Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:Chapp. 5, 6, 7.] The Sermon on the Mount. In this form peculiar to Matthew.
1. ἰδὼν δέ] Without attempting a solution of the many difficulties which beset the question of time, place, and arrangement of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, I shall state the principal views of these subjects, and make some remarks upon them. One of the weightiest questions is, as to the identity or otherwise of the Sermon with that given in Luke 6:20-49Luk_6:20-49. There is (I) the view that they are identical. This is generally taken by ordinary readers of Scripture, from their similarity in many points. It is also taken by most of the modern German Commentators, who uniformly reject every attempt at harmonizing by supposing the same or similar words to have been twice uttered. This view is, however, beset by difficulties. For (α) the sermon in Luke is expressly said to have been delivered after the selection of the Apostles: whereas that in the text is as expressly, by continual consecutive notes of time extending to the call of Matthew, (before which the Apostles cannot have been chosen,) placed before that event. And it is wholly unlikely that St. Matthew, assuming him to be the author of our Gospel, would have made a discourse, which he must have heard immediately after his call as an Apostle, take place before that call.
Then (β) this discourse was spoken on a mountain,—that, after descending from a mountain, in the plain. Possibly this may be got over, by rendering ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ “on a level place.” See note on Luke, l. c.: and the citation from Stanley below.
And again (γ), the two discourses are, though containing much common matter, widely different. Of 107 verses in Matt., Luke contains only thirty: his four beatitudes are balanced by as many woes: and in his text, parts of the sermon are introduced by sayings, which do not precede them in Matt. (e.g. Luke 6:39 ff., Luke 6:45 ff.), but which naturally connect with them. (II) St. Luke epitomized this discourse, leaving out whatever was unsuitable for his Gentile readers, e.g. ch. 5:17-38. But this is improbable: for Luke in several verses is fuller than Matthew, and the whole discourse, as related by him, is connected and consecutive. (III) The two discourses are wholly distinct. This view is maintained by Greswell, vol. ii. Dis. xi., and principally from the arguments above noticed. But it also is not without grave difficulties, especially if we suppose, as Gres. does, that Luke had the Gospel of Matthew before him (but on this see Prolegg. ch. i. § ii.). That two discourses wholly distinct should contain so much in common, seems unlikely and unnatural. It is hardly credible that two great public special occasions should be selected by the Lord near the commencement of His ministry, and two discourses delivered to the same audience, not identical, which might have been very probable, and impressive from that very circumstance,—nor consecutive, nor explanatory the one of the other, but only coinciding in fragments, and not even as two different reports at the distance of some years might he expected to do. Add to this, that those parts of the discourses in which Luke and Matthew agree, occur in both in almost the same order, and that the beginning and conclusion of both are the same. (IV) St. Matthew gives a general compendium of the sayings of our Lord during this part of His ministry, of which St. Luke’s discourse formed a portion, or perhaps was another shorter compendium. But the last stated objection applies with still greater force to this hypothesis, and renders it indeed quite untenable. Besides, it labours under the chronological difficulty in all its bearings. And to one who has observed throughout the close contextual connexion of the parts in this discourse, it will be quite incredible that they should be a mere collection of sayings, set down at hazard. See notes throughout. (V) The apparent discrepancies are sometimes reconciled by remembering, that there is no fixed time mentioned in any Evangelist for the special ordination of the Apostles, and that it is very doubtful whether they were at any set moment so ordained all together. Thus Matthew may have been a usual hearer of our Lord, and present with the whole of the Apostles, as related in Luke, though not yet formally summoned as related in Matthew 9:9 ff. The introduction of the discourse in Luke by the words ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις (which I maintain to be, on Luke 6:12, not only possibly, but expressly indefinite, and to indicate that the event so introduced may have happened at any time during the current great period of our Lord’s ministry, before, during, or after, those last narrated,) allows us great latitude in assigning Luke’s discourse to any precise time. This, however, leaves the difficulties (above stated under I) in supposing the discourses identical, in force, except the chronological one. With regard to the many sayings of this sermon which occur, dispersed up and down, in Luke, see notes in their respective places, which will explain my view as to their connexion and original times of utterance, in each several instance. See also notes on Luke 6:20-49.
τὸ ὄρος] Either some hill near Capernaum well known by this name, and called by it in the reff. to Mark and Luke, (tradition, not earlier probably than the Crusades, which points out a hill between Capernaum and Tiberias as the Mount of Beatitudes, near the present Saphet, is in such a matter worthless as an authority. But the situation seems to modern travellers (see Stanley, ‘Sinai and Palestine,’ p. 368) “so strikingly to coincide with the intimations of the gospel narrative, as almost to force the inference that in this instance the eye of those who selected the spot was for once rightly guided. It is the only height seen in this direction from the shores of the lake of Gennesareth. The plain on which it stands is easily accessible from the lake, and from that plain to the summit is but a few minutes’ walk. The platform at the top is evidently suitable for the collection of a multitude, and corresponds precisely to the ‘level place’ to which He would ‘come down’ as from one of its higher horns to address the people. Its situation is central both to the peasants of the Galilæan hills, and the fishermen of the Galilæan lake, between which it stands, and would therefore be a natural resort both to Jesus and His disciples when they retired for solitude from the shores of the sea, and also to the crowds who assembled ‘from Galilee, from Decapolis, from Jerusalem, from Judæa, and from beyond Jordan.’ None of the other mountains in the neighbourhood could answer equally well to this description, inasmuch as they are merged into the uniform barrier of hills round the lake: whereas this stands separate—‘the mountain,’ which alone could lay claim to a distinct name, with the exception of the one height of Tabor, which is too distant to answer the requirements,”) or the mountain district, certainly imported by the word in ch. 14:23. See a full description of the locality in Tholuck, Bergpr., Exo_3, pp. 63 ff.
οἱ μαθηταί] in the wider sense: including those of the Apostles already called, and all who had, either for a long or a short time, attached themselves to him as hearers. See John 6:66.
2. ἀνοίξας τὸ στ. αὐ.] as in reff., a solemn introduction to some discourse or advice of importance.
αὐτούς] i.e. τοὺς μαθητάς. The discourse (see vv. 13, 14, 20, 48; ch. 6:9; 7:6) was spoken directly to the disciples, but (see 7:28, 29) also generally to the multitudes. It is a divine commentary on the words with which His own and the Baptist’s preaching opened: μετανοεῖτε· ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασ. τ. οὐρανῶν. It divides itself into various great sections, which see below.
3-16.] The Description of the Lord’s Disciples, their Blessedness, and Dignity.
3. οἱ πτ. τῷ πν.] οὐκ εἶπεν, οἱ πτ. τοῖς χρήμασιν, ἀλλʼ, οἱ πτ. τῷ πνεύματι, τουτέστιν οἱ ταπεινοὶ τῇ προαιρέσει· καὶ τῇ ψυχῇ. τί ἐστιν “οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι;” οἱ ταπεινοὶ καὶ συντετριμμένοι τὴν καρδίαν. Chrysostom, Hom. xv. in Mat_1, vol. vii. p. 185. ‘Ne quis putaret paupertatem, quæ nonnunquam necessitate portatur, a Domino prædicari, adjunxit, spiritu, ut humilitatem intelligeres, non penuriam. Beati pauperes spiritu, qui propter Spiritum Sanctum voluntate sunt pauperes’ (Jerome in loc.). ‘Pauperes spiritu, humiles et timentes Deum, id est, non habentes inflantem (or, inflatum) spiritum’ (Augustine in loc.). Again: ‘Pauper Dei in animo est, non in sæculo’ ( Enarr. in Ps. 131:26, vol. iv. pt. ii.).
These words cannot be joined with μακάριοι (as Olearius, ., Michaelis, Paulus): see ver. 8.
The meaning of voluntary poverty, as that of the religious orders, given by many Romish interpreters, is out of the question. It seems however to have been adopted by many of the Fathers. Basil (on Psalm 33:5, vol. i. p. 147) says, οὐκ ἀεὶ ἐπαινετὴ ἡ πτωχεία, ἀλλʼ ἡ ἐκ προαιρέσεως κατὰ τὸν εὐαγγελικὸν σκοπὸν κατορθουμένη· πολλοὶ γὰρ πτωχοὶ μὲν τῇ περιουσίᾳ, πλεονεκτικώτατοι δὲ τῇ προαιρέσει τυγχάνουσιν. But the same father elsewhere explains the words, πτωχοὺς οὐ τοὺς κατὰ χρήματα ἐνδεεῖς λέγει, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ ἠλαττωμένους (vol. i. p. 597).
And Chrys. himself seems to waver: for next to the comment above cited, he says πνεῦμα γὰρ ἐνταῦθα τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ τὴν προαίρεσιν λέγει. He probably however means that the ψ. and προαίρ. are the departments of our being in which the πτωχεία takes place. See , ‘Quis dives salvus,’ § 17, p. 934, .
As little can the bare literal sense of the words, which Julian scoffed at, be understood: viz. those who are ill-furnished in mind, and uneducated. See Revelation 3:17. The idea (De Wette) is not improbable, that our Lord may have had a reference to the poor and subjugated Jewish people around him, once members of the theocracy, and now expectants of the Messiah’s temporal kingdom; and, from their condition and hopes, taken occasion to preach to them the deeper spiritual truth.
αὐτῶν ἐστ. ἡ β. τ. οὐ.] See Luke 4:17-21: James 2:5. The βασιλεία must here be understood in its widest sense: as the combination of all rights of Christian citizenship in this world, and eternal blessedness in the next, ch. 6:33. But Tholuck well observes (Bergpredigt, p. 74 ff.), that all the senses of βασ. τ. θεοῦ (or οὐρ., or χριστοῦ) are only different sides of the same great idea—the subjection of all things to God in Christ. He cites from Origen (περὶ εὐχῆς, 25, vol. i. p. 239): τῇ οὖν ἐν ἡμῖν βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ ἀκρότης ἀδιαλείπτως προκόπτουσιν ἐνστήσεται, ὅταν πληρωθῇ τὸ παρὰ τῷ ἀποστόλῳ εἰρημένον, ὅτι ὁ χριστός, πάντων αὐτῷ τ. ἐχθρῶν ὑποταγέντων, παραδώσει τ. βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ κ. πατρί, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι.
4. μακ. οἱ πενθ.] The spiritual qualification in the former verse must be carried on to this, and the mourning understood to mean not only that on account of sin, but all such as happens to a man in the spiritual life. All such mourners are blessed: for the Father of mercies and God of all consolation being their covenant God, His comfort shall overbear all their mourning, and taste the sweeter for it. In Luke 2:25, the Messiah’s coming is called ἡ παράκλησις τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.
This beatitude is by many editors (Lachmann, e.g.) placed after ver. 5. But the authority is by no means decisive, and I cannot see how the logical coherence of the sentences is improved by it.
5. οἱ πραεῖς] A citation from Psalm 37:11. The usual dividers and allotters of the earth being mighty and proud conquerors, and the Messiah being expected as such a conqueror, this announcement, that the meek should inherit the earth, struck at the root of the temporal expectations of power and wealth in the Messiah’s kingdom. This meekness is not mere outward lowliness of demeanour, but that true πραΰτης of Ephesians 4:2, whose active side (Stier) is ἀγάπη, and its passive side μακροθυμία. On the promise, compare Isaiah 57:13-15; Isaiah 60:21: 1Corinthians 3:22. That kingdom of God which begins in the hearts of the disciples of Christ, and is not ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, shall work onwards till it shall become actually a kingdom over this earth, and its subjects shall inherit the earth: first in its millennial, and finally in its renewed and blessed state for ever.
6.] See Psalm 107:9; Psalm 65:4; Psalm 22:26: Isaiah 41:17. This hunger and thirst is the true sign of that new life on which those born of the Spirit (John 3:3, John 3:5) have entered; and it is after δικαιος., i.e. perfect conformity to the holy will of God. This was His meat, John 4:34. ‘lllo cibo saturabuntur de quo ipse Dominus dicit, Meus cibus est ut faciam voluntatem Patris mei, quod est, justitia: et illa aqua, de qua quisquis biberit, ut Idem dicit, fiet in eo fons aquæ salientis in vitam æternam.’ Aug. in loc. (vol. iii. pt. 2, Migne). But he elsewhere says (in Ev. Joh. Tract. 26. 1 (vol. iii. pt. 2)), after quoting this verse, ‘Justitiam vero nobis esse Christum, Paulus Apostolus dicit. Ac per hoc qui esurit Hunc Panem, esuriat Justitiam: sed justitiam quæ de cœlo descendit, justitiam quam dat Deus, non quam sibi facit homo.’ (Chrysostom confines himself to the moral explanation, as also Euthymius.) They shall be satisfied—in the new heaven and new earth, ἐν οἷς δικαιοσύνη κατοικεῖ, 2Peter 3:13. Cf. the remarkable parallel, Ps. 16:15 (LXX), ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ ὀφθήσομαι τῷ προσώπῳ σου, χορτασθήσομαι ἐν τῷ ὀφθῆναι τὴν δόξαν σου. This hunger and thirst after righteousness is admirably set forth in the three first petitions of the Lord’s prayer,—‘Hallowed be Thy name—Thy kingdom come—Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’
7. ἐλεήμονες] οὐχὶ διὰ χρημάτων μόνον ἐστὶν ἐλεεῖν, ἀλλὰ καὶ λόγου· κἂν μηδὲν ἔχῃς, διὰ δακρύων. ποικίλος γὰρ ὁ τῆς ἐλεημοσύνης τρόπος, καὶ πλατεῖα αὕτη ἡ ἐντολή. ἐλεηθήσονται δέ, ἐνταῦθα μὲν παρὰ ἀνθρώπων· ἐκεῖ δὲ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ. Euthymius, expanding Chrysostom. This beatitude comprises every degree of sympathy and mutual love and help; from that fulness of it which is shed abroad in those who have been forgiven much, and therefore love much,—down to those first beginnings of the new birth, even among those who know not the Lord, which are brought out in ch. 25:37-40, where see notes.
8. καθ. τῇ καρδίᾳ] See Psalm 24:4, Psalm 24:6. It is no Levitical cleanness, nor mere moral purity, that is here meant: but that inner purity, which (Acts 15:9) is brought about τῇ πίστει, has its fruit (1Timothy 1:5) in love; which is, as in καθαρὸν φῶς, καθαρὰ χαρά, &c., opposed to all διψυχία (James 1:8), and all hypocrisy and outward colouring; so that the καθ. τῇ κ. are οἱ ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς (Hebrews 10:22). ‘Hoc est mundum cor, quod est simplex cor: et quemadmodum lumen hoc videri non potest nisi oculis mundis, ita nec Deus videtur nisi mundum sit illud quo videri potest.’ (Aug. in loc.) But there is also allusion to the nearer vision of God attained by progressive sanctification, of which St. Paul speaks, 2Corinthians 3:18,—begun indeed in this life, but not perfected till the next, 1Corinthians 13:12. Read the magnificent conclusion of Augustine De Civit. Dei, xxii. 29 (vol. vii. Migne), in which he enters more deeply into the meaning of this verse.
9. εἰρηνοποιοί] More than ‘the peaceful’ (‘pacifici,’ Vulg.). It is doubtful whether the word ever has this meaning. Thus Euthymius, mostly after Chrysostom: οἱ μὴ μόνον αὐτοὶ μὴ στασιάζοντες, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἑτέρους στασιάζοντας συνάγοντες εἰς εἰρήνην· υἱοὶ δὲ θεοῦ κληθήσονται, ὡς μιμησάμενοι τὸν μονογενῆ υἱὸν αὐτοῦ· ᾧ γέγονεν ἔργον συναγαγεῖν τὰ διεστῶτα καὶ καταλλάξαι τὰ ἐκπεπολεμωμένα. But even thus we do not seem to reach the full meaning, which probably is, “they that work peace;” not confining the reference to the reconciliation of persons at variance: see note on James 3:18: and, for the more special meaning, Xen. in reff.
κληθήσονται] implies the reality, as in ver. 19; shall (not only be, but also) be called, i.e. recognized, in the highest sense, both generally, and by the Highest Himself, as such. Cf. Maldonatus: ‘plus etiam quiddam mihi videtur vocari quam esse significare: nempe ita aliquid esse, ut appareat, ut omnium ore celebretur.’ Let it ever be remembered, according to the order of these beatitudes, and the assertion of James 3:17, that the wisdom from above is πρῶτον ἁγνή, ἔπειτα εἰρηνική, implying no compromise with evil. And it is in the working out of this ἁγνότης that Luke 12:51 is especially true.
10.] ‘Martyres non facit pœna, sed causa. Nam si pœna martyres faceret, omnia metalla martyribus plena essent, omnes catenæ martyres traherent: omnes qui gladio feriuntur, coronarentur. Nemo ergo dicat, Quia patior Justus sum. Quia ipse qui primo passus est, pro justitia passus est, ideo magnam exceptionem addidit. Beati qui persecutionem patiuntur propter justitiam.’ (Aug. Enarr. in Psalm 34:13, vol. iv.) See 1Peter 3:14; 1Peter 4:14, which probably refers to this verse. The repetition of the promise in ver. 3 is a close of the string of promises as it began. See the remarkable variation in the var. readd.
11.] With the preceding verse the beatitudes end, in their general reference, and in this our Lord addresses His disciples particularly. The actions described in this verse are the expansion of δεδιωγμένοι in the last. διώξωσιν, however, still means persecute; its legal usage is unknown in the N.T. ψευδόμενοι does not belong to ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, as some recent Commentators have supposed (Tholuck, Meyer), but to εἴπωσιν. The pres. part., as usual, carries with it the logical condition.
12. ὁ μισθὸς ὑμ.] A reward, not of debt, but of grace, as the parable in ch. 20:1 ff. clearly represents it. ‘An expression,’ as De Wette observes, ‘taken from our earthly commerce, and applied to spiritual things;’ in which however we must remember, that the principal reference is to God as the giver, and not to us as the deservers: see the parable above cited, where the μισθός is not what was earned, but what was covenanted. ‘Deus est debitor noster non ex commisso, sed ex promisso.’ Aug. (Tholuck.) These words, ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, must not be taken as having any bearing on the question as to the future habitation of the glorified saints. Their use in this and similar expressions is not local, but spiritual, indicating the blessed state when ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν shall have fully come. The local question is to be decided by wholly different testimonies of Scripture;—by the general tenor of prophecy, and the analogies of the divine dealings: and all of these seem to point rather to this earth, purified and renewed, than to the heavens in any ordinary sense of the term, as the eternal habitation of the blessed.
The reasoning implied in γάρ may be thus filled up: “and great will be their reward in heaven.”
13.] The transition from the preceding verses is easy and natural, from the δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, of which vv. 11, 12, were a sort of application, and the allusion to the ancient Prophets, to ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλ. τ. γ. Elisha healed the unwholesome water by means of salt (2Kings 2:20), and the ordinary use of salt for culinary purposes is to prevent putrefaction: so (see Genesis 18:23-33) are the righteous, the people of God, in this corrupt world. It hardly seems necessary to find instances of the actual occurrence of salt losing its savour, for this is merely hypothetical. Yet it is perhaps worth noticing, that Maundrell, in his travels, found salt in the Valley of Salt, near Gehul, which had the appearance, but not the taste, having lost it by exposure to the elements (see the citation below);—and that Schöttgen maintains that a kind of bitumen from the Dead Sea was called ‘sal Sodomiticus,’ and was used to sprinkle the sacrifices in the temple; which salt was used, when its savour was gone, to strew the temple pavement, that the priests might not slip. This, however, is but poorly made out by him, (Schöttgen, Hor. Hebr. in loc.) Dr. Thomson, ‘The Land and the Book,’ p. 381, mentions a case which came under his own observation: where a merchant of Sidon had stored up a quantity of salt in cottages with earthen floors, in consequence of which the salt was spoiled, and Dr. T. saw “large quantities of it literally thrown into the street, to be trodden under foot of men and beasts.” He adds, “It is a well-known fact that the salt of this country, when in contact with the ground, or exposed to rain and sun, does become insipid and useless. From the manner in which it is gathered, much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all: and such salt soon effloresces and turns to dust—not to fruitful soil, however. It is not only good for nothing itself, but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown: and this is the reason why it is cast into the street.”
τῆς γῆς, mankind and all creation: but with a more inward reference, as to the working of the salt, than in τοῦ κόσμου, ver. 14, where the light is something outwardly shewn.
μωρανθῇ = ἄναλον γένηται, Mark 9:50.
ἁλισθήσεται] i.e. the salt; not impersonal, as Luther has rendered it,—womit wird man faizen? ‘wherewith shall salting be carried on?’ for τὸ ἅλας is the nom. to all three verbs, μωρανθῇ, ἁλισθ., and ἰσχύει. The sense is: ‘If you become untrue to your high calling, and spiritually effete and corrupted, there are no ordinary means by which you can be re-converted and brought back to your former state, inasmuch as you have no teachers and guides over you, but ought yourselves to be teachers and guides to others.’ But we must not from this suppose that our Lord denies all repentance to those who have thus fallen: the scope of His saying must be taken into account, which is not to crush the fallen, but to quicken the sense of duty, and cause His disciples to walk worthily of their calling. (See Hebrews 6:4-6, and note on Mark 9:49, Mark 9:50.) The salt in the sacrifice is the type of God’s covenant of sanctification, whereby this earth shall be again hallowed for Him: His people are the instruments, in His hand, of this wholesome salting: all His servants in general, but the teachers and ministers of His covenant in particular. Chrysostom observes, οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἄλλοι μυριάκις πίπτοντες δύνανται τυχεῖν συγγνώμης· ὁ δὲ διδάσκαλος ἐὰν τοῦτο πάθῃ, πάσης ἀπεστέρηται ἀπολογίας, καὶ τὴν ἐσχάτην δώσει τιμωρίαν (Hom. xv. 7, p. 194). ἀπὸ τότε ἔξω ῥίπτεται τοῦ διδασκαλικοῦ ἀξιώματος, καὶ καταπατεῖται, τουτέστι καταφρονεῖται. Euthym. in loc. There does not appear to be any allusion to ecclesiastical excommunication.
14. τὸ φῶς τοῦ κός.] And yet only in a lower and derivative sense; Christ Himself being τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον, John 1:9; τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμον, 8:12. His ministers are λύχνοι, John 5:35, and φωστῆρες, Philippians 2:15, receiving their light, and only burning for a time. ‘Johannes lumen illuminatum: Christus lumen illuminans.’ Aug. Serm. ccclxxx.7 (vol. v. pt. ii.). And here too, φῶς in this verse = λύχνος in ver. 15, where the comparison is resumed. So also Ephesians 5:8: ἦτε σκότος, νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ—light, as partaking of His Light: for πᾶν τὸ φανερούμενον (see note, ib. ver. 13) φῶς ἐστιν.
οὐ δύναται.…] Of course it is possible that our Lord may have had some town before Him thus situated, but not Bethulia, whose very existence is probably fabulous, being only mentioned in the apocryphal book of Judith. Recent travellers, as Drs. Stanley and Thomson (‘Sinai and Palestine,’ p. 429: ‘The Land and the Book,’ p. 273), have thought that, notwithstanding the fact shewn by Robinson, that the actual city of Safed was not in existence at this time, some ancient portion of it, at all events its fortress, which is ‘as aged in appearance as the most celebrated ruins in the country’ (Thomson), may have been before the eye of our Lord as He spoke. It is ‘placed high on a bold spur of the Galilæan Anti-Lebanon,’ and answers well to the description of a city ‘lying on the mountain top.’ ‘The only other in view would be the village and fortress of Tabor, distinctly visible from the mount of Beatitudes, though not from the hills on the lake side. Either or both of these would suggest the illustration, which would be more striking from the fact, that this situation of cities on the tops of the hills is as rare in Galilee, as it is common in Judæa.’ Stanley, ubi supra. But the Church of God, the city on a hill (Isaiah 2:2: Galatians 4:26: see also Hebrews 12:22), in allusion to their present situation, on a mountain, is most probably the leading thought.
15. μόδιον] A Latin word (the art. is by many supposed to express that the μόδιος is a vessel usually found in the house: but it is rather to be regarded as the sign of the generic singular, as in κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ch. 15:20)—called by the more general name σκεῦος, Luke 8:16.
καίουσιν, i.e. men in general: shewing, in the spiritual reference of the parable, that these lights of the world are ‘lighted’ by Him for whose use they are. See above.
16. οὕτως] i.e. like a candle on a candlestick—like a city on a hill; not οὕτως, ὅπως, ‘so … that,’ as our English version seems rather to imply. By rendering οὕτως in like manner, the ambiguity will be avoided. See ref., and note there. The sense of this verse is as if it were ὅπως, ἰδόντες ὑμῶν τ. κ. ἔργ. δοξάσωσιν τ. π. ὑ … the latter verb, and not the former, carrying the purpose of the action. Thus the praise and glory of a well-lighted and brilliant feast would be given, not to the lights, but to the master of the house; and of a stately city on a hill, not to the buildings, but to those who built them. The whole of this division of our Lord’s sermon is addressed to all His followers, not exclusively to the ministers of his word. All servants of Christ are the salt of the earth, the light of the world (Philippians 2:15). And all that is here said applies to us all. But à fortiori does it apply, in its highest sense, to those who are, among Christians, selected to teach and be examples; who are as it were the towers and pinnacles of the city, not only not hid, but seen far and wide above the rest.
17-48.] The second part of the Sermon, in which our Lord sets forth His relation, as a lawgiver, to the law of Moses, especially as currently interpreted according to the letter only.
17. ἦλθον] Observe how our Lord, through the whole sermon, sets forth Himself, in his proceeding forth from God, as the true ἐρχόμενος.
τὸν ν. ἢ τοὺς προφ] It is a question whether our Lord includes the prophecies, properly so called, in His meaning here. I think not: for no person professing himself to be the Messiah would be thought to contradict the prophecies, but to fulfil them. Neither, it appears, does He here allude to the sacrificial and typical parts of the law, but to the moral parts of both the law and the prophets; which indeed he proceeds to cite and particularize. If however we prefer to include both ceremonial and moral in this assertion, we may understand it in its more general sense, as applying, beyond the instances here given, to His typical fulfilment of the law, which could not as yet be unfolded. Thus Augustine: ‘Hæc præcepta sunt morum; illa sacramenta sunt promissorum: hæc implentur per adjuvantem gratiam, illa per redditam veritatem, utraque per Christum, et illam semper gratiam donantem, nunc etiam revelantem, et hanc veritatem tunc promittentem, nunc exhibentem.’ Contra xix. 18, vol. viii. Much unnecessary question has been raised (see Thol. Bergpred. edn. 3, p. 132 f.) respecting the ἤ, whether or not it can have the sense of καί. It is simply the disjunctive conjunction necessary in order to apply the καταλῦσαι to each severally, which would naturally be replaced by the copulative, where an affirmative assertion respecting the same two things is made.
πληρῶσαι implies more than the mere fulfilling: see reff., where the word has the sense of filling out or expanding; i.e. here, giving a deeper and holier sense to—fulfilling in the spirit, which is nobler than the letter. Theophylact compares the ancient law to a sketch, which the painter οὐ καταλύει, ἀλλʼ ἀναπληροῖ … τοῦ νόμου γὰρ τὰ τέλη τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων κωλύοντος, ὁ χριστὸς καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς ἐκώλυσεν. Euthym. in loc. ἐπεὶ ὁ χριστὸς οὔτε ἐξ ἱερατικῆς φυλῆς ἐτύγχανεν ὤν, καὶ ἅπερ ἔμελλεν εἰσηγεῖσθαι προσθήκη τις ἦν, οὐ μὴν ἐλαττοῦσα ἀλλʼ ἐπιτείνουσα τὴν ἀρετήν· προειδὼς ἀμφότερα ταῦτα μέλλοντα αὐτοὺς ταράττειν, πρὶν ἢ τοὺς θαυμαστοὺς ἐκείνους ἐγγράψαι νόμους, ἐκβάλλει τὸ μέλλον αὐτῶν ὑφορμεῖν τῇ διανοίᾳ. τί δὲ ἦν τὸ ὑφορμοῦν καὶ ἀντικροῦον; ἐνόμιζον αὐτὸν ταῦτα λέγοντα ἐπʼ ἀνχιρέσει τῶν παλαιῶν νομίμων ποιεῖν. ταύτην τοίνυν ἰᾶται τὴν ὑπόνοιαν. Chrysost. Hom. xvi. 1, p. 203. See a history of the exegesis of the word in Thol. edn. 3, p. 135. The gnostic Marcion characteristically enough maintained that the Judaizing Christians had altered this verse, and that it originally stood,—τί δοκεῖτε, ὅτι ἦλθον πληρῶσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας; ἦλθον καταλῦσαι, ἀλλʼ οὐ πληρῶσαι.
18. ἀμήν] = ἀληθῶς in St. Luke, 9:27; 12:44; 21:3. See reff. The double ἕως αν renders the dependence of the members of the sentence rather difficult. The two expressions seem to be strictly parallel: ἕως ἂν παρ. ὁ οὐρ. κ. ἡ γῆ, and ἕως ἂν πάντα γέν. According to this view these latter words will mean, ‘till the end of all things.’ But the other interpretation, ‘till all (that is written in the law) shall have been fulfilled’ (as in the English version), is no doubt admissible, in which case the sense will stand thus:—While heaven and earth last (ἕως ἂν ὁ κόσμος διαμένῃ, Euthym.) one jot or one tittle shall not pass away from the law without all being fulfilled. Tholuck remarks on παρέρχεσθαι, “It denotes, as παραδραμεῖν, παραφέρεσθαι, παράγειν, ‘to pass by,’ ‘to pass out of view’ (see Wetst. in loc.): cf. Aristid. i. 216: παρῆλθον ὥσπερ μῦθοι, and the phrase παρέρχεταί μέ τι, ‘something escapes my memory.’ Cf. in the Heb., עָבַר Psalm 37:36: Nahum 1:12: Job 34:20. Cf. the passing away of the heaven, ch. 24:39: 2Peter 3:10: Revelation 21:1;—παράγεται, 1John 2:17;—the intrans. παράγει, 1Corinthians 7:31.”
ἰῶτα is the Hebrew (י) Jod, the smallest letter in the alphabet: κεραῖαι are the little turns of the strokes by which one letter differs from another similar to it. Origen on Psa_33 (cited by Wetstein) says—τῶν στοιχείων παρʼ Ἑβραίοις, λέγω δὲ τοῦ χὰφ καὶ τοῦ βήθ (כ and ב) πολλὴν ὁμοιότητα σωζόντων, ὡς κατὰ μηδὲν ἀλλήλων διαλλάττειν ἢ βραχείᾳ κεραίᾳ μόνῃ. The Rabbinical writings have many sayings similar in sentiment to this, but spoken of the literal written law. (See Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in loc.)
It is important to observe in these days how the Lord here includes the O.T. and all its unfolding of the divine purposes regarding Himself, in His teaching of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. I say this, because it is always in contempt and setting aside of the O.T. that rationalism has begun. First, its historical truth—then its theocratic dispensation and the types and prophecies connected with it, are swept away; so that Christ came to fulfil nothing, and becomes only a teacher or a martyr: and thus the way is paved for a similar rejection of the N.T.;—beginning with the narratives of the birth and infancy, as theocratic myths—advancing to the denial of His miracles—then attacking the truthfulness of His own sayings which are grounded on the O.T. as a revelation from God—and so finally leaving us nothing in the Scriptures but, as a German writer of this school has expressed it, ‘a mythology not so attractive as that of Greece.’ That this is the course which unbelief has run in Germany, should be a pregnant warning to the decriers of the O.T. among ourselves. It should be a maxim for every expositor and every student, that Scripture is a whole, and stands or falls together. That this is now beginning to be deeply felt in Germany, we have cheering testimonies in the later editions of their best Commentators, and in the valuable work of Stier on the discourses of our Lord. (Since however these words were first written, we have had lamentable proof in England, that their warnings were not unneeded. The course of unbelief which induced the publication of the volume entitled “Essays and Reviews,” was, in character and progress, exactly that above described: and owing to the injudicious treatment which multiplied tenfold the circulation of that otherwise contemptible work, its fallacies are now in the hands and mouths of thousands, who, from the low standard of intelligent Scriptural knowledge among us, will never have the means of answering them.)
19.] There is little difficulty in this verse, if we consider it in connexion with the verse preceding, to which it is bound by the οὖν and the τούτων, and with the following, to which the γάρ unites it. Bearing this in mind, we see (1) that λύσῃ, on account of what follows in ver. 20 and after, must be taken in the higher sense, as referring to the spirit and not the letter: whosoever shall break (have broken), in the sense presently to be laid down. (2) That τῶν ἐντ. τούτ. τῶν ἐλ. refers to ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία above, and means one of those minute commands which seem as insignificant, in comparison with the greater, as the ἰῶτα and κεραία in comparison with great portions of writing. (3) That ἐλάχιστος κληθ. does not mean ‘shall be excluded from,’ inasmuch as the question is not of keeping or not keeping the commandments of God in a legal sense, but of appreciating, and causing others to appreciate, the import and weight of even the most insignificant parts of God’s revelation of Himself to man; and rather therefore applies to teachers than to Christians in general, though to them also through the λύσῃ and ποιήσῃ. (4) That no deduction can be drawn from these words binding the Jewish law, or any part of it, as such, upon Christians. That this is so, is plainly shewn by what follows, where our Lord proceeds to pour upon the letter of the law the fuller light of the spirit of the Gospel: thus lifting and expanding (not destroying) every jot and tittle of that precursory dispensation into its full meaning in the life and practice of the Christian; who, by the indwelling of the divine Teacher, God’s Holy Spirit, is led into all truth and purity. (5) That these words of our Lord are decisive against such persons, whether ancient or modern, as would set aside the Old Testament as without significance, or inconsistent with the New. See the preceding note, and the Book of Common Prayer, Article vii.
ἐλάχιστος is in direct allusion to ἐλαχίστων; but it can hardly be said (De Wette, Tholuck) that, because there is no article, it means ‘one of the least’ (ein geringster), for the article is often omitted after an appellative verb. μέγας rests on different grounds; being positive, and in its nature generic. See ch. 11:11; 18:1-4.
On κληθήσεται, see note on ver. 9. Observe the conditional aorists, λύσῃ, ποιήσῃ, διδάξῃ, combined with the indic. fut. κληθήσεται,—and thus necessitating the keeping the times distinct. The time indicated by κληθήσεται is one when the λῦσαι, ποιῆσαι, διδάξαι, shall be things of the past—belonging to a course of responsibility over and done with.
20.] An expansion of the idea contained in πληρῶσαι, ver. 17, and of the difference between λύσῃ, which the Scribes and Pharisees did by enforcing the letter to the neglect of the spirit—and ποιήσῃ καὶ διδάξῃ, in which particulars Christians were to exceed the Pharisees, the punctilious observers, and the Scribes, the traditional expounders of the law.
δικαιοσύνη, purity of heart and life, as set forth by example in the ποιοῦντες, and by precept in the διδάσκοντες. The whole of the rest of our Lord’s sermon is a comment on, and illustration of, the assertion in this verse.
γραμματέων] Persons devoted to the work of reading and expounding the law (Heb. סֹפֵר), whose office seems first to have become frequent after the return from Babylon. They generally appear in the N.T. in connexion with the Pharisees: but it appears from Acts 23:9, that there were Scribes attached to the other sects also. In Matthew 21:15, they appear with the chief priests; but it is in the temple, where (see also Luke 20:1) they acted as a sort of police. In the description of the assembling of the great Sanhedrim (Matthew 26:3: Mark 14:53; Mark 15:1) we find it composed of ἀρχιερεῖς, πρεσβύτεροι, and γραμματεῖς; and in Luke 22:66, of ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς. The Scribes uniformly opposed themselves to our Lord; watching Him to find matter of accusation, Luke 6:7; Luke 11:53, Luke 11:54; perverting His sayings, Matthew 9:3, and His actions, Luke 5:30; Luke 15:2; seeking to entangle Him by questions, Matthew 22:35 (see note there): Luke 10:25; Luke 20:21; and to embarrass Him, Matthew 12:38. Their authority as expounders of the law is recognized by our Lord Himself, Matthew 23:1, Matthew 23:2; their adherence to the oral traditionary exposition proved, Matthew 15:1 ff.; the respect in which they were held by the people shewn, Luke 20:46; their existence indicated not only in Jerusalem but also in Galilee, Luke 5:17,—and in Rome, Josephus, Antt. xviii. 3. 5. They kept schools and auditories for teaching the youth, Luke 2:46: Acts 5:34, compared with 22:3; are called by Josephus πατρίων ἐξηγηταὶ νόμων, Antt. xvii. 6. 2; σοφισταί, B. J. i. 33. 2. The construction πλεῖον τῶν γραμματέων καὶ τῶν Φαρισαίων elliptically for πλ. τῆς δικαιοσύνης τ. γρ. κ. τ. Φ., is illustrated in Kühner (Gram. ii. § 749) under the name of ‘comparatio compendiaria,’ by Hom. Il. φ. 191, κρείσσων δʼ αὖτε Διὸς γενεὴ ποταμοῖο τέτυκται; Pindar, Olymp. i. init., μηδʼ Ὀλυμπίας ἀγῶνα φέρτερον αὐδάσομεν, &c. Notice, that not only the hypocrites among the Scribes and Pharisees are here meant; but the declaration is, “Your righteousness must be of a higher order than any yet attained, or conceived, by Scribe or Pharisee.”
οὐ μὴ εἰσέλ.] A very usual formula (see ch. 7:21; 18:3; 19:17, 23, 24: John 3:5 .): implying exclusion from the blessings of the Christian state, and from the inheritance of eternal life.
21-48.] Six examples of the true fulfilment of the law by Jesus. First example. The law of murder. (For a very full discussion of the various points of Jewish and Christian law and morality occurring in this part of the sermon, consult throughout Tholuck’s elaborate commentary, 3rd edn.)
21. ἠκούσατε] viz. by the reading of the law in the synagogues, and the exposition of the Scribes.
τοῖς ἀρχαίοις] has been rendered, as in E. V., ‘by the ancients;’ in which case, Moses and his traditional expounders are classed together; or, ‘to the ancients,’—which last interpretation seems to me to be certainly the right one. Both constructions are found (see reff.); but every instance of the former is either (as ch. 6:1) resolvable into the latter, or ambiguous, and none can be produced with ἐῤῥήθη, whereas all the latter have this very word, which is never followed in the N.T. or LXX by any other substantive but that denoting the persons to whom the words are spoken. The omission of τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, vv. 27, 31, 38, 43, also favours the rendering to, which was the interpretation of the Greek fathers. Chrysostom expands it thus: τί οὖν αὐτός φησιν; ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐῤῥέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις Οὐ φονεύσεις· καίτοι ὁ καὶ ἐκεῖνα δοὺς αὐτός ἐστιν· ἀλλὰ τέως ἀπροσώπως αὐτὰ τίθησιν. εἴτε γὰρ εἶπεν ὅτι ἠκούσατε ὅτι εἶπον τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, δυσπαράδεκτος ὁ λόγος ἐγίνετο, καὶ πᾶσιν ἂν προσέστη τοῖς ἀκούουσιν· εἴτε αὖ πάλιν εἰπὼν ὅτι ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐῤῥέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου, ἐπήγαγεν Ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω, μείζων ἂν ἒδοξεν εἶναι ὁ αὐθαδιασμός, Hom. xvi. 5, p. 210. Meyer (Exo_2) has well observed that ἐῤῥήθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις corresponds to λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, and the ἐγώ to the understood subject of ἐῤῥ. He has not, however, apprehended the deeper truth which underlies the omission of the subject of ἐῤῥ., that it was the same person who said both. It will be noticed that our Lord does not here speak against the abuse of the law by tradition, but that every instance here given is either from the law itself, or such traditional teaching as was in accordance with it (e.g. the latter part of this verse is only a formal expansion of the former). The contrasts here are not between the law misunderstood and the law rightly understood, but between the law and its ancient exposition, which in their letter, and as given, were κενά,—and the same as spiritualized, πεπληρωμένα, by Christ: not between two lawgivers, Moses and Christ, but between οἱ ἀρχαῖοι and ὑμεῖς; between (the idea is Chrysostom’s) the children, by the same husband, of the bondwoman and of the freewoman. The above remarks comprise a brief answer to the important but somewhat misapprehended question, whether our Lord impugned the Mosaic law itself, or only its inadequate interpretation by the Jewish teachers? See this treated at great length by Tholuck, Bergp. pp. 153-165, edn. 3. There is no inconsistency in the above view with the assertion in ver. 19: the just and holy and true law was necessarily restricted in meaning and degraded in position, until He came, whose office it was to fulfil and glorify it.
κρίσει] viz. the courts in every city, ordered Deuteronomy 16:18, and explained by Josephus Antt. iv. 8. 14 to consist of seven men, and to have the power of life and death. But τῇ κρίσει in the next verse (see note) is the court of judgment in the Messiah’s kingdom.
22.] The sense is: ‘There were among the Jews three well-known degrees of guilt, coming respectively under the cognizance of the local and the supreme courts; and after these is set the γέεννα τοῦ πυρός, the end of the malefactor, whose corpse, thrown out into the valley of Hinnom, was devoured by the worm or the flame. Similarly, in the spiritual kingdom of Christ, shall the sins even of thought and word be brought into judgment and punished, each according to its degree of guilt, but even the least of them before no less a tribunal than the judgment-seat of Christ.’ The most important thing to keep in mind is, that there is no distinction of kind between these punishments, only of degree. In the thing compared, the κρίσις inflicted death by the sword, the συνέδριον death by stoning, and the disgrace of the γέεννα τοῦ πυρός followed as an intensification of the horrors of death; but the punishment is one and the same—death. So also in the subject of the similitude, all the punishments are spiritual; all result in eternal death; but with various degrees (the nature of which is as yet hidden from us), as the degrees of guilt have been. So that the distinction drawn by the Romanists between venial and mortal sins, finds not only no countenance, but direct confutation from this passage. The words here mentioned must not be superstitiously supposed to have any damning power in themselves (see below), but to represent states of anger and hostility, for which an awful account hereafter must be given.
(On εἰκῆ (see var. readd.) Euthymius remarks: προσθεὶς δὲ τὸ εἰκῆ, οὐκ ἀνεῖλε παντάπασι τὴν ὀργήν, ἀλλὰ μόνην τὴν ἄκαιρον ἐξέβαλεν· ἡ γὰρ εὔκαιρος ὠφέλιμος. Grotius: ‘Merito εἰκῆ additum. Neque enim iracundus est quisquis irasci solet, sed qui oh οἷς οὐ δεῖ, καὶ ἐφʼ οἷς οὐ δεῖ, καὶ μᾶλλον ἢ δεῖ, ut Aristoteles loquitur.’) On the sense, cf. 1John 3:15.
ῥακά] רַיקָא empty; a term denoting contempt, and answering to ὦ ἄνθρωπε κενέ, James 2:20. On the α representing the יֵ, see Tholuck’s note p. 172, edn. 3.
μωρέ] Two interpretations have been given of this word. Either it is (1), as usually understood, a Greek word, ‘Thou fool,’ and used by our Lord Himself of the Scribes and Pharisees, ch. 23:17, 19,—and its equivalent ἀνόητοι of the disciples, Luke 24:25; or (2) a Hebrew word, signifying ‘rebel,’ and the very word for uttering which Moses and Aaron were debarred from entering the land of promise: … שִׁמְעוּ־נָא הַמֹּרִים: ‘Hear now, ye rebels.’ Numbers 20:10. “Others take the Greek word, according to the Hebrew usage of נָבָל, in the sense of ἄθεος. So Phavorinus: εἴρηται καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀθέου καὶ ἀπίστου.” Thol. p. 174.
ἔνοχ. εἰς is perhaps a pregnant construction for ἔνοχος ὥστε βληθῆναι εἰς: but see reff.
τ. γέενναν τοῦ π.] To the s.e. of Jerusalem was a deep and fertile valley, called נֵּי הִנּוֹם, ‘the vale of Hinnom,’ and rendered Γαίεννα, Joshua 18:16, LXX. In this valley (also called Tophet, Isaiah 30:33: Jeremiah 7:31) did the idolatrous Jews burn their children to Moloch, and Josiah (2Kings 23:10) therefore polluted it; and thenceforward it was the place for the casting out and burning all offal, and the corpses of criminals; and therefore its name, ἡ γέεννα τοῦ πυρός, was used to signify the place of everlasting punishment.
23 f. οὖν] an inference from the guilt and danger of all bitterness and hostility of mind towards another, declared in the preceding verse. Chrysostom remarks: καθάπερ σοφὸς ἰατρὸς οὐ μόνον τὰ προφυλακτικὰ τῶν νοσημάτων τίθησιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ διορθωτικά, οὕτω καὶ αὐτὸς ποιεῖ. τὸ μὲν γὰρ κωλύειν καλεῖν μωρόν, προφυλακτικόν ἐστι τῆς ἔχθρας· τὸ δὲ κελεύειν καταλλαγῆναι, τῶν μετὰ τήν ἔχθραν γενομένων νοσημάτων ἀναιρετικόν. Hom. xvi. 10, p. 218. The whole of his comment on this verse is excellent. The δῶρον is any kind of gift—sacrificial or eucharistic.
ἔχει τὶ κατὰ σοῦ is remarkable, as being purposely substituted for the converse. It is not what complaints we have against others that we are to consider at such a time, but what they have against us; not what ground we have given for complaint, but what complaints they, as matter of fact, make against us. See the other side dealt with, Mark 11:25.
Tholuck has shewn at length (p. 187, ff.) that the distinction attempted to be set up between διαλλάσσω as implying a mutual, and καταλλάσσω, a merely one-sided reconciliation, has no foundation in fact. Our διαλλάγηθι is simply become reconciled—thyself, without being influenced by the status of the other towards thee. Remove the offence, and make friendly overtures to thy brother. πρῶτον belongs to ὕπαγε, not to διαλλάγηθι, (1) because ὕπ. πρῶτον is opposed to τότε ἐλθών, the departure to the return, not διαλλάγηθι to πρόσφερε; (2) by the analogy of the usage of such adverbs with imperatives. Compare ch. 7:5 and the similar passage, Luke 6:42: ch. 6:33; 13:30: Mark 7:27. No conclusion whatever can be drawn from this verse as to the admissibility of the term altar as applied to the Lord’s Table under the Christian system. The whole language is Jewish, and can only be understood of Jewish rites. The command, of course, applies in full force as to reconciliation before the Christian offering of praise and thanksgiving in the Holy Communion; but further nothing can be inferred.
25.] The whole of this verse is the earthly example of a spiritual duty which is understood, and runs parallel with it. The sense may be given: ‘As in worldly affairs, it is prudent to make up a matter with an adversary before judgment is passed, which may deliver a man to a hard and rigorous imprisonment, so reconciliation with an offended brother in this life is absolutely necessary before his wrong cry against us to the Great Judge, and we be cast into eternal condemnation.’
The ἀντίδικος, in its abstract personification, is the offended law of God, which will cry against us in that day for all wrongs done to others; but in its concrete representation it is the offended brother, who is to us that law, as long as he has its claim upon us. The ὁδός, in the interpretation, is the way in which all men walk, the ὁδὸς πάσης τῆς γῆς of 3 Kings 2:2, the ὁδὸς ᾗ οὐκ ἐπαναστραφήσομαι of Job 16:22. In the civil process, it represents the attempt at arbitration or private arrangement before coming into court: see Thol. p. 192, 3rd edit. So Chrys.: πρὸ μὲν γὰρ τῆς εἰσὸδου σὺ κύριος εἶ τοῦ παντός· ἐὰν δὲ ἐπιβῇς ἐκείνων τῶν προθύρων, οὐδὲ σφόδρα σπουδάζων δυνήαῃ τὰ καθʼ ἑαυτὸν ὡς βούλει διαθεῖναι. Hom. xvi. 10, p. 219.
26.] These words, which in the earthly example imply future liberation, because an earthly debt can be paid in most cases, so in the spiritual counterpart amount to a negation of it, because the debt can never be discharged. We have ἕως ἀποδῷ τὸ ὀφειλόμενον in ch. 18:30, where the payment was clearly impossible.
ὑπηρέτης = πράκτωρ in Luke 12:58, and is the officer of the court who saw the sentences executed. If we are called on to assign a meaning to ὑπηρέτης in the interpretation, it must represent the chief of those who in ch. 18:34, are hinted at by βασανισταί, viz. the great enemy, the minister of the divine wrath.
κοδράντην, quadrantem, a Latin word (= λεπτόν in Luke), the fourth part of an as. See note on Luke, l. c
27-30.] Second example. The law of adultery.
28. πᾶς ὁ βλέπων] The precise meaning should in this verse be kept in mind, as the neglect of it may lead into error. Our Lord is speaking of the sin of adultery, and therefore, however the saying may undoubtedly apply by implication to cases where this sin is out of the question—e.g. to the impure beholding of an unmarried woman with a view to fornication (it being borne in mind that spiritually, and before God, all fornication is adultery, inasmuch as the unmarried person is bound in loyalty and chastity to Him. See Stier below)—yet the direct assertion in this verse must be understood as applying to the cases where this sin is in question. And, again, the βλέπων πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθ. must not be interpreted of the casual evil thought which is checked by holy watchfulness, but the gazing with a view to feed that desire (for so πρὸς τό with an inf. must mean). And again, ἤδη ἐμ. αὐτ. ἐν τῇ κ. αὐτ., whatever it may undoubtedly imply respecting the guilt incurred in God’s sight, does not directly state any thing; but, plainly understood, affirms that the man who can do this—viz. ‘gaze with a view to feed unlawful desire’—has already in his heart passed the barrier of criminal intention; made up his mind, stifled his conscience; in thought, committed the deed. But perhaps there is justice in Stier’s remark, Reden Jesu, i. 129 (edn. 2), that our Lord speaks here after the O.T. usage, in which, both in the seventh commandment and elsewhere, adultery also includes fornication; for marriage is the becoming one flesh,—and therefore every such union, except that after the manner and in the state appointed by God, is a violation and contempt of that holy ordinance.
29.] An admonition, arising out of the truth announced in the last verse, to withstand the first springs and occasions of evil desire, even by the sacrifice of what is most useful and dear to us. ταῦτα προσέταξεν οὐ περὶ μελῶν διαλεγόμενος, ἄπαγε· οὐδαμοῦ γὰρ τῆς σαρκὸς τὰ ἐγκλήματα εἶναί φησιν, ἀλλὰ πανταχοῦ τῆς γνώμης τῆς πονηρᾶς ἡ κατηγορία. οὐ γὰρ ὁ ὀφθαλμός ἐστιν ὁ ὁρῶν, ἀλλʼ ὁ νοῦς καὶ ὁ λογισμός. Chrys. Hom. xvii. 3, p. 225: and to the same effect Euthymius, who adds ἀλλʼ ὀφθαλμὸν μὲν δεξιὸν καλεῖ τὸν δίκην ὀφθαλμοῦ στεργόμενον δεξιὸν φίλον· χεῖρα δὲ δεξιὰν τὸν δίκην χειρὸς χρησιμεύοντα δεξιὸν ὑπηρέτην, καὶ εἴτε ἄνδρες εἶεν εἴτε γυναῖκες. λέγει τοίνυν ὅτι ἐὰν οἱ τοιοῦτοι σκανδαλίζωσί σε πρὸς ἐμπάθειαν, μηδὲ τούτων φείσῃ· ἀλλʼ ἔκκοψον αὐτοὺς τῆς πρός σε σχέσεως, καὶ ῥίψον πόῤῥω σου. Philo Judæus reports that he had heard ἀπὸ θεσπεσίων ἀνδρῶν an interpretation of Deuteronomy 25:12, singularly agreeing with this verse: εἰκότως οὖν τὴν … χεῖρα.… ἀποκόπτειν διείρηται συμβολικῶς, οὐχ ὅπως ἀκρωτηριάζηται τὸ σῶμα στερόμενον ἀναγκαιοτάτου μέρους, ἀλλʼ ὑπὲρ τοῦ πάντας τῆς ψυχῆς ἀθέους τέμνειν λογισμούς. De Spec. Legibus ad 6 Est_7 decal. cap. § 32, vol. ii. p. 329. We may observe here, that our Lord grounds His precept of the most rigid and decisive self-denial on the considerations of the truest self-interest,—συμφέρελ σοι. See ch. 18:8, 9, and notes.
ἵνα belongs to συμφ. σοι (see John 16:7); and not (Meyer) to the foregoing, making συμφ. γάρ σοι parenthetical.
31, 32.] Third example. The law of divorce. See note on ch. 19:7-9. Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr., gives a form of the ἀποστάσιον, which was a divorcement a vinculo matrimonii, and placed the woman absolutely in her own power, to marry whom she pleased, unless the husband inserted a special clause to bar this. In Deuteronomy 24:1, the allowable reason of divorce is ‘some uncleanness.’ This the disciples of Shammai interpreted only of adultery; those of Hillel of any thing which amounted to uncleanness in the eyes of the husband.
32.] πορνείας must be taken to mean sin, not only before marriage, but after it also, in a wider sense, as including μοιχεία likewise. In the similar places, Mark 10:11: Luke 16:18, this exception does not occur; see however our ch. 19:9. Chrysostom explains the connexion of this verse with the former to be, ἵνα γὰρ μὴ ἀκούσας Ἔξελε τὸν ὀφθαλμόν, νομίσῃς καὶ περὶ γυναικὸς ταῦτα λέγεσθαι, εὐκαίρως ἐπήγαγε τὴν ἐπιδιόρθωσιν ταύτην, ἑνὶ τρόπῳ μόνῳ συγχωρῶν ἐκβάλλειν αὐτήν, ἑτέρῳ δὲ οὐδενί. Hom. xvii. 4, p. 228. The figurative senses of πορνεία cannot be admissible here, as the law is one having reference to a definite point in actual life; and this its aim and end restricts the meaning to that kind of πορνεία immediately applicable to the case. Otherwise this one strictly guarded exception would give indefinite and universal latitude.
ποιεῖ αὐτ. μοιχ.] ‘Per alias nuptias, quarum potestatem dat divortium.’ Bengel.
καὶ ὃς ἐάν] How far the marriage of the innocent party after separation (on account of πορνεία) is forbidden by this or the similar passage ch. 19:9, is a weighty and difficult question. By the Roman Church such marriage is strictly forbidden, and the authority of Augustine much cited, who strongly upholds this view, but not without misgivings later in life. ‘Scripsi duos libros de conjugiis adulterinis, … cupiens solvere difficillimam quæstionem. Quod utrum enodatissime fecerim nescio; immo vero non me pervenisse ad hujus rei perfectionem sentio.’ Retract. ii. 57, vol. i. On the other hand, the Protestant and Greek Churches allow such marriage. Certainly it would appear, from the literal meaning of our Lord’s words (if ἀπολελ. be taken as perfectly general), that it should not be allowed: for if by such divorce the marriage be altogether dissolved, how can the woman be said μοιχᾶσθαι by a second marriage? or how will St. Paul’s precept (1Corinthians 7:11) find place, in which he says, ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμος ἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω? for stating this as St. Paul does, prefaced by the words οὐκ ἐγώ, ἀλλʼ ὁ κύριος, it must be understood, and has been taken, as referring to this very verse, or rather (see note in loc.) to ch. 19:6ff., and consequently can only suppose πορνεία as the cause. Besides which, the tenor of our Lord’s teaching in other places (see above) seems to set before us the state of marriage as absolutely indissoluble as such, however he may sanction the expulsion a mensâ et thoro of an unfaithful wife. Those who defend the other view suppose the ἀπολελυμένην to mean, when unlawfully divorced, not for πορνεία: and certainly this is not improbable (see below). We may well leave a matter in doubt, of which Augustine could write thus: ‘In ipsis divinis sententiis ita obscurum est utrum et iste, cui quidem sine dubio adulteram licet dimittere, adulter tamen habeatur si alteram duxerit, ut, quantum existimo, venialiter ibi quisque fallatur.’ De Fide atq. c. 19 (35), vol. vi. Meyer gives as a reason for believing ἀπολελ. to refer only to the unlawfully divorced: “ἀπολελ. is not qualified (cf. παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας), because the punishment of death was attached to adultery (Leviticus 20:10: Michaelis, Mos. Recht § 260 ff.), and consequently under the law the marrying a woman divorced for adultery could never happen.” Stier says in a note to his 2nd edn.: “We hold it clear that ἀπολ. can only refer to the woman unlawfully divorced, and then there is no prohibition of the second marriage of one divorced on account of adultery; we see here nothing at all ‘obscurum,’ as Augustine in the passage cited by Alford.” (I may remark, that ἀπολελυμένην is most naturally rendered, “her, when divorced:” not “a divorced woman,” as Wordsw. It is a secondary predicate, of which the subject is to be supplied out of αὐτήν above. Still less of course is it to be rendered “the divorced woman,” τὴν ἀπολελυμένην. And thus understood, the saying concerning marriage after divorce applies only, as far as this passage is concerned, to unlawful divorce, not to that after πορνεία.)
33-37.] Fourth example. The law of oaths.
33, 34.] The exact meaning of these verses is to be ascertained by two considerations. (1) That the Jews held all those oaths not to be binding, in which the sacred name of God did not directly occur: as Philo states (De Special. Legg. ad 3, 4, 5 decal. cap. § 1, vol. ii. p. 271), προσλαβέτω τις, εἰ βούλοιτο, μὴ μὲν τὸ ἀνωτάτω καὶ πρεσβύτατον εὐθὺς αἴτιον, ἀλλὰ γῆν, ἥλιον, ἀστέρας, οὐρανόν, τὸν σύμπαντα κόσμον. And Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. ad locum) cites from the Rabbinical books, ‘Si quis jurat per cœlum, per terram, per solem, etc.… non est juramentum.’ See note, ch. 23:16. It therefore appears that a stress is to be laid on this technical distinction in the quotation made by our Lord; and we must understand as belonging to the quotation, ‘but whatever thou shalt swear not to the Lord may be transgressed.’ (2) Then our Lord passes so far beyond this rule, that He lays down (including in it the understanding that all oaths must be kept if made, for that they are all ultimately referable to swearing by God) the rule of the Christian community, which is not to swear at all; for that every such means of strengthening a man’s simple affirmation arises out of the evil in human nature, is rendered requisite by the distrust that sin has induced, and is, therefore, out of the question among the just and true and pure of heart. See James 5:12, and note there, as explanatory why, in both cases, swearing by the name of God is not specified as forbidden. In the words, ‘Swear not at all,’ our Lord does not so much make a positive enactment by which all swearing is to individuals forbidden, e.g. on solemn occasions, and for the satisfaction of others, (for that would be a mere technical Pharisaism wholly at variance with the spirit of the Gospel, and inconsistent with the example of God himself, Hebrews 6:13-17; Hebrews 7:21; of the Lord when on earth, whose ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν was a solemn asseveration, and who at once respected the solemn adjuration of Caiaphas, ch. 26:63, 64; of His Apostles, writing under the guidance of His Spirit, see Galatians 1:20: 2Corinthians 1:23: Romans 1:9: Philippians 1:8, and especially 1Corinthians 15:31; of His holy angels, Revelation 10:6,) as declare to us, that the proper state of Christians is, to require no oaths; that when τὸ πονηρόν is expelled from among them, every ναί and οὐ will be as decisive as an oath, every promise as binding as a vow. We observe (α) that these verses imply the unfitness of vows of every kind as rules of Christian action; (β) that the greatest regard ought to be had to the scruples of those, not only sects, but individuals, who object to taking an oath, and every facility given in a Christian state for their ultimate entire abolition. There is a very full account in Tholuck, Bergpredigt, pp. 258-75, of the history of opinions on this question.
34, 35.] Compare ch. 23:16-22. Archbp. Trench observes (Serm. on Mount, p. 55), ‘Men had learned to think that, if only God’s name were avoided, there was no irreverence in the frequent oaths by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem, by their own heads, and these brought in on the slightest need, or on no need at all; just as now-a-days the same lingering half-respect for the Holy Name will often cause men, who would not be wholly profane, to substitute for that name sounds that nearly resemble, but are not exactly it, or the name, it may be, of some heathen deity.’ Observe that the predicates, θρόνος, ὑποπόδιον, πόλις, being placed for emphasis before the copulæ, are without articles: it would be ὅτι ἐστὶν ὁ θρόνος, &c.
For the allusions see reff. Isa. and Ps.
34.] ὀμν. ἐν is a Hebraism: the classical usage is with κατά and a gen., or simply with an acc.; see reff.
36. οὐ δύνασαι μίαν τρ. λ. π. ἢ μ.] Thou hast no control over the appearance of grey hairs on thy head—thy head is not thine own;—thou swearest then by a creature of God, whose destinies and changes are in God’s hand; so that every oath is an appeal to God. And, indeed, men generally regard it as such now, even unconsciously.
37. ναὶ ναὶ οὒ οὔ] The similar place, ref. James, admirably illustrates this—ἤτω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ—let these words only be used, and they in simplicity and unreservedness.
ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ] See ref. The gender is ambiguous, as it may constructionally be in the Lord’s prayer, ch. 6:13, but see note there. It is quite immaterial to the sense, in which gender we understand it; for the evil of man’s corrupt nature is in Scripture spoken of as the work of ὁ πονηρός, and is itself τὸ πονηρόν. See John 8:44: 1John 3:8.
38-41.] Fifth example. The law of retaliation.
38.] That is, such was the public enactment of the Mosaic law, and, as such, it implied a private spirit of retaliation which should seek such redress; for the example evidently refers to private as well as public retribution. Here again our Lord appears to speak of the true status and perfection of a Christian community,—not to forbid, in those mixed and but half-Christian states, which have ever divided so-called Christendom among them, the infliction of judicial penalties for crime. In fact Scripture speaks, Romans 13:4, of the minister of such infliction as the minister of God. But as before, our Lord shews us the condition to which a Christian community should tend, and to further which every private Christian’s own endeavours should be directed. It is quite beside the purpose for the world to say, that these precepts of our Lord are too highly pitched for humanity, and so to find an excuse for violating them. If we were disciples of His in the true sense, these precepts would, in their spirit, as indicative of frames of mind, be strictly observed; and, as far as we are His disciples, we shall attain to such their observance.
Here again, our Lord does not contradict the Mosaic law, but expands and fulfils it, declaring to us that the necessity for it would be altogether removed in the complete state of that kingdom which He came to establish. Against the notion that ὀφθ. ἀντὶ ὀφθ. κ.τ.λ. sanctioned all kinds of private revenge, Augustine remarks, ‘Quandoquidem et illud antiquum ad reprimendas flammas odiorum, sævientiumque immoderatos animos refrænandos, ita præceptum est. Quis enim tantundem facile contentus est reponere vindictæ quantum accepit injuriæ? Nonne videmus homines leviter læsos moliri cædem, sitire sanguinem, vixque invenire in malis inimici unde satientur?… Huic igitur immoderatæ et per hoc injustæ ultioni lex justum modum figens, pœnam talionis instituit: hoc est ut qualem quisque intulit injuriam, tale supplicium pendat. Proinde, “Oculum pro oculo, dentem pro dente,” non fomes sed limes furoris est; non ut id quod sopitum erat inde accenderetur, sed ne id quod ardebat ultra extenderetur impositus.’ Cont. Faust. xix. 25, vol. viii. See 1Corinthians 6:1-6. The accusatives ὀφθαλμόν, ὀδόντα are perhaps in ref. Exod. governed by δώσει, which immediately precedes them. But it may be noticed, that in ref. Levit., where the construction would require nominatives, we have the saying, as a proverb, in the accusative form. In ref. Deut., the case is exactly as here.
39. μὴ ἀντιστῆναι] Here again, we have our divine Lawgiver legislating, not in the bondage of the letter so as to stultify His disciples, and in many circumstances to turn the salt of the earth into a means of corrupting it,—but in the freedom of the spirit, laying down those great principles which ought to regulate the inner purposes and consequent actions of His followers. Taken slavishly and literally, neither did our Lord Himself conform to this precept (John 18:22, John 18:23), nor his Apostles (Acts 23:3). But truly, and in the spirit, our blessed Redeemer obeyed it; ‘He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not his face from shame and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6): and his Apostles also, see 1Corinthians 4:9-13.
τῷ πονηρῷ] the evil man; ‘him who injures thee.’ Or, perhaps, in the indefinite sense, as before, evil, generally, ‘when thus directed against thee.’ Only, the other possible meaning there, ‘the evil one,’ is precluded here. ἀντίστητε τῷ διαβόλῳ: but not this particular form of his working (viz. malice directed against thyself) so as to revenge it on another.
40, 41.] See note on ver. 39. κριθῆναι imports legal contention only, and is thus distinguished from the violence in ver. 39. (Meyer, against Tholuck (but not in edn. 3) and De Wette.) λαβεῖν, i.e. in pledge for a debt: see Exodus 22:26. χιτῶνα, the inner and less costly garment; ἱμάτιον, the outer and more valuable, used also by the poor as a coverlet by night (Exod. ubi supra). In Luke 6:29 the order is inverted, and appears to be that in which the two garments would be taken from the body, that verse referring to abstraction by violence. See the apostolic comment on this precept, 1Corinthians 6:7.
ἀγγαρεύσει] Herod. viii. 98, after describing the Persian post-couriers, adds, τοῦτο τὸ δράμημα τῶν ἵππων καλέουσι Πέρσαι ἀγγαρήϊον. Æschylus, Agam. 285 (Dindorf), says of the beacons which brought the intelligence of the capture of Troy to Mycenæ, φρυκτὸς δὲ φρυκτὸν δεῦρʼ ἀπʼ ἀγγάρου πυρὸς ἔπεμπεν. ‘The Jews particularly objected to the duty of furnishing posts for the Roman government; and Demetrius, wishing to conciliate the Jews, promised, among other things, κελεύω δὲ μηδὲ ἀγγαρεύεσθαι τὰ Ἰουδαίων ὑποζύγια (Jos. Antt. xiii. 2. 3). Hence our Saviour represents this as a burden;—and in the same manner Epictetus says, ἂν δὲ ἀγγαρεία ᾖ καὶ στρατιώτης ἐπιλάβηται, ἄφες, μὴ ἀντίτεινε μηδὲ γόγγυζε.’ Dr. Burton. The ἐπισταθμία, or billeting of the Roman soldiers and their horses on the Jews, was one kind of this ἀγγαρεία.
42.] The proper understanding of the command in this verse may be arrived at from considering the way in which the Lord Himself, who declares, ‘If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it’ (John 14:14), performs this promise to us. It would obviously be, not a promise of love, but a sentence of condemnation to us, understood in its bare literal sense; but our gracious Saviour, knowing what is good for us, so answers our prayers, that we never are sent empty away; not always, indeed, receiving what we ask,—but that which in the very disappointment we are constrained thankfully to confess is better than our wish. So, in his humble sphere, should the Christian giver act. To give every thing to every one—the sword to the madman, the alms to the impostor, the criminal request to the temptress—would be to act as the enemy of others and ourselves. Ours should be a higher and deeper charity, flowing from those inner springs of love, which are the sources of outward actions sometimes widely divergent; whence may arise both the timely concession, and the timely refusal. As Chrysostom observes on a former verse, μὴ τοίνυν ἁπλῶς τὰ πράγματα ἐξετάσωμεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ καιρὸν καὶ αἰτίαν καὶ γνώμην καὶ προσώπων διαφοράν, καὶ ὅσα ἂν αὐτοῖς ἕτερα συμβαίνῃ, πάντα μετὰ ἀκριβείας ζητῶμεν· οὐδὲ γάρ ἐστιν ἑτέρως ἐφίκεσθαι τῆς ἀληθείας. Hom. xvii. 6, p. 231.
43-48.] Sixth example. The law of love and hatred.
43.] The Jews called all Gentiles indiscriminately ‘enemies.’ In the Pharisaic interpretation therefore of the maxim (the latter part of which, although a gloss of the Rabbis, is a true representation of the spirit of the law, which was enacted for the Jews as a theocratic people), it would include the ‘odium humani generis’ with which the Jews were so often charged. But our Lord’s ‘fulfilment’ of neighbourly love extends it to all mankind—not only foreign nations, but even those who are actively employed in cursing, reviling, and persecuting us; and the hating of enemies is, in His fulfilment of it, no longer an individual or national aversion, but a coming out and being separate from all that rebel against God.
45. ὅπως γένησθε] Probably, as Wordsw., the signification “that ye may become” is not to be altogether lost sight of here. But the aor. somewhat modifies it, being literally “that ye may have become,” i.e. “may be.” See similar instances in ch. 18:3; 20:26.
υἱοὶ τοῦ π.] i.e. in being like Him. Of course there is allusion to our state of υἱοί by covenant and adoption; but the likeness is the point especially here brought out. So μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, Ephesians 5:1. The more we lift ourselves above the world’s view of the duty and expediency of revenge and exclusive dealing, into the mind with which the ‘righteous Judge, strong and patient, who is provoked every day,’ yet does good to the unthankful and evil,—the more firmly shall we assure, and the more nobly illustrate, our place as sons in His family, as εἰσελθόντες εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. Chrysostom beautifully observes, καίτοιγε οὐδαμοῦ τὸ γενόμενον ἴσον, οὐ μόνον διὰ τὴν τῆς εὐεργεσίας ὑπερβολήν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὴν τῆς ἀξίας ὑπεροχήν. σὺ μὲν γὰρ παρὰ τοῦ ὁμοδούλου καταφρονῇ, ἐκεῖνος δὲ παρὰ τοῦ δούλου καὶ μυρία εὐεργετηθέντος· καὶ σὺ μὲν ῥήματα χαρίζῃ εὐχόμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ, αὐτὸς δὲ πράγματα πολὺ μεγάλα καὶ θαυμαστά, τὸν ἥλιον ἀνάπτων καὶ τοὺς ἐτησίους ὄμβρους διδούς. ἀλλʼ ὅμως καὶ οὕτω δίδωμι ἴσον εἶναι, ὡς ἄνθρωπον ἐγχωρεῖ εἶναι. μὴ τοίνυν μίσει τὸν ποιοῦντα κακῶς, τοιούτων ὄντα σοι πρόξενον ἀγαθῶν, καὶ εἰς τοσαύτην ἄγοντά σε τιμήν· μὴ καταρῶ τῷ ἐπηρεάζοντι· ἐπεὶ τὸν μὲν πόνον ὑπέστης, τοῦ δὲ καρποῦ ἀπεστερήθης· καὶ τὴν μὲν ζημίαν οἴσεις, τὸν δὲ μισθὸν ἀπολεῖς· ὅπερ ἐσχάτης ἐστὶν ἀνοίας, τὸ χαλεπώτερον ὑπομείναντας τὸ ἔλαττον τούτου μὴ φέρειν. Hom. xviii. 4, p. 239.
ὅτι, because, ‘in that:’ gives the particular in which the conformity implied by υἱοί consists.
τ. ἥλιον ἀνατ.] Meyer quotes a sentiment of Seneca remarkably parallel: “Si deos imitaris, da et ingratis beneficia: nam et sceleratis sol oritur, et piratis patent maria.”
46.] On ἀγαπᾷν and φιλεῖν, see Tittmann, p. 54. He remarks, “Manifesta est ratio cur Dominus jusserit ἀγαπᾷν τοὺς ἐχθρούς, non autem φιλεῖν. Nam φιλεῖν, amare, pessimum quemque vir honestus non potest: sed poterit eum tamen ἀγαπᾷν, i.e. bene ei cupere et facere, quippe homo homini, cui etiam Deus benefaciat. Amor imperari non potest, sed dilectio: dilectio humanitatis est, amor eorum tantum, quibus eadem mens est, idem animus.” See further in notes on John 11:5.
τελῶναι] This race of men, so frequently mentioned as the objects of hatred and contempt among the Jews, and coupled with sinners, were not properly the publicans, who were wealthy Romans, of the rank of knights, farming the revenues of the provinces; but their underlings, heathens or renegade Jews, who usually exacted with recklessness and cruelty. “The Talmud classes them with thieves and assassins, and regards their repentance as impossible.” Wordsw. In interpreting these verses we must carefully give the persons spoken of their correlative value and meaning: ye, Christians, sons of God, the true theocracy, the βασιλ. τ. οὐρ.,—these τελῶναι or ἐθνικοί, men of this world, actuated by worldly motives,—‘what thank have ye in being like them?’
47. ἀσπάσησθε] Here, most probably in its literal sense. Jews did not salute Gentiles: Mohammedans do not salute Christians even now in the East.
48. ἔσεσθε] Not altogether imperative in meaning, but including the imperative sense: such shall be the state, the aim of Christians.
τέλειοι] complete, in your love of others; not one-sided, or exclusive, as these just mentioned, but all-embracing, and God-like ═ οἰκτίρμονες, Luke 6:36. ὑμεῖς is emphatic. No countenance is given by this verse to the ancient Pelagian or the modern heresy of perfectibility in this life. Such a sense of the words would be utterly at variance with the whole of the discourse. See especially vv. 22, 29, 32, in which the imperfections and conflicts of the Christian are fully recognized. Nor, if we consider this verse as a solemn conclusion of the second part of the Sermon, does it any the more admit of this view, asserting as it does that likeness to God in inward purity, love, and holiness, must be the continual aim and end of the Christian in all the departments of his moral life. But how far from having attained this likeness we are, St. Paul shews us (Philippians 3:12); and every Christian feels, just in the proportion in which he has striven after it. Augustine argues for the true sense of this and similar passages of Scripture against the Pelagians at length, De peccatorum meritis et remissione, lib. 2Ch_12 (17-20), and De perfectione justitiæ hominis, ch. 8, 9, vol. x. οἱ μὲν ἀγαπῶντες τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀτελεῖς εἰσιν εἰς ἀγάπην, οἱ δὲ τοὺς ἐχθρούς, τέλειοι. Euthym. On the sense see 1Peter 1:15.
Thol. quotes from Plato, Theæt. p. 176, διὸ καὶ πειρᾶσθαι χρὴ ἐνθένδε ἐκεῖσε φεύγειν ὅτι τάχιστα· φυγὴ δὲ ὁμοίωσις θεῷ κατὰ τὸ δυνατόν· ὁμοίωσις δὲ δίκαιον καὶ ὅσιον μετὰ φρονήσεως γενέσθαι.