Warnings Against The Scribes And Pharisees
Partly found also in Mark 12:38 f.; Luke 20:45 f. This discourse probably belongs to Tuesday, three days before the crucifixion. The solemn intimations made early in the day that he knew the Jewish rulers would reject and kill him, and would be terribly punished for it, (Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 22:14) were followed by the sharp questioning of Matthew 22:14-46; and now, having vanquished his opponents in question and answer, Jesus speaks out plainly about the Scribes and Pharisees, first warning the people against them, (Matthew 23:1-12) and then denouncing upon them a series of mournful woes. (Matthew 23:13-39) After that he will speak no more in public, but will leave the temple, and give the final discourse to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 24 and Matthew 25.) All these discourses follow each other in natural connection, and to all appearance were spoken on the same day. The attempts of some critics to scatter them upon different days are arbitrary and useless. Of these warnings and woes found in Matthew 23, Mark and Luke give only a very small portion.
Matthew 23:1. Then naturally suggests, though it does not necessarily mean (see on "Matthew 3:13"), that the following was on the same day as the foregoing. To the multitude and to his disciples. His previous discourses during the day were addressed mainly to the rulers and the persons who came questioningâ€”though in hearing of others. (Luke 20:9) He now turns away from these leading persons and addresses himself to the people at large and to his immediate followers, the latter being specially addressed in Matthew 22:8-12. Luke has, (Luke 20:45. Rev. Ver.) "In the hearing of all the people he said unto his disciples"; which does not materially differ. A year before (compare on Luke 15:7), Jesus had begun to censure the Scribes and Pharisees with outspoken severity; and within a few months, probably in Perea, clearly not at Jerusalem, he had denounced woes upon them and warned the people against them. (Luke 11:37-54) Now he does the same thing at Jerusalem, in the temple court, during the great feast of the Passover; and these denunciations form the climax and conclusion of his public discourses. It is natural that he should have thus spoken out earlier elsewhere than at Jerusalem during the feast; and it is much more reasonable to suppose such a repetition under these changed circumstances (compare at beginning of Matthew 5), than to suppose that either Luke or Matthew has utterly displaced these momentous teachings. Notice that Mark and Luke both report at this same quarter small portions of the discourse given by Matthew.
I. Matthew 23:2-4. The Scribes And The Pharisees Do Not Practice What They Teach
The Scribes, see on "Matthew 2:4"; the Pharisees, see on "Matthew 3:7". Sit in Moses' seat, has in the Greek sentence an emphatic position. Literally the verb is sat, 'have sat,' have taken a seat thereâ€”which leaves it to be understood that they so remain; Comp Hebrews 8:1. Not only the judge (Exodus 18:13) but in later the teacher, usually spoke in a sitting posture. (Matthew 5:1, Matthew 13:2, Luke 4:20, Acts 22:3) The Greek term for 'seat' is kathedra, and as borrowed into Latin gave the phrase "to speak ex cathedra," i.e.,"from the seat " of an authoritative teacher. The Rabbinical writers speak of a Rabbi's successor as sitting in his seat; so we, as to a professor's "chair," which word is our contracted form of cathedra (Skeat). Our Lord means, then, that the Scribes and Pharisees are in some sense successors of Moses, teachers of the law as he was. They claimed this, and to a certain extent the claim was just, since most of their explanations were substantially conformed to Scripture. The time had not come for turning away from their teachings to new and better teachers. All therefore whatsoever they bid you is set in contrast to their works. He meant in a general way to commend their instructions in eligious duty as correct, and then to contrast strongly their practice as wrong. We know that he condemned the exaggerated importance they attached to their traditions, (Matthew 15:3, Matthew 15:6) and their general spirit. (Matthew 16:6) The common Greek text has 'bid you observe,' but the authority against adding 'observe' is overwhelming. Observe and do, the verb being in the tense of continued actionâ€”continually observe. They say, and do not. So he had already declared in Galilee, (Matthew 15:7-9) and now repeats in Jerusalem on the most public occasion. For they bind, yea represents the correct Greek text. Heavy burdens, the (compare Matthew 11:28) strict requirements of tradition as to ceremonial Observances and the details of moral duty; compare Luke 11:46 , Peter substantially repeated this statement in, Acts 15:10. The image is of binding fagots of wood or bundles of grain; the idea is of combining many separate precepts or requirements until together they make a heavy load.
The term rendered grievous to be borne does not belong here, but was brought in by copyists from Luke 11:46.(1) Will not move them with one of their fingers does not mean that the burdens are easy to move, but that they will not make the slightest exertion to move them; far less will they take them on their shoulders.
II. Matthew 23:5-7. The Scribes And The Pharisees Are Ostentatious
Mark 12:38 f.; Luke 20:46. To be seen of men, 'with a view to be looked at by men,' the same phrase as in Matthew 6:1. The desire for human praise was, and often is, a great hindrance to believing in' Christ, and confessing him. (John 5:44, John 12:42 f.)
For they make is the correct Gr. text, and introduces the proof of the foregoing. They make broad their phylacteries . In, Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8, Deuteronomy 11:18, it was said to Israel concerning the teachings of the law, that they should be bound "for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes." Here an image seems to be drawn from the old Egyptian practice of wearing amulets; the Israelites were to keep the law always near them, always in mind. In the interbiblical period we find the Jews converting this figure into outward fact. They took four passages adjacent to the thrice repeated injunction, viz., Exodus 13:2-10, Exodus 13:11-17, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-22, and writing them on strips of parchment, encased the folded strips in minute leather boxes. These four boxes were set on edge and fastened upon one leather base, which was placed on the middle of the forehead, and held there by a string tied round the head with peculiar knots, which had a mystical meaning. Four similar strips were placed in a smaller single box, which was worn on the palm of the hand by the Sadducees, apparently because the hand is mentioned in the figurative injunction, but by the Pharisees on the left arm near the heart, because of Deuteronomy 6:6, "and these words;.... shall be in (or upon) thy heart." They placed the box on the bare arm, as near the heart as possible, fastening it with a mystically knotted string, and then covering it with the sleeve. These leather boxes must be made from the skin of a "clean" animal, and coloured black. Phylacteries similar to those thus described by the Rabbinical writers are now worn by the stricter Jews, the details slightly varying in different countries; and those long used by some deceased Rabbi may be bought in the shops of Jerusalem. These little boxes with their contents are called by the Targum of Onkelos and by the Rabbinical writers tephillin, "prayers," because put on before praying (see Buxtorf); they were worn by men in general during public worship, but by the Pharisees worn continually. Matthew's term phylactery, found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, signifies in classical Greek a guarded post, then a safeguard, finally an amulet, as guarding against evils. The Rosetta stone speaks of "golden phylacteries;" worn by the kings of Egypt. (Lid. and Scott.) The Rabbinical writings show that many Jews regarded the phylacteries as amulets; and it seems most likely that the Greek term was commonly employed among the Jews in that sense (so Jerome), and Matt. merely used it because it was common. The term might etymologically mean 'a place for guarding' the divine word (Schottgen, Stier), but there is no usage for that sense. Justin Martyn tells Trypho (ch. 46) that Moses commanded the people to wear a phylactery, but does not throw any light in his connection upon the meaning of the term. The Pesh. here translates by ephillin, the Rabbinical word. The Council of Laodicea (fourth century) forbade clerics to make phylacteries, declaring (with a play upon the word) that they are prisons of their souls, and those who wear them must be expelled from the church. (Suicer.) Chrys. compares the fact that "many of our women now wear Gospels hung from their necks." Some modern writers have maintained that Moses intended these literal frontlets and armlets to be worn as a substitute for the superstitious Egyptian amulets. But how could Moses fail to see that they would themselves be worn as amulets? We find no evidence of their use until the latter part of the interbiblical period, and the general tendency to scrupulosity about externals would account for their appearance at that time. The Karaite Jews (who arose in the eighth Christian century) have always understood these passages of the law as figurative, holding that the hand represents precepts for action, and the head represents the mental and spiritual. Compare Proverbs 3:3, Proverbs 6:21, Ezekiel 24:17. Making their phylacteries unusually broad would show every casual observer that the Pharisees were remarkably pious. The head being bare, or covered only with a cloth, this cube of some two inches on every side, projecting from the centre of the forehead, would attract great attention. Enlarge the borders (of their garments). These peculiar 'borders' were commanded to be worn, (Numbers 15:38) and were worn by Jesus. (See on "Matthew 9:20".) It does not follow that he wore the phylacteries. Matthew's Jewish readers would at once understand 'enlarge the borders'; but many copyists thought it necessary for perspicuity to add, 'of their garments,' and this naturally crept into the Common text. Love the uppermost rooms (or chief place) at feasts. The feast is here deipnon see on "Matthew 22:4". The guests reclined on couches, see on "Matthew 8:11". The place of highest honour for a guest apparently was to recline just in front of the host, so that the head could be laid back in the host's bosom. (John 3:23, John 3:25, Luke 16:22) In general, the most honourable places were those near the host. Mark and Luke have the plural, 'chief places'; all three use the same Greek word, literally, chief reclining-place. The old rendering, 'rooms,' really meant simply places, but would now suggest apartments. 'Upper, most' was probably used here by Tyn., Cran., K. J., because of the phrase 'come up higher', (Luke 14:10) and the English expression, "the upper end of the table." The chief seats in the synagogues were the front seats nearest to the place in which the rolls of the law were kept. For 'synagogues,' see on "Matthew 4:23", And greetings (salutations) in the markets , that is, the market places. They were the general places of assembly, for men of all pursuits. Indeed, the Greek word denotes primarily a place of gathering or assembly, the thought of buying and selling being subordinate. The Asiatics have always attached great importance to profoundly respectful salutations in public intercourse. Not in Paris, but only in China, could one 'find such elaborate courtesy as in an old-fashioned sheik who meets you in Palestine, as he touches his lips and forehead and breast, each time bowing low, and saying,"Salaam to you!" And to be called of men, Rabbi, the common Jewish word for teacher. (See on "Matthew 8:19".) It means, etymologically, 'great one' or 'superior,' like master from mag-ister, and somewhat like "His Excellency," "Your Highness," etc. The office and its title were much coveted among the Jews in the time of Christ and afterwards. Statements of later writers make it probable (Herzog) that the use, or at any rate the frequent use, of the title began in the time of Hillel and Shammai, in the generation preceding the Christian era.(1)
III. Matthew 23:8-12. Christ's Disciples Must Not Be Like The Scribes And Pharisees
Jesus turns from his account of the inconsistent and ostentatious Jewish teachers to warn his disciples (compare Matthew 23:1) against doing likewise. Keim thinks it impossible that in an address to the people (Matthew 23:1) Jesus should have introduced admonitions to the disciples concerning their one Teacher the Messiah, and should then have launched 'woes' against the Pharisees, "as if he were speaking to them." But what strange criticism is here. With a heterogeneous crowd thronging around him, nothing was more natural than that an impassioned popular speaker should turn from one class of his hearers to another. After Matthew 23:12 it might even be supposed that some of the Scribes and Pharisees, hearing in the outskirts of the throng that he was warning the people against them, had pressed their way through and were just then drawing near with hostile looks, so as to furnish an immediate occasion for his addressing them.
Be not ye called Rabbi, with emphasis on 'ye,' as the Greek indicates. Do not crave the honour of being recognized as a religious teacher. For one is your Master, teacher. The Rabbis were independent, and any one of them might found a distinct school. But Christians are all pupils in one school of Jesus, and among them is no difference of dignity. So Ignatius addresses the Ephesians (ch. 3) as his "schoolmates." As Rabbi is equivalent to the Latin Doctor, 'teacher,' some literalists urge that to call a minister "Doctor " is here definitely prohibited. But the matter goes far deeper. What our Lord prohibits is desire for the distinction involved in being recognized as a religious teacher. A man who shows great desire to be "invited into the pulpit," or otherwise publicly treated as a minister, is exactly violating this command. The title of Doctor of Divinity is often so conferred, so sought, so borne, and sometimes so declined, as to come under this head, but it is the spirit involved rather than the phrase that should be condemned. It would be better to have no distinctive titles, seeming to set one minister above others, for there really is danger of forgetting that all ye are brethren. Yet (Schaff) "our addressing others by the usual titles is not forbidden; pride taking the form of want of courtesy cannot find shelter here." The folly of mere verbal and literalistic interpretation is seen in the fact that persons who vehemently declaim against the use of "Doctor," as being prohibited in Matthew 23:8, are often fond of calling some venerable minister "Father," which is equally prohibited in Matthew 23:9. The Jews often addressed a religious teacher as 'Father' (Buxtorf, compare 2 Kings 2:12), even as the "sons of the prophets" and the "sons" of the Pharisees were their pupils. (Compare on Matthew 12:27) Romanists habitually call a priest "Father," and the sovereign priest they call "Holy Father." So Abbot is derived from abba, 'father,' and Pope is the same word as the English papa; in the Greek Church papas is applied to any priest. In the Church of England a bishop is sometimes formally addressed as "Right Reverend Father in God." While earnestly condemning all this, we do well to remember that Stephen said, "Brethren and fathers, hearken" (Acts 7:2); compare also 1 Corinthians 4:15. One is your Father, which is in heaven, more exactly as by Amer. Revisers, 'even he who is in heaven,' literally 'the heavenly (one),' compare on Matthew 6:9.
Matthew 23:10 ff. Master is here kathegetes, guide, instructor, see on "Matthew 8:19". Even (the) Christ, the Messiah, see on "Matthew 2:4". Jesus is not here distinctly saying before the hostile hearers that he is the Messiah. His disciples so understood him, but he did not publicly avow himself as such until he appeared before the Sanhedrin. (Matthew 26:64, compare on Matthew 21:16) He that is greatest among you, etc., is repeated from Matthew 20:26. 'Greatest' is here literally' greater (than all others),' as in Matthew 18:1. In this matter also there may be loud professions without the reality. One who with strict and ostentatious literalness calls himself "servant of servants of the servants of God," yet claims to be sovereign of the Christian world. Whosoever shall exalt himself, seeking to attract human notice and praise. Shall be abased. The Greek has humbled.... humble; the early English versions, except Rheims, unnecessarily varied the translation, e. g., Com. Version. The saying of Matthew 18:12 had been given before, probably a week or two earlier, in Perea, Luke 18:14. It is very natural that any saying uttered at a distance should afterwards be repeated in Jerusalem. The lesson of humility is one peculiarly needing to be often repeated. In one form or another, Jesus has taught it many times; compare on Matthew 18:4; and compare Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 29:23, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5. The Talmud has similar sayings, especially one (Wun.), "Whoever humbles himself God exalts, and whoever exalts himself God humbles," which may have been borrowed from the Gospels, or may have been built on Ezekiel 21:26.
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 23:2-4. Teaching without practising, (1) A very faulty man may give teaching that is Scripturally correct. (2) A man who utterly neglects his own duty is often very severe in laying down the duty of others. (3) We must often disregard a teacher's evil example, and heed his correct precept. (4) Yet how much better, for teacher and for hearers, when he that says, also does. Chrys.: "For what can be more wretched than a teacher, when it is the preservation of his disciples not to give heed to his life." Henry: "What greater hypocrisy can there be, than to press that upon others to be believed and done, which they themselves disbelieve and disobey; pulling down in their practice what they build up in their preaching; when in the pulpit, preaching so well that it is pity they should ever come out; but when out of the pulpit living so ill that it is pity they should ever come in."
Matthew 23:5. A man's aims determine the moral quality of his actions. The desire for popular applause may render a man very careful about outward religious observances or formal orthodoxy, but not about inward piety.
Matthew 23:5-12. Ministerial greatness lies (1) not in dress, or any outward display of pious punctilio; (2) not in social honours, or public recognition; (3) not in titles, or admiring followers; but (4) in humble service of others.
Matthew 23:11 f. Humility. (1) Professed humility is often only covert pride. (2) Effort to be humble in hope of exaltation may impose on ourselves, and on many of our fellow-men, but cannot deceive God. (3) True humility has not time to think of self, because busy with serving others, speech and action. (4) Genuine humility will lead to exaltation, in God's own good time and way. (1 Peter 5:6 f.)
Woes Denounced Upon The Scribes And Pharisees
This is given by Matthew only. Luke records several similar woes, (Luke 11:37-54) which appear to have been pronounced some months earlier, compare above on Matthew 22:1 and on Matthew 19:1. Our Lord now ceases to address his disciples and the people in general, (Matthew 23:1) and turns back to the Scribes and Pharisees, pronouncing upon them a series of mournful woes, Matthew 19:13, Matthew 19:15, Matthew 19:16-22, Matthew 19:23 f., 25 f., 27 f., 29-36, closing with an apostrophe to Jerusalem, 37-39. In each case some special form of wickedness is made the ground of this stern denunciation, and the solemnly repeated address at the opening of the successive paragraphs gives them a rhythmical character, like strophes in an ode. Keim : "In the seven woes, the first place is given (first and second woes) to the judgment against the foes of the kingdom of God, whose proselyting zeal for their lost cause stands in sharp contrast to the hindrances to the progress of the kingdom of heaven. The third and fourth woes denounce their false teaching of the law; the fifth and sixth, the slovenly efforts after purity by the 'pure'; the seventh definitely reverts to the attitude of the Pharisees towards the prophetsâ€”the announcers and forerunners of Jesusâ€”whose graves they build, and in doing so prove themselves to be the sons of those that murdered the prophets."
Woe is a solemn warning and also an expression of pityâ€”alas for you. (Matthew 18:7) With these eight 'woes' (the eighth given by Mark and Luke), compare six 'woes' in Isaiah 5, and five in Habakkuk 2:6 ff. Scribes, see on "Matthew 2:4"; Pharisees, see on "Matthew 3:7"; hypocrites, see on "Matthew 6:2"; kingdom of heaven, see on "Matthew 3:2". Our Lord implies that the Messianic reign has already 'begun, as he did even in Matthew 11:12. Ye shut. These religious teachers ought to have set men in general the example of promptly and joyfully entering the Messianic kingdom, but they actually prevented others from entering. Against men, literally before men (Rev. Ver. margin), and so all English versions before K. James. The image is of the people at large as moving towards the open gate of the kingdom, and on the point of entering; but their religious leaders, heading the procession, refuse to enter themselves, and practically shut the gate in the people's face. (Compare on Matthew 16:19.) They do this by denying that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and striving to turn the popular mind away from the rising persuasion that Jesus is the Messiah, (Matthew 21:9, Matthew 21:15, Matthew 21:44 f.) and from entering the Messianic kingdom through penitent faith. They paraded themselves as leaders of the people, while really (Weiss) they were misleaders.
Matthew 23:14. This verse of Com. Ver. is here spurious,(2) but genuine in Mark 12:40, and Luke 20:47, so that it was actually spoken on this occasion, though not included in Matthew's report. Widows, being without a male representative in business, have always been in Asia specially exposed to fraud and other wrong. (Compare Luke 18:3, Acts 6:1, James 1:27) To seize their property, even their homes, is in other parts of the world also a common practice of men who commend themselves by "making long prayers" (compare Matthew 6:7) as extraordinarily devout, and therefore trustworthy. The expression, "shall receive greater condemnation," suggests degrees in future punishment, a subject of very great practical importance. See the Commentaries on Mark and Luke.
II. Matthew 23:15. They Proselyte With Wrong Aims
This saying is not elsewhere recorded. Woe unto you, etc., see on "Matthew 23:13". Hypocrites, because they pretend to be zealous for the promotion of the true religion and for the religious benefit of men, when they are really aiming only to multiply partisans, and are making them not better, but worse. Ye compass sea and land, literally, the dry (land), as so often in Old Testament The hyperbolical expression shows how zealous and active they were in order that even a single Gentile might become a Jew. An interesting example of proselyting even beyond the Tigris, a few years after our Lord said this, may be seen in Josephus 'Ant', 20,2,2 ff. The same false zeal appeared afterwards in the Judaizers who followed Paul, Galatians 6:13. The notion of Chrys. and others that Jesus reproaches the Pharisees with the small results of their immense activity, is quite foreign to the connection. He is speaking not of small results, but of bad results. To make one proselyte. This word is found elsewhere in New Testament only in Acts 2:10, Acts 6:5, Acts 13:43, but very often in Septuagint It signified originally an immigrant, a foreigner who had 'come to' a community for the purpose of dwelling there; this is its common use in Sept., English 'stranger.' By an easy transition it denoted a Gentile who became a Jew, which is its use in New Testament What is involved in 'make' one proselyte? To convince him that Jehovah the God of Israel is the only true God (Deuteronomy 6:4 f.), and induce him to be circumcised and set out to keep the law of Moses. (Exodus 12:48) Those who were convinced, but unwilling to submit to this unpopular rite (Josephus "Ant.," 20, 2, 4), were called "proselytes of the gate," as if not fully entering the city and becoming citizens, but merely sitting in the gate; the others were called "proselytes of righteousness," righteous proselytes, who did their whole duty. After the ceremony of circumcision, the proselyte must of course give himself a thorough purification, as he would after any other thorough defilement, before approaching the altar with a sacrifice. In later times, after the destruction of the temple by Titus, and the consequent cessation of sacrifices, this purification of the proselyte was the final act, and came to be then regarded as a special rite, which by modern writers is called "proselyte baptism," see on "Matthew 3:6". Tyndale and Gen. have here 'to bring one into your belief,' which is not a bad paraphrase. A picture of a real proselyte to the true faith is given in 1 Peter 4:2-4. Talmud Bah. says that a heathen inclined to become a proselyte should be told that "the Israelites are now enfeebled, persecuted, and distressed." But this by no means proves, as Wun; and others argue, that the Jews were never much given to proselyting. The attempt in later centuries to check the influx of proselytes by speaking of the then depressed condition of Israel, implies a previous contrary course. Tacitus ("Hist.,"Matthew 23:5) says that the Jews grew because all the worst men left their national religions and became Jews. See Juvenal, "Sat.," 14, 96-106, and other statements to the same effect in Wet., and compare Edersh. And when he is made, Rev. Ver., he is become so, or 'is become' (a proselyte), as in Matthew 4:13, Matthew 13:32, Matthew 18:3; 'made' was here a bad rendering of the Greek word, as it confounds this term with the term 'make' that precedes and follows; it was an imitation of the Vulgate. The child, a son (Wyclif) is the exact translation, as in Matthew 5:9 Rev. Ver. and Matthew 8:12, etc. Hell is here Gehenna, the place of torment, see on "Matthew 5:22". 'A son of hell' would be one having a hellish character, as a child is apt to resemble the parent (compare on Matthew 8:12), and so suited to dwell in hell. This, then, was the ground of the woe; not that they zealously made proselytes, which was entirely proper if rightly done, but that they made them bad men like themselves, yea, doubly as bad. These proselytes retained the essential faults of the heathen, and took on the faults of the Pharisees. So some of our "civilized" Indians are still savages, with the vices of civilization, and compare the heathen converts made by some Jesuit missionaries. In these proselytes the good was more superficial than in the Phariseesâ€”who often retained some roots of old convictionsâ€”while the hypocrisy was not less deep. Pupils in error and vice frequently surpass their teachers. Very likely also some became proselytes for the sake of gain. Yet not all the proselytes of the tithe came under the condemnation here uttered, for some of them were among the early converts of the apostles. (Acts 2:10, Acts 6:5, Acts 10:2; Acts 13:43, Acts 13:50, Acts 16:14, Acts 17:4, Acts 17:17, Acts 18:7) Other proselytes would naturally be very bitter against Christianity; and Justin Martyr, after quoting this passage, says to Trypho (ch. 122), "But the proselytes not only do not believe, but twofold more than you they blaspheme against his name." Proselytes are often mentioned in the Talmud with suspicion or contempt. Plump.: "The popular Jewish feeling about them was like the popular Christian feeling about a converted Jew. Proselytes were regarded as the leprosy of Israel, hindering the coming of the Messiah. It became a proverb that no one should trust a proselyte, even the twenty-fourth generation."
III. Matthew 23:16-22. By Foolish Distinctions They Excuse The Violation Of Oaths
This is found in Matt. only. As to the general subject of oaths, compare on Matthew 5:33-37. Here the Saviour confines himself to one point, viz., that the Scribes and Pharisees wickedly encourage the people to violate oaths, by making untenable and silly distinctions between certain oaths as binding and certain others as not binding. Woe unto you, as in Matthew 5:13. Ye blind guides, see on "Matthew 15:14". A religious teacher who gives misleading instruction is strikingly represented by a blind guide. Our Lord does not in this case call them hypocrites, as in the other woes. The temple is here the naos, the sacred house, see on "Matthew 4:5".
The oath by the temple would naturally be often used, and so would be often violated, until men did not feel very solemnly bound by it to speak the truth or keep an engagement. Then a new oath was invented, by the gold of the temple, and this as being new was felt to be more binding. This gold would mean the gold plates with which much of the temple was covered (Josephus "War," 5, 5, 8-6), and the golden vessels of the temple (6, 8, 8); probably also the coin from contributions. Josephus states ("Ant.," 14, 7, 1) that Crassus took from the temple eight thousand talents of gold, say ten million dollars. It is nothing. The Mishna on Vows (Nedarim, 1, 8) speaks of vowing, "This shall be to me as the lamb, as the wood, as the fire, as the altar, as the temple, as Jerusalem;" and adds "Rabbi Jehuda says, If one says 'Jerusalem' (i. e., not 'as Jerusalem'), he has said nothing." (Compare Wun.) The Scribes and Pharisees had conformed to popular custom and feeling by actually teaching that the old and common oath by the temple was not binding, but only the new-fashioned oath by the gold. The Saviour shows this to be an absurd distinction, since it was the temple that gave to this gold such Sacredness as to make it the natural subject matter of an oath.
So as to the old oath by the altar, and the new oath by the gift that is upon it. It was only the altar that made the gift a holy thing, so as to render it natural that men should swear by the gift. He adds (Matthew 23:20) that to swear by the altar included swearing by the gift, for the former suggested and involved the latter. In like manner, the old and slighted oath 'by the temple' really involved swearing by him that dwelleth therein, who gives to the temple its sacredness. The Jews would avoid literally taking in vain any name of Jehovah their God, and when swearing only by things associated with him, as the temple, heaven, etc., they imagined that they would not break the third commandment in violating such an oath. The Mishas on Oaths (Shebuoth, 4, 18) says if one adjures others by heaven and by earth, they are not bound; but they are bound if he adjures them by a d, representing Adonai (Lord), or by j, h, representing Jehovah, or by Sabaoth (Jehovah of hosts), or by any divine attribute or divine name. The Gemara on this passage of the Mishna explains (Wun.) that this is because these terms must mean the divine being, while heaven and earth can be conceived of as mere objects, without reference to the Creator. This is exactly the notion that our Lord here condemns. Heaven and earth, when used in oaths, do suggest the Creator. So the Mohammedans will take many oaths without pretending to act accordingly, but an oath by the Koran they must keep. The Bohemian in "Quentin Durward" glibly utters many profuse oaths, but when required to swear "by the three kings of Cologne," and that with his face turned towards the east, he feels bound. Compare above, "Hom. and Pract.", see on "Matthew 5:37". He is a debtor (Matthew 23:16) means that he owes what he has thus solemnly declared or promised, and must pay itâ€”he is bound by his oath (Rev. Ver. margin). The same Greek word is used in Matthew 5:18, but Com. Ver., as so often, must needs vary the translation, and give he is guilty. That hath sanctified, is in Matthew 5:17 the correct Greek text; in Matthew 5:19 it is that sanctifieth. The assimilation of the former to the latter was a characteristic act of copyists.(1) So with the addition of 'fools' in Matthew 5:19 from Matthew 5:17.
IV. Matthew 23:23 f. Scrupulous As To Minor Matters, But Neglecting Great Moral Duties.
Woe unto you, etc., see on Matthew 23:18. The law required the Israelites to pay tithes of agricultural products, including fruits (Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:22 ff.); and these punctilious Pharisees took pains to tithe every product that was edible and could be preserved. (Talmud.) Our Lord mentions as specimens, mint and anise and cummin; on the former occasion he gave 'mint and rue and every herb.' (Luke 11:42, R. V.) Compare the boast "I give tithes of all that I get." (Luke 18:12, R.V.) Some even gave tithes of what they purchased for use. (Hansrath.) The Greek word here used for mint means 'sweet-smelling,' though the Greek also had the word mintha; our words anise and cummin are borrowed from the Greek. The leaves of mint and the seeds of anise (or dill) were used both for flavouring food and as valuable carminative medicines; the seeds of cummin were used for the former purpose. Judgment, mercy, and faith, i. e., good faith, fidelity, (Romans 3:3) the common classical sense of the term. In Luke, it is 'judgment and the love of God.' Compare Micah 6:8. The American Revisers properly urge that not 'judgment,' but 'justice,' is the correct translation here and in Luke, though the Greek word is correctly rendered 'judgment' in Matthew 23:33, and so rendered elsewhere. To render a Greek term everywhere by the same word is very desirable, but not always practicable. The weightier matters of the law. We have seen (on Matthew 22:36) that the Rabbis called some commandments of the law weighty and others right. Jesus recognizes that such a distinction is legitimate, but draws the line very differently from their teachings, for he makes the fundamental, ethical, and spiritual duties (compare Luke) the weightier matters. Compare 'one of these least commandments.' (Luke 5:19) As to the superiority of the ethical to the ceremonial, compare on Luke 9:11 and Luke 12:7. And not to leave the other undone. The old English plural use of 'other' here creates momentary difficulty, as if referring to a singular, and there is no propriety in retaining it. Our Lord beautifully adapts his two expressions. They were strict as to the slightest externals, and left undone the ethical; he says that the ethical duties ought to be done, and the others not to be neglected. So Luke 11:42, and compare above on Luke 12:7. He does not forbid the tithing of herbs, but sets in strong contrast with this scrupulosity their neglect of great moral duties. Ye blind guides, as in Luke 12:16, leading the people utterly astray by false teaching and bad example. The image in Luke 12:24 expresses the same thing as Luke 12:23. The Talmud speaks (Wet.) of straining wine in order to remove minute unclean creatures. (Leviticus 11:41-43) The Buddhists in Ceylon strain their wine for a similar reason. Gnats sip at wine, and so may fall into it. Trench (on Rev.) tells of a soldier in Morocco who always placed the end of his turban over the vessel from which he drank water, avowedly for the purpose of straining out the gnats, "whose larvae swarm in the water of that country." The gnat and the camel are put in contrast as extremes in regard to size; the latter is obviously a strong hyperbole, for the camel was the largest animal familiarly known to the Jews. (Compare on Matthew 19:24) Observe that it also was "unclean." (Leviticus 11:4) Thus these persons carefully strain out the smallest creature, and swallow the largest; they are very scrupulous about the minutest matters of ceremonial observance, and then neglect the highest ethical duties enjoined by the law. The translation strain at is generally supposed to have been a mere misprint, in the original edition of K. James' version, for 'strain out,' which had been given by Tyn., Cran., and Gen. The Greek means 'thoroughly filter,' thoroughly strain, applied to wine in Amos 6:6, and here to that which is removed by filtering wine. Alford thinks that the K. J. revisers purposely gave 'strain at,' meaning 'strain (the wine) at (the occurrence of) a gnat,' but this is highly improbable.
V. Matthew 23:25 f. Caring For Outward Purification Rather Than For True Morality.
Compare what Luke gives, (Luke 11:38) as spoken some time earlier. Woe unto you, etc., see on "Matthew 23:13". Of all the requirements of the law, purification was that on which the Pharisees seem to have laid most stress; compare on Matthew 15:2. There is here a regular progression, oaths, tithes, purifications. They were careful about not only the actual cleaning, but the ceremonial cleaning of the cup and the platter, Mark 7:4. 'Platter' is in the Greek a rare word, denoting a side dish, some delicacy set on the side-table, and only handed to the guests, and derivatively the dish used for such dainties. Full of from (Rev. Ver.) extortion and excess, or 'intemperance,' in the original sense of that term. The contents of the cup and dish, namely the wine and food, are the product of extortion, and the cup and dish are filled in consequence of desire for excess in eating and drinking. The image seems to change slightly, the full cup and platter being due in one sense to extortion, and in another to excess.(1) Thou blind Pharisee, not now reproached as blindly leading others astray (Matthew 23:16, Matthew 23:24), but as blindly going astray himself. Cleanse first that which is within. Let the contents of the cup and dish be the fruit of honest industry and not of extortion, and be used temperately and not in excess; then your ceremonial cleansing of the vessels themselves, will be real, and acceptable to God. Compare on Matthew 6:8. May be clean; Rev. Ver. may become clean is the exact meaning of the Greek and suits the connection.
VI. Matthew 23:27 f. They Are Whited Sepulchres.
Compare Luke 11:44. The transition from outward and inward purity of vessels to outward and inward personal purity, is natural and immediate. Woe unto you, etc., see on "Matthew 23:13". Whited sepulchres. Tombs of the better class about Jerusalem were caves, or artificial chambers cut in the limestone rock. (Matthew 27:60) The exterior of these was whitewashed, mainly to prevent persons from touching them unawares and thus becoming unclean, (Numbers 19:16) but also for agreeable appearance and perhaps for sanitary reasons. The Mishna states (Shekalim 1, 1) that on the 15 of Adar (roughly answering to our March, when the rains are over) people repair the roads, and public baths and other public works, and whitewash the tombs. The Jerusalem Gemara (tr. of Schwab) explains that this is because the rain may have washed off the lime. The Talmud also represents (Lightf.) that sometimes they whitened the whole tomb, in other cases made on it the figure of a bone or bones, and adds that as the leper said, "Unclean, unclean", (Leviticus 13:45) so here "uncleanness cries out to you and says, 'Come not near.' " Our Lord is speaking at the Passover, when the recent whitening would be very noticeable. Which appear beautiful outward, not simply through the whitewashing, but architectural ornament, as seen in tombs still remaining. In Acts 23:3 Paul calls a hypocrite a 'whited wall.' And of all uncleanness is a delicate reference to the other products of the gradual decay besides the bones. These products according to the Mosaic law and Jewish feeling produced the highest degree of ceremonial uncleanness. In Luke 11:44, Rev. Ver., as spoken on a former occasion, the image is somewhat different, 'ye are as the tombs which appear not, and the men that walk over them know it not.' It is likely that the masses of the people buried in the ground, as we commonly do, and as is done with most of the Jews now dying at Jerusalem; while the sepulchres in the rocks would correspond to our vaults and tombs above ground, though much oftener employed. The different Greek terms in Matthew and Luke do not suggest any practical distinction, for that of Luke is the same as the second term below in Luke 11:29, and as in John 11:28. In John 11:28, iniquity is more exactly lawlessness, anomia, violation of law, as in Matthew 7:28, Matthew 13:41, Matthew 24:12. This word is not used by the other Gospels, but was a natural term for a gospel addressed especially to Jews and for Paul, while John particularly needs it in 1 John 3:4., 'iniquity,' or' injustice,' is not used by Matthew, but several times by Luke, Paul, and others, and Matthew has its adjective in Matthew 5:45, and its verb in Matthew 20:13. Are full here represents a different word from that of Matthew 20:25 and Matthew 20:27, but our language cannot conveniently express the difference, and it has no practical importance.
VII. Matthew 23:29-36. They Resemble Their Wicked Ancestors, Who Slew The Prophets
Compare Luke 11:47-51, probably spoken some months earlier, see on "Matthew 23:1". Woe unto you, etc., see on "Matthew 23:13". There is no practically important difference between the sepulchres and the tombs. The word rendered garnish, means literally, adorn, 'ornament,' as in Matthew 12:44; compare Matthew 25:7. The prophets,... the righteous. (Compare Matthew 10:41, Matthew 10:13-17) In 1 Maccabees 13:27-30, is described a grand tomb which Simon the Maccabee built for his father and brothers. Josephus tells us ("Ant.," 16, 17, 1) how Herod built a marble monument over the tombs of David and Solomon, to atone for his attempt to plunder them. It is very doubtful whether the elaborate structures on the lower slope of Olivet, southeast of the city, which are now called "tombs of the prophets," have any proper claim to that name; but they appear to date from the time of the Herods (Robinson, Thomson), and may thus give an idea of the tombs referred to. One of them is now called the tomb of Zechariah, with evident reference to 1 Maccabees 13:35. A little later than our Lord's time, we have account in Josephus of several grand tombs, as that of Annas, the High Priest ("War," 5, 12, 2), of Philip, the Tetrarch ("Ant., "18, 4, 6), and of Queen Helena, of Adiabene, and her son-with three pyramids ("Ant.," 20, 4, 3).
Matthew 23:31. Wherefore, or more exactly so that. Ye be witnesses unto, or, witness to yourselves, i. e., in this case (Winer) 'against yourselves,' it being a testimony to their hurt. (Compare James 5:3) In the very self-excuse of Matthew 23:30, they acknowledge themselves the children of those who slew the prophets, and our Lord intimates that here, as is usual, the offspring resemble the parents, (Matthew 5:45, John 8:41, John 8:44) though they pretend the contrary in their case. The rulers are already plotting to murder Jesus (Matthew 21:46) They are minded to do as their fathers did in this very matter, and piously pretending to be altogether different. (Compare Luke 11:48) "Ye are witnesses and consent unto the works of your fathers." (Compare above on Matthew 21:39 ff., and see Acts 7:51 f., and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15)
Matthew 23:32. Fill ye up then, or literally, and do ye fill up, the 'ye' being expressed in Greek, and thus emphatic, viz., 'ye,' as set over against your fathers. The expression is gravely ironical (Winer),(1) a thing natural in so impassioned and pointedly personal a discourse, which has kept growing in earnestness. This generation ought to turn from their fathers' sins, but instead of that they were adding like sins, and the new divine warnings did not stop them. So with mournful irony he bids them go on and fill the measure full. (Genesis 15:16)
Matthew 23:33. Ye serpents, ye generation (offspring) of vipers, see on "Matthew 3:7"; see on "Matthew 12:34". This corresponds to Matthew 12:31; they are like their ancestorsâ€”they are serpents and the offspring of serpents. How can ye escape, or 'how are you to escape', implying that it is impossible to see any way. As they resemble their ancestors, and are busily filling up the measure of their ancestors' sins, it is not possible that they should escape. (Compare Matthew 11:22, John 3:19) The damnation (judgment) of hell, i. e., the judgment which condemns to punishment in hell, is a phrase also used several times in the Talmud (Wun.). 'Judgment' is the correct translation of; it is that signifies condemnation, the idea formerly expressed in English by 'damnation.' This last word now denotes in English the eternal penalty resulting from judgment or condemnation, and while often necessarily suggested, this is not what the Greek terms themselves express. Accordingly, the words 'damn' and 'damnation' must now give way to 'judge,' 'condemn,' etc., leaving the punishment to be suggested, as it is in the Greek. (See Mark 3:29, Mark 12:40, Mark 16:16, Luke 20:47, John 5:29, Romans 3:8, Romans 13:2, Romans 14:23, 1 Corinthians 11:29, 2 Thessalonians 2:12; also (Greek meaning 'perdition') 2 Peter 2:1, 2 Peter 2:3) The changes thus made in the Revised Version do not at all proceed from any change in exegetical views or in theological opinion, but are simply required by the altered meaning of an English word. (Compare as to 'hell,' on Matthew 16:18 ) 'Hell' is here (Gehenna), the place of torment, as in Matthew 12:15, see on "Matthew 5:22".
Matthew 23:34-36, Wherefore, behold, I send unto you. The 'I' is expressed in Greek, and so is emphatic. Jesus speaks as the divine representative, (John 3:2) as having plenary authority in the whole matter of human salvation; (Matthew 28:18) he utters the divine decree, which in the similar passage of Luke (Luke 11:49) is referred to 'the wisdom of God.' 'Send in the present tense, because the mission is arranged and on the point of beginning. Wherefore, or therefore, because they are like their fathers, and will treat God's messengers as their fathers did, he sends them messengers to be persecuted; it will thus become manifestly right that they should be held guilty for their ancestors' sin and their own. (Matthew 23:35.) God of course does not wish men to sin, but he tests them, so as to show to themselves and others their real character, and vindicate the justice of their punishment. Wise men, and scribes are Jewish terms, used because of what precedes (Matthew 23:29 and Matthew 23:2, Matthew 23:7), 'wise men' being a common appellation of the Rabbis. But they may be fulfilled in apostles and evangelists also. (compare Matthew 13:52) The distinction between them should not here be insisted on. The decree to send, and their treatment of the persons sent, may include all the divine messengers to that generation, from John the Baptist to the destruction of Jerusalem. (Matthew 23:36, Matthew 24:34) Jesus intimates his knowledge that they will not only kill him, (Matthew 21:38) but also kill or maltreat his messengers hereafter sent. (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:15) And crucify, see on "Matthew 27:35". This may include the ease of Jesus himself. It is a tradition that Peter was crucified, and Simeon, a brother of Jesus. Some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, as he had already foretold to his followers. (Matthew 10:17) And persecute them from city to city, compare Matthew 10:23, Acts 9:2, Acts 13:50 f.; Acts 14:6; Acts 17:10 ff. That upon you may come is the divine purpose, not that of the Jews. (Compare Matthew 2:23, and see on "Matthew 1:22".) There here comes before us what recent philosophical writers are fond of calling "the solidarity of the race." Plump.: "Men make the guilt of past ages their own, reproduce its atrocities, identify themselves with it; and so, what seems at first an arbitrary decree, visiting on the children the sins of the fathers, becomes in such cases a righteous judgment. If they repent, they cut off the terrible entail of sin and punishment; but if they harden themselves in their evil, they inherit the delayed punishment of their father's sins as well as of their own." The Jewish multitude afterward voluntarily took upon themselves and their children the blood of Jesus. (Matthew 27:25) Notice here the solemn threefold repetition of 'blood.' Shed is present tense; the totality of the righteous blood is conceived as in the process of being shed, the whole past and present thrown together.
Zacharias, the son of Barachias. There is here a well-known difficulty, which various theories have attempted to remove. (1) Some think that the prophet Zechariah is meant, who was son of Berechiah (Zechariah 1:1; ) but we have no account of his being slain. (2) Some Fathers supposed Zachariah the father of John the Baptist to be meant, and had traditional stories of his being killed for asserting the perpetual virginity of the mother of Jesus; but all this is without historical foundation, excessively improbable, and very likely suggested by the present allusion. (3) Aug. and some others have supposed that our Lord is predicting the death of Zachariah son of Baruch, killed in the temple during the subsequent siege of Jerusalem, as described by Josephus. ("War," 4, 5, 4.) But the temple is there only, which means the general enclosure, Baruch is quite a different name from Barachiah, and our Lord is evidently speaking of things already past ('ye slew'), while this event was forty years later. (4) In 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, we read that a priest named Zechariah was stoned "in the court of the house of Jehovah." His dying words are quite in accordance with the reference our Lord here makes, "Jehovah look upon it and require it," and correspond to the other ease of Abel's blood. (Genesis 4:10) In the ancient Hebrew grouping of the books, as in Hebrew Bibles now, the Chronicles seem to have stood at the end; so that from Abel to this Zachariah would include all the cases from beginning to end of the sacred books. All these circumstances fit exactly. Both the Jerusalem and the Babylon Talmud, as also some Midrashim (Lightf., Wun.), contain wild legends about the blood of this Zachariah as continuing to bubble for more than two centuries until the captivityâ€”which go to show that his murder in the court of the priests was regarded as a notable event. But this Zachariah is expressly described as son of Jehoiada, the priest, whose kindness King Joash was thus ill requiting. Some make haste to say that Matt. has fallen into the error of confounding this Zechariah with the prophet who was son of Berechiah, while Luke gives no name of his father. (Luke 11:51) But we ought certainly to be very slow to remove difficulties by a supposition so improbable in the case of an inspired writer.
There are several possible ways of explaining the matter. Zachariah's father, Jehoiada, may have had the surname of Berechiah, 'blessed of Jehovah,' a name borne by six or seven persons in the history, and which might have been given to the great priest for saving his country. Or, Jehoiada, who had just died at the age of one hundred and thirty, (2 Chronicles 24:15) may have been the grandfather of Zechariah, and his father a Berechiah, not otherwise mentioned. So the prophet is in Zechariah 1:1, called "Zechariah, the son of Betschiah, the son of Iddo," while in Ezra 6:14, he is called "Zechariah, the son of Iddo." Or it may be (Luketter.) that there was some other murder near to the time of Jesus, and known to his hearers. All these are unsupported hypotheses, but they are certainly possible, and so it is by no means necessary to suppose that Matt. fell into an error. Not a few cases that long appeared as difficult as this have been cleared up by the progress of knowledge within the present half century.(1) (Compare on, Matthew 20:29.) Whom ye slew, viz., through your fathers. They are held guilty of their father' conduct because they have imitated it. The temple is here, the sacred house, as in Ezra 6:17, see on "Matthew 4:5"; the altar is the great altar of burnt offering, which stood in the Court of the Priests in front of the sacred house. 'Between the temple and the altar' would be a natural expansion of the statement in Chron., where Zechariah the priest stands "above the people, "in the Court of the Priests. Upon this generation compare, Matthew 11:16 , and see on "Matthew 24:34"; the idea is kept up by Matthew 24:38 f. These are our Lord's farewell words to the Jews at large.
VIII. Matthew 23:37-39. A Mournful Apostrophe To Jerusalem
Our Lord's thoughts had been turning sadly toward Jerusalem for more than a half year, compare on Matthew 16:21, Matthew 20:18 f. Now the conclusion of the series of woes having pointed directly to dreadful and speedy judgments upon the persons addressed, which would be connected especially with the destruction of Jerusalem, he breaks into a grieved and compassionate apostrophe. That such feelings should have taken this form when speaking of Jerusalem at a distance, (Luke 19:41-44) again when coming in sight of the city during the triumphal entry, (Luke 19:41-44) and now again in closing his last address to the people, is in every respect natural; and there is not the slightest occasion for supposing that the saying has been displaced by one or the other Gospel. The doubled address, and the frequent changes of person, are also natural in the language of passionate emotion: "Jerusalem, Jerusalemâ€”thou that killest... sent unto thee... thy children... your house... ye shall not see." Thou that killest the prophets gives the point of connection between this and the preceding paragraph. And stonest them. The Zechariah just before mentioned (according to the view preferred) was Stoned to death. How often implies frequent visits to Jerusalem during his ministry, and special efforts to save her people, and this agrees with the Gospel according to John. Others would suppose that he speaks of the frequent divine wish in past generations. As a hen gathereth her chickens. This beautiful comparison is the only passage of the Bible, except Matthew 26:34, etc., in which barnyard fowls are expressly mentioned, but see probable allusion in Psalms 17:8, Psalms 91:4, Jeremiah 48:40; compare Deuteronomy 32:11, Psalms 36:7, etc. Wilkinson says they are not represented in the old Egyptian paintings. Yet they are now extremely common in both countries, and must have been so from early times. There was simply no occasion for more frequent reference to them. Proselytes are spoken of in the Talmud (Wun.) as taking shelter under the wings of the Shechinah. How often would I... and ye would not. 'I' and 'ye' are not separately expressed in the Greek, and so cannot be taken as emphatic. The reference here is to the divine wish and not to the divine purpose. God's will of purpose is always carried out; his will of desire often fails, because the free will of men will not yield; compare on Matthew 6:10. Your house is left, present tense, 'is now being left. 'The city', which is the house or dwelling of the people, is now in process of being left desolate, causes are in operation that must have this result.(1) Some think that 'house', means the temple rather than the city. For introduces the proof that this process of leaving them desolate is going on, viz., in the fact that the Messiah who has so often wished to gather and save, is now on the point of turning away. Ye shall not see me henceforth. After the resurrection he was not seen by the people at large, but only by chosen witnesses, Acts 10:40 f. Till ye shall say, viz., at his second coming, of which he will presently speak fully to his disciples (ch. 24 and 25.) At the triumphal entry (ch. 24 and 25) some said this, but the people of Jerusalem in general did not. At the second coming all will sincerely, though some most unwillingly and sadly, recognize him as the Messiah, that cometh in the name of the Lord, Matthew 24:30 f., compare Revelation 1:7, Philippians 2:9-11. From Romans 11:25 ff. we may hope that among those who then joyfully recognize him will be many Jews.
Matthew 23:14. Origen: "Two faults. (1) They do not themselves enter the kingdom. (2) They do not suffer those that are trying to enter. These two sins are naturally inseparable; he Who commits the one cannot refrain from committing the other; he who refrains from the one is sure to refrain from the other also."-What an evil thing it is by our teaching to shut the gate of salvation in men's faces; what a blessed thing to open the gate, and lead men to enter.
Matthew 23:15. False religious teaching is very apt to make the pupils worse than the teacher; (1) more extreme in opinion; (2) more sure they are right; (3) more unhesitating in action; (4) more uncharitable to those who think otherwise.â€”Origen: "To the son of Gehenna, Christ's teaching gives the right to become the child of God." (John 1:12)
Matthew 23:16-22. Discrimination is an indispensable element of sound judgment, in the sphere of thought or of action; but false distinctions are one of the commonest means of self-deception.â€”The fact that oaths wear out is not a reason for inventing new ones, but for refraining from oaths, Save when used on extraordinary occasions and in a reverent spirit; compare on Matthew 5:34.
Matthew 23:17. The Saviour calls these men 'fools,' notwithstanding what he said in Matthew 5:22. He infallibly knows them to be fools, and he says it with perfectly right aims and feelings.
Matthew 23:28. The centre of gravity, even in the Mosaic system, lay in the ethical and not in the ceremonial, and still more is that the case with Christianity; but even apparently slight matters of external observance, if divinely enjoined, should by no means be neglected. Origen applies this to persons who neglect wholesome instruction, and care only for rhetorical ornament; compare 1 Corinthians 1:17.
Matthew 23:24. Blind guides. Chrys.: "For if for a blind man not to think he needs a guide be extreme misery and wretchedness; when he wishes himself to guide others, see to what a gulf it leads."
Matthew 23:25. Scrupulosity in religious ceremonial cannot atone for extortion in business or for indulgence of appetite to excess. Indeed, religious ceremonial is itself unacceptable to God when performed by the immoral 1 Timothy 2:8, Proverbs 15:8, Proverbs 21:27.
Matthew 23:28. Rochefoucauld: "Hypocrisy is a sort of homage that vice pays to virtue." Pollok: "He was a man who stole the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in."
Matthew 23:30 f. It is very easy to condemn severely the misconduct of others, while secretly guilty of essentially the same sin. But "God is not mocked," Galatians 6:7. Henry: "The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears very much in this, that while they go down the stream of the sins of their own day, they fancy they should have swum against the stream of the sins of former days; that if they had had other people's opportunities, they would have improved them more faithfully; if they had been in other people's temptations, they would have resisted them more vigorously; when yet they improve not the opportunities they have, nor resist the temptations they are in."
Matthew 23:32. Filling up the measure. (1) In one sense men are accountable only for their own sins; "the soul that sinneth it shall die," Ezekiel 18:4. (2) Yet all men suffer the consequences of the wrong doing of othersâ€”ancestors, present kindred, rulers, neighbours. (3) Human wickedness goes on increasing in lines of descent or of other relation till there comes a time of reckoning, till the full measure of guilt overflows in destruction. (4) The only escape is in really turning from the sin of wicked ancestors, so as to interrupt the transmission of wickedness and guilt; yea, in turning from all sin to the sin-hating and sin-pardoning God.
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Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 23". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany