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  • VINCENT'S NEW TESTAMENT
    WORD STUDIES - MATTHEW 17

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    CHAPTER XVII

    1. Taketh (paralambanei). Rev. gives the force of the preposition para, taketh with him.

    Apart (kat idian). Not said of the mountain, as isolated, but of the disciples; so that they might be alone with him. Compare Mark ix. 2, apart by themselves (kat ijdian monouv: lit., apart alone).

    2. He was transfigured (metemorfwqh), meta, denoting change or transfer, and morfh, form. This latter word denotes the form regarded as the distinctive nature and character of the object, and is distinguished from schma, the changeable, outward fashion: in a man, for instance, his gestures, clothes, words, acts. The morfh partakes of the essence of a thing; the schma is an accident which may change, leaving the form unaffected. Compare Mark xvi. 12; Christ "appeared in another form" (morfh), and 1 Cor. vii. 31: "the fashion (schma) of the word passeth away." The distinction passes into the verbs compounded with these two nouns. Thus, Rom. xii. 2, "Be not conformed to this world," is suschmatizesqe; i.e., be not fashioned according to the fleeting fashion of this world. So Rev., fashioned. See, also, 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14, 15, where the changes described are changes in outward semblance. False apostles appeared in the outward fashion of apostles of Christ; Satan takes on the outward appearance of an angel. All these changes are in the accidents of the life, and do not touch its inner, essential quality. On the other hand, a change in the inner life is described as a change of morfh, never of schma. Hence, Rom. xii. 2, "Be ye transformed (metamorfousqe); the change taking place by the reviewing of the mind. Compare Rom. viii. 29; 2 Cor. iii. 18; Philip. iii. 21; and see, further, on Philip. ii. 6, 7.

    Why, then, it may be asked, is a compound of morfh employed in this description of the transfigured Savior, since the change described is a change in his outward appearance? It may be answered, because a compound of schma, expressing merely a change in the aspect of Christ's person and garments, would not express the deeper truth of the case, which is, that the visible change gets its real character and meaning from that which is essential in our Lord - his divine nature. A foreshadowing or prophecy of his true form - his distinctive character - comes out in his transfiguration. He passes over into a form identified, so far as revealed, with the divine quality of his being, and prophetic of his revelation "as he is" (1 John iii. 2), in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was (John xvii. 5). In truth, there is a deep and pregnant hint in the use of this word, which easily escapes observation, and which defies accurate definition. The profound and overwhelming impression upon the three disciples was due to something besides the shining of Christ's face and garments, and the presence of Moses and Elijah; and was deeper and subtler than the effect of all these combined. There was a fact and a power in that vision which mere radiance and the appearance of the patriarchs could not wholly convey: a revelation of Deity breaking out in that glorified face and form, which appealed to something deeper than sense, and confirmed the words from heaven: This is my beloved Son.

    The same truth is illustrated in the use of morfh in Mark xvi. 12, where it is said that Jesus appeared in a different form (en etera morfh) after his resurrection. The accidents of figure, face, pierced hands and feet, were the same; but an indefinable change had passed upon him, the characteristic of which was that it prefigured his passing into the condition peculiar and appropriate to his essential spiritual and divine being.

    4. Let us make (poihswmen). But the best texts read, poihsw, I will make, which is more characteristic of Peter. He would erect the booths himself.

    Three tabernacles (skhnav). Tents or booths, out of the brushwood lying near. Peter realized that it was night, and was for preparing shelters into which the heavenly visitants might retire after their interview.

    9. Vision (orama). The spectacle.

    11. Cometh. Elijah cometh first. An abstract statement expressing the fact that Elijah's coming precedes in time the coming of the Messiah. It is a point of Jewish chronology; just as a teacher of history might say to his pupils, "The Saxons and Danes precede the Normans in England." Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist.

    15. Is lunatic (selhniazetai). Rev., epileptic. The A.V. preserves the etymology of the word (selhnh, the moon), but lunatic conveys to us the idea of demented; while the Rev. epileptic gives the true character of the disease, yet does not tell us the fact contained in the Greek word, that epilepsy was supposed to be affected by the changes of the moon. See on Matt. iv. 24.

    17. Perverse (diestrammenh). Wyc., wayward. Tynd., crooked; dia, throughout; strefw, to twist. Warped.

    20. Unbelief (apistian). But the better reading is ojligopistian, littleness of faith. Hence Rev., Because of your little faith.

    24. They that received tribute-money (oi ta didracma lambanontev). Rev., They that received the half-shekel. Every male Israelite of age, including proselytes and manumitted Jews, was expected to pay annually for the temple-service a half-shekel or didrachm, about thirty-five cents. This must be paid in the ancient money of Israel, the regular half-shekel of the treasury; and the money-changers, therefore, were in demand to change the current into the temple coin, which they did at a rate of discount fixed by law, between four and five cents on every half-shekel. The annual revenue to the money-changers from this source has been estimated at nearly forty-five thousand dollars; a very large sum in a country where a laborer received less than twenty cents for a day's work, and where the good Samaritan left about thirty-three cents at the inn for the keeping of the wounded man. Jesus attacked a very powerful interest when he overthrew the tables of the money-changers.

    25. Yes (nai). Indicating that Jesus had paid the tax on former occasions.

    Prevented (proefqasen). Rev., rather awkwardly, but following Tynd., Spake first to him. Prevent, in its older sense, to anticipate, get before, was a correct translation. Compare Shakspeare:

    "So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery."

    Hamlet, ii. 1.

    Out of this grew the secondary meaning, to hinder. By getting before another, one hinders him from accomplishing his purpose. This meaning has supplanted the other. Wyc. renders came before him. The meaning is that Jesus did not wait for Peter to tell him of the demand of the collectors. He anticipated him in speaking about it.

    Custom or tribute (telh h khnson). Rev. gives toll for custom. Toll is duty upon goods; tribute, tax upon individuals. Khnsov, tribute, is merely a transcription of the Latin census, which means, first, a registration with a view to taxation, and then the tax itself.

    Strangers (allotriwn). Not foreigners, but others than those of their own families; their subjects. In other words, Does a king tax his own children or his subjects?

    27. Hook (agkistron). The only mention in the New Testament of fishing with a hook. A single fish is wanted.

    A piece of money (stathra). The A.V. is very inadequate, because Christ names a definite sum, the stater, which is a literal transcription of the Greek word, and represents two didrachmas, or a shekel. Hence Rev., a shekel.

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