Luke (in that genealogical document which Luke had quoted only to set aside)! Only, to glorify Jesus the more, he substituted at his own hand, for the obscure branch of Nathan (Luke's genealogy), the royal and much more glorious line of Solomon (Matthew's).

Thus our sacred writers manipulate history to suit their interest or caprice! Instead of the artless simplicity which moves us in their writings, we find in them device opposed to device, and falsehood to falsehood! Be it ours to stand aloof from such saturnalia of criticism!

Our interpretation, the only natural one in the context, is confirmed: (1) By those expressions in the Apocalypse: the root and offspring of David, expressions which correspond to those of Lord and son of this king; (2) by Paul's twofold declaration, “ made of the seed of David according to the flesh [David's son], and declared to be the Son of God with power since His resurrection, according to the spirit of holiness [David's Lord];” (3) by the silence of Jesus at the time of His condemnation. This question, put in the presence of all the people to the conscience of His judges, had answered beforehand the accusation of blasphemy raised against Him. Such was the practical end which Jesus had in view, when with this question He closed this decisive passage of arms.

Verses 45-47

7. The Warning against the Scribes: Luke 20:45-47.

Vers. 45-47. On the field of battle where the scribes have just been beaten, Jesus judges them. This short discourse, like its parallel Mark 12:38-40, is the summary of the great discourse Matthew 23:0, wherein Jesus pronounced His woe on the scribes and Pharisees, and which may be called the judgment of the theocratic authorities. It is the prelude to the great eschatological discourse which follows (the judgment of Jerusalem, of the Church, and of the world, Matthew 24:25).

In the discourse Matthew 23:0, two different discourses are combined, of which the one is transmitted to us by Luke ( Luk 11:37 et seq.), in a context which leaves nothing to be desired, and the other was really uttered at the time where we find it placed in the first Gospel. We have only an abridgment in Mark and Luke, either because it was found in this form in the documents from which they drew, or because, writing for Gentile readers, they deemed it unnecessary to transmit it to them in whole. Θελόντων : who take their pleasure in.

There are two ways of explaining the spoliations referred to in the words: devouring widows' houses. Either they extorted considerable presents from pious women, under pretext of interceding for them, this sense would best agree with the sequel, especially with the reading προσευχόμενοι ; or what is more natural and piquant, by the ambiguity of the word eat up, Jesus alludes to the sumptuous feasts provided for them by those women, while they filled the office of directors of the conscience; in both senses: the Tartuffes of the period. The word πρόφασις , strictly pretext, signifies secondarily, show. The words: greater damnation, include in an abridged form all the οὐαί , woes! of Matthew.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 20". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/luke-20.html.