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  • VINCENT'S NEW TESTAMENT
    WORD STUDIES - MATTHEW 11

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    CHAPTER XI

    1. Commanding (diatasswn). The preposition dia has a distributive force: giving to each his appropriate charge.

    Their cities (autwn). The towns of those to whom he came - the Galilaeans. Compare iv. 23.

    2. Two of his disciples (duo). But the correct reading is dia, by. He sent by his disciples. So Rev. 3. Thou. Emphatic. Art thou "the Coming One?" - a current phrase for the Messiah.

    5. The lame walk. Tynd., The halt go.

    6. Be offended (skandalisqh). See on ch. v. 29. Rev., shall find none occasion of stumbling. Compare Wyc., shall not be slandered.

    7. As they departed (toutwn de poreuomenwn). Rev., more literal and better, as these went their way; or while they, John's disciples, were departing: thus giving the simultaneousness of Jesus' words with the act of departure.

    To see (qeasasqai). Rev., to behold. qeasqai, like qewrein, expresses the calm, continuous contemplation of an object which remains before the spectator. Compare John i. 14. Another verb is used in Christ's repetition of the question, vv. 8, 9; ijdein in the ordinary sense of seeing. The more earnest expression suits the first question.

    12. Suffereth violence (biazetai). Lit., is forced, overpowered, taken by storm. Christ thus graphically portrays the intense excitement which followed John's ministry; the eager waiting, striving, and struggling of the multitude for the promised king.

    The violent take it by force (biastai arpazousin authn). This was proved by the multitudes who followed Christ and thronged the doors where he was, and would have taken him by force (the same word) and made him a king (John vi. 15). The word take by force means literally to snatch away, carry off. It is often used in the classics of plundering. Meyer renders, Those who use violent efforts, drag it to themselves. So Tynd., They that make violence pull it into them. Christ speaks of believers. They seize upon the kingdom and make it their own. The Rev., men of violence, is too strong, since it describes a class of habitually and characteristically violent men; whereas the violence in this case is the result of a special and exceptional impulse. The passage recalls the old Greek proverb quoted by Plato against the Sophists, who had corrupted the Athenian youth by promising the easy attainment of wisdom: Good things are hard. Dante has seized the idea:

    Regnum coelorum (the kingdom of heaven) suffereth violence

    From fervent love, and from that living hope That overcometh the divine volition; Not in the guise that man o'ercometh man, But conquers it because it will be conquered, And conquered, conquers by benignity." Parad., xx., 94-99.

    14. If ye will (eiqelete). More correctly, Rev., If ye are willing or disposed. For there would naturally be an unwillingness to receive the statement about John's high place, in view of John's imprisonment.

    16. Children (paidioiv). Diminutive, little children. The Rev. Donald Fraser gives the picture simply and vividly: "He pictured a group of little children playing at make-believe marriages and funerals. First they acted a marriage procession; some of them piping as on instruments of music, while the rest were expected to leap and dance. In a perverse mood, however, these last did not respond, but stood still and looked discontented. So the little pipers changed their game and proposed a funeral. They began to imitate the loud wailing of eastern mourners. But again they were thwarted, for their companions refused to chime in with the mournful cry and to beat their breasts.... So the disappointed children complained: 'We piped unto you and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not mourn. Nothing pleases you. If you don't want to dance, why don't you mourn?... It is plain that you are in bad humor, and determined not to be pleased'" ("Metaphors in the Gospels"). The issue is between the Jews (this generation) and the children of wisdom, v. 9.

    Market-places (agoraiv). From ajgeirw, to assemble. Wyc., renders cheepynge; compare cheapside, the place for buying and selling; for the word cheap had originally no reference to small price, but meant simply barter or price. The primary conception in the Greek word has nothing to do with buying and selling. Agora is an assembly; then the place of assembly. The idea of a place of trade comes in afterward, and naturally, since trade plants itself where people habitually gather. Hence the Roman Forum was devoted, not only to popular and judicial assemblies, but to commercial purposes, especially of bankers. The idea of trade gradually becomes the dominant one in the word. In Eastern cities the markets are held in bazaars and streets, rather than in squares. In these public places the children would be found playing. Compare Zech. viii. 5.

    17. Mourn (ekoyasqe). Lit., beat or strike (the beast), as in oriental funeral lamentations.

    20. Mighty works (dunameiv). The supernatural works of Christ and his apostles are denoted by six different words in the New Testament, exhibiting these works under different aspects and from different points of view. These will be considered in detail as they occur. Generally, a miracle may be regarded:

    1. As a portent or prodigy (terav); as Acts vii. 36, of the wonders shown by Moses in Egypt.

    2. As a sign (shmeion), pointing to something beyond itself, a mark of the power or grace of the doer or of his connection with the supernatural world. So Matt. xii. 38.

    3. As an exhibition of God's glory (endoxon), Luke xiii. 17; glorious things.

    4. As a strange thing (paradoxon), Luke v. 26.

    5. As a wonderful thing (qaumasion), Matt. xxi. 15.

    6. As a power (dunamiv); so here: a mighty work.

    22. But (plhn). Better Rev., howbeit, or as Wyc., nevertheless. Chorazin and Bethsaida did not repent; therefore a woe lies against them; nevertheless they shall be more excusable than you who have been seen the mighty woks which were not done among them.

    25. Answered. In reply to something which is not stated.

    I thank (exomologoumai). Compare Matt. iii. 6, of confessing sins. Lit., I confess. I recognize the justice and wisdom of thy doings. But with the dative, as here (soi, to thee), it means to praise, with an undercurrent of acknowledgment; to confess only in later Greek, and with an accusative of the object. Rev. gives praise in the margin here, and at Rom. xiv. 11. Tynd., I praise.

    Prudent (sunetwn). Rev., understanding; Wyc., wary. From the verb sunihmi, to bring together, and denoting that peculiarity of mind which brings the simple features of an object into a whole. Hence comprehension, insight. Compare on Mark xii. 33, understanding (sunesewv). Wise (sofwn) and understanding are often joined, as here. The general distinction is between productive and reflective wisdom, but the distinction is not always recognized by the writer.

    27. Are delivered (paredoqh). More lit., were delivered, as of a single act at a given time, as in this case, where the Son was sent forth by the Father, and clothed with authority. Compare xxviii. 18.

    Knoweth (epiginwskei). The compound indicating full knowledge. Other behold only in part, "through a glass, darkly."

    28. Labor and are heavy-laden (kopiwntev kai pefortismenoi). The first an active, the second a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.

    Give rest (anapausw). Originally to make to cease; Tynd., ease; Wyc., refresh. The radical conception is that of relief.

    29. Yoke (zugon). "These words, as recorded by St. Matthew, the Evangelist of the Jews, must have sunk the deeper into the hearts of Christ's Jewish hearers, that they came in their own old, familiar form of speech, yet with such contrast of spirit. One of the most common figurative expressions of the time was that of the yoke for submission to an occupation or obligation. Very instructive for the understanding of the figure is this paraphrase of Cant. i. 10: 'How beautiful is their neck for bearing the yoke of thy statutes; and is shall be upon them like the yoke on the neck of the ox that plougheth in the field and provideth food for himself and his master.'

    "The public worship of the ancient synagogue commenced with a benediction, followed by the shema (Hear, O Israel) or creed, composed of three passages of scripture: Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21; Numbers xv. 37-41. The section Deut. vi. 4-9, was said to precede xi. 13-21, so that we might take upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and only after that the yoke of the commandments. The Savior's words must have had a special significance to those who remembered this lesson; and they would now understand how, by coming to the Savior, they would first take on them the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and then that of the commandments, finding this yoke easy and the burden light" (Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus," and "Jewish Social Life").

    Meek (prau). See on Matt. v. 5.

    Lowly (tapeinov). The word has a history. In the classics it is used commonly in a bad and degrading sense, of meanness of condition, lowness of rank, and cringing abjectness and baseness of character. Still, even in classical Greek, this is not its universal usage. It is occasionally employed in a way which foreshadows its higher sense. Plato, for instance, says, "To that law (of God) he would be happy who holds fast, and follows it in all humility and order; but he who is lifted up with pride, or money, or honor, or beauty, who has a soul hot with folly, and youth, and insolence, and thinks that he has no need of a guide or ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of others, he, I say, is left deserted by God" ("Laws," 716). And Aristotle says: "He who is worthy of small things, and deems himself so, is wise" ("Nich. Ethics," iv. 3). At best, however, the classical conception is only modesty, absence of assumption. It is an element of wisdom and in no way opposed to self-righteousness (see Aristotle above). The word for the Christian virtue of humility (tapeinofrosunh), was not used before the Christian era, and is distinctly an outgrowth of the Gospel. This virtue is based upon a correct estimate of our actual littleness, and is linked with a sense of sinfulness. True greatness is holiness. We are little because sinful. Compare Luke xviii. 14. It is asked how, in this view of the case, the word can be applied to himself by the sinless Lord? "The answer is," says Archbishop Trench, "that for the sinner humility involves the confession of sin, inasmuch as it involves the confession of his true condition; while yet for the unfallen creature the grace itself as truly exists, involving for such the acknowledgment, not of sinfulness, which would be untrue, but of creatureliness, of absolute dependence, of having nothing, but receiving all things from God. And thus the grace of humility belongs to the highest angel before the throne, being as he is a creature, yea, even to the Lord of Glory himself. In his human nature he must be the pattern of all humility, of all creaturely dependence; and it is only as a man that Christ thus claims to be lowly; his human life was a constant living on the fulness of his Father's love; he evermore, as man, took the place which beseemed the creature in the presence of its Creator" ("Synonyms," p. 145). The Christian virtue regards man not only with reference to God, but to his fellow-man. In lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself (Philip. ii. 3, Rev.). But this is contrary to the Greek conception of justice or righteousness, which was simply "his own to each one." It is noteworthy that neither the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, nor the New Testament recognize the ignoble classical sense of the word.

    Ye shall find (eurhsete). Compare I will give you and ye shall find. The rest of Christ is twofold - given and found. It is given in pardon and reconciliation. It is found under the yoke and the burden; in the development of Christian experience, as more and more the "strain passes over" from self to Christ. "No other teacher, since the world began, has ever associated learn with rest. 'Learn of me,' says the philosopher, 'and you shall find restlessness.' 'Learn of me,' says Christ, 'and you shall find rest'" (Drummond, "Natural Law in the Spiritual World").

    30. Easy (crhstov). Not a satisfactory rendering. Christ's yoke is not easy in the ordinary sense of that word. The word means originally, good, serviceable. The kindred noun, crhstothv, occurring only in Paul's writings, is rendered kindness in 2 Cor. vi. 6; Tit. iii. 4; Galatians v. 22; Eph. ii. 7 (Rev.), and goodness, Rom. ii. 4 (Rev.). At Luke v. 39, it is used of old wine, where the true reading, instead of better, is good (crhstov), mellowed with age. Plato ("Republic," 424) applies the word to education. "Good nurture and education (trofh gar kai paideusiv crhsth) implant good (agaqav) constitutions; and these good (crhstai) constitutions improve more and more;" thus evidently using crhstov and ajgaqov as synonymous. The three meanings combine in the word, though it is impossible to find an English word which combines them all. Christ's yoke is wholesome, serviceable, kindly. "Christ's yoke is like feathers to a bird; not loads, but helps to motion" (Jeremy Taylor).

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