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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 8

 

 

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Verse 1

Matthew 8:1. καταβάντος αὐτοῦ (for the reading vide above). Jesus descended from the hill towards Capernaum (Matthew 8:5), but we must beware of supposing that the immediately following events all happened there, or at any one place or time. Mark seems to connect the cure of the leper with the preaching tour in Galilee (Mark 1:40), and that of the palsied man with Christ’s return therefrom (Matthew 2:1). Jesus had ascended the hill to escape the pressure of human need. He descends, in Matt.’s narrative, to encounter it again— ἠκολούθησαν, large crowds gather about and follow Him.— ἰδοὺ, the sign mark of the Apostolic Document according to Weiss; its lively formula for introducing a narrative.— προσεκύνει, prostrated himself to the ground, in the abject manner of salutation suitable from an inferior to one deemed much superior, and also to one who had a great favour to ask.— κύριε: not implying in the leper a higher idea than that of Master or Rabbi.— ἐὰν θέλῃς: the leper’s doubt is not about the power, for he probably knows what marvellous things have been happening of late in and around Capernaum, but about the will, a doubt natural in one suffering from a loathsome disease. Besides, men more easily believe in miraculous power than in miraculous love. θέλῃς, present subjunctive, not aorist, which would express something that might happen at a future time (vide Winer, § xlii., 2, b).— καθαρίσαι—of course the man means to cleanse by healing, not merely to pronounce clean. This has an important bearing on the meaning of the word in next ver.— ἥψατο, touched him, not to show that He was not under the law, and that to the pure nothing is unclean (Chrys., Hom. xxv.), but to evince His willingness and sympathy. The stretching out of the hand does not mean that, in touching, He might be as far off as possible to avoid defilement and infection (Weiss-Meyer). It was action suited to the word.— θέλω, “I will,” pronounced in firm, cordial tone, carefully recorded by all the evangelists. καθαρίσθητι, naturally in the sense of the man’s request. But that would imply a real miracle, therefore naturalistic interpreters, like Paulus and Keim, are forced to take the word in the sense of pronouncing clean, the mere opinion of a shrewd observer. The narrative of Matthew barely leaves room for this hypothesis. The other evangelists so express themselves as to exclude it.— ἐκαθαρίσθη: forthwith the leprosy disappeared as if by magic. The man was and looked perfectly well.


Verses 1-4

Matthew 8:1-4. The leper (Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16). This is the first individual act of healing reported in this Gospel, chap. Matthew 4:23-24 containing only a general notice. It is a very remarkable one. No theory of moral therapeutics will avail here to eliminate the miraculous element. Leprosy is not a disease of the nerves, amenable to emotional treatment, but of the skin and the flesh, covering the body with unsightly sores. The story occurs in all three Synoptics, and, as belonging to the triple tradition, is one of the best attested. Matthew’s version is the shortest and simplest here as often, his concern being rather to report the main fact and what Christ said, than to give pictorial details. Possibly he gives it as he found it in the Apostolic Document both in form and in position, immediately after Sermon on Mount, so placed, conceivably, to illustrate Christ’s respectful attitude towards the law as stated in Matthew 5:17 (cf. Matthew 8:4 and vide Weiss, Matt. Evan., p. 227).


Verse 4

Matthew 8:4. ὅρα, see to it! Look you!—imperative in mood and tone (vide Mark’s graphic account). Christ feared the man would be content with being well without being officially pronounced clean—physically healed, though not socially restored. Hence μηδενὶ εἴπῃς, ἀλλʼ ὕπαγε, etc.: speak of it to nobody, but go at once and show thyself ( δεῖξον), τῷ ἱερεῖ, to the priest who has charge of such matters. What was the purpose of this order? Many good commentators, including Grot., Beng. and Wetstein, say it was to prevent the priests hearing of the cure before the man came (lingering on the road to tell his tale), and, in spite, declaring that he was not clean. The truth is, Jesus desired the benefit to be complete, socially, which depended on the priest, as well as physically. If the man did not go at once, he would not go at all.— τὸ δῶρον: vide Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 14:21; all things to be done according to the law; no laxity encouraged, though the official religion was little worthy of respect (cf. Matthew 5:19).— εἰς μαρτύριον, as a certificate to the public ( αὐτοῖς) from the constituted authority that the leper was clean. The direction shows Christ’s confidence in the reality of the cure. The whole story is a picture of character. The touch reveals sympathy; the accompanying word, “I will, be clean,” prompt, cordial, laconic, immense energy and vitality; the final order, reverence for existing institutions, fearlessness, humane solicitude for the sufferer’s future well-being in every sense (vide on Mk.).


Verse 5

Matthew 8:5. εἰσελθόντος, aorist participle with another finite verb, pointing to a completed action. He had entered Capernaum when the following event happened. Observe the genitive absolute again with a dative of the same subject, αὐτῷ, following προσῆλθεν. ἑκατόνταρχος: a Gentile (Matthew 8:10), probably an officer in the army of Herod Antipas.


Verses 5-13

Matthew 8:5-13. The centurion’s son or servant (Luke 7:1-10). Placed by both Matthew and Luke after Sermon on Mount, by the latter immediately after.


Verse 6

Matthew 8:6. κύριε again, not necessarily expressing any advanced idea of Christ’s person.— παῖς may mean either son or servant. Luke has δοῦλος, and from the harmonistic point of view this settles the matter. But many, including Bleek and Weiss (Meyer), insist that παῖς here means son.— βέβληται, perf. pointing to a chronic condition; bed-ridden in the house, therefore not with the centurion.— παραλυτικός: a disease of the nerves, therefore emotional treatment might be thought of, had the son only been present. But he could not even be brought on a stretcher as in another case (Matthew 9:1) because not only παραλ., but δεινῶς βασανιζόμενος, not an ordinary feature of paralysis.


Verse 7

Matthew 8:7. his is generally taken as an offer on Christ’s part to go to the house. Fritzsche finds in it a question, arranging the words (T. R.) thus: καὶ, λέγει α. ., ἐγὼ ἐλθὼν θεραπεύσω αὐτόν; and rendering: “And,” saith Jesus to him, “shall I go and heal him?” = is that what you wish? The following verse then contains the centurion’s reply. This is, to say the least, ingenious.


Verse 8

Matthew 8:8, ἱκανὸς: the Baptist’s word, chap. Matthew 3:11, but the construction different in the two places, there with infinitive, here with ἵνα: I am not fit in order that. This is an instance illustrating the extension of the use of ἵνα in later Greek, which culminated in its superseding the infinitive altogether in modern Greek. On the N. T. use of ἵνα, vide Burton, M. and T., §§ 191–222. Was it because he was a Gentile by birth, and also perhaps a heathen in religion, that he had this feeling of unworthiness, or was it a purely personal trait? If he was not only a Gentile but a Pagan, Christ’s readiness to go to the house would stand in remarkable contrast to His conduct in the case of the Syro-Phœnician woman. But vide Luke 7:5.— εἰπὲ λόγῳ, speak (and heal) with a word. A bare word just where they stand, he thinks, will suffice.


Verse 9

Matthew 8:9, καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ: he argues from his own experience not with an air of self-importance, on the contrary making light of his position as a commander— ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν, spoken in modesty. He means: I also, though a very humble person in the army, under the authority of more important officers, still have a command over a body of men who do implicitly as I bid them. Fritzsche rightly suggests that ἄνθρωπος ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν does not express a single idea = “a man under authority”. He represents himself as a man with authority, though in a modest way. A comma might with advantage be placed after εἰμι. The centurion thinks Jesus can order about disease as he orders his soldiers—say to fever, palsy, leprosy, go, and it will go. His soldiers go, his slaves do (Carr, C. G. T.).


Verse 10

Matthew 8:10. In Matthew 8:13 we are told that Jesus did not disappoint the centurion’s expectation. But the interest of the cure is eclipsed for the evangelist by the interest of the Healer’s admiration, certainly a remarkable instance of a noteworthy characteristic of Jesus: His delight in signal manifestations of faith. Faith, His great watchword, as it was St. Paul’s. This value set on faith was not a mere idiosyncrasy, but the result of insight into its nobleness and spiritual virtue.— καὶ εἶπε: Christ did not conceal His admiration; or His sadness when He reflected that such faith as this Gentile had shown was a rare thing in Israel.— ἀμὴν: He speaks solemnly, not without emotion.— παρʼ οὐδενὶ: this is more significant than the reading of T. R., assimilated to Luke 7:9. The οὐδὲ implies that Israel was the home of faith, and conveys the meaning not even there. But παρʼ οὐδενὶ means not even in a single instance, and implies that faith in notable degree is at a discount among the elect people. Such a sentiment at so early a period is noteworthy as showing how far Jesus was from cherishing extravagant hopes of setting up a theocratic kingdom of righteousness and godliness in Israel.


Verse 11-12

Matthew 8:11-12. This logion is given by Luke (Luke 13:28-29) in a different connection, and it may not be in its historical place here. But its import is in thorough harmony with the preceding reflection on the spiritual state of Israel. One who said the one thing was prepared to say the other. At whatever time said it would give offence. It is one of the heavy burdens of the prophet that he cannot be a mere patriot, or say complimentary things about his nation or his Church. ἀνακλιθήσονται: Jesus expresses Himself here and throughout this logion in the language of His time and people. The feast with the patriarchs, the outer darkness, the weeping and the gnashing of teeth (observe the article before σκότος, κλαυθμὸς, βρυγμὸς, implying that all are familiar ideas) are stock phrases. The imagery is Jewish, but the thought is anti-Jewish, universalistic, of perennial truth and value.


Verse 13

Matthew 8:13. ὕπαγε, etc.: compressed impassioned utterance, spoken under emotion = Go, as thou hast believed be it to thee; cure as thorough as thy faith. The καὶ before ὡς in T. R. is the addition of prosaic scribes. Men speaking under emotion discard expletives.

Weizsäcker (Untersuchungen über die Evang. Gesch., p. 50) remarks on the felicitous juxtaposition of these two narratives relatively to one another and to the Sermon on Mount. “In the first Jesus has to do with a Jew, and demands of him observance of the law. In this respect the second serves as a companion piece, the subject of healing being a heathen, giving occasion for a word as to the position of heathens. The two combined are happily appended to a discourse in which Jesus states His attitude to the law, forming as complements of each other a commentary on the statement.”


Verse 14

Matthew 8:14. ἐλθὼν, coming from the synagogue on a Sabbath day (Mark 1:29) with fellow-worshippers not here named. The story here loses its flesh and blood, and is cut down to the essential fact.— εἰς τ. ο. πέτρου: Peter has a house and is married, and already he receives his disciple name (Simon in Mark).— πενθερὰν. It is Peter’s mother-in-law that is ill.— βεβλημένην καὶ πυρέσσουσαν, lying in bed, fevered. Had she taken ill since they left to attend worship, with the suddenness of feverish attacks in a tropical climate? βεβλημένην is against this, as it naturally suggests an illness of some duration; but on the other hand, it she had been ill for some time, why should they need to tell Jesus after coming back from the synagogue? (Mark 1:30). πυρέσσ. does not necessarily imply a serious attack, but vide Luke 4:38.


Verse 14-15

Matthew 8:14-15. Cure of a fever: Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39). This happened much earlier, at the beginning of the Galilean ministry, the second miracle-history in Mark and Luke. Mark at this point becomes Matthew’s guide, though he does not follow implicitly. Each evangelist has characteristic features, the story of the second being the original.


Verse 15

Matthew 8:15. ἥψατο. He touched her hand; here to cure, in Mark to raise her up.— ἠγέρθη, διηκόνει: she rose up at once and continued to serve at the meal; all present but Jesus only referred to here ( αὐτῳ, plural in Mark, but inappropriate here). Not only the fever but the weakness it causes left her. “Ordinarily a long time is required for recovery, but then all things happened at once” (Chryst., Hom. xxvii.). Not a great miracle or interesting for anything said; but it happened at an early time and in the disciple circle; Peter the informant; and it showed Christ’s sympathy (Matthew 8:17), the main point for Mt.


Verse 16

Matthew 8:16. ὀψίας γενομένης: vague indication of time on any day, but especially a Sabbath day. There were two evenings, an early and a late (Exodus 30:8). Which of them was it; before or after sunset? Mark is more exact.— δαιμον. πολλούς: why a crowd just then, and why especially demoniacs brought to be healed? For explanation we must go to Mark. The preaching of Jesus in the synagogue that Sabbath day, and the cure of a demoniac (Mark 1:21-28), had created a great sensation, and the result is a crowd gathered at the door of Peter’s house at sunset, when the Sabbath ended, with their sick, especially with demoniacs.


Verse 16-17

Matthew 8:16-17. Events of that Sabbath evening (Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40-41). A general statement, which, after Matthew 4:23 f., might have been dispensed with; but it is in the source (Mark) in the same context, and it gives our evangelist a welcome opportunity of quoting a prophetic text in reference to Christ’s healing work.


Verse 17

Matthew 8:17. rophetic citation, apposite, felicitous; setting Christ’s healing ministry in a true light; giving prominence not to the thaumaturgic but to the sympathetic aspect; from the Hebrew original, the Sept(53) making the text (Isaiah 53:4) refer to sin. The Hebrew refers to sicknesses and pains. It is useless to discuss the precise meaning of ἔλαβεν and ἐβάστασεν: took and bore, or took and bore away; subjective or objective? The evangelist would note, not merely that Jesus actually did remove diseases, but that He was minded to do so: such was His bent.


Verse 18

Matthew 8:18. ἰδὼνπερὶ αὐτόν. The evangelist makes a desire to escape from the crowd the motive of the journey. This desire is still more apparent in Mark, but the crowd and the time are different. The multitude from which Jesus escapes, in Mark’s narrative, is that gathered on the shore to hear the parable-discourse from a boat on the lake.— ἐκέλευσεν ἀπελθεῖν. Grotius thinks this elliptical for: ἐκέλευσε πάντα ἐτοιμάσαι εἰς τὸ ἀπ. Beza renders: indixit profectionem = He ordered departure. τοὺς μαθητάς is understood, not mentioned because they alone could be meant.


Verses 18-34

Matthew 8:18-34. Excursion to the eastern shore with its incidents (Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:20; Luke 8:22-39). These narratives make a large leap forward in the history. As our evangelist is giving a collection of healing incidents, the introduction of Matthew 8:18-22, disciple interviews, and even of Matthew 8:23-27, a nature miracle, needs an explanation. The readiest is that he found these associated with the Gadara incident, his main concern, in his source or sources, the whole group in the Apostolic Document (so Weiss). We must not assume a close connection between § 18–22 and the excursion to the eastern shore. Luke gives the meeting with the scribe, etc., a different setting. Possibly neither is right. The scribe incident may belong to the excursion to the north (Matthew 15:21).


Verse 19

Matthew 8:19, εἶς, either “one, a scribe” (Weiss and very decidedly Meyer, who says that εἶς never in N. T. = τὶς), or “a certain scribe,” indefinite reference, so Fritzsche, falling back on Suicer, I., p. 1037, and more recently Bleek and others. Vide Winer, § xviii. 9, who defends the use of εἶς for τὶς as a feature of later Greek.— γραμματεὺς, a scribe! even one of that most unimpressionable class, in spirit and tendency utterly opposed to the ways of Jesus. A Saul among the prophets. He has actually become warmed up to something like enthusiasm. A striking tribute to the magnetic influence of Jesus.— ἀκολουθήσω: already more or less of a disciple—perhaps he had been present during the teaching on the hill or at the encounter between Jesus and the scribes in re washing (Matthew 15:1 f.), and been filled with admiration for His wisdom, moral earnestness and courage; and this is the result. Quite honestly meant, but.


Verse 20

Matthew 8:20, λέγει αὐτῷ ι. Jesus distrusted the class, and the man, who might be better than the average, still he was a scribe. Christ’s feeling was not an unreasoning or invincible prejudice, but a strong suspicion and aversion justified by insight and experience. Therefore He purposely paints the prospect in sombre colours to prevent a connection which could come to no good.— αἱ ἀλώπεκες, etc.: a notable saying; one of the outstanding logia of Jesus, in style and spirit characteristic; not querulous, as if lamenting His lot, but highly coloured to repel an undesirable follower. Foxes have holes, and birds resting places, roosts (not nests, which are used only for breeding), but δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου: a remarkable designation occurring here for the first time. It means much for the Speaker, who has chosen it deliberately, in connection with private reflections, at whose nature we can only guess by study of the many occasions on which the name is used. Here it seems to mean the man simpliciter (son of man = man in Hebrew or Syriac), the unprivileged Man: not only no exception to the rule of ordinary human experience in the way of being better off, but rather an exception in the way of being worse off; for the rule is, that all living creatures, even beasts, and still more men, have their abodes, however humble. If it be Messianic, it is in a hidden enigmatical way. The whole speech is studiously enigmatical, and calculated to chill the scribe’s enthusiasm. Was Jesus speaking in parables here, and hinting at something beyond the literal privations of His life as a wanderer with no fixed home? The scribe had his spiritual home in Rabbinical traditions, and would not be at ease in the company of One who had broken with them. Jesus had no place where He could lay His head in the religion of His time (vide my With Open Face, chap. 9).


Verse 21-22

Matthew 8:21-22. Another disciple. ἕτερος, another, not only numerically ( ἄλλος), but in type. The first was enthusiastic; this one is hesitating, and needs to be urged; a better, more reliable man, though contrasting with his neighbour unfavourably.— τῶν μαθητῶν: the expression seems to imply that the scribe was, or, in spite of the repellent word of Jesus, had become, a regular disciple. That is possible. If the scribe insisted, Jesus might suffer him to become a disciple, as He did Judas, whom doubtless He instinctively saw through from the beginning. But not likely. The inference may be avoided by rendering with Bleek: “another, one of the disciples”.— ἐπίτρεψόν μοι: he wished, before setting out from home to enter on the career of discipleship, to attend to an urgent domestic duty; in fact to bury his father. In that climate burial had to take place on the day of death. Permission would have involved very little delay of the voyage, unless, with Chrysostom, we include under θάψαι all that goes along with death and burial, arranging family affairs, distribution of inheritance, etc. There would not probably be much trouble of that sort in the case of one belonging to the Jesus-circle.


Verse 22

Matthew 8:22. ἀκολούθει μοι: the reply is a stern refusal, and the reason apparently hard and unfeeling— ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺςνεκρούς: word for word the same in Luke (Luke 9:60), an unforgettable, mystic, hard saying. The dead must be taken in two senses = let the spiritually dead, not yet alive to the claims of the kingdom, bury the naturally dead. Fritzsche objects, and finds in the saying the paradox: “let the dead bury each other the best way they can,” which, as Weiss says, is not a paradox, but nonsense. Another eccentric idea of some commentators is that the first νεκροὺς refers to the vespillones, the corpse-bearers who carried out the bodies of the poor at night, in Hebrew phrase, the men of the dead. Take it as we will, it seems a hard, heartless saying, difficult to reconcile with Christ’s denunciation of the Corban casuistry, by which humanity and filial piety were sacrificed on the altar of religion (Matthew 15:3-6). But, doubtless, Jesus knew to whom He was speaking. The saying can be understood and justified; but it can also very easily be misunderstood and abused, and woe to the man who does so. From these two examples we see that Jesus had a startling way of speaking to disciples, which would create reflection and also give rise to remark. The disciple-logia are original, severe, fitted to impress, sift and confirm.


Verse 23

Matthew 8:23. ἐμβάντι αὐτῷ might be called a dative absolute; if taken as dative after ἠκολούθησαν, the αὐτῷ after this verb is superfluous. This short sentence is overcharged with pronouns ( αὐτοῦ after μαθηταὶ).— τὸ πλοῖον ( τὸ omitted in Lk.), the ship in readiness in accordance with previous instructions (Matthew 8:18). Matthew 8:24, ἰδοὺ indicates sudden oncome.— σεισμὸς ἐν τ. θ., literally an earthquake of the sea, the waters stirred to their depths by the winds referred to in Matthew 8:26-27; λαῖλαψ in Mark and Luke = hurricane.— ὥστε, here with infinitive, used also with finite moods (e.g., Galatians 2:13). In the one case ὥστε indicates aim or tendency, in the other it asserts actual result (vide Goodwin, p. 221, also Baümlein, Schulgrammatik, §§ 593, 594). Klotz, Devar., ii. p. 772, gives as the equivalent of ὥστε, with infinitive, ita ut; with indicative, itaque or quare).— καλύπτεσθαι, was covered, hidden, the waves rising high above the boat, breaking on it, and gradually filling it with water (cf. Mark and Luke).— αὐτὸς δὲ ἐκάθευδεν: dramatic contrast = but He was sleeping (imperfect), the storm notwithstanding. Like a general in time of war Jesus slept when He could. He had fallen asleep before the storm came on, probably shortly after they had started (Luke 8:23, πλεόντων αὐτῶν ἀφύπνωσεν: while they sailed He went off to sleep). soothed by the gliding motion. It was the sleep of one worn by an intense life. involving constant strain on body and mind. The mental tension is apparent in the words spoken to the two disciples (Matthew 8:20-22). Words like these are not spoken in cold blood, or without waste of nervous power. Richard Baxter describes Cromwell as “of such vivacity, hilarity, and alacrity as another man hath when he hath drunken a cup too much” (Reliquiae Baxt.). “Drunken, but not with wine,” with a great epoch-making enthusiasm. The storm did not wake the sleeper. A tempest, the sublime in nature, is a lullaby to a great spirit. The Fathers viewed the sleep and the storm theologically, both arranged for beforehand, to give time for cowardice to show itself (Chrys., Hom. xxviii.), to let the disciples know their weakness and to accustom them to trials (Theophyl.). A docetic Christ, an unreal man, a theatrical affair!


Verses 23-27

Matthew 8:23-27. Storm on the lake (Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25).


Verse 25

Matthew 8:25. προσελθόντες: one of our evangelist’s favourite words.— ἤγειραν: they would not have waked Him if they could have helped it. They were genuinely terrified, though experienced sailors accustomed to rough weather.— κύριε, σῶσονἀπολλύμεθα: laconic speech, verbs unconnected, utterance of fear-stricken men. Luke’s ἐπιστάτα, ἐπιστάτα is equally descriptive. Who could tell exactly what they said? All three evangelists report differently.


Verse 26

Matthew 8:26, δειλοί, ὀλιγόπιστοι, He chides them first, then the winds, the chiding meant to calm fear. Cowards, men of little faith! harsh in tone but kindly meant; expressive really of personal fearlessness, to gain ascendency over panic-stricken spirits (cf. Luke).— τότε ἐγερθεὶς: He had uttered the previous words as He lay, then with a sudden impulse He rose and spoke imperial words to the elements: animos discipulorum prius, deinde mare composuit (Bengel).— ἀνέμοις, θαλάσσῃ: He rebuked both. It would have been enough to rebuke the winds which caused the commotion in the water. But the speech was impassioned and poetic, not scientific.— γαλήνη μεγάλη: antithetic to σεισμὸς μέγας, Matthew 8:24.


Verse 27

Matthew 8:27, f οἱ ἄνθρωποι: who? Naturally one would say the disciples with Jesus in the boat, called men to suit the tragic situation. But many think others are referred to, men unacquainted with Jesus: “quibus nondum innotuerat Christus” (Calvin); either with the disciples in the boat, and referred to alone (Jerome, Meyer) or jointly (De Wette, Bleek), or who afterwards heard the story (Hilar y, Euthy., Fritzsche: “homines, quote uot hujus portenti nuntium acceperant,” and Weiss). Holtzmann (H. C.) says they might be the men in the other ships mentioned in Mark 4:36, but in reality the expression may simply point to the contrast between the disciples as men and the divine power displayed.— ποταπόςοὗτος, what manner of person? The more classic form is ποδαπός = from what land? where born? possibly from ποῦ and ἄπο, with a euphonic δ (Passow). ποταπός, in later use, = of what sort? vide Lobeck, Phryn., p. 56.—This story of the triple tradition is a genuine reminiscence of disciple life. There was a storm, Jesus slept, the disciples awoke Him in terror. He rebuked the winds and waves, and they forthwith subsided. The only escape of naturalism from a miracle of power or Providence (Weiss, Leben Jesu) is to deny the causal sequence between Christ’s word and the ensuing calm and suggest coincidence. The storm sudden in its rise, equally sudden in its lull.


Verse 28

Matthew 8:28. δύο, two, in Mark and Luke one. According to some, e.g., Holtzmann (H. C.), the two includes the case reported in Mark 1:23-27, Luke 4:31-37, omitted by Matthew. Weiss’ hypothesis is that the two is an inference from the plurality of demons spoken of in his source (vide Matt.-Evan., p. 239). The harmonists disposed of the difficulty by the remark that there might be two, though only one is spoken of in the other accounts, perhaps because he was the more violent of the two (so Augustine and Calvin).— ἐκ τῶν μνημείων: the precipitous hills on the eastern shore are a limestone formation full of caves, which were doubtless used for burying the dead. There the demoniacs made their congenial home.— χαλεποὶ λίαν, fierce exceedingly; λίαν, one of our evangelist’s favourite words. These demoniacs were what one would call dangerous madmen; that, whatever more; no light matter to cure them, say by “moral therapeutics”.— ὥστε μὴ ἰσχύειν: again ὥστε with infinitive (with μὴ for negative). The point is not that nobody passed that way, but that the presence of the madmen tended to make it a place to be shunned as dangerous. Nobody cared to go near them. Christ came near their lair by accident, but He would not have been scared though He had known of their presence.


Verses 28-34

Matthew 8:28-34. The demoniacs of Gadara (Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39). This narrative raises puzzling questions of all sorts, among them a geographical or topological one, as to the scene of the occurrence. The variations in the readings in the three synoptical gospels reflect the perplexities of the scribes. The place in these readings bears three distinct names. It is called the territory of the Gadarenes, the Gerasenes, and the Gergesenes. The reading in Mark 5:1 in (54), and adopted by W.H(55), is γερασηνῶν, and, since the discovery by Thomson (Land and Book, ii. 374) of a place called Gersa or Kersa, near the eastern shore of the lake, there has been a growing consensus of opinion in favour of Gerasa (not to be confounded with Gerasa in Gilead, twenty miles east of the Jordan) as the true name of the scene of the story. A place near the sea seems to be demanded by the circumstances, and Gadara on the Hieromax was too far distant. The true reading in Matthew (Matthew 8:28) nevertheless is γαδαρηνῶν. He probably follows Mark as his guide, but the village Gerasa being obscure and Gadara well known, he prefers to define the locality by a general reference to the latter. The name Gergesa was a suggestion of Origen’s made incidentally in his Commentary on John, in connection with the place named in chap. John 1:28, Bethabara or Bethany, to illustrate the confusion in the gospel in connection with names. His words are: γέργεσα, ἀφʼ ἧς οἱ γεργεσαῖοι, πόλις ἀρχαία περὶ τὴν νῦν καλουμένην τιβερίαδα λίμνην, περὶ ἣν κρημνὸς παρακείμενος τῇ λίμνῃ, ἀφʼ οὗ δείκνυται τοὺς χοιρούς ὑπὸ τῶν δαιμόνων καταβεβλῆσθαι (in Ev. Ioan., T. vi. c. 24). Prof. G. A. Smith, Historical Geography, p. 459, note, pronounces Gerasa “impossible”. But he means Gerasa in Decapolis, thirty-six miles away. He accepts Khersa, which he identifies with Gergesa, as the scene of the incident, stating that it is the only place on the east coast where the steep hills come down to the shore.


Verse 29

Matthew 8:29. ἰδοὺ ἔκραξαν: sudden, startling, unearthly cry, fitted to shock weak nerves. But not the cry of men about to make an assault. The madmen, whom all feared and shunned, were subdued by the aspect of the stranger who had arrived in the neighbourhood. To be taken as a fact, however strange and mysterious, partly explained by the fact that Jesus was not afraid of them any more than He had been of the storm. They felt His power in the very look of His eye. τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί: an appropriate speech even in the mouth of one demoniac, for he speaks in the name of the legion of devils (Mark 5:9) by which he conceives himself possessed. Identifying himself with the demons, he shrinks from the new comer with an instinctive feeling that He is a foe.— υἱὲ τοῦ θεοῦ: ἅγιος τ. θ. in the Capernaum synagogue case; strange, almost incredible divination. Yet “insanity is much nearer the kingdom of God than worldly-mindedness. There was, doubtless, something in the whole aspect and manner of Jesus which was fitted to produce almost instantaneously a deep, spiritual impression to which child-like, simple, ingenuous souls like the Galilean fishermen, sinful, yet honest-hearted men like those who met at Matthew’s feast, readily surrendered themselves. Men with shattered reason also felt the spell, while the wise and the strong-minded too often used their intellect, under the bias of passion or prejudice, to resist the force of truth. In this way we may account for the prompt recognition of Jesus by the Gadarene demoniac. All that is necessary to explain it is the Messianic hope prevalent in Gadara as elsewhere, and the sight of Jesus acting on an impressionable spirit” (Bruce, The Miraculous Element in the Gospels p. 187).— πρὸ καιροῦ: before the appointed time of judgment. The article wanting here before κ. as in other phrases in N. T., e.g., ἐν καιρῷ, Matthew 24:45.— βασανίσαι, to torment with pain in Hades, described as a place of torment in Luke 16:28, cf. Matthew 8:23.


Verse 30

Matthew 8:30. μακρὰν: the Vulgate renders non longe, as if οὐ had stood in the Greek before μακ. But there are no variants here. Mark and Luke have ἐκεῖ, which gives rise to an apparent discrepancy. Only apparent, many contend, because both expressions are relative and elastic: at a distance, yet within view; there, in that neighbourhood, but not quite at hand. Elsner refers to Luke 15:20 : μακρὰν, “et tamen in conspectu, ut, Luke 15:20 : ἔτι δὲ αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος, εἶδεν αὐτὸν πατήρ”. On ἐκεῖ he remarks: “docet in ea regione et vicinia fuisse, nec distantiam describit”. Weiss against Meyer denies the relativity of μακρὰν, and takes it as meaning “a long way off,” while visible.— βοσκομένη: far removed from ἦν, and not to be joined with it as if the feeding were the main point, and not rather the existence of the herd there. The ill attested reading βοσκομένων brings out the meaning better: a herd of swine which were feeding in the hill pastures. The swine, doubtless, belonged to Gentiles, who abounded in Peræa.


Verse 31

Matthew 8:31. οἱ δαίμονες: unusual designation, commonly δαιμόνια.— παρεκάλουν: the request was made by the possessed in the name of the demons.— ἀπόστειλον: the reading of the T. R. ( ἐπίτρεψον ἀπελθεῖν) taken from Luke expresses, in a milder form, Christ’s share of responsibility in a transaction of supposed doubtful character. The demoniac would have no scruple on that score. His request was: it you are to cast us out, send us not to hell, but into the swine.


Verse 32

Matthew 8:32. ὑπάγετε: Christ’s laconic reply, usually taken to mean: go into the swine, but not necessarily meaning more than “begone”. So Weiss, who holds that Jesus had no intention of expressing acquiescence in the demoniac’s request. (Matt. Evan. and Weiss-Meyer, “Hinweg mit euch”.)— οἱ δὲχοίρους: the entrance of the demons into the swine could not, of course, be a matter of observation, but only of inference from what followed.— ἰδοὺ, introducing a sudden, startling event— ὥρμησεν πᾶσα ἀγέλη—the mad downrush of the herd over the precipice into the lake. Assuming the full responsibility of Jesus for the catastrophe, expositors have busied themselves in inventing apologies. Euthy gives four reasons for the transaction, the fourth being that only thereby could it be conclusively shown that the devils had left the demoniacs. Rosenmüller suggests that two men are worth more than ever so many swine. The lowest depth of bathos in this line was touched by Wetstein when he suggested that, by cutting up the drowned swine, salting the meat or making smoke-dried hams (fumosas pernas), and selling them to Gentiles who did not object to eat suffocated animals, the owners would escape loss. But the learned commentator might be jesting, for he throws out the suggestion for the benefit of men whom he describes as neither Jews, Gentiles, nor Christians.


Verse 33-34

Matthew 8:33-34. The sequel. ἔφυγον: the swineherds fled. No wonder, in view of such a disaster. If the demoniacs, in the final paroxysm before return to sanity, had anything to do with bringing it about, the superstitious terror with which they were regarded would add to the panic.— ἀπήγγειλαν: they reported what had happened to their masters and to everybody they met in the town.— πάντα, what had befallen the swine.— καὶ τὰ τ. δαιμονιζομένων: they could not know the whole truth about the demoniacs. The reference must be to some visible connection between the behaviour of the madmen and the destruction of the herd. They told the story from their own point of view, not after interviewing Jesus and His company.


Verse 34

Matthew 8:34. παρεκάλεσαν: same word as in Matthew 8:31 in reference to the demoniacs. They did not order or drive Him out. They besought in terms respectful and even subdued. They were afraid of this strange man, who could do such wonderful things; and, with all due respect, they would rather. He would withdraw from their neighbourhood.

This would be an oft-told tale, in which different versions were sure to arise, wherein fact and explanation of fact would get mixed up together. The very variations in the synoptical accounts witness to its substantial historicity. The apologist’s task is easy here, as distinct from that of the harmonist, which is difficult. The essential outline of the story is this. A demoniac, alias a madman, comes from the tombs in the limestone caves to meet Jesus, exhibiting in behaviour and conversation a double consciousness. Asked his name, he calls himself Legion. In the name of the “Legion” he begs that the demons may enter the swine. Jesus orders the demons to leave their victim. Shortly after a herd of swine feeding on the hills rushed down the steep into the sea and were drowned. Tradition connected the rush of the swine with the demons leaving their former victim and entering into them. But, as already remarked, the causal connection could not be a matter of observation but only of inference. The rush might, as Weiss suggests, be caused by the man, in his final paroxysm, chasing them. But that also is matter of conjecture. The real cause of the catastrophe is a mystery. Rosenmüller suggests that at a hot season of the year one in a herd of swine might undergo a morbid seizure, begin to run wildly about, and be followed sequaciously by the whole flock. He mentions an occurrence of the kind at Erfurt, recent when he wrote. Lutteroth, no rationalist, suggests “vertigo,” permitted by Jesus to befall the swine, that the demoniac might have in their behaviour a sensible sign of deliverance, and so be rid of his fixed idea (vide his Essai D’Interp., 3eme Partie, p. 27, note). On the nature of demoniacal possession, vide my Miraculous Element in the Gospels, pp. 172–190; vide also notes on Mark.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-8.html. 1897-1910.

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