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2. And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.
[This is John, &c.] Was not Herod of the Sadducean faith? For that which is said by Matthew, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees," chapter 16:6, is rendered by Mark, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod," chapter 8:15; that is, 'of their doctrine.'
If, therefore, Herod embraced the doctrine of the Sadducees, his words, "This is John the Baptist, he is risen from the dead," seem to be extorted from his conscience, pricked with the sting of horror and guilt, as though the image and ghost of the Baptist, but newly butchered by him, were before his eyes: so that his mind is under horror; and forgetting his Sadduceism, groaning and trembling, he acknowledgeth the resurrection of the dead, whether he will or no.
Or let it be supposed, that with the Pharisees he owned the resurrection of the dead; yet certainly it was unusual for them that confessed it to dream of the resurrection of one that was but newly dead: they expected there should be a resurrection of the dead hereafter: but this, which Herod speaks, believes, and suspects, is a great way distant from that doctrine, and seems, indeed, to have proceeded from a conscience touched from above.
4. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. [Herod has taken his brother's wife.]
[It is not lawful for thee to have her.] "There are thirty-six cuttings off in the law": that is, sinners who deserve cutting off. And among the rest, he that lies with his brother's wife. Philip was now alive, and lived to the twentieth year of Tiberius.
6. But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
[And when Herod's birthday was kept.] The Jewish schools esteem the keeping of birthdays a part of idolatrous worship: perhaps they would pronounce more favourably and flatteringly of thine, O tetrarch, because thine.
These are the times of idolaters: the Kalends; the Saturnalia;...the birthday of the kingdom; and the day of a man's birth...
[The daughter of Herodias danced.] Not so much out of lightness, as according to the custom of the nation, namely, to express joy and to celebrate the day. The Jews were wont in their public and more than ordinary rejoicings, and also in some of their holy festivals, to express their cheerfulness by leaping and dancing. Omitting the examples which occur in the holy Bible, it is reported by the Fathers of the Traditions, that the chief part of the mirth in the feast of Tabernacles consisted in such kind of dancing: the chief men, the aged, and the most religious, dancing in the Court of the Women; and by how much the more vehemently they did it, so much the more commendable it was. The gesture, therefore, or motion of the girl that danced took not so much with Herod, as her mind and affection: namely, because hereby she shewed honour towards his birthday, and love and respect towards him, and joy for his life and health: from whom, indeed, Herod had little deserved such things, since he had deprived her father Philip of his wife, and defiled her mother with unlawful wedlock and continual incest.
7. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
[He promised her with an oath, &c.] This kind of oath is called by the Talmudists a rash oath: concerning which see Maimonides, and the Talmudic tract under that title. If the form of the oath were "by his head," which was very usual, the request of the maid very fitly, though very unjustly, answered to the promise of the king; as if she should say, 'You swore by your head that you would give me whatsoever I shall ask; give me, then, the head of John Baptist.'
10. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
[He beheaded John.] Josephus relates that John was imprisoned by Herod in Machaerus: Through the suspicion of Herod he was sent prisoner to Machaerus. Now Machaerus was the utmost bounds of Perea: and Perea was within Herod's jurisdiction. But now if John lay prisoner there, when the decree went out against his life, the executioner must have gone a long journey, and which could scarcely be performed in two days from Tiberias, where the tyrant's court was, to execute that bloody command. So that that horrid dish, the head of the venerable prophet, could not be presented to the maid but some days after the celebration of his birthday.
The time of his beheading we find out by those words of the evangelist John, "but now the Passover was nigh," by reasoning after this manner: It may be concluded, without all controversy, that the disciples, as soon as they heard of the death of their master, and buried him, betook themselves to Christ, relating his slaughter, and giving him caution by that example to take care of his own safety. He hearing of it passeth over into the desert of Bethsaida, and there he miraculously feeds five thousand men, when the Passover was now at hand, as John relates, mentioning that story with the rest of the evangelists. Therefore we suppose the beheading of the Baptist was a little before the Passover, when he had now been in durance half a year, as he had freely preached by the space of half a year before his imprisonment.
13. When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
[He departed thence by ship into a desert place, &c.] That is, from Capernaum into the desert of Bethsaida, which is rendered by John, He went over the sea Which is to be understood properly, namely, from Galilee into Perea. The chorographical maps have placed Bethsaida in Galilee, on the same coast on which Capernaum is also: so also commentators feign to themselves a bay of the sea only coming between these two cities, which was our opinion once also with them: but at last we learned of Josephus, that Bethsaida was in the upper Gaulanitis, (which we observe elsewhere,) on the east coast of the sea of Gennesaret in Perea.
[They followed him on foot.] From hence interpreters argue that Capernaum and Bethsaida lay not on different shores of the sea, but on the same: for how else, say they, could the multitude follow him afoot? Very well, say I, passing Jordan near Tiberias, whose situation I have elsewhere shewn to be at the efflux of Jordan out of the sea of Galilee. They followed him afoot from the cities, saith our evangelist: now there were cities of some note very near Capernaum, Tarichea on one side, Tiberias on the other. Let it be granted that the multitude travelled out of these cities after Christ; the way by which they went afoot was at the bridge of Jordan in Chammath: that place was distant a mile or something less from Tiberias, and from Capernaum three miles or thereabouts. Passing Jordan, they went along by the coast of Magdala; and, after that, through the country of Hippo: now Magdala was distant one mile from Jordan, Hippo two; and after Hippo was Bethsaida, at the east shore of the sea; and after Bethsaida was a bay of the sea, thrusting out itself somewhat into the land; and from thence was the desert of Bethsaida. When, therefore, they returned back from thence, he commands his disciples to get into a ship, and to go to Bethsaida, while he sent the multitude away, whence he would afterward follow them on foot, and would sail with them thence to Capernaum.
17. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
[Two fishes.] What kind of fish they were we do not determine. That they were brought hither by a boy to be sold, together with the five loaves, we may gather from Chapter 6:9. The Talmudists discourse very much of salt fish. I render the word salt fish, upon the credit of the Aruch: he citing this tradition out of Beracoth, "Do they set before him first something salt, and with it a morsel? He blesseth over the salt meat, and omits [the blessing] over the morsel, because the morsel is, as it were, an appendix to it. The salt meat, saith he, is to be understood of fish, as the tradition teacheth, that he that vows abstinence from salt things is restrained from nothing but from salt fish." Whether these were salt fish, it were a ridiculous matter to attempt to determine; but if they were, the manner of blessing which Christ used is worthy to be compared with that which the tradition now alleged commands.
20. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
[And they did all eat, and were filled.] So eating, or a repast after food, is defined by the Talmudists; namely, "When they eat their fill. Rabh saith, All eating, where salt is not, is not eating." The Aruch citing these words, for salt, reads something seasoned, and adds, "It is no eating, because they are not filled."
22. And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
[And immediately he compelled his disciples, &c.] The reason of this compulsion is given by St. John, namely, because the people seeing the miracle were ambitious to make him a king: perhaps that the disciples might not conspire to do the same, who as yet dreamed too much of the temporal and earthly kingdom of the Messias.
23. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
[When the evening was come.] So verse 15, but in another sense: for that denotes the lateness of the day; this, the lateness of the night. So evening, in the Talmudists, signifies not only the declining part of the day, but the night also: "from what time do they recite the phylacteries in the evening? From the time when the priests go in to eat their Truma, even to the end of the first watch, as R. Eliezer saith; but, as the wise men say, unto midnight; yea, as Rabban Gamaliel saith, even to the rising of the pillar of the morning." Where the Gloss is, in the evening, that is, in the night.
25. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
[In the fourth watch of the night.] That is, after cock crowing: the Jews acknowledge only three watches of the night, for this with them was the third; The watch is the third part of the night. Thus the Gloss upon the place now cited. See also the Hebrew commentators upon Judges 7:19. Not that they divided not the night into four parts, but that they esteemed the fourth part, or the watch, not so much for the night as for the morning. So Mark 13:35, that space after cockcrowing is called the morning. See also Exodus 14:24. There were, therefore, in truth, four watches of the night, but only three of deep night. When, therefore, it is said that Gideon set upon the Midianites in the "middle watch of the night," Judges 7:19, it is to be understood of that watch which was indeed the second of the whole night, but the middle watch of the deep night: namely, from the ending of the first watch to midnight.
2. Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
[Why do they transgress the tradition of the elders?] How great a value they set upon their traditions, even above the word of God, appears sufficiently from this very place, verse 6. Out of infinite examples which we meet with in their writings, we will produce one place only; "The words of the scribes are lovely above the words of the law: for the words of the law are weighty and light; but the words of the scribes are all weighty."
"He that shall say, 'There are no phylacteries, transgressing the words of the law,' is not guilty; but he that shall say, 'There are five Totaphoth, adding to the words of the scribes,' he is guilty."
"The words of the elders are weightier than the words of the prophets."
"A prophet and an elder, to what are they likened? To a king sending two of his servants into a province. Of one he writes thus, 'Unless he shew you my seal, believe him not': of the other thus, 'Although he shews you not my seal, yet believe him.' Thus it is written of the prophet, 'He shall shew thee a sign or a miracle'; but of the elders thus, 'According to the law which they shall teach thee,'" &c. But enough of blasphemies.
[For they wash not their hands, &c.] The undervaluing of the washing of hands is said to be among those things for which the Sanhedrim excommunicates: and therefore that R. Eleazar Ben Hazar was excommunicated by it, because he undervalued the washing of hands; and that when he was dead, by the command of the Sanhedrim, a great stone was laid upon his bier. "Whence you may learn (say they) that the Sanhedrim stones the very coffin of every excommunicate person that dies in his excommunication."
It would require a just volume, and not a short commentary, or a running pen, to lay open this mystery of Pharisaism concerning washing of hands, and to discover it in all its niceties: let us gather these few passages out of infinite numbers:
I. The washing of hands and the plunging of them is appointed by the words of the scribes: but by whom, and when, it is doubted. Some ascribe the institution of this rite to Hillel and Shammai, others carry it back to ages before them: "Hillel and Shammai decreed concerning the washing of hands. R. Josi Ben Rabbi Bon, in the name of R. Levi, saith, 'That tradition was given before, but they had forgotten it': these second stand forth, and appoint according to the mind of the former."
II. "Although it was permitted to eat unclean meats, and to drink unclean drinks, yet the ancient religious eat their common food in cleanness, and took care to avoid uncleanness all their days; and they were called Pharisees. And this is a matter of the highest sanctity, and the way of the highest religion; namely, that a man separate himself, and go aside from the vulgar, and that he neither touch them, nor eat nor drink with them: for such separation conduceth to the purity of the body from evil works," &c. Hence that definition of a Pharisee which we have produced before, The Pharisees eat their common food in cleanness: and the Pharisaical ladder of heaven, "Whosoever hath his seat in the land of Israel, and eateth his common food in cleanness, and speaks the holy language, and recites his phylacteries morning and evening, let him be confident that he shall obtain the life of the world to come."
III. Here that distinction is to be observed between forbidden meats, and unclean meats. Of both Maimonides wrote a proper tract. Forbidden meats, such as fat, blood, creatures unlawful to be eaten (Lev 2), were by no means to be eaten: but meats, unclean in themselves, were lawful indeed to be eaten, but contracted some uncleanness elsewhere: it was lawful to eat them, and it was not lawful; or, to speak as the thing indeed is, they might eat them by the law of God, but by the canons of Pharisaism they might not.
IV. The distinction also between unclean, and profane or polluted, is to be observed. Rambam, in his preface to Toharoth, declares it.
Profane or polluted denotes this, that it does not pollute another beside itself. For every thing which uncleanness invades so that it becomes unclean, but renders not another thing unclean, is called profane. And hence it is said of every one that eats unclean meats, or drinks unclean drinks, that his body is polluted: but he pollutes not another. Note that, "The body of the eater is polluted by unclean meats." To which you may add that which follows in the same Maimonides, in the place before alleged: "Separation from the common people, &c., conduces to the purity of the body from evil works; the purity of the body conduceth to the sanctity of the soul from evil affections; the sanctity of the soul conduces unto likeness to God, as it is said, 'And ye shall be sanctified, and ye shall be holy, because I, the Lord that sanctify you, am holy.'" Hence you may more clearly perceive the force of Christ's confutation, which we have verses 17-20.
V. They thought that clean food was polluted by unclean hands, and that the hands were polluted by unclean meats. You would wonder at this tradition: "Unclean meats and unclean drinks do not defile a man if he touch them not, but if he touch them with his hands, then his hands become unclean; if he handle them with both hands, both hands are defiled; if he touch them with one hand only, one hand only is defiled."
VI. This care, therefore, laid upon the Pharisee sect, that meats should be set on free, as much as might be, from all uncleanness: but especially since they could not always be secure of this, that they might be secure that the meats were not rendered unclean by their hands. Hence were the washings of them not only when they knew them to be unclean, but also when they knew it not.
Rambam in the preface to the tract of hands, hath these words; "If the hands are unclean by any uncleanness, which renders them unclean; or if it be hid from a man, and he knows not that he is polluted; yet he is bound to wash his hands in order to eating his common food," &c.
VII. To these most rigid canons they added also bugbears and ghosts to affright them.
It was the business of Shibta. Where the Gloss is, "Shibta was one of the demons who hurt them that wash not their hands before meat." The Aruch writes thus, "Shibta is an evil spirit which sits upon men's hands in the night: and if any touch his food with unwashen hands, that spirit sits upon that food, and there is danger from it."
Let these things suffice as we pass along: it would be infinite to pursue all that is said of this rite and superstition. Of the quantity of water sufficient for this washing; of the washing of the hands, and of the plunging of them; of the first and second water; of the manner of washing; of the time; of the order, when the number of those that sat down to meat exceeded five, or did not exceed; and other such like niceties: read, if you have leisure, and if the toil and nauseousness of it do not offend you, the Talmudic tract of hands, Maimonides upon the tract lavers, and Babylonian Beracoth: and this article, indeed, is inserted through the whole volume entitled cleanness. Let this discourse be ended with this canon; "For a cake, and for the washing of hands, let a man walk as far as four miles."
5. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
[It is a gift by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, &c.] I. Beside the law alleged by Christ, "Honour thy father and thy mother," &c., they acknowledge this also for law, A son is bound to provide his father meat and drink, to clothe him, to cover him, to lead him in and out, to wash his face, hands and feet. Yea, that goes higher, "A son is bound to nourish his father, yea, to beg for him." Therefore it is no wonder if these things which are spoken by our Saviour are not found verbatim in the Jewish pandect; for they are not so much alleged by him to shew that it was their direct design to banish away all reverence and love towards parents, as to show how wicked their traditions were, and into what ungodly consequences they oftentimes fell. They denied not directly the nourishment of their parents, nay, they command it, they exhorted to it; but consequently by this tradition they made all void. They taught openly, indeed, that a father was to be made no account of in comparison of a Rabbin that taught them the law; but they by no means openly asserted that parents were to be neglected: yet openly enough they did by consequence drawn from this foolish and impious tradition.
II. One might readily comment upon this clause, "It is a gift" (or, as Mark, "it is Corban") by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, if we have read the Talmudic tracts Nedarim and Nazir, where the discourse is of vows and oaths; and the phrase which is before us speaks a vow or a form of swearing.
1. Vows were distinguished into two ranks, vows of consecration, and vows of obligation, or of prohibition. A vow of consecration was when any thing was devoted to holy uses, namely, to the use of the altar or the Temple: as when a man, by a vow, would dedicate this or that for sacrifice, or to buy wood, salt, wine, &c. for the altar: or for the reparation of the Temple, &c. A vow of obligation or prohibition was, when a man bound himself by a vow from this or that thing, which was lawful in itself; as, that he would not eat, that he would not put on, that he would not do this or that, &c.
2. This went for a noted axiom among them, All epithets of vows are as the vows themselves. They added certain short forms, by which they signified a vow, and which carried with it the force of a vow, as if the thing were spoken out in a larger periphrasis: as for example, "If one should say to his neighbour, Konem, Konah, Kones, behold, these are epithets of a thing devoted unto sacred uses."
The word Konem, Rambam thus explains; Let it be upon me as a thing devoted. So also R. Nissim, Konem, Koneh, are words of devoting.
We produced before, at chapter 5:33, some forms of oaths, which were only Assertive: these under our hands are Votive also. In the place from Beracoth just now alleged, one saith, Let the wine be 'Konem,' which I shall taste, for wine is hard to the bowels: that is, Let the wine which I taste be as devoted wine: as though he had said, I vow that I will not taste wine. "To which others answered, Is not old wine good for the bowels? Then he held his peace."
III. But above all such like forms of vowing, the word Corban, was plainest of all; which openly speaks a thing devoted and dedicated to sacred use. And the reader of those tracts which we have mentioned shall observe these forms frequently to occur. Let it be 'Corban,' whereby I am profitable to thee; and, Let it be 'Konem,' whereby I am profitable to thee. Which words sound the very same thing, unless I am very much mistaken, with the words before us, "Let it be Corban, or a gift, by which whatsoever thou mayest be profited by me."
Which words that they may be more clearly understood, and that the plain and full sense of the place may be discovered, let these things be considered:
First, That the word a gift is rather to be rendered, Let it be a gift, than It is a gift. For Konem and Corban, as we have noted, signified not 'It is' as something devoted, but 'Let it be' as something devoted. and He, of whom we had mention before...meant not, The wine which I shall taste is as something devoted, but Let whatsoever wine I shall taste be as something devoted: that is, To me let all wine be devoted, and not to be tasted.
Secondly, This form of speech A gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, does neither argue, that he who thus spake devoted his goods to sacred uses, nor obliged him (according to the doctrine of the scribes) to devote them; but only restrained him by an obligation from that thing, for the denying of which he used such a form; that is, from helping him by his goods, to whom he thus spake. He might help others with his wealth, but him he might not.
Thirdly, The words are brought in as though they were pronounced with indignation; as if, when the needy father required food from his son, he should answer in anger and with contempt, Let it be as a thing devoted, whatsoever of mine may profit thee. But now, things that were devoted were not to be laid out upon common uses.
Fourthly, Christ not only cites the law, 'Honour thy father and mother,' but adds this also, He that curseth father or mother. But now there was no cursing here at all; if the son spoke truly and modestly, and as the thing was, namely, that all his estate was devoted before.
Fifthly, Therefore, although these words should have been spoken by the son irreverently, wrathfully, and inhumanly, towards his father, yet such was the folly, together with the impiety, of the traditional doctrine in this case, which pronounced the son so obliged by these his words, that it was lawful by no means to succour his needy father. He was not at all bound by these words to dedicate his estate to sacred uses; but not to help his father he was inviolably bound. O excellent doctrine and charity!
Sixthly, The words of the verse, therefore, may thus be rendered, without any addition put between, which many interpreters do: Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, Let it be a [devoted] gift, in whatsoever thou mayest be helped by me: then let him not honour his father and mother at all.
11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
[Defileth the man.] Or, maketh him common;...because they esteemed defiled men for common and vulgar men: on the contrary, a religious man among them is a singular man...
20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
[With unwashen hands.] He saith not with unclean hands, but unwashen; because, as we said before, they were bound to wash, although they were not conscious that their hands were unclean. In Mark it is with common or defiled hands, Mark 7:2; which seem to be called by the Talmudists impure hands, merely because not washed. Judge from that which is said in the tract Challah: "A cake is owing out of that dough which they knead with the juice of fruits: and it is eaten with unclean hands."
22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
[A woman of Canaan.] In Mark it is, A Greek woman, a Syrophoenician by nation, chapter 7:26.
I. Of Canaan. It is worthy observing, that the Holy Bible, reckoning up the seven nations, which were to be destroyed by the Israelites, names the Perizzites, who were not at all recited among the sons of Canaan, Genesis 10; and the Canaanites as a particular nation, when all the seven, indeed, were Canaanites. See Deuteronomy 7:1, Joshua 9:1, 11:3, Judges 3:5, &c.
The reason of the latter (with which our business is) is to be fetched thence, that Canaan himself inhabited a peculiar part of that (northern) country, with his first-born sons, Sidon and Heth: and thence the name of Canaanites was put upon that particular progeny, distinguished from all his other sons; and that country was peculiarly called by the name of 'Canaan,' distinctly from all the rest of the land of Canaan. Hence Jabin, the king of Hazor, is called the 'king of Canaan,' Judges 4:2, and the kings of Tyre and Sidon, if I mistake not, are called 'the kings of the Hittites,' 1 Kings 10:29.
II. A Greek woman, a Syrophoenician Although Judea, and almost the whole world, had now a long while stooped under the yoke of the Romans, yet the memory of the Syro-Grecian kingdom, and the name of the nation, was not yet vanished. And that is worthy to be noted, In the captivity, they compute the years only from the kingdom of the Greeks. They said before, "That the Romans, for a hundred and fourscore years, ruled over the Jews before the destruction of the Temple"; and yet they do not compute the times to that destruction by the years of the Romans, but by the years of the Greeks. Let the Jews themselves well consider this, and the Christians with them, who reckon the Roman for the fourth monarchy in Daniel.
Therefore that woman that is here spoken of (to reduce all into a short conclusion) was a Syro-Grecian by nation, a Phoenician in respect of her habitation, and from thence called a woman of Canaan.
26. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.
[To the dogs.] By this title the Jews, out of spite and contempt, disgraced the Gentiles, whose first care it was to hate, to mock, and to curse, all beside themselves. The nations of the world [that is, the heathen] are likened to dogs. From the common speech of the nation, rather than from his own sense, our Saviour uses this expression, to whom 'the Gentiles' were not so hateful, and whose custom was to speak with the vulgar.
This ignominious name, like a stone cast at the heathen, at length fell upon their own heads; and that by the hand and justice of God directing it: for although they out of pride and contempt fixed that disgraceful name upon the Gentiles, according to their very just desert, the Holy Spirit recoiled it upon themselves. See Psalm 59:6; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15, &c.
36. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
[He gave thanks and brake.] See here the tract Beracoth, where it is discoursed of the manner of giving thanks when many ate together: Three who eat together ought to give thanks together: that is, one gave thanks for the rest (as the Gloss writes) "in the plural number, saying, Let us give thanks." So when there were ten, or a hundred, or a thousand or more, one gave thanks for all, and they answered after him Amen, or some words which he had recited.
3. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
[Can ye not discern the signs of the times?] The Jews were very curious in observing the seasons of the heavens, and the temper of the air.
"In the going out of the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, all observed the rising of the smoke. If the smoke bended northward, the poor rejoiced, but the rich were troubled; because there would be much rain the following year, and the fruits would be corrupted: if it bended southward, the poor grieved, and the rich rejoiced; for then there would be fewer rains that year, and the fruit would be sound: if eastward, all rejoiced: if westward, all were troubled." The Gloss is, "They observed this the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, because the day before, the decree of their judgment concerning the rains of that year was signed, as the tradition is, In the feast of Tabernacles they judged concerning the rains."
"R. Acha said, If any wise man had been at Zippor when the first rain fell, he might foretell the moistness of the year by the very smell of the dust," &c.
But they were dim-sighted at the signs of times; that is, at those eminent signs, which plainly pointed, as with the finger and by a visible mark, that now those times that were so much foretold and expected, even the days of the Messias, were at hand. As if he had said, "Can ye not distinguish that the times of the Messias are come, by those signs which plainly declare it? Do ye not observe Daniel's weeks now expiring? Are ye not under a yoke, the shaking off of which ye have neither any hope at all nor expectation to do? Do ye not see how the nation is sunk into all manner of wickedness? Are not miracles done by me, such as were neither seen nor heard before? Do ye not consider an infinite multitude flowing in, even to a miracle, to the profession of the gospel? and that the minds of all men are raised into a present expectation of the Messias? Strange blindness, voluntary, and yet sent upon you from heaven: your sin and your punishment too! They see all things which may demonstrate and declare a Messias, but they will not see."
6. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
[Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, &c.] There were two things, especially, which seem to have driven the disciples into a mistaken interpretation of these words, so that they understood them of leaven properly so called.
I. That they had more seldom heard leaven used for doctrine. The metaphorical use of it, indeed, was frequent among them in an ill sense, namely, for evil affections, and the naughtiness of the heart; but the use of it was more rare, if any at all, for evil doctrine.
Thus one prays: "Lord of ages, it is revealed and known before thy face that we would do thy will; but do thou subdue that which hinders: namely, the leaven which is in the lump, and the tyranny of [heathen] kingdoms." Where the Gloss is thus; "The 'leaven which is in the lump,' are evil affections, which leavens us in our hearts."
Cyrus was leavened, that is, grew worse. Sometimes it is used in a better sense; "The Rabbins say, Blessed is that judge who leaveneth his judgment." But this is not to be understood concerning doctrine, but concerning deliberation in judgment.
II. Because very exact care was taken by the Pharisaical canons, what leaven was to be used and what not; disputations occur here and there, whether heathen leaven is to be used, and whether Cuthite leaven, &c. With which caution the disciples thought that Christ armed them, when he spake concerning the leaven of the Pharisees: but withal they suspected some silent reproof for not bringing bread along with them.
13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
[Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?] I. That phrase or title, the Son of man, which Christ very often gives himself, denotes not only his humanity, nor his humility (for see that passage, John 5:27, "He hath given him authority of executing judgment, because he is the Son of man"); but it bespeaks the 'seed promised to Adam, the second Adam': and it carried with it a silent confutation of a double ignorance and error among the Jews: 1. They knew not what to resolve upon concerning the original of the Messias; and how he should rise, whether he should be of the living, as we noted before, the manner of his rise being unknown to them; or whether of the dead. This phrase unties this knot and teaches openly, that he, being a seed promised to the first man, should arise and be born from the seed of the women. 2. They dreamed of the earthly victories of the Messias, and of nations to be subdued by him; but this title, The Son of man, recalls their minds to the first promise, where the victory of the promised seed is the bruising of the serpent's head, not the subduing of kingdoms by some warlike and earthly triumph.
II. When, therefore, the opinion of the Jews concerning the person of the Messias, what he should be, was uncertain and wavering, Christ asketh, not so much whether they acknowledged him the Messias, as acknowledging the Messias, what kind of person they conceived him to be. The apostles and the other disciples whom he had gathered, and were very many, acknowledged him the Messias: yea, those blind men, chapter 9:27, had confessed this also: therefore that question had been needless as to them, "Do they think me to be the Messias?" but that was needful, "What do they conceive of me, the Messias?" and to this the answer of Peter has regard, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God": as if he should say, "We knew well enough a good while ago that thou art the Messias: but as to the question, 'What kind of person thou art,' I say, 'Thou art the Son of the living God.'" See what we note at chapter 17:54.
Therefore the word whom asks not so much concerning the person, as concerning the quality of the person. In which sense also is the word who, in those words, 1 Samuel 17:55, not "The son of whom," but the son "of what kind of man," is this youth?
14. And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
[But others, Jeremias.] The reason why they name Jeremiah only of all the prophets, we give at chapter 27:9. You observe that recourse is here made to the memory of the dead, from whom the Messias should spring, rather than from the living: among other things, perhaps, this reason might persuade them so to do, that that piety could not in those days be expected in any one living, as had shined out in those deceased persons. (One of the Babylonian Gemarists suspects that Daniel, raised from the dead, should be the Messias.) And this perhaps persuaded them further, because they thought that the kingdom of the Messias should arise after the resurrection: and they that were of this opinion might be led to think that the Messias himself was some eminent person among the saints departed, and that he rising again should bring others with him.
17. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
[Flesh and blood.] The Jewish writers use this form of speech infinite times, and by it oppose men to God.
"If they were about to lead me before a king of flesh and blood, &c.; but they are leading me before the King of kings."
"A king of flesh and blood forms his picture in a table, &c.; the Holy Blessed One, his, &c." This phrase occurs five times in that one column: "the Holy Blessed God doth not, as flesh and blood doth, &c. Flesh and blood wound with one thing and heal with another: but the Holy Blessed One wounds and heals with one and the same thing. Joseph was sold for his dreams, and he was promoted by dreams."
18. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
[Thou art Peter, &c.] I. There is nothing, either in the dialect of the nation, or in reason, forbids us to think that our Saviour used this very same Greek word, since such Graecizings were not unusual in that nation. But be it granted (which is asserted more without controversy) that he used the Syriac word; yet I deny that he used that very word Cepha, which he did presently after: but he pronounced it Cephas, after the Greek manner; or he spoke it Cephai, in the adjective sense, according to the Syriac formation. For how, I pray, could he be understood by the disciples, or by Peter himself, if in both places he had retained the same word Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church? It is readily answered by the Papists, that "Peter was the rock." But let them tell me why Matthew used not the same word in Greek, if our Saviour used the same word in Syriac. If he had intimated that the church should be built upon Peter, it had been plainer and more agreeable to be the vulgar idiom to have said, "Thou art Peter, and upon thee I will build my church."
II. The words concerning the rock upon which the church was to be built are evidently taken out of Isaiah, chapter 28:16; which, the New Testament being interpreter, in very many places do most plainly speak Christ. When therefore Peter, the first of all the disciples (from the very first beginning of the preaching of the gospel), had pronounced most clearly of the person of Christ, and had declared the mystery of the incarnation, and confessed the deity of Christ, the minds of the disciples are, with good reason, called back to those words of Isaiah, that they might learn to acknowledge who that stone was that was set in Sion for a foundation never to be shaken, and whence it came to pass that that foundation remained so unshaken; namely, thence, that he was not a creature, but God himself, the Son of God.
III. Thence, therefore, Peter took his surname; not that he should be argued to be that rock, but because he was so much to be employed in building a church upon a rock: whether it were that church that was to be gathered out of the Jews, of which he was the chief minister, or that of the Gentiles (concerning which the discourse here is principally of), unto which he made the first entrance by the gospel.
19. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
[And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.] That is, Thou shalt first open the door of faith to the Gentiles. He had said that he would build his church to endure for ever, against which "the gates of hell should not prevail"... "and to thee, O Peter (saith he), I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that thou mayest open a door for the bringing in the gospel to that church." Which was performed by Peter in that remarkable story concerning Cornelius, Acts 10. And I make no doubt that those words of Peter respect these words of Christ, Acts 15:7; A good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel by my mouth, and believe.
[And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth &c. And whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, &c.] I. We believe the keys were committed to Peter alone, but the power of binding and loosing to the other apostles also, chapter 18:18.
II. It is necessary to suppose that Christ here spake according to the common people, or he could not be understood without a particular commentary, which is nowhere to be found.
III. But now to bind and loose, a very usual phrase in the Jewish schools, was spoken of things, not of persons; which is here also to be observed in the articles what and whatsoever, chapter 18.
One might produce thousands of examples out of their writings: we will only offer a double decad; the first, whence the frequent use of this word may appear; the second, whence the sense may:
1. "R. Jochanan said [to those of Tiberias], 'Why have ye brought this elder to me? Whatsoever I loose, he binds; whatsoever I bind, he looseth.'"
2. Thou shalt neither bind nor loose.
3. "Nachum, the brother of R. Illa, asked R. Jochanan concerning a certain matter. To whom he answered, Thou shalt neither bind nor loose."
4. This man binds, but the other looseth.
5. "R. Chaija said, Whatsoever I have bound to you elsewhere, I will loose to you here."
6. He asked one wise man, and he bound: Do not ask another wise man, lest perhaps he loose.
7. The mouth that bindeth is the mouth that looseth.
8. "Although of the disciples of Shammai, and those of Hillel, the one bound, and the other loosed; yet they forbade not but that these might make purifications according to the others."
9. A wise man that judgeth judgment, defileth and cleanseth [that is, he declares defiled or clean]; he looseth and bindeth. The same also is in Maimonides.
10. Whether it is lawful to go into the necessary-house with the phylacteries only to piss? Rabbena looseth, and Rabh Ada bindeth. The mystical doctor, who neither bindeth nor looseth.
The other decad shall show the phrase applied to things:
1. "In Judea they did [servile] works on the Passover-eve" (that is, on the day going before the Passover), "until noon, but in Galilee not. But that which the school of Shammai binds until the night, the school of Hillel looseth until the rising of the sun."
2. "A festival-day may teach us this, in which they loosed by the notion of a [servile] work," killing and boiling, &c., as the Gloss notes. But in which they bound by the notion of a sabbatism: that is, as the same Gloss speaks, 'The bringing in some food from without the limits of the sabbath.'
3. "They do not send letters by the hand of a heathen on the eve of a sabbath, no, nor on the fifth day of the week. Yea, the school of Shammai binds it, even on the fourth day of the week; but the school of Hillel looseth it."
4. "They do not begin a voyage in the great sea on the eve of the sabbath, no, nor on the fifth day of the week. Yea, the school of Shammai binds it, even on the fourth day of the week; but the school of Hillel looses it."
5. "To them that bathe in the hot-baths in the sabbath-day, they bind washing, and they loose sweating."
6. "Women may not look into a looking-glass on the sabbath-day, if it be fixed to a wall, Rabbi loosed it, but the wise men bound it."
7. "Concerning the moving of empty vessels [on the sabbath-day], of the filling of which there is no intention; the school of Shammai binds it, the school of Hillel looseth it."
8. "Concerning gathering wood on a feast-day scattered about a field, the school of Shammai binds it, the school of Hillel looseth it."
9. They never loosed to us a crow, nor bound to us a pigeon.
10. "Doth a seah of unclean Truma fall into a hundred seahs of clean Truma? The school of Shammai binds it, the school of Hillel looseth it." There are infinite examples of this nature.
Let a third decad also be added (that nothing may be left unsaid in this matter), giving examples of the parts of the phrase distinctly and by themselves:
1. "The things which they bound not, that they might have a hedge to the law."
2. "The scribes bound the leaven."
3. They neither punished nor bound, unless concerning the leaven itself.
4. "The wise men bound the eating of leaven from the beginning of the sixth hour," of the day of the Passover.
5. "R. Abhu saith, R. Gamaliel Ben Rabbi asked me. What if I should go into the market? and I bound it him."
1. The Sanhedrim, which looseth two things, let it not hasten to loose three.
2. "R. Jochanan saith, They necessarily loose saluting on the sabbath."
3. The wise men loose all oils, or all fat things.
4. "The school of Shammai saith, They do not steep ink, colours, and vetches" on the eve of the sabbath, "unless they be steeped before the day be ended: but the school of Hillel looseth it." Many more such like instances occur there.
5. "R. Meir loosed the mixing of wine and oil, to anoint a sick man on the sabbath."
To these may be added, if need were, the frequent (shall I say?) or infinite use of the phrases, bound and loosed, which we meet with thousands of times over. But from these allegations, the reader sees abundantly enough both the frequency and the common use of this phrase, and the sense of it also; namely, first, that it is used in doctrine, and in judgments, concerning things allowed or not allowed in the law. Secondly, That to bind is the same with to forbid, or to declare forbidden. To think that Christ, when he used the common phrase, was not understood by his hearers in the common and vulgar sense, shall I call it a matter of laughter or of madness?
To this, therefore, do these words amount: When the time was come, wherein the Mosaic law, as to some part of it, was to be abolished and left off; and as to another part of it, was to be continued, and to last for ever: he granted Peter here, and to the rest of the apostles, chapter 18:18, a power to abolish or confirm what they thought good, and as they thought good, being taught this and led by the Holy Spirit: as if he should say, "Whatsoever ye shall bind in the law of Moses, that is, forbid, it shall be forbidden, the Divine authority confirming it; and whatsoever ye shall loose, that is, permit, or shall teach, that it is permitted and lawful, shall be lawful and permitted."
Hence they bound, that is, forbade, circumcision to the believers; eating of things offered to idols, of things strangled, and of blood for a time to the Gentiles; and that which they bound on earth was confirmed in heaven. They loosed, that is, allowed purification to Paul, and to four other brethren, for the shunning of scandal, Acts 21:24: and in a word, by these words of Christ it was committed to them, the Holy Spirit directing that they should make decrees concerning religion, as to the use or rejection of Mosaic rite and judgments, and that either for a time or for ever.
Let the words be applied, by way of paraphrase, to the matter that was transacted at present with Peter: "I am about to build a Gentile church (saith Christ); and to thee, O Peter, do I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that thou mayest first open the door of faith to them; but if thou askest, by what rule that church is to be governed, when the Mosaic rule may seem so improper for it, thou shalt be so guided by the Holy Spirit, that whatsoever of the law of Moses thou shalt forbid them shall be forbidden; whatsoever thou grantest them shall be granted, and that under a sanction made in heaven."
Hence in that instant, when he should use his keys, that is, when he was now ready to open the gate of the gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10:28, he was taught from heaven, that the consorting of the Jew with the Gentile, which before had been bound, was now loosed; and the eating of any creature convenient for food was now loosed, which before had been bound; and he, in like manner, looses both these.
Those words of our Saviour, John 20:23, "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted to them," for the most part are forced to the same sense with these before us; when they carry quite another sense. Here the business is of doctrine only, not of persons; there of persons, not of doctrine: here of things lawful or unlawful in religion to be determined by the apostles; there of persons obstinate or not obstinate, to be punished by them, or not to be punished.
As to doctrine, the apostles were doubly instructed: 1. So long sitting at the feet of their Master, they had imbibed the evangelical doctrine. 2. The Holy Spirit directing them, they were to determine concerning the legal doctrine and practice; being completely instructed and enabled in both by the Holy Spirit descending upon them. As to their persons, they were endowed with a peculiar gift, so that the same Spirit directing them, if they would retain and punish the sins of any, a power was delivered into their hands of delivering to Satan, of punishing with diseases, plagues, yea, death itself; which Peter did to Ananias and Sapphira; Paul to Elymas, Hymeneus, and Philetus, &c.
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