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Thursday, September 21st, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 8

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 2

If thou wilt (εαν θεληις). The leper knew that Jesus had the power to heal him. His doubt was about his willingness. "Men more easily believe in miraculous power than in miraculous love" (Bruce). This is a condition of the third class (undetermined, but with prospect of being determined), a hopeful doubt at any rate. Jesus accepted his challenge by "I will." The command to "tell no one" was to suppress excitement and prevent hostility.

Verse 5

Unto him (αυτω). Dative in spite of the genitive absolute εισελθοντος αυτου as in verse Matthew 8:1, a not infrequent Greek idiom, especially in the koine.

Verse 6

Grievously tormented (δεινως βασανιζομενος). Participle present passive from root βασανος (see on Matthew 4:24). The boy (παις), slave (δουλος, Luke 7:2), was a bedridden (βεβλητα, perfect passive indicative of βαλλω) paralytic.

Verse 7

I will come and heal him (εγω ελθων θεραπευσω αυτον). Future indicative, not deliberative subjunctive in question (McNeile). The word here for heal (θεραπευσω) means first to serve, give medical attention, then cure, restore to health. The centurion uses the more definite word for healing (ιαθησετα Matthew 8:8) as Matthew does in Matthew 8:13 (ιαθη). Luke (Luke 9:11), like a physician, says that Jesus healed (ιατο) those in need of treatment (θεραπειας), but the distinction is not always observed. In Acts 28:8 Luke uses ιασατο of the miraculous healings in Malta by Paul while he employs εθεραπευοντο (Acts 28:9) apparently of the practice of Luke the physician (so W. M. Ramsay). Matthew represents the centurion himself as speaking to Jesus while Luke has it that two committees from the centurion brought the messages, apparently a more detailed narrative. What one does through others he does himself as Pilate "scourged Jesus" (had him scourged).

Verse 9

For I also am a man under authority (κα γαρ εγω ανθρωπος υπο εξουσιαν). "Also" is in the text, though the κα here may mean "even," even I in my subordinate position have soldiers under me. As a military man he had learned obedience to his superiors and so expected obedience to his commands, instant obedience (aorist imperatives and aoristic present indicatives). Hence his faith in Christ's power over the illness of the boy even without coming. Jesus had only to speak with a word (Matthew 8:8), say the word, and it would be done.

Verse 10

So great faith (τοσαυτην πιστιν). In a Roman centurion and greater than in any of the Jews. In like manner Jesus marvelled at the great faith of the Canaanitish woman (Matthew 15:28).

Verse 11

Sit down (ανακλιθησοντα). Recline at table on couches as Jews and Romans did. Hence Leonardo da Vinci's famous picture of the Last Supper is an anachronism with all seated at table in modern style.

Verse 12

The sons of the kingdom (ο υιο της βασιλειας). A favourite Hebrew idiom like "son of hell" (Matthew 23:15), "sons of this age" (Luke 16:8). The Jews felt that they had a natural right to the privileges of the kingdom because of descent from Abraham (Matthew 3:9). But mere natural birth did not bring spiritual sonship as the Baptist had taught before Jesus did.

Into the outer darkness (εις το σκοτος το εξωτερον). Comparative adjective like our "further out," the darkness outside the limits of the lighted palace, one of the figures for hell or punishment (Matthew 23:13; Matthew 25:30). The repeated article makes it bolder and more impressive, "the darkness the outside," there where the wailing and gnashing of teeth is heard in the thick blackness of night.

Verse 14

Lying sick of a fever (βιβλημενην κα πυρεσσουσαν). Two participles, bedridden (perfect passive of βαλλω) and burning with fever (present active). How long the fever had had her we have no means of knowing, possibly a sudden and severe attack (Mark 1:30), as they tell Jesus about her on reaching the house of Peter. We are not told what kind of fever it was. Fever itself was considered a disease. "Fever" is from German feuer (fire) like the Greek πυρ.

Verse 15

Touched her hand (ηψατο της χειρος αυτης). In loving sympathy as the Great Physician and like any good doctor today.

Ministered (διηκονε). "Began to minister" (conative imperfect) at once to Jesus at table in gratitude and love.

Verse 16

When even was come (οψιας γενομενης). Genitive absolute. A beautiful sunset scene at the close of the Sabbath day (Mark 1:21). Then the crowds came as Jesus stood in the door of Peter's house (Mark 1:33; Matthew 8:14) as all the city gathered there with the sick, "all those who had it bad" (see on Matthew 4:24) and he healed them "with a word" (λογω). It was a never to be forgotten memory for those who saw it.

Verse 17

Himself took our infirmities and bare our diseases (αυτος τας ασθενειας ελαβεν κα τας νοσους εβαστασεν). A quotation from Isaiah 53:4. It is not clear in what sense Matthew applies the words in Isaiah whether in the precise sense of the Hebrew or in an independent manner. Moffatt translates it: "He took away our sicknesses, and bore the burden of our diseases." Goodspeed puts it: "He took our sickness and carried away our diseases." Deissmann (Bible Studies, pp. 102f.) thinks that Matthew has made a free interpretation of the Hebrew, has discarded the translation of the Septuagint, and has transposed the two Hebrew verbs so that Matthew means: "He took upon himself our pains, and bore our diseases." Plummer holds that "It is impossible, and also unnecessary, to understand what the Evangelist understood by 'took ' (ελαβεν) and 'bare' (εβαστασεν). It at least must mean that Christ removed their sufferings from the sufferers. He can hardly have meant that the diseases were transferred to Christ." Βασταζω occurs freely in the papyri with the sense of lift, carry, endure, carry away (the commonest meaning, Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary), pilfer. In Matthew 3:11 we have the common vernacular use to take off sandals. The Attic Greek did not use it in the sense of carrying off. "This passage is the cornerstone of the faith-cure theory, which claims that the atonement of Christ includes provision for bodily no less than for spiritual healing, and therefore insists on translating 'took away'" (Vincent). We have seen that the word βασταζω will possibly allow that meaning, but I agree with McNeile: "The passage, as Mt. employs it, has no bearing on the doctrine of the atonement." But Jesus does show his sympathy with us. "Christ's sympathy with the sufferers was so intense that he really felt their weaknesses and pains." In our burdens Jesus steps under the load with us and helps us to carry on.

Verse 19

A scribe (εις γραμματευς). One (εις)="a," indefinite article. Already a disciple as shown by "another of the disciples" (ετερος των μαθητων) in Matthew 8:21. He calls Jesus "Teacher" (διδασκαλε), but he seems to be a "bumptious" brother full of self-confidence and self-complacency. "Even one of that most unimpressionable class, in spirit and tendency utterly opposed to the ways of Jesus" (Bruce). Yet Jesus deals gently with him.

Verse 20

Holes (φωλεους). A lurking hole, burrow.

Nests (κατασκηνωσεις). "Roosts, i.e. leafy, σκηνα for settling at night (tabernacula, habitacula), not nests" (McNeile). In the Septuagint it is used of God tabernacling in the Sanctuary. The verb (κατασκηνοω) is there used of birds (Psalms 103:12).

The Son of man (θο υιος του ανθρωπου). This remarkable expression, applied to himself by Jesus so often, appears here for the first time. There is a considerable modern literature devoted to it. "It means much for the Speaker, who has chosen it deliberately, in connection with private reflections, at whose nature we can only guess, by study of the many occasions on which the name is used" (Bruce). Often it means the Representative Man. It may sometimes stand for the Aramaic barnasha, the man, but in most instances that idea will not suit. Jesus uses it as a concealed Messianic title. It is possible that this scribe would not understand the phrase at all. Bruce thinks that here Jesus means "the unprivileged Man," worse off than the foxes and the birds. Jesus spoke Greek as well as Aramaic. It is inconceivable that the Gospels should never call Jesus "the Son of man" and always credit it to him as his own words if he did not so term himself, about eighty times in all, thirty-three in Matthew. Jesus in his early ministry, except at the very start in Matthew 8:4, abstains from calling himself Messiah. This term suited his purpose exactly to get the people used to his special claim as Messiah when he is ready to make it openly.

Verse 21

And bury my father (κα θαψα τον πατερα μου). The first man was an enthusiast. This one is overcautious. It is by no means certain that the father was dead. Tobit urged his son Tobias to be sure to bury him: "Son, when I am dead, bury me" (Tobit 4:3). The probability is that this disciple means that, after his father is dead and buried, he will then be free to follow Jesus. "At the present day, an Oriental, with his father sitting by his side, has been known to say respecting his future projects: 'But I must first bury my father!'" (Plummer). Jesus wanted first things first. But even if his father was not actually dead, service to Christ comes first.

Verse 22

Leave the dead to bury their own dead (αφες τους νεκρους θαψα τους εαυτων νεκρους). The spiritually dead are always on hand to bury the physically dead, if one's real duty is with Jesus. Chrysostom says that, while it is a good deed to bury the dead, it is a better one to preach Christ.

Verse 24

But he was asleep (αυτος δε εκαθευδεν). Imperfect, was sleeping. Picturesque scene. The Sea of Galilee is 680 feet below the Mediterranean Sea. These sudden squalls come down from the summit of Hermon with terrific force (σεισμος μεγας) like an earthquake. Mark (Mark 4:37) and Luke (Luke 8:23) term it a whirlwind (λαιλαπς) in furious gusts.

Verse 25

Save, Lord; we perish (Κυριε, σωσον, απολλυμεθα). More exactly, "Lord, save us at once (aorist), we are perishing (present linear)."

Verse 27

Even the winds and the sea obey him (Κα ο ανημο κα η θαλασσα αυτω υπακουουσιν). A nature miracle. Even a sudden drop in the wind would not at once calm the sea. "J. Weiss explains that by 'an astonishing coincidence' the storm happened to lull at the moment that Jesus spoke!" (McNeile). Some minds are easily satisfied by their own stupidities.

Verse 28

The country of the Gadarenes (τεν χωραν των Γαδαρηνων). This is the correct text in Matthew while in Mark 5:1 and Luke 8:26 it is "the country of the Gerasenes." Dr. Thomson discovered by the lake the ruins of Khersa (Gerasa). This village is in the district of the city of Gadara some miles southeastward so that it can be called after Gerasa or Gadara. So Matthew speaks of "two demoniacs" while Mark and Luke mention only one, the leading one. "The tombs " (των μνημειων) were chambers cut into the mountain side common enough in Palestine then and now. On the eastern side of the lake the precipitous cliffs are of limestone formation and full of caves. It is one of the proofs that one is a maniac that he haunts the tombs. People shunned the region as dangerous because of the madmen.

Verse 29

Thou Son of God (υιε του θεου). The recognition of Jesus by the demons is surprising. The whole subject of demonology is difficult. Some hold that it is merely the ancient way of describing disease. But that does not explain the situation here. Jesus is represented as treating the demons as real existences separate from the human personality. Missionaries in China today claim that they have seen demons cast out. The devil knew Jesus clearly and it is not strange that Jesus was recognized by the devil's agents. They know that there is nothing in common between them and the Son of God (ημιν κα σο, ethical dative) and they fear torment "before the time" (προ καιρου). Usually τα δαιμονια is the word in the New Testament for demons, but in Matthew 8:31 we have ο δαιμονες (the only example in the N.T.). Δαιμονιον is a diminutive of δαιμων. In Homer δαιμων is used synonymously with θεος and θεα. Hesiod employed δαιμων of men of the golden age as tutelary deities. Homer has the adjective δαιμονιος usually in an evil sense. Empedocles considered the demons both bad and good. They were thus used to relieve the gods and goddesses of much rascality. Grote (History of Greece) notes that the Christians were thus by pagan usage justified in calling idolatry the worship of demons. See 1 Corinthians 10:20; 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 9:20; Revelation 16:13. In the Gospels demons are the same as unclean spirits (Mark 5:12; Mark 5:15; Mark 3:22; Mark 3:30; Luke 4:33). The demons are disturbers (Vincent) of the whole life of man (Mark 5:2; Mark 7:25; Matthew 12:45; Luke 13:11; Luke 13:16).

Verse 32

Rushed down the steep (ωρμησεν κατα του κρημνου). Down from the cliff (ablative case) into the sea. Constative aorist tense. The influence of mind on matter is now understood better than formerly, but we have the mastery of the mind of the Master on the minds of the maniacs, the power of Christ over the demons, over the herd of hogs. Difficulties in plenty exist for those who see only folk-lore and legend, but plain enough if we take Jesus to be really Lord and Saviour. The incidental destruction of the hogs need not trouble us when we are so familiar with nature's tragedies which we cannot comprehend.

Verse 34

That he would depart (οπως μεταβη). The whole city was excited over the destruction of the hogs and begged Jesus to leave, forgetful of the healing of the demoniacs in their concern over the loss of property. They cared more for hogs than for human souls, as often happens today.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 8". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/matthew-8.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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