Attention! has pledged to build one church a year in Uganda. Help us double that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 4



Matthew 4:4 . ὁ ἄνθρωπ .] Elz., Scholz omit the ὁ . It might easily have been added from the LXX. in Deuteronomy 8:3 , where, however, it is wanting in several witnesses; but as the article is superfluous, and the witnesses in its favour greatly preponderate, there are decisive reasons for retaining it.

ἐπὶ παντί ] ἐν παντί is found in C D, 13, 21, 59, 124, 300; approved by Griesb., adopted by Fritzsche, Lachm., Tisch. Rightly; ἐπί was just as easily suggested by the first clause of the sentence by itself as by the reading of the LXX., which is attested by preponderating witnesses.

Matthew 4:5 . ἵστησιν ] B C D Z א , 1, 33: ἔστησεν . Recommended by Griesb., adopted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8. The aorist interrupts and disturbs the representation as present, and has been introduced from Luke 4:9 .

Matthew 4:6 . λέγει ] Lachm., but upon very slight authority, reads εἶπεν , which is not to be adopted, even in Matthew 4:9 , instead of λέγει , with Lachm. and Tisch. 8, after B C D Z א and Curss. It is taken from Luke.

Matthew 4:10 . ὀπίσω μου ] is wanting in Elz., deleted also by Fritzsche and Tisch. 8, bracketed by Lachm. The witnesses are greatly divided, and the preponderance is uncertain (against it: B C* K P S V Δ א , Curss., Or. Ir. and other Fathers, and several Verss., among which Syr. Vulg.; in favour: C** D E L M U T Z, and several Curss., Justin., and many Fathers and Verss., amongst which is It.). An old insertion from Matthew 16:13 , where the circumstance that Peter is there the person addressed, might cause the less difficulty that he also is called Satan. In Luke 4:8 , ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου σατ . is also an interpolation.

Matthew 4:12 . ὁ Ἰησοῦς ] is wanting in B C* D Z א , 16, 33, 61, Copt. Aeth. Or. Eus. Aug. The omission is approved by Griesbach. Rightly; the addition of the subject suggested itself the more easily that a new section begins in Matthew 4:12 . Comp. Matthew 4:18 . Deleted also by Tisch.

Matthew 4:18 . δέ ]. Elz. adds ὁ Ἰησοῦς , against decisive testimony. Comp. on Matthew 4:12 .

Matthew 4:23 . ὅλην τ . Γαλιλ .] Lachm.: ὅλῃ τ . Γαλιλαίᾳ , without evidence, as not merely C but B also has ἐν ὅλῃ τ . Γαλ ., which Tisch. has adopted, 8th ed. א * has merely ἐν τῇ Γαλ . The reading of Tisch. 8 is to be adopted; the Received reading is a change made to harmonize with the more common construction.

Verses 1-11

Matthew 4:1-11 . Temptation of Jesus. Mark 1:12 f.; Luke 4:1 ff.; Alex. Schweizer, exeg. hist. Darstellung d. Versuchsgesch. in s. Kritik d. Gegensätze zw. Rationalism, u. Supernat . 1833; P. Ewald, d. Versuch. Christi mit Bezugnahme auf d. Versuch. d. Protoplasten . 1838; Kohlschütter in the Sächs. Stud . 1843; Ullmann, Sündlosigk. Jesu , ed. 7, 1863; Graul in Guericke’s Zeitschr . 1844, 3; Pfeiffer in the Deutsch. Zeitschr . 1851, No. 36; Koenemann (purely dogmatic) in Guericke’s Zeitschr . 1850, p. 586 ff.; Laufs in the Stud. u. Krit . 1853, p. 355 ff.; Nebe, d. Versuch. d. Hernn e. äussere Thatsache , 1857; v. Engelhardt, de Jesu Chr. tentatione , 1858; Held in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr . 1866, p. 384 ff.; Haupt in the Stud. u. Krit . 1871, p. 209 ff.; Pfleiderer in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr . 1870, p. 188 ff.

The narrative in Matthew (and Luke) is a later development of the tradition, the older and still undeveloped form of which is to be found in Mark.

τότε ] when the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him.

ἀνήχθη ] He was led upwards, i.e. from the lower ground of the river bank to the higher lying wilderness. Luke 2:22 ; Luke 22:66 .

τὴν ἔρημον ] the same wilderness of Judea spoken of in ch. 3. According to the tradition, we are to think of the very rugged wilderness of Quarantania (wilderness of Jericho, Joshua 16:1 ), Robinson, Pal . II. p. 552; Schubert, Reise , III. p. 73; Raumer, p. 47. But in that case a more precise, distinctive designation must have been given; and Mark 1:13 , ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων , is a point which has a sufficient basis in the idea of the wilderness in general. Nothing in the text points to the wilderness of Sinai (Chemnitz, Clericus, Michaelis, Nebe).

ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος ] by the Holy Spirit , which He had received at His baptism. ἀνήχθη ) does not indicate (Acts 8:39 ; 2 Kings 2:16 ) that He was transported in a miraculous, involuntary manner, but by the power of the Spirit, which is expressed still more strongly in Mark 1:12 . Others (Bertholdt, Paulus, Glöckler) understand Jesus’ own spirit, Paulus regarding it as an ecstatic condition. This would be opposed to the context (Matthew 3:16 ), and to the view of the matter taken by the Synoptics, which, in Luke 4:1 , is expressed without any doubt whatever by the words πνεύματος ἁγίου πλήρης . Euth. Zigabenus well remarks: ἐκδίδωσιν ἑαυτὸν μετά τὸ βάπτισμα τῷ ἁγίῳ πνεύματι καὶ ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ ἄγεται πρὸςἂν ἐκεῖνο κελεύῃ , καὶ ἀνάγεται εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ἐπὶ τῷ πολεμηθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου .

πειρας θῆναι ] designates the purpose for which the Spirit impelled Jesus to go into the wilderness: πειράζειν , to put to the proof , receives its more precise definition in each case from the connection. Here: whether the Messiah is to be brought to take an unrighteous step which conflicts with His calling and the will of God .

ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου ] In what shape the devil appeared to Him, the text does not say; and the view of the evangelist as to that is left undetermined. Yet the appearance must be conceived of as being directly devilish, not at all as taking place in the form of an angel of light (Ambrose, Menken), or even of a man .


The two opposed principles, ὑπὸ τοῦ πν . and ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβ ., are essentially related to one another; and the whole position of the history, moreover, immediately after the descent of the Spirit on Jesus, proves that it is the victory of Jesus, filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1-2 ), over the devil, which is to be set forth. It appears from this how erroneous is the invention of Olshausen, that the condition of Jesus in the wilderness was that of one who had been abandoned by the fulness of the Spirit. The opinion of Calvin is similar, although more cautiously expressed, Matthew 4:11 : “Interdum Dei gratia, quamvis praesens esset, eum secundum carnis sensum latuit.”

Verse 2

Matthew 4:2 . Νηστεύσας ] to be taken absolutely . Luke 4:2 . Comp. Deuteronomy 9:9 ; Exo 34:28 ; 1 Kings 19:8 . It is explained, without reason, by Kuiuoel, Kuhn, and many others in the sense of deprivation of the usual means of nourishment. This relative meaning, which, if presented by the context, would be admissible (Kuhn, L. J. I. p. 364 ff.), is here, however, where even the nights are mentioned as well as the days, contradicted by the context, the supernatural character of the history, the intentionally definite statement of Luke (Matthew 4:2 ), and the types of Moses and Elijah. It is just as irrelevant to change the forty days as a sacred number into an indefinite measure of time (Köster); or, as a round number, into several days (Neander, Krabbe). That, moreover, the forty days’ fast became the occasion of the temptation , cannot appear as out of keeping (Strauss, de Wette) with the object , but, according to Matthew 4:1 , was contained in the design of the Spirit .

ὕστερον ] of itself superfluous, indicates, however, the circumstance that the hunger did not attack Him until He had fasted. Bengel: “Hactenus non tarn fuerat tentatio, quam ad eam praeparatio.” Comp. the similar usage of εἶτα and ἔπειτα after participles by classical writers, Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phaed . p. 70 E.

Verse 3

Matthew 4:3 . Ὁ πειράζων Part, present taken substantively. See on Matthew 2:20 . Here: the devil . Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 .

εἰ ] does not indicate that Satan had doubts of Jesus being the Son of God (Origen, Wolf, Bengel), or was not aware of it (Ignat. Phil. interpol . 9), comp. Matthew 28:20 ; but the problematical expression was to incite Jesus to enter upon the unreasonable demand, and to prove Himself the Son of God. Euth. Zigabenus: ᾤετο , ὅτι παρακνισθήσεται τῷ λόγῳ , καθάπερ ὀνειδισθεὶς ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ εἶναι υἱὸς θεοῦ .

υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ] See Matthew 3:17 . The devil makes use of this designation of the Messiah, not because he deemed Jesus to be only a man, who υἱοθετήθη τῷ θεῷ διὰ τὰς ἀρετὰς αὐτοῦ (Euth. Zigabenus), or because he had become doubtful, owing to the hungering of Jesus, of His divinity, which had been attested at His baptism (Chrysostom); but because Jesus’ supernatural relation to God is well known to him, whilst he himself, as the principle opposed to God, has to combat the manifestation and activity of the divine. Observe that by the position of the words the emphasis lies on υἱός : if Thou standest to God in the relation of Son .

εἰπὲ , ἵνα ] ἵνα after verbs of commanding, entreaty, and desire, and the like, does not stand in the sense of the infinitive , as is commonly assumed (Winer, de Wette, Bleek), in opposition to the necessary conception of the words, but is, as it always is, an expression of the purpose, in order that , the mistaking of which proceeds from this, that it is not usual in the German language to express the object, of the command, and so on, in the form of a purpose . Here: speak (utter a command) in order that these stones, and so on. Comp. Matthew 20:21 . The oldest examples from Greek writers after ἐθέλειν , ὄφρα , in Hom. Il . i. 133 (see Nägelsbach thereon), occur in Herodotus and Demosthenes. See Schaefer, ad Dem . 279. 8 : ἀξιοῦν , ἵνα βοηθήσῃ ; Kühner, II. 2, p. 519.

οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι ] comp. Matthew 3:9 .

ἄρτος ] Bread , in the proper sense; not, like לֶחֶם , food in general. Comp. Matthew 7:9 .

The Son of God must free Himself from the state of hunger, which is unbecoming His dignity, by an act similar to the divine creation, and thus employ His divine power for His own advantage. The tempter introduces his lever into the immediate situation of the moment.

Verse 4

Matthew 4:4 .Deuteronomy 8:3 , after the LXX., contains the words of Moses addressed to the Israelites, which have reference to the divinely-supplied manna. Note how Jesus repels each one of the three temptations, simply with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17 ).

ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ ] the preservation of life does not depend upon bread alone. Examples of ζῆν ἐπί in Kypke, Obss . I. p. 14 f.; Markland, ad Max. Tyr. Diss . Matthew 27:6 ; Bergler, ad Alciphr . p. 294, This construction is a common one in classical writers with ἐκ , ἀπό , or the simple dative.

ζήσεται ] The future tense designates in Deuteronomy 1:1 , and in LXX. as well as here, simply the future , that which will happen , the case which will occur under given circumstances. So also in classical writers in general sentences. Dissen, ad Dem. de cor . p. 369.

ἄνθρωπος ] universal: Man . So in the original text and in the LXX.; there is the less reason to depart from this, and to explain it: de insigni illo homine , that is, Messiah (Fritzsche), as the application of the universal statement to Himself on the part of Jesus was a matter of course.

ῥήματι Word , in its proper sense. By every statement which proceeds from the mouth of God, that is, through every command which is uttered by God , by which the preservation of life is effected in an extraordinary, supernatural manner (without ἄρτος ). [388] Comp. Wis 16:26 . ῥῆμα is not res ( רָּבָר ), not even in Matthew 18:16 , Luke 2:15 , Acts 5:32 , 1Ma 5:37 , since ἘΚΠΟΡ . ΔΙᾺ ΣΤΟΜ . ΘΕΟῦ necessarily points to the meaning of word, declaration , which, however, is not to be explained, with Fritzscbe (comp. Usteri and Ullmann): omni mandato divino peragendo .

[388] Amongst the Israelites it was effected by means of the manna; therefore we must not say with Euth. Zigabenus: πᾶν ῥῆμα ἐκπορευόμενον διὰ στόματος θεοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν πεινῶντα δίκην τροφῆς συνέχει τὴν ζωὴν αὐτοῦ . Comp. Chrysostom: δύναταιθεὸς καὶ ῥήματι θρέψαι τὸν πεινῶντα , Pfleiderer also refers it to the power of spiritual nourishment contained in the divine word; as also Calovius, who says: “Revocat a verbo potentiae , quo lapides erant in panem convertendi, ad verbum gratiae , cui adhaerentes vivent, etiamsi pane careant.”

Verse 5

Matthew 4:5 . Παραλαμβ ] he takes Him with him , 1Ma 3:37 ; Malachi 4:1; Malachi 4:1 , and frequently in Greek writers.

τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν ] עִיר הַקֹּרֶשׁ , Isaiah 48:2 ; Isaiah 52:1 ; Nehemiah 11:1 . Jerusalem, the city of God, on account of the national temple, Matthew 5:35 , Matthew 27:53 ; Luke 4:9 ; Sir 36:13 ; Sir 49:6 ; Josephus, Antt. iv. 4. 4; Lightfoot, Hor. p. 43; Ottii Spicileg. p. 9. Even at the present day it is called by the Arabs: the place of the Sanctuary, or the Holy City [El Kuds]. Hamelsveld, biol. Geogr. I. p. 204 ff.; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. in loc. The designation has something solemn in contrast to the devil.

ἵστησιν ] not “auctor erat, ut Christus (with him) illuc se conferret” (Kuinoel, Fritzsche), but: he places Him, which implies the involuntary nature of the act on the part of Jesus, and the power on the part of the devil. Comp. Euseb. H. E. ii. 23 : ἔστησαντὸν Ἰάκωβον ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ναοῦ . A more precise determination of what is certainly a miraculous occurrence (conceived of by Jerome as a carrying away through the air) is not given in the text, which, however, does not permit us to think of it as something internal taking. place in the condition of a trance (Olshausen). Comp. Acts 8:38 .

τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ ] the little wing of the temple [389] is sought for by many on the temple building itself, so that it is either its battlement (Luther, Beza, Grotius), that is, the parapet surrounding the roof, or the ridge (Fritzsche, Winer), or the gable, pediment (Vulgate: pinnaculum; Paulus, Bleek), the two latter from their wing shape ( Λ ), or roof generally (Keim, and older expositors. See especially Krebs on the passage), that is indicated. But, apart from this, that the roofing of the temple house, according to Josephus, Antt . v. 5. 6, vi. 5. 1, was furnished on the top with pointed stakes as a protection against birds, and, moreover, on account of the extreme sacredness of the place, would hardly he selected by tradition as the spot where the devil stationed himself, the τοῦ ἱεροῦ is opposed to it, which does not, like ΝΑΌς , designate the main building of the temple, properly speaking, but the whole area of the temple with its buildings. See Tittmann, Synon . p. 178 f. The view, therefore, of those is to be preferred who, with Euth. Zigabenus, Olearins, Reland, Valckenaer, seek the πτερύγιον in an outbuilding of the temple area; where, however, it is again doubtful whether Solomon’s portico or the στοὰ βασιλική , the former (Josephus, Antt . xx. 9. 7) on the east side, the latter (Josephus, Antt . xv. 11. 5) on the south, both standing on an abrupt precipice, is intended. Wetstein and Michaelis prefer the former; Kuinoel, Bretschneider, B. Crusius, Arnoldi, the latter. In favour of the latter is the description of the giddy look down from this portico given in Josephus: εἴ τις ἀπʼ ἄκρου τοῦ ταύτης τέγους ἄμφω συντιθεὶς τὰ βάθη διοπτεύει , σκοτοδινιᾶν , οὐκ ἐξικνουμένης τῆς ὄψεως εἰς ἀμέτρητον τὸν βυθόν . In Hegesippus, quoted by Eus. ii. 23 (where James preaches downwards from the ΠΤΕΡΎΓΙΟΝ ΤΟῦ ΝΑΟῦ , and the scribes then go up and throw him down), it is not the gable, but the pinnacle , the balustrade of the temple building, which formed a projection ( ἀκρωτήριον ), that we are to think of. Comp. Hesychius: ΠΤΕΡΎΓΙΟΝ · ἈΚΡΩΤΉΡΙΟΝ . The article denotes that the locality where the occurrence took place was well known .

[389] Amongst the Greeks (Strabo, Plutarch, the Scholiasts), πτερόν , wing, is specially used in an architectural sense. See the Lexica , also Müller, Archäol . § 220. 3. On πτέρυξ in this sense, comp. Poll. vii. 121; on πτερύγιον , Joseph. Antt . xv. 11. 5; on πτέρωμα , Vitruv. iii. 3. 9.


The second temptation in Matthew is the third in Luke. The transposition was made with a view to the order in which the localities succeeded each other. But in a climactic point of view, how inappropriate is the order in which it occurs in Luke, and how appropriate is that in Matthew, [390] whose greater originality must here also be maintained against Schnecken burger and Krafft. The variation itself, however, is not removed by the circumstance that Matthew only continues the narrative with τότε and ΠΆΛΙΝ (Ebrard), but it remains and is unessential.

[390] Luther: At the first temptation, the devil appeared as a black one; at the second, where he puts forth a word of Scripture, a light, white one; at the third, “quite as a divinely majestic devil, who comes out straightway, indeed, as if he were God Himself.”

Verse 6

Matthew 4:6 . In Psalms 91:11-12 , according to the LXX., it is God’s providential care for the pious in general that is spoken of. Here the tempter, who now himself grasps the weapon of Scripture, which had just been used against him, cunningly applies the typical expressions in the Psalms (the figure is borrowed from maternal anxiety) strictly to the Messiah.

ὅτι ], not the recitative , but a part of the passage .

The Son of God, in reliance on the divine protection, must undertake a daring miracle of display in order to win over the masses for Himself. For the multitudes, with a view to influencing whom this miracle is proposed, are understood to be, as a matter of course , on the temple area; and therefore we are not to assume, with Kohlschütter, Ullmann, Engelhardt, that it was only an exhibition of divine favour and protection, and no public spectacle, which was aimed at. On that view no sufficient reason is shown why Jesus is brought from the wilderness to the most populous centre of the metropolis. Euth. Zigabenus strikingly remarks: διὰ κενοδοξίας ἑλεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπιχειρεῖ .

Verse 7

Matthew 4:7 . Πάλιν ] rursus , never signifies in the N. T., not even in 2 Corinthians 10:7 , Gal 5:3 , 1 John 2:8 , at quoque, e diverso , a meaning which it frequently has in classic writers (Ellendt, Lex. Soph . II. p. 485), as Erasmus, Er. Schmid, Schleusner, B. Crusius, have interpreted it; but here means, on the other hand , looking back to the γέγραπται of the devil in Matthew 4:6 , and introducing another passage of Scripture as something which again has been written; comp. Matthew 5:33 . Bengel well says: Scriptura per scripturam interpretanda et concilianda.

οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις ] future, as in Matthew 1:21 ; the compound strengthens the meaning; comp. on 1 Corinthians 10:9 .

The meaning is: “ Do not let it be a question whether God will save thee from dangers on which thou hast entered uncalled .”

Flacius: Si habuisset expressum mandatum dei, non fuisset tentatio. Deuteronomy 6:16 (LXX.), comp. Exodus 17:2 .

Verse 8

Matthew 4:8 f. Πάσαςκόσμου ] כָּל־מַמְּלְכוֹת הָאָרֶץ , Ezra 1:2 . Not a hyperbolical expression: amplissimum terrarum tractum, but actually all the kingdoms of the world, Luke 4:5 . The devil could indeed regard only all heathen lands as his disposable possession (Luke 4:6 ; Lightfoot, p. 1088; Eisenmenger, entd. Judenth. II. p. 820 ff.); but even unto those remote heathen lands, and beyond, and far beyond the small country of Palestine, has the marvellous height of the mountain enabled the eye to look; the Holy Land, with the temple and the peculiar people of God, certainly belonged besides to the Son of God as a matter of course; therefore to explain it away as omnes Palaestinae regiones (Krebs, Loesner, Fischer, Gratz) is quite away from the point.

ἐὰν πεςμοι ] If Thou wilt have cast Thyself down before me as Thy master, and thereby have manifested Thy homage (Matthew 2:2 ) to me. By the fulfilment of this demand the devil would have made Jesus unfaithful to Himself, and would have secured his own world-rule over Him. Where the mountain in question is to be sought for (according to Michaelis, it was Nebo; according to others, the Mount of Olives, Tabor, Moriah, Horeb) is, considering the miraculous nature of the scene (Luke 4:5 : ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου ), not even to be asked; just as little is δείκνυσιν to be rationalized as if it denoted not merely the actual pointing, but also the verbis demonstrare (Kuinoel, Glöckler); the δόξα αὐτῶν , moreover, is the external splendour of the kingdoms that lay before His eye.

Verse 10

Matthew 4:10 . Ὕπαγε ] The spurious words ὀπίσω μου would have to be explained: go behind me that is, go back that I may see thee no longer! ἀφανίσθητι , Euth. Zigabenus. ὀπίσω with the genitive belongs to the LXX. and the Apocrypha, after the Hebrew, אַחֲרֵי פ׳ ; in this way the Greeks construe ὄπισθεν .

σατανᾶ ] to infer from this that Jesus now for the first time (too late) recognises Satan (de Wette), is arbitrary, and opposed to the representation of the matter in Matthew 4:1 , according to which Jesus cannot have been unaware of the intention of the Holy Spirit, who impelled Him to go into the wilderness. That He now calls Satan by name, is in keeping with the growing intensity of the emotion in general, as well as with the personal address of the tempter in Matthew 4:9 . “Tentatorem, quuni is maxime favere videri vult, Satanam appellat,” Bengel.

κύριον , κ . τ . λ .] Jehovah alone shalt thou worship, do homage to Him only as thy master. Deuteronomy 6:13 , according to the LXX., freely applied to the proposal of Satan.” According to this arrangement, it is by the way of obedience to God that Jesus is aware that He will attain to the government of the world. John 18:36 ; Philippians 2:6 ff.; Matthew 28:18 ; Acts 10:36 ff.

Verse 11

Matthew 4:11 . Ἄγγελοι ] Angels , without the article.

διηκόνουν ] ministered to Him. The remark of Bengel is correct: “sine dubio pro eo, ac tum opus erat, sc. allato cibo .” So Luther, Piscator, Jansen, Wolf, Hammond, Michaelis, Paulus, Fritzsche, Strauss, de Wette, Ewald, Bleek, Nebe, Keim. Concerning the use of διακονεῖν in this sense, see Wetstein, and Matthiae, ad Soph. Phil . 284; and how pragmatically does this appearance of angels, after a series of temptations that have been victoriously withstood, correspond to the appearance of Satan in Matthew 4:3 ! Comp. 1 Kings 19:5 . Others , not referring it to food, say that extraordinary divine support (John 1:51 ) is intended (Calvin, Maldonatus, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Kuhn, Ammon, Ebrard), on which view the angels themselves are partly left out, partly effaced from the narrative; whilst Chrysostom (who compares the carrying of Lazarus by angels into Abraham’s bosom), Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Grotius, do not enter into any more minute exposition of the διακονεῖν . But considering the appropriateness of the above definite explanation, it is not right to be satisfied with one that is indefinite and wavering.


According to the representation of the evangelists, the temptation of Jesus by the devil appears in the connection of the history as a real external marvellous occurrence . See Ch. F. Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opusc . p. 122 ff. To abide by this view (Michaelis, Storr, Ebrard, P. Ewald, Graul, Könemann, Arnoldi, Schegg, Delitzsch, Nebe, Engelhardt, Hofmann, Riggenbach, Baumgarten) is a necessary consequence of the denial of any legendary elements in the canonical Gospels, and is equally justifiable with this denial in general. The evangelists were aware that they were relating a real external history in time and space (in answer to Kuhn, Lichtenstein), and the choice only remains between adopting either this view or assuming that of an ideal history in the garb of legend, gradually brought into shape by the power of the idea. All attempts at explaining away the devil and his external appearance are arbitrary contradictions or critical carpings, opposed to the design and representations of the evangelists, more or less of a rationalistic character. This holds good, not merely of the absurd, and, in relation to the third act, even monstrous view of those who, instead of the devil, introduce one or even various individuals , perhaps a member of the Sanhedrim or high priest, who wished to examine Jesus and to win Him over, or destroy Him (Herm. v. d. Hardt, Exegesis he. difficilior. quat. ev . p. 470 ff.; Basedow, Venturini, Möller, neue Ansichten , p. 20 ff.; Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Feilmoser in the Tüb. Quartalschr . 1828, 1, 2), but also of the view which regards the event as a vision , whether this was brought about by the devil (Origen? Pseudo-Cyprian, Theodore of Mopsuestia), or by God (Farmer, Inquiry into the Nature and Design of Christ’s Temptation , London, 1761; comp. also Calvin on Matthew 4:5 ), or by natural means (Balth. Becker, Scultetus, Clericus, Wetstein, Bolten, Bertholdt, Jahn, Gabler, Paulus, Gratz, Pfieiderer), or of those who view it as a significant morning dream (Meyer in the Stud. u. Kritik . 1831, p. 319 ff.), which interpretations, moreover, are in contradiction with the clear repose and moral definiteness of the divine-human consciousness of Jesus, in virtue of which there never occurs in His life any condition of ecstasy, or a trace of any special manifestations in dreams. Akin to this, but equally offensive to the gospel history, and besides by no means leaving unaffected the moral character of the development of Jesus Himself, if we look to Hebrews 2:18 ; Hebrews 4:15 , is the view which transforms the occurrence into an internal history, which took place in the thoughts and fancy of Jesus (Döderlein, Eichhorn, allg. Bibl . III. p. 283 ff.; Thaddaeus d. i. Dereser, d. Versuch. Christi , Bonn 1794; Hezel, Augusti, Bretschneider, Weisse, Kritik d. ev. Gesch . II. p. 12; Hocheisen in the Tüb. Zeitschr . 1833, 2; Kohlschütter, Pfeiffer, Rink, Ammon, Laufs, Schenkel, Held). On this view the devil has again been recently brought forward, on grounds exegetically justifiable, as the operating principle (Krabbe, Hoffmann, Schmid, bibl. Theol. I. p. 65; and very indirectly also by Ullmann); while, in a more arbitrary manner, it has been attributed to the disciples that they apprehended in an objective form the inner fact related to them by Jesus, that He had rejected the false idea of the Messiah; whilst Neander, L. J. p. 120 ff., substantially giving up the reality of the history of the temptation (“a fragmentary symbolical setting forth of the facts of His inner life,” where the manner of the devil’s co-operation is left undetermined), holds hesitatingly by its truth; and Kuhn, moreover, is divided between the historical and unhistorical view of the manner of its occurrence. To those who transfer the history into the inner life of Jesus’ spirit, belong also Hase and Olshausen, the former of whom recognises in it the whole history of His mental growth, probably externalized by Himself, with reference to Exodus 16:0 , Deuteronomy 8:2 , Psalms 91:11 f, into an individual fact, but in the tradition assumed to be actual history, and who volatilizes the devil into the spirit of the world; while Olshausen, notwithstanding the ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος in Matthew 4:1 , finds the reality of the. occurrence in this, that the soul of Jesus was exposed to the full operations of the kingdom of darkness; while Lange regards the internal temptation of Jesus as caused by the devil, but brought about by human means that is, as an assault of the sympathetic in working of the national and world spirit upon His soul, and as the tentative representatives of this spirit, drags in, by an invention that is his own, the deputation of the Sanhedrim, which had been despatched to John (John 1:19 ), as they were on their way back to Jerusalem. With more caution and with profounder historical insight, Keim (comp. Weizsäcker, p. 239 ff.) regards the history of the temptation in the light of the victorious beginning of the struggle with Satan, Matthew 12:25 ff., where the historical kernel is the heavy weight of questions and doubts which were imposed on the soul of Jesus whilst He was calmly meditating upon the obligation and the manner of His vocation to the Messiahship, and on His decision to enter upon it, which had so powerfully taken hold of Him on the banks of the Jordan; on this initial victory Jesus could not have left His disciples without some information. But however we may apprehend the narrative as an historical occurrence in the mind of Jesus, the monstrous nature of the external formation of the history remains the more inexplicable the more directly its origin is brought into connection with Jesus Himself and His circle of disciples, especially as the threefold details of the temptation were still unknown to Mark. To view the event as a parable , is in contradiction to the narrative, arbitrary in itself, and alien to the style of parabolic address employed by Jesus elsewhere. So, after older writers, who, however, endanger the sinless character of Jesus, it has been viewed as a symbolical address of Jesus or of one of His disciples directed against false Messianic hopes. See Schleiermacher, Schr. d. Lukas , 54f., and L. J. p. 157 ff.; B. Crusius, bibl. Theol. p. 303, and on Matthew , p. 82; Usteri in the Stud. u. Krit . 1829, p. 455 ff., who at a later time recanted this opinion, and regarded the narrative as a myth (1832, p. 768); Richter, formam narrat . Matthew 4:1-11 , parabolicam ex Judaeor. opinione de duplici Adamo esse repetend. , Viteb. 1824; Schweizer, Bleek; coinp. Theile, z. Biogr. J . p. 49: “a warning directed by some adherent or another in support of the spiritually moral view, in opposition to the chief elements of the earthly Messianic hope.” Against the parabolic character, see Hasert in the Stud. u. Krit . 1830, p. 74 f.; Strauss, L. J. I. p. 444 f.; Schmid, bibl. Theol. I. p. 60; Engelhardt, Nebe.

As now, however, the history of the temptation in the first and third evangelists, viewed as an actual external occurrence, contains not merely a legendary magical scenery which is still foreign to the oldest Gospel, but also absolute impossibilities and contradictions with the moral character of Jesus as filled with the Spirit, who does not at once get rid of Satan, but allows him to proceed to the utmost extreme; as, moreover, this occurrence on the other side stands in contradiction with the devil’s cunning and craftiness (Paulus, exeget. Handb . I. p. 376), whose assaults as proceeding from the devil against the Son of man would be planned with as much clumsiness as pointlessness, there thus remains nothing else than to explain the narrative which in Mark still exhibits its first undeveloped beginnings, the first crystallisations of its ideal contents, the subject of which the narrators deemed to be true history, and repeated as such, as a legend, the contents of which, regarded as thought , possessed historical truth, and which arose among Jewish Christians, [391] being derived from the idea of the Messiah as opposed to the devil, and the necessity and complete realization of which was exhibited in the whole life and work of Christ, placed, like a compendious programme, an “ epitome omnium tentationum ” (Bengel), at the beginning of the Messianic career, which commenced at the baptism. Not as if there had not been on the part of Jesus after His baptism, and before His entrance on His work, the most serious preparation and most intense concentration of thought in still retirement, in which the whole opposition of the devil, as well as the manner of His own struggles and conquests which had been peculiarly determined by God, must have presented themselves vividly before His eyes; although this alone could not have given rise to the history of the temptation. For that purpose it was necessary that His holy life, that actual victory over Satan, should first be completed. That narrative might now first have arisen in the living history-moulding power of the ideas which prevails generally throughout the preliminary history, first of all in the form in which it appears in Mark, but soon after gradually expanded into detail, yet again silently excluded by John, considering the impossibility of assigning a place to it in connection with his history. Its expanded form, however, as it lies before us in Matthew and Luke, corresponds with the highest internal truth to the main relations of the opposition directed by the power of the devil against the second Adam and His kingdom, an opposition which is decidedly to be recognised from the very beginning onwards to the end, and victory over which was the condition of His whole work. In this way the contents of the narrative, the psychological factors of which are quite as much the temptability as the sinlessness of the Lord, certainly belong to the history, but not as a concrete occurrence with its three individual acts, but as a summary reflection of the work of Jesus in His vocation in relation to the demoniacal kingdom, without, however, our being obliged to assume as an historical foundation any internal temptation taking place in thought, and any originally symbolic representation of the same, which was transformed into actual history in the course of tradition (de Wette). This foundation is rather the complete victory of our Lord over the craft and power of the devil, as the whole course of His Messianic life is a series of temptations by the devil, with the result of the latter being conquered both in detail and in the main (Hebrews 2:18 ; Hebrews 4:15 ); comp. John 14:30 . With profound meaning and truth (for from the very beginning must Jesus make experience of the enemy of His kingdom, begin the struggle with him, and become certain of the right victory) has the synoptic tradition unanimously assigned to the narrative the early place which it occupies; and the attempt cannot be successful to maintain a later special situation as the historical seat of its origin, as Pfleiderer does, who transposes the vision which he assumes into the time of ch. 15 16, making use, moreover, of John 6:26 for the first act of the temptation. That the history of the temptation in Matthew is even a later insertion derived from oral tradition (Köstlin), is a very arbitrary inference, from the circumstance that Matthew 4:12 does not make any reference to the history of the temptations; Matthew follows Mark, and quotes his short notice from a special source.

The existence of Satan, as well as his personality , is attested throughout the whole of the New Testament, and is altogether independent of the view which may be taken of this individual narrative; see in answer to Hofmann, Schriftbew. , Philippi, Dogm . III. p. 332 ff. Exodus 2:0 .

[391] Various conceptions from the legendary or mythical point of view, see in Theiss, Löffler, kl. Schr . II. p. 185 ff.; Fritzscho, Usteri in the Stud. ú. Krit . 1832, p. 768 ff.; Strauss, I. p. 479 f.; de Wette, Gfrörer, Gesch. d. Urchr . I. 1, p. 379 ff.; Ewald. The locality of the temptation, the wilderness , was at once suggested as the idea gradually assumed bodily form from the sojourn of Jesus with the Baptist, and from the popular belief that demons had their dwellings in the wilderness; the forty days , however, found their venerable point of connection in the types of Moses and Elias (hardly of the forty years ’ duration of the wanderings of the people in the wilderness, which Delitzsch, Baumgarten, and others drag in here as a type). They are also not excluded by the statement of Justin, c. Tr . 103, that, according to the ἀπομνημον . τ . ἀποστ , the devil came to Jesus ἅμα τῷ ἀναβῆναι αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου ; but this statement agrees with Mark 1:12 f. As regards the individual temptations, the first was thus connected with the forty days’ fast of Moses , Deuteronomy 9:9 ; Deuteronomy 9:18 ; the second, with the necessity which existed in the case of the Messiah of His being accredited by miracles; the third , with the certainty of the Messiah’s rule over the world , by means of which the government of the devil must come to an end.

Verse 12

Matthew 4:12 . Fritzsche gives the sense and connection of Matthew 4:12-16 thus: “Post conditi in carcerem Johannis famam discessit Jesus in Galilaeam, et relicta Nazaretha Capharnaumi quidem consedit, ut, quemadmodum apud prophetam est, magnis, amisso Johanne, tenebris oppressi Galilaei splendida Messiae luce fruerentur.” But it appears, from the words in Matthew 4:12 , that Jesus, upon learning that the Baptist had been delivered over to Herod, deemed it dangerous to appear in the same district where the latter had baptized and excited so much attention, and that therefore He withdrew into the more remote Galilee (comp. Matthew 12:15 , Matthew 14:13 ). This belonged, indeed, to the dominion of Herod Antipas, who had caused the Baptist to be apprehended (Matthew 14:3 ); but it removed Jesus more from his attention and that of the hierarchical party, and gave Him the natural retirement of home. According to John 3:24 , John had not yet been apprehended , and the journey to Galilee was occasioned by the marriage at Cana (Matthew 2:1 ). In Luke 4:14 no external reason is stated for the journey, which is a later avoidance of the inaccurajcy of the earlier tradition (retained in Mark and Matthew) (in answer to Schneckenburger). The contradiction, however, between Matthew and John is to be recognised, and to the latter is to be assigned the preference in point of accuracy. [392] Comp. on John 3:24 . A longer intervening period between the temptation and the return to Galilee is not hinted at by Matthew (nor even by Mark), and is excluded by Luke.

[392] We cannot say that it is the journey to Galilee, John 6:1 , which is intended in our passage (Wieseler, chronol. Synopse , p. 161 f., and Beitr. z. Würdig. d. Eu . p. 174 ff.), for that Matthew conceived the journey recorded by him as the first after the sojourn in the wilderness, is shown not only by the whole context, but also by ver. 13 ff., where the settling down at Capernaum is related, and the reason assigned for it; and by ver. 17, where Jesus first actually begins His office as teacher. This holds good against the frequent assumption that the journey to Galilee, Matthew 4:12 , coincides with John 4:3 ; John 4:43-45 (Kuhn, Ebrard, Lange, Märcker, Uebereinst. d. Matth. u. Joh. , 1868, p. 9). Exegetically, the discrepancy must remain a blank, which is also recognised by Bleek and Keim; by the latter, however, in such a way that he denies to John’s account a strictly historical character.

Verses 13-14

Matthew 4:13-14 . Καφαρναούμ ] so, with Lachmann, Tischendorf, we must write כְּפַר נַחוּם , vicus Nachumi, not χωρίον παρακλήσεως (Origen), or villa pulcherrima (Jerome). It was a prosperous manufacturing town on the north-west shore of the Lake of Tiberias. Not mentioned in the Old Test.; in Josephus, Vit. lxxii., κώμη Κεφαρνώμη . It has now disappeared, and not even can its site be determined with certainty (Tell Hûm? so also Wilson’s Lands of the Bible, II. p. 137 ff., and Furer in Schenkel’s Bibellex. III. p. 494 f., likewise Ritter, Ewald, and several others; Robinson, [393] III. p. 543 ff., and Later Researches , p. 457 ff.; Saulcy, II. p. 491 ff.; Ritter, Erdk . XV. 1, p. 338 ff.). The designation of the situation by τ . παραθαλ . and ἘΝ ὉΡΊΟΙς etc. (where the boundaries of both tribes touch each other), is given with reference to the following prophecy, for which even the position of these boundaries was not a matter of indifference (in answer to Hengstenberg, Christol . II. p. 93), as, in consequence of it, the settlement in Capernaum had reference to the districts of both the tribes.

καταλιπ . τ . Ναζαρ ] why , Matthew does not say, but see Luke 4:16 ff. Misconceived in Nazareth, Jesus preferred as a place of settlement the more populous, and, through intercourse with strangers, the more liberally-minded Capernaum, Considering His migratory life and work, neither Matthew 8:5 f. nor Matthew 8:20 can be regarded as not agreeing with the statement in our passage (in answer to Hilgenfeld).

[393] According to Robinson, it is the present Khân Minieh , farther south than Tell Hûm; so also Sepp, Keim.

Verses 15-16

Matthew 4:15-16 . As the evangelist, Matthew 2:23 , found a prophecy in support of the settlement at Nazareth, so also now for the removal to Capernaum, viz. Isaiah 8:22 ; Isaiah 9:1 (quoted from memory, but adhering to the LXX.): The land of Zdbulon and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness , and so on.

γῆ is not the vocative , but the nominative , corresponding to ὁ λαός , etc., Matthew 4:16 . The article was not required; see Winer, p. 114 f. [E. T. 22]. As, by the ὁδὸν θαλάσσης , the τὴν παραθαλασσίαν expressed of Capernaum in Matthew 4:13 is prophetically established, so must θαλάσσης , in the sense of the evangelist, refer to the Sea of Galilee , the Lake of Gennesareth. These words, namely, determine the situation of γῆ Ζαβ . and γῆ Νεφθ ., and are to be translated seawards . The absolute accusat. ὁδόν is quite Hebraistic, like רֶּרֶךְ in the sense of versus (Ezekiel 8:5 ; Ezekiel 40:20 ; Ezekiel 41:11 f., Ezekiel 42:1 ff.; 1Ki 8:48 ; 2 Chronicles 6:38 ; Deuteronomy 1:2 ; Deuteronomy 1:19 ), a usage which is partly retained in the LXX. 1 Kings 8:48 , ὁδὸν γῆς αὐτων , in the direction of their land; exactly so in 2 Chronicles 6:38 , and most probably also in Deuteronomy 1:19 . In this sense has the evangelist also understood רֶּרֶךְ הַיָם in the original text of the passage before us; so also Aquila and Theodotion, not the LXX., according to B (in A, by an interpolation). No completely corresponding and purely Greek usage is found, as the accusatives of direction, in Bernhardy, p. 144 f., comp. Kühner, II. 1, p. 268 f., do not stand independent of a verb. πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδ . is not, like ὁδὸν θαλ , a determination of the position of γῆ Ζαβ . and γῆ Νεφθ ., as these tribes were situated on this side the Jordan, while πέραν (in answer to Bengel, Kuinoel, Linder in the Stud. u. Krit. 1862, p. 553) can never signify on this side (Crome, Beitr. p. 83 ff.); but it designates, after these two lands, a new land as the theatre of the working of Jesus, viz. Peraea (comp. on Matthew 4:25 ), whose customary designation was עבר הירדן , πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου that is, the land east of Jordan. The evangelist includes this land as well as Γαλιλ . τ . ἐθνῶν , because it stands in the prophetic passage along with the others (not with reference to the Peraean ministry of Jesus, de Wette, Bleek, which has no place here), leaving it, besides, to the reader to decide that it was only in γῆ Ζαβουλὼνθαλάσσης that the specific element of locality which was to be demonstrated from the prophecies was contained. The citation, moreover, which specially sets forth that Jesus; after He had quitted Nazareth, settled at Capernaum, on the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali, in their telic connection with a divine prediction ( ἵνα of the divine determination), shows in this very circumstance the Messianic fulfilment of the historical relation of the prophetic declaration, according to which there was announced to northern Galilee safety and salvation from the oppression of the Assyrians, and consequently theocratical, political salvation.

Γαλ . τ . ἐθνῶν ] נְּלִיל הַנּוֹיִם (district of the heathen), that is, in keeping with the originally appellative term גליל , which had become a proper name, Upper Galilee, in the neighbourhood of Phoenicia, inhabited by a mixed population of heathens (Strabo, xvi. p. 760) and Jews. 1Ma 5:15 : Γαλιλ . ἀλλοφύλων . Its geographical limits are defined by Joseph. Bell. iii. 3. 1.

Verse 16

Matthew 4:16 . Ὁ λαὸςκαθήμενος , κ . τ . λ .] In opposition to Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν , whose inhabitants are characterized as darkened , that is, devoid of divine truth, and sunk in ignorance and sin. The great light, however, which these darkened ones saw is Jesus.

καὶ τοῖς καθημένοις , κ . τ . λ .] repeats the same thought, with the climactic designation of darkness: ἐν χώρᾳ κ . σκιᾷ θανάτου , in the land and darkness, which belong to death. Death , that is, spiritual death (Matthew 8:22 , see on Luke 15:24 ), the negation of that living activity which recognises the truth and is morally determined, is personified; the land, whose inhabitants are spiritually dead, belongs to it as the realm of its government, and darkness surrounds it . The common interpretation of it as ἓν διὰ δυοῖν : “ in regione et in spissis quidem tenebris = in regione spissis tenebris obducta ” (Fritzsche), is, indeed, admissible (see Fritzsche, Exc . IV. p. 856; Nägelsbach on Hom. Il . iii. 100), but unnecessary, and takes away from the poetic description, which is certainly stronger and more vivid if θανάτου is connected not merely with σκιᾷ ( צַלְמָוֶת , infernalis obscuritas, i.e. crassissima), but also with χώρᾳ . On the significant καθήμενος , comp. Lam. l.c. Pind. Ol. i. 133: ἐν σκότῳ καθήμενος . “Sedendi verbum aptum notandae solitudini inerti” (Bengel). Comp. especially, Jacobs, ad Anthol. VI. p. 397; Bremi, ad Dem. Phil. I. p. 119. Nägelsbach on Hom. Il. i. 134.

αὐτοῖς ] see Winer, p. 139 f. [E. T. 265]; Buttmann, p. 125 [E. T. 381].

Verse 17

Matthew 4:17 . Ἀμὸ τότε ] from that time onwards that is, after this return to Nazareth and Capernaum. It determines the commencement of the preaching not merely from Capernaum onwards. In the N. T. ἀπὸ τότε stands only here, Matthew 16:21 , Matthew 26:16 ; Luke 16:16 . More frequently in the writers of the κοινή , LXX. Psalms 93:2 ; Wetstein in loc . Not in classical writers. Phrynichus, ed. Lobeck, p. 461.

βας . τῶν οὐρανῶν ] See on Matthew 3:2 . Jesus in the presence of the people does not yet designate Himself as the Messiah, but announces in quite a general way the nearness of the Messianic kingdom, the divinely-ordained bearer of which He knew Himself to be; this is quite in keeping with the humility and wisdom of His first appearance, when He resumed the preaching of John. The view, that at the beginning He did not regard Himself as the Messiah, but only as a forerunner like John, and only at a later time appropriated to Himself the Messianic idea (Strauss, Schenkel), is in contradiction to all the four Gospels. But in His self-attestation as the Messiah He proceeded to work, according to the Synoptics, in a more gradual manner than He did according to John. Comp. Gess, Christi Person u. Werk , I. p. 247 ff.

Verse 18

Matthew 4:18 . Comp. Luke 5:1 ff.

θάλασς . τῆς Γαλιλ .] Lake of Gennesareth or Tiberias (see on John 6:1 ) is 140 stadia long and 40 broad, with romantic environs, and abounding in fish (Josephus, Bell . iii. 10. 7), about 500 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. See Robinson, Pal . III. pp. 499, 509; Ritter, Erdk . XV. 1, p. 284 ff.; Rüetschi in Herzog’s Encykl . V.; Keim, Gesch. J . I. p. 599 ff.

τὸν λεγόμ . Πέτρον ] not a ὕστεριν πρότερον , but see on Matthew 16:18 . That the evangelists always have (with the exception of the diplomatic passage, John 1:43 ) the name Peter , which in Paul is certainly found only in Galatians 2:7 f., not Cephas , is explained in the case of Matthew by the circumstance that his Gospel is only a translation, and that at the time of its composition the Greek name had become the common one.

Verses 19-20

Matthew 4:19-20 . Δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου ] come here after me! לְכוּ אַחֲרַי (2 Kings 6:19 ; 1 Kings 11:5 ), be my pupils. The disciples were in constant attendance on their teacher; Schoettgen, Hor. in loc.

ποιήσωἀνθρώπων ] I will put you in a position to gain men, that they may become members of the kingdom of the Messiah. Words borrowed from the domain of hunting and fishing (Jeremiah 16:16 ) often denote the winning over of souls for themselves or others. Wetstein and Loesner, Hemsterhusius, ad Lucian. Dial. Mort. viii.; Burmann, ad Phaedr. iv. 4. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 11:20 . Here the typical phraseology suggested itself from the circumstances.

εὐθέως ] belongs to ἀφέντες , not to ἠκολ .

ἠκολ .] as disciples.

καταρτίζ ., either arranging (Bengel) or repairing (Vulgate and most commentators). We cannot determine which; Luke has ἀπέπλυναν .


The want of harmony between Matthew 4:18 ff. and John 1:35 ff. is to be recognised, and is not (as the Fathers of the church, Kuinoel, Gratz, Olshausen, Hoffmann, Krabbe, Neander, Ebrard, Arnoldi, Luthardt, Bleek, Riggenbach, Lange, Ewald, Hausrath, Märcker, have attempted) to be removed by supposing that in Matthew it is a second calling of the apostles in question that is recorded, viz. that they had already been at an earlier date (John 1:35 ff.) disciples of Jesus in the wider sense of the word, but that now for the first time they had become so in the narrower sense that is, had become apostles. Comp. on John , remark after ch. 1. Matthew does not even agree with Luke 5:4 ff. See remarks on the passage, and Keim, Gesch. J . II. p. 215. We must in any case (in answer to Baur, Hilgenfeld) seek the true history of the occurrence in John, in whose account a merely preliminary adherence to Jesus is the less to be thought of, that immediately afterwards οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ go with Him to Cana (ii. 2), to Capernaum (ii. 12), and to Jerusalem (ii. 17, 22). This also in, answer to Liicke on John , I. p. 466 f., and to Wieseler, who distinguishes a threefold act in the selection of the disciples: the preliminary calling in John 1:35 ff.; the setting apart to be constant attendants, Matthew 4:18 ff; Matthew 9:9 ff.; and the selection of the Twelve to be apostles, Matthew 10:2-4 . Wieseler ( chronol. Synopse , p. 278) lays especial weight on the circumstance that John names τοὺς δώδεκα for the first time in John 6:67 . But John in general, with the exception of this passage (and the John 6:70 and John 6:71 belonging to it), only once again expressly mentions the τοὺς δώδεκα (viz. in John 20:21 ), which is determined by the antithetic interest in the context. Especially in John 6:67 are the Twelve opposed to those others, many of whom had deserted Him. Previously, however, John had no opportunity, where this or any other antithetical relation might give him occasion, to give prominence to the number of the Twelve.

Besides, the history of the calling in Matthew, if it were not in contradiction to John, would by no means bear in itself a mythical character (Strauss finds in it a copy of the call of Elisha by Elijah, 1 Kings 19:19 ff.), but is to be explained from the great, directly overwhelming impression made by the appearance of Jesus on minds prepared for it, which Matthew himself experienced (Matthew 9:9 ); and this also is to be applied to the Johannine account. This narrative, which Schenkel and Keim relegate to the sphere of free invention, does not exclude the profound and certainly original words, “fishers of men,” which may have proceeded from the mouth of Jesus to His first called disciples on that day, John 1:40 ; and upon the basis of these words the narrative of the call, as it is preserved in Matthew and Mark, might easily be formed.

Verses 23-24

Matthew 4:23-24 serve by way of introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, where the description is manifestly exaggerated as regards the time of the first ministry of Jesus, and betray the work of a later hand in the redaction of our Gospel. Comp. Matthew 9:35 .

The synagogues were places of assembly for public worship, where on Sabbaths and feast days (at a later period, also on the second and fifth days of the week, Jerusalem Megillah , f. 75. 1; Babylonian Bava Cama , f. 82. 1) the people met together for prayer, and to listen to the reading of portions of the Old Testament, which were translated and explained in the vernacular dialect. With the permission of the president, any one who was fitted might deliver addresses. Vitringa, de synagoga veterum , Franecker 1696; Keil, Archäol . § 30; Leyrer in Herzog’s Encykl . XV. p. 299 ff.; Keim, Gesch. J . I. p. 432 ff.

αὐτῶν ] of the Galileans .

πᾶσαν ] every kind of sickness which was brought to Him. See Hermann, ad Viger . p. 728, μαλακία , weakness, deprivation of strength through sickness . Herod. Vit. Hom . 36, and often in the LXX. Comp. μαλακίζομαι and μαλακιῶ , Lobeck, ad Phryn . p. 389. In the N. T. only in Matthew (Matthew 10:35 , Matthew 10:1 ).

ἐν τῷ λαῷ ] belongs to θεραπ . Comp. Acts 5:12 ; Acts 6:8 .

Observe that such summary accumulations of the activity of Jesus in healing as Matthew 5:23 f. (Matthew 8:16 , Matthew 12:15 ) are not mentioned in John’s Gospel. They are, moreover, especially at so early a date, not in keeping with the gradual progress of the history, although explicable enough in the case of a simple historian, who, easily anticipating the representation which he had formed from the whole history, gives a summary statement in the account of a single portion of the narrative.

Verse 24

Matthew 4:24 . Εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν ] His reputation spread from Galilee into the whole province.

πάντας τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας ] all the sufferers that there were. The following ποικίλ . νόσοις belongs not to κακῶς ἔχοντας (Syriac, Euth. Zigabenus), but to συνεχομένους .

νόσοις κ . βασάνοις ] Sicknesses and torments .

The first is general, the last special.

καὶ δαιμον . καὶ σελην . κ . παραλυτ .] makes prominent three special kinds of what had previously been described in a general manner, so that the first καί is to be rendered: especially also, particularly also .

δαιμονιζομένους ] according to the popular view, shared by the evangelist: possessed by demons (Matthew 9:34 , Matthew 12:26 ), whose bodies had become the seat and organ of demoniacal working; δαιμόνιον is not a diminutive form, little devil (Ewald, Keim), but the neuter of δαιμόνιος as substantive. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Ap. Socr . p. 27 f. They were real sick persons with diseases of a peculiar character (mania, epilepsy, delirium, hypochondria, paralytic condition, temporary dumbness), whose sufferings, being apparently inexplicable from physical causes, were believed to have their foundation not in an abnormal organization, or in natural disturbances of the physical condition, but in diabolical possession that is, in the actual indwelling of demoniac personalities, very many of which might even be counted in one sick person (Mark 5:9 ; Mark 16:9 ). [394] This belief, which is conceivable from the decay of the old theocratic consciousness and of its moral strength, which referred all misfortune to God’s sending, is, however, a belief which rendered healing possible only through the acceptance of the existing view leaving the idea itself untouched, but made it all the more certain for the Messiah, who has power over the kingdom of devils, and who now, in the pure manifestation of Jesus, accompanied with miraculous working, stood victoriously opposed to all diabolic power. Comp. Ewald, Jahrb . VII. p. 54 ff., also Bleek, Neander, p. 237 ff. If we assume, however, that Jesus Himself shared the opinion of His age and nation regarding the reality of demoniacal possession of the sick (Strauss, Keim, Weiss), we find ourselves in the dilemma of either being obliged again to set up the old doctrine upon the authority of Jesus, or of attributing to the latter an erroneous belief not by any means remote from the religious sphere, and only of a physiological kind, but of an essentially religious character, and which would be irreconcilable with the pure height of the Lord’s divine knowledge.

καὶ σελην . κ . παραλυτ .] Epileptics , whose sufferings, it was observed, increased as the month advanced (Wetstein), and sufferers from nervous diseases (Richter, de paralysi , 1775). Epilepsy also might be of such a kind as to be regarded as demoniacal sickness (Matthew 17:15 ); here, however, is meant the form of sickness which is regarded as natural.

[394] After the old view of actual bodily possession of the sick had, after Balth. Becker ( bezauberte Welt , iv. 5 ff.), Mead ( medica sacra , ix.), Wetstein, been, especially by Semler ( Comment. de daemoniacis , 1760, u. umständliche Untersuch. d. dämonischen Leute , 1762), successfully refuted, and had disappeared altogether (see also Timmermaim, de daemoniac. evangelior . 1786; Winzer, de daemonologia N. T. , 1812, 1821), although attempts at its defence were not wanting (Storr, Opusc . I. p. 53 ff.; Eschenmayer, Mysticism , 1823; Jahn, Nachträge zu s. theol. Werken , 1821), the old view was again brought forward, partly before (v. Meyer, Bibeldut . p. 40 ff.; Olshausen on Matthew 8:28 , and others), partly after, the assaults of Strauss (Krabbe, Hoffmann, Ebrard, Arnoldi, Hofmann, Steinmeyer), and supported with more or less acuteness, and with turns of a partly obscure and evasive character, especially by means of comparisons with magnetism. Delitzsch, bibl. Psychol . p. 293 ff.; Ebrard in Herzog’s Encykl . III. p. 240 ff. Not so, however, Lange, 11. 1, p. 285 ff., who, regarding the condition as a natural one, refers it to a nervous disease, having an elective affinity with demoniacal influences, which the patient as well as the people represented to himself as possession. By this the old view is not retained even in appearance. Against its tenability, however, irrespective of all objections of a physiological and medical kind, the following are decisive proofs: (1) The non-occurrence of demons in the O. T.; (2) the undisputed healing of the same by exorcists (Matthew 12:27 ; Mark 9:38 ; Josephus, Antt . viii. 2. 5; Justin, c. Tryph. 85 ; Lucian. Philopseud. 16); as well as (3) the non-occurrence of reliable instances in modern times (? Justinus Kerner, Gesch. Besessener neuerer Zeit. , Carlsruhe 1834), although the same sicknesses , which were deemed to be demoniacal, are common; and (4) the complete silence of John , which (comp. especially Luke 9:49 ) is the more eloquent the more essentially he also regards miraculous healing as belonging to the work of the Messiah, and the conquest of the devil as the Messiah’s task. In John, moreover, diabolical possession is found mentioned (Matthew 13:27 ), but not as the effect of physical sickness, but of spiritual domination and obduracy, the so-called obsessio spiritualis . Comp. John 7:28 ; John 8:48 ; John 10:20 . Definite references to the expulsion of demons from the sick are wanting also in Paul’s Epistles, although they might be included with others in 1 Corinthians 12:9 . Observe, moreover, (5) the demoniacs were not at all filled with godless dispositions and anti-Christian wickedness, which, nevertheless, was necessarily to be expected as the result of the real indwelling of devils .

Verse 25

Matthew 4:25 . Δεκαπόλεως ] a strip of land with ten cities (Josephus, Vit . 9), chiefly inhabited by the heathen, on the other side of the Jordan, in the north-east of Palestine. As to the towns themselves, which were reckoned as included in it, and to which Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippo, and Pella certainly belonged, there was, so early as the time of Pliny ( H. N. v. 16), no unanimity of opinion, Lightfoot, Hor . p. 563 ff.; Vaihinger in Herzog, III.; Holtzmann in Schenkel’s Bibellex .

πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου ] as in Matthew 5:15 , Matthew 19:1 , Mark 3:8 , a geographical name: Peraea (Josephus, Bell . ix. 3. 3; Plin. v. 15), the land east of the Jordan, from Mount Hermon down to the river Arnon.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.