Matthew 18:17
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) If he shall neglect to hear them.—Better, refuse, the word implying something more than mere negligence.

Tell it unto the church.—Here, and here only in our Lord’s teaching after the promise to Peter (Matthew 16:18), we have the word Ecclesia repeated. The passage takes its place among the most conspicuous instances of the power of a word. Theories of church authority, as exercised by the priesthood, or bishops, or councils, or the personal infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, have been built upon it. The last clause has been made the groundwork of the system of church discipline which loads the heretic with anathemas, excommunicates the evil-doer, places nations under an interdict. It can scarcely be doubted that the current thoughts and language of Englishmen as to ecclesiastical discipline would have been very different, if instead of “tell it unto the church,” “if he neglect to hear the church,” we had had the word “congregation.” And yet this, or some such word (say “assembly” or “society”), is confessedly the true meaning of the Greek, and was the rendering of all the English versions, from Tyndale onwards, till the Rhemish translators introduced “church,” and were followed by the Authorised version.

So understood, the words point to the final measures for the reformation of the offender, and the vindication of the divine law of righteousness. When the two forms of private remonstrance have failed, the case is to be brought before the society at large. The appeal is to be made not to the rulers of the congregation, but to the congregation itself, and the public opinion of the Ecclesia is to be brought to bear upon the offender. Should he defy that opinion and persist in his evil doing, he practically excommunicates himself. All societies are justified in excluding from their communion one who repudiates the very conditions of membership; and his being regarded as “a heathen and a publican” is but the legitimate consequence of his own act. Even here, however, we can hardly think of our Lord as holding up the Pharisees’ way of acting towards “the heathen and the publican” as a pattern for imitation. They were to be made to feel that they were no longer within the inner circle of brotherhood, but they were still men, and, as such, entitled to courtesy and all kindly offices. St. Paul’s teaching as to the treatment of the incestuous adulterer in 1Corinthians 5:1-5, 2Corinthians 2:6-7, and of fornicators generally in 1Corinthians 6:1-7, may be referred to as a practical illustration of the meaning of our Lord’s words.

It is obvious that the rule, as such, presupposes a small society, in the midst of a greater outside world, able to deal thus minutely with the offences of individual members. With the extension of the society, so that the church and the world became conterminous and hardly distinguishable, it was natural, perhaps, that it should follow the course of other human societies, and transfer its jurisdiction from the “congregation,” or “assembly,” to individual judges as its representatives. And so it was that, in the long-run, the bishops took the place of the congregation, and exercised its functions. So long as they were really in harmony with the mind of the church at large, this might work well enough, but there was the risk of their “lording it over God’s heritage” (1Peter 5:3); and, in any case, there was the loss of that activity of the reason and conscience of the society which the original form of polity implied, and of which St. Paul’s appeal to its judgment as against the inconsistency of the chief of the Apostles, is a very striking instance (Galatians 2:11). How far that can be revived is one of the hard questions of our own time and, perhaps, of all times. The end may have to be attained by very different means. We cannot inform the Universal or the National Church of the misdeeds of each individual member. Practically, to submit them formally to the judgments even of the smaller society of the town or village to which the offender belonged, would not be workable. Possibly, the solution of the problem may be found in remembering that in a Christian nation the Church and the State, as far as morality is concerned, tend, in spite of doctrinal divisions, to be, as was said, conterminous, and hence that we are fulfilling the spirit of our Lord’s commands when, after all private remonstrances have failed to check the evil, we appeal to the public opinion of Christians in the neighbourhood, larger and smaller, which is affected by it. How this is to be done will vary with the varying circumstances of each individual case, but it is no idle paradox to say that as society is now constituted, the most effective way of “telling the church” may sometimes be to appeal to that public opinion as represented by lawful courts, or otherwise impartially expressed.

18:15-20 If a professed Christian is wronged by another, he ought not to complain of it to others, as is often done merely upon report, but to go to the offender privately, state the matter kindly, and show him his conduct. This would generally have all the desired effect with a true Christian, and the parties would be reconciled. The principles of these rules may be practised every where, and under all circumstances, though they are too much neglected by all. But how few try the method which Christ has expressly enjoined to all his disciples! In all our proceedings we should seek direction in prayer; we cannot too highly prize the promises of God. Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us.Tell it to the church - See the notes at Matthew 16:18. The church may here mean the whole assembly of believers, or it may mean those who are authorized to try such cases - the representatives of the church, or these who act for the church. In the Jewish synagogue there was a bench of elders before whom trials of this kind were brought. It was to be brought to the church in order that he might be admonished, entreated, and, if possible, reformed. This was, and is always to be, the first business in disciplining an offending brother.

But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be ... - The Jews gave the name "heathen" or "Gentile" to all other nations but themselves. With them they had no religious contact or communion.

Publican - See the notes at Matthew 5:47. Publicans were people of abandoned character, and the Jews would have no contact with them. The meaning of this is, cease to have religious contact with him, or to acknowledge him as a Christian brother. It does not mean that we should cease to show kindness to him and aid him in affliction or trial, for that is required toward all people; but it means that we should disown him as a Christian brother, and treat him as we do other people not connected with the church. This should not be done until all these steps are taken. This is the only way of kindness. This is the only way to preserve peace and purity in the church.

15. Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother, &c.—Probably our Lord had reference still to the late dispute, Who should be the greatest? After the rebuke—so gentle and captivating, yet so dignified and divine—under which they would doubtless be smarting, perhaps each would be saying, It was not I that began it, it was not I that threw out unworthy and irritating insinuations against my brethren. Be it so, says our Lord; but as such things will often arise, I will direct you how to proceed. First, Neither harbor a grudge against your offending brother, nor break forth upon him in presence of the unbelieving; but take him aside, show him his fault, and if he own and make reparation for it, you have done more service to him than even justice to yourself. Next, If this fail, take two or three to witness how just your complaint is, and how brotherly your spirit in dealing with him. Again, If this fail, bring him before the Church or congregation to which both belong. Lastly, If even this fail, regard him as no longer a brother Christian, but as one "without"—as the Jews did Gentiles and publicans.Ver. 15-17. Our Saviour very appositely addeth this to his former discourse concerning avoiding offences, that none might think that by the former doctrine he had made void the law, Leviticus 19:17, which commanded all in any wise to rebuke their neighbour, and not to suffer sin upon him, pretending that it was their duty in some cases to offend any person by that law. He here telleth them that he would not be so understood, as if they might not tell offenders of their sins for fear of offending them, this had been to have withheld charity from their souls under a pretence of charity. Only in these reproofs we must keep an order, which order he here prescribes.

1. Doing it privately, between them and him alone.

2. If that had not its effect, then taking two or three with them.

3. If that also proved ineffectual, then telling it to the church.

4. If that he would not hear the church, then, let him be unto thee (saith Christ) as an heathen and a publican.

If thy brother shall trespass against thee. By brother here he meaneth any Christian; for what hath the church to do to judge those that are without? 1 Corinthians 5:12.

Trespass against thee. Some interpret this of offences done so privately, that none else knoweth them but one single person; but it is objected, that then there needed no going to him, much less were there need of any witnesses, for they could prove nothing. Others therefore understand the precept of private injuries, which are in man’s power to forgive, Luke 17:3. Others think such injuries are primarily intended, but yet the precept is not to be restrained to them, but to be understood of all offences, whether against God, ourselves, or our neighbours; and that our Saviour useth this term against thee only to distinguish the offences he is here speaking of from public scandals; for, 1 Timothy 5:20, it appeareth to be the will of God, that public and open sinners should be rebuked before all, that others may fear. The rule therefore seemeth to be given concerning private miscarriages; not such only as are done in the sight or hearing of a single person, but such as are not the matter of public fame, nor openly committed before a multitude, but being committed more secretly, are come only to the knowledge of some particular person or persons. In such cases it is the will of God, not that we should blazon and publish them, but, being certain that any Christian hath so offended, it is our duty first to go to him, and tell him of it; that is, not only tell him what thou knowest, or hast heard in matter of fact, that he hath spoken or done, but show him also the sinfulness of it.

If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother; that is, if he confesseth the sin, and be brought to a sight of it, a sorrow for it, and a resolution against it for the time to come, thou hast gained the soul of thy brother.

But if he will not hear thee, if he either denieth the matter of fact, that he did such a thing, or (admitting that) standeth to justify the fact, as what he might do, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established: one or two more, either such as may be of more authority with him, whose words may probably be of more weight than thine with him, or who may witness the matter of fact if it be denied, or at least witness by charitable admonition of him, and his contumacy, if he refuseth to hearken to thee, and to repent and reform. What was the law of God in civil and judicial causes, Deu 19:15,

God would have observed in ecclesiastical causes: One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. And so the words in Matthew should be translated, or at least understood; every word, that is, every matter, be confirmed.

And if he shall neglect to hear them; either refuse to speak with them, or to suffer them to speak with him; or, hearing them with his ears, if he persists to deny the fact, or to justify the fact, as if it were no sin, or go on still in the same course; (all these things are to be understood by the term of not hearing); if he shall not hear them, tell it to the church. That the term church is a noun of multitude is evident, and therefore cannot be understood of any particular person. Some would by the church here understand the political magistrate; but as this sense is embraced by very few, so it is very improbable that our Saviour should send Christians in that age to the civil magistrates, when they were all great haters and persecutors of the Christian religion, especially in cases that were not punishable by the judges; for no deliberate person will say, that the offences mentioned in this text were all of that nature as a civil judicature might take notice of them. Others say, that by the church is here meant the Jewish court called the Sanhedrim, which had a mixed cognizance, both of civil and ecclesiastical causes. There are three prejudices against this:

1. That the Jewish court was never in Scripture called ’ Ekklhsia.

2. That it is not probable that our Saviour would direct Christians to go to the Jewish courts in such cases.

3. That the Sanhedrim was too great a court to be troubled with all scandals, though they did take cognizance of some things in religion, which were of a grand concern; such as blasphemy, idolatry, false prophets, &c.

Others therefore understand it of the Christian church. Against this opinion there is this great prejudice, that there was no such thing in being at that time; but I take this to be a lighter objection than those against the two other opinions:

a) Because we need not understand our Saviour speaking with relation to the present time, but the time to come, and giving laws which should take place and abide from the gathering of the Christian church to the end of the world.

b) Nor is it necessary that we should take the term church here in the strict sense, in which it is most generally used in the Scriptures of the New Testament for the general notion of the word is only a company of people called together; and in this sense, Tell the church, is no more than, Tell the multitude, make his crime more public: now what that multitude was which our Saviour meant, would easily be understood when the churches came to be formed.

But the next verse will make it more plain; Matthew 18:18, Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, &c. By the church then must be meant those who had power to bind and loose. Now though at this time there was no particular church formed, yet there were some who had a power to bind and loose. Christ had given such a power to his apostles. These were the present church, and at this time in being. They were afterwards to constitute particular churches, to whom, (when constituted), in force of this precept, such offences were to be told. There are yet further disputes, whether this offence and contumacy be to be told only to the rulers, or to the multitude. I say, to the whole church, but first to the rulers, then by them to the multitude, not to judge of it, but for their consent in casting a person out of the communion of the church. Thus the incestuous person was first accused to Paul, then cast out by the consent of the whole church, 1 Corinthians 5:3-5. For it is unreasonable to think that people should deny communion to any without knowing a justifiable cause; and to no purpose for rulers in a church to cast one out of its communion with whom the members will have communion.

If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican; that is, esteem him as a vile person, for so they esteemed all heathens and publicans. How far this could reach beyond having an intimacy of civil communion with them, and a communion with them in the sacrament, I cannot understand; for as Christians were licensed to a civil commerce with heathens and publicans, so neither were heathens and publicans ever, that we read of in holy writ, denied the benefit of their prayers, and hearing the apostles preach. I am very well satisfied, that the primitive church did not deny to persons excommunicated liberty to be present at the prayers of the church, but it was long after the apostles’ times, and whether grounded upon any practice of theirs I much doubt. Christians had a liberty to pray for any who had not sinned the sin unto death: that they might not be present at such prayers I cannot learn from any thing in holy writ. And if he shall neglect to hear them,.... The one or two, in conjunction with the offended person that shall hear the ease, and admonish and reprove; if he takes no notice of what they say to him, but remains stiff and impenitent, tell it unto the church: which some understand, of the or "multitude", before whom it was lawful to reprove, after such private methods had been taken: others, the political magistrates, or sanhedrim; who took cognizance of cases between one person and other, either by themselves, or messengers; and gave admonitions and reproofs, as to parents, when they did not provide for their families (x), and to wives that were perverse, and provoked their husbands (y), &c. others, of the presbyters and governors of the Christian church; others, of the church itself, and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "the house of Christians"; to which it is objected, that as yet a Christian church was not formed: but what were the twelve apostles of the Lamb? They were the great congregation and church, in the midst of which Christ sung praise to his Father: and since the whole of this advice, and these excellent rules are given to them, and they are spoken of in the next verse, as having the power of binding and loosing, they may well be thought to be meant here; and that the design of Christ is, to instruct them how to behave, in case of offence to one another; that the reproof should be first private, and if it did not succeed, to be made before one or two more; and if that did not do, the whole body was to be acquainted with it; and which rules hold good, and are to be observed by all Christian men and churches, in all ages: though no doubt but allusion is made to the Jewish customs, in rebuking before the multitude, or carrying of a private case, after all other means used were ineffectual, to the sanhedrim.

But if he neglect to hear the church: the advice they should give unto him, the reproof they should think proper for him, or the censure they should pass upon him,

let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican. This is not a form of excommunication to be used among Christians, nor was there ever any such form among the Jews; nor could Heathens or publicans, especially such publicans as were Gentiles, be excommunicated, when they never were of the Jewish church.

"A religious person indeed, that becomes a collector of taxes, they first said, is to be driven from the society; but they afterwards said, all the time that he is a tax gatherer, they drive him from the society; but when he goes out of his office, lo! he is as a religious person (z).''

But one that never was of a religious society, could not be driven out of it. And besides, this is given, not as a rule to the church, but as advice to the offended person, how to behave towards the offender: after he has come under the cognizance, reproof, and censure of the church, he is to look upon him as the Jews did one that disregarded both private reproof by a man's self, and that which was in the presence of one or two more, , "a worthless friend", or neighbour; as a Gentile, with whom the Jews had neither religious nor civil conversation; and a "publican", or as Munster's Hebrew Gospel reads it, "a notorious sinner", as a publican was accounted: hence such are often joined together, and with whom the Jews might not eat, nor keep any friendly and familiar acquaintance: and so such that have been privately admonished and publicly rebuked, without success, their company is to be shunned, and intimate friendship with them to be avoided.

(x) Maimon Hilehot Ishot, c. 12. sect. 14. (y) Ib. c. 14. sect. 9. & Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 81. (z) T. Hieros. Demai, fol. 23. 1.

{6} And if he shall {h} neglect to hear them, tell it unto the {i} church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as {k} an heathen man and a publican.

(6) He that condemns the judgment of the Church, condemns God.

(h) Literally, does not condescend to hear, or make as though he did not hear.

(i) He speaks not of just any policy, but of an ecclesiastical assembly, for he speaks afterward of the power of loosing and binding, which belonged to the Church, and he has regard for the order used in those days, at which time the elders had the judgment of Church matters in their hands, Joh 9:22 12:4216:2, and used casting out of the synagogue for a punishment, as we do now by excommunication.

(k) Profane, and void of religion: such men, the Jews called Gentiles: whose company they shunned, as they did the publicans.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 18:17. Τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ] is not to be understood of the Jewish synagogue (Beza, Calvin, Fritzsche), which is never called by this name, and any reference to which would be contrary to the meaning of Jesus; but it is to be taken as referring to the community of believers on Jesus (comp. note on Matthew 16:18), which is, as yet, regarded as one body with the apostles included (Matthew 18:18). There is here no allusion to individual congregations in different localities, since these could come into existence only at a later period; neither, for this reason, can there be any allusion to presbyters and bishops (Chrysostom), or to those whom they may have invested, as their representatives, with spiritual jurisdiction (Catholic writers, comp. besides, Döllinger). There is, further, nothing to warrant the assumption of an historical prolepsis (de Wette, Julius Müller), for the truth is, the קהל of believers was actually existing; while, in the terms of this passage, there is no direct reference to individual congregations. But as Jesus had already spoken elsewhere of His קהל (Matthew 16:18), it was impossible for the disciples to misunderstand the allusion. The warrant for regarding the judgment of the church as final in regard to the ἔλεγξις lies in the moral power which belongs to the unity of the Holy Spirit, and, consequently, to true understanding, faith, earnest effort, prayer, etc., the existence of all which in the church is presupposed. It is not inconsistent with this passage to suppose that, under the more developed circumstances of a later period, when local congregations sprung up as offshoots from the קהל, there may have been some representative body, composed of individuals chosen for the purpose of maintaining discipline, but the choice would necessarily be founded on such conditions and qualifications as were in keeping, so far as it was possible for man to judge, with the original principle of entrusting such matters only to those who were actual believers and had been truly regenerated.

ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τ. ἐκκλ. παρακ.] but if he refuses to listen even to the church; if he will not have submitted to its advice, exhortation, injunction.

ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ, κ.τ.λ.] let him be for thee (ethical dative); let him be in thy estimation as, etc.; λοιπὸν ἀνίατα ὁ τοιοῦτος νοσεῖ, Chrysostom. What is here indicated is the breaking off of all further Christian, brotherly fellowship with one who is hopelessly obdurate, “as not being a sheep, nor caring to be sought, but willing to go right to perdition,” Luther. In this passage Christ says nothing, as yet, about formal excommunication on the part of the church (1 Corinthians 5); but the latter was such a fair and necessary deduction from what he did say, as the apostolic church, in the course of its development, considered itself warranted in making. “Ad earn ex hoc etiam loco non absurde argumentum duci posse non negaverim,” Grotius. In answer to the latter, Calovius, in common with the majority of the older expositors, asserts that the institution of excommunication is, in the present passage, already expressly declared.

ὁ ἐθνικός] generic.Matthew 18:17. ἐὰν δὲ π. α. Try first a minimum of social pressure and publicity, and if that fail have recourse to the maximum.—εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ: speak to the “Church”—the brotherhood of believers in the Christ. This to be the widest limit for the ultimate sphere of moral influence, as ex hypothesi the judgment of this new community will count for more to its members than that of all the world beyond.—ἔστω σοι, etc.: this failing, the offender puts himself outside the society, and there is nothing for it but to treat him as a heathen or a publican; which does not mean with indifference or abhorrence, but carefully avoiding fellowship with him in sin, and seeking his good only as one without. There is no reference in this passage to ecclesiastical discipline and Church censures. The older interpreters, in a theologico-polemical interest, were very anxious to find in it support for their developed ideas on these topics. The chief interest of historic exegesis is to divest it of an ecclesiastical aspect as much as possible, for only so can it suit the initial period, and be with any probability regarded as an utterance of Jesus. As such it may be accepted, when interpreted, as above. If, as we have tried to show, it was natural for Jesus to speak of a new community of faith at Caesarea, it was equally natural that He should return upon the idea in the Capernaum lesson on humility and kindred virtues, and refer to it as an instrument for promoting right feeling and conduct among professed disciples.17. tell it unto the church] The word “church” (Grk. ekklesia) is found only here and ch. Matthew 16:18 in the Gospels. In the former passage the reference to the Christian Church is undoubted. Here either (1) the assembly or congregation of the Jewish synagogue, or rather, (2) the ruling body of the synagogue (collegium presbyterorum, Schleusner) is meant. This must have been the sense of the word to those who were listening to Christ. But what was spoken of the Jewish Church was naturally soon applied to the Christian Church.

a heathen man and a publican] Jesus, the friend of publicans and sinners, uses the phrase of His contemporaries. What Jesus says, Matthew the publican records.Matthew 18:17. Παρακούση, do not obey) disregarding the reproof.—τῇ ἐκκλησια, the church) i.e., which is in that place where thou and thy brother dwell. The church is opposed to two or three in about the same proportion as two or three are to one. Amongst the Jews, ten men are considered to constitute עדה, a church,[825] or public assembly for the decision of private disputes. See Rhenferd Opera philologica,[826] p. 729; Buxtorf,[827] Synagoga Judaica, ch. 25, where the same things are prescribed to the offender which our Lord prescribes here to the injured party.—ἔστω, κ.τ.λ., let him be, etc.) Cf. Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Timothy 2:21; Titus 3:10; 2 John Matthew 18:10.—σοὶ, to thee) Although, perhaps, not to the witnesses and the church. Therefore no one should be considered as a stranger before he has been reproved, and disregarded the reproof.—ὁ ἐθνικὸς, THE heathen) (sing.) We take this opportunity of making some observations on the Greek Article.[828] B. Stolberg rightly remarks, in his manuscript collection on the particles, that “there is scarcely an instance in the Scriptures where the article is redundant.” It is nowhere clearly useless: it is never added without an object, although philologists frequently attribute to it a wrong force and meaning. It is equivalent to the German der (the), and denotes less than he (this), more than quidam (some, a certain one, or thing). It has, therefore, a determinating value; and it determines either (1) the universality and totality of the subject, as in Matthew 6:22, Ὁ λύχνος, κ.τ.λ., THE light, etc., q.d. the body has no light except the eye; or (2) the whole species, as in Matthew 15:11, TO εἰσερχόμενον, that which entereth—TO ἐκπορευόμενον, that which cometh out—and in Romans 1:17, Ὁ δὲ δίκαιος, but THE just, i.e. he that is, or every one that is, just; or (3) the singularity and oneness [i.e. the definite and exclusive individuality] of the subject, as in Matthew 1:23, Ἡ παρθένος, THE virgin—in John 1:21, Ὁ Χριστός, THE Christ, Ὁ προφήτης, THE prophet—in John 13:13, Ὁ Διδάσκαλος, καὶ Ὁ Κύριος, THE Teacher, and THE Lord; or (4) the restriction of the whole genus to a particular species, as in Acts 19:17, ΤΟΙΣ καταικοῦσι, who dwelt at. In logic, however, universal and singular propositions are equivalent; whence (5) it has frequently a relative force, and that even in partition,[829] as in Luke 18:10, Ὁ εἷς φαρισαῖος καὶ Ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης, THE one a Pharisee and THE other a publican—and in Revelation 17:10, Ὁ εἷς ἐστιν, Ὁ ἀλλος οὔπω ἠλθε, THE one is, THE other has not yet come; or (6) it expresses a certain peculiar degree of a thing (rei exquisitam quandam rationem), as in Matthew 8:12, Ὁ κλαυθμὸς, THE[830] weeping, sc. weeping, compared with which earthly weeping is not weeping. It is, in fact, a subject which deserves to be more carefully examined by Philologists.[831] In this passage, Ὁ ἐθνικὸς signifies the whole race of Heathens, and any one thereto belonging. Thus, in the S. V. of Deuteronomy 28:29, we have Ὁ τυφλὸς,, THE blind.—καὶ ὁ τελώνης, and the publican) It was easy for the Jews to consider any one in the light of a heathen, therefore this clause is added to increase the force of the language; for the publicans dwelt amongst the Jews, but were shunned by them.

[825] See Bloomfield and Kitto in loc., and Trench’s New Testament Synonyms in voc.—(I. B.)

[826] For RHENFERD, see p. 82, f.n. 2.—(I. B.)

[827] JOHN BUXTORF, the elder, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of modern times. He was born at Camen in 1564, and died in 1629. He devoted himself to the study of Hebrew and Chaldee literature, and became Professor of those languages at Basle. The great Scaliger declared that he was the only person who understood Hebrew thoroughly. The work cited by Bengel is, “Synagoga Judaica, de Judaeorum fide, ritibus, ceremoniis, tam publicis et sacris quam privatis;” a third and enlarged edition of which was published by his no less celebrated son, at Basle, in 1661.—(I. B.)

[828] I have, in the disquisition which follows, inserted in extenso the passages referred to by Bengel. For a full consideration of this important subject, see that inestimably valuable work, Middleton on the Greek Article.—(I. B.)

[829] i.e. In distinguishing between divisions of a whole, classes of a mass, species of a genus, or individuals of a certain description. The two men mentioned in the example both answered to the description of those that “went up into the temple to pray;”—here their similarity or affinity, as parts of a whole, or members of a class, ceased;—the article separates them from, and contrasts them with, each other.—(I. B.)

[830] Cf. Gnomon in loc.—(I. B.)

[831] Bengel saw the want: it has since been supplied by Middleton.—(I. B.)

He is not here speaking of the Catholic or universal Church.—V. g.Verse 17. - Tell it unto the Church (τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ). This is the third step to take. Our Lord is contemplating a visible society, possessed of certain powers of discipline and correction, such as we find in the history of the apostolic Church (see 1 Corinthians 5:1, etc.; 1 Corinthians 6:1, etc.; 1 Timothy 1:20). Christ had already spoken of his Ecclesia in his commendation of Peter's great confession (Matthew 16:18); so the twelve were prepared for this use of the word, and would not confound the body here signified with the Jewish synagogue. To the latter the expressions in vers. 18-20 could not apply. The custom and order of procedure in the synagogue would afford an idea of what the Lord meant; but the congregation intended was to be composed of Christians. the followers of Christ, who were delivered from the narrowness of rabbinical rules and definitions. The institution of ecclesiastical tribunals has been referred to this passage, but, as understood by the apostles, it would denote, not so much ecclesiastical rulers as the particular congregation to which the delinquent belonged; and the offence for which he is denounced is some private scandal or quarrel. The course of proceeding enjoined would be impracticable in a large and widely extended community, and could not be applied under our present circumstances. If he neglect to hear the Church. Now comes the final stage in corrective discipline. An heathen man (ὁ ἐθνικὸς, the Gentile) and a publican (ὁ τελώνης, the publican). The class, not the individual, is meant. If he turns a deaf ear to the authoritative reproof of the Church, let him be regarded no longer as a brother, but as a heathen and an outcast. Christ, without endorsing the Jews' treatment of Gentiles and publicans, acknowledges the fact, and uses it as an illustration. The obdurate offender must be deprived of Church membership, and treated as those without the Jewish pale were commonly treated. The traditional law enjoined that a Hebrew might not associate, eat, or travel with a heathen, and that if any Jew took the office of publicans, he was to be virtually excommunicated. In later times, there naturally arose in the Christian Church the punishment of offenders by means of exclusion from holy communion, and excommunication. But even in this extreme case charity will not regard the sinner as hopelessly lost; it will seek his salvation by prayer and entreaty.
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