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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 8

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-13


Contents:—The miracles of the Lord, as the evidence of His prophetic office, misunderstood and reviled by the Pharisees and Sadducees. 1. Miracles of the Lord beyond the pale of the ancient theocracy: the leper and the heathen. 2. Miracles of the Lord proceeding from the circle of the new theocracy (the house of Peter): the mother-in-law of Peter, those who were possessed of evil spirits. 3. Miracles during His missionary journey: the disciples, the storm at sea. 4. Miraculous works, despite the opposition of the kingdom of darkness: the Gadarenes, the man afflicted with the palsy. 5. Miraculous works, despite the contradiction of legalism: Matthew Levi the publican, the feast with the publicans, and the twofold offence of the Pharisees and the disciples of John 6:0. Miraculous works in the face of utter despair and of death: the woman with the issue of blood, and the daughter of Jairus. 7. Miraculous works of Christ as the dawn of His work of redemption, in opposition to the hardening and the reviling of His enemies: the two blind men, and the person possessed with a dumb devil. 8. Royal preparation for the mission of Christ’s disciples, and triumph over those who reviled His prophetic office.

The leper, and the heathen, or the centurion of Capernaum. Miraculous works of Christ beyond the pale of the ancient theocracy.

Matthew 8:1-13

The Gospel for the 3d Sunday after Epiphany.—Parallels:—The Leper: Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16 The Centurion of Capernaum: Luke 7:1-10)

1When he was [had] come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou 3canst make me clean. And Jesus [he]1 put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

5And when Jesus [he] was [had] entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only [only say in a word],2 and my servant shall be healed. 9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed. Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.3 11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down [recline at table]4 with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: 12But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into [the] outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.


Matthew 8:1. When He was come down (cum autem descendisset. Vulg.).—Chronological arrangement of the narrative. We account for the circumstance, that Luke records the healing of the leper (Matthew 5:12) before the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:20), on the ground that he wished to relate the latter in connection with the mission of the twelve Apostles. Hence, his arrangement is not in strict chronological order. Besides, the introduction of the cure of the leper in Luke breaks up the continuous narrative of the return of Jesus from the Mount of Beatitudes to Capernaum. Matthew expressly states, that the cure of the leper was performed when Christ “had come down” from the mountain. On the other hand, Luke relates, that Christ, on His journey to Capernaum, entered into a city; and that the cure of the leper there was the occasion of His retiring for a time into the wilderness, probably in consideration of the prejudices of the Jews, as the leprous person had, contrary to the injunction of the Saviour, published the fact, that Jesus had touched, and so healed him. After this temporary retirement to the wilderness, Jesus returned to Capernaum.

Matthew 8:2. A leper.—(Comp. on the general subject of leprosy Michaelis: Mosaisches Recht, vol. iv. p. 227, Winer sub voce, and Ewald: Jüdische Alterthümer, p. 218.) Leprosy, צָרַעַת, λέπρα, as to its general character, is a disease peculiar to Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, and Syria, although it has penetrated as far cast as Persia and India, and as far west as Italy. A most frightful calamity, resembling in some respects the pestilence; only that the latter sweeps away its victims with great rapidity, while leprosy is slow in its ravages. These two diseases formed, so to speak the centre of all others, such as blindness, palsy, deafness, fevers, bloody flux, etc. Analogous to these physical sufferings were the various kinds of demoniacal possessions.—Causes. Leprosy is caused by bad air, want of cleanliness, bad diet, dyspepsia, infection (especially by cohabitation), or a hereditary taint. It sometimes continues to the fourth generation (2 Samuel 3:29), but the disease loses in intensity as it descends, and is generally confined in the fourth degree to ugly teeth, offensive breath, and sickly appearance.—Kinds and degrees. Leprosy is a form of skin disease. Four kinds of it were known—elephantiasis (an Egyptian disease, hence, ulcus Ægypti), black leprosy, white leprosy, and red leprosy. Hippocrates classified the different kinds of non-malignant eruptions as ἀλφός, λειχήν, λεύκη, and λεπραί. The first of these is the בֹּחַק of Leviticus 13:39, which is quite harmless in its character, and disappears, without causing any pain, in a few months or years. We also read, in Leviticus 13:47, of a leprosy attaching to clothes (probably from small insects); and in Matthew 14:34, of one attaching to houses. The symptoms of white leprosy, Barras, also known as lepra Mosaica,—the form of the disease peculiar to the Hebrews,—are sufficiently described in Leviticus 13:0. When the disease is decided in its character, it is either rapidly cured, or else spreads inward. In the former case, there is a violent eruption, so that the patient is white from head to foot (Leviticus 13:12; 2 Kings 5:27); in the latter case, the disease progresses slowly, and the symptoms are equally distressing and fatal, ending in consumption, dropsy, suffocation, and death. The effects of elephantiasis are even more sad. It chiefly affects the lower part of the body, and the patient may live for twenty years. It stiffens the ankle (making the foot like that of an elephant, hence the name), stupefies the senses, produces melancholy, sleeplessness, terrible dreams (Job 7:14), insatiable voracity, and ends in fever or sudden suffocation.—Legislation on leprosy. The Mosaic law took special notice of leprosy. The priests were commissioned carefully to watch its inroads. The object in view was to protect the healthy portion of the community, to pronounce on the harmless character of any eruption which resembled leprosy, and to readmit into the community those who had been cured. No remedy was known for the disease itself: the leper was declared unclean, and excluded from intercourse with all other persons. He had to wear the prescribed mourning garment, Leviticus 13:45, but was permitted to associate with other lepers. Their abodes were commonly outside the city walls (Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2); but they were allowed to go about freely, providing they avoided contact with other persons; nor were they even excluded from the services of the synagogue (Lightfoot, 862). In this respect we note a great difference between the synagogue and the temple. On recovering from leprosy, several lustrations had to be performed, Leviticus 14:0 The main points in the prescribed rite were, to appear before the priest, and to offer a sacrifice; the latter being preceded by religious lustrations, and introduced by a symbolical ceremony, in which the two turtles or pigeons bore a striking analogy to the scape-goat and the other goat offered in sacrifice on the day of atonement, Leviticus 16:0—In general, the ordinances connected with leprosy may be regarded as the type of all other directions in dealing with that which was unclean.—Symbolical significance. Accordingly, leprosy was regarded as the symbol of sin and of judgment (Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:26; 2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:20-23); also of inscrutable visitations, Job 2:7. On the other hand, recovery from leprosy was regarded as a symbol of salvation, as in the case of Naaman, 2 Kings 5:2; comp. Psalms 51:9, with Leviticus 6:7. The uncleanness, the gradual destruction of the system, the disgusting appearance, and the unexpected recovery by a full outbreak of the eruption,—and, again, the slow but sure progress of the disease, the isolation of those who were affected by it from the society of the clean, the infectious nature of the trouble, its long duration and hopelessness,—presented a variety of views under which sin and guilt with its consequences and effects, even upon innocent individuals, might be symbolized.

Matthew 8:2. And worshipped Him—fell down before Him (on his face). “As in Matthew 2:2; Matthew 15:25, a sign of profound reverence. The leper regarded Jesus at least as a great prophet, though it is difficult accurately to define the measure of knowledge possessed by such believers (comp. Matthew 8:8-10). Hence the import of this worship, and of the designation, ‘Lord,’ differed under various circumstances. Some regarded even the promised Messiah as a mere man (?), while others were fully aware of His Divine character.” Gerlach.

Matthew 8:3. His leprosy was cleansed, ἐκαθαρίσθη.—By his being brought into contact with Him who was absolute purity.

Matthew 8:4. Tell no man: Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14; comp. Matthew 9:30; Matthew 12:16; Mark 3:12; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:26-30; Matthew 16:20; Matthew 17:9.—The injunction of silence upon the persons cured arose, in all instances, from the same general motives. It was primarily dictated by a regard for the spiritual and physical welfare of such persons. Besides, to prevent popular excitement, and not to endanger the ministry of Christ, it was better to keep silence on these matters. But, in each special case, there was also a particular motive. Maldonatus, Grotius, Bengel, and others, suppose that, in the present instance, it was enjoined in order that no prejudice might be raised in the mind of the officiating priest against this recovery. Fritzsche and Baumgarten-Crusius hold that it indicated that the first duty of the leper was to show himself to the priest, before proclaiming abroad the miracle. Olshausen: Jesus issued this injunction mainly to persons who were in danger of being carried away; while in other cases, especially where the individual was by nature retiring and prone to self-contemplation, He commanded an opposite course, Mark 5:19. But the principal motive, as mentioned by Meyer (following Chrysostom), was, that Jesus wished to prevent a concourse of the people, and enthusiastic outbursts on their part. This, however, is not incompatible with any of the other motives; as, in the present instance, the person cured had to undertake a journey to the temple at Jerusalem (Fritzsche, Baumgarten-Crusius, Meyer). According to Maimonides, a person restored from leprosy had, in the first instance, to submit himself to the inspection of the priest of his district. He then underwent a second inspection after the lapse of seven days, after which he performed the customary lustration; and then journeyed to Jerusalem, where he offered the prescribed sacrifice, and was pronounced clean.

Matthew 8:4. Show thyself to the priest.—Comp. the ordinances of purification in Leviticus 14:0.

For a testimony unto them.—Meyer: i.e., “unto the people, that thou art healed.” But we must not overlook the fact, that the leper had been declared unclean by the priests who were now to certify to his restoration, and that his showing himself was the evidence of this. The remark, “for a testimony that I do not destroy the law” (Chrysostom), is inapt; as also the view of Olshausen, that the testimony here referred to was that of the priests.

Matthew 8:5. Ἑκατόνταρχος, centurio, a captain over 100, in the service of Herod Antipas.—According to Matthew 8:10, a Gentile, although in all probability a proselyte of the gate. Comp. the intercession of the ruler of the synagogue on his behalf, in the Gospel according to Luke.—Proselytes, גֵּרִים, προσήλυτοι, Sept. 1 Chronicles 22:2; Matthew 23:15; Acts 2:10;—those Gentiles who adopted Judaism in a more or less restricted sense (Suidas: ἐξ ἐθνῶν προσεληλυθότες). According to the Gemara and the Rabbins, we distinguish,—I. Proselytes of the gate, גֵּרֵי הַשּׁעַר; i.e., strangers who lived within the gates of Israel, had adopted the religion of the patriarchs, and conformed to what were called the seven Noachic commandments, which prohibited, (a) blasphemy; (b) the worship of the heavenly bodies, or idolatry; (c) murder; (d) incest; (e) robbery; (f) rebellion; (g) eating of blood and of things strangled (Acts 15:20). They were also called οἱ σεβὀμενοι (τὸν Θεόν), Joseph. Antiq. Matthew 14:7; Matthew 14:2; Acts 13:43; Acts 13:50; Acts 16:14; Acts 17:4, etc.—Instances: Cornelius, Lydia, the Ethiopian eunuch, etc. II. Proselytes of righteousness, גֵּרֵי הַצֶּדֶק, who had submitted to circumcision, and thus become naturalized Jews. The distinction between these two classes was kept up at the time of Christ; when, indeed, the number of proselytes of the gate had greatly increased.—The two parallel cases of the centurion at the cross (Matthew 27:54) and of Cornelius (Acts 10:0), will at once occur to the reader.

Matthew 8:6. My servant, ὁπαῖςμου.—The slave, or domestic servant, as distinguished from the common soldier, who was only officially subject to him; but not a son (Strauss, Baumgarten-Crusius). From the more detailed narrative in Luke, we learn that he was held in special esteem by his master; which, indeed, may be gathered from this passage also. The servant is distinguished from the soldiers. The latter come and go as it were mechanically, according to the word of command; while the servant doeth as he is told—his master can intrust to his care the business in hand. Evidently the centurion had only this one servant ( Matthew 8:9).

Sick of the palsy, παραλυτικός.5—There is a manifest analogy between the sick of the palsy and the demoniacs. The latter were deprived of their consciousness, or of the organ of the soul; while the paralytics were deprived of the use of their bodily organs. Those afflicted with epilepsy formed a kind of intermediate link between these two ailments, being occasionally deprived of the use both of their mental and bodily capacities, and, at other times, of either the one or the other. The παραλυτικοί are as it were physically dissolved (παραλελυμένοι), and prostrated on beds (Matthew 9:2; Mark 3:3, etc.). Luther translates gichtbrüchig, which signifies only a particular kind of the general disease of paralysis. “Modern physicians apply the term paralysis to the loss of voluntary motion, or of sensation in some part of the body, the muscles being entirely relaxed. This constitutes the difference between paralysis and catalepsis and the various kinds of tetanus, in which the muscles are excited and rigid. In paralysis, the circulation of the blood, animal heat, and the ordinary secretions continue. The disease frequently comes on suddenly (after a stroke of apoplexy), at other times slowly and insensibly, but in every instance is difficult to remove.” Winer.

Matthew 8:9. For I am a man ὑπὸἐξουσίαν.— in service.—Meyer: “He adduces a twofold analogy: the obedience which he is bound to give, and that which he claims from his subordinates.” But the former cannot have been meant, as it would imply that Christ was also a subordinate in spiritual matters. The conclusion is, however, not simply a minori ad majus, in the sense that Christ ruled in spiritual, as the centurion in temporal matters; but also in this sense, that if he, a subordinate, could issue his commands, much more could Christ, the absolute Lord. Various opinions are entertained about the meaning which the centurion attached to the supremacy of Christ. Fritzsche understands it as applying to His sovereignty over the demons as the supposed authors of diseases; Wetstein, Olshausen, and Ewald, over angels; Baumgarten-Crusius, over ministering spirits; Meyer, over diseases, as subject to Christ. But the centurion must have referred to sway over subordinate personages, and not merely over diseases; nor could it here refer to demons, as his servant was not possessed by them. On the other hand, we can readily conceive how a Roman, who was just passing from heathenism to Judaism, would easily confound his Roman notions about genii with the idea of angels. Bengel: “sapientia fidelis ex ruditate militari pulchre elucens.” What gives such charm to the illustration is, that the centurion ever again recurs to his poor faithful servant. Some familiar servant of the Lord Jesus, he thinks, would suffice to restore his poor slave.—There was no need, he meant to say, for His personal attendance, since even he was not required always personally to superintend the execution of his orders. “Humility and faith always go hand in hand.” Meyer.

Matthew 8:11. From the east and west.—Referring not only to Gentiles, but to the more distant of them, without distinction of nationality, Isaiah 45:6.—And shall sit down, or rather recline at table, according to Oriental fashion.—In the minds of the prophets, a symbolical meaning attached to this feast of Messiah, as portraying the blessedness enjoyed in the kingdom of heaven (Isaiah 25:6). In this sense Jesus here employs the simile, which He afterward expands, as in Luke 14:7; Matthew 22:1; Matthew 26:29. No doubt those around Him would understand the term in this manner. Meyer remarks: “According to Jewish notions, splendid banquets with the patriarchs formed part of the happiness enjoyed in Messiah’s kingdom. See Berthold, Christologie, p. 196, and Schöttgen, Hor. ad loc. The expression is employed in a figurative sense by the Lord (although His Jewish hearers would probably understand it literally).” This last clause is somewhat doubtful, as it would scarcely reflect favorably upon the wisdom of Christ. Meyer very properly calls attention to the contrast between this promise of Jesus and the pride of the Jews, as expressed in the following rabbinical saying: “In mundo futuro (dixit Deus) mensam ingentem vobis sternam, quod Gentiles videbunt et pudefient.” Schöttgen, Hor.

Matthew 8:12. But the children of the kingdom.—The Jews were children of the typical kingdom, or of the theocracy, and might cherish the expectation of becoming sons of the real kingdom—that of heaven (Romans 9:5; Romans 11:16). The expression, kingdom, must here be taken generally, as embracing both economies—the promise and the possession. The term υἱός, ‍‍בֵּן, indicates relationship either in a physical or moral sense. In the present instance, it refers to the heirs which belong to the kingdom, as well as to those to whom the kingdom belongs.

Outer darkness, τὸσκό τος τὸ ἐξώτερον.—The banqueting hall is lit up, the feast is served in the evening, and outside is utter darkness. So Judas went from the supper of the Lord into the dark night, John 13:30. The expression is here used in a comparative sense. They are cast out into deeper, nay, into uttermost darkness. Just as the feast refers to salvation and bliss at the coming of the Lord, so this picture of night, to the darkness and the horrors of judgment. Hence the description of their sufferings, ὁκλαυθμός. “The article [which is omitted in the English C. V.] indicates that it is the well-known wretchedness experienced in hell; comp. Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28.”

Matthew 8:13. In the self-same hour.—Emphatically—as soon as Jesus had spoken the word: comp. John 4:46. In this case, as in John 4:0, and in the cure of the daughter of the Syrophœnician woman, the miracle was performed by the Lord at a distance from the subject of it. Several critics (Semler, Seiffarth, Strauss, Weisse, Gfrörer, Baumgarten-Crusius, Baur) have confounded the history of the centurion of Capernaum with that of the royal courtier there (John 4:46). But this were completely to mistake the different characters of these two persons, and their marked moral peculiarities, as brought out in the Gospels. The courtier was weak in the faith, while the centurion was strong; the courtier deemed the presence of Christ absolutely necessary, and urged Him to come down to his house, while the centurion regarded the word of command sufficient. Hence the difference of treatment on the part of the Lord. (Comp. Lange’s Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 645.)


1. The miracle.—The Lord confirmed and sealed His ministry and prophetic office by miracles. The miracle of His person is revealed in His miraculous works. It is evident that the Evangelist here groups together various miracles of the Lord, in order thereby to exhibit Him as the Wonder-worker.

On the conception of miracles consult the works on the Evidences of Christianity, and the Systems of Biblical and Systematic Theology; my Life of Jesus, ii. 1, 258; my Philos. Dogmatics, 467; Jul. Müller’s dissertation: De miraculorum Jesu Christi natura, i., Marburg, 1839; ii., Halle, 1841; and other works quoted by Meyer, p. 176.6

In the most general sense of the term, every manifestation of God is a miracle; and He does wonders, because He is wonderful. As the self-existent One, all His works are miraculous, whether in creation or in providence: i.e., He manifests Himself as the Almighty Creator, both in calling forth and forming that which is not, and in destroying, or rather transforming, that which is. His wondrous deeds are described in Psalms 33:9 (Psalms 148:5; Psalms 115:3);—“He speaks, and it is done; He commands, and it stands fast;” and again, in Romans 4:17 : “Who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things that be not as though they were.”—All creation is a wonder, Psalms 136:4; Isaiah 40:26. All His administration is wonderful, Psalms 89:6; Job 5:9, etc. His judgments for the deliverance of His people are wonders, Exodus 15:6; Psalms 77:15; Psalms 9:2. So are His leadings of Israel, Psalms 105:2 sqq. Such also is His advent as Saviour, Psalms 98:0—We have already adverted to the second or inner circle of wonders, within the first, or more general. In the ordinary course of nature and of history, God performs special miracles, for the purpose of restoring, of judging, and of delivering, Exodus 34:10; Psalms 105:5; Isaiah 25:1; Daniel 6:27; Acts 2:19. But these new miracles are intimately connected with His general marvellous dealings. As the Almighty and the Creator, He performs the more general miracles of His power. But His special miracles are the manifestation of those new and higher principles which break through and overstep the sphere of common life, and introduce a new and higher order of things, or, in other words, the kingdom of God. These higher miracles appear alongside of His word. Hence we distinguish in this respect between miracles of the word (predictions, prophecies) and miracles of deed (Isaiah 44:7; comp. Matthew 8:26, etc.). The miracles of deed confirm those of the word, and distinguish them from the delusive predictions of false prophets. Similarly, however, the miracles of the word confirm those of deed, and distinguish them from the tokens of magicians.—Under the New Covenant, the distinction between miracles of word and deed merges in the person of Christ. He is the Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6),—the personal, the highest, the absolute Wonder,—because He is the absolute Principle of all Life manifested, the Word itself in outward deed, or God incarnate. As the absolute Wonder, and the Principle of that new and spiritual era which is destined to subdue and transform every relationship of the past, He cannot but perform miracles,—nay, all His doings are miraculous. Himself the new Creation, He performs the highest of all miracles—the wonders of regeneration. These were introduced and attested by the miraculous cures, in which He restored the mental and physical constitution, depressed through sin below the ordinary healthy level, by those almighty interpositions on His part, which we designate miracles in the special sense.

In general, a miracle is that almighty and creative action of God, in which He manifests Himself as the eternal, self-existent, and wonderful One. Creation is the miracle of deed, which is interpreted by the word.

But within this general sphere, the miracles of the kingdom of God were, so to speak, announced and prepared by the special miraculous cycles in the ordinary course of nature, in which the symbolical miracle of nature appears. Here each stage of nature prepares for a higher; which in turn may be regarded as above nature, as contrary to nature, and yet as only higher nature, since it introduces a new and higher principle of life, into the existent and nature order of things.7 It is not the law of nature which causes the principle of nature, but the principle of nature which lies at the basis of the law of nature. Each lower stage prepares for a new, in which a higher principle of life appears. This higher sphere may always be regarded as supernatural, because it goes beyond the former stage, and even as in a sense contrary to nature, because the former stage becomes, so to speak, the pabulum for this new and higher life; while in reality it is only a higher manifestation of nature which unfolds in accordance with the principles of development peculiar to itself.

Thus the chemical principle appeared as a miracle in the elementary world, as introducing a new and higher life; similarly, the principle of crystallization is a miracle with reference to the lower principle of chemical affinity; the plant, a miracle above the crystal; the animal, a miracle in reference to the plant; and man, over all the animal world. Lastly, Christ, as the second man, the God-Man, is a miracle above all the world of the first man, who is of the earth, earthy (1 Corinthians 15:0).

The Lord Jesus would have been an absolute miracle even in the world before the fall of Adam; much more since, instead of ascending to spirituality, man has through sin become the slave of the flesh, and thus degraded nature below its proper level. Hence Christ is not only a higher and a transforming principle in the sphere of our natural world; but, appearing among sin-laden men, He is also the Judge, the Redeemer, and the Saviour.
The New Testament miracle, then, is that working of Christ by word and deed which springs from the new principle of absolute life and salvation, and manifests itself in judgment and deliverance, in redemption and transformation.
But, as the advent of the first man was prepared and predicted by those symbolical miracles of the various stages of nature that gradually ascended toward man as their climax, so was the miraculous advent of the second man from heaven—of Christ, the Redeemer and Transformer of the world—prepared and predicted by the miracles of the Old Testament, which took place within that sphere of human life and nature, which sin had darkened. These were essentially miracles of the coming regeneration, or of the advent of the God-Man.

In the symbolical sphere of nature, the miracle appears, in the first instance, as a symbolical deed on the part of God, which only to the mind of him who is enlightened by the Spirit of God becomes transformed into a miraculous word. It is otherwise within the sphere of the ancient theocracy. Here the wondrous deed of God, and the human, but inspired word of prophecy, which in its symbolic import evokes the wondrous deed, go hand in hand (we might almost say, in a harmonica prœstabilita). Lastly, within the sphere of Christianity, the miracle, as deed, flows from the theanthropic word of the incarnate Word. In general, spiritual regeneration is always the first, and is afterward followed by miraculous cure, or transformation of nature, though in individual cases that order may seem partly reversed.

We may sketch, in the following table, the miracle in its development and varied manifestations (general expression for miracles: θαύματα, θαυμάσια, παράδοξα, miracula; נִפְלָאוֹת ,מִפְלָאוֹת , פֶלֶא).

(1) σημεῖον, τεκμήριον. signum.

(2) δύναμις. virtus, potenter factum.

(3) τέρας. ostentum, portentum.

(4) ἔργον. factum, opus.

מוֹפֵת ,אוֹת ,נֵם.

גְּבוּרוֹת ,גְּבוּרָה.


מִפְלָאָה, etc.

Prepared sign of the approaching new principle in the kingdom of God.

Supernatural effect of this principle on its appearance.

Contra-natural effect of it, as compared with the former stage, especially in the fallen condition.

Higher, or rather highest naturalness. Manifestation of the new, heavenly, and spiritual nature.

Definition of Augustine:

Thomas Aquinas:

The 17th cent.; Quenstedt:


Portentum non fit contra naturam, sed contra quam est nota natura. (De civitate Dei, xxi. 8.)

Miraculum, quod fit prœter ordinem totius naturæ creaiœ. (Summa i. quæst. 110, art. 4.)

Miracula, quæ contra vim rebus naturalibus a deo inditam cursumque naturalem efficiuntur. (Syst. Theol. p. 471.)

Miracles are part of a higher order of things, which, however, is also nature. (System der Christl. Lehre, p. 85.)

(Prevailing view in the Gospel by Matthew.)

(Prevailing view in the Gospel by Luke.)

(Prevailing view in the Gospel by Mark.)

(Prevailing view in the Gospel by John.)

As the principle of all principles, Christ is the absolute law of all laws of nature and life. Hence, (1) There was preparation for Him. As all nature tended toward, and was a prediction of, man, so all humanity tended toward Christ and is fulfilled and perfected by Him. (2) He was supernatural in reference to the old world and to man’s ordinary nature—the new spiritual man from heaven. (3) He was contra-natural: old Adam must die, and the old world perish. But this old natural life becomes in turn the substratum and the element for a new spiritual life. (4) He is natural in the highest sense. For in Him is all nature realized, redeemed, and admitted to share in the glorious liberty of the children of God.—We notice the same features in His miracles. (1) There is the preparation of faith on the part of those who receive, or else by the affection of those who intercede for others; occasionally, also, believing anticipation, as in the demoniacs; or a waiting for the Lord, as in the case of those raised from the dead; while no miracles are performed among unbelievers, Matthew 13:58. (2) They are supernatural—the manifestation of the almighty and saving power of the God-Man. (3) In a sense contra-natural, as putting an end to the existing state; as, for example, in the history of the Gadarenes, in the doom of the barren fig-tree, etc. (4) Natural in the highest sense (gradualness of the cure of the blind man at Bethsaida, use of natural means): presentation, in an outward fact, of the revival of inner life.

The series of Old Testament miracles opened, in the history of Abraham, by the miracle of word and of initial fulfilment (the wonderful birth of Isaac), long before the ordinary miracles of deed commenced with the life of Moses. The latter were in the first place symbolical miracles; they next became miracles of judgment and deliverance, and grew into miracles and healing, until, in the predictions of the prophets, they pointed forward to the period of transformation.
All these elements appear fully defined and perfected in the life of the Lord.

A. Miracles of the word and of fulfilment.

B. Miracles of deed.

(1) Miraculous birth of Christ to a spiritual human life in the world. He is of the Holy Ghost.

(1) The miraculous birth of Christ is the regeneration of humanity. Hence it is the power of regenerating, of awakening the dead, and restoring the sick. Jesus walking on the sea. Power of the spirit over nature.

2) Christ miraculously attains to full consciousness of His calling as the Redeemer at His baptism in Jordan, and is glorified from above. He has the Holy Spirit as a spiritual power.

(2) Glimpse into heaven. Into the hearts (Nathanael); into the depths (the tribute penny, the draught of fishes); into the future (the colt). Miracles of judgment and deliverance. Deliverances in the sphere of mind and of nature. Conversions, casting out of evil spirits. Symbolical miracles of nature, both in judgment and deliverance. (“Parallel miracles.”) The calming of the storm.

(3) Transfiguration of the Lord on the Mount. He reveals the Holy Ghost, and shines in the light of the Spirit.

(3) Miracles of transfiguration. The disciples sharing the heavenly rapture. The marriage at Cana. The miraculous feeding of the multitude. Bread and wine in the kingdom of heaven.

(4) The resurrection of the Lord. Transition to the second and heavenly life of man. Christ is glorified and reigns in the Holy Ghost.

(4) Christ raising the dead. New spiritual life. The maid on her death-bed. The young man in the coffin. Lazarus in the grave. Movement in the world of spirits at His resurrection. (Matthew.)

(5) Ascent of Christ into heaven: Christ rules far and near.

(5) Miraculous cures at a distance.

(6) The outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon His disciples: He sends the Holy Ghost.

(6) Anointing of His people; of believing humanity. Speaking with new tongues. Spread of His wondrous power in the life of Christianity.

(7) Return of Christ to judgment.

(7) The withered fig-tree. The Apostles sent into all the world.

Lastly, we remark, that Christianity itself shares these characteristics of the miraculous life and working of the Lord. For, 1. Being the religion of history, the fulfilment of the Old Testament and of all history, there has been due preparation for it in the course of history. 2. It is supernatural; being directly from heaven, and entirely new. 3. It is contra-natural; dooming sin and the world to death in its progress, and making use of natural life only as the element of a higher life. 4. Yet this miracle is only the highest naturalness; being the religion of true spiritual life, which leads to the transformation of the world. On the other hand, all the effects of Christianity may be arranged into miracles of formation (regeneration), and miracles of deed (the healing of the cosmos), until the goal shall be reached in the transformation of the world.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord had displayed the full riches of spiritual life. He preached as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. This became evident immediately on His descent from the high pulpit, by the miracles which He performed. In the mind of the Evangelists, these miracles, however different, are connected, and form a higher unity, although their historical succession is never overlooked. But the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law, and of the great multitude of sick persons, especially demoniacs, belongs to a former period, as has already been stated. All the other miracles were performed at the time of Christ’s second stay in Capernaum. The interrupted journey to Gadara is their centre.
But just as the utterances on the Mount were Divine deeds, so these deeds by which the Great Prophet confirms His word are also oracles of God,—i.e., Divine deeds which serve as symbols of the infinite truth and grace, and of the power of the Gospel to save.

It is significant that the miraculous cures of Jesus began with that of leprosy. This cure marks the new era in life, as the Sermon on the Mount marked that in doctrine. According to the Old Testament, he who touched a leper became unclean. Jesus touches the leper, and not only remains clean Himself, but by His touch cleanses the leper.—Still more remarkable is the second miracle. It consists in help given to a Gentile, and that on the strength of a faith which is declared to surpass that of the Jews. If in the former case the cure was effected by touch, it now takes place at a distance; thus, symbolizing that the influence of the blessed Saviour extended not only to those who were near, but also to the Gentiles at a distance.—Next, we have the miraculous cure of Peter’s mother-in-law—in contradistinction to the low estimate of woman in the old world. He takes her by the hand, and, being restored, she serves Him.—Jesus has now to cope with the whole weight of demoniacal suffering in and around Capernaum; but He proves equal to the load, and removes it.—Here we reach the period of His journey to Gadara, during which the Lord, by a different mode of treatment, restored two of His professing disciples from their spiritual disease—enthusiasm in the one case, and slowness of faith in the other.—The Lord next appeases the storm at sea, and, with it, the storm of anxiety in the souls of His disciples;—on the eastern shore, in the land of the Gadarenes, He performs the cure of two demoniacs who had been the terror of the whole district. But this miracle diffused greater terror among the Gadarenes than the demoniacs had ever done. The banishment of Jesus from that territory, consequent on this cure, may be regarded as the first formal rejection of the Lord. Orthodox Israel expelled Jesus for the sake of a herd of swine. No better fate awaits Him on the western shore of the lake. The healing of one afflicted with the palsy, whose faith had overcome all obstacles intervening between Christ and him, served as the occasion of stirring up the enmity of the scribes, who denounced as blasphemy His forgiving of sin. Among these miracles, Matthew introduces his own calling. A wonder of grace this, not less than the others, that a publican, one excommunicated, should be called to the apostleship. If the Pharisees found fault because He ate with the publicans and sinners, the disciples of John objected on the ground that His disciples fasted not, as they and the Pharisees did. The former cavil the Lord rebutted by reminding the Pharisees of the contrast between sacrifice and mercy; the latter, by pointing out that between the marriage and fasting, the new wine and the old bottles. Then for the first time the Lord raised the dead, restoring the daughter of Jairus from the death-bed to life; the cure of the woman afflicted with an issue of blood being introduced by the way. Next, two blind men recovered their sight, on the distinct profession of their faith that Jesus was the Messiah (the Son of David).—We regard it as a further progress in these miracles when He heals the dumb demoniac; and by the word of His power at the same time reveals and removes the cause of his affliction. After all these miracles, the Pharisees begin to revile Him, and to say, that “He cast out devils by the prince of the devils.” These were the very worst devils with whom Christ had to contend. The blind receive their sight, but they who see become blind; the possessed recover, but those who administered healing in Israel are cast into the kingdom of Satan. Christ now passes victoriously from His prophetic to His royal administration, which commences with the mission of His Apostles.
2. We have already pointed out how significantly the series of miracles in Matthew opens with the recovery of a leper. Another point deserves, notice. The Old Testament provided no remedy for the leper, nor was he tolerated in the congregation. His disease was treated like sin; he was banished from the camp; and whosoever touched him, shared for a time that banishment. Levitical impurities, such as touching the dead, ceased after a certain period had elapsed; but the leper was excluded for an indefinite time—perhaps for ever. Their only hope of restoration to the Church lay in their recovery. Meantime the leper was left to the mercy of God. In this respect the arrangements of the synagogue were, as we have shown, less strict than those of the temple. In the Old Church, to touch an unclean person, rendered unclean; Christ, the Founder of the New Church, cleansed the leper by touching him. There is a formal disannulling of the old arrangement in this stretching forth of the hand and touching the leper, and in the words.—“I will, be thou clean!” And yet the two institutions agree in spirit, for it is the object of both to exhibit the Church pure and unspotted. But what the Old Covenant could not bestow, the Lord vouchsafed. The Old Covenant could only distinguish, but not separate, between sin and misery. This the Lord accomplished. From the moment He touched the leper with His finger, suffering became hallowed, and the Lord entered into full fellowship with it. From that moment until His death on the cross, Christ remained in continuous fellowship with the suffering of the world. True, it seems as if His contact with the leper had not led to any immediate suffering; but from the narrative in Luke we gather that such was the case. The leper related what Jesus had done for him, and traditionalism may have pronounced the Lord unclean. On this account He retired for a time into the wilderness, thence to issue to fresh manifestations of His miraculous power. If the first miracle presented a striking contrast to the old order of things, the second was still more remarkable as being performed on the heathen slave of a heathen household. True, the attachment of the centurion to the synagogue formed a kind of intermediate link of connection; but Matthew passes over this circumstance as apparently secondary, in view of the grand motive influencing the Lord—the faith of the centurion. Viewed in their combination, the two miracles show that infinite mercy reaches to the lowest depths of misery, and extends to the utmost bounds of the earth—its only conditions being personal need and believing trust.

3. The acknowledgment of proselytes of the gate may be regarded as a victory of the genuine theocratic spirit over Pharisaism, which at an earlier period had been typified in the construction of a “court of the Gentiles” in the second temple. It was not a new arrangement, but a recurrence to the faith and practice of the patriarchs, in room of the rigor of legalism. The synagogue and the court of the Gentiles were the gates by which the heathen might enter the Jewish Church; the proselytes of the gate formed the intermediate link between heathenism and the theocracy. Thus the way was opened for the Gospel. As instances of the religious movement among soldiers at that time, we mention not merely the three centurions in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, but also the soldiers who resorted to John the Baptist, Luke 3:14.

4. The judgment of outer darkness referred to the severest dispensations upon earth, and in Hades; although there is some difference between it and the final judgment of hell-fire, Matthew 25:0.


The miracles of the Lord, as confirming His prophetical word.—Christ the Great Prophet in word and deed.—The words of the Lord effectual as Divine deeds; and the deeds of the Lord also a word from heaven.—The miracles of Jesus in their blessed import: 1. As witnessing to His Gospel; 2. as works of love; 3. as seals of His power; 4. as manifestations of the liberty of the New Covenant; 5. as rays of His Divine glory.—The word of the Lord inspiring poor fallen man with fresh courage: 1. Even the leper may now hope for deliverance; 2. he presses forward among the people; 3. he casts himself at the feet of the Lord, as if he entered into the most holy place; 4. his prayer implies the conviction that there was help even for him.—The healing of the leper a sign of hope to the world: 1. The Lord can restore even where a case seems desperate; 2. He is willing to do it; 3. He does it by entering into fellowship with the sufferings of the world; 4. by His suffering He takes away ours; 5. He separates between sin and its counterpart, misery; thus taking away the strength of sin.—The Lord is able also to heal the leprosy of the inner man.—The power of death conquered by that of life.—The purity of love removing the impurity of misery.—The Lord of glory in contact with the infectious diseases of the world.—The glory of the Lord, as appearing in His mode of granting deliverance: 1. He quickly hears; 2. He briefly speaks: “I will!” 3. He sovereignly stretches forth His hand.—“Tell no man, but show thyself to the priest.” True reticence and proper publicity of our recovery.—“Show thyself to the priest:” or, how the Lord honors the Old Dispensation at the very moment when He founds the New.—Faith, whether obtrusive in its entreaties, or retiring in its complaints and prayer, is always the same in its nature.—The centurion of Capernaum a model of believing confidence: 1. In his earnest entreaty; 2. in his cordial affection; 3. in his unfeigned humility; 4. in the peculiar shape in which his profession of Christ appeared.—Faith always goes hand in hand with compassion.—Faith with its power of intercession.—Humility the crown of faith: 1. It springs from faith; 2. it rests upon faith, purifying and quickening it; 3. it manifests itself in the surrender of every claim, and in firm confidence while praying.—The distinguishing excellences of the centurion’s faith: 1. Humility, by which his military rank in the world gave place to conscious poverty before the Lord; 2. trustfulness,—his outward circumstances and position serving as a testimony to the glory of the Lord.—The pious household.—The faith of the centurion and that in Israel.—The faith of the centurion foreshadowing the bringing in of the Gentiles.—The guests of the kingdom of heaven, gathered from the four corners of the earth, and the children of the kingdom.—The great transformation of near and far in the kingdom of God: 1. In the course of history: a. at the time of Christ; b. at the time of the migration of nations; c. at the time of the Reformation. 2. Its inner lesson: a. the penitent sinner, who relinquishes every claim, hears the call of mercy afar off; b. the least appearance of self-righteousness obstructs our view of the light of salvation, however near.—The banqueting room lit up, and outer darkness.—To be cast into outer darkness implies,—1. the darkness of final judgment, in opposition to the glory and beauty of the kingdom of God; 2. the society of the spirits of darkness, in opposition to that of the patriarchs; 3. sorrow and shame, in opposition to eternal blessedness.—The three heathen centurions compared with the wise men from the East.—“I will come and heal him.”—Jesus is willing to come and heal the Gentiles.—Jesus is able to bless the Gentiles, even at a distance.—“In the self-same hour;” or, the Lord sends help at the right moment.—The hour of grace.—Loving zeal a characteristic of the kingdom of heaven: 1. The servant obeying his master from attachment and devotedness; or, Christianity in the domestic circle and in civil society. 2. The centurion serving his subordinate from esteem and compassion; or, Christian philanthropy. 3. Christ serving both; or, the kingdom of grace.

Starke:—Quesnel: Ministers must ofttimes condescend to those who are in misery, visit them in their sorrow, and point them for relief to the word of God, Acts 8:30.—A blessing ever attaches to our following Jesus, Matthew 19:27; Luke 8:43.—Majus: If we have tasted Christ, the Bread of life, we shall always hunger after it, and follow Him, Matthew 5:6; Isaiah 55:1.—Zeisius: Outward leprosy a type of original sin, or of spiritual leprosy, Psalms 51:7; Isaiah 1:6.—Bodily affliction often the occasion of leading us to Christ. O blessed sorrow! 1 Peter 4:1; Jeremiah 30:11.—The whole world a vast sick-ward.—A Christian must not insist on anything in prayer, Matthew 26:39.—Zeisius: The surest and most effectual means in all our sorrows, is recourse to prayer, Daniel 9:3-4; Matthew 15:25.—Quesnel: Let us not despise even the greatest sinners, nor avoid meeting them, provided we beware of infection, Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20.—Bibl. Tub.: Jesus can and will deliver us in our most grievous afflictions, and where all human means were in vain, Psalms 6:9-10.—Majus: The word of Christ is an effectual remedy for curing spiritual leprosy, John 15:3.—The most acceptable sacrifice on the part of those who have been restored, is new obedience, John 5:14; Isaiah 38:15.—We are bound publicly to acknowledge the goodness of God, Romans 5:11; Ps. xxvi.—The centurion, a soldier, a heathen, and a superior, cares for his subordinates, and rays for his servant, is humble, and believes in Christ. Go thou and do likewise. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Bibl. Tub.—Let us not despair of the conversion of any man, in any condition of life.—What too frequently military men are not, and what they should be.—Osiander: A genuine Christian will plead with Jesus not only for his own wants, but also for those of his neighbor.—The cross is sent even to pious families, and sometimes to the best members of them.—“The Lord is near to all that call upon Him,” Psalms 145:18-19; Psalms 6:10.—Lord Jesus, speak the word only!—We admire riches, beauty, power, or art; but Christ admires faith.—All men have not faith, 2 Thessalonians 3:2.—Osiander: Ofttimes we find more faith with soldiers and worldly persons than in many who pretend to be saints.—Luther: Faith is not confined to time, place, or condition. God has had a people at a time when it was little thought, in places where we should not have expected to find them, and among persons whom we should not have imagined to be His.—Majus: Believers under the Old and New Testaments have all the same doctrine, the same faith, the same kingdom, and the same glory, Hebrews 13:8; Acts 15:11.—The rejection of the Jews caused by their unbelief, Romans 11:20; Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 6:9; Deuteronomy 9:23.—Lo, the children who trust in external service, in the temple, and in the possession of gifts, are condemned; while strangers who are sincere in the faith are received: Isaiah 2:4, etc.—The more light and grace we have rejected, the greater will be the condemnation and darkness awarded us.—Blessedness of intercession, James 5:18; 2 Kings 19:34; Jeremiah 29:7.—The stronger our faith, the less will God refuse us, especially in spiritual requests.—True faith the source of all other gifts. Quesnel.

Gerlach:—Luther (Randglosse): Faith does not know, it trusts in the mercy of God. Faith ever says, If Thou wilt; not, if Thou canst.—Weeping and gnashing of teeth: the former perhaps the expression of softer, the latter of bolder, characters.

Heubner:—Jesus can and will deliver.—Jesus is willing to come under our roof, although we be unworthy of it.—The kingdom of heaven the meeting-place of the children of God from among all nations and from all climes.—The power of a living faith in Christ: 1. Its character. Faith cleanses from sin, makes holy, and induces us to procure help for others by leading them to Christ. 2. Inferences: Beware of unbelief, but strive after true faith.—All men are equal before the Lord Jesus.


[1] Matthew 8:3.—Ἰησοῦς in wanting in Codd. B., C. [Cod. Sinait.], etc.

[2] Matthew 8:8.—Λόγῳ (dat.) with one word, or in a ward, sustained by Codd. B., C. [Cod. Sinait.] and other weighty testimonies, instead of the λόγον (accus.), the word, of the text. receptus.

[3] Matthew 8:10.—“With no one in Israel.” Cod. B. and others.

[4] Matthew 8:11.—[’Ανακλιθήσονται, expressing the well known ancient custom of reclining on conches at meals and banknotes. This explains, how St. John could lean on Jesus’ bosom at the holy supper, John 13:23.—P. S.]

[5][The English palsy is evidently derived by contraction from the Greek παράλυσις, as alms from ἐλεημοσύνη, through the medium of the Latin.—P. S.]

[6][Comp. also R. Ch. Trench: Notes on the Miracles. Preliminary Essay. p. 9–81 (Amer. ed., 1856; in England this useful work has already gone through seven editions); Horace Bushnell. (of Hartford): Nature and the Supernatural as together constituting the one System of God. New York. 1858 (a work of rare power and genius), especially Matthew 10:11; Dr. Ths. H. Skinner: Miracles, the Proof of Christianity. New York, 1863 (in the Amer. Presbyt. and Theol. Rev. for April, 1863. p. 177 sqq.); Prof. A. Hovey of Newton Centre: The Miracles of Christ, Boston, 1864; and a number of recent dissertations on Miracles called forth by the “Essays and Reviews” controversy, especially one by Prof. H. L. Mansel, B. D. of Oxford, in the “Aids to Faith,” Lond. and New York, 1862.—P. S.]

[7][In German: “Hier ist das Wunder der wohlvermittelte, übernatürliche, widernatürliche und höhere natürliche Durchbruch eines neuen höheren Lebensprincips durch die bereits vorhandene gesetzmessige Ordnung der Dinge.” This is a fair specimen of Dr. Lange’s style in the more doctrinal and philosophical portions of his Commentary.—P. S.]

Verses 14-17


The disease in the family; the diseases in the city. Salvation spreading from the household of Peter, or the dwelling of the Lord (the Church), into the city

Matthew 8:14-17

14And when Jesus was [had] come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laidand sick of a fe Matthew 8:15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose,and ministered unto them [him].8 16When the even [evening] was come, they brought9 unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his [a] word, and healed all that were sick: 17That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare [bore] our sicknesses.


The accounts in Mark and Luke confirm the statement, that on the evening of the day when the Lord restored the mother-in-law of Peter, a large number of demoniacs in Capernaum were healed. Chronologically speaking, the event took place during the residence of the Lord at Capernaum, previous to His first journey into Galilee, and to the Sermon on the Mount. The statement of Luke, that Christ rebuked the disease, implies no contradiction. The healing word of Christ is omitted by Matthew and Mark, while Luke omits to mention that He took her by the hand and lifted her up. Lastly, according to Mark and Luke, the cure was performed on the intercession of the members of the family,—the sick person herself being unable to entreat help. From the circumstance that Jesus rebuked the fever, we gather that her disease was somehow connected with the sufferings resulting from demoniacal possessions then prevailing in the town.

Matthew 8:14. Into the house of Peter.—According to John 1:44, Peter and Andrew, as well as Philip, were natives of Bethsaida. Afterward, Peter, and probably Andrew ( Matthew 4:18), had settled in Capernaum,—partly, perhaps, on account of the fisheries, and partly from his connection by marriage with the place. The marriage of Peter is also referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:5. It is remarkable that he who is said to have been the first bishop of Rome was a married man. Legend has it that her name was Perpetua, or Concordia; and that her husband accompanied her on her way to martyrdom in Rome. Their daughter was called Petronella. (Clement of Alexandria.)10

Matthew 8:15. She ministered unto Him, διηκόνει.—This refers particularly to waiting at table and serving, as an evidence of her perfect recovery.

Matthew 8:16. It was a time when there was in Capernaum a deep stirring of enthusiasm for the Lord—the evening of a great day—when this general longing seems to have seized the inhabitants of the place, and they brought unto Him their sick, especially those who were possessed with devils, and laid them down at the door of His house. On demoniacal possessions compare the remarks to Matthew 4:24.

Matthew 8:17. That it might be fulfilled.—A reference to Isaiah 53:4 Our diseases (חֳלָיֵנוּ) has He borne (נָשְׂא), and our sorrows (מַכְאֹבֵינוּ) He has taken on Himself (סְבָלָם). In the Sept. more freely: τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν φέρει, καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν ὀδυνᾶται,—The Evangelist quotes from the original; but in strict accordance with its meaning, as Olshausen and others rightly remark, though Meyer denies it. It is true that in the original Hebrew, the Messiah is represented as bearing and expiating our sins. But our diseases are undoubtedly connected with sin on the one, and death on the other hand; while the suffering of Christ depends on His taking on Himself our sufferings, which again is connected with His carrying them away. We must not, however, go so far as Olshausen, and speak of spiritual exhaustion on the part of Christ. Meyer and von Ammon have overlooked the fact that, when healing those who were diseased, Christ entered into and shared their sufferings,—a circumstance evident from the narrative in Mark 5:30 (showing that He felt the going out of virtue from Him), as also from the resurrection of Lazarus. But, in the present instance, the Lord had to contend with the concentrated sorrow and sickness of the whole city, and that on the evening of a laborious day. For this labor and contest of the Lord, the Evangelist can find no more apt description than by quoting the passage from Isaiah. Christ takes away disease, in token of His removing its root, sin, by taking upon Himself death as the full wages and the full burden of sin.


1. The afflicted family and the afflicted city, both highly privileged by the presence and grace of Christ. Significant connection between them: salvation spreading from the house to the city.

2. The Evangelist gives us here the key to the mystery of Christ’s atoning death. By His fellow-suffering with our diseases, He gradually descended into the unfathomable depth of His full sympathy with our death. Hence His miracles of healing partook of the nature of atoning suffering, and prepared for it. Accordingly, as He suffered in all He did, so His suffering and death crowned and completed all He had done. His active and passive obedience are most closely connected. But as in His fellow-suffering He took away the sting of suffering by taking away sin and awakening faith, so also has He swallowed up death in victory by discharging the debt of sin in His vicarious death, finishing the work of redemption, and introducing justifying faith. Such, then, was our reconciliation. In virtue of His perfect fellow-suffering, He submitted to the death due to us; by His perfect surrender to God, He became our reconciliation, even as by His communication of grace He wrought in us faith in the mercy of God, and in the imputation to us of His sacrificial service. His miracles form the introduction and the commencement of His reconciliation. Comp. 1 Peter 2:24.


The cross in the family.—The family and the town, as a household and a city of the Lord.—How Christianity elevated woman.—Christ and His people by turns engaged in the service of love. 1. He serves them; 2. they serve Him.—Rapid change produced in the house by the interposition of Christ: 1. One laid down by fever, an active hostess; 2. an anxious family, a festive circle; 3. the Lord a physician, the Lord a king; 4. the house an hospital, the house a church.—The right mode of celebrating our recovery.—From the church, salvation spreads to the city.—Glorious evening of power and grace.—The morbid sympathy of man, and the healing sympathy Of the Lord. 1. With reference to the former,—a. disease itself appears in morbid and irresistible sympathy; b. morbid sympathy increases disease and pestilence; c. at best, it leads to excitement and running to the Lord, while not a few are unprepared and unready. 2. The sympathy of Christ: a. Its Divine power resists all sinful influences, especially cowardice and despair; b. it penetrates into, and lights up, the lowest depths of misery; c. it conquers and removes the sufferings of man.—The sufferings of Christ in His miraculous cures, pointing to the great miraculous cure by His sufferings on the cross—Jesus has taken upon Him the diseases of man also.—The wards where those mentally afflicted are confined, belong also to the Lord.—The sceptre of Christ’s triumph extends even over the cursed realm of demons.—The apparent strength of despair, and the Divine strength of perfect confidence.—Solemn night-seasons: 1. The night of suffering; 2. the night of repentance; 3. the night of death.

Starke:—If we recover from disease, it is our duty to thank God, and all the more zealously to serve Christ and our neighbor.—Let each bear another’s burden, Galatians 6:2.—Zeisius:—Above all, learn that sin is the root of all disease, and that by true repentance thou mayest be set free from it.—To visit, to comfort, to refresh, and to serve those who are laid on beds of sickness, Isaiah 38:1; Isaiah 38:4-5; Sir 7:2; Sir 7:4.—Gossner:—To come, to see, and to heal is here one.


[8] Matthew 8:15.—Αὐτῷ is better supported than the reading of the text. rec. αὐτοῖς.

[9] Matthew 8:16.—[All the older E. V., also that of Rheims, correctly render λόγῳ: with a word, Wicl. bi. word.—P. S.]

[10][St. Jerome, in the interest of monastic celibacy, infers that the wife of Peter was dead at the time, from the fact that her mother, when cured, waited on the table. Archbishop Kenrick (Notes on the four Gospels) seems to approve of this inference. But the ministering of the mother is here evidently mentioned to show her complete recovery and her love and gratitude for it. In the natural order a long convalescence follows the cure of a fever before health returns. Moreover St. Paul many years after this occurrence (A. D. 57) refers to Peter’s wife as living and accompanying her husband on his missionary journeys, 1 Corinthians 9:5. The Prot V. correctly translates ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα, “a sister a wife” (Tynd. and Cranmer: “a sister to wife;” Gen.: “a wife being a sister”); while the R. C. V. has: “a woman a sister.”—P. S.]

Verses 18-27

Miraculous works of Jesus on His missionary journey: The troubled disciples—the troubled sea

Matthew 8:18-27

( Matthew 8:23-27, the Gospel for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany.—Parallels: Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25; Luke 9:57-60.)

18Now, when Jesus saw great multitudes11 about him, he gave commandment to departunto the other side. 19And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I willfollow thee whithersoever thou goest. 20And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests;12 but the Son of man hath not where to layhis head. 21And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go andbury my father. 22But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

23And when he was [had] entered into a13 ship, his disciples followed him.24And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch [so] that the ship wascovered with the waves: but he was asleep [sleeping]. 25And his disciples [they]14 cameto him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us [save]:15 we perish. 26And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked thewinds [wind]16 and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man17 is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!


Matthew 8:18. Now, when Jesus saw great multitudes.—In this instance a motive for withdrawing, as in Matthew 5:1; John 6:3; John 6:15.—There were seasons when the multitude would have proclaimed Him King: sudden outbursts of carnal excitement, from which the Lord withdrew. That such was the case in this instance, we gather from the profession made by the scribe in Matthew 8:19.

Εἰςτὸπέραν, to the opposite side of the lake.

Matthew 8:19. And one, a scribe, came.—The εἷς refers to the ἕτερος in Matthew 8:21; from which verse we also gather that this scribe was already one of Christ’s disciples, in the wider sense of the term, and that he now proposed henceforth to follow Jesus continuously. When the Evangelists mention these calls to follow the Lord in a particular sense of the term, they seem always to refer to the apostolic office, not to discipleship. But as Andrew, John, Peter, James the Elder, Nathanael or Bartholomew, and Philip, had been previously called, and as the persons here addressed could not have been any of the brothers of the Lord (James the Younger, Joseph, Judas Lebbeus or Thaddeus, and Simon), we conclude that they must have been either Judas Iscariot, Matthew, or Thomas. From the peculiar characteristics which appear in the narrative, we venture to suggest, that the first of the two scribes was Judas Iscariot, the second Thomas, and the third individual (who is only mentioned by Luke) Matthew. This is, however, merely a hypothesis made more or less probable by the nexus of history (comp. Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 651).—In the Gospel of Luke, this event is introduced at a later period, when Jesus prepared for His last journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-62). A superficial investigation will serve to convince us that the transaction between Jesus and the sons of thunder, recorded in Luke, had led to the introduction of this history in that connection. It seems like a psychological combination designed to exhibit Christ’s mastery in dealing with different dispositions (say the four temperaments). Schleiermacher, Schneckenburger, Gfrörer, and Olshausen, adopt the chronology of Luke; Rettig, Meyer, and others, that of Matthew.

Matthew 8:20. Κατασκηνώσεις, “Dwelling-places, not nests, as birds do not live in their nests.” De Wette.18

The Son of man.—Jesus adopted the name ὁυἱὸς τοῦἀν θρώ που no doubt with special reference to the prophetic vision in Daniel 7:13, where Messiah is seen coming in the clouds of heaven, כְּבַי אֱנָשׁ. (Comp. Hävernick’s Daniel.) Hitzig imagines that the Son of man seen by Daniel in the clouds was not the Messiah, but the whole people of Israel;—an absurd hypothesis, refuted by Ewald (in his “Jahrbücher” for 1850). Daniel say only the image or likeness of the Son of man, who appeared in the full sense in Jesus of Nazareth. In all probability, Jesus chose this particular Old Testament designation of the Messiah, because, unlike the others, it had not been grossly perverted to foster the carnal expectations of the Jews. Thus our Lord met the morbid and fantastic expectations of His contemporaries—and among them, apparently, those also of the scribe in the text—by laying emphasis on His genuine and true humanity as the Messiah. His great aim was, that the people should view Him as true man—in the lowliness of His outward appearance, but also at the same time in His high character, as the Son of man, i. e., the ideal man, the second Adam from heaven (1 Cor. xv.). The bold supposition of Weisse, that the term, “Son of man,” is used in opposition to the name of Messiah, deserves no refutation. It is remarkable that John had similarly avoided the title of Elijah, under which Malachi had predicted his advent, while he chose the designation given him by Isaiah: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The reason of this was, that carnal notions concerning the Messianic kingdom were connected with the former, but not with the latter expression (John 1:19, etc.). Meyer conceives that there is an antithesis implied in the term, “Son of man,” as opposed to “Son of God,” and denies the conception of ideal humanity (p. 82).19 According to Augustine, there is a faint allusion to the boastfulness of the scribe in the expression, “birds of the air.” But this seems strained; and we would rather apply the term to the unreliable and fugitive character of his enthusiasm, while the word, “foxes,” refers to cunning.

Where to lay His head.—A picture of a homeless pilgrim: hence, not of want in the ordinary sense, but of voluntary poverty. The answer of Christ implied, not a positive refusal of the overture of the scribe, but a solemn warning. He who saw not as men do, perceived, under that excessive profession of this man, an amount of unreliableness and insincerity which called for such caution.

Matthew 8:21. Another of His disciples.—In the stricter [rather in the wider] sense of the term—such as the “scribe” had been. Clement of Alexandria (Stromat. iii. 4) suggests that this disciple was Philip; but he had been called at an earlier period.

Bury my father.—The father had died. According to some critics, his old father was still alive, and the expression, to bury, meant to take care of him till his end, and then to commit him to his last resting-place. But the call to follow Christ immediately, evidently implies, that at the time the father was actually dead. Burial was the most ancient mode of disposing of the dead (Cic. Legg. 2:22; Plin. 7:55), and was always practised by the Jews, in opposition to the Greek custom of burning the dead, which was quite exceptional among the Jews. It was considered the duty of sons to bury their parents, Genesis 25:9; Genesis 35:29, etc. Tobith 4:3. Comp. Winer sub voce: Begraben, Schöttgen’s Horœ [W Smith: Bibl. Dict. sub Burial, vol. 1:233].

Matthew 8:22. Let the dead bury their dead.—Artificial explanations see in Meyer’s Commentary. The sentence is an Oxymoron, by which the burial of the dead is assigned to those who are spiritually dead.20 The expression conveys to the hesitating disciple that there were more urgent duties in the kingdom of heaven than that of burying the dead, and particularly, of going through all the ceremonies connected with a Jewish burial. At the same time, it also alludes to the goal and end of those who are spiritually dead—their last and highest aim here is to bury one another. Death of the soul is connected with death of the body.—Celsus (according to Origen) founded on this passage the objection, that the Saviour demanded what was inconsistent with duty to parents. But He only subordinates the duty of a Christian toward his own household and family, especially when another could take his place, to the highest of all duties—those of his spiritual calling, and to his Master.21 Lastly, we infer from this trait, that this and the former reply were addressed to disciples in the narrower sense of the term.

Matthew 8:23. The ship, τὸπλοῖον.—With the article, meaning a definite ship, which waited to take them across the lake; the words of Jesus having induced His disciples (in the narrower sense) to follow Him implicitly.22

Matthew 8:24. Σεισμός,—indicating the effect, of which the cause (the winds, Matthew 8:26) is afterward mentioned—a violent commotion of the sea. On the sudden storms occasioned by the situation of the Lake of Galilee, comp. Schubert 3:237; Robinson 2:416.

Matthew 8:25. Save! we perish! Σῶσο ν, ἀπολλύμεθα.—Asyndetic (disconnected) language of intense anxiety.

Matthew 8:26. Why are ye fearful?—The word “afraid” would be too weak, and “cowardly” too strong. At any rate, it was a fearfulness which the Lord censured. It is worthy of special notice, that, according to Matthew, the Lord first rebuked the disciples, and after that the sea. See גָּעַר, Psalms 106:9. (Mark and Luke reverse the order.)

Matthew 8:27. The men, οἱἄνθρωποι.—The men in their human nature,—more particularly, in their rapid transition from extreme anxiety to boundless admiration. Hence we infer that it applied to the disciples, and not, as Meyer supposes, to other parties accompanying Jesus. According to the account given by Mark, other vessels went along with that which bore the Lord; so that He must have been followed by a numerous company of disciples.


1. In dealing with the different characters of the disciples, and adapting Himself to their natural dispositions, the Lord showed how closely He read, and how wisely He directed, the hearts of men. (Leben Jesu, ii.2, 651; iii.422.)

2. The Son of man. The description furnished by Daniel of the appearance of Messiah, under the form of the Son of man, indicates a very advanced stage of the prophetic doctrine of the Messiah. But, in order clearly to perceive its import, we must compare this term, as used by Daniel, with the passage about the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:0). [In the sixty-third week, the Messiah who was not a prince, was to be set aside by the advent of the people of the Prince who was not Messiah.] After seven weeks, i. e., at the close of the seventy weeks—cometh the Messiah, who, at the same time, is also a Prince. Hence the figure of the Son of man combines the two ideas of the suffering and the glorified Messiah. As the Son of humanity to which the curse attaches, He is humbled and rejected; while, as the Son of humanity on which the blessing is bestowed, He is exalted and declared Lord of an eternal kingdom. Gerlach: “The first man was simply called Adam—i. e., man, and every descendant of his is called a son of man; but Christ is called the Son of man, as being derived from Adam, and yet the Head of a new race, 1 Corinthians 15:47.”

3. The import of the miracle of stilling the tempest has frequently been misunderstood. Paulus (of Heidelberg) resolves it into a natural phenomenon; Ammon regards it as an allegory or symbol; while Strauss treats it as a myth.23 It may also be turned into magic,24 if, with Meyer, we were to overlook the connection between the tempest in the hearts of the disciples and that on the lake—between sin in man, and “the convulsions and throes of nature” (Olshausen)—and regard this history as merely a direct act of power exercised upon the elements, and nothing else. In this respect, it is sufficient to remind the reader of Romans 8:20. Not that we thereby explain the miracle, but that we present its Christian aspect. The Lord rebukes the storm in the minds of His disciples; thus preparing for calming the tempest on the sea.—He takes away the sin of the microcosm, in order then to remove the evils of the macrocosm. Hence this event has frequently been regarded as a symbol of the passage of the Church of Christ through the world. There is another aspect of it which deserves attention. In this miracle, the operation of the Son and of the Father coincide; as the New Testament completion of the Old Testament miracles upon nature, it is at the same time a prediction and a miracle, and thus a sign that the Son had, in the name of the Father, entered upon the government of the world.

4. Our modern degenerate and false philanthropy fails to perceive the difference between a soul that is mourning and one which is fearful or desponding. It is altogether erroneous, and must fail of its desired effect, if we administer to the fearful the comfort which is only appropriate to the afflicted. The latter, Christ ever upheld with words of kindness; while He rebuked the fearful, by setting before them the terrors of His word, and thus recalling them to a better state of mind. Thus He rebuked those who were possessed, who by their cowardice had become the prey of unclean spirits; and similarly He rebuked the disciples, when from want of faith they were desponding or fearful. Thus also He rebuked the fever which weighed down the mother-in-law of Peter; and, in the present instance, the sea and the winds. Such a rebuke must, of course, be regarded as symbolical, since neither sea nor tempest had personal consciousness. The ultimate ground of this rebuke lay in the fact, that the disturbances of nature were caused by unclean spirits. Christ apparently regarded those sudden outbursts in nature not as manifestations of healthy and regular force, but as manifestations of weakness; just as the fever was the consequence of inherent weakness, or of a germ of death, against which nature employed her utmost efforts in convulsive struggle.


Jesus sees the multitude and approaches them; Jesus sees the multitude and retires from them. 1. The fact itself,—(a) in the Gospel history; (b) in that of the Church; (c) in individual Christian communities. 2. Explanation of the fact: (a) He approaches when He sees multitudes longing for His salvation and waiting upon His word; (b) He retires at the first appearance of fanaticism, which would have confirmed the carnal expectations of man, and not the word of God.—The Lord eschews the sinful obtrusion of worldly men, in order to seek out the poor and the needy, afar off.—The watchword of Christ: To the other side! 1. A watchword of faith, breaking through all narrow boundaries; 2. a watchword of love, overcoming all selfishness; 3. a watchword of courage, overcoming all dangers.—The Saviour and the spiritual distemper of His disciples: 1. Spurious enthusiasm in our own strength (I will); 2. spurious scruples and spiritual hesitation (Suffer me).—Jesus the great model of pastoral work.—Jesus warning superficial enthusiasts to count the cost of following Him.—If we are willing to follow the Lord, we must become homeless wanderers, and be ready to renounce all our comforts.—The Son of man has not where to lay His head. 1. The fact: at the commencement, the manger; at the close, the cross; during His pilgrimage, a bench on the ship. 2. Its import,—(a) so far as He is concerned; (b) so far as we are concerned.—The nests and caves of professing disciples who are not ready to yield their all to Christ. They seek,—(a) high places (nests) in time of prosperity; (b) places of concealment (caves) in the hour of adversity.—Jesus teaches His faithful disciples to get quit of their scruples and hesitation by considering the final aim of life.—Let the dead bury their dead: 1. Compared with following Christ, which he had undertaken, this was the lesser duty; 2. others were able to take his place; 3. the disciple seemed to hesitate between two duties, while yet he had taken upon him the yoke of Christ.—Is a collision of duties possible? As little as,—(a) between the commandments of God; (b) between the angels of God; (c) between the ways of God; for such, indeed, are all duties, so far as we are concerned.—It is characteristic of the spiritually dead, that they busy themselves with special affection about the ceremonials of life.—The dead bury their dead: such is the end of all unbelieving lives.—Symbolical import of the passage of Christ with His disciples across the sea. It is a figure of all His leadings,—(a) of the people of God (the ark, etc.); (b) in the history of the Church; (c) in the experience of believers.—The unexpected tempest: 1. After so glorious a day, and on the beautiful, tranquil lake; 2. in company with the Lord Himself.—We read only once of the Lord being asleep,—a sleep full of majesty: (a) a sabbatic rest after His labor at Capernaum; (b) a sign of deep calm in the midst of the dreadful tempest; (c) a preparation for the most glorious awakening; (d) a type of His rest in the grave.—The cry of despair becomes a prayer when in proximity to the Lord.—How the Lord purifies even the supplications of the helpless.—All fearfulness or despondency in life springs from want of faith.—The little faith of the disciples: 1. A want of faith in what it forgot (Christ’s presence in the ship; the hope of Israel, the salvation of the race); 2. still faith in that they took refuge to Christ.—Jesus calms every storm.—What manner of man is this!—The admiration of Jesus a transition to praise and adoration. Our gratitude for deliverance and salvation should ever end in praise.

Starke:—We should occasionally retire into solitude, Luke 6:12; Luke 5:16.—Much preaching wearies the body, Ecclesiastes 12:12; Mark 6:31.—Sudden fervor and good inclinations are not equivalent to following Christ.—Many would like to be pious, but at the same time to retain their nests, houses, riches, honor, and comforts, Matthew 16:24.—We must not run before God calls, Romans 10:15.—Christ rejects none who come to Him, John 6:37; but he who desires only earthly things from Him, receives a solemn warning. Cramer.—Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, became poorer than the beasts that perish; yet His poverty is our riches, 2 Corinthians 8:9.—The poor, who have nothing of their own, may well derive comfort from the voluntary poverty of Jesus. Quesnel.2 Corinthians 11:27.—Man is always opposed to the will of God: he either lags behind, or is determined to run before. The right way is, to wait till God speaks, and then not to delay a single moment following Him, Isaiah 55:8.—The spiritually dead, Hebrews 11:6; Jeremiah 5:3.—They who accompany the dead, are themselves subject to death.—A seafaring life affording striking signs of God’s wisdom and power (Psalms 107:23), but used for merely selfish purposes. Zeisius.—God leads His own wondrously, but well, Psalms 41:4.—Through fire and water, Psalms 91:14; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 42:16.—Genuine Christians follow their Saviour through storm and tempest, even unto death, 2 Corinthians 6:4; Psalms 73:23.—If Christ do not immediately come to our help, we are prone to imagine that He is asleep; but He never oversleeps the hour of our deliverance.—United prayer is the most effectual.—Prayer the best anchor in danger.—Let Christians beware of cowardice: His Church will continue so long as He endures. Bibl. Wirtemb.—In seasons of extreme danger, the omnipotence and mercy of the Saviour is most fully and gloriously displayed, 2 Chronicles 20:12; Isa 33:10; 2 Corinthians 1:8.—Weak faith is nevertheless faith, only it must increase.—After the tempest, sunshine.—The works of God, and His marvellous power in our deliverance, call for praise and thanksgiving.—Under the cross we learn what wonders our Lord worketh.—Gratitude, Psalms 14:7; Romans 11:20.

Gossner:—Christ taught His disciples in a wandering school. Here He led them to the stormy lake to teach them fearlessness.—Fearlessness great happiness.

Heubner:—Our whole life may be compared to a sea voyage, in which we make for the heavenly haven.—“Christus habet suas horas et moras.”—Christ the Lord of nature.—The passage across the lake, a figure of our lives: 1. The commencement; 2. the progress; 3. the end.

Lisco—Luther: Some make a pretext of good works for not following Christ; but the Lord shows that these are dead works.—Almighty power of Christ, by which He overcomes the world, and renders everything subservient to the kingdom of God.

The pericope, the calming of the tempest, Matthew 8:24-27.

Dräseke:—The passage across the lake, a figure of spiritual calm: 1. In reference to its character; 2. in reference to its origin; 3. in reference to its effects.—Marheineke:—How we may courageously meet every danger, when near to the Lord.—Harms:—This narrative a pictorial representation of the Christian life: The vessel which carries believers; the sea, or the world, with its tempest and waves, and the sufferings of the children of God; Christ asleep, or delaying His succor; then follow prayer, His rebuke, His word of command, and the exclamation of marvel.—Hagenbach:—Christ our refuge in the tempests of life.—Greiling:—The inner calm of the soul in the midst of the raging storm.—Hüffell:—God is always and everywhere near us.—Kraussold.—Lord save! we perish! 1. The distress; 2. the cry for help; 3. the deliverance.

[Alford:—“The symbolic application of this occurrence (the calming of the tempest) is too striking to have escaped general notice. The Saviour with the company of His disciples in the ship tossed on the waves, seemed a typical reproduction of the ark bearing mankind on the flood, and a foreshadowing of the Church tossed by the tempests of this world, but having Him with her always. And the personal application is one of comfort and strengthening of faith in danger and doubt.”—Hilary:—Those churches where the Word of God is not awake, are in danger of shipwreck, not that Christ sleeps, but He is slumbering in us by reason of our sleep. But where faith watches, there is no fear of wreck from the powers of this world.—P. S.]


[11] Matthew 8:18.—Lachmann with B. only: ὄχλον for ὄχλους. [Cod. Sinaiticus sustains the plural—P. S.]

[12] Matthew 8:20.—[Dr. Lange translates: Wohnnester, Zelte, Horste, dwelling places, tents, which is more literal for κατασκηνώσεις, but not so popular as nests.—P. S.]

[13] Matthew 8:23.—[Lange translates “the ship,” τὸ πλοῖον, agreeing here with the Received Text and with Tischendorf’s edition. But Codd. B., C. and other ancient authorities, and the editions of Lachmann, Tregelles, and Alford omit the article.—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 8:25.—Recepta: οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. Various authorities [and Dr. Lange] omit αὐτοῦ. [Lachmann, Tregelles, Ewald, and Conant omit also οἱ μαθηταί. So does Cod. Sinait.—P. S.]

[15] Matthew 8:25.—Us, ἡμᾶς is omitted in Codd. B., C. al. [Cod. Sinait.] The speech is more lively and dramatic without ἡμᾶς. [Tischendorf, Lachmann, Tregelles, Lange, Conant, all omit ἡμᾶς.]

[16] Matthew 8:26.—[Cod. Sinait reads the singular τῷ� for τοῖς�.—P. S.]

[17] Matthew 8:27.—[Conant: “What manner of man belongs to the best English usage. ‘What kind of man,’ or ‘what sort of man,’ is not a suitable expression here.” A. Norton (Translation of the Gospels with Notes, Bost, 1855) translates: “Who is this.” But ποταπός is not simply τίς, but the interrogative of disposition, character, quality, i. q. ποῖος.—P. S.]

[18][Meyer to the same effect: “Places of abode where the birds are used to live, to sleep, etc. comp. Matthew 13:32; not specifically nests”—]

[19][Not, however, in a rationalistic sense, but as contrasted with His former δόξα. Meyer correctly sees in the term: the Son of man an expression of the κέςωσις, which implies the consciousness of a purely divine and eternal preexistence (in deren Hintergrunde dus Bewuss etsein der rein göttlichen Ureœistens liegt).—P. S.]

[20][The key to this and all the other paradoxical sentences of Christ is the different senses—a higher and a lower, a spiritual and a literal—in which the same word is used. Let those who are dead in spirit (in trespasses and sins) bury their kindred and friends who are dead in body.—P. S.]

[21][Chrysostom: “Jesus forbade him to go, in order to show that nothing, not even the most important work of natural duty and affection, is so momentous as care for the kingdom of heaven; and that nothing, however urgent, should cause us to be guilty of a moment’s delay in providing first for that. What earthly concern could be more necessary than to bury a father? a work, too, which might be done speedily. And yet the answer is: ‘Let the dead bury their dead. Follow thou me.’ If, then, it is not safe to spend even so little time as is requisite for the burial of a parent, to the neglect of spiritual things, how guilty shall we be if we allow slight and trivial matters to withdraw us, who are Christ’s disciples, from His service! But rather let us endeavor, with Christ’s aid, to raise those who are spiritually dead and buried, from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, as He raised Lazarus from the tomb, then we shall be His disciples indeed.”—P. S.]

[22][Wordsworth likewise presses the def. art. τό, and quotes from Bengel: “Jesus habebat scholam ambulantem;” he sees in this ship an emblem of the church. But, unfortunately for this interpretation, the article is of very doubtful authority, see our crit. note above.—P. S.]

[23][In German: “Von Paulus naturalisirt, von Ammon allegorisirt, von Strauss mythisirt” (better: mythificirt).—P. S.]

[24][Not: “presented in a material light,” as the Edinb. trl. has it, misled by a printing error of the first edition. The third ed. reads: “Es kann freilich auch magisch gemacht (not: materialisirt) werden,” etc.—P. S.]

Verses 28-34

Christ healing the demoniacs who profess His name; banished from Gadara; He restores the paralytic, and is accused of blasphemy,—or, the blessed working of the Lord despite the contradiction of the kingdom of darkness.

Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 9:1-8

( Matthew 9:1-8 the Gospel for the 19th Sunday after Trinity.—Parallels: Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39, Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26.)

28And when he was [had] come to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes [Gadarenes],25 there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man [one] might [could, or was able to, ὥστε μὴ ἰσχύειν] passby that way. 29And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee,30Jesus,26 thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding. 31So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away [send us away]27 intothe herd of swine. 32And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine [into the swine];28 and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently [rushed] down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.33And they that kept them [the herdsmen, οἱ βόσκοντες] fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to [had befallen] the possessedof [with] the devils. 34And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts [borders].

Matthew 9:1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be3[are] forgiven29 thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This4man blasphemeth. And Jesus, knowing30 their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil5in your hearts? For whether [which] is easier, to say, Thy sins be [are] forgiven thee;or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thybed, and go31 unto thine [to thy] house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. 8But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled [feared]32, and glorified God, which [who] had given such power unto men.


Matthew 8:28. On the discussion about the readings, Γεργεσηνῶν, Γαδαοηνῶν, Γερασηνῶν, comp. the Commentaries.—Bleek (Beiträge zur Evangelienkritik, 1:26): “From Orig. (in Joh. Tom. 6:24), we may infer with tolerable certainty, that, at the time of that Father, Γεργεσηνῶν was not found in any of the MSS. of the Gospels then current. He only mentions it as a conjecture, that this may have been an older reading. From that time it seems to have been introduced into manuscripts. Origen found that the common reading was Γερασηνῶν, that of Γαδαρηνῶν also occurring. The change of the former into the latter word is easily accounted for, but not the reverse. Hence the writer has always been of opinion, that Γερασηνῶν, which Lachmann also has adopted, is the correct reading in all the three Gospels. But as the town of Gerasa, in Arabia, could not possibly be meant, we suppose that the name was incorrectly written by the Evangelists, and that they probably meant the town of Gergesa, as Origen suggests.” Accordingly, we drop the reading Γεργεσηνῶν, and only retain thus much, that Origen was exegetically right in maintaining that Jesus landed in the district of the Gergesenes, whose name at least (Γεργεσαῖοι, Genesis 15:21; Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 24:11) is mentioned by Josephus (Ant. i. 6, 2). But the MSS. are divided between the readings Gadara and Gerasa. Hence, judging from the circumstances of this narrative, we are warranted in fixing upon the adjoining Gadara, which was the capital of Peræa, rather than on the distant Gerasa, which lay on the eastern boundary of Peræa, and indeed was considered by some geographers to have been situate in Arabia. So also Winer and Meyer. Besides, the expulsion of the Lord is represented as an event of considerable importance, which would not have been the case had He been banished from Gerasa, and not from the capital of Peræa. Expulsion from a village by the sea-shore would only have induced Him to go farther inland; but banishment from the capital of the district rendered at least a temporary removal absolutely necessary. The pagan character of the district (swine, raging demons) may have led to the evangelical tradition, by which the scene of this narrative was transferred from Gadara to Gerasa. Gadara, the capital of Peræa (Joseph. Bell. Jud. iv. 8, 3), situated to the southeast of the southern end of the Lake of Gennesareth, south of the river Hieromax, sixty stadia from Tiberias, upon a mountain, inhabited chiefly by Gentiles (according to Seetzen and Burckhardt). It is supposed to have been the modern Omkeis (but comp. Ebrard, who places Gadara only one hour from the lake). See Winer and the Encyclops. and von Raumer’s Palestine. On the eastern shore of the lake, comp. Ritter’s Palestine. Ebrard suggests, that there had been a village called Gerasa in the neighborhood of Gadara. Euseb. Onomasticon refers to such a village under the article Gergesa, without, however, pronouncing decidedly on the point.

Two possessed with devils.—Mark and Luke speak only of one. Strauss and de Wette hold, that the account of Matthew is the authentic narrative; Weisse and others prefer that of Mark and Luke. Ebrard suggests, that Matthew joined the account of the possessed at Gadara with that in Mark 1:23; others fancy, that our Evangelist is in the habit of speaking of two individuals when there was only one. Meyer leaves the difficulty unsolved; while Augustine, Calvin, and Chrysostom suppose that one of the demoniacs is specially mentioned, as the principal personage and the greater sufferer. This idea is confirmed by the consideration, that two demoniacs would not have associated, unless the one had been dependent upon the other. For the details of the narrative, the parallel passages in the other Gospels must be consulted.

Coming out of the tombs.—This was their abode, the only one left them, after they had withdrawn from human supervision and society. We conjecture that they chose this haunt not merely from melancholy, but rather from a morbid craving for the terrible. These tombs were either natural or artificial caves in the rocks, or built in the ground. The calcareous mountain on which Gadara was situated, was specially suited for such sepulchres. Even Epiphanius (adv. Hœres. i. 131) mentions these rocky caves near Gadara, which were called πολυάνδρια and τύμβοι.

Matthew 8:29. What have we to do with Thee? מָה לָנוּ וָלָךְ, 2 Samuel 16:10, etc. Grotius remarks ad loc.: “Hoc si ex usu Latini sermonis interpreteris, contemtum videtur inducere. Ita enim Latini aiunt: Quid tibi mecum est? At Hebrœis aliud significat, nimirum cur mihi molestiam exhibes?”33 The ordinary consciousness of the demoniacs was always affected by, and mixed up with, their morbid consciousness. Hence their power of anticipation was morbidly developed. By virtue of this faculty they now recognized the Divine power and majesty of the Lord (comp. Luke 4:34). Hence the question, whether πρὸκαι ρο ῦ means: before the judgment of the Messiah, as de Wette and Meyer suppose. Perhaps they also anticipated that the work of Jesus in the district would be interrupted by them, and that it was not ready for the reception of the Messiah.

To torment us.—The apparent contradiction in the conduct of the demoniacs affords a striking confirmation of the truthfulness of this narrative. On the one hand, they seem to have felt the power of the Lord; they hastened to meet Him; their fierceness was kept in check, and they humbly entreated. But on the other hand, they identified themselves with the demons under whose power they were; they, so to speak, appeared as their representatives, and in that capacity complained that Jesus was about to torment them by healing the demoniacs,—i. e., that He was about to send the demons to the place of torment. De Wette: “Torment us,” by disturbing our stay and rule in man.

Matthew 8:30. A herd of many swine.—The Jews were prohibited from keeping swine, which were unclean animals (Lightfoot, 315; Eisenmenger, Entdektes Judenthum, i. 704). The herd must therefore have belonged to pagans, or else have been kept for purposes of traffic. In any case, it might serve as evidence of the legal uncleanness of the people, and of their essentially Gentile disposition.

Matthew 8:31. Probably the request was expressed in such terms as “Send us, ἀπόστειλον ἡμᾶς,” but the assent of the Lord was couched in the form of a permission, or even of a sentence of banishment. Hence the other reading of the Received Text. The request shows that these demons were antinomian, not Pharisaical; hence their choice of the swine. Possibly, there was also the malicious design latent, in this manner to put an end to the work of the Lord in the district. But in that case, the compliance of the Lord must be regarded as an evidence that at that time the awakening of terror was a sufficient effect. Lastly, the request of the demons implies that they were many (Meyer), which indeed is expressly mentioned in Mark and Luke.

Matthew 8:32. Go, ὑπάγετε.—The emphasis rests on the command to go. Strauss and others have raised an objection, on the ground that Jesus here interfered with the property of others. In reply, Ebrard appeals to the divinity and the absolute power of Christ. He also reminds us of the casting out of those who bought and sold in the temple; which, however, is scarcely a case in point, as every Jew might claim the right of reproving and opposing open and daring iniquity. Probably the conduct of Christ, in the case of so manifest a contravention of Mosaic ordinances, might be vindicated on the same ground, as simply the privilege of every zealous Israelite.34 But the text does not oblige us to suppose that Jesus interfered at all with the here of swine. He neither administered justice, nor enforced police regulations, nor took oversight of the herds of swine of Gadara. His only object was to cure the demoniacs, which He did by commanding the demons simply to go. Other objections—such as, that the demons would have acted foolishly by driving the swine into the sea—are scarcely worth repeating. Any such difficulty would arise from the false assumption that demons can never be stupid. It must be admitted that certain morbid states, such as derangement of the nervous system, madness, idiocy, raving, etc., formed the natural substratum of demoniac possessions. Hence there is a marked difference between the possessed, and those who, like Judas and the Pharisees, voluntarily surrendered themselves to the power of evil, as there is also between the demons themselves, and Satan, or between the renunciation of Satan in Christian baptism, and exorcism,—a rite which originally was only applied in the case of the possessed, and only introduced into the ordinary ritual of baptism and confirmation of catechumens generally when spiritual knowledge was obscured in the Church. The demoniacs were destitute of freedom, not merely on account of the psychical ailment under which they labored, but because, while thus suffering, they were possessed by unclean spirits (πνεύματα�). The idea of bodily possession, or the indwelling of the evil spirit in the physical frame of the diseased, was merely the popular notion. The main point was, that they were under the power of some special demoniac influence, or of a number of such influences, which proceeded from real demons, and were so strong, that the persons possessed identified themselves in their own minds with the demons. But it is quite possible that such influences may have proceeded not merely from the kingdom of Satan, in the narrowest sense, but also from the spirits of the departed. Hence Josephus (De Bello Jud. vii. 6, 3) held, that the demons were the spirits of wicked men; an opinion which was shared by some of the oldest of the Fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Athenagoras. Tertullian was the first to turn the current of opinion on the subject, and ultimately, on the authority of Chrysostom, the old idea of the spirits of departed and lost men was discarded, and that of devils adopted. But a closer inquiry into the character of sympathetic influences will show, that while the question, whence these demoniac influences proceeded, is of secondary importance, such influences—even to literal bodily possession—are quite possible, whether the party affected was conscious of them or not. From this it follows, that a demoniac might feel himself under the influence of a whole legion of unclean spirits, as, from the account in the other Gospels, appears to have been the case in the present instance. Hence we must beware of the common mistake, of putting the guilt of the demoniacs on the same level with that of wilful slaves of Satan. In our view, the blame attachable to such persons varied from the minimum, in the case of idiots, to a maximum. The common characteristic of all was cowardice,—a cowardly surrender of a weakened and lowered consciousness to wicked influences. The same remarks apply to the moral aspect of madness generally; and we would adopt the idea, that all madness was connected with a kind of demoniac influence, rather than the view, that the demoniacs of Scripture were merely lunatics, or even that of older orthodox interpreters, who regarded them as a class of persons possessed by the devil,—God allowing it at the time of Christ, and then only, for the purpose of glorifying His name. We do not, however, deny, that at that period, when all human corruption had reached its climax, these demoniac possessions also appeared in a more full and patent manner. But if we consider that the evil primarily depended upon moral cowardice and non-resistance to evil, we shall understand all the better the method of cure adopted by the Lord. The thunderbolt of His power and divine rebuke would once more kindle the ray of life and strength in the soul, fill the spirits who possessed the demoniac with fear, and thus break the fetters by which they held their victims. It snapped, so to speak, the connection between the diseased mind, deprived of its freedom, and the demon; while at the same time the soul was brought under the influence of the Divine Being. Such was the deliverance from the δαίμων, who, although a personal being, is designated as δαιμόνιον, in allusion to the impersonality of the relationship.

They went into the herd of swine.—Of course the demons, not the demoniacs. The commotion in the herd, by which they rushed down a steep place into the sea, is readily accounted for from the well-known sympathy existing among gregarious animals. If one of the herd was seized with terror, all the others would be affected. Probably the horse is, of all animals, most liable to sudden fright, especially from spectral apparitions; but swine are also subject to such wild frights (comp. Scheitlin’s Thierseelenkunde, vol. ii. 486). Perhaps the reason why swine were Levitically unclean, may have been not merely their outward conformation, but their susceptibility for impure psychical impressions. The circumstance, that the demons went into the swine, seems indeed mysterious; but the fright of these animals arose probably from the last terrible paroxysm, which ordinarily accompanied the healing of the possessed (Mark 1:26; Luke 4:35; Mark 9:26, etc.).

Όρμᾷν, cum impetu ferri, irruere, Acts 19:29.—Olshausen suggests, that the demons drove down the herd; Henneberg, Neander, and others, that they were impelled by an unknown, but accidental cause; while Meyer regards this as a mythical addition. We prefer leaving it unexplained, as belonging to the mysterious connection between the world of spirit and nature.

Matthew 8:34. The whole city.—For the moment, the terror produced by this miracle proved even stronger than the indignation excited by the loss sustained. Accordingly, as the heathen were wont to go in solemn procession to the altars of the gods in order to avert calamities, so the people of Gadara went out to meet Christ, humbly beseeching Him to depart from their coasts. They evidently feared, lest, if He remained, they should sustain yet greater damage. The cure of two furious demoniacs, involving the loss of a herd of swine, appears a calamity in a district where swine have their keepers, but men are left uncared for. Jesus departs; but those who have been restored are left behind—more especially he who would fain have followed Him—to bear witness it Decapolis of the power and grace of Christ.


[25] Matthew 8:28.—Γαδαρηνῶν according to B., C., M., al. Griesbach, Scholz, Tischendorf [Tregelles, Alford, Conant].—Γεργεσηνῶν C. codd. minusc., versions, Origen.—Γερασηνῶν, the ruling lectio at the time of Origen; several ancient versions, Lachmann. [Dr. Lange reads Gadarenes. Cod. Sinait.: γαζορηνων. See Com.—]

[26] Matthew 8:29.—Ἰησοῦ is omitted in B., C., L. [Cod. Sinait.], etc. Borrowed from Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28.

[27] Matthew 8:31.—Ἀπόστειλον ἠμᾶς, in Cod. B., [Cod. Sinait.], most of the versions, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf Tregelles, Alford, Conant]. The lectio recepta, ἐπίτρεψον ἡμῖν�, is probably taken from Luke 8:32, and explanatory.

[28] Matthew 8:32.—Εἰς τοὺς χοίρους, B., C., [Cod. Sinait.], Lachmann [for εἰς τὴν�]. Probably taken from the parallel passages.

[29]Ch. 9, Matthew 8:2.—[Ἀφέωνται is the indicative, either the present tense and equivalent to ἀφῶνται (as Homer uses ἀφέῃ for ἀφῇ), or more probably the perf. pass. (Doric form) for ἀφεῖνται, remissa sunt. Comp. Winer, Grammat., etc., 6th Germ. ed., 1855, p. 74. Lachmann and Tregelles read ἀφίενται, remittuntur, with Cod. B., Cod. Sinait., and the Latin Vulgate.—P. S.]

[30] Matthew 8:4.—Lachmann, following B., M., reads εἰδώς instead of ἰσών of the Received Text.

[31] Matthew 8:6.—[Cod. Sinait. reads πορεύου, for ὕπαγε.—P. S.]

[32] Matthew 8:8.—Ἐφοβήθησαν, they feared, is much better supported than ἐθαύμασον, they marvelled. [It is sustained by the newly discovered Cod. Sinaitces and adopted in all the modern critical editions, except the Gr. Test. of Stier, and Wordsworth who adhere to the Received Text.—P. S.]

[33][Comp. Comment. on John 2:4. where Christ uses this phrase in speaking to His mother.—P. S.]

[34][Dr. Alford thus disposes of this difficulty: “The destruction of the swine is not for a moment to be thought of in the matter, as if that were an act repugnant to the merciful character of our Lord’s miracles. It finds its parallel in the cursing of the fig-tree ( Matthew 21:17-22); and we may well think that, if God has appointed so many animals daily to be slaughtered for the sustenance of men’s bodies, He may also be pleased to destroy animal life when He sees fit for the liberation or instruction of their souls. Besides, if the confessedly far greater evil of the possession of men by evil spirits, and all the misery thereupon attendant, was permitted in God’s Inscrutable purposes, surely much more this lesser one. Whether there may have been special reasons in this case, such as the contempt of the Mosaic law by the keepers of the swine, we have no means of judging; but it is at least possible.”—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 8". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/matthew-8.html. 1857-84.
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