Luke 6
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
Luke 6:1-5. The Disciples pluck the ears of corn on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28.)

. on the second sabbath after the first] Better, on the second-first sabbath. St Luke gives this unique note of time without a word to explain it, and scholars have not—and probably never will—come to an agreement as to its exact meaning. The only analogy to the word is the deuterodekate or second tenth in Jerome on Ezekiel 45. Of the ten or more suggested explanations, omitting those which are wholly arbitrary and impossible, we may mention the following,

a. The first Sabbath of the second month (Wetstein).

b. The first Sabbath after the second day of the Passover (Scaliger, Ewald, De Wette, Neander, Keim, &c.).

c. The first Sabbath of the second year in the Sabbatic cycle of seven years. (Wieseler).

d. The first Sabbath of the Ecclesiastical year. The Jewish year had two beginnings, the civil year began in Tisri (mid-September); the ecclesiastical year in Nisan (mid-March).

The first-first Sabbath may therefore have been a name given to the first Sabbath of the civil year in autumn; and second-first to the first Sabbath of the ecclesiastical year in spring (Cappell, Godet).

d. The Pentecostal Sabbath—the Paschal Sabbath being regarded as the protoproton or first-first (Corn. a Lapide).

These and similar explanations must be left as unsupported conjectures in the absence of any decisive trace of such Sabbatical nomenclature among the Jews. But we may remark that

(1) The reading itself cannot be regarded as absolutely certain, since it is omitted in א, B, L, and in several important versions, including the Syriac and Coptic. Hence of modern editors Tregelles and Meyer omit it; Lachmann and Alford put it in brackets. [Its insertion may then be conceivably accounted for by marginal annotations. Thus if a copyist put ‘first’ in the margin with the reference to the “other” Sabbath of Luke 5:6 it would have been corrected by some succeeding copyist into ‘second’ with reference to Luke 4:31; and the two may have been combined in hopeless perplexity. If it be said that this is unlikely, it seems at least equally unlikely that it should either wilfully or accidentally have been omitted if it formed part of the original text. And why should St Luke writing for Gentiles use without explanation a word to them perfectly meaningless and so highly technical that in all the folio volumes of Jewish literature there is not a single trace of it?]

(2) The exact discovery of what the word means is only important as a matter of archaeology. Happily there can be no question as to the time of year at which the incident took place. The narrative seems to imply that the ears which the disciples plucked and rubbed were ears of wheat not of barley. Now the first ripe sheaf of barley was offered at the Passover (in spring) and the first ripe wheat sheaf at Pentecost (fifty days later). Wheat would ripen earlier in the rich deep hollow of Gennesareth. In any case therefore the time of year was spring or early summer, and the Sabbath (whether the reading be correct or not) was probably some Sabbath in the month Nisan.

he went through the corn fields] Comp. Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28. St Mark uses the curious expression that ‘He went along through the corn fields’ apparently in a path between two fields—“and His disciples began to make a way by plucking the corn ears.” All that we can infer from this is that Jesus was walking apart from His Apostles, and that He did not Himself pluck the corn.

plucked the ears of corn] This shews their hunger and poverty, especially if the corn was barley. They were permitted by the Law to do this—“When thou comest into the standing-corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand,” Deuteronomy 23:25. St Matthew in his “began to pluck” shews how eagerly and instantly the Pharisees clutched at the chance of finding fault.

And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
2. certain of the Pharisees] On the Jewish sects see Excursus VI. As the chronological sequence of the incident is uncertain, these may be some of the spy-Pharisees who as His ministry advanced dogged His steps (Matthew 15:1; Mark 3:22; Mark 7:1), in the base and demoralising desire to convict Him of heresy or violation of the Law. Perhaps they wished to see whether he would exceed the regulated Sabbath day’s journey of 2000 cubits (Exodus 16:29). We have already met with some of the carping criticisms dictated by their secret hate, Luke 5:14; Luke 5:21; Luke 5:30.

Why do ye] In St Mark the question is scornfully addressed to Jesus. “See why do they do on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”

that which is not lawful to do] The point was this. Since the Law had said that the Jews were “to do no manner of work” on the Sabbath, the Oral Law had laid down thirty-nine principal prohibitions which were assigned to the authority of the Great Synagogue and which were called abhoth ‘fathers’ or chief rules. From these were deduced a vast multitude of toldoth ‘descendants’ or derivative rules. Now ‘reaping’ and ‘threshing’ on the sabbath day were forbidden by the abhoth; and by the toldoth it was asserted that plucking corn-ears was a kind of reaping, and rubbing them a kind of threshing. But while they paid servile attention to these trivialities the Pharisees “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith,” Matthew 22:23). The vitality of these artificial notions among the Jews is extraordinary. Abarbanel relates that when in 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state ‘religiously avoided the violation of their sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands., To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of grovelling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth!

And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;
3. Have ye not read so much as this] Rather, Did ye not even read this? He answers them in one of their own formulae, but with a touch of irony at their ignorance, which we trace also in the “Did ye never read?” of St Mark;—never though ye are Scribes and devote all your time to the Scriptures? Perhaps the reproving question may have derived an additional sting from the fact that the very passage which our Lord quoted (1 Samuel 21:1-6) had been read on that Sabbath as the Haphtarah of the day. The service for the day must have been over, because no meal was eaten till then. This fact does not however help us to determine which was the second-first Sabbath, because the present Jewish lectionary is of later date.

and they which were with him] That the day on which this occurred was a Sabbath results from the fact that it was only on the Sabbath that the new shewbread was placed on the table, Leviticus 24:8-9.

3. The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath] Rather, ‘Lord even of the Sabbath,’ though you regard the Sabbath as the most important command of the whole Law. In St Mark we have further, “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

This was one of no less than six great occasions on which the fury of the Pharisees had been excited by the open manner in which our Lord set aside as frivolous and unauthoritative the burdens which the Oral Law had attached to the Sabbath. The other instances are the healing of the cripple at Bethesda (John 5:1-16); the healing of the withered hand (Luke 6:1-11); of the blind man at Siloam (John 9:1-41); of the paralytic woman (Luke 13:14-17); and of the man with the dropsy (Luke 14:1-6). In laying His axe at the root of a proud and ignorant Sabbatarianism, He was laying His axe at the root of all that “miserable micrology” which they had been accustomed to take for religious life. They had turned the Sabbath from a holy delight into a revolting bondage. The Apocryphal Gospels are following a true tradition in the prominence which they give to Sabbath healing, as a charge against Him on His trial before the Sanhedrin.

In the famous Cambridge Manuscript (D), the Codex Bezae, there is here added the following passage: “On the same day, seeing one working on the Sabbath, He said to him, O man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed: but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed, and a transgressor of the Law.” This very remarkable addition cannot be accepted as genuine on the authority of a single MS., and can only be regarded as one of the agrapha dogmata, or ‘unrecorded

How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
4. did take and eat] St Mark says that this was “in the days of Abiathar the high priest.” The priest who actually gave the bread to David was Ahimelech, the father of Abiathar.

the shewbread] Literally, ‘loaves of setting forth;’ “continual bread,” Numbers 4:7. “Bread of the Face,” i.e. set before the Presence of God, Leviticus 24:6-7. Comp. “Angel of the Face” Leviticus 24:6-8; Exodus 25:30; Exodus 29:33. They were twelve unleavened, loaves sprinkled with frankincense set on a little golden table.

which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone] “It shall be Aaron’s and his sons: and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him,” Leviticus 24:9. Thus David, their favourite saint and hero, had openly and fearlessly violated the letter of the Law with the full sanction of the High Priest, on the plea of necessity,—in other words because mercy is better than sacrifice; and because the higher law of moral obligation must always supersede the lower law of ceremonial. This was a proof by way of fact from the Kethubim or sacred books (Hagiographa); in St Matthew our Lord adds a still more striking argument by way of principle from the Law itself. By its own provisions the Priests in the laborious work of offering sacrifices violated the Sabbath and yet were blameless. Hence the later Jews deduced the remarkable rule that “there is no sabbatism in the Temple,” (Numbers 28:9). And Jesus added “But I say to you there is something greater (μεῖζον) than the Temple here.” The appeal to their own practice is given in Luke 14:5.

And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
6-11. The Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand.

. into the synagogue] Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6. None of the Evangelists enable us to decide on the time or place when the healing occurred.

there was a man whose right hand was withered] Obviously he had come in the hope of being healed; and even this the Pharisees regarded as reprehensible, Luke 13:14. The Gospel of the Ebionites adds that he was a stonemason, maimed by an accident, and that he implored Jesus to heal him, that he might not have to beg his bread (Jerome on Matthew 12:10).

And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
7. the scribes and Pharisees watched him] Luke 20:20. The followers of Shammai, at that epoch the most powerful of the Pharisaic Schools, were so strict about the Sabbath, that they held it a violation of the Law to tend the sick, or even to console them on that day. Hence what the Pharisees were waiting to see was whether He was going to side with them in their Sabbatic views, or with the more lax Sadducees, whom the people detested. If he did the latter, they thought that they could ruin the popularity of the Great Prophet. But in this, as in every other instance, (1) our Lord absolutely refuses to be guided by the popular orthodoxy of the hour, however tyrannous and ostensibly deduced from Scripture; and (2) ignores every consideration of party in order to appeal to principles.

But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
8. their thoughts] Rather, their reasonings.

Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
9. I will ask you one thing] Rather, I further ask you. Implying that He had already addressed some questions to their consciences on this subject, or perhaps because they had asked Him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ Matthew 12:10.

And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
10. looking round about upon them all] St Mark adds ‘with anger, being grieved at the callousness porosin, Romans 11:25) of their hearts.’

Stretch forth thy hand] Compare 1 Kings 13:4.

And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
11.. they were filled with madness] Rather, unreasonableness. The word implies senselessness, the frenzy of obstinate prejudice. It admirably characterises the state of ignorant hatred which is disturbed in the fixed conviction of its own infallibility. (2 Timothy 3:9.) The two first Sabbath miracles (Luke 4:35; Luke 4:39) had excited no opposition, because none of these religious spies and heresy-hunters (Luke 20:20) were present.

communed] Rather, began to commune. This public miracle and public refutation clinched their hatred against Him (Matthew 12:14. Comp. John 11:53).

one with another] And, St Mark adds, with the Herodians. This shews the extremity of their hate, for hitherto the Pharisees had regarded the Herodians as a half-apostate political party, more nearly allied to the Sadducees, and ready with them to sacrifice the true interests of their country and faith. St Matthew (Luke 12:14) says that they actually “held a council against Him.”

what they might do] The form used—what is called the Aeolic aorist—implies extreme perplexity.

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
12-19. The Selection of the Twelve Apostles.

. in those days] wearied with their incessant espionage and opposition. Probably these two last incidents belong to a later period in the ministry, following the Sermon on the Mount (as in St Matthew) and the bright acceptable Galilaean year of our Lord’s work. In any case we have here, from Luke 6:12—viii. 56, a splendid cycle of Messianic work in Galilee in the gladdest epoch of Christ’s ministry.

into a mountain] Rather, “into the mountain,” with special reference to the Kurn Hattin, or Horns of Hattin, the traditional and almost certainly the actual scene of the Sermon on the Mount.

in prayer to God] The expression used is peculiar. It is literally “in the prayer of God.” Hence some have supposed that it should be rendered “in the Prayer-House of God.” The word proseuche meant in Greek not only ‘prayer,’ but also ‘prayer-house,’ as in the question to a poor person in Juvenal, “In what proseucha am I to look for you?” ■*- The proseuchae were merely walled spaces without roof, set apart for purposes of worship where there was no synagogue, as at Philippi (Acts 16:13). There is however here an insuperable difficulty in thus understanding the words; for proseuchae were generally, if not in-variably, in close vicinity to running water (Jos. Antt. xiv. 10, § 23), for purposes of ritual ablution, nor do we ever hear of their being built ^ on hills. On the other hand, if τὸ ὄρος mean only ‘the mountainous district,’ this objection is not fatal. For another instance of a night spent on a mountain in prayer, see Matthew 14:23.

12-19. The Selection of the Twelve Apostles.

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to to do good, or to do evil] He was intending to work a miracle for good; they were secretly plotting to do harm,—their object being, if possible, to put Him to death. They received this question in stolid silence. Mark 3:4.

to save life] Rather, a life.

And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;
13. he chose twelve] doubtless with a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.

whojn also he named apostles] The word means primarily ‘messengers,’ as in Php 2:25. It is a translation of the Hebrew Sheloochim, who often acted as emissaries of the Synagogue (comp. Mark 3:14, ἴνα ἀποστέλλῃ αὐτούς). In the other Gospels it only occurs in this sense in Mark 6:30; Matthew 10:2; and only once in the LXX., 1 Kings 14:6. It has two usages in the N. T., one general (John 13:16; Romans 16:7; Hebrews 3:1), and one special (1 Corinthians 9:1 and passim). The call of the Apostles was now necessitated both by the widespread fame of our Lord, and the deadly animosity already kindled against Him. Their training soon became the most important part of His work on earth.

Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,
14. Simon] Lists of the twelve Apostles are given in four passages of Scripture in the following order:

Matthew 10:2-4  Mark 3:16-19  Luke 6:14-16  Acts 1:13Simon  Simon  Simon  Peter

Andrew  James  Andrew  James

James  John  James  John

John  Andrew  John  Andrew

Philip  Philip  Philip  Philip

Bartholomew  Bartholomew  Bartholomew  Thomas

Thomas  Matthew  Matthew  Bartholomew

Matthew  Thomas  Thomas  Matthew

James of Alphaeus  James of Alphaeus  James of Alphaeus  James of Alphaeus


Lebbaeus  Thaddaeus  Simon Zelotes  Simon Zelotes

Simon the Ka-  Simon the Ka-  Jude of James  Jude of James

nanite  nanite    

Judas Iscariot  Judas Iscariot  Judas Iscariot  Judas Iscariot

In reading these four independent lists several facts are remarkable.

i. Each list falls into three tetrads, and the last two tetrads are arranged in slightly varying pairs. “The Apostolic College was formed of three concentric circles—each less closely intimate with Jesus than the last.” Godet.

ii. In each tetrad the names refer to the same persons though the order is different.

iii. In each list the first of each tetrad is the same—viz. Simon, Philip, and James son of Alphaeus; not as ‘supreme among inferior, but as first among equals.’

iv. In each list Simon stands first; and Judas Iscariot last, as the ‘son of perdition.’

v. Not only do the Apostles seem to be named in the order of their eminence and nearness to Christ, but the first four seem to stand alone (in the Acts the first four are separated by “and;” the rest are ranged in pairs). The first four were the eklekton eklektoteroi—the chosen of the chosen; the ecclesiola in ecclesia. Andrew, who is named last in St Mark and the Acts, though belonging to the inmost band of Apostles (Mark 13:3) and though the earliest of them all (John 1:40), was yet less highly honoured than the other three (who are the θεολογικώτατοι at the healing of Jairus’s daughter, Mark 5:37; at the Transfiguration, Matthew 17:1; and in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:37). He seems to have been a link of communication between the first and second tetrads (John 12:22; John 6:8).

vi. The first five Apostles were of Bethsaida; and all the others seem to have been Galilaeans with the single exception of Judas Iscariot, who belonged to a Jewish town (see Luke 6:16). The only Greek names are those of Philip and Andrew (see John 12:21-22). At this time however many Jews bore Greek names.

vii. In the second tetrad it may be regarded as certain that Bartholomew (the son of Tolmai) is the disciple whom St John calls Nathanael. He may possibly have been Philip’s brother. St Matthew puts his own name last, and adds the title of reproach the tax-gatherer. In the two other Evangelists he precedes St Thomas. The name Thomas merely means ‘a twin’ (Didymus), and one tradition says that he was a twin-brother of Matthew, and that his name too was Jude (Euseb. H. E. i. 13).

viii. In the third tetrad we find one Apostle with three names. His real name was Jude, but as there was already one Jude among the Apostles, and as it was the commonest of Jewish names, and as there was also a Jude who was one of the ‘brethren of the Lord,’ he seems to have two surnames—Lebbaeus, from lebh, ‘heart,’ and Thaddaeus (another form of Theudas, Acts 5:36), from Thad, ‘bosom’—possibly, as some have conjectured, from the warmth and tenderness of his disposition. (Very few follow Clemens of Alexandria and Ewald in trying to identify Lebbaeus and Levi.) This disciple is called by St Luke (viz. here and in Acts i 13) “Jude of James,” or “James’s Jude,” and the English Version supplies the word “brother” (see Winer, p. 238). There is however no more decisive reason to supply “brother” (which is at any rate a very unusual ellipse) than in the former verse, where James is called “James of Alphaeus” (Chalpai, Klôpa, John 19:25, perhaps also Kleopas (Luke 24:18), since Jews often Graecised the form of their names). The word ‘brother,’ where needed, is expressed, as in Luke 6:14. This three-named disciple was probably a son of James (compare Nonnus John 14:22 Ἰουδὰς υἱὸς Ἰακώβοιο), and therefore a grandson of Alphaeus, and a nephew of Matthew and Thomas. James the son of Alphaeus is sometimes called “the Less;” but this seems to be a mistaken rendering of ὁ μικρὸς (Mark 15:40), which means ‘the short of stature.’ The other James is never called ‘the Great.’

ix. Simon Zelotes is called by St Matthew ‘the Kananite’ (ὁ Κανανίτης), or according to the better readings ‘the Kananean.’ The word does not mean “Canaanite,” as our Version incorrectly gives it, nor yet ‘inhabitant of Kana in Galilee,’ but means the same thing as ‘the Zealot,’ from Kineáh, ‘zeal.’ He had therefore once belonged to the sect of terrible fanatics—the Carbonari of Palestine—who thought any deed of violence justifiable for the recovery of national freedom. He may have been one of the wild followers of Judas the Gaulonite. (Jos. B. J. IV. 3, § 9, and passim.) The name ‘Zealot’ was derived from 1Ma 2:50, where the dying Mattathias, father of Judas Maccabaeus, says to the Assidaeans (Chasidim, i.e. ‘all such as were voluntarily devoted to the law’) “Be ye zealous for the Law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers” (comp. 2Ma 4:2). It shews our Lord’s divine wisdom and fearless universality of love that He should choose for Apostles two persons who had once been at such deadly opposition as a tax-gatherer and a zealot.

x. For “Judas Iscariot who also betrayed him” St Luke uses the milder description, ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης, ‘who became a traitor.’ The name Iscariot has nothing to do with askara, ‘strangulation,’ or sheker, ‘lie,’ but is in all probability Eesh Kerioth, ‘man of Kerioth,’ just as Istôbos stands in Josephus (Antt. VII. 6, § 1) for ‘man of Tôb.’ Kerioth (Joshua 15:25) is perhaps Kuryetein, ten miles from Hebron, in the southern border of Judah. If the reading “Iscariot” is right in John 6:71; John 13:26 (א, B, C, G, L), as applied also to Simon Zelotes, then, since Judas is called “son of Simon” (John 6:71), the last pair of Apostles were father and son. If Judas Iscariot had ever shared the wild Messianic patriotism of his father it would partly account for the recoil of disgust and disappointment which helped to ruin his earthly mind when he saw that he had staked all in the cause of one who was rejected and despised. Yet even Judas was a witness, and a very important one, to the perfect innocence of his Lord (Matthew 27:4).

xi. It is a deeply interesting fact, if it be a fact (and although it cannot be made out with certainty because it depends on data which are conjectural, and on tradition which is liable to error—it is still far from improbable) that so many of the Apostles were related to each other. Simon and Andrew were brothers; James and John were brothers, and, if Salome was a sister of the Virgin (comp. Mark 15:40; John 19:25), they were first cousins of our Lord; Philip and Bartholomew may have been brothers; Thomas, Matthew, and James were perhaps brothers and first cousins of our Lord; Lebbaeus, or ‘Jude of James,’ was His second cousin; Simon Zelotes and Judas Iscariot were father and son. Thus no less than half of the Apostles would have been actually related to our Lord, although His brethren did not believe on Him (John 7:5). The difficulty however of being sure of these combinations rises in part from the paucity of Jewish names, and therefore the extreme commonness of Simon, Jude, James, &c.

xii. The separate incidents in which individual Apostles are mentioned are as follows:

Peter: Prominent throughout; Luke 12:41, Luke 22:31; Matthew 16:16; Matthew 17:24; Matthew 19:27, &c.

James and John, Both prominent throughout. Boanerges; calling down fire; petition for precedence, &c.

James was the first Apostolic martyr; John the last survivor (Acts 12:2; John 21:22).

Andrew: the first disciple, John 1:40; with Jesus on Olivet, Mark 13:3.

Philip: “Follow me,” John 1:43; his frankness, John 6:7; the Greeks, John 12:22; “shew us the Father,” John 14:8.

Bartholomew: “an Israelite indeed,” John 1:47; of Cana, John 21:2.

Matthew: his call, Luke 5:27-28.

Thomas: despondent yet faithful, John 11:16; John 14:5; John 20:25; John 21:2.

James son of Alphaeus: no incident.

Jude son of James: his perplexed question, John 14:22.

Simon Zelotes: no incident.

Judas Iscariot: the betrayal and ultimate suicide.

Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes,
15. called Zelotes] Rather, who was called the Zealot.

And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
8. which also was the traitor] Rather, who also became a traitor. “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70; 1 John 2:17; typified by Ahithophel, Ps. 12:9. If it be asked why our Lord chose him, the answer is nowhere given to us, but we may reverently conjecture that Judas Iscariot, like all human beings, had in him germs of good which might have ripened into holiness, if he had resisted his besetting sin, and not flung away the battle of his life. It is clear that John (at least) among the Apostles had early found him out (John 12:5, and that he had received from our Lord more than one solemn warning (Luke 12:15, Luke 18:25, &c.).

And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;
17. And he came down with them, and stood in the plain] Rather, And descending with them, He stopped on a level place. Topos pedinos also occurs in Isaiah 13:2, LXX. If it be thus rendered there is no discrepancy between St Matthew, who says that “He went up into the mountain, and when He sat down His disciples approached Him” (Matthew 5:1). I believe that St Luke here meant to give such portions of the Sermon on the Mount as suited his design. Combining the two narratives with what we know of the scene we see that what occurred was as follows. The previous evening Jesus went to one of the peaks of Kurn Hattin (withdrawing Himself from His disciples, who doubtless bivouacked at no great distance), and spent the night in prayer. In the morning He called His disciples and chose Twelve Apostles. Then going with them to some level spot, either the flat space (called in Greek plax) between the two peaks of the hill, or some other spot near at hand, He preached His sermon primarily to His disciples who sat immediately around Him, but also to the multitudes. There is no need to assume two discourses—one esoteric and one exoteric, &c. At the same time there is of course no difficulty in supposing that our Lord may have uttered the same discourse, or parts of the same discourse, more than once, varying it as occasion required.

out of all Judea] St Matthew adds Galilee (which was to a great extent Greek), Decapolis, and Peraea; St Mark also mentions Idumaea. Thus there were Jews, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Arabs among our Lord’s hearers.

And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.
And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
19. to touch him] Compare Luke 8:44; Matthew 14:36; Mark 5:30.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
20. Blessed be ye poor] Rather, Blessed are the poor. The makarioi is a Hebrew expression (ashri), Psalm 1:1. St Matthew adds “in spirit” (comp. Isaiah 66:2, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word”). But

(1) St Luke gives the address of Christ to the poor whose very presence shewed that they were His poor and had come to seek Him; and

(2) the Evangelist seems to have been impressed with the blessings of a faithful and humble poverty in itself (comp. James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and loves to record those parts of our Lord’s teaching which were especially ‘the Gospel to the poor’ (see Luke 1:53, Luke 2:7, Luke 6:20, Luke 12:15-34, Luke 16:9-25). See Introd. p. 27.

“Come ye who find contentment’s very core

In the light store

And daisied path Of poverty,

And know how more

A small thing that the righteous hath

Availeth, than the ungodly’s riches great.”

Cov. Patmore.

“This is indeed an admirably sweet friendly beginning...for He does not begin like Moses...with command and threatening, but in the friendliest possible way with free, enticing, alluring and amiable promises.” Luther.

for yours is the kingdom of God] St Matthew uses the expression “the kingdom of the heavens.” The main differences between St Matthew’s and St Luke’s record of the Sermon on the Mount are explained by the different objects and readers of these Gospels; but in both it is the Inaugural Discourse of the Kingdom of Heaven.

(i) St Matthew writes for the Jews, and much that he records has special bearing on the Levitic Law (Luke 5:17-38), which St Luke naturally omits as less intelligible to Gentiles. Other parts here omitted are recorded by St Luke later on (Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 7:7-11).

(ii) St Matthew, presenting Christ as Lawgiver and King, gives the Sermon more in the form of a Code. Kurn Hattin is for him the new and more blessed Sinai; St Luke gives it more in the form of a direct homily (‘yours,’ &c., not ‘theirs,’ Luke 6:20; Matthew 5:3; and compare Luke 6:46-47 with Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:24).

(iii) Much of the Sermon in St Matthew is occupied with the contrast between the false righteousness—the pretentious orthodoxy and self-satisfied ceremonialism—of the Pharisees, and the true righteousness of the Kingdom which is mercy and love. Hence much of his report is occupied with Spirituality as the stamp of true religion, in opposition to formalism, while St Luke deals with Love in the abstract.

(iv) Thus in St Matthew we see mainly the Law of Love as the contrast between the new and the old; in St Luke the Law of Love as the central and fundamental idea of the new.

For a sketch of the Sermon on the Mount, mainly in St Matthew, I may refer to my Life of Christ, i. 259-264. The arrangement of the section in St Luke is not obvious. Some see in it the doctrine of happiness; the doctrine of justice; the doctrine of wisdom; or (1) the salutation of love (Luke 6:20-26); the precepts of love (Luke 6:27-38); the impulsion of love (Luke 6:39-49). These divisions are arbitrary. Godet more successfully arranges it thus: (1) The members of the new society (Luke 6:20-26; Matthew 5:1-12); (2) The fundamental principle of the new society (Luke 6:27-45; Matthew 5:13 to Mat 7:12); (3) The judgment of God on which it rests (Luke 6:46-49; Matthew 7:13-27):—in other words (1) the appeal; (2) the principles; (3) the sanction.

20-26. Beatitudes and Woes.

This section of St Luke, from Luke 6:20 to Luke 9:6, resembles in style the great Journey Section, Luke 9:51—18:34.

Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
21. Blessed are ye that hunger now] Comp. Luke 1:53; Psalm 107:9. St Matthew here also brings out more clearly that it is the beatitude of spiritual hunger “after righteousness.”

ye shall laugh] See 2 Corinthians 6:10; Revelation 21:4.

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
22. hate you...separate you...reproach...cast out your name as evil] We have here four steps of persecution increasing in virulence:

(1) General hatred, (2) Exclusion from the synagogue, a lesser excommunication, viz. the Neziphah or exclusion for 30 days, or Niddoui for 90 days (Gfrorer, Jahrh. d. Heils, 1. 183; John 9:34. Hence aphorismos means ‘excommunication’), (3) Violent slander, (4) The Cherem, Shammata, or greater excommunication,—permanent expulsion from the Synagogue and Temple (John 16:2). The Jews pretended that our Lord was thus excommunicated to the blast of 400 ram’s horns by Joshua Ben Perachiah (Wagenseil, Sota, p. 1057), and was only crucified forty days after because no witness came forward in His favour.

as evil] ‘Malefic’ or ‘execrable superstition’ was the favourite description of Christianity among Pagans (Tac. Ann. xv. 44; Suet. Nero, 16), and Christians were charged with incendiarism, cannibalism, and every infamy. (The student will find such heathen views of Christianity collected in my Life of St Paul, Exc. 15: Vol. 1.)

for the Son of man’s sake] The hatred of men is not in itself a beatitude, because there is a general conscience which condemns certain forms of wickedness, and a man may justly incur universal execration. But the world also hates those who run counter to its pleasures and prejudices, and in that case hatred may be the tribute which vice pays to holiness; 1 Peter 2:19; 1 Peter 3:14. “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;” John 17:14. Still a man may well tremble when he is enjoying throughout life a beatitude of benediction. And ‘the world’ by no means excludes the so-called ‘religious world,’ which has hated with a still fiercer hatred, and exposed to a yet deadlier martyrdom, some of its greatest prophets and teachers. Not a few of the great and holy men enumerated in the next note fell a victim to the fury of priests. Our Lord was handed over to crucifixion by the unanimous hatred of the highest religious authorities of His day.

On the title Son of Man, which occurs in all the four Gospels, see p. 119. In using it Christ “chooses for Himself that title which definitely presents His work in relation to humanity in itself, and not primarily in relation to God or to the chosen people, or even to humanity as fallen.” Canon Westcott (on John 1:51) considers that it was not distinctively a Messianic title, and doubts its having been derived from Daniel 7:13. “The Son of God was made a Son of Man that you who were sons of men might be made sons of God.” Aug. Serm. 121. As the “Second Adam” Christ is the representative of the race (1 Corinthians 15:45) in its highest ideal; as “the Lord from Heaven” He is the Promise of its future exaltation.

Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
23. Rejoice ye in that day] See Acts 5:41. “We glory in tribulation;” Romans 5:3; James 1:2-3; Colossians 1:24; Hebrews 11:26. They accepted with joy that ‘ignominy of Christ’ which made the very name of ‘Christian’ a term of execration; 1 Peter 4:14; 1 Peter 4:16.

in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets] Elijah and his contemporaries, 1 Kings 19:10. Hanani imprisoned by Asa, 2 Chronicles 16:10. Micaiah imprisoned, 1 Kings 22:27. Zechariah stoned by Joash, 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. Urijah slain by Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 26:23. Jeremiah imprisoned, smitten and put in the stocks, Jeremiah 32:38. Amos slandered, expelled, and perhaps beaten to death (Amos 7). Isaiah (according to tradition) sawn asunder, Hebrews 11:37, &c. See the same reproach against the Jews in Hebrews 11:36-38; Acts 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15.

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
24. But woe] While sin lasts, there must still be woes over against Beatitudes, as Ebal stands for ever opposite to Gerizim. In St Matthew also we find (Matthew 23) eight woes as well as eight Beatitudes. See too Jeremiah 17:5-8, but there the “cursed” precedes the “blessed.”

woe unto you that are rich] The ‘woe !’ is not necessarily or wholly denunciatory; it is also the cry of compassion, and of course it only applies—not to a Chuzas or a Nicodemus or a Joseph of Arimathaea,—but to those rich who are not poor in spirit, but trust in riches (Mark 10:24), or are not rich towards God (Luke 12:21) and have not got the true riches (Luke 16:11; Amos 6:1; James 5:1). Observe the many parallels between the Epistle of St James and the Sermon on the Mount, James 1:2; James 1:4-5; James 1:9; James 1:20; James 2:13-14; James 2:17-18; James 4:4; James 4:10-11; James 5:2; James 5:10; James 5:12.

ye have received your consolation] Rather, ye have to the full, Php 4:18; comp. Luke 16:25, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst good things.”

Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
25. you that are full] “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread,” Ezekiel 16:49.

Woe unto you that laugh now] Compare Ecclesiastes 2:2; Ecclesiastes 7:6; Proverbs 14:13..

Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
26. Woe unto you] Omit unto you with א, A, B, E, &c.

when all men shall speak well of you] “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” James 4:4. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own,” John 15:19.

for so did their fathers to the false prophets] “The prophets prophesy falsely...and my people love to have it so,” Jeremiah 5:31. The prophets of Baal and of Asherah, honoured by Jezebel, 1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:22. Zedekiah, son of Chenaanah, supported by Ahab, 1 Kings 22:2. “Speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits,” Isaiah 30:10.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
27. Love your enemies] This had been distinctly the spirit of the highest part of the Law and the Old Testament. Exodus 23:4, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.” Proverbs 25:21, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat.” Yet in many passages it had practically been said “to men of old time,” at any rate in some cases, “thou shalt hate thine enemy,” Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 23:6; 1 Chronicles 20:3; 2 Samuel 12:31; Psalm 137:8-9, &c. On these passages the fierce fanaticism of the Pharisaic Jews, after the Exile, had so exclusively fed, that we find the Talmud ringing with precepts of hatred the most bitter against all Gentiles, and the ancients had, not unnaturally, been led to the conclusion that detestation of all but Jews was a part of the Jewish religion (“adversus omnes alios hostile odium,” Tac. Hist. v. 5; Juv. Sat. xiv. 103).

do good to them which hate you] See the precept beautifully enforced in Romans 12:17; Romans 12:19-21.

27-38. The Laws of Love and Mercy.

27-30. The manifestations of Love. 31. Its formula. 32-35. Its distinctiveness. 35-36. Its model. 37-45. Love as the principle of all judgment. Godet.]

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
28. pray for them which despitefully use you] The Greek word implies the coarsest insults, and is found in 1 Peter 3:16. St Luke alone records our Lord’s prayer for His murderers, Luke 23:34, from which St Stephen learnt his, Acts 7:60.

And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
29. offer also the other] The general principle “resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39; 1 Corinthians 6:7; 1 Peter 2:19-23) impressed for ever on the memory and conscience of mankind by a striking paradox. That it is only meant as a paradox in its literal sense is shewn by the fact that our Lord Himself, while most divinely true to its spirit, did not act on the letter of it (John 18:22-23). The remark of a good man on reading the Sermon on the Mount, “either this is not true, or we are no Christians,” need not be correct of any of us. The precepts are meant,

St Augustine said, more “ad praeparationem cordis quae intus est” than

ad opus quod in aperto fit;” but still, the fewer exceptions we make the better, and the more absolutely we apply the spirit of the rules, the fewer difficulties shall we find about the letter.

thy cloke...thy coat] The himation was the upper garment, the shawl-like abba; the chiton was the tunic. See on Luke 3:11.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
30. Give to every man that asketh of thee] Literally, “be giving implying a habit, not an instant act. Here again we have a broad, general principle of unselfishness and liberality safely left to the common sense of mankind, Deuteronomy 15:7-9. The spirit of our Lord’s precept is now best fulfilled by not giving to every man that asks, because in the altered circumstances of the age such indiscriminate almsgiving would only be a check to industry, and a premium on imposture, degradation, and vice. By ‘giving,’ our Lord meant ‘conferring a boon;’ but mere careless giving now, so far from conferring a boon, perpetuates a curse and inflicts an injury. The spirit of the precept is large-handed but thoughtful charity. Love must sometimes violate the letter as the only possible way of observing the spirit (Matthew 15:26; Matthew 20:23).

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
31. as ye would that men should do to you] The golden rule of Christianity of which our Lord said that it was “the Law and the Prophets,” Matthew 7:12. The modem ‘Altruism’ and ‘vivre pour autrui,’ though pompously enunciated as the bases of a new religion, are but a mutilated reproduction of this.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
32. for sinners also love those that love them] Where St Matthew (Matthew 5:46-47), writing for Jews, uses the term “tax-gatherers” or ‘Gentile persons’ (ethnikoi), St Luke naturally substitutes the nearest equivalents of those words in this connexion, because he is writing for Gentiles. Our Lord meant that our standard must rise above the ordinary dead level of law, habit, custom, which prevail in the world.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
34. to receive as much again] From this we see that ‘interest’ and ‘usury’ are not here contemplated at all.

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
35. hoping for nothing again] See Psalm 15:5, with the Rabbinic comment that God counts it as universal obedience if any one lends without interest. The words may also mean despairing in nothing, or (if μηδέν be read) driving no one to despair.

he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil] See the exquisite addition in Matthew 5:45.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
36. Be ye therefore merciful] Rather, Become, or Prove yourselves merciful (omit οὖν, אBDL).

merciful] St Matthew has “perfect,” Matthew 5:48; but that there is no essential difference between the two Evangelists we may see in such expressions as “the Father of Mercies,” 2 Corinthians 1:3; “The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,” James 5:11; “Put on therefore as the elect of God...bowels of mercies, kindness,” Colossians 3:12; Isaiah 30:18. “God can only be our ideal in His moral attributes, of which Love is the centre.” Van Oosterzee.

“It is an attribute to God Himself,

And earthly power doth then shew likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice.”


Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
37. fudge not] For comment read Romans 2:1-3; Rom 14:10, “Why dost thou judge thy brother?...for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; 1Co 4:13, and the Lord’s prayer; James 2:13, “he shall have judgment without mercy that hath shewed no mercy.” Hence a “righteous judgment” of others is not forbidden, so long as it be made in a forbearing and tender spirit, John 7:24.

forgive, and ye shall he forgiven] For comment see the Parable of the Debtors, Matthew 18:23-35.

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
38. into your bosom] Pockets were unknown to the ancients. All that was necessary was carried in the fold of the robe (Heb. Cheyk., Psalm 35:13, &c.; Lat. sinus) or in the girdle.

with the same measure that ye mete] A proverb almost verbally identical with this is found in the Talmud (Duke’s Rabbin. Blumenlese, p. 162), but it must be remembered that the earliest parts of the Talmud were not committed to writing till more than two centuries after Christ, and long before that time His sayings may have been ‘in the air,’ i.e. they may have passed unconsciously into the store of the national wisdom even among His enemies.

And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
39-45. Sincerity. Four Comparisons.

. Can the blind lead the blind?] Matthew 15:14. Proverbs 19:27, “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err.” St Paul taunts the Jew with professing to be “a guide of the blind,” Romans 2:19. St Luke calls this “a parable” in the broader sense (see on Luke 4:23); and in this Gospel the Sermon thus ends with four vivid ‘parables’ or similes taken from the sights of daily life—blind leaders of blind; the mote and the beam; good and bad fruit; the two houses.

The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
40. every one that is perfect shall be as his master] Rather, who has been perfected, 2 Timothy 3:17. A favourite quotation of St John’s, Luke 13:16, Luke 15:20. See Matthew 10:25.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
41. beholdest thou the mote] The hypocrite sees (blepei) at the slightest glance the mote in his brother’s eye; but not the most careful inspection enables him to observe (katanoein) the very obvious beam in his own eye. The word mote is in the original karphos, a stalk or chip, and this is also the idea of mote. Thus in Dutch mot is dust of wood; in Spanish mota is a flue on cloth.

the beam] The entire illustration is Jewish, and was used to express impatience of just reproof (Babha Bathra, f. 15. 2) so that ‘mote’ and ‘beam’ became proverbial for little and great faults. The proverb also implies, ‘How can you see others’ faults properly with a beam in the depth of your eye (ἔκβαλεἐκ, Matthew 7:5)? how dare you condemn when you are so much worse?’ Comp. Chaucer (Reeves Prologue),

“He can wel in myn eye see a stalke

But in his owne he can nought seen a balke.”

Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.
42. Thou hypocrite] Romans 2:1, “Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” “If we condemn others when we are worse than they, we are like bad trees pretending to bear good fruit.” Bengel.

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
44. do not gather figs] The simile might have been illustrated by pointing to one of the common Eastern gardens or orchards with its festooning vines and fig-trees just beyond the rough hedges of prickly pear.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
45. of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh] “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?” Matthew 12:34; “the vile person will speak villany,’ Isaiah 32:6.

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
46-49. False and true Foundations.

. why call ye me, Lord, Lord] “If I be a master, where is my fear, saith the Lord of hosts?” Malachi 1:6. Painful comments are supplied by the language of two parables, Matthew 25:11-12; Luke 13:25.

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
47. and doeth them] John 13:17. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,” James 1:22.

He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
48. he is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock] The E.V. here loses all the picturesque force of the original. Rather, he is like a man building a house, who dug, and kept deepening, and laid a foundation on the rock. The rock is Christ and the teaching of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Whether tested by flood, or by fire (1 Corinthians 3:11-15), only the genuine building stands. In another sense, too, “the wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand,” Proverbs 12:7.

the flood] Rather, an inundation; the sudden rush of a spait.

for it was founded upon a rock] Rather, for it had been founded upon the rock. In some MSS. (א, L) we find, instead of this clause, “because it was well built”

But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
49. upon the earth] In St Matthew, more graphically, “upon the sand;” e.g. the sand of superficial intellectual acceptance.

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