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  • VINCENT'S NEW TESTAMENT
    WORD STUDIES - MATTHEW 23

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    CHAPTER XXIII

    2. Moses' seat (kaqedrav). Or chair, as Wyc., in allusion to the practice of teachers sitting.

    5. To be seen (prov to qeaqhnai). See vi. 1, where the same word occurs. The scribes and Pharisees deport themselves with a view to being contemplated as actors in a theatre; so that men may fix their gaze upon them admiringly.

    Phylacteries-Borders of their garments (fulakthriakraspeda). Phylacteries, called by the Rabbis tephillin, prayer-fillets, were worn on the left arm, toward the heart, and on the forehead. They were capsules containing on parchment these four passages of Scripture: Exod. xiii. 1-10; xiii. 11-16; Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21. That for the head was to consist of a box with four compartments, each containing a slip of parchment inscribed with one of the four passages. Each of these slips was to be tied up with well-washed hair from a calf's tail; lest, if tied with wool or thread, any fungoid growth should ever pollute them. The phylactery of the arm was to contain a single slip, with the same our passages written in four columns of seven lines each. The black leather straps by which they were fastened were wound seven times round the arm and three times round the hand. They were reverenced by the Rabbis as highly as the scriptures, and, like them, might be rescued from the flames on a Sabbath. They profanely imagined that God wore the tephillin.

    The Greek word transcribed phylacteries in our version is from fulassw, to watch or guard. It means originally a guarded post, a fort; then, generally, a safeguard or preservative, and therefore an amulet. Sir J. Cheke renders guards. They were treated as such by the Rabbis. It is said, for instance, that the courtiers of a certain king, intending to kill a Rabbi, were deterred by seeing that the straps of his phylacteries shone like bands of fire. It was also said that they prevented all hostile demons from injuring any Israelite. See on Matt. ix. 20, for borders.

    6. The uppermost rooms (prwtoklisian). Rev., more correctly, the chief place, the foremost couch or uppermost place on the divan.

    7. Rabbi. My master. In addressing Jesus, didaskalov (teacher) answers to Rabbi. Compare John i. 39; Luke ii. 46.

    9. Father (patera). Aimed at those who courted the title Abba, or Father. Compare the title Papa-Pope.

    10. Masters (kaqhghtai). Lit., leaders.

    13. Hypocrites (upokritai). From uJpokrinw, to separate gradually; so of separating the truth from a mass of falsehood, and thence to subject to inquiry, and, as a result of this, to expound or interpret what is elicited. Then, to reply to inquiry, and so to answer on the state, to speak in dialogue, to act. From this the transition is easy to assuming, feigning, playing a part. The hypocrite is, therefore, etymologically, an actor.

    Against (emprosqen). Very graphic. The preposition means before, or in the face of. They shut the door in men's faces.

    18. He is guilty (ofeilei). In the rendering of this word the A.V. seems to have been shaped by the earlier and now obsolete sense of guilt, which was probably a fine or payment. Compare Anglo-Saxon gyld, a recompense, and German geld, money. There is a hint of this sense in Shakspeare, Henry IV. (Second Part), Act iv., Sc. iv.

    "England shall double gild his treble guilt,"

    where the play upon the words hovers between the sense of bedeck and recompense. Wyc. renders oweth, and Tynd., he is debtor. Rev., he is a debtor.

    23. Ye Tithe (apodekatoute). ajpo, from, dekatow, to take a tenth. Tithe is tenth; also in older English, tethe, as tethe hest, the tenth commandment. A tething was a district containing ten families.

    Mint (hduosmon). hJduv, sweet, ojsmh, smell. A favorite plant in the East, with which the floors of dwelling and synagogues were sometimes strewn.

    Anise-Cummin (anhqonkuminon). Rev. renders anise, dill in margin. Used as condiments. The tithe of these plants would be very small; but to exact it would indicate scrupulous conscientiousness. The Talmud tells of the ass of a certain Rabbi which had been so well trained as to refuse corn of which the tithes had not been taken.

    Faith (pistin). Rather faithfulness, as in Rom. iii. 3, Rev. Gal. v. 22, Rev. 24. Strain at (diulizontev). dia, thoroughly or through, and uJlizw, to filter or strain. Strain at is an old misprint perpetuated. Hence the Rev. correctly, as Tynd., strain out. Insects were ceremonially unclean (Lev. xi. 20, 23, 41, 42), so that the Jews strained their wine in order not to swallow any unclean animal. Moreover, there were certain insects which bred in wine. Aristotle uses the word gnat (kwnwpa) of a worm or larva found in the sediment of sour wine. "In a ride from Tangier to Tetuan I observed that a Moorish soldier who accompanied me, when he drank, always unfolded the end of his turban and placed it over the mouth of this bota, drinking through the mulin to strain out the gnats, whose larvae swarm in the water of that country" (cited by Trench, "On the Authorized Version").

    Swallow (katapinontev). The rendering is feeble. It is drink down (kata); gulp. Note that the camel was also unclean (Lev. xi. 4).

    25. Platter (paroyidov). para, beside, oyon, meat. A side-dish, with the accompanying sense of something dainty; later, as here, the dish itself as distinguished from its contents.

    Excess (akrasiav). aj, not, kratov, power. Hence conduct which shows a want of power over one's self: incontinence or intemperance..

    27. Whited sepulchres (tafoiv kekoniamenoiv). Not the rock-tombs, belonging mostly to the rich, but the graves covered with plastered structures. In general, cemeteries were outside of cities; but any dead body found in the field was to be buried on the spot where it had been discovered. A pilgrim to the Passover, for instance, might easily come upon such a grave in his journey, and contract uncleanness by the contact (Num. xix. 16). It was therefore ordered that all sepulchres should be whitewashed a month before Passover, in order to make them conspicuous, so that travelers might avoid ceremonial defilement. The fact that this general whitewashing was going on at the time when Jesus administered this rebuke to the Pharisees gave point to the comparison. The word kekoniamenoiv (whitened, from koniv, dust) carries the idea of whitening with a powder, as powdered lime.

    29. Tombs of the prophets. By this name are called four monuments at the base of the Mount of Olives, in the valley of Jehosaphat; called at present the tombs of Zechariah, Absalom, Jehosaphat, and St. James. Two of them are monoliths cut out of the solid rock; the others are merely excavations, with ornamental portals. "They appear," says Dr. Thomson, "to be quite extensive, consisting of winding or semicircular galleries, passing under the mountain more than a hundred feet from east to west, and terminating in a rotunda about eighty feet from the entrance. There is no authority for the name which they commonly bear." Possibly they were in sight of our Lord when he spoke, and were pointed to by him. The reference would be all the more telling, if, as has been conjectured, the Pharisees were engaged in constructing the tombs of Zechariah and Absalom at the time that the Lord addressed them, and that the chambered sepulchres of James and Jehosaphat, lying between those two, were the sepulchres which they were garnishing at their entrances.

    35. Temple (naou). Rev., rightly, sanctuary. See on Matt. iv. 5. Zechariah was slain between the temple proper and the altar of burnt-offering, in the priests' court.

    37. Hen (orniv). Generic: bird or fowl; but hen is used generically of the mother-bird of all species.

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