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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 15)

15:1 {From Jerusalem} (\apo Ierosolumōn\). Jerusalem is the
headquarters of the conspiracy against Jesus with the Pharisees
as the leaders in it. Already we have seen the Herodians
combining with the Pharisees in the purpose to put Jesus to death
(Mr 3:6; Mt 12:14; Lu 6:11). Soon Jesus will warn the disciples
against the Sadducees also (Mt 16:6). Unusual order here,
"Pharisees and scribes." "The guardians of tradition in the
capital have their evil eye on Jesus and co-operate with the
provincial rigorists" (Bruce), if the Pharisees were not all from

15:2 {The tradition of the elders} (\tēn paradosin tōn
. This was the oral law, handed down by the elders
of the past in _ex cathedra_ fashion and later codified in the
Mishna. Handwashing before meals is not a requirement of the Old
Testament. It is, we know, a good thing for sanitary reasons, but
the rabbis made it a mark of righteousness for others at any
rate. This item was magnified at great length in the oral
teaching. The washing (\niptontai\, middle voice, note) of the
hands called for minute regulations. It was commanded to wash the
hands before meals, it was one's duty to do it after eating. The
more rigorous did it between the courses. The hands must be
immersed. Then the water itself must be "clean" and the cups or
pots used must be ceremonially "clean." Vessels were kept full of
clean water ready for use (Joh 2:6-8). So it went on _ad
infinitum_. Thus a real issue is raised between Jesus and the
rabbis. It was far more than a point of etiquette or of
hygienics. The rabbis held it to be a mortal sin. The incident
may have happened in a Pharisee's house.

15:3 {Ye also} (\kai h–meis\). Jesus admits that the disciples
had transgressed the rabbinical traditions. Jesus treats it as a
matter of no great importance in itself save as they had put the
tradition of the elders in the place of the commandment of God.
When the two clashed, as was often the case, the rabbis
transgress the commandment of God "because of your tradition"
(\dia tēn paradosin h–mōn\). The accusative with \dia\ means
that, not "by means of." Tradition is not good or bad in itself.
It is merely what is handed on from one to another. Custom tended
to make these traditions binding like law. The Talmud is a
monument of their struggle with tradition. There could be no
compromise on this subject and Jesus accepts the issue. He stands
for real righteousness and spiritual freedom, not for bondage to
mere ceremonialism and tradition. The rabbis placed tradition
(the oral law) above the law of God.

15:5 {But ye say} (\h–meis de legete\). In sharp contrast to the
command of God. Jesus had quoted the fifth commandment (Ex
with the penalty "die the death" (\thanatōi
, "go on to his end by death," in imitation of the
Hebrew idiom. They dodged this command of God about the penalty
for dishonouring one's father or mother by the use "Corban"
(\korban\) as Mark calls it (Mr 7:11). All one had to do to
evade one's duty to father or mother was to say "Corban" or
"Gift" (\Dōron\) with the idea of using the money for God. By an
angry oath of refusal to help one's parents, the oath or vow was
binding. By this magic word one set himself free (\ou mē
timēsei\, he shall not honour)
from obedience to the fifth
commandment. Sometimes unfilial sons paid graft to the rabbinical
legalists for such dodges. Were some of these very faultfinders

15:6 {Ye have made void the word of God} (\ekurōsate ton logon
tou theou\)
. It was a stinging indictment that laid bare the
hollow pretence of their quibbles about handwashing. \Kuros\
means force or authority, \akuros\ is without authority, null and
void. It is a late verb, \akuroō\ but in the LXX, Gal 3:17; and
in the papyri Adjective, verb, and substantive occur in legal
phraseology like cancelling a will, etc. The moral force of God's
law is annulled by their hairsplitting technicalities and immoral

15:7 {Well did Isaiah prophesy of you} (\kalōs eprophēteusen peri
h–mōn Esaias\)
. There is sarcasm in this pointed application of
Isaiah's words (Isa 29:13) to these rabbis. He "beautifully
pictured" them. The portrait was to the very life, "teaching as
their doctrines the commandments of men." They were indeed far
from God if they imagined that God would be pleased with such
gifts at the expense of duty to one's parents.

15:11 {This defileth the man} (\touto koinoi ton anthrōpon\).
This word is from \koinos\ which is used in two senses, either
what is "common" to all and general like the _Koinē_ Greek, or
what is unclean and "common" either ceremonially or in reality.
The ceremonial "commonness" disturbed Peter on the housetop in
Joppa (Ac 10:14). See also Ac 21:28; Heb 9:13. One who is
thus religiously common or unclean is cut off from doing his
religious acts. "Defilement" was a grave issue with the
rabbinical ceremonialists. Jesus appeals to the crowd here: {Hear
and understand}
(\akouete kai suniete\). He has a profound
distinction to draw. Moral uncleanness is what makes a man
common, defiles him. That is what is to be dreaded, not to be
glossed over. "This goes beyond the tradition of the elders and
virtually abrogates the Levitical distinctions between clean and
unclean" (Bruce). One can see the pettifogging pretenders shrivel
up under these withering words.

15:12 {Were offended} (\eskandalisthēsan\). First aorist passive.
"Were caused to stumble," "have taken offence" (Moffatt), "have
turned against you" (Weymouth), "were shocked" (Goodspeed), "War
ill-pleased" (Braid Scots). They took umbrage at the public
rebuke and at such a scorpion sting in it all. It cut to the
quick because it was true. It showed in the glowering
countenances of the Pharisees so plainly that the disciples were
uneasy. See on ¯5:29.

15:14 {They are blind guides} (\tuphloi eisin hodēgoi\). Graphic
picture. Once in Cincinnati a blind man introduced me to his
blind friend. He said that he was showing him the city. Jesus is
not afraid of the Pharisees. Let them alone to do their worst.
Blind leaders and blind victims will land in the ditch. A
proverbial expression in the O.T.

15:15 {Declare unto us the parable} (\phrason h–min tēn
. Explain the parable (pithy saying) in verse 11,
not in verse 14. As a matter of fact, the disciples had been
upset by Christ's powerful exposure of the "Corban" duplicity and
the words about "defilement" in verse 11.

15:16 {Are ye also even yet without understanding?} (\Akmēn kai
h–meis asunetoi este\)
. \Akmēn\ is an adverbial accusative
(classic \aichmē\, point (of a weapon)=\akmēn chronou\) at this
point of time, just now=\eti\. It occurs in papyri and
inscriptions, though condemned by the old grammarians. "In spite
of all my teaching, are ye also like the Pharisees without
spiritual insight and grasp?" One must never forget that the
disciples lived in a Pharisaic environment. Their religious
world-outlook was Pharisaic. They were lacking in spiritual
intelligence or sense, "totally ignorant" (Moffatt).

15:17 {Perceive ye not?} (\ou noeite\). Christ expects us to make
use of our \nous\, intellect, not for pride, but for insight. The
mind does not work infallibly, but we should use it for its
God-given purpose. Intellectual laziness or flabbiness is no
credit to a devout soul.

15:18 {Out of the mouth} (\ek tou stomatos\). Spoken words come
out of the heart and so are a true index of character. By "heart"
(\kardias\) Jesus means not just the emotional nature, but the
entire man, the inward life of "evil thoughts" (\dialogismoi
that issue in words and deeds. "These defile the man,"
not "eating with unwashed hands." The captious quibblings of the
Pharisees, for instance, had come out of evil hearts.

15:22 {A Canaanitish woman} (\gunē Chananaia\). The Phoenicians
were descended from the Canaanites, the original inhabitants of
Palestine. They were of Semitic race, therefore, though pagan.
{Have pity on me} (\eleēson me\). She made her daughter's case
her own, "badly demonized."

15:23 {For she crieth after us} (\hoti krazei opisthen hēmōn\).
The disciples greatly disliked this form of public attention, a
strange woman crying after them. They disliked a sensation. Did
they wish the woman sent away with her daughter healed or

15:24 {I was not sent} (\ouk apestalēn\). Second aorist passive
indicative of \apostellō\. Jesus takes a new turn with this woman
in Phoenicia. He makes a test case of her request. In a way she
represented the problem of the Gentile world. He calls the Jews
"the lost sheep of the house of Israel" in spite of the conduct
of the Pharisees.

15:27 {Even the dogs} (\kai ta kunaria\). She took no offence at
the implication of being a Gentile dog. The rather she with quick
wit took Christ's very word for little dogs (\kunaria\) and
deftly turned it to her own advantage, for the little dogs eat of
the crumbs (\psichiōn\, little morsels, diminutive again) that
fall from the table of their masters (\kuriōn\), the children.

15:28 {As thou wilt} (\hōs theleis\). Her great faith and her
keen rejoinder won her case.

15:29 {And sat there} (\ekathēto ekei\). "Was sitting there" on
the mountain side near the sea of Galilee, possibly to rest and
to enjoy the view or more likely to teach.

15:30 {And they cast them down at his feet} (\kai eripsan autous
para tous podas autou\)
. A very strong word, flung them down,
"not carelessly, but in haste, because so many were coming on the
same errand" (Vincent). It was a great day for "they glorified
the God of Israel."

15:32 {Three days} (\hēmerai treis\). A parenthetic nominative
(Robertson, _Grammar_, p. 460). {What to eat} (\ti phagōsin\).
Indirect question with the deliberative subjunctive retained. In
the feeding of the five thousand Jesus took compassion on the
people and healed their sick (14:14). Here the hunger of the
multitude moves him to compassion (\splagchnizomai\, in both
. So he is unwilling (\ou thelō\) to send them away
hungry. {Faint} (\ekluthōsin\). Unloosed, (\ekluō\) exhausted.

15:33 {And the disciples say to him} (\kai legousin autōi hoi
. It seems strange that they should so soon have
forgotten the feeding of the five thousand (Mt 14:13-21), but
they did. Soon Jesus will remind them of both these
demonstrations of his power (16:9,10). They forgot both of
them, not just one. Some scholars scout the idea of two miracles
so similar as the feeding of the five thousand and the four
thousand, though both are narrated in detail by both Mark and
Matthew and both are later mentioned by Jesus. Jesus repeated his
sayings and wrought multitudes of healings. There is no reason in
itself why Jesus should not on occasion repeat a nature miracle
like this elsewhere. He is in the region of Decapolis, not in the
country of Philip (\Trachonitis\).

15:34 {A few small fishes} (\oliga ichthudia\, diminutive again).

15:35 {On the ground} (\epi tēn gēn\). No mention of "grass" as
in 14:19 for this time, midsummer, the grass would be parched
and gone.

15:36 {Gave thanks} (\eucharistēsas\). In 14:19 the word used
for "grace" or "blessing" is \eulogēsen\. Vincent notes that the
Jewish custom was for the head of the house to say the blessing
only if he shared the meal unless the guests were his own
household. But we need not think of Jesus as bound by the
peccadilloes of Jewish customs.

15:39 {The borders of Magadan} (\eis ta horia Magadan\). On the
eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and so in Galilee again. Mark
terms it Dalmanutha (Mr 8:10). Perhaps after all the same place
as Magdala, as most manuscripts have it.

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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 15)