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Chapter 20

20:1 For [gar]. The parable of the house illustrates the aphorism in 19:30. A man that is a householder [anthrōpōi oikodespotēi]. Just like [anthrōpōi basilei] (18:23). Not necessary to translate [anthrōpōi], just “a householder.”

Early in the morning [hama prōi]. A classic idiom. [Hama] as an “improper” preposition is common in the papyri. [Prōi] is just an adverb in the locative. At the same time with early dawn, break of day, country fashion for starting to work. To hire [misthōsasthai]. The middle voice aorist tense, to hire for oneself.

20:2 For a penny a day [ek dēnariou tēn hēmeran]. See on 18:28. “Penny” is not adequate, “shilling” Moffatt has it. The [ek] with the ablative represents the agreement [sunphōnēsas] with the workmen [ergatōn]. “The day” the Greek has it, an accusative of extent of time.

20:3 Standing in the marketplace idle [hestōtas agorāi argous]. The market place was the place where men and masters met for bargaining. At Hamadan in Persia, Morier in Second Journey through Persia, as cited by Trench in his Parables, says: “We observed every morning, before the sun rose, that a numerous band of peasants were collected, with spades in their hands, waiting to be hired for the day to work in the surrounding fields.”

20:4 Whatsoever is right [ho ean ēi dikaion]. “Is fair” (Allen), not anything he pleased, but a just proportionate wage. Indefinite relative with subjunctive [ean=an].

20:6 All the day idle [holēn tēn hēmeran argoi]. Extent of time (accusative) again. [Argoi] is [a] privative and [ergon], work, no work. The problem of the unemployed.

20:10 Every man a penny [ana dēnarion kai autoi]. Literally, “themselves also a denarius apiece” (distributive use of [ana]. Bruce asks if this householder was a humorist when he began to pay off the last first and paid each one a denarius according to agreement. False hopes had been raised in those who came first who got only what they had agreed to receive.

20:11 They murmured [egogguzon]. Onomatopoetic word, the meaning suiting the sound. Our words murmur and grumble are similar. Probably here inchoative imperfect, began to grumble. It occurs in old Ionic and in the papyri.

20:12 Equal unto us [isous autous hēmin]. Associative instrumental case [hēmin] after [isous]. It was a regular protest against the supposed injustice of the householder. The burden of the day and the scorching wind [to baros tēs hēmeras kai ton kausōna]. These last “did” work for one hour. Apparently they worked as hard as any while at it. A whole day’s work on the part of these sweat-stained men who had stood also the sirocco, the hot, dry, dust-laden east wind that blasted the grain in Pharaoh’s dream (Ge 41:6), that withered Jonah’s gourd (Jon 4:8), that blighted the vine in Ezekiel’s parable (Eze 17:10). They seemed to have a good case.

20:13 To one of them [heni autōn]. Evidently the spokesman of the group. “Friend” [hetaire]. Comrade. So a kindly reply to this man in place of an address to the whole gang. Ge 31:40; Job 27:21; Ho 13:15. The word survives in modern Greek.

20:14 Take up [aron]. First aorist active imperative of [airō]. Pick up, as if he had saucily refused to take it from the table or had contemptuously thrown the denarius on the ground. If the first had been paid first and sent away, there would probably have been no murmuring, but “the murmuring is needed to bring out the lesson” (Plummer). The [dēnarius] was the common wage of a day labourer at that time. What I will [ho thelō]. This is the point of the parable, the will of the householder. With mine own [en tois emois]. In the sphere of my own affairs. There is in the Koinē an extension of the instrumental use of [en].

20:15 Is thine eye evil? [ho ophthalmos sou ponēros estin?] See on 6:22-24 about the evil eye and the good eye. The complainer had a grudging eye while the householder has a liberal or generous eye. See Ro 5:7 for a distinction between [dikaios] and [agathos].

20:16 The last first and the first last [hoi eschātoi prōtoi kai hoi prōtoi eschatoi]. The adjectives change places as compared with 19:30. The point is the same, though this order suits the parable better. After all one’s work does not rest wholly on the amount of time spent on it. “Even so hath Rabbi Bun bar Chija in twenty-eight years wrought more than many studious scholars in a hundred years” (Jer. Berak. ii. 5c).

20:17 Apart [kat’ idian]. This is the prediction in Matthew of the cross (16:21; 17:22; 20:17). “Aside by themselves” (Moffatt). The verb is [parelaben]. Jesus is having his inward struggle (Mr 10:32) and makes one more effort to get the Twelve to understand him.

20:19 And to crucify [kai staurōsai]. The very word now. The details fall on deaf ears, even the point of the resurrection on the third day.

20:20 Then [tote]. Surely an inopportune time for such a request just after the pointed prediction of Christ’s crucifixion. Perhaps their minds had been preoccupied with the words of Jesus (19:28) about their sitting on twelve thrones taking them in a literal sense. The mother of James and John, probably Salome, possibly a sister of the Master’s mother (Joh 19:25), apparently prompted her two sons because of the family relationship and now speaks for them. Asking a certain thing [aitousa ti]. “Asking something,” “plotting perhaps when their Master was predicting” (Bruce). The “something” put forward as a small matter was simply the choice of the two chief thrones promised by Jesus (19:28).

20:22 Ye know not what ye ask [ouk oidate ti aiteisthe]. How often that is true. [Aiteisthe] is indirect middle voice, “ask for yourselves,” “a selfish request.” We are able [dunametha]. Amazing proof of their ignorance and self-confidence. Ambition had blinded their eyes. They had not caught the martyr spirit.

20:23 Ye shall drink [piesthe]. Future middle from [pinō]. Christ’s cup was martyrdom. James was the first of the Twelve to meet the martyr’s death (Ac 12:2) and John the last if reports are true about him. How little they knew what they were saying.

20:24 Moved with indignation [ēganaktēsan]. A strong word for angry resentment. In the papyri. The ten felt that James and John had taken advantage of their relation to Jesus.

20:25 Called them unto him [proskalesamenos autous]. Indirect middle again, calling to him.

20:26 Would become great [hos an thelēi megas genesthai]. Jesus does not condemn the desire to become great. It is a laudable ambition. There are “great ones” [megaloi] among Christians as among pagans, but they do not “lord it over” one another [katakurieuousin], a LXX word and very expressive, or “play the tyrant” [katexousiazousin], another suggestive word. Your minister [h–mōn diakonos]. This word may come from [dia] and [konis] (dust), to raise a dust by one’s hurry, and so to minister. It is a general word for servant and is used in a variety of ways including the technical sense of our “deacon” in Php. 1:1. But it more frequently is applied to ministers of the Gospel (1Co 3:5). The way to be “first” [prōtos], says Jesus, is to be your “servant” [doulos], “bond-servant” (verse 27). This is a complete reversal of popular opinion then and now.

20:28 A ransom for many [lutron anti pollōn]. The Son of man is the outstanding illustration of this principle of self-abnegation in direct contrast to the self-seeking of James and John. The word translated “ransom” is the one commonly employed in the papyri as the price paid for a slave who is then set free by the one who bought him, the purchase money for manumitting slaves. See examples in Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary and Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East, pp. 328f. There is the notion of exchange also in the use of [anti]. Jesus gave his own life as the price of freedom for the slaves of sin. There are those who refuse to admit that Jesus held this notion of a substitutionary death because the word in the N.T. occurs only here and the corresponding passage in Mr 10:45. But that is an easy way to get rid of passages that contradict one’s theological opinions. Jesus here rises to the full consciousness of the significance of his death for men.

20:29 From Jericho [apo Iereichō]. So Mr 10:46. But Luke (Lu 18:35) places the incident as they were drawing near to Jericho [eis Iereichō]. It is probable that Mark and Matthew refer to the old Jericho, the ruins of which have been discovered, while Luke alludes to the new Roman Jericho. The two blind men were apparently between the two towns. Mark (Mr 10:46) and Luke (Lu 18:35) mention only one blind man, Bartimaeus (Mark). In Kentucky there are two towns about a half mile apart both called Pleasureville (one Old Pleasureville, the other New Pleasureville).

20:30 That Jesus was passing by [hoti Iēsous paragei]. These men “were sitting by the wayside” [kathēmenoi para ten hodon] at their regular stand. They heard the crowd yelling that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by [paragei], present indicative of direct discourse retained in the indirect). It was their one opportunity, now or never. They had heard of what he had done for other blind men. They hail him as “the son of David” (the Messiah). It is just one of many such incidents when Jesus stood still and opened their eyes, so many that even the multitude was impatient with the cries of these poor men that their eyes be opened [anoigōsin], second aorist passive subjunctive).

20:34 Touched their eyes [hēpsato tōn ommatōn]. A synonym for [ophthalmōn] in Mr 8:23 and here alone in the N.T. In the LXX and a common poetic word (Euripides) and occurs in the papyri. In modern Greek [matia mou] (abbreviation) means “light of my eye,” “my darling.” The verb [haptomai] is very common in the Synoptic Gospels. The touch of Christ’s hand would sooth the eyes as they were healed.

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