Matthew 9:16
No man puts a piece of new cloth to an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up takes from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
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(16) No man putteth a piece of new cloth.—There is a closer connection between the three similitudes than at first sight appears. The wedding-feast suggested the idea of the wedding-garment, and of the wine which belonged to its joy. We may even go a step further, and believe that the very dress of those who sat at meat in Matthew’s house, coming as they did from the lower and less decently-habited classes, made the illustration all the more palpable and vivid. How could those worn garments be made meet for wedding-guests? Would it be enough to sew on a patch of new cloth where the old was wearing into holes? Not so He answers here; not so He answers again when He implicitly makes the king who gives the feast the giver also of the garment (Matthew 22:2);

New clothi.e., cloth that has not passed through the fuller’s hands—new and undressed, in its freshest and strongest state. Such a patch sewn upon a weak part of the old cloak would, on the first strain, tear the cloth near it.

The rent is made worse.—Better, there comes a worse rent. St. Luke adds another reason, “the piece put in agrees not with the old.”

The meaning of the parable in its direct application lies very near the surface. The “garment” is that which is outward, the life and conversation of the man, which show his character. The old garment is the common life of sinful men, such as Matthew and his guests; the new garment is the life of holiness, the religious life in its completeness; fasting, as one element of that life, is the patch of new cloth which agrees not with the old, and leads to a greater evil, a “worse rent” in the life than before. No one would so deal with the literal garment. Yet this was what the Pharisees and the disciples of John were wishing to do with the half-converted publicans. This, we may add, is what the Church of Christ has too often done in her work as the converter of the nations. Sacramental ordinances or monastic vows, or Puritan formulæ, or Quaker conventionalities, have been engrafted on lives that were radically barbarous, or heathen, or worldly, and the contrast has been glaring, and the “rent” made worse. The more excellent way, which our Lord pursued, and which it is our wisdom to pursue, is to take the old garment, and to transform it, as by a renewing power from within, thread by thread, till old things are passed away, and all things are become new.

Matthew 9:16-17. No man putteth a piece of new cloth, &c. — Our Lord, having assigned one reason why he did not enjoin his disciples to fast, namely, because it was not a proper time for it, now proceeds to give another. They were not ripe, or prepared for it, nor could have borne such severe injunctions. As if he had said, Nor do I now think it fit to lay such rigorous commands upon them, but rather to accommodate their trials to their strength; even as when a man is repairing clothes, he will not sew a piece of new cloth on an old garment, but rather chooses what is a little worn, for otherwise it will be found that the new, which is put in, being stronger than the other, taketh from the garment, and the rent is increased. The original words, ρακος αγναφον, properly signify, “cloth that has not passed through the fuller’s hands, and which is consequently much harsher than what has been washed and worn; and therefore, yielding less than that, will tear away the edges to which it is sewed.”

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles — Namely, bottles made of leather, then commonly used, as they are still in some countries. Else the bottles break — Such bottles, chiefly made of goats’ skins, when old, were not easily distended, and consequently would burst by the fermentation of new wine. But they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved — Thus our Lord would suit the doctrine he inculcated on his disciples, and the duties which he enjoined them, to their circumstances, and kindly proportion their work to their strength, with a tender regard to their weakness, till, by degrees, they should be fitted for more difficult and humbling services. “And from his example,” says Dr. Doddridge, “and the whole genius of his gospel, let us learn to make all proper allowances to those about us, that we may teach them, and train them up as they are able to bear it; not crushing them under any unnecessary load, nor denying them any indulgence which true friendship will permit us to grant them; lest the good ways of God should be misrepresented, disgraced, and abandoned, through our imprudent, though well-meaning severity: a caution to be peculiarly observed in our conduct toward young persons.”9:14-17 John was at this time in prison; his circumstances, his character, and the nature of the message he was sent to deliver, led those who were peculiarly attached to him, to keep frequent fasts. Christ referred them to John's testimony of him, Joh 3:29. Though there is no doubt that Jesus and his disciples lived in a spare and frugal manner, it would be improper for his disciples to fast while they had the comfort of his presence. When he is with them, all is well. The presence of the sun makes day, and its absence produces night. Our Lord further reminded them of common rules of prudence. It was not usual to take a piece of rough woolen cloth, which had never been prepared, to join to an old garment, for it would not join well with the soft, old garment, but would tear it further, and the rent would be made worse. Nor would men put new wine into old leathern bottles, which were going to decay, and would be liable to burst from the fermenting of the wine; but putting the new wine into strong, new, skin bottles, both would be preserved. Great caution and prudence are necessary, that young converts may not receive gloomy and forbidding ideas of the service of our Lord; but duties are to be urged as they are able to bear them.No man putteth a piece of new cloth ... - A second illustration was drawn from a well-known fact, showing also that there was "a propriety or fitness of things." None of you, says he, in mending an old garment, would take a piece of entire new cloth.

There would be a waste in it. An old piece, or a piece like the garment, would be better. The word here translated "new," in the original means "rude, undressed, not fulled" by the cloth-dresser. In this state, if applied to an old garment, and if wet, it would "contract" and draw off a part of the garment to which it was attached, and thus make the rent worse than it was. So, says he, my "new" doctrines do not match with the old rites of the Pharisees. There is a fitness of things. Their doctrines require much fasting. In my system it would be incongruous; and if my new doctrines were to be attached to their old ones, it would only make the matter worse.

Mt 9:14-17. Discourse on Fasting.

See on [1243]Lu 5:33-39.

See Poole on "Matthew 9:17". No man putteth a piece of new cloth,.... These words are, by Luke 5:36 called a "parable", as are those in the following verse; and both are commonly interpreted of the unreasonableness and danger of putting young disciples upon severe exercises of religion, as fasting, &c: and it is true, that young converts are to be tenderly dealt with, as they are by Father, Son, and Spirit, as the disciples were by Christ, and the first Christians were by the apostles: and some things in these parables may seem to agree; as that these austerities should be represented as "new", and as burdensome and troublesome, and the disciples as weak, and easily staggered: but then there are others that will not bear; as that the disciples should be compared to "old garments, and old bottles"; when they were "young" converts, and men "renewed" by the Spirit and grace of God, and had on the beautiful robe of Christ's righteousness; and that such severe exercises, under the notion of religion, should be signified by "new wine", which generally designs something pleasant and agreeable: nor were the disciples unable to bear such severities, who very probably had been trained up in them, and been used to them before their conversion; and could now as well have bore them as John's disciples, or the Pharisees, had they been proper and necessary; but the true reason why they were not required of them, was not their weakness, or danger of falling off, and perishing, of which there were none; but because it was unsuitable to their present situation, the bridegroom being with them. But our Lord, in this parable of putting "a piece of new", or "undressed cloth", such as has never passed through the fuller's hands, and so unfit to mend with,

unto an old garment, refers not only to the fastings of the Pharisees, but to their other traditions of the elders, which they held; as such that respected their eating, drinking, and conversing with other persons mentioned in the context, and which observances they joined with their moral performances; on account of which, they looked upon themselves as very righteous persons, and all others as sinners: and to expose their folly, Christ delivers this parable. Wherefore, by "the old garment", I apprehend, is meant their moral and legal righteousness, or their obedience to the moral and ceremonial laws, which was very imperfect, as well as impure, and might be rightly called "filthy rags"; or be compared to an old worn out garment, filthy and loathsome, torn, and full of holes, which cannot keep a person warm, nor screen him from the weather, and so old that it cannot be mended. And by the "piece of new cloth", or "garment", put unto it, or sewed upon it, are intended the traditions of the elders, these men were so fond of, concerning eating, and drinking, and fasting, and hundreds of other things, very idle and trifling, and which were new and upstart notions. Now, by putting, or sewing the new cloth to their old garment, is designed, their joining their observance of these traditions to their other duties of religion, to make up a justifying righteousness before God; but in vain, and to no purpose. Their old garment of their own works, in obedience to the laws of God, moral and ceremonial, was full bad enough of itself; but became abundantly worse, by joining this new piece of men's own devising to it;

for that which is put in to fill it up, taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse: their new obedience to the traditions of men, making void the law of God, instead of mending, marred their righteousness, and left them in a worse condition than it found them: and besides, as it is in Luke, "the piece that was taken out of the new, agreeth not with the old"; there being no more likeness between the observance of the commandments of men, and obedience to the laws of God, than there is between a piece of new undressed cloth, that has never been washed and worn, and an old worn out garment. Much such a foolish part do those men under the Gospel dispensation act, who join the righteousness of Christ, or a part of it, with their own, in order to make up a justifying righteousness before God; for Christ's righteousness is the only justifying righteousness; it is whole and perfect, and needs nothing to be added to it, nor can it be parted, any more than his seamless coat was; nor a piece taken out of it: nor is there any justification by works, either in whole or in part; the old garment of man's righteousness must be thrown away, in point of justification; it cannot be mended in such a manner; and if any attempts are made in this way, the rent becomes worse: such persons, instead of being justified, are in a worse condition; for they not only set up, and exalt their own righteousness, which is criminal, but disparage the righteousness of Christ as imperfect, by joining it to their's; and whilst they fancy themselves in a good state, are in a most miserable one; harlots and publicans being nearer the kingdom of heaven than these, and enter into it before them; self-righteous persons are more hardly, and with greater difficulty convinced, than such sinners. Moreover, nothing is more disagreeable than such a patch work; Christ's righteousness and a man's own bear no likeness to one another; and such a patched garment must ill become the character and dignity of a saint, a child of God, an heir of heaven.

No man putteth a piece of {g} new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

(g) Raw, which was never processed by the fuller.

Matthew 9:16-17. No one puts a patch consisting of cloth that has not been fulled upon an old robe, for that which is meant to fill up the rent (the patch put on to mend the old garment) tears off from the (old rotten) cloak, when it gets damp or happens to be spread out, or stretched, or such like. That αὐτοῦ does not refer to the piece of unfulled cloth (Euth. Zigabenus, Grotius, de Wette, Bleek), but to the old garment, is suggested by the idea involved in πλήρωμα (id quo res impletur, Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 469). Τί is not to be supplied after αἴρει, but the idea is: makes a rent. Comp. Revelation 22:19, and especially Winer, p. 552 [E. T. 757]. The point of the comparison lies in the fact that such a proceeding is not only unsuitable, but a positive hindrance to the end in view. “The old forms of piety amid which John and his disciples still move are not suited to the new religious life emanating from me. To try to embody the latter in the former, is to proceed in a manner as much calculated to defeat its purpose as when one tries to patch an old garment with a piece of unfulled cloth, which, instead of mending it, as it is intended to do, only makes the rent greater than ever; or as when one seeks to fill old bottles with new wine, and ends in losing wine and bottles together. The new life needs new forms.” The Catholics, following Chrysostom and Theophylact, and by way of finding something in favour of fastings, have erroneously explained the old garment and old bottles as referring to the disciples, from whom, as “adhuc infirmes et veteri adsuetis homini” (Jansen), it was, as yet, too much to expect the severer mode of life for which, on the contrary (Matthew 9:17), they would have to be previously prepared by the operation of the Holy Spirit. This is directly opposed to the meaning of Jesus’ words, and not in accordance with the development of the apostolic church (Colossians 2:20 ff.), by which fasting, as legal penance, was necessarily included among the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου, however much it may have been valued and observed as the spontaneous outcome of an inward necessity (Acts 13:2 f., Matthew 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27). Neander suggests the utterly irrelevant view, that “it is impossible to renovate from without the old nature of man” (the old garment) through fasting and prayers (which correspond to the new patch).

Leathern bottles, for the most part of goats’ skins (Hom. Il. iii. 247, Od. vi. 78, ix. 196, v. 265) with the rough side inward, in which it was and still is the practice (Niebuhr, I. p. 212) in the East to keep and carry about wine. Comp. Jdt 10:6; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. on Joshua 9:5.

ἀπολοῦνται] Future, the consequence of what has just been described by the verbs in the present tense. On εἰ δὲ μήγε, even after negative clauses, see note on 2 Corinthians 11:16.


According to Luke 5:33, it was not John’s disciples, but the Pharisees, who put the question to Jesus about fasting. This difference is interpreted partly in favour of Luke (Schleiermacher, Neander, Bleek), partly of Matthew (de Wette, Holtzmann, Keim), while Strauss rejects both. For my part, I decide for Matthew; first, because his simpler narrative bears no traces of another hand (which, however, can scarcely be said of that of Luke); and then, because the whole answer of Jesus, so mild (indeed touching, Matthew 9:15) in its character, indicates that those who put the question can hardly have been the Pharisees, to whom He had just spoken in a very different tone. Mark 2:18 ff., again (which Ewald holds to be the more original), certainly does not represent the pure version of the matter as regards the questioners, who, according to his account, are the disciples of John and the Pharisees,—an incongruity, however, which owes its origin to the question itself.Matthew 9:16-17. The substitution of νησ. τεύουσιν for πενθεῖν, in the close of Matthew 9:15, implicitly suggested a principle which is now explicitly stated in parabolic form: the great law of congruity; practice must conform to mood; the spirit must determine the form. These sayings, apparently simple, are somewhat abstruse. They must have been over the head of the average Christian of the apostolic age, and Luke’s version shows that they were diversely interpreted. Common to both is the idea that it is bootless to mix heterogeneous things, old and new in religion. This cuts two ways. It defends the old as well as the new; the fasting of John’s disciples as well as the non-fasting of Christ’s. Jesus did not concern Himself about Pharisaic practice, but He was concerned to defend His own disciples without disparagement of John, and also to prevent John’s way and the respect in which he was justly held from creating a prejudice against Himself. The double application of the principle was therefore present to His mind.16. No man] Rather, but no man. The particle δέ (but) is omitted in E. V.; it marks a turn in the argument which is indicated still more clearly in Luke (Luke 5:36), “And (but) He spake also a parable unto them.” The words of Jesus here take a wider range. He says in effect to John’s disciples: “Your question implies ignorance of my teaching. My doctrine is not merely a reformed Judaism like the teaching of John and Pharisaism, it is a new life to which such questions as these concerning ceremonial fasting are quite alien.”

new] Literally, uncarded, raw. The old garment is Judaism. Christianity is not to be pieced on to Judaism to fill up its deficiencies. This would make the rent—the divisions of Judaism—still more serious. The word translated “rent” is used of the “schisms” in the Corinthian Church, 1 Corinthians 1:10, and has so passed into ecclesiastical language; it is the English “schism.”Matthew 9:16. Οὐδεὶς, no one) Our Lord chose, as His disciples, men who were unlearned, fresh and simple, and imbued with no peculiar discipline.—See ch. Matthew 15:2; cf. Gnomon on Luke 7:20. The old raiment was the doctrine of the Pharisees; the new, that of Christ.—αἴρει, taketh away) both itself and more.—αὐτοῦ, his) The word is here in the masculine gender.[419]—χεῖρον σχίσμα γίνεται, the rent becomes worse) Therefore, there was before some rent. A ragged garment, altogether ragged, is intended.

[419] Rosenmüller more naturally refers αὐτοῦ to ῥάκους, “pannus impexus a vestimento vetustate contrito aliquid aufert” Beng. seems to take αὐτοῦ with πλήρωμα, as “the portion put in by him to fill up the rent.”—ED.Verse 16. - No man; and no man (Revised Version); οὐδεὶς δέ. "And" is slightly adversative. They will indeed fast then, yet fasting does not belong to the essence of my teaching. To insist on fasting would only be right if my teaching came merely into mechanical connexion with the religion of the day. But this is not the case.

(1) Treated as an addition, it injures the religion of the day (ver. 16).

(2) Treated as something to be accepted by all Jews, regardless of their moral fitness for it, it is itself wasted, and also ruins those who so accept it (ver. 17). The verses thus

(1) answer the disciples of John the Baptist, that fasting must not be made compulsory for Christ's disciples; and

(2) warn them solemnly that they themselves must become morally fitted to receive Christ's teaching. No man; emphatic. Christ wants to show them the irrationality of what they want him to do - enjoin fasting on his disciples. Putteth a piece - patcheth a patch (ἐπιβάλλει ἐπίβλημα) - of new (undressed, Revised Version) cloth unto (upon, Revised Version) an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up (that which should fill it up, Revised Version; τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτοῦ) taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse (and a worse rent is made, Revised Version). My teaching is intended to be more than a patch (however good a patch) sewn on to the religion of the day. New (ἀγνάφου)

From ἀ, not, and γνάπτω, to card or comb wool; hence to dress or full cloth. Therefore Rev. renders more correctly undressed cloth, which would shrink when wet, and tear loose from the old piece. Wyc. renders rude. Jesus thus pictures the combination of the old forms of piety peculiar to John and his disciples with the new religious life emanating from himself, as the patching of an old garment with a piece of unfulled cloth, which would stretch and tear loose from the old fabric and make a worse rent than before.

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