The Gospel According To Saint Matthew With An Explanatory And Critical Commentary by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

Jesus is the Messias in the Preparation for his Public Life, cc. 3, 4


a. The Message, 3:1–12

1. And in those days.] The evangelist shows us first the message of the forerunner [1–6], secondly his opposition to the Pharisees [7–12]. In the first part, the evangelist a. describes the circumstances of the message; b. he gives the words in which it is conveyed; c. he confirms it by the example of the messenger; d. he states its immediate effects.

1. Message of forerunner a. The circumstances of the message: α. The time is indicated in the words “and in those days,” which is the indefinite formula often used in the Sacred Scripture [Ex. 2:11; Is. 38:1]. (1) Euth. believes that the expression refers only to what follows, so as to be equivalent to “then,” or the Greek τότε. (2) Fab. Dion. Mald. Arn. Schanz, Keil, and others refer the clause with more probability to the hidden life in Nazareth, hinted at in the last verse of the preceding chapter. Lk. 3:1 determines the time accurately; John must have appeared about six months before Jesus. β. The messenger is John the Baptist, foretold in Is. 40:3 and Mal. 3:1; the evangelist supposes that his person and ministry are well known to the Hebrew Christians; Acts. 13:25 and Josephus, Antiq. XVIII. v. 2, show that St. Matthew’s supposition is well founded. From Lk. 3:2 we see that John began his ministry at the special instigation of the Holy Spirit, even as the prophets were especially sent by God [cf. Jer. 1:2; 2:1; 7:1; 11:1; etc.]. The dignified and authoritative bearing of the Baptist is in full accord with his prophetic mission, according to which he shows himself as an uncompromising enemy of vice. γ. The place of the Baptist’s ministry is determined in the clause “in the desert of Judea.” The third gospel calls the place “in the desert,” but states previously that Zachary, the Baptist’s father, dwelt in a city of Judea. The fourth gospel is more express than either the first or the second: John was baptizing in Bethania beyond Jordan [Jn. 1:28] and again “in Ennon, near Salim.” If we combine these various descriptions and bear in mind that “desert” signifies a less thickly inhabited district, fit for pasture rather than for agriculture, we must infer that John exercised his ministry in the district south of Samaria, along the coast of the Dead Sea, or in the country between Thecoa and the Dead Sea.

b. The verbal message. This consists of three parts: an exhortation to penance, an announcement of the kingdom of heaven, and an appeal to the fulfilment of prophecy in the person of the messenger. (1) Penance. α. The Greek word rendered “do penance” signifies, according to its etymology, “to change one’s mind”; but even in profane writers it has come to mean “to feel sorry for one’s past actions or words” [cf. Lucian. De saltat. 84; Plut. Agis. xix. 5; Galb. xi. 4; Mor. 961, D; Liddell and Scott, Greek-English Lex.]. In the version of the lxx. the word is used in the same two significations: Jer. 8:6; 18:8; 31:19; etc. The inspired authors that wrote in Greek do not differ from this in their use of the word: Ecclus. 17:24 [20]; 48:15 [16]; Lk. 17:3, 4; 2 Cor. 7:9; 12:21; etc. Lactantius [Instit. vi. 24] and Chrys. give the same explanation of the expression.

β. That the Latin rendering, “pœnitentiam agite,” which is followed by the English “do penance” expresses the meaning of the Baptist is certain beyond all doubt. For on the one hand, “pœnitentiam agere” does not always imply external acts of austerity: cf. de orat. [Tacit.?] xv.; Petron. in Sat. cxxxii.; Curtius, l. viii. 6 [Forcellini, s. v.]; on the other hand, the Greek expression often implies not only sorrow for sin, but also outward works of penance: Mt. 11:21; Dan. 10:2; Jon. 3:5; Joel. 1:13 [cf. Authorized Version]. And it is precisely in the meaning of outward austerity that the Greek word has been used by the early Greek ecclesiastical writers and the councils [Socrat. v. 19; Council of Laodicea, can. ii., iii., xix.; first Council of Nice, can. xii.; Basil, ad Amphil. i.; etc.]. Hence both the Greek expression and its Latin and English version signify sorrow for sin; but both may imply additional outward austerity.

(2) The second part of the verbal message gives the reason why John’s hearers must do penance: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” α. That this expression is peculiar to St. Matthew, we have already seen. Mt. 13 and the parallel passages of the synoptists clearly show that “the kingdom of heaven” in the first gospel is equivalent to “the kingdom of God” in the other gospels [compare Mt. 4:17 with Mk. 1:15; Mt. 11:11 with Lk. 7:28]. This is confirmed by the fact that “heaven” or rather “heavens” was a common metonymy for God in the time of the evangelist [cf. Dan. 4:25; 1 Mach. 3:50, 60; 4:10, 40; 9:46; 12:15; Ed. i. p. 267; Lightfoot, Hor. heb. ii. pp. 48 ff.; Wünsche, p. 17; etc.].

β. The first evangelist employs the expression “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” [which occurs only Mt. 12:28; 21:31; and probably 19:24], in order to show his Jewish readers that the promised kingdom was not an earthly one, as the Jews commonly imagined [Mald.]. In fact, the kingdom is heavenly in its origin, in its end, in its goods, in its king, in its law, in its spirit, in its citizens, in its life [Jans. Bar.].

γ. It is true that sometimes the expression is limited in meaning to a certain element of the kingdom: thus it signifies the royal dignity in Mt. 16:28; Mk. 8:39; Lk. 9:27; the subjects in Mt. 13:24; 21:43; the territory or the chief city in Mt. 13:43; 25:34; Mk. 9:46; the form of government in Mt. 12:31; Mk. 4:26; Lk. 17:21; but in other passages it embraces all these elements: king, subjects, realm, government, etc. [cf. Mt. 4:17, 23; Mk. 12:34; 15:43; Lk. 1:35; 4:43; etc.].

δ. The kingdom of God is both external and internal. In the light of Christian revelation we understand that three states of the external “kingdom of heaven” must be distinguished: the state of its ultimate perfection in the other life; the state of its earthly maturity in the present dispensation; and finally, its incipient or typical state in the Jewish theocracy.

ε. We need not here insist on the fact that internally the kingdom of heaven lies within our souls, both in this and in the future life, and that the expression “of heaven” is not the objective, but the subjective genitive, denoting not the place or the objects constituting the kingdom, but the ruler directing it.

ζ. After these explanations we may determine the meaning in which the Baptist employed the words in addressing the multitudes: he no doubt intended to proclaim the nearness of that kingdom of God which the Hebrew prophets had so often and so emphatically foretold: cf. Is. 42:1; 49:8; Jer. 3:13–17; 23:2–8; 30:1–31, 40; Ez. 11:16–20; 34:12–31; 36:22–38; 37:21–28; Os. 2:12–24; 3:3–5; 14:1–8; Am. 9:1–15; Mich. 2:12, 13; 3:12–4:5; 7:11–20; Soph. 3:8–20; Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14; 2 Kings 7:12 ff. It would be hard to determine how far either the Baptist or his hearers understood the nature of this kingdom; at any rate, its spiritual character is sufficiently declared in the words of the message, since it is not only pronounced to be of heaven, but also to require a penitential preparation on the part of all those who desire to enter it.

3. For this is he.] (3) Finally, the evangelist shows that the messenger is fully authorized to deliver his Messianic message; for even the prophet has foretold this office of the forerunner. α. It is true that Euth. and Aug. [De cons. evgg. ii. 12, 25] are of opinion that the Baptist himself appeals in this passage to the prophecies of Isaias; but the wording fits better into the mouth of the evangelist than into that of the Baptist. β. The prophecy referred to is contained in Is. 40:3 f., which we have shown [Christ in Type and Prophecy, i. pp. 358 ff.] to treat in its literal sense of the liberation from the Babylonian captivity, and in its typical sense of the Messianic salvation. γ. The law of parallelism makes it probable that the Hebrew text ought to be rendered: “A voice crying [or of one crying]: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord; in the solitude make straight the path of our God.” But we rightly suppose that according to the prophet the voice resounded where the work of preparation was to be done. The evangelist may, therefore, locate the “voice of one crying” in the desert, implying that the work must be done where the voice resounds. The circumstances of the fulfilment justify the evangelist in quoting the prophecy in such a manner as to state explicitly what the prophet foretold implicitly, expressing only implicitly what the prophet expressed explicitly. It is worthy of note that Mk. 1:3 and Lk. 3:4 quote the prophecy with the same modification; while Jn. 1:23 puts the prophetic words into the mouth of the Baptist, so that they read: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord.” δ. Since the evangelists [Mk. 1:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn. 1:23] identify the way of the Lord with that of Christ, and since the prophet identifies the same way with that of God,—for he gives the Lord the incommunicable divine name,—it follows that Jesus Christ is God. ε. The context shows that the preparation of the way of the Lord is effected by means of penance; in point of fact, penance removes the obstacles to our approach to Jesus [cf. Jans.], and at the same time facilitates our spiritual advancement [cf. Caj.].

4. And the same John had his garment.] c. The evangelist expresses in this verse the Baptist’s message by his example of penance [cf. Pasch. gl. ord. Theoph. Fab. Jans. Calm.]. Jer. too and op. imp. call attention to the penitential garment of John, which was not made of wool, nor of the skin of the camel, but of its rough hair. α. It is also striking that in spite of the care usually bestowed on the adornment of the girdle [cf. Prov. 31:24; 13:11; Ez. 16:10; 1 Mach. 10:89; 11:58; 14:44], that of the Baptist is of simple, unadorned leather, as that of Elias had been [Jer. Chrys. Rab. Fab. Dion. Jans. Bar.; cf. 4 Kings 1:8].

β. Attempts have been made to explain away the words of the gospel according to which the Baptist ate locusts: the Greek word is applied to oil or honey cakes [cf. Epiph. Haer. xxx. 13], or to the long sweet pods of the locust-tree [Theoph.], or again to the topmost twigs of plants and branches [Isid. ep. i. 132]. Neither the meaning of the word nor the context renders such a forced explanation necessary, unless one starts with the preconceived opinion that the Baptist must have confined himself to vegetable food in his desert life. Lev. 11:21, 22; Plin. N. H. vi. 35; xi. 35; Diod. Sic. iii. 29; Aristoph. Achar. 1116 agree with the testimony of more modern travellers in regarding locusts as the food of the common people. Locusts are prepared in various ways for the table: they are ground and pounded, and then mixed with flour and water and made into cakes; or they are salted and then eaten; or again they are smoked, boiled, or roasted, stewed or fried in butter. Their wings and legs are not eaten. We need not mention the opinion of those commentators who, through horror of a solitary life, retain the Baptist at home in his father’s house, and make him eat sea-crabs instead of locusts [cf. Pet. Can. de Verbi Dei corrupt., i. pp. 27–95, Diling. 1571; Mald. Bar. Lap.].

γ. Wild honey may denote either the tree-honey exuding from certain trees and shrubs, especially in the peninsula of Sinai [cf. Diod. Sic. xix. 94; Suidas, s. v.], or the ordinary bee-honey, found not rarely even in the most remote parts of the wilderness, deposited in the crevices of rocks or in hollow trees. The words of the text allow us either interpretation, and the authority of commentators too is divided on the point; for Euth. Jans. Mald. Lap. Sylv. Calm. Grimm, Fil. Keil, understand by wild honey ordinary bee-honey, while Pasch. Fab. Schegg, Bisp. Schanz, Weiss, Knab. contend that the Baptist ate the above-mentioned vegetable honey. The context describing the hard penitential life of the Baptist points to this latter meaning of “wild honey”; for bee-honey was considered among the Orientals as a most desirable luxury [cf. Ex. 3:8; 13:5; Cant. 4:11; Prov. 25:27].

5. Then went out to him.] d. In the fourth place, the evangelist describes the immediate effects of the message delivered by the forerunner. He mentions three in particular: the gathering of the multitudes around the messenger, the baptism, and the confession of sins. α. The localities from which the people gathered to hear the Baptist are again determined by three expressions, Jerusalem, all Judea, all the country about Jordan. The evangelist enumerates the places in the order of their importance among the Hebrews. The country about the Jordan designates both sides of the river, on the west from Jericho to the south of the Dead Sea, and on the east from Bethnimra to the brook of Gired. The eagerness of the people to hear John may be explained as the effect of their ardent longing for a prophet [cf. 1 Mach. 4:46; 14:41], since the prophetic voice had been silent among them ever since the days of Malachias, a period of over four hundred years. Josephus [Antiq. xviii. v. 2] also bears testimony to the gathering of the multitudes around the Baptist.

β. The second effect of John’s preaching was so striking that it gave the forerunner the name of Baptist. Here the question arises whether John borrowed this rite from the baptism of the proselytes or introduced it anew. The high antiquity of the baptism of the proselytes is advocated by such writers as Selden, Lightfoot, Hottinger, Kuinoel, Eisenlohr, Haneberg, Danz, Bengel, Delitzsch, Zezschitz, Patrizi, Edersheim [i. p. 273; ii. 747], and Schürer [History of the Jewish People, II. ii. 319 ff.]. But Wernsdorf, Ernesti, de Wette, Schneckenburger, Schenkel, Keil, Weiss, Schegg, Schanz, etc. deny the high antiquity of the baptism of the proselytes: (1) for Josephus, Philo, and the oldest Targums are silent regarding the baptism of the proselytes, which is mentioned for the first time in the Babylonian Gemara [Jebamoth, xlvi. 2]. (2) Besides, John would not have been named after the rite he practised, if it had been a customary one in the synagogue [cf. Antiq. Antiq. XVIII. v. 2]. (3) It is true that various purifications were enjoined by the law [cf. Lev. 14:8; 15:5–8; 16:24; 17:15; etc.]; the proselytes too had to submit to a legal ablution besides receiving circumcision and offering the prescribed sacrifice. But this purification differs in various respects from John’s baptism: (a) the latter was administered by the forerunner, while each one performed the legal ablutions himself; (b) these latter were undertaken with a view to legal purity, while St. John’s was a baptism of penance unto the remission of sins [cf. Mk. 1:4; Acts 19:4], i. e., it was received through sorrow for sin and as an outward sign of the same; (c) the baptism of John therefore truly prepared for the remission of sin, was joined with confession, and was a protestation of faith in the coming Messias [cf. Acts 19:4], It is in this sense that John refers his baptism to God [Jn. 1:33], and it is on this account that the messengers from Jerusalem ask him why he baptizes, if he be not the Messias, nor Elias, nor a prophet [Jn. 1:25].

γ. The third effect of the Baptist’s ministry was the confession of sins, (a) This is not merely the general acknowledgment of being a sinner [Caj.], but implies the manifestation of some particular sins; because confessing one’s sins differs from confessing one’s self a sinner [Cyr. of Jer. Cat. iii. 7; Mald. Sylv. Calm. Schanz]. (b) Since this confession accompanies the individual baptisms, it differs from the general one described in Lev. 16:21 as made by the high priest on behalf of the whole people; (c) again, it seems to differ from the confession mentioned Num. 5:7 and Lev. 5:5 [Heb.], where the main object of confession is to avoid or to repair injustice. The confession mentioned Ps. 31:5; 50:2; Bar. 2:8 f.; Dan. 9:1; Esdr. 9:6 refers either to the acknowledgment of sin before God, or to the general confession made instead of the people by the high priest [cf. Americ. Eccles. Review, vol. i. p. 245]. (d) Without endeavoring to determine the nature of this confession more accurately, we may state the more common opinion concerning the effect of the forerunner’s baptism and the accompanying confession of sin. After John Damascene, all writers of note maintain that the foregoing rite did not remit sin; if John Dam. Juvenc. Tit. Bostr. Opt. Nyss. Paulin. Prudent, call the baptism of John the baptism of regeneration, etc., they may have in mind either the sacrament of baptism predicted by the Baptist, but instituted by Christ, or the baptism administered by the forerunner; and even if they speak of this latter, they may consider it as administered after Christ’s baptism, when according to their opinion it was already a Christian sacrament, instituted by Jesus in his baptism [Thom. p. iii. qu. 66, a. 2]. The Council of Trent [sess. vii. can. 1 de bapt.] distinguishes between the baptism of the forerunner and that of Christ in a most emphatic manner: “If any one saith that the baptism of John had the same force as the baptism of Christ, let him be anathema.”

7. And seeing many of the Pharisees.] In the second part of the present section the evangelist describes the Baptist’s relation to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the future enemies of Jesus, and the real cause of his rejection by the Hebrew people. As the history of the childhood foreshadows the infidelity of the Jewish nation, so does the ministry of the Baptist illustrate its progress. This we see in the various points described by St. Matthew: the enemies, the end they aim at, the means they must use, their exception answered, the promptness with which they must act, and finally the contrast between the person and ministry of the Messias, on the one hand, and that of the Baptist, on the other.

α. The enemies. α. The Pharisees and Sadducees appear again and again throughout the gospel history, but their origin has not yet been fully explained. (1) Some authors find trace of the parties in 2 Mach. 14:38, 3 ff., where we have adherents of the Jewish ἀμιξία and ἐπιμιξία, or the פרישוה and צדקה; from the former word we derive “perushim” or Separatists [Puritans], who resisted foreign influence among their fellow citizens, while the latter expression is regarded as the parent of “Sedokim,” Sadducees [Just men], who advocated the acceptance of foreign manners and customs. (2) But at this period the two parties exercise already a too powerful influence to be regarded as newly founded; the Pharisees appear, in fact, to date from the earliest time after the exile, while the Sadducees are traced back variously to the time of David [B. C. 1040], or to that of Alexander the Great [B. C. 325], or to about the time of the high priests Eleazar and Manasses [B. C. 250]. At any rate, neither the name “Sadducees” nor their religious tenets admit the probability that their title is derived from צַדִּיק, meaning Just. If we have recourse to a proper name as the origin of the title, we are led back to Sadok, the famous high priest at the time of David, whose name is transliterated as Σαδώκ or Σαδδούκ in the lxx [cf. 2 Esd. 3:13; 10:22; 11:11; Ezech. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11]; or to Sadok, the disciple of Antigonus Sochæus, about 250 B. C. [Haneberg, Wünsche]. The important position occupied by the descendants of Sadoc at the time of Nehemias, their tenure of the office of high priest till the time of the Machabees [cf. Jos.Antiq. XII. ix. 7; XX. x. 3; 1 Mach. 7:14; 2 Mach. 14:7], together with the testimony of Acts 5:17; 23:9; Jos. Antiq. XX. ix. 1, show that the priesthood was closely connected with the party of the Sadducees, so that the derivation of their name from Sadoc the high priest is very probable.

β. The two parties differed greatly in both dogmatic and moral tends. (1) The Pharisees professed a belief in the immortality of the soul, an eternal reward and punishment, a partial resurrection of the dead, the existence of angels and spirits, the infallibility of fate not implying, however, the denial of providence and free will. Relying on their carnal descent from Abraham as a sure pledge of a special divine protection both in this life and the next, they endeavored to preserve the purity of their national traditions and customs, whether contained in Sacred Scripture or in tradition; this led naturally to an extravagant literalism of interpretation and externalism of practice, so that sabbath, temple, legal purity, etc., were surrounded by numberless precepts, while the sanctity of the oath, the reverence of children for parents, the purity of heart and thought were considered of less importance. Cf. Mt. 5:28, 34, 43; 15:5; 14:2; 12:1–8; 19:3, 10; 23; Lk. 13:14; Jn. 5:1; 11:24; Acts 23:8–11; Jos. Antiq. IV, viii. 23; XII. ix. 11; XIII. x. 5, 6. (2) The Sadducees denied the authority of tradition, admitting only the canonical books of the Old Testament. Though they did not limit themselves to the Pentateuch alone [Tert. Hippol. Orig. Jer.], they denied the individual immortality of the soul, the resurrection, the divine predetermination of events, and made the human will alone the source of good and evil. The burden of the law they lightened to the utmost, and allowed the greatest possible amount of pleasure compatible with the observance of the law [Jos. B. J. II. viii. 14; Antiq. XIII. v. 9; x. 6; Mt. 22:32].

γ. What has been said explains the social position of the two parties: the Pharisees were the influential party with the people, while the Sadducees belonged chiefly to the nobility and to the most influential priestly families. It was only through the Pharisees, whose friendship they cultivated for political purposes, that the Sadducees could exert any influence on the body of the Jewish nation; for the people regarded them as favoring the dominion of the foreigners [Jos. Antiq. XIII. x. 6; XVIII. i. 4]. It is therefore not surprising that the number of Pharisees amounted to 6000, and that they became infected with the passions of ambition and emulation [Jos. Ant. XIII. x. 5; XVII. ii. 4].

δ. The gospel does not mention the third religious party of the Jews, consisting of the Essenes [Jos. Antiq. XIII. v. 9; XVIII. i. 2], who were remarkable for their exaggerated mysticism. Since they themselves had often recourse to ablutions, they may have been thus induced to set less value on the baptism of John.

ε. The Pharisees and Sadducees came “to (or for) his baptism” not against it [Olearius]; but they did not receive baptism [Lk. 7:30], lacking those real sentiments of penance required by the Baptist. The opinion of Wichelhaus that the Jews in general, and the Pharisees in particular, would have been converted to the cause of the Messias, if John and Jesus had treated them with more regard, deserves no consideration [pp. 100 ff.].

ζ. John addresses the Pharisees and Sadducees as “brood of vipers,” probably to show from the start that they are not descendants of Abraham, but of the serpent [Gen. 3:1–15]; they bear in them the poison of sin [Is. 14:29; 59:5; Ps. 58:5], by which they ruin those that come under their influence. Chrys. Aug. op. imp. Bed. Theoph. Euth. believe that the Baptist also alludes to the manner in which serpents, according to the opinion then prevalent, killed their mothers in their very birth by eating through their entrails. Chrys. sees in these words a prophetic reference to the future position of the Pharisees and Sadducees in regard to Jesus Christ.

b. The end to be obtained by the Pharisees and Sadducees consists in avoiding the wrath to come. The Baptist’s question has found various interpretations: α. It is equivalent to a negative sentence, denying that any one has taught them a way of escaping God’s judgments [Lap. Sylv. Calm. patr. Schanz, Knab.]. The announcement in Mt. 23:33: “You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?” confirms this opinion. β. It is an expression of admiration that depraved classes of men like the Pharisees and Sadducees should seek safety through penance [Theoph. Fab. Caj. Jans.]. γ. But the very address and the following verse show that they did not understand the true nature of penance, or the true way of escaping from the wrath to come. These inconveniences are avoided, if we take the verb in the sense of warning, or giving the hint, of the coming wrath, so that the listeners of the Baptist need not understand the true way of accomplishing their design. δ. The coming wrath is the tribulation which the prophets had predicted for the time of the Messias [Is. 50:11; 56:9 f.; 63:4–6; 66:15; Mal. 3:2, 3]. ε. Holtzm. finds here a reference to the serpents and vipers that endeavor to fly in autumn when the dry grass and the remaining stalks of the fields are set on fire [cf. Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible, p. 76, N. Y. 1888, J. B. Alden].

8. Bring forth therefore.] c. The only means. α. Whether we understand the preceding verse in the sense of “you cannot escape the coming wrath [in your present condition],” or “is it possible that you should have taken the hint, and endeavor to avoid the coming tribulation,” in either case the inference holds, “therefore bring forth fruit worthy of penance.” β. For penance is the only way of sharing the Messianic salvation. This becomes the more evident, if we compare “the wrath to come” with 1 Thess 1:10; or with “the wrath which is come” in Apoc. 11:18; or with “the day of wrath” in Rom. 2:5; Apoc. 6:17. γ. The evangelist distinguishes between the tree which is penance, the soil of the tree or the heart and soul of man, and the fruit of the tree. δ. The singular number “fruit” is used not only to avoid the danger of suggesting only certain kinds of penitential works [Keil], but also in a collective sense [cf. Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11]. ε. Chrys. and Theoph. find here an implicit warning that the mere avoiding of and turning away from evil is not sufficient, but that external works must complete our interior conversion to God [cf. Acts 26:20]. ζ. In Lk. 3:11 we find the principal fruits of penance enumerated.

9. And think not to say within yourselves.] d. The exception answered. α. The exception is introduced by the phrase “imagine not that you can say” [Schegg, Reischl, Meyer]. β. The difficulty lies in the belief of the Jews that their carnal descent from Abraham is a certain pledge of their salvation or their sharing in the kingdom of the Messias. It is to this pride of race that Mich. 3:11; 7:4; Jn. 8:33 f. refer; on account of the same opinion, Sanhedrin f. 90, 1 promises to all Israel a part in the future world; Bereschit R. 18, 7 has it that “Abraham sits at the gate of hell, and does not allow a circumcised Israelite to go in there. What, then, becomes of the wicked men among the Jews? They become again uncircumcised, and then go down to hell”; Erubin 19 adds that Abraham will deliver all Jews from hell, except those that have become uncircumcised; if the Rabbis speak about punishment of the Jews in the other world, they are careful to note that it will not last more than twelve months. We do not deny that in some Rabbinic passages there is question of eternal punishment of Jews; but we are too well accustomed to the contradictory statements of the Rabbis to be astonished at this. On the whole, the conviction that the carnal descent from Abraham was a sufficient pledge of salvation was general among the Hebrews at the time of Christ; cf. Acts 13:26; Rom. 9:5; Mt. 22:32; etc. γ. That mere carnal descent from Abraham is not sufficient to guarantee a share in the Messianic blessings, is taught in Jn. 8:39; Rom. 9:7 f.; 4:12; Gal. 3:7, 9. δ. The answer of the Baptist probably alludes to Is. 51:1, where the Jews are represented as being cut out of a rock; it contains a play upon the words בָּכִים and אֲבָכ֣ים; it shows the vileness of mere sonship of Abraham; it shows how God may reject the carnal sons and be faithful to Abraham. ε. It is true that the Fathers generally point to this passage as a proof of the divine omnipotence which is able to make children of Abraham out of the substances farthest removed from life; but Chrys. Jer. Euth. etc. find in it a suggestion that God may call the Gentiles to be his sons and heirs, thus constituting them spiritual sons of Abraham. ζ. Chrys. draws also attention to the fact that John only says “God is able to,” that he may not rob the Jews of all hope. η. “These stones,” to which the Baptist pointed, were the rocks lying along the banks of the river Jordan. The Pharisees hope that the promises made to Abraham’s seed are infallibly true is answered by the Baptist with a distinction: God’s promises are not made to the patriarch’s carnal seed, to which the Pharisees belong, but to his spiritual seed, to which the Pharisees do not belong, and which may be supplied from among the number of the Gentiles.

10. For now the axe.] e. Haste is needed. The connection of the principal figures that have thus far occurred may be the following: The Baptist calls the Pharisees and Sadducees “brood of vipers” or seed of the serpent, and the Pharisees reply in thought that they are the seed of Abraham; the Baptist has exhorted his hearers to render themselves worthy of the Messianic blessings, to acquire the Messianic nobility, by means of penitential works; but the Pharisees internally dissent from this warning by imagining that the Messianic nobility consists in the pedigree of the tree, not in its fruits. The Baptist continues this figure, proceeding from the fact that in Palestine only fruit trees were considered valuable enough to occupy the ground on which they stood. Hence the significant warning, “the axe is laid to the root of the trees”; if, therefore, the hearers of the Baptist wish to escape the fire, they must make haste in doing penance, and thus prove themselves to be fruit trees. Similar figures are found in Lk. 13:6; Jn. 15:2; Rom. 11:24.

11. I indeed baptize you.] f. Contrast between the Messias and the Baptist. In this passage we find first a contrast between the person of the Baptist and that of the Messias; in the second place a contrast between the baptism of John and that of the Messias. [a] As far as the persons are concerned, the Messias is mightier than the Baptist, and the latter is not worthy to bear the shoes of the former [Mt.], or to stoop down and loosen the latchet of his shoes [Mk.], or to loosen the latchet of his shoes [Lk. Jn.]. The former expression properly means, “he is the mighty one, not I” [cf. 31:11; Schanz], which meaning fits admirably into the present context, since the Baptist claims nowhere an independent authority. The carrying of the shoes alludes to the service performed among the Jews, Romans, and Greeks by the meanest slaves, who had to remove and carry their masters’ sandals when they entered into the temple or a festive dining-room.

[b] The baptism of John differs from that of the Messias because John baptizes in water unto penance, the Messias baptizes in the Holy Ghost and fire. Explanations: (1) The Baptist waters the tree, as it were, that it may bear the fruit of penance; but the Messias, like the husbandman, shall cleanse his floor with the fan in his hand, throwing the mixture of chaff and grain against the wind, rendered in English by “Holy Ghost,” and burning the chaff by unquenchable fire, as the Palestinian farmer is wont to do at the time of winnowing. According to this view, there is a connected series of figures in the Baptist’s preaching: the brood of vipers is opposed to the sons of Abraham; the trees bringing forth fruit of penance are opposed to the barren trees, to be cut down and burned; the watering of the Baptist is opposed to the winnowing of the Messias; the fruits of penance produced by the former are opposed to the condition of the winnowed material, partly gathered into the barn, and partly burnt. This explanation seems to stretch the figurative meaning of the passage too far.

(2) It is more probable that baptism must be taken in its proper meaning, so that John merely contrasts the insignificance of his own baptism with the importance of that of the Messias. John’s baptism is only an external rite by which one promises to lead a life of penance; but the baptism of the Christ will contain the power of the Holy Ghost, sanctifying the recipients internally by its own power. This part of John’s preaching announces, therefore, the fulfilment of those Old Testament prophecies in which the Holy Ghost was promised in a special manner for the time of the New Testament: Is. 43:3; 32:15; Ez. 11:19; 36:26; 39:29; Joel 2:28; Zach. 12:10. The words of Jesus Christ [Acts 1:5; Jn. 16:7] and of St. Peter [Acts 11:15, 16] confirm this view [cf. Jans. patr. p. 467; Grimm, ii. p. 114].

But the additional word “and fire” is not uniformly explained by all. (α) Orig. Hil. Jer. Rab. identify the fire with that of purgatory; (β) op. imp. Bed. see in the fire the trial by means of temptations; (γ) Bas. Damasc. Arn. Coleridge, Keil, Weiss, understand the expression as referring to the fire of hell. (1) This last interpretation appeals to the parallelism of the two baptisms: in that of John we have water and penance, in that of Jesus the Holy Ghost and fire; as, therefore, the Holy Ghost is contrasted with water, so the fire is contrasted with penance. (2) But on the other hand, this view introduces three, instead of two baptisms, and cannot, therefore, be said to compare the parallel terms stated; again, the text of the gospel represents the same persons as the subjects of both baptisms, so that St. John would predict the baptism of fire for all those baptized in the Holy Ghost. (δ) Chrys. Euth. Jans. Lap. and almost all the more recent Catholic commentators regard, therefore, the expression “in the Holy Ghost and fire” as hendiadys, so that the fire represents the purifying action of the Holy Ghost [cf. Knab.]. The fact that the Holy Ghost descended on the first Pentecost upon the disciples in the form of fiery tongues, that, moreover, the prophets represented the action of the Holy Ghost under the symbol of fire [Mal. 3:2, 3; Is. 4:4; 41:18; Ezech. 36:25–27], that finally the evangelist writes “in the Holy Ghost and fire,” and not “in the Holy Ghost and in fire,” thus showing that both expressions belong to the same baptism, favors this explanation of the passage. Whatever plausible reasons the modern Protestant theologians may advance in favor of the former opinions are more than outweighed by the circumstance that baptism nowhere else means the fire of hell.

But how are we to connect the passage with what precedes, if we adhere to the last opinion? There are two principal answers to this question. (α) Lap. Dion. Schegg, Mansel are of opinion that St. Matthew does not give any continuous discourse of the Baptist, but places together utterances given forth by John on different occasions. Mansel believes that the words now under consideration were actually spoken by the Baptist on the occasion pointed out by Jn. 1:26, while the rest of the foregoing authors think that they were spoken in connection with Lk. 3:15. For the third gospel determines the occasion on which the words were uttered, while the first evangelist leaves this undetermined. (β) Chrys. Theoph. Arn. Fil. Keil, Schanz, Weiss, etc. think that St. Matthew relates a continuous discourse. (1) Though the Baptist uttered on the occasion pointed out by Lk. 3:15 the same words as those we now consider, nothing prevents us from supposing that John repeated the same discourse several times. The foregoing authors are, however, not unanimous in explaining the connection of the discourse. (2) Some think that the Baptist explains now how his hearers can bring forth fruit worthy of penance: by virtue of the Holy Ghost, or by believing in him who is greater than John, and who will baptize in the Holy Ghost and fire. (3) Others prefer a connection with the immediate context, so that the Baptist disclaims any power of admitting into the Messianic kingdom, or of exercising the judgment that has been threatened.

12. Whose fan is in his hand.] Since we have rejected the opinion according to which this verse is an explanation of the double baptism of the Messias, we must regard it as an additional point of opposition between the Baptist and the Messias; but there is this peculiarity to be noted, that while the Messianic baptism finds its counterpart in that of John, while the Messias himself is contrasted with the Baptist, this third Messianic characteristic has no positive counterpart in the person or the mission of John. The Messias has been declared as independent in his might, as the redeemer in his baptism; and now we find in him the final judge of all, represented under the figure of a Palestinian husbandman, who winnows his yearly produce on the threshingfloor, situated on the top of a hill so that the wind may separate the grain from the chaff, and may help on the unquenchable fire set to the chaff after the winnowing is over [Is. 63:3; Mal. 3:2; Lk. 2:34; Rom. 2:9; Mt. 5:22, 29; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; 25:46; Mk. 9:43]. Iren. Aug. Chrys. Theoph. Euth. Lap. contend that the Baptist speaks here of the unquenchable fire of hell.

b. The Testimony, 3:13–17

13. Then cometh Jesus.] In this section the evangelist relates two principal events: A. the forerunner’s testimony to Jesus, and B. that of God himself. A. In his account of the Baptist’s testimony, the evangelist distinguishes 1. its occasion, 2. the verbal testimony, and 3. its confirmation. 1. The occasion is given in detail: The time is, according to St. Matthew, that of John’s ministry; according to St. Luke [3:23], when “Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years.” According to the first gospel, the place is situated near the Jordan, or in Bethania beyond the Jordan, according to the fourth [1:28]. Jesus comes from his hidden life in Nazareth, where the Holy Family settled by command of the angel when returning from Egypt.

14. But John stayed him.] 2. The Baptist’s testimony. a. Before considering the testimony in itself, we must answer a difficulty that arises here on account of the seeming discrepancy between the report of the first and that of the fourth gospel. St. Matthew represents John as acquainted with Jesus, for else he would not deem himself unworthy of baptizing him; according to the fourth gospel, John testifies, “I knew him not” [1:31, 33]. α. Certain authors contend that John knew Jesus beforehand, but not officially, so as to be able to bear witness to him; or not as the principal minister of all future baptisms, which mystery he learned by the descent of the Holy Ghost on Jesus [Aug. tract. 5 in Jo. n. 9; De cons, evangg. ii. 25, 32]; or not so perfectly as after baptism [Bed.]; or not as all-powerful [Alb.]; or not by sight, though he had heard many accurate descriptions of him [Tol. annot. 72 in Jo. patr.]. β. We cannot agree with the opinion of those who contend that vv. 14, 15 have been interpolated in Matthew; though St. Justin omits this passage in his writings, we cannot conclude that it is therefore not genuine. γ. We think we must assume the literal truthfulness of the fourth gospel, according to which the Baptist did not know Jesus before his baptism. Not as if we believed that John knew the Messias by the descent of the Holy Ghost before the baptism [Caj.], or recognized obscurely and by a prophetic presentiment, as it were, the sacred and Messianic character in Jesus [Keil, Mansel]; but the Holy Ghost who taught John in his mother’s womb to recognize the presence of Jesus intervened also on the present occasion, revealing Jesus not only as a most holy man [Fab. Tost. Schegg], but also as the Messias and the incarnate God [cf. Jans. Mald. Lap. Knab.].

b. The Greek text shows that the Baptist strove earnestly and with some vigor to prevent Jesus from entering into the water for baptism, α. Those Protestant controversialists who blame St. John for thus hindering Jesus contradict the opinion of all the Fathers, who find in this behavior of the Baptist not a sign of self-will, but of faith, modesty, and humility. β. Since John knew only the baptism of the Messias and his own, and since he cannot have wished to be baptized with his own baptism, he must have supposed that Jesus, by whom he wished to be baptized, could confer the Messianic baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, and consequently that he was the Messias. γ. This is confirmed by the very words of the Baptist: he professes that he ought to be baptized by Jesus, not asking Jesus: “and thou comest to my baptism?” but “and comest thou to me?” In the opinion of John, there can be no comparison between his and the Messianic baptism administered by Jesus.

15. And Jesus answering, said.] 3. The confirmation of John’s answer. Here we have to distinguish between the direct answer of our Lord and the reason he gives for the answer, a. In his direct answer, Jesus does not say that the Baptist is wrong in his manner of acting; he rather approves of it, saying that his humility must be borne with for the present: “Suffer it to be so now.” b. The reason Jesus gives is contained in the words “for so it becometh us to fulfil all justice.”

α. All justice. It is generally acknowledged that “justice” in this passage means what is right and holy, what falls, in some way, under the intentive will of God. Commentators differ concerning the kind of divine will with which we have to do in the present case: (1) Chrys. Euth. Tost. Caj. appear to assume a preceptive will of God; but if Jesus had been commanded by his Father to receive the baptism of John, he could not have said “it becometh us,” but he should have said “we must,” since in that case both himself and the Baptist would have been bound to obey. (2) Most writers maintain, therefore, that the source of the “justice” is a divine counsel: (a) generically considered, this counsel may spring from God’s will that Jesus should make himself like his brethren—sin alone excepted—who were at that time advised to have recourse to John’s baptism [cf. Gal. 4:4; circumcision, presentation in the temple, etc.]; (b) specifically considered, the counsel agrees with the divine will that Jesus should freely embrace those practices which might show that he had come to satisfy for the sins of men [cf. Dion. Caj. Jans. Salm. Mald. Lap. Bar. Coleridge, Fil. Grimm ii. 124]; (c) individually considered, the counsel urges Jesus to receive John’s baptism as the figure of death by which alone he could satisfy for the sins of the world [Salm. Fil. Grimm], and as a means of manifesting himself to the world [cf. Jn. 1:31; Euth. Pasch. Mald.]; (d) considered in its subordinate scope, the counsel coincides with the will of God that Jesus should solemnly approve the ministry and baptism of John [op. imp. Jer. Bed. gl. ord. Rab. Thom. Dion. Jans. etc.], that he should sanctify the waters for the Christian baptism [Amb. Bed. Rab. gl. ord. Alb. Thom. Dion. Jans. Lap. etc.], that he should prefigure the adoptive sonship of God which his followers were to receive through baptism [Hil. Bed. Euth.].

β. It becometh us. The words “it becometh us” are grounded on the fitness that Jesus should repair the disobedience of Adam by his perfect obedience [Euth.], that he should give us an example of humility [Jer. Jans.], that he should incite us to receive the Christian sacrament of baptism [Ambr. Bed. Pasch. Thom. Jans. etc.]. St. John was convinced by the argument of Jesus, and “suffered him” to enter the water; that “suffered him” is the right translation of the Latin “dimisit” follows from the Greek text as compared with Mk. 5:19; 11:6; 14:6; Lk. 13:8 and as explained by St. Thomas. It may be noted that this is the second sentence spoken by Jesus, which has been preserved in the gospels.

16. And Jesus, being baptized.] B. The divine testimony. It consists in the three miraculous events narrated by St. Matthew: 1. the heavens are opened; 2. the Holy Ghost descends in a visible form; 3. the voice from heaven is heard.

1. The heavens are opened. The evangelist first determines the time more closely, and then relates the opening of the heavens. a. The time is defined in the words “and Jesus, being baptized, forthwith came out of the water.” The baptism was administered by immersion, not by infusion or aspersion. The “forthwith” before “came out of the water” does not qualify the following sentence “the heavens were opened” [Arn. Schegg, Keil, Weiss against Jans. Mald. Lap. Lam.]; nor can it be said that Jesus ascended immediately out of the water, because he had no confession to make as the others had to do [Knab. etc. against Fil. Schanz]; but we may safely maintain that the “forthwith” is either a mere expletive [cf. Knab.], or that it signifies the eagerness with which Jesus performed the actions that belonged to his Messianic mission. This is illustrated by his words spoken at the last supper, his words concerning the baptism with which he had to be baptized, and finally the report of St. Luke 3:21, according to which Jesus prayed on the bank of the Jordan after his baptism, b. The opening of the heavens cannot be regarded as a sudden clearing up after a cloudy day, nor as the sudden bursting forth of a storm [Paulus, Kuinoel], but signifies either a luminous cleft in the atmosphere [Lap. Salm. Caj. etc.], or a sudden, brilliant light which apparently proceeds from the uppermost clouds [Calm. Fil.], or any other heavenly sign indicating that the Holy Ghost and the voice came from the heavens themselves [Suar.]. The opinion that the evangelist uses here a merely rhetorical manner of speaking, or that the opening of the heavens was only a subjective perception without a corresponding objective reality [Orig. Jer. Thom. op. imp.] is no longer supported by the reasons advanced on the part of the foregoing authorities [Mald.], since we regard the firmament no longer as a solid vault after the manner of the ancients [cf. Schanz]. The words “to him,” in the passage “the heavens were opened to him,” indicate the scope of the event, or the dative of interest. St. Mark 1:10 relates the occurrence thus: “he saw the heavens opened.”

and he saw the Spirit of God.] 2. The coming of the Holy Ghost. a. Who witnessed the event? According to St. Matthew, Jesus himself saw the descent of the Holy Ghost; according to Jn. 1:32 the Baptist also perceives the same phenomenon: “And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him.” Now the question arises: did others see the same event? α. Pasch. Dion. Caj. patr. are of opinion that Jesus and John alone saw the miraculous phenomena; the voice, however, was according to Caj. heard by others also. Reasons: (1) The gospels mention only Jesus and John as witnesses; (2) besides, they attest that John was to give testimony of this to the people, which would have been useless if the people had witnessed the events. β. All those present at the Jordan perceived the miraculous phenomena. Reasons: (1) This is the more common opinion: Chrys. Jer. Theoph. Euth. Hil. op. imp. Rab. Tost Jans Mald. Salm. Sylv. Suar. Lap. Est. Men. Calm. Reischl, Coleridge, Grimm, Knab. etc. (2) The gospels implicitly state that the events were witnessed by all, since they represent them as perceptible by the senses, so that a new miracle would have been required to render them imperceptible to some of those present. (3) Again, they were given for our good, not for that of Jesus only; hence a greater number of witnesses rendered them more fit for their purpose. (4) Finally, since not the whole people was present at the Jordan, the Baptist could give testimony of the events, though they had been seen by part of the people.

b. How did the Holy Ghost descend? α. The passage of St. Matthew answers “as a dove”; St. Luke 3:22 adds “in a bodily shape, as a dove.” But commentators vary in their explanations. β. We have already rejected the opinion of Origen, who regards all these events as merely internal perceptions. The language of the third evangelist is decisive on this point [c. Cels. i. 10]. γ. The same evangelist excludes the opinion according to which the point of comparison in the present passage lies not in the form of the Holy Ghost and of the dove, but in the manner of movement, so that the Holy Ghost descended rapidly as a dove flies [Fritzsche], or gradually as a dove descends Rosenmüller]. δ. St. Thomas is very explicit on the present question: The dove was no mere fancy, because she was seen; nor a mere sign, because a sign must exist before it can signify; nor was a real dove hypostatically united with the Holy Ghost, because the evangelist says “as a dove”; hence the relation between dove and Holy Ghost must be conceived after a fourth manner, i. e., the appearance of a dove was produced miraculously, in order to signify a divine effect [cf. Ex. 3:2]. Chrys. Aug. etc. agree with this explanation.

c. Why as a dove? α. The dove had in the East the symbolic meaning of meekness, innocence, piety, love, purity, holiness [cf. Cant. cant, and the law regarding clean and unclean animals]. It was the symbol of divine communication with men, and among the Syrians it was honored as a god [cf. Clem, of Alex. Cohort, c. 2; P. i. 34; Recogn. x. 27]. The Fathers are endless in their praises of the good qualities of the dove: Tert. De bapt. 8; Cypr. De un. 9; Euth.; etc. In general, it may be maintained that the dove held among birds the place assigned to the lamb among animals [cf. Bern. Serm. i. de Epiph.]. It was therefore fitting that the dove of God should bear testimony to the lamb of God. β. This natural fitness is still more emphasized by the place the dove holds in the Old Testament. In the ark of Noe it was the dove that brought the olive branch and announced the end of God’s wrath; in Gen. 1:2 the Spirit of God moved [or brooded] over the waters after the manner of a dove. Owing to these occurrences the Rabbis considered the dove as a sign of the Spirit of God: cf. Targ. Cant. 2:12; Bemidb. Rabb. 250; Bereshith Rabb. 2 f. 4, 4; Rabbi Ephraim ad Gen. i. 2; etc.

d. Why did the Holy Ghost descend on Jesus? α. This event was foretold in Is. 11:1; 41:1; it is also to this event that St. Paul alludes in Col. 2:9. Besides, the coming of the dove upon Jesus pointed out the person to whom the words of the heavenly voice were directed. β. We must not imagine that Jesus at this moment received either an increase of grace, or that he received a consecration which he did not possess before. The soul of Jesus, even as man, was endowed with the plenitude of grace from the first moment of his life, a plenitude that could not be increased by the ordinary power of God. The descent of the Holy Ghost was therefore nothing else than a visible manifestation of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul of Jesus; as the heavenly voice did not constitute Jesus Son of God, but only declared his divine sonship, so did the coming of the Holy Ghost manifest the holiness and consecration of Jesus, without affecting or augmenting the same [Rab. Thom. Suar. Jans. etc.].

17. And behold, a voice from heaven.] 3. The third miraculous event. a. Literal meaning of the passage. (1) The voice from heaven is not merely the murmuring of the multitude accompanying the storm and the wind [Wetstein, Kuinoel], nor is it a fabulous event truthfully related by the evangelist according to what lie had heard from others [Fritzsche,], nor again is it a mere symbol of a dogmatic truth [Olshausen, Neander, Ullman]; but it is a miraculous voice of the heavenly Father like that which occurred at the transfiguration of Jesus [Mt. 17:5], and again, after his solemn entrance into Jerusalem, in the temple court [Jn. 12:28]. (2) Instead of “this is,” the second and third gospel have “thou art”; in the first gospel the person to whom the words are addressed is determined by the descent of the Holy Ghost. (3) The expression “beloved son” does not mean “son by adoption,” but natural son as in Ps. 2:7; this is evident from Mt. 1:20 and Lk. 1:35. Had the voice signified merely adoptive sonship, as the Arians and Socinians misinterpret it, the words might have been addressed to the Baptist, who was a most holy and just person. (4) The expression “beloved son” may be considered as equivalent to “only begotten” or “most favored son” [cf. Hesych. ap. Suicer; Pollux, l. iii. c. 11, ibid.; Il. z. 400]. The lxx. repeatedly render the Hebrew word for “only begotten” [יָהִיך] by “beloved” [ἀγαπητός], as we see in Gen. 22:2–12; 6:26; Am. 8:10; Zach. 12:10; etc. Further confirmation of our statement may be seen in Suicer s. v. ἀγαπητός. (5) The words “in whom I am well pleased” render the Hebrew רָצָה or חָפֵץ בְּ [cf. Gen. 34:19; 2 Kings 20:11]. This seems to be an allusion to Is. 42:1, so that it means “in whom I found my pleasure”; and since God cannot be pleased except by what participates his own goodness, Jesus must participate the divine goodness more than mere creatures do [cf. Epiph. h. xxx. 13; Just. c. Tr. c. 88; c. 103; Clem. of Alex. Pædag. i. c. 6; Lact. Instit. div. iv. 15; Aug. De cons. ii. 14, 31; Hil. ad l.].

b. Symbolic meaning of the passage. Jesus assumes in his baptism the vicarious satisfaction for the sins of the world to be effected by means of his death; the heavenly Father declares that he is pleased with his Son thus become the victim for men, and thereby formally accepts the satisfaction offered; the Holy Ghost appears in order to consecrate solemnly the salvific action of Jesus; men are restored to the sonship of God which they had lost by sin; the just become again the living temples of the Holy Ghost; heaven is opened for men after being shut through the transgression of Adam.

c. Dogmatic meaning of the baptism. Thom. [3 p. qu. 66, a. 2], Vasquez [in h. l.], Lap. Coleridge [p. 42], etc. maintain that Jesus instituted the sacrament of baptism when he himself was baptized by John. This is an additional reason why on that occasion the mystery of the Holy Trinity was revealed so plainly; for we know that according to the words of Jesus [Mt. 28:19] Christian baptism must be conferred in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [cf. Thom. p. 3. qu. 39. a. 8].


a. The Trial, 4:1–11

1. Then Jesus was led.] In his baptism Jesus has been declared to be the Messias [Is. 42:1; Ps. 2:7]; now the Messias was regarded as the founder of a new dispensation [31:32; Mal. 3:1], and as the conqueror of the serpent [Gen. 3:15]. Moses, the founder of the Jewish dispensation, and Elias, its restorer, had fasted forty days before beginning their work; the first Adam had been vanquished by Satan in temptation. It is then fit that Jesus should begin his Messianic work by a similar fast, and foreshadow his triumph over Satan by overcoming him in temptation.

1. The fast. a. When? The evangelist indicates the time by the general particle “then”; according to Mk. 1:12, this happened immediately after the baptism, and Lk. 4:1 suggests the same time. Iren. [adv. hær. II. xxii. 5] contends that Jesus retired after receiving baptism at the age of thirty, and began his public life only in the “senior ætas”; the text of the synoptic gospels, and the fact that among the Jews one could begin to teach at the age of thirty, demand no interruption between the baptism and the public life of Jesus. Iren. claims for his view the report of the gospel—probably Jn. 8:57, which does not support Iren.—and of the “Elders of Asia.”

b. Why? (1) Jesus was led [or driven, according to Mk. 1:12], without being rapt through the air [cf. ev. Heb.; Jer. in Mich, 7:5–7], by the Spirit who had come visibly upon him [cf. Bed.], into the desert, that he might return from the desert into paradise from which the first Adam had been cast out into the desert. The Greek expression shows that the Spirit led Jesus upwards from the Jordan valley. The gospel does not specify the desert that was the scene of the following events; Mald. Schegg, Meyer, Schanz conclude, therefore, that the evangelist speaks of the same desert as in 3:1 [the desert of Judea]. There is no reason for identifying the desert with that of Sinai [Alf.], though we grant a scripture parallelism between Moses, Elias, and our Lord. Tradition points to the desert of Jericho, and more in particular, to the highest part of the mountain range near Jericho, on the road to Jerusalem, named Quarantania [Kuruntel or Karantel] from the Forty Days’ Fast.

(2) That solitude is well fitted for communion with God is manifest from many passages in Sacred Scripture: Ex. 34:28; 3 Kings 19:8, 9; Lk. 3:2; 5:16; Jn. 11:54; 18:2; Mt. 26:36; etc. But the evangelist adds another purpose for which the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, viz., “to be tempted by the devil.” The agent who was to tempt Jesus does not permit us to understand the word in the sense of “provoking to anger,” or of “trying to make known some secret or hidden quality in his sacred person”; and still, it seems to be a fearful thing that either God directly intended Jesus to be tempted to evil, or that the sacred humanity of Jesus should have been subjected to this awful humiliation.

(3) St. Paul has anticipated the answer to this second exception where he explains to the Hebrews the mystery of Christ’s abasement [Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 5:8]. The apostle shows that, excepting sin, Jesus must become like unto us; that he must be tried like ourselves, and that he must learn obedience by what he suffers.

(4) Nor is it unworthy of God to have intended the temptation of Jesus; for as in any attack one has to bear from one’s enemy, one may distinguish between the trial and the advantage of the enemy, so in the present case, God intended Jesus to be tried in the conflict with Satan without giving any advantage to the latter.

(5) This intention on the part of God creates the less difficulty, because on the part of Jesus sin was physically impossible. Hence it was that the temptation must come from outside; for Jesus was free from concupiscence, and could not therefore suffer any temptation arising from within.

(6) Moreover, it was fitting that the restorer of the human race should meet in single combat, as it were, the old serpent who had ruined Adam and his offspring in the garden of paradise; no wonder, then, that the Spirit of God, whom the evangelist contrasts so emphatically with the evil spirit, impelled our Lord to meet his enemy in the desert [Thom. Alb. Mald. Jans. Bar. Sylv. Lap. Lamy, Coleridge, Grimm].

c. The tempter. The desert is repeatedly represented as the dwelling place of evil spirits: Mt. 12:43; Lk. 11:24; Is. 13:21; 34:14; Lev. 16:10; Tob. 8:3; Bar. 4:33; etc. In the present case, the evangelist mentions “the devil” as the intended tempter. This word is derived from the Greek noun διάβολος, or the verb διαβάλλειν, to calumniate; this is the usual term in lxx. for the Hebrew שָׂטָן, which is σατανᾶς in the New Testament, and also σατᾶν in the lxx. The Hebrew word properly means “adversary,” and is used originally of men [3 Kings 5:18; 11:14; etc.] or angels [2 Kings 19:23; Num. 22:22]; but with the article, it means the adversary by excellence, the enemy of God, and the tempter of men [1 Par. 21:1; 2 Kings 24:1], and the accuser of men before the throne of God [Zach. 3:1, 2; Job 1:7]. In this sense the word has become almost a proper name of the prince of darkness. This excludes the rationalistic opinion that the tempter of Jesus was the chief of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish high priest, or another remarkable and influential member of the Synagogue [cf. Rosenm. Kuinoel, Schütz]. Need we add that Paulus makes the whole history a dream, Eichhorn, Dereser, etc., a fancy, Schmidt, Döderlein, Schleiermacher, Usteri, Baumgarten, a parable, Strauss, De Wette, Meyer, a myth?

2. And when he had fasted.] d. The fast. α. That the fast of Jesus was not merely what is meant in ecclesiastical language by fasting, nor what the Jews understood by the term,—the Jewish fast ended with the day, at sunset,—is clear from the words of St. Matthew, “forty days and forty nights,” from the fast of Moses related in terms similar to those of the present passage [Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 18], and from the express statement of St. Luke [4:2], “and he ate nothing in those days” [cf. Euth. Pasch. Alb. Salm. Mald. Jans. Lam. Calm.].

β. It may be of interest to draw attention to the preferential use of the number forty in both the Old and New Testament: Moses and Elias fasted forty days [Ex. 24:18; 3 Kings 19:9]; it rained forty days and nights on the earth [Gen. 7:11]; the forty usual days passed after the embalming of Jacob’s body [Gen. 1:3]; the explorers of the land of Chanaan returned after forty days [Num. 13:26]; Goliath presented himself for forty days to the hosts of Israel [1 Kings 17:16]; the Jews passed forty years in the desert [Ex. 16:35]; Ezechiel did penance for forty days for the sins of the house of Israel [Ez. 4:6]; the land of Egypt was made desolate for forty years [Ez. 29:12]; Jesus was presented in the temple after forty days, he fasted forty days, and for forty days he conversed with his disciples after his resurrection; we need not add the forty days’ penance of the Ninivites, the forty days’ legal impurity after child-birth [cf. Hil. Ambr. Salm. Jans. Mald. Sylv. Arn. Schanz, Knab.].

γ. In the New Testament we find no fixed time for fasting [cf. Aug. ep. 36, al. 38; ad Casul. xi. 25], though this holy exercise is frequently commended: Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:20; Lk. 5:35; Acts 13:2, 3; 14:22; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 11:27. As to the time of lent, it is of ecclesiastical institution, but of apostolic tradition; cf. Jer. ep. 41, 3 [al. 51 or 54]; in Mt. ix. 15; ep. 18 ad Eustoch. [al. 22]; ep. 57 ad Lætam [al. 7]; Apostol. Const. c. 68; Counc. of Laodicea, can. 15; Leo the Great, serm. xliv. 1 [edit. Ballerini, t. i. p. 168]; xlvii. 1 [ibid. p. 177]; Ignat. ad Phil. xiii; Aug. lib. ii. ad inquis. Januarii seu ep. 55 [al. 119]; 14:27; 15:28; Daille, de jejun. x.; Bellarm. De bonis oper. 1. ii. c. xiv.; Kirchenlexicon, ed. Kaulen, t. iv. s. v. Fastenzeiten. Bellarm. has collected a number of reasons for the institution of lent: in it we practise public penance for the sins of the year, we prepare for the paschal communion, we fulfil the prediction of our Lord [Mt. 9:15], we commemorate with greater fervor our Lord’s passion and death, we pray for the catechumens to be admitted to baptism about this time of the year, we pay tithes, as it were, of our whole lives to God by consecrating to him the tenth part of each year, and finally we imitate Jesus Christ, who fasted for forty days in the desert.

δ. St. Matthew adds “afterwards he was hungry”; St. Luke [4:2] agrees with this statement, saying “and when they [the forty days] were ended, he was hungry.” Commentators are unanimous in inferring from these words that Jesus did not feel hunger during his forty days’ stay in the desert, which may have been spent in ecstatic prayer [op. imp. Hil. Ambr. Alb. Fab. Dion. Salm. Jans. Mald. Bar. Sylv. Lap. etc.]. Suarez [in 3 p. disp. 29 s. 2 n. 5] is of opinion that the interpretation defended by Caj. and proposed as probable by Medina, according to which Jesus felt hunger all through his stay in the desert, is rash, because it contradicts the obvious and plain sense of Sacred Scripture, and the common teaching of the Fathers and Catholic theologians.

3. And the tempter coming.] 2. The temptation. This section naturally falls into three parts, each considering one of the three temptations. a. First temptation, α. Manner of temptation. The narrative leads us to believe that the tempter assumed the form of a man, because he approached our Lord, asked to be adored by him, took him up into the Holy City, and again into a high mountain, and finally left him, when the angels in human form came and ministered to him [vv. 3, 9, 5, 8, 11]. That the whole event occurred outwardly, and has been literally described by St. Matthew, is the common and traditional opinion of the Fathers and the commentators, against which the view of Orig. Cypr. Theod. Mops., who regard the temptation as a merely internal suggestion of the devil, cannot claim any authority.

β. Length of the temptation. Mk. 1:13 reads: “and he was in the desert forty days, and forty nights, tempted by Satan”; Lk. 4:2, 3 adds: “and was led by the Spirit into the desert for the space of forty days, and was tempted by the devil.” It is especially on account of these texts that Just. [c. Tr. 103, 125] Clem. [hom. 19, 2] Orig. Bed. Euth. Jans. Lap. Coleridge, Alf. extend the temptation of our Lord throughout the forty days, only admitting a greater intensity at the end; Thom. [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 2, ad 2] speaks of visible and invisible temptations of Jesus in the desert. Though St. Matthew does not say that the devil approached after the forty days for the first time, the whole tenor of the context implies this; the language of Mk. and Lk. may be reconciled with this, since it appears to indicate the place rather than the time of the temptation: “and he was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, [and there] tempted by Satan.” Besides, the hunger of Jesus is commonly regarded as the occasion of the temptation; low our Lord did not feel hungry till after forty days.

γ. Nature of the temptation. (1) The outward act to which the devil tempts Jesus is a miraculous change of the loaf-like stones found in the place where Jesus dwelt, into nourishment.

(2) The motives suggested for this act are two: the first is implied in the words “command that these stones be made bread [loaves],” seeing thon feelest the pangs of hunger; the second motive is suggested by the words “if thou be the son of God,” if indeed thou art able to do this, or if this condition is unworthy of thee as the Son of God. The motives are therefore sensuality under the pretence of necessity [cf. Gen. 3:6; Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:33; Ps. 77:30], and pride under the appearance of defending the honor of the Son of God.

(3) The end of the devil in thus tempting Jesus is twofold: first, he instigates our Lord to help himself independently of the will of God by whom he had been led into the desert, and placed in his present condition; secondly, the devil wishes to ascertain whether Jesus be truly the Son of God [Thom. p. 3, qu. 41, a. 1; Chrys. Amb. Theoph. Alb. Dion. Caj. Sylv. Lam. Coleridge, Grimm].

(4) It is true that some commentators [Mald. Ypr.] believe that the devil knew the divinity of Jesus at the time of the temptation: (a) he had witnessed the hymn of the angels, the praises of the Magi, the testimony of John, the signs at the baptism, and the heavenly life of Jesus. (b) According to this view, the words “if thou be the Son of God” do not imply doubt, but they rather assume the fact [cf. Heb. 9:13], or they provoke more effectually by questioning that which is unquestionable. (c) That the devils knew the divinity of Jesus follows also from all those passages in which they bear testimony to it: Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34, 41; Mt. 8:29; Lk. 8:28; etc. (d) Again, it is urged that, had the devil been ignorant of the divinity of Jesus, he could not have learned it from the temptations, because the miracles could not have been wrought at the devil’s suggestion, and the last temptation is not connected with the sonship of God.

(5) But we have already given a stately array of Fathers and commentators who have not been convinced by these arguments; they must therefore not be insuperable. (a) It is St. Augustin [De civ. Dei, l. ix. 2] who says that the devils could learn only so much from the miracles of Jesus as God wished them to know; we cannot therefore “a priori” conclude that the evil spirits knew all that could be known from this source. (b) As to their testimony to Jesus, they often testify only to his Messiasship or his personal holiness, without implying his divinity; where they imply the divinity of Jesus, they may have intended to flatter him, or to deceive the multitude. (c) It is true that 1 Cor. 2:8 does not necessarily mean: if the princes of this world had known the divinity of Jesus, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, but may signify: if the princes of this world [either the earthly princes or the devils] had known the mystery of the cross, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory [cf. Thom. in loc.; Suar. De myster. disp. xxxi.]; but from the possibility that the demons may have known the divinity of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion, it does not follow that they did know it at the time of the temptation. (d) If it be finally asked how the temptations could have testified to the divinity of Jesus, we may answer with Suar. [l. c.]: in the case of the first and second temptation, Satan knew that no one but the Son of God could have worked such mighty signs, especially in confirmation of such a truth as the devil had called in question. The third temptation was calculated to provoke our Lord, to claim for himself the honor of the Son of God, who had every right to a divine adoration.

4. Who answered and said.] δ. The victory. (1) Jesus has recourse to Scripture, because the devil cannot question its veracity. His answer is not an admonition that God nourishes spiritually all those that keep his word [commandments] [Fritzsche], but is an allusion to Deut. 8:3, where Moses points back to the miraculous sustenance of the people in the desert, showing that bread is not the only support of life, but that man lives “in all that proceedeth from the mouth of God,” i. e. that God can sustain him in any way he pleases. The explanatory “word” has been added to the Hebrew text by the lxx. and the Vulgate. The means suggested by the enemy is therefore not necessary. (2) We must also admire the consummate wisdom of the answer: it restores to the heavenly Father the honor that was implicitly attacked by the suggestion of the devil [Coleridge, i.]; it says absolutely nothing concerning the divinity of Jesus [op. imp. Jer. Rab. Alb. Dion. Caj. Jans. Sylv. etc.]; it overcomes the devil not by almighty power, such as God alone could exert, but by the aid of the law that had been given to men as a means of salvation [Ambr. Thom. Alb. Caj.]; not by the show of pomp and majesty, but by humility [Leo, Jer. Greg. Jans.]. While Jesus therefore teaches us the power of the inspired word, he also foreshows his future teaching [Mt. 6:33]: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.”

5. Then the devil took him up.] 2. Second temptation. a. Order of events. St. Luke [4:5 ff.] inverts the order of the second and third temptation found in the first gospel. Hence a number of authorities believe that the third gospel gives the true chronological order of temptations. Reasons: The external evidence is represented by the names of gloss. ord. Pasch. Alb. Reischl, Coleridge, Grimm, Knab. etc.; the internal grounds are the fact that St. Luke promises to write “in order” [1:3], and the gradation found in the order of the third gospel. For there the devil proceeds from the concupiscence of the flesh to that of the eyes, coming in the third place to the pride of life. St. Thomas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4] proves too that the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes tempt carnal men, while the pride of life is a temptation of spiritual men. Not to mention those that hesitate as to the true order of temptations [Aug. e. g.], or those that believe the order in the two gospels differs, because the order of temptations varies in various persons, the concupiscence of the eyes preceding in some cases the pride of life, while in other cases the inverse order obtains [cf. Tost. qu. 31, Sylv.]; we cannot omit the opinion which regards the order of the first gospel as the true one. Reasons: External evidence: Dion. Suar. [p. 3, disp. 29, s. 4, n. 4], Mald. Sylv. Bar. Schanz, Arn. Fil. Keil, Meschler [i. p. 191]. Internal evidence: the first gospel employs throughout the particles of succession, v. 1 then,” v. 5 “then,” v. 8 “again”; besides, the answer of v. 10, following the third temptation related by St. Matthew, must have been the final one. It is well known that while St. Luke’s order is accurate in regard to the greater events, the first gospel often supplies a more accurate order of detail. Even the gradation of the temptations is not lost in the order of the first gospel: the first temptation appeals to the motives of sensuality and pride; the second, to vainglory; the third presents motives of avarice and pride in the highest degree, or, as Meschler [l. c.] points out, it combines all the allurements of the concupiscence of the flesh, of the concupiscence of the eyes, and of the pride of life. Other authors represent the gradation of the temptations thus: temptation to independence and want of confidence in God, to presumption, to blasphemy [Schanz]; Jesus tempted as man, as Jewish prophet, as Messias [Lutter. ii. 34]; manifestation before the tempter, before the Jewish community, before the Gentile world; Jesus tempted as man, as Messias, and as Son of God [Godet]; etc.

b. Manner of the temptation. α. The evangelist describes it in three preparatory clauses: “the devil took him up”—“into the holy city”—“and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple.” In general, it may be noted that these expressions do not favor the hypothesis of a merely internal temptation by suggestion.

β. If it be asked whether the devil carried our Lord bodily through the air, we find different answers in the best commentaries: Euth. Mald., chiefly through reverential feelings for the sacred person of Jesus, contend that he did not permit himself to be carried by the devil, but that he accompanied his tempter on foot to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain [Berlepsch]; Fritzsche believes the devil merely impelled Jesus to go to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain; but Greg. Lap. Jer. Yp. Knab. Fil. and most commentators adhere to the bodily transportation of Jesus by the agency of the devil. Suar. [De angel, disp. xvi. s. iii.] infers from this passage that Satan has power to move bodies from place to place. Greg. [hom. xvi. in Mt.] explains how Jesus could allow himself to be carried by the evil spirit: “We need not be surprised if he permitted himself to be carried up into a mountain by Satan, since he permitted himself to be crucified by the members of Satan.” The wording of St. Matthew’s text together with the expression “set him upon the pinnacle of the temple” favors the third view.

γ. The “holy city” is Jerusalem, because it had been chosen by God as the site of the temple [Euth.], and as the centre of the theocracy, and therefore as the residence of God among his people [cf. Is. 48:2; 52:1; Dan. 9:24; 2 Esd. 11:1, 18].

δ. The “pinnacle of the temple” has been variously identified by commentators. The word rendered “pinnacle” occurs also in Lk. 4:9; in the lxx. version it stands regularly for the Hebrew כָּנָף [wing], though the Greek word presents the diminutive form [winglet]. Gesen. [Lexic. ed. 8, s. v.] states that the Hebrew word is never used of the “summit” or the “highest point” of anything, but only of the extremity or the border of a plain [e.g. the hem of a garment]. It must also be noted that the Greek text does not read ναός [temple proper], but τοῦ ἱεροῦ [sanctuary], so that the edge on which the devil placed our Lord may have belonged to any part of the temple structures. It is on account of these considerations that many writers reject the opinion of Or. and Hil. according to which Jesus was placed by Satan on the topmost height of the temple, preferring either the Royal Porch or the Porch of Solomon [cf. Scholz, Alterth. p. 238; Keil, Archæol. p. 151; Comment. p. 113], the height of which was considerable [Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 5; XX. ix. 7], or the southeastern corner, at which these porches met [cf. Schæf. Alterth. p. 41], or the projecting part of the temple-roof [Mald. Calm. Jans. Lap.], or the edge of an elevated part of the roof, or the enclosing wall [Grimm, ii. 192].

6. And said to him.] c. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which Satan impels Jesus is clearly mentioned in the gospels. β. The motives by which the devil endeavors to move Jesus are various: the motive of pride is implied in the words “if thou be the Son of God,” for they suggest, it is unworthy of thee to descend from this dazzling height in the common way; again, there was the necessity of manifesting himself as the Messias promised to appear in the temple [Mal. 3:1] in such a manner that no one should know whence he came [John 7:27], both of which prophecies would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, if he were to descend through the air among the multitudes in the temple court; finally, there was the express promise of God concerning the guardianship of the angels, which was surely due to one whom God himself had called his Son at the time of the baptism.

γ. The purpose of the devil in the second temptation is quite comprehensive: since Jesus had conquered in the first temptation through confidence in God and the use of Sacred Scripture, the devil now endeavors to gain the victory by quoting Sacred Scripture, and by appealing to our Lord’s confidence in God; as in the first temptation Jesus had postponed the preservation of his life to the will of God, the devil now incites him to jeopardize his life in order to show his trust in the help of his Father; as in the first temptation Jesus had shown his entire dependence on his Father, the devil endeavors to push the exercise of this dependence beyond the bounds of prudence. But this pretended dependence on God was a cloak of proud independence, choosing its own ways and means of Messianic manifestation; the pretended trust in God was a real distrust in the veracity of God’s words spoken at the baptism, putting them now really to the test; the seeming surrender of the earthly life to the good will of God was a real act of sovereign self-will in the choice of the time and the occasion at which God’s promises were to be verified [cf. Jer. Chrys. Alb. Caj. Jans. Grimm, Bed. op. imp. Schanz, Knab.]. It may be added that Satan either purposely misquotes [Schanz] or abbreviates [Anger] the passage of Ps. 91:11 f., omitting “to keep thee in all thy ways.” In Lk. 4:10 “to keep thee” is added, but “in all thy ways” omitted, because this clause would have shown the fallacy of the devil’s argument [Schanz]. We need not add the rationalistic gloss [Kuin.] which identifies angels with the means provided for men’s well-being and eliminates every spiritual element from the inspired record; in v. 11 Kuin. himself admits the common belief among the Jews that every child had a guardian angel.

7. Jesus said to him.] d. Victory. α. The “again” in the words of Jesus does not imply opposition to what has been quoted as Scripture before, but it merely adds a new passage of Scripture to the preceding; [cf. Jn. 12:39; 19:37; Rom. 15:10–12; 1 Cor. 3:20 al.]. β. The addition does not allude to the passage our Lord himself had quoted, but to the proof which the enemy had adduced from the Bible. The help of God which is there represented indefinitely is properly defined by this text from Deut. 6:10 [lxx.]. At Raphidim the Hebrews murmured against God on account of a want of water [Ex. 17:7], and Moses upbraided them in the words quoted by our Lord. γ. The change to the second person singular from the plural in the Hebrew text renders the passage more crushing to the enemy. Jesus implicitly tells him that the limits of our confidence in God are his implicit or express promises: not to trust these, or to expect more than this, is tempting God. δ. While these words reject the suggestion of the devil, they do not answer his question concerning the sonship of Jesus [cf. Hil. Ambr.], but leave this point wholly indeterminate [Chrys. op. imp.], so that the enemy is driven to a third temptation. ε. Some authors point out that in this victory the second Adam is the counterpart of the first: our parents succumbed to sensuality, expecting that by compliance with the tempter’s words “their eyes” should be opened, and they should become like gods; Jesus overcomes the temptation of sensuality and vain display of his power in spite of the fame among his countrymen which a compliance with the enemy’s suggestion would have brought him.

8. Again the devil took him up.] 3. The third temptation. a. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which the tempter impelled Jesus was a formal acknowledgment of the devil’s superiority over Jesus, himself; our Lord was to adore Satan, and thereby recognize him as his lord and master. β. The motives proposed to Jesus include all the world can give: wealth, pleasure, honor. (1) Though it is uncertain on which high mountain Jesus was carried by Satan [Moria, Olivet, Thabor, Horeb, Nebo, Quarantania, etc.], it is certain that our Lord’s vision of all the kingdoms of the world was not merely internal; for such a vision might be had in a valley, and it would imply power of the enemy over the inner faculties of Jesus. (2) On the other hand, there can be no question of a mere natural vision of the whole world from the top of a high mountain; the addition of Lk. 4:5 implies that there was some magical effect produced by Satan “in a moment of time.” (3) The opinion of Theoph. op. imp. Alb. Dion. Caj. Mald. Calm. who maintain that the devil only pointed in the direction of the various kingdoms of the world without actually showing them, does not satisfy the text of the gospel saying that the devil showed Jesus not only all the kingdoms of the world, but also the glory thereof. (4) It seems that the devil preternaturally formed the species of all the kingdoms of the world before the eyes of Jesus “in a moment of time” [Lk. 4:5]; to make this deception more real, the devil places Jesus on the top of a mountain [Sa, Bar. Lap. Tir. Coleridge, Knab.]. (5) On the part of Jesus, the devil expected to find besides the triple concupiscence also the Messianic character aiding his purpose: the dominion over the whole earth had been promised to the Messias by the prophets [cf. Pss. 2:8; 71:8–11]; but it had also been foretold that he was to acquire this dominion by means of suffering [cf. Is. 49:4; 50:4–8; 53:2–12]. Satan then promises to give Jesus without labor and suffering what he otherwise must acquire at the sacrifice of his life.

9. And said to him.] b. Purpose of the devil. (1) St. Luke [5:6] adds that the evil spirit claimed authority to dispose of all he showed Jesus: “To thee will I give all this power and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them.” Though the world had not been given to Satan, nor the power of giving it to any one else, the words of the tempter had a semblance of truth, as appears from Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. (2) Seeing that he cannot overcome Jesus under the species of good, the devil throws off his mask, and proposes his principal scope plainly: Jesus is to become the master of the world, as God had promised him, but under the suzerainty of Satan. There is no more question of “the Son of God,” no more use of Scripture language: the alternative between God’s and the devil’s service is plainly stated. (3) Need we say that this is the real and final object in all temptations of the devil? It is not always put so clearly before us, because most of us are carried away by the temptations coming under the pretence of necessity and of propriety, i. e. by temptations concerning the means; hence there is no need of making us repeat the election of our last end.

10. Then Jesus saith to him.] c. Victory. The account of the victory brings before us three persons: Jesus, the devil, and the angels. α. The words of Jesus are taken from Deut. 6:13, but present two variations from the original: the word “only” is wanting in the Hebrew, and the expression “shalt thou adore” reads in the Hebrew “shalt thou fear”; since the former variation is in accord with the context, and since “fear” often implies religious worship in the language of Scripture, our Lord cannot be accused of having falsified Scripture. In the lxx. this meaning is indicated by the construction of the verb; for in the present passage it is followed by the accusative instead of the dative [cf. Ex. 20:5]. That the expression “serve” often implies religious worship is clear from Deut. 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Rom. 9:4; 12:1; Heb. 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10. The expression “Begone, Satan” does not imply that Jesus recognized the devil only at the third temptation, but it shows that while he had borne patiently the former trials, he utters this harsh word when the honor of God is attacked. Again, it must be noted that Jesus overcomes Satan in a way in which any man might have overcome; he does, therefore, give no answer to the devil’s eager inquiry whether he be the Son of God.

11. Then the devil left him.] β. Lk. 4:13 adds “for a time”; without discussing the question whether the conflict was renewed in secret, we may point to Gethsemani [cf. Lk. 22:53; Jn. 14:30], where the hour of Jesus’ enemies and the power of darkness made a renewed attack.

and behold angels came.] γ. According to 3 Kings 19:6–8 an angel came to Elias and gave him bread to eat and water to drink. (1) It is therefore most probable that in the present case, also, the angels ministered to the bodily wants of Jesus. One angel would have been sufficient for this; but to emphasize the defeat of the devil more strongly, to show the parallelism between the victory of Jesus and the fall of Adam who was kept by angels out of paradise, to shame Satan more thoroughly, it was proper that a host of angels should present themselves. (2) Whether Jesus was carried back to his former abode by the angels, or returned thither by his own miraculous power, or again walked back, cannot be determined. But we certainly must deny the supposition that Satan should have been permitted to carry our Lord back, after the word of reprobation had been spoken. (3) St. Luke [4:13] adds “when the devil had ended all the temptation” or “all the temptation being ended.” We have seen already that the encounters between Jesus and Satan were frequent throughout the public life of our Lord; “all the temptation” cannot therefore mean that no temptation followed the present one; in other words, “all” is not used of individual, but of specific temptations. It implies, therefore, that the second Adam was tempted with all the temptations of the first, with sensuality, vainglory, and avarice [Greg. Rab. gl. ord. Pasch. Thom. (p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4) Salm. Bar. Lap.]. (4) Again, the antitype was tempted with all the temptations of his type, the people of Israel in the desert: in the case of Israel, the want of food is supplied by the manna [Ex. 16:2], and this event is recorded in the words used by Jesus in his first temptation; the lack of water forms the second trial of Israel [Ex. 17:7], and it is with reference to this that Moses speaks the words used by Jesus in his second temptation [Deut. 6:16]; the lengthy journey and the continued labor form the third trial of the Israelites [Num. 21:4 f.; 1 Cor. 10:9], and occasion indirectly the utterance of the words employed by Jesus in his third temptation [Deut. 6:13, 14; cf. 8:2]. (5) Finally, Jesus overcame the devil in all the temptations with which he besets ourselves, i. e. in the concupiscence of the flesh, in the concupiscence of the eyes, and in the pride of life [1 Jn. 2:16]; he thus shows us that all manner of temptation can be overcome, even as death was overcome by his death; he warns us that we cannot be safe against temptation at any time, since he himself was tempted after his baptism [Greg. Chrys. Theoph. Euth. Hil. Ambr. Alb. etc.]; he teaches us how to overcome temptation; he encourages us by his own resistance, and not less by the fact that he has learned by experience how to compassionate us in our trials [Jans. Salm. Bar. Aug. Coleridge, etc.]. (6) The vivid contrast of Mark [1:13] must also be noted in connection with the present passage: “and he was with beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

b. Immediate Preparation and General Outline, 4:12–25

12. And when Jesus had heard.] This section contains first an account of the immediate preparation for the public life, consisting in the choice of a place adapted for this purpose and, at the same time, agreeing with the predictions of the prophets. Then it gives an outline of our Lord’s work in his capacity as founder of a kingdom, as teacher, and as wonder-worker; finally, the effects of our Lord’s ministry are outlined in a general way.

1. Choice of place. a. General mark of time. According to the first gospel, this happened after John had been imprisoned, so that the gap between the temptation and the retirement to Galilee must be filled up from the fourth gospel. Hence, the following events are omitted by St. Matthew: the Baptist’s declaration to the messengers from Jerusalem [Jn. 1:19–28], his testimony to Jesus [29–34], our Lord’s meeting with John, Andrew, and Peter [35–42], with Philip and Nathaniel [43–51], the change of water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana [2:1–11], a passing visit at Capharnaum [2:12], a visit to Jerusalem and the first cleansing of the temple [Jn. 2:13–25], our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus by night [3:1–21], his ministry in Judea, during which his disciples baptize [22–24], dispute among the Baptist’s disciples and John’s testimony to Jesus [25–36], Jesus’ return to Galilee through Samaria [4:1–4], his conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well [5–42], his arrival and reception in Galilee together with his second miracle in Cana, the healing of the ruler’s son [43–54], his preaching in the synagogue and his rejection by the people of Nazareth [Lk. 4:16–30]. The synoptists omit all this, both because it belongs mostly to the Judean ministry of Jesus, and because it precedes the end of John’s ministry, during which the person of our Lord appeared to the public of secondary importance. When John was taken prisoner, Jesus rose to prominence, and it is on this account that Matthew begins the history of the public life of our Lord with the captivity of the Baptist. This event itself he relates more fully in 14:4 f. in connection with John’s martyrdom; here it is only a mark of time.

b. Definite mark of time. The gospel of St. John furnishes the data for determining the time more accurately. The Judean ministry follows the paschal feast during which Jesus was in Jerusalem. Again, at Jacob’s well, when returning to Galilee, our Lord addresses his disciples [Jn. 4:35]: “Do not you say, there are yet four months, and then the harvest cometh?” If this expression is not a mere proverb, as some suppose, the journey through Samaria must have taken place in December or early in January [Tisch. Calm. Menoch. Tir. patr. etc.], so that the Judean ministry occupied a space of about eight months, and the Galilean ministry begins with the second year of our Lord’s public life.

c. Why Galilee? But how can Jesus “retire” [the Greek verb implies an escape from danger] into Galilee, the main part of Antipas’ tetrarchy, though Antipas himself had taken John prisoner? The fourth gospel [4:1 f.] suggests a solution of this difficulty: when Jesus therefore understood that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus maketh more disciples and baptizeth more than John [though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples], he left Judea.” The Baptist then had been taken prisoner at the instigation of the Pharisees who were so boldly criticised by the penitential preacher of the Judean desert; to avoid their opposition, Jesus withdrew to that part of Palestine where they exercised a less powerful influence than in Judea.

13. d. Why not Nazareth? The first gospel merely states, “and leaving the city Nazareth”; this may imply either that Jesus left the city of his own accord, finding it not suited for his public life, which demanded a more accessible place, or it may refer to the event narrated in the third gospel [Lk. 4:16–30], which cannot have been unknown to St. Matthew. It cannot be said that the first gospel transfers this occurrence to another place [Mt. 13:54–58], for we shall see that the rejection of Jesus by his fellow citizens of Nazareth told in this passage and in Mk. 6:1–6 is distinct from that told in the third gospel. Jesus therefore leaves Nazareth when his own townsmen make an onslaught on his life, so that he literally “came into his own, and his own received him not.”

he came and dwelt in Capharnaum.] e. Why in Capharnaum? The evangelist suggests three reasons for this choice: α. The first is implied in the character of Capharnaum itself, which was a flourishing town of commerce, much frequented by strangers, situate near the great road that led from the Mediterranean to Damascus; the Romans kept here a regular garrison and a custom-house. It was on account of the free intercourse with Gentiles that the city had acquired a bad name among the Rabbis, who used to call it a heretical and free-thinking city. β. The second reason for the choice of Capharnaum is contained in the words of the gospel, “on the sea coast.” Our Lord could easily make excursions from the city to all surrounding parts. It is stated by Josephus that as many as two hundred boats used to ply on the Sea of Galilee so that there was constant facility of visiting the whole country around the lake. γ. The third reason for the choice of Capharnaum is contained in the words “on the borders of Zabulon and of Nephtalim.” This reason is further developed in the following verses.

δ. Before leaving this subject, a word must be said about the name and the site of Capharnaum. (1) The name. The Greek name Καφαρναούμ [א B D Z Lachm Tisch Treg.] or Καπερναούμ [C E K L M Δ etc.] is the equivalent of the Hebrew כְּפַר נִהוּם, not of כ״נָעִיר, or “villa pulcherrima,” “ager pinguedinis,” “villa consolationis” [Jer. Bed.]. But the foregoing Hebrew word has been interpreted as χωρίον παρακλήσεως [Or. Hesych.], or place of consolation; this is rejected by Gesen. [ed. 7, s. v. Nahum], who maintains that כַחוּם is a proper name, so that we must render, “the town of Nahum.” (2) The site. Concerning the site of Capharnaum we may confine our discussion to three opinions: [a] Capharnaum lay in the plain Genesar. This view has been proposed by Tristram [The Land of Israel, p. 446 f.], and accepted by Grimm [ii. 521 f.]. Reasons: [α] According to 6:17 the disciples went over to Capharnaum after the miraculous increase of the loaves; now according to Mt. 14:34 and Mk. 6:45–53 the disciples came into the land of Genesareth, or the country of Genesar, after this event. Capharnaum, therefore, must have been situated in the country of Genesareth or Genesar. [β] According to Josephus [B. J. III. x. 8] there was a fountain named Capharnaum which irrigated the plain Genesareth, and which contained a fish, κοράκινος, found otherwise only in the Nile. Now Tristram found this fish only in Ain el Mudawwera, a round fountain in the plain Genesareth, the water of which passes through a small opening on the east side of its enclosing wall, and runs to the sea in a deep bed, receiving on its way many little tributaries. [γ] It must be added that Tristram himself has given up his opinion; that there are no ruins of a former town near the foregoing fountain; that the fish is found in other waters, though not seen by Tristram; and that the gospel references may be explained by the fact that the fourth gospel particularizes the place to which Jesus and his disciples came after the multiplication of the loaves, while the two synoptists describe the place in general.

[b] Capharnaum lay on the site of the present Khan Minieh. This is the opinion of Quaresmius, Robinson, Gregor, Porter, Sepp, Kitchener, Merril, etc. Reasons: [α] According to the gospel notices of Capharnaum, it must have been situated on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. [β] Josephus relates that he was carried to Capharnaum after a fall from his horse near the mouth of the Jordan, north of the lake Genesareth. This might have occurred at Khan Minieh [Vit. 72], [γ] Not far from Khan Minieh we find the fountain mentioned by Josephus, containing the κοράκινος or the “Chromis niloticus,” and watering the plain Genesar; the fountain is now called “Ain-et-Tabigah.” [δ] The very name Khan Minieh may be connected with the fact stated above, that Capharnaum was regarded by the Rabbis as a heretical city; for Khan Minieh [Minai] means city of the heretics.

[c] The third opinion identifies the site of Capharnaum with the present Tell Hum. This view is defended by Pococke, Burkhardt, Raumer, Ritter, Wilson, Thomson, Dixon, Renan, Schegg, Stanley, Furrer, Socin, Schaff, and may be called the traditional view of all the pilgrims from the fourth century. Reasons: [α] The gospels favor Tell Hum more than Khan Minieh; for though both are situated at the northwestern shore of the lake, Mk. 6:33 states that the people from Capharnaum reached the opposite shore of Genesareth sooner on foot than Jesus did in a boat; this can hardly be understood, if they had to come from Khan Minieh, but may have easily happened if they started from Tell Hum, which is nearer to the northern extremity of the lake. [β] The account of Josephus favors Tell Hum more than its rival; for after falling from his horse, at the north end of the lake, near the mouth of the Jordan, he would naturally be carried to the next town, which he himself calls Capharnaum. But the next town was Tell Hum, not Khan Minieh. Nor can it be said that the other statement of Josephus concerning the fountain excludes Tell Hum; for the fountain mentioned in the previous paragraph lies only 1 ¾ miles south of Tell Hum. [γ] The very name Tell Hum points to the former name Capharnaum, for Tell is the common designation of a heap of ruins, and Hum may well be regarded as the abbreviated Nahum; Jewish and Arabic tradition places in Tell Hum the graves of the prophet Nahum and of Rabbi Tanchuma. [δ] Besides, in Tell Hum there are among other considerable ruins distinct remnants of a large synagogue, which may have been the building spoken of in the third gospel [Lk. 7:4]. [ε] It is plain that all the arguments advanced in favor of Khan Minieh, excepting that from the fountain and the name, rather point to Tell Hum. But we have seen that what Josephus says concerning the fountain does not exclude Tell Hum; and the name “city of heretics” may have been derived from an early settlement of Christians in the place, and may have no connection with the Rabbinic view of Capharnaum. Kitchener [Quarterly Statement, July, 1877, p. 122] identifies Capharnaum with Khurbet Minyeh, which is distinct from Khan Minieh, and only ¾ of a mile distant from the fountain. But in spite of all said to the contrary, Tell Hum still remains the more probable site of Capharnaum.

14. That it might be fulfilled.] In these verses the evangelist develops the last reason he has given for the choice of Capharnaum. We shall first consider the quotation itself, and then its meaning. a. The quotation itself is taken from Is. 8:23–9:1 [9:1, 2 Vg.], following the Hebrew instead of the lxx. text. Since the verb קָלַל has the double meaning “to make light” [i. e. to relieve of a burden] and “to make light of” [i. e. to despise, afflict], we obtain the following rendering of the Hebrew: “As in the foretime he [God] afflicted [this is more probable than “relieved”] the land of Zabulon and the land of Nephtalim, so in the time to come he shall make glorious the way by the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people that walked in darkness shall see a great light; on them that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, a great light shall arise.” The evangelist omits all reference to the past in his quotation, taking the object of the protasis and adding it in the apodosis by way of opposition to the subject of which the future is foretold. b. Meaning of the prophecy. The simplest way of determining the meaning is to determine first its subject, and then its predicate, both of which are expressed by parallel terms. α. The subject is determined by four different expressions:—

[a] Land of Zabulon and land of Nephtalim is the territory occupied by the two tribes, or upper and lower Galilee [cf. Jos. 19:10 f. 27, 34].

[b] This territory is more closely determined by the three expressions: the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. We call them three expressions rather than two, because we do not agree with Tisch. Winer, etc. who interpret “the way of the sea beyond the Jordan,” as if there had been a public road of commerce along the east side of the Jordan [cf. Keim, i. 597; Jans. Schanz]. (1) “The way” is in the Greek text in the accusative, and must therefore be taken adverbially like the Hebrew דֶּרֶךְ [cf. 3 Kings 8:48; 2 Par. 6:38; Winer, xxxii. 6, p. 216], meaning “on the way to”; since the sea must be the lake Genesareth, the expression “the way of the sea” limits the foregoing two to the lake country. (2) “Beyond the Jordan” most commonly signifies the country east of the Jordan [Schanz, Knab. Rosenm.]; but during the captivity the expression came to mean also “west of the Jordan,” which meaning is excluded in the present case, because Isaias wrote before the exiles. Again the Hebrew preposition עבר at times means “on,” “over,” so that “beyond the Jordan” may be explained as “the country on the Jordan.” (3) The third expression, “Galilee of the Gentiles,” means first a region thickly populated with Gentiles, but even the lxx. render it by Galilee, though this term did not embrace the whole of the province of Galilee. It was applied principally to upper Galilee, as is evident from Joseph. [B. J. III. iii. 1], Strabo [xvi. p. 760], 1 Mach. 5:15. Matthew may denote the whole northern portion of Palestine and Peræa by this term [Schanz].

[c] After defining the subject of the prophecy by its territory, the evangelist adds the inhabitants: “the people that sat in darkness” these northern districts had been from the first exposed to the greatest political difficulties. The Chanaanites, the Syrians and Assyrians [3 Kings 15:20; 4 Kings 15:29] were their formidable adversaries, and Teglathphalasar led a great part of the more influential citizens into captivity [1 Par, 5:26]. Later on, the influence of the Greeks was for these territories the more dangerous the farther they were removed from their theocratic centre. The darkness therefore means proximately political misfortune; but since this was in the case of Israel connected with religious and moral depravity, these people are also described as sunk in vice and idolatry. The hopelessness of these sinners is increased by their contentment in their wretched state, implied by the word “sitting.”

[d] The subjects of the prophecy are indicated by the expression “that sat in the region of the shadow of death.” We have already noted the reading “that sat in the region and in the shadow of death,” which seems to be stronger than the simple hendiadys. In Job 10:21 the expression sets forth a place of extreme misery; the figure is taken from those on the point of death, who, though living, are already in the shadow of death. Other writers prefer another source of the figure: since the shadow is a picture of its object, the land of the shadow of death is the land in which death itself finds its image, a land, therefore, that contains all the horrors of death [Caj. cf. Knab.]. Jer. seems to prefer the former explanation; “they who have passed out of this life,” he says, “with the guilt of sin on their souls are said to be in death, but they who still have the breath of life, and can repent, are in the shadow of death.” In the passage now under discussion it means, therefore, the densest darkness of religious ignorance and of sin [Lap.].

β. The predicate of the promise is also expressed in parallel phrases: [a] “Hath seen a great light”; we need not say that the perfect tense is of prophetic or future meaning. The “great light” is commonly said of the sun; but the Messias, too, was promised under this figure: cf. Is. 42:6; 49:6; 60:1–3; John 1:9; 8:12; etc. The Rabbis also compare the Messias with the sun, and apply to him the foregoing passages of the prophets [cf. Schöttgen, ii. p. 160]. [b] “Light is sprung up” continues the figure of its parallel term, but represents the Messianic light as belonging to those wretched dwellers in darkness. The evangelist is about to show how this light did spring up in the territory and among the people he has previously described.

17. From that time Jesus began to preach.] 2. Outlines of the Messianic work. a. Jesus as teacher. We have already seen that the first gospel connects the formal beginning of the teaching of Jesus with the captivity of John the Baptist [v. 12], and with the settlement of Jesus in Capharnanm [13]. The doctrine of Jesus is in the beginning identical with that of John [cf. 3:2]; in this way he shows that John has been his forerunner [Euth.], that it was he himself who spoke in the voice of John [gl. ord. Pasch.], that he approved of John’s ministry, and that we must not be ashamed to continue the good that others have begun in a humble way [Thom. Caj.], finally that he preferred a humble beginning to the proud show to which the devil had tempted him [Schanz]. We have seen, besides, that in these words the nature of the Messianic kingdom and the condition of entering it are described [cf. 3:2]. The further teaching of Jesus certainly develops these two points, but the doctrine itself does not change. In this respect both de Wette and Stranss have seriously erred: the former, because he admits a change in the doctrine of Jesus, resulting from a development of his ideas; the latter, because he thinks our Lord did not yet know that he was to fulfil the Messianic office, acquiring this consciousness only later on in his public life.

18. And Jesus walking by the sea.] b. Jesus the founder of a kingdom. α. Concordance of the gospels. Andrew and Peter ware called before the time of which we now speak [Jn. 1:39, 40], but not to the apostleship; they were then invited to a more familiar acquaintance with our Lord. Again, all the apostles were definitely called to the apostleship. after the time we now speak of, before the Sermon on the Mount [Mk. 2:13–19]; but besides these points of harmony concerning which there can be no doubt, we have three other passages in which the gospels record the call of the four disciples Peter and Andrew, James and John. Of these, two evidently refer to the same occasion: Mt. 4:18–22 [the passage which we now discuss] and Mk. 1:16–20; but Lk. 5:1–11 has given rise to the following views:—

[a] The third gospel relates a call distinct from that contained in the first and second, so that the foregoing four disciples were called four times, Jn. 1:39 f.; Mt. 4:18–22 [Mk. 1:16–20]; Lk. 5:1–11; and Mk. 2:13–19. This opinion is defended by Aug. Rab. Alb. Thom. Caj. Mald. Sylv. Men. Kilb. Calm. Patr. Coleridge, Lohmann, Arn. Schanz, Keil, etc. The reason for distinguishing between the event related in the third and that told in the first and second gospel is the difference between the passage of Luke and that of Matthew. According to the former there are two ships, the fishermen wash their nets, Jesus steps into the boat of Peter, he teaches the people, then they start off from the land, the miraculous draught of fish follows, Jesus addresses Simon alone: “from henceforth thou shalt catch men;” Simon’s companions are James and John; there is nothing said of Andrew; after landing, they leave all and follow Jesus. Compare with this the account of Matthew: Jesus walks by the seashore, while Simon and Andrew throw their nets into the water; they are called; going thence, they find two other fishermen mending their nets in the ship with their father; both follow Jesus, leaving their nets, not leaving all. But the foregoing authors are not unanimous when they are asked whether Matthew or Luke relates the second call of the four. Aug. Mald. Sylv. Men. Arn. etc. assign the second place to the call related in the third gospel, while others prefer the inverse order.

[b] The call related by Lk. 5:1 ff. is identical with that contained in Mt. 4:18 ff. and Mk. 1:16 ff. This opinion is defended by Zacharias chrysopolit. Tost. Jans. Bar. Lap. Tir. Lam. Reischl, Grimm, Cornely, Fil. Meschler, etc. Reasons: [1] The accounts of Matthew and Luke resemble each other so much that they must treat of the same occurrence. “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And having brought their ships to land, leaving all things, they followed him” [Lk.]. “Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men; and they immediately leaving their nets followed him” [Mt.]. [2] It is not probable that the four should have apostatized, as it were, after they had once left all for Jesus. [3] The accounts of the three synoptists may be thus harmonized: our Lord first called the four, as is related by Matthew and Mark; meanwhile the other fishermen had come on shore, and were washing their nets. When the multitudes arrived, Jesus went into the ship of Peter, and then took place what is told by St. Luke [Jans. Bar.].

β. The place of the call. The Sea of Galilee is also called Sea of Tiberias [cf. Jn. 21:1; 6:1], Lake Gennesaret [Lk. 5:1], Sea of Kinnereth [Num. 34:11; Jos. 13:27], Sea of Kinneroth [Jos. 12:3], Water of Gennesar [1 Mach. 11:67], Gennesara waters [Jos. Antiq. XIII. v. 7], lake of Gennesar [Joseph. B. J. III. x. 7], Gennesarite lake [Joseph. Antiq. XVIII. ii. 1; Vit. 65], Genesar [cf. Targum.], Bahr Tabariyeh [modern name]. The derivation of most of these names is certain beyond doubt; Galilee was the province adjacent to the lake; Tiberias was a flourishing city on the southwest shore of the same; Gennesar [the garden of princes] was a most fertile plain on the west side of the lake; Kinnereth was a city in the vicinity of the sea [cf. Deut. 3:17]. Others, however, derive this name from the Hebrew word Kinnor, meaning harp; because, they say, the form of the lake resembles that of a harp. All travellers agree in describing the lake as an irregular ellipse, whose width is about one half or one third of its length. But when they come to give the exact measurements, they differ from one another and from the statement of Josephns: 140 stadia X 40 [Joseph.]; 5 h. 55 m. X 2 h. 57 m. [Robinson]; 5 h. X 1 h. 40 m. [Schubert]; 4 h. X 2 h. [Joliffe]; 6 h. X 2 h. [Troilo]; 4 h. X 1 h. 30 m. [Seetzen]; 20 kilom. X 10 kilom. [Vigouroux]; 15 miles X 8 [various authors]. Situated 600 feet [636 feet according to Petermann] below the Mediterranean, the lake-country enjoys a tropical climate, and bears all the tropical fruits. The eastern banks of the Sea of Galilee are almost precipitous to the height of a thousand feet, while the western shore is less steep, but more picturesque. On the east there is only one break, opposite Tiberias; on the northwest lies the small bay between Chorazin and Bethsaida, with its crescent-shaped plain, about two miles in length by three quarters of a mile in width, at the southern extremity of which stood the promontory of Capharnaum. Rounding this, we come upon the rich tropical plain of Genesar, the garden of princes, teeming with rich vegetation, and hedged to the water’s brink with oleanders, and the nubk thorn, filled with myriads of sparrows [Lk. 12:6]. This plain sweeps into an amphitheatre of hills, having a width of about one mile in its broadest part, and a length of about three miles from horn to horn.

Simon, who is called Peter.] γ. Persons called. (1) First of all, the persons called were not strangers, but had been familiarized with Jesus and his doctrine, so that we may compare them to catechumens. After the present call they may be considered as Christians, or followers of Christ, so as to prepare themselves to be formally numbered among the apostles before the sermon on the mount. (2) Again, the evangelist names Simon who is called Peter; at the time of the call, Simon was not yet known as Peter or Cephas. Though this name had been promised him when he first met Jesus [Jn. 1:42], it was not formally conferred on him till later [Mt. 16:18]. (3) Thirdly, the evangelist adds that Simon and Andrew, James and John, were brothers; Christians must be governed as brothers, and must cherish fraternal charity towards each other [Euth. Br.]. (4) Then, the evangelist adds that Simon and Andrew were “casting a net into the sea,” and that James and John were “mending their nets”; the apostolic life required men accustomed and willing to work [Henr. Scott]. (5) In the fifth place, all those called were “fishers,” so that Jesus shows his preference for humility, and manifests his intention to establish his kingdom, not by human means, but by the power of God [Jer. Jans.].

19. And he saith to them.] δ. Manner of the call. (1) On the part of Jesus the call is expressed in the following phrases: [a] “Come ye after me”; the disciples of the Rabbis constantly accompanied their masters [Schöttgen, hor. ad 1; Keim, ii. p. 204]. The disciples understood, therefore, the meaning of these words [cf. 3 Kings. 11:5; 4 Kings 6:19]. [b] “I will make you to be fishers of men”; the circumstances suggested this figure which is even now used to express the winning over of men’s hearts and minds. This may be all the disciples understood at that time; that they did not fully understand the words is seen in Mt. 19:20–26. Much less did they understand the mystical meaning of the words derived from the word ἰχθυς [fish] as applied to our Lord, or from the fact that they were to gain souls for Jesus through the water of baptism, or from the tempestuous sea of the world [cf. Hil.]. David had been called in a similar manner from the condition of shepherd to be king of Israel [cf. Ps. 77:7]. There is no difficulty in the circumstance that the disciples did not fully understand their calling; it proves only that Jesus gives more than we expect from his promises.

20. And they immediately leaving.] (2) On the part of the disciples, we must note the following points in the manner of their call: [a] Their compliance with the invitation is “immediate,” though they were engaged in a work not easily broken off. [b] They leave all that has been mentioned in connection with them: Peter and Andrew their nets, James and John their nets and their father. [c] They follow Jesus as they have been invited to do [Alb. cf. Chrys. Bed. Rab. Thom. etc.]. It may he owing to this perfect obedience that three of the four, Peter, James, and John, became the most intimate disciples of our Lord [cf. Mt. 17:1; 26:37; Mk. 5:37; 13:3; Lk. 8:51; etc.]. When it is said [Jn. 21:3] that these same disciples went fishing after our Lord’s resurrection, we are not to understand that they returned to their former manner of life; they merely wished at a moment of great trial to occupy themselves by this exercise. Perhaps Andrew did not rise to such prominence in the apostolic college, because his sacrifice in following Jesus was not so great as that of his three companions: James and John left their father besides their nets; Peter left his family, for the gospel mentions his mother-in-law.

23. And Jesus went about all Galilee.] c. Jesus as the wonder-worker. In order to show the significance of the miracles, the gospel joins them with our Lord’s doctrine and mission which they were intended to confirm. St. Matthew shows this by three concentric statements: Jesus went about all Galilee [general exercise of his mission]—teaching in their synagogues [general description of his office]—preaching the gospel of the kingdom [particular mission of Jesus].

α. These three must therefore be briefly explained before we come to the miracles. [a] “All Galilee” embraces the ancient territory of the tribes Aser, Nephtali, Zabulon, and Issachar, i. e. the whole north of Palestine. Its northern limits coincide, therefore, with those of the Promised Land; on the east it was bounded by the Jordan, the lake Merom, and the Sea of Galilee; on the south by Carmel and the northern mountains of Samaria; on the west by the Mediterranean and the boundaries of Phenicia. At the time of our Lord it was a rich country, thickly populated, well cultivated, filled with towns and villages which were peopled by a strong and independent race. The eastern and southern boundaries changed at times, but when they were as given above they included a space of about 1600 square miles. From Jenin, on the southern border, to the Leontes in the north, is about 50 miles, and it is about one half that distance across from the east to the west. Josephus says there existed about 204 cities in Galilee, at the time of our Lord, each numbering above 15,000 inhabitants [Vit. 45]. It was not until the time of the Machabees that the name Galilee came to denote the whole northern region; this may account for the fact that the Greek article is used in nearly every case [excepting two in the New Testament] before Galilee. We have already seen that the whole district was divided into upper and lower Galilee [cf. Joseph. B. J. III. iii. 1].

Lower Galilee may be conceived as forming a rectangular triangle, the Hypothennse of which stretches from the Kishon along Carmel, down to Jenin, measuring in all about 20 miles; the northern boundary runs along the mountains of Nazareth, from the Kishon to the hill beyond Shunem, a length of about 12 miles; on the east side, the line stretches from Shunem to Jenin, measuring about 15 miles. In the northwestern corner, the plain—for we need not say that we are describing the plain of Esdraelon—broke through the surrounding mountains, to allow the Kishon a passage into the plain of Accho. On the eastern side the plain had three openings: [1] The narrow plain of Megiddo continues through the valley between the Little Hermon on the south and Mount Thabor on the north, and opens towards the north into the plain where lie the horns of Hattin. Here occurred the encounter between Barak and Sisera [Judg. 5:12–22], the Israelites occupying Thabor, and the hosts of Sisera being encamped in the country around Megiddo; here, too, Pharao Nechao slew Josias [4 Kings. 23:29], the pious king of Juda. [2] The second opening is formed by the plain of Esreel, which passes between the Little Hermon on the north and the mountain of Gilboa on the south, continuing down to the banks of the Jordan. Here took place the battle between Gedeon and the Madianites; the latter occupied the plain, and the Israelites Mount Gilboa, where their leader tried them at the well of Harod [Judg. 6:3 ff.]; in the same plain occurred the conflict between Saul and the Philistines [1 Kings 31:2 ff.], the enemy being encamped in the valley of Esreel, and Saul with his hosts occupying Mount Gilboa; the night before the battle, Saul went across the valley, to consult the witch at Endor, and after the defeat on the following day his and Jonathan’s bodies were exposed on the walls of Bethsan. Besides, Endor, Shunem, and Naim are situated at the foot of the Little Hermon, while the celebrated vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite lies at the foot of Gilboa. [3] The third opening on the eastern side of Esdraelon is the plain of Jenin, forming a “cul de sac” rather than a real opening. If we call this district the plain of Jenin, we may say that it passes between the mount of Gilboa on the north and the northern mountain ranges of Samaria on the south. It was to this place that Ochozias fled from Jehu [4 Kings 9:27]; near Jenin, too, was the camp of Holofernes; further to the northwest, near Carmel, were the camps of the Roman armies. And if we change our view to Christian times, at the foot of the hill, beyond Shunem, the crusaders had their stronghold, and the French routed the Turks nearly in the same place. Through the plain of Esreel the Bedouin swarm up even to-day, and they thus become a terror throughout the plain of Esdraelon. And it may be owing to this warlike history of the country that St. John [Apoc. 16:16] places in it the gathering together of the hosts against God. In general, the plain Esdraelon is the only full break of the mountain range that runs from the north to the south of Palestine; and it was here that Israel had to defend itself against the attacks of its mighty enemies, while in wars of attack it preferred the mountains to the plain.

Passing now to the upper Galilee, we notice at once that there is a clear line of division in the mountain district itself. Drawing a line across the map, from the upper end of the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean, the mountains north of the line average a height of 4000 feet, while those south of this division are mostly below 2000 feet. Though the scene of upper Galilee is most imposing on account of this conformation, it does not present the stern, forbidding character of Judea. According to Josephus the land then invited by its productiveness even those that had the least inclination for agriculture. Besides, there were two great roads passing across Galilee: one ran from Damascus across the Jordan to the plateau on the western side of the lake, and crossed to Accho by Cana and Sepphoris; the other passed around Thabor, crossed the plain, and then went southwest to Gaza and Egypt. Over these great highways merchants were passing and repassing, soldiers were dispatched, officials journeyed. It is hardly possible that these roads passed so near Nazareth without influencing its inhabitants. Nazareth was only six hours from Ptolemais on the coast, the Roman port of traffic, two hours from Thabor, Nain, and Endor, one and a half from Cana and Sepphoris, so that Jesus may have visited all of these neighboring towns during his hidden life. The gospels mention only Cana, the present Kefr Kenna, besides Nazareth.

teaching in their synagogues.] [b] Synagogues were the houses of religious assemblies, of prayer and instruction, erected after the time of the exile. They were to be found in every town; in Jerusalem there were synagogues not only for the Hellenic Jews, but also for the Jews coming from the various provinces [Acts. 6:9]. At first, meetings were held only on the Sabbath and on feast-days; but later on, they were called also on Monday and Thursday. Ten individuals were required to form a regular assembly for public worship. The chief parts of the service were the following: [1] The recitation of the Shema, so called from its first word. This was rather a profession of faith than a prayer proper [cf. Schürer, History of the Jewish People, II. ii. 77, 83 ff.]. [2] The Shema was followed by the first three and last three benedictions of the Shemoneh Esreh, at least at Sabbath and festival worship [cf. Schürer, ibid.]. [3] In the third place followed the Scripture lessons: first from the Pentateuch and then from the prophets [the Parascha and Haphthara]; both were accompanied by a running translation from Hebrew into the language of the people [ibid. pp. 79 ff.]. [4] The reading of the Scriptures was followed by an edifying lecture or sermon in which the previous lesson was explained. The preacher used to sit on an elevated place while delivering the lecture [ibid. p. 82]. [5] The last part of the service consisted of the blessing which was given by any member of a priestly family that might happen to be present; if no such priestly member was present, a prayer was said by the presiding officer [ibid, pp. 82 f.]. It is in this manner that Jesus taught in the synagogue services; for the president of the meeting often invited the strangers that happened to be present to address their brethren in a few edifying words, or to deliver the instructions on the Scripture lesson.

preaching the gospel of the kingdom.] [c] Unless our attention is called to the difference between this and the preceding expression, we are liable to regard them as synonymous. In point of fact, Jesus did not differ from any ordinary Israelite by teaching in the synagogue; but “the preaching” [κηρύσσειν] or heralding the kingdom of God was peculiar to himself and his apostles. The former expression disappears more and more in the gospels; in the later writings of the New Testament the apostolic office is always described by the term κηρύσσειν [to herald] except in Acts 4:18 and 5:28, where the Jewish authorities apply the word “teaching” to the ministry of the apostles, and Rom. 12:7; 1 Tim. 2:12, where there is question of the teaching in the community.

and healing all manner of sickness.] β. After emphasizing the triple outward character of the teaching of Jesus [its variation in place, its ordinary exercise in the synagogue, its extraordinary exercise in public], the evangelist adds the divine seal of all, consisting in the miraculous cure of all manner of diseases. The miracles occupy, therefore, a secondary place, because they are of themselves only the means of confirming the doctrine; besides, in the case of the Jews, they might have confirmed their wrong ideas of a glorious Messias, had the evangelist given more prominence to their history. The various classes healed by Jesus are enumerated thus: In v. 23 the evangelist distinguishes between “all manner of sickness” and “every infirmity” or weakness implying and resulting from sickness. In v. 24 “all sick people” are divided into those “taken with divers diseases” or painless infirmities, “and torments” or acute afflictions, “and such as were possessed by devils,” “and lunatics” or men whose state of sickness appeared to depend on the moon [that epileptics are meant follows from 17:15; Lk. 9:39; Mk. 9:17], “and those that had the palsy,” i. e. those afflicted with morbid relaxation of the nerves, as happens in paralysis and apoplexy. It may not be out of place to direct the reader’s attention to the distinction made in the gospels between the evil spirits who possess their victims and the infirmity which often accompanies such possession. They may be violent, or dumb, or deaf, or blind, or epileptic; but in all cases, the demons are represented as personal beings. These persons are characterized by their intimate knowledge of the power of Jesus, which surpasses even that of the apostles; and it is owing to this very knowledge that they do not appear as hostile to Jesus, but commonly implore his mercy. It is true that in the Old Testament the mention of such possession is rare; still it is not wholly unknown: cf. Tob. 6:8, 14, 17. The power of Satan was at that time exercised by means of the idolatrous practices then generally prevalent [cf. Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:27]. That the fourth gospel does not mention the miraculous exorcisms of Jesus is owing to the peculiar scope of St. John. Since he writes against heretics who deny the divinity of Jesus, he must prove this dogma by arguments not open to exceptions; the exorcisms of Jesus might have been impugned by John’s readers because they were performed also by members of the synagogue [cf. Mt. 12:27; Mk. 9:38; Lk. 9:49; Joseph. Antiq. VIII. ii. 5; Just. c. Tr. 85]. Besides, it is always hard to determine the reality of demoniacal possession in any given case, so that even in our days the church has reserved to herself the ultimate judgment of this. The manner of possession is described in Kirchenl. i. p. 8G5 f. We may remark here that possession must be distinguished from mere inhabitation, such as is mentioned in Jn. 13:2.

25. And much people followed him.] 3. Effects of our Lord’s Ministry. The evangelist mentions two general effects: in v. 24 he describes the spread of the fame of Jesus; and in v. 25 he delineates the followers of our Lord. a. “His fame went throughout all Syria,” i. e. Syria as understood by the Romans; the Roman province of that name embraced Palestine itself. b. The followers of Jesus came from Galilee, from Judea and its capital Jerusalem, from beyond the Jordan or Peræa [which stretched along the eastern bank of the Jordan, from the Arnon to the Antilibanon, or in a more restricted sense from the Arnon to the Hieromax], and from Decapolis or the district of the ten allied cities. Since various authors enumerate various cities as belonging to this confederacy, we may assume that different towns belonged to the alliance at different times, and that the number ten was not always strictly adhered to. According to Pliny [v. 18] the following cities were allied: Scythopolis, Hippos, Gadara, Pella, Philadelphia, Gerasa, Dion, Canatha, Damascus, and Rappana. Josephus [B. J. III. ix. 7] states that Scythopolis was the greatest of the cities belonging to the confederacy; this could hardly be true if Damascus had been of the number. Lightfoot [vol. ii. Ultraiecti, 1699, p. 417] objects to having Damascus, and Philadelphia placed on the same footing with Gadara and Hippos; on p. 419 the same author adds Caphartsemach, Bethgubrin, and Capharkanaim to Decapolis, claiming the Talmudists as his source. But he neither dares nor is able to enumerate all the cities belonging to the confederacy. On the other hand he strongly objects to the catalogue of Borchardus, because it identifies the cities of Decapolis with the best known towns of Galilee: Tiberias, Sephet, Kedesch-Nephtali, Hazor, Capharnaum, Cæsarea Philippi, Jetopata, Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Scythopolis [cf. Joseph. Vit. 9; B. J. I. vii. 7; viii. 4; II. vi. 3; III. ix. 7; Antiq. XIV. iv. 4; XVII. xi. 4; Schürer, II. i. 57 ff.].

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