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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 11

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99

(E) 11:1. And it came to pass, when Jesus finished charging His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.] For this formula at the end of five long discourses, cf. Introduction, p. lxiv. For ἐκεῖθεν, cf. on 4:21.—τοῦ διδάσκειν] Mt. has τοῦ with inf. 7 times. The present tense emphasises the continuance of the action; cf. 13:3, and contrast 2:13, 3:13. See Blass, pp. 196 ff.; Abbott, Johannine Grammar, 2496.

C. (5) Survey of His ministry, 11:2-30.

2. The editor gives a survey of Christ’s work. It falls into three sections. Christ’s work is considered (a) in relation to that of the Baptist, 2-19; (b) in view of its apparent failure, 20-24; (c) in view of its real success, 25-30.

No part of this is found. in Mk.

Vv. 2-19 find a parallel in Luke 7:18-35. But

Mt 2-3 bear little resemblance to Lk 18-21.

Mt 4-11 agree verbally for the most part with 22-28.

At this point Lk. breaks the thread of the discourse by inserting an editorial comment, vv. 29-30. Mt. seems to carry on the speech, but vv. 12-15 are probably inserted here by him from another context. Vv. 12, 13 find a parallel in Luke 16:16, where the clauses are in the reverse order.

Mt 16-19 agree very closely with Lk 31-35.

20 is an editorial comment.

21-23a agree closely with Luke 10:13-15 from the charge to the Seventy.

23b has no parallel in Lk.

24 agrees closely with Luke 10:12.

25-27 agree closely with Luke 10:21, Luke 10:22 after the return of the Seventy.

28-30 have no parallel in Lk.

So far as vv. 20-30 are concerned, it seems probable that the editor is bringing together detached sayings, some of which Lk. has placed in or after the charge to the Seventy. The two Evangelists cannot have had a common source for these sayings, unless the source consisted of sayings only, without historical connections. These sayings are probably become stereotyped in tradition, and were drawn by the two writers from different sources. But the relation of Mt 4-11, Matthew 4:16-19 to Lk 22-28, Luke 22:31-35 is very puzzling. Why do both writers connect these groups of sayings; puzzling. Why do both writers connect these groups of sayings; and why do both insert between them a paragraph which is quite different in the two Gospels? It is probable that the two groups existed independently before the two Evangelists. Why both writers connected them is not easy to explain. But since both groups deal with John the Baptist, it is not altogether unnatural that two or more Gospels should have connected them together. That they did this independently is shown by the different character of the connecting links, Matthew 11:12-16, Lk 29-30.

If it be thought that the close verbal agreement of Mt 4-11 = Lk 22-28 and of Mt 16-19 = Luke 7:31-35 compels us to think of a direct connection between the Gospels, it would be better to fall back upon the view that Lk. had seen Mt., than to suppose that both are borrowing from a common source. In the latter case it is impossible to explain the fact that both editors independently insert extraneous words at the same point in a common source. If Lk. had seen Mt., he may well have taken objection to vv. 12-15 as obscure, and substituted for them a comment which prepared an anticipatory explanation of Mt 19b. In that case he has not cared to pass over Mt 12-13 altogether, but has placed them in another context, transposed them, substituted�Acts 1:22, Acts 10:37.

(L) 2, 3. And John having heard in the prison the works of the Messiah, sent through his disciples, and said to Him, Art Thou the Coming One, or are we to wait for another?] Lk. agrees only in the last clause.

ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ] The imprisonment of the Baptist has been referred to in 4:12.—τὰ ἔργα] of which illustrations have been given in 8:1-9:34.—ὁ ἐρχόμενος] i.e. the Messiah; cf. 3:11, Psalms 118:26, Daniel 7:13.

(L) 4-6. And Jesus answered and said to them, Go report to John what ye hear and see: blind men see, and lame men walk. Lepers are cleansed, and deaf men hear. And dead men are raised, and poor men are told good news. And blessed is he who shall not be made to stumble in Me.]—καθαρίζονται] See on 8:2.—εὐαγγελίζονται] The verb occurs only here in this Gospel. For the construction, cf: Hebrews 4:2, Hebrews 4:6.—σκανδαλισθῇ] See on 5:29.

Lk. agrees almost word for word. He omits ὁ Ἰησοῦς, has εἴδετε καὶ ἠκούσατε for�

“For John is he whom the Scripture predicted as the messenger who should prepare the way for the Messiah.” The quotation comes from Malachi 3:1, where the LXX. has ἰδοὺ (ἐγὼ, אc Α Q Γ) ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδόν πρὸ προσώπου μου. Mt., Mark 1:2, and Luke 7:27 agree against the LXX.—(a) in�Mark 1:2 It seems clear that the quotation was current in Christian circles in a form slightly different from the LXX. πρὸ προσώπου μου after “My messenger,” may be due to assimilation to Exodus 23:20.

(L) 11. Verily I say to you, There hath not arisen among women-born a greater than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he.] Lk. has: μείζων ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν Ἰωάνου οὑδεὶς ἔστιν, “of God” for “of the heavens.” “Thus as fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi and heralding the Messiah, John is pre-eminent. But the least who shall stand within the kingdom shall be more privileged than he.” The thought is that it is better to enter the kingdom than to herald its coming. John was unique amongst men, but citizenship of the kingdom will be better than his unique position. On�Job 14:1, Job 15:14, Job 25:4.— μικρότερος] For grades within the kingdom, cf. 5:19. The comparative form is probably used in a superlative sense. Cf. Blass, p. 33; Moulton, pp. 77 ff: In 13:32, Luke 9:48, μικρότερος has the same superlative sense. For βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, see Introduction, p. lxvii. Here as hitherto in this Gospel it is thought of as the kingdom to be inaugurated when the Son of Man comes.1 The least in that kingdom will be more privileged than if he had been its herald.

(E L) 12-15. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens suffers violence, and violent men ravage it. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was about to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.]

These obscure verses serve as a connecting link between vv. 4-11 and 16-19. Lk. has instead two verses of editorial comment describing how the people and the toll-gatherers were baptized by John, whilst the Pharisees and the lawyers refused to submit to his baptism. Of Mt.’s four verses, Lk. in Luke 16:16, in quite a different context, has a parallel to 12 and 13 in the reverse order: ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται μέχρι Ἰωάνου·�Luke 16:16 βιάζεται is clearly middle. “Every one presses into it with vehemence.” That is to say, the good news of the kingdom is preached, and men welcome the good news. For the middle sense, see Deissm. Bib. Stud. p. 258, and add to his reference to Ditt. Syll. 379 the following, εἴ τις—βιασάμενος�Luke 7:29-30 are so worded that they might appear to be a continuation of Christ’s words, so Matthew 11:12 suggests the question, Is this a simple comment of the editor reflecting on the fact that John was the first of a long line of men who suffered on behalf of the kingdom, or did he intend the verse to be taken as a continuation of Christ’s words? The parallel in Luke 16:16 seems to prove that Mt. was acquainted with a traditional saying of Christ which brought into close connection the kingdom and the verb βιάζεσθαι. That is to say, in his comment in v. 12 he is paraphrasing words traditionally ascribed to Christ, and he probably intended the verse to be taken as spoken by Christ in continuation of v. 11 in spite of the fact that the phrase�

V. 13 seems to be brought in here only on the ground that it contains the name John. It seems impossible to find any good connection with v. 12 What is the meaning of “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John”? And why the “prophets and the law,” and not “the law and the prophets”? Does the verse mean that in foretelling the Christ, John had been preceded by the prophets and the law, and that these had borne witness until he came to supplant them, and to give the finishing touch to their witness?

If, however, we prefer to disregard the obvious clue to compilation in the words�

14. Already in Ecclus 48:10 the coming of Elijah to accomplish a work of restoration is presupposed on the basis of Malachi 4:5, Malachi 4:6. This idea is common in the later Jewish literature; cf. Weber, Jüd. Theol. 352 f.; Volz, Jüd. Eschat. p. 192. There is a remarkable discussion as to the work of the prophet in B. Edujoth 87. It is there said that Johanan ben Zakkai had received from his teacher a tradition that Elijah would not come to pronounce clean or unclean, to separate or receive (i.e. to decide upon the legitimacy of Israelites whose descent was doubtful), but to separate those who had been received by force (המקורבין בזרוע), and to receive those who had been separated by force, i.e. to remove those who had fraudulently claimed Israelitish descent, and to receive back those whose legitimacy had been wrongly denied. Here we have the idea of membership of the Israelite community suffering violence, and violent men wrongly laying claim to it. It is possible that this throws some light on the sayings underlying Matthew 11:12, Luke 16:16. The Baptist strongly denounced the claim to Abrahamic descent as in itself conferring merit (3:9). In other words, he threw open the kingdom, or the stage of preparation for it, to all men without regard to the question of legitimacy. Consequently, since his day men forced their way into it whose claims would have been denied from an orthodox Jewish standpoint. The common people and men of suspected orthodoxy like the τελῶναι welcomed his teaching, Luke 7:29, and forced their way into the kingdom. In thus opening the kingdom to invasion on the part of those whom orthodox Jewish theologians would have excluded, John fulfilled one of the functions expected of the coming Elijah; cf. Ecclus 48:10 “to restore the tribes of Israel,” but in a sense opposed to Jewish theological expectation, not merely by restoring to their rights those whose true membership was wrongly denied, but by clearing away the superstition that purity of descent in itself was essential to participation in the Messianic blessings. In this respect John was Elijah who was to come.

2. διά] א B C * D al 33 124 q. δύο of C2 E F al seems to bean assimilation to Lk. For διά, cf. 1:22, 2:5, 15, 17, 23, 3:3, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 24:15, 27:9 διʼ οὗ, 18:7, 26:24, and ὁμόσαι δἰ�

This obscure verse is full of difficulty. σοφία is presumably the divine Wisdom of God to whom the Baptist and the Lord alike owed their inspiration. Both had been sent by Wisdom, and the responsibility for the different character of their teaching and methods rested with her. Cf. Luke 11:49 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν�Matthew 23:34.—ἐδικαιώθη] If we suppose that the editor wishes this clause to be taken as a continuation of Christ’s words, the aorist must be compared with the similar aorists in 4:17 (εὐδόκησα), 11:27 (παρεδόθη), 28:18 (ἐδόθη), as implying a pre-temporal foreordaining of future events by the divine Wisdom, which was eternally “justified” as it developed itself in history. If it were not that the clause occurs also in Lk., it would be natural to interpret it (cf. on v. 12), as a comment of the Evangelist reflecting on the fact that the divine Wisdom which had seemed to fail in its methods, so far as Christ’s contemporaries were concerned, had nevertheless justified her plan of action in the history of the Christian Church. If the Jews had failed to respond to her summons, others had obeyed her call; cf. 8:12 the sons of the kingdom rejected, whilst many from east and west take their place.�Proverbs 8:32, Ecclus 48:11; and in this Gospel the parallel υἱοὶ τῆς βασιλείας, 13:38. Lk. seems to have anticipated the meaning of ἐδικαιώθη in his insertion in 7:29 “All the people and the tax-gatherers justified God, i.e. declared, proved Him to be right by submitting to John’s baptism.” Thus Wisdom was justified of her children. Wellhausen gives a different turn to the passage by taking�

16. ἂ προσφωνοῦντα—λέγουσιν] so א B D Z.—καὶ προσφωνοῦσι—καὶ λέγουσιν] so E F al. S1 S2 have “send” for προσφωνεῖν, and so S1 in Luke 7:32.—τοῖς ἐτέροις] so א B D Z; τοῖς ἑταίροις αὐτῶν G S U V al S1 S2. C E F al S1 S2 add αὐτῶν to τοῖς ἑτέροις. ἑταῖρος occurs in this Gospel three times in the vocative, 20:13, 22:12, 26:50, but τοῖς ἑτέροις is both best attested and most likely to have given rise to the variants. Lk. has�

19. τέκνων] B2 D al S1 S2 a c k; ἔργων, א, B* S3 S4 codd. ap. Hier. In Lk. ἔργων is read by א only. It might be urged that τέκνων in Mt. is due to assimilation to Lk.; but, on the other hand, ἔργων may be a late conjectural emendation. There seems to be no trace of it before the fourth century.

20. The editor adds a connecting link in order to introduce the following paragraph, which in Lk. occurs in the charge to the Seventy.

(E) Then He began to reproach the cities in which His many miracles happened, because they repented not.

τότε] See on 2:7.—αἱ πλεῖσται δυνάμεις] For ὁ πλεῖστος = ὁ πολύς, cf. Blass, p. 143; Moulton, p. 79, “those very numerous mighty works.” δύναμις = “a miracle,” “a mighty deed,” is common to the Synoptic tradition, but is avoided by Jn. Cf. Abbott, Johannine Vocabulary, 1686 e.

(L) 21. Woe to thee, Chorazin! woe to thee, Bethsaida! Because if in Tyre and Sidon had happened the miracles which happened in you, long ago they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.] Lk. has ἐγενήθησαν for ἐγένοντο, and adds καθήμενοι after σποδῷ. Chorazin lay about an hour’s distance north from Tell Ḥûm (= Capharnaum?); see Sanday, Sacred Sites, p. 24. Bethsaida was situated on the left side of the Jordan, a little north of the lake; see Sanday, p. 41. It is remarkable that the Gospel tradition should have preserved the name Chorazin without at the same time transmitting some account of the “many” miracles done there. For sackcloth and ashes as symbols of grief, cf. Jonah 3:6, Daniel 9:3, Isaiah 58:5.

(L) 22. But I say to you, For Tyre and Sidon it shall be more tolerable in the day of judgement than for you.] Lk. omits λέγω ὑμῖν, and has ἐν τῇ κρίσει for ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως. See for this phrase on 10:15.

(L) 23. And thou, Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? Unto Hades shalt thou come down. Because if in Sodom had happened the miracles which happened in thee, they would have remained unto this day.] Lk. has only the first clause. Clause a seems to contain a reminiscence of Isaiah 14:13, Isaiah 14:15 εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν�

24. But I say unto you, That for the land of Sodom it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgement than for thee.] The verse does not occur in Lk. Similar words have already occurred in 10:15; see note there.

23. μὴ—ὑψωθήσῃ] א B C D Φ a b c ff1 g2; ἡ—ὑψωθεῖσα, N Σ al; ἡ—ὑψώθης E F al. S1 has “that hath been uplifted,” S2 “not unto heaven shalt thou be uplifted,” k “ne quomodo in cœlum elata es.” The variation between the two Greek readings is explicable as due either to a repetition of the μ of Καφαρναούμ or the omission of the μ of μή. The rendering of S2 is due to misunderstanding of μή. Either reading gives a good sense. For the exclamatory question, c f. 7:14 τί στενὴ, κ.τ.λ.

καταβήσῃ] B D; καταβιβασθήσῃ, א C al. The former is probably original here, and is due to assimilation to Isaiah 14:15 on the part of the editor. The latter is due to assimilation to Lk. by the copyists.

25. The editor here inserts a paragraph which, in Luke 10:21-22, occurs after the return of the Seventy.

(L) 25. At that time Jesus answered and said, I praise Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou didst hide these things from wise and prudent men, and didst reveal them to babes.] Lk. has: “In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said,” etc.

ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησο͂ς εἶπεν] For the Hebraistic�

For the aorist παρεδόθη, cf. εὐδόκησα, 3:17; ἐδόθη, 28:18. The idea involved is of a pre-temporal act, and carries with it the conception of the pre-existence of the Messiah. The same thought probably underlies the ἦλθον of 5:17, 10:34, and the�Mark 13:32, this usage as a traditional saying of Christ is as strongly supported as any saying in the Gospels. It implies consciousness of a unique relationship to God, and that relationship, as the context suggests, consisted in part of fulness of revelation, “all things were delivered,” and in part of pre-existence with God. Whether the words as originally uttered involved consciousness of pre-existence is, no doubt, open to question. But it is difficult not to suppose that the editor of this Gospel interpreted them in this sense. The Messiah was supernaturally born of a virgin, 1:18-25. His return from Egypt fulfilled the words, “Out of Egypt I called My Son,” 2:15. The devil challenged Him upon this point: “If Thou be God’s Son,” 4:3, 6. At His baptism the divine voice proclaimed Him to be “My Son, the Messiah, elected by divine choice from all eternity,” 3:17. In His teaching He spoke of having come, “I came” (5:17, 10:34), and of having been “sent” (10:40). In accordance with this line of thought, 11:25-27 are most easily explained if the tenses be treated as aorists referring to pre-temporal acts of God wrought in the prehistoric “beginning” or eternity: “Thou didst conceal—didst reveal—all things were delivered.” Since the Son was pre-existent with God, it follows that no one knows the Son (i.e. knows fully) except the Father; and the reverse is equally true.

ᾧ ἐάν] ἐάν is found after relatives for ἄν in the LXX., in MSS of the N.T., and in the papyri; cf. Blass, pp. 60 f.; Deissm. Bibl. Stud. 202 ff.; and Moulton, Class. Rev. 1901, p. 32, Gram. PP. 42 f., who speaks of it as “a fashion of the first and second centuries.” “It seems fair to conclude that, ἄν in cents. 1 and 2 was written by those who were particular about correctness, and that N.T. writers, therefore, used predominantly the popular ἐάν.”

28-30. These verses are peculiar to this Gospel.

(L) Come unto Me, all who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me. Because I am meek and humble-hearted: and you shall find refreshment for your souls. For My yoke, is easy, and My burden is light.] There seems to be an undoubted dependence of these words upon Ecclus 50, 51. Cf. the following:

Matthew 11:25 ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι πάτερ Κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς.

Ecclus 51:1 ἐξομολογήσομαί σοι Κύριε βασιλεῦ ̣ ̣ ̣ ἐξομολογοῦμαι.

51:10 ἐπεκαλεσάμην Κύριον πατέρα Κυρίου μου.

Matthew 11:28 δεῦτε πρός με. Ecclus 51:23 ἐγγίσατε πρὸς μέ.

11:28 πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες. 51:27 ἐκοπίασα.

11:29 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς. 51:26 τὸν τράχηλον ὑμῶν ὑπόθετε ὑπὸ ζυγόν.

11:29 καὶ μάθετε�

For this last phrase, cf. also Ecclus 6:28 and Jeremiah 6:16, Heb. The LXX. has καὶ εὑρήσετε ἁγνισμὸν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν.

29. τὸν ζυγόν μου] See on 10:38, and cf. Ab 36 “Whoso receives upon him the yoke of the law”; B. Berakhoth 13a “Yoke of the kingdom of the heavens”; “Yoke of the commandments,” Schemoth R. Par. 30 (Wünsche, p. 217); “the yoke of God,” Ps.-Song of Solomon 7:8; ἡμεῖς ὑπὸ ζυγόν σου, 17:32.

There is throughout this passage an underlying contrast between the Pharisaic conception of religion and the teaching of Christ. The Pharisees maintained the authority of the law as traditionally interpreted: Christ had a higher authority committed to Him by the Father. “All things were delivered.” The Pharisaic treatment of the law made it a heavy burden; cf. 23:4. Christ’s teaching was a light burden and an easy yoke. The Pharisaic conception of religion made them despise the unlearned and common people. Christ summoned to Him these simple folk groaning beneath the burden of religion as expounded by the Pharisees. The paragraph may be paraphrased as follows: “I praise Thee because Thou hast concealed the working of Wisdom’s methods from the orthodox Pharisaic formalist, and hast revealed them rather to simple-hearted peasants innocent of religious technicalities. So Thy divine pleasure foreordained it. The Pharisees claim authority and inspiration. I have complete and final authority from the highest source. The Pharisees fail to recognise the Son of God, and indeed no one knows Him but the Father. They misrepresent God, and indeed no one knows Him but the Son, and those to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. The Pharisees despise the unlearned and simple, and burden them with the heavy burdens of their expositions of the law. But I bid those who are weary of carrying Pharisaic loads to come to Me that they may be relieved. Let them take in exchange the yoke of allegiance to Me; let them be disciples of one who is a sympathetic teacher, not harsh nor arrogant. They shall find My yoke which I lay on them to be mild, and My burden which I impose to be light.”

27. We should expect: “And no one understandeth the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.” The insertion of the words relating to the knowledge of the Son by the Father do not seem in place in the context, and the order “the Son,” “the Father” is unexpected. Iren. i. 13, 2 has the reverse order, but in iv. 11. 1 he ascribes this order to “those who wish to be more skilful than the Apostles.” The same order is, given by Just. Dial. 100 and Apol. i. 63, and by Tertullian, Adv. Marc. iv. 25. But the difficulty is not removed by reversal of the order of the clauses. Even if placed second, the clause relating to knowledge of the Son by the Father seems irrelevant to the context. But it occurs also in Lk., and is no doubt genuine in Mt. The connection seems to be as follows: “All things were delivered to Me by My Father,” i.e. “I was appointed as the agent of His revelation of Himself.” “And no one understands the Son save the Father,” i.e. “My true nature and functions are known to God alone.” “Nor does any one understand the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him,” i.e. “As the appointed representative of the Father, I alone have full knowledge of Him, which I can impart to whom I will.” But there does not seem to be any clear connection of thought with vv. 25-26.,where the Father is the revealer of things hidden from the wise. The link of “revelation” �

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Matthew 11". International Critical Commentary NT. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/matthew-11.html. 1896-1924.
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