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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-14


Matthew 12:0

Contents:—The two Sabbath-day discussions in Galilee. Project against the life of the Lord, and His consequent retirement, to which many of the people follow Him. Healing of the demoniac who was blind and dumb, and accusation of the Pharisees, that Jesus was in league with the devil. Reply about blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Hostile demand of a sign from heaven. Jesus rejoins by pointing to the sign of Jonas, and by warning against the demoniac possession with which the synagogue was threatened. Even the mother and brethren of Jesus now become afraid,—the Lord taking occasion from this to refer to His spiritual and royal generation. In all these great conflicts, Christ manifests Himself as sovereign, higher than the temple and the Sabbath, King of His poor people, Conqueror of the kingdom of Satan—as having consecrated Himself unto death in the anticipation of the glory to come, and as foretelling the judgments that were to befall Israel, as Preacher of repentance to Mary and her sons, and as Founder of the holy kingdom of love, far above all worldly apprehensions or measures of prudence.

1. The twofold offence connected with the Sabbath; or, the Lord of the Temple and of the Sabbath

Matthew 12:1-14

(Comp. Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5.)

1At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day [sabbath] through the corn [grain-fields];1 and his disciples were a hungered [were hungry, or hungered],2 and began to pluck the ears of corn [ears of grain], and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day [sabbath]. 3But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did when he was a hungered [was hungry, or hungered], and they that were with him; 4How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread [the sacred bread of the altar] which was not lawful for him to eat, neither [nor] for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6But I say unto you, That in this place [here] is one greater [a greater]3 than the temple. 7But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless [blameless]. 8For the Son of man is Lord even4 of the sabbath day [sabbath].

(Comp. Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11.)

9And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10And, behold, there was a man which had his hand5 withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days [sabbath]? that they might accuse him. 11And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day [sabbath], will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days [sabbath]. 13Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. 14Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.


Chronological Order.—The journey of Christ through the cities of Galilee—during which He had sent forth His disciples as Apostles, and received the embassy of the Baptist—had closed with His appearance in Jerusalem at the festival of Purim in the year 782 (John 5:0.). The cure which He performed on the Sabbath-day at the pool of Bethesda led the Sanhedrim to determine upon His death. This may be regarded as the turning-point in the history of His public ministry, when the enthusiastic reception He had at first met gave place to continuous persecutions. Henceforth His journeys resembled almost a perpetual flight. From the festival of Purim, Jesus retired into Galilee (John 6:1). When in the vicinity of Tiberias, He learned that the Baptist had in the interval been executed (comp. John 6:1-21 with Matthew 14:0; also Mark 6:14-56; Luke 9:7-17). The Apostles now returned from their embassy. Jesus withdrew from the overtures of Herod to the eastern shore of the lake. First miraculous feeding. Jesus walking on the sea. The manna from heaven, John 6:22-71. The Easter festival of the year of the persecution (John 6:4). During this feast, Jesus probably came to Bethany, but not to Jerusalem (see Luke 10:38). Immediately after that, the events occurred which are related in the text. The charge, that Jesus desecrated the Sabbath, followed Him from Jerusalem to Galilee, whither the Sanhedrim and the synagogue sent their spies.

Matthew 12:1. On the sabbath.—Luke designates this sabbath by the term δευτερόπρωτον. The expression probably refers to the first sabbath of the second festive cycle in the Jewish year. It was probably the first sabbath after the Passover of the year 782.

And began to pluck ears of grain.—The plucking of ears of grain was in itself no crime. According to Deuteronomy 23:25, it was allowed when prompted by the cravings of hunger. The same custom still prevails in Palestine. Robinson, 1:493, 499.—But the Pharisees fastened upon the circumstance that this was done on the sabbath, in order to charge the conduct of the disciples against their Master, as a breach of the fourth commandment. They had evidently received their instructions from Jerusalem, where Jesus had healed the sick man at the pool of Bethesda. His death had been determined upon; and these Pharisees only acted as over-zealous spies. Whenever the disciples commenced to pluck ears of grain (ἥρξαντο), they immediately brought forward their charge. “Traditionalism applied the law of sabbath-observance to all harvest work, among which plucking of ears of grain was also included. Maimonides, Shabb. 8; Lightfoot, and Schöttgen.” Meyer. The only exception was in the case of famine.

Matthew 12:3. Have ye not read? 1 Samuel 21:0.

Matthew 12:4. He entered into the house of God,—i. e., into the tabernacle at Nob.—The twelve loaves of shew-bread, לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים, were not intended as an offering to Jehovah, but symbolized the communion of Jehovah with the priesthood. Accordingly, like the Passover lamb, they were a type of the Lord’s Supper. The candlestick in the temple symbolized the light which Jehovah shed on men through His chosen instruments; the altar of incense, prayer, by which men dedicated themselves to Jehovah; the golden table with the shew-bread, the communion and fellowship of God with man. The basis of all these symbolical ordinances was the altar of sacrifice in the court, and the sprinkling with blood in the temple. The shew-bread was changed every week, and that which was removed from the temple given to the priests. David was the great model of Jewish piety; and yet he went into the house of God, contrary to the commandment, and ate of the consecrated bread.

Matthew 12:5. The priests in the temple profane the sabbath, Numbers 28:9;—i. e., break the outward and general regulations for the sabbath.—Not merely: “consistently with your traditions” (Meyer). This would apply merely to the expression, to break, or profane. The conditional character of the sabbatic law appeared from this, that the enjoyment of the sabbath by the people depended on the regular functions of the sacred priesthood on that day. The first instance adduced required to be supplemented. It only confirmed the lawfulness of similar conduct in case of famine, but not that of doing something on the sabbath which resembled labor. The latter is vindicated by the second example.

Matthew 12:6. A greater (a greater thing, μεῖζον, stronger than μείζων6) than the temple is here.—Comp. John 2:19. The reasoning is as follows: The necessary duties of the temple-service authorize the servants of the temple, the priests, to break the order of the sabbath [according to your false understanding of sabbath profanation]; how much more can He, who is the real temple of God on earth, far elevated above the symbolical temple, authorize His disciples to break the order of the sabbath [as ye call it], in case of necessity. A conclusion a minori ad majus. The whole deportment of the disciples was a continuous service in the temple.

Matthew 12:7. But if ye had known.—Having defended Himself against their attacks, He now turns round upon His opponents. Once more He recalls to their minds the passage in Hosea 6:6; this time applying it to them individually. Had they not just insisted upon sacrifice, instead of that mercy which those who were an hungered might claim at their hands?

Matthew 12:8. For the Son of Man is Lord.—The emphasis rests on the word Lord, which accordingly is placed first in the original.7 The γάρ confirms the judgment, that the disciples were blameless. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.—As being Himself the Divine Rest and the Divine Celebration,8 He is both the principle and the object of the sabbath; He rests in God, and God in Him: hence He is the Mediator of proper sabbath-observance, and the Interpreter of the sabbath law. Even the Jews admitted that the authority of the Messiah was greater than that of the laws of the sabbath. (Berthold, Christol. p. 162 sq.) As the opponents of the Lord now directly attacked His Messianic dignity, He was constrained to meet them on their own ground. They could not but understand the expression, “Son of Man,” in this connection, as referring to the Messiah. Still, it was not His last and official confession. Hence the Pharisees soon afterward tempted Him, asking a sign from heaven. The expression, “Son of Man,” then, refers not to the general right of man in connection with the sabbath (Grotius, Clericus, etc.). Still, it is peculiarly suitable in this connection, especially when taken along with the introductory remark recorded by Mark: for the sabbath has been made for man, not man for the sabbath.9

[Alford: “Since the sabbath was an ordinance instituted for the use and benefit of man,—the Son of Man, who has taken upon Him full and complete Manhood, the great representative and Head of humanity, has this institution under His own power.” Wordsworth: “He calls Himself the Lord of the sabbath—a prophetic intimation cleared up by the event, that the law of the sabbath would be changed, as it has now been under the gospel, not by any alteration in the proportion of time due to God, but in the position of the day; by the transfer of it from the seventh day of the week to the first, in memory of the resurrection of the Son of Man.” D. Brown: “In what sense now is the Son of Man Lord of the sabbath-day? Not surely to abolish it—that surely were a strange lordship, especially just after saying that it was made or instituted (ἐγένετο) for Man—but to own it, to interpret it, to preside over it, and to ennoble it, by merging it in ‘the Lord’s Day’ (Revelation 1:10), breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown before, and thus making it the nearest resemblance to the eternal sabbathism.”—P. S.]

Matthew 12:9. And when He had departed thence.—Luke relates that He had come into the synagogue on another sabbath, probably on that which followed this event. Meyer interprets the μεταβὰς ἐκ εῖθεν as meaning, on the same sabbath, and insists that there is a divergence between the accounts of Matthew and Luke. We only see an absence of details in Matthew, while all the circumstances warrant us in supposing that this Evangelist also meant the following sabbath. This view is strengthened by the mention of the change of place, of the lapse of time, and by the circumstance, that Matthew relates how they had laid a regular plan to entrap Him.

Into their synagogue,—i. e., the synagogue of these very opponents. The place in Galilee is not mentioned; but from the manifest authority of His antagonists, we infer that it must have been one of the principal cities. From Mark 2:6, we might suppose that it had been Tiberias, as the Herodian court-party appeared at the time among His opponents. But we do not read that Jesus had at any period been at Tiberias. Meyer suggests that the scene is laid at Capernaum.

Matthew 12:10. A man with a withered hand.—Comp. 1 Kings 13:4. Probably it was not merely paralyzed in its sinews, but dried up and shrivelled. Comp. Mark and Luke. This person appears to have been an involuntary and unsuspecting instrument of their malice. He is introduced by the Evangelist in the words καὶἰδού. “According to traditionalism, healing was prohibited on the sabbath, excepting in cases where life was in danger.” Meyer, referring to Wetstein and Schöttgen in loc. But it is improbable that this tradition was already settled at that time. The instance adduced by Christ, “What man shall there be among you?” etc., speaks against it. For later traditions also laid down the ordinance, that if a beast fell on the sabbath into a pit, or reservoir for water, it was only lawful to give it necessary food, or straw to lie upon, [or to lay planks] by which it might perhaps also be enabled to come out of the pit. (Maimon. in Shabbath. Sepp, Life of Christ, 2:333.)—Jerome quotes from the Gospel of the Nazarenes, to the effect that the man with the withered hand had been a stonecutter, who entreated Jesus to heal him, that he might no longer be obliged to beg his bread.

Is it lawful?—Properly, if it is lawful; although the εἰ in the New Testament and in the Sept. frequently follows upon direct queries. Still, it indicates doubt or temptation. Meyer supplements mentally, “I should like to know whether.” The meaning of the εἰ would be still stronger, if, while anxious to induce the Lord to heal the man, they had left Him to draw the formal inference. If it is lawful then—(here stands the poor man). Mark and Luke relate how the Pharisees lay in wait for Him.

That they might accuse Him.—Viz., before the local tribunal of the synagogue ( Matthew 5:21), where, as appears from the context, they were the judges. But they expected not merely an answer which would enable them to accuse Him of teaching a violation of the Sabbath, but also an outward act, which they might charge against Him as an actual breach of the fourth commandment.

Matthew 12:11. What man is there among you?—The construction as in Matthew 7:9. Luke introduces this on another occasion in Matthew 13:15, and Matthew 14:5.

Matthew 12:13. And he stretched it forth.—By this act the restored man defied the authority of the Pharisees, and acknowledged that of Christ. Hence it was a signal manifestation of faith, even as the cure, in the midst of such contradiction, was an instance of special power. To stretch forth his hand, was to have it restored.

Matthew 12:14. And held a council.—A formal heresy-suit was to be immediately instituted. According to Mark, they combined for this purpose with the Herodian court-party, which had probably been offended by the recent refusal of Jesus to meet Herod, Luke 9:9. Thus neither the clear arguments of Jesus had convinced them of their error, nor His gracious manifestation awakened in their breast aught but feelings of bitterness. Their murderous purpose was still further stimulated by the admiration of the people, who followed Him in large numbers.


1. Among the offences which the Pharisees took against the work and teaching of the Lord, that of breaking the sabbath stood only next in importance to the unnamed, yet chief stumblingblock in their minds, that He would not be a Messiah according to their own ideas (John 1:29; comp. Matthew 4:0; John 9:30-31; John 10:24). Christ first excited the attention and suspicion of the Jews by His cleansing the temple (John 2:13). What He had said upon that occasion about breaking down the temple, they had perverted and stored up against Him. Henceforth they were filled with suspicion, and narrowly watched Him (John 4:1). Then followed the offence connected with his intercourse with publicans (Matthew 9:0). This was succeeded by His mode of treating their ordinances about the sabbath. His cure of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda had decided them against Him, when the two events recorded in the text completed the excitement. The charge was in the first place brought against the disciples, and then against their Lord. As formerly in Jerusalem, so now in Galilee, His death was resolved upon. The scene recorded in Luke 13:17, which now occurred, probably took place in the country, and hence excited less notice. This was again followed by the second and greatest offence given by Jesus, when He healed the blind man at Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 9:0); an offence which was not obviated by the circumstance, that in connection with this miracle, Jesus made use of the pool of Siloam, on the temple-mount.

From all this it appears, that their offence about the sabbath formed the basis and centre of all their other accusations against Jesus. In view of this, His miracles were represented as resulting from fellowship with Satan; His claim to the Messiahship, as an arrogation of the prophetic office, and a seduction of the people; and His taking the name of “Son of God,” as blasphemy. Objections of less weight, and an interminable catalogue of calumnies, were connected with these charges. But the real stumblingblock of the Pharisees, was that conflict between the spirit and the dead letter, between the gospel and traditionalism, between salvation and unbelief, righteousness and hypocrisy, and holiness and proud self-seeking, which Christ represented and embodied.—It is a striking fact, that the pharisaical hierarchy which had charged the Lord with desecrating the sabbath, was obliged to hold a council on the great Easter-sabbath, to run into the heathen and unclean house of the Gentile Pilate, and then to seal the stone over the tomb of Jesus in the unclean place of a skull.
2. Christ is Lord of the sabbath in the Church and in believers; and the statement, that the sabbath is made for man, is surely all the more applicable to the Lord’s Day. Viewing the fourth commandment as enjoining a day of festive rest, it is as much binding on the Christian Church and on civil society as any other of the ten commandments. But in its true meaning, the Jewish sabbath law was a Divine law of humanity and of protection for man and even for beast (“thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger”), and prepared for the Christian sabbath in the highest sense; which is much more than a law or outward ordinance, it is a Divine-human institution, a new creation and a life in the Spirit. According to this standard, we may test our mode of sabbath-observance, whether or not it correspond to the mind of Christ, and to the spiritual import of His resurrection-day. Every urgent necessity must at once put an end to the outward ordinance; and to discharge such duties, is to establish, not to invalidate, the right observance of the sabbath. Works of necessity are conditioned by compassion and mercy. Christ is Lord of the sabbath, being Himself the personal sabbath: all that leads to Him, and is done in Him, is sabbath observance; all that leads from Him, is sabbath-breaking. Therefore let it be ours to oppose every desecration of the sabbath, in every form and in every sense.10

3. In strict consistency with the view of the Pharisees, who represented the disciples as having done what amounted to harvest labor, it might have been argued, that the priests were engaged on the sabbath in the occupation of butchers and bakers, and this in the temple itself. But what should be said of the Christian minister who would condemn works of necessity and mercy? “The sacrificial services, and the ceremonial law generally, were designed to be subservient to the highest law of love, 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 50:8-14; Psalms 51:17; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13.” Gerlach. Comp. also Isaiah 1:13-14; Isaiah 66:2-3, etc.

4. Christ spares the representatives of traditionalism even while resisting them: He heals the man with the withered hand, merely by His word, not by touching him, nor by taking hold of his hand.


Traditionalism denouncing the Lord as a heretic: 1. The narrative; 2. its eternal import.—How the spirit of traditionalism perverts false worship into antagonism to genuine worship.—The outward ordinances of the sabbath perverted into antagonism to the spiritual principle of the sabbath.—Genuine sabbath-observance.—How does it manifest itself? 1. By the removal of the sabbath interruptions caused by misery and want; 2. in works of mercy and compassion; 3. by transforming the work of the week into spiritual labor and labor of love.

Matthew 12:1-8 : Works of necessity.—True and spurious works of necessity.

Matthew 12:9-14 : Works of love.—True and spurious works of love.—How the teaching, institutions, and history of the Old Testament themselves supply a spiritual interpretation of the letter, Matthew 12:1-8.—How the conduct of legal zealots testifies against their traditions, Matthew 12:9-14.—How hypocrites care more for their ceremonies than for their cattle, and more for their cattle than for their suffering brethren.—We are to be compassionate even to animals.—Even animals should have a share in our festive days.—Christ victorious over His opponents.—Christ the true temple.—Christ the Lord of the sabbath.—Christ leading us to true sabbath-observance.—Sabbath-breaking and desecration of the temple, as appearing in the conduct of the enemies of the Lord when condemning Him to death for an alleged breach of the fourth commandment.—Object of the Lord’s Day, and object of Christian worship.—To convert these means into the object, is to destroy the object itself.—How self-righteous traditionalism hardens itself amidst the most glorious manifestations of Christ,—The Lord’s Day either the most blessed season of spiritual rest, or the most dreary workday.—The Church either the most blessed place of rest, or the most dreary workhouse.—Explanation of the fourth commandment by the life and teaching of the Lord.


Matthew 12:1-8. Quesnel:—It is better to suffer want with Christ than to indulge in earthly luxury.—The preservation of man is more important than any outward ordinance.—Hedinger: Let us remember the glorious liberty of Christianity, which should not be readily surrendered for the yoke of outward ceremonies, Colossians 2:16-20.—It is the common practice of hypocrites to make of trifles a matter of conscience and a sin, while at the same time they are not afraid to commit grievous sins against God.—Those who have zeal without knowledge must be reproved by the word of God.—Works of mercy, of necessity, and for the glory of God are not prohibited on the sabbath day; but let us take care not to make a case of necessity where there is none.—Osiander: Necessity dispenses from observance of the ceremonial law, but not from that of the ten commandments.—True sabbath-observance: rest of the soul from sinful lusts, and dedication of the heart to God.—The Lord of the temple must be sought in the temple.—The real character of all works and pretences to piety should be ascertained.—A diligent exercise of genuine love the most acceptable worship, James 1:27.

Matthew 12:9-14 : Persecution must not deter the servant of God from continuing his work.—Zeisius: Following the example of Christ, we should rejoice in frequenting meetings for religious exercises.

Majus: It is worse than ungodliness to go into the house of God only in order to spy, to lay snares, and to find vent for our malice.

Cramer: The godly are always engaged in a controversy with the world; but at length, they invariably obtain the victory.

Osiander: We must do good to our neighbor, even though we should be evil spoken of on that account by wicked men.—A pair of strong working arms is a great blessing from God.—Determined and wilful enemies of the truth are beyond recovery.—2 Timothy 3:13.

Lisco:—The Pharisees misunderstood the object of the ceremonial law, which was to support and to strengthen the moral law.—The Lord shows by the example of David, that not the letter, but the spirit, of the law was of importance.—Our whole life should be a sabbath devoted to the Lord, a type of the eternal sabbath in the world to come.

Heubner: The disciples were poor; but they preferred to suffer hunger with Christ, rather than enjoy affluence without Him.—Hypocrites are always the most censorious.—Genuine love and esteem for man are the best interpreters of the law.

[Dr. Brown:—How miserable a thing is a slavish adherence to the letter of the Scripture, which usually, the closer it is, occasions only a wider departure from its spirit.—Wordsworth:—In the sabbath of eternity we shall rest from evil, but doing good will be our sabbath itself.—P. S.]


[1] Matthew 12:1.—[Lange: Getreidefeld; Luther: Saat; van Ess: Santfeld. The Greek τὰ σπόριμα from σπείρω means sewn felids grain-fields, corn-fields. In the parallel passages, Mark 2:23 and Luke 6:1, the word is translated in the E. V.: corn-fields.—P. S.]

[2] Matthew 12:1.—[Comp. Matthew 4:2, and the crit. not p.80]

[3] Matthew 12:6.—Codd. B., D., K., M., etc., [also Cod. Sinaiticus] read the neuter μεῖζον, which is therefore better authenticated than the received reading μείζων. [Lange translates: ein Höheres als der Tempel ist hier—something higher, or a greater thing, than the temple is here. Alford and Wordsworth also read μεῖζον, which sustains the parallel better. Comp. Matthew 2:19.—P. S.]

[4] Matthew 12:8.—The καί (even) before τοῦ σαββάτου is wanting in the best authorities [also in Cod. Sinait.], and seems to be borrowed from the parallel passages of Mark and Luke.

[5] Matthew 12:10.—The words of the text, rec.: ἧν τήν before χεῖρα are wanting in B., C, etc., [Cod. Sinait.], and hence doubtful.

[6][Comp. also πλεῖον ̓Ιωνᾶ and πλεῖον Σολομῶνος in Matthew 12:41-42—P. S.]

[7][In German the exact order of the Greek: κύριος γάρ ἐστι τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ�, can be retained, as in Lange’s version: Denn Herr des Sabbats ist der Menschensohn.—P. S.]

[8][Germ.: die persönlichs Gotterche, Gotlesfeier, the personal embodiment or incarnation of the rest and worship of God.—P. S.]

[9][Mark 2:27. A great principle which must regulate the whole sabbath question, and settles both the permanent necessity of the sabbath for the temporal and eternal welfare of man, and the true Christian freedom in its observance. So the family is made for man, i. e., for the benefit of man, and therefore a most benevolent institution, a gracious gift of God. Government is made for man, i. e., it is not an end but a necessary and indispensable means for the protection, development, well-being and happiness of man. If the means be turned into an end, the benefit is lost. I have given my views on the sabbath-question and the merits of the Anglo-American theory and practice as compared with the Continental European, in a little book published by the Am. Tract Society, New York, 1864.—P. S.]

[10] [Dr. J. P. Lange, the author of this Commentary, composed a beautiful hymn on the Sabbath of which I will quote the first stanza:

Stiller, heil’ger Sabbathag,

Wie ein hehrer Glockenschlag
Aus dem Dom der Ewigkeit
T nst du durch’s Gewirr der Zeit

Dass der Mensch aus dem Genichle
Seiner Werks zum Gefühle
Seiness ew’gen Wessns komms
Und bedenic, was ikm fromme.
”—P. S.]

Verses 15-21

2. Royal administration of Christ among the people in His retirement. Matthew 12:15-21

15But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself11 from thence: and great multitudes16[many]12 followed him, and he healed them all; And charged them that they should not make him known: 17That it might be fulfilled13 which was spoken by Esaias 18[Isaiah] the prophet, saying, “Behold my servant [son],14 whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall shew [announce] judgment to the Gentiles. 19He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21And in his name15 shall the Gentiles trust” (Isaiah 42:1-3).


General Survey.—The reference of the Evangelist in this section to the more private activity of the Lord, applies to the whole period of His retirement from the persecutions of the Jewish hierarchy. It commenced at the festival of Purim, in 782, and closed with His public appearance on leaving the wilderness of Ephraim, before the Passover of 783. In the interval, He enjoyed only temporary seasons of rest, especially in Peræa. The following took place during this period: (1) The return over the Sea of Galilee to Gaulonitis, on the occasion of His coming to Galilee from the festival of Purim, when he was informed of the execution of John the Baptist ( Matthew 14:0); (2) a quiet journey through the country during the Easter festival, extending probably as far as Bethany, and return to Galilee (chs. 12 and 13); (3) a journey from Galilee, through the territory of Tyre and Sidon, and the northern highlands, to the eastern and western shores of the Lake of Gennesareth ( Matthew 15:0); (4) the return from Magdala, and over the lake, to the eastern mountains: (5) a secret journey through Galilee and the country, terminating in His sudden appearance at Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles, in the year 782 ( Matthew 16:0; Matthew 17:1-21); (6) the last appearance of Jesus at Capernaum, and journey to Peræa through the country lying between Samaria and Galilee; (7) the first stay of Jesus in Peræa, and going up to Jerusalem to the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple; (8) the second stay in Peræa, and going to Bethany to raise Lazarus; (9) the retirement of Jesus to the wilderness of Ephraim, under the ban of the Sanhedrim, till the last Easter festival. The statement of the Evangelist refers more particularly to this period, although it applies, in general, to the whole life of Jesus.

Matthew 12:15. He healed them all.—By healing their sick, He restored the people generally. Living connection between the healthy and the diseased.

Matthew 12:16. And charged them.—This does not refer to their keeping the place of His residence secret, but to the duty of reserve in publishing His deeds and dignity as the Messiah. He was desirous of arresting for a time an open rupture between His carnal followers and His enemies.

Matthew 12:17. In order that (ἵνα) it might be fulfilled, Isaiah 42:1.—Freely quoted from the original Hebrew. The expression, עֶבֶד יְהוִֹה, servant of Jehovah, in the second portion of the prophecies of Isaiah, must refer to the Messiah. As the idea of a personal Messiah had been clearly expressed in the first portion of these prophecies, the hermeneutical rule here applies, that a biblical doctrine can never pass from a definite to a more indefinite form. The interpretation of the Sept., applying the term to Jacob and Israel, only shows the peculiar Alexandrian tendencies of the translators. Possibly they may have been misled by the expression in Isaiah 8:14, although even there the terms, Jacob and Israel, should be taken in an ideal rather than a literal sense. The Chaldee Paraphrast and Kimchi apply the passage to the Messiah (comp. Isaiah 11:1 sqq.). The prophecy reads as follows: “Behold My servant, whom I establish (place firmly); Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth: I have put My Spirit upon Him; judgment to the nations (Gentiles) shall He bring. He shall not cry, nor be loud (lift up the voice, strain) and He shall not cause His voice to be heard outside (in the street, outside the camp). A bruised reed shall He not break, and the dimly-burning flax shall He not quench: according to truth (unto truth) shall He manifest (bring forth, complete) judgment. He shall not keep back (being wearied) nor (prematurely) break through (רָצַץ, transitive), till He have planted judgment on the earth: and the isles (the uttermost ends of the earth) shall wait for His law.”—This prophecy, then, is a verbal prediction in the strictest sense.16

Matthew 12:18. Judgment.—Decisive final judgment, John 3:36.—To the Gentiles.—The multitudes which follow the Lord, in disregard of the condemnation of the Pharisees, were an emblem of the Gentiles. [Alford: “In these words the majesty of His future glory as the Judge is contrasted with the meekness to be spoken of: ‘And yet He shall not bruise.’ ”—P. S.]

Matthew 12:20. A bruised reed and smoking flax.—An emblem of the people bowed and broken under the load of traditionalism.17 The poor people (or, in general, the poor in spirit, are not to inherit death, despair, and perdition in judgment, but) are to receive from the Lord, both spiritually and physically, a new life.

Till He send forth judgment unto victory [ἐκβάλῃ εἰς νῖκος τὴν κρίσιν, exire jusserit, cause it to issue in victory, so that no further conflict will remain].—An abbreviation and paraphrase of Isaiah 42:3 (לֶאֱמֶת, etc.) and 4 (עַר־יָשִׁים, etc.). The judgment is to be transformed into a victory of truth, or into an absolute victory. This was implied in the expressions used by the prophet, but is brought out more distinctly in the text of the Evangelist. The word ἐκβάλῃ (comp. Matthew 9:38) indicates great power, overcoming all resistance.

Matthew 12:21. In His name.—In the original, לְתוֹרָתוֹ. The Sept. renders it as in Matthew, substituting name for law.18 The name of the Messiah implies the principle, the summary of His doctrine. Meyer: “The Gentiles will trust, on the ground of what His name as the Messiah implies.” This view is supported by the use of the dative, τῷὀνόματι.


1. The breach between the Messiah and His people widens. The King is rejected, and His sufferings approach a crisis. This implied, at the same time, a breach between the enemies and the adherents of Jesus in Israel, which in turn typified that which would ensue between unbelieving Israel and the believing Gentiles.
2. On this occasion, the peculiar manner in which Jesus was to administer His kingly office appeared more clearly than ever before. He might now have manifested Himself as Judge, broken the bruised reed and quenched the smoking flax. But instead of that, He retired, and adopted a more private mode of working, in anticipation of His full and final sufferings. Accordingly, the Evangelist most aptly applies the prediction of Isaiah to this period of retirement; because, while characteristic of the activity of Jesus generally, it referred specially to this year of persecution.
3. Christ fled for His enemies, while He retired from them. His was not the flight of fear. He always addressed Himself only to those who were susceptible—i. e., to those who labored and were heavy laden—not to judge, but to save them.—The time for His final sufferings had not yet come; there was still ample room for active work, although of a more private character. On this ground He now retired, and dwelt chiefly with the poor people, among whom also He displayed the greatest number of His miraculous deliverances.


Christ’s retirement from His enemies a solemn sign,—1. not of fear or weakness; but, 2. of power, of wisdom, of compassion, and of judgment.—The Lord can never want a Church.—Jesus; or, perfect patience amid an impatient world.—The patience and meekness of Jesus as predicted by the prophets.—Christ the Elect of God.—Christ the Root of the elect.—Patience, endurance, and perseverance, the evidence of election.—The Elect the servant of God.—God’s beloved Son His perfect Servant. 1. As Servant, the Redeemer of the world; 2. as Son, the ground and object of the world’s redemption.—Christ the true Friend of the people.—Jesus the Saviour of nations.—The patience and meekness of Christ overcoming the world.

Starke:—Quesnel: It is good sometimes to remain concealed with Christ, whether it be from humility or from necessity.—Jesus Christ above all the Servant of God, and alone worthy to serve Him.—Oh, how lovable is meekness in the servants of Christ! He who loves strife and debate cannot be His.—Zeisius: Christ in the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7-8.—Let our courage never fail, truth must prevail.—Christ the hope, not only of Israel, but of the Gentiles.

Gossner:—It is characteristic of the Lord that He quietly proceeded on His way and accomplished His work without noise and commotion. Many seem to do a great deal and yet accomplish nothing.—If we hold a smoking flax to the fire, it is easily kindled again.

Heubner:—Where there is even a germ of good, there is still hope.—The bruised reed: a soul bowed down under a sense of sin.—Smoking flax: a soul in which a spark of the Divine life is still left.


[11] Matthew 12:15.—[Ἰησ. γνοὺς�ͅησεν: “Jesus knowing” it, i.e. (as Lange inserts in the text in small type), that they sought to destroy His life, “withdrew Himself.”—P. S.]

[12] Matthew 12:15.—Lachmann, on the authority of Cod. B. and the Latin Vulgate, omits ὅχλοι. The omission was probably exegetical, to avoid the appearance of exaggeration in what follows. [Cod. Sinait. sustains Lachmann and, like the Vatican Cod., in Mai’s and in Buttmann’s edition, reads simply πολλοί.—P. S.]

[13] Matthew 12:17.—[This is the proper transl. of ἵνα (or ὅπως) πληρωθῇ. Not: and thus was fulfilled, as Webster and Wilkinson in loc. explain, which is superficial and ungrammatical. ̔Ἴνα is not to be taken ἐκβατικῶς, but τελικῶς; it signifies not simply the result, but the divine purpose and aim. Comp. Meyer on Matthew 1:23, and Lange in the Exeg. note on Matthew 12:17—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 12:18.—The Lord (as also the Sept. in the passage alluded to, Isaiah 42:1) uses the word ὁπαῖς μου, not the more usual ὁδοῦλος μου, for the Hebrew עַבדּי, a significant change, which Dr. Lange overlooks, as he translates: mein Knecht. See Exeg. note on Matthew 12:17, etc.—P. S.]

[15] Matthew 12:21.—[Text. rec.: ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι. But Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth, etc., omit ἐν, on the best critical authorities. Meyer: “ἐν is an addition, as also ἐπί in Euseb. and some minuscule MSS.” This is the only case in the N. T. where ἐλπιζειν is constructed with the simple dative, although it is good Greek (comp. Thucyd iii. 97) and signifies the cause and object of hope. Elsewhere, as in the LXX, the verb is constructed with ἐν, εἱς, or ἐπί.—P. S.]

[16][Dr. Wordsworth calls this quotation, Matthew 12:17-21, a remarkable specimen of the manner in which the Holy Spirit, speaking by the evangelists, deals with the prophecies of the Old Test. in order to interpret them. “Ινα (or ὅπως) πληρωθῇ τὸ δηθεν, is the form used by the evangelists when this process of divine exposition is performed. It is the title of an evangelical targum or paraphrase. For the Hebrew עַבְדִּי, my servant, the Lord does not say ὁδοῦλος μου, my servant (as the Septuagint usually translates, though not in this passage), but ὁπαῖς μου, which admits of a double sense, servant and son (comp. Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30), and suggests the union of the obedience of the servant and the dearness of the son in the person of Christ. In a similar way Wordsworth explains the other modifications of the words of the prophecy here quoted.—P. S.]

[17][A proverbial expression for. “He will not crush the contrite heart, nor extinguish the slightest spark of repentant feeling in the sinner.” Alford.—P. S.]

[18][The LXX renders: ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι, Matthew, according to the true reading: τῷ ὀνόματι, without preposition. Both followed another Hebrew reading: לִשְמוֹ for לְתוֹרֶתוֹ.—P. S.]

Verses 22-45

3. Miraculous healing of a demoniac, blind and dumb. Blasphemous accusation of the Pharisees, that Jesus was in league with Beelzebub; and reply of Christ about the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. The Pharisees seek a sign from heaven; but Jesus promises them a sign from the deep, and announces the impending spiritual doom of an apostate and unbelieving race. Matthew 12:22-45

(Mark 3:20-30; Luke 11:14-26; Luke 11:29-32.)

22Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that [so that, ὥστε] the blind and dumb19 both spake and saw. 23And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this [Is this]20 the Son of David? 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow [man]21 doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub [Beelzebul], the prince of the devils. 25And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26And if Satan cast [casts] out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27And if I by Beelzebub [-l] cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your Judges 2:0; Judges 2:08But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then 29the kingdom of God is come unto you [upon you].22 Or else, how can one enter into a strong man’s23 house, and spoil [take from him, seize upon his]24 his goods [instruments, σκεύη, i. e., here the demoniacs], except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil [plunder] his house. 30He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost [of the Spirit] shall not be forgiven unto men. 32And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost [Spirit], it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world [æon], neither in the world [that which is] to come. 33Either make the tree good, and his [its] fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his [its] fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his [its] fruit. 34O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35A good man out of the good treasure of the heart25 bringeth [sendeth] forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth [sendeth] forth evil things. 36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the dayof judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

38Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered [him],26 saying, Master,we would see a sign from thee. 39But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, butthe sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah the prophet]: 40For as Jonas [Jonah] was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly [belly of the great fish]; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh shall rise in [the, ἐν τῇ] judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because [for]27 they repented at the preaching of Jonas [Jonah]; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [Jonah] is here. 42The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts [the ends] of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. 43When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house28 from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself [him] seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.


Chronological Arrangement.—Luke relates these addresses imperfectly, and in another, but apparently more correct, order. This section manifestly describes the close of the public ministry of Jesus in Galilee, and the open breach between the Lord and the pharisaical party in that province, corresponding to the conflict in Jerusalem, related in chs. 21 and 23. Ch. 24 records a prior event; and the two conflicts in chs. Matthew 15:1 and Matthew 16:1 form only the conclusion of the contest which was now opening. After the festival of Purim, the pharisaical party in Galilee had received instructions from Jerusalem to persecute the Lord. This behest was obeyed, though in a coarser manner than by the chiefs in Jerusalem. The former private accusation, that Jesus was in league with Satan ( Matthew 9:34, comp. Matthew 10:25), was now publicly and boldly brought forward. “The resemblance between this occurrence and that recorded in Matthew 9:32, is not owing to the circumstance that different facts are mixed up (Schneckenburger), nor to a traditionary embellishment of one and the same history (Strauss, de Wette). The two events are in reality different, though analogous. The former demoniac was dumb, while this one is both dumb and blind; which latter circumstance Luke, following a less accurate tradition, does not record.” Meyer.

Matthew 12:22. One possessed with a devil, blind and dumb.—Not blind and dumb by nature, but by demoniac possession. To relieve one so fearfully under the power of the enemy, was the most difficult miracle, especially as the Pharisees watched Him with unbelief and in bitterness of heart.

Matthew 12:23. Is this the Son of David?—The people were here on the point of openly proclaiming Jesus as the Son of David, or the Messiah. But they were prevented by the hierarchical party, who now came forward with their blasphemous accusation.

Matthew 12:24. This (significantly put first)—should it be this one? This one does not cast out devils, etc.29—We have already shown that the term Beelzebul is equivalent to, the prince of the devils; hence the latter expression (ἅρχοντι, without an article) serves as explanation of a name invented by them, probably with reference to Beelzebub, the god of the Philistines.

Matthew 12:26. If Satan casts out Satan.—Meyer rightly argues against the rendering, If one Satan cast out another. “There are many demons, but Satan alone is the chief of them.” Hence the charge implied, that Satan was represented both by the demon who possessed the individual, and by the demoniac exorcist; or, that in reality he cast himself out. In the same sense Christ employs also the simile of a city or a house divided against itself. Not that He denied that discord prevails in the kingdom of darkness; but this does not amount to an absolute breach, or to complete self-negation, which would necessarily lead to immediate annihilation. On the other hand, it is to be observed, that the kingdom of Satan had been of long standing, and hence must possess a certain measure of unity and consistency. The argumentation of Jesus was based on the distinction between this relative and an absolute division in the kingdom of Satan, and not, as de Wette supposes, on transferring the principles of the kingdom of light to that of darkness. Meyer is also right in suggesting, that the supposition of the Pharisees, that Satan might in this instance have damaged his own cause, is refuted by the constant antagonism waged between Christ and the kingdom of darkness. Besides, it deserves notice, that Christ here claimed to cast out, not merely individual demons, but Satan himself.30

Matthew 12:27. Your childreni. e., in a spiritual sense, your disciples, Jewish exorcists, Acts 19:13. Argumentum ex concessis. On the exorcism of the Pharisees, see von Ammon, Leben Jesu, ii. p. 151. “In the schools of the Pharisees, a so-called higher magic was taught, by which demons were to be expelled and drawn out of the noses of persons possessed, by means of certain roots, by exorcism, and by magical formulas, supposed to have been derived from king Solomon.” Comp. Joseph. Ant. viii. 2, 5; De Bello Jud. vii. 6, 2.—It were an entire misunderstanding, with Gerlach, to apply the expression, “your children,” to the disciples of Jesus. Nor is there any ground for apprehending that the authority of the miracles of Jesus might be invalidated by an acknowledgment of Jewish exorcism. Compare the contrast between Moses and the magicians of Egypt.

Matthew 12:28. The kingdom of God is come upon [not: unto] you.—As in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, so here, the term ἕφθασεν must be taken in its full meaning: It has come upon you in a sudden manner, by surprise, and finds you unprepared. The statement also implied that Jesus stood before them as the Messiah. Thus Matthew 12:28 forms a transition from the defensive to the offensive; while the expression, ἐν πνεὐματι Θεοῦ, which refers to the contrast with Beelzebul, serves as introduction to what is afterward said about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:29. Or else, how can one.—This is not merely “another argument,” but at the same time also a more explicit statement of the idea, that, compared to Satan, Jesus was the stronger, or the Lord of the kingdom of heaven.—The strong man (τοῦἰσχυρου), with the article—with special reference to the τίς, who combats him; but also with a view to the fact, that the preceding explanation rendered the figure completely perspicuous. Comp. Isaiah 49:24.—“And take from him his instruments,” σκεύη).—Referring to those who were possessed. [The author, version, “spoil his goods,” gives a different sense.] The casting out of devils implied the binding of the strong man, i. e., a spiritual victory over Satan. No doubt the Lord here alludes to the history of the temptation in Matthew 4:0. At a later period, Christ had, indeed, to enter on another physical, psychical, and spiritual conflict with Satan, when He was assailed by the enemy in connection with the sorrows and the misery of the world. But His former victory over the temptation from the lust of the world, laid the foundation and prepared the way for His later conquest.

Matthew 12:30. He that is not with Me.—The decisive moment of the breach with the opposition in Galilee was approaching. The idea is further carried out in Matthew 21:43-44. On this occasion, however, it was still couched in hypothetical and general language. Still, the alternative here presented evidently applied to the Pharisees and scribes; and any other interpretation overlooks the importance of that decisive moment. (Bengel, Schleiermacher, and Neander apply it to Jewish exorcists; Chrysostom, to Satan, etc.) This is further shown by what follows: wherefore I say unto you; viz., with reference to your blasphemy of My Person, by which your enmity appears. Know then what this enmity implies. In significant contrast the Saviour says in reference to the disciples, Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50. “He that is not against us is for us.” [Alford: I believe Stier is right in regarding it as a saying setting forth to us generally the entire and complete disjunction of the two kingdoms, of Satan and God. There is and can be in the world no middle party; they who are not with Christ are against Him and His work, and as far as in them lies are undoing it.”—P. S.]

Matthew 12:31. All manner of sin and blasphemy.—i. e., Every sin shall be forgiven to men, even to blasphemy in the general sense, provided they do not progress to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but turn from it. Hence, on the supposition of repentance. And thus shall it be in every case—they shall either return, or progress to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The blasphemy which is still capable of being forgiven, is both a species and an aggravation of general sin. De Wette: “βλασφημία, not merely blasphemy against God; but, on the other hand, not simply evil-speaking generally, but defaming of what is holy, as, for example, of Christ, the Sent of God.” In general, the idea of a malicious attack upon a person, whose fame is calumniously injured (βλάπτειν τὴν φήμην), attaches to the term, blasphemy. Hence, defamation of what is good, noble, and holy, on its appearance in the world, with malicious (lying and murderous) intent. Up to this point blasphemy forms the climax of sin, but of sin which may still be forgiven; because, in his fanatical enthusiasm for what he deems noble, good, and holy, a man may overlook and misunderstand even a higher manifestation of it. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. It is open and full opposition to conversion, and hence to forgiveness. The Holy Spirit, who is here spoken of in distinct terms, is the last and highest manifestation of the Spirit of God, who completes and perfects the revelation of God, and in that capacity manifests Himself in the human consciousness. Blasphemously to rebel, in opposition to one’s better knowledge and conscience, against this manifestation and influence of the Holy Spirit, is to commit moral suicide, and to destroy one’s religious and moral susceptibility. In fact, this can never be fully accomplished, on account of the infinite contrast between blasphemy and the Holy Spirit. But the approximation thereto implies impending judgment, which extends far beyond the present world into endless existence. Although blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in its full idea, is infinite, yet blasphemy against the Son of Man, or against Christ in the form of a servant, constitutes an approximation to it. Hence the Lord adds, Matthew 12:22, by way of explanation, as approximating to this sin: Whosoever speaketh a word (in passing) against the Son of Man. The person whom, from prejudice or ignorance, a word of blasphemy may escape against Christ—whom in His form as a servant he may possibly mistake—shall be forgiven; but whosoever speaketh (without the addition, a word)—whosoever speaketh decidedly against the Holy Spirit, etc. In this case, to speak and to blaspheme is identical.—Meyer and other critics maintain that the accusation of the Pharisees, in Matthew 12:24, was an instance of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But theirs was, in the first place, only a blasphemy against the Son of Man, and against the power in which He wrought. In committing this sin, they necessarily approximated blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; but how closely (see John 7:39), our Lord does not express, as appears even from the peculiar warning given them of their danger. In these circumstances, criticism cannot help us in defining the matter more clearly. In the Gospel of Mark, the first statement (about blasphemy) alone is mentioned; in that of Luke, the second (about speaking a word).

Matthew 12:32. Neither in this world; or, rather, in this Æon.—̔Ο αἰὼνοὗτος, עוֹלָם הַזֶּה; όαἰὼν μέλλων, עוֹלָם הַבָּא. See Lightfoot, Wetstein, and others. In the first place, the period before and after Christ’s “appearing”; then, secondarily, the contrast between the one and the other order of things, as based on the old and the new era. It should not be overlooked that His historical advent laid the foundation for His future παρουσία, and consequently that the new æon, like the kingdom of heaven, is already at hand, and unfolding itself in the old, breaking through it and gradually abolishing it. Hence the Jewish theology was not wrong in dating the new æon from the advent of the Messiah; only they were wrong in not making a proper distinction between the suffering and the glorified Messiah.

Matthew 12:33. Either exhibit, present (in the authorized version, make).—The term ποιεῖν cannot refer to “planting,” as we have here an allusion not only to the tree but also to its fruit. It must refer to a mental act, or to a representation, and alludes here to the ποιεῖν of the poets.31 Those who blaspheme are bad and self-contradictory poets. In the strangest manner, they conceive and represent as a poisonous tree (Christ as inspired by Satan) that which only yielded good fruit (casting out of devils). Hence, not in the sense of a declarative judgment—make (Theophylact, Erasmus, Meyer, etc.); least of all with exclusive reference to the Pharisees (Münster, Castellio, de Wette); nor yet as equivalent to vut, or plant, regarding and treating these blasphemies as fruits (Ewald); but in the sense of, to suppose, to represent (Grotius, Fritzsche, etc.). The first tree is manifestly intended as an emblem of Christ; the second, of the Pharisees, who manifested their inward state by their outward fruit, or their blasphemy. For the tree is known by its fruit; comp. Matthew 7:20.

Matthew 12:34. O brood of vipers.—The terms in which the Baptist had from the outset addressed the Pharisees ( Matthew 3:7), are now taken up even by the merciful and compassionate Saviour. The expression γέννή ματα ἐχιδ νῶν is closely allied with the δένδρον σαπρόν. Poisonous plants, and a generation of vipers, were the noxious remnants of pre-Adamic times, and hence served as allegorical figures of satanic evil (which are not to be confounded with the thorns and thistles consequent upon the curse). Hence the first symbol of coming salvation was, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent.—How can ye? etc.—The physical impossibility that a generation of vipers could give forth what was salutary, served as an emblem of the moral impossibility of this moral generation of vipers speaking good things.

For out of the abundance, the overflowing.—But this abundance is not passive; it is organic, and reproducing itself. With this it may be well to connect the biblical idea of περισσεύειν, to develop organically.

Matthew 12:35. Out of the good treasure.—Another figure in which the heart is represented as a spiritual treasury. Each one can only give forth what he finds in his treasury. The expression, heart, implies the sum-total of all the thoughts, words, and works of a man; in short, his entire spiritual possessions.

Matthew 12:36-37. Every idle word.—The term ῥῆμα, in its connection with ἀργόν, meaning morally useless, and at the same time hurtful,—πονηρόν, as some minuscule MSS. read. This judgment according to their words, would not exclude that according to their deeds. From Matthew 25:31, we gather that the actions of the righteous and of the wicked are sealed by their words. A man’s speech, as elucidating, and elucidated by, his life, will serve as a sufficient index of his character in the day of judgment—as Heubner explains it, partly from its wickedness, and partly from its pharisaical severity, which recoils on him who is guilty of it.

Matthew 12:38. Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered.—His opponents felt that, in these statements, Jesus had confronted them in His character as the Messiah, invested with royal and judicial authority. Accordingly, they were constrained either to acknowledge or to reject His claims. In this difficulty, some of them tried to tempt Him; i. e., partly in derision, and partly with a lingering desire after the manifestation of a worldly Messiah, they asked for a sign, by way of accrediting His claims. No doubt they referred to the chiliastic sign from heaven. Thus we notice here the appearance of a new hostile device, which appears in its full proportions in Matthew 16:1, just as that which had first appeared in Matthew 9:34 had now been fully brought out. Gerlach and Lisco suggest that these Pharisees were better inclined, and less opposed to Jesus, than the others. But in our opinion, they were rather the worst among the bad.

Matthew 12:39. An adulterous generation.—Μοιχαλίς. Theophylact: ὠς�ò τοῦ Θεοῦ. Adultery, taken in a spiritual sense, according to the Old Testament idea, equivalent to apostasy or idolatry; Isaiah 23:17. Jesus foreknew that the apostasy of the Pharisees would lead them even to an outward alliance with the heathen in the act of His crucifixion.

There shall no sign be given to it.—Christ considered His miracles as signs, John 11:41. The perfect sign of His Messiahship, however, was His death on the cross, and His resurrection. And as the true Messiah was exactly the opposite of the carnal counterfeit which the Pharisees had drawn for themselves, so was the true and great sign of the Messiah the direct contrary to their carnal and unwarranted clamor for a sign from heaven. This applies especially to the solemn call to repentance which His answer contained. The Pharisees sought a sign from heaven, to confirm and to crown with success their own corrupt views and state: the Lord offered them a sign from the deep of the realm of death, to condemn their hypocritical worldliness. Hence the sign of Jonah; i. e., the sign which had typically appeared in the history of Jonah 2:1.

Matthew 12:40. The belly of the great fish: τοῦ κήτους, דָּג גָּדוֹל.—The expression does not necessarily mean a whale [as the E. V. translates], but any sea-monster. We suppose it was a shark [the white shark, squalus carcharias, also called lamia, which is found to this day in the Mediterranean, sometimes as long as sixty feet.—P. S.] rather than a whale. Heubner relates an instance of a sailor who was swallowed by a shark, and yet preserved.

So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights.—A round number according to the popular mode of Hebrew reckoning, 1 Samuel 30:12; although Christ lay only one day and two nights in the grave.32In the heart of the earth.—1. In the grave. So most interpreters. 2. In hades (Tertullian, Irenæus, etc.).33 Meyer pronounces in favor of the interpretation hades, on the supposition that it is analogous to καρδία τῆς θαλάσσης in Jonah 2:0, which referred to the depths of the sea. Besides, in Luke 23:43, Christ Himself had designated His death as a descent into hades [or rather an entrance into paradise as a part of hades].—But we remark, first, that these two things, the grave and the realm of the dead, cannot be disjoined. Secondly, that the Lord frequently uses the term, “earth,” in reference to the ancient hierarchical and political constitution of the world. Jonah was only buried in the depths of the sea; Christ in that of the ancient earth (the grave and hades), and of the ancient world (its condemnation and contumely). Paulus, Schleiermacher, Neander, and others, apply the expression, “sign of Jonah the prophet” to the preaching and appearance of the Lord. But this view requires no formal refutation. Such could scarcely have been designated as in any specific sense a sign of the prophet Jonah; not to speak of the fact that it ignores the explanation furnished in the Gospel of Matthew itself. We do not deny, however, that the expression may contain some reference to the universal mission of Jonah, which constituted him a type of Christ. Jonah was unwilling to preach to the heathen Ninevites, and was buried in the depths of the sea, which is an emblem of the sea of nations. Jesus designed His gospel for all nations, and was hurled by the Jewish hierarchy into the depth of the earth, and into that of their theocratic and hierarchical condemnation. But Jonah emerged once more to preach repentance to the Gentiles; so Christ also rose to preach the gospel to the nations.—The circumstance, that our Lord repeats this simile in Matthew 16:4, shows that He attached considerable importance to it.

Matthew 12:41. Shall risei. e., as witnesses in the judgment. “So קוּם in Job 16:8.”—“̔Οτι, for; not, because [as in the author version].—This judgment is that of the Lord.

Matthew 12:42. The queen of the south.—See 1 Kings 10:0, and the article Sheba in Winer’s Real Worterb. [and in Calmet’s Diction. of the H. Bible, Taylor’s edit., Lond., p. 815 sqq.]. Sabæa, a district in Arabia Felix. Josephus erroneously represents her as a queen of Ethiopia (Ant. viii. 5, 5). Similarly, modern Abyssinian tradition assigns to her the name of Maqueda, and represents her as a convert to Judaism, and as having had a son by Solomon, whose name was Menilek. The Arabs mention her, under the name of Balkis, among the rulers of Yemen.

Matthew 12:43. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man.—A simile referring to the state of the Jewish nation, with special reference to the casting out of devils, and to the blasphemy of the Pharisees and scribes, which had just taken place. The man set free from the unclean spirit is an emblem of the Jewish nation as under the sway of Pharisaism. Hence the healing represents the blessed and gracious activity of Jesus in Israel.—The unclean spirit who is cast out walketh through dry desert places—deserts being represented as the habitation of devils, Job 30:3; Bar 4:35; Revelation 18:2; Leviticus 16:21. The wilderness, an emblem of their dwelling-place in another world, of their activity, of their desolation and their banishment into desolation.

Matthew 12:44. He findeth the house empty, swept, and garnished.—Not, as de Wette has it, the soul restored, but inviting to the unclean spirit,—not being inhabited by a good spirit.

Matthew 12:45. Seven other spirits more wicked than himself.—This evidently refers to a more full possession by devils,—i. e., to a voluntary and damnable self-surrender to Satan by a wicked life, or to such hardening of unbelief as that of which the Jewish hierarchy and nation were guilty.—And the last state is worse than the first.—Their former low and miserable estate is followed by moral guilt, and a voluntary surrender to the power of evil,—such, alas! as has been manifested in the history of Israel.

From the details of Christ’s dealing with the Pharisees, as recorded by Luke, we derive a clear view of His increasing earnestness and directness in reproving them. What in the beginning He had only said to the disciples in the first Sermon on the Mount, and in His instruction to the Apostles, He now publicly repeated,—partly in the hearing of the Pharisees themselves, and partly in presence of all His professing disciples.


1. “From this and other passages of Scripture ( Matthew 12:26-30), we learn that the kingdom of darkness has also its head, who serves as a centre of connection, combining all the isolated forces into common resistance to Christ and His kingdom.”—Lisco. See Matthew 13:0.

2. The position of the Lord with reference to the Pharisaical party had now reached that stage of decision when each one must choose a distinct part. This was clearly indicated in the solemn statement—He that is not with Me (in this conflict) is against Me (and hence on the side of Satan, against whom the conflict is waged); and he that gathereth not with Me (in the harvest) scattereth abroad (is a destroyer of God’s harvest).

3. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:31-32.—For a full discussion of this subject, we must refer to other works, especially my Leben Jesu, Matthew 2:2, p. 825; my Posit. Dogmatik, p. 453, and the exegetical, dogmatical, and ethical treatise of Phil. Schaff: Die Sünde wider den Heil. Geist, Halle, 1841 (written with reference to the dissertations on the same subject by Grashof, and Gurlitt in the Studien und Kritiken for 1833 and 1834; Tholuck in his Miscellanies, 1839; Nitzsch, System der christlichen Lehre, etc., and with a historical appendix on the terrible end of Francesco Spiera).34 “In all the legislations of antiquity, a distinction was made between inexpiable and expiable transgressions. Blasphemy of the Divine name belonged to the former class. If, therefore, there was anything inexpiable and unpardonable under the New Testament dispensation, blasphemy would naturally be the Old Testament symbol of it. Nor can there be any doubt that the Lord had, in this respect, warned His hearers against the sin of blasphemy; at the same time distinguishing various degrees of it (Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:28; Luke 12:10). More especially do we gather from the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus here intended to define more accurately, or to give a more correct explanation of, the law of Moses, in Leviticus 24:0. In that passage, a punishment was denounced (יְנָשָׂא חֶטְאוֹ) against any blasphemy of the Deity (קִלֵּל אֱלֹהִים), while the punishment of death was awarded to express blasphemy of שֵׁס־י׳. This distinction between simply punishable and absolutely unpardonable blasphemy (κακολογία, 1 Samuel 3:13, Sept.), was explained by the Saviour, in the Gospel of Mark, in the sense that the pardonable, sin consisted in blasphemy against Elohim, while in the Gospel of Matthew, He applied it to blasphemy against the Divine Messenger, or the Son of Man. In both Gospels, however, the unpardonable blasphemy against the name of Jehovah, is further explained as being the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We cannot, therefore, see sufficient ground for the view advocated by Olshausen in his Commentary, that there were three degrees in the sin of blasphemy—that against the Father, that against the Son, and, finally, that against the Holy Spirit.” (Nitzsch, System, etc., p. 200.) The following dogmatical points seem to us of special importance: (1) From its very nature, every sin tends toward blasphemy, and every blasphemy toward blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (2) It is unscriptural to identify blasphemy against the Holy Spirit with sin against the Holy Spirit.[35] This mistake has given rise to much distress of mind, and should be carefully avoided.36 (3) Accordingly, we must reject as unsatisfactory and dangerous the patristic and other specifications of this sin as if it referred to rejection of the gospel (Gnosticism, according to Irenæus), or to denial of the divinity of Christ (Athanasius and Hilarius), or to every mortal sin committed after baptism (Origen), or “duritia cordis usque ad finem hujus vitœ,”—meaning thereby every impenitent death in the judgment of the Church (Augustine), or to the sin of the Pharisees, as recorded in the text (as some modern interpreters have it). (4) A complete commission of this sin can scarcely be conceived, since the Holy Spirit would withdraw His manifestations from the blasphemer; and the latter would be staggered, being unable always to perceive the presence of the Spirit of God. (Hence the view of H. L. Nitzsch the elder is not without a measure of truth: de peccato homini cavendo, quamquam in hominem non cadente. Viteb. 1802.) (5) Still, according to the statement of the Lord, and from the very nature of the thing, a man may approach most closely to this sin, even to the insuring of his own certain condem nation. (6) Consequently, this state must be regarded as a hardening of the mind, which leads to, and manifests itself in, blasphemies. But we cannot agree with Grashof and Tholuck, in regarding this state as pure hatred against what is holy; nor yet with Nitzsch, as decided deadness and complete indifference. We conceive, with Schaff, that these two elements are here combined, since it is impossible to hate the true life without complete deadness, or, on the other hand, to be completely dead to the true life without hating it. (7) It is necessary to bear in mind that, following the example of the Lord, this warning must be cautiously handled. He only employed it at a season of extreme peril, and in the prospect of that sin. Heubner: “The Holy Spirit is referred to in the text more operative than personaliter, as a Divine principle, working on the heart of man in the way of awakening, rousing, and urging them, of all which man is conscious.” Still the complete revelation of the Holy Spirit includes also that of His personal glory; and blasphemy against what is holy is closely allied to blasphemy against the Person of the Spirit. Compare, however, the instructive communications of Heubner, p. 170 sqq., on this question.

4. Neither in this world, nor in the world to come, Matthew 12:32.—De Wette: “The expression is evidently equivalent to never, in the absolute sense, no matter whether we understand the terms ὁ αἰὼν ὁ μέλλων of the kingdom of Messiah and of eternity, or only of the latter. But, in order to deduce from it the eternity of future punishments (Olshausen), we would require to take the words of Jesus in their strict literality, while they are evidently a proverbial expression (see Wetstein). The mild Chrysostom saw nothing in them beyond the idea of highest guilt,—or, perhaps, more correctly, difficulty of amendment.”37—But what if this difficulty were here declared absolute, or amounting to an impossibility? Nor must we lose sight of the fact, that there can be nothing general or unmeaning in a declaration which contains some most important dogmatic distinctions. The following ideas are evidently laid down in it: (1) In every sin there is hope of pardon, except in this,—the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (2) Pardon may be accorded in the world to come, as well as in this world. Comp. 1Pe 3:19; 1 Peter 4:6. (3) There is no pardon either in this world, or in the world to come, for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (4) To blaspheme against the Son of Man, is to approximate to this sin; but in how far and how closely, the Lord does not warrant us to say. (5) The decision as to the amount of difference between the damnable approximation to the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and that sin itself, belongs to God alone, who rules both in this world and in that which is to come. (6) Even an approximation to this sin leads to corresponding punishment in this world. (7) It is of the utmost importance that this sin should be described as one manifesting itself in a completely hardened state of mind, and in analogous outward expressions. This may be popularly explained as follows: God cannot forgive this sin, because it consists in perfect hardening and impenitence; and therefore will He not forgive it. True, such hardening is itself a judgment of God; yet in the sense that its guilt arises from, and depends upon, the moral state of man, and not on any fate or decree connected with time, place, or anything that is external.

[The importance of the subject justifies and demands some remarks, explanatory and cautionary, on the second inference of Dr. Lange from Matthew 12:32, concerning the remission of sins in the future world, since it runs contrary to the old Protestant doctrine, and the prevailing views of the Anglo-American churches.

St. Augustine was the first, I believe, who clearly and decidedly drew this inference from the passage, De Civit. Dei, Matthew 21:24 (Opera ed. Bened. vol. vii. p. 642 sq.): “Sicut etiam facta resurrectione mortuorum non deerunt quibus post pœnas, quas patiuntur spiritus mortuorum, impertiatur misericordia, ut in ignem non mittantur œternum. Neque enim de quibusdam veraciter diceretur, quod non eis remittatur neque in hoc sœculo, neque in futuro (Matthew 12:32), nisi essent quibus, etsi non in isto, tamen remittetur in futuro.” Since that time, this passage, together with 1 Corinthians 3:15 (αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσετα ι, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰπυρός), has been often quoted by fathers, schoolmen, and modern Roman divines, in favor of the doctrine of purgatory, and a probationary state after death. Compare Maldonatus ad loc.: “Cœterum recte Augustinus et Gregorius, Beda, Bernardus, ex hoc loco purgatorium probaverunt,.… colligentes aliqua in futuro sœculo peccata remitti.” Several modern Protestant commentators of Germany, including Olshausen (vol. i. 460, in Kendrick’s edition, who lets it pass without protest), find a similar idea implied in this declaration of our Lord, but they divest it, of course, of the Romish figment of purgatory.

The Roman system, according to the principle extra ecclesiam (Romanam) nulla salus, hopelessly condemns to hell all unbaptized persons, including children, though, of course, with different degrees of punishment, according to the measure of guilt (see Dante’s Inferno), and confines the second probation of purgatory exclusively to imperfect Christians, who are too good for hell and too bad for heaven, and consequently must pass after death through a tedious and painful process of penances and self-purifications before their final entrance into heaven. The modern German Protestant opinion in its evangelical form, starting from the idea of the absolute justice and universal love of God, maintains that Christ will ultimately be revealed to all human beings, and prove to them, according to their faith or unbelief, either a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death; that there is therefore a possibility of pardon and salvation in the state between death and the resurrection for unbaptized children, heathen, and all others who die innocently ignorant of Christ; and that pardon can be obtained there on the same condition as here, viz., repentance and faith in Christ whenever He is presented to them. Some lay the stress on the declaration that all sins are pardonable save one, and conclude, that final condemnation will not take place till after the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which implies a previous knowledge of Christianity. Several Greek fathers, and Luther and Zwingli, likewise, entertained hopeful views concerning the final fate of virtuous heathen.

But the orthodox Protestant divines of England, Scotland, and America almost unanimously reject the whole idea of a probationary state and the possibility of forgiveness after death, and deny that this passage justifies any inference favorable to it. We quote some of the latest commentators on Matthew. Alford: “No sure inference can be drawn from the words οὕτεἐν τῷ μέλλοντι with regard to forgiveness of sins in a future state. … In the most entire silence of Scripture on any such doctrine, every principle of sound interpretation requires that we should hesitate to support it by two difficult passages [1 Peter 3:19; 1 Peter 4:6], in neither of which does the plain construction of the words absolutely require it.” Wordsworth (who in this case omits to quote from his favorite fathers): “Some have hence inferred that sins not forgiven in this world may be forgiven in another. But this inference contradicts the general teaching of Scripture (Luke 16:26; John 9:4; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 9:27). … The phrase taken together signifies nunquam, and is a Hebraism found in the Talmud.” Owen: “The whole expression, ‘neither in this world, neither [nor] in the world to come,’ is beyond all question an emphatic never.” Then he contradicts Olshausen, and adds that the idea of the remission of sins in the other world “is neither taught here, nor in 1 Peter 3:18 [19], and is directly at war with many other passages, expressly declaring the immutability of the soul’s condition beyond the grave.” Nast: “Neither in this world nor the world to come. The Greek word for world is αἰών, age; it was a proverbial expression among the Jews, meaning neither at present nor in future, that is: never, as Mark also expresses it in the parallel passage: ‘He has never forgiveness.’ Most of the modern theologians of Germany infer from this passage that since it is said that the sin or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost alone shall not be forgiven neither in this world nor in the world to come, there is a possibility of pardon for all other sins even in the world to come; that is, that those who die in a state of impenitence, not involving the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, will either proceed in the spirit-world in their downward course, till their sin is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, or that, if they should repent, they may find pardon.” Then, after quoting Alford against this opinion, Dr. Nast adds: “So much is certain, that it would be reckless folly to put off the one thing needful to an uncertain futurity or the state after death, of which the Bible says so little, where the means of grace are, even if not entirely cut off, not as powerful as here; add to this, that the longer conversion is put off the more difficult it becomes.”

At the same time, however, American Protestant divines generally incline to the belief that all infants who die in infancy, whether baptized or not, will be saved by the atonement of Christ. This would involve the salvation of the greater part of the human family, since one half of them are supposed to die in infancy; while the Roman Catholic orthodoxy, by asserting the necessity of baptism for salvation, excludes all the unbaptized from the kingdom of heaven.

A full discussion of the final fate of the countless millions of human beings who live and die without any knowledge of Christ, would require us to take into consideration the various passages which relate to the heathen, Matthew 11:21-24; Matthew 12:41-42; Matthew 15:28; Acts 10:35; Acts 14:16-17; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:11-15; Romans 2:26-29, and to the manifestation of the Logos before His incarnation, John 1:5; John 1:9-10, together with the Old Testament examples of the working of divine grace outside of the covenant of circumcision among such persons as Melchisedek (the priest-king and type of Christ), Jethro, Rahab, Ruth (who are in the genealogy of Christ), Hiram, the Queen of Sheba, Naaman, Job, and the wise men from the East, who, following the star of promise and hope, came to worship the new born king of the Jews; also the passages on Christ’s descent into hades, and preaching to the spirits in prison, Acts 2:27; Act 2:31; 1 Peter 3:19; 1 Peter 4:6, about which, however, there is a wide difference of interpretation.

In these passages carefully compared, as well as in the general Scripture doctrine of the absolute justice and goodness of God, I see much to encourage the charitable hope that God in His infinite mercy will ultimately save, in some way, all infants who die before having committed actual transgression, and such adult heathen as live and die in a frame of mind predisposed to receive the gospel or in an humble and earnest desire after salvation (such as we find, for instance, in Cornelius before the arrival of Peter). But even this is not to be taught as an article of faith, since the Bible, wise in its silence as in its teaching, gives us no explicit revelation on the subject.
The following general propositions on this whole question will probably be approved as sound and scriptural by the majority of evangelical divines, at least in America:
(1) There can be no salvation out of Christ.

(2) There is no second probation after death, but the present life determines the final fate of every man. “In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be” (Ecclesiastes 11:3). “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

(3) We are bound to the ordinary means of grace, but God is free, and “will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy” (Romans 9:15).

(4) God will judge every man according to his measure of light and opportunity, and it will be “more tolerable” for the heathen at the judgmen day than for such as sinned against a positive revelation (comp. Matthew 11:22-26).

(5) God “who is no respecter of persons” comp. Acts 10:35), and is infinitely more just and merciful than we can conceive of, will clear up, in the future world, all the mysteries of Providence in a manner that will call forth the everlasting praise and adoration of His people.—P. S.]38


Opposite effects produced by the glorious manifestations of the Lord, in those who are susceptible, and in those who are opposed to Him: 1. Admiration, indignation; 2. confession, praise—rejection and blasphemy; or, recognition of the power and majesty of God, and reviling of the Divine revelation as the power of Satan.—The healing of one most fully possessed by an unclean spirit, more easy than the recovery of a hypocrite.—It argues a devilish mind to represent as satanic what is Divine.—Marks of the devilish cunning of the wicked: 1. They impute this cunning to the Holy One; 2. they surrender themselves to this cunning; 3. they are ensnared by the cunning of the Evil One without being aware of it.—The wicked artifice which attempts to represent that which is holy as an artifice, is itself the prey of the worst artifice.—Christ victorious over the calumny of His opponents: 1. In His defence; 2. in His justification and manifestation of Himself; 3. in His accusation of the Pharisees; 4. in His warning.—The consequences of sin.—In what sense can Satan be said to have a kingdom?—Christ the Almighty One, who has bound the strong man.—Any power which the Evil One wields here, belongs not to him of right, but is usurped and arrogated.—Unclean spirits envying and grieving at the happiness of man.—Solemn effect on His people in the world, to the last day, of the indignation of Christ, occasioned by the charge, that He carried on His work in conjunction with Satan.—The great hour of decision between Christ and Israel: 1. How awful; 2. how solemn; 3. how glorious.—The watchword of the Lord: For Me, or against Me.—Agreement between these two watchwords: he that is not with Me, etc., and he that is not against us, etc.—It may have been possible not to recognize the Son of Man in the form of a servant, but it is not possible wholly to ignore in our consciousness the Holy Spirit in His glory.—The Holy Spirit glorifies the Son of Man, and makes the cause of Christ His cause.—The sin of prejudice akin to, yet different from, the sin of conscious rejection of what is holy: 1. In its motive; 2. in its consciousness; 3. in its object; 4. in its effects.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. 1. In its source: (a) sin in general; (b) blasphemy in general. 2. In its gradual manifestation: blasphemy of what is divine, of the Son of Man in the form of a servant. 3. In its completion: blasphemy against the highest revelation of God in our consciousness, or against the Spirit of the gospel which had roused the conscience.—A warning figure of that sin in all its fulness, and of complete condemnation.—The sin of the satanic consequence of pride, when man hardens his mind against the Sun of highest revelation, whose rays penetrate into it.—Spiritual suicide, or the sin unto death (1 John 5:0), the end of one of two ways: 1. Of hardening; 2. of apostasy.—How the warning against blasphemy is to be applied by the children of God: 1. Each one is to beware of it; 2. it is not to be imputed to any one; 3. the tendency to judge others would lead to an opposite course of conduct. (For example, the Pharisees have committed it, but we cannot commit it; heretics, etc., but we the orthodox, etc.; those beyond the pale, etc., but we the priests, etc.; our opponents, etc., but we who are in the right, etc.)—Christ is always the same; and the glorious characteristics of the gospel appear even when He speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.—All manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men.

The tree is known by his fruit.—If we cannot condemn the fruit, we should not condemn the tree.—If we cannot praise the fruit, we should not commend the tree.—How men may become a generation of vipers in their relationship toward the kingdom of God.—Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.—A man’s words as indicating his inward state: 1. As being its fruit; 2. as being its spiritual coinage; 3. as being a decisive deed.—The account demanded of every idle word.—How our justification or condemnation may depend on the fugitive texture of our words.—Hypocrisy ever betraying itself by the base coin of its words.—Spiritual forgery the worst, and therefore the most unpardonable, fraud upon the kingdom of Christ.
The demand of a sign from heaven, made on the Lord of heaven, a sign of unbelief and hardening.—The sign of the Messiah from the deep, the highest sign from heaven.—Jonas a type of Christ.—Devout heathens the strongest witnesses against hypocritical Christians.—The queen of the south; or, holy longing in those who inhabit the dark places of the earth.—A greater than Jonah is here, and a greater than Solomon; or, Christ, the man of sorrows and the Lord of glory, in both respects surpassing all others: or, the glory of the New Testament; or, the combined glory of the preaching of repentance and of the doctrine of life, of deed and of word; or, the Lord going to those who are distant, and those who are distant coming to Him.—Hardening, a sevenfold possession.—The hardening of Israel.—Those who are possessed against their will, in a much better condition than those who voluntarily surrender themselves to be the instruments of unclean spirits.—The worst devils are those who pretend to be the most spiritual.—Lamentable condition of an individual, but especially of a nation, which renounces and contravenes its spiritual experiences.—The signs of an evil generation.

Starke:—The tyranny of Satan is great; for he deprives man both of the natural and spiritual gifts bestowed upon him.—Hedinger: Christ came into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8.—Is Satan a king who has a mighty kingdom; then who would not beware of him?—Christ alone is able to destroy the kingdom of Satan, Acts 10:38.—Where the Spirit of God is, there also is the kingdom of God, Romans 14:17.—What concord hath Christ with Belial? 2 Corinthians 6:15Majus: The divinity of the Holy Spirit appears also from this, that the sin against Him is unpardonable, Hebrews 3:10-11.—Osiander: Ministers should speak with caution of the sin against the Son of Man, and of that against the Holy Spirit, lest tender consciences be frightened and cast down.—Quesnel: The resurrection of Christ the greatest miracle, and the seal of His mission, 1 Corinthians 15:16.—The example of the Ninevites.—Canstein: Those who are nearest to the gospel often despise it most; but thereby they condemn themselves, so that they are without excuse, Hebrews 2:2.—Hedinger: Away, false security; though driven out, the devil may return in greater force.—Let him who has escaped take care lest he be ensnared again.—Those who invite the devil to take them, garnish the house of their heart for his reception.—The more frequently man resists the grace of God, the worse does he become, 2 Peter 2:22.

Lisco:—The Ninevites: There only a prophet, but here the Son of God Himself; there only a call to repentance, but here the announcement of mercy, and the gift of grace to repentance; there repentance, here impenitence, and hence the punishment which they escaped by their penitence, Luke 11:32.—The queen of the south: She came from a far country, despite the difficulties in the way, while here they reject what is pressed on their acceptance; yonder longing and faith, here satiety and unbelief; yonder Solomon, here Christ, with His infinite wisdom.

Gerlach:—A man’s words are the evidence on which he is to be tried before God.

Heubner:—One stronger must come, viz., Christ, by whom we can do all things.—Neutrality in matters of religion and of faith, will receive the severest condemnation.—Sin a poison.—The heart and the mouth cannot be separated.—The mouth betrays the heart.—An evil treasure a wretched possession.—A good treasure is inexhaustible.

[Wordsworth (on the sign of Jonah, Matthew 12:39-40):—Here is an observable instance of the uses of the Gospels in confirming the Old Testament. By this specimen of Divine exposition, our Lord suggests the belief, that whatever we may now find in the O. T. difficult to be understood, will one day be explained, and perhaps be seen to be prophetic and typical of the greatest mysteries of the gospel; and that in the mean time it is an exercise of their faith and a trial of their humility,—a divinely-appointed instrument of their moral probation. And it is because they are strange and marvellous, that such histories as those of Jonah and Balaam are the best tests of the strength of our faith.—P. S.]


[19] Matthew 12:22.—1. B., D., [Cod. Sinait.], Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Alford]: τὸν κωφόν, [the dumb]. 2. L., X., D., Syr.: κωφὸν καὶ τυφλόν, [dumb and blind]. 3. Latter Codd., the text. rec., Griesbach, Meyer, [Wordsworth, Stier and Theile, etc.]: τὸν τυφλὸν καὶ κωφόν, [the blind and dumb]. We suppose that in the second place κωφός is used in a more general sense, signifying stupidity.

[20] Matthew 12:23.—[Μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν, etc. Lange, correctly, according to the German idiom: Ist doch dieser nicht etwa? Conant and the revised version of the A. B. Union: Is this, etc. This is the original rendering of the English Version in the editions of 1611 and of 1613, in this passage (though not in John 4:29): Is this the Son of David? But most editions including that of the Am. B. Soc., read: Is not this, etc. A change for the worse. For μήτι or μή, both in the N. T and in classic Greek, always implies some loubt and the expectation or the wish of a negative answer; while οὐ in questions looks to an affirmative answer. witer, Grammatik, 6th ed., p. Matt 453: μή (μ ήτ ι) steht wo eine Vernrinende Ant-wort vorausgesetst oder erwartet wird, doch nicht?. … Der Fragende legt es immer auf eine negative Antwort an und würde nicht überrascht sein, wenn er eine solche erhielte, John 6:33; John 8:22; Matthew 12:23; John 4:29; John 7:26; John 7:35.”—P. S.]

[21]Ver 24.—[Fellow implies contempt, which is not warranted by the use of the demonstrative pronoun οὗτος, either here or in the preceding verse. Howard Crosby (The N. T. with explanatory Notes or Scholia): “Fellow is an unhappy word to introduce here, although it was not so objectionable when our version was formed. There is no word in the Greek, the pronoun ‘this’ standing alone. We may say ‘this one.’ ”—P. S.]

[22] Matthew 12:28.—[Εφθασεν ἐφ̓ ὑμᾶς, which the E. V., in the parallel passage Luke 11:20 renders: the kingdom of God is come upon you. Φθάνειν with the Classics means prœvenire, to precede, anticipate, overtake, and so 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (E. V.: “shall not precenti. e., in the old English sense of prœvenire—them which are asleep”); but in Hellenistic and in modern Greek it means also pervenire, to come hear, to come upon, yet often with the idea of surprise, as here. Wesley and Stier: Is already upon you, i. e., before you looked for it.—P. S.]

[23] Matthew 12:29.—[Lit.: the strong man’s, τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ, with reference to the particular case in hand, but not: the strong one, viz. Satan (Campbell); for the Saviour draws an illustration from common life to show his relation to Satan.—P. S.]

[24] Matthew 12:29.—[According to the true reading ἁρπάσαι, instead of ο͂͂͂͂ιαρπάσαι, which occurs in the following verse.—P. S.]

[25] Matthew 12:35.—The best MSS. [including Cod. Sinait.] omit τῆς καρδίας (of the heart), which seems to be an interpretation.

[26] Matthew 12:38.—The best MSS. [also Cod. Sinait.] add αὐτῷ after ἀπεκριθησαν.

[27] Matthew 12:41.—[A ὅτι is correctly translated in the parallel case Matthew 12:42 : for she came.—P. S.]

[28] Matthew 12:44.—The best authorities favor the emphatic position of into my house at the beginning of the sentence. [The Cod. Sinait. likewise reads: εἰς τὸν οἷκόν μου ἐπιστρέψω. But this does not do as well in English, as in the Greek and German languages.—P. S.]

[29][Meyer: “Μήτι οὗτος, etc. Question of surprise, where the emphasis lies on οὗτος: It can hardly be that this man. who otherwise has not the appearance of the Messiah, should be the Messiah.”—P. S.]

[30][We add the remarks of Trench (Notes on the Miracles of our Lord, 6th ed., p. 59): “There is at first sight a difficulty in the argument which our Saviour draws from the oneness of the kingdom of Satan—namely, that it seems the very idea of this kingdom, that it should be an anarchy, blind rage and hate not merely against God, but each part of it warring against every other part. And this is most deeply true, that hell is as much in arms against itself as against heaven; neither does our Lord deny that in respect of itself that kingdom is infinite contradiction and division: only he asserts that in relation to the kingdom of heaven it is one: there is one life in it and one soul in opposition to that. Just as a nation or kingdom may embrace within itself infinite parties, divisions, discords, jealousies, and heart-burnings; yet if it is to subsist as a nation at all, it must not, as regards other nations, have lost its sense of unity; when it does so, of necessity it falls to pieces and perishes. To the Pharisees He says: ‘This kingdom of evil subsists; by your own confession it does so; it cannot therefore have denied the one condition of its existence, which is, that it should not lend its powers to the overthrowing of itself, that it should not side with its own foes; My words and works declare that i am its foe, it cannot therefore be siding with Me.’ ”—P. S.]

[31]See the well-known beginning of Horace’s Ars pocvica.

[32][St. Jerome: “This is to be explained by a figure of speech called synecdoche, by which a part is put for the whole; not that our Lord was three whole days and three nights in the grave, but part of Friday, part of Sunday, and the whole of Saturday were reckoned as three days.” Meyer: “Jesus war nur einen Tag und zwei Nächte todt. Allein nach populärer Weise (vergl. 1 Samuel 30:12 sq.) sind die Theile des ersten und dritten Tages als ganse Tage gesählt, wozu die darsustellende gegenbildliche Aehnlichkeit mit dem Schicksal des Jonas veranlasste.” Alford: “If it be necessary to make good the three days and nights, it must be done by having recourse to the Jewish method of computing time. In the Jerusalem Talmud (cited by Lightfoot) it is said ‘that a day and night together make up a עוֹנָה (a νυχθήμερον), and that any part of such a period is counted as the whole.’ See Genesis 40:13; Genesis 40:20; 1Sa 30:12-13; 2 Chronicles 10:5; 2 Chronicles 10:12; Hosea 6:2.” Wordsworth: “The days of Christ’s absence from His disciples were shortened in mercy to them as far as was consistent with the fulfilment of the prophecy (?).—P. S.]

[33][So also Theophylact, Bellarmin, Maldonatus, Olshausen, König (Lehre von der Höllenfahrt Christi. 1842, p. 54), Alford. Wordsworth, while D. Brown and all the American commentators of Matthew, A. Barnes, J. A. Alexander, Owen, Whedon (Jacobus’ Notes I have not at hand), understand the heart of the earth to mean simply the grave. But hades agrees better with the parallel of the belly of the sea-monster, than the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which was on the surface of the earth rather than in the heart thereof; secondly, Jonah himself calls the belly of the sea-monster בֶּטֶז שְׁאזֹל, LXX: ἐκ κοιλίας ᾅδου, “out of the belly of hades” (not hell as in the E. V.), Jonah 2:3 (2); and finally, there should be no more dispute now as to Christ’s actual descent into hades, see Luke 23:43; Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31 (Greek text); Ephesians 4:9; 1 Peter 3:19. But no doctrinal statements concerning the locality of hades can be justly derived from such popular expressions, which must necessarily adapt themselves to our imperfect finite conceptions.—P. S.]

[34][Comp. also Julius Müller: Die christliche Lehre con der Sünde, 3d ed., in the latter part of the second volume. An English translation of this profound and important work by Wm. Pulsford (The Christian Doctrine of Sin exhibited) appeared at Edinburgh, 1852, as a part of Clark’s Foreign Library.—P. S.]

[35][In the wider sense every sin of the believer who has experienced the power and influence of the Holy Spirit, may be called a sin against the Holy Spirit, although far from approaching the nature and guilt of blasphemy. The Scripture speaks of quenching the Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:19, grieving the Holy Spirit of God, Ephesians 4:30, resisting the same, Acts 7:51, and vexing him, Isaiah 63:10; but all these sins are still within the reach of pardon. M. Henry: “It is not all speaking against the person or essence of the Holy Spirit, or some of His more private operations, or merely the resisting of His internal working in the sinner himself, that is here meant; for who then should be saved?”—P. S.]

[36]The common reply to such doubts is well known. It is to the effect, that he who is guilty of the sin against the Holy Spirit would not feel sorrow for it; and that the fact of such sorrow is itself an evidence that this sin has not been committed. [So also M. Henry in loc.: “We have reason to think, that none are guilty of this sin, who believe that Christ is the Son of God, and sincerely desire to have part in His merit and mercy: and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not.”—P. S.]

[37][In the same way even Wordsworth weakens the force of οὐκ�: “is very unlikely to obtain forgiveness.” He quotes from Augustine, Retract. Matthew 1:9 : “De nullo quamvis pessimo in hac vita desperandum est.” This is true enough, because we never know whether a man has committed the unpardonable sin, and we must go on the assumption that he has not. The only hopeless case was that of Judas after Christ Himself with His infallible knowledge had called him the son of perdition, for whom it were better never to have been born. Meyer (p. 268. note) correctly observes: “The eternity of punishment here taught is not to be explained away and changed into ‘difficulty of amendment’ (de Wette), or reduced to the milder conception of the highest degree of guilt (Chrysostom), or greatest difficulty of forgiveness (Socinians), and such like.” Whrdon: “It is difficult to say in what words the eternity of retribution could be more unequivocally expressed.”—P. S.]

[38][This annotation of the Am. editor was partly rewritten (Febr. 1865) for the third edition, with a view to make it more clear and explicit.—P. S.]

Verses 46-50

4. Even the mother and the brethren of Jesus now hesitate. But this hesitation affords the Lord an opportunity of calling attention to His spiritual and royal generation, in which they also were included. Matthew 12:46-50

(Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21)

46While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother39 and his brethren [brothers] stood [were standing] without, desiring [seeking]40 to speak with him. 47Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren [brothers] stand without, desiring 48[seeking] to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren [brothers]? 49And he stretched forth his hand toward [upon, ἐπί] his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which [who] is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.


Matthew 12:46. While He yet talked to the people (multitudes,ὄχλοις), etc.—The transaction probably occurred at Capernaum, in some public place near to a synagogue (Mark 3:20-21). The words, they were standing without, only imply that the Lord was surrounded by a dense crowd of people, and that His mother and brothers stood outside of it. But it clearly shows that Christ was not in a house. His mother and His brothers now appear, seeking in vain to speak to Him. The event is more fully recorded in the Gospel according to Mark. The occasion was as follows: The news spread through Capernaum with great rapidity, that Jesus had, in presence of all the people, broken with the pharisaical party; that He had been condemned by His enemies, against whom He had denounced the most awful judgments, and who were now encompassing His death. The crowd of heartless, worldly-wise politicians would add, in the complacency of their own wisdom, that it was madness to risk such a conflict. Probably it was soon suggested that He must be beside Himself. These reports would speedily reach His family, and alarm them not a little. We may assume that they were now really staggered as to His position, and that they really believed that He was beside Himself, and that it was their duty to prevent further exposures (Olshausen). But in that case, their state of mind were deplorable indeed. On the other hand, however, we may also assume that from prudential motives they pretended to credit the popular rumor, in order, under this pretext, to withdraw Him from a danger which in their judgment He did not sufficiently appreciate. In our opinion, there are sufficient grounds for adopting the latter view. They do not press through the crowd, nor lay violent hands on Him; they send a respectful message, and patiently await His answer. Besides, we find that some time afterward the brothers of Jesus are not of opinion that He should not work at all, but rather ask Him to transfer the scene of His operations from Galilee to Judea, and openly to come forward before all the world (John 7:1, etc.). In this light the conduct of His family must be viewed. Their unbelief consists not in doubting Him, but in imagining that it was theirs to preserve and direct Him by their worldly policy. Meyer is therefore mistaken when he maintains that the mother of Jesus was, at the time, not decided in her faith. Such instances as the later suggestion of His brothers (John 7:1), the history of Peter (Matthew 16:23), that of Thomas (John 20:0), nay, that of all the disciples, prove that during the period of spiritual development prior to the Feast of Pentecost, there were seasons when even believers might for a time be unbelieving, i. e., self-willed, and deficient in the spirit of full surrender to Christ. The announcement of the mother of Jesus led to that exclamation of a woman in the crowd recorded in Luke 11:27. Manifestly the circumstances are identical—in both cases we have the simile about this generation, and the demand of a sign. When, by His reply, Who is My mother? Christ had overcome the temptation from that source, He was invited by one of the Pharisees, as stated in Luke 11:37. The situation is explained in the Gospel of Mark. The crowd was so great, that there was no leisure so much as to eat bread (Luke 3:20); or, as we understand it, quietly to return to His home. A Pharisee, whose house was close at hand, took occasion to invite the Lord,—no doubt with a malicious purpose. No sooner had Christ sat down, than the Pharisee immediately reproached Him with omitting the customary washings. Probably the Pharisees present at the meal were desirous of employing this opportunity for their wicked devices against the Saviour. But the Lord addressed them in language of even more solemn and conclusive warning (Luke 11:39)—the main ideas being afterward further developed and applied in His last address to the Pharisees at Jerusalem. In the midst of these machinations of His enemies, vast multitudes of people gather around ( Matthew 12:1); Jesus is soon restored to His disciples; He continues His warning address against the Pharisees; and having refused a request to settle a dispute about an inheritance ( Matthew 12:13), He betakes Himself to the shore of the lake, where He delivers (at least some of) His parables concerning the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:0).

Matthew 12:47. Thy mother and thy brothers.—Meyer holds that the latter expression implies that they were His uterine brothers; but an analogous argument might be derived from the term, father, in Luke 2:48. The only legitimate inference from the Jewish use of language is, that they were His legal brothers, no matter whether they were uterine or merely adoptive brothers. For the arguments in favor of the latter view, we refer to the article Jacobus, in Herzog’s Real Encyclop.41

Matthew 12:49. Upon (ἐπί) His disciples.—Here the disciples in the wider sense. Jesus here places spiritual above carnal ties. His relatives are set aside, in as far as, for the moment, they had turned from the obedience of discipleship; but they are included, in as far as, by grace, they are enabled to stand fast in this temptation. Thus the Lord guards His position, the sanctity of His calling, and the holy effect of this grand moment, which would have been destroyed by worldly prudence. At the same time, He also watches over the faith of His mother and of His disciples, and gives a living example how everything else is to be subordinate to the Divine calling. Bengel: Non spernit matrem, sed anteponit patrem.—There is nothing in the text to warrant the supposition of Ebrard, that the announcement of His mother and brothers was made use of by some cunning enemies, in order to interrupt His denunciations; nor in that of Meyer, that in all probability Jesus did not admit them to His presence. But the latter critic is right in controverting the idea of Chrysostom, that this message was a piece of ostentation on the part of the relatives of Jesus. Lisco: Perhaps the presence of His family was announced for the purpose of showing that one who had such humble relatives could not be the Messiah. But we see nothing to warrant this view. Besides, the announcement was made at the request of the mother of Jesus.

Matthew 12:50. [The same is my brother, and sister, and mother.—Note, that Christ does not introduce the term, father, since he had no human father. A hint of the mystery of the supernatural conception.—P. S.]


1. With the position here assigned to the mother of Jesus, we may contrast the decree of Pope Pius IX., a. d. 1854, about the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Like John the Baptist, she wavered—no doubt, partly from unbounded love to her Son; but, like him, she was upheld by the strong hand of Jesus. [Alford: “All these characteristics of the mother of our Lord are deeply interesting, both in themselves, and as building up, when put together, the most decisive testimony against the fearful superstition which has assigned to her the place of a goddess in the Romish mythology. Great and inconceivable as the honor of that meek and holy woman was, we find her repeatedly (see John 2:4) the object of rebuke from her divine Son, and hear Him here declaring, that it is one which the humblest believer in Him has in common with her.”—P. S.]

2. Gregory the Great: To announce the gospel is, so to speak, to become the mother of the Lord; for thus we bear Him anew. Comp. especially Revelation 12:2. The Church, as bearing Christ. Every Christian, as priest, declaring Christ and bearing Him, figuratively the mother of Christ; as following Him, and manifesting the same mind, His brother; as receiving and receptive, His sister. But we must not press the symbolical interpretation. The terms, mother, brother, sister, signify the nearest relatives, the members of the spiritual family of Christ.

[Pope Gregory says (Moral, in Evang.); “Qui Christi frater est credendo, mater efficitur prœdican do; quasi enim parit eum quern in corde audientis in fuderit.” Compare also the remarks of Chrysostom: “How many women have blessed that holy virgin and her womb, and have desired to be such a mother as she was! What hinders them? Christ has made for us a wide way to this happiness: and not only women, but men may tread it; the way of obedience, this is it which makes such a mother—not the throes of parturition.” Wordsworth: “There is but one true nobility, that of obedience to God. This is greater than that of the Virgin’s relationship to Christ” Matthew Henry: “All obedient believers are near akin to Jesus Christ. They wear His name, bear His image, have His nature, are of His family. He loves them, converses freely with them as his relations. He bids them welcome to His table, takes care of them, provides for them, sees that they want nothing that is fit for them; when He died, He left them rich legacies; now He is in heaven, He keeps up a correspondence with them, and will have them all to be with Him at last, and will in nothing fail to do the kinsman’s part, nor will ever be ashamed of His poor relations, but will confess them before men, before the angels, and before His Father.”—P. S.]


Let us never imagine that we can preserve the cause of God by worldly policy.—Sad state of mind of those who fancy they must preserve the cause of God by worldly artifices or other worldly means (the staying of the ark, etc.).—The chosen handmaid wavering in the hour of temptation.—Wherein the natural kindred of Jesus differ from His spiritual family. 1. According to His human descent, He springs from the former; according to His Divine dignity and mission, the latter springs from Him. 2. The former may misunderstand Him; the latter is founded in knowledge of His glory. 3. The former was saved, as belonging to the latter; while the latter occupies a place of equal intimacy and affection with the former.—The Holy Family of Jesus.—Meekness of Jesus, in that He is willing to be born in the children of His Spirit.—He that doeth the will of My Father, etc.; or, the servant of God, Christ’s kinsman.—Jesus the Saviour of Mary,—the Saviour of all the elect.—The Mighty One, who upholdeth all the wavering heroes of God.

Starke:—Friends and relatives are ofttimes in needless anxiety about those near and dear to them.—Public duty must always take precedence of domestic obligations.—We must not be detained or hindered by intercourse even with our best friends.—Hedinger:—We know not Christ after the flesh.—Cramer: By faith we are as closely related to Christ as if we were of His kindred.—Osiander: Man’s highest nobility consists in having been born of God, and being the friend of Christ, 2 Peter 1:4.

Gerlach:—The bonds of earthly affection must be renounced, if they stand in the way of the progress of the kingdom of God.

Heubner:—Care for relatives and nepotism have made more than one Eli, 1 Samuel 3:13.—Behold how wide the heart of Jesus is!


[39] Matthew 12:46.—[The E. Versions, from Wielif’s down to the Authorized, render ἀδελφοί: brethren, even where it signifies natural relationship, as here, Matthew 1:2 (Judah and his brethren); Matthew 1:11; Matthew 4:18; Matthew 13:55, and many other passages, so that the term brothers nowhere occurs in our Engl. Bible. But present usage confines the word brethren to moral and spiritual relationship. Worcester: “The word brothers denotes persons of the same family; the word brethren persons of the same society; but the latter is now little used, except in theology or in the solemn style.”—P. S.]

[40] Matthew 12:46.—[Ζητοῦντες. Lange adds in small type: with vain effort. Comp. Luke 8:19, who says, they “could not come at him for the press.”—P. S.]

[41][There are not two, but three different views on the four brothers of Christ, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (sisters also are mentioned, Matthew 13:56); 1. children of Joseph by a former marriage, and hence older half-brothers of Jesus. So the oldest Greek tradition. 2, children of Joseph and Mary, and hence younger full-brothers of Jesus. So Tertullian, Helvidius (who already produced Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:24-25; Luke 2:7, and other arguments in favor of this view, but was violently assailed by Jerome (see my History of the Christian Church, vol. ii., p. 231), and a number of modern Protestant divines, as Herder, Stier, Neander, Winer, etc; 3. children of a sister of the Virgin Mary, and hence only cousins of Jesus. So Jorome, the Roman Catholic and many Protestant commentators, among whom are Olshausen and Lange. The brothers of Jesus are mentioned in the following passages: Matthew 12:46 (comp. Mark 2:31; Luke 8:19); Matthew 13:55-56 (Mark 6:8): John 2:12; John 7:8; John 7:5; John 7:10; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5. I have discussed this difficult subject at length in my book on James, the brother of our Lord, Berlin, 1842. Comp. on the literature Winer sub Jesus and sub Jacobus, Meyer ad Matthew 12:46 (p. 275), and my Exeget, Note on Matthew 13:55 below.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/matthew-12.html. 1857-84.
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