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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Luke 6



Verse 1

1. ἐγένετοκαὶ ἔτιλλον. This is a Hebraism. The ἐγένετο is really pleonastic (comp. Luke 5:1; Luke 5:12, Luke 9:51, and for the construction without καί, Luke 1:8; Luke 1:41, Luke 2:1). The idiom is specially common in St Luke owing to the Aramaic documents which he used. In Classic Greek we should have had simply διεπορεύετο and ἔτυχε διαπορευόμενος.

ἐν σαββάτῳ δευτεροπρώτῳ. ‘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 δευτεροδεκάτη or second tenth in Jerome on Ezekiel 45 and δευτερέσχατος last but one in Heliodorus. Of the ten or more suggested explanations, omitting those which are wholly arbitrary and impossible, we may mention the following.

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

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

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

δ. 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 (Godet).

ε. The Pentecostal Sabbath—the Paschal Sabbath being regarded as the protoproton or first-first (Corn. à 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. It is idle to attempt an explanation of a word so obscure that not a single datum for its use is furnished by the LX[131], by Philo, by Josephus or even in that enormous cyclopaedia of micrology, the Talmud. It is still more idle when the word is almost demonstrably spurious. We can see how it may have found its way into the MSS., and it must be regarded as certain that St Luke writing for Gentiles would either not have used such a word at all, or at any rate not have used it without an explanation. Even Chrysostom and Theophylact have nothing but untenable suggestions to offer. But we may remark that

[1] The reading itself cannot be regarded as probable, much less certain, since it is omitted in א BL, 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 be conceivably accounted for by marginal annotations. Thus if a copyist put ‘first’ in the margin with reference to the “other” Sabbath of Luke 6:6 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.

διαπορεύεσθαι αὐτὸν διὰ σπορίμων. 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.

ἔτιλλοντοὺς στάχυας. 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.

ψώχοντες ταῖς χερσίν. It was this act which constituted the gravamen of their offence.

Verses 1-5

Luke 6:1-5. THE DISCIPLES PLUCK THE EARS OF CORN ON THE SABBATH. (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28.)

Verse 2

2. τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων. 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 Christ’s 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.

τί ποιεῖτε; In St Mark the question is scornfully addressed to Jesus. “See why do they (pointing at the Apostles) do on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”

ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν ποιεῖν. 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 abhôth ‘fathers’ or chief rules. From these were deduced a vast multitude of toldôth ‘descendants’ or derivative rules. Now ‘reaping’ and ‘threshing’ on the Sabbath day were forbidden by the abhôth; and by the toldôth 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!

Verse 3

3. οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἀνέγνωτε; ‘Have 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.

καὶ οἱ μετ' αὐτοῦ ὄντες. 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. Christ might simply have answered the Pharisees by laying down the principle that moral necessities abrogate ceremonial obligation. But the concrete instance from their own Scriptures was more convincing. The divine readiness and absolute cogency of our Lord’s replies at once mark His Messianic dignity.

Verse 4

4. τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως. Vulg[132] panes propositionis. 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 placed on a little golden table.

ἔλαβεν καὶ ἔφαγεν. 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.

οὓς οὐκ ἔξεστιν φαγεῖν εἰ μὴ μόνους τοὺς ἱερεῖς. “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 Kethubhim 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.

Verse 5

5. καὶ ἔλεγεν. Marking a weighty addition to the subject, see Luke 5:36. The following utterance is one of Christ’s great intimations of Christian freedom from mere legalism.

κύριοςκαὶ τοῦ σαββάτου. ‘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: τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ θεασάμενός τινα ἐργαζόμενον τῷ σαββάτῳ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἄνθρωπε εἰ μὲν οἶδας τί ποιεῖς μακάριος εἶ· εἰ δὲ μὴ οἶδας ἐπικατάρατος καὶ παραβάτης εἶ τοῦ νόμου. “On the same day, observing 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 traditional sayings’ of our Lord. The meaning of the story is that ‘if thy work is of faith,—if thou art thoroughly persuaded in thy own mind—thou art acting with true insight; but if thy work is not of faith, it is sin.’ See Romans 14:22-23; 1 Corinthians 8:1. What renders the incident improbable is that no Jew would dare openly to violate the Law by working on the Sabbath, an act which rendered him legally liable to be stoned. The anecdote, as Grotius thought, may have been written in the margin by some follower of Marcion, who rejected the inspiration of the Old Testament.

Verse 6

6. εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν. 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.

ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖ. 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).

Verses 6-11


Verse 7

7. παρετηροῦντο δέ. See Luke 20:20. The verb implies that they watched, ex obliquo et occulto (Bengel). 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. (Shabbath, 12. 1.) 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.

εἰ θεραπεύει, ‘whether He intends to heal.’ The present being a continuous or imperfect tense often implies an intention or an attempt (conatus rei perficiendae) as here, ‘whether He is for healing.’ Comp. John 5:32, λιθάζετέ με; Do ye mean to stone me? John 13:6, σὺ μοῦ νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας; Dost Thou mean to wash my feet? See Winer, p. 332. The other reading, θεραπεύσει, is a more commonplace idiom.

ἵνα εὕρωσιν. According to the ordinary law of the sequence of tenses the word here should have been the optative, “They watched him that they might find.” No doubt the subj. is sometimes substituted for the optative, even by classical writers, to make the narrative more picturesque (πρὸ ὀμμάτων ποιεῖν). In Hellenistic writers however the rule of the sequence of tenses is constantly violated, because of the gradual obsolescence of the optative, which was chiefly used in literary language. See Winer, p. 360.

Verse 8

8. τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς αὐτῶν, ‘their reasonings.’

ξηρὰντὴν χεῖρα. The predicative adjective is placed before the article according to the common Greek idiom.

Verse 9

9. ἐπερωτῶ ὑμᾶς. ‘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. But St Luke here omits several dramatic incidents of the narrative.

ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι. The aorists point to single acts of good or 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.

ψυχήν, ‘a life.’

Verse 10

10. περιβλεψάμενος πάντας αὐτούς. St Mark adds ‘with anger, being grieved at the callousness (πώρωσιν, Romans 11:25) of their hearts.’ περιβλέψας would have been used here by a classic writer.

ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρά σου. Compare 1 Kings 13:4.

ἀπεκατεστάθη. The form also occurs in Matthew 12:13; Mark 3:5. Holzmann (Schenkel, Bibel-Lex. s.v. Evangelien) inferred that all three Synoptists were using a common written document; but this 1st aor. pass. occurs in the LXX[133] (Jeremiah 23:8, &c.), and apparently also in Callimachus.

Verse 11

11. ἀνοίας, ‘unreasonableness.’ The word occurs in the N. T. only in 2 Timothy 3:9. Plato (Tim. p. 86, 3) says that there are two kinds of ἄνοια, namely μανία and ἀμαθία, i.e. brutal and wilful ignorance. Here the word implies dementia, 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 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.

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

πρὸς ἀλλήλους. St Mark adds that they conferred 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 (Matthew 12:14) says that they actually “held a council against Him.”

τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν. The other reading ποιήσειαν (found in some MSS.)—the Aeolic aorist—implies extreme perplexity. It occurs only here in the N.T. and in Acts 17:27, ψηλαφήσειαν. For the ἂν with the indirect question comp. Luke 1:62, Luke 9:46. Here it implies that they weighed the possible steps; quid forte faciendum videretur. See Winer, p. 386.

Verse 12

12. ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις, ‘in these 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 to Luke 8:56, a splendid cycle of Messianic work in Galilee in the gladdest epoch of Christ’s ministry, and it will be seen that it consists of 12 incidents. These symmetrical combinations are generally intentional.

εἰς τὸ ὄρος, ‘into the mountain,’ with special reference to the Kurn Hattîn, or Horns of Hattîn, the traditional and almost certainly the actual scene of the Sermon on the Mount.

ἦν διανυκτερεύων. The analytic imperfect which we have already met several times heightens the sense of continuance. The verb διανυκτερεύω, ‘I pass the whole night,’ is unique in the N.T., though found in Xenophon and Plutarch. The verb is formed on the analogy of διημερεύω.

ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ. 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 προσευχὴ 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 προσευχαὶ were merely walled spaces without roof, set apart as places 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 προσευχαὶ were generally, if not invariably, 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.

Verses 12-19


Verse 13

13. δώδεκα. Doubtless with a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.

οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν. The word means primarily messengers,’ as in Philippians 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). It is used 36 times by St Luke , 21 times by St Paul. In the other Gospels it only occurs in this sense in Mark 6:30; Matthew 10:2; and only once in the LXX[134], 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.

Verse 14

14. Σίμωνα. 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 1:13.

































James of Alphaeus

James of Alphaeus

James of Alphaeus

James of Alphaeus



Simon Zelotes

Simon Zelotes

Simon the Kananite

Simon the Kananite

Jude of James

Jude of James

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 ἐκλεκτῶν ἐκλεκτότεροι—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 6:15). 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 1:13). “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 1 Maccabees 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. 2 Maccabees 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 BCGL), 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 perhaps 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, 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, id. Luke 12:22 : “shew us the Father,” id. Luke 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.

Verse 15

15. τὸν καλούμενον ζηλωτήν. ‘Who was called the Zealot.’

Ἰσκαριώθ. This should, strictly, be rendered “an Iscariot,” i.e. a native of Kerioth, and sometimes “the Iscariot,” as in Matthew 10:4, &c. The reading of D in many passages is ἀπὸ Καριώτου. The name may be all the more significant because it perhaps marks out Judas as the only Jew among a band of Galilaean Apostles.

Verse 16

16. ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης. ‘Who 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, Psalms 41:9. 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 found him out (John 12:6), and that he had received from our Lord more than one solemn warning (John 12:15; John 18:25, &c.).

Verse 17

17. καὶ καταβὰς μετ' αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ. ‘And descending with them, He stopped on a level place.’ τόπος πεδινός also occurs in Isaiah 13:2, LXX[135] If the phrase be thus rendered there is no discrepancy between St Luke and 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 πλάξ) 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. We need only notice for its curiosity the puerile fancy of Baur, that St Luke wished to degrade the Sermon on the Mount to a lower standpoint! Christ did not descend to the plain nor even, as the Genevan renders, to “the champaign country,” but, as Wyclif renders it with admirable fidelity both to the Greek and to the actual site, to a “fieldy place” (Vulg[136] in loco campestri).

ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας. 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.

Verse 18

18. ἀπὸ πνευμάτων. The ἀπὸ indicates the sources of their maladies. See Winer, p. 464

Verse 19

19. ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ. Compare Luke 8:44; Matthew 14:36; Mark 5:30.

Verse 20

20. μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί. ‘Blessed are the poor.’ The μακάριοι is a Hebrew expression (ashrê), (Psalms 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. xxxv.

“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.”


“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.

ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. It must be obvious to common sense that ‘the poor,’ ‘the hungry,’ ‘the weeping,’ must be understood ethically. 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 (27–38); the impulsion of love (39–49). These divisions are arbitrary. Godet more successfully arranges it thus: [1] The members of the new society (20–26; Matthew 5:1-12); [2] The fundamental principle of the new society (27–45; Matthew 5:13 to Matthew 7:12); [3] The judgment of God on which it rests (46–49; Matthew 7:13-27):—in other words [1] the appeal; [2] the principles; [3] the sanction.

Verses 20-26


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

Verse 21

21. μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες νῦν. Comp. Luke 1:53; Psalms 107:9. St Matthew here also brings out more clearly that it is the beatitude of spiritual hunger “after righteousness.”

χορτασθήσεσθε. This verb (from χόρτος, a farm-yard) originally, meant ‘to fatten cattle.’ It is used in the LXX[137] and by each of the Evangelists, but only once by St Paul.

γελάσετε. See 2 Corinthians 6:10; Revelation 21:4.

Verse 22

22. μισήσωσινἀφορίσωσινὀνειδίσωσινἐκβάλωσιν. We have here four steps of persecution increasing in virulence: [1] General hatred; [2] Exclusion from the synagogue, a lesser excommunication, viz. the Nezîphah or exclusion for 30 days, or Niddouî for 90 days (Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils, I. 183; John 9:34,—hence ἀφορισμὸς means ‘excommunication’); [3] Violent slander; [4] The Cherem, Shammatta, or greater excommunication,—permanent expulsion from the Synagogue and Temple (John 16:2). The Jews pretended that our Lord was thus excommunicated with the blast of 400 rams’ horns by Joshua Ben Perachiah (Wagenseil, Sota, p. 1057), and was only crucified forty days after because no witness came forward in His favour.

ὡς πονηρόν. ‘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. XV. Vol. I.)

ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. 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 note on Luke 6:23 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. 168. 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.

Verse 23

23. χάρητε ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. 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.

τοῖς προφήταις. 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.

Verse 24

24. πλὴν οὐαί. 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.”

ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις. 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.

ἀπέχετε. ‘Ye have to the full,’ Philippians 4:18; comp. Luke 14:25, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst good things.”

Verse 25

25. οἱ ἐμπεπλησμένοι. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread,” Ezekiel 16:49.

οὐαὶ οἱ γελῶντες νῦν. Compare Ecclesiastes 2:2; Ecclesiastes 7:6; Proverbs 14:13.

Verse 26

26. οὐαὶ. Omit unto you with א ABE, &c.

ὅταν καλῶς ὑμᾶς εἴπωσιν πάντες. “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.

τοῖς ψενδοπροφήταις. “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 22:11. “Speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits,” Isaiah 30:10.

Verse 27

27. τοῖς ἀκούουσιν. ‘To you who (really) hear.’ Euthymius Zigabenus paraphrases it τοῖς πειθομένοις μου.

ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν. 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; Psalms 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 the most bitter hatred 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. Luke 6:5; Juv. Sat. XIV. 103).

καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς. See the precept beautifully enforced in Romans 12:17; Romans 12:19-21.

Verses 27-38


[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.]

Verse 28

28. προσεὑχεσθε περὶ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς. 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.

Verse 29

29. ἐπὶ τὴν σιαγόνα. Literally, on the jaw—perhaps to imply coarse and brutal violence.

πάρεχε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην. 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. Erasmus remarks that the sudden change of number from the plural to the singular makes the command more emphatically individual. Our Lord enunciates the principle and abstains from laying down the limitation which His hearers in all ages are eager to make.

τὸ ἱμάτιοντὸν χιτῶνα. The himation was the upper garment, the shawl-like abba; the chitôn was the tunic. See on Luke 3:11.

Verse 30

30. παντὶ αἰτοῦντί σε δίδου. 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). “Omni petenti … non omnia petenti; ut id des quod juste et honeste potes.”—Augustine. Our Lord did not mean His divine maxim to be left at the mercy of wild fanaticism or stupid letter worship.

Verse 31

31. καθὼς θέλετε κ.τ.λ. The golden rule of Christianity of which our Lord said that it was “the Law and the Prophets,” Matthew 7:12. The modern ‘Altruism’ and ‘vivre pour autrui,’ though pompously enunciated as the basis of a new religion, are but a mutilated reproduction of this.

ἵνα ποιῶσιν. Another instance of the loose Hellenistic expansion of the use of ἵνα.

Verse 32

32. καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοί. Where St Matthew (Matthew 5:46-47), writing for Jews, uses the term ‘tax-gatherers’ or ‘Gentile persons’ (ἐθνικοὶ), 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.

Verse 33

33. καὶ AD. καὶ γάρ א B.

Verse 34

34. τὰ ἴσα. ‘The exact return.’

Verse 35

35. πλήν. ‘However.’ This conjunction is used by St Luke much more frequently than by the other N. T. writers. From this passage we see that ‘interest’ and ‘usury’ are not here contemplated at all.

μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες. Vulg[138] nihil inde sperantes. See Psalms 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.’ The verb only occurs again as the varia lectio of D in Ephesians 4:19. It is a late Greek word and generally means ‘to despair.’ Hence our R. V[139] renders it “never despairing” with the marginal reading “despairing of no man” (μηδέν'). Comp. Romans 4:18, παρ' ἐλπίδα ἐπ' ἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν.

ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου. Comp. Sirach 4:10.

χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς. See the exquisite addition in Matthew 5:45.

Verse 36

36. γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες. ‘Become,’ or ‘Prove yourselves merciful’ (omit οὖν, א BDL).

οἰκτίρμων. 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.”


Verse 37

37. μὴ κρίνετε. The following καταδικάζετε shews that what is forbidden is not only condemnatory judgment but the critical, fastidious, fault-finding, ungenerous spirit. For comment read Romans 2:1-3; Romans 14:10, “Why dost thou judge thy brother?… for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; 1 Corinthians 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.

ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε. The words should be rendered, ‘Set free and ye shall be set free.’ Comp. Luke 22:68. Vulg[140] dimittite et dimittemini. The verb ἀπολύω in the N. T. never means ‘to forgive.’ For comment see the Parable of the Debtors, Matthew 18:23-35.

Verse 38

38. δώσουσιν. ‘Shall they give.’ Who? The A.V[141] supplies “men.” Euthymius says ‘those whom you have benefited’ for God will seem to give in their behalf. But St Luke was probably thinking of angels, as in Luke 16:9 (comp. Matthew 24:31) and in Luke 12:20; Luke 12:48.

εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν. Pockets were unknown to the ancients. All that was necessary was carried in the fold of the robe (Heb. cheyk, Psalms 35:13, &c.; Lat. sinus), or in the girdle.

ᾧ γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε. 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.

Verse 39

39. μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; 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 emphasis is increased by the sharp opposition of the contiguous nominative and accusative.

Verses 39-45


Verse 40

40. κατηρτισμένος. ‘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.

Verse 41

41. βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος. The hypocrite sees (βλέπει) at the slightest glance the mote in his brother’s eye; but not the most careful inspection enables him to observe (κατανοεῖν) the very obvious beam in his own eye. κάρφος, 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.

τὴν δοκόν. 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 (Reeve’s Prologue),

“He can wel in myn eye see a stalke

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

Verse 42

42. ἅφες ἐκβάλω. Cp. Mark 15:36, ἄφετε ἴδωμεν. The conjunction is deliberative, as in θέλεις εἴπωμεν, Luke 9:54. In modern Greek ἂς, let, is derived from ἄφες, and has become a regular imperative form.

οὐ βλέπων. This is the only instance of οὐ with a participle in this Gospel. Participles are so frequently causal or conditional that they are usually reversed by the subjective negative μή,—the particle which negatives thoughts—which is exclusively joined to them in modern Greek. The οὐ is here emphatic—‘when, as a fact, thou art blind to.’

ὑποκριτά. 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.

Verse 44

44. ἕκαστον δένδρον. ‘Each tree’ (not as in A.V[142] every tree, which would be πᾶν δένδρον).

οὐσυλλέγουσιν σῦκα. 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.

Verse 45

45. ἐκ γὰρ περισσεύματος καρδίας λαλεῖ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ. “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?” Matthew 12:34; “the vile person will speak villany,” Isaiah 32:6.

Verse 46

46. τί δέ με καλεῖτε, Κύριε, κύριε; “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.

Verses 46-49


Verse 47

47. καὶ ποιῶν αὐτούς. John 13:17. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,” James 1:22.

Verse 48

48. ὃς ἔσκαψεν καὶ ἐβάθυνεν, καὶ ἔθηκεν θεμέλιον ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν. The E.V. here loses all the picturesque force of the original. Render, ‘he is like a man building a house, who dug, and kept deepening, and laid a foundation on the rock.’ The two first verbs are not a mere Hebraism or hendiadys for ‘he dug deep’ (Vulg[143] fodit in altum) as Schott says; but they give a picture, somewhat in the leisurely Hebrew manner. See Winer, p. 588. ‘Crescit oratio.’ Beza. 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.

πλημμύρης. ‘An inundation;’ the sudden rush of a spait.

διὰ τὸ καλῶς κ.τ.λ. See critical note.

Verse 49

49. ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν. In St Matthew, more graphically, “upon the sand;” e.g. the sand of superficial intellectual acceptance.

συνέπεσεν. ‘It collapsed,’ ‘it fell in a heap.’

τὸ ῥῆγμα. Literally, ‘the breach.’


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"Commentary on Luke 6:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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