Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
New American Standard Version

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Nave's Topical Bible - Bigotry;   Conceit;   Confidence;   Extortion;   Hypocrisy;   Jesus, the Christ;   Jesus Continued;   Penitent;   Presumption;   Publicans;   Repentance;   Self-Delusion;   Self-Righteousness;   Tax;   Thankfulness;   Works;   Scofield Reference Index - Justification;   Thompson Chain Reference - Humility-Pride;   Prayer;   Pride;   The Topic Concordance - Abasement;   Exaltation;   Humbleness;   Hypocrisy;   Self-Righteousness;   Tithe;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Contempt;   Hypocrites;   Parables;   Pharisees, the;   Prayer, Answers to;   Presumption;   Pride;   Publicans;   Self-Delusion;   Self-Righteousness;   Thanksgiving;  
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Adam Clarke Commentary

Stood and prayed thus with himself - Or, stood by himself and prayed, as some would translate the words. He probably supposed it disgraceful to appear to have any connection with this penitent publican: therefore his conduct seemed to say, "Stand by thyself; I am more holy than thou." He seems not only to have stood by himself, but also to have prayed by himself; neither associating in person nor in petitions with his poor guilty neighbor.

God, I thank thee, etc. - In Matthew 5:20, our Lord says, Unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God: see the note there. Now, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is described here by a Pharisee himself. We find it was twofold:

  1. It consisted in doing no harm to others.
  • In attending all the ordinances of God, then established in the Jewish economy; and in these things they were not like other men, the bulk of the inhabitants of the land paying little or no attention to them.
  • That the Pharisees were in their origin a pure and holy people can admit of little doubt; but that they had awfully degenerated before our Lord's time is sufficiently evident. They had lost the spirit of their institution, and retained nothing else than its external regulations. See on Matthew 16:1; (note).
    1. This Pharisee did no harm to others - I am not rapacious, nor unjust, nor an adulterer. I seize no man's property through false pretences. I take the advantage of no man's ignorance in buying or selling. I avoid every species of uncleanness. In a word, I do to others as I wish them to do to me. How many of those called Christians are not half as good as this Pharisee! And, yet, he was far from the kingdom of God.
    2. He observed the ordinances of religion - I fast twice in the week. The Jewish days of fasting, in each week, were the second and fifth; what we call Monday and Thursday. These were instituted in remembrance of Moses' going up to the mount to give the law, which they suppose to have been on the fifth day; and of his descent, after he had received the two tables, which they suppose was on the second day of the week.

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    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    Stood and prayed thus with himself - Some have proposed to render this, “stood by himself” and prayed. In this way it would be characteristic of the sect of the Pharisees, who dreaded the contact of others as polluting, and who were disposed to say to all, Stand by yourselves. The Syraic so renders it, but it is doubtful whether the Greek will allow this construction. If not, it means, he said over to himself what he had done, and what was the ground on which he expected the favour of God.

    God, I thank thee - There was still in the prayer of the Pharisee an “appearance” of real religion. He did not profess to claim that he had made himself better than others. He was willing to acknowledge that God had done it for him, and that he had a right to his gratitude for it. Hypocrites are often the most orthodox in opinion of any class of people. They know the truth, and admit it. They use it frequently in their prayers and conversation. They will even persecute those who happen to differ from them in opinion, and who may be really wrong. We are not to judge of the “piety” of people by the fact that they admit the truth, or even that they use it often in their prayers. It is, however, not wrong to thank God that he has kept us from the gross sins which other people commit; but it should not be done in an ostentatious manner, nor should it be done forgetting still that we are great sinners and need pardon. These were the faults of the Pharisees.

    Extortioners - Rapacious; avaricious; who take away the goods of others by force and violence. It means, also, those who take advantage of the necessities of others, the poor and the oppressed, and extort their property.

    Unjust - They who are not fair and honest in their dealings; who get the property of others by “fraud.” They are distinguished from “extortioners” because they who are unjust may have the “appearance” of honesty; in the other case there is not.

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    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

    Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

    The Pharisee stood and prayed thus unto himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God be thou merciful to me a sinner. I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    Before noting specific words and phrases in this passage, the following discussion is presented:


    I. The Contrast between the Two Men in the Temple.

    A. The Pharisee belonged to the aristocracy of his time, a member of the ruling class; and both his virtues and his sins were those of the class to which he belonged. His good points were many. He was not an adulterer, nor an extortioner, nor unjust. He avoided the outward, gross sins into which many fall. On the positive side, he was outwardly religious, as he should have been, keeping all the ceremonies of the law and paying tithes even beyond what the law required, and observing a hundred times as many fasts each year as God had commanded. He was superior to many of his own times, and also of our own times. His failure was a lack of humility, a proud and selfish arrogance having developed within him that made him unsympathetic to others. Furthermore, he had fallen into the fatal error of supposing that he had placed God in his debt, that God owed him salvation on the basis of the good deeds that he did and his outward observance of the commandments in the law.

    B. The publican, on the other hand, was a social outcast, ashamed of the part he was playing in the oppression and humiliation of his own nation by the Romans, and pitifully aware of his neglect of all sacred duties. His standing "afar off" shows that he did not consider himself worthy to stand near the lordly Pharisee, whom he no doubt considered to be a righteous man.

    II. The Contrast between the Prayers They Offered.

    A. The prayer of the Pharisee was a monologue, acknowledging no need, seeking no blessing, confessing no lack, admitting no sin, and beseeching no mercy; it was as cold and formal as an icicle. It enumerated the virtues of the Pharisee and closed with an insult cast in the direction of the publican! It showed that he had a big eye on himself, a bad eye on the publican, and no eye at all upon God! Although God was mentioned, the prayer was actually with himself, presumably rising no higher than where he stood.

    B. The prayer of the publican, on the other hand, was short, informal, and warm with the earnestness of a soul burdened with sin. It confessed his sin, besought the Lord for mercy, and was attested by the sorrow and shame that smote his breast. This was one of few prayers Jesus ever commended.

    III. The Contrast in the Results of These Prayers.

    A. The Pharisee failed to receive anything at all; after all, he had not requested anything. All of the pompous language of the Pharisee amounted to net nothing. His prayer was not merely useless and futile, but it was also an affront to God.

    B. The prayer of the publican resulted in his "justification." This is a big word which shows that God had received him, accounting him righteous to the extent this was possible under the law. It should be noted, however, that he had already enjoyed a covenant relationship with God; and, therefore, it is an abuse of this passage to make this prayer of the publican a statement of what an alien sinner should do to be saved.

    IV. Lessons Drawn From These Contrasts.

    A. Humility is taught, a virtue which is so important that all of the goodness of the Pharisee could not save him without it, and all of the shame and unworthiness of the publican could not condemn him as long as he had it. People need eternally to be reminded that Jesus was born in a stable, not in a palace; his apostles were fishermen, not Pharisees; it was the common people who heard him, not the leaders; he preached not from a throne of gold or ivory, but from the hillside and a fisherman's boat; the central message of his gospel is for the poor and lowly, not for the proud and worldly; the clarion call of the ages is that with which Jesus concluded the parable, "Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted!"

    B. These teach the vanity and emptiness of self-righteousness. All people are sinners. Although it is true that some like the Pharisee are not sinners of grosser type, yet their respectability only emphasizes the sins they do have. None are righteous (Romans 3:10); all have sinned (Romans 3:23); and all human righteousnesses are "as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

    C. These teach some vital facts about prayer. A short prayer is better than a long one (Matthew 6:7,8; 23:14). Also, prayers should be directed, not to ourselves, nor to the audience, but to God. Many prayers remind one of a quotation from Barclay, describing a certain prayer as "the most eloquent prayer ever offered to a Boston audience."[15]

    D. These contrasts teach that only the humble are truly great. Earth's genuine heroes are its humble souls, walking in the fear of God, lifting up holy hands in prayer. Earth's selfish and pompous overlords, ever seeking the chief seats, ever walking in the livery of pride, and ever trimming their words and deeds to accommodate what they fancy to be the spirit of the age, - such are not heroes at all, but are to be pitied. Like Shakespeare's "poor players," they strut and fret their hour upon the stage and then are heard no more. On the contrary, the humble shall be exalted. "I will make them to come and worship before thy feet" (Revelation 3:9).

    The tumult and the shouting dies. The captains and the kings depart. Still stands thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and contrite heart.[16]

    I fast twice a week ... God had commanded only one day of fasting each year, on the Day of Atonement; and the Pharisees had extended this to twice a week!

    I give tithes of all that I get ... "Tithes were not due from all gains, but only from the production of the fields, and cattle."[17] The Pharisees, however, "even tithed what they bought."[18] In such things as these, one can see the extent to which they had "improved" (in their view) upon God's law!

    The publican, standing afar off ... Our English translation does not make clear the distinction between the posture assumed by the Pharisee, as contrasted with that taken by the publican. Boles noted that "STOOD (in the case of the Pharisee) in the original, means that he struck a pose, or assumed an attitude where he could be seen."[19]

    God be merciful ... This is one of only two places in the New Testament where this word "propitiation" or the verb "propitiate" is used, the other being Hebrews 2:17; and, according to Vine, it has the meaning here of "be propitious to," or "merciful" to the person as the object of the verb.

    Justified ... is undoubtedly the verb spoken by Jesus which registered so indelibly in the mind of the apostle Paul, whose writings found so much use for it. We disagree with those who think that Luke, through long companionship with Paul, retrospectively injected this into Jesus' words. It is far more likely that from this Paul received his first knowledge of the word, developing it extensively in his writings.

    Be thou merciful to me a sinner ... The brevity of this prayer is astounding. Cox said:

    The Pharisee's prayer is composed of thirty-five words, that of the publican eight words (Revised Version). As a rule, the deeper the feelings the fewer the words ... We should have the attitude of the publican.[20]

    He that exalteth himself ... This is a maxim which Jesus repeated often. See Luke 14:11. We conclude this study of the parable with a perceptive word from Summers:

    There is something a bit terrifying about this parable. There is within every person that which makes it possible for him to do the same thing the Pharisee did. He can go to the place of worship and go through the forms of worship and still go home the same person he was![21]

    [15] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 232.

    [16] Rudyard Kipling, The Recessional.

    [17] George R. Bliss, op. cit., p. 269.

    [18] Donald G. Miller, The Layman's Bible Commentary (Richmond, Virginia: The John Knox Press, 1959), p. 129.

    [19] H. Leo Boles, Commentary on Luke (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1940), p. 343.

    [20] Frank L. Cox, According to Luke, (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1941), p. 55.

    [21] Ray Summers, Commentary on Luke (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1974), p. 210.

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    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    The Pharisee stood,.... Standing was a praying posture; See Gill on Matthew 6:5 nor is this observed, as if it was something amiss: but the sense is, either that he stood in some place of eminence, that he might be seen of others; or he stood in a set, fixed posture, in a very grave and solemn manner, showing great devotion and seriousness; or he stood with great boldness and confidence:

    and prayed thus with himself; the phrase, "with himself", may be read either with the word "stood", as it is in the Syriac version; and then the sense is that he stood alone, apart from the publican, at a distance from him, as despising him; and lest he should be polluted by him; see Isaiah 65:4 or with the word "prayed", and does not design internal prayer, which was what the Pharisees did not use; for all they did was to be seen, and heard of men: but the meaning is, that he prayed only with respect to himself; he was wholly intent upon himself; his own self, and the commendation of himself, were the subject of his prayer: his whole dependence in it was on himself; and he was only seeking by it his own glory: he had no regard to the people of God, to aid the saints, nor did he put up one petition for them; nor had he any respect to Christ, the mediator, through whom access is had to God, and acceptance with him; nor to the Holy Spirit for his assistance; and though he addressed himself to God, yet in praise of himself, saying,

    God I thank thee: there is no petition in this prayer of his for pardoning grace and mercy; nor larger measures of grace; nor for strength to perform duties, and to hold on to the end; nor for any favour whatever; nor is there any confession of sin in it. So that it scarce deserves the name of a prayer, for in it is only a thanksgiving: indeed, thanksgiving in prayer is right; and had he been a man that had received the grace of God, it would have been right in him to have given thanks to God for it, by which he was made to differ from others: nor would he have been blameworthy, had he thanked God for the good things which he had received from him, or which by his assistance he had done; but nothing of this kind is said by him: he thanks God, in order to exalt himself, and places his righteousness in his own works, and treats all other men in a censorious and disdainful manner; thanking God, or rather blessing himself, saying,

    that I am not as other men are; and yet he was as other men, and no better: he was a sinner in Adam, as other men; and a sinner by nature, as others are; and had the same iniquities and corruptions in his heart, as others; and had no more goodness in him than other men, and as far from true real righteousness. Perhaps he means the Gentiles, whom the Jews looked upon as sinners, and the worst of men; and yet they were in no wise better than the Gentiles, as to their state and condition by nature: it was usual to call the Gentiles אחרים, "other men"; which phrase is sometimes explained by "the nations of the world"F1Gloss. in T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 111. 2. ; and sometimes by the "Cuthites", or "Samaritans"F2Gloss. in T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 52. 2. ; See Gill on Luke 5:29. ---He goes on,

    extortioners, unjust, adulterers; and yet all these characters belonged to the men of sect: the Pharisees were oppressors of the poor, devoured widows' houses, and extorted money from them, under a pretence of long prayers: they are aptly represented by the unjust steward, in Luke 16:1 and they were au unclean, unchaste, and an adulterous generation of men, Matthew 12:39

    or even as this publican; pointing to him at some distance, with great scorn and disdain. This was his prayer, or thanksgiving. It may gratify the curiosity of some to have some other prayers of the Pharisees; and it may be worth while to compare them with this, between which there will appear a pretty deal of likeness.

    "R. Nechunia ben Hakkana used to pray, when he went into the school, and when he came out, a short prayer: they said unto him, what is the goodness (or the excellency) of this prayer? he replied to them, when I go in, I pray, that no offence might come by means of me; and when I go out, "I give thanks" for my portion: when I go in, this is what I say, let it be thy good pleasure before thee, O Lord, my God, the God of my fathers, that I may not be angry with my colleagues, nor my colleagues be angry with me; that I may not pronounce that which is pure defiled, and that which is defiled, pure; that I may not forbid that which is lawful, nor pronounce lawful that which is forbidden; and that I may not be found ashamed in this world, and in the world to come: and when I come out, this is what I say; I confess before thee, (or I thank thee) O Lord God, and the God of my fathers, that thou hast given me my portion among those that sit in the schools, and synagogues, and hast not given me my portion in the theatres and shows: for I labour, and they labour; I watch, and they watch; I labour to inherit paradise, and they labour for the pit of corruptionF3T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 7. 4. Vid. Misna Beracot, c. 4. sect. 2. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. .'

    And these two prayers the Jews were obliged to recite at their going in, and coming out of the synagogue.

    "It is a tradition of R. Juda, saying, three things a man ought to say every day; blessed be thou, שלא עשני גוי, "that thou hast not made me a Gentile"; blessed art thou, that thou hast not made me an unlearned man (or one that is vain and foolish, uncivil and uncultivated); blessed art thou, that hast not made me a womanF4T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 13. 2. .'

    In their prayer booksF5Seder Tephillot, ed. Basil. fol. 2. 2. ed. Amst. fol. 4. 1. , these thanksgivings stand thus:

    "blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast made me an Israelite; (in some books it is, as before, that thou hast not made me a Gentile;) blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast not made me a servant; blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast not made me a woman:'

    when the women, instead of this last, say:

    "blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who has made me as he pleases.'

    And very agreeable to one of these benedictions does the Ethiopic version render the prayer of the Pharisee here; "I thank thee, O Lord that thou hast not made me as other men".

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    Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    3 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

    (3) Although we confess that whatever we have, we have it from God, yet we are despised by God as proud and arrogant if we put even the least trust in our own works before God.
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    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

    Vincent's Word Studies

    Stood ( σταθεὶς )

    Lit., having been placed. Took his stand. It implies taking up his position ostentatiously; striking an attitude. But not necessarily in a bad sense. See on Luke 19:8; and compare Acts 5:20. Standing was the ordinary posture of the Jews in prayer. Compare Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25.

    Prayed ( προσηύχετο )

    Imperfect: began to pray, orproceeded to pray.

    Other men ( οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων )

    Lit., the rest of men. See on Luke 18:9. A Jewish saying is quoted that s true Rabbin ought to thank God every day of his life; 1, that he was not created a Gentile; 2, that he was not a plebeian; 3, that he was not born a woman.


    As the publicans.

    This publican

    Lit., this (one), the publican. This publican here. “He lets us see, even in the general enumeration, that he is thinking of the publican, so, afterward, he does not omit directly to mention him” (Goebel).

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    Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

    The Fourfold Gospel

    The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself1, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners2, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

    1. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself. This may mean that he stood alone, withdrawing from the contamination of others, but it seems rather to mean that he prayed having himself, rather than God, uppermost in his thoughts.

    2. God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners,
    3. unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. His prayer is more a boast as to himself than an expression of worship toward God (Revelation 3:17,18), and he makes the sinful record of the publican a dark background on which to display the bright contrast of his own character--a character for which he was thankful, and apparently with reason.

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    J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

    Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

    The Pharisees were a very proud and self-complacent class of men, who had a high reputation for sanctity. The publicans or tax-gatherers, on the other hand, were despised.

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    Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

    Ver. 11. God, I thank thee] Non vulnera, sed munera ostendit, he shows not his want, but his worth, and stands not only upon his comparisons, but upon his disparisons, -I am not as this publican. No, for thou art worse; yea, for this, because thou thinkest thee better. But of Pharisees it might be said, as Arnobius did of the Gentiles, Apud vos optimi censentur, quos comparatio pessimorum sic facit. They are very good that are not very bad. αντιπροσωπος βλεπων τω θεψ διελεγετο. (Basil.) Velut dignus qui cum Deo colloqueretur. (Erasm.)

    I am not as other men are] Pride wears a triple crown with this motto, Transcendo, Non obedio, Perturbo. This Pharisee held himself the whole piece, and all others a remnant only, as Basil of Seleucia hath it; he takes his poor counter and sets it down for a thousand pounds; he priceth himself above the market.

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    Luke 18:11. The Pharisee stood, and prayed thus The Pharisee, having a very high opinion of his own sanctity, would not mingle with the crowd of worshippers in the temple, lest he should have been defiled by them. See Isaiah 65:5. But he stood on a place by himself alone; this is plainly expressed in the Greek, which should be rendered, the Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed these things. He spoke them aloud in the hearing of those who were in the temple at their devotions. He shewed his pride and self-conceit by standing as near the sanctuary, the place of the divine habitation, as he could, that the priests might hear him also, and that he might be at as great a distance as possible from the prophane publican, who, he observed, was praying at the same time with himself. This circumstance of his standing near the sanctuary, is not indeed directly mentioned; but it is implied in that which is told of the publican, (Luke 18:13.) namely, that he stood afar off. Here therefore the Pharisee prayed, whose thanksgiving savoured of the rankestpride, being a praising of himself rather than God, and such a praising of himself, as implied the highest contempt of others, and particularly of his fellow-worshipper: for he did not simply thank God that he was possessed of this or that virtue, but truly that he was not like other men, and particularly like the publican, who was then addressing God. Moreover, he took care to do himself all manner of honour, by an exact detail of the sins to which other men, particularly the publicans, were prone, from which, in his own opinion, he was perfectly free; and of the duties, which they neglected, but which he failed not to perform. See the next verse. Or even as this publican, expresses a kind of contemptuous pointing at him as it were with the finger.

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    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

    Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

    Luke 18:11. σταθεὶς, standing(199)) confidently, in his wonted place. This reciprocal form [having taken his stand, having stationed himself] denotes more than the neuter ἑστὼς, used of the publican presently after, in Luke 18:13.— πρὸς ἑαυτόν) praying as one dependent on himself (“penes se ipsum,” at his own disposal), giving ear to himself, as though he could bear no man to be next him. Comp. in Luke 18:9, πεποιθότας ἐφʼ ἑαυτοῖς, “who trusted in themselves.”— εὐχαριστῶ, I give thee thanks) By using this formula the Pharisee seems indeed to praise God [For it is with good reason, and deservedly, that thanks are rendered to GOD for deliverance from natural (temporal) destruction, if indeed that be done with truth and humility.—V. g.], but in reality he congratulates (prides) himself alone on his felicity: it is of himself alone that he speaks.— οἱ λοιποὶ, the rest of men) The Pharisee divides mankind into two classes: in the one class he groups together the whole human race; the second, that is the better class, he seems to himself alone to constitute.— ἅρπαγες, rapacious [extortioners]) He takes it as an established certainty, that the first and foremost class of sinners is that one under which he thinks the publican is included; in order that he may stigmatize him both in general with the rest of the class and also individually. The saving of the old poet accords with this: πάντες τελῶναι, πάντες εἰσὶν ἅρπαγες, all publicans (tax-gatherers) are all extortioners. See Gataker, Misc. posth. c. x.— οὗτος, this) Such language is indeed “the putting forth of the finger” [to point at in supercilious contempt and self-righteousness]: Isaiah 58:9.

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    Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    From hence we may observe that thanksgiving is a part of prayer. It is said he prayed, yet we read not of any one petition he put up. His standing while he prayed is not to be found fault with, (that was a usual posture used by persons praying), unless the Pharisee made choice of it for ostentation, that he might be the better taken notice of; which was too much their fault, Matthew 6:5. Whether the term prov eauton, with himself, in this place, signifieth that he only prayed in his heart, or with a voice that could not be heard, or only that he prayed by himself, I doubt; for though our Saviour, who knew men’s thoughts, could easily repeat his prayer, supposing it only mental, or at least with a voice not audible, yet this seemeth not to suit the humour of a Pharisee, whose whole design was to be taken notice of, seen, and heard by others. He saith,

    God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men, extortioners, adulterers, &c. But was this blameworthy? May we not bless God for his restraining grace, not suffering us to run into, the same excesses of riot with other men? Doubtless it is both lawful, and our duty, provided:

    1. That we speak truth when we say it.

    2. That we do not come to plead this as our righteousness before God.

    But this Pharisee:

    1. Speaks this in the pride of his heart, in the justification of himself.

    2. In the scorn and contempt of his neighbour.

    3. Though he were guilty of as great sins as these, though of another kind.

    In the mean time we observe, that he did not attribute this negative goodness, of which he had boasted, or that positive goodness, which he will tell us of by and by, to the power of his own will. He gives thanks to God for them.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 18:11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this public servant.’ ”

    ‘Stood and prayed thus with himself.’ It was normal to pray standing, thus it would not need to be mentioned. The mention of it is probably therefore in order to bring out his pompous attitude. He wanted to be seen and admired. He would probably pray aloud, which was normal, but he did it quietly (‘with himself’). This too was normal practise. Rabbis who prayed loudly were criticised.

    The Pharisee was full of pride at the wonder of his own life and achievements. Surely God must see that he stood out from all others. He had never tried to cheat people out of their possessions, or extort money from them, he had never behaved unjustly towards anyone, he had never committed adultery, and he had certainly not betrayed his people like ‘this public servant’ had. And it was probably all true. But what he did not realise was that the thing that stood out as separating him from the rest of men was above all his arrogant pride. What was not there in his life was any sign of repentance or awareness of need for forgiveness. He was self-satisfied and His heart was hardened against his own sin.

    A further glance at his prayer will bring out its main emphasis, ‘Look God -- I -- I -- I -- I -- I.’ He was like a bullfrog puffing out its chest to attract attention to itself. It was all about himself. He had no wider vision.

    We must not assume that all Pharisees were like this. We may think of Nicodemus in John 3:1-8, and of Gamaliel, to name but two. But a good many certainly were, and all too regularly they echoed the popular prayer, ‘I thank you that you have not made me a Gentile --- I thank you that you have not made me a woman’. And they not only prayed it, they thought it. Some went even further. One Pharisee once said, ‘If there are only two righteous men in the world, I and my son are those two. If there is only one, I am he.’ The Pharisee praying in the Temple would not have stood a chance against him.

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    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    11.Pharisee stood—To pray standing was the ancient custom of the Jews in their temple service. Scholars here find a peculiar expressiveness in the Greek verb, which implies that he formally placed himself in a standing position. The publican simply stopped and stood. Prayed—That is, he boasted; for in reality he only, with a slight phrase of thanks, told God how good he was. He praised rather than prayed; and praised himself rather than God. In fact, he really omitted to pray at all. As if he had no sin, he asked no forgiveness. As if he had no defect or weakness, he asked no divine aid. As if he had no wants, he asked no favours. His performance is divided into two parts. Under the form of thanks, Hebrews, 1, enumerates the bad things that the rest of men are, but he is not; 2, enumerates the good things he does. And there he closes.

    Prayed thus with himself—Nobody shares with him the delight of his self-complacent devotion; it was all his own. Perhaps a better construction would render the latter phrase by himself, and refer it to stood. This makes him stand and pray sanctimoniously apart in the true spirit indicated by the term Pharisee, which signifies separatist.

    I thank thee—His thanksgiving is but a prelude and a pretext for an enumeration of his own virtues. The humblest Christian may think of all there is good in his case in order that he may the more abundantly thank God; this man’s thank God is a mere decent preface to an enumeration of his superiorities.

    Other menLiterally, the rest of men. He is the exceptional case, the one good; all the rest are mere foils to exalt his excellence. We are not sure but that the characters whom this Pharisee conceives himself to be unlike were all held to be embodied in the publicans; so that his whole prayer thus far is not only a eulogy upon himself, but a satire upon his fellow-worshippers.

    Extortioners—Extortion was considered a peculiar vice of publicans. (See note on Luke 19:8.)

    Unjust—Either through violence or fraud.

    Adulterers—No doubt our Lord here meant to concede to the Pharisees the virtues claimed by this individual. But the phrase which couples publicans and harlots would indicate that he is as truly selecting the vice of which the publicans were held guilty. In commending his own virtues, the Pharisee is confessing his neighbor’s sins.

    Or even as this publican—In this sharp utterance he detects himself. His prayer is a slant upon that fellow-worshipper whom he should compassionate.


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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

    Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

    Luke 18:11. The Pharisee stood. The publican also stood, but the word here used implies that the Pharisee took a position of confidence, a conspicuous one at all events (comp. Matthew 6:5).

    Prayed thus with himself, i.e., to himself, not orally, since he would hardly venture to speak thus. But the phrase doubtless alludes to the fact that his prayer was not really a communing with God, but a communing with himself.

    God, I thank thee. He did not thank God, but boasted. It is possible to thank God for what we do and become more than others (1 Corinthians 15:9-10), but such a thanksgiving springs out of the most profound humility.

    Not as the rest of men. Self-righteousness sets at nought, not ‘others,’ but ‘the rest of men;’ as if no one else could be so acceptable to God. The Pharisee then subdivides the rest of men into classes: extortioners, unjust (in the restricted sense of those who act unjustly, illegally), adulterers (to be taken literally), or even as this publican. ‘Even’ is contemptuous; it does not imply that he considered the publican as less unworthy than the other classes. The thanksgiving was not for freedom from these sins, but for his superiority to sinners; and he introduces the concrete and actual sinner (the publican).

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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

    The Expositor's Greek Testament

    Luke 18:11. , having taken his stand; fidenter loco solito (Bengel); “a sign less of confidence than of self-importance” (J. Weiss in Meyer). Probably both qualities are aimed at.— : whether these words should be taken with or with is disputed. If the position of before . in [139] [140] be accepted, there is no room for doubt. Hahn contends that the proper meaning of . is “prayed to himself,” and that there is no instance of the use of . in the sense of “with himself”. Godet takes the phrase as = to himself, and regards the so-called prayer as simply self-congratulation in God’s presence.— . .: not necessarily all mankind, rather all the Jewish world outside his coterie = am haarez.— , etc. these hard words recall the elder brother’s (Luke 15:30).— , or even, the publican pointed at as the ne plus ultra of depravity: the best foil to Pharisaic exemplariness.

    [139] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

    [140] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with and B.



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    Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Pharisee standing. The Greek is, standing by himself, i.e. separated from the rest. Some understand this term, standing, as if in opposition to kneeling or prostrating, which they suppose to be the general posture in which the Jews offered up their prayers, and that of the humble publican. The Christians borrowed this practice from them. We see the apostles and disciples praying on their knees: Acts vii. 59, ix. 40, xx. 36. In the Old Testament, we see the same observed. Solomon, (3 Kings viii. 54.) Daniel, (vi. 10.) and Micheas, (vi. 6.) prayed in that posture. Others however, think that the people generally prayed standing, as there were neither benches nor chairs in the temple. (Calmet) --- There are four ways by which men are guilty of pride: 1st, By thinking they have any good from themselves; 2nd, by thinking that though they have received it from above, it was given them as due to their own merits; 3rd, by boasting of the good they do not possess; and fourthly, by desiring to be thought the only persons that possess the good qualities of which they thus pride themselves. The pride of the Pharisee seems to have consisted in attributing to himself alone the qualities of which he boasted. (St. Gregory, mor. lib. xxiii, chap. 4.) --- He who is guilty of publicly speaking against his neighbour, is likewise the cause of much damage to himself and others. 1st, He injures the hearer; because if he be a sinner, he rejoices to find an accomplice; if he be just, he is tempted to vanity, seeing himself exempt from the crimes with which others are charged. 2nd, He injures the Church, by exposing it to be insulted for the defects of its members. 3rd, He causes the name of God to be blasphemed; for, as God is glorified by our good actions, so is he dishonoured by sin. 4th, He renders himself guilty, by disclosing that which it was his duty not to have mentioned. (St. John Chrysostom, Serm. de Phar. et Pub.)

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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    stood = took his stand, or took up his position (by himself).

    and prayed = and began to pray.

    thus = these things.

    with = to. Greek. pros. App-104.

    extortioners. Like this tax-gatherer.

    unjust. Like the judge of verses: Luke 18:2-5.

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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. The Pharisee stood (as the Jews did in prayer, Mark 11:25), and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. To have been kept from gross iniquities was undoubtedly a just cause of thankfulness to God; But instead of the devoutly humble, admiring frame which this should inspire, he arrogantly severs himself from the rest of mankind, as quite above them, and with a contemptuous look at the poor publican, thanks God that he has not to stand afar off like him, to hang down his head like a bulrush, and beat his breast like him. But these are only his moral excellences. His religious merits complete his grounds for self-congratulation.

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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.—A false stress has often been laid on the Pharisee’s attitude, as though his standing erect was in itself an indication of his self-righteous pride. But the publican also stood, and although another tense of the same verb is used, it is an over-subtle refinement to see this difference between the two forms. Standing was, indeed, with the Jews, the customary attitude of prayer. The self-same participle is used here of the Pharisee, and in Luke 19:8 of Zacchæus. The order of the words in the Greek is “standing by (or, with) himself, prayed thus (or, as follows);” and it is a question of punctuation whether the words point to the Pharisee’s standing “by himself,” shrinking from contact with others, and so making himself the “observed of all observers,” or, as in the Authorised version, that he “prayed with himself.” The general use of the preposition is all but decisive in favour of the latter view. It does not follow, however, as has been somewhat hastily assumed, that the prayer was a silent one, that even he would not have dared to utter aloud such a boast as that which follows. There was nothing in the character of the typical Pharisee to lead him to any such sense of shame; and silent prayer, never customary among the Jews at any time, would have been at variance with every tradition of the Pharisees. (Comp. Notes on Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:7). So far as the phrase has any special point, it indicates that he was not praying to God at all; he was practically praying to himself, congratulating himself, half-consciously, that he had no need to pray, in the sense of asking for pardon, or peace, or righteousness, though it might be right, by way of example, to perform his acts of devotion and to thank God for what he had received. The words remind us—(1) of the title which Marcus Aurelius gave to his Stoic Meditations—“Thoughts (or better, perhaps, communings) with himself”—in which he, too, begins with thanksgiving and self-gratulations on the progress he had made in virtue from his youth onward (Meditt. i. 1); (2) of the more modern theory which recognises the value of prayer as raising the thoughts of man to a higher level, by a kind of self-mesmerising action, but excludes from it altogether the confession of sin, or the supplication for pardon, or the “making our wants known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). The verb for “prayed” is in the tense which implies continuance. He was making a long address, of which this was a sample (Luke 20:47).

    God, I thank thee . . .—We cannot say that the formula, as a formula, was wrong. We are bound to thank God that we have been kept from sins. But all devout minds, and all rightly-constructed liturgies, have recognised the truth that confession must come first, and that without it thanksgiving is merely the utterance of a serene self-satisfaction in outward comforts, or, as here, of spiritual pride.

    That I am not as other men.—Here, as before, the rest of mankind. This was the first false step. He did not compare his own imperfections with the infinite perfections of the Eternal, but with the imagined greater imperfections of his fellow-men, and so he stood as one who had gained the shore, and looked with pride, but not with pity, on those who were still struggling in the deep waters.

    Extortioners, unjust, adulterers, . . .—The first word was aptly chosen, and was obviously suggested by the presence of the other supplicant. “Six publicans and half-a-dozen extortioners” had become a proverb; and the offensive epithet, if not meant to be heard by the publican, was, at any rate, mentally directed at him. In actual life, as our Lord teaches, there was a far worse, because a more hypocritical, “extortion” practised generally by the Pharisees themselves (Matthew 23:25; Luke 11:39). The other words are more generally put, but they were obviously spoken with side glances at this or that bystander. The language of Cromwell in dissolving the Long Parliament, saying to one “Thou art an adulterer,” and to another “Thou art a drunkard and a glutton,” to a third “and thou an extortioner,” offers a curious instance of unconscious parallelism (Hume’s History of England, chap. 60).

    Or even as this publican.—This was the climax of all. He saw the man smiting on his breast in anguish, and no touch of pity, no desire to say a word of comfort, rises in his soul. The penitent is only a foil to the lustre of his own virtues, and gives the zest of contrast to his own insatiable vanity. The very pronoun has the ring of scorn in it.

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    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
    Psalms 134:1; 135:2; Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25
    Isaiah 1:15; 58:2; Jeremiah 2:28,35; Ezekiel 33:31; Micah 3:11; 1 Corinthians 4:7,8; 15:9,10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; Revelation 3:17
    20:47; Isaiah 65:5; Matthew 3:7-10; 19:18-20; Galatians 3:10; Philippians 3:6; James 2:9-12
    Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 15:13 - I have performed;  1 Samuel 15:20 - Yea;  Psalm 51:17 - a broken spirit;  Psalm 123:3 - Have mercy;  Proverbs 12:15 - way;  Proverbs 13:7 - is that maketh himself rich;  Proverbs 20:6 - proclaim;  Proverbs 21:2 - right;  Proverbs 26:12 - a man;  Proverbs 30:12 - that are;  Ezekiel 16:56 - was not;  Ezekiel 22:12 - greedily;  Matthew 7:3 - why;  Matthew 9:12 - They that be whole;  Matthew 18:17 - a publican;  Matthew 19:20 - All;  Matthew 20:12 - borne;  Mark 2:16 - How;  Mark 10:20 - GeneralMark 10:31 - GeneralLuke 1:53 - and;  Luke 5:30 - GeneralLuke 15:29 - Lo;  Luke 15:30 - this;  Luke 16:15 - Ye;  Luke 18:9 - and despised;  Luke 18:21 - GeneralJohn 4:23 - true;  Acts 10:28 - but;  Romans 2:23 - that makest;  Romans 7:14 - but;  Romans 12:3 - not to;  1 Corinthians 5:11 - or an extortioner;  2 Corinthians 10:12 - we dare not;  Galatians 6:3 - if;  Galatians 6:4 - and not

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    11.God, I thank thee. And yet he is not blamed for boasting of the strength of his free-will, but for trusting that God was reconciled to him by the merits of his works. For this thanksgiving, which is presented exclusively in his own name, does not at all imply that he boasted of his own virtue, as if he had obtained righteousness from himself, or merited any thing by his own industry. On the contrary, he ascribes it to the grace of God that he is righteous. Now though his thanksgiving to God implies an acknowledgment, that all the good works which he possessed were purely the gift of God, yet as he places reliance on works, and prefers himself to others, himself and his prayer are alike rejected. Hence we infer that men are not truly and properly humbled, though they are convinced that they can do nothing, unless they likewise distrust the merits of works, and learn to place their salvation in the undeserved goodness of God, so as to rest upon it all their confidence.

    This is a remarkable passage; for some think it enough if they take from man the glory of good works, so far as they are the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and accordingly they admit that we are justified freely, because God finds in us no righteousness but what he bestowed. But Christ goes farther, not only ascribing to the grace of the Spirit the power of acting aright, but stripping us of all confidence in works; for the Pharisee is not blamed on the ground of claiming for himself what belongs to God, but because he trusts to his works, that God will be reconciled to him, because he deserves it. Let us therefore know that, though a man may ascribe to God the praise of works, yet if he imagines the righteousness of those works to be the cause of his salvation, or rests upon it, he is condemned for wicked arrogance. And observe, that he is not charged with the vainglorious ambition of those who indulge in boasting before men, while they are inwardly conscious of their own wickedness, but is charged with concealed hypocrisy; for he is not said to have been the herald of his own praises, but to have prayed silently within himself. Though he did not proclaim aloud the honor of his own righteousness, his internal pride was abominable in the sight of God. His boasting consists of two parts: first, he acquits himself of that guilt in which all men are involved; and, secondly, he brings forward his virtues. He asserts that he is not as other men, because he is not chargeable with crimes which everywhere prevail in the world.

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    Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 18:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.