Matthew 11:11
Truly I say to you, Among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) There hath not risen a greater.—The greatness of men is measured by a divine not a human standard. The prophet, who was more than a prophet, the herald or the forerunner of the kingdom, was greater in his work, his holiness, his intuition of the truth, than the far-off patriarchs, than David or Solomon, and, à fortiori, than the conquerors and the destroyers, such as Alexander, Pompey, Herod, on whom the world bestowed the title of “the great” ones.

He that is least in the kingdom of heaven.—The Greek gives the comparative, not the superlative—he whose relative position in the kingdom of heaven is less than that of John. Very many commentators have thought, strangely enough, that our Lord referred in these words to Himself. He in the eyes of men was esteemed less than the Baptist, and yet was really greater. But this is surely not the meaning of the words. (1) It would be but a poor truism to have declared that the King was greater than the herald; and (2) there is no example of our Lord’s so speaking of Himself elsewhere. On the other hand, He does speak of His disciples as the “little ones” who believe on Him (Matthew 10:42), and as applied to them the words have a meaning at once natural and adequate. The least of His disciples, rejoicing in His presence, in communion with Him, in His revelation of the Father, though less than John in fame, work, the rigour of ascetic holiness, was yet above him in the knowledge of the truth, and therefore in blessedness and joy.

Matthew 11:11. Among them that are born of women — That is, among the whole race of mankind in all former ages, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist — As John, with regard to his religious and moral character, was the best of men, so he had some peculiar honours superior to any prophet of former generations. “Our Lord,” says Macknight, “honoured the Baptist with the magnificent title of the greatest of all the prophets, under the law, for four reasons. 1st, He was the subject of ancient prophecies, and had long been expected by the people of God under the character of Elias, a name given him by Malachi, because he was to possess the spirit and power of Elias. 2d, His conception and birth had been accompanied with miracles. 3d, When the season of his inspiration came, he was favoured with a clearer revelation concerning the Messiah than had been enjoyed by any of the prophets under the law. 4th, By his preaching he prepared the Jews for receiving the gospel, and consequently began that more excellent dispensation.” Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven — That is, in the gospel dispensation, when fully opened, understood, and enjoyed in all its privileges and blessings, is greater than he — For Christ’s ministers, and even his real people in general, under the gospel, were to receive superior supplies of the Spirit, and know many important truths respecting our Lord and his kingdom which had not been revealed to John himself. So Doddridge understands the clause. But Baxter confines it to Christ’s ministers, paraphrasing the verse thus: “There hath not been a greater than John before him; as being nearest the kingdom of the Messiah: but yet the least of my ministers in this my kingdom is greater than he, and shall have more eminent gifts of the Spirit, as well as a more excellent office and work; so far shall my kingdom, begun after my ascension, excel all ages that were before it.” Others, again, think the expression, is greater than he, is only applicable to Christ’s first servants, namely, the apostles and evangelists, and New Testament prophets, and interpret the words thus: “Though the Baptist excelled all the preceding prophets, the least inspired person in the kingdom of heaven, the least apostle or preacher of the gospel, was a greater prophet than he, being much better acquainted with the character, disposition, and doctrine of Christ. They were also employed, not in making preparation for, but in erecting the Messiah’s kingdom; hence they were greater than the Baptist in respect of the dignity of their office. Moreover, having gifts bestowed on them to fit them for that office, far superior to his, they were greater in respect of their illumination. They had the Spirit so dwelling in them, that, on all occasions they could declare the will of God infallibly, being, as it were, living oracles. To conclude, as they had likewise been the subjects of ancient oracles, Acts 2:16, they had long been expected by the people of God.”11:7-15 What Christ said concerning John, was not only for his praise, but for the people's profit. Those who attend on the word will be called to give an account of their improvements. Do we think when the sermon is done, the care is over? No, then the greatest of the care begins. John was a self-denying man, dead to all the pomps of the world and the pleasures of sense. It becomes people, in all their appearances, to be consistent with their character and their situation. John was a great and good man, yet not perfect; therefore he came short of glorified saints. The least in heaven knows more, loves more, and does more in praising God, and receives more from him, than the greatest in this world. But by the kingdom of heaven here, is rather to be understood the kingdom of grace, the gospel dispensation in its power and purity. What reason we have to be thankful that our lot is cast in the days of the kingdom of heaven, under such advantages of light and love! Multitudes were wrought upon by the ministry of John, and became his disciples. And those strove for a place in this kingdom, that one would think had no right nor title to it, and so seemed to be intruders. It shows us what fervency and zeal are required of all. Self must be denied; the bent, the frame and temper of the mind must be altered. Those who will have an interest in the great salvation, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing. The things of God are of great and common concern. God requires no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us. People are ignorant, because they will not learn.Among them that are born of women - This is an emphatic way of saying that there "had never" been a greater "man" than John. See Job 14:1.

He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he - The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is used in many senses. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. It here probably means, "in preaching the kingdom of God," or the gospel. It could hardly be affirmed of the obscurest and most ignorant Christian that he had clearer views than Isaiah or John; but of the apostles of the Saviour, of the first preachers who were with him and who heard his instructions, it might be said that they had more correct apprehensions than any of the ancient prophets, or than John.

2. Now when John had heard in the prison—For the account of this imprisonment, see on [1261]Mr 6:17-20.

the works of Christ, he sent, &c.—On the whole passage, see on [1262]Lu 7:18-35.

Ver. 10,11. St. Luke hath the same, Luke 7:27,28, only he saith, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. It was written, Malachi 3:1, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. The latter part was a prophecy of Christ. The former part a prophecy of John the Baptist, and applied to him not in this text only, but Mark 1:2 Luke 1:76 7:27. Christ is set out as a great Prince, who sends his harbingers before him to prepare his way, and by John’s preaching we may learn the ministers’ duty, who are to prepare Christ’s way to people’s souls, viz. to preach repentance and faith in Christ.

Verily I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there hath not risen a greater; that is, (as Luke expounds it), a greater prophet; i.e. amongst all the prophets of the Old Testament, God raised up none greater than John.

Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Mr. Calvin and many others think that by this phrase is to be understood, the least of those who shall preach the gospel after my resurrection will be greater than he, that is, as to their doctrine. John could only declare me to be come. They shall preach me, as having died for my people’s sins, and risen again for their justification, Romans 4:25. The death and the resurrection of Christ were indeed great points of the gospel, which John could only prophesy of, not preach of, and declare us things in his time accomplished. Verily I say unto you,.... What Christ had before said, he proved from a testimony of Scripture; what he was about to say depending on his word, he asseverates in the most solemn manner:

among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. The phrase, "them that are born of women", is a "periphrasis", of men born into the world by ordinary generation; see Job 14:1 and the sense is, that of all the prophets that have been in the world, since the beginning of it, Moses himself not excepted, there has not been raised up by God a greater prophet than John, the first administrator of baptism; were but considered, the uncommonness of his birth, his being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, his exemplary life, the excellency of his doctrine; and especially, his work and office, as the harbinger of Christ, and the preparer of his ways.

Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he; which is to be understood, not of Christ, who was younger in age, and a junior preacher, and less in the esteem of the Pharisees, being greater than he, in nature and office, nor of the saints in heaven, where he that was least, the meanest, and most abject, when on earth, is more happy than John, who was then in prison; nor of all the believers under the Gospel dispensation; but of the apostles of Christ, and the least among them, who were then the kingdom of heaven, or the visible Gospel church state. These had a better opportunity of conversing with Christ, and of seeing and hearing the things they did, than John had; they had the power of performing miracles, which John had not; were immediately sent forth by Christ, to preach the Gospel, and had a clearer insight into the truths of it, than John; especially, after the Holy Ghost was in such an extraordinary manner poured forth upon them, on the day of Pentecost; particularly after the death and resurrection of Christ, they were able to preach him, not only as come in the flesh, but as having suffered and died, and obtained eternal redemption: they could speak of his blood being shed, of his righteousness being wrought out, and of his sacrifice and satisfaction as made, which John could not; and besides, were more successful in the conversion of sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, than ever he was. The comparison does not lie so much between their persons, as their several different degrees of light and doctrine.

Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the {c} kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

(c) In the new state of the Church where the true glory of God shines: the people are not compared together, but the types of doctrines, the preaching of John with the law and the prophets: and again, the most clear preaching of the gospel is compared with John's.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 11:11. Ἐν γενν. γυν.] among those born of woman. Intended to denote the category of men according to that nature which is peculiar to the whole race in virtue of its origin (mortality, weakness, sinfulness, and so on). Sir 10:18. Comp. יְלוּד־אִשָּׁה, Job 14:1; Job 15:14; Job 25:4; see also on Galatians 4:4. For ἐγήγερται (by God), comp. Luke 7:16; John 7:52; Acts 13:22 f.

μωίζων] a greater, one more distinguished generally, and that just because he is this promised herald of God who was to precede the Messiah. The words do not warrant our interpreting them to mean: a greater prophet, as has been done by Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, and the older critics.

ὁ δὲ μικρότερος, κ.τ.λ.] he, however, who is less in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. It is to be observed, (1) that neither here nor elsewhere does the comparative stand for the superlative; (2) that, according to the context, the reference of the comparative (see μείζων Ἰωάννου, and afterwards μείζων αὐτοῦ) need not be looked for elsewhere but in Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ;[442] (3) that, since ὁ μικρότερος cannot refer to Jesus, it is (Matthew 18:1; Matthew 18:4) necessarily limited and defined by ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν, with which it has been connected by Isidore, Cyril, Theodoret, Heracleon (see Cramer, Cat. p. 85). Hence it is to be explained thus: But he who stands lower in the kingdom of the Messiah, stands (according to the divine standard) higher than he. Not as if John would be excluded (as against this, see Matthew 10:41) from the kingdom of Messiah that was about to be established, but the standpoint of those who share in the kingdom is compared with the high position which, as still belonging to the ancient theocracy, the Baptist occupies in the αἰὼν οὗτος. There he is the greatest of all; yet he who is lower in the approaching kingdom of the Messiah, and can by no means compare himself with the eminent personage in question, is, nevertheless, greater than he. Thus the βασίλεια τῶν οὐρανῶν, raised above the Old Testament order of things, simply appears as the state of perfection towards which the theocracy, ending with John, its foremost representative, is only the first step. Others (Chrysostom, Hilary, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther, Melanchthon, Osiander, Jansen, Corn. a Lapide, Calovius, Fritzsche, Fleck, de regno div. p. 83) interpret: he who, as compared with him, retires into the shade (Jesus, μικρότερος κατὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν καὶ κατὰ τὴν πολλῶν δόξαν, Chrysostom) will, as Messiah, outshine him in the kingdom of heaven. These expositors have rightly understood the comparative μικρότερος as comparing some one with the Baptist; but how extremely improbable that Jesus, conscious as He was of a Messiahship that had been divinely confirmed at His baptism, and with the multitudes flocking around Him, would have spoken of Himself as μικρότερος than John the prisoner! And is it not utterly foreign to the context to suppose that He would here have compared Himself with the Baptist? Finally, were the ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν, again (referred to what follows), only an awkward toning down of the sharp character of the statement, it would have been far more sensible (since Jesus would mean Himself as the Messiah, whose greatness in the Messianic kingdom is a matter of course) if He had merely said with regard to Himself: ὁ δὲ μικρότερος μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.

[442] Therefore not: less than the others who participate in the kingdom, as it has been commonly understood of late (Winer, Buttmann, Bleek, Weizsäcker, Keim), according to which view the superlative sense is developed, as in Matthew 18:1; Luke 22:24. So Bengel also: “minimus in regno coelorum est minimus civium regni.” Keim sarcastically observes that, according to the view I have given above, John “would still occupy a subordinate place even in heaven,” and I confess that I am at a loss to comprehend how one can understand ver. 11 in such a way as to exclude (so also Schenkel) the Baptist from the kingdom of heaven, in which, however, the patriarchs and prophets find a place. Where is the Baptist’s place to be? Outside the kingdom is τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον, Matthew 8:12. And outside the church, if this be understood (though erroneously) as what is meant by the kingdom, is the κόσμος of unbelievers. This also in answer to Weizsäcker, p. 411 f.; Weissenbach, p. 31 f.; Weiss.Matthew 11:11-12. This is the further justification of the περισσ. desiderated.11. he that is least in the kingdom of heaven] Literally, he that is less, either (1) than John or (2) than others. Those who are in the kingdom, who are brought nearer to God and have clearer spiritual knowledge of God, have higher privileges than the greatest of those who lived before the time of Christ.Matthew 11:11. Οὐκ ἐγήγερται, there has not arisen) or there hath not been raised up as yet. The verb ἐγείρεσθαι, denotes an office conferred.—ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν, among them that are born of women) An expression of universal extent. Thus, ἐν γυναίξιν, among women, of the blessedness of Mary, Luke 1:28.—μείζων, a greater, sc. prophet) See Luke 7:28; Luke 1:15, even if he be compared with Enoch, Moses, and Elias.—τοῦ βαπτισοῦ, the Baptist) He was already then distinguished by this surname, on account of the novelty and magnitude of the matter, not merely afterwards to distinguish him from John the apostle.—ὁ δὲ μικρότερος, but the least) The comparative with the article has the force of a superlative. As far as John excels every one, even the greatest of the ancient prophets, so far is John himself excelled by every one, even the least, in the kingdom of heaven, whether he be a preacher of Christ, or merely a citizen thereof. John himself was not yet in the kingdom of heaven, but he preceded it [as a herald].[519] Jesus is not the least IN the kingdom of heaven, but is the King Himself; and He Himself is implied by the kingdom of heaven, which John announced.—See Matthew 11:10; Matthew 11:3, and ch. Matthew 3:11. And the less and the greater are here spoken of as they are, not in the opinion of men, but in reality, in the knowledge of the revealed Christ.—See 1 Peter 1:12. The idea of external appearance, in Matthew 11:6, does not come in here. Jesus was despised and unknown amongst men, but He was not the least, as far as the kingdom of heaven was concerned; all the citizens of the kingdom of heaven already acknowledged Him as their King.—Cf. the phrase in ch. v. 19. He is never called less than John, nor least in the kingdom of heaven. The least in the kingdom of heaven, is the least of the citizens of the kingdom. In that THIRD point[520] in which John is greater than others, the least in the kingdom of heaven is less than the other citizens of the kingdom of heaven. John did not yet know all, which at present even catechumens know from the Apostles’ Creed. A noble climax—prophet, John, apostle or Christian. It is greater, in this kind of comparison of the Old and New Testament, to know things present than things future, however brief be the interval which separates them from the present;[521] but in another point of view, the knowledge of futurity is an especial distinction conferred by GOD.

[519] Even at that time the Apostles themselves already were superior to John in their baptizing and teaching, John 4:2; Matthew 10:7, etc.—Harm., p. 299), at the end.

[520] Beng. seems to me to use Tertium here in the logical sense of the intermediate term, affording a point of comparison between the other two: as here John stands midway between the Old Test. covenant and its prophets, on the one hand, and the N. Test. kingdom, and its preachers and members, on the other.—ED.

[521] In the original, “scire præsentia quam futura, quamvis proxime futura;” lit. “to know present than future [things], although most closely futurei.e.to know the things that are, than those that are to be hereafter, however close that hereafter may be to the present.”—(I. B.)Verse 11. - Verily. Matthew only. This solemn asseveration (Matthew 5:18, nine) would the more remind them of their duty towards John; and, if its force may be extended to the next clause, call their attention the more forcibly to his being only the herald of better things. I say unto you, Among them that are born of women (Job 14:1) there hath not risen. These last words have the emphasis in the Greek, οὐκ ἐγήγερται, i.e. to work and energy as a prophet (Luke 7:16; Matthew 24:11, 24). A greater than John the Baptist. This seems almost less praise than ver. 9. But our Lord probably intended to tacitly meet the objection that Moses or Abraham was to be listened to rather than John (cf. Matthew 3:9, note). Notwithstanding (yet, Revised Version) he that is least (but little, Revised Version, ὁ δὲ μικότερος: cf. μείζων, Matthew 18:1) in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. The weakest Christian is greater in privileges than the greatest of the Old Testament saints. John could preach repentance, but the joys of redemption he knew nothing cf. He is therefore judged according to the rule, "Minimum maximi mains est maximo minimi" (cf. Holtzmann, 'Hand-Commentar,' p. 134).
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