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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 23



Other Authors
Verse 1

Matthew 23:1. τότε, then) Having left His adversaries to themselves.

Verse 2

Matthew 23:2. ἐκάθισαν, κ. τ. λ., sit, etc.) Representing Moses, reading and interpreting his law, and even urging more than he enjoined.— οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ φαρισαῖοι, the Scribes and the Pharisees) The sins which are here enumerated, did not belong all equally to both of these classes; but they had many in common, and participated in many; see Luke 11:45.(983)

Verse 3

Matthew 23:3. οὖν, therefore) This particle limits the expression “whatsoever they bid you observe,” so that the people should not think that they were bound to observe the traditions of the Pharisees equally with the law of Moses;(984) see Matthew 23:4.— τηρεῖτε, observe) sc. mentally.(985)ποιεῖτε, do) sc. actually. An imperative corresponded with by the other which follows.— λέγουσι, they say) Mosaic commands, which ought to be “observed” and “done.”

Verse 4

Matthew 23:4. δεσμεύουσι γὰρ, for they bind) This explains the words, They say and do not.— βαρέα καὶ δυσβάστακτα, heavy and grievous to be borne) epithets suitable to the doctrines of men.(986)ὤ΄ουςδακτύλῳ, shoulders—with the finger) There is an evident contrast intended between these words.— κινῆσαι, to move) much less to bear. Scripture has an incomparable felicity in describing the inner characters of minds, of which the whole of this chapter affords a striking instance; see also Luke 12:16-17.

Verse 5

Matthew 23:5. δὲ, but) sc. although they appear to do many good things.— φυλακτήρια, phylacteries) see Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18.— κράσπεδα, fringes) see Numbers 15:38.

Verse 6

Matthew 23:6. φιλοῦσι, κ. τ. λ., they love, etc.) Both individually and for their order.

Verse 6-7

Matthew 23:6-7. ἐν τοῖς δείτνοιςσυναγωγαῖςἀγοραῖς, in banquets—synaogues—market-places) public places.

Verse 8

Matthew 23:8. ΄ὴ κληθῆτε, be ye not called) i.e. do not ye be thus treated, nor seek to be thus treated.— εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν διδάσκαλος, for one is your Teacher(987)) Others read, εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑ΄ῶν καθηγητὴς, χριστός,(988) for one is your Guide, even Christ. And this is indeed found in Matthew 23:10; in the present instance, however, it is our Heavenly Father who is spoken of; cf. ch. Matthew 16:17; John 6:45; Acts 10:28; Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 1:9; Psalms 25:12; Psalms 32:8. Therefore our Lord adds, but all ye are brethren, which principle applies also to the ninth verse, that we should neither ourselves be called masters, nor call any one on earth father. Christ is treated of in verse 10, and verse 11 is appropriately subjoined. Cf. concerning the Father as Teacher, and Christ as Guide, ch. Matthew 11:25; Matthew 11:27.— ἐστέ, ye are) The indicative mood.(989)

In his App. Crit. Bengel writes thus:—“ καθηγητῆς) edd. Bas. α. β. γ. etc. Exodus 5:10 ( διδάσκαλος), Aug. 1. 4, in duabus pericopis, Bodl. 7, Colb 3, Gal. Go. Lin. Mont. N. 1, Par. 1. 4, Roe. Seld. 1, Steph. ε, Vsser. 2, Wheel. 1, et alii apud Erasmum et Bezam; Orig. Chrysost. ad h. 1. et Homil. 77 in Ioh., Arab. Syr. Probat Beza, Grotius, Seldenus, nec non L. de Dieu, Rus.

“¶ χριστὸς) edd. etc. Exodus 5:10 () [i.e. for the omission], Bas. unus, γ. opinor. Eph. Med. Vss. 1, duo apud Bezam, Aeth. Arab. Armen. Copt. Lat. (et inde Cant. quem tamen Beza videtur innuere, Colb. 8), Pers. Syr. Orig. Chrysostomus clare. Theophyl. in comm. Vid. Gnom.”

Tishendorf, Lachmann, and Wordsworth read διδάσκαλος, but they do not omit χριστός.—(I. B.)

ὑμῶν διδάσκαλος is the reading of B “vester doctor,” d; “vobis magister,” Cypr.; “magister vester,” abc and Vulg. But ὑμῶν καθηγήτης, D to which Rec. Text adds χριστός.—ED.

Some one of the learned has supposed it more probable that the term καθηγήτης, as being one of less common occurrence, has been changed by transcribers into διδάσκαλος, rather than that διδάσκαλος has been substituted instead of καθηγητής. But the arguments drawn from solid criticism have more weight than such mere conjectures; not to mention that the other conjecture, by which καθηγητὴς is supposed to be transferred from Matthew 23:10 (as to which there is no dispute), has at least as much show of probability. Cf. App. Grit. Ed. ii., p. 133.—E. B.

Verse 9

Matthew 23:9. πατέρα, father) This also was the grand title given by the Jews to their teachers, especially in old age.— μὴ καλέσητε, κ. τ. λ., do not call, etc.) Let not either your tongue or your mind ascribe infallibility to any man.

Verse 10

Matthew 23:10. καθηγηταὶ, guides)(990) i.e leaders, authorities. There is a gradation in these phrases: Rabbi, Father, Guide. They were titles of spiritual eminence amongst the Jews. The same principle is enforced in 1 Corinthians 3:5-6.(991)

Verse 11

Matthew 23:11. δὲ μείζων, but he that is greatest) i.e. he who wishes to be the greatest (corresponding with the Hebrew רב (992)); cf. ch. Matthew 20:26.

Verse 12

Matthew 23:12. ὅστις δὲ ὑψώσει ἑαυτὸν, κ. τ. λ., but whosoever shall exalt himself, etc.) In the S. V. of Ezekiel 21:26, we read ἐταπείνωσας τὸ ὑψηλὸν, καὶ ὕψωσας τὸ ταπεινόν, Thou hast humbled that which is exalted, and exalted that which is humble.— ὑψώσει ἑαυτὸν, shall exalt himself) As the Scribes and Pharisees did.

Verse 13-14

Matthew 23:13-14. οὐαὶ, woe) Woe is uttered eight times in this passage:(993) blessed is uttered eight times and more in Matthew 5. from Matthew 23:3, where see Gnomon.— οὐαὶ ὑμῖνκλείετε τὴν βασιλεὶανκατεσθίετε τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶν, κ. τ. λ., woe unto you—ye shut up the kingdom—ye devour widowshouses, etc.) In many MSS. these words are transposed;(994) but that must come first in which the kingdom of heaven is mentioned; cf. ch. Matthew 4:17, Matthew 5:3, etc.(995)ὑποκριταὶ, hypocrites) The characteristics of hypocrites may be ascertained from this indictment, as Thomasius has done in his Cautions. Woes were denounced against them, not because they were Scribes and Pharisees, but because they were hypocrites.— κλείετε, ye shut up) i.e. with a key: ye shut up as being ignorant and blind.— ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, before men(996)) sc. before their eyes, when they were just close.— οὐκ εἰσέρχεσθε, ye do not enter) a great woe, and the first; cf. Matthew 5:3, on the first degree of blessedness.— τοὺς εἰσερχομένους, them that are entering) sc. either in will or in deed.

BDLZ a Vulg. (Amiat. MS.) omit all the words of Matthew 23:14, ovalοὐαὶκατεσθίετε τ. οἰκίας τ. χηρῶν (Rec. Text adding καὶ) προφασειπροσευχόμενοι διὰ τοῦτοκρίμα. The Canons of Euseb. seem to omit the words: also Origen, who speaks of “the second woe in Matthew” being οὐαὶὅτι περιάγετε τὴν θάλασσαν, etc. 4, 352a. Therefore Lachm. and Tischend. rightly omit them. The words seem to me to have crept in from Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. However bc and Hilary 725d and 89 supports the words here.—ED. The margin of Bengel’s Ed. ii. holds the omission of Matthew 23:14 as all but equal to the Rec. Text.—E. B.

Verse 14

Matthew 23:14. κατεσθὶετε, κ. τ. λ., ye devour, etc.) The extreme of avarice. To devour widows’ houses(997) is the most atrocious species, which is put for the whole class of rapacious actions.— καὶ, even)— μακρἀ, long) The word has here the force of an adverb.(998) Some MSS. also read suitably enough, μακρᾷ, in which case it must be construed with προφάσει, sc. with a long, or great pretence—i.e. they made of their prayers a great pretence, pretext, or plea for devouring widows’ houses. Herodian uses the expressions, πρόφασις ὀλίγη, εὐτελὴς, μικρά, sc. a small, useful, little pretext or plea.— λήψεσθε, κ. τ. λ., ye shall receive, etc.) sc. as the reward of such prayers.— περισσύτερον κρίμα, more abundant damnation) He who acts ill is condemned; he who abuses that which is good, to adorn that which is bad, is condemned to sorer punishment.

Verse 15

Matthew 23:15. περιάγετε, κ. τ. λ., ye compass, etc.) A proverbial expression. Ye compass, or go about, as Rabbis; see Matthew 23:7.— ἕνα προσήλυτον, one proselyte) with great zeal, but little efficacy; so that you hardly obtain one.— υἱὸν γεέννης, a child of hell) i.e. worthy of hell. Thus in Deuteronomy 25:2, בן הבות(999) is rendered by the LXX. ἄξιος πληγῶν, worthy of stripes.(1000)διπλότερον, twofold more) on account of his greater hypocrisy,(1001) though he might have attained to a high rank among the people of God.

Verse 16

Matthew 23:16. ὁδηγοὶ τυφλοὶ, blind guides) Previously they were styled hypocrites, and that again and again; now the appellation is changed according to the subject in hand. The two appellations are combined in Matthew 23:23-24, and Matthew 23:25-26. The denunciation reaches its climax in Matthew 23:33.— οὐδέν ἐστιν, he is nothing)(1002) sc. ὠφείλων, owing, i.e. he owes nothing.— ἐν τῷ χρυσῷ, by the gold) with which the temple was adorned.

Verse 17

Matthew 23:17. ΄ωροὶ καὶ τυφλοὶ, fools and blind) They sinned even against common sense; according to the judgment of which that thing, on account of which another thing is of a certain character, must be much more so, than that which merely derives its character inferentially therefrom.

Verse 18

Matthew 23:18. ἐν τῷ δώρῳ, by the gift) The error originated in the mistaken views entertained by the offerers with regard to their own righteousness. They esteemed their own gifts more highly than the Divine institution.— ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, upon it) sc. the altar.

Verse 20

Matthew 23:20. ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, by all things thereon) As in Matthew 23:21 the gold of the temple is not again mentioned, but He is mentioned who dwelleth therein; so in this verse the expression, all things which are upon the altar, signifies something much greater than the gift on the altar, nay, something in contrast with that gift, sc. the sacred fire and the whole divinely appointed ministry of the priests, who stood and walked, not only beside, but upon the altar.

Verse 23

Matthew 23:23. ἀποδεκατοῦτε, κ. τ. λ., ye tythe, etc.) And command others to tythe; cf. in Matthew 23:24 the expression “guides.”— ἡδύοσμον,(1003) mint) not only grain but herbs.— κύμινον, cummin) which is proverbially a small thing.— ἀφήκατε, κ. τ. λ., have omitted, etc.) sc. long since; or also, ye have remitted to others, by your silence.— βαρύτερα, weightier) These questions belong to comparative theology. Three weightier matters are enumerated in contrast with three smaller matters. Concerning these weightier matters, see Sirach 4. He, and he alone, who does not neglect these, may judge rightly in smaller matters.— τὴν κρίσιν, judgment) by which men distinguish between good and evil, and in either of them between weightier and smaller matters; see the Gnomon on ch. Matthew 12:18, and Matthew 16:3; Luke 12:57; 1 Corinthians 11:31; Micah 6:8.— τὸν ἔλεον, mercy) See ch. Matthew 9:13.— τὴν πίστιν, faith) sc. sincerity, which is opposed to hypocrisy: for those who, in ch. Matthew 24:51, are called hypocrites, are called unbelievers (infideles) in Luke 12:46. Cf. 1 Timothy 4:2-3. There are clearly these three principal heads, Judgment, Mercy, Faith: and divisions of theological topics ought to have been arranged under such heads as those which Scripture itself lays down, as in John 16:8; Romans 3:27; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:1;(1004), Hebrews 6:1-2.— ΄ὴ ἀφιέναι, not to omit) corresponding with ἀφήκατε, ye have omitted; and therefore ταῦτα, these, refers to mint, etc.— ἐκεῖνα, those, to judgment, etc.; and the words, ταῦτα ἔδει ποιῆσαι, these ought ye to have done, express approbation of their conduct in this matter;(1005) whilst the words κἀκεῖνα ΄ὴ ἀφίεναι, and not to leave the other undone, belong to the indictment. In Greek οὗτος and ἐκεῖνος, in Latin hic and ille (this and that), are frequently employed with reference, not to the order of the words, but to the nature of the things. See my note to Chrysostom on the Priesthood, pp. 509, 510.

Verse 24

Matthew 23:24. τὸν κώνωπα, the gnat) They who object to swallowing a camel should not be found fault with for merely straining a gnat,(1006) such being far from our Lord’s intention: for no one can safely swallow a gnat, which may choke him. A beam is the worse of the two, and yet a chip(1007) is not disregarded, even in the hand, much more in the eye. See ch. Matthew 7:5. The noun κώνωψ is a word of common gender, and signifies a gnat, properly one belonging to wine, which easily falls into a strainer.(1008)

Verse 25

Matthew 23:25. τὸ ἔξωθεν, that which is without) sc. the external surface.— ἔσωθεν δἑ, but within) where the meat and drink are.— υέμουσιν, they are full) sc. the cup and dish.— ἁρπργῆς, of rapacity, extortion) see Matthew 23:14.— καἰ ἀκρασίας, and excess) Excess, ἀκρασία, is opposed to abstinence, not only in meat and drink, but also in money and gain. With this idea, Aristotle (Eth. Nicom. vii. 6) says that the particular thing should be mentioned in regard to which any one is remarkable for excess or the opposite; as gain, honour, anger, etc. And this is evident in the present passage, from the use of the synonymous term, ἁρπαγη. Gregory Nazianzen says, ἀκρασία ἐμοι πᾶν τὸ περιττὺν καὶ ὑπὲρ τὴν χρείαν, everything which is superfluous and more than necessary, is, in my opinion, ἀκρασία.

Verse 26

Matthew 23:26. καθάρισον, cleanse) sc. by removing rapacity by almsgiving. See Luke 11:41.— πρῶτον, κ. τ. λ., first, etc.) This may also be applied to the matter of decorum.— ἵνα, κ. τ. λ., in order that, etc.) for otherwise that outward cleanliness is not cleanliness.

Verse 27

Matthew 23:27. ὅτι, κ. τ. λ., for, etc.) In this verse the especially distinctive characteristic of hypocrites is described: for hypocrisy is named in Matthew 23:28. Cf. Luke 11:44 with the context.— κεκονιαμένοις, whited) The Jews used to whiten their sepulchres with chalk.

Verse 28

Matthew 23:28. ἀνομίας, unrighteousness) This is strictly opposed to righteousness.

Verse 29

Matthew 23:29.(1009) ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτετῶν προφητῶνκοσμεῖτετῶν δικαίων, because ye build—of the prophets—and garnish—of the righteous) (see ver 35). This was all that they did in memorial of the ancient prophets and righteous men, without observing their words or imitating their deeds; with a resemblance to their fathers in their dispositions; with a contempt of the Messiah, to whom those prophets had borne witness. Understand, therefore, only, as in ch. Matthew 24:38. Scripture is wont to call those who have died in the Lord righteous, rather than saints;(1010) see Luke 14:14, and Hebrews 12:23.

Verse 30

Matthew 23:30. λέγετε, ye say) By your public protestation.— οὐκ ἂν ἦμεν, κ. τ. λ., we would not have been, etc.) Such was their self-confidence.

Verse 31

Matthew 23:31. ΄αρτυρεῖτε, ye bear witness) sc. by your deeds, Matthew 23:29, by your words, Matthew 23:30.

Verse 32

Matthew 23:32. καὶ ὑμεῖς πληρώσατε, fill ye up then) The pronoun ὑμεῖς, you, is not only introduced in contrast to your fathers, but also shows that there is an indicative force in the imperative πληρώσατε, fill ye up; q.d. ye will fill up, fill ye up therefore: cf. John 13:27. Fill ye up whenever ye will, be ye no longer hindered; be ye left to yourselves: perform then with the hand that which you cherish in the heart.— τὸ μέτρον, the measure) As there is a measure of life and of suffering, so is there also of sin, when, for example, to three transgressions is added a fourth; see Amos 1:3, etc.

Verse 33

Matthew 23:33. ἐχιδνῶν, of vipers) Which are mentioned in Matthew 23:30-32.— πῶς φύγητε, how can ye escape) The subjunctive.

Verse 34

Matthew 23:34. διὰ τοῦτο, κ. τ. λ., wherefore, etc.) A corollary of the eighth woe.— ἐγὼ, I) In the parallel passage of St Luke, Luke 11:49, we read, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν, ἀποστελῶ, κ. τ. λ., wherefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send, etc. The first chapter of the second book of Esdras(1011) and this passage have a wonderful resemblance. In 2 Esdras 1:30, we read, “I gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings:” in Matthew 23:32, “I sent unto you My servants the prophets, whom ye have taken and slain, and torn their bodies in pieces, whose blood I will require of your hands, saith the Lord:” in Matthew 23:33, “Thus saith the Almighty Lord, your house is desolate.” That book of Esdras is greatly esteemed by many, amongst whom of ourselves are found Schickardus on Tarich,(1012) p. 135, and Hainlin, in his Sol(1013) Temporum; and this quotation in the Gospel gives very great weight to it. J. C. Scaliger says (Exerc. 308), “I possess an admirable and divine compendium of the books of Esdras, composed in the Syrian language; they contain far more valuable sentiments than the harangues of their base calumniator.” That Syrian composition, which Scaliger calls a compendium, may have been a translation of the original Hebrew work, the longer Latin paraphrase of which may have many apocryphal additions. Such appears to be the case of the books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, which at one time show evident signs of a Hebrew origin, and at another have a purely Greek character.— ἀποστέλλω, I send) The present tense. God’s messengers were sent when wickedness was most widely prevalent among His people.— προφήτας, prophets) Who are taught by special revelation, as David. These alone are mentioned with reference to the past; see Matthew 23:30. Now wise men and scribes are added.— σοφοὺς, wise men) who have an habitual sense(1014) of the true and the good, corresponding with the Hebrew חבם, wise, derived from חך, the palate, or sense of taste; such as was Solomon. These are midway between prophets and scribes.— γρα΄΄ατεῖς, scribes) who edit and illustrate the remains of the prophets and wise men, as Ezra did. In these last the character is for the most part acquired; in wise men, innate; in prophets, inspired.(1015) Therefore the world hates and despises prophets most, wise men much, scribes less, yet not little.— ἀποκτενεῖτε, ye shall kill) as James [the son of Zebedee].— σταυρώσετε, ye shall crucify) as Peter and Andrew, although Peter suffered martyrdom elsewhere.

Verse 35

Matthew 23:35. ἔλθῃ, may come) This is repeated in Matthew 23:36, sc. ἥξει, shall come. Cf. Luke 11:50, etc.— πᾶν, all) especially that of the Messiah Himself. Cf. Luke 13:33.— αἷμα, blood) This word occurs thrice in this one verse with great force.— ἐκχυνόμενον, which is being shed) The present tense is used to show that the blood-shedding was not yet concluded.— ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, on the whole earth) Cf. Genesis 4:11.— ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ βαραχίου, Zacharias the son of Barachias) whose prophecy and death are mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.(1016) The Jews say a great deal about him. See Lightfoot.(1017)τοῦ ναοῦ, the Temple) Jesus spake these words in the Temple: in the Temple especial vengeance was to be executed hereafter.

Verse 36

Matthew 23:36. λέγω, I say) sc. again. Cf. Genesis 41:32.— ἥξει, shall come) i.e. as far as the beginnings of vengeance are concerned; for its consummation extends far further; see Matthew 23:39.— πάντα, κ. τ. λ., all, etc.) He who commits a sin becomes a partner in crime with all who have committed the same sin.— γενεὰν, generation) see Gnomon on ch. Matthew 24:34.

Verse 37

Matthew 23:37. ἱερουσαλὴμ, ἱερουσαλὴμ, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!) A most solemn repetition.(1018) ἀποκτένουσα, thou that killest) The participle has the force of a noun.(1019)λιθοβαλοῦσα, that stonest) Such was the fate of Christ’s protomartyr, Stephen, recorded in Acts 7:58-59.— τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους, them that are sent) Although ambassadors are considered inviolable by the law of nations.— πρὸς αὐτὴν, to her) i.e. πρός σε, to thee. Cf. Luke 1:45; Isaiah 47:10.— ποσάκις, κ. τ. λ., how often, etc.) As often especially as Jesus entered Judea, Jerusalem, or the Temple. See my Harmony of the Four Evangelists, and Gnomon on ch. Matthew 21:1.— καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε, and ye would not) although I was willing. Cf. Isaiah 30:15.

Full of compassion and horror alike.—V. g.

Verse 38

Matthew 23:38. ἰδοὺ, ἀφίεται, Behold [your house] is left) The present tense twice expressed.(1020) He uttered these words as He was going out of the Temple. See ch. Matthew 24:1, and cf. John 12:36.— οἶκος ὑ΄ῶν, your house) which is otherwise called the house of the Lord. Thus, in Exodus 32:7, God says to Moses, thy people.(1021)ἔρημος, desolate, or desert) sc. as being left by the Messiah.(1022) Even after His ascension, Christ employed the Temple in a remarkable manner with His disciples. But with regard to Judaism, the Temple now ceased to be what it had been, and for this reason was at length destroyed; see Matthew 23:36. The word ἔρη΄ος is often employed with a particular reference.(1023) Thus the Forum is said to be ἔρη΄ον, when no judicial proceedings are being carried on in it.

Verse 39

Matthew 23:39. λέγω, I say) See Gnomon on Luke 13:35.— ἴδητε, ye shall see) sc. you, inhabitants of Jerusalem. Cf. Luke 13:35.— ἀπʼ ἄρτι, from the present time(1024)) The short interval preceding our Lord’s death (and that spent without the Temple(1025)) is included in the present time [the ἄρτι of the text].— ἓως, until) sc. after a long interval.— εἴπητε, κ. τ. λ., ye shall say, etc.) They would say so when reciting the Hallel(1026) at the Passover, but without applying the words to Jesus. That which is here foretold will actually come to pass at the appointed time, as in ch. Matthew 21:9 was performed that which had been predicted in Luke 13:35. Our Lord, however, does not add “again,” although the people had shouted those words on the occasion recorded in Matthew 21:9. For neither had all joined in this acclamation to Him, nor had they who did so understood what they were saying, as Israel shall understand hereafter: and soon after they, as it were, retracted their acclamation. The first utterance of these words was less complete, the second will be worthy of the name.(1027) Cf. Gnomon on the omission of “again,” in Acts 1:11.— εὐλογημένος, κ. τ. λ., Blessed, etc.) With this verse concludes our Lord’s public discourse to the Jews: with this verse will begin their repentance.


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 23:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

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