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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 7

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verse 1

1. ] This does not prohibit all judgment (see Matthew 7:20 , and 1Co 5:12 ); but, as Augustine (de Serm. Dom. ii. c. 18 (59), vol. iii.) says, ‘Hoc loco nihil aliud nobis præcipi existimo, nisi ut ea facta quæ dubium est quo animo fiant, in meliorem partem interpretemur.’

κρίνειν has been taken for κατακρίνειν here ( κρίσιν ἐνταῦθα τὴν κατάκρισιν νόησον . Euthym [85] So also Theophylact, Tholuck, Olshausen); and this seems necessary, at least in so far that κρίνειν should be taken as implying an ill judgment . For if the command were merely ‘not to form authoritative judgments of others’ (as given in edn. 1 of this work), the second member, ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε , would not, in its right interpretation, as applying to God’s judgment of us , correspond. And the μὴ καταδικάζετε , which follows in Luke 6:37 , is perhaps to be taken rather as an epexegesis of κρίνετε , than as a climax after it.

[85] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

κριθῆτε ] i.e. ‘ by God ,’ for so doing; a parallel expression to ch. Matthew 5:7 ; Matthew 6:15 ; not ‘ by others .’ The bare passive, without the agent expressed, and without καί to refer it back to the former member of the clause, is solemn and emphatic. See note on Luke 6:38 ; Luke 16:9 ; and Luke 12:20 . The sense then is, ‘that you have not to answer before God for your rash judgment and its consequences.’ The same remarks apply to Matthew 7:2 .

Verses 1-12

1 12. ] Of our CONDUCT TOWARDS OTHER MEN: parenthetically illustrated , Matthew 7:7-11 , by the benignity and wisdom of God in his dealings with us . The connexion with the last chapter is immediately , the word κακία , in which a glance is given by the Saviour at the misery and sinfulness of human life at its best; and now precepts follow, teaching us how we are to live in such a world, and among others sinful like ourselves: mediately , and more generally, the continuing caution against hypocrisy, in ourselves and in others.

Verse 2

2. ] ἐν , not instrumental, but of the sphere in which the act takes place, i.e. in this case, the measure, according to which: as in ref. 2 Cor., ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἑαυτοὺς μετροῦντες .

Verses 3-5

3 5. ] Lightfoot produces instances of this proverbial saying among the Jews. With them, however, it seems only to be used of a person retaliating rebuke. ‘Dixit Rabbi Tarphon, Miror ego, an sit in hoc sæculo, qui recipere vult correptionem; quin si dicat quis alteri, Ejice stramen ex oculo tuo, responsurus ille est, Ejice trabem ex oculo tuo:’ whereas our Lord gives us a further application of it, viz. to the incapability of one involved in personal iniquity to form a right judgment on others, and the clearness given to the spiritual vision by conflict with and victory over evil. There is also no doubt here a lesson given us of the true relative magnitude which our own faults, and those of our brother, ought to hold in our estimation. What is a κάρφος to one looking on another, is to that other himself a δοκός : just the reverse of the ordinary estimate.

τὸ κάρ . and ἡ δοκ ., not as referring to a known proverb, but because the mote and beam are in situ, ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ .

βλέπεις , beholdest, from without, a voluntary act: οὐ κατανοεῖς , apprehendest not, from within, that which is already there, and ought to have excited attention before. The same distinction is observed in Luke.

Verse 4

4. ] πῶς ἐρεῖς = πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν , Luke; wie darfst du sagen , Luther.

Verse 5

5. ὑποκριτά ] ὑποκριτὴν τὸν τοιοῦτον ὠνόμασεν ὡς ἰατροῦ μὲν τάξιν ἁρπάζοντα , νοσοῦντος δὲ τόπον ἐπέχοντα · ἢ ὡς προφάσει μὲν διορθώσεως τὸ ἀλλότριον σφάλμα πολυπραγμονοῦντα , σκοπῷ δὲ κατακρίσεως τοῦτο ποιοῦντα . Euthym [86]

[86] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

διαβλ ., as in E. V., thou shalt see clearly, with purified eye. The close is remarkable. Before , βλέπειν τὸ κάρφος was all to stare at thy brother’s faults, and as people do who stand and gaze at an object, attract others to gaze also: but now , the object is a very different one ἐκβαλεῖν τὸ κάρφος to help thy brother to be rid of his fault, by doing him the best and most difficult office of Christian friendship. The βλέπειν was vain and idle; the διαβλέπειν is for a blessed end, viz. (ch. Mat 18:15 ) κερδῆσαι τὸν ἀδελφόν σου .

Verse 6

6. ] The connexion, see below.

τὸ ἅγιον ] Some have thought this a mistranslation of the Chaldee, קָדָשָׁא , an earring, or amulet; but the connexion is not at all improved by it. Pearls bear a resemblance to peas or acorns, the food of swine, but earrings none whatever to the food of dogs. The similitude is derived from τὸ ἅγιον , or τὰ ἅγια , the meat offered in sacrifice , of which no unclean person was to eat (Leviticus 22:6-7 ; Leviticus 22:10 ; Leviticus 22:14 (where τὸ ἅγ . is used), 15, 16). Similarly in the ancient Christian Liturgies and Fathers, τὰ ἅγια are the consecrated elements in the Holy Communion. The fourteenth canon of the Council of Laodicæa orders μὴ τὰ ἅγια … εἰς ἑτερας παροικίας διαπέμπεσθαι . Again, Cyril of Jerus.: μετὰ ταῦτα λέγει ὁ ἱερεύς Τὰ ἅγια τοῖς ἁγίοις . ἅγια , τὰ προκείμενα , ἐπιφοίτησιν δεξάμενα ἁγίου πνεύματος . (See Suicer on the word.) Thus interpreted, the saying would be one full of meaning to the Jews. As Abp. Trench observes (Serm. Mount, p. 136), “It is not that the dogs would not eat it, for it would be welcome to them; but that it would be a profanation to give it to them, thus to make it a σκύβαλον , Exodus 22:3 .” The other part of the similitude is of a different character, and belongs entirely to the swine, who having cast to them pearls, something like their natural food, whose value is inappreciable by them, in fury trample them with their feet, and turning against the donor, rend him with their tusks. The connexion with the foregoing and following verses is this: “ Judge not ,” &c.; “ attempt not the correction of others, when you need it far more yourselves:” still, be not such mere children, as not to distinguish the characters of those with whom you have to do. Give not that which is holy to dogs ,” &c. Then, as a humble hearer might be disposed to reply, ‘ If this last be a measure of the divine dealings, what bounties can I expect at God’s hand? ’ (This, to which Stier objects, R. Jesu, i. 233, edn. 2, I must still hold to be the immediate connexion, as shewn by the knowing how to give good gifts , and the instances adduced below.) ( Mat 7:7 ), ‘ Ask of God, and He will give to each of you: for this is His own will, that you shall obtain by asking ( Mat 7:8 ), good things, good for each in his place and degree ( Mat 7:10-11 ), not unwholesome or unfitting things . Therefore ( Mat 7:12 ) do ye the same to others, as ye wish to be done, and as God does, to you: viz. give that which is good for each, to each, not judging uncharitably on the one hand, nor casting pearls before swine on the other .’

Verse 7

7. ] The three similitudes are all to be understood of prayer , and form a climax: ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ κρούειν τὸ μετὰ σφοδρὀτητος προσιέναι καὶ μετὰ θερμῆς διανοίας ἐδήλωσε . Chrys. Hom, xxiii. 4, p. 289.

Verse 8

8. ] The only limitation to this promise, which, under various forms, is several times repeated by our Lord, is furnished in Matthew 7:9-11 , and in James 4:3 , αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε · διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε .

Verse 9

9. ] There are two questions here, the first of which is broken off, after an anacoluthon. See ch. Matthew 12:11 . The similitude of ἄρτος and λίθος also appears in ch. Matthew 4:3 . Luke ( Luk 11:12 ) adds the egg and the scorpion.

Verse 11

11. πονηροί ] i.e. in comparison with God. It is not necessary to suppose a rebuke conveyed here, but only a general declaration of the corruption and infirmity of man. Augustine remarks, in accordance with this view, that the persons now addressed are the same who had been taught to say ‘ Our Father ’ just now. ταῦτα δὲ ἔλεγεν οὐ διαβάλλων τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην φύσιν οὐδὲ κακίζων τὸ γένος · ἀλλὰ πρὸς ἀντιδιαστολὴν τῆς ἀγαθότητος τῆς αὐτοῦ . Chrys. Hom. xxiii. 4, p. 290. Stier remarks, “This saying seems to me the strongest dictum probans for original sin in the whole of the Holy Scriptures.” R. J. i. 236.

ἀγαθά ] principally, His Holy Spirit , Luke 11:13 . The same argument à fortiori is used by our Lord in the parable of the unjust judge, Luke 18:6-7 .

Verse 12

12. ] Trench (Serm. Mount, p. 143) has noticed Augustine’s refutation of the sneer of infidels (such as Gibbon’s against this precept), that some of our Lord’s sayings have been before written by heathen authors. (See examples in Wets [87] . ad loc.) ‘Dixit hoc Pythagoras, dixit hoc Plato.… Propterea si inventus fuerit aliquis eorum hoc dixisse quod dixit et Christus, gratulamur illi, non sequimur illum. Sed prior fuit ille quam Christus. Si quis vera loquitur, prior est quam ipsa Veritas! O homo, attende Christum, non quando ad te venerit, sed quando te fecerit.’ Enarr. in Psalms 140:6 , § 19, vol. iv. pt. ii.

[87] Wetstein.

ουν is the inference indeed from the preceding eleven verses, but immediately from the δώσει ἀγαθὰ τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν just said, and thus closes this section of the Sermon with a lesson similar to the last verse of ch. 5, which is, indeed, the ground-tone of the whole Sermon ‘Be ye like unto God.’

οὕτως , viz., after the pattern of ὅσα ἄν : not = ταῦτα , because what might suit us , might not suit others. We are to think what we should like done to us , and then apply that rule to our dealings with others: viz., by doing to them what we have reason to suppose they would like done to them . This is a most important distinction, and one often overlooked in the interpretation of this golden maxim.

Verses 13-27

13 27. ] THE CONCLUSION OF THE DISCOURSE: setting forth more strongly and personally the dangers of hypocrisy , both in being led aside by hypocritical teachers , and in our own inner life . The πύλη stands at the end of the ὁδός , as in the remarkable parallel in the Table of Cebes, c. 16: οὐκοῦν δρᾷς θύραν τινὰ μικράν , καὶ ὁδόν τινα πρὸ τῆς θύρας , ἥτις οὐ πολὺ ὀχλεῖται , ἀλλ ʼ ὀλίγοι πάνυ πορεύονται : … αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἄγουσα πρὸς τὴν ἀληθινὴν παιδείαν .

Verse 14

14. ] ὅτι gives a second reason, on which that in Mat 7:13 depends: strive, &c., for broad is, &c., because narrow is, &c. The reason why the way to destruction is so broad, is because so few find their way into the narrow path of life . This is not merely an arbitrary assignment of the ὅτι , but there is a deep meaning in it. The reason why so many perish is not that it is so ordained by God, who will have all to come to the knowledge of the truth, but because so few will come to Christ, that they may have life; and the rest perish in their sins. See notes on ch. Matthew 25:41 . The reading τί (adopted by Lachmann, Tregelles, Meyer, De Wette) will not bear the signification commonly assigned to it, ‘ How narrow is the gate? ’ And the interrogative meaning (Meyer) is inconsistent with ὀλίγοι εἰσίν , which follows.

τεθλιμμένη , restricted, crushed in, in breadth: i.e. as Clem. Alex [88] Strom. Matthew 7:5 (31), p. 664 Ρ , … τὴν μὲν … στενὴν κ . τεθλιμμένην τὴν κατὰ τὰς ἐντολὰς κ . ἀπαγορεύσεις περιεσταλμένην , τὴν δὲ ἐναντίαν τὴν εἰς ἀπώλειαν φέρουσαν , πλατεῖαν κ . εὐρύχωρον , ἀκώλυτον ἡδοναῖς τε καὶ θυμῷ .…

[88] Alex. Clement of Alexandria, fl. 194

Verse 15

15. ] The connexion (with δέ ) is as Chrys. Hom. xxiii. 6, p. 292: καὶ γὰρ πρὸς τῷ στενὴν εἶναι , πολλοὶ καὶ οἱ ὑποσκελίζοντες τὴν ἐκεῖσε φέρουσάν εἰσιν ὁδόν : strive to enter, &c .: but ( δέ , not accordingly , as Webst. and Wilk.) be not misled by persons who pretend to guide you into it, but will not do so in reality .

These ψευδοπρ ., directly, refer to the false prophets who were soon to arise, to deceive, if possible, even the very elect, ch. Matthew 24:24 ; and, indirectly, to all such false teachers in all ages.

In ἐνδύμασι προβ . there may be allusion to the prophetic dress, ch. Matthew 3:4 : but most probably it only means that, in order to deceive, they put on the garb and manners of the sheep themselves.

Verse 16

16. ] The καρποί are both their corrupt doctrines and their vicious practices, as contrasted with the outward shews of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, their sheep’s clothing to deceive. ‘Quærimus fructus caritatis, invenimus spinas dissentionis.’ Aug [89] Enarr. in Psalms 149:1 , § 2, vol. iv. pt. ii. See James 3:12 ; ch. Matthew 12:33-34 .

[89] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

Verse 17

17. σαπρόν ] See also ch. Matthew 13:48 . From these two verses, 17, 18, the Manichæans defended their heresy of the two natures, good and bad: but Augustine answers them that such cannot possibly be their meaning, as it is entirely contrary to the whole scope of the passage (see for example Mat 7:13 ), and adds, ‘Mala ergo arbor fructus bonos facere non potest; sed ex mala fieri bona potest, ut bonos fructus ferat.’ Cont. Adimant. c. 26, vol. viii. On the other hand, these verses were his weapon against the shallow Pelagian scheme, which would look at men’s deeds apart from the living Root in man out of which they grew, and suppose that man’s unaided will is capable of good. Trench, Serm. on the Mount, p. 150. See also Orig [90] in Matt. Comm. Series, § 116, vol. iii. p. 914.

[90] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

ἐπιγν ., more than simply γνώσεσθε : ‘ ye shall thoroughly know them; ’ see 1 Corinthians 13:12 .

Verse 21

21. ] The doom of the hypocritical false prophets introduces the doom of all hypocrites, and brings on the solemn close of the whole, in which the hypocrite and the true disciple are parabolically compared .

Observe that here the Lord sets Himself forth as the Judge in the great day, and at the same time speaks not of τὸ θέλ . μου , but τὸ θέλ . τοῦ πατρός μου : an important and invaluable doctrinal landmark in this very opening of His ministry in the first Gospel.

οὐ πᾶς is not here ‘ no one ,’ as some (Elsner, Fritzsche) have interpreted it. That meaning would require πᾶς … οὐκ εἰσελεύσεται .

The context must rule the meaning of such wide words as λέγει . Here it is evidently used of mere lip homage; but in οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ , 1 Corinthians 12:3 , the “ saying ” has the deeper meaning of a genuine heartfelt confession. To seek for discrepancies in passages of this kind implies a predisposition to find them: and is to treat Holy Scripture with less than that measure of candour which we give to the writings of one another.

Verse 22

22. ] ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ perhaps refers to Matthew 7:19 : or it may be the expression so common in the Prophets of the great day of the Lord: e.g. Isaiah 2:20 ; Isaiah 25:9 , a [91] . fr. So the Jews called the great day of judgment “that day,” see Schöttgen, Hor. i. p. 82.

[91] alii = some cursive mss.

τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι perhaps = ἐν τ . σ . ὀν ., jussu et auctoritate tua , but better by thy Name, that name having, as Meyer, filled out our belief and been the object of our confession of faith. The dative in this case is instrumental , cf. Winer, § 31. 7.

ἐπροφητ . preached, not necessarily foretold future events: 1 Corinthians 12:10 , and note. On δαιμ . ἐξ . see note on ch. Matthew 8:32 .

Verse 23

23. ] As the words now stand, ὅτι is merely recitative, and cannot be (Meyer) ‘ because ,’ belonging to ἀποχωρ . Such an arrangement would be unprecedented. Orig [92] , Chrys., Cypr [93] , &c., placed ὅτι οὐδ . ἔγν . ὑμ . after ἀποχ ., &c., in which case the meaning ‘ for, because ,’ would be right. See Luke 13:25-27 .

[92] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

[93] Cyprian, Bp. of Carthage , 248 258

ὁμολογήσω is here a remarkable word, as a statement of the simple truth of facts, as opposed to the false colouring and self-deceit of the hypocrites ‘I will tell them the plain truth.’

οὐδέποτε ἔγ . ὑμ ., i.e., in the sense in which it is said, John 10:14 , γινώσκω τὰ ἐμὰ καὶ γινώσκομαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν . Neither the preaching Christ, nor doing miracles in His Name, are infallible signs of being His genuine servants, but only the devotion of life to God’s will which this knowledge brings about.

Verse 24

24. ] πᾶς οὖν ὅστις is a pendent nominative, of which examples are found in the classics, especially in Plato: so Περσέφαττα δέ , πολλοὶ μὲν καὶ τοῦτο φοβοῦνται τὸ ὄνομα . Cratyl. p. 464 C. See also ib. p. 403 A: Gorg. p. 474 E. Kühner, Gramm. ii. § 508.

Notice the ὅστις both times, not merely ὅς . ὅς identifies only: ὅστις classifies.

μου may be from me, as in Act 1:4 ref.: and the τούτους makes this perhaps more probable than the ordinary rendering “ these words of mine .”

τοὺς λόγους τούτους seems to bind together the Sermon, and preclude, as indeed does the whole structure of the Sermon, the supposition that these last chapters are merely a collection of sayings uttered at different times.

ὁμοιώσω αὐτόν (or, ὁμοιωθήσεται )] Meyer and Tholuck take this word to signify, not ‘I will compare him ,’ but ‘I will make him like ,’ viz. ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ , as in ch. Matthew 6:8 ; Romans 9:29 . But it is, perhaps, more in analogy with the usage of the Lord’s discourses to understand it, I will compare him: so ὁμοιώσω , ch. Matthew 11:10 ; Luke 13:18 , and reff.

Verse 25

25. ] This similitude must not be pressed to an allegorical or symbolical meaning in its details, e.g. so that the rain, floods, and winds should mean three distinct kinds of temptation: but the ROCK, as signifying Him who spoke this, is of too frequent use in Scripture for us to overlook it here: cf. 2 Samuel 22:2 ( Psa 18:2 ), Psalms 18:47; Psalms 18:47 ; Psalms 23:3 ; Psalms 28:1 ; Psalms 31:2 , alli [94] . fr.; Psalms 61:2 : Isaiah 26:4 (Heb.); Isaiah 32:2 ; Isaiah 44:8 (Heb.); 1 Corinthians 10:4 , &c. He founds his house on a rock, who, hearing the words of Christ, brings his heart and life into accordance with His expressed will, and is thus by faith in union with Him, founded on Him. Whereas he who merely hears His words, but does them not, has never dug down to the rock, nor become united with it, nor has any stability in the hour of trial.

[94] alii = some cursive mss.

In τὴν πέτραν τὴν ἄμμον , the articles are categorical, importing that these two were usually found in the country where the discourse was delivered; in ἡ βροχή , οἱ ποταμοί , οἱ ἄνεμοι , the same, implying that such trials of the stability of a house were common. In the whole of the similitude, reference is probably made to the prophetic passage Isaiah 28:15-18 .

τεθεμελίωτο ] The N.T. writers usually omit the augment in the pluperfect: so πεποιήκεισαν , Mark 15:7 ; ἐκβεβλήκει , Matthew 16:9 ; μεμενήκεισαν , 1 John 2:19 , a [95] . fr. This is also done occasionally by Herodotus, and by Attic prose writers, where euphony is served by it. See Herod. i. 122; iii. 42; ix. 22: and Winer, § 12. 9.

[95] alii = some cursive mss.

Verse 27

27. μεγάλη ] All the greater, because such an one as here supposed is a professed disciple ἀκούων τοὺς λόγους and therefore would have the further to fall in case of apostasy.

Verse 29

29. ἦν διδάσκων ] The assertion is spread more widely, by this resolved imperfect, over His whole course of teaching. Chrysostom’s comment is, οὐ γὰρ εἰς ἕτερον ἀναφέρων , ὡς ὁ προφήτης καὶ ὁ Μωυσῆς , ἔλεγεν ἅπερ ἔλεγεν ἀλλὰ πανταχοῦ ἑαυτὸν ἐνδεικνύμενος εἶναι τὸν τὸ κῦρος ἔχοντα . καὶ γὰρ νομοθετῶν συνεχῶς προσετέθει Ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν , καὶ τῆς ἡμέρας ἀναμιμνήσκων ἐκείνης , ἑαυτὸν ἐδείκνυ τὸν δικάζοντα εἶναι . Hom. xxv. 1, p. 306.

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 7". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/matthew-7.html. 1863-1878.
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