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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Matthew 8



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Verse 2

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

Verse 5

Unto him (αυτωιautōi). Dative in spite of the genitive absolute εισελτοντος αυτουeiselthontos autou as in Matthew 8:1, a not infrequent Greek idiom, especially in the Koiné.

Verse 6

Grievously tormented (δεινως βασανιζομενοςdeinōs basanizomenos). Participle present passive from root βασανοςbasanos (see note on Matthew 4:24). The boy (παιςpais), slave (δουλοςdoulos Luke 7:2), was a bedridden (βεβληταιbeblētai perfect passive indicative of βαλλωballō) paralytic.

Verse 7

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

Verse 9

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

Verse 10

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

Verse 11

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

Verse 12

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

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

Verse 14

Lying sick of a fever (βιβλημενην και πυρεσσουσανbiblēmenēn kai puressousan). Two participles, bedridden (perfect passive of βαλλωballō) and burning with fever (present active). How long the fever had had her we have no means of knowing, possibly a sudden and severe attack (Mark 1:30), as they tell Jesus about her on reaching the house of Peter. We are not told what kind of fever it was. Fever itself was considered a disease. “Fever” is from German feuer (fire) like the Greek πυρpur f0).

Verse 15

Touched her hand (ηπσατο της χειρος αυτηςhēpsato tēs cheiros autēs). In loving sympathy as the Great Physician and like any good doctor today.

Ministered (διηκονειdiēkonei). “Began to minister” (conative imperfect) at once to Jesus at table in gratitude and love.

Verse 16

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

Verse 17

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

Verse 19

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

Verse 20

Holes (πωλεουςphōleous). A lurking hole, burrow.

Nests (κατασκηνωσειςkataskēnōseis). “Roosts, i.e. leafy, σκηναιskēnai for settling at night (tabernacula, habitacula), not nests” (McNeile). In the Septuagint it is used of God tabernacling in the Sanctuary. The verb (κατασκηνοωkataskēnoō) is there used of birds (Psalm 103:12).

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

Verse 21

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

Verse 22

Leave the dead to bury their own dead (απες τους νεκρους ταπσαι τους εαυτων νεκρουςaphes tous nekrous thapsai tous heautōn nekrous). The spiritually dead are always on hand to bury the physically dead, if one‘s real duty is with Jesus. Chrysostom says that, while it is a good deed to bury the dead, it is a better one to preach Christ.

Verse 24

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

Verse 25

Save, Lord; we perish (Κυριε σωσον απολλυμεταKurie sōson apollumetha). More exactly, “Lord, save us at once (aorist), we are perishing (present linear).”

Verse 27

Even the winds and the sea obey him (Και οι ανημοι και η ταλασσα αυτωι υπακουουσινKai hoi anēmoi kai hē thalassa autōi hupakouousin). A nature miracle. Even a sudden drop in the wind would not at once calm the sea. “J. Weiss explains that by ‹an astonishing coincidence‘ the storm happened to lull at the moment that Jesus spoke!” (McNeile). Some minds are easily satisfied by their own stupidities.

Verse 28

The country of the Gadarenes (τεν χωραν των Γαδαρηνωνten chōran tōn Gadarēnōn). This is the correct text in Matthew while in Mark 5:1 and Luke 8:26 it is “the country of the Gerasenes.” Dr. Thomson discovered by the lake the ruins of Khersa (Gerasa). This village is in the district of the city of Gadara some miles southeastward so that it can be called after Gerasa or Gadara. So Matthew speaks of “two demoniacs” while Mark and Luke mention only one, the leading one.

The tombs” (των μνημειωνtōn mnēmeiōn) were chambers cut into the mountain side common enough in Palestine then and now. On the eastern side of the lake the precipitous cliffs are of limestone formation and full of caves. It is one of the proofs that one is a maniac that he haunts the tombs. People shunned the region as dangerous because of the madmen.

Verse 29

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

Verse 32

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

Verse 34

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


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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