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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Matthew 8

 

 

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Verses 1-4

1–4.] HEALING OF A LEPER. Mark 1:40-45. Luke 5:12-14. We have now (in this and the following chapter), as it were a solemn procession of miracles, confirming the authority with which our Lord had spoken. ἀπὸ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐπὶ τὰ θαύματα μεταβαίνει. ἐπεὶ γὰρ ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων ἐδίδασκεν, ἵνα μὴ νομισθῇ κομπάζειν καὶ ἀλαζονεύεσθαι, δείκνυσι τὴν ἐξουσίαν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις, καὶ βεβαιοῖ τοὺς λόγους ἀπὸ τῶν πράξεων. Euthym(96)


Verse 2

2.] This same miracle is related by St. Luke without any mark of definiteness, either as to time or place,— καὶ ἐγένετο, ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν μιᾷ τῶν πόλεων.… In this instance there is, and can be, no doubt that the transactions are identical: and this may serve us as a key-note, by which the less obvious and more intricate harmonies of these two narrations may be arranged. The plain assertion of the account in the text requires that the leper should have met our Lord on His descent from the mountain, while great multitudes were following Him. The accounts in St. Luke and St. Mark require no such fixed date. This narrative therefore fixes the occurrence. I conceive it highly probable that St. Matthew was himself a hearer of the Sermon, and one of those who followed our Lord at this time. From St. Luke’s account, the miracle was performed in, or rather, perhaps, in the neighbourhood of, some city: what city, does not appear. As the leper is in all three accounts related to have come to Jesus ( καὶ ἰδού implying it in Luke), he may have been outside the city, and have run into it to our Lord.

λεπρός] The limits of a note allow of only an abridgment of the most important particulars relating to this disease. Read Leviticus 13:1-59; Leviticus 14:1-57. for the Mosaic enactments respecting it, and its nature and symptoms. See also Exodus 4:6; Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:19; 2 Chronicles 26:21. The whole ordinances relating to leprosy were symbolical and typical. The disease was not contagious: so that the view which makes them mere sanitary regulations is out of the question. The fact of its non-contagious nature has been abundantly proved by learned men, and is evident from the Scripture itself: for the priests had continually to be in close contact with lepers, even to handling and examining them. We find Naaman, a leper, commanding the armies of Syria (2 Kings 5:1); Gehazi, though a leper, is conversed with by the king of Israel (2 Kings 8:4-5); and in the examination of a leper by the priest, if a man was entirely covered with leprosy, he was to be pronounced clean (Leviticus 13:12-13). The leper was not shut out from the synagogue (Lightfoot, vol. i. p. 513), nor from the Christian churches (Suicer, Thesaurus Patrum, under λεπρός). Besides, the analogy of the other uncleannesses under the Mosaic law, e.g. having touched the dead, having an issue, which are joined with leprosy (Numbers 5:2), shews that sanitary caution was not the motive of these ceremonial enactments, but a far deeper reason. This disease was specially selected, as being the most loathsome and incurable of all, to represent the effect of the defilement of sin upon the once pure and holy body of man. “Leprosy was, indeed, nothing short of a living death, a poisoning of the springs, a corrupting of all the humours, of life; a dissolution, little by little, of the whole body, so that one limb after another actually decayed and fell away.” (Trench on the Miracles, p. 213.) See Numbers 12:12. The leper was the type of one dead in sin: the same emblems are used in his misery as those of mourning for the dead: the same means of cleansing as for uncleanness through connexion with death, and which were never used except on these two occasions. Compare Numbers 19:6; Numbers 19:13; Numbers 19:18, with Leviticus 14:4-7. All this exclusion and mournful separation imported the perpetual exclusion of the abominable and polluted from the true city of God, as declared Revelation 21:27, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς αὐτὴν πᾶν κοινὸν καὶ ποιῶν βδέλυγμα καὶ ψεῦδος. And David, when after his deadly sin he utters his prayer of penitence, ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,’ Psalms 51:7, doubtless saw in his own utter spiritual uncleanness, that of which the ceremonial uncleanness that was purged with hyssop was the type. Thus in the above-cited instances we find leprosy inflicted as the punishment of rebellion, lying, and presumption. ‘I put the plague of leprosy in an house’ (Leviticus 14:34), ‘Remember what the Lord thy God did to Miriam’ (Deuteronomy 24:9), and other passages, point out this plague as a peculiar infliction from God. “The Jews termed it ‘the finger of God,’ and emphatically ‘the stroke.’ They said that it attacked first a man’s house; and if he did not turn, his clothing; and then, if he persisted in sin, himself. So too, they said, that a man’s true repentance was the one condition of his leprosy leaving him.” Trench, p. 216. The Jews, from the prophecy Isaiah 53:4, had a tradition that the Messiah should be a leper.

προσεκύνει] πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον, Luke 5:12 ( γονυπετῶν, Mark 1:40). These differences of expression are important. See beginning of note on this verse.

κύριε] Not here merely a title of respect, but an expression of faith in Jesus as the Messiah. “This is the right utterance of κύριε, which will never be made in vain.” Stier. When Miriam was a leper, ἐβόησε ΄ωυσῆς πρὸς κύριον, λέγων ὁ θεός, δέομαί σου, ἴασαι αὐτήν, Numbers 12:13.


Verse 3

3. ἥψατο αὐτοῦ] He who just now expansively fulfilled the law by word and commands, now does the same by act and deed: the law had forbidden the touching of the leper, Leviticus 5:3. It was an act which stood on the same ground as the healing on the Sabbath, of which we have so many instances. So likewise the prophets Elijah and Elisha touched the dead in the working of a miracle on them (1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34). The same almighty power which suspends natural laws, supersedes ceremonial laws.

Here is a noble example illustrating His own precept so lately delivered, ‘Give to him that asketh thee.’ Again, we can hardly forbear to recognize, in His touching the leper, a deed symbolic of His taking on him, touching, laying hold of, our nature. Compare Luke 14:4, καὶ ἐπιλαβόμενος ἰάσατο αὐτόν, with Hebrews 2:16, σπέρματος ἀβραὰμ ἐπιλαμβάνεται.

θέλω] ‘Echo prompta ad fidem leprosi maturam.’ Bengel ad loc.

ἐκαθ. αὐτ. ἡ λέπ.] Luke’s words (Matthew 8:13), ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, are more strictly correct in construction. See also Mark 1:42. A curious instance of the theological littleness which has been shewn in treating our Lord’s great acts of Divine Love, is cited here by Bp. Wordsw. from Ambrose: “Dicit ‘volo’ propter Photinum (who said that our Lord was a mere man): imperat propter Arium (who denied His equality with the Father): tangit propter Manichæum (who said that Christ had not human flesh, but was only a phantom).”


Verse 4

4. ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς] Either (1) these words were a moral admonition, having respect to the state of the man ( διδάσκων τὸ ἀκόμπαστον καὶ ἀφιλότιμον, Chrysost.), for the injunction to silence was not our Lord’s uniform practice (see Mark 5:19, (97) Luke), and in this case they were of lasting obligation, that the cleansed leper was not to make his healing a matter of boast hereafter; or (2) they were a cautionary admonition, only binding till he should have shewn himself to the priest, in order to avoid delay in this necessary duty, or any hindrance which might, if the matter should first be blazed abroad, arise to his being pronounced clean, through the malice of the priests; or (3), which I believe to be the true view, our Lord almost uniformly repressed the fame of His miracles, for the reason given in ch. Matthew 12:15-21, that, in accordance with prophetic truth, He might be known as the Messiah not by wonder-working power, but by the great result of his work upon earth: οὐκ ἐρίσει, οὐδὲ κραυγάσει, οὐδὲ ἀκούσει τις ἐν ταῖς πλατείαις τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ …, ἕως ἂν ἐκβάλῃ εἰς νῖκος τὴν κρίσιν. Thus the Apostles always refer primarily to the Resurrection, and only incidentally, if at all, to the wonders and signs. (Acts 2:22-24; Acts 3:13-16.) These latter were tokens of power common to our Lord and his followers; but in His great conflict, ending in His victory, He trod the winepress alone.

σεαυτὸν δεῖξ. κ. τ. λ.] Read Leviticus 14:1-32. This command has been used in support of the theory of satisfaction by priestly confession and penance. But even then (Trench on the Miracles, p. 221) the advocates of it are constrained to acknowledge that Christ alone is the cleanser. ‘Ut Dominus ostenderet, quod non sacerdotali judicio, sed largitate divinæ gratiæ peccato emundatur, leprosum tangendo mundavit, et postea sacerdoti sacrificium ex lege offerre præcepit.’ (Gratian de Pœnitentia, Dist. 1, c. 34, p. 1529 Migne.) ‘Dominus leprosum sanitati prius per se restituit, deinde ad sacerdotes misit quorum judicio ostenderetur mundatus … quia etsi aliquis apud Deum sit solutus, non tamen in facie Ecclesiæ solutus habetur, nisi per judicium sacerdotis. In solvendis ergo culpis vel retinendis ita operatur sacerdos evangelicus et judicat, sicut olim legalis in illis qui contaminati erant lepra quæ peccatum signat.’ (Peter Lombard. Sent. iv. dist. 18. 6, p. 887 Migne.) It is satisfactory to observe this drawing of parallels between the Levitical and (popularly so called) Christian priesthood, thus completely shewing the fallacy and untenableness of the whole system; all those priests being types, not of future human priests, but of Him, who abideth a Priest for ever in an unchangeable priesthood, and in Whom not a class of Christians, but all Christians, are priests unto God.

μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς] A testimony both to, and against them: the dativus both commodi and incommodi.

The man disobeyed the injunction, so that our Lord could no more enter the city openly: see Mark 1:45.


Verse 5

5. ἑκατόνταρχος] He was a Gentile, see Matthew 8:10, but one who was deeply attached to the Jews and their religion; possibly, though this is uncertain, a proselyte of the gate (no such term as σεβόμενος, φοβούμενος τὸν θ. is used of him, as commonly of these proselytes, Acts 10:2 a(98).).


Verses 5-13

5–13.] HEALING OF THE CENTURION’S SERVANT. Luke 7:1-10, where we have a more detailed account of the former part of this miracle. On the chronological arrangement, see Prolegomena. The centurion did not himself come to our Lord, but sent elders of the Jews to Him, who recommended him to His notice as loving their nation, and having built them a synagogue. Such variations, the concise account making a man fecisse per se what the fuller one relates him fecisse per alterum, are common in all written and oral narrations. In such cases the fuller account is, of course, the stricter one. Augustine, answering Faustus the Manichæan, who wished, on account of the words of our Lord in Matthew 8:11, to set aside the whole, and used this variation for that purpose, makes the remark, so important in these days, ‘Quid enim, nonne talibus locutionibus humana plena est consuetudo.… quid ergo, cum legimus, obliviscimur quemadmodum loqui soleamus? An Scriptura Dei aliter nobiscum fuerat, quam nostro more, locutura?’ Contra Faustum, xxxiii. 7, vol. viii. On the non-identity of this miracle with that in John 4:46 ff., see note there.


Verse 6

6. ὁ παῖς] From Luke we learn that it was δοῦλος, ὃς ἦν αὐτῷ ἔντιμος. The centurion, perhaps, had but one slave, see Matthew 8:9. ‘Lucas hoc modo dubitationem prævenit, quæ subire poterat lectorum animos; scimus enim non habitos fuisse servos eo in pretio, ut de ipsorum vita tum anxii essent domini, nisi qui singulari industria vel fide vel alia virtute sibi gratiam acquisierant. Significat ergo Lucas non vulgare fuisse sordidumque mancipium, sed fidelem et raris dotibus ornatum servum, qui eximia gratia apud dominum polleret: hinc tanta illius vitæ cura et tam studiosa commendatio.’ (Calvin in loc.)


Verse 8

8.] The centurion heard that the Lord was coming, Luke 7:6, and sent friends to Him with this second and still humbler message. He knew and felt himself, as a heathen, to be out of the fold of God, a stranger to the commonwealth of Israel; and therefore unworthy to receive under his roof the Redeemer of Israel.


Verse 9

9.] The meaning is, ‘I know how to obey, being myself under authority: and in turn know how others obey, having soldiers under me:’ inferring, ‘if then I, in my subordinate station of command, am obeyed, how much more Thou, who art over all, and whom diseases serve as their Master!’ That this is the right interpretation, is shewn by our Lord’s special commendation of his faith, Matthew 8:10, ‘volens ostendere Dominum quoque non per adventum tantum corporis, sed per angelorum ministeria posse implere quod vellet.’ Jerome in loc. ‘Potuisset Ratio excipere: “Servus et miles imperium libere audiunt: morbus non item.” Sed hanc exceptionem concoquit sapientia fidelis, et ruditate militari pulchre elucens.’ Bengel ad loc.


Verse 10-11

10, 11.] ‘Amen, inquit, dico vobis, non inveni tantam fidem in Israel; propterea dico vobis quia multi ab Or. et Occ … &c. Quam late terram occupavit oleaster! Amara silva mundus hic fuit: sed propter humilitatem, propter “Non sum dignus ut sub tectum meum intres,” multi ab Or. et Occ. venient. Et puta quia venient: quid de illis fiet? Si enim venient, jam præcisi sunt de silva: ubi inserendi sunt, ne arescant? Et recumbent, inquit, cum Abraham et Isaac et Jacob … Ubi? In regno, inquit, cœlorum. Et quid erit de illis qui venerunt de stirpe Abrahæ? quid fiet de ruinis quibus arbor plena erat? quid nisi quia præcidentur, ut isti inserantur? Doce quia præcidentur: Filii autem regni ibunt in tenebras exteriores.’ Aug(99) in Johan. tract. xvi. 6, vol. iii. pt. ii. Compare a remarkable contrast in the Rabbinical books illustrating Jewish pride: ‘Dixit Deus S. B. Israelites: “In mundo futuro mensam ingentem vobis sternam, quod Gentiles videbunt et pudefient.” ’ Schöttgen, i. p. 86.

ἐθαύμασεν] to be accepted simply as a fact, as when Jesus rejoiced, wept, was sorrowful; not, as Aug(100) de Genes. cont. Manich. cited by Wordsw., to be rationalized away into a mere lesson to teach us what to admire. The mysteries of our Lord’s humanity are too precious thus to be sacrificed to the timidity of theologians.


Verse 12

12. οἱ υἱοί] the natural heirs, but disinherited by rebellion.

τὸ σκ. τὸ ἐξ. the darkness outside, i.e. outside the lighted chamber of the feast, see ch. Matthew 22:13, and Ephesians 5:7-8. These verses are wanting in St. Luke, and occur when our Lord repeated them on a wholly different occasion, ch. Matthew 13:28-29.

ὁ κλ. κ. ὁ βρ.] The articles here are not possessive, as Middleton supposes, for that would give a sense the most frigid possible, and would be a rendering inadmissible after ἔσται, which generalizes the assertion; they rather import the notoriety and eminence of the κλ. κ. βρ. ‘Articulus insignis: in hac vita dolor nondum est dolor.’ Bengel.


Verse 13

13. ἰάθη] Of what precise disease does not appear. In Luke ἤμελλεν τελευτᾷν—here he is παραλυτικός, δεινῶς βασανιζόμενος. But though these descriptions do not agree with the character of palsy among us, we read of a similar case in 1 Maccabees 9:55-56; ἐν τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ ἐπλήγη ἄλκιμος καὶ ἐνεποδίσθη τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀπεφράγη τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ, καὶ παρελύθη, καὶ οὐκ ἐδύνατο ἔτι λαλῆσαι λόγον καὶ ἐντείλασθαι περὶ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἀπέθανεν ἄλκιμος ἐν τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ μετὰ βασάνου μεγάλης. The disease in the text may have been an attack of tetanus, which the ancient physicians included under paralysis, and which is more common in hot countries than with us. It could hardly have been apoplexy, which usually bereaves of sensation.


Verses 14-17

14–17.] HEALING OF PETER’S WIFE’S MOTHER, AND MANY OTHERS. Mark 1:29-34. Luke 4:38-41. From the other Evangelists it appears, that our Lord had just healed a dæmoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum: for they both state, ‘when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, &c.’ Both Mark and Luke are fuller in their accounts than the text. The expression (of the fever) ἀφῆκεν αὐτήν is common to the three, as is also the circumstance of her ministering immediately after: shewing that the fever left her, not, as it would have done if natural means had been used, weak and exhausted, but completely restored.


Verse 16

16.] at sunset, Mark 1:32 : Luke 4:40. From St. Mark we learn that the whole city was collected at the door; from St. Luke, that the dæmons cried out and said, ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God.’ And from both, that our Lord permitted them not to speak, for they knew Him. They brought the sick in the evening, either because it was cool,—or because the day’s work was over, and men could be found to carry them,—or perhaps because it was the sabbath (see Mark 1:21; Mark 1:29; Mark 1:32), which ended at sunset.


Verse 17

17.] This is a version of the prophecy differing from the LXX, which has οὗτος τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν φέρει, καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν ὀδυνᾶται. The exact sense in which these words are quoted is matter of difficulty. Some understand ἔλαβεν and ἐβάστασεν as merely ‘took away,’ and ‘healed.’ But besides this being a very harsh interpretation of both words, it entirely destroys the force of αὐτός, and makes it expletive. Others suppose it to refer to the personal fatigue, (or even the spiritual exhaustion, (Olshausen,) which perhaps is hardly consistent with sound doctrine,) which our Lord felt by these cures being long protracted into the evening. But I believe the true relevancy of the prophecy is to be sought by regarding the miracles generally to have been, as we know so many of them were, lesser and typical outshewings of the great work of bearing the sin of the world, which He came to accomplish; just as diseases themselves, on which those miracles operated, are all so many testimonies to the existence, and types of the effect, of sin. Moreover in these His deeds of mercy, He was ‘touched with the feeling of our infirmities:’ witness His tears at the grave of Lazarus, and His sighing over the deaf and dumb man, Mark 7:34. The very act of compassion is (as the name imports) a suffering with its object; and if this be true between man and man, how much more strictly so in His case who had taken upon Him the whole burden of the sin of the world, with all its sad train of sorrow and suffering.


Verse 18

18.] It is obviously the intention of St. Matthew to bind on the following incidents to the occurrence which he had just related.


Verse 18

18–9:1.] JESUS CROSSES THE LAKE. INCIDENTS BEFORE EMBARKING. HE STILLS THE STORM. HEALING OF TWO DÆMONIACS IN THE LAND OF THE GADARENES. Mark 4:35-41; Mark 5:1-20. Luke 9:57-60; Luke 8:22-39, on which passages compare the notes.


Verse 19

19.] Both the following incidents are placed by St. Luke long after, during our Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem. For it is quite impossible (with Greswell, Diss. iii. p. 155, sq.) in any common fairness of interpretation, to imagine that two such incidents should have twice happened, and both times have been related together. It is one of those cases where the attempts of the Harmonists do violence to every principle of sound historical criticism. Every such difficulty, instead of being a thing to be wiped out and buried up at all hazards (I am sorry to see, e.g., that Bp. Wordsw. takes no notice, either here or in St. Luke, of the recurrence of the two narratives), is a valuable index and guide to the humble searcher after truth, and is used by him as such (see Prolegomena, ch. i. § iv. 2 f.).


Verse 20

20. ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου] “It is thought that this phrase was taken from Daniel 7:13, to which passage our Saviour seems to allude in ch. Matthew 26:64, and probably Stephen in Acts 7:56. It appears from John 12:34, that the Jews understood it to mean the Messiah: and from Luke 22:69-70, that they considered the Son of Man to mean the same as the Son of God.” Dr. Burton. It is the name by which the Lord ordinarily in one pregnant word designates Himself as the Messiah—the Son of God manifested in the flesh of man—the second Adam. And to it belong all those conditions, of humiliation, suffering, and exaltation, which it behoved the Son of Man to go through.


Verse 21

21.] In St. Luke we find, that our Lord previously commanded him to follow Him. τοῦ κυρίου.… λέγοντος τῷ φιλίππῳ, ἄφες τοὺς νεκ. κ. τ. λ. Clem. Alex(101) Strom. iii. 4 (25), p. 522 (1869), Monumenta Sacra, vol. iii. [vi.]">(102). But if so, He had long ago ordered Philip to follow Him, taking St. Luke’s order of the occurrence. A tradition of this nature was hardly likely to be wrong; so that perhaps the words ἀκολούθει μοι are to be taken (as in John 21:19; John 21:22) as an admonition occasioned by some slackness or symptom of decadence on the part of the Apostle. The attempt to evade the strong words of our Lord’s command by supposing that θάψαι τὸν πατέρα means, ‘to reside with my father till his death’ (Theophylact), is evidently futile, since πρῶτον ἀπελθεῖν καὶ θάψαι is plainly said of an act waiting to be done; and the reason of our Lord’s rebuke was the peremptory and all-superseding nature of the command ἀκολούθει μοι.


Verse 22

22. νεκρούς] First time, as Revelation 3:1, spiritually,—second, literally dead. The two meanings are similarly used in one saying by our Lord in John 11:25-26. See Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 9:14. ἐκώλυσεν αὐτόν, οὐ κωλύων τὸ τιμᾷν τοὺς γονεῖς, ἀλλὰ διδάσκων ὅτι χρὴ τὸν ἐφιέμενον τῶν οὐρανίων μὴ ὑποστρέφειν εἰς τὰ γήϊνα, μηδʼ ἀπολιμπάνειν μὲν τὰ ζωηρά, παλινδρομεῖν δὲ εἰς τὰ νεκρωτικά, μηδὲ θεοῦ προτιμᾷν γονεῖς. ἐγίνωσκε γὰρ ὅτι θάψουσι τοῦτον ἄλλοι, καὶ οὐκ εικὸς τοῦτον ἀπολειφθῆναι τῶν ἀναγκαιοτέρων. οἶμαι δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἄπιστος ἦν ὁ τελευτήσας. Euthym(103)


Verse 23

23.] This journey across the lake, with its incidents, is placed by St. Mark and St. Luke after the series of parables commencing with that of the sower, and recorded in ch. 13. By Mark with a precise note of sequence: λέγει αὐτοῖς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης, Mark 4:35.


Verse 24

24.] σεισμός, usually of an earthquake, = λαῖλαψ, Mark and Luke,—a great commotion in the sea.

καλύπτεσθαι] τὰ κύμ. ἐπέβαλλεν εἰς τὸ πλ. ὥστε ἤδη γεμίζεσθαι τὸ πλοῖον, Mark 4:37. συνεπληροῦντο, Luke 8:23. By keeping to the strict imperfect sense we obviate all necessity for qualifying these words: (starker Uusdruck: die Wogen schlugen in(104) Schiff, De Wette) was becoming covered, &c. All lakes bordered by mountains, and indeed all hilly coasts, are liable to these sudden gusts of wind.


Verse 25

25.] κύριε σῶσον, ἀπολλ. = διδάσκαλε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλ.; Mark 4:38 = ἐπιστάτα, ἐπιστάτα, ἀπολλ., Luke 8:24. On these and such like variations, notice the following excellent and important remarks of Augustine (De Consensu Evv. ii. 24 (55), vol. vii.): ‘Una eademque sententia est excitantium Dominum, volentiumque salvari; nec opus est quærere quid horum potius Christo dictum sit. Sive enim alliquid horum trium dixerint, sive alia verba quæ nullus Evangelistarum commemoravit, tantundem tamen valentia ad eandem sententiæ veritatem, quid ad rem interest?’ We may well exclaim, ‘O si sic omnia!’ Much useless labour might have been spared, and men’s minds led to the diligent enquiry into the real difficulties of the Gospels, instead of so many spending time in knitting cobwebs. But Augustine himself in the very next sentence, descends to the unsatisfactory ground of the Harmonists, when he adds, ‘Quamquam et hoc fieri potuit, ut pluribus eum simul excitantibus, omnia hæc, aliud ab alio, dicerentur.’ His mind however was not one to rest contented with such sophisms; and all his deeper and more earnest sayings are in the truer and freer spirit of the above extract.


Verse 26

26.] The time of this rebuke in the text precedes, but in Mark and Luke follows, the stilling of the storm. See the last note.

They were of little faith, in that they were afraid of perishing while they had on board the slumbering Saviour: they were not faithless, for they had recourse to that Saviour to help them. Therefore He acknowledges the faith which they had; answers the prayer of faith, by working a perfect calm: but rebukes them for not having the stronger, firmer faith, to trust Him even when He seemed insensible to their danger.

The symbolic application of this occurrence is too striking to have escaped general notice. The Saviour with the company of His disciples in the ship tossed on the waves, seemed a typical reproduction of the Ark bearing mankind on the flood, and a foreshadowing of the Church tossed by the tempests of this world, but having Him with her always. And the personal application is one of comfort, and strengthening of faith, in danger and doubt.


Verse 27

27. οἱ ἄνθρ.] The men who were in the ship, besides our Lord and His disciples.


Verse 28

28.] Among the difficulties attendant on this narrative, the situation and name of the place where the event happened are not the least. Origen’s remarks are: ἡ περὶ τοὺς ὑπὸ τῶν δαιμονίων κατακρημνιζομένους καὶ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ συμπνιγομένους χοίρους οἰκονομία ἀναγέγραπται γεγονέναι ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῶν γερασηνῶν. γέρασα δὲ τῆς ἀραβίας ἐστὶ πόλις, οὔτε θάλασσαν οὔτε λίμνην πλησίον ἔχονσα. καὶ ουκ ἂν οὕτως προφανὲς ψεῦδος καὶ εὐέλεγκτον οἱ εὐαγγελισταὶ εἰρήκεσαν, ἄνδρες ἐπιμελῶς γινώσκοντες τὰ περὶ τὴν ἰουδαίαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐν ὀλίγοις εὕρομενεἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν γαδαρηνῶν,” καὶ πρὸς τοῦτο λεκτέον (lit. “we must speak also to (in reference to) this;” discuss this reading also. Dr. Bloomfield’s conjecture, στικτέον, need only be considered by those who are not aware of this common expression). γάδαρα γὰρ πόλις μέν ἐστι τῆς ἰουδαίας, περὶ ἣν τὰ διαβόητα θερμὰ τυγχάνει, λίμνη δὲ κρημνοῖς παρακειμένη οὐδαμῶς ἐστιν ἐν αὐτῇ ἢ θάλασσα. ἀλλὰ γέργεσα, ἀφʼ ἧς οἱ γεργεσαιοι, πόλις ἀρχαία περὶ τὴν νῦν καλουμένην τιβεριάδα λίμνην, περὶ ἣν κρημνὸς παρακείμενος τῇ λίμνῃ, ἀφʼ οὗ δείκνυται τοὺς χοίρους ὑπὸ τῶν δαιμόνων καταβεβλῆσθαι. Comm. in Joan. tom. vi. § 24, vol. iv. p. 141. Notwithstanding this, it appears very doubtful whether there ever was a town named Gergesha near the lake. There were the Gergashites (Joseph. i. 6. 2) in former days, but their towns had been destroyed by the Israelites at their first irruption, and never, that we hear of, afterwards rebuilt (see Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 24:11). Gerasa (now Dscherasch) lies much too far to the East. The town of Gadara, alluded to in the text, was (Joseph. B. J. iv. 7. 3) μητρόπολις τῆς περαίας καρτερά, and (Euseb. Onomasticon) ἀντικρὺ σκυθοπόλεως καὶ τιβεριάδος πρὸς ἀνατολαῖς, ἐν τῷ ὄρει, οὗ πρὸς ταῖς ὑπουργίαις (Dr. Bloomfield in loc. conjectures ὑπωρείαις) τὰ τῶν θερμῶν ὑδάτων λουτρὰ παράκειται. It was on the river Hieromax (‘Gaddara Hieromace præfluente,’ Plin. Matthew 8:18), and sixty stadia from Tiberias (Joseph. Vit. § 65), πόλις ἑλληνίς (Jos. Antt. xvii. 11. 4). It was destroyed in the civil wars of the Jews, and rebuilt by Pompeius (Jos. B. J. i. 7. 7), presented by Augustus to King Herod (Jos. Antt. xv. 7. 3), and after his death united to the province of Syria (Jos. B. J. ii. 6. 3). It was one of the ten cities of Decapolis. (Pliny, ibid.) Burckhardt and others believe that they have found its ruins at Omkeis, near the ridge of the chain which divides the valley of Jordan from that of the Sea of Tiberias. The territory of this city might well extend to the shore of the lake. It may be observed, that there is nothing in any of the three accounts to imply that the city was close to the scene of the miracle, or the scene of the miracle close to the herd of swine, or the herd of swine, at the time of their possession, close to the lake. Indeed the expression μακρὰν ἀπʼ αὐτῶν, Matthew 8:30, implies the contrary with regard to the swine. It appears, from Burckhardt, that there are many tombs in the neighbourhood of the ruins of Gadara to this day, hewn in the rock, and thus capable of affording shelter. It may be well in fairness to observe, that γεργεσηνῶν can hardly have arisen entirely from Origen’s conjecture, as it pervades so many MSS. and ancient (it is true, not the most ancient) versions. We cannot say that a part of the territory of Gadara may not have been known to those who, like Matthew, were locally intimate with the shores of the lake, by this ancient and generally disused name. Still however, we are, I conceive, bound in a matter of this kind to follow the most ancient extant testimony. See further on (105) Mark, Luke. The excursus of Dr. Bloomfield, Gr. Test. edn. 9, vol. i. p. 890, though containing interesting matter confirming the fact of Gergesa having been a name actually used for a town near the lake, determines nothing as to the reading here, which must be settled purely on objective evidence.

δύο δαιμονιζόμενοι] In Mark 5:2, and Luke 8:27, but one is mentioned. All three Evangelists have some particulars peculiar to themselves; but Mark the most, and the most striking, as having evidently proceeded from an eye-witness. The ὅτι πολλοί ἐσμεν of Mark is worth noticing, in reference to the discrepancy of number in the two accounts, as perhaps connected with the mention of more than one by our Evangelist, who omits the circumstance connected with that speech.

χαλεποὶ λίαν] See the terribly graphic account of Mark (Mark 5:3-6). The dæmoniac was without clothes, which though related only by St. Luke (Luke 8:27), yet, with remarkable consistency, appears from St. Mark’s narrative, where he is described as sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, at Jesus’s feet, after his cure.

ὥστε μὴ ἰσχ.] Peculiar to this Gospel.


Verse 29

29. τί ἡμ. κ. σοί] מַה־לָּנוּ וָלָךְ. See 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Samuel 19:22. πρὸ καιροῦ is peculiar to this Gospel: υἱὲ τοῦ θ. common to all.


Verse 30

30. μακράν] The Vulgate rendering, ‘non longe,’ does not seem accordant with the other accounts, both of which imply distance: ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ πρὸς τῷ ὄρει, Mark 5:11; ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ.… ἐν τῷ ὄρει, Luke 8:32. These, especially the first, would seem to imply that the swine were on the hills, and the scene of the miracle at some little distance, on the plain.


Verse 31

31. ἀπόστειλον ἡμ.] St. Mark and St. Luke give, as the ground of this request, that they might not be sent out of the land = into the abyss, i.e. out of their permitted residence on earth to βάσανος πρὸ καιροῦ in the ἄβυσσος. See note and reff. on Luke.


Verse 32

32.] This remarkable narrative brings before us the whole question of DÆMONIACAL POSSESSIONS in the Gospels, which I shall treat here once for all, and refer to this note hereafter.

I would then remark in general, (I. 1) that the Gospel narratives are distinctly pledged to the historic truth of these occurrences. Either they are true, or the Gospels are false. For they do not stand in the same, or a similar position, with the discrepancies in detail, so frequent between the Evangelists: but they form part of that general groundwork in which all agree. (2) Nor can it be said that they represent the opinion of the time, and use words in accordance with it. This might have been difficult to answer, but that they not only give such expressions as δαιμονιζὀμενος, δαιμονισθείς (Mark 5:16; Luke 8:36), and other like ones, but relate to us words spoken by the Lord Jesus, in which the personality and presence of the dæmons is distinctly implied. See especially Luke 11:17-26. Now either our Lord spoke these words, or He did not. If He did not, then we must at once set aside the concurrent testimony of the Evangelists to a plain matter of fact; in other words establish a principle which will overthrow equally every fact related in the Gospels. If He did, it is wholly at variance with any Christian idea of the perfection of truthfulness in Him who was Truth itself, to suppose Him to have used such plain and solemn words repeatedly, before His disciples and the Jews, in encouragement of, and connivance at, a lying superstition. (3) After these remarks it will be unnecessary to refute that view of dæmoniacal possession which makes it identical with mere bodily disease,—as it is included above; but we may observe, that it is every where in the Gospels distinguished from disease, and in such a way as to shew that, at all events, the two were not in that day confounded. (See ch. Matthew 9:32-33, and compare Mark 7:32.) (4) The question then arises, Granted the plain historical truth of dæmoniacal possession, WHAT WAS IT? This question, in the suspension, or withdrawal, of the gift of ‘discerning of spirits’ in the modern Church, is not easy to answer. But we may gather from the Gospel narratives some important ingredients for our description. The dæmoniac was one whose being was strangely interpenetrated (‘possessed’ is the most exact word that could be found) by one or more of those fallen spirits, who are constantly asserted in Scripture (under the name of δαίμονες, δαιμόνια, πνεύματα πονηρά, πνεύματα ἀκάθαρτα, their chief being ὁ διάβολος or σατανᾶς) to be the enemies and tempters of the souls of men. (See Acts 5:3; John 13:2 and passim.) He stood in a totally different position from the abandoned wicked man, who morally is given over to the devil. This latter would be a subject for punishment; but the dæmoniac for deepest compassion. There appears to have been in him a double will and double consciousness—sometimes the cruel spirit thinking and speaking in him, sometimes his poor crushed self crying out to the Saviour of men for mercy: a terrible advantage taken, and a personal realization, by the malignant powers of evil, of the fierce struggle between sense and conscience in the man of morally divided life. Hence it has been not improbably supposed, that some of these dæmoniacs may have arrived at their dreadful state through various progressive degrees of guilt and sensual abandonment. ‘Lavish sin, and especially indulgence in sensual lusts, superinducing, as it would often, a weakness in the nervous system, which is the especial band between body and soul, may have laid open these unhappy ones to the fearful incursions of the powers of darkness.’ (Trench on the Miracles, p. 160.) (5) The frequently urged objection, How comes it that this malady is not now among us? admits of an easy answer, even if the assumption be granted. The period of our Lord’s being on earth was certainly more than any other in the history of the world under the dominion of evil. The foundations of man’s moral being were broken up, and the ‘hour and power of darkness’ prevailing. Trench excellently remarks, ‘It was exactly the crisis for such soulmaladies as these, in which the spiritual and bodily should be thus strangely interlinked, and it is nothing wonderful that they should have abounded at that time; for the predominance of certain spiritual maladies at certain epochs of the world’s history, which were specially fitted for their generation, with their gradual decline and disappearance in others less congenial to them, is a fact itself admitting no manner of question.’ (pp. 162, 163.) Besides, as the same writer goes on to observe, there can be no doubt that the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, and the continual testimony of Jesus borne by the Church in her preaching and ordinances, have broken and kept down, in some measure, the grosser manifestations of the power of Satan. (See Luke 10:18.) But (6) the assumption contained in the objection above must not be thus unreservedly granted. We cannot tell in how many cases of insanity the malady may not even now be traced to direct dæmoniacal possession. And, finally, (7) the above view, which I am persuaded is the only one honestly consistent with any kind of belief in the truth of the Gospel narratives, will offend none but those who deny the existence of the world of spirits altogether, and who are continually striving to narrow the limits of our belief in that which is invisible; a view which at every step involves difficulties far more serious than those from which it attempts to escape. But (II.) a fresh difficulty is here found in the latter part of the narrative, in which the devils enter into the swine, and their destruction follows. (1) Of the reason of this permission, we surely are not competent judges. Of this however we are sure, that ‘if this granting of the request of the evil spirits helped in any way the cure of the man, caused them to resign their hold on him more easily, mitigated the paroxysm of their going forth (see Mark 9:26), this would have been motive enough. Or still more probably, it may have been necessary, for the permanent healing of the man, that he should have an outward evidence and testimony that the hellish powers which held him in bondage had quitted him.’ (Trench, p. 172.) (2) The destruction of the swine is not for a moment to be thought of in the matter, as if that were an act repugnant to the merciful character of our Lord’s miracles. It finds its parallel in the cursing of the fig-tree (ch. Matthew 21:18-22); and we may well think that, if God has appointed so many animals daily to be slaughtered for the sustenance of men’s bodies, He may also be pleased to destroy animal life when He sees fit for the liberation or instruction of their souls. Besides, if the confessedly far greater evil of the possession of men by evil spirits, and all the misery thereupon attendant, was permitted in God’s inscrutable purposes, surely much more this lesser one. Whether there may have been special reasons in this case, such as the contempt of the Mosaic law by the keepers of the swine, we have no means of judging: but it is at least possible. (3) The fact itself related raises a question in our minds, which, though we cannot wholly answer, we may yet approximate to the solution of. How can we imagine the bestial nature capable of the reception of dæmoniac influence? If what has been cited above be true, and the unchecked indulgence of sensual appetite afforded an inlet for the powers of evil to possess the human dæmoniac, then we have their influence joined to that part of man’s nature which he has in common with the brutes that perish, the animal and sensual soul ( ψυχή). We may thus conceive that the same animal and sensual soul in the brute may be receptive of similar dæmoniacal influence. But with this weighty difference: that whereas in man there is an individual, immortal spirit, to which alone belongs his personality and deliberative will and reason,—and there was ever in him, as we have seen, a struggle and a protest against this tyrant power; the oppressed soul, the real ‘I,’ calling out against the usurper—this would not be the case with the brute, in whom this personality and reflective consciousness is wanting. And the result in the text confirms our view; for as soon as the dæmons enter into the swine, their ferocity, having no self-conserving balance as in the case of man, impels them headlong to their own destruction.


Verse 34

34.] This request, which is related by all three Evangelists, was probably not from humility, but for fear the miraculous powers of our Lord should work them still more worldly loss. For the additional particulars of this miracle, see Mark 5:15-16; Mark 5:18-20; Luke 8:35, and notes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-8.html. 1863-1878.

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Saturday, May 30th, 2020
Eve of Pentecost
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