Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.Ch. 9:1.] See onMatt.
ὧδε τῶν ἑστ.] there are some here of the standers-by. Remember, our Lord was speaking to the multitude with his disciples.
2-13.] The Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-13.Luke 9:28-36Luk_9:28-36. Here again, while Matt. and Mark’s accounts seem to have one and the same source, they have deflected from it, and additional particulars have found their way into our text. Luke’s account is from a different source. If we might conjecture, Peter has furnished the accounts in Matt. and Mark:—this latter being retouched,—perhaps by himself: while that of Luke may have had another origin. The additional particulars in our text are,—the very graphic and noble description in ver. 3, στίλβ … λευκᾶναι, and οὐ γὰρ ἤδει τί ἀποκρ … ἔκφοβοι. Mark omits ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα, Matt. ver. 5.
2.] The omission of an art. before Ἰωάννην serves to bind together the pair of brothers.
3.] ἐγένοντο is of itself a graphic touch, bringing out the glistening of each separate portion of His clothing.
8. οὐδένα] none of those who appeared, but (sondern, ‘nay, on the contrary’) Jesus alone. 9-13.
9-13.] Two remarkable additions occur in our text;—ver. 10, which indicates apostolic authority, and that of one of the Three;—and καὶ … ἐξουδ. in ver. 12.
10. τ. λ. ἐκράτ.] Not, ‘they kept the command:’—for συνζητ. explains it to mean kept secret the saying, as in ref. Dan.
τί ἐστιν τὸ ἐκ ν. ἀν. does not refer to the Resurrection generally, for it was an article of Jewish belief, and connected with the times of the Messiah;—but to His Resurrection as connected with His Death; the whole was enigmatical to them.
11.] The ὅτι may be merely recitantis, ‘they asked him, saying (that) the Scribes say, that Elias must first come:’ leaving ἐπηρώτων to find its application in the difficulty thus suggested by them. But it is better to take it in the unusual sense (undoubted there) of ver. 28 [see Moulton on Winer, p. 208, note 4]: see further on in this note.
12.] Meyer and others place the interrogation after τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, and regard ἵνα πολ.… as its answer. But not to mention that such a sentence would be without example in our Lord’s discourses, the sense given by it is meagre in the extreme. As it stands in the text, it forms a counter-question to that of the Apostles in ver. 11. They asked, How say the Scribes that Elias must first come? Our Lord answers it by telling them that it is even so; and returns the question by another: And how is it (also) written of the Son of Man, that He, &c.? then comes the conclusion in ver. 13 with ἀλλὰ λέγω ὑμῖν, stating that Elias has come, and leaving it therefore to be inferred that the sufferings of the Son of Man were close at hand. Notice how the γέγρ. ἐπʼ αὐτόν binds both together. Just as the first coming of the Son of Man is to suffer and to die, so has the first coming of Elias been as it was written of him; but there is a future coming of Elias ἀποκαθιστάνειν πάντα, and of the Son of Man in glory. See further in notes on Matt. The first καί in ver. 13 is also, binding what is said of Elias to that which has been said of the Son of Man: the second καί is simply and.
[On the various forms of ἐξου. see Moulton on Winer, p. 113, note 2.]
14-29.] Healing of a possessed lunatic. Matthew 17:14-21.Luke 9:37-42Luk_9:37-42. The account of Mark is by far the most copious: and here, which is very rarely the case in the official life of our Lord, the three accounts appear to have been originally different and independent. The descent from the mountain was on the day following the transfiguration, Luke ver. 37.
14.] The Scribes were probably boasting over the disciples, and reasoning from their inability to that of their Master also.
As Stier remarks, there is hardly such another contrast to be found in the Gospel as this, between the open heaven and the sons of glory on the mount, and the valley of tears with its terrible forms of misery and pain and unbelief. I have already in the notes to Matt. spoken of the noble use made of this contrast in the last and grandest picture of the greatest of painters—the Transfiguration of Raffaelle.
15.] The Lord’s countenance probably retained traces of the glory on the mount; so strong a word as ἐξεθαμβήθησαν would hardly have been used merely of their surprise at His sudden approach: see Exodus 34:29, Exodus 34:30. That brightness, however, terrified the people: this attracts them: see 2Corinthians 3:7-18.
16.] αὐτούς (1st), them, i.e. ‘the multitude,’ regarding the Scribes as a part of the ὄχλος. One of the multitude answers.
17. πρός σε] i.e. intended to do so, not being aware of His absence. From Luke, ver. 38, we learn that this was his only son.
ἄλαλον, causing deafness and dumbness, and fits of epilepsy: see Luke 11:14.
18. ξηρ.] wastes or pines away, as E. V., or perhaps becomes dry or stiff. ἵνα
ἵναcombines the purpose of the εἶπα with the purport: see note on 1Corinthians 14:13.
19. γενεά] not addressed to the man, as unbelieving,—nor to the disciples,—but generally, to the race and generation among whom the Lord’s ministry was fulfilled. The additional words καὶ διεστραμμένη (Matt. Luke) are probably from Deuteronomy 32:5: see further ib. ver. 20, where ἄπιστος is also expressed by νἱοὶ οἷς οὐκ ἔστι πίστις ἐν αὐτοῖς. The question is not asked in a spirit of longing to be gone from them, but of holy impatience of their hardness of heart and unbelief. In this the father, disciples, Scribes, and multitude are equally involved.
20.] ἰδών is out of strict concord with πνεῦμα, but has regard to its personal signification: see also ver. 26 below. This construction is often found in the Apocalypse (reff.).
“The kingdom of Satan, in small and great, is ever stirred into a fiercer activity by the coming near of the kingdom of Christ. Satan has great wrath, when his time is short.” (Trench, Mir. 365.)
Vv. 21-27 are peculiar to Mark.
21.] The Lord takes occasion to enquire thus of the father, to bring in the trial of his faith.
22.] See Matt. ver. 15.
εἴ τι δύνῃ] This bespeaks, if any faith, at most but a very ignorant and weak one.
ἡμᾶς] The wretched father counts his child’s misery his own: thus the Syrophœnician woman, Matthew 15:25, βοήθει μοι.
23.] In τὸ εἰ δ. [πισ.], the τό involves the sense in some difficulty. The most probable rendering is to make it designatory of the whole sentence, Jesus said to him the saying, “If thou canst believe, all things are,” &c.: a saying which doubtless He often uttered on similar occasions, Kuinoel quotes a similar construction from Polyænus, iii. 9. 11, Ἰφικράτης ὑπολαβὼν ἔφη τὸ τίς ἂν ἤλπισε τοῦτο ἔσεσθαι. Some (e.g. .) omitting the πιστεῦσαι would set an interrogation after δύνῃ, and suppose our Lord to be citing the father’s words: “didst thou say, ‘if thou canst?’—all things are,” &c. Others, as Dr. Burton, suppose it to mean τὸ ‘εἰ δύνῃʼ πίστευσαι’ (imperative):—‘Believe what you have expressed by your εἴ τι δύνῃ, &c.’ But both these renderings involve methods of construction and expression not usual in the Gospels. The εἰ δύνῃ is a manifest reference to the εἴ τι δύνῃ before, and meant to convey a reproof, as the father’s answer testifies. The sentence, also, unless I am mistaken, is meant to convey an intimation that the healing was not to be an answer to the εἴ τι δύνῃ, so that the Lord’s power was to be challenged and proved,—but an answer to faith, which (of course by laying hold on Him who πάντα δύναται) can do all things.
24.] Nothing can be more touching and living than this whole most masterly and wonderful narrative. The poor father is drawn out into a sense of the unworthiness of his distrust, and “the little spark of faith which is kindled in his soul reveals to him the abysmal deeps of unbelief which are there.” (Trench, p. 367.) “Thus,” remarks Olshausen (B. Comm. i. 534), “does the Redeemer shew himself to the father as a μαιευτὴς πίστεως first, before He heals his son. In the struggle of his anxiety, the strength of Faith is born, by the aid of Christ, in the soul empty of it before.”
There is strong analogy in the Lord’s treatment of the father here, for the sponsorial engagement in infant baptism. The child is by its infirmity incapacitated; it is therefore the father’s faith which is tested, and when that is proved, the child is healed. The fact is, that the analogy rests far deeper: viz. on the ‘inclusion’ of ‘the old man’ in Adam and the ‘new man’ in Christ: see Romans 5:12-21. It may be well to remind the reader that there is nothing “more pathetic and expressive” (Wordsw.) in μου τῇ ἀποστίᾳ than in τ. ἀπ. μου: see on Matthew 16:18.
25.] This took place at a distance from the crowd, among those who had run forward to meet our Lord, ver. 15.
ἐγὼ ἐπ. σοί] The personal pronoun is emphatic, as opposed to the want of power on the part of the disciples. This is the only place where we have such a charge as μηκέτι εἰσέλθ. εἰς αὐ.,—shewing the excessive malignity and tenacity of this kind (see ver. 29) of spirit. This is also shewn by ver. 26.
29.] The answer is given more at length in Matt. ver. 20, and the Lord there distinctly includes the disciples in the γενεὰ ἄπιστος, by telling them διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν ὑμῶν. The assurance also occurs there, which was repeated Matthew 21:21, where see notes.
τοῦτο τὸ γένος] That there are kinds, more and less malicious, of evil spirits, we find from Matthew 12:45—and the pertinacity and cruelty of this one shewed him to belong to the worst kind. The Lord’s saying here (if the doubtful words are to stand) is rather for their after guidance, than their present; for they could not fast while He was with them, ch. 2:19.
33-50.] Discourse respecting the greatest among them. Matthew 18:1-9. Luke 9:46-50. Here again the three accounts are independent, and differ in some particulars unimportant in themselves, but very instructive for a right comparison of the three Gospels. First take Luke’s account.—The disciples had been disputing;—our Lord knowing the strife of their hearts, took a child, &c.—Then compare Mark—our Lord asked them, on coming into a house, what had been the subject of their dispute;—they were silent from shame;—He sat down, delivered his sentence to the twelve,—and then took the child, &c.—Lastly turn to Matt. There, the disciples themselves referred the question to our Lord, and He took the child, &c. Who can forbear seeing in these narratives the unfettered and independent testimony of three witnesses, consistent with one another in the highest form and spirit of truthfulness, but differing in the mere letter? Mark’s account is again the richest and fullest, and we can hardly doubt that if the literal exact detail of fact is in question, we have it here.
33.] Between the coming to Capernaum, and this discourse, happened the demand of the tribute money, Matthew 17:24-27.
34.] There is no real difference in the matter in question here (and in Luke), and in Matt. The kingdom of heaven was looked on as about soon to appear: and their relative rank now would be assumed as their relative rank then. The difference in the expression of this is a mark of independence and authority.
35.] See Matthew 20:26, and note.
36. ἐναγκ. αὐτό] This particular we learn from Mark.
37.] See Matthew 10:40.
38.] Only found besides in Luke, vv. 49, 50.
Notice the repetition of οὐκ ἀκολ. ἡμ. as characteristic of Mark. The connexion of this remark with what goes before, is: ‘If the receiving any one, even a little child, in thy Name, be receiving Thee; were we doing right when we forbade one who used thy Name, but did not follow us?’ “Observent hoc,” says Bengel, “qui charismata alligant successioni canonicæ.” This man actually did what the very Apostles themselves were specially appointed to do: and our Lord, so far from prohibiting, encourages him: see Numbers 11:26-29.
39.] See 1Corinthians 12:3. The very success of the miracle will awe him, and prevent him from soon or lightly speaking evil of me.
We must beware of supposing that the application of this saying is to be confined to the working of a miracle—ver. 40 shews that it is general—a weighty maxim of Christian toleration and charity, and caution to men how they presume to limit the work of the Spirit of God to any sect, or succession, or outward form of Church: cf. Philippians 1:16-18. See the way in which the nearly opposite inference is extracted from the words, in the very curious note of Bp. Wordsw. here.
40.] This saying is not inconsistent with that in Matthew 12:30. They do not refer to the same thing. This is said of outward conformity—that, of inward unity of purpose—two widely different things. On that saying, see note there. On this, we may say—all those who, notwithstanding outward differences of communion and government, believe in and preach Jesus Christ, without bitterly and uncharitably opposing each other, are hereby declared to be helpers forward of each other’s work. O that all Christians would remember this! Stier (Red. J. iii. 24) strongly deprecates the reading ἡμῶν—ἡμῶν; “The us in the mouth of our Lord here confuses and destroys nearly the whole purport of his weighty saying. For this is the very fault of the disciples, that they laid down outward and visible communion with them as the decisive criterion of communion with the Lord: and this very fault the Lord rebukes with his repudiatory ὑμῶν.” Still, there is a propriety, a tempering the rebuke with a gracious reminiscence of their unity with Him, and something exceedingly suiting the χριστοῦ ἐστέ below, in ἡμῶν—ἡμῶν. In the divided state of the critical evidence, the reading must be ever doubtful.
41.] This verse does not take up the discourse from ver. 37, as some think, but is immediately connected with ver. 40:—‘Even the smallest service done in my Name shall not be unrewarded—much more should not so great an one as casting out of devils be prohibited.’
ἐν ὀνόματι ὅτι signifies by reason that, but not without an allusion to τ. ὄνομά μου, which furnishes the reason.
42.] See Matthew 18:6.
43-48.] These solemn repetitions of former declarations (see Matthew 5:29; Matthew 18:8, Matthew 18:9) are by no means to be regarded as arbitrary insertions by this or that Evangelist, but as the truth of what was uttered by our Lord: see Prolegomena.
Vv. 44, 46, 48 are only in Mark; they are cited from Isaiah (see reff.), where the prophecy is of the carcases of those who have transgressed against the Lord. This triple repetition gives sublimity, and leaves no doubt of the discourse having been verbatim thus uttered. See note on Matthew 5:22.
49.] In order to understand this difficult verse, it will be necessary first to examine its connexion and composition. (1) What is γάρ? It connects it with the solemn assertions in vv. 43-48, καλόν ἐστίν σε … and furnishes a reason why it is better for us to cut off and cast away, &c. πᾶς then is every one, absolutely: referring back both to the σε, and the αὐτῶν above—πᾶσα θυσία is (not opposed to (Meyer), but) parallel with πᾶς, and καί equivalent to just as. (2) This being stated, let us now enquire into the symbolic terms used. Fire is the refiner’s fire of Malachi 3:2, to which indeed there seems to be a reference; the fire of Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3; of Ezekiel 28:14 (see my Hulsean Lectures for 1841, pp. 9-12). Fire is the symbol of the divine purity and presence:—our God is a consuming fire, not only to his foes, but to his people: but in them, the fire shall only burn up what is impure and requires purifying out, 1Corinthians 3:13: 1Peter 1:7; 1Peter 4:12, 1Peter 4:17. This very fire shall be to them as a preserving salt. The salt of the covenant of God (ref. Levit.) was to be mixed with every sacrifice; and it is with fire that all men are to be salted. This fire is the divine purity and judgment in the covenant, whose promise is, ‘I will dwell among them.’ And in and among this purifying fire shall the people of God ever walk and rejoice everlastingly. Revelation 21:23. This is the right understanding of Isaiah 33:14, Isaiah 33:15, ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? &c. He that walketh in righteousness,’ &c. And thus the connexion with the preceding verses is,—‘it is better for thee to cut off,’ &c.—‘for it is part of the salting of thee, the living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), that every offence and scandal must be burnt out of thee before thou canst enter into life.’
50.] The connexion of this (elsewhere said in other references, Matthew 5:13: Luke 14:34) is now plain. If this fire which is to purify and act as a preserving salt to you, have, from the nullity and vapidity of the grace of the covenant in you, no such power,—it can only consume—the salt has lost its savour—the covenant is void—you will be cast out, as it is elsewhere added, and the fire will be no longer the fire of purification, but of wrath eternal.
I will just add that the interpretation of the sacrifice as the condemned—and the fire and salt as eternal fire,—except in the case of the salt having lost its savour, is contrary to the whole symbolism of Scripture, and to the exhortation with which this verse ends: ‘Have this grace of God—this Spirit of adoption—this pledge of the covenant, in yourselves;—and,’ with reference to the strife out of which the discourse sprung,—‘have peace with one another.’