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§ 167. Christ Warns his Disciples against the Pharisees.—The Power of Divine Truth. (Luke, xi., 52; xii., 3.)

It is probable that the conversation, commenced at the breakfast—table, was continued in the open air;443443   We see from Luke, xi., 53, compared with xii., 1, that the conversation was continued. The transition is not managed with the art that we should look for in a fictitious narrative; had Luke invented the dialogue, he would hardly have joined so awkwardly, without any connecting link, the table conversation with the discourse afterward delivered to the multitude. Bet our assertion that Luke, in describing the table-talk with what preceded and followed, has actually given us a real scene from the life of Christ, does not imply there is nothing in the statement that belongs in another place. Things are repeated here which we find often in both Matthew and Luke. The case was probably as follows: an original body of discourse, e.g., the Sermon on the Mount, a conversation on some special occasion, at table or elsewhere, was handed down and written, subsequently, in particular memoirs. Other separate expressions, not specifically connected with them, were also handed down, and were incorporated in suitable places in the larger discourses, the more effectually to secure their preservation and transmission. Such may have been the case in the passage before us; e.g., xi., 49, for example, which is given, in its original form, in Christ’s last anti-Pharisaic discourse, Matt., xxiii., 34. the irritated Pharisees interrogated him anew, seeking, by captious questions, to find some handle by which to gratify their malice and secure the vengeance which they hoped to wreak upon him. A multitude of other persons gathered; groups were formed around Christ; and the Pharisees finally withdrew. The Saviour then addressed himself to the immediate circle of his disciples, and gave them warnings and cautions, probably occasioned by the recent machinations of the Pharisees. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy;” a leaven which impregnates all that comes from them, and poisons all who come in contact with them. They were to be on their guard; to trust no appearances; the hostile aim was there, even when carefully concealed. All their acts alike were poisoned by hypocrisy; against them all it would be necessary to watch.444444   We do not know how far the leaven of the Pharisees did succeed in poisoning the heart of an Iscariot. The caution in the text was obviously occasioned by the pretended friendship of the Pharisee who invited Christ to breakfast, and by the captious questions put to him under pretence of securing his opinions on important points. We do not find the passage in as original a form in Matt., xvi., 6; the Pharisees are connected (as is often done in Matt.) with the Sadducees; a connexion, as we have remarked before, not natural or probable. It is difficult to conceive how Christ could have connected the doctrine of the Pharisees with that of the Sadducees; or how he could have warned his disciples against the influence of the latter, to which, from their own religious stand-point, and the circle of society in which they moved, they certainly were not exposed. Schneckenburger (Stud. d. Geist. Würtemb., vi., 1, 48), indeed, says that the doctrine of the Pharisees could not have been alluded to either, because Christ recommends the latter himself (Matt., xxiii., 3). But we cannot agree with him; Christ’s object, in the passage quoted, is to contrast the rigid precepts of the Pharisees with their practice. It was the example of their life that the disciples were to guard against; but as their righteousness was to exceed that of the Pharisees, they were enjoined to live up even to the strict precepts of that sect, so that none might be able to accuse them of violating the law. But surely there was nothing in this inconsistent with opposition, on Christ’s part, to the doctrines of the Pharisees in other respects; and proofs of such opposition abound in the Evangelists. It is possible, from the connexion in Matt., that Christ may. have given his warning in view of Pharisaic ideas of the kingdom of God and of the signs of its appearance, and that the figure of the leaven may have been intended to apply to this; but yet it is more natural to explain it as alluding (in Luke’s sense) to the hypocrisy of the sect, which Christ had just before condemned. In Mark, viii., 15, indeed, no other sense is admissible; the disciples might be warned against the hypocrisy of Herod Antipas, but not against his doctrine. It may, indeed, be said that Luke’s version is the original one; that Matthew, as was usual with him, added Sadducees to Pharisees; and that Mark, finding this unsuitable, substituted Herod. In answer to this, Christ may have employed the phrase more than once. In the case of Herod, the caution was not uncalled for; the disciples might have been deceived by his wish to see Jesus, although he wished it with no good intentions. Mark probably employed a different and original account; and, in the nature of the case, the substitution of the Sadducees for Herod was unlikely: it is not known that Herod was a Pharisee.


After this note of warning, which probably perturbed their minds, he allowed them, for their comfort, to catch a glimpse of the coming triumphs of the kingdom of God, and of the victories which his truth should achieve. The craft of men, he told them, should not check its progress; it should make its way by the power of God. His truth, as yet veiled and covered, was to be brought to the knowledge of all men. “For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops (the flat roofs of Eastern dwellings).”445445   In Matt., x., 26, 27, these words are incorporated into the discourse at the mission of the Apostles, in which several other passages are out of place. Their form is probably more accurately given in Matt. than in Luke; in the former, it is what they hear that is to be proclaimed; in the latter, what they speak; for at that time the disciples themselves did not fully understand and utter the truth among themselves. It was only to become plain to them at a later period. And with this promise, too, is connected an exhortation to firmness and steadfastness in their struggles for the truth: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body,”446446   Other things are added, after Luke, xii., 5, probably out of their proper connexion; especially the “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” of which we have spoken before (p. 243). I cannot adopt the interpretation of Schleiermacher, which is adapted to the passage as if this were its proper place. &c.

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