Bible Commentaries
Matthew 17

Bengel's Gnomon of the New TestamentBengel's Gnomon

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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. ὁ 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. Mat 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 ( 2Pe 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 .

[776] No doubt the transfiguration was included in the reference, John 1:14 , “We beheld His glory , the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” ED.

Verse 2

Matthew 17:2 . Μετεμορφώθη , 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 Php 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.

[777] Sc. ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων μορφὴν δούλου λαβὼν καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος .

[778] Whereas His face shone as the sun , His raiment was only white as the light . ED.

Μορφὴ , 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. Μωσῆς 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. ΜΕΤʼ ΑὐΤΟῦ , with Him ) They conversed with Him only, not with the three apostles.

[779] On the first day of the month Adar, according to Josephus, B. IV. Ant., at the end, Moses died (comp. Deuteronomy 34:8 ; Joshua 1:11 ; Jos 4:19 ). Beng. had mentioned this in Harm. Ev., Ed. i. on this passage, and had noticed that Christ’s transfiguration had taken place at the same time of year, in the presence of Moses; subjoining a caution, that though this remark might not seem to have much weight, yet it was possible it might be of use to some hereafter . Shortly after, some one appealed to the transfiguration of Christ as having occurred in the month of September , as a ground of expecting the coming of Moses and Elias in the month of September A.D. 1737: an error which this observation of Beng., however minute and overstrained it may seem to some, might have served to refute. See Harm. Ev. Ed. ii., pp. 375, 376. E. B.

[780] See explanation of technical terms in Appendix. (I. B.)

[781] At the end of the first dispensation, viz. the patriarchal; though Moses also stood at the beginning of the second, viz. that of the law. In this latter point of view, as Moses stands at the beginning of the law as its representative, so Elias at the beginning of the prophets, and the Lord Jesus at the beginning of the Gospel, at once its representative and embodiment. ED.

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 Luk 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. Μωσῇ , κ . τ . λ ., for Moses , etc.) Peter knew Moses and Elias in that light.

[782] Peter no longer now has the wish that he had continued on that mountain. It is now his privilege, by means of the Cross, to pass from that which is good to those things which are better . V. g.

Verse 5

Matthew 17:5 . Ἔτι , yet ) with but little delay. λαλοῦντος , speaking ) His speech had clearly not been suitable. ἰδοὺ ἰδοὺ , 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.

[783] Viz., “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art my Son ; this day have I begotten Thee.” Psalms 2:7 . “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth ; I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles,” Isaiah 42:1 . “The LOUD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken ,” Deuteronomy 18:15 . (I. B.)

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 . Μηδενὶ , 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 [ Mat 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 .

[784] “Seminaliter,” i.e. , he will sow the seed of these things: he will initiate them, as the preparation for what is to follow. (I. B.)

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 ( Mat 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. Mat 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]

[785] The world either altogether disbelieves the truth, or else, clinging to mere expectations, refuses to believe the actual fulfilment itself. V. g.

[786] Whatsoever they listed , and that too owing to their evil and wanton lust . It is this very blind perversity of the world which causes the necessity that one must burst through so many obstacles to a good cause. It not seldom happens, that one who has effected some good, waits in expectation of most splendid recompences from the world on that account. But the man who knows God, the world, and himself, cannot long persist in such an expectation. The merits which receive remuneration of this kind are not spiritual, but worldly. V. g.

[787] i.e., The Elias, who was appointed to precede the first advent. ED.

[788] Matthew 17:13 . περὶ Ἰωάννον , concerning John ) not concerning that Elias, or Elijah, whom they had seen, as recorded in Matthew 17:3 . V. g.

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 [ Psa 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 πῦρ τὸ 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.

[789] Ps. 24:16, LXX. ἐπίβλεψον ἐπʼ ἐμὲ καὶ ἐλέησόν με , ὅτι μονογενής εἰμι ἐγώ . ED.

[790] Middleton remarks on this, “ Bengel (in Gnom.) has here a note which I do not understand: he says, ‘ Articulus UNIVERSE innuit naturam horum elementorum, quod lunaticus apud ignem et aquam proclivior sit in paroxysmum .’ ” Though it savours of presumption to attempt any explanation of that which Middleton did not understand, I would venture to suggest, that Bengel means to say, that the article shows that the element of fire is intended, in the abstract, and consequently every presence of it (universè), in the concrete. (I. B.)

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.

[791] The transfiguration may have probably been the most delightful, and the case of the lunatic the most painful, of the events which befell Jesus whilst sojourning on the earth. V. g.

[792] See explanation of technical terms in Appendix. (I. B.)

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 . διατὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν , why were we unable? ) They had been already in the habit of performing the miracle in question; see ch. Matthew 10:1 .

[793] Οἱ μαθηταὶ , the disciples ) Not even Peter, James, and John being excluded (excepted). Otherwise, one would think that the expulsion of the demon should have been committed to them on their return from the mountain. V. g.

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 Mat 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.

[794] See foot-note, p. 187. (I. B.)

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. Mat 9:14 ); and they appear to have been somewhat sell-indulgent (sobrietatem … minus servare) during their Lord’s absence.

[795] Since by [prayers and] fastings faith is increased. V. g.

Verse 22

Matthew 17:22 . [796] Μέλλει παραδίδοσθαι , shall be betrayed εἰς 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 .

[796] Ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ , in Galilee ) As yet abiding in a place separated by a long distance from the scene of His passion. V. g.

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]

[797] On a different footing, however, from what He had been on before: for He was now dwelling in obscurity with His disciples, to whom He gave the information as to His Passion, Luke 9:18 , etc., until He set out on the journey which was to end in His Passion; Luke 9:51 ; Luke 13:32 . Harm. , p. 380.

[798] “In the original [ i.e. , the Greek of St Matthew], the ‘tribute-money’ which was demanded, and the ‘piece of money,’ of twice its value, which Peter was to find in the mouth of the fish, are discriminated by their proper names. The former is called didrachma , or ‘two drachmæ,’ and the latter stater . The latter was of equivalent value to the Hebrew shekel, and was equal to four drachmæ; and, consequently, two drachmæ were equivalent to half the stater and shekel. Leaving the terms untranslated, Peter is asked if his Master paid the didrachma? and Peter is told that he should find a stater in the mouth of the fish. The stater was also called tetradrachmon , from its containing four drachmæ. It exhibited on one side the head of Minerva, and on the reverse an owl, together with a short inscription. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jews were obliged to pay this tribute to the Romans; and the passage in which the historian relates this, affords one of those minute incidental corroborations which have been so abundantly adduced in evidence of the verity of the evangelical narratives; for he states that the emperor imposed a tribute of two drachmæ ( δύο δραχμάς ) upon the Jews, wherever they were, to be paid every year into the Capitol, in the same manner as it had been previously paid into the Temple at Jerusalem thus concurring with the Evangelist, that the half-shekel was usually paid in the form of two drachmæ, or of a single coin of that value. The tax continued to be paid to the Romans in the time of Origen. It is understood, however, that the Temple tribute, though collected in heathen coin, was to be exchanged for Hebrew money before it could be finally paid into the Temple probably on account of the idolatrous symbols which the former so generally bore. Hence the vocation of the money-changers, whom our Saviour drove from the Temple. They were accustomed, on and after the fifteenth of the month Adar, to seat themselves in the Temple, in order to exchange for those who desired it, Greek and Roman coins for Jewish half-shekels.” Kitto’s Illustrated Commentary , in loc. See also Wordsworth, in loc. (I. B.)

[799] The exaction of this Temple tribute usually took place on the 15th day of the month Adar. And, in accordance with this, the length (interval) of time admirably corresponds to the events and journeys, as frequently recorded, from the feast of dedication, John 10:22 , up to this place, and further in continuation up to the Sabbath, of which we have the mention in John 12:1 . Both the Sabbaths noticed, Luke 13:10 ; Luke 14:1 , occupy the middle portion in that time; and the raising of Lazurus took place a few days before the solemn and triumphant entry of our Lord. Harm. , p. 380.

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 ἢ κῆνσον , custom or tribute , lat. vectigadia aut censum) i.e. land-tax and poll-tax. ἀλλοτρίων , strangers ) subjects who are not sons.

[800] But, meanwhile, having been solemnly recognised as the Son of GOD, He most becomingly, at this time, enters this protest in presence of Peter in vindication of His own dignity. Harm. , p. 380.

[801] Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς , the kings of the earth ) With these is compared the Lord Jehovah, for whose worship the tribute was paid. V. g.

Verse 26

Matthew 17:26 . Ἐλεύθεροι , free ) The argument is as follows: Jesus is the Son of God ( Mat 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 Mat 8:14 ); therefore they said your , not thy Master , Matthew 17:24 .

[802] The other disciples, as we may reasonably suppose, had not yet passed their twentieth year; and therefore were not yet bound to pay the sacred tribute. V. g.

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