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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 17



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Verse 1

Matthew 17:1. ἡμέρας ἓξ, Six days) St Luke says, ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ, as it were, about, eight days; enumerating the days both of the word and the deed. This definition of time intimates some connection with what has just preceded. The teaching concerning the Son of God, and His departure, or Passion, was confirmed by the Transfiguration.— παραλαμβάνει, taketh with Him) Our Lord knew what was about to happen on the Mount.— ἰησοῦς, Jesus) As the name of Jesus is introduced here to indicate the commencement of a new portion of the Gospel history, it is clear that the declaration in ch. Matthew 16:28 does not refer exclusively to the Transfiguration.— τὸν πέτρον καὶ ἰάκωβον καὶ ἰωάννην, τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, Peter and James, and John his brother) St Matthew candidly relates those circumstances also in which other apostles were preferred to himself. The writings of Peter and John, who were present on the occasion, are extant: the former mentions this event in his second epistle (2 Peter 1:17-18): the latter takes it for granted,(776) as a thing well known, and attested by sufficient evidence. Cf. on the choice of the three apostles here selected, ch. Matthew 26:37.— ὅρος a mountain) The name of the mountain is not mentioned, and thereby superstition is prevented. Several very remarkable divine manifestations have been made on mountains; see Acts 7:30; Acts 7:38. The opinion which regards Tabor as the scene of the transfiguration is specious. See Jeremiah 46:18.

Verse 2

Matthew 17:2. ΄ετεμορφώθη, was transfigured) This verb implies that our Lord had always possessed the glory within Himself. The force of the verb μετασχηματίζεσθαι is different, as in Philippians 3:21 and 2 Corinthians 11:14; cf. also the distinction between μορφὴ and σχῆμα, in Philippians 2:6-8.(777)φῶς light,) inferior to that of the sun;(778) for His garments diluted the splendour of His body.

΄ορφὴ, forma, according to Beng. l. c., expresses something absolute. σκῆμα, habitus, refers to the aspect and feeling (refertur ad aspectum et sensum). I think as habitus is from habeo, so σχῆμα from ἔχω, σχῶ; and therefore σκῆμα is the whole external condition of man, as seen in his form ( μορφὴ), gesture, and gait,—the bearing and state of a man.—ED.

Verse 3

Matthew 17:3. ὤφθησαν, appeared) sc. with their bodies.— ΄ωσῆς καὶ ἡλίας, Moses and Elias) The departure of each of them from this world had been singular: each of them was remarkable for revelations vouchsafed to him on Mount Sinai and Horeb. Both of them are mentioned together in Malachi 4:4-5. It is probable that Moses was raised to life immediately on his death and burial, so that he was not dead whilst Elias was living in heaven: he certainly, after his decease, entered the land of promise, in which this holy mountain was situated. And yet Christ, not Moses, is the ἀπαρχὴ, the primitiæ, the first-fruits. The resuscitation of Moses does not confer life upon others; that of Christ does. This appearance, however, of Moses alive from the dead, is full of mystery. Who will venture to assert that he had already obtained immortality ( ἀθανασία), and did not receive any advancement in bliss ( βελτίωσις) after the resurrection of Christ?(779) Oh, how many things there are in the world of glory above our comprehension! If this appearance of Moses and Elias were not mentioned in the canonical Scriptures, although attested by other sufficient witnesses, who would not consider it as a fable?— μετʼ αὐτοῦ συλλαλοῦντες, conversing with Him) There is no pleonasm.(780) Each of them conversed with Jesus. A conversation of the highest importance (colloquium maximum). Moses stood at the end of the first dispensation,(781) Elias, in the middle of the middle dispensation; Jesus, on the threshold of the last. They bear witness to the true Messiah, and to Him only.— ΄ετʼ αὐτοῦ, with Him) They conversed with Him only, not with the three apostles.

Verse 4

Matthew 17:4. καλὸν, good) the Hebrew טוב in the first chapter of Genesis.— εἶναι, to be) i.e. to remain. Nay, something very different— καλὸν ἦν, was good [“expedient for them”]; see John 16:7. There was no need of tabernacles for standing (see Luke 9:32), nor for a single night (see ibid. 37.)(782)εἰ θέλεις, if Thou wilt) A good and necessary condition.— τρεῖς, three) not six. The apostles wished to be with Jesus.— ΄ωσῇ, κ. τ. λ., for Moses, etc.) Peter knew Moses and Elias in that light.

Verse 5

Matthew 17:5. ἔτι, yet) with but little delay.— λαλοῦντος, speaking) His speech had clearly not been suitable.— ἰδοὺἰδοὺ, behold! behold!) Matters of great moment, one of the greatest revelations.— νεφέλη, a cloud) Human nature cannot bear the glory of God without admixture or interposition. Strong medicine is diluted with fluid. Sleep must be added; see Luke 9:32. Moses and Elias, however, were permitted to enter the cloud (ibid. 34): a great admission! The Divine majesty is frequently conspicuous in clouds.— αὐτοὺς, them) sc. the disciples; see Luke 9:34.— φωνὴ, a voice) A voice came from heaven, firstly, ch. Matthew 3:17; secondly, at this central period; thirdly, and lastly, a little before our Lord’s Passion, John 12:28. After each of these voices from heaven, fresh virtue shone forth in Jesus, fresh ardour and fresh sweetness in His discourses and actions, fresh progress.— οὗτός ἐστιν, κ. τ. λ., This is, etc.) This speech has three divisions, which regard the Psalms, the Prophets, and Moses, from which they are derived(783).— αὐτοῦ, Him) In contradistinction to Moses and Elias. This command, hear Him, was not uttered at His baptism; see Matthew 3:17.— ἀκούετε, hear) It is the business of wayfarers rather to hear and publish what they have heard, than to see as Peter wished to do. The Father sanctioned all things which the Son had said of Himself as the Son of God; and what He was about to say even more fully, especially concerning the Cross. For the Father on this occasion bore witness Himself expressly concerning Him as His Son: concerning the Cross, His Son was to be heard more and more.

And not long before his decease, Peter, in his Second Epistle, appealed to this very testimony which declared Jesus’ glory.—V. g.

Verse 7

Matthew 17:7. ἥψατο, touched) They were prostrated by what they saw and heard; they were raised again by His familiar and efficacious touch.— μὴ φοβεῖσθε cease to fear.

Verse 8

Matthew 17:8. ἰησοῦν μόνον, Jesus alone) Hence it is evident that He is the Son, who is to be heard, not Moses, nor Elias.

Verse 9

Matthew 17:9. ΄ηδενὶ, to no one) not even to their fellow-disciples.— ἕως οὗ, κ. τ. λ.,. until, etc.) After His resurrection they did mention it; see 2 Peter 1:18. St Matthew also recorded it, although he had not been present.— ἀναδτῇ, have risen) The glory of the resurrection rendered this previous manifestation more credible.

Verse 10

Matthew 17:10. τί οὖν, κ. τ. λ., how then, etc.) To the mention of His death they oppose the restitution of all things by Elias, whom (see 17:31) they suppose to have come; and they think that this fact ought not to be concealed, but, on the contrary, published for the promotion of the faith, that the event may be recognised as already corresponding to the expectation of the Scribes.— πρῶτον, first) sc. before the Messiah’s kingdom.

Verse 11

Matthew 17:11. ἔρχεται, cometh) The present tense, midway between prediction and fulfilment; and the ministry of John was efficacious also after his death.— ἀποκαταστήσει, shall restore) The same verb is used by the LXX. in Mal. 3:24 [Matthew 4:6]. And this office of restoring all things furnishes a proof that the prophecy concerning Elias did not refer to his brief appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration.— πάντα, all things) sc. regarding parents and children, i.e. seminally;(784) see John 10:40-41, and Acts 19:3.

Verse 12

Matthew 17:12. δὲ, but) He teaches that there is not only no inconsistency, but also an actual congruity, between the coming; of Elias and the death of the Messiah.— οὐκ ἐπέγνωσαν αὐτὸν, they knew him not) although Jesus (Matthew 11:14) had openly told it them.(785)ὅσα ἐθέλησαν, whatsoever they listed(786)) The death of John is not ascribed to Herod alone; cf. Gnomon on ch. Matthew 14:9. Jesus asserts that Elias has come in the person of John the Baptist; John denies it; both truly, if you compare these apparently conflicting statements with the questions to which they were replies. The Jews asked John, whether he were Elias (cf. ch. Matthew 27:49)—he, that is to say, who was to come before the second advent, or great and terrible day of the Lord. John therefore replies in the negative. The disciples, comparing the opinion of the Scribes with the discourses of Christ, and endeavouring to reconcile them together, fancied that Elijah the Tishbite would come before the first advent; therefore Jesus replies, that he(787) has already come in the person of John the Baptist.(788)

Verse 14

Matthew 17:14. καὶ ἐλθόντων αὐτῶν, κ. τ. λ., and when they were come, etc.) A very different scene is here opened to view from that which Peter had wished for in Matthew 17:4.—Whilst Moses was on the mountain, the people transgressed; see Exodus 32:1; whilst Jesus was on the mountain, matters did not proceed very well with the people.

Verse 15

Matthew 17:15. ἐλέησόν μου τὸν υἱὸν, have mercy on my son) The lunatic might have said, in the words of David (see Psalms 25:16 [Psalms 25:16]), both in the Hebrew original and S. V.:(789)Have mercy upon me, for I am an only son.” And this his father repeats.— τὸ πῦρτὸ ὕδωρ, THE fire—THE water) The article implies that the nature of these elements universally(790) is intended: because the lunatic is more liable to fall into the paroxysm when near fire or water: but in Mark 9:22 (see Gnomon) fires and waters are mentioned, and that indefinitely, without the article.

In Mark 9:22, fire and water are not used in the general sense as here (Oft-times he falleth into a paroxysm, wherever fire is and wherever water is,”—this is the effect which these elements produce on him): but of particular fires and waters. Though the sing. τὸ πῦρ is used there, it stands for the plural, as the accompanying ὕδατα show: also the article τὸ gives the same force, as there is no plur. of πῦρ else τὰ πῦρα would be found. However, BCD abcd reject the τὸ there; but A supports it.—ED.

Verse 16

Matthew 17:16. οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν, were not able) It was a disgrace for the disciples to be accused from another quarter. Observe the candour of St Matthew’s confession, implicating himself in this charge. It is wonderful that the devil did not injure the disciples; cf. Acts 19:16.

Verse 17

Matthew 17:17. ἄπιστος, κ. τ. λ.,, faithless, etc.) By a severe rebuke the disciples are reckoned as a part of the multitude.— ἕως πότε, how long) After Jesus had received an accession of strength on the Mount, a more grievous instance of human unbelief and misery demanded and obtained His succour; cf. Exodus 32:19.(791)ἔσομαι, κ. τ. λ., shall I be, etc.) He was in haste to return to the Father; yet He knew that He could not effect His departure until He had conducted His disciples to a state of faith. Their slowness was painful to Him; see John 14:9; John 16:31.— μεθʼ ὑμῶν, with you) Jesus was not of this world.— ἀνέξομαι, shall I suffer) An instance of Metonymia Consequentis.(792) The life of Jesus was a continued act of toleration.

Here, the substitution of the consequent for the antecedent. Jesus puts His toleration of them (the consequent) instead of His sojourning with them (the antecedent of the former).—ED.

Verse 18

Matthew 17:18. ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ, He rebuked it) as an enemy.— αὐτῷ, it) sc. the devil.— αὐτοῦ, of him) sc. the child.

Verse 19

Matthew 17:19.(793) καὶ εἶπον, κ. τ. λ., and said, etc.) A salutary submission, and enquiry as to the cause.— διατὶοὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν, why—were we unable?) They had been already in the habit of performing the miracle in question; see ch. Matthew 10:1.

Verse 20

Matthew 17:20. ἀπιστίαν, unbelief) in this case.— πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, faith as a grain of mustard seed) contrasted with a huge mountain. This faith is contrasted with a strong faith, and one stimulated by prayer and fasting [see Matthew 17:21]. From this it is clear, that the transportation of a mountain is a less miracle than the ejection of a devil of the kind mentioned in the text; for the devil clings more closely to a man spiritually, than the mountain to its roots physically; and faith, even the smallest, is more powerful than the fixture of a mountain. You will say, “Why then is that miracle less frequent (than the other)?” Answer. It has nevertheless been performed sometimes; but it is not necessary that it should be performed frequently, although the opulence of faith reaches thus far. A mountain is naturally by creation in its proper place: a devil is not so when possessing a man: wherefore it is more beneficial that the latter should be cast out, than that the former should be removed; cf. on faith, Mark 11:22-24; Mark 16:17; John 14:12-13.— ἐρεῖτε, ye shall say) i.e. ye are able to say—ye have the power of saying. This is said especially to the apostles; for all have not the gift of miracles.— τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, to this mountain) sc. that mentioned in Matthew 17:1; see also ch. Matthew 21:21. Examples of such miracles are not wanting in the history of the Church; see one of them in Note to the Panegyric on Gregory Thaumaturgus,(794) pp. 127, 128; see also Le Fevre’s Commentary, f. 78.— ἐκεῖ, there) Ye shall be able also to assign a place to a mountain.— οὐδὲν, nothing) not even if the sun is to be staid in his course.

Verse 21

Matthew 17:21. τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος, κ. τ. λ., but this kind, etc.) Our Lord does not in this passage speak of the whole race of devils, but of this particular kind or class of them; from whence it appears that there are more than one kind of devils. The disciples had before this cast out devils even without prayer and fasting;(795) but this kind of devils has a disposition especially opposed to, and reducible by, prayer and fasting. The disciples were not accustomed to fasting (see ch. Matthew 9:14); and they appear to have been somewhat sell-indulgent (sobrietatem … minus servare) during their Lord’s absence.

Verse 22

Matthew 17:22. (796) ΄έλλειπαραδίδοσθαι, shall be betrayedεἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων, into the hands of men) What a grievous condition! Thus was He delivered up who exhibited such great authority in Matthew 17:18.

Verse 24

Matthew 17:24. καπερναοὺμ, Capernaum) where Jesus dwelt.(797)τα δίδραχμα, the didrachms)(798) the Hebrew שקל, shekel, is frequently rendered διδραχμον by the LXX.— οἱ λαμβάνοντες, they that received) sc. for the Temple.(799)

Verse 25

Matthew 17:25. ναὶ, yes) It is clear therefore that our Lord had paid it the previous year.(800)ὅτε εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν οἰκιαν, when he was come into the house) for that very purpose.— προέφθασεν, prevented, anticipated) Peter was wishing to ask [when Jesus anticipated him]. The whole of this circumstance wonderfully confirmed the faith of Peter. Our Lord’s majesty shines forth in the very act of submission.— σίμων, Simon) An address as it were domestic and familiar.(801)τέλη κῆνσον, custom or tribute, lat. vectigadia aut censum) i.e. land-tax and poll-tax.— ἀλλοτρίων, strangers) subjects who are not sons.

Verse 26

Matthew 17:26. ἐλεύθεροι, free) The argument is as follows: Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 17:5), and the heir of all things; but the Temple, for the sake of which the didrachms are paid, is the house of God: it behoved Jesus, on paying the didrachm, to do so under protest. They who received the tribute were not capable of comprehending (non capiebant) the protest, therefore it is addressed to Peter. They who pertain to Jesus, possess also the right of Jesus.

Verse 27

Matthew 17:27. ἵνα δὲ μὴ σκανδαλίσωμεν αὐτοὺς, But lest we should offend them) Our Lord even performed a miracle to avoid giving offence; cf. ch. Matthew 18:6-7.— αὐτοὺς, them) who were ignorant of our Lord’s claims. Men who are occupied in worldly affairs, most easily take offence at the saints when money is in question.— τὸν ἀναβάντα πρῶτον, that first cometh up) A manifold miracle of omniscience and omnipotence: 1. That something should be caught; 2, and that quickly; 3, that there should be money in a fish; 4, and that in the first fish; 5, that the sum should be just so much as was needed; 6, that it should be in the fish’s mouth. Therefore the fish was commanded to bring a stater, or four-drachm coin, that very moment from the bottom of the sea.— ἀντὶ ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ, for Me and thee) A pair of great disparity; for what was Peter compared to the greatness of Jesus? Peter had a family of his own; the other disciples(802) were the family of Jesus (cf. Gnomon on Matthew 8:14); therefore they said your, not thy Master, Matthew 17:24.


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 17:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

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