John 12:5
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence?—Both the earlier Gospels preface this estimate by a reference to the use which was made of the ointment as actual waste. St. Matthew says only “that it might have been sold for much.” St. Mark, “that it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence,” that is, in actual value, for the yearly wage of a working man, and for the food therefore which would have maintained a poor man’s household for a whole year. (Comp. Note on John 6:7.) St. Mark adds, “and they were angry at her.” (Comp. Note on John 11:33.)

12:1-11 Christ had formerly blamed Martha for being troubled with much serving. But she did not leave off serving, as some, who when found fault with for going too far in one way, peevishly run too far another way; she still served, but within hearing of Christ's gracious words. Mary gave a token of love to Christ, who had given real tokens of his love to her and her family. God's Anointed should be our Anointed. Has God poured on him the oil of gladness above his fellows, let us pour on him the ointment of our best affections. In Judas a foul sin is gilded over with a plausible pretence. We must not think that those do no acceptable service, who do it not in our way. The reigning love of money is heart-theft. The grace of Christ puts kind comments on pious words and actions, makes the best of what is amiss, and the most of what is good. Opportunities are to be improved; and those first and most vigorously, which are likely to be the shortest. To consult to hinder the further effect of the miracle, by putting Lazarus to death, is such wickedness, malice, and folly, as cannot be explained, except by the desperate enmity of the human heart against God. They resolved that the man should die whom the Lord had raised to life. The success of the gospel often makes wicked men so angry, that they speak and act as if they hoped to obtain a victory over the Almighty himself.Three hundred pence - About 40,00, or 8 British pounds, 10 shillings (circa 1880's).

And given to the poor - The avails or value of it given to the poor.

5. three hundred pence—between nine and ten pounds sterling. See Poole on "John 12:3" Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence,.... Meaning Roman pence, one of which is, of the value of our money, seven pence halfpenny; so that three hundred pence amount to nine pounds seven shillings and six pence:

and given to the poor? this was his pretence, and with which he covered himself; his uneasiness was, because it was not sold, and the money put into his hands, as appears by what follows.

{1} Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

(1) A horrible example in Judas of a mind blinded with covetousness, and yet pretending godliness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 12:5-6. Τριακοσίων] Mark 14:5 sets forth the climax in the tradition by ἐπάνω τριακ. The mention of the price itself (about 120 Rhenish guldens, or about £10) is certainly original, not the indefinite πολλοῦ of Matthew 26:9.

πτωχοῖς] without the article: to poor people.

κ. τ. γλωσσ. εἶχε κ. τ. β. ἐβάστ.] gives historical definiteness to the general κλέπτης ἦν. He had the chest, the cash-box (see as regards γλωσσόκ. 2 Chronicles 24:8; Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 98 f.), in his keeping, and bore away that which was thrown into it, i.e. he purloined it. This closer definition of the sense of βαστάζειν, auferre (John 20:15; Matthew 7:17; Polyb. i. 48. 2, et al.), is yielded by the context. See Krebs, Obss. p. 153. So Origen, Codd. of the It. Nonnus, Theophylact, Cornelius a Lapide, Kypke, Krebs, and several others, including Maier, Grimm; comp. Lange.[105] The article does not signify that he had taken away all the deposits (objection of Lücke and several others), but refers to the individual cases which we are to suppose, in which deposits were removed by him. The explanation portabat (Vulgate, Luther, Beza, and many others, including Lücke, De Wette, B. Crusius, Luthardt, Ebrard, Wichelhaus, Baeumlein, Godet, Hengstenberg, Ewald; Tholuck doubtful) yields a meaning which is quite tautological, and a matter of course. The βαλλόμενα were gifts of friends and adherents of Jesus for the purchase of the necessities of life and for charitable uses. Comp. Luke 8:3; John 13:29. That the disciples had acquired earnings by the labour of their hands, and had deposited such earnings in the bag, nay, that even Jesus Himself had done so (Mark 6:3),—of this there exists no trace during the period of His ministry.

The question, why Jesus had not taken away the custody of the chest from the dishonest disciple (which indeed, according to Schenkel, he probably did not hold), is not answered by saying that He would remove every pretext for treason from him (Ammonius, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, and several others), or that He did not desire violently to interfere with the development of his sins (Hengstenberg); for neither would harmonize with the educative love of the Lord. Just as little, again, is it explained by suggesting that Judas carried on his thefts unobserved, until perhaps shortly before the death of Jesus (Lücke), which would be incompatible with the higher knowledge of the Lord, John 2:25; comp. John 6:64; John 6:71. The question stands rather in the closest connection with another—how Jesus could adopt Judas at all as a disciple; and here we must go back solely to a divine destination, Acts 1:16; Acts 2:23. Comp. the note after John 6:70-71. That the custody of the chest had been entrusted to Judas only by agreement of the disciples among one another (Godet), is an assumption which quite arbitrarily evades the point, while it would by no means have excluded the competency of Jesus to interfere.

[105] Who, however, explains: he laid hold of. But βαστάζειν denotes to lay hold of only in the sense of ψηλαφᾶν (Suidas). See Reisig, ad Soph. O. C. 1101; Ellendt, Lex Soph. I. p. 299. And also in this sense only in the tragic poets.5. three hundred pence] Here, as in John 6:7, the translation ‘pence’ is very inadequate and misleading; ‘three hundred shillings’ would be nearer the mark (see on Mark 6:7). S. Mark adds that some were very indignant at her.

to the poor] More accurately, to poor people; there is no article (comp. Luke 18:22).John 12:5. Τριακοσίων δηναρίων, for three hundred denarii [pence]) Fifty or sixty florins.Verses 5, 6. - Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Sinful motive often hides itself under the mask of reverence for another virtue. In Mark's Gospel the same price was put upon the pound of pure nard as that which is mentioned here - about of our money. Christ had given emphatic advice about generosity to the poor, and even during this very week (John 13:29) it is clear that his words were not forgotten, and in his great discourse, probably also delivered during this same week, he identified himself with the poor (Matthew 25:35, etc.), and called for unreserved consideration of them; so that this language was not unnatural. The value of this ointment is another minute indication that there is no connection between the Lazarus of John and the Lazarus of the parable. But John adds that the utter lack of perception on Judas's part of Mary's self-devotion was prompted by the most unworthy motive. The suggestion of Judas is put down by the evangelist to the sheerest covetousness. During the interval that elapsed, Judas had revealed his character, and John did not hesitate to refer the suggestion to the traitor. Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor. He really cared nothing for the poor. He was ambitious, eager for the display of the Master's power, anxious for the rewards which might follow the Master's assumption of supreme authority, turning to his own account all that might happen. But because he was a thief, and having possession of the common purse (the word γλωσσόκομος, which occurs in the sense of a chest (2 Chronicles 24:8), has a curious etymology, which had passed out of recognition; from γλώσσα and κομέω comes γλωσσοκομεῖον, that in which month-pieces of flutes might be kept in safety, and subsequently a chest or box for the safe guardianship of other valuables), he was the bearer - perhaps, bore array (see John 20:15, and Josephus, ' Ant.,' 7:15. 3, for this use of βαστάζω), at all events had at his disposal - of the things which were cast, in generous profusion, into it. Thoma makes the astounding suggestion that "John" here covertly refers to Simon Magus of Acts 8:18, etc. The question is often asked - Why was Judas entrusted with the common purse? Was it not likely to aggravate a disposition to which he was prone? Did not Jesus know what was in man? and had he not discerned the propensity of Judas (see John 6:71)? In reply:

(1) The appointment may have been made by the apostles themselves.

(2) Our Lord may not have interfered with it, deeming confidence more likely to help him than distrust.

(3) It may also show how, if men will yield themselves to sin, God will not and does not promise them immunity from temptation, but sometimes even brings them into it.

(4) The purse might have been a preservative against the vile temptation to sell his Master, and a test and motive for self-con-quest. Three hundred pence (τριακοσίων δηναρίων)

Or three hundred denarii. On the denarius, see on Matthew 20:2. Mark says more than three hundred pence. Three hundred denarii would be about fifty dollars, or twice that amount if we reckon according to the purchasing power.

The poor (πτωχοῖς)

See on Matthew 5:3. No article: to poor people.

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