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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Luke 7

Verses 1-6

Vers. 1-6 a.The First Deputation.

The Alex. reading ἐπείδη , since assuredly, has no meaning.

There is something solemn in these expressions: ἐπλήσωσε , had fulfilled, and εἰς τὰς ἀκοάς , in the ears of the people. The proclamation which had just taken place is given as something complete. The circumstance that this miracle took place just when Jesus returned to Capernaum, after this discourse, was remembered in the traditional account, and has been faithfully preserved in our two evangelical narratives.

The centurion ( Luk 7:2 ) was probably a Roman soldier in the service of Herod; he was a proselyte, and had even manifested special zeal on behalf of his new faith ( Luk 7:5 ).

Instead of δοῦλος , a slave, Matthew says παῖς , a word which may signify either a son or a servant, and which Luke employs in the latter sense at Luke 7:7. Bleek and Holtzmann prefer the meaning son in Matthew, “because otherwise it would be necessary to admit that the centurion had only one slave.” As if a man could not say: “My servant is sick,” though he had several servants! The meaning servant is more probable in Matthew, because it better explains the reluctance which the centurion feels to trouble the Lord. If it had been his son, he would doubtless have been bolder.

The malady must have been, according to Matthew's description, Luke 7:6, acute rheumatism. And whatever criticism may say, this malady, when it affects certain organs, the heart for instance, may become mortal.

The words: who was very dear to him, serve to explain why a step so important as a deputation of the elders should have been taken.

The latter are doubtless the rulers of the synagogue, whose duty it was to maintain order in the congregation. They could more easily explain to Jesus the honourable facts which made in favour of the centurion, than he could himself.

Verses 1-10

2. The Centurion's Servant: Luke 7:1-10.

This was the most striking instance of faith that Jesus had met with up to this time; and what was more astonishing, He was indebted for this surprise to a Gentile. Jesus instantly perceives the deep significance of this unexpected incident, and cautiously indicates it in Luke 7:9, while in Mat 8:11-12 it is expressed with less reserve. We should have expected the reverse, according to the dogmatic prepossessions which criticism imputes to our evangelists. It is obliged, therefore, to have recourse to the hypothesis of subsequent interpolations.

This cure is connected, in Matthew as well as in Luke, with the Sermon on the Mount. This resemblance in no way proves, as some think, a common written source. For, 1. The two passages are separated in Matthew by the healing of the leper, which Luke assigns to another time; 2. The narratives of the two evangelists present very considerable differences of detail; lastly, 3. There was nothing to prevent certain groups of narrative, more or less fixed, being formed in the oral teaching of the gospel, which passed in this way into our written narratives. As to Mark, he omits this miracle, an omission difficult to account for, if he copied Matthew and Luke (Bleek), and equally difficult if, with them, he derived his narrative from an original Mark (Ewald and Holtzmann). Holtzmann (p. 78), with Ewald, thinks that “if he cut out the Sermon on the Mount, he might easily omit also the passage which follows, and which opens a new section.” But on other occasions it is asserted that Mark purposely omits the discourses, to make room for facts. Now, are we not here concerned with a fact? Bleek does not even attempt to explain this omission.

Verses 1-50

Third Cycle: From the Election of the Twelve to their First Mission, Luk 6:12 to Luke 8:56 .

In the following section we shall see the Galilean ministry reach its zenith; it begins with the institution of the apostolate and the most important of Jesus' discourses during His sojourn in Galilee, the Sermon on the Mount; and it ends with a cycle of miracles that display the extraordinary power of Jesus in all its grandeur ( Luk 8:22-56 ). The hostility against Him seems to moderate; but it is sharpening its weapons in secret; in a very little while it will break out afresh.

This section comprises eleven portions: 1 st, the choosing of the Twelve, and the Sermon on the Mount ( Luk 6:12-49 ); 2 d, the healing of the centurion's servant ( Luk 7:1-10 ); 3 d, the raising of the widow's son at Nain ( Luk 7:11-17 ); 4 th, the question of John the Baptist, and the discourse of Jesus upon it ( Luk 7:18-35 ); 5 th, the woman that was a sinner at the feet of Jesus ( Luk 7:36-50 ); 6 th, the women who ministered to Jesus' support ( Luk 8:1-3 ); 7 th, the parable of the sower ( Luk 8:4-18 ); 8 th, the visit of the mother and brethren of Jesus ( Luk 8:19-21 ); 9 th, the stilling of the storm ( Luk 8:22-25 ); 10 th, the healing of the demoniac of Gadara ( Luk 8:26-39 ); 11 th, the raising of Jaïrus' daughter ( Luk 8:40-56 ).

1. The Choosing of the Twelve, and the Sermon on the Mount: Luke 6:12-49.

Our affixing this title to this portion implies two things: 1 st, that there is a close connection between the two facts contained in this title; 2 d, that the discourse, Luke 6:20-49, is the same as that we read in Matthew 5-7. The truth of the first supposition, from Luke's point of view, appears from Luke 6:20, where he puts the discourse which follows in close connection with the choosing of the Twelve which he has just narrated. The truth of the second is disputed by those who think that in consequence of this choice Jesus spoke two discourses, one on the summit of the mountain, addressed specially to His disciples, the second lower down on level ground, addressed to the multitude; the former, which was of a more private character, being that of Matthew; the latter, of a more popular aim, that of Luke. They rely on the differences in substance and form between the two discourses in our two Gospels. In regard to the substance, the essential matter in the discourse of Matthew, the opposition between the righteousness of the Pharisees and the true righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, is not found at all in Luke. As to the form, in Matthew Jesus ascends the mountain to preach it, while in Luke He comes down, after having spent the night on the summit. Further, there He is seated καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ , Mat 5:1 ); here He appears to be standing ( ἔστη , Luk 6:17 ). Notwithstanding these reasons, we cannot admit that there were two distinct discourses. They both begin in the same way, with the beatitudes; they both treat of the same subject, the righteousness of the kingdom of God, with this shade of difference, that the essence of this right-eousness, in Matthew, is spirituality; in Luke, charity. They both have the same conclusion, the parable of the two buildings. This resemblance in the plan of the discourse is so great, that it appears to us decidedly to take precedence of the secondary differences. As to the differences of form, it should be observed that Luke's expression, ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ , literally, on a level place, denotes a flat place on the mountain. To denote the plain, Luke would have said, ἐπὶ πεδίου . Luke's expression is not, therefore, contradictory to Matthew's. The latter, as usual, giving a summary narrative, tells us that Jesus preached this time on the mountain, in opposition to the plain, the sea-side that is, where He usually preached; while Luke, who describes in detail all the circumstances of this memorable day, begins by mentioning the night which Jesus spent alone on the summit of the mountain; next he tells how He descended to a level place situated on the mountain side, where He stayed to speak to the people. This plateau was still the mountain in Matthew's sense. On the relation of ἔστη (Luke) to He sat down (Matthew), see on Luke 6:17.

In order to understand the Sermon on the Mount, it is necessary to form a correct view of the historical circumstances which were the occasion of it; for this sermon is something more than an important piece of instruction delivered by Jesus; it is one of the decisive acts of His ministry. We have pointed out in the preceding section the symptoms of a growing rupture between Jesus and the hierarchical party (Luke 6:14; Luke 6:17; Luke 6:21-23, Luk 6:1 seq.). The bold attitude which Jesus assumes towards this party, challenging its hostility by calling a publican, by emphasizing in His teaching the antithesis between the old and new order of things, and by openly braving their Sabbatarian prejudices, all this enables us to see that a crisis in the development of His work has arrived. It is an exactly corresponding state of things for Galilee to that which was brought about in Judaea after the healing of the impotent man on the Sabbath (John 5:0). The choice of the Twelve and the Sermon on the Mount are the result and the solution of this critical situation. Up to this time Jesus had been satisfied with gathering converts about Him, calling some of them to accompany Him habitually as disciples. Now He saw that the moment was come to give His work a more definite form, and to organize His adherents. The hostile army is preparing for the attack; it is time to concentrate His own forces; and consequently He begins, if I may venture to say so, by drawing up His list of officers. The choosing of the Twelve is the first constitutive act accomplished by Jesus Christ. It is the first measure, and substantially (with the sacraments) the only measure, of organization which He ever took. It sufficed Him, since the college of the Twelve, once constituted, was in its turn to take what further measures might be required when the time came for them.

The number 12 was significant. Jesus set up in their persons the twelve patriarchs of a new people of God, a spiritual Israel, that was to be substituted for the old. Twelve new tribes were to arise at their word and form the holy humanity which Jesus came to install in the earth. An act more expressly Messianic it is impossible to conceive; and the criticism which maintains that it was only at Caesarea-Philippi, and at the instigation of Peter, that Jesus decisively accepted the part of Messiah, must begin by effacing from history the choosing of the Twelve, with its manifest signification. Further, this act is the beginning of the divorce between Jesus and the ancient people of God. The Lord does not begin to frame a new Israel until He sees the necessity of breaking with the old. He has laboured in vain to transform; nothing now remains but to substitute. This attentive crowd which surrounds Him on the mountain is the nucleus of the new people; this discourse which He addresses to them is the promulgation of the new law by which they are to be governed; this moment is the solemn inauguration of the people of Jesus Christ upon the earth, of that people which, by means of individual conversions, is eventually to absorb into itself all that belongs to God among all other peoples. Hence this discourse has a decidedly inaugural character, a character which, whatever Weizsäcker may say about it, belongs no less to its form in Luke than to its form in Matthew. In the latter, Jesus addresses Himself, if you will, to the apostles, but as representing the entire new Israel. In Luke, He rather speaks, if you will, to the new Israel, but as personified in the person of the apostles. In reality this makes no difference. The distinction between apostles and believers is nowhere clearly asserted. Every believer is to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world (Matthew); every apostle is to be one of those poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted ones of which the new people is to be composed (Luke). Just as, at Sinai, Jehovah makes no distinction between priests and people, so it is His people, with all the constitutive elements of their life, whose appearance Jesus hails, whose new character He portrays, and whose future action on the world He proclaims. Further, He felt most deeply the importance of this moment, and prepared Himself for it by a whole night of meditation and prayer. The expressions of Luke upon this point ( Luk 6:12 ) have, as we shall see, quite a special character.

The Sermon on the Mount occupies quite a different place in Matthew to that which it holds in Luke. That evangelist has made it the opening of the Galilean ministry, and he places it, therefore, immediately after the call of the four first disciples. Historically speaking, this position is a manifest anachronism. How, at the very commencement of His work, could Jesus speak of persecutions for His name, as He does, Matthew 5:10-11, or feel it necessary to justify Himself against the charge of destroying the law ( Luk 6:17 ), and to give a solemn warning to false disciples ( Luk 7:21-23 )? The position of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew is only to be understood from the systematic point of view from which this evangelist wrote. There was no better way in which the author could show the Messianic dignity of Jesus than by opening the history of His ministry with this discourse, in which was laid down the basis of that spiritual kingdom which the Messiah came to found. If the collection of the discourses composed by Matthew, of which Papias speaks, really existed, and served as a foundation for our Gospel, the position which this discourse occupies in the latter is fully accounted for.

As to Mark, we can easily perceive the precise point in his sketch where the Sermon on the Mount should come in ( Luk 3:13 et seq.). But the discourse itself is wanting, doubtless because it was no part of his design to give it to his readers. Mark's narrative is nevertheless important, in that it substantiates that of Luke, and confirms the significance attributed by this evangelist to the act of the choosing of the Twelve. This comparison with the two other Syn. shows how well Luke understood the development of the work of Jesus, and the superior chronological skill with which he compiled his narrative ( καθεξῆς γράψαι , Luk 1:3 ).

Gess has replied to our objections against the chronological accuracy of Matthew's narrative ( Litter. Anzeiger of Andreae, September 1871) in the following manner: The mention of the persecutions might refer to the fact mentioned John 4:1, and to the fate of John the Baptist; the charge of undermining the law had already been made in Judaea (comp. John 5:0); the false disciples might have been imitators of the man who wrought cures in the name of Jesus (Luke 9:49; Mar 9:38 ), although of a less pure character. And, in any case, the time of the discourse indicated by Luke does not differ sensibly from that at which Matthew places it.

But neither the hostility which Jesus had met with in Judaea, nor the accusations which had been laid against Him there, could have induced Him to speak as He did in the Sermon on the Mount, unless some similar events, such as those which St. Luke has already related, had taken place in this province, and within the knowledge of the people. It is quite possible that the facts related by Luke do not prove any very great interval between the time to which he assigns this discourse and the beginning of the Galilean ministry, at which Matthew places it. But they serve at least as a preparation for it, and give it just that historical foundation which it needs, whilst in Matthew it occurs ex abrupto, and without any historical framework.

The fact that the call of Matthew is placed in the first Gospel ( Luk 9:9 ) after the Sermon on the Mount, which supposes this call already accomplished ( Luk 6:12 et seq.), would be sufficient, if necessary, to show that this discourse is detached, in this Gospel, from its true historical context.

Verses 6-8

Ver. 6 b-8. The Second Deputation.

The centurion, from his house, sees Jesus approaching with His retinue of disciples. The veneration with which this mysterious person inspires him makes him afraid even to receive Him under his roof; he sends, therefore, a second deputation. Strauss sees in this a contradiction of his former proceeding. But it was simply a deeper humility and stronger faith that had dictated this course. ῾Ικανός here denotes moral worth, as in Luk 3:16 and elsewhere. Faith vies with humility in this man. The expression εἰπὲ λόγω , say in a word, suggests this means in preference to His coming in person.

In Matthew's narrative all these proceedings are united in a single act; the centurion comes himself to tell Jesus of the sickness, and to the offer of Jesus to visit his house, returns the answer which we find in Luke 5:8. Bleek regards the details in Luke as an amplification of the original narrative; others consider Matthew's account an abridgment of Luke's. But how could Luke exaggerate in this way the plain statement of Matthew, or Matthew mangle the description of Luke? Our evangelists were earnest believers. All that tradition had literally preserved was the characteristic reply of the centurion ( Luk 7:8 ), and our Lord's expression of admiration ( Luk 7:9 ). The historical outline had been created with greater freedom in the oral narration. This explains in a very natural manner the difference between our two narratives. Although he was only an ordinary man ( ἄνθρωπος ), and a man in a dependent position, the centurion had some subordinates through whom he could act without always going himself to the place. Could not Jesus, who stood far above him in the hierarchy of being, having the powers of the invisible world at His disposal, make use, if He pleased, of a similar power? We may compare here Jesus' own words respecting the angels which ascend and descend (John 1:52).

How are we to explain the existence of such faith in this man? We must bear in mind the words of Luke 7:3: having heard of Jesus. The fame of the miracles of Jesus had reached even him. There was one cure especially, which Jesus had wrought at Capernaum itself, and since Cana, which presented a remarkable similarity to that which the centurion besought the cure of the nobleman's son (John 4:0). Perhaps his knowledge of this miracle is the most natural mode of explaining the faith implied in the message which he addresses to Jesus by the mouth of his friends.

The expression, such faith, refers not to the request for a cure, but for a cure without the aid of His bodily presence. It was, as it were, a paroxysm of faith!

Verses 9-10

Luke 7:9-10. The Cure.

The severe words respecting the Jews, which in Matthew Jesus adds to the praise bestowed on the centurion's faith, seem to prove that Matthew makes use of a different source of information from Luke's. These words are found, in fact, in Luke in a totally different connection ( Luk 13:28 ), at a more advanced period, when they are certainly more appropriate.

Several ancient and modern critics identify this cure with that of the nobleman's son (John 4:0). The differences, however, are considerable: here we have a soldier of Gentile origin, there a courtier of Jewish origin; here the place is Capernaum, there Cana; here we have a man who in his humility is reluctant that Jesus should enter his house, there a man who comes a long way seeking Jesus that he may induce Him to go with him to his home; lastly, and in our view this difference is most decisive, here we have a Gentile given as an example to all Israel, there a Jew, whose conduct furnishes occasion for Jesus to throw a certain amount of blame on all his Galilean fellow-countrymen. In truth, if these two narratives referred to the same fact, the details of the Gospel narratives would no longer deserve the least credence.

According to Keim, the miracle is to be explained, on the one hand, by the faith of the centurion and the sick man, which already contained certain healing virtues, and on the other, by the moral power of the word of Jesus, which word was something between a wish and a command, and completed the restoration. But does not this ethico-psychical mode of action require the presence of him who effects a cure in this way? Now this presence is unmistakeably excluded here in both narratives by the prayer of the centurion, and by this word of Jesus: so great faith! And what is this something between a wish and a command?

Verses 11-12

Luke 7:11-12. The Meeting.

The reading ἐν τῷ ἑξῆς ( χρόνῳ ), in the following time, does not connect this narrative so closely with the preceding as the reading ἐν τῇἑξῆς ( ἡμέρᾳ ), the following day. This is a reason for preferring the former; it is only natural that the more precise should be substituted for the less definite connection. Robinson found a hamlet named Neïn to the south-west of Capernaum, at the northern foot of the little Hermon. It is in this locality, moreover, that Eusebius and Jerome place the city of Nain. Jesus would only have to make a day's journey to reach it from Capernaum. Josephus ( Bell. Jude 1:4; Jude 1:4.9. 4) mentions a city of Nain, situated on the other side of Jordan, in the south part of the Peraea; and Kostlin, relying on the expressions in Luke 7:17, applied this name to this town in the immediate neighbourhood of Judaea, and thought that Luke's narrative must have come from a Judaean source. But we shall see that Luk 7:17 may be explained without having recourse to this supposition, which is not very natural.

The καὶ ἰδού , and behold, expresses something striking in the unexpected meeting of the two processions, the train which accompanied the Prince of Life, and that which followed the victim of death. This seems to be expressed also by the relation of ἱκανοί in Luk 7:11 to ἱκανός in Luke 7:12. The first of these words has been omitted by many MSS., because the expression: his disciples, appeared to refer to the apostles alone.

At Luk 7:12 the construction is Aramaean. The dative τῇ μητρί expresses all the tenderness of the relationship which had just been severed.

Verses 11-17

3. The Son of the Widow of Nain: Luke 7:11-17.

The following narrative is one of those which clearly reveal our Lord's tenderness of heart, and the power which human grief exerted over Him. The historical reality of this fact has been objected to on the ground that it is only related by Luke. Criticism always reasons as if the evangelists were swayed by the same historical prepossessions as itself. The life of Jesus presented such a rich store of miraculous incidents, that no one ever dreamed of giving a complete record of them. Jesus alludes to miracles performed at Chorazin, none of which are related in our Gospels. With a single exception, we are equally ignorant of all that were wrought at Bethsaida. It is very remarkable that, amongst all the miracles which are indicated summarily in our Gospels (Luke 4:23; Luke 4:40-41, Luk 6:18-19 and parall., Luke 7:21, etc.; John 2:23; John 4:45; John 6:1; John 20:30; Joh 21:25 ), one or two only of each class are related in detail. It appears that the most striking example of each class was chosen, and that from the first no attempt was made to preserve any detailed account of the others. For edification, which was the sole aim of the popular preaching, this was sufficient. Ten cures of lepers would say no more to faith than one. But it might happen that some of the numerous miracles passed over by the tradition, came, through private sources of information, to the knowledge of one of our evangelists, and that he inserted them in his work. Thus, under the category of resurrections, the raising of Jairus' daughter had taken the foremost place in the tradition, it is found in the three Syn., whilst other facts of the kind, such as that before us, had been left in the background, without, however, being on that account denied.

Verses 13-15

Vers. 13-15. The Miracle.

The expression: the Lord, is seldom met with in our Gospels except in Luke, and principally in the passages which are peculiar to him: Luke 10:1, Luke 11:39, Luke 12:42, Luke 13:15, Luke 17:5-6, Luke 18:6, Luke 22:31; Luke 22:61 (Bleek).

The whole circumstances enumerated Luke 7:12: an only son, a widowed mother, and the public sympathy, enable us to understand what it was that acted with such power upon the heart of Jesus. It seems that He could not resist the silent appeal presented by this combination of circumstances. His heart is completely subdued by the sobs of the mother. Hence the word, at once tender and authoritative: Weep not. Prudence perhaps would have dictated that He should not work such a striking miracle at this time. But when pity speaks so loud ( ἐσπλαγχνίσθη ), there is no longer any room for prudence. Besides, He feels Himself authorized to comfort. For in this very meeting He recognises the will of His Father.

Among the Jews the bier was not covered; it was a simple plank, with a somewhat raised edge. The body, wrapped in its shroud, was therefore visible to all. Jesus lays His hand on the bier, as if to arrest this fugitive from life. The bearers, struck by the majesty of this gesture, which was at once natural and symbolical, stopped. There is a matchless grandeur in this σοὶ λέγω : “ I say to thee,...to thee who seemest no longer able to hear the voice of the living...” There is absolutely nothing in the text to justify the sarcasm of Keim: “Faith in a force which penetrates to the dead, even through the wood of the bier, evidently belongs to the evangelist, but it is not ours.” The resurrection is in no way attributed to the touching of the bier, but to the command of Jesus.

The interruption of the connection between the soul and the body in death, as in sleep, is only relative; and as man's voice suffices to re-establish this connection in any one who is wrapt in slumber, so the word of the Lord has power to restore this interrupted connection even in the dead. The advocates of the natural interpretation have maintained that the young man was only in a lethargic sleep. But if this were so, the miracle of power would only disappear to be replaced by a miracle of knowledge quite as incomprehensible. How could Jesus know that this apparently dead man was still living, and that the moment of his awaking was imminent?

As soon as the soul returned to animate the body, motion and speech indicated its presence. Jesus certainly has acquired a right over the resuscitated man; He asserts this right, but simply to enjoy the happiness of restoring to the afflicted mother the treasure which He has rescued from death. The expression: He gave him to his mother, corresponds to this: He was moved with compassion, Luke 7:13.

Verses 16-17

Vers. 16, 17. The Effect produced.

On the feeling of fear, see chap. Luke 5:8.

A great prophet: a greater than John the Baptist himself, a prophet of the first rank, such as Elijah or Moses. The second expression: God hath visited..., is more forcible still; it suggests more than it expresses. The expression: this saying [ this rumour, A. V.], might be referred to the fame of the miracle which was immediately spread abroad. But the words περὶ αὐτοῦ , concerning Him, which depend, as in Luke 7:15, on λόγος οὗτος , rather incline us to refer this expression to the two preceding exclamations ( Luk 7:16 ): “This manner of thinking and speaking about Jesus spread abroad.” It is an indication of progress in the development of the work of Jesus. In order to explain into Judaea, Keim (i. p. 72) unceremoniously says: Luke just makes Nain a city of Judaea. But the term ἐξήλθεν , literally: went out, signifies the very contrary; it intimates that these sayings, after having filled Galilee (their first sphere, understood without express mention), this time passed beyond this natural limit, and resounded as far as the country of Judaea, where they filled every mouth. There is no necessity, therefore, to give the word Judaea here the unusual meaning of the entire Holy Land, as Meyer and Bleek do. The reason why this detail is added, is not in any way what Köstlin's acute discernment surmised in order to build upon it the critical hypothesis that the narrative is of Judaean origin. These words are intended to form the transition to the following passage. John was in prison in the south of the Holy Land, in the neighbourhood of Judaea (in Peraea, in the castle of Machaerus, according to Josephus). The fame of the works of Jesus, therefore, only reached him in his prison by passing through Judaea. The words: and through out all the region round about, which refer especially to the Peraea, leave no doubt as to the intention of this remark of Luke. It forms the introduction to the following narrative.

There is a difficulty peculiar to this miracle, owing to the absence of all moral receptivity in the subject of it. Lazarus was a believer; in the case of the daughter of Jairus, the faith of the parents to a certain extent supplied the place of her personal faith. But here there is nothing of the kind. The only receptive element that can be imagined is the ardent desire of life with which this young man, the only son of a widowed mother, had doubtless yielded his last breath. And this, indeed, is sufficient. For it follows from this, that Jesus did not dispose of him arbitrarily. And as to faith, many facts prove that not in any miracle is it to be regarded as a dynamical factor, but only as a simple moral condition related to the spiritual aim which Jesus sets before Himself in performing the wonderful work.

Keim, fully sensible of the incompetency of any psychological explanation to account for such a miracle, has recourse to the mythical interpretation of Strauss in his first Life of Jesus. We are supposed to have here an imitation of the resurrection of dead persons in the Old Testament, particularly of that wrought by Elisha at Shunem, which is only a short league from Nain. These continual changes of expedients, with a view to get rid of the miracles, are not calculated to recommend rationalistic criticism. And we cannot forbear reminding ourselves here of what Baur urged with so much force against Strauss on the subject of the resurrection of Lazarus: that a myth that was a creation of the Christian consciousness must have been generally diffused, and not have been found in only one of our Gospels. Invention by the author (and consequently imposture) or history, is the only alternative.

From the omission of this miracle in Matthew and Mark, the advocates of the opinion that a proto-Mark was the common source of the Syn., conclude that this narrative was wanting in the primitive document, and that Luke added it from special sources. But if this were only a simple intercalation of Luke's, his narrative would coincide immediately afterwards with those of Mark and Matthew. Unfortunately there is no such coincidence. Matthew, after the cure of the centurion's servant, relates the cure of Peter's mother-in-law, and a number of incidents which have nothing in common with those which follow in Luke. And Mark, who has already omitted the preceding fact, although it should have been found, according to this hypothesis, in the proto-Mark, for that is where Matthew must have taken it from, does not fall, after this omission, into the series of facts related by Luke. After the day of the Sermon on the Mount, he places a series of incidents which have no connection with those that follow in Luke. And yet the boast is made, that the dependence of the three Syn. on a primitive Mark has been shown to demonstration! As to Bleek, who makes Mark depend on the other two, he does not even attempt to explain how Mark, having Luke before his eyes, omitted incidents of such importance.

Verses 18-23

1 st. Luke 7:18-23: The Question and the Reply.

Vers. 18 and 19. The Question.

Thus far, according to Holtzmann (pp. 135, 143), Luke had followed the first of his sources, the proto-Mark ( A.); now he leaves it to make use of the second (of which the author of our Matthew has also availed himself), the Logia or discourses of Matthew ( Λ .).

The expression: ὁ ἐρχόμενος , He who cometh, is taken from Malachi ( Mal 3:1 ): “Behold, He cometh, saith the Lord.” The reading ἕτερον , which is certain in Matthew, is probable in Luke. This pronoun, taken in its strict meaning: a second, attributes to Jesus in any case the office of the Christ.

Verses 18-35

4. The Deputation from John the Baptist: Luke 7:18-35.

This incident, related only by Matthew (chap. 11) and Luke, and by them differently placed, is in both accounted for in the same manner. The fame of the works of Jesus reached even John. If Luke does not expressly say, as Matthew does, that the forerunner was in prison, it is because, whatever Bleek may say, this position of affairs was sufficiently known from the remark, Luke 3:19-20.

But how should the fame of the miracles of Jesus, of the works of the Christ (Matthew), awaken in his mind the doubt which his question appears to imply? Strauss has maliciously expressed his surprise that no manufacturer of conjectures has as yet proposed to substitute in Matthew: οὐκ ἀκούσας , not having heard, for ἀκούσας , having heard. But this apparent contradiction is the very key to the whole incident. Most assuredly John does not doubt whether Jesus is a divine messenger, for he interrogates Him. He does not appear even to deny Him all participation in the Messianic work: “ John having heard in his prison of the works of the Christ ” (Matthew). What he cannot understand is just this, that these works of the Christ are not accompanied by the realization of all the rest of the Messianic programme which he had formerly proclaimed himself, and especially by the theocratic judgment. “His fan is in His hand...; the axe is already laid at the root of the trees.” Jesus in no way recognised it as His duty to become the Messiah- judge whom John had announced in such solemn terms, and whose expected coming had so unsettled the people. On the contrary, He said: “I am come not to judge, but to save” ( Joh 3:17 ). This contrast between the form of the Messianic work as it was being accomplished by Jesus, and the picture which John had drawn of it himself, leads him to inquire whether the Messianic work was to be divided between two different persons, the one, Jesus, founding the kingdom of God in the heart by His word and by miracles of benevolence; the other commissioned to execute the theocratic judgment, and by acts of power to build up on the earth the national and social edifice of the kingdom of God. This is the real meaning of John's question: “Should we look for [not properly another, but] a different one ( ἕτερον in Matthew, and perhaps in Luke also)?” We know in fact that several divine messengers were expected. Might not Jesus be that prophet whom some distinguished from the Christ (Luke 9:19; John 1:20-21; Joh 1:25 ), but whom others identified with Him ( Joh 6:14-15 )? Doubtless, if this was the thought of the forerunner, it indicated weakness of faith, and Jesus characterizes it as such ( is offended in Him, Luk 7:23 ). But there is nothing improbable in it. Not without reason had John said concerning himself: “He that is of the earth speaketh as being of the earth” ( Joh 3:31 ); and Jesus, that he was less than the least of believers. Such alternations between wonderful exaltation and deep and sudden depression are characteristic of all the men of the old covenant; lifted for a moment above themselves, but not as yet inwardly renewed, they soon sank back to their natural level. There is no need, therefore, to have recourse to the hypothesis of Chrysostom, accepted by Calvin, Grotius, etc., that John desired to give his disciples an opportunity to convince themselves of the dignity of Jesus, or to suppose, with Hase, that John's design was to stimulate Jesus, and accelerate the progress of His work. These explanations do not correspond with either the letter or the spirit of the text.

This portion comprises: 1 st, the question of John, and the reply of Jesus, Luke 7:18-23; Luke 2:0 d, the discourse of Jesus upon the person and ministry of John, Luke 7:24-35.

Verses 20-23

Vers. 20-23. The Reply.

As Matthew does not mention the miracles which were wrought, according to Luke, in the presence of John's messengers, criticism has suspected the latter of having invented this scene himself. This conclusion is logical if it be admitted that he makes use of Matthew, or of the same document as Matthew. But by what right are such charges preferred against a historian whose narrative indicates at every step the excellence of his own information, or of the sources upon which he drew? Do we not see Matthew continually abridging his historical outline, in order to give the fullest possible report of the words of Jesus? In the present case, do not the words: “Go, tell John what ye do see and hear,” imply the historical fact which Matthew omits? It is precisely because the word implied the fact, that this evangelist thought he might content himself with the former. The demonstrative force of Jesus' reply appears not only from the miracles, but still more from the connection between these facts and the signs of the Messiah, as foretold in the Old Testament (Isaiah 35:4-5; Isa 61:1 et seq.). Jesus does not mention the cure of demoniacs, because, perhaps, no mention is made of them in the O. T. Neander and Schweitzer take the words: the dead are raised up, in a figurative sense. Keim thinks that the evangelists have taken all these miracles in the literal sense, but that Jesus understood them in the spiritual sense: the people, blinded by the Pharisees, gain knowledge; the publicans (the lepers) are cleansed from their defilement, etc. The works of the Christ should be understood in the same spiritual sense (his instructions and missionary efforts). But the spiritual fruits of the ministry of Jesus are not facts which fall under the cognizance of the senses. “What ye do see and hear ” can only denote bodily cures and resurrections, which they either witness or have related.

The preaching of the gospel is intentionally placed at the end; it is the characteristic feature of the Messianic work, as it was being accomplished by Jesus, in opposition to the idea which John had formed of it. Jesus, at the same time, thereby reminds His forerunnner of Isaiah 61:1. These words form the transition to the warning of the 23d verse: “ Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me,” who shall not ask for any other proof than those of my Messianic dignity; who shall not, in the humble, gentle, and merciful progress of my work, despise the true characteristics of the promised Christ! Isaiah had said of the Messiah ( Luk 8:14-15 ): “ He shall be for a stone of stumbling; and many among them shall stumble and fall. ” It is this solemn warning of which Jesus reminds both John and his disciples, as well as the people who witnessed the scene; σκανδαλίζεσθαι : to hurt oneself by stumbling.

To what a height Jesus here soars above the greatest representative of the past! But, at the same time, what sincerity is manifested by the sacred authors, who do not fear to exhibit in the clearest light the infirmities of their most illustrious heroes!

Verses 24-28

Vers. 24-28. The Importance of John's Appearing. And when the messengers of John were departed, He began to speak unto the people concerning John: What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 25. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live aelicately, are in kings' courts. 26. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27. This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. 28. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women, there is not a greater [prophet] than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. ” ῎Ερξατο , He began to, as Luke 4:21; this term intimates the solemnity of the discourse which it introduces. The people themselves, by crowding to the baptism of John, showed that they recognised him as an extraordinary person; and they were right. Is the reed shaken by the wind an emblem here of moral instability? The meaning in this case would be: “Yes, John is really as vacillating as a reed” (Ewald); or else: “No, you must not draw this conclusion from what has just taken place” (Meyer, Neander, Bleek). But this reed shaken by the wind may be regarded simply as the emblem of something of ordinary, every-day occurrence. “It was not certainly to behold something which may be seen every day that you flocked to the desert.” The verb ἐξελθεῖν , to go out, expresses the great commotion caused by such a pilrimage. The perf. ἐξεληλύθατε signifies: “What impression have you retained from what you went to see?” whilst the aor. (Alex.) would signify: “What motive induced you to go...?” Tischendorf acknowledges that the perf. is the true reading. The aor. is taken from Matthew. The verb θεάσασθαι depends on ἐξεληλύθατε , and must not be joined to the following proposition: they went out in search of a spectacle. This expression reminds us of the saying of Jesus ( Joh 5:35 ): “ John was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

In any case, therefore, John is something great the popular opinion is not deceived here. But there are two kinds of greatness earthly greatness, and heavenly. Of which is John's? If it had been, Jesus continues, of an earthly nature, John would not have dwelt in a wilderness, but in a palace. His greatness, therefore, was of a divine order. But, according to Jewish opinion, all greatness of this kind consists in a prophetic mission. Hence the conclusion at which the people arrived respecting John, which Jesus begins by confirming, “ Yea, I say unto you; ” and then going beyond this, and more than a prophet. Is it not greater, indeed, to be the subject of prediction than to predict to figure, in the picture of the Messianic times, as a person foreseen by the prophets, than oneself to hold the prophetic glass? This is why John is more than a prophet: his appearing is a γεγραμμένον , an event written.

The quotation from Mal 3:1 is found in the three Syn.; in Matthew, in the parallel passage ( Luk 11:10 ); in Mark ( Mar 1:2 ), at the opening of the Gospel, but with this difference, that he omits the words, before Thee. On the ἐγώ , I (after ἰδού ), the various readings do not permit us to pronounce. This general agreement is remarkable; for the quotation is identical neither with the Hebrew text nor with the LXX. Neither Malachi nor the LXX. have the words, before my face, in the proposition; but in the second, the former says, before me, and the latter, before my face. Further, the LXX. read ἐξαποστέλλω instead of ἀποστέλλω , and ἐμβλέψεται instead of κατασκευάσει . This might be an argument in favour of a common written source, or of the use of one of the Syn. by the rest; but it would not be decisive. For, 1. If the common source is the Proto-Mark, how could Mark himself place this quotation in quite a different context? 2. If it is the Logia, why does Mark, instead of simply copying it, omit the words, before Thee? 3. It would be just the same if Mark copied one of the other Syn. 4. Neither do these copy Mark, which does not contain the discourse. The coincidences in the Syn. must therefore be explained in a different way. The substitution in Luke and Matthew of before Thee for before me (in Malachi), results from the way in which Jesus Himself had cited this passage. In the prophet's view, He who was sending, and He before whom the way was to be prepared, were one and the same person, Jehovah. Hence the before me in Malachi. But for Jesus, who, in speaking of Himself, never confounds Himself with the Father, a distinction became necessary. It is not Jehovah who speaks of Himself, but Jehovah speaking to Jesus; hence the form before Thee. From which evidence, does it not follow from this quotation that, in the prophet's idea, as well as in that of Jesus, Messiah's appearing is the appearing of Jehovah? (See Gess, pp. 39, 40.) As to the other expressions in common, Weizsäcker correctly explains them by saying that, since “this quotation belonged to the Messianic demonstration in habitual use,” it acquired in this way the fixed form under which we find it in our Syn.

The for, Luke 7:28, refers to the words, of whom it is written. The person whose lot it has been to be mentioned along with the Messiah, must be of no ordinary distinction. The T. R., with the Byz. Mjj., reads: “I say unto you, that among them which are born of woman, there hath arisen no greater prophet than John the Baptist.” The Alex. omit the word prophet, and rightly; for there is tautology. Is not every prophet born of woman? The superiority of John over all other theocratic and human appearances, refers not to his personal worth, but to his position and work. Did his inward life surpass that of Abraham, Elijah, etc....? Jesus does not say it did. But his mission is higher than theirs. And nevertheless, Jesus adds, the ancient order of things and the new are separated by such a gulph, that the least in the latter has a higher position than John himself. The weakest disciple has a more spiritual intuition of divine things than the forerunner. He enjoys in Jesus the dignity of a son, while John is only a servant. The least believer is one with this Son whom John announces. It does not follow from this, that this believer is more faithful than John. John may be further advanced on his line, but none the less for that the line of the believer is higher than his. There is an element of a higher life in the one, which is wanting in the other. This reflection is added by Jesus not with a view to depreciate John, but to explain and excuse the unstedfastness of his faith, the σκανδαλίζεσθαι ( Luk 7:23 ). Several of the ancients understood by the least Jesus Christ, as being either John's junior, or, for the time, even less illustrious than he. The only way of supporting this interpretation would be to refer the words, in the kingdom of God, to is greater, which is evidently forced.

We have given to the comparative, less, a superlative meaning, least. Meyer, pressing the idea of the comparative, gives this explanation: “he who, in the new era, has a position relatively less lofty than that which John had in the old.” This meaning is far-fetched; Mat 18:1 shows us how the sense of the comparative becomes superlative: he who is greater [than the other]; whence: the greatest of all. Comp. also Luke 9:48. This saying, the authenticity of which is beyond suspicion, shows how fully conscious Jesus was of introducing a principle of life superior to the most exalted element in Judaism.

Verses 24-35

2 d. Luke 7:24-35. The Discourse of Jesus.

Jesus had a debt to discharge. John had borne striking testimony to Him; He avails Himself of this occasion to pay public homage in His turn to His forerunner. He would not allow this opportunity to pass without doing it, because there was a strict solidarity between John's mission and His own. This discourse of Jesus concerning John is, as it were, the funeral oration of the latter; for he was put to death soon after. Jesus begins by declaring the importance of John's appearing ( Luk 7:24-28 ); he next speaks of the influence exerted by his ministry ( Luk 7:29-30 ); lastly, He describes the conduct of the people under these two great divine calls

John's ministry and His own ( Luk 7:31-35 ). The same general order is found in Matthew 11:1, Luke 7:7-11; Luke 2:0 d, Luke 7:12-15; Luke 3:0 d, Luke 7:16-20.

Verses 29-30

Vers. 29 and 30. Retrospective Survey of the Ministry of John. And all the people that heard Him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves [ the Pharisees and scribes rendered God's design vain in their case. M. Godet's trans.], being not baptized of him.

These verses form the transition from the testimony which Jesus has just borne to John, to the application which He desires to make to the persons present. He attributes to the ministry of John a twofold result: a general movement amongst the lower classes of the people, Luke 7:29; an open opposition on the part of the rulers who determine the fate of the nation, Luke 7:30. Several interpreters (Knapp, Neander) have been led by the historical form of these verses to regard them as a reflection of the evangelist introduced into the discourse of Jesus. But such a mention of a fact interrupting a discourse would be unexampled. In any case it would be indicated, and the resumption of the discourse pointed out in Luke 7:31; the formula, And the Lord said, at the commencement of this verse, is not authentic. Had John been still at liberty, the words all that heard might, strictly speaking, have referred to a fact which had taken place at that time, to a resolution which His hearers had formed to go and be baptized by John that very hour. But John was no longer baptizing (Luke 3:19-20; Mat 11:2 ). These words are therefore the continuation of the discourse. The meaning of Jesus is: John's greatness (28b is only a parenthesis) was thoroughly understood by the people; for a time they did homage to his mission, whilst ( δέ , Luk 7:30 ) the rulers rejected him. And thus it is that, notwithstanding the eagerness of the people in seeking baptism from John, his ministry has nevertheless turned out a decided failure, in regard to the nation as such, owing to the opposition of its leaders. The object understood after all that heard is John the Baptist and his preaching. To justify God is to recognise and proclaim by word and deed the excellence of His ways for the salvation of men. The expression: they have annulled for themselves the divine decree, signifies that, although man cannot foil God's plan for the world, he may render it vain for himself.

On this conduct of the rulers, see Luke 3:7. The indirect reproof addressed by Jesus to the Pharisee Nicodemus ( Joh 3:5 ) for having neglected the baptism of water, coincides in a remarkable manner with this passage in Luke.

In place of these two verses, we find in Matthew ( Mat 11:12-15 ) a passage containing the following thoughts: The appearing of John was the close of the legal and prophetical dispensation; and the opening of the Messianic kingdom took place immediately after. Only, men must know how to use a holy violence in order to enter into it ( Luk 7:12-13 ). John was therefore the expected Elijah: Blessed is he who understands it (Luke 7:14; Luk 7:13 )! These last two verses occur again in Matthew 17:12, where they are brought in more naturally; it is probable that some similarity in the ideas led the compiler to place them here. As to Luke 7:12-13, they are placed by Luke in a wholly different and very obscure connection, Luke 16:16. According to Holtzmann, it would be Matthew who faithfully reproduces here the common source, the Logia; while Luke, not thinking the connection satisfactory, substitutes for this passage from the Logia another taken from the proto-Mark, which Matthew introduces at Luke 21:31-32. Since, however, he was unwilling to lose the passage omitted here, he gives it another place, in a very incomprehensible context, it is true, but with a reversal of the order of the two verses, in order to make the connection more intelligible. Holtzmann quite prides himself on this explanation, and exclaims: “All the difficulties are solved....This example is very instructive as showing the way in which such difficulties should be treated” (pp. 143-5). The only thing proved, in our opinion, is, that by attempting to explain the origin of the Syn. by such manipulations we become lost in a labyrinth of improbabilities. Luke, forsooth, took the passage Matthew 5:12-15 (Matthew) away from its context, because the connection did not appear to him satisfactory, and inserted this same passage in his own Gospel, Luke 16:16, in a context where it becomes more unintelligible still! Is it not much more natural to suppose that Matthew's discourse was originally composed for a collection of Logia, in which it bore the title: On John the Baptist, and that the compiler collected under this head all the words known to him which Jesus had uttered at different times on this subject? As to Luke, he follows his own sources of information, which, as he has told us, faithfully represent the oral tradition, and which furnish evidence of their accuracy at every fresh test.

Gess endeavours, it is true, to prove the superiority of Matthew's text. The violent ( Mat 11:12 ) would be, according to him, the messengers of John the Baptist, thus designated on account of the abruptness with which they had put their question to Jesus before all the people. And Jesus declared this zeal laudable in comparison with the indifference shown by the people ( Luk 7:31-35 ). But, 1. How could Jesus say of the disciples of John that they were forcing an entrance into the kingdom, whilst they frequently assumed a hostile attitude towards Him (Matthew 9:14; Joh 3:26 )? 2. There would be no proportion between the gravity of this saying thus understood, and that of the declarations which precede and follow it upon the end of the prophetic and the opening of the Messianic era.

Verses 31-35

Vers. 31-35. The Application. Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? 32. They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. 33. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say, He hath a devil. 34. The Son of man is come eating and drinking, and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. 35. But Wisdom is justified of all her children.

Here it is no longer the ministry of John simply that is the subject. Jesus is expressing His judgment of the conduct of the generation then living, with respect to the two great divine messages with which it had just been favoured. There is something severe in the double question of Luke 7:31. Jesus has a difficulty in finding a comparison that will adequately set forth the senseless conduct which He has witnessed. At last His mind fixes on an image which answers to His thought. He recalls a game at which the children of His time were accustomed to play, and in which perhaps He had Himself in His youth taken part of an evening, in the market - place of Nazareth. This game bore some resemblance to that which we call a charade. The players divided themselves into two groups, of which each one in turn commences the representation of a scene in ordinary life, while the other, taking up the scene thus begun, finishes the representation of it. It is not therefore, as with us, the mere guessing of a word; but, in conformity with the more dramatic character of the oriental genius, a passing from the position of spectators to that of actors, so as to finish the representation commenced by the players who imagined the scene. In this case two attempts are made alternatively, one by each of the two groups of children ( προσφανοῦσιν ἀλλήλοις , calling one to another, Luk 7:32 ); but with equal want of success. Each time the actors whose turn it is to start the game are foiled by the disagreeable humour of their companions, whose part it is to take up the representation and finish the scene. The first company comes playing a dance tune; the others, instead of rising and forming a dance, remain seated and indifferent. The latter, in their turn, indicate a scene of mourning; the others, instead of forming themselves into a funeral procession, assume a weary, sullen attitude. And thus, when the game is over, each company has reason to complain of the other, and say: “ We have..., you have not...”

The general meaning is obvious: the actors, in both cases, represent the two divine messengers joined by the faithful followers who gathered about them from the first: John, with his call to repentance, and his train of penitents; Jesus, with His promises of grace, and attended by a company of happy believers. But while the means they employ are so different, and so opposed even, that it seems that any man who resists the one must submit to the other, moral insensibility and a carping spirit have reached such a height in Israel that they paralyze their effects. De Wette, Meyer, and Bleek give quite a different application of the figure. According to them, the company which begins the game represents the people, who want to make the divine messengers act according to their fancy; the other company, which refuses to enter into their humour, represents John and Jesus, who persevere, without deviation, in the path God has marked out for them. But, in this case, the blame in the parable should fall not on the second company, which would be justified in not entering into a part imposed upon them, but on the first, which tries to exact a tyrannical compulsion on the other. Now it is not so at all. It is evident that those on whom the blame falls are the dissatisfied and peevish spectators, who each time refuse to enter into the proposed game (and ye say..., and ye say..., Luk 7:33-34 ). Besides, when did the people seek to exert such an influence on John and Jesus as would be indicated here? Lastly, there is an evident correspondence between the two reproaches: “ We have piped..., we have mourned...; ” and the two facts: “ John came...The Son of man is come...” What has led these interpreters astray is the somewhat inaccurate form in which the parable is introduced at Luke 7:32: “This generation is like to children calling one to another. ” But in these preambles the connection between the image and the idea is often indicated in a concise and somewhat inaccurate manner. Thus Matthew 13:24: “ The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man which sowed,” and elsewhere. The meaning, therefore, of Luk 7:32 is simply this: “The conduct of the present generation towards the messengers sent to it by God is like that which takes place amongst children who...” By the repetition of “ and ye say ” ( Luk 7:33-34 ), Jesus translates, so to speak, into words the refusal of the people to enter into the feeling of holy grief or holy joy with which God would impress them.

But, notwithstanding this general resistance, divine wisdom finds some hearts which open to its different solicitations, and which justify by their docility the contrary methods it adopts. These Jesus calls the children of wisdom, according to an expression used in the book of Proverbs. Καί ( Luk 7:35 ): “ And nevertheless. ” The preposition ἀπό , from, indicates that God's justification is derived from these same men, that is to say, from their repentance on hearing the reproof and threatenings of John, and from their faith, resembling a joyous amen, in the promises of Jesus. Πάντων , all: not one of these children of wisdom remain behind...; all force their way into the kingdom.

The term wisdom recalls the word counsel ( Luk 7:30 ); the expression is justified, the justified of Luke 7:29. This connection will not allow of the meaning being given to Luke 7:35, which some have proposed: “Divine wisdom has been justified from the accusations ( ἀπό ) brought against it by its own children, the Jews.” This meaning is also excluded by the word all, which would contain an inadmissible exaggeration ( Luk 7:29 ).

Instead of τέκνων , children, א reads ἔργων , works: “Wisdom has derived its justification from the excellent works which it produces in those who submit to it.” But the epithet πάντων , all, does not suit this sense. The reading ἔργων is taken from the text of Matthew, in certain documents ( א . B. Syr. Cop.). It would be more allowable in that Gospel, in which the word πάντων is omitted. But even then it is improbable.

This discourse is one of those which best show what Jesus was as a popular speaker. The understanding is brought into play, and the curiosity stimulated by the interrogative form (Luke 7:24; Luke 7:26; Luk 7:31 ); and the imagination excited by lively images, full of charm (Luke 7:24-25; Luk 7:32 ). Lastly, there is a striking application to the conscience: John failed through his austerity; I shall fail through my gentleness; neither under one form nor another will you obey God. Nevertheless there are those whose conduct by condemning you justifies God.

5. The Gratitude of the Woman who was a Sinner: Luke 7:36-50.

The following narrative seems to have been placed here as an illustration of wisdom being justified by her children ( Luk 7:35 ), and particularly of this last word: all.

Verses 36-39

Vers. 36-39. The Offence.

We are still in that epoch of transition, when the rupture between our Lord and the Pharisees, although already far advanced, was not complete. A member of this party could still invite Him without difficulty. It has been supposed that this invitation was given with a hostile intention. But this Pharisee's own reflection, Luke 7:39, shows his moral state. He was hesitating between the holy impression which Jesus made upon him, and the antipathy which his caste felt against Him. Jesus speaks to him in a tone so friendly and familiar, that it is difficult to suppose him animated by malevolent feelings. Further, Luk 7:42 proves unanswerably that he had received some spiritual benefit from Jesus, and that he felt a certain amount of gratitude towards Him; and Luk 7:47 says expressly that he loved Jesus, although feebly.

The entrance of the woman that was a sinner into such society was an act of great courage, for she might expect to be ignominiously sent away. The power of a gratitude that knew no bounds for a priceless benefit which she had received from the Saviour can alone explain her conduct. Luk 7:42 shows what this benefit was. It was the pardon of her numerous and fearful sins. Was it on hearing Him preach, or in a private interview, or through one of those looks of Jesus which for broken hearts were like a ray from heaven...? She had received from Him the joy of salvation; and the perfume which she brought with her was the emblem of her ardent gratitude for this unspeakable gift. If we adopt the Alex. reading, the sense is: “A woman who was a sinner in that city,” that is to say, who practised in that very city her shameful profession. The received reading: “There was in the city a woman that was a sinner,” is less harsh. ῾Αμαρτωλός , a sinner, in the same superlative sense in which the Jews thought they might apply this epithet to the Gentiles ( Gal 2:15 ). Μύρον denotes any kind of odoriferous vegetable essence, particularly that of the myrtle.

As it was the custom when at table to recline upon a couch, the feet being directed backwards, and without their sandals, there was nothing to prevent this woman from coming up to Jesus and anointing His feet. But just when she was preparing to pay Him this homage, she burst into tears at remembrance of her faults. Her tears streamed down upon the Saviour's feet, and having no cloth to wipe them, she promptly loosed her hair, and with that supplied its place. In order to duly appreciate this act, we must remember that among the Jews it was one of the greatest humiliations for a woman to be seen in public with her hair down.

The τίς , who ( Luk 7:39 ), refers to the name and family, and the ποταπή , what, to the character and conduct.

Verses 40-43

Vers. 40-43. The Parable.

If this man wanted a proof of the prophetic gift of Jesus, he received it instantly in the following parable, which so exactly meets his thoughts and secret questions. The form of the following conversation is kindly, familiar, and even slightly humorous. It is just the tone of the Socratic irony. The denarius was equivalent to about three farthings; the larger of the two sums amounted, therefore, to about £16, the smaller to 32s. The former represents the enormous amount of sins to which this sinful woman pleaded guilty, and which Jesus had pardoned; the latter, the few infractions of the law for which the Pharisee reproached himself, and from the burden of which Jesus had also released him. ᾿Ορθῶς ἔκρινας : “ thou hast rightly judged; and in judging so rightly, thou hast condemned thyself.” It is the πάνυ ὀρθῶς of Socrates, when he had caught his interlocutor in his net. But that which establishes such an immeasurable distance between Jesus and the Greek sage, is the way in which Jesus identifies Himself, both here and in what follows, with the offended God who pardons and who becomes the object of the sinner's grateful love.

Verses 44-47

Vers. 44-47. The Application.

Jesus follows an order the inverse of that which He had taken in the parable. In the latter He descends from the cause to the effect, from the debt remitted to the gratitude experienced. In the application, on the contrary, He ascends from the effect to the cause. For the effect is evident, and comes under the observation of the senses ( βλέπεις ).

Jesus describes it, Luke 7:44-46, whilst the cause is concealed ( Luk 7:47 ), and can only be got at by means of the principle which forms the substance of the parable.

During the first part of the conversation, Jesus was turned towards Simon. He now turns towards the woman whom He is about to make the subject of His demonstration. Jesus had not complained of the want of respect and the impoliteness of His host. But He had noticed them, and felt them deeply. And now what a contrast He draws between the cold and measured welcome of the Pharisee, who appeared to think that it was honour enough to admit Him to his table, and the love shown by this woman that was a sinner! The customary bath for the feet had been omitted by the one, while copious tears were showered upon His feet by the other; the usual kiss with which the host received his guests Simon had neglected, while the woman had covered His feet with kisses; the precious perfume with which it was usual to anoint an honoured guest on a festive day ( Psa 23:5 ) he had withheld, but she had more than made up for the omission. In fact, it is not Simon, it is she who has done Jesus the honours of the house! The omission of τῆς κεφαλῆς ( Luk 7:44 ) in the Alex., “[the hairs] of her head,” is probably the result of negligence. The word perfectly suits the context; the head, as the most noble part of the body, is opposed to the feet of Jesus.

The reading εἰσῆλθεν , “[ever since] she entered,” found in one Mn., has at first glance something taking about it. But it has too little support; and the T. R., “ever since I entered,” is in reality preferable. Jesus thereby reminds Simon of the moment when He came under his roof, and when He had a right to expect those marks of respect and affection which had been neglected. The woman had followed Jesus so closely that she had all but entered with Him; there she was, the moment He was set at the table, to pay Him homage.

From this visible effect the total difference between the love of the one and the love of the other, Jesus ascends, Luke 7:47, to its hidden cause the difference in the measure of forgiveness accorded to them respectively. Οὗ χάριν , wherefore; properly, an account of which, that is to say, of this contrast between the respective exhibitions of your gratitude ( Luk 7:44-46 ). This conjunction is the inverse of the therefore in Luke 7:42, which led from the cause to the foreseen effect.

We might make this wherefore bear upon the principal idea, “Her sins are forgiven her.” In that case we should have to regard the words λέγω σοί , I say unto thee, as an inserted phrase, and the last proposition as an epexegetical explanation of this wherefore: “Wherefore I say unto thee, her many sins are forgiven, and that because she loved much.” But we may also make the wherefore bear directly on “I say unto thee,” and make all the rest of the verse the complement of this verb: “Wherefore I say unto thee, that her many sins are forgiven her, because that...” The latter is evidently the more simple construction. The reading, I said unto thee, of א , would indicate that this truth was already contained in this parable. It has neither authority nor probability. How should we understand the words, for she loved much? Is love, according to Jesus, the cause of forgiveness? Catholic interpreters, and even many Protestants, understand the words in this sense: God forgives us much when we love much; little, if we love little. But, 1. In this case there is no coherence whatever between the parable and its application. On this principle, Jesus should not have asked, Luke 7:42, “Which of them will love Him most?” but, “Which then loved Him most?” The remission of the two debts of such different amounts would result from the different degrees of love in the two debtors; while, on the contrary, it is the difference between the debts remitted which produces the different amount of gratitude. 2. There would be, if possible, a more striking incoherence still between the first part of the application, Luke 7:47 a, and the second, Luke 7:47 b: “To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” To be logical, Jesus should have said precisely the contrary: “Who loves little, to him little is forgiven.” 3. The words, Thy faith hath saved thee ( Luk 7:50 ), clearly show what, in Jesus' view, was the principle on which forgiveness was granted to this woman; it was faith, not love. We must not forget that ὅτι , because, frequently expresses, just as our for does, not the relation of the effect to its cause, but the relation (purely logical) of the proof to the thing proved. We may say, It is light, for the sun is risen; but we may also say, The sun is risen, for [I say this because] it is light. So in this passage the ὅτι , because, for, may, and, according to what precedes and follows, must mean: “I say unto thee that her many sins are forgiven, as thou must infer from this, that she loved much.” Thus all is consistent, the application with the parable, this saying with the words that follow, and Jesus with Himself and with St. Paul.

Ver. 47b contains the other side of the application of this same principle: the less forgiveness, the less love. This is addressed to Simon. But with delicacy of feeling Jesus gives this severe truth the form of a general proposition, “ He to whom...; ” just as He also did with Nicodemus, “ Except a man be born...” ( Joh 3:3 ).

The thought expressed in this Luk 7:47 raises two difficulties: 1. May forgiveness be only partial? Then there would be men half-saved and half-lost! 2. Is it necessary to have sinned deeply in order to love much?

The real forgiveness of the least sin certainly contains in germ a complete salvation, but only in germ. If faith is maintained and grows, this forgiveness will gradually extend to all the sins of a man's life, just as they will then become more thoroughly known and acknowledged. The first forgiveness is the pledge of all the rest. In the contrary case, the forgiveness already granted will be withdrawn, just as represented in the parable of the wicked debtor, Matthew 18:0; and the work of grace, instead of becoming complete, will prove abortive. All is transition here below, free transition, either to perfect salvation or to complete condemnation. As to the great amount of sin necessary in order to loving much, we need add nothing to what each of us already has; it is sufficient to estimate accurately what we have. What is wanting to the best of us, in order to love much, is not sin, but the knowledge of it.

Verses 48-50

Vers. 48-50. Conclusion.

Bleek has inferred from Luke 7:48, thy sins are forgiven thee, that until this moment the woman had not obtained forgiveness. This supposition is excluded by all that precedes. Bleek forgets that ἀφέωνται is a perfect indicating an actual state resulting from an act accomplished at some indefinite time in the past. Having regard to the pharisaical denials of the persons composing the assembly, and to the doubts which might arise in the heart of the sinning woman herself, Jesus renews to her the assurance of the divine fact of which she had within her the witness and warrant. This direct and personal declaration corresponds with the inward witness of the Divine Spirit in our own experience, after we have embraced the promises of the Word ( Eph 1:13 ).

On the objection, Luke 7:49, comp. Luke 7:21. Καί , even; besides all the other extraordinary things He does.

Jesus continues as if He had not heard, but all the while taking account of what was being said around Him ( εἶπε δέ , “ but He said”). While addressing the woman, He shows the people assembled the firm foundation on which her forgiveness rests. She has the benefit of this decree: Whosoever believeth is saved. Let her go away, then, with her treasure, her peace, in spite of all their pharisaical murmurs! Εἰς εἰρήνην , in peace, and to enjoy peace.

This beautiful narrative, preserved by Luke alone, contains the two essential elements of what is called Paulinism the freeness and universality of salvation. Does it follow from this that it was invented posterior to Paul in order to set forth these great principles? It simply proves that it was Luke's intention, as he said at the beginning ( Luk 1:4 ), to show by his Gospel, that the doctrine so clearly expressed and so earnestly preached by Paul was already contained in germ in all the acts and teaching of Jesus; that the gospel of Paul is nothing but the application of the principles previously laid down by the Lord Himself.

A very similar narrative to this is found in the other three Gospels, but assigned to a much later time to the Passion week. Mary, a sister of Lazarus, anoints Jesus at a repast which is given Him by the people of Bethany ( Mat 26:6 et seq.; Mar 14:3 et seq.; Joh 12:1 et seq.). A great number of interpreters agree that this incident is the same as that we have just been considering in Luke. They rely on the similarity of the act, on the circumstance that Luke does not relate the anointing at Bethany; and that, on the other hand, the three other evangelists do not mention this in Galilee; and lastly, on the fact that in both cases the owner of the house where the repast is given bears the name of Simon (Luke 7:40; Matthew 26:6; Mar 14:3 ). These reasons, doubtless, have their weight; but they are not decisive. The act of anointing was associated with such a common usage on festive occasions (Luke 7:46; Psa 23:5 ), that there can be no difficulty in supposing that it was repeated. The causes of the omission of a narrative in one or two of the evangelists are too accidental for us to be able to base any solid conclusion upon it. We need only refer to the omission in Matthew of the healing of the possessed at Capernaum, and of the healing of the centurion's servant in Mark, omissions which it is impossible to account for. As to the name Simon, it was so common, that out of the small number of persons designated by name in the N. T., there are no less than fifteen Simons! The reasons in favour of the difference of the two incidents are the following: 1 st. The difference of place

Galilee in Luke; in the other three, Judaea. This reason is of secondary value, it is true, because in chap. 10 Luke appears to place the visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary in the midst of the Galilean ministry. 2 d. The difference of time. 3 d. The difference of persons: the woman that was a sinner, in Luke, is a stranger in the house of the host (Luke 7:37, “ a woman of the city ”), and Simon himself regards her as such, and as altogether unknown to Jesus ( Luk 7:39 ); Mary, on the contrary, belongs to a beloved family, which habitually received Jesus under their roof. Besides, we must always feel a repugnance to identify Mary, the sister of Lazarus, as we know her in John 1:0 and Luke 10:38-42, with a woman of ill fame. 4 th. The most important difference respects what was said: at Bethany, a complaint from Judas on behalf of the poor, and a reply from Jesus announcing His approaching death; in Galilee, the great evangelical declaration, that love is the fruit of forgiveness, which is bestowed on the simple condition of faith. What agreement can be discovered between these two conversations? We may conceive of very considerable alterations being made by tradition in the historical framework of a narrative. But by what marvellous process could one of these two conversations have been transformed into the other?

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 7". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/luke-7.html.