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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Matthew 28

 

 

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Verse 1

1. ὀψὲ δὲ σαβ.] not, ‘at the end of the week.’ The words σαββάτων and μίαν σαββ. are opposed, both being days. At the end of the Sabbath. There is some little difficulty here, because the end of the sabbath (and of the week) was at sunset the night before. It is hardly to be supposed that St. Matthew means the evening of the sabbath, though ἐπέφωσκε is used of the day beginning at sunset (Luke 23:54, and note). It is best to interpret a doubtful expression in unison with the other testimonies, and to suppose that here both the day and the breaking of the day are taken in their natural, not their Jewish sense.

μίαν σαβ. is a Hebraism; the Rabbinical writings use אהד, שני, שלישי, &c., affixing בשבת to each, for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, &c.

΄αρ. ἡ ΄. κ. ἡ ἄλ. ΄.] In Mark, Salome also. John speaks of Mary Magdalene alone. see notes there.

θεωρ. τ. τ.] It was to anoint the Body, for which purposes they had bought, since the end of the Sabbath, ointments and spices, Mark.

In Mark it is after the rising of the sun; in John, while yet dark; in Luke, at dim dawn: the two last agree with our text.


Verses 1-10

1–10.] JESUS HAVING RISEN FROM THE DEAD, APPEARS TO THE WOMEN. Mark 16:1-8. Luke 24:1-12. John 20:1-10. The independence and distinctness of the four narratives in this part have never been questioned, and indeed herein lie its principal difficulties. With regard to them, I refer to what I have said in the Prolegomena, that supposing us to be acquainted with every thing said and done, in its order and exactness, we should doubtless be able to reconcile, or account for, the present forms of the narratives; but not having this key to the harmonizing of them, all attempts to do so in minute particulars must be full of arbitrary assumptions, and carry no certainty with them. And I may remark, that of all harmonies, those of the incidents of these chapters are to me the most unsatisfactory. Giving their compilers all credit for the best intentions, I confess they seem to me to weaken instead of strengthening the evidence, which now rests (speaking merely objectively) on the unexceptionable testimony of three independent narrators, and of one, who besides was an eye-witness of much that happened. If we are to compare the four, and ask which is to be taken as most nearly reporting the exact words and incidents, on this there can I think be no doubt. On internal as well as external ground, that of John takes the highest place: but not, of course, to the exclusion of those parts of the narrative which he does not touch.

The improbability that the Evangelists had seen one another’s accounts, becomes, in this part of their Gospels, an impossibility. Here and there we discern traces of a common narration as the ground of their reports, as e.g. Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29; Matthew 8:1-34; Mark 5:1-43; Mark 6:1-56; Mark 7:1-37; Mark 8:1-38, but even these are very few.

As I have abandoned all idea of harmonizing throughout, I will beg the student to compare carefully the notes on the other Gospels.


Verse 2

2.] This must not be taken as pluperfect, which would be altogether inconsistent with the text.

καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγένετο must mean that the women were witnesses of the earthquake, and that which happened.

σεισμός was not properly an earthquake, but was the sudden opening of the tomb by the descending Angel, as the γάρ shews. The rolling away was not done naturally, but by a shock, which = σεισμός.

It must not be supposed that the Resurrection of our Lord took place at this time, as sometimes imagined, and represented in paintings. It had taken place before;— ἠγέρθη κ. τ. λ. are the words of the Angel. It was not for Him, to whom (see John 20:19; John 20:26) the stone was no hindrance, but for the women and His disciples, that it was rolled away.


Verse 3

3. ἡ ἰδέα] not his form, but his appearance; not in shape (as some would explain it away), but in brightness.


Verse 4

4.] αὐτοῦ, objective, of him, the angel; as John 7:13; Hebrews 2:15.


Verse 5

5.] In Mark, a young man in a white robe was sitting in the tomb on the right hand: in Luke two men in shining raiment (see Acts 1:10) appeared ( ἐπέστησαν) to them. John relates, that Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb and saw (but this must have been afterwards) two angels in white sitting one at the head, the other at the feet where the Body had lain. All attempts to deny the angelic appearances, or ascribe them to later tradition, are dishonest and absurd. That related in John is as definite as either of the others, and he certainly had it from Mary Magdalene herself.

ὑμεῖς is emphatic, addressed to the women.


Verse 6

6.] καθὼς εἶπεν is further expanded in Luke 6:1-49; Luke 7:1-50. See ch. Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:23.

ὁ κύριος (see ref.) is emphatic;—‘gloriosa appellatio,’ Bengel.


Verse 7

7.] This appearance in Galilee had been foretold before his death, see ch. Matthew 26:32. It is to be observed that Matthew records only this one appearance to the Apostles, and in Galilee. It appears strange that this should be the entire testimony of Matthew: for it seems hardly likely that he would omit those important appearances in Jerusalem when the Apostles were assembled, John 20:19; John 20:26, or that one which was closed by the Ascension. But perhaps it may be in accord with his evident design of giving the general form and summary of each series of events, rather than their characteristic details. See below on Matthew 28:20.

ὅτι is recitative.

The προάγει here is not to be understood as implying the journeying on the part of our Lord himself. It is cited from His own words, ch. Matthew 26:32, and there, as here, merely implies that He would be there when they arrived. It has a reference to the collecting of the flock which had been scattered by the smiting of the Shepherd: see John 10:4.

ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε is determined, by κἀκεῖ με ὄψονται below, to be part of the message to the disciples: not spoken to the women directly, but certainly indirectly including them. The idea of their being merely messengers to the Apostles, without bearing any share in the promise, is against the spirit of the context: see further in note on Matthew 28:17.

ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν is to give solemnity to the command. These words are peculiar to Matthew, and are a mark of accuracy.


Verse 8

8.] μετὰ φόβου, ἐφʼ οἷς εἶδον παραδόξοις· μετὰ χαρᾶς δέ, ἐφʼ οἷς ἤκουσαν εὐαγγελίοις. Euthym(194)


Verse 9

9.] Neither Mark nor Luke recounts, or seems to have been aware of, this appearance. Mark even says οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. But (see above) it does not therefore follow that the narratives are inconsistent. Mark’s account (see note there) is evidently broken off suddenly; and Luke’s (see also note there) appears to have been derived from one of those who went to Emmaus, who had evidently but an imperfect knowledge of what happened before they left the city. This being taken into account, we may fairly require that the judgment should be suspended in lack of further means of solving the difficulty.

ἐκρ. τ. π.] partly in fear and as suppliants, for the Lord says μὴ φοβεῖσθε,—but shewing also the χαρά with which that fear was mixed (Matthew 28:8),—joy at having recovered Him whom they loved.

προσεκ. αὐτ.] ‘Jesum ante passionem alii potius alieniores adorarunt quam discipuli.’ Bengel.


Verse 10

10. τοῖς ἀδελφ.] so also to Mary Magdalene, John 20:17. The repetition of this injunction by the Lord has been thought to indicate that this is a portion of another narrative inwoven here, and may possibly belong to the same incident as that in Matthew 28:7. But all probability is against this: the passages are distinctly consecutive, and moreover both are in the well-known style of Matthew (e.g. καὶ ἰδού in both). There is perhaps more probability that this may be the same appearance as that in John 20:11-18, on account of μή μου ἅπτου there and τοὺς ἀδελφ. μου,—but in our present imperfect state of information, this must remain a mere probability.


Verse 11

11. πορ. δ. αὐ.] While they were going.


Verses 11-15

11–15.] THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES BRIBE THE GUARDS TO GIVE A FALSE ACCOUNT OF THE RESURRECTION. Peculiar to Matthew.


Verse 12

12.] συναχθέντες, i.e. οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, a change of the subject of the sentence as in Luke 19:4 a(195). This was a meeting of the Sanhedrim, but surely hardly an official and open one; does not the form of the narrative rather imply that it was a secret compact between those (the majority) who were bitterly hostile to Jesus? The circumstance that Joseph had taken no part in their counsel before, leads us to think that others may have withdrawn themselves from the meeting, e.g. Gamaliel, who could hardly have consented to such a measure as this.


Verse 14

14.] Not only ‘come to the ears of the governor,’ but be borne witness of before the governor, come before him officially: i.e. ‘if a stir be made, and you be in trouble about it:’ see reff.

[ πείσομεν, viz. by a bribe of money, see Trench on the A.V. p. 72.]


Verse 15

15.] Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. § 108, p. 202, says, καὶ οὐ μόνον οὐ μετενοήσατε μαθόντες αὐτὸν ἀναστάντα ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀλλὰ ἄνδρας χειροτονήσαντες ἐκλεκτούς, εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐπέμψατε κηρύσσοντες ὅτι αἵρεσίς τις ἄθεος καὶ ἄνομος ἐγήγερται ἀπὸ ἰησοῦ τινος γαλιλαίου πλάνου (see ch. Matthew 27:63) ὃν σταυρωσάντων ὑμῶν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ κλέψαντες κ. τ. λ.

ὁ λόγος οὗτοςthis account of the matter. Eisenmenger (Entdecktes Judenthum, cited by Meyer and De Wette) gives an expansion of this lie of the Jews from the book called Toldoth Jeschu.


Verses 16-20

16–20.] APPEARANCE OF THE LORD ON A MOUNTAIN IN GALILEE. This journey into Galilee was after the termination of the feast, allowing two first days of the week, on which the Lord appeared to the assembled Apostles (John 20:19; John 20:26), to elapse. It illustrates the imperfect and fragmentary nature of the materials out of which our narrative is built, that the appointment of this mountain as a place of assembly for the eleven has not been mentioned, although τὸ ὄρος οὗ seems to imply that it has. Stier well remarks (Reden Jesu, vii. 209) that in this verse Matthew gives a hint of some interviews having taken place previously to this in Galilee. And it is important to bear this in mind, as suggesting, if not the solution, at least the ground of solution, of the difficulties of this passage. Matthew 28:17 seems to present an instance of this imperfect and fragmentary narrative. The impression given by it is that the majority of the eleven worshipped Him, but some doubted (not, whether they should worship Him; which is absurd and not implied in the word. On οἱ δέ, cf. ch. Matthew 26:67. ᾧχοντο εἰς δεκέλειαν, οἱ δʼ ἐς ΄έγαρα, Xen. Hell. i. 2. 14: see also Anab. i. 5. 13). This however would hardly be possible, after the two appearances at Jerusalem in John 20:1-31. We are therefore obliged to conclude that others were present. Whether these others were the ‘500 brethren at once’ of whom Paul speaks 1 Corinthians 15:6, or some other disciples, does not appear. Olshausen and Stier suppose, from the previous announcement of this meeting, and the repetition of that announcement by the angel, and by our Lord, that it probably included all the disciples of Jesus; at least, all who would from the nature of the case be brought together.


Verse 18

18. προσελθ.] They appear to have first seen Him at a distance, probably on the top of the mountain. This whole introduction, προσελθ. ἐλάλ. αὐτ. λέγ., forbids us to suppose that the following words are a mere compendium of what was said on various occasions. Like the opening of ch. 5, it carries with it a direct assertion that what follows was spoken then, and there.

ἐδόθη μοι κ. τ. λ.] The words are a reference to ref. Dan. (LXX), which compare. Given,—by the Father, in the fulfilment of the Eternal Covenant, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit. Now first is this covenant, in its fulness, proclaimed upon earth. The Resurrection was its last seal—the Ascension was the taking possession of the Inheritance. But the Inheritance is already won; and the Heir is only remaining on earth for a temporary purpose—the assuring His joint-heirs of the verity of his possession. ‘All power in heaven and earth;’ see Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 1:6; Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:9-11 :1 Peter 3:22.


Verse 19

19.] οὖν (in rec(196).) is probably a gloss, but an excellent one. It is the glorification of the Son by the Father through the Spirit, which is the foundation of the Church of Christ in all the world. And when we baptize into the Name (i.e. into the fulness of the consequence of the objective covenant, and the subjective confession) of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, it is this which forms the ground and cause of our power to do so—that this flesh of man, of which God hath made πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, is glorified in the Person of our Redeemer, through whom we all have access by one Spirit to the Father.

πορ. μαθ.] Demonstrably, this was not understood as spoken to the Apostles only, but to all the brethren. Thus we read, πάντες διεσπάρησανπλὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων (Acts 8:2): οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες διῆλθον εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν λόγον (ibid. Matthew 28:4).

There is peculiar meaning in μαθητεύσατε. All power is given me—go therefore and … subdue? Not so: the purpose of the Lord is to bring men to the knowledge of the truth—to work on and in their hearts, and lift them up to be partakers of the divine Nature. And therefore it is not ‘subdue,’ but make disciples of (see below). πάντα τὰ ἔθνη again is closely connected with πᾶσα ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

πάντα τὰ ἔθνη] all nations, including the Jews. It is absurd to imagine that in these words of the Lord there is implied a rejection of the Jews, in direct variance with his commands elsewhere, and also with the world-wide signification of ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς above. Besides, the (temporary) rejection of the Jews consists in this, that they are numbered among πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, and not a peculiar people any longer: and are become, in the providence of God, the subjects of that preaching, of which by original title they ought to have been the promulgators. We find the first preachers of the gospel, so far from excepting the Jews, uniformly bearing their testimony to them first. With regard to the difficulty which has been raised on these words,—that if they had been thus spoken by the Lord, the Apostles would never have had any doubt about the admission of the Gentiles into the Church,—I would answer, with Ebrard, Stier, De Wette, Meyer, and others, ‘that the Apostles never had any doubt whatever about admitting Gentiles,—only whether they should not be circumcised first.’ In this command, the prohibition of ch. Matthew 10:5 is for ever removed.

βαπτίζοντες] Both these present participles are the conditioning components of the imperative aor. preceding. The μαθητεύειν consists of two parts—the initiatory, admissory rite, and the subsequent teaching. It is much to be regretted that the rendering of μαθ. ‘teach,’ has in our Bibles clouded the meaning of these important words. It will be observed that in our Lord’s words, as in the Church, the process of ordinary discipleship is from baptism to instruction—i.e. is, admission in infancy to the covenant, and growing up into τηρεῖς πάντα κ. τ. λ.—the exception being, what circumstances rendered so frequent in the early Church, instruction before baptism, in the case of adults. On this we may also remark, that baptism as known to the Jews included, just as it does in the Acts (ch. Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33) whole householdswives and children.

As regards the command itself, no unprejudiced reader can doubt that it regards the outward rite of BAPTISM, so well known in this Gospel as having been practised by John, and received by the Lord Himself. And thus it was immediately, and has been ever since, understood by the Church. As regards all attempts to explain away this sense, we may say—even setting aside the testimony furnished by the Acts of the Apostles,—that it is in the highest degree improbable that our Lord should have given, at a time when He was summing up the duties of his Church in such weighty words, a command couched in figurative or ambiguous language—one which He must have known would be interpreted by his disciples, now long accustomed to the rite and its name, otherwise than He intended it.

εἰς τὸ ὄν.…] Reference is apparently made to the Baptism of the Lord Himself, where the whole Three Persons of the Godhead were in manifestation.

Not τὰ ὀνόματα—but τὸ ὄνομα—setting forth the Unity of the Godhead.

It is unfortunate again here that our English Bibles do not give us the force of this εἰς. It should have been into, (as in Galatians 3:27 a(197).,) both here and in 1 Corinthians 10:2, and wherever the expression with εἰς is used. It imports, not only a subjective recognition hereafter by the child of the truth implied in τὸ ὄνομα κ. τ. λ., but an objective admission into the covenant of Redemption—a putting on of Christ. Baptism is the contract of espousal (Ephesians 5:26) between Christ and his Church. Our word ‘in’ being retained both here and in our formula of Baptism, it should always be remembered that the Sacramental declaration is contained in this word; that it answers (as Stier has well observed, vii. 268) to the τοῦτό ἐστιν in the other Sacrament. On the difference between the baptism of John, and Christian baptism, see notes on ch. Matthew 3:11 : Acts 18:25; Acts 19:1-5.


Verse 20

20.] Even in the case of the adult, this teaching must, in greater part, follow his baptism; though as we have seen (on Matthew 28:19), in his exceptional case, some of it must go before. For this teaching is nothing less than the building up of the whole man into the obedience of Christ. In these words, inasmuch as the then living disciples could not teach all nations, does the Lord found the office of Preachers in his Church, with all that belongs to it,—the duties of the minister, the school-teacher, the scripture reader. This ‘teaching’ is not merely the κήρυγμα of the gospel—not mere proclamation of the good news—but the whole catechetical office of the Church upon and in the baptized.

καὶ ἰδοὺ] These words imply and set forth the Ascension, the manner of which is not related by our Evangelist.

ἐγώ, I, in the fullest sense: not the Divine Presence, as distinguished from the Humanity of Christ. His Humanity is with us likewise. The vine lives in the branches. Stier remarks (vii. 277) the contrast between this ‘I am with you,’ and the view of Nicodemus (John 3:2) ‘no man can do these miracles—except God be with him.’

μεθʼ ὑμ.] mainly, by the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49) which he has poured out on His Church. But the presence of the Spirit is the effect of the presence of Christ—and the presence of Christ is part of the ἐδόθη above—the effect of the well-pleasing of the Father. So that the mystery of His name ἐμμανουήλ (with which, as Stier remarks, this Gospel begins and ends) is fulfilled—God is with us. And πάσας τὰς ἡμέραςall the (appointed) days—for they are numbered by the Father, though by none but Him.

ἕως τῆς συντ. τ. αἰ.] that time of which they had heard in so many parables, and about which they had asked, ch. Matthew 24:3—the completion of the state of time. After that, He will be no more properly speaking with us, but we with Him (John 17:24) where He is.

To understand μεθʼ ὑμῶν only of the Apostles and their (?) successors, is to destroy the whole force of these most weighty words. Descending even into literal exactness, we may see that διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν, makes αὐτούς into ὑμεῖς, as soon as they are μεμαθητευμένοι. The command is to the UNIVERSAL CHURCH—to be performed, in the nature of things, by her ministers and teachers, the manner of appointing which is not here prescribed, but to be learnt in the unfoldings of Providence recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, who by His special ordinance were the founders and first builders of that Church—but whose office, on that very account, precluded the idea of succession or renewal.

That Matthew does not record the fact or manner of the Ascension, is not to be used as a ground for any presumptions regarding the authenticity of the records of it which we possess. The narrative here is suddenly brought to a termination; that in John ends with an express declaration of its incompleteness. What reasons there may have been for the omission, either subjective, in the mind of the author of the Gospel, or objective, in the fragmentary character of the apostolic reports which are here put together, it is wholly out of our power, in this age of the world, to determine. As before remarked, the fact itself is here and elsewhere in this Gospel (see ch. Matthew 22:44; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 25:14; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:64) clearly implied.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 28:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-28.html. 1863-1878.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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