Matthew 12:38
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

New Living Translation
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority."

English Standard Version
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”

Berean Study Bible
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."

Berean Literal Bible
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from You."

New American Standard Bible
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."

King James Bible
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."

International Standard Version
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees told Jesus, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

NET Bible
Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

New Heart English Bible
Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees responded and they were saying to him, “Teacher we wish to see a sign from you.”

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Then some scribes and Pharisees said, "Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign."

New American Standard 1977
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

Jubilee Bible 2000
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we desire to see a sign from thee.

King James 2000 Bible
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from you.

American King James Version
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from you.

American Standard Version
Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying: Master we would see a sign from thee.

Darby Bible Translation
Then answered him some of the scribes and Pharisees, saying, Teacher, we desire to see a sign from thee.

English Revised Version
Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

Webster's Bible Translation
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

Weymouth New Testament
Then He was accosted by some of the Scribes and of the Pharisees who said, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign given by you."

World English Bible
Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

Young's Literal Translation
Then answered certain of the scribes and Pharisees, saying, 'Teacher, we will to see a sign from thee.'
Study Bible
The Sign of Jonah
37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” 38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39Jesus replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.…
Cross References
Matthew 12:37
For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Matthew 16:1
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came and tested Jesus by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.

Mark 8:11
Then the Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus. They tested Him by demanding from Him a sign from heaven.

Mark 8:12
Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit and said, "Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation."

Luke 11:16
And others tested Him by demanding a sign from heaven.

Luke 11:29
As the crowds were increasing, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.

John 2:18
On account of this, the Jews demanded, "What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?"

John 6:30
So they asked Him, "What sign then will You perform, so that we may see it and believe You? What will You do?

1 Corinthians 1:22
Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom,
Treasury of Scripture

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from you.

Master.

Matthew 16:1-4 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired …

Mark 8:11,12 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking …

Luke 11:16,29 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven…

John 2:18 Then answered the Jews and said to him, What sign show you to us, …

John 4:48 Then said Jesus to him, Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.

1 Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

(38) Master, we would see a sign from thee.--The order varies slightly from that in St. Luke, in which the demand for a sign follows on the parable of the unclean spirit returning to his house. In both, however, the sequence of thought appears the same. The tone of authority, as of one who is the judge of all men, leads to the challenge--"Give us a sign by which you may convince us that you have a right thus to speak."

Verses 38-42. - Before entering on this difficult passage, it seems necessary to make some preliminary observations.

(1) Luke 11:29-32 is the recognized parallel.

(2) According to Luke 11:16, our Lord had been already asked for a sign, in what would be the middle of our preceding discussion, i.e. between the accusation by the Pharisees (our ver. 24) and the Lord's answer to it (our ver. 25, sqq.). This shows that either the demand was in fact made at some time during this discussion, or at least that it was such a demand as our Lord's opponents were likely to make when they were hard pressed, and such as they did in fact make on a somewhat similar occasion. Notice that in Luke 11:16 it is expressly attributed to others than those who had brought the accusation.

(3) Very similar verses are found in Matthew 16:1-4 (parallel passage: Mark 8:11-13); Luke 11:16 agrees more verbally with the demand as described there than with our ver. 38.

(4) Thus Mark and Luke relate such an incident once, but Matthew twice.

(5) The four passages (Matthew 12:38-42; Luke 11:16, 29-32; Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13) contain so much similarity of language that we cannot suppose them to be absolutely independent of each other.

(6) Hence two hypotheses present themselves:

(a) The demand was made twice (in itself exceedingly probable), and our Lord's answers were to a great extent identical in substance (in itself not very probable), and when identical in substance were closely identical in language (distinctly less probable). Or perhaps we might suppose that this identity of language was rather due to the narrator than to our Lord himself; familiarity with one answer may in the curly Church have moulded the record of the other.

(b) The demand and the answer, as recorded, refer to one and the same occasion. But the account existed in more than one of the sources used by St. Matthew, and as each form of it had its own peculiarities (especially our ver. 24 and Matthew 16:2, 3), he retained them both. Anyhow, Matthew 16:1-4 seems to have belonged to the Framework, and our passage to the Discourses.

(7) It will be noticed that all the passages except Mark 8:11-13 speak of "the sign of Jonah." How was Jonah a sign? Our ver. 40 seems to answer the question, and to say that it was by being in the whale's belly three days and three nights. But there are serious difficulties in accepting this view as finally and alone right. For in Matthew 16:4 no explanation at all is recorded (though, indeed, it might be urged that the evangelist might fairly expect his readers to remember our ver. 40), and in Luke 11:30 apparently a different explanation is found, "for even as Jonah became a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation" - words which, taken alone, would seem to refer to Jonah being a sign by the mere fact of his preaching. Thus our Lord would mean - As Jonah preached, so I preach. The future is used in Luke 11:30 (ἔσται), as bringing out more clearly than the present would have done the final relation in which Christ should stand to his contemporaries. Godet, indeed, urges that the future excludes any present reference to Christ's work as preaching, and that the demand for a sign from heaven (Luke 11:16) can only be fully satisfied by Christ's resurrection, "in which no human agency intervenes, and in which Divine power appears alone." He, therefore, makes Luke's meaning identical with that of our ver. 40, and paraphrases thus: "It was as one who had miraculously escaped from death that Jonas presented himself before the Ninevites, summoning them to anticipate the danger which threatened them; it is as the Risen One that I (by my messengers) shall proclaim salvation to the men of this generation." But this would almost assume that Jonah told the Ninevites of his miraculous escape, though there is not a hint of his having done so. On the contrary, Jonah 3:4, sqq., implies that the call to repentance on the basis of punishment threatened was the sole and only means employed by the prophet to accomplish his mission. Jonah the preacher became, by virtue of his preaching, a sign to the Ninevites (for, quite apart from his miraculous preservation, his appearance in Nineveh and his preaching there were no small portent and sign of Divine interest in the Ninevites' affairs), and they accepted him. Matthew's addition, "the prophet," emphasizes this thought, even though he passes on to give what appears to have been the Lord's secondary interpretation of the sign of Jonah. Christ's primary object, then, in his reply was to show to his opponents that heathen Ninevites and a heathen queen accepted the truth without any such sign as that which they were now demanding, and, if possible, to shame them into doing so. Thus ver. 40 is to be considered as parenthetical rather than as the main subject. It has, indeed, been suggested that ver. 40 was in fact not spoken at all by the Lord himself, but is only the result of a very early interpretation by the Hebrew Christians of our Lord's phrase, added before the formation of our Gospel. The explanation is tempting, but, in the entire absence of corroboration, cannot be accepted (cf. note there). So far as our present evidence goes, we must attribute ver. 40 to Christ, and consider that as he was mentioning the reception of Jonah by the Ninevites, the thought occurred to him that in Jonah's history lay as it were a prefigurement of what he himself would be. Just as on another occasion he illustrated his death and resurrection by the figure of destroying and building the temple (John 2:18, 19), so now he uses the figure of Jonah in the whale's belly.

(8) This is not the place to enter upon a discussion of the question whether the event here referred to literally happened or not, much less to examine the deep and mysterious subject of the Lord's kenosis (Philippians 2:7). But it should be observed that some at least of those critics who do not believe that the narrative of Jonah being in the whale's belly is to be understood literally, consider that his preaching to the Ninevites at all is equally metaphorical (cf. C. H. H. Wright, 'Introduction to Old Testament,' p. 207, sqq.), so that not only ver. 40 but ver. 41 and Luke 11:32 are affected, and that indeed more seriously, since the Lord says that the Ninevites will stand up as witnesses. The reasons for taking the narrative as only metaphorical are far from convincing, yet even if they were overwhelming, the illustration in ver. 40 (though not ver. 41) would still remain valid, just as (with all reverence be it spoken) any one to-day might illustrate his action from that of one of Shakespeare's characters whose historical existence is more than doubtful. While, however, the frequency of the allegorical and pictorial in Hebrew poetry and prophecy must be fully allowed for, there seems to be no strong reason (apart from the miracle) to doubt the historical character of the narrative. Further, as to the miracle, Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:10 are so closely connected with Jonah 1, 3, and 4, that it is best to understand the writer as intending to represent it (marvellous though it is) as literal history. Verses 38-45. - Some of our Lord's opponents try to defend themselves by asking for a sign of his authority to claim so much; e.g. ver. 30 (ver. 38). In his reply he refers them to their own histories for proof that such a demand is inexcusable. The Ninevites did not require one when Jonah became a sign to them - and in mentioning Jonah he refers to his being in the whale's belly three days and three nights as a symbol of what should happen to himself - and "the queen of the south" took immense trouble to satisfy her craving after wisdom (vers. 39-42). Therefore let them beware; their present state was one of extreme danger; the improvement that they showed was only negative, and if they did not take care worse would happen to them in the future than in the past (vers. 43-45). Verse 38. - Then certain. The demand is only made by a portion of those present, who, according to Luke 11:16, were not the same as those who spoke our ver. 24. Of the scribes and of the (Revised Version omits the) Pharisees. They are represented as forming but one party (Matthew 5:20, note). Answered (him, Revised Version, with the manuscripts). It is worth noticing that the insertion of the pronoun makes the passage more like Matthew 16:1 and parallels. Saying, Master (διδάσκαλε); Matthew 8:19, note. Only in this place is their request given verbally. We would see (Θέλομεν... ἰδεῖν). Observe that their language is rather brusque; they express their own wish regardless of him. But they may have intended it only as a plain statement of the difficulty they felt in believing him. They wished to see a sign first. A sign. More than a miracle of healing, however wonderful; they desired, as expressly said in Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16, a sign from heaven, presumably some portent in the sky, which should be a sign of his mission (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22; John 4:48). From thee; i.e. happening, not accidentally, but at thy command. Then certain of the Scribes and Pharisees answered,.... Not the same that charged him with casting out devils, by the prince of devils; but others, that were present, as appears from Luke 11:16 and who do not take upon them to make a proper reply to what he had said, or return an answer to that, but address him on another account; being willing to divert the discourse, and try what they could do with him in another, and more gentle and crafty way; saying, master, not fellow, magician, Samaritan, thou that hast a devil, and casts out devils by Beelzebub, and art a devil, and Beelzebub himself; but doctor, teacher, allowing him, at least, in a flattering way, that he was an instructor of mankind, though they would not own him to be a prophet, unless he would give such signs, as would make it appear he was one; hence they say,

we would see a sign from thee: that is, a sign from heaven, as they desired at another time, Matthew 16:1 and, as Luke says, they did now, Luke 11:16 they had seen a sign from him on earth, in the cure of the man that had a withered hand; and another, in dispossessing the devil out of the man, that was blind and dumb; but these they looked upon rather as signs from hell, and done by confederacy with the devil; and therefore desire, or rather, in an imperious way, demand one from heaven, where they thought Satan had not such power, as on earth; and where there could not be such collusion and deception, as they wickedly imagined were in this last action: they seem to require some such things to be done, as were on Mount Sinai, at the giving of the law, when there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud, and the voice of a trumpet, and some visible appearances of the divine majesty; and intimate, that if something of this kind was done, if there was any visible and miraculous appearance in the heavens, produced by him, they should believe him to be the prophet that was spoken of, and the true Messiah; but if not, should give no credit to him: however, this is to be learned from hence, that the Jews, in Christ's time, expected signs and wonders to be wrought by the Messiah, in proof of his being so, though now they reject them as needless (g).

(g) Maimon. Hilch. Melachim. c. 11. sect. 3.Mt 12:38-50. A Sign Demanded and the Reply—His Mother and Brethren Seek to Speak with Him, and the Answer. ( = Lu 11:16, 24-36; Mr 3:31-35; Lu 8:19-21).

A Sign Demanded, and the Reply (Mt 12:38-45).

The occasion of this section was manifestly the same with that of the preceding.

38. Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master—"Teacher," equivalent to "Rabbi."

we would see a sign from thee—"a sign from heaven" (Lu 11:16); something of an immediate and decisive nature, to show, not that His miracles were real—that they seemed willing to concede—but that they were from above, not from beneath. These were not the same class with those who charged Him with being in league with Satan (as we see from Lu 11:15, 16); but as the spirit of both was similar, the tone of severe rebuke is continued.12:38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not. Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded them to excuse their unbelief. The resurrection of Christ from the dead by his own power, called here the sign of the prophet Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale, and then came out again alive, thus Christ would be so long in the grave, and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not repenting; the queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And we have no such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon such uncertainties. This parable represents the case of the Jewish church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who hear the word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit leaves for a time, but when he returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the heart is swept by outward reformation, but garnished by preparation to comply with evil suggestions, and the man becomes a more decided enemy of the truth. Every heart is the residence of unclean spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, by faith in Christ.
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