Matthew 12:6
But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) In this place is one greater than the temple.—Better, Here is something greater than the Temple. The Greek adjective is neuter in the better MSS., and the word “here” we may think of as accompanied (like the “destroy this temple” of John 2:19) by a gesture which interpreted the words. The passage thus referred to furnishes obviously the true explanation of our Lord’s assertion of His greatness here, and spoken, as it probably was, to scribes from Jerusalem, may have been intended to remind them of it. The body of the Son of Man was the truest, highest temple of God, and the disciples who ministered to Him were entitled to at least the same privilege as the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem. The range of the words is, however, wider than this their first and highest application. We are taught to think of the bodies of other sons of men as being also, in their measure, temples of God (1Corinthians 6:19), and so there follows the conclusion that all works of love done for the bodies or the souls of men as little interfere with the holiness of a day of rest as did the ministrations of the priests as they laboured to weariness in the ritual of the Temple. Inasmuch as the disciples were not at the time engaged in any direct service to their Master, but were simply satisfying the cravings of their own hunger, their act, strictly speaking, came under the general rather than the special application of the words. Man, as such, to those who take a true measure of his worth, is greater than any material temple.

12:1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, De 5:14. No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.One greater than the temple - Here the Saviour refers to himself, and to his own dignity and power. "I have power over the laws; I can grant to my disciples a dispensation from those laws. An act which I command or permit them to do is therefore right." This proves that he was divine. None but God can authorize people to do a thing contrary to the divine laws. He refers them again Matthew 12:7 to a passage he had before quoted (See the notes at Matthew 9:13), showing that God preferred acts of righteousness, rather than a precise observance of a ceremonial law.

Mark adds Mark 2:27 "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." That is, the Sabbath was intended for the welfare of man; it was designed to promote his happiness, and not to produce misery by harsh, unfeeling requirements. It is not to be so interpreted as to produce suffering by making the necessary supply of wants unlawful. Man was not made for the Sabbath. Man was created first, and then the Sabbath was appointed for his happiness, Genesis 2:1-3. His necessities, his real comforts and needs, are not to be made to bend to that which was made "for him." The laws are to be interpreted favorably to his real wants and comforts. This authorizes works only of real necessity, not of imaginary wants, or amusements, or common business and worldly employments.

6. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple—or rather, according to the reading which is best supported, "something greater." The argument stands thus: "The ordinary rules for the observance of the sabbath give way before the requirements of the temple; but there are rights here before which the temple itself must give way." Thus indirectly, but not the less decidedly, does our Lord put in His own claims to consideration in this question—claims to be presently put in even more nakedly. The Jews had very superstitious conceits concerning the temple, and might object, But the priests’ works are done in the temple. The Jews had a saying, that in the temple there was no sabbath. They looked upon the temple as sanctifying all actions done there. To obviate this, (saith our Saviour),

In this place is one (that is, I am)

greater than the temple. The temple was but a type of me. If the temple can sanctify so much labour, will not my authority and permission, think you, excuse this little labour of my disciples? But I say unto you,.... Who Christ knew would be ready to object, as above, and therefore prevents them, by saying,

that in this place is one greater than the temple; meaning himself, who was the Lord and Proprietor of the temple, and in his human nature the antitype of it; see John 2:19 and was infinitely more sacred than that. Some copies read "something greater"; referring either to the human nature of Christ, in which the Godhead dwells bodily, and so infinitely greater than the temple; or to the health of his disciples, which was in danger, through hunger: or to the ministry of the apostles, which, by satisfying nature, they were more capable of performing; either of which was of more moment than the sacrifices and service of the temple. Christ's argument is, that if the temple, and the service of it, excused the priests from blame, in doing things in it on the sabbath day, which otherwise might not be done; then much more might his presence, who was greater than the temple, excuse his disciples from blame in this action of rubbing and eating the ears of corn; which was done to satisfy hunger, and to render them the more capable of performing their ministerial function; and which was of more importance than the service of the priests.

But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 12:6. As in Matthew 12:3 f. Jesus had reasoned a majori (from the fact of David, when hungry, being allowed to eat the shew-bread) ad minus (to the fact of the hungry disciples being allowed to pluck the corn on the Sabbath), so in Matthew 12:5 He reasons a minori (viz. from the temple, where the Sabbath is subordinated to the sacrificial arrangements) ad majus, viz. to His own authority, which transcends the sanctity of the temple, and from acting under which the disciples might well be the less disposed to be bound to keep the Sabbath. The key to this argument is to be found in Matthew 12:6, which contains the minor proposition of the conclusion: what is allowable in the case of the servants of the temple, namely, to work on the Sabbath, must be conceded to the servants of Him who is greater than the temple; I am greater than the temple; therefore, and so on.

In all the elevation and truth of His self-consciousness Jesus points with τοῦ ἱεροῦ μεῖζόν ἐστιν ὧδε to His own person and character as surpassing the temple in sanctity and greatness; not to the Messianic work (Fritzsche, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius), with which the plucking of the corn had nothing to do; nor, again, to the interests of the, disciples! (Paulus, Kuinoel); nor, finally, to the ἔλεος in Matthew 12:7 (Baur). The neuter μεῖζον, a greater thing, is more weighty than the masculine. Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 396. Comp. Matthew 11:9.

ὧδε] demonstrative, as in Matthew 12:41-42. Notice how sublimely great is the consciousness that God is dwelling in Him in a higher sense than in the temple; comp. note on John 2:19.Matthew 12:6-8. The principles involved. The facts stated raise questions as to the reasons. The Pharisees were men of rules, not accustomed to go back on principles. The passion for minutiæ killed reflection. The reasons have been already hinted in the statement of the cases: ὅτε ἐπείνασεν, Matthew 12:3; ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, Matthew 12:5 : hunger, the temple; human needs, higher claims. These are referred to in inverse order in Matthew 12:6-7.Matthew 12:6. Δέγω, I say) This form of speech expresses great authority.—τοῦ ἱεροῦ, the temple) In which the priests minister. The Temple gives way to Christ, the Sabbath (Matthew 12:5) to the Temple; therefore the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) to Christ.—ἔστιν ὧδε, there is here) He does not say, “I am greater.” Jesus was lowly in heart. See Matthew 12:41-42, ch. Matthew 11:4-5. Thus too in Luke 4:21, He says, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears; and again, ch. Matthew 19:9, This day is salvation come to this house. See also Matthew 13:17; John 4:10; John 9:37.Verse 6 - Matthew only. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple (τοῦ ἱεροῦ μειζόν ἐστιν ῶδε); "Gr. a greater thing" (Revised Version margin). A similarly difficult neuter is found in vers. 41, 45. If the neuter be insisted upon, we must understand Christ to refer to his cause, the work in which the disciples were engaged. This was greater than the temple; lunch more, therefore, was it greater than the sabbath. Probably, however, our Lord is referring to himself, to his own Person and character, but uses the neuter, either as forming a more decided contrast to ἱερόν, or as being more weighty than the masculine (cf. ch. 11:9, note). Also it was less defined and more mysterious. He could not reveal to them the secret of his presence. Observe the use, even at this stage in his ministry, of words implying the decadence of the temple service (cf. John 4:21; Acts 6:14). In this place; here (Revised Version), as in vers. 41, 42. One greater (μείζων)

The correct reading makes the adjective neuter, so that the right rendering is something greater (Rev., in margin). The reference is, of course, to Christ himself (compare Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42, where the neuter πλεῖον, more (so Rev., in margin), is used in the same way). Compare, also, John 2:19, where Christ speaks of his own body as a temple. The indefiniteness of the neuter gives a more solemn and impressive sense.

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