Bible Commentaries
Matthew 15

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Verses 1-99

(M) 15:1. Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying.] Mk. has: “And there gather together to Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem.”—τότε] see on 2:7.—προσέρχονται] see on 4:3.

2. The editor here omits Mk.’s long archæological note, vv. 2-4.

(M) Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they are eating bread.] Mk. has: “Why do Thy disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with common hands.”—παραβαίνουσι] for Mk.’s more technical οὐ περιπατοῦσιν κατά.—οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται, κ.τ.λ.] Mk. has:�

(M) 3. And He answered and said to them.] Mk. has simply: “And He said to them.” In what follows Mt. has altered the sequence of the verses in Mk. in such a way that he makes a double antithesis: “Why do Thy disciples transgress?” v. 2; “Why do ye transgress?” v. 3; “God said,” v. 4; “But you say,” v. 5; and makes the speech work up towards the rhetorical climax: “Ye hypocrites,” etc.

Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?] Mk. has: “Well do you annul the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition.” Mt. turns the ironical statement into a question to form an antithesis with v. 2, assimilating�

(M) 4. For God said, Honour the father and the mother; and, He who curseth father or mother, let him surely die.] Mk. has: “For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, he who curseth father or mother, let him surely die.”—θεός] substituted for Μωυσῆς to heighten the antithesis.—τίμα τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα] Mk. has σου twice. So LXX. in Deuteronomy 5:16. In Exodus 20:12, only after πατέρα.—ὁ κακολογῶν, κ.τ.λ.] from Exodus 21:17 LXX. has αὐτοῦ twice and τελευτήσει θανάτῳ , but A F Luc θανάτῳ τελευτάτω. For ἤ the Heb. has “and.”

(M) 5. But you say, Whosoever shall say to the father or the mother, A gift (is) anything wherewith thou mightest be profited by me, shall not honour his father.] Mk. has: “But you say, If a man say to father or mother, Korban (that is, A Gift1) is anything wherewith thou mightest be profited by me—you no longer allow him to do ought for father or mother.” Mt. avoids Mk.’s technical term Κορβάν, and endeavours to emend Mk.’s harsh construction. The custom which the Lord was reproving was this, that the scribes allowed a man by a formula to dedicate all his property to the Temple, and so escape the duty of supporting his parents. A legal formula thus became more sacred than the divine command expressed in Scripture. In Mt. this is described thus: “Moses said, Honour thy father, etc. But you say, A man need not honour.” In Mk., however, the construction is very harsh. To complete the sentence we must supply after ὠφεληθῇς some such words as “he is absolved from honouring his parents.” But we should expect “and” before οὐκέτι. The fact is that the sentence consists of two unassimilated constructions: (1) You say, If a man says, etc. (he need not honour). (2) You no longer allow a man to do ought for his father or mother if he says, etc. Mt. has endeavoured to correct this harshness by converting οὐκέτι�

(M) 6. And you made void the word of God because of your tradition.] Mk. has: “Making void the word of God by your tradition which you delivered; and many such similar things you do.” For Mt.’s omission of the redundant ᾗ παρεδώκατε, see on 8:16. For�Galatians 3:17, the lexx. cite Dion. H. 2. 72. Add Ditt. Syll. 329. 30.1

(M) 7. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying.] Mk. has: “And He said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you hypocrites, as it stands written that.”

(M) 8. This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.]

(M) 9. And in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines ordinances of men.] The quotation is given in the words of Mk. (except ὁ λαὸς οὗτος) = LXX. (for οὗτος ὁ λαός), which differ only slightly from the LXX. of Isaiah 29:13. The LXX. has: ἐν τοῖς χείλεσιν αὐτῶν τιμῶσίν με, and ἐντάλματα�

2. τὴν παράδοσιν] S1 S2 have “the commandments,” assimilating to v. 3 τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ.

5. πατέρα αὐτοῦ] add ἢ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ, C E al. om. א B D S1 S2.

6. τὸν λόγον] אc a B D a b ff1 2 S1 S2; τὸν νόμον, א* et c b C; τὴν ἐντολήν, E F al.

8. The quotation is completed by the addition of the words ἐγγίζει μοι at the beginning, and of τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ καί after οὗτος by C E al.

(M) 10. And having called the multitude, He said to them, Hear and understand.]—προσκαλεσάμενος] Mk. adds πάλιν. For Mt.’s omission, see Introduction, p. xx.—εἶπεν] for Mk.’s ἔλεγεν, as often.—ἀκούετε] Mk. has�

(M) 11. Not that which goes into the mouth defiles the man; but that which comes out from the mouth, this defiles the man.] Mk. has: “There is nothing outside a man entering into him which can defile him. But the things which proceed from the man are those which defile the man.” The ambiguity of Mk. is clearly original. It is this ambiguity which called for explanation. Mt., by substituting the explanatory ἐκ τοῦ στόματος for ἐκ τοῦ�

13, 14. The editor here inserts three verses from the Logia:

(E) Then came the disciples, and said to Him, Dost Thou know that the Pharisees, when they heard the saying, were made to stumble? And He answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father did not plant, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if a blind man be leading a blind man, both will fall into a pit.]

τότε] see on 2:7.—προσελθόντες] see on 4:3.—ἐσκανδαλίσθησαν] see on 5:29. It is no wonder if the Pharisees were dismayed. For Christ’s saying, that what went into a man did not defile him, directly contravened the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean meats. πᾶσα φυτεία, cf. 3:10, 12. The Pharisees and scribes were barren trees about to be cut down, chaff about to be burned, plants about to be uprooted. It is said of the heretic Acher that he uprooted plants by his false teaching, B. Chag. 15a.—ὁδηγοί εἰσιν τυφλοί] Lk. has a parallel in the Sermon, 6:39 μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; οὐχὶ�

(M) 15. And Peter answered and said to Him, Declare to us the parable.] Mk. has: “And when He entered into a house from the crowd His disciples were asking Him the parable.” For Mt.’s omission of Mk.’s vague and indeterminate reference to a house, cf. Mark 2:1, Mark 3:20, Mark 9:28, Mark 10:10 with the parallels in Matthew 9:1, Matthew 12:22, Matthew 15:21, Matthew 17:19, Matthew 19:8. For the prominence given to S. Peter in this Gospel, cf. 10:2, 14:28ff., 16:16ff.—τὴν παραβολήν] That is the saying of v. 11, which Mt. has already interpreted by inserting ἐκ τοῦ στόματος.

(M) 16. And He said, Are you even yet without understanding? Mk. has: “And, He saith to them, Are you also so without understanding?”—ὁ δέ] for Mk.’s καί, as often.—εἶπεν] for Mk.’s λέγει, as often.—ἀκμήν] only here in N.T. Mk. has οὕτως.

(M) 17. Do you not understand that everything that goeth into the mouth passeth into the belly, and is cast out into the closet.] Mk. has: “Do you not understand that everything that goeth into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it goeth not into the heart, but into the belly, and goeth forth into the closet, cleansing all meats.” The editor omits the last clause in Mk., which is difficult to construe, and of doubtful meaning.—ἀφεδρών] is a rare word of doubtful meaning. It is generally understood as equivalent to�

(M) 18. But the things which go out from the mouth go forth from the heart, and they defile the man. ] Mk. has: “And He was saying that that which goes forth from the man, that defiles the man.” Mt. again anticipates the explanation. Mk v. 20 simply repeats the ambiguous saying of v. 15b, and the explanation follows in v. 21. But Mt., by substituting ἐκ τοῦ στόματος for ἐκ τοῦ�

(M) 19. For out of the heart go forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, railings.] Mk. has: “For from within from the heart of men evil (κακοί) thoughts go out, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetousnesses, maliciousnesses, craft, wantonness, an evil eye, railing, pride, folly.” Mt. in abbreviating Mk.’s list of evils confines it to external actions.

(M) 20. These are the things that defile the man. But to eat with unwashen hands does not defile the man.] Mk. has: “All these evil things go out from within and defile the man.”1

Cf. Buddhist and Christian Gospels, p. 93: “Destroying life, killing, cutting, binding, stealing, speaking lies, fraud and deceptions, worthless reading, intercourse with another’s wife —this is defilement, but not the eating of flesh.”

D.—15:21-18:35 = Mar 7:24-50

Further ministry in and on the outskirts of Galilee. A period marked by Christ’s teaching about His death and resurrection.

The phrase ἐκεῖθεν δὲ�Mark 7:24 marks the beginning of a new period in that Gospel. Cf. ἐκεῖθεν�Mark 10:1. Christ had hitherto worked in or near Capharnaum amongst the multitudes who thronged to Him. He now enters upon a period of travel on the outskirts of Galilee. It is true that we read of Him at Capharnaum, but He no longer publicly taught there, Mark 9:30, Mark 9:33; and instead of preaching to the common people, He now devoted Himself to instructing His disciples on the subject of His death and resurrection, Mark 8:31, Mark 8:9:Mark 8:10-12, Mark 8:31-32. In Mt. the long and purposeless journeys are curtailed, cf. 15:29 with Mark 7:31, and it might seem as though the editor intended to enter upon a new section of his Gospel at 16:21�Matthew 4:12-20 = Mark 1:14-23, work in or near Capernaum; Matthew 15:20-35=Mar 7:24-50, work outside Galilee marked by a new phase in Christ’s teaching; Mat 19:1-31=Mark 10:0, journey to Jerusalem; Mt 21-28=Mk 11-16:8, last days of the Messiah’s life.

(M) 21. And Jesus went out thence and withdrew into the regions of Tyre and Sidon.] Mk. has: “And having arisen thence, He departed into the boundaries of Tyre and Sidon.—ἐξελθών] for Mk.’s Semitic�

Mk. adds here: “And entering into a house, He wished no one to know it, and could not be hid.” For Mt.’s omission of the house, see on 15:15. For the omission of the statement that Christ “wished, but could not,” see Introduction, p. xxxi.

(M) 22. And behold a Canaanite woman came out from those boundaries, and cried, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is grievously afflicted with a demon.] Mk. has: “But straightway a woman having heard about Him, whose daughter had an unclean spirit, came and fell at His feet. And the woman was a Greek, a Syrophœnician by race. And she was asking Him that He would cast the demon out of her daughter.” It can hardly be unintentional that Mt. omits the statement that Jesus entered into a house in this heathen territory, and represents the woman as coming out of those boundaries to Jesus; cf. 10:5.

23-25 are not in Mk.

(E) And He answered not a word. And His disciples came and asked Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. And He answered and said, I was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And she came and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me.]—ἠρώτων] ἐρωτάω in the LXX and N.T. has the sense to “beg,” “beseech.” So in the Papyri, e.g. Fayûm Towns, cxxxii. 1; cf. Ditt. Syll.. 328. 5, 930. 56.—εἰς τὰ πρόβατα, κ.τ.λ.] see on 10:6.—προσελθόντες] see on 4:3.—προσεκύνει] see on 2:2.

(M) 26. And He answered and said, It is not good to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to the dogs.] Mk. has: “And He was saying to her, Let first the children be fed: for,” etc.—κυνάρια] house-dogs. Mk. is fond of diminutives, which Mt. sometimes retains; but cf. v. 25 θυγάτριον, for which Mt. θυγάτηρ.

(M) 27. And she said, Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat from the crumbs which fall from the table of their masters.] Mk. has: “And she answered and saith to Him, Yea, Lord; even the dogs underneath the table eat from the crumbs of the children.”—Ναί] “Yes, that is true.”—καὶ γάρ] “It is neither good to give the children’s food to the dogs, nor is it necessary; for they eat of the crumbs.” ψιχίων] The word seems to occur here only.—κύριε] occurs here only in Mk., in Matthew 19:0 times, inLk. 16, in Jn. 38.

(M) 28. Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it to thee as thou wilt. And her daughter was healed from that hour.]—τότε] see on 2:7.—ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης] cf. Matthew 9:22, Matthew 8:13, Matthew 17:18. Mk. has: “And He said to her, For this saying go, the demon has gone out of thy daughter. And she went away to her house, and found the child lying upon the bed, and the demon gone out.” For πίστις = assurance, confidence, trust in the healing power of Christ, see 8:10, 9:2, 22, 29. See Gould in loc.

21-28. The relation of this section to Mark 7:24-30 is not easy to determine. It is possible that the editor here is substituting for Mk.’s narrative a second and longer account traditionally known to him. On the other hand, a good many of the features of Mt.’s account remind us of characteristics of the editor of this Gospel. It is, e.g., quite natural that he should omit Mk v. 24b; see above. Further, the phraseology of the whole narrative is strongly marked by the editor’s characteristic phrases; e.g.i.e. privileges intended for the Jews, should not be cast to dogs, i.e. to heathen women like herself. She, inspired by her misery, was quick to turn the analogy in her own favour. It was quite true, yet dogs fed from the crumbs of their master’s table. Therefore mercy shown to her might be justified by the metaphor. Thus, as in the previous case of condescension to a heathen (8:5-13), faith forced the barrier of Christ’s rule of working only amongst His own people. The chief obstacle to this view is the insertion of vv. 23-25. Why does the editor lengthen the dialogue. Partly perhaps to heighten the effect. Not at once, and only because of the woman’s earnest importunity, did Christ condescend to her. And partly, to explain the ambiguity of Mk 27 “Let first the children be fed.” There is no specific explanation given in Mk. of this “children.” The reader is left, as the woman was, to apply it to the Jews as contrasted with the heathen (dogs). But Mt. by prefixing, “I was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” gives a clue to the interpretation. The “children” are the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Cf. Mt.’s interpretation, 15:11, of Mark 7:15.

(M) 29. And Jesus removed thence, and came by the sea of Galilee; and He went up into the hill country, and sat down there.] Mk. has: “And again He went out from the boundaries of Tyre, and passed through Sidon to the sea of Galilee, amidst the boundaries of Decapolis.” The geography of Mk. is difficult. He here describes a journey of considerable length from Tyre, through Sidon, to the east side of the lake of Galilee, without giving any further details about it, so that it seems quite purposeless. Wellhausen is probably right in supposing that the text of Mk. is corrupt, and that διὰ Σιδῶνος covers some original statement about Bethsaida. This would considerably shorten the journey. The editor of Mt. has felt the needlessness of recording a long journey to the north without giving any details. He therefore brings Christ back at once to the lake. For μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν as a connecting formula, cf. 11:1 μετέβη ἐκεῖθεν, 12:9 μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν. Mk. now describes the healing of a deaf man at an unknown place. A little later, 8:22-26, he records the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida. Mt. omits both miracles, probably intentionally, for it can hardly be accidental that they are both characterised by features which Mt. elsewhere avoids. In both the healing is performed in private, 7:33�Mark 1:43; ἐμβριμησάμενος, 1:45; περιβλεψάμενος αὐτοῦς μετʼ ὀργῆς συνλυπούμενος, 3:5; ἐξέστη, 3:21; ἐθαύμασεν, 6:6;�Mark 1:45, on which see on 8:4, and also statements to the effect that Christ asked questions as though He had not absolute knowledge. See notes on Matthew 8:29, Matthew 8:14:18, Matthew 8:16:Matthew 8:9-10, Matthew 8:17:11, Matthew 8:14, Matthew 8:17, Matthew 8:18:1, Matthew 8:19:7, Matthew 8:26:18 and Introduction, p. xxxi. It seems probable, therefore, that the editor intentionally passes over Mark 7:32-37. In lieu, he has substituted a general description of Christ’s miracles of healing, vv. 30-31.

(E) 30-31. And there came to Him many multitudes, having with them lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and they cast them by His feet, and He healed them: so that the multitudes marvelled, as they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing: and they glorified the God of Israel.]—προσῆλθον] see on 4:3.—παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ] D S1 have ὑπό. τοὺς ὄχλους θαυμάσαι] so B E al S1 S2. א C D U Δ curss have τὸν ὄχλον. It is very improbable that Mt. in this non-Marcan passage would have the singular. See Introduction, p. lxxxvi.

(M) 32. And Jesus called His disciples, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because already three days they are present with Me, and have nothing to eat: and to send them away fasting I am not willing, lest they faint on the road.]—ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς] Mk. has a longer introduction: “In those days again there being a great multitude, and they not having anything to eat, having called the disciples, He saith to them,” etc.—εἶπεν] as usual for λέγει.—σπλαγχίζεσθαι] See on 9:36.—ὅτι ἤδη ἡμέραι τρεῖς προσμένουσί μοι] The same phrase occurs in Mk. For the nominative standing in a parenthesis interrupting the construction, see Blass, p. 85; Moulton, p. 70; and cf. Esther 4:11 οὐ κέκλημαι—εἰσίν αὗται ἡμέραι τριάκοντα. But the accusative would be so much more natural, that the nominative in Mt. and Mk. must be regarded as a proof of dependence of one Evangelist upon the other.—καὶ�

(M) 33. And the disciples say to Him, Whence have we in a wilderness loaves sufficient to feed so great a multitude?] Mk. has: “And His disciples answered to Him that, Whence shall one be able to feed these with loaves here on a wilderness?” For the omission of Mk.’s ὅτι, see Introduction, p. xx. ἐρημία and νῆστις occur only here in the Gospels. Both are rare words in Biblical Greek. For χορτάζειν, see on 5:6. ἐν ἐρημίᾳ is easier than Mk.’s ἐπʼ ἐρημίας.

34. And Jesus saith to them, How marry loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fish.] Mk. has: “And He asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. … And they had a few little fish.” The editor here retains the question in the mouth of the Lord. In 14:17 he avoided it.

(M) 35. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.] Mk. has παραγγέλλει and ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. For Mt.’s change of ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς into ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, cf. 13:2; ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλόν for Mk.’s ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς; 14:25 περιπατῶν ἐπὶ θάλασσαν for Mk.’s ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης; cf. Introduction, p. xxviii.

(M) 36. And took the seven loaves and the fishes, and having given thanks, He brake and was giving to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.] Mk. has: “And having taken the seven loaves, having given thanks, He brake, and was giving to His disciples that they might distribute; and they distributed to the multitude. And they had a few little fishes: and having blessed them, He commanded (εἷπεν) also to distribute these.”

(M) 37. And all ate, and were filled: and of the remainder of the fragments they took up seven baskets full.] Mk. has: “And they ate, and were filled: and they took up remainders of fragments seven baskets.” Mt. adds πάντες and πλήρεις, to assimilate to 14:20.—σφυρίδας] For this spelling, see Deissm. Bib. Stud. 158, 185. D has σφορίδας here and in Mark 8:20. In Mark 8:8 it is read by א A* D; in Matthew 16:10 by B D.

(M) 38. And they that did eat were four thousand men, besides women and children.] Mk. has: “And there were about four thousand.” Mt. adds χωρὶς γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων, to assimilate to 14:21.

(M) 39. And He sent away the multitudes, and embarked into the boat, and came to the boundaries of Magadan.] Mk. has: “And He sent them away; and straightway having embarked into the boat with His disciples, He came to the regions of Dalmanutha.” Mk.’s Dalmanutha is certainly corrupt. The editor of Mt. has tried to emend by substituting Magadan. If Cheyne (EncycBib 1635) is right in suggesting that the real name of the place was Migdal-nunia, a suburb of Tiberias, Mt. has got from oral tradition or from some earlier copy of Mk. a form which is not very far from the original.

32-39. In these vv. Mt. has here and there assimilated the language to that of the feeding of the five thousand.

Cf. 14:19 καὶ τοὺς—ἰχθύας with 15:36.

19 οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις with 15:36.

20 καὶ ἔφαγον πάντες with 15:37.

20 καὶ ἦραν τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων δώδεκα κοφίνους πλήρεις with 15:37 καί τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων ἦραν ἑπτὰ σφυρίδας πλήρεις.

21 οἱ δὲ ἐσθίοντες ἦσαν ἄνδρες ὡσεὶ πεντακισχίλιοι χωρὶς γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων with 15:38 οἱ δὲ ἐσθίοντες ἦσαν τετρακισχίλιοι ἄνδρες χωρὶς γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων.

39. Μαγαδάν] א B D; Magedon, S2; Magedan, S1; Magedan, latt; Μαγδαλά; E F al.

M the Second Gospel.

LXX. The Septuagint Version.

1 Cf. Josephus, Against Apion, 1: τὸν καλούμενον ὅρκον κορβὰν— — δηλοἵ δὲ—δῶρον θεοῦ.

Dion. H. Dionysius Halicarnassus.

Ditt. Dittenberger Sylloge.

1 Ox. Pap. iii. 491. 3 (a.d. 126), 494. 4 (a.d. 156), 495. 3 (a.d. 181-189). In these three cases it means “to revoke” of a will. It occurs also in 1 Es 6:32, Esther 6:6 times in 4 Mac, and 6 times in Aquila.

S Syriac version: Sinaitic MS.

S Syriac version: Curetonian.

E editorial passages.

al i.e. with other uncial MSS.

B. Babylonian Talmud.

1 The addition of the last clause in Mt. is significant. In Mk. the section vv. 14-23 might seem to be directed against the Mosaic regulations with regard to clean and unclean meats. Mt., by omitting Mk 19 end and by inserting the last clause, seems to have wished to make it clear that the whole paragraph was directed not against the Mosaic law, but against the ceremonial rules of the Pharisees.

O quotations from the Old Testament borrowed from a collection of Messianic prophecies. See pp.61 f.

Deissm. Deissmann.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Matthew 15". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.