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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Luke 5

Verses 1-3

Vers. 1-3.

The General Situation.

This description furnishes a perfect frame to the scene that follows. The words, καὶ αὐτός ..., He was also standing there, indicate the inconvenient position in which He was placed by the crowd collected at this spot.

The details in Luk 5:2 are intended to explain the request which Jesus makes to the fishermen. The night fishing was at an end ( Luk 5:5 ). And they had no intention of beginning another by daylight; the season was not favourable. Moreover, they had washed their nets ( ἀπέπλυναν is the true reading; the imperf. in B. D. is a correction), and their boats were drawn up upon the strand ( ἑστῶτα ). If the fishermen had been ready to fish, Jesus would not have asked them to render a service which would have interfered with their work. It is true that Matthew and Mark represent them as actually engaged in casting their nets. But these two evangelists omit the miraculous draught altogether, and take us to the final moment when Jesus says to them: “ I will make you fishers of men. ” Jesus makes a pulpit of the boat which His friends had just left, whence He casts the net of the word over the crowd which covers the shore. Then, desiring to attach henceforth these young believers to Himself with a view to His future work, He determines to give them an emblem they will never forget of the magnificent success that will attend the ministry for the love of which He invites them to forsake all; and in order that it may be more deeply graven on their hearts, He takes this emblem from their daily calling.

Verses 1-11

1. The Call of the Disciples: Luke 5:1-11.

The companions of Jesus, in the preceding scene, have not yet been named by Luke ( they besought Him, Luke 4:38; she ministered unto them, Luk 4:39 ). According to Mark ( Mar 1:29 ), they were Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These are the very four young men whom we find in this narrative. They had lived up to this time in the bosom of their families, and continued their old occupations. But this state of things was no longer suitable to the part which Jesus designed for them. They were to treasure up all His instructions, be the constant witnesses of His works, and receive from Him a daily moral education. In order to this, it was indispensable that they should be continually with Him. In calling them to leave their earthly occupation, and assigning them in its place one that was wholly spiritual, Jesus founded, properly speaking, the Christian ministry. For this is precisely the line of demarcation between the simple Christian and the minister, that the former realizes the life of faith in any earthly calling; while the latter, excused by his Master from any particular profession, can devote himself entirely to the spiritual work with which he is entrusted. Such is the new position to which Jesus raises these young fishermen. It is more than simple faith, but less than apostleship; it is the ministry, the general foundation on which will be erected the apostolate.

The call related here by Luke is certainly the same as that which is related, in a more abridged form, by Matthew ( Mat 4:18-22 ) and Mark ( Mar 1:16-20 ). For can any one suppose, with Riggenbach, that Jesus twice addressed the same persons in these terms, “ I will make you fishers of men,” and that they could have twice left all in order to follow Him? If the miraculous draught of fishes is omitted in Matthew and Mark, it is because, as we have frequent proof in the former, in the traditional narratives, the whole interest was centred in the word of Jesus, which was the soul of every incident. Mark has given completeness to these narratives wherever he could avail himself of Peter's accounts. But here this was not the case, because, as many facts go to prove, Peter avoided giving prominence to himself in his own narrations.

Verses 1-39

Second Cycle: From the Call of the First Disciples to the Choice of the Twelve, Luk 5:1 to Luke 6:11 .

Up to this time Jesus has been preaching, accompanied by a few friends, but without forming about Him a circle of permanent disciples. As His work grows, He feels it necessary to give it a more definite form. The time has arrived when He deems it wise to attach to Himself, as regular disciples, those whom the Father has given Him. This new phase coincides with that in which His work begins to come into conflict with the established order of things.

This cycle comprises six narratives: 1. The call of the first four disciples ( Luk 5:1-11 ); 2 and 3. Two cures of the leper and the paralytic ( Luk 5:12-26 ); 4. The call of Levi, with the circumstances connected with it ( Luk 5:27-39 ); 5 and 6. Two conflicts relating to the Sabbath ( Luk 6:1-11 ).

Verses 4-10

Vers. 4-10 a.The Preparation.

In the imperative, launch out ( Luk 5:4 ), Jesus speaks solely to Peter, as director of the embarkation; the order, let down, is addressed to all. Peter, the head of the present fishing, will one day be head also of the mission.

Not having taken anything during the night, the most favourable time for fishing, they had given up the idea of fishing in the day. Peter's reply, so full of docility, indicates faith already existing. “ I should not think of letting down the net; nevertheless at Thy word...” He calls Jesus ἐπιστάτης , properly Overseer, Master. This word frequently occurs in Luke; it is more general than ῥαββί or διδάσκαλος ; it refers to any kind of oversight.

The miraculous draught may be only a miracle of knowledge; Jesus had a supernatural knowledge of a large shoal of fish to be found in this place. There are numerous instances of a similar abundance of fish appearing in an unexpected way. Jesus may, however, have wrought by His own will what is frequently produced by physical circumstances.

The imperf., was breaking, Luke 5:6, indicates a beginning to break, or at least a danger of it. The arrival of their companions prevented this accident. The term μέτοχοι denotes merely participation in the same employment.

In Matthew and Mark, John and James were mending their nets. Luke contains nothing opposed to this.

Meyer thinks Peter's astonishment ( Luk 5:8 ) incomprehensible after all the miracles he had already seen. But whenever divine power leaves the region of the abstract, and comes before our eyes in the sphere of actual facts, does it not appear new? Thus, in Peter's case, the emotion produced by the draught of fishes effaces for the time every other impression. ῎Εξελθε ἀπ᾿ ἐμοῦ . Go out [of the boat, and depart] from me. Peter here employs the more religious expression Lord, which answers to his actual feeling.

The word ἀνήρ , a man, strongly individualizes the idea of sinner.

If the reading ᾗ be preferred to ὧν (Alex.), we must take the word ἄγρα , catch, in the passive sense.

The term κοινωνοί , associates ( Luk 5:10 ), implies more than μέτοχοι , companions ( Luk 5:7 ); it denotes association in a common undertaking.

Verses 10-11

Vers. 10b, 11. The Call.

In Matthew and Mark the call is addressed to the four disciples present; in Luke, in express terms, to Peter only. It results, doubtless, from what follows that the call of the other disciples was implied (comp. launch out, Luk 5:4 ), or that Jesus extended it to them, perhaps by a gesture. But how can criticism, with this passage before them, which brings the person of Peter into such prominence, while the other two Syn. do not in any way, attribute to our evangelist an intention to underrate this apostle?

The analytical form ἔσζωγρῶν , thou shalt be catching, expresses the permanence of this mission; and the words, from henceforth, its altogether new character.

Just as the fisherman, by his superior intelligence, makes the fish fall into his snares, so the believer, restored to God and to himself, may seize hold of the natural man, and lift it up with himself to God.

This whole scene implies certain previous relations between Jesus and these young men ( Luk 5:5 ), which agrees with Luke's narrative; for in the latter this incident is placed after the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, when the newly called disciples were present. We must go further back even than this; for how could Jesus have entered into Peter's house on the Sabbath-day ( Luk 4:38 ), unless they had already been intimately acquainted? John's narrative easily explains all: Jesus had made the acquaintance of Peter and his friends when they were with John the Baptist (John 1:0). As for Matthew and Mark, their narrative has just the fragmentary character that belongs to the traditional narrative. The facts are simply put into juxtaposition. Beyond this, each writer follows his own bent: Matthew is eager after the words of Christ, which in his view are the essential thing; Mark dwells somewhat more on the circumstances; Luke enriches the traditional narrative by the addition of an important detail the miraculous fishing obtained from private sources of information. His narrative is so simple, and at the same time so picturesque, that its accuracy is beyond suspicion. John does not mention this incident, because it was already sufficiently known through the tradition; but, in accordance with his method, he places before us the first commencement of the connection which terminated in this result. Holtzmann thinks that Luke's narrative is made up partly from that of Mark and Matthew, and partly from the account of the miraculous fishing related in John 21:0. It would be well to explain how, if this were the case, the thrice repeated reply of Peter, Thou knowest that I love Thee, could have been changed by Luke into the exclamation, Depart from me! Is it not much more simple to admit that, when Jesus desired to restore Peter to his apostleship, after the denial, He began by placing him in a similar situation to that in which he was when first called, in the presence of another miraculous draught of fishes; and that it was by awakening in him the fresh impressions of earlier days that He restored to him his ministry? Besides, in John 21:0, the words, on the other side of the ship, seem to allude to the mission to the heathen.

The course of events therefore was this: Jesus, after having attached to Himself in Judaea these few disciples of John the Baptist, took them back with Him into Galilee; and as He wished Himself to return to His own family for a little while (John 2:1-12; Mat 4:13 ), He sent them back to theirs, where they resumed their former employments. In this way those early days passed away, spent in Capernaum and the neighbourhood, of which John speaks ( οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας ), and which Luke describes from Luke 4:14. But when the time came for Him to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover ( Joh 2:13 et seq.), where Jesus determined to perform the solemn act which was to inaugurate His Messianic ministry ( Joh 2:13 et seq.), He thought that the hour had come to attach them to Him altogether; so, separating Himself finally from His family circle and early calling, He required the same sacrifice from them. For this they were sufficiently prepared by all their previous experiences; they made it therefore without hesitation, and we find them from this time constantly with Him, both in the narrative of John (John 2:17; Joh 4:2-8 ) and in the Synoptics.

Verses 12-14

2. The Lepers: Luke 5:12-14.

In Mark ( Mar 1:40 ), as in Luke, the cure of the lepers took place during a preaching tour. Matthew connects this miracle with the Sermon on the Mount; it is as He comes down from the hill that Jesus meets and heals the leper ( Luk 8:1 et seq.). This latter detail is so precise, that it is natural to give Matthew the preference here, rather than say, with Holtzmann, that Matthew wanted to fill up the return from the mountain to the city with it.

Leprosy was in every point of view a most frightful malady. 1 st. In its physical aspects it was a whitish pustule, eating away the flesh, attacking member after member, and at last eating away the very bones; it was attended with burning fever, sleeplessness, and nightmare, without scarcely the slightest hope of cure. Such were its physical characteristics; it was a living death. 2 d. In the social point of view, in consequence of the excessively contagious nature of his malady, the leper was separated from his family, and from intercourse with men, and had no other company than that of others as unhappy as himself. Lepers ordinarily lived in bands, at a certain distance from human habitations (2 Kings 7:3; Luk 17:12 ). Their food was deposited for them in convenient places. They went with their head uncovered, and their chin wrapped up; and on the approach of any persons whom they met, they had to announce themselves as lepers. 3 d. In the religious point of view, the leper was Levitically unclean, and consequently excommunicate. His malady was considered a direct chastisement from God. In the very rare case of a cure, he was only restored to the theocratic community on an official declaration of the priest, and after offering the sacrifice prescribed by the law (Leviticus 13:14, and the tract Negaïm in the Talmud).

The Greek expression is: And behold, a man! There is not a verb even. His approach was not seen; it has all the effect of an apparition. This dramatic form reproduces the impression made on those who witnessed the scene; in fact, it was only by a kind of surprise, and as it were by stealth, that a leper could have succeeded in approaching so near. The construction of the 12th verse ( καὶ ἐγένετο ... καὶ ... καὶ ) is Hebraistic, and proves an Aramaean document. There is nothing like it in the other Syn.; the eye-witness discovers himself in every feature of Luke's narrative. The diseased man was full of leprosy; that is to say, his countenance was lividly white, as is the case when the malady has reached an advanced stage. The unhappy man looks for Jesus in the crowd, and having discovered Him ( ἰδών ) he rushes towards Him; the moment he recognises Him, he is at His feet. Luke says, falling on his face; Mark, kneeling down; Matthew, he worshipped. Would not these variations in terms be puerile if this were a case of copying, or of a derivation from a common source? The dialogue is identical in the three narratives; it was expressed in the tradition in a fixed form, while the historical details were reproduced with greater freedom.

All three evangelists say cleanse instead of heal, on account of the notion of uncleanness attached to this malady. In the words, if Thou wilt, Thou canst, there is at once deep anguish and great faith. Other sick persons had been cured, this the leper knew, hence his faith; but he was probably the first man afflicted with his particular malady that succeeded in reaching Jesus and entreating His aid, hence his anxiety. The older rationalism used to explain this request in this way: “Thou canst, as Messiah, pronounce me clean. ” According to this explanation, the diseased person, already in the way of being cured naturally, simply asked Jesus to verify the cure and pronounce him clean, in order that he might be spared a costly and troublesome journey to Jerusalem. But for the term καθαρίζειν , to purify, comp. Luke 7:22, Matthew 10:8, where the simply declarative sense is impossible; and as to the context, Strauss has already shown that it comports just as little with this feeble meaning. After the words, be thou clean (pronounced pure), these, and he was cleansed (pronounced pure), would be nothing but absurd tautology.

Mark, who takes pleasure in portraying the feelings of Jesus, expresses the deep compassion with which He was moved by this spectacle ( σπλαγχνισθείς ). The three narratives concur in one detail, which must have deeply impressed those who saw it, and which, for this reason, was indelibly imprinted on the tradition: He put forth His hand, and touched him. Leprosy was so contagious, that this courageous act excited the liveliest emotion in the crowd. Throughout the whole course of His life, Jesus confronted the touch of our impure nature in a similar manner. His answer is identical in the three narratives; but the result is variously expressed. Matthew says: his leprosy was cleansed, regarding it from a ceremonial point of view. Luke simply says: the leprosy departed from him, looking at it from a human point of view. Mark combines the two forms. This is one of the passages on which they rely who make Mark a compiler from the other two; but if Mark was anxious to adhere so slavishly to the minutest expressions of his predecessors, to the point even of reproducing them without any object, how are we to explain the serious and important modifications which in so many other cases he introduced into their narratives, and the considerable omissions which he is continually making of the substance of what they relate? The fact is, that there were two sides to this cure, as to the malady itself, the physical and the religious; and Mark combines them, whilst the other two appear to take one or the other.

The prohibition which Jesus lays on the leper appears in Luke 5:14, in the form of indirect discourse; but in relating the injunction which follows it, Luke passes to the direct form. This form is peculiar to his narrative. Luke and Matthew omit the threat with which Jesus, according to Mark, accompanied this injunction ( ἐμβριμησάμενος ). What was the intention of Jesus? The cure having been public, He could not prevent the report of it from being spread abroad. This is true; but He wanted to do all in His power to diminish its fame, and not give a useless impetus to the popular excitement produced by the report of His miracles. Comp. Luke 8:56; Matthew 9:30; Matthew 12:16; Mark 1:34; Mark 3:12; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:26. All these passages forbid our seeking a particular cause for the prohibition He lays on the leper; such as a fear that the priests, having had notice of his cure before his reaching them, would refuse to acknowledge it; or that they would pronounce Jesus unclean for having touched him; or that the sick man would lose the serious impressions which he had received; or that he would allow himself to be deterred from the duty of offering the sacrifice.

Jesus said, “Show thyself,” because the person is here the convincing proof. In Luke we read, according as Moses...; in Matthew, the gift which Moses...; in Mark, the things which Moses...Most puerile changes, if they were designed!

What is the testimony contained in this sacrifice, and to whom is it addressed? According to Bleek, the word them would refer to the people, who are to be apprised that every one may henceforth renew his former relations with the leper. But is not the term testimony too weighty for this meaning? Gerlach refers the pronoun them to the priests: in order that thou, by thy cure, mayest be a witness to them of my almightiness; but according to the text, the testimony consists not in the cure being verified, but in the sacrifice being offered. The word them does indeed refer to the priests, who are all represented by the one who will verify the cure; but the testimony respects Jesus Himself, and His sentiments in regard to the law. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repels the charge already preferred against Him of despising the law (Matthew 5:17: “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law ”). It is to His respect, therefore, for the Mosaic legislation, that this offering will testify to the priests. During His earthly career, Jesus never dispensed His people from the obligation to obey the prescriptions of the law; and it is an error to regard Him as having, under certain circumstances, set aside the law of the Sabbath as far as He Himself was concerned. He only transgressed the arbitrary enactments with which Pharisaism had surrounded it.

We see by these remarkable words that Jesus had already become an object of suspicion and serious charges at Jerusalem. This state of things is explained by the narrative of the fourth Gospel, where, from the 2d chapter, we see Jesus exposed to the animosity of the dominant party, and accords to John 4:1. He is even obliged to leave Judaea in order that their unfavourable impressions may not be aggravated before the time. In chap. 5, which describes a fresh visit to Jerusalem (for the feast of Purim), the conflict thus prepared breaks forth with violence, and Jesus is obliged to testify solemnly His respect for this Moses, who will be the Jews' accuser, and not His ( Joh 5:45-47 ). This is just the state of things with which the passage we are explaining agrees, as well as all the facts which are the sequel of it. Notwithstanding apparent discrepancies between the Syn. and John, a substantial similarity prevails between them, which proves that both forms of narrative rest on a basis of historic reality.

The leper, according to Mark, did not obey the injunction of Jesus; and this disobedience served to increase that concourse of sick persons which Jesus endeavoured to lessen.

This cure is a difficulty for Keim. A purely moral influence may calm a fever ( Luk 4:39 ), or restore a frenzied man to his senses ( Luk 4:31 et seq.); but it cannot purify vitiated blood, and cleanse a body covered with pustules. Keim here resorts to what is substantially the explanation of Paulus. The leper already cured simply desired to be pronounced clean by authorized lips, that he might not have to go to Jerusalem. It must be acknowledged, on this view of the matter, that the three narratives (Matthew as well as Luke and Mark, whatever Keim may say about it) are completely falsified by the legend. Then how came it to enter into the mind of this man to substitute Jesus for a priest? How could Jesus have accepted such an office? Having accepted it, why should He have sent the afflicted man to Jerusalem? Further, for what reason did He impose silence upon him, and enforce it with threats? And what could the man have had to publish abroad, of sufficient importance to attract the crowd of people described Mar 1:45 ?

Holtzmann (p. 432) concludes, from the words ἐξέβαλεν and ἐξελθών , literally, He cast him out, and having gone forth (Mark 1:43; Mar 1:45 ), that according to Mark this cure took place in a house, which agrees very well with the leper being prohibited from making it known; and that consequently the other two Syn. are in error in making it take place in public,

Luke in a city, Matthew on the road from the mountain to Capernaum ( Luk 8:1 ). He draws great exegetical inferences from this. But when it is said in Mark ( Mar 1:12 ) that the Spirit drove out ( ἐκβάλλει ) Jesus into the wilderness, does this mean out of a house? And as to the verb ἐξέρχεσθαι , is it not frequently used in a broad sense: to go out of the midst of that in which one happens to be (here: the circle formed around Jesus)? Comp. Mark 6:34 ( Mat 14:14 ), Luke 6:12; John 1:44, etc. A leper would hardly have been able to make his way into a house. His taking them by surprise in the way he did could scarcely have happened except in the open country; and, as we have seen, the prohibition of Jesus can easily be explained, taking this view of the incident. The critical consequences of Holtzmann, therefore, have no substantial basis.

Verses 15-16

1 st. Luke 5:15-16.

While seeking to calm the excitement produced by His miracles, Jesus endeavoured also to preserve His energies from any spiritual deterioration by devoting part of His time to meditation and prayer. As Son of man, He had, in common with us all, to draw from God the strength He needed for His hours of activity. Such touches as these in the narrative certainly do not look like an apotheosis of Jesus, and they constitute a striking difference between the evangelical portrait and the legendary caricature.

This thoroughly original detail suffices also to prove the independence of Luke's sources of information.

After this general description (the seventh), the narrative is resumed with a detached and special incident, given as an example of the state of things described.

Verses 15-26

3. The Paralytic: Luke 5:15-26. 1 st. A general description of the state of the work, Luke 5:15-16; Luke 2:0 d. The cure of the paralytic, Luke 5:17-26.

Verses 17-19

2 d. Luke 5:17-19. The Arrival.

The completely Aramaean form of this preface (the καί before αὐτός , the form καὶ ἦσαν ... οἳ ἦσαν , and especially the expression ἦν εἰς τὸ ἰᾶσθαι ) proves that Luke's account is not borrowed from either of the two other Synoptics.

This was one of those solemn hours of which we have another instance in the evening at Capernaum ( Luk 4:41-42 ). The presence of the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem is easily explained, if the conflict related John 5:0 had already taken place. The scribes did not constitute a theological or political party, like the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the professional lawyers. They were designedly associated with the Pharisees sent to Galilee to watch Jesus ( Luk 5:21 ). The narrative in the first Gospel is extremely concise. Matthew does not tell the story; he is intent upon his object, the word of Jesus. Mark gives the same details as Luke, but without the two narratives presenting one single term in common. And yet they worked on the same document, or one on the text of the other!

The roof of the house could be reached by a flight of steps outside built against the wall, or by a ladder, or even from the next house, for the houses frequently communicated with each other by the terraces. Does Luke's expression, διὰ τῶν κεράμων , signify simply by the roof, that is to say, by the stairs which conducted from the terrace to the lower storeys, or down over the balustrade which surrounded the terrace; or is it just equivalent to Mark's description: “they uncovered the ceiling of the place where He was, and having made an opening, let down the pallet”? This term, through the tiles, would be strange, if it was not to express an idea similar to that of Mark. Strauss objects that such an operation as that of raising the tiles could not have been effected without danger to those who were below; and he concludes from this that the narrative is only a legend. But in any case, a legend would have been invented in conformity with the mode of construction then adopted and known to everybody. Jesus was probably seated in a hall immediately beneath the terrace.

Verses 20-21

Vers. 20 and 21. The Offence.

The expression their faith, in Luke, applies evidently to the perseverance of the sick man and his bearers, notwithstanding the obstacles they encountered; it is the same in Mark. In Matthew, who has not mentioned these obstacles, but who nevertheless employs the same terms, and seeing their faith, this expression can only refer to the simple fact of the paralytic's coming. The identical form of expression indicates a common source; but at the same time, the different sense put upon the common words by their entirely different reference to what precedes proves that this source was not written. The oral tradition had evidently so stereotyped this form of expression, that it is found in the narrative of Matthew, though separated from the circumstances to which it is applied in the two others. Jesus could not repel such an act of faith. Seeing the persevering confidence of the sick man, recognising in him one of those whom His Father draws to Him ( Joh 6:44 ), He receives him with open arms, by telling him that he is forgiven.

The three salutations differ in our Syn.: Man (Luke); My son (Mark); Take courage, my son (Matthew). Which of the evangelists was it that changed in this arbitrary and aimless manner the words of Jesus as recorded in his predecessor? ᾿Αφέωνται is an Attic form, either for the present ἀφίενται , or rather for the perf. ἀφεῖνται . It is not impossible that, by speaking in this way, Jesus intended to throw down the gauntlet to His inquisitors. They took it up. The scribes are put before the Pharisees; they were the experts. A blasphemy! How welcome to them! Nothing could have sounded more agreeably in their ears. We will not say, in regard to this accusation, with many orthodox interpreters, that, as God, Jesus had a right to pardon; for this would be to go directly contrary to the employment of the title Son of man, in virtue of which Jesus attributes to Himself, in Luke 5:24, this power. But may not God delegate His gracious authority to a man who deserves His confidence and who becomes, for the great work of salvation, His ambassador on earth? This is the position which Jesus takes. The only question is, whether this pretension is well founded; and it is the demonstration of this moral fact, already contained in His previous miracles, that He proceeds to give in a striking form to His adversaries.

Verses 22-24

Vers. 22-24. The Miracle. The miraculous work which is to follow is for a moment deferred. Jesus, without having heard the words of those about Him, understands their murmurs. His mind is, as it were, the mirror of their thoughts. The form of His reply is so striking, that the tradition has preserved it to the very letter; hence it is found in identical terms in all three narratives. The proposition, that ye may know, depends on the following command: I say to thee...The principal and subordinate clauses having been separated by a moment of solemn silence, the three accounts fill up this interval with the parenthesis: He saith to the paralytic. This original and identical form must necessarily proceed from a common source, oral or written. It is no easier, certainly, to pardon than to heal; but it is much easier to convict a man of imposture who falsely claims the power to heal, than him who falsely arrogates authority to pardon. There is a slight irony in the way in which Jesus gives expression to this thought. “You think these are empty words that I utter when I say, Thy sins are forgiven thee. See, then, whether the command which I am about to give is an empty word.” The miracle thus announced acquires the value of an imposing demonstration. It will be seen whether Jesus is not really what He claims to be, the Ambassador of God on earth to forgive sins. Earth, where the pardon is granted, is opposed to heaven, where He dwells from whom it proceeds.

It is generally acknowledged at the present day, that the title Son of man, by which Jesus preferred to designate Himself, is not simply an allusion to the symbolical name in Daniel 7:0, but that it sprang spontaneously from the depths of Jesus' own consciousness. Just as, in His title of Son of God, Jesus included whatever He was conscious of being for God, so in that of Son of man He comprehended all He felt He was for men. The term Son of man is generic, and denotes each representative of the human race (Psalms 8:5; Ezekiel 37:3; Ezekiel 37:9; Eze 37:11 ). With the art. ( the Son of man), this expression contains the notion of a superiority in the equality. It designates Jesus not simply as man, but as the normal man, the perfect representative of the race. If this title alludes to any passage of the O. T., it must be to the ancient prophecy, “ The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head” ( Gen 3:15 ). There is a tone of triumph in this expression, Luke 5:25: He took up that whereon he lay. The astonishment of the people, Luke 5:26, is expressed differently in the three narratives: We never saw it on this fashion (Mark); They glorified God, which had given such power unto men (Matthew). This remarkable expression, to men, is doubtless connected with Son of man. Whatever is given to the normal man, is in Him given to all. Matthew did not certainly add this expression on his own authority, any more than the others arbitrarily omitted it. Their sources were different.

Παράδοξα , strange things, in Luke, is found in Josephus' account of Jesus. By the term to-day the multitude allude not only to the miracle, they had seen others as astounding on previous days, but more particularly to the divine prerogative of pardon, so magnificently demonstrated by this miracle with which Jesus had just connected it. The different expressions by which the crowd give utterance to their surprise in the three Syn. might really have been on the lips of different witnesses of this scene.

Keim, applying here the method indicated, pp. 253-4, thinks that the paralysis was overcome by the moral excitement which the sick man underwent. Examples are given of impotent persons whose power of movement has been restored by a mighty internal shock. Therefore it is just possible that the physical fact might be explained in this way. But the moral fact, the absolute assurance of Jesus, the challenge implied in this address, “In order that ye may know,...arise and walk!” a speech the authenticity of which is so completely guaranteed by the three narratives and by its evident originality, how is this to be explained from Keim's standpoint? Why, Jesus, in announcing so positively a success so problematical, would have laid Himself open to be palpably contradicted by the fact! At the commencement of His ministry He would have based His title to be the Son of man, His authority to forgive sins, His mission as the Saviour, His entire spiritual work, on the needle's point of this hazardous experiment!

If this were the case, instead of a divine demonstration (and this is the meaning which Jesus attaches to the miracle), there would be nothing more in the fact than a fortunate coincidence.

Verses 27-28

1 st. Luke 5:27-28. The Call. This fact occupies an important place in the development of the work of Jesus, not only as the complement of the call of the first disciples ( Luk 5:1 et seq.), but especially as a continuation of the conflict already entered into with the old order of things.

The publicans of the Gospels are ordinarily regarded as Jewish sub-collectors in the service of Roman knights, to whom the tolls of Palestine had been let out at Rome. Wieseler, in his recent work, corrects this view. He proves, by an edict of Caesar, quoted in Josephus ( Antiq. 14.10. 5), that the tolls in Judaea were remitted direct to the Jewish or heathen collectors, without passing through the hands of the Roman financiers. The publicans, especially such as, like Matthew, were of Jewish origin, were hated and despised by their fellow-countrymen more even than the heathen themselves. They were excommunicated, and deprived of the right of tendering an oath before the Jewish authorities. Their conduct, which was too often marked by extortion and fraud, generally justified the opprobrium which public opinion cast upon them. Capernaum was on the road leading from Damascus to the Mediterranean, which terminated at Ptolemais (St. Jean d'Acre). It was the commercial highway from the interior of Asia. In this city, therefore, there must have been a tax-office of considerable importance. This office was probably situated outside the city, and near the sea. This explains the expression, He went out (Luke); He went forth in order to go to the sea-side (Mark). In the three Syn. this call immediately follows the healing of the paralytic (Matthew 9:9; Mar 2:13 et seq.).

Jesus must have had some very important reason for calling a man from the class of the publicans to join the circle of His disciples; for by this step He set Himself at open variance with the theocratic notions of decorum. Was it His deliberate intention to throw down the gauntlet to the numerous Pharisees who had come from a distance to watch Him, and to show them how completely He set Himself above their judgment? Or was it simply convenient to have among His disciples a man accustomed to the use of the pen? This is quite possible; but there is something so abrupt, so spontaneous, and so strange in this call, that it is impossible to doubt that Jesus spoke to him in obedience to a direct impulse from on high. The higher nature of the call appears also in the decision and promptness with which it was accepted. Between Jesus and this man there must have been, as it were, a flash of divine sympathy. The relation between Jesus and His first apostles was formed in this way (John 1:0). The name Levi not occurring in any of the lists of apostles, it is impossible to identify it with Lebbaeus, which has a different meaning and etymology, it might be thought that this Levi never belonged to the number of the twelve. But in this case why should his call be so particularly related? Then the expression, having left all, he followed Him ( Luk 5:28 ), forbids our thinking that Levi ever resumed his profession as a tollcollector, and puts him in the same rank as the four older disciples ( Luk 5:11 ). We must therefore look for him among the apostles. In the catalogue of the first Gospel ( Luk 10:3 ), the Apostle Matthew is called the publican; and in the same Gospel ( Luk 9:9 ) the call of Matthew the publican is related, with details identical with those of our narrative. Must we admit two different but similar incidents? This was the supposition of the Gnostic Heracleon and of Clement of Alexandria. Sieffert, Ewald, and Keim prefer to admit that our first Gospel applies by mistake to the apostle and older publican Matthew, the calling of another less known publican, who should be called Levi (Mark and Luke). This opinion naturally implies that the first Gospel is unauthentic. But is it not much simpler to suppose that the former name of this man was Levi, and that Jesus, perceiving the direct hand of God in this event, gave him the surname of Matthew, gift of God, just as He gave Simon, at His first meeting with him, the surname of Peter? This name, which Matthew habitually bore in the Church, was naturally that under which he figured afterwards in the catalogues of the apostles. Were Luke and Mark unaware that the apostle so named was the publican whom they had designated by the name of Levi? Or have they neglected to mention this identity in their lists of the apostles, because they have given these just as they found them in their documents? We do not know. We are continually struck by seeing how the evangelical tradition has left in the shade the secondary personages of this great drama, in order to bestow exclusive attention on the principal actor. ᾿Εθεάσατο does not signify merely He saw, but He fixed His eyes upon him. This was the moment when something peculiar and inexplicable took place between Jesus and the publican.

The expression καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον cannot signify seated in the office; ἐπὶ or ἐν τῷ τελωνιῷ would be necessary. As the accusative after ἐπί , the word toll might mean, seated at his work of toll-collecting; but this sense of τελώνιον is unexampled. Might not the prep. ἐπί have the sense here in which it is sometimes employed in the classics, in Herodotus, for example, when he says of Aristides that he kept ἐπὶ τὸ συνέδριον in front of the place where the chiefs were assembled (8.79)? Levi must have been seated in front of his office, observing what was passing. How, indeed, if he had been seated in the office, could his glance have met that of Jesus?

Without even re-entering, he follows Him, forsaking all.

Verses 27-39

4. The Call of Levi: Luke 5:27-39.

This section relates: 1 st. The call of Levi; 2 d. The feast which followed, with the discourse connected with it; 3 d. A double lesson arising out of a question about fasting.

Verses 29-32

2 d. Luke 5:29-32. The Feast. According to Luke, the repast was spread in the house of Levi; the new disciple seeks to bring his old friends and Jesus together. It is his first missionary effort. Meyer sees a contradiction to Matthew here. Matthew says, “as Jesus sat at meat in the house,” an expression which, in his opinion, can only mean the dwelling of Jesus. He decides in favour of Matthew's narrative. But (1) how came the crowd of publicans and people of ill-fame at meat all at once in the house of Jesus? (2) Where is there ever any mention of the house of Jesus? (3) The repetition of Jesus' name at the end of the verse ( Luk 5:10 in Matthew) excludes the idea that the complement understood of the house is Jesus. As to Mark, the pron. αὐτοῦ , his house, refers to Levi; this is proved (1) by the opposition of αὐτοῦ to the preceding αὐτόν , and (2) by the repetition of the name ᾿Ιησοῦ in the following phrase. The expression in the house, in Matthew, denotes therefore the house, wherever it was, in which the meal took place, in opposition to the outside, where the call, with the preaching that followed it, occurred. As usual, Matthew passes rapidly over the external circumstances of the narrative; it is the word of Jesus in which he is interested.

The repast, doubtless, took place on the groundfloor, and the apartment or gallery in which the table was spread could easily be reached from the street. While Jesus was surrounded by His new friends, His adversaries attacked His disciples. The T. R. places their scribes before the Pharisees. In this case, they would be the scribes of the place, or those of the nation. Neither meaning is very natural; the other reading, therefore, must be preferred: the Pharisees and their scribes, the defenders of strict observance, and the learned men sent with them from Jerusalem as experts ( Luk 5:17-21 ). The Sinait. and some others have omitted αὐτῶν , doubtless on account of the difficulty and apparent uselessness of this pronoun.

Eating together is, in the East, as with us, the sign of very close intimacy. Jesus, therefore, went beyond all the limits of Jewish decorum in accepting the hospitality of Matthew's house, and in such company. His justification is partly serious and partly ironical. He seems to concede to the Pharisees that they are perfectly well, and concludes from this that for them He, the physician, is useless; so far the irony. On the other hand, it is certain that, speaking ritually, the Pharisees were right according to the Levitical law, and that being so, they would enjoy the means of grace offered by the old covenant, of which those who have broken with the theocratic forms are deprived. In this sense the latter are really in a more serious condition than the Pharisees, and more urgently need that some one should interest himself in their salvation; this is the serious side of the answer. This word is like a two-edged sword: first of all, it justifies Jesus from His adversaries' point of view, and by an argument ad hominem; but, at the same time, it is calculated to excite serious doubts in their minds as to whether this point of view be altogether just, and to give them a glimpse of another, according to which the difference that separates them from the publicans has not all the worth which they attributed to it (see on Luk 15:1-7 ).

The words to repentance are wanting in Matthew and Mark, according to the best authorities; the words understood in this case are: to the kingdom of God, to salvation. In Luke where these words are authentic, they continue the irony which forms the substance of this answer: come to call to repentance just persons!

It is for the Pharisees to ask themselves, after this, whether, because they meet the requirements of the temple, they satisfy the demands of God.

The discussion here takes a new turn; it assumes the character of a conversation on the use of fasting in the old and new order of things.

Verses 33-39

3 d. Luke 5:33-39. Instruction concerning Fasting.

Verses 35-39

Vers. 33-35. In Luke they are the same parties, particularly the scribes, who continue the conversation, and who allege, in favour of the regular practice of fasting, the example of the disciples of John and of the Pharisees. The scribes express themselves in this manner, because they themselves, as scribes, belong to no party whatever. In Matthew it is the disciples of John who appear all at once in the midst of this scene, and interrogate Jesus in their own name and in that of the Pharisees. In Mark it is the disciples of John and of the Pharisees united who put the question. This difference might easily find its way into the oral tradition, but it is inexplicable on any of the hypotheses which deduce the three texts from one and the same written source, or one of them from another.

Mark says literally: the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting; and we may understand that day. Devout persons in Israel fasted, in fact, twice a week ( Luk 18:12 ), on Mondays and Fridays, the days on which it was said that Moses went up Sinai (see Meyer on Mat 6:16 ); this particular day may have been one or other of these two days. But we may also explain it: fasted habitually. They were fasting persons, addicted to religious observances in which fasting held an important place. It is not easy to decide between these two senses: with the first, there seems less reason for the question; with the second, it conveys a much more serious charge against Jesus, since it refers to His habitual conduct; comp. Luke 7:34, “Ye say, He is a glutton and a winebibber (an eater and a drinker).” The word διατί , omitted by the Alex., appears to have been taken from Matthew and Mark.

Whether the disciples of John were present or not, it is to their mode of religious reformation that our Lord's answer more especially applies. As they do not appear to have cherished very kindly feelings towards Jesus ( Joh 3:25-26 ), it is very possible that they were united on this occasion with His avowed adversaries (Matthew).

Jesus compares the days of His presence on the earth to a nuptial feast. The Old Testament had represented the Messianic coming of Jehovah by this figure. If John the Baptist had already uttered the words reported by John ( Joh 3:29 ): “ He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled,” what appropriateness there was in this figure by which He replied to his disciples! Perhaps the Pharisees authorized a departure from the rule respecting fasting during the nuptial weeks. In this case Jesus' reply would become more striking still. Νυμφών signifies the nuptial chamber, and not the bridegroom ( νυμφίος ), as Martin, Ostervald, and Crampon translate. The true Greek term to indicate the nuptial friend would have been παρανύμφιος ; John says: φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου . The expression of the Syn., son of the nuptial chamber, is a Hebraism (comp son of the kingdom, of wisdom, of perdition, etc.). The received reading, “ Can you make the marriage friends fast? ” (notwithstanding the joy with which their hearts are full), is preferable to that of the Sinait. and of the Graeco-Latin Codd., “Can they fast?” which is less forcible, and which is taken from Matthew and Mark. In the midst of this feast of publicans the heart of Jesus is overflowing with joy; it is one of the hours when His earthly life seems to His feeling like a marriage day. But suddenly His countenance becomes overcast; the shadow of a painful vision passes across His brow: The days will come...said He in a solemn tone. At the close of this nuptial week, the bridegroom Himself will be suddenly smitten and cut off; then will come the time of fasting for those who to-day are rejoicing; there will be no necessity to enjoin it. In this striking and poetic answer Jesus evidently announces His violent death. The passive aor. cannot, as Bleek admits, be explained otherwise. This verb and tense indicate a stroke of violence, by which the subject of the verb will be smitten (comp. 1Co 5:2 ). This saying is parallel to the words found in John 2:19, “ Destroy this temple; ” and Luke 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent, so must the Son of man be lifted up. ” The fasting which Jesus here opposes to the prescribed fasting practised in Israel is neither a state of purely inward grief, a moral fast, in moments of spiritual depression, nor, as Neander thought, the life of privation and sacrifice to which the apostles would inevitably be exposed after the departure of their Master; it is indeed, according to the context, fasting in the proper sense of the term. Fasting has always been practised in the Church at certain solemn seasons, but it is not a rite imposed on it from without, but the expression of a sentiment of real grief. It proceeds from the sorrow which the Church feels in the absence of its Head, and is designed to lend intensity to its prayers, and to ensure with greater certainty that assistance of Jesus which alone can supply the place of His visible presence (comp. Mark 9:29 (?); Acts 13:2-3; Act 14:23 ).

This remarkable saying was preserved with literal exactness in the tradition; accordingly we find it in identical words in the three Syn. It proves, first, that from the earliest period of His ministry Jesus regarded Himself as the Messiah; next, that He identified His coming with that of Jehovah, the husband of Israel and of makind ( Hos 2:19 ); lastly, that at that time He already foresaw and announced His violent death. It is an error, therefore, to oppose, on these three points, the fourth Gospel to the other three.

Verse 36

Ver. 36. First Parable.

The T. R. says: “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment.” The Alex. var. has this: “No man, rending a piece from a new garment, putteth it to an old garment.” In Matthew and Mark the new piece is taken from any piece of cloth; in Luke, according to two readings, it is cut out of a whole garment; the Alex. reading only puts this in a somewhat stronger form.

The verb σχίζει , rends (Alex. σχίσει , will rend), in the second proposition, might have the intransitive sense: “Otherwise the new [piece] maketh a rent [in the old],” which would come to the same meaning as the passage has in Matthew and Mark: “The new piece taketh away a part of the old, and the rent is made worse.” But in Luke the context requires the active sense: “Otherwise it [the piece used to patch with] rendeth the new [garment].” This is the only sense admissible in the Alex. reading, after the partic. σχίσας , rending, in the preceding proposition. The received reading equally requires it: for, 1 st. The second inconvenience indicated, “the new agreeth not with the old,” would be too slight to be placed after that of the enlargement of the rent. 2 d. The evident correlation between the two καί , both...and..., contains the following idea: the two garments, both the new and the old, are spoiled together; the new, because it has been rent to patch the old; the old, because it is disfigured by a piece of different cloth. Certainly it would still be possible to refer the expression, not agree, not to the incongruity in appearance of the two cloths, but to the stronger and more resisting quality of the new cloth, an inequality which would have the effect of increasing the rent. This would be the untoward result intended in Matthew and Mark. But the term συμφονεῖν , to harmonize, refers much more naturally to a contrast in appearance between the two cloths.

The futures, will rend, will agree, in the Alex. reading, may be defended; but are they not a correction proceeding from the use of the future in the second parable ( will break, will be spilled, will perish, Luk 5:37 )? The corrector, in this case, could not have remembered that, in the case of the wine and the leathern bottles, the damage is only produced after a time, whilst in the garment it is immediate. To sum up: in Matthew and Mark there is only a single damage, that which befalls the old garment, the rent of which is enlarged; in Luke the damage is twofold: in one case affecting the new garment, which is cut into to patch the other; in the other, affecting the old garment, as in Matthew and Mark, but consisting in the patchwork appearance of the cloths, and not in the enlargement of the rent.

In the application it is impossible not to connect this image of the piece of new cloth with the subject of the previous conversation, the rite of fasting, while we admit that Jesus generalizes the question. Moses had nowhere prescribed monthly or weekly fasts. The only periodical fast commanded in the law was annual that on the day of atonement. The regular fasts, such as those which the adversaries of Jesus would have had Him impose on His disciples, were one of those pharisaical inventions which the Jews called a hedge about the law, and by which they sought to complete and maintain the legal system. John the Baptist himself had been unable to do anything better than attach himself to this method. This is the patching-up process which is indicated in Matthew and Mark, and which is opposed to the mode of action adopted by Jesus the total substitution of a new for an old garment. In Luke the image is still more full of meaning: Jesus, alluding to that new, unconstrained, evangelical fasting, of which He has spoken in Luke 5:34, and which He cannot at present require of His disciples, makes the general declaration that it is necessary to wait for the new life before creating its forms; it is impossible to anticipate it by attempting to adapt to the legal system, under which His disciples are as yet living, the elements of the new state which He promises them. His mission is not to labour to repair and maintain an educational institution, now decaying and waxing old ( παλαιούμενον καὶ γηράσκον ). He is not a patcher, as the Pharisees were, nor a reformer, like John the Baptist. Opus majus! It is a new garment that He brings. To mix up the old work with the new, would be to spoil the latter without preserving the former. It would be a violation of the unity of the spiritualism which He was about to inaugurate, and to introduce into the legal system an offensive medley. Would not the least particle of evangelical freedom suffice to make every legal observance fall into disuse? Better then let the old garment remain as it is, until the time comes to substitute the new for it altogether, than try to patch it up with strips taken from the latter! As Lange says ( Leben Jesu, ii. p. 680): “The work of Jesus is too good to use it in repairing the worn garment of pharisaical Judaism, which could never thereby be made into anything better than the assumed garb of a beggar.” This profound idea of the mingling of the new holiness with the ancient legalism comes out more clearly from Luke's simile, and cannot have been introduced into the words of Jesus by him.

Neander thinks that the old garment must be regarded as the image of the old unregenerate nature of the disciples, on which Jesus could not impose the forms of the new life. But the moral nature of man cannot be compared to a garment; it is the man himself.

Gess applies the image of the piece of new cloth to the asceticism of John the Baptist. This meaning might suffice for the form of it in Matthew and Mark; but it leaves Luke's form of it (a piece of the new garment) unexplained.

What a view of His mission this word of Jesus reveals! What a lofty conception of the work He came to accomplish! From what a height He looks down, not only on the Pharisees, but on John himself, the great representative of the old covenant, the greatest of those born of women! And all this is expressed in the simplest, homeliest manner, thrown off with the greatest facility! He speaks as a being to whom nothing is so natural as the sublime. All that has been called the system of Paul, all that this apostle himself designates his gospel, the decisive contrast between the two covenants, the mutual exclusiveness of the systems of law and grace, of the oldness of the letter and the newness of the spirit ( Rom 7:6 ), this inexorable dilemma: “ If by grace, then is it no more of works; if it be of works, then is it no more grace ” ( Rom 11:6 ), which constitutes the substance of the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, all is contained in this homely figure of a garment patched with a piece of cloth, or with part of a new garment! How can any one, after this, maintain that Jesus was not conscious from the beginning of the bearing of His work, as well of the task He had to accomplish in regard to the law, as of His Messianic dignity? How can any one contend that the Twelve, to whom we owe the preservation of this parable, were only narrow Jewish Christians, as prejudiced in favour of their law as the most extreme men of the party? If they perceived the meaning of this saying alone, the part attributed to them becomes impossible. And if they had no comprehension of it, how was it that they thought it worthy of a place in the teaching of Jesus, which they handed down with such care to the Church?

Often, after having presented an idea by means of a parable, from a feeling that the figure employed fails to represent it completely, Jesus immediately adds a second parable, designed to set forth another aspect of the same idea. In this way are formed what may be called the pairs of parables, which are so often met with in the Gospels (the grain of mustard seed and the leaven; the treasure and the pearl; the unwise builder and the imprudent warrior; the sower and the tares). Following the same method, Jesus here adds to the parable of the piece of cloth that of the leathern bottles.

Verses 36-39

Vers. 36-39. Here we have the second part of the conversation. The expression ἔλεγε δὲ καί , and He said also, indicates its range. This expression, which occurs so frequently in Luke, always indicates the point at which Jesus, after having treated of the particular subject before Him, rises to a more general view which commands the whole question. Thus, from this moment He makes the particular difference respecting fasting subordinate to the general opposition between the old and new order of things, an idea which carries Him back to the occasion of the scene, the call of a publican.

Verses 37-38

Vers. 37, 38. The Second Parable.

The figure is taken from the Oriental custom of preserving liquids in leathern bottles, made generally of goat-skins. “No one,” says M. Pierotti, “travels in Palestine without having a leathern bottle filled with water amongst his luggage. These bottles preserve the water for drinking, without imparting any ill taste to it; also wine, oil, honey, and milk.” In this parable there is evidently an advance on the preceding, as we always find in the case of double parables. This difference of meaning, misapprehended by Neander and the greater part of interpreters, comes out more particularly from two features: 1. The opposition between the unity of the garment in the first, and the plurality of the bottles in the second; 2. The fact that, since the new wine answers to the new garment, the new bottles must represent a different and entirely new idea. In fact, Jesus here is no longer opposing the evangelical principle to the legal principle, but the representatives of the one to those of the other. Two complaints were raised against Jesus: 1 st. His negligence of the legal forms; to this accusation He has just replied. 2 d. His contempt for the representatives of legalism, and His sympathy with those who had thrown off the theocratic discipline. It is to this second charge that He now replies. Nothing can be more simple than our parable from this point of view. The new wine represents that living and healthy spirituality which flows so abundantly through the teaching of Jesus; and the bottles, the men who are to become the depositaries of this principle, and to preserve it for mankind. And whom in Israel will Jesus choose to fulfil this part? The old practitioners of legal observance? Pharisees puffed up with the idea of their own merit? Rabbis jaded with textual discussions? Such persons have nothing to learn, nothing to receive from Him! If associated with His work, they could not fail to falsify it, by mixing up with His instructions the old prejudices with which they are imbued; or even if they should yield their hearts for a moment to the lofty thought of Jesus, it would put all their religious notions and routine devotion to the rout, just as new and sparkling wine bursts a worn-out leathern bottle. Where, then, shall He choose His future instruments? Among those who have neither merit nor wisdom of their own. He needs fresh natures, souls whose only merit is their receptivity, new men in the sense of the homo novus among the Romans, fair tablets on which His hand may write the characters of divine truth, without coming across the old traces of a false human wisdom. “God, I thank Thee, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to these babes” ( Luk 10:21 ). These babes will save the truth, and it will save them; this is expressed by these last words: “ and both, the wine and the bottles, are preserved.” These words are omitted in Luke by some Alex. They are suspected of having been added from Matthew, where they are not wanting in any document; Meyer's conjecture, that they have been suppressed, in accordance with Mark, is less probable.

It has been thought that the old bottles represent the unregenerate nature of man, and the new bottles, hearts renewed by the Gospel. But Jesus would not have represented the destruction of the old corrupt nature by the gospel as a result to be dreaded; and He would scarcely have compared new hearts, the works of His Holy Spirit, to bottles, the existence of which precedes that of the wine which they contain. Lange and Gess see in the old bottles a figure of the legal forms, in the new bottles the image of the evangelical forms. But Christian institutions are an emanation of the Christian spirit, while the bottles exist independently of the wine with which they are filled. And Jesus would not have attached equal importance to the preservation of the wine and of the bottles, as He does in the words: “And both are preserved.” It is a question, then, here of the preservation of the gospel, and of the salvation of the individuals who are the depositaries of it. Jesus returns here to the fact which was the occasion of the whole scene, and which had called forth the dissatisfaction of His adversaries, the call of Levi the publican. It is this bold act which He justifies in the second parable, after having vindicated, in the first, the principle on which it was based. A new system demands new persons. This same truth will be applied on a larger scale, when, through the labours of St. Paul, the gospel shall pass from the Jews to the Gentiles, who are the new men in the kingdom of God.

Verse 39

Ver. 39. The Third Parable.

The thorough opposition which Jesus has just established between the legal system and the evangelical system (first parable), then between the representatives of the one and those of the other (second parable), must not lead the organs of the new principles to treat those of the ancient order with harshness. They must remember that it is not easy to pass from a system, with which one has been identified from childhood, to an entirely different principle of life. Such men must be allowed time to familiarize themselves with the new principle that is presented to them; and we must beware how we turn our backs upon them, if they do not answer, as Levi the publican did, to the first call. The conversion of a publican may be sudden as lightning, but that of a scrupulous observer of the law will, as a rule, be a work of prolonged effort. This figure, like that of the preceding parable, is taken from the actual circumstances. Conversation follows a meal; the wine in the bottles circulates amongst the guests. With the figure of the bottles, which contain the wine, is easily connected the idea of the individuals who drink it. The new wine, however superior may be its quality, owing to its sharper flavour, is always repugnant to the palate of a man accustomed to wine, the roughness of which has been softened by age. In the same way, it is natural that those who have long rested in the works of the law, should at first take alarm

Jesus can well understand it at the principle of pure spirituality. It is altogether an error in the Alex. that has erased here the word εὐθεώς , immediately. The very idea of the parable is concentrated in this adverb. We must not judge such people by their first impression. The antipathy which they experience at the first moment will perhaps give place to a contrary feeling. We must give them time, as Jesus did Nicodemus.

There is a tone of kindly humour in these words: for he saith, “Attempt to bring over to gospel views these old followers of legal routine, and immediately they tell you...”

If, with the Alex., the positive χρηστός is read: “the old is mild,” the repugnance for the new wine is more strongly marked than if we read, with the T. R., the comparative: χρηστότερος , milder; for in the first case the antithesis implied is: “The new is not mild at all. ” As the idea of comparison runs through the entire phrase, the copyists were induced to substitute the comparative for the positive. The Alex. reading is therefore preferable.

“It was a great moment,” as Gess truly says, “when Jesus proclaimed in a single breath these three things: the absolute newness of His Spirit, His dignity as the Husband, and the nearness of His violent death.

If the first parable contains the germ of Paul's doctrine, and the second foreshadows His work among the Gentiles, the third lays down the principle whence He derived His mode of acting towards His fellow-countrymen: making Himself all things to all by subjecting Himself to the law, in order to gain them that were under the law ( 1Co 9:19-20 ).

What gentleness, condescension, and charity breathe through this saying of Jesus! What sweetness, grace, and appropriateness characterize its form! Zeller would have us believe ( Apostelgesch. p. 15) that Luke invented this touching saying, and added it on his own authority, in order to render the decided Paulinism of the two preceding parables acceptable to Jewish-Christian readers. But does he not see that in saying this he vanquishes himself by his own hand? If the two former parables are so Pauline, that Luke thought he must soften down their meaning by a corrective of his own invention, how comes it to pass that the two other Syn., the Gospels which are in the main Jewish-Christian, have transmitted them to the Church, without the slightest softening down? Criticism sometimes loses its clear-sightedness through excessive sharpness.

That the ultra-Pauline Marcion should have omitted this third parable is perfectly natural; it proves that he thoroughly understood it, for it carries with it the condemnation of his system. But no consequence unfavourable to its authenticity can be drawn from this. The omission of this verse in D., and some versions, is no less easily explained by its omission in the two other synoptics.

The independence of Luke's text, and the originality of its sources, come out clearly from this last passage, which forms such an excellent close to this portion. The difference which we have pointed out in the purport of the first parable, a difference which is entirely in Luke's favour, also attests the excellence of the document from which he has drawn. As to the others, they are no more under obligation to Luke than Luke is to them; would they, of their own accord, have made the teaching of Jesus more anti-legal than it was?

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 5". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/luke-5.html.