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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 23

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 23

Matthew 23:3. τηρεῖν] after ὑμῖν is deleted by Fritzsche, Lachm. and Tisch., following Mill. It is wanting in very important authorities. A gloss, for which certain authorities have ποιεῖν.

τηρεῖτε κ. ποιεῖτε] Lachm.: ποιήσατε κ. τηρεῖτε. So also Tisch. This is the original reading (B L Z א** 124, Hilar.); for the sake of uniformity, ποιήσατε was changed into ποιεῖτε (D, 1, 209, Eus. Dam.); but the transposed order τηρ. κ. π. is an ancient logical correction (as old as Syr. Vulg. It.).

Matthew 23:4. For γάρ Lachm. and Tisch. read δέ, following weighty attestation. Correctly; γάρ was meant to be more precise.

χαὶ δυσβαστ.] deleted by Tisch. 8, following L א, vss. Ir. But the evidence in favour of the words is too strong, and their omission on account of the two καί’s might so readily occur that they must not be regarded as an interpolation from Luke 11:46.

τῷ δέ] Lachm. Tisch. 8 : αὐτοὶ δὲ τῷ, following B D L א, and two min. vss. and Fathers. Exegetical amplification after Luke 11:46.

Matthew 23:5. For δέ after πλατύν Lachm. Tisch. 8 have γάρ, in accordance with B D L א, min. vss. Chrys. Damasc. See on Matthew 23:4.

τῶν ἱματ. αὐτ.] deleted by Lachm. and Tisch., following B D א, 1, 22, vss. Correctly; an explanatory addition.

Matthew 23:6. For φιλ. τε we should, with Lachm. and Tisch., read φιλ. δέ, in accordance with decisive evidence.

Matthew 23:7. Lachm. and Tisch. 8 have ῥαββί only once, following B L δ א, min. vss. and Fathers. But how easily may the reduplication have been overlooked, both on its own account and in consequence of its not occurring in the instance immediately following! Comp. on Mark 14:45.

Matthew 23:8. καθηγητής] Fritzsche, Lachm., and Tisch., following Grotius, Mill, and Bengel, read διδάσκαλος, which Rinck also approves. No doubt καθηγητ. has a very decided preponderance of evidence in its favour (of the uncials only B U א**? read διδάσκ.); but, owing to Matthew 23:10, it is so utterly inappropriate in the present instance, that it must be regarded as an old and clumsy gloss inserted from Matthew 23:10 (namely, καθηγητὴς χριστός, according to the reading of Elz. Scholz). By this it was merely intended to intimate that it is Christ that is referred to here as well as in Matthew 23:10 below.

Matthew 23:10. εἷς γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν καθηγ.] Lachm. and Tisch.: ὅτι καθηγητὴς ὑμῶν ἐστὶν εἷς. The latter is the best attested reading; that of the Received text is to conform with Matthew 23:8 f.

In the Textus receptus the two verses, 13 and 14, stand in the following order: (1) οὐαὶεἰσελθεῖν; (2) οὐαὶκρῖμα, in opposition to E F G H K M S U V γ δ π, vss. and Fathers. On this evidence Griesbach, Scholz, Fritzsche have adopted the transposed order. But οὐαὶκρῖμα (in Elz. Matthew 23:14) is wanting in B D L Z א, min. vss. and Fathers (Origen as well), and is correctly deleted by Lachm. and Tisch., although defended by Rinck and Keim. An interpolation from Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47.

Ver: 17. τίς γὰρ μείζων] Lachm.: τί γὰρ μεῖζον, but, undoubtedly, on the evidence of Z only. The vss. (Vulg. It.) can have no weight here.

ἁγιάζων] Lachm. and Tisch.: ἁγιάσας, following B D Z א, Cant.; Vulg. has sanctificat. The present participle is from Matthew 23:19, where there is no difference in the reading.

Matthew 23:19. μωροὶ καί] is wanting in D L Z א, 1, 209, and several vss., also Vulg. It. Bracketed by Lachm., condemned by Rinck, deleted by Tisch.; and justly so, because there was no motive for omitting the words, while their insertion would be readily suggested by Matthew 23:17.

Matthew 23:21. For κατοικήσαντι Elz. Lachm. Tisch. 8 have κατοικοῦντι, following B H S א, min., the force of the aorist not being apprehended.

Matthew 23:23. Elz.: ταῦτα ἔδει; but Griesb., Fritzsche, Lachm., Tisch. 7 have adopted ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει. In both cases the evidence is considerable; but how readily might δέ be omitted before ἔδει through oversight on the part of the transcriber!

Matthew 23:25. ἐξ] is wanting in C D, min. Chrys. Deleted by Lachm. It had been omitted as unnecessary.

Elz. Lachm. Tisch. read ἀκρασίας, instead of which Griesb. and Scholz have ἀδικίας. The evidence is very much divided, being strong on both sides; ἀκρασίας is to be preferred. This word, the only other instance of which in the N. T. is at 1 Corinthians 7:5, appeared to be inappropriate, and came to be represented by a variety of glosses ( ἀκαθαρσίας, πλεονεξίας, ἀδικίας, πονηρίας).

Matthew 23:26. αὐτῶν] Fritzsche, Lachm., Tisch.: αὐτοῦ, following B* D E* min. Aeth. Verc. This αὐτοῦ is bound up with the omission of καὶ τῆς παροψ. in D, min. Cant. Verc. Clem. Chrys. Ir. (deleted by Tisch.). Those words, however, are evidently an insertion from Matthew 23:25, an insertion, moreover, which is inconsistent with αὐτοῦ, so that the words ought to be deleted and αὐτοῦ preferred to αὐτῶν.

Matthew 23:27. παρομοιάζετε] Lachm.: ὁμοιάζετε, only on the evidence of B, 1. The preposition has been left out, probably because the compound form is not found elsewhere in the N. T.

Matthew 23:30. ἤμεθα, instead of ἦμεν of the Received text, is supported by decisive evidence.

Matthew 23:34. καὶ ἐξ αὐτ.] in the first case καί is wanting in B M δ π א, min. codd. of It. Syr. Arm. Or. (once). Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch.; but how readily may this καί have been omitted since the next clause opens with καί!

Matthew 23:36. Before ἥξει, Griesb., followed by Matth., Fritzsche, Scholz, inserted ὅτι, which, however, Lachm. and Tisch. have deleted again, ὅτι has important evidence both for and against. A common interpolation.

ταῦτα πάντα] The order πάντα ταῦτα (Lachm. Tisch. 7) is well attested, though there is a preponderance of evidence (C D א, etc., Vulg. It.) for the reading of the Received text.

Matthew 23:37. νοσσία ἑαυτῆς] Lachm. has deleted ἐαυτ., but only on the evidence of B, vss. Clem.(once) Or.(once) Cypr. Hil., and notwithstanding the probable omission of the pronoun as apparently superfluous. Had it been inserted from Luke 13:34, it would have been placed between τά and νοσσία. For ἑαυτῆς Tisch. reads αὐτῆς, following B** D, marg. M δ א* 33, Clem. (once) Eus. Cyr. Theodoret. The reflective might be easily overlooked, as was often the case.

Matthew 23:38. ἔρημος is wanting in B L Copt.* Corb. 2, Or. Deleted by Lachm.; to be maintained on account of the preponderating evidence in its favour, though in the case of Luke 13:35 it is inserted as a gloss from Matthew.


Verse 1

Matthew 23:1. After the Pharisees have been thus silenced, there now follows the decisive and direct attack upon the hierarchs, in a series of overwhelming denunciations extending to Matthew 23:39, and which, uttered as they are on the eve of His death, form a kind of Messianic σημεῖον through which Jesus seeks to testify against them. Luke has inserted at ch. 11 portions of this discourse in an order different from the original; but he has given in the present connection, like Mark 12, only a few fragments, so that, keeping in view that a collection of our Lord’s sayings was made by Matthew, and considering the originality in respect of matter and arrangement which characterizes the grand utterances now before us, the preference must be accorded to the report furnished by this apostle (in answer to Schleiermacher, Schulz, Schneckenburger, Olshausen, Volkmar). The entire discourse has so much the character of a living whole, that, although much that was spoken on other occasions may perhaps be mixed up with it, it is scarcely possible to disjoin such passages from those that are essentially original. Ewald thinks that the discourse is made up of passages that were probably original, though uttered on very different occasions; Holtzmann has recourse to the hypothesis that the evangelist has derived his account from a supposed special source, the same as that on which ch. 5 is based; in answer to the latter, see Weiss, 1864, p. 114. Observe that the ὄχλοι are mentioned first, because the first part of the discourse on to Matthew 23:7 is directed to them, then the μαθηταί are addressed in Matthew 23:8-12, whereupon in Matthew 23:13 ff. we have the withering apostrophe to the Pharisees who were present, and that for the purpose of warning the ὄχλοι and the μαθηταί to beware of them; and finally, the concluding passage, Matthew 23:37 ff., containing the pathetic exclamation over Jerusalem. The glance, the gesture, the attitude, the matter and the language, were such that there could be no doubt who were immediately aimed at in the various sections of the discourse. We may imagine the scene in the temple to have been as follows: in the foreground, Jesus with His disciples; a little farther off, the ὄχλοι; more in the background, the Pharisees, who in Matthew 22:46 are spoken of as having withdrawn.


Verse 2

Matthew 23:2. The phrase: “to sit in Moses’ seat” (in the seat which Moses had occupied as lawgiver), is borrowed not from Exodus 18:13, but refers to the later practice of having chairs for teachers (comp. Acts 22:3), and is intended as a figurative mode of describing the functions of one who “acts as a public teacher of the Mosaic law,” in discharging which functions the teacher may be regarded as the representative and successor of Moses. Accordingly, in Rabbinical writers, one who succeeds a Rabbi as the representative of his school is described as יוֹשֵׁב עַל־כִסְאוֹ. See Vitringa, Synag. p. 165 f.

ἐκάθισαν] have seated themselves, have assumed to themselves the duties of this office. In the whole of this phraseology one cannot fail to detect an allusion to the pretensions and self-seeking character of the Pharisees. Comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:4.


Verse 3

Matthew 23:3. οὖν] inasmuch as they speak as teachers and interpreters of the Mosaic law.

πάνταὅσα] Limitations of the sense, which lie outside the point of view marked out by the expression “Moses’ seat,”—as though Jesus had in view only the moral part of the law (Chrysostom), or contemplated merely what had reference to the theocratic polity (Lange), or meant simply to speak comparatively (Bleek),—are in opposition to the text, and are of an arbitrary character, all the more so that the multitude was assumed to possess sufficient capacity for judging as to how much of the teaching was binding upon them, and how much was not. The words are addressed to the ὄχλοι, whom Jesus had neither the power nor the wish to release from their obligations in respect to the manifest teachings of the law. But having a regard to the glaring inconsistency between the teaching and the conduct of their pharisaic instructors, and considering His own fundamental principle with regard to the obligatory character of the law, Matthew 23:18 f., He could not have spoken otherwise than He did when He inculcated upon the people the duty of complying with the words while refusing to imitate the conduct of those instructors. This utterance was conservative, as befitted the needs of the people, and unsparingly outspoken, as the conduct of the Pharisees deserved; but, in opposition to both Pharisees and people, it guarded the holiness of the law. Observe that He is here speaking of the Pharisees in their special capacity as teachers of the Mosaic law (Augustine, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel), so that His language is at variance neither with Matthew 16:6 nor with the axiom given in Matthew 15:13; Acts 5:29.

ποιήσατε κ. τηρεῖτε (see critical notes): aorist and present: do it, and observe it constantly. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 158 f.


Verse 4

Matthew 23:4. Comp. Luke 11:46.

In δεσμεύουσι δέ (see critical notes), the δέ introduces an instance of their λέγουσι καὶ οὐ ποιοῦσι of a peculiarly oppressive character.

The binding (tying up into a bundle portions from the various elements, comp. Judith 8:3) of heavy burdens is an expression intended to represent the connecting together of a number of requirements and precepts, so that, from their accumulation, they become difficult to fulfil.

τῷ δὲ δακτύλῳ αὐτῶν, κ. τ. λ.] but are themselves indisposed to move them even with their finger, in the direction, that is, of their fulfilment. The emphasis rests on τῷ δακτύλῳ; they will not move the burdens with their finger, far less would they bear them upon their shoulders.


Verses 5-7

Matthew 23:5-7. Comp. Luke 11:43 f.

φυλακτήρια, amulets, were the תְּפִּלִּיו, the strips of parchment with passages of Scripture, viz. Deuteronomy 11:13-22; Deuteronomy 6:4-10, Exodus 13:11-17; Exodus 13:1-11, written upon them. They were enclosed in small boxes, and, in accordance with Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18, worn during prayer, some on the forehead, some on the left arm next the heart. They were intended to remind the wearer that it was his duty to fulfil the law with head and heart, and, at the same time, to serve the purpose of protecting him from the influence of evil spirits. Joseph. Antt. iv. 8. 13; Lund, Jüd. Heiligith., ed. Wolf, p. 898 ff.; Keil, Arch. I. p. 342 f.

πλατύνουσι] they broaden their φυλακτήρια, i.e. they make them broader than those of others, in order that they may thereby become duly conspicuous. Corresponding to this is: μεγαλύνουσι, they enlarge. On the κράσπεδα, see on Matthew 9:20.

τὴν πρωτοκλισίαν] the foremost couch at table, i.e. according to Luke 14:8 ff. (Joseph. Antt. xv. 2. 4), the uppermost place on the divan, which the Greeks also regarded as the place of honour (Plut. Symp. p. 619 B). The Persians and Romans, on the other hand, looked upon the place in the middle as the most distinguished. The term is met with only in the synoptical Gospels and the Fathers. Suidas: πρωτοκλισία· πρώτη καθέδρα.

ῥαββὶ, ῥαββί] רַבִּי, רַבִּי ( διδάσκαλε, John 1:39; with yod paragogic). The reduplication serves to show how profound the reverence is. Comp. Mark 14:15; Matthew 7:21 f. For the view that Rabbi (like our “Dr.”) was the title used in addressing learned teachers as early as the time of Jesus (especially since Hillel’s time), see Lightfoot, also Pressel in Herzog’s Encykl. XII. p. 471; Ewald, Gesch. Chr. p. 305.


Verses 8-12

Matthew 23:8-12. ὑμεῖς] with which the discourse is suddenly turned to the disciples, is placed first(9) for sake of emphasis, and forms a contrast to the Pharisees and scribes.

μὴ κληθῆτε] neither wish nor allow it.

πάντες δέ] so that no one may violate the fraternal tie on the ground of his supposed superiority as a teacher.

καὶ πατέρα, κ. τ. λ.] The word πατέρα, by being placed at the beginning, becomes emphatic, and so also ὑμῶν, by being separated from πατέρα to which it belongs: And you must not call any one father of you upon earth, i.e. you must not apply the teacher’s title “our father” ( אָב, see Buxtorf, p. 10, 2175; Ewald as above) to any mere man. Comp. Winer, p. 549 [E. T. 738].

Matthew 23:10. Neither are you to allow yourselves to be called leaders (in the scholastic sense), for the leader of you is One (see critical notes), the Messiah. For examples of the way in which Greek philosophers were addressed by their disciples, see Wetstein.

δὲ ΄είζων ὑ΄ῶν, κ. τ. λ.] But among you greatness is to be indicated quite otherwise than by high-sounding titles: the greater among you, i.e. he among you who would surpass the others in true dignity, will be your servant. Comp. Matthew 23:12. This is a saying of which Jesus makes very frequent use (Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14). Comp. Matthew 20:26 f.; also the example of Jesus in the washing of the disciples’ feet, and Philippians 2:6 f.

ταπεινωθ.… ὑψωθ.] that is, on the occasion of the setting up of my kingdom.

REMARK.

The prohibitions, Matthew 23:8 ff., have reference to the hierarchical meaning and usage which were at that time associated with the titles in question. The teacher’s titles in themselves are as legitimate and necessary as his functions; but the hierarchy, in the form which it assumed in the Catholic church with the “holy father” at its head, was contrary to the spirit and mind of Jesus. Apropos of Matthew 23:11, Calvin appropriately observes: “Hac clausula ostendit, se non sophistice litigasse de vocibus, sed rem potius spectasse.”


Verse 13

Matthew 23:13. Here begins the direct and withering apostrophe of Jesus to His adversaries themselves who are still present, this part of the address consisting of seven woes, and extending to Matthew 23:36. For the spurious Matthew 23:14, Elz., concerning the devouring of widows’ houses, see the critical remarks. The characteristic feature in this torrent of woes is its intense righteous indignation, such as we meet with in the prophets of old (comp. Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 10:1; Habakkuk 2:6 ff.),—an indignation which abandons the objects of it as past all hope of amendment, and cuts down every bridge behind them. To Celsus (in Origen, ii. 76) all this sounded as mere empty threat and scolding.

ὅτι] assigns the reason of this οὐαί.

κλείετε, κ. τ. λ.] The approaching kingdom of the Messiah is conceived of under the figure of a palace, the doors of which have been thrown open in order that men may enter. But such is the effect of the opposition offered to Christ by the scribes and Pharisees, that men withhold their belief from the Messiah who has appeared among them, and show themselves indifferent to the δικαιοσύνη, necessary in order to admission into the kingdom from which they are consequently excluded. Comp. Luke 11:52. They thus shut the door of the kingdom in men’s faces.

ὑμεῖς γὰρ, κ. τ. λ.] explanatory reason.

τοὺς εἰσερχομ.] who are trying, who are endeavouring to obtain admission. See Bernhardy, p. 370 f.


Verse 15

Matthew 23:15. Instead of helping men into the Messiah’s kingdom, what contemptible efforts to secure proselytes to their own way of thinking! This representation of pharisaic zeal is doubtless hyperbolical, though it is, at the same time, based upon actual journeyings for the purpose of making converts (Joseph. Antt. xx. 2. 4). On Jewish proselytism generally, see Danz in Meuschen, N. T. ex Talm. ill. p. 649. Wetstein’s note on this passage.

ἕνα] a single.

καὶ ὅταν γένηται] sc. προσήλυτος.

υἱὸν γεέννης] one fit for Gehenna, condemned to be punished in it. Comp. on Matthew 8:12; John 17:12.

διπλότερον ὑμῶν] is commonly taken in an adverbial sense (Vulg.: duplo quam), a sense in which it is consequently to be understood in the corresponding passage of Justin (c. Tr. 122): νῦν δὲ διπλότερον υἱοὶ γεέννης, ὡς αὐτὸς εἶπε, γίνεσθε. Coming as it does after υἱόν, it is more natural to regard it, with Valla, as an adjective: who is doubly more so than you are. For the comparative itself, comp. App. Hist. praef. 10 : σκεύη διπλότερα τούτων. But it is still rendered doubtful whether διπλότερον is to be taken in an adverbial or adjective sense by a passage from Justin as above: οἱ δὲ προσήλυτοι οὐ μόνον οὐ πιστεύουσιν, ἀλλὰ διπλότερον ὑμῶν βλασφημοῦσι. This passage is likewise unfavourable to Kypke’s interpretation: fallaciorem, which adjective would be of a more specific character than the context would admit of. But in how far was Jesus justifiable in using the words διπλότερον ὑμῶν? According to Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Euthymius Zigabenus: in consequence of the evil example of him who made the convert, which was such that “ex malo ethnico fit pejor Judaeus” (Erasmus); according to de Wette: in consequence of the high estimate in which the teachers are held by their disciples, and because superstition and error usually appear with a twofold greater intensity in the taught than in the teachers; according to Olshausen: because the converted heathen had not the advantage of enjoying the spiritual aid to be found in Mosaism; according to Bleek: because it was common also to admit as converts those who were influenced by mere external considerations. According to the context ( ποιεῖτε): on account of the manner in which the proselytes continued to be influenced and wrought upon by those who converted them, in consequence of which they were generally found to become more bigoted, more unloving, and more extreme than their instructors, and, of course, necessarily more corrupt.


Verse 16

Matthew 23:16. A new point, and one so peculiarly heinous that a somewhat larger portion of the denunciatory address is devoted to it.

ἐν τῷ ναῷ] as in the Mischna we frequently meet with such expressions as: per habitaculum hoc, דמעון הוה. See Wetstein and Lightfoot.

ἐν τῷ χρυσῷ τοῦ ναοῦ] by the gold which belongs to the temple, the ornaments, the vessels, perhaps also the gold in the sacred treasury (to which latter Jerome, Maldonatus, refer). We nowhere meet with any example of such swearing, and the subject of Corban (Matthew 15:5) is foreign to our passage (Lightfoot), inasmuch as there is no question of vows in the present instance. For ἐν with ὀμνύειν, comp. on Matthew 5:34.

οὐδέν ἐστιν] it (the oath) is nothing, is of no consequence. It is not the person swearing who is the subject, but ὃς ἂν ὀμόσῃ, κ. τ. λ., form an absolute nominative, as in Matthew 7:24, Matthew 10:14, Matthew 13:12.

ὀφείλει] is indebted, bound to keep the oath.


Verse 17

Matthew 23:17 ff. γάρ] Justifies the preceding epithets.

μείζων] of greater consequence, and consequently more binding, as being a more sacred object by which to swear. The reason of the μείζων lies in ἁγιάσας τὸν χρυσόν, according to which the consecrated relation is conceived of as one between the temple and the gold, that has been brought about (otherwise if ἁγιάζων be read) by the connecting of the latter with the former.

τὸ δῶρον] the offering (Matthew 5:23), as laid upon the altar, it belongs to God.


Verses 20-22

Matthew 23:20-22. οὖν] inference from Matthew 23:19; because the greater, from which the less (the accessorium), as being bound up with it, derives its sanctity, necessarily includes that less.

ὀμοσαςὀμνύει] The aorist participle represents the thing as already in the course of being done (Kühner, II. 1, p. 134, ad Xen. Mem. i. 1. 18): he who has proceeded to swear by the altar, swears (present), according to the point of view indicated by οὖν, not merely by the altar, but at the same time by all that is upon it as well.

Matthew 23:21. No longer dependent on οὖν; but two other examples of swearing are adduced independently of the former, in each of which even the highest of all, God Himself, is understood to be included. Accordingly we find the objects presented in a different relation to one another. Formerly the greater included the less, now the converse is the case. But though differing in this respect, there is in both instances a perfect agreement as to the sacred and binding character of the oaths.

κατοικήσαντι] who made it his dwelling-place, took up his abode in it (after it was built). Comp. James 4:5; Luke 2:49.

Matthew 23:22(10)]. Comp. on Matthew 5:34.


Verse 23

Matthew 23:23. Comp. Luke 11:39 ff.

In accordance with certain traditional enactments (Babyl. Joma, f. lxxxiii. 2), the Pharisees extended the legal prescriptions as to tithes (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:6 f., Matthew 24:22-27) so as to include even the most insignificant vegetable products, such as mint, anise, and cummin. See Lightfoot and Wetstein on this passage. Ewald, Alterth. p. 399.

τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου] the weightier things, i.e. the more important (graviora) elements of the law (comp. Acts 25:7), not: the things more difficult of fulfilment (difficiliora, as Fritzsche), which interpretation is indeed grammatically admissible (1 John 5:3), but must be rejected, because, according to the context (see Matthew 23:24), Jesus was comparing the important with the less important, and most probably had in view the analogy of the praecepta gravia ( חמורים) et levia ( קלים) of the Jewish doctors (see Schoettgen, p. 183).

τὴν κρίσιν] comp. Psalms 33:5; not: righteousness (the usual interpretation), a sense in which the term is never used (comp. on Matthew 12:18), but judgment, i.e. deciding for the right as against the wrong. Comp. Bengel and Paulus. The κρίσις is the practical manifestation of righteousness.

τὴν πίστιν] faithfulness, Jeremiah 5:1; Romans 3:3; Galatians 5:22; and see on Philemon 1:5. The opposite of this is ἀπιστία, perfidia (Wisdom of Solomon 14:25, frequent in classical writers).

ταῦτα] the βαρύτερα just mentioned, not the tithing of mint, etc. (Bengel).

ἔδει] oportebat. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 176 f. Those were the duties which had been neglected.

μὴ ἀφιέναι] scarcely so strong as the positive ποιῆσαι. Observe the contrasts: What you have neglected you ought to have done, and at the same time not have neglected what you are in the habit of doing,—the former being of paramount importance; the subordinate matter, viz. your painful attention to tithes, is not superseded by the higher duties, but only kept in its proper place.


Verse 24

Matthew 23:24. The Jews were in the habit of straining their wine ( διϋλίζ., Plut. Mor. p. 692 D), in order that there might be no possibility of their swallowing with it any unclean animal, however minute (Leviticus 11:42). Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 516. Comp. the liquare vinum of the Greeks and Romans; Mitscherlich, ad Hor. Od. i. 11. 7; Hermann, Privatalterth. § xxvi. 17. Figurative representation of the painful scrupulosity with which the law was observed.

τὸν κώνωπα] a kind of attraction for percolando removentes muscam (that found in the wine, τὸν κ.), just as in classical writers the phrase καθαίρειν τι is often used to express the removing of anything by cleansing (Hom. Il. xiv. 171, xvi. 667; Dio Cass. xxxvii. 52). κώνωψ is not a worm found in sour wine (Bochart, Bleek), but, as always, a gnat. In its attempt to suck the wine, it falls in amongst it.

τὴν δὲ κάμηλ. καταπίν.] proverbial expression, τὰ μέγιστα δὲ ἀπαρατηρήτως ἁμαρτάνοντες Euthymius Zigabenus. Observe at the same time that the camel is an unclean animal, Leviticus 11:4.


Verse 25

Matthew 23:25. But inwardly they (the cup and the plate) are filled from extortion and excess ( ἀκρασίας, see critical notes). That with which they are filled, viz. the wine and the meat, has been obtained through extortion and excess. Plunder (Hebrews 10:34, common in classical writers) and exorbitance have contributed to fill them. On γέμειν ἐκ, see on John 7:3. The simple genitive (Matthew 23:27) would only be equivalent to: they are full of plunder, etc.

ἀκρασίας] a later form of ἀκρατείας. See on 1 Corinthians 7:5.


Verse 26

Matthew 23:26. καθάρισον πρῶτον, κ. τ. λ.] i.e. let it be your first care ( πρῶτον, as in Matthew 6:33, Matthew 7:5, and elsewhere), to see that the wine in the cup is no longer procured by extortion and exorbitance.

ἵνα γένηται, κ. τ. γ.] not: “ut tum recte etiam externae partes possint purgari,” Fritzsche, but with the emphasis on γένηται: in order that what you aim at may then be effected, viz. the purity of the outside as well,—in order that, then, the outside of the cup also may not merely appear to be clean through your washing of it, but may actually become so, by losing that impurity which, in spite of all your cleansing, still adheres to it (which it contracts, as it were, from its contents), simply because it is filled with that which is procured through immoral conduct. The external cleansing is not declared to be unnecessary (de Wette), nor, again, is it intended to be regarded as the true one, which latter can only be brought about after the purifying of the contents has been effected. Bengel fitly observes: “alias enim illa mundities externa non est mundities.” That which is insisted on with πρῶτον is to be attended to in the first place.


Verse 27

Matthew 23:27 f. The graves were whitewashed with lime ( κονία) every year on the 15th of Adar (a custom which Rabbinical writers trace to Ezekiel 39:15), not for the purpose of ornamenting them, but in order to render them so conspicuous as to prevent any one defiling himself (Numbers 19:16) by coming into contact with them. For the passages from Rabbinical writers, see Lightfoot, Schoettgen, and Wetstein. A kind of ornamental appearance was thus imparted to the graves. In Luke 11:44, the illustration is of a totally different character.

ὑποκρίς. κ. ἀνομ.] (immorality): both as representing their disposition. Thus, morally speaking, they were τάφοι ἔμψυχοι, Lucian, D. M. vi. 2.


Verse 29

Matthew 23:29 ff. Comp. Luke 11:47 ff.

The οἰκοδομεῖν of the tombs of the prophets and the κοσμεῖν of the sepulchres of the righteous (the Old Testament saints, comp. Matthew 23:35; Matthew 13:17; Hebrews 11:23); this preserving and ornamenting of the sacred tombs by those who pretended to be holy was accompanied with the self-righteous declaration of Matthew 23:30. On the ancient tombs of a more notable character, see, in general, Robinson, Pal. II. p. 175 ff., and on the so-called “tombs of the prophets” still existing, p. 194. Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerus. II. p. 227 ff.

εἰ ἤμεθα, κ. τ. λ.] not: if we had been, but: if we were (comp. on John 11:21), if we were living in the time of our fathers, certainly we would not be, etc.

ὥστε μαρτυρεῖτε ἑαυτοῖς, κ. τ. λ.] Thus (inasmuch as you say τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν) you witness against yourselves (dative of reference, James 5:3), that you are the sons, etc. υἱοί contains a twofold meaning. From τῶν πατέρ. ἡμ., in which the Pharisees point to their bodily descent, Jesus likewise infers their kinship with their fathers in respect of character and disposition. There is a touch of sharpness in this pregnant force of υἱοί, the discourse becoming more and more impassioned. “When you thus speak of your fathers, you yourselves thereby testify to your own kinship with the murderers of the prophets.” De Wette’s objection, that this interpretation of υἱοί would be incompatible with what is said by way of vindicating themselves at Matthew 23:30, does not apply, because Jesus feels convinced that their character entirely belies this self-righteous utterance, and because He wishes to make them sensible of this conviction through the sting of a penetration that fearlessly searches their hearts and reads their thoughts.

ἐν τῷ αἵ αἵματι] i.e. the crime of shedding their blood. On αἷμα in the sense of caedes, see Dorvill. ad Charit. p. 427. For ἐν, see on Galatians 6:6.


Verse 32

Matthew 23:32. Quite in keeping with the deepening intensity of this outburst of indignation is the bitter irony of the imperative πληρώσατε (comp. Matthew 25:45), the mere permissive sense of which (Grotius, Wetstein, Kuinoel) is too feeble.(11) This filling up of the measure (of the sins) of the fathers was brought about by their sons (“haereditario jure,” Calvin), when they put Jesus Himself as well as His messengers to death.

καὶ ὑμεῖς] ye also. The force of καί is to be sought in the fact that πληρώσατε, κ. τ. λ., is intended to indicate a line of conduct corresponding to and supplementing that of the fathers, and in regard to which the sons also must take care not to come short.


Verse 33

Matthew 23:33. πῶς φύγητε] Conjunctive, with a deliberative force: how are you, judging from your present character, to escape from (see on Matthew 3:7), etc. Comp. Matthew 26:54; Mark 4:30 : Hom. Il. i. 150: πῶς τίς τοι πρόφρων ἔπεσιν πείθηται ἀχαιῶν;

The κρίσις τῆς γεένν. means the pronouncing of the sentence which condemns to Gehenna. The phrase judicium Gehennae is also of very frequent occurrence in Rabbinical writers. See Wetstein. The judgment comes when the measure is full. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:16.


Verse 34

Matthew 23:34. διὰ τοῦτο] must be of substantially the same import as ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς in Matthew 23:35. Therefore, in order that ye may not escape the condemnation of hell (Matthew 23:33), behold, I send to you … and ye will, etc.; καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν is likewise dependent on διὰ τοῦτο. Awful unveiling of the divine decree. Others have interpreted as follows: διότι μέλλετε πληρῶσαι τὸ μέτρον τῆς κακίας τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν (Euthymius Zigabenus, Fritzsche), thus arbitrarily disregarding what immediately precedes (Matthew 23:33). Moreover, without any hint whatever in the text of Matthew, ἰδού, ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω, κ. τ. λ., has sometimes been taken for a quotation from some lost apocryphal prophecy, ἔφη θεός, or some such expression, being understood (van Hengel, Annotatio, p. 1 ff., and Paulus, Strauss, Ewald, Weizsäcker),—a view borne out, least of all, by Luke 11:49, which passage accounts for the unwarrantable interpretation into which Olshausen has been betrayed.(12) The corresponding passage in Luke has the appearance of belonging to a later date (in answer to Holtzmann and others). Comp. on Luke 11:49.

ἐγώ] is uttered not by God (Ewald, Scholten), but by Jesus, and that under a powerful sense of His Messianic dignity, and with a boldness still more emphatically manifested by the use of ἰδού. Through this ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω, κ. τ. λ., Jesus gives it to be understood that it is Himself who, in the future also, is still to be the object of hatred and persecution on the part of the Pharisees (comp. Acts 9:5).

προφήτας κ. σοφοὺς κ. γραμμ.] by whom He means His apostles and other teachers (Ephesians 4:11), who, in respect of the Messianic theocracy, would be what the Old Testament prophets were, and the Rabbins ( חֲבָמִים) and scribes of a later time ought to have been, in the Jewish theocracy. For the last-mentioned order, comp. Matthew 13:52. Olshausen is of opinion that the Old Testament prophets themselves must also have been intended to be included, and that ἀποστέλλω (which represents the near and certain future as already present) must indicate “God’s pure and eternal present.” The subsequent futures ought to have prevented any such construction being put upon the passage. For γρα΄΄., comp. Matthew 13:52.

καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν] οὐ πάντες (Euthymius Zigabenus), but more emphatic than if we had had τινάς besides: and from their ranks ye will murder, etc., so that the actions are conceived of absolutely (Winer, p. 552 [E. T. 743]). The same words are solemnly repeated immediately after.

καὶ σταυρώσετε] and among other ways of putting them to death, will crucify them, i.e. through the Romans, for crucifixion was a Roman punishment. As a historical case in point, one might quote (besides that of Peter) the crucifixion of Simeon, a brother of Jesus, recorded by Eusebius, H. E. iii. 32. The meagreness, however, of the history of the apostolic age must be taken into account, though it must not be asserted that in σταυρώσετε Jesus was referring to His own case (Grotius, Fritzsche, Olshausen, Lange). He certainly speaks with reference to the third class of divine messengers, the class whom He is now sending (Calov.), but not from the standpoint of His eternal, ideal existence (Olshausen), nor in the name of God (Grotius), and then, again, from the standpoint of His personal manifestation in time (Olshausen), fancies for which there is no foundation either in Luke 11:49 or in the text itself. Jesus does not contemplate His own execution in what is said at Matthew 23:32.

ἐν ταῖς συναγωγ.] Matthew 10:17.

ἀπὸ πόλεως εἰς πόλιν] Matthew 10:23. Comp. Xen. Anab. v. 4. 31: εἰς τὴν ἑτέραν ἐκ τῆς ἑτέρας πόλεως.


Verse 35

Matthew 23:35. ὃπως ἔλθῃ, κ. τ. λ.] Teleology of the divine decree: in order that all the righteous (innocent) blood (Jonah 1:14; Joel 3:19; Psalms 94:21; 1 Maccabees 1:37) may come upon you, i.e. the punishment for shedding it. Comp. Matthew 27:25. The scribes and Pharisees are regarded as the representatives of the people, and for whom, as their leaders, they are held responsible.

αἷμα] “ter hoc dicitur uno hoc versu, magna vi,” Bengel. And it is δίκαιον, because it contains the life (see on Acts 15:20). Comp. Delitzsch, Psych, p. 242.

ἐκχυνόμενον] present, conceived of as a thing going on in the present, Kühner, II. 1, p. 116. A vivid picture, in which we seem to see the blood still actually flowing. On the later form ἐκχύνω for ἐκχέω, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 726.

ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς] according to the canonical narrative (see below).

ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ βαραχίου] refers to 2 Chronicles 24:20, where Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, is said to have been stoned to death by order of King Joash, ἐν αὐλῇ οἴκου κυρίου. Comp. Joseph. Antt. ix. 8. 3. The detail contained in μεταξὺ, κ. τ. λ., renders the narrative more precise, and serves to emphasize the atrocious character of a deed perpetrated, as this was, on so sacred a spot. Since, according to the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Canon, Genesis stood at the beginning and 2 Chronicles at the end, and since the series here indicated opens with the case of Abel (Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 11:4), so this (2 Chronicles 24:20) is regarded as the last instance of the murder of a prophet, although, chronologically, that of Urijah (Jeremiah 26:23) belongs to a more recent date. The Rabbinical writers likewise point to the murder of this Zacharias as one of a peculiarly deplorable nature; see Targum Lamentations 2:20; Lightfoot on our passage. And how admirably appropriate to the scope of this passage are the words of the dying Zechariah: יֵרֶא יְהֹוָה וְיִדְרשׁ, 2 Chronicles 24:22; comp. with Genesis 4:10! If this latter is the Zacharias referred to in the text, then, inasmuch as the assumption that his father had two names (scholion in Matthaei, Chrysostom, Luther, Beza, Grotius, Elsner, Kanne, bibl. Unters. II. p. 198 ff.) is no less arbitrary than the supposition that υἱοῦ βαραχ. is a gloss (Wassenbergh, Kuinoel), there must, in any case, be some mistake in the quoting of the father’s name (de Wette, Bleek, Baumgarten-Crusius). It is probable that Jesus Himself did not mention the father’s name at all (Luke 11:51), and that it was introduced into the text from oral tradition, into which an error had crept from confounding the person here in question with the better known prophet of the same name, and whose father was called Barachias (Zechariah 1:1). Comp. Holtzmann, p. 404. This tradition was followed by Matthew; but in the Gospel of the Hebrews the wrong name was carefully avoided, and the correct one, viz. Jehoiada, inserted instead (Hilgenfeld, N. T. extra can. IV. p. 17, 11). According to others, the person referred to is that Zacharias who was murdered at the commencement of the Jewish war, and whose death is thus recorded by Joseph. Bell. iv. 6. 4 : δύο δὲ τῶν τολμηροτάτων ( ζηλωτῶν) προσπεσόντες ἐν μεσῷ τῷ ἱερῷ διαφθείρουσι τὸν ζαχαρίαν υἱὸν τοῦ βαρούχου. So Hammond, Krebs, Hug, Credner, Einl. I. p. 207, Gfrörer, Baur, Keim. It is the opinion of Hug that Jesus, as speaking prophetically, made use of the future tense, but that Matthew substituted a past tense instead, because when this Gospel was written the murder had already been committed (after the conquest of Gamala). Keim likewise finds in this a hint as to the date of the composition of Matthew. But apart from the fact that the names Barachias and Baruch are not one and the same, and that the reading in the passage just quoted from Josephus is doubtful (Var. βαρισκαίου), the alleged substitution of the aorist for the future would be so flagrantly preposterous, that a careful writer could scarcely be expected to do anything of the sort. As against this whole hypothesis, see besides Theile in Winer’s neu. krit. Journ. II. p. 405 ff., Kuhn in the Jahrb. d. Theol. I. p. 350 ff. Finally, we may mention, only for the sake of recording them, the ancient opinions (in Chrysostom and Theophylact) that the Zacharias referred to in our passage was either the minor prophet of that name, or the father of the Baptist (see Protevang. Jac. 23). The latter view is that of Origen, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Theophylact, and several others among the Fathers (see Thilo, Praef. p. lxiv. f.); and recently of Müller in the Stud. u. Krit. 1841, p. 673 ff.

μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ, κ. τ. λ.] between the temple proper and the altar of burnt-offerings in the priests’ court.


Verse 36

Matthew 23:36. ἥξει] Put first for sake of emphasis: shall come, shall inevitably come upon, etc. Comp. Matthew 9:15, Matthew 27:49.

πάντα ταῦτα] according to the context: all this shedding of blood, i.e. the punishment for it.

ἐπὶ τ. γενεὰν ταύτ.] See on Matthew 11:16; upon this generation, which was destined to be overtaken by the destruction of Jerusalem and the judgments connected with the second coming (Matthew 23:38 f.), comp. on Matthew 24:34.


Verse 37

Matthew 23:37 ff. After denouncing all those woes against the scribes and Pharisees, the departing Redeemer, looking with sad eye into the future, sets the holy city also—which He sees hastening to its destruction under the false guidance of those leaders—in a living connection with the tragic contents of Matthew 23:34 ff., but in such a way that his parting words are no longer denunciations of woe, but the deep wail of a heart wounded, because its love has been despised. Thus Matthew 23:37 ff. forms an appropriate conclusion to the whole drama of the discourse. Luke 13:34 introduces the words in a historical connection entirely different.

The repetition of the name of Jerusalem is here ἐμφαντικὸς ἐλέος, Euthymius Zigabenus.

ἀποκτείνουσα, κ. τ. λ.] The present participles denote the usual conduct: the murderess, the killer with stones.

πρὸς αὐτήν] to her; because the attributive participial clause from being in the nominative places the subject addressed under the point of view of the third person, and only then proceeds ( ποσάκιςτέκνα σου) with the vocative of address in ἱερουσαλήμ. Comp. Luke 1:45; Job 18:4; Isaiah 22:16. With Beza and Fritzsche, αὑτήν might be read and taken as equivalent to σεαυτήν; but αὐτήν is to be preferred, for this reason, that there is here no such special emphasis as to call for the use of the reflective pronoun (we should expect simply πρός σε in that case).

ποσάκις, κ. τ. λ.] The literal meaning of which is: “How often I have wished to take thy citizens under my loving protection as Messiah!” For the metaphor, comp. Eurip. Herc. Fur. 70 f., and the passages in Wetstein, Schoettgen, p. 208 (Rabbinical writers speak of the Shechinah as gathering the proselytes under its wings). Observe ἑαυτῆς: her own chickens. Such was the love that I felt toward you. On the form νοσς. for νεοσς., see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 206. οὐκ ἐθελήσατε] sc. ἐπισυναχθῆναι; they refused (Nägelsbach on Il. iii. 289; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 278), namely, to have faith in him as the Messiah, and consequently the blame rested with themselves. This refusal was their actual κρῖμα, John 9:39.


Verse 38

Matthew 23:38 f. ἀφίεται ὑμῖν οἶκος ὑμ.] your house is abandoned to your own disposal; the time for divine help and protection for your city is now gone by! For the meaning, comp. Joseph. Antt. xx. 8. 5. The present implies the tragic and decisive ultimatum. The ἔρημος, which is to be retained on critical grounds (see critical notes), intimates what is to be the final result of this abandonment, viz. the destruction of Jerusalem ( ἐρήμωσις, Matthew 24:45; Luke 21:20); on the proleptic use of the adjective, comp. on Matthew 12:13, and Kühner, II. 1, p. 236. According to the context, οἶκος ὑμῶν can only mean ἱερουσαλήμ, Matthew 23:37 (Bleek), in which their children dwell; not the city and the country at large (de Wette and earlier expositors, in accordance with Psalms 69:25), nor the whole body of the Jewish people (Keim), nor the temple (Jerome, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Calvin, Olearius, Wolf, Michaelis, Kuinoel, Neander, Baumeister in Klaiber’s Stud. II. p. 67 f.; Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 92; Ewald).

Matthew 23:39 proceeds to account for this ἀφίεται ὑμῖν, κ. τ. λ. Were your city any longer to be shielded by the divine protection, I would still linger among you; but I now leave you, and it is certain that henceforth (His presence among them, as He knows, being about to cease with His death, comp. Matthew 26:64) you will not see me again until my second coming (not: in the destruction of Jerusalem, Wetstein), when I shall appear in the glory of the Messiah, and when, at my approach, you will have saluted ( εἴπητε, dixeritis) me, whom you have been rejecting, with the Messianic confession εὐλογημένος, κ. τ. λ. (Matthew 21:9). This is not to be understood of the conversion of Israel (Romans 11; Revelation 11) in its development down to the second coming (Bengel, Köstlin, Hofmann, Lange, Schegg, Auberlen, Ewald); for Jesus is addressing Jerusalem, and threatening it with the withdrawal of God’s superintending care, and that until the second appearing of Messiah ( ἐρχόμενος), and hence He cannot have had in view an intervening μετάνοια and regeneration of the city. No; the abandonment of the city on the part of God, which Jesus here announces, is ultimately to lead to her destruction; and then, at His second appearing, which will follow immediately upon the ruin of the city (Matthew 24:29), His obstinate enemies will be constrained to join in the loyal greeting with which the Messiah will be welcomed (Matthew 21:9), for the manifestation of His glory will sweep away all doubt and opposition, and force them at last to acknowledge and confess Him to be their Deliverer. A truly tragic feature at the close of this moving address in which Jesus bids farewell to Jerusalem, not with a hope, but with the certainty of ultimate, though sorrowful, victory. Euthymius Zigabenus very justly observes in connection with ἕως ἂν εἴπητε, κ. τ. λ.: καὶ πότε τοῦτο εἴπωσιν; ἑκόντες μὲν οὐδέποτε· ἄκοντες δὲ κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τῆς δευτέρας αὐτοῦ παρουσίας, ὅταν ἥξει μετὰ δυνάμεως καὶ δόξης πολλῆς, ὅταν οὐδὲν αὐτοῖς ὄφελος τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως. Comp. Theophylact, Calvin, Gerhard, Calovius. Wieseler, p. 322, despairing of making sense of the passage, has gone the length of maintaining that some ancient reader of Matthew has inserted it from Luke. This view might seem, no doubt, to be favoured by the use, in the present instance, of ἱερουσαλήμ, Matthew 23:37, the form in which the word regularly appears in Luke, and for which, on every other occasion, Matthew has ἱεροσόλυμα; but it might very easily happen that, in connection with an utterance by Jesus of so remarkable and special a nature, the form given to the name of the city in the fatal words addressed to her would become so stereotyped in the Greek version of the evangelic tradition, that here, in particular, the Greek translator of Matthew would make a point of not altering the form “ ἱερουσαλήμ,” which had come to acquire so fixed a character as part of the utterance before us.

REMARK.

It is fair to assume that Christ’s exclamation over Jerusalem presupposes that the capital had repeatedly been the scene of His ministrations, which coincides with the visits on festival occasions recorded by John. Comp. Acts 10:39, and see Holtzmann, p. 440 f.; Weizsäcker, p. 310. Those who deny this (among them being Hilgenfeld, Keim) must assume, with Eusebius in the Theophan. (Nova bibl. patr. iv. 127), that by the children of Jerusalem are meant the Jews in general, inasmuch as the capital formed the centre of the nation; comp. Galatians 4:25. Baur himself (p. 127) cannot help seeing the far-fetched character of this latter supposition, and consequently has recourse to the unwarrantable view that we have before us the words of a prophet speaking in the name of God,—words which were first put into the mouth of Jesus in their present form, so that, when they were uttered, ποσάκις would be intended to refer to the whole series of prophets and messengers, who had come in God’s name; just as Origen had already referred them to Moses and the prophets as well, in whom Christ was supposed to have been substantially present; comp. Strauss in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1863, p. 90.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 23:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-23.html. 1832.

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