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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 28

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 28

Matthew 28:2. ἀπὸ τ. θύρας] is wanting in B D א, 60, 84, Vulg. It. Or. Dion. Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. Exegetical addition, which many witnesses have supplemented still further by adding τοῦ μνημείου (Mark 16:3).

Matthew 28:6. κύριος] is wanting, no doubt, only in B א, 33, 102, Copt. Aeth. Arm. Ar.pol. one Cod. of the It. Or.int. Chrys.; but, with Tisch., it is to be condemned. This designation is foreign to Matth., while as “gloriosa appellatio” (Bengel) it was more liable to be inserted than omitted.

Matthew 28:8. ἐξελθ.] Tisch.: ἀπελθ., following B C L א, 33, 69, 124. Correctly; the more significant reading of the Received text is derived from Mark.

Matthew 28:9. Before καὶ ἰδού the Received text inserts: ὡς δὲ ἐπορεύοντο ἀπαγγεῖλαι τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ. No Such clause is found in B D א, min. Syr. Ar.pol. Perss. Copt. Arm. Vulg. Sax. It. Or. Eus. Jer. Aug. Defended by Griesb. Matth. Fritzsche, Scholz, Bornem. (Schol. in Luc. p. xxxix.); condemned by Mill, Bengel, Gersd., Schulz, Rinck, Lachm., Tisch. There would be nothing feeble or awkward about the words if thus inserted, on the contrary, the effect would be somewhat solemn (see Bornem.); but seeing that they are wanting in witnesses so ancient and so important, and seeing that ὡς is not found in this sense anywhere else in Matth. (other grammatical grounds mentioned by Gersd. are untenable), there is reason to suspect that they are an early addition for the sake of greater precision.

Matthew 28:11. For ἀπήγγ. read, with Tisch. 8, ἀνήγγ., though only in accordance with D א, Or. Chrys. The Received reading is taken from Matthew 28:10, while ἀναγγέλλειν occurs nowhere else in Matthew.

Matthew 28:14. ἐπὶ τοῦ ἡγ.] Lachm.: ὑπὶ τοῦ ἡγ., following B D, 59, Vulg. It. But this is an explanatory correction in consequence of not catching the sense.

Matthew 28:15. Lachm. inserts ἡμέρας after σήμερον, in accordance with B D L. Correctly; as Matth. does not add ἡμέρ. in any other instance (Matthew 11:23, Matthew 27:8), it was more natural for the transcriber to omit than to insert it.

Matthew 28:17. αὐτῷ] is wanting in B D א, 33, 102, Vulg. It. Chrys. Aug. Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8. A somewhat common addition, for which other MSS. (min.) have αὐτόν .

Matthew 28:19. After πορευθ. Elz. inserts οὖν, which is bracketed by Lachm. and deleted by Matth. and Tisch. Added as a connecting particle, but wanting in very important witnesses, while other and less important ones have νῦν.


Verse 1

Matthew 28:1. On the various ways of viewing and interpreting the story of the resurrection, see, as regards their critical aspect, Keim, III. p. 527 ff.; and on the apologetic side, consult Steinmeyer, Apolog. Beitr. III. 1871.

ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων] but late on the Sabbath, means neither … after the close of the Sabbath (Olshausen, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald, Bleek), nor: after the close of the week (Severus of Antioch, Euthymius Zigabenus, Grotius, Wieseler, p. 425); for ὀψέ, sero, with a defining genitive (without which it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament) always denotes the lateness of the period thus specified and still current ( τὰ τελευταῖα τούτων, Euthymius Zigabenus). Comp. in general, Krüger, § xlvii. 10. 4; Kühner, II. 1, p. 292. Take the following as examples of this usage from classical authors: Xen. Hist. ii. 1. 14; Thuc. iv. 93. 1 : τῆς ἡμέρας ὀψέ; Dem. p. 541, ult.: ὀψὲ τῆς ὥρας ἐγίγνετο; Luc. Dem. enc. 14, and de morte Peregr. 21 : ὀψὲ τῆς ἡλικίας. Hence by: late on the Sabbath, we are not to suppose Saturday evening to be intended,—any such misunderstanding being precluded both by the nature of the expression made use of, an expression by no means synonymous with the usual ὀψίας γενομένης (in opposition to Keim), and by what is still further specified immediately after,—but far on in the Saturday night, after midnight, toward daybreak on Sunday, in conformity with the civil mode of reckoning, according to which the ordinary day was understood to extend from sunrise till sunrise again. Lightfoot, comparing the Rabbinical expression בפיקי שובא, aptly observes: “ ὀψέ totam noctem denotat.” Comp. so early a writer as Augustine, de cons. ev. 24. Consequently the point of time mentioned here is substantially identical with that given in Luke 24:1 : τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων ὄρθρου βαθέος, and in John 20:1 : τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββ. πρωῒ σκοτίας ἔτι οὔσης; while, on the other hand, Mark 16:2 represents the sun as already risen. For ὀψέ comp. Ammonius: ἑσπέρα μὲν γάρ ἐστιν μετὰ τὴν δύσιν τοῦ ἡλίου ὥρα· ὀψέ δὲ μετὰ πολὺ τῆς δύσως.

τῇ ἐπιφωσκ. εἰς μίαν σαββάτων when it was dawning toward Sunday, i.e. as the light was beginning to appear on the morning of Sunday. Understand ἡμέρα after ἐπιφωσκ.; and for ἐπιφώσκει ἡμέρα, comp. Herod, iii. 86: ἁμʼ ἡμέρῃ διαφωσκούσῃ, also Mark 9:45. The participial expression without the ἡμέρα is similar to ἐπιοῦσα, and the like (Kühner, II. 1, p. 228). Keim supposes the evening to be intended, since, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, the day began with the rising of the stars or the lighting of lamps, so that the meaning of our passage would be as follows: “In the evening after six o’clock, just when the stars were beginning to twinkle”(39) But to say nothing of the startling discrepancy that would thus arise between Matthew and the other evangelists, we would be under the necessity, according to Luke 23:54 (see on the passage), of understanding the words immediately following as simply equivalent to: τῇ μίᾳ σαββάτων ἐπιφωσκούσῃ; comp. σαββάτον ἐπιφώσκει, Ev. Nicod. 12, p. 600, Thilo’s edition. Nor, if we adopt Keim’s interpretation, is it at all clear what substantive should be understood along with τῇ ἐπιφωσκ. Ewald, Apost. Zeit. p. 82, unwarrantably supplies ἑσπέρᾳ, and, like Keim, supposes the reference to be to the evening lighting of the lamps, though he is inclined to think that Matthew intended summarily to include in his statement what the women did on Saturday evening and early on Sunday, a view which finds no support whatever in the text; as for the intention to embalm the body, there is no trace of such a thing in Matthew. Lastly, to suppose that in framing his statement as to the time here in question, the author of our revised Gospel has had recourse to a combination of Mark 16:1-2 (Weiss), is to give him but little credit for literary skill; for instead of taking the trouble to form any such combination, he had only to take Mark’s two statements and place the one after the other, thus: διαγενομένου τοῦ σαββάτου, λίαν πρωῒ τῆς ΄ιᾶς σαββάτων. But so far from that, he has proceeded in entire independence of Mark.

The expression ΄ία σαββάτων corresponds exactly to the Rabbinical mode of designating the days of the week: אחד בשבת, Sunday; שני בשבת, Monday; שלישי בשבת, Tuesday, and so on. See Lightfoot, p. 500. Observe that σάββατα denotes, in the first instance, Sabbath, and then week; and similarly, that the ἡ΄έρᾳ to be understood with ἐποφωσκ. is to be taken in the sense of day light (John 4:4; John 11:9; Romans 8:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).

ἄλλη ΄αρία] as in Matthew 27:56.

In John 20:1 only Mary Magdalene is mentioned, whereas in the Synoptists we have an amplified version of the tradition as regards the number of the women, Matthew mentioning two, Mark three (Salome), while Luke (Matthew 24:10) gives us to understand that, in addition to the two Marys and Joanna, whom he specially names, there were several others. In dealing with such discrepancies in the tradition we should beware of seeking to coerce the different narratives into harmony with one another, which can never be done without prejudice to their respective authors. We see an illustration of this in the supposition that Mary Magdalene came first of all to the grave, and then hastened back to the city to inform Peter of what had taken place, and that during her absence Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome, and the other women arrived (Olshausen, Ebrard). Comp. on John 20:1. The same thing is exemplified by the other view, that Mary Magdalene went to the grave along with the rest of the women, but that on the way back she outran the others, etc. For the various attempts to harmonize the divergent narratives, see Griesbach, Opusc. II. p. 241 ff.; Strauss, II. p. 570 ff.; Wieseler, p. 425 ff.

θεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον] to look at the grave; according to Mark and Luke, to anoint the body. This latter statement is the more original and more correct of the two, though Matthew could not consistently adopt it after what he had said about the sealing and watching of the grave.


Verse 2

Matthew 28:2. It is wrong to take the aorists in a pluperfect sense (Castalio, Kuinoel, Kern, Ebrard), or to conceive of the action of the ἦλθε as not yet completed (de Wette). Matthew represents what is here recorded as taking place in presence of the women ( ἦλθεθεωρῆσαικαὶ ἰδού), whose attention, however, had been so much occupied with the accompanying phenomena, that they did not observe (Matthew 28:5-6) the circumstance itself of our Lord’s emerging from the grave (which, besides, must have been invisible to the outward eye owing to the nature of the body He had now assumed, comp. on Matthew 28:17). The other evangelists make no mention of this (legendary) supernatural and visible rolling away of the stone; and, though differing as to the number of the angels, they agree in representing them as having appeared inside the grave. Here, if anywhere, however, amid so much that is supernatural, must we be prepared to expect divergent accounts of what took place, above all in regard to the angelic manifestations, which are matters depending on individual observation and experience (comp. on John 20:12), and not the objective perceptions of impartial and disinterested spectators.

γάρ] assigning the reason for the violent earthquake which, as a divine σημεῖον, formed an appropriate accompaniment to this miraculous angelic manifestation.

κ. ἐκαθήτο, κ. τ. λ.] as the heaven-sent guardian and interpreter of the empty tomb.


Verse 3

Matthew 28:3 f. ἰδέα αὐτοῦ] his appearance, his outward aspect, found nowhere else in the New Testament, though occurring in Daniel 1:15, 2 Maccabees 3:16, and frequently in classical authors. On the relation of this term to εἶδος, see Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 596 A, and Parmen. p. 128 E and comp. Ameis on Hom. Od. ix. 508, Appendix. The appearance of the countenance is meant; see what follows. Comp. Matthew 17:2.

ὡς ἀστραπή] not: as having the form, but as shining with the brightness of lightning. Comp. Plat. Phaedr. p. 254 B: εἶδου τὴν ὄψιν ἀστράπτουσαν. For the white raiment, comp. 2 Maccabees 11:8; Acts 1:10. The sentinels were convulsed ( ἐσείσθησαν, 3 Esdr. 4:36) with error at the sight of the angel ( αὐτοῦ), and became as powerless as though they had been dead. The circumstance of these latter being mentioned again at this point is in strict keeping with the connection of Matthew’s narrative.


Verse 5

Matthew 28:5 f. αποκριθείς] said in view of the terrifying effect which he saw was being produced upon the women by what was taking place. Comp. on Matthew 11:25.

μὴ φοβεῖσθε ὑμεῖς] ὑμεῖς is neither to be understood as a vocative (O vos!), nor to be referred to what follows (both of which Fritzsche has suggested); but, as the simplicity of the address and a due regard to the sense require, is to be taken thus: ye should not be afraid, ὑμεῖς being thus regarded as forming a contrast to the sentinels, who are paralyzed with terror. To say that no particular emphasis ever rests upon the personal pronoun (de Wette) is to say what, as regards the whole of the New Testament, is simply not the case (instance also Mark 13:9; Acts 8:24).

οἶδα γὰρ, κ. τ. λ.] Ground of the reassuring terms in which the angel addresses them; he knows the loving purpose for which they are come, and what joyful news he has to tell them!


Verse 7

Matthew 28:7. προάγει] he is in the act of going before you to Galilee; ὅτι is recitative. Bengel correctly observes: “Verba discipulis dicenda se porrigunt usque ad videbitis.” Accordingly ὑμᾶς and ὄψεσθε refer to the disciples (comp. Matthew 26:32), not to the women as well, who, in fact, saw Jesus forthwith; and see Matthew 28:10. For the meeting itself, which is here promised, see Matthew 28:16 ff.

ἐκεῖ] therefore not previously in Jerusalem or anywhere else in Judaea. Between what is here stated and the narratives of Luke and John there is a manifest and irreconcilable difference. In the Stud. u. Krit. 1869, p. 532 ff., Graf still tries in vain to make out a case in favour of assuming, as matter of course, the expiry of the festival period before the προάγει and ὄψ. Observe, moreover, the ὄψεσθε; on no earlier occasion than that of their meeting in Galilee were they to be favoured with a sight of Him.

εἶπον ὑμῖν] I have told you it, in the sense of: take this as my intimation of the fact (see on John 6:36), thus conjoining with the announcement a hint carefully to note how certainly it will be verified by the result. It is wrong, therefore, to suppose that for εἶπον we should read εἶπεν, after Mark 16:7 (Maldonatus, Michaelis), in which case some assume an error in translation (Bolten, Eichhorn, Buslav, de ling. orig. ev. M. p. 67); others, an error on the part of the transcriber (Scholten); and others, again, an erroneous use of Mark (Schneckenburger, Holtzmann). The ἰδού, εἶπον ὑμῖν is here peculiar to Matthew.


Verse 8

Matthew 28:8 ΄ετὰ φόβου, ἐφʼ οἷς εἶδον παραδόξοις· μετὰ χαρᾶς δὲ, ἐφʼ οἷς ἤκουσαν εὐαγγελίοις, Euthymius Zigabenus.

μεγάλης] applying to both substantives. For similar instances of the mingling of fear with joy (Virg. Aen. i. 514, xi. 807, al.), consult Wetstein; Köster in the Stud. u. Krit. 1862, p. 351.


Verse 9

Matthew 28:9. On seeing the strange and superhuman appearance presented by the risen Lord, the women are so filled with consternation ( μὴ φοβεῖσθε, Matthew 28:10) that they take hold of His feet in a suppliant attitude ( ἐκράτ. αὐτοῦ τ. πόδας), and testify their submission and reverence by the act of προσκύνησις. Bengel says correctly: “Jesum ante passionem alii potius alieniores adorarunt quam discipuli.”


Verse 10

Matthew 28:10. ΄ὴ φοβεῖσθε· ὑπάγετε, ἀπαγγ.] Asyndeton, the matter being pressing, urgent.

τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου] He thus designates His disciples (comp. on John 20:17; Justin, c. Tr. 106), not πρὸς τιμὴν αὐτῶν (Euthymius Zigabenus), for which there was no occasion, but in view of that conception of Him as a superhuman being which had so profoundly impressed the women prostrate at His feet.

ἵνα] does not state the purport of the order involved in ἀπαγγ. (de Wette; there is nothing whatever of the nature of an order about ἀπαγ.), but the idea is: take word to my brethren (namely, about my resurrection, about your having seen me, about my having spoken to you, and what I said), in order that (as soon as they receive these tidings from you) they may proceed to Galilee, Matthew 26:32.

κἀκεῖ με ὄψονται] is not to be regarded as dependent on ἵνα, but: and there they shall see me. This repetition of the directions about going to Galilee (Matthew 28:7), to which latter our evangelist gives considerable prominence as the scene of the new reunion (Matthew 28:16 ff.), cannot be characterized as superfluous (de Wette, Bruno Bauer), or even as poor and meaningless (Keim), betraying the hand of a later editor, but is intended to be express and emphatic; comp. Steinmeyer. With the exception of John 21, the other canonical Gospels, in which, however, we cannot include the spurious conclusion of Mark, make no mention of any appearance of the risen Lord in Galilee; according to John 20, Jesus remained at least eight days in Jerusalem, as did also His disciples, to whom He there manifested Himself on two occasions, though it would appear from John 21 that the third manifestation took place in Galilee, while Luke, on the other hand (Matthew 24:49; Acts 1:4; Acts 13:31), excludes Galilee altogether, just as Matthew excludes Judaea. To harmonize these divergent accounts is impossible (Strauss, II. p. 558 ff.; Holtzmann, p. 500 f.; Keim); and, with regard to the account of Matthew in particular, it may be observed that it is so far from assuming the manifestations to the disciples in Judaea as having previously occurred (in opposition to Augustine, Olshausen, Krabbe, Ebrard, Lange), that it clearly intends the meeting with the eleven, Matthew 28:16 ff., as the first appearance to those latter, and as the one that had been promised by the angel, Matthew 28:7, and by Jesus Himself, Matthew 28:10. From those divergent accounts, however, it may be fairly inferred that the tradition regarding the appearances of the risen Lord to His disciples assumed a threefold shape: (1) the purely Galilaean, which is that adopted by Matthew; (2) the purely Judaean, which is that of Luke, and also of John with the supplementary ch. 21 left out; (3) the combined form in which the appearances both in Galilee and Judaea are embraced, which is that of John with the supplementary chapter in question included. That Jesus appeared to the disciples both in Jerusalem and in Galilee as well might be already deduced as a legitimate historical inference from the fact of a distinct Judaean and Galilaean tradition having been current; but the matter is placed beyond a doubt by John, if, as we are entitled to assume, the apostle is to be regarded as the author of ch. 21. The next step, of course, is to regard it as an ascertained historical fact that the appearances in Judaea preceded those in Galilee; though, at the same time, it should not be forgotten that Matthew’s account is not merely vague and concise (Bleek), but that it, in fact, ignores the appearances in Judaea altogether,(40) entirely excludes them as being unsuited to the connection; comp. Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 465 f. Now, as this is inconceivable in the case of Matthew the apostle, we are bound to infer from our narrative that this is another of those passages in our Gospel which show traces of other than apostolic authorship. See Introd. § 2.

REMARK.

It is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:5 ff. that, even taking the narratives of all the evangelists together, we would have but an imperfect enumeration of the appearances of Jesus subsequent to His resurrection, Matthew’s account being the most deficient of any. With regard to the appearances themselves, modern criticism, discarding the idea that the death was only apparent (see on Matthew 27:50), has treated them partly as subjective creations, either of the intellect (Strauss, Scholten), in its efforts to reconcile the Messianic prophecies and the belief in the Messiah with the fact of His death, or of ecstatic vision (Baur, Strauss, 1864; Holsten, Ewald), and therefore as mere mental phenomena which came to be embodied in certain objective incidents. There are those again who, attributing the appearances in question to some objective influence emanating from Christ Himself, have felt constrained to regard them as real manifestations of His person in the glorified form (Schenkel) in which it emerged from out of death (not from the grave),—a view in which Weisse, Keim, Schweizer substantially concur, inasmuch as Keim, in particular, lays stress on the necessity of “such a telegram from heaven” after the extinction of Christ’s earthly nature, though he considers the question as to whether our Lord also communicated the form of the vision directly or only indirectly, as of but secondary consequence. But all these attempts to treat what has been recorded as an actual fact as though it were based merely on mental phenomena are in opposition in general to the explicit and unhesitating view of all the evangelists and apostles as well as in particular to the uniform reference to the empty grave, and no less uniform use of the expression third day, all classical testimonies which can never be silenced. If, in addition to all this, it be borne in mind that the apostles found in the resurrection of their Lord a living and unfailing source of courage and hope, and of that cheerfulness with which they bore suffering and death,—that the apostolic church generally saw in it the foundation on which its own existence was based,—that Paul, in particular, insists upon it as incontrovertible evidence for, and as an ἀπαρχή of the resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15:23; Romans 8:11), and as constituting an essential factor in man’s justification (Romans 4:25; Philippians 3:10), though he is fond of speaking of being buried and raised up with Christ as descriptive of what is essential to the moral standing of the Christian (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), and can only conceive of the glorified body of the Lord, to which those of believers will one day be conformed (Philippians 3:21), as no other than that which came forth from the grave and was taken up to heaven,—if, we say, this be borne in mind, not the shadow of an exegetical pretext will be left for construing the resurrection from the grave of one whose body was exempted from corruption (Acts 2:31; Acts 10:41) into something or other which might be more appropriately described as a resurrection from the cross, and which would therefore require us to suppose that all the apostles and the whole church from the very beginning had been the victims of a delusion. See, in answer to Keim, Schmidt in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1872, p. 413 ff. If this view of the resurrection were adopted, then, in opposition once more to New Testament authority, we should have to identify it with the ascension (comp. on Luke 24:51, Remark); while, on the other hand, it would be necessary to give up the Descensus Christi ad inferos as a second error arising out of that which has just been referred to.


Verse 11

Matthew 28:11 πορευομ. δὲ αὐτ.] but while they were going away, to convey the intelligence to the disciples, Matthew 28:10. While, therefore, the women are still on their way, the soldiers in question repair to the city and report to the high priests what had happened.


Verse 12

Matthew 28:12 ff. συναχθέντες] Change of subject. Winer, p. 586 [E. T. 787].

συμβούλ. τε λαβόντες] after consulting together, as in Matthew 12:14, Matthew 22:15, Matthew 27:1; Matthew 27:7. The conjunctive particle τε has the same force as in Matthew 27:48, and occurs nowhere else in Matthew; found so much the more frequently in Luke’s writings, especially in the Acts.

ἀργύρια] as in Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3; Matthew 27:5; Matthew 27:9. Silver pieces, a sufficient number of shekels.

εἴπατε, κ. τ. λ.] an infelix astutia (Augustine), seeing that they could not possibly know what had taken place while they were sleeping.

Matthew 28:14. ἐπὶ τοῦ ἡγεμόνος] coram procuratore. ἀκούειν is not to be understood, with the majority of expositors, merely in the sense of: to come to the ears of, which is inadmissible on account of ἐπί (for in that case Matthew would have simply written: καὶ ἐὰν ἀκούσῃ τοῦτο ἡγ, or used the passive with the dative), but in the judicial sense (John 7:51; Xen. Cyrop. i. 2. 14, and frequently): if this comes to be inquired into, if an investigation into this matter should take place before the procurator. Erasmus: “si res apud illum judicem agatur.” Comp. Vatablus and Bleek.

ἡμεῖς] with a self-important emphasis. Comp. ὑμᾶς in the next clause.

πείσομεν αὐτόν] we will persuade him, i.e. satisfy, appease him (see on Galatians 1:10), in order, that is, that he may not punish you; see what follows.

ἀμερίμνους] free from all concern (1 Corinthians 7:32), and, in the present instance, in the objective sense: free from danger and all unpleasant consequences (Herodian, ii. 4. 3).

Matthew 28:15. ὡς ἐδιδάχθ.] as they had been instructed, Herod. iii. 134.

λόγος οὗτος] not: “the whole narrative” (Paulus), but, as the context requires (Matthew 28:13), this story of the alleged stealing of the body. The industrious circulation of this falsehood is also mentioned by Justin, c. Tr. xvii. 108. For an abominable expansion of it, as quoted from the Toledoth Jeschu, see Eisenmenger’s entdeckt. Judenth. I. p. 190 ff. For σήμερον ἡμέρα, see Lobeck, Paral. p. 534.


Verse 16

Matthew 28:16 The eleven disciples, in accordance with the directions given them, Matthew 28:10, proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain, etc.

οὗ ἐτάξατο, κ. τ. λ.] an additional particular as to the locality in question, which the women received, Matthew 28:10, and had subsequently communicated to the disciples. The οὗ, ubi, is to be regarded as also including the preceding whither (to go and abide there), Luke 10:1; Luke 22:10; Luke 24:28; Winer, p. 439 f. [E. T. 592]; Kühner, II. 1, p. 473.


Verse 17

Matthew 28:17 ἰδόντες, κ. τ. λ.] According to the account now before us, evidently the first occasion of meeting again since the resurrection, and the first impression produced by it—corresponding to the ὄψεσθε of Matthew 28:7; Matthew 28:10. See, besides, on Matthew 28:10.

οἱ δὲ ἐδίστασαν] It was previously said in a general way that the eleven fell prostrate before Him, though all did not do so: some doubted whether He, whom they saw before them, could really be Jesus. This particular is added by means of οἱ δέ, which, however, is not preceded by a corresponding οἱ μέν before προσεκύνησαν, because this latter applied to the majority, whereas the doubters, who did not prostrate themselves, were only the exception. Had Matthew’s words been: οἱ μὲν προσεκύνησαν, οἱ δὲ ἐδίστασαν, he would thus have represented the eleven as divided into two co-ordinate parts, into as nearly as possible two halves, and so have stated something different from what was intended. This is a case precisely similar to that of the οἱ δὲ ἐῤῥάπισαν of Matthew 26:67, where, in like manner, the preceding ἐκολάφισαν αὐτόν (without οἱ μέν) represents what was done by the majority. “Quibus in locis primum universa res ponitur, deinde partitio nascitur, quae ostendit, priora quoque verba non de universa causa jam accipi posse,” Klotz, ad Devar. p. 358. Comp. Xen. Hell. i. 2. 14 : ᾤχοντο ἐς δεκέλειαν, οἱ δʼ ἐς ΄έγαρα; Cyrop. iv. 5. 46: ὁρᾶτε ἵππους, ὅσοι ἡμῖν πάρεισιν, οἱ δὲ προσάγονται, and the passages in Pflugk, ad Eur. Hec. 1160; Kühner, II. 2, p. 808. According to Fritzsche, a preceding οἱ μὲν οὐκ ἐδίστασαν should be understood. This, however, is purely arbitrary, for the ἐδίστασαν has its appropriate correlative already in the preceding προσεκύνησαν. Again, as matter of course, we must not think of predicating the προσεκύνησαν of the doubters as well, which would be psychologically absurd (only after his doubts were overcome, did Thomas exclaim: κυριός μου κ. θεός μου!). Fritzsche (comp. Theophylact, Grotius, and Markland in Eur. Suppl. p. 326) attempts to obviate this objection by understanding ἐδίστασαν in a pluperfect sense (they had doubted before they saw Jesus); an expedient, however, of the same arbitrary nature as before (comp. on John 18:24), and such as no reader of our passage (with προσεκύνησαν before him) would have suspected to be at all necessary. Others, in spite of the plain and explicit statements of Matthew, and in order to free the eleven from the imputation of doubt, have here turned to account the five hundred brethren, 1 Corinthians 15:6 (Calovius, Michaelis, Ebrard, Lange), or the seventy disciples (Kuinoel), and attributed the ἐδίστασαν to certain of these! Others, again, have resorted to conjecture; Beza, for example, thinks that for οἱ δέ we might read οὐδέ; Bornemann, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 126 (comp. Schleusner), suggests: οἱ δὲ διέστασαν (some fell prostrate, the others started back from each other with astonishment). The doubting itself on the part of the disciples (comp. Luke 24:31; Luke 24:37; Luke 24:41; John 20:19; John 20:26) is not to be explained by the supposition of an already glorified state of the body (following the Fathers, Olshausen, Glöckler, Krabbe, Kühn, wie ging Chr. durch d. Grabes Thür? 1838; comp. Kinkel’s unscriptural idea of a repeated ascension to heaven, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1841, p. 597 ff.), for after His resurrection Christ still retained His material bodily organism, as the evangelists are at some pains to remind us (Luke 24:39-43; John 20:20; John 20:27; John 21:5; comp. also Acts 1:21 f., Matthew 10:41). At the same time, it is not enough to appeal to the fact that “nothing that was subject to death any longer adhered to the living One” (Hase), but, in accordance with the evangelic accounts of the appearing and sudden vanishing of the risen Lord, and of the whole relation in which He stood to His disciples and His disciples to Him, we must assume some change in the bodily organism and outward aspect of Jesus, a mysterious transformation of His whole person, an intermediate phase of existence between the bodily nature as formerly existing and the glorified state into which He passed at the moment of the ascension,—a phase of existence, however, of which it is impossible for us to form any distinct conception, for this is a case where analogy and experience alike fail us. His body did not retain, as did those of Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Nain, and Lazarus, exactly the same essential nature as belonged to it before death, but still it was not as yet the σῶμα τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ (Philippians 3:21), though it was certainly immortal, a fact which of itself would necessarily involve the very essential change which came over it; comp. also Bleek.


Verse 18

Matthew 28:18.(41) προσελθών] From feelings of modesty and reverence, the eleven had not ventured to go quite close to Him.

ἐδόθη] with all the emphasis of the conviction that He was triumphant at last: was given to me, etc., was practically given, that is, when the Father awoke me out of death. Thereby His state of humiliation came to an end, and the resurrection was the turning-point at which Christ entered into the heavenly glory, in which He is to reign as κύριος πάντων till the time of the final surrender of His sway into the hands of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28). It is true, no doubt, that when first sent forth by God He was invested with the ἐξουσία over all things (Matthew 11:27; John 13:3); but in His state of κένωσις it would, of necessity, come to be limited by the conditions of that human life into which He had descended. With His resurrection, however, this limitation was removed, and His ἐξουσία fully and absolutely restored, so that He once more came into complete possession of His premundane δόξα (John 17:5; Luke 24:26; Philippians 2:9 f.; Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:20 ff; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25 ff.), the δόξα in which He had existed as the λόγος ἄσαρκος, and to which He was again exalted as the glorified Son of man. Comp. on John 1:14.

πᾶσα ἐξουσία] all authority, nothing being excepted either in heaven or earth which can be referred to the category of ἐξουσία. Some, unwarrantably interpreting in a rationalistic sense, have understood this to mean the “potestas animis hominum per doctrinam imperandi” (Kuinoel),—or, as Keim expresses it, the handing over to Him of all spirits to be His instruments in carrying out His purposes in the world,—or absolute power to make all necessary arrangements for the establishment of the Messianic theocracy (Paulus), or power over the whole world of humanity with a view to its redemption (Volkmar), and such like. What is really meant, however, is the munus regium of Christ, free from all limitation, without, however, compromising in any way the absolute supremacy of the Father; John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 15:27; 1 Corinthians 11:3.


Verse 19

Matthew 28:19 The οὖν of the Received text (see the critical remarks) is a gloss correctly representing the connection of the thoughts. The fact stated in Matthew 28:18 is itself the reason why all nations should be brought under His government, and made subject to His sway by means of the μαθητεύειν, etc.

μαθητεύσατε] make them my μαθηταί (John 4:1); comp. Matthew 13:52; Acts 14:21. This transitive use of the verb is not met with in classical Greek. Observe how here every one who becomes a believer is conceived of as standing to Christ in the personal relation of a μαθητής, in accordance with which view the term came to be applied to Christians generally.

πάντα τὰ ἔθνη] all nations without exception, Matthew 25:32, Matthew 24:14, Matthew 26:13. With these words—and this is the new feature in the present instructions—the previous prohibition, Matthew 10:5, was cancelled, and the apostolic mission declared to be a mission to the whole world. On this occasion Jesus makes no mention of any particular condition on which Gentiles were to be admitted into the church, says nothing about whether it was or was not necessary that they should in the first instance become Jewish proselytes (Acts 15:1; Galatians 2:1), though He certainly meant that it was not necessary; and hence, because of this omission, the difficulty which the apostles had at first about directly and unconditionally admitting the Gentiles. If this latter circumstance had been borne in mind, it could hardly have been asserted, as it has been, that the special revelation from heaven, for the purpose of removing the scruples in question, Acts 10, tells against the authenticity of the commission recorded in our passage (in answer to Credner, Einleit. I. p. 203; Strauss, Keim).

βαπτίζοντες, κ. τ. λ.] in which the μαθητεύειν is to be consummated, not something that must be done after the μαθητεύσατε (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 164; comp. also, on the other hand, Theod. Schott, p. 18), as though our passage ran thus, μαθητεύσαντεςβαπτίζετε. Besides, that the phrase βαπτίζοντες κ. τ. λ. did not require in every case the performance of the ceremony by the apostles themselves, was distinctly manifest to them in the discharge of their functions even from the first (Acts 2:41). Comp. also 1 Corinthians 1:17.

βαπτίζειν εἰς] means to baptize with reference to. The particular object to which the baptism has reference is to be gathered from the context. See on Romans 6:3, and thereon Fritzsche, I. p. 359; comp. also on 1 Corinthians 10:2. Here, where the βαπτίζειν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα is regarded as that through which the μαθητεύειν is operated, and through which, accordingly, the introduction into spiritual fellowship with, and ethical dependence upon Christ is brought about, it must be understood as denoting that by baptism the believer passes into that new phase of life in which he accepts the name of the Father (of Christ) and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as the sum of his creed and confession, τὸ ὄνομα, because it is precisely the name of him who is confessed that expresses his whole specific relation considered by itself, and with reference to him who confesses, and accordingly the three names, “Father, Son, and Spirit,” are to be understood as expressing the sum-total of the distinctive confession which the individual to be baptized is to accept as his both now and for all time coming.(42) Consequently the Corinthians were not baptized εἰς τὸ ὄνομα παύλου (1 Corinthians 1:13), because it was not the name “Paul,” but the name “Christ,” that was to constitute the sum of their creed and their confession. For a similar reason, when the Samaritans circumcised, they did so לשם הל גדיזים (see Schöttgen on the passage), because the name “Gerizim” represented the specific point in their distintive creed and confession (their shibboleth). The dedication of the believer to the Father, etc., is of course to be regarded as practically taking place in the course of the βαπτίζειν εἰς τὸ ὄνο΄α κ. τ. λ.; for though this is not directly intimated by the words themselves (in opposition to Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 163; Thomasius, Chr. Pers. u. Werk, III. 2, p. 12), it is implied in the act of baptism, and could have been expressed by the simple use of εἰς (without τὸ ὄνο΄α), as in 1 Corinthians 10:2; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27. Further, εἰς τὸ ὄνο΄α is not to be taken as equivalent to εἰς τὸ ὀνο΄άζειν (Francke in the Sächs. Stud. 1846, p. 11 ff.), as though the meaning of the baptism consisted merely in calling God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Spirit the Holy Spirit. Such a view certainly could not apply in the last-mentioned case, for, like Father and Son, τὸ πνεῦ΄α ἅγιον must be understood to be a specifically Christian designation of the Spirit, τὸ ὄνο΄α is rather intended to indicate the essential nature of the Persons or Beings to whom the baptism has reference, that nature being revealed in the gospel, then expressed in the name of each Person respectively, and finally made the subject of the Christian’s confession and creed. Finally, in opposition to the utterly erroneous view of Bindseil (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1832, p. 410 ff.), that βαπτίζειν εἰς τὸ ὄνο΄α means: to lead to the adoption of the name through baptism, i.e. to get the person who is to be baptized to call himself after the particular name or names in question, see Fritzsche as above. But as for the view of Weisse (Evangelienfr. p. 186 f.) and of Volkmar, p. 629, as well, that Christ’s commission to baptize is entirely unhistorical, it is only of a piece with their denial of the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus. Ewald, too (Gesch. d. Apost. Zeit. p. 180), is disposed to trace the origin of the commission to the inner world of a later apostolic consciousness.

It is a mistake to speak of our passage as the formula of baptism;(43) for Jesus is not to be understood as merely repeating the words that were to be employed on baptismal occasions (and accordingly no trace of any such use of the words is found in the apostolic age; comp. on the contrary, the simple expression: βαπτίζειν εἰς χριστόν, Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; βαπτίζειν εἰς τὸ ὄνο΄α, χ., Acts 8:16, and ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνό΄. χ., Acts 2:38), but as indicating the particular aim and meaning of the act of baptism. See Reiche, de baptism, orig., etc., 1816, p. 141 ff. The formula of baptism (for it was so styled as early as the time of Tertullian, de bapt. 13), which in its strictly literal sense has no bearing whatever upon the essence of the sacrament (Höfling, I. p. 40 ff.), was constructed out of the words of the text at a subsequent period (see already Justin, Ap. 1:61), as was also the case, at a still later period, with regard to the baptismal confession of the three articles (see Köllner, Symbol. d. Luth. K. p. 14 ff.). There is therefore nothing here to justify those who question the genuineness of our passage (Teller, Exc. 2, ad Burnet de fide et officiis Christianorum, 1786, p. 262; see, on the other hand, Beckhaus, Aechth. d. s. g. Taufformel, 1794), or those who of late have doubted its originality, at least in the form in which it has come down to us (Strauss, Bruno Bauer, de Wette, Wittichen in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1862, p. 336; Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, Scholten, Keim), and that because, forsooth, they have professed to see in it a ὕστερον πρότερον. Exception has been taken, again, partly to the πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, though it is just in these words that we find the broader and more comprehensive spirit that characterized, as might be expected, our Lord’s farewell commission, and partly to the “studied summary” (de Wette) of the New Testament doctrine of the Trinity. But surely if there was one time more than another when careful reflection was called for, it was now, when, in the course of this calm and solemn address, the risen Redeemer was endeavouring to seize the whole essence of the Christian faith in its three great leading elements as represented by the three substantially co-equal persons of the Godhead with a view to its being adopted as a constant ση΄εῖον to be used by the disciples when they went forth to proclaim the gospel (Chrysostom: πᾶσαν σύντο΄ον διδασκαλίαν ἐγχεὶρησας τὴν διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσ΄ατος). The conjecture put forward by Keim, III. p. 286 f., that Jesus instituted baptism—though without any specific reference to all nations—on the night of the last supper, to serve the purpose of a second visible sign of His continued fellowship with the church after His departure from the world, is inadmissible, because there is no trace of this in the text, and because, had such a contemporaneous institution of the two sacraments taken place, it would have made so deep an impression that it could never have been forgotten, to say nothing of the impossibility of reconciling such a view with John 4:1 f.


Verse 20

Matthew 28:20 διδάσκοντες αὐτούς, κ. τ. λ.] without being conjoined by καί, therefore not co-ordinate with, but subordinate to the βαπτίζοντες, intimating that a certain ethical teaching must necessarily accompany in every case the administration of baptism: while ye teach them to observe everything, etc. This moral instruction must not be omittedFN(44) when you baptize, but it must be regarded as an essential part of the ordinance. That being the case, infant baptism cannot possibly have been contemplated in βαπτίζ, nor, of course, in πάντα τ. ἔθνη either.

καὶ ἰδοὺ, κ. τ. λ.] Encouragement to execute the commission entrusted to them, Matthew 28:19.

ἐγώ] with strong emphasis: I who am invested with that high ἐξουσία to which I have just referred.

μεθʼ ὑμῶν εἰμι] namely, through the working of that power which has been committed to me, Matthew 28:18, and with which I will continue to protect, support, strengthen you, etc. Comp. Acts 18:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. The ὑμεῖς are the disciples to whom the Lord is speaking, not the church; the present tense (not ἔσομαι) points to the fact of His having now entered, and that permanently, into His estate of exaltation. The promised help itself, however, is that vouchsafed by the glorified Redeemer in order to the carrying out of His own work (Philippians 3:21; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:9), imparted through the medium of the Spirit (John 14-16), which is regarded as the Spirit of Christ (see on Romans 8:9), and sometimes manifesting itself also in signs and wonders (Mark 16:20; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:14), in visions and revelations (2 Corinthians 12:1; Acts 12:17). But in connection with this matter (comp. on Matthew 18:20) we must discard entirely the unscriptural idea of a substantial ubiquity (in opposition to Luther, Calovius, Philippi). Beza well observes: “Ut qui corpore est absens, virtute tamen sit totus praesentissimus.”

πάσας τ. ἡμέρ.] all the days that were still to elapse ἕως τ. συντελ. τοῦ αἰῶνος, i.e. until the close of the current age (see on Matthew 24:3), which would be coincident with the second advent, and after the gospel had been proclaimed throughout the whole world (Matthew 24:14); “continua praesentia,” Bengel.

REMARK 1.

According to John 21:14, the Lord’s appearance at the sea of Tiberias, John 21, which Matthew not only omits, but which he does not seem to have been aware of (see on Matthew 28:10), must have preceded that referred to in our passage.

REMARK 2.

Matthew makes no mention of the return of Jesus and His disciples to Judaea, or of the ascension from the Mount of Olives; he follows a tradition in which those two facts had not yet found a place, just as they appear to have been likewise omitted in the lost conclusion of Mark; then it so happened that the apostolic λόγια terminated with our Lord's parting address, Matthew 28:19 f. We must beware of imputing to the evangelist any subjective motive for making no mention of any other appearance but that which took place on the mountain in Galilee; for had he omitted and recorded events in this arbitrary fashion, and merely as he thought fit, and that, too, when dealing with the sublimest and most marvellous portion of the gospel narrative, he would have been acting a most unjustifiable part, and only ruining his own credit for historical fidelity. By the apostles the ascension, the actual bodily mounting up into heaven, was regarded as a fact about which there could not be any possible doubt, and without- which they would have felt the second advent to be simply inconceivable (Philippians 2:9; Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Peter 3:22; John 20:17), and accordingly it is presupposed in the concluding words of our Gospel; but the embodying of it in an outward incident, supposed to have occurred in presence of the apostles, is to be attributed to a tradition which Luke, it is true, has adopted (as regards the author of the appendix to Mark, see on Mark 16:19 f.), but which has been rejected by our evangelist and John, notwithstanding that in any case this latter would have been an eyewitness. But yet the fact itself that the Lord, shortly after His resurrection, ascended into heaven, and that not merely in spirit (which, and that in entire opposition to Scripture, would either exclude the resurrection of the actual body, or presuppose a second death), but in the body as perfectly transformed and glorified at the moment of the ascension, is one of the truths of which we are also fully convinced, confirmed as it is by the whole New Testament, and furnishing, as it does, an indispensable basis for anything like certainty in regard to Christian eschatology. On the ascension, see Luke 24:51, Rem.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 28:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-28.html. 1832.

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