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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 19

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verse 1

1. ] τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδ . πέρ . τοῦ Ἰορδ . form one continuous description. Bethany, where He went, was beyond Jordan, but on the confines of Judæa. See notes on Mark 10:1 , and Luke 9:51 .

Verses 1-12

1 12. ] REPLY TO THE PHARISEES’ QUESTION CONCERNING DIVORCE. Mark 10:1-12 . This appears to be the journey of our Lord into the region beyond Jordan, mentioned John 10:40 . If so, a considerable interval has elapsed since the discourse in ch. 15.

Verse 2

2. ] This agrees with what is said John 10:41-42 . For ἐθεράπ ., St. Mark has ἐδίδασκεν .

Verse 3

3. ] This was a question of dispute between the rival Rabbinical schools of Hillel and Shammai; the former asserting the right of arbitrary divorce, from Deuteronomy 24:1 , the other denying it except in case of adultery. It was also, says De Wette, a delicate question in the place where our Lord now was, in the dominions of Herod Antipas.

κ . πᾶσαν αἰτ ., as E. V., for every cause; i.e. is any charge which a man may choose to bring against his wife to justify him in divorcing her? So Jos. Antt. iv. 8. 23, γυναικὸς τῆς συνοικούσης βουλόμενος διαζευχθῆναι καθ ʼ ἃς δηποτοῦν αἰτίας , πολλαὶ δ ʼ ἂν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τοιαῦται γίνοιντο , γράμμασι μὲν περὶ τοῦ μηδέποτε συνελθεῖν ἰσχυριζέσθω .

Verses 4-6

4 6. ] On these verses we may remark (1) that our Lord refers to the Mosaic account of the Creation as the historical fact of the first creation of man; and grounds his argument on the literal expressions of that narrative. (2) That He cites both from the first and second chapters of Genesis, and in immediate connexion; thus shewing them to be consecutive parts of a continuous narrative, which, from their different diction, and apparent repetition, they have sometimes been supposed not to be. (3) That He quotes as spoken by the Creator the words in Genesis 2:24 , which were actually said by Adam; they must therefore be understood as said in prophecy, divino afflatu , which indeed the terms made use of in them would require, since the relations alluded to by those terms did not yet exist. Augustin. de Nupt. ii. 4 (12), vol. x. pt. i., ‘Deus utique per hominem dixit quod homo prophetande prædixit.’ (4) That the force of the argument consists in the previous unity of male and female, not indeed organically, but by implication, in Adam. Thus it is said in Genesis 1:27 , not ἄνδρα καὶ γυναῖκα ἐποίησεν αὐτούς , but ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐπ . αὐ . He made them (man, as a race) male (not, a male) and female: but then the male and female were implicitly shut up in one; and therefore after the creation of woman from man, when one man and one woman were united in marriage they should be one flesh , ἕνεκεν τούτου , because woman was taken out of man. The answer then is, that abstractedly , from the nature of marriage, it is indissoluble .

The words οἱ δύο are in the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch, but not in the Hebrew.

Verse 5

5. εἰς σάρκα μίαν ] εἶναι εἰς is not Greek, but a Hebraism, הָיָה לְ (Meyer). Stier remarks, that the essential bond of marriage consists not in unity of spirit and soul , by which indeed the marriage state should ever be hallowed and sweetened, but without which it still exists in all its binding power: the wedded pair are ONE FLESH, i.e. ONE MAN within the limits of their united life in the flesh , for this world: beyond this limit, the marriage is broken by the death of the flesh . And herein alone lies the justification of a second marriage, which in no way breaks off the unity of love in spirit with the former partner, now deceased. Vol. ii. p. 267, edn. 2.

Verses 7-9

7 9. ] In this second question, the Pharisees imagine that they have overthrown our Lord’s decision by a permission of the law, which they call a command (compare ἐνετείλατο , Matthew 19:7 , with ἐπέτρεψεν , Mat 19:8 ). But He answers them that this was done by Moses on account of their hardness and sinfulness , as a lesser of evils , and belonged to that dispensation which παρεισῆλθεν , Romans 5:20 ; τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη , Galatians 3:19 . This He expresses by the ὑμῶν , ὑμῖν , ὑμῶν , as opposed to ἄνθρωπος , and to ἀπ ʼ ἀρχῆς . Only that πορνεία , which itself breaks marriage , can be a ground for dissolving it. The question, whether demonstrated approaches to πορνεία , short of the act itself, are to be regarded as having the same power, must be dealt with cautiously, but at the same time with full remembrance that our Lord does not confine the guilt of such sins to the outward act only: see ch. Matthew 5:28 . St. Mark gives this last verse (9) as spoken to the disciples in the house; and his minute accuracy in such matters of detail is well known. This enactment by our Lord is a formal repetition of what He had said before in the Sermon on the Mount, ch. Matthew 5:32 . Notice, as on ch. Matthew 5:32 , ἀπολελυμένην without the art., and thus logically confined to the case of her who has been divorced μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ . This not having been seen, expositors (e.g. of late Bp. Wordsworth) have fallen into the mistake of supposing that the dictum applies to the marrying a woman divorced ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ , which grammatically would require τὴν ἀπολελυμένην . The proper English way of rendering the word as it now stands, would be, a woman thus divorced, viz., μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ .

Verse 10

10. ] αἰτία , not the cause of divorce just mentioned; nor, the condition of the man with his wife: but the account to be given, the original ground and principle ,’ of the relationship of man and wife: ἐὰν τοιαύτη ἐστὶν ἡ αἰτία τῆς συζυγίας , Euthym [151] , who however mentions other renderings. The disciples apprehend that the trials and temptations of marriage would prove sources of sin and misery. This question and its answer are peculiar to Matthew.

[151] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

Meyer refers αἰτία back to the αἰτία in Matthew 19:3 , and understands it to mean the only reason justifying divorce; but the above interpretation seems to me preferable.

Verses 11-12

11, 12. ] τὸν λόγον τοῦτον , this saying of yours , viz. οὐ συμφέρει γαμῆσαι . The γάρ in Mat 19:12 shews that the sense is carried on: see ch. Matthew 1:18 .

Our Lord mentions the three exceptions , the οἷς δέδοται οὐ γαμῆσαι . 1. Those who from natural incapacity, or if not that, inaptitude, have no tendencies towards marriage: 2. Those who by actual physical deprivation, or compulsion from men, are prevented from marrying: 3. Those who in order to do the work of God more effectually (as e.g. Paul), abstain from marriage, see 1 Corinthians 7:26 . The εὐνοῦχοι and εὐνουχίζω in the two first cases are to be taken both literally and figuratively in the latter, figuratively only. It is to be observed that our Lord does not here utter a word from which any superiority can be attributed to the state of celibacy: the imperative in the last clause being not a command but a permission, as in Revelation 22:17 . His estimate for us of the expediency of celibacy, as a general question, is to be gathered from the parable of the talents, where He visits with severe blame the burying of the talent for its safer custody. The remark is Neander’s, and the more valuable, as he himself lived and died unmarried. See his Leben Jesu, edn. 4, p. 584.

Verse 12

12. ] χωρεῖν , as in E. V. and in Matthew 19:11 , to receive it.

Verses 13-15

13 15. ] THE BRINGING OF CHILDREN TO JESUS. Mark 10:13-16 . Luke 18:15-17 . After the long divergence of ch. Luk 9:51 to Luke 18:14 , Luke here again falls into the synoptic narrative. This incident is more fully related in Mark, where see notes.

Our Evangelist gives τὰς χ . ἐπιθ . αὐτ . κ . προσεύξ . (see Genesis 48:14 ; Act 6:6 ), where the other two have only ‘ that He should touch them .’ The connexion in which it stands here and in Mark seems to be natural, immediately after the discourse on marriage . Some further remarks of our Lord, possibly on the fruit of marriage, may have given rise to the circumstance.

Verse 16

16. ] From Luk 18:8 we learn that he was a ruler: from Mark 10:17 , that he ran to our Lord. The spirit in which he came, which does not however appear here so plainly as in the other Gospels, from the omission of ἀγαθέ , and the form of our Lord’s answer, seems to have been that of excessive admiration for Jesus as a man of eminent virtue, and of desire to know from Him by what work of exceeding merit he might win eternal life. This spirit He reproves, by replying that there is but One Good, and that the walking by His grace in the way of holiness is the path to life. On the question and answer, as they stand in the received text, and on their doctrinal bearing, see notes to Mark. This passage furnishes one of the most instructive and palpable cases of the smoothing down of apparent discrepancies by correcting the Gospels out of one another and thus reducing them to conformity.

Verses 16-30

16 30. ] ANSWER TO THE ENQUIRY OF A RICH YOUNG MAN, AND DISCOURSE THEREUPON. Mark 10:17-31 .Luke 18:18-30; Luke 18:18-30 .

Verse 18

18. ] De Wette observes well, that our Lord gives this enumeration of the commandments to bring out the self-righteous spirit of the young man, which He before saw. He only mentions those of the second table, having in Matthew 19:17 , in His declaration respecting ἀγαθός , included those of the first. Mark has the addition of μὴ ἀποστερήσῃς , representing probably the tenth commandment.

Verse 19

19. ] καὶ ἀγαπ . κ . τ . λ . is peculiar to Matthew.

Verse 20

20. ] We may remark that this young man, though self-righteous, was no hypocrite , no Pharisee: he spoke earnestly, and really strove to keep, as he really believed he had kept, all God’s commandments. Accordingly Mark adds, that Jesus looking upon him loved him: in spite of his error there was a nobleness and openness about him, contrasted with the hypocritical bearing of the Pharisees and Scribes.

Verses 21-22

21, 22. ] Our Lord takes him on his own shewing. As Mark and Luke add, “ One thing is wanting to thee .” Supposing thy statement true, this topstone has yet to be laid on the fabric. But then it is to be noticed, that part of that one thing is δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι ( ἄρας τὸν σταυρόν , Mark). Stier remarks, that this was a test of his observance of the first commandment of the first table: of breaking which he is by the result convicted.

ἦν γὰρ ἔχ . κτ . π . is common to Mark, verbatim.

Verse 24

24. ] No alteration to κάμιλον is necessary or admissible. That word, as signifying a rope , or cable , seems to have been invented to escape the fancied difficulty here; see Palm and Rost’s or Liddell and Scott’s Lex. sub voce, and for the scholia giving the interpretation, Tischendorf’s note here. Lightfoot brings instances from the Talmud of similar proverbial expressions regarding an elephant: we have a case in ch. Matthew 23:24 , of a camel being put for any thing very large: and we must remember that the object here was to set forth the greatest human impossibility, and to magnify divine grace, which could accomplish even that .

Verse 25

25. ] τίς , not τίς πλούσιος , which would have been a far shallower and narrower enquiry, but a general question what man? Besides the usual reason given for this question, ‘ since all are striving to be rich ,’ we must remember that the disciples yet looked for a temporal Kingdom, and therefore would naturally be dismayed at hearing that it was so difficult for any rich man to enter it.

Verse 26

26. ἐμβλέψας ] Probably to give force to and impress what was about to be said, especially as it was a saying reaching into the spiritual doctrines of the Gospel, which they could not yet apprehend.

τοῦτο , salvation in general, and even of those least likely to be saved.

παρά in both cases, as in E. V., with, ‘in the estimation of,’ ‘penes:’ a subjective force of the preposition derived from its local meaning of close juxtaposition, in which sense we have it only once in the N.T., John 19:25 .

Verse 27

27. ] The disciples, or rather Peter speaking for them, recur to the ἕξεις θησ . ἐν οὐρ . said to the young man, and enquire what their reward shall be, who have done all that was required of them. He does not ask respecting salvation , but some pre-eminent reward , as is manifest by the answer. The ‘all’ which the Apostles had left, was not in every case contemptible. The sons of Zebedee had hired servants ( Mar 1:20 ), and Levi (Matthew?) could make a great feast in his house. But whatever it was, it was their all .

Verses 28-30

28 30. ] We may admire the simple truthfulness of this answer of our Lord. He does not hide from them their reward: but tells them prophetically, that in the new world, the accomplishment of that regeneration which He came to bring in (see Acts 3:21 ; Revelation 21:5 ; Mat 26:29 ), when He should sit ( καθίσῃ in the active ) on His throne of glory ( ἐπ . θρόν ου τ . δ . αὐ ., the gen. expressing the simple fact of His session on His throne), then they also should sit ( καθίσεσθε in the middle ) on twelve thrones ( ἐπ . δώ . θρόν ους , the accus. expressing motion towards, as prescribed for them by another: “shall be promoted to, and take your seats upon …”) judging (see ref. 1 Cor.) the twelve tribes of Israel (see Revelation 20:4 ; Revelation 21:12 ; Revelation 21:14 : one throne, Judas’s, another took, Act 1:20 ). At the same time he informs them, Matthew 19:29 , that this reward should not in its most blessed particulars be theirs alone , but that of every one who should deny himself for Him (see 2Ti 4:8 ): and ( Mat 19:30 ) cautions them, referring perhaps especially to Judas, but with a view to all, as appears by the following parable, that many first should be last , and last first .

On Matthew 19:29 , Stier remarks that the family relations are mentioned by St. Matthew in the order in which they would be left . On the other points requiring notice, see note on Mark 10:29-30 .

Meyer’s rendering of Matthew 19:30 , joining πρῶτοι with ἔσονται , and thus making ἔσχατοι the subject and πρῶτοι the predicate of the first clause and vice versâ in the second, is not so good as the ordinary one: for whereas the πρῶτοι in the first clause, if it belonged to πολλοί , would naturally lose its article, ἔσχατοι , if it belonged to πολλοί , being divided from it by the predicate πρῶτοι , would take its article as the subject; πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι οἱ ἔσχατοι : and the same of πρῶτοι in the second clause: καὶ ἔσχατοι οἱ πρῶτοι , ch. Matthew 20:16 , by which Meyer defends his rendering, does not necessitate it, containing the same propositions stated in different order.

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 19". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/matthew-19.html. 1863-1878.
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