Matthew 13
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

CHAPTER 13:1–51

(Parallels: Mark 4:1–20, 30–34; Luke 8:4–15; 13:18–21.)

CONTENTS:—The parable of the sower; or, first parable concerning the kingdom of heaven: Its institution by the Word. The teaching of Jesus concerning parables.—Second parable: the tares among the wheat; or, the seed of the Spirit and the heresies.—Third parable: the grain of mustard-seed; or, the spread of the Church.—Fourth parable: the woman and the leaven; or, the Christianization and evangelization of the world.—Fifth parable: the treasure hid in the field; or, invisible salvation hid within the visible Church.—Sixth parable: the pearl of great price; or, Christianity as the highest spiritual good in the world.—Seventh parable: the net full of fishes; or, the judgment which ushers in the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven.


[LITERATURE ON THE PARABLES.—UNGER: De parabolarum Jesu nature, interpretations, usu. Lips., 1828. F. G. LISCO: The Parables of Jesus, Berlin, 1831. and later. ARNDT: The Parables of Jesus Christ (16 Meditations), Magdeb., 1842. E. GRISWELL: Exposition of the Parables and of other parts of the Gospels, Lond., 1839, vols. 6 RICHARD CHENEVIX TRENCH (now archbishop of Dublin): Notes on the Parables of our Lord, 9th ed., Lond., 1863 (a former edition reprinted in New York). A very useful and deservedly popular book. Special introductory essays on the Parable by Dr. LANGE in Herzog’s Encycl., sub Gleichniss vol v., p. 182 sqq., and another in Schneider’s Deutsche Zei schrift für christl. Wissenschaft, etc., for 1856; by Card. WISEMAN in his Misc. Essays; by Dr. GERHART in the “Mercersburg Review,” etc. Among the commentators of the Gospels. OLSHAUSEN and STIER (Words of Jesus) are especially rich on the Parables. For older works on the Parables and the exposition of particular Parables, see DANZ and WINER in their Manuals of Theol. Liter., sub verbo Purabel; HEUBNER: Comment, on Matthew, p. 181; and TRENCH: Notes, etc., pp. 494 and 495 (6th Lond. ed.).—P. S.]

1. The Evangelist Matthew combines the seven parables of the Lord concerning the development of the kingdom of heaven into a connected series, and at first sight creates the impression that they were uttered on the same day. But we must remember, that on that day Jesus had already been engaged in another great work, and that Matthew himself intimates at least two distinct pauses between the different parables (comp. Mark 4:10). But according to Mark (4:1 seq.; comp. Matthew 13:35 and Matt. 8:18 seq.), three of these parables—that of the sower, that of the grain of mustard-seed, and between them the beautiful parable concerning the natural growth of the seed—had been taught by Jesus at an earlier period, viz., on the day when He passed over to Gadara and calmed the storm. Luke records the parable of the sower together with the calming of the storm at sea somewhat later (Luke 8:5 seq.; 22 seq.; comp. Matt. 8:23 seq.). Hence we must not look here for a strict chronological succession, while from the definite notices of Mark we infer that some of these parables had been uttered at an earlier period. But Matthew had good internal reasons for the pragmatic unity of his narrative. Foremost among these is the motive which induced the Lord to choose the parabolical form of teaching. This motive, which had appeared at an earlier stage of this history, became a distinct and avowed principle of action when the enmity of the Pharisees and of the people broke forth in an undisguised manner, and forced Him to come out with the full doctrine concerning the kingdom of God; while at the same time, on account of the spiritual decay of the people, it could be set forth only in the form of parables. Another motive which helped to determine the arrangement adopted by Matthew, was the close internal affinity of these seven parables, although we cannot, with Meyer, regard it as necessarily implying chronological succession. The greater part of them were, no doubt, delivered on one and the same day; and it is quite possible that Jesus, for the sake of their connection, again repeated on this occasion the parables which He had previously spoken.

2. The omission of the particle δέ serves to give additional force to the expression in ver 1. For, in this case we have not merely a historical continuation; the term implies that on that day the Lord fully adopted the parabolic mode of teaching


1. THE PARABLES OF CHRIST.—As parables were one of the forms in which the Lord conveyed His doctrine, they should, in the first place, be studied in connection with His other methods of teaching. The first and most direct of these was the simple declaration or preaching of the gospel, which accompanied the facts of the gospel—such as the proclamation of the kingdom of God, of forgiveness of sins, the call to discipleship, the bestowal of a new name, or of power and authority, special promises, special injunctions, etc. When addressed to a sympathetic audience, this declaration of the gospel was delivered in a regular, didactic manner, in the form of maxims, or gnomes—as, for example, the Sermon on the Mount. The use of proverbs, gnomes, or sententious maxims (παροιμία, proverbium, מָשָל, which, however, may also denote a parable), was a favorite mode of teaching among the Jews, after the example of Solomon in the Book of Proverbs. The proverb is a short, epigrammatic, pointed sentence, frequently figurative and concrete, occasionally paradoxical and hyperbolical, at other times poetical, but always vivid and sharply outlined, so as to present in a transparent and significant form a deep, rich, and pregnant idea, which shines in the light of truth and burns in the fire of personal application—bright and brilliant like a true gem. But in dealing with individuals, the Saviour made use of the didactic dialogue (instead of the formal declaration), which in the presence of His intimate disciples assumed the form of the most direct address, at once instructing the mind and moving the heart. So especially in the parting discourses of the Saviour as recorded by St. John. When, on the other hand, those before Him were either strangers to His word or prejudiced against it, the heavenly Teacher made use of similitudes or parables. Under special circumstances, these were extended into parabolical discourses,—i. e., discourses which assumed the form of parables, or parables to which the interpretation was added. Lastly, when confronted by enemies and accusers, Christ adopted the method of questioning (disputation), following it up by a warning, or by what would serve to silence an opponent—the ultimate mode of dealing with such persons being either open rebuke, or else solemn testimony. Finally, His silence also should be ranked among the forms of His teaching—viewing, as we do, each of them not merely as a speech, but as a fact.

The object of the parables, therefore, was to present the truth, more especially the doctrine of Christ concerning the kingdom of heaven, as in all its phases in direct opposition to the popular prejudices of the Jews, yet in a manner adapted to the weak understanding of a people ruled by these errors.

The use of parables for conveying instruction was very common among Eastern nations generally, and more particularly among the Jews (see Judges 9:1; 2 Sam. 12:1; Isa. 5:1; Unger, de Parabolarum Jesu natura, interpretatione, usu, Lips. 1828). The parable is a species of figurative speech, מָשָׁל (which, however, comprises with the full parable also the parabolic sentence and the gnome). Unger defines a Parable as “collatio, per narratiunculam fictam, sed veri similem, serio illustrans rem sublimiorem.” Meyer regards it as “the narrative of a fictitious but common and natural occurrence, for the purpose of embodying and illustrating some doctrine.” But in treating of the parables of Scripture, it is not sufficient to enumerate only these outward characteristics, more especially us in the Gospel of John the outward and visible order of things is throughout employed at the transparent symbol of the invisible world, or of the kingdom of heaven. This mode of teaching itself must have had some special meaning and object, and convey some evangelical truth. The parable is a distinct outward reflection of spiritual life, under the form of a scene taken from real and everyday life, which, besides its primary object of embodying some particular lesson, also conveys the general truth, that spiritual life is capable of being symbolized and reflected.[1] The real, though figurative, relations subsisting between the outer and the inner, the lower and the higher life, suggest the elements from which the didactic and poetic parables were constructed, which in turn were either extended into parabolic discourses (or gave rise to them), or else summed up in parabolic expressions. To illustrate this, we submit the following Table:—

(1) Constituent Elements of Parables; or Parables in the narrowest sense.

a. Τύπος.

b. Σύμβολον.

c. Ἀλληγορία.

The outline, archetype, or model of some reality which was yet to appear. Similitude of essence, difference of development, prototype of that which was to be developed and evolved. Thus the ordinances and institutions of the Old Testament were, in their inward essence, types of the New Testament. Similarly, the first era serves as a type of the second.

The equivalent, visible sign of what is invisible. That which is outward a sign of that which is inward, and hence the lower a sign of the higher. Similitude of mode and form, difference as to the stage of life, emblem of what is higher. Thus the outward rite is a symbol of the inner life.

The mark and indication of outward similarity, or also of the internal relationship and connection of things. A counterpart and reappearance of what has the same shape and form, either in the world of matter or of mind. Thus the serpent was an allegory of Satan.

(2) The Didactic and Poetic Parables.

(With these the strictly poetical form of parables should be conjoined, if they had a place here.)

a. The Typical Parable.

b. The Symbolical Parable.

c. The Allegorical Parable.

The sacraments of the New Testament as marking the great outlines of the kingdom of heaven. The Church as a type of the kingdom of God. Representation of the state of future perfectness in the first sketch and plan, or when commencing to carry the scheme into execution.

The parables of the Lord (the παραβολή), even philologically akin to the σύμβολον. (In some of their phases allegorical; for example, the tares.) Exhibition of spiritual transactions and facts in the description (not fiction) of scenes and events taken from everyday life.

Used only in certain aspects, and for the purpose of supplementing the symbolical parables, as in God’s world and in reality evil can only exist in allegorical signs of outward appearance, not in symbolical signs of wicked subsistence. Hence also the Apocalypse deals most largely in allegories. In secular poetry the allegorical element is chiefly embodied in the form of fables. The only expression in the N. T. reminding us of this style of composition, is the allusion of the Saviour to Herod: Tell that fox.

(3) The Parabolical Discourses; or, Extended and Applied Similitudes.

(i. e., Figurative discourses, in which parables are conjoined with their interpretation, or application, or with some doctrinal statement; as, for example, in Matt. 7:24; 11:16.)

a. Typical Parabolical Discourse.

b. Symbolical Parabolical Discourse.

c. Allegorical Parabolical Discourse.

Figurative anticipation of full development and completion when only the principle of it exists, e. g.: “The blind see,” etc.—“The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God,” John 5:25.—“Whoso eateth My flesh,” etc., John 6:54.

The sayings and discourses recorded by John concerning the Israelite without guile, the temple, the new birth, the brazen serpent, the fountain, the manna, the vine, the good shepherd, etc.

The sending forth among wolves, the corrupt tree, etc.

(4) The Parabolical Expressions; or, Rhetorical and Figurative Allusions.

a. The typical parabolical expression, or Synecdoche; or, used and viewed with reference to form, the Metonymy. The hairs of your head are “numbered.” Bethsaida, Capernaum, the land of Sodom.—“I am the resurrection.”

b. The symbolical parabolical expression, or Metaphor.—“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light.” Preaching upon the house-tops.

c. The allegorical parabolical expression, or the simple rhetorical figure, and figurative comparison.—“As a thief in the night.”

2. OBJECT OF THE USE OF PARABLES.—According to the modern view, our Lord had recourse to parables for the exclusive purpose of presenting the truth in a form adapted to the weak and carnal understanding of a people which otherwise could not have grasped it. Then the parables would be merely a popular mode of teaching. But the explanations of their object furnished by the Lord Himself (Matt. 13:13; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10) go far beyond this pedagogical view of the subject. “Therefore,” He says, “speak I to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” This perhaps might be regarded as indicating that the only object of Christ was to render His doctrine more plain and easily intelligible. But, on the other hand, the reference to Isa. 6:9, 10, which speaks of the hardening of the people under the preaching of the prophet, and which our Lord declares was being then fulfilled; the declaration of blessedness in regard to the disciples, to whom the Master could interpret these parables; and, lastly, the use of ἵνα in Mark and Luke (that, or in order that, seeing they may not see), instead of the ὅτι of our Gospel,—show that the motive of the Saviour in making use of parables was more deep and solemn than the above theory implies. It was certainly in judgment that He could not set before the Jews the bare and undisguised truth concerning His kingdom. Still, it was not primarily intended as a judicial blinding, but in order to present the truth in a form accessible to the senses, which would at the same time serve both to conceal and to reveal it, according to the state of the hearers; or, in other words, to present the truth in such a coloring as the diseased vision of the people alone could bear. Unbelievers would not so readily elicit the spiritual truth from this symbolic form, and hence not so easily pervert it to their own condemnation. Accordingly, while this mode of teaching was in itself a judgment, it was also combined with mercy, since it averted from them the doom of hardening themselves under the truth. It was impossible, moreover, to found and prefer charges of heresy against His teaching when propounded in that manner, even although hostile hearers might have comprehended its import (see Matthew 21:45). On the other hand, those of the people who were susceptible would be enabled more and more clearly to gather the spiritual truth when conveyed in this transparent form. Indeed, Matt. 13:35 shows that such was one of the objects which the Saviour had in view; while Mark 4:33 pointedly indicates the fact, that Jesus chose a form adapted to all His hearers, and to both parties, in order to set before them the doctrine concerning the kingdom of heaven. The parables of the Lord were an exhibition of the spiritual history of His kingdom, presented in pictures and figures derived from the things of this world. Even this continual comparing of the kingdom with the things of time and of sense, must have shown the people that the kingdom itself was not of this world. Finally, the parables of the Saviour resemble His miracles, in that, on the one hand, they exhibit the power of the kingdom of heaven in a variegated and striking light, while on the other they present it, as it were, in broken rays and isolated facts and events.


(1) The key and introduction to the seven opening parables concerning the progress and development of the kingdom of God in general (Matt. 13), is found in an eighth parable, recorded by Mark (4:26), which is intended to show the fixed law and regularity of this spiritual development.

(2) The parables concerning the compassion and mercy by which the kingdom of God is founded (as opposed to the prejudices of the Jews).—a. Misunderstanding and misapplication of mercy and compassion leads to judgment. 1. Misunderstanding and misapplication of the blessing of God; or, the folly of the rich man, Luke 12:16. 2. Misunderstanding and misapplication of the long-suffering of God; or, the barren fig tree, Luke 13:6.—b. Pure compassion, divine or human, but especially the compassion of Christ: the good Samaritan.—c. Compassion turning away from the blinded (the guests who had been invited), and turning to the poor and needy: the great supper, Luke 14:15; mercy and judgment as appearing in the figurative narrative of the supper. Accordingly, this parable forms a transition to the exhibition of divine mercy.—d. Saving mercy. It discerns the wretched state of the lost; but at the same time also discovers a value attaching to them, derived from the bestowal of mercy upon them. The lost sheep; the lost piece of money; the lost son, Luke 15. The conditions of mercy. Repentance, humility: the Pharisee and the publican, Luke 18:9–14. The delays and answers of mercy; its demand prayer. The working and wrestling of genuine faith (Luke 18:1–8; comp. Luke 11:5–8: the call and demand made upon the friend at night). Evidence of the experience of grace. The blessing attaching to mercifulness; or, the unjust steward, Luke 16. 1. The judgment pronounced upon unmercifulness,—presented in a negative form (worldly unmercifulness[2]): the rich man, Luke 16:19;—presented in a positive form (spiritual unmercifulness, sanctimonious uncharitableness, harsh judgments): the harsh servant, Matt. 18:23.

(3) Retributive justice as directing the administration of the kingdom of God.—The one penny to each of the laborers in the vineyard; or, the reward as of free grace (Matt. 20:1). The ten servants and the ten talents; or, the Lord as a trader during His absence from the city, and during its revolt; or, the reward of quiet, persevering faithfulness, as contrasted with the punishment of unfaithfulness during the revolt of the world, on which judgment descends (Luke 19:11). The three servants, and the blessing attaching to the faithful use of the gifts entrusted to us, as contrasted with the curse attaching to the misapplication of gifts and talents (Matt. 25:14–30).

(4) The judgments which complete and usher in the kingdom of God.—a. Mercy and judgment. Under the figure of the marriage feast, Matt. 22:1. The two sons of the owner of the vineyard, Matt. 21:28. The unfaithful husbandmen, Matt. 21:33. The foolish and the wise virgins, Matt. 25:1–13.—b. Final judgment upon the ministry of the word, or the evil servant, Matt. 24:48. c. Final judgment upon the nations. Mercy presiding even on that awful occasion,—presented in the form of a parable, Matt. 25:31.

“Here, at the climax of all the parables of the New Testament, we see the bud of the parabolical form of teaching opening up and disclosing the beauteous flower which it had enclosed. The manifestation and appearance of the kingdom of God is now clearly and undisguisedly presented, although the manifold symbolical outlines by which it is surrounded show that this section embodies only the climax of all the parables.” Lange, Leben Jesu.

Another point deserves special mention. The parables of the Lord all pointedly exhibit the contrast between the kingdom of Christ—its fundamental principle and laws—and the carnal notions of the Jews concerning the reign of the Messiah; more especially, the contrast between the free and universal grace of God, and the hierarchical and national conception of the Deity, and a partisan reign; between the apostasy of the Jews, and the faith of publicans and sinners, and even of Gentiles; between the Church and the world; the external and the internal Church; the children of outward forms, and those of the spirit; between the judgment passed by the Master upon spiritual pride, self righteousness, uncharitableness, sanctimonious harshness and rigorism of doctrine, and the gracious salvation accorded to humility, to believing service, to endurance, to love, and to gentleness.

4. THE SEVEN PARABLES WHICH TREAT OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, MATT. 13.—It will readily be perceived that these parables exhibit the entire development of the kingdom of God in its leading outlines, from the commencement to the close of it. The first parable treats of the institution of the kingdom of God, and the last, of its completion on earth by the final judgment; while the five intermediate parables successively mark its progress: the wheat among the tares; the grain of mustard seed among the trees; the leaven leavening the whole lump; the treasure found in the field; the kingdom of heaven as the pearl of great price.3

At the same time, each of these parables forms in itself a complete and independent section,—like all the other doctrinal portions of Scripture, and especially the various prophetic sketches in Isaiah and in the Book of Revelation. Still, under every new phase as it emerges in each of these parables, the kingdom and its history are presented from another aspect, and in a new form, marking its onward progress from the commencement to the completion. If parables present the ideal phases in the development of the kingdom of heaven, we shall naturally expect that they also bear reference to the historical succession of the different forms through which the visible Church has passed. Accordingly, we cannot fail to trace in the parable of the sower a picture of the apostolic age; in the parable of the tares, the ancient Catholic Church springing up in the midst of heresies; in the parable of the mustard bush, resorted to by the birds of the air as if it were a tree, and loaded with their nests, a representation of the secular state-Church under Constantine the Great; in the leaven that is mixed among the three measures of meal, the pervading and transforming influence of Christianity in the mediæval Church, among the barbarous races of Europe; in the parable of the treasure in the field, the period of the Reformation; in the parable of the pearl, the contrast between Christianity and the acquisitions of modern secular culture; and in the last parable, a picture of the closing judgment. These parables embody both the bright and the dark aspect of the history of the kingdom of heaven; while the seven beatitudes reflect the light (being primarily a delineation of the ideal progress and advancement of believers), and the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, mainly the shadows of the final catastrophe, or of the coming judgment (being primarily a delineation of the seven churches of Asia Minor). The subjoined table will serve to give a clearer view of this:

1. The poor in spirit: the kingdom of heaven.

1. The sower: the good field and the fruit.

1. Ephesus. Patience and perseverance in the work of faith. Deficiency in the root of the life of faith.

2. They that mourn: comfort.

2. The wheat among the tares.

2. Smyrna. Rich and flourishing, by the side of the synagogue of Satan.

3. The meek: possession of the earth.

3. The grain of mustard seed grown into a tree.

3. Pergamos. Hath held fast amidst martyrdom. Dwelleth where Satan’s seat is (in the world). Balaamites or Nicolaitanes: combination of Christianity with the lust of the world.

4. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness: being filled.

4. The leaven put among the three measures of meal.

4. Thyatirc. Abundance of works. The woman Jezebel: a fanatical prophetess committing fornication with the world.

5. The merciful: obtaining of mercy.

5. The treasure found in the field.

5. Sardis. Hath a name that it liveth, and is dead. A few names in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments, walk with the Lord in white.

6. The pure in heart: vision of God.

6. The pearl of great price: sought and obtained at great sacrifice.

6. Philadelphia. An open door. A little strength. Kept the word. Victorious over many of the synagogue of Satan.

7. The peacemakers: dignity of the children of God.

7. The net drawn out of the sea: separation of the good and the bad fishes.

7. Laodicea. Neither cold nor hot. “I will spue thee out of My mouth. Be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door.”

We do not mean to say, however, that the ideal progression in these parables fully reflects the historical succession of the principal phases in the history of the kingdom of God; it only delineates its general outlines.

All the seven parables, then, are intended to represent, in regular succession, the development of the kingdom of heaven in its conflict with and victory over the opposition of the world, and in its hidden character as contrasted with the Jewish notions of the reign of Messiah. Hence in each of the parables the lights and shadows of the kingdom of heaven are brought out. These shadows are, in the first parable, the three varieties of bad soil; in the second, the enemy, the tares, and the indiscriminating zeal of the servants; in the third, the mistake of treating a large garden plant as if it had been a forest tree, and the lodging of the birds in its branches (regarding and treating the kingdom of heaven as if it had been a worldly kingdom); in the fourth, the mixing up and the hiding of the leaven in the meal; in the fifth, the concealment of the treasure; in the sixth, the seeming disappearance of the pearl of great price in the hands of the merchants, and among other pearls; and in the seventh, the mixing up of the good fish with the bad, and with other foul breed of the sea. On the other hand, the bright side of the picture, in the first parable, is the rich field waving with fruit; in the second, the wheat outgrowing the tares; in the third, the wonderful upshooting of the grain of mustard seed; in the fourth, the leaven acting as a stronger power, pervading and affecting by its unseen efficacy the three measures of meal—thus representing the influence of the divine life overcoming and transforming our old nature; in the fifth, the picture of the treasure found, and of the surrender of all other things for its possession; in the sixth, the picture of the pearl of great price, and of the ardent devotedness with which it is sought and procured; in the seventh, the picture of the good fish, and of the net now free from the encumbrance of the bad. In accordance with the structure and symbolical meaning of the number seven, we direct our attention, in the first place, to the first four parables. Here we observe that the first and second parables primarily delineate the immense obstacles which the kingdom of heaven has to encounter—negatively from want of susceptibility (the first parable), and positively from error, heresy, and offences (the second parable). The third and fourth parables form an antithesis to this description, and delineate the wonderful progress of the kingdom of heaven as it sweeps before it these obstacles. Thus the parable of the mustard seed brings out the marvellous growth of the kingdom—how it springs up and forces itself upon the observation of the men of the world, till they even attempt to combine the Church with the world, and take their lodgment in it, just as if this garden plant had been any ordinary tree; while the parable of the leaven refers to the unseen, but all-powerful and all-transforming, efficacy of the gospel among the nations. If the first four parables present mainly the objective aspect of the kingdom of heaven, and the work of the Lord, of His servants and of His Church, the three last parables equally show the subjective bearing of the kingdom, or the action of believers. On this account the divine treasure is now represented as something which is there, but which must be sought and acquired. In the first of these parables the discovery appears as a happy incident, or rather as a free gift of Providence—the treasure being hidden; while in the second it is presented as the result of conscious higher aspirations, which must be regarded as being in themselves, though not consciously, Christian, the treasure being concentrated, as it were, into one pearl of infinite value. The last parable is again prevailingly objective in its bearing. It treats of the judgment, when the kingdom, falsely expected by the Jews in connection with the first coming of the Messiah, comes out in its full light and glory. Finally, if, according to the analogy of the first beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount, we regard the first parable as the basis of all the rest, the other six parables form an antithesis; the first three tracing the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the visible Church, and the last three delineating the hidden Christianity of the invisible Church. This invisible aspect of the kingdom of heaven corresponds as we might have expected, with the great element of subjective faith and striving, and with its final triumph (comp. the exegetical notes on Matthew 13:44).

Throughout all these parables, however, the progress of the inward form of the kingdom of heaver is also clearly marked. In the first parable, the seed is the direct preaching of the gospel; in the second, it is sound doctrine in opposition to the noxious weeds of heresy; in the third, a Christian confession, and a professing community of Christians; in the fourth, Christianity as the spirit of life, and the power of regeneration; in the fifth, saving truth in its grand, all-comprehensive principle (Christ for us); in the sixth, the spiritual treasure in its highest and clearest concentration—the love and peace of Christ, or Christ in us; and in the seventh, the final result of all history and of the judgment—the heavenly feast.


The wisdom of Jesus as a Teacher.—The words of the Lord “like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”—The parables of the Lord are gospel to the poor, even so far as their popular form is concerned.—Object of the parabolical mode of teaching: both judgment and mercy.—The parabolical discourse, a repetition and revisal of the revelation of God, which man had forgotten. 1. At first God revealed Himself to man by the parable of creation., and by special parables connected with it, but after that by the word; 2. man made an idol of the parable itself, and thereby came into opposition with the word; 3. Christ now shows again to man the word in the parables, in order to reclaim him for the spirit of His word.—The truth obliged, in compassion, to disguise itself in the form of parables in the presence of its children.—The gospel a fruit of the tree of life, both as to its kernel, and as to its husk.—The seven parables concerning the development of the kingdom of heaven prefaced by the parable concerning the fixed rule of this development (Mark 4:26).—The seven leading phases of the kingdom of God.—The seven forms of human economy which portray the economy of God: the sower; field-servants; husbandry; the mistress of the house preparing bread; the farmer; the merchantman; the fisherman.—Import of the fact, that in these seven parables the Lord brings out with increasing distinctness the province and activity of man in the kingdom of God.—How the treasure of the kingdom of God is increasingly to assume a more definite form in our minds.—How it is ultimately to be transformed into the pearl of great price.—We ourselves attain value in the sight of God by finding the pearl of great price.


[1][Dr. TRENCH, in the General Introduction to his Notes on the Parables, instead of adding another to the many definitions of the parable already given by the Greek fathers (comp. SUICER: Thesaurus s. v. παραβολτ), by Jerome, by Bengel, Unger, Teelmann, and other modern writers, prefers to explain its nature by noting the differences of the parable from the fable, the myth, the proverb, and the allegory. Dr. ALFORD likewise briefly distinguishes the parable from these kindred forms of composition, and then definer the parable, similarly as Unger and Meyer, to be “a serious narration, within the limits of probability, of a course of action pointing to some moral or spiritual Truth.”—P. S.]

[2][The Edinb. trsl. has here: “what unmercifulness,” from the first edition of Lange: “welche Unbarmherzigkeit,” which is an evident misprint for weltliche, as opposed to the following “geistliche Unbarmherzigkeit.”—P. S.]

[3][ALFORD: “The seven parables related in this chapter cannot be regarded as a collection made by the evangelist as relating to one subject, the Kingdom of Heaven and its development; they are clearly indicated by Matthew 13:53 to have been all spoken on one and the same occasion, and form indeed a complete and glorious whole in their inner and deeper sense. The first four of these parables appear to have been spoken to the multitude from the ship; the last three, to the disciples in the house.” D. BROWN: “These parables are SEVEN in number; and it is not a little remarkable that while this is the sacred number, the first FOUR of them were spoken to the mixed multitude, while the remaining THREE were spoken to the Twelve in private—these divisions, four and three, being themselves notable in the symbolical arithmetic of Scripture. Another thing remarkable in the structure of these parables is that while the first of the seven—that of the Sower—is of the nature of an introduction to the whole, the remaining six consist of three pairs—the second and seventh, the third and fourth, and the fifth and sixth, corresponding to each other; each pair setting forth the same general truths, but with a certain diversity of aspect. All this can hardly be accidental.”—Observe also the natural and easy transition in the order of the seven parables, from the sower and the good seed to the enemy and the tares among the wheat; from the sown field to the mustard seed and mighty tree, from the external growth of the plant to the internal growth and process of penetration and assimilation; then to the treasure in the field, suggested by the seed buried in the ground, from the lucky discoverer to the earnest seeker and finder, from the treasure to the precious pearl, the treasure of the deep; which suggests the sea, the fishermen with their net, the mixed crowd on the beach, the final separation and consummation. Thus from the first sowing of Christianity in the days of Christ and the apostles to the general judgment we have one continued process of growth and development of good and bad. Christ and Anti-Christ (wheat and tares), external and internal (mustard seed and leaven), finding without seeking (their treasure in the field), and seeking and finding (the pearl of great price), and a continuous partial judgment and separation—since the history of the world and the church is a (not the) judgment of both—foreshadowing and ending at last in the final consummation on the banks of eternity (the parable of the net). All these processes go hand in hand and act and react one upon another, each period doing the same work under new aspects, with peculiar gifts, with fresh zeal and energy.—P. S.]

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
1. First Parable concerning the kingdom of heaven, and teaching of Jesus concerning Parables generally.

MATTHEW 13:1–23

1     The same day4 went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat [down]; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3And he spake many things unto them in 4parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when [as] he sowed, some 5seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some [And others, ἄλλα δὲ] fell upon stony [rocky] places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness [depth] of earth: 6And when the sun was 7up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some [others] fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8But other fell into [on the] good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10     And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance:5 but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.6 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing [seeing they] see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias [Isaiah], which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, 16and I should [shall] heal them.7 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

18Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.8 19When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked [evil] one, and catcheth [snatcheth] away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed [he that is sown, ὁ.. σπαρείς] by the way side. 20But he that received the seed [is sown] into stony [on the rocky] places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon [immediately, at once, εὐθύς] with joy receiveth it; 21Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by [immediately, εὐθύς] he is offended. 22He also that received seed [is sown] among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this [the] world,9 and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23But he that received seed [is sown] into [on] the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.


Matthew 13:2. A ship.—The ship being here analogous to “the mountain.” He sat down, while the people stood in a line along the shore or the beach (ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλόν).

Matthew 13:3. [By the wayside.—“The ordinary roads or paths in the East lead often along the edge of the fields, which are unenclosed. … Hence as the sower scatters his seed, some of it is liable to fall beyond the ploughed portion, on the hard, beaten ground which forms the wayside.” Dr. Hackett: Illustrations of Scripture, etc., p. 168.]

Matthew 13:5. Rocky ground, τὰπετρώδη.—Not merely soil covered with stones, but rocky soil. Think of the terraces used for agricultural purposes in ancient Palestine. The cultivated soil terminated in the rocky abutments of the hills.

Matthew 13:6. Gerlach: “When the sun rose higher, after the winter was past” But the parable evidently refers to a very rapid withering.

Matthew 13:7. Among thorns;—literally, upon thorns, i. e., upon soil from which thorns were springing. The expression refers to soil from which the thorns had not been removed, and not to thorn bushes.

Matthew 13:8. A hundred fold, etc.—Round parabolical numbers, to indicate the rich return of the seed, although the high computation is based on the fertility of Galilee, and of other districts in the East. For the monastic application of this passage by Jerome, see Heubner, p. 185.

Matthew 13:11. It is given unto you.—This, and what follows, is understood by Calvin to refer to the doctrine of decrees (Instit iii. Matthew 24, § 13). But Heubner objects, “(1) that Matthew 13:12 points to a moral cause, existent in the Apostles; (2) that Matthew 13:14 indicates that the blindness of the people was caused by their own guilt.”—The mysteries.—The mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven (the genitive being here that of the object) are mysteries to the natural man, whose mind is darkened by sin. This held true in an especial manner of the Jewish exclusiveness of those days, both as regards the spirituality of the kingdom of Christ, from which unbelieving Israel was excluded, and its universality, in which believing Gentiles were embraced. The passage may therefore be regarded as a first reference to the “mystery” which Paul afterward declared had been specially intrusted to his ministry, Eph. 3:4; Rom. 16:25. These mysteries the people could only bear in the form of parables; but to the disciples it was given of God, that Christ could, along with the parables, also grant them the interpretation; and that in increasing measure He could speak to them about these mysteries “plainly,” and without parable or figures (John 16:29). The truth concerning the kingdom of heaven has, since the Fall, become a mystery to man, (1) by his guilt and self-delusion; (2) by the divine judgment of concealment. Hence the restoration of this knowledge is a revealing of mysteries, an ἀποκάλυψις.

Matthew 13:12. Whosoever hath.—A proverbial expression. “A rich man easily grows more wealthy, while the poor readily lose the little which they have.” Meyer. The bearing of the first clause is sufficiently plain; but with reference to the second, the proverbial interpretation of Meyer is doubtful. Still more unsatisfactory is his explanation: “The people would lose even the limited amount of knowledge they possess, if I did not aid their capacities by the use of parables.” The interpretation which would most readily occur to the reader is: By the use of parables the people lose even what they have, since they cannot readily perceive those mysteries when presented in that particular form. But, on the other hand, we may suggest that the word ἀρθήσεται does not necessarily mean “shall be taken away.” The primary rendering of the verb αἴρειν is to lift up, or to lift on high; and then among other meanings it may also be rendered, to take upon oneself, to preserve or keep.[10] And thus indeed it frequently happens that the little which a poor man hath is taken away from him, in the sense of being tutorially administered for his benefit. Whether this explanation be correct or not, such at least is the fact in reference to the present instance. The economy of tutors and governors is that form in which the truth requires to be disguised under legal ordinances and types, or, as in this case, under parables, in order that in this manner it may be presented in a strange and external form, and be administered by others, until gradually it comes to be more fully understood.

Matthew 13:13. Because seeing, etc.—The rendering of ὅτι by because is warranted by the use of ἵνα in the parallel passages in Mark and Luke.

Matthew 13:14. Is fulfilled, or rather, is completely fulfilled (ἀνα πληροῦται).—A strong expression, not otherwise used by Matthew, put foremost in the sentence by way of emphasis. The quotation from Isa. 6:9, 10, is made after the Septuagint. In the days of Isaiah it was in a certain sense fulfilled that the Jewish people had hardened itself under the preaching of the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” But this was most completely fulfilled when the Jews resisted the gospel itself. In this respect, therefore, the words of Isaiah were a typical prophecy of gospel times. But as this saying had in a conditional sense been formerly fulfilled, the Evangelist does not employ the simple verb πληροῦται, but the compound ἀναπληροῦται.

Matthew 13:15. This people’s heart is waxed gross, ἐπαχύνθη.—Properly, it became fat, in a figurative sense—i. e., their heart became carnal, and lost the spiritual life. The same process of carnalization took place with reference to their ears and their eyes, all spiritual life being surrendered, or rather, traditionalism transforming the things of the Spirit into a series of external, finite, and carnal ordinances. Their ears became dull of hearing, and their eyes they closed, covering them with a film, and thus depriving them of the power of vision. The same carnality extended through all the departments of spiritual life; their heart was dead to spiritual experience, their ear to spiritual obedience, and their eye to spiritual knowledge. It deserves special notice, that in the prophecies of Isaiah the passage reads, in the imperative spirit of the Old Testament: “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes,” while in the Gospels the Lord specially points to their own guilt in this judicial visitation. Every spiritual faculty in them had become gross, or rather, they had made it gross. Their eyes they have closed, ἐκάμμυσαν. The expression refers primarily to the shutting of the eyes, and, from a reference to the words of Isaiah, must be understood as implying a continuous and determined closing of the eyes against the light of truth.

Lest at any time, μήποτε.—This statement also must be read in the light of our former remarks. In the prophecy of Isaiah the result here mentioned is traced to the judicial purpose of God; in the text, to the determination or their own wicked hearts, eyes, and ears: They will not (comp. John 5:40), and therefore they can not. [Moral unwillingness resulting in moral inability.—P. S.] In this respect it deserves special notice that, according to the correct reading, the future tense, ἰάσομαι, is here used (as also in the Sept.), and not the conjunctive. Accordingly, the statement does not mean that they were not to obtain healing now, during this season of judgment, but only, that they had prevented the healing which would otherwise have been accorded to them. This, indeed, implies that the people were actually under the judicial dispensation of God—a state of things which the Lord admitted by His use of parables; so that it was not quite so simple a process as Meyer supposes, nor merely designed for educational purposes (comp. also Acts 13:46; 26:27; Rom. 10; 2 Cor. 3:14). But the object in view seems to have been as follows: Those who were aroused by the parables would progress and inquire, as the disciples inquired; while those who were ready to harden them selves would be preserved from suddenly incurring that awful guilt which the full disclosure of the mysteries of the kingdom would have entailed.

Matthew 13:16. But your eyes, blessed are they.—Mark the peculiar emphasis of the ὑμων δὲ, etc. Blessed are the eyes. A concrete mode of expression, alluding to the fact that their outward vision was inspired and directed by their spiritual sight, in opposition to these who were destitute of spiritual vision. Acts 5:9; Isa. 52:7.

Matthew 13:17. Many prophets and righteous men.—The δίκαιοι are the Old Testament saints, who were not only blameless “as concerning the law,” but who, like the prophets, looked and longed for a higher and better than this external righteousness. They only aspired to an ἰδεῖν, not a βλέπειν; but even this they did not obtain in the same measure as the disciples. 1 Pet. 1:10, to whom also the βλέπειν was granted, 1 John 1:1.

Matthew 13:18. Hear ye therefore.—Not merely understand (de Wette), but hear, with the spiritual perception accorded to you.

Matthew 13:19. When any one.—The difficulty in the structure of this sentence arises from the putting forward of these words for the sake of emphasis. The word συνιέναι is scarcely rendered by the German verstehen (as Meyer thinks), and the English understand. It implies active and personal apprehension, or entering into the matter. The genitive indicates that the “catching away” takes place almost during the act of hearing.

Matthew 13:19. This is he which received seed by the way-side, or, rather, this is he who is sown by the way-side.—Meyer: “A change in the figure quite common among Orientals. It should have been: This is he in whose case the seed was sown by the way-side.” But there is a deeper meaning in this change. The loss of the seed becomes in reality the loss of one’s own life, just as the seed sown on good soil, so to speak, becomes identified with our personality. The change in the figure obviates the possible mistake, as if Satan could catch away and keep the word of God itself.

Matthew 13:21. Yet hath he not root in himself.—In his own individuality. His faith and adherence had their root only in the general excitement and enthusiasm around him. Accordingly, he dureth only for a while, is changeable, πρόσκαιρος, temporarius.11 He wants the perseverance of personal conviction. It deserves notice that the grand defect of such a person is characterized as εύθὺς μετὰ χαρᾶς λαμβάνων αὐτόν. He immediately receives the word, as gladsome secular news are received, without experiencing its spiritual poignancy, in the moral conflicts and the deep sense of repentance which it engenders.—By and by he is offended, or rather, immediately he taketh offence and falleth, σκανδαλίζεται.—Not, he is offended, but persecution becomes to him a σκάνδαλον, as if there were something wrong with the word; and he stumbles and falls at this rock of offence; Luke 8:13, ἀφίστανται.

Matthew 13:22. He that heareth the word; or rather, is a hearer to the word.—Pre-eminently a hearer. The expression is emphatic: οὗτός ἐστιν δ τὸν λόγο νἀκούων, and means more than the simple hearing, already noticed.[12]The care of the [not: of this] world, ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος.—Not “of the pre-Messianic time.” The absence of οὗτος deserves notice. Worldliness in persons of a serious cast of mind has a twofold aspect—that of worldly cares, and that of the entanglements of property, or of the deceitfulness of riches (personified), 2 Thess. 2:10; Heb. 3:13.—The expression, “deceitfulness of riches,” does not primarily apply to luxuriousness (delectatio), which would rather fall within the range of the other two classes of gospel-hearers. It refers to the deceitfulness of a false confidence in this worldly ground of subsistence, on the part of persons otherwise serious.—And he becometh unfruitful; ἅκαρπος γίνεται.—He does not yield fruit; there is every appearance of fruit—the stalk, the leaves, and the ear; but there is no spiritual life, no full surrender to the word, and accordingly no fruit.

Matthew 13:23. He that heareth the word, and understandeth it, in the fullest import of both terms.—The circumstance, that in neither of the other three cases such understanding of the word had taken place, implies that the hearing had likewise been defective In the first case, there was dulness and carnality; in the second, fancifulness and a combination of worldliness with the truth; in the third, legalism, a servile spirit, and the absence of entire self-surrender. But he that heareth aright also understandeth the word, and accordingly is he “which also (ὅς δή) beareth fruit.”—The different measures of fruitfulness depend on differences of disposition, of gifts, and of capacity for receiving, promoting, and representing the kingdom of God.


1. “The general truth lying at the basis of this parable is, that the culture of the earth reflects that of heaven. The great outstanding features of humanity—the husbandry of God, are reflected in those of earth—the husbandry of man.”

2. In accordance with this view a wider bearing might be given to this parable by referring it to the sowing of God’s word generally in the world. But evidently the passage applies in a special manner to the foundation of the kingdom of heaven under the New Testament. The sower is Christ, and the seed the gospel. His scattering the seed in such abundance is explained on the ground. (1) of the freeness and fulness of His grace in sowing (ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτόν); (2) of the poor condition of so much of the soil. If it is objected that this would savor of fatalism, we reply,—(1) That the passage under consideration is a parable, and hence does not in every respect adequately express the idea which it is intended to convey; (2) that the difference in the various kinds of spiritual soil is mainly the result of our own doing; (3) that this difficulty is removed by the change which the Lord introduces in the explanation of the picture. Those who received the seed were themselves sowed. The four classes of hearers form at the same time a gradation and a contrast: (1) By the way-side: souls trodden down and beaten down into hard, impenetrable soil by the lowest and meanest kind of worldliness and corruption. In their case the word is caught away even during the hearing of it. (2) Rocky ground, covered by a thin layer of earth: souls all the more enthusiastic in their early ardor, the less solid and settled they are in their personal convictions,—mere weathercocks, turning with every change of wind; the word apparently springing up with marvellous rapidity, but, not having root, withering away in the hour of trial. (3) Soil which might have yielded rich fruit, had it not been covered with thorns: earnest but legal minds, promising but superficial hearers, whose divided heart or worldliness causes them to lose the reward; the word springing up—the stalk and blossom appearing, but the fruit wanting. (4) Lastly, abundant fruit, showing that the soil from which it sprung is not only deep, but that weeds and thorns had been removed: souls whom the hearing of the word leads to its practical understanding, and to growing self-surrender unto the Lord.

The seed of the kingdom of heaven being thus scattered broadcast, it follows, from the character of the soil, that the kingdom of heaven—as outwardly visible—cannot present the picture of a pure and unmixed community of saints.

3. To the Jews, and to mere nominal Christians, this parable conveys the solemn truth that only part of the soil which is sown bears fruit. Of course, anything like an arithmetical calculation of the “fourth part” is out of the question; still, it implies that the number of God’s people is small.


The kingdom of heaven under the figure of the sower and the seed: 1. The sower; 2. the seed; 3. the manner of sowing; 4. the field; 5. the harvest.—The kingdom of heaven is a sowing in hope on the field of the world: 1. Dangers which encompass this hope—bad soil, the fowls of the air, a burning sun, thorns; 2. certitude of this hope. Final destiny of the soil, its husbandry, the seed, the sowing.—The various classes of gospel-hearers: 1. The four classes (all hearers); 2. the three classes (merely hearers): 3. the two classes (those who merely hear and those who receive); 4. the one class (they who truly hear being those who also receive).—The difference in the soil as accounting for the difference of result from the sowing: 1. The difference in the soil: a. Soil that is trodden down—the way-side (service of sin): b. light, stony ground (superficial enthusiasm, outward appearances); c. ground from which the thorns have not been removed (a divided heart, legalism and worldliness); d. good ground which has undergone a threefold preparation (been turned up, been broken down, and from which thorns and weeds have been removed). 2. The difference of result: a. Scarcely has the seed been scattered when it is carried away by the enemy; b. springing up too rapidly, it withers and passes away; c. the ears make their appearance, but, alas! are empty; d. the full ear bending under its precious load.—Difference between mere appearance and reality in the kingdom of heaven: on the one hand, seed-corn exposed by the way-side—too rapid growth of the stalk, and large but empty ears; on the other hand, the seed taking root and sprouting unseen, springing slowly, growing up, and the full car ripening.—How the seed becomes identified with the soil on which it is sown; or, the history of the word in our hearts as marking our own history.—Glorious character of that harvest which the Lord Himself desires, and with which He is “satisfied.”—There may be difference in the quantity of the return, and yet the whole field be good soil.—Spiritual fruit as it is matured ever forming new spiritual seed.—How the kingdom of heaven is being completed by a continual alternation of seed-time and harvest.—“He that hath ears to hear,” etc.; or, the great importance of parables for the increase of our spiritual knowledge.—Let us ever seek to apprehend the meaning and language of the signs of which God makes use.—Why the Lord speaks by parables.—The kingdom of heaven the one great mystery which comprehends and sums up all other mysteries.—It is given us to understand the mysteries of the kingdom.—“Whosoever hath,” etc. The gifts which the Lord grants may be infinitely increased and extended.—How even the external senses seem to lose their natural capacities where the soul is dead to spiritual considerations.—The process of hardening as gradually growing into the final judgment.—“Blessed are your eyes.”—Dignity and responsibility of the Christian in the world.—How Jesus explains His parables.—Jesus explaining by His Holy Spirit all the parables both of creation and of life.

Starke:Quesnel: The heart of man is God’s own field.—Let us beware lest our heart become like the way-side—ever open and accessible to the world, and to the things of the world.—Those who harden themselves will wax worse and worse, 2 Tim. 3:13.—How is it that so many who go to the house of God, and listen to His word, remain unmoved?—Beware of quenching, the Spirit.—The great privileges of the New Testament Church.—Cramer: Rest assured that where God has His word preached, the devil will not be far away (where Christ builds a church, the devil rears a chapel).—Nothing more dangerous than want of stability: to-day professedly for Christ, tomorrow against Him!—Prepare for trials the moment you give yourself wholly to the Lord (the cross and the crown are always combined).—The word of God will never return void unto Him, Isa. 55:11.—The word of God not a dead letter, but living seed.

Lisco:—The parables serve at the same time to reveal and to conceal spiritual truth.—In the case of genuine inquirers they reveal the truth to the eye of faith, while they conceal it from the carnal, the sensual, and the ungodly.—Explanation of the parable in the text: 1. Those whose minds and hearts are dead; 2. those who are light-minded and unstable; 3. they who love the world, or who are undecided; 4. they in whom none of these obstacles prevail.

Gerlach:—The parables are like the pillar of the cloud and of fire, where darkness was presented to the Egyptians, but light and brightness to the covenant-people, Ex. 14:20. They resemble the husk which preserves the kernel from the indolent, and for the earnest and the diligent.—Every gift of God requires personal appropriation.—Care has precisely the same effect on the heart as riches; clinging to the things of earth keeps the poor as well as the rich from coming to Christ.—To hear, to understand, and to bring forth fruit!

Heubner:—It is a matter of indifference where we preach; the word of God sanctifies the place.—Let us learn to discern a spiritual bearing and import in the things that are visible.—To be always, as it were, lying by the way-side will at last convert the heart into an open highway, trodden down by those who pass by.—Birds: a most apt figure of evil thoughts, which ever flutter around the soul of hardened sinners and catch away anything good.—Let every one who is engaged in scattering the seed remember that an unseen enemy lieth in wait to mar his work; accordingly, let us ever be on our watch, and warn our hearers of the danger.—God is able to soften even the hardest heart.—Stony ground: sentimental religion (or dead orthodoxy); religion affected and imitated for the time.—A straw-flame is soon burnt out.—Thorny ground: a divided heart. Luther: These are they who serve two masters. But bear in mind also that the good ground does not yield fruit of itself. Theirs are hearts in themselves empty, but whom a sense of poverty has softened and rendered susceptible.—They bring forth fruit with patience (or rather, with perseverance, Luke 8:15).—Blessed is he who daily sees and hears Christ in His word.—The patient waiting of the fathers for Christ should stir us up to think what cause for gratitude we have who live in gospel times.—The gospel the power of God unto salvation to every waiting, longing soul.—How young ministers are prone to expect too much.—The power of divine grace amidst all the obstacles which the world raises.—The patience which both ministers and hearers require.—The preaching of the word of God the grand test of the heart of man.—Opposite effects of the preaching of the word.—The right preparation of the heart.


[4] Matthew 13:1.—The particle δέ is wanting in B., Z., and A., and is omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. It weakens the stress laid upon the fact that Jesus on the same day changed his mode of teaching into that of parables before the people. [Cod. Sinaiticus likewise omits δέ.—P. S.]

[5] Matthew 13:12.—[More is unnecessary. The Greek is simply: καὶ περισσευθήσεται, and he shall be made to abound, or have abundance. Comp. Matthew 25:29.—P. S. ]

[6] Matthew 13:12.—[According to the order of the original: even what he hath, shall be taken from him.]

[7] Matthew 13:15.—I shall heal them. The future ἰάσομαι for the conjunct ἰάσωμαι is supported by the best authorities, B., C., D., etc., Lachmann. Tischendorf. Comp. also Is. 6:10 (Sept.). [See exeget. note to Matthew 13:15, where the Edinb, trade erroneously has ἰάσωμαι for ἰάσομαι, in opposition to the explanation. Cod. Sinaiticus, as edited by Tischendorf, reads ιασομε=ἰάσομαι.—P. S.]

[8] Matthew 13:18.—Lit.: of him that sowed: σπείραντος (Codd. B., X., etc., Lachm., Tischend.); not σπείροντος. So also Matthew 13:24: σπείραντι. [Cod. Sinait. likewise reads σπείραντος.—P. S.]

[9] Matthew 13:22.—Lit.: the world; τούτου (this) being omitted in B., D., [Cod. Sinait.], Lachm., Tischend., and probably an explanatory addition by a later hand (Meyer).

[10][Dr. Lange has here in view no doubt the threefold meaning of the corresponding German verb aufheben. which plays such an important part in the Hegelian philosophy, but cannot be rendered well in English. It means (1) to destroy—abrogare, tollere; (2) to keep—preservare; (3) to elevate or raise to a higher position—elevare. Thus the child is aufgehoben in the man, i. e., it ceases to be a child, it is preserved as a human being, and it is raised to a higher position, from childhood to manhood. The seed is destroyed in the plant as to form, preserved as to substance by being elevated to a more perfect form of existence.—P. S.]

[11][ALFORD:πρόσκαιρός ἐστιν, not only ‘endureth for is while,’ but also ‘is the creature of circumstances,’ changing as they change. Both ideas are included,”—P. S.]

[12][But the same expression occurs in Matthew 13:20 and Matthew 13:23, of two other classes of hearers.—P. S.]

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
2. The Second, Third, and Fourth Parables, and Interpretation of the Second Parable. MATTHEW 13:24–43

24     Another parable put he forth unto them,13 saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which [who] sowed14 good seed in his field: 25But while men slept, his enemy 26came and sowed [over]15 tares16 among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit,17 then appeared the tares also. 27So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou [thou not] 28sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?18 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

31     Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs [greater than the herbs],19 and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

33     Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

34     All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not [he spake nothing]20 unto them: 35That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,21 saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

36     Then Jesus [he][22] sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37He answered and said unto them,23

38     He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed [these, οὗτοι] are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of 39the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the24 angels. 40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this [the]25 world. 41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which [that] do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a [the] furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43Then shall the righteous shine forth26 as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Matthew 13:24. The kingdom of heaven is likened, or made like, ὡμοιώθη.—A delineation of the trials to which the kingdom of heaven was exposed from its first introduction into the world, and unavoidable connection with it. Hence the sower, who is the chief figure in the parable, cannot prevent the enemy from sowing tares among the wheat. The same expression is also used, Matthew 18:23. The representation of the kingdom of heaven by “a certain man” recurs again in Matthew 13:45, and in 20:1. It is an entire mistake to interpret the passage as implying that the kingdom of heaven was “at the time not yet founded.”

Matthew 13:25. While men slept;i.e., at night, when evil-disposed persons would try to injure the property of their neighbors. Hence, the application of this clause to the negligence of Christian teachers, who were appointed to watch and guard the field (Chrysostom, Augustine), is incorrect.27 Still less does it refer to the sleep of sin (Calovius). Nor is it, on the other hand, merely a rhetorical figure (Meyer). It alludes to the weakness of men, through which the enemy succeeds in mixing up errors with saving truth, without this being perceived. Or perhaps it may denote, that professors of religion too frequently seek exclusively their personal comfort, without seriously reflecting upon, or being zealous for, the truth of the doctrines propounded.

Matthew 13:25. Tares [lit.: darnel].—The weed growing among wheat, ζιζάνιον, lolium temulentum, darnel. The only species of grass which in Eastern countries springs up wild among oats or wheat (Virg.: “infelix lolium,” Georg. i. 154). At the first it looks like wheat, but its fruit is black, not yellow, and its effects are intoxicating and otherwise detrimental. If allowed to grow till the harvest, it is extremely difficult to separate it from the wheat; and, accordingly, it happens not unfrequently that it becomes mixed up with the flour. The Talmudists regarded it as a degenerate wheat. See the Art. in the Encycls. [St. Jerome, who resided long in Palestine, speaks in loc. of the striking similitude between triticum and zizania, wheat, and bastard wheat. Dr. Hackett (Illustrations of Scripture, p. 130) collected some specimens of this deceitful weed, and found, on showing them to friends, that they invariably mistook them for some species of grain, such as wheat or barley. Hence the rabbinical name, bastard (i.e., bastard wheat).—P. S.]

[The sowing of tares among wheat is a kind of injury frequently practised to this day in the East, from malice and revenge. Roberts (Biblical Illustrations, p. 541, as quoted by Trench) relates of India “See that lurking villain watching for the time when his neighbor shall plough his field; he carefully marks the period when the work has been finished, and goes in the night following, and casts in what the natives call pandinellu, i.e., pig-paddy; this, being of rapid growth, springs up before the good seed, and scatters itself before the other can be reaped, so that the poor owner of the field will be for years before he can get rid of the troublesome weed.” Trench (Notes on the Parables, p. 83, 9th Lond. ed.) relates a similar trick of malice from Ireland, where he knew an outgoing tenant, who, in spite of his ejection, sowed wild oats in the fields of the proprietor, which ripened and seeded themselves before the crops, so that it became next to impossible to get rid of them. Dr. Alford, too, in loc., 4th ed., mentions that a field be longing to him in Leicestershire, England, was maliciously sown with charlock, and that heavy damages were obtained by the tenant against the offender.—P. S.]

And went his way.—The devil or his emissaries sow the seed and go their way; those who afterward hold the errors which they have sown, entertertaining them rather in consequence of their natural darkness and folly than of set hostile purpose. [Trench: “The mischief done, the enemy ‘went his way,’ and thus the work did not evidently and at once appear to be his. How often in the Church the beginnings of evil have been scarcely discernible; how often has that which bore the worst fruit in the end, appeared at first like a higher form of good!”—P. S.]

Matthew 13:26. Then appeared the tares also;i.e., it became then possible to distinguish them. The most fascinating error is seen in its true character whenever its poisonous fruit appears.

Matthew 13:29. Lest ye root up also the wheat.—Gerlach: “Our Lord allows both to grow together, not because His servants might be apt to mistake the tares for the wheat,—which would scarcely be the case if they knew anything of the matter, and which, at all events, would not apply to the reapers ( Matthew 13:30),—but because, however different the plants in themselves, their roots are so closely intertwined in the earth.” This remark is very important; but some other elements must also be taken into account, such as the excitement and haste of these servants—they are not angels, as the reapers spoken of in Matthew 13:30; and, lastly, that the difference between wheat and tares is not so distinct as at the time of the harvest.—The same commentator refers this verse exclusively to excesses of ecclesiastical discipline, for the purpose of excluding all unbelievers and hypocrites, and constituting a perfectly pure Church. He denies all allusion to the punishment of death for heresy, since the Lord spoke of the Church, and not of the secular power. But the Church here alluded to is the Church in the world, and tainted more or less with secularism.

Matthew 13:30. In the time of the harvest, ἐνκαιρῷ, etc.—At the right and proper time, and hence in the time of the harvest.

Matthew 13:31. A grain of mustard-seed.—The mustard-plant, τὸσίναπι (sinapis orientalis, in Chaldee חַרְדֵּל),—a shrub bearing pods, which grows wild,28 but in Eastern countries and in the south of Europe is cultivated for its seed. Three kinds of mustard were known, the black and the white being most in repute. The Jews grew mustard in their gardens. Its round seed-corns (4–6 in a pod) were proverbially characterized by them as the smallest thing (Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. 822); “which, indeed, holds true so far as the various kinds of seed-corn used in Jewish husbandry are concerned, though scientific botany knows still smaller seeds” (Winer). In hot climes the mustard-plant sometimes springs up to the dimensions of a small tree. Meyer and Royle refer the expression to the mustard-tree called Salvadora Persica. (Comp. Winer, and Ewald, Jahrbücher for 1849, p. 32.) But this view is manifestly inapt, as it would destroy not only the popular character, but also the point of the parable. We cannot believe that the Lord would introduce a tree growing in Persia into a picture drawn from common life in Judea.[29] Besides, nobody would deem it strange that a tree should grow up to its proper dimensions; but that the small shrub which had sprung from the least of all seeds should spread into a tree, and that the birds of the air should seek a lodgment in its branches, might well form ground of surprise, and serve as the basis of this parable. Heubner: Think of the mustard-seed of Eastern countries, not that of Europe, which grows to the height of from nine to fifteen yards.

Which a man [handling it] took; λαβών.—Meyer: “Circumstantiality and pictorialness of detail.” In our opinion, it alludes to the fact, that a man was obliged cautiously and carefully to take up the seed, lest he should lose hold of it. So small as scarcely to admit of being handled.

Matthew 13:32. Lodge in the branches thereof.—Not merely, nestle or seek shelter, but lodge and remain, κατασκηνοῦν.

Matthew 13:33. Unto leaven; ζύμη.—Referring to the unperceived power and efficacy of the gospel, pervading, transforming, and renewing the mind, heart, and life. Starke: “The term leaven is used in other passages (16:11; 1 Cor. 5:6, 7) in the sense of evil. Accordingly, some commentators understand it as also referring in this parable to the corruptions which have crept into the Church, and ultimately perverted it; and the woman as alluding to the Papacy and the Romish clergy (Rev. 2:20; 17:1), who, with their leaven of false doctrine, have leavened the three estates of Christendom (the three measures of meal). However, the gospel may also, in many respects, be likened unto leaven; as, for example, with reference to its pervading influence (Heb. 4:12), to its rapid spread (Luke 12:49), to its rendering the bread palatable and wholesome, etc. According to Macarius, the parable before us alludes to both these elements” (the leaven of original sin, and its counter-agent, the leaven of grace and salvation).—Rieger (Betracht. über d. N. T. i.) better: “In other passages of Scripture the term leaven is used as a figure of insidious and fatal corruption, finding its way into the Church. But manifestly this cannot be the case in the present instance. The passage does not read: The kingdom of heaven is like unto three measures of meal, with which leaven became mixed up; but, The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven—showing that the leaven, which in itself is not noxious and evil, but, on the contrary, highly useful and wholesome, serves here as a figure of the secret but all-pervading and subduing power of the gospel. In point of fact, the same idea recurs in Heb. 4:2, where we read of the word being mixed with faith in them that hear it.” To these remarks we add: 1. It were contrary to the rules of hermeneutics to treat an allegorical figure like a dogmatic statement. Thus in different passages the lion is used as a figure of Satan, but also of Christ; the serpent as a figure of the enemy, but also of the wisdom needful to the Apostles; birds as a figure of believing trustfulness, but also of the devil catching away the word. 2. All the parables in this section bear upon the development of the kingdom of heaven. Hence, if Starke’s supposition were correct, the parable under consideration would be quite out of its place in this context. 3. It is impossible to conceive that the kingdom of heaven could be leavened by evil as by a power stronger than itself, and thus be hopelessly destroyed. 4. Leaven may indeed be employed as a figure of sin and evil in the sense of being stronger than individual Christians, when left in their own strength to combat with error, etc. (16:6; 1 Cor. 5:6, 7), but not in that of being more powerful than the kingdom of heaven. 5. Leaven as such is nowhere in the Bible a figure of evil, but a neutral figure of an all-pervading, contagious power. Mark also Lev. 23:11: “They shall be baken with leaven; they are the first-fruits unto the Lord.”

Three measures.Σάτον, סְאָה, a hollow measure used for dry substances; according to Josephus, equal to 1½ Roman measures. The expression, three measures, is not accidental, but intended to denote the large quantity which the leaven has to pervade. Three is the symbolical number for spiritual things. The Spirit of Christ pervades and transforms our spirits in an unseen and spiritual manner. “The Fathers interpreted the number three allegorically.” Theod. of Mopsuest. referred it to the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Greeks.30 This, however, is, strictly speaking, not an allegorical interpretation; comp. Acts 1:8. Olshausen approves of a reference of the number three to the sanctification of the three powers of human nature [body, soul, and spirit] by the gospel. Similarly it might be applied to the three grand forms in our Christian world—individuals (catechumens), Church and State, and the physical Cosmos. The main point, however, is to remember that the whole domain of mind, heart, and life, in all their bearings, is to be pervaded and transformed by the Spirit of God.

Matthew 13:34. He spake nothing (οὐδέν) unto them;i.e., to the people concerning the kingdom of heaven, especially at that particular period. Hence also the use of the imperfect. Meyer.

Matthew 13:35. By the prophet.—A free quotation of Ps. 78:2. Meyer reminds us that in 2 Chron. 29:30 Asaph is designated a “seer,” or prophet.

Matthew 13:38. The good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.—Fritzsche: fruges ex semine enatœ. As in the explanation of the first parable, so here also the seed is identified with the souls in which it was sown. Our life becomes identified with the spiritual seed, and principles assume, so to speak, a bodily shape in individuals. Such a concrete mode of presenting this truth is all the more suitable in this place, since our Lord is further developing and applying this parable.—The children of the wicked (literally here the tares) are sown by the wicked—of course, in a moral sense, not according to the substance of their human nature, just as the sons of the kingdom are specifically “the seed” sown by the Saviour in the moral and religious sense. These men have become what they are by the principles which they have embraced. This appears from the expression in Matthew 13:41: “They shall gather out of His kingdom πάντα τὰσκάν δαλα καὶ τοὺς ποιοῦν τας τὴν ἀνομίαν.” The scandala are offences in respect of doctrine, heresies, and seductive principles; the anomists are those who represent or embrace these principles (among whom Christ also included the representatives of Jewish traditionalism).

Matthew 13:40. At the end of the world, or rather, of this Æon.—2 Esra 7:43: Dies judicii erit finis temporis hujus et initium temporis futurœ immortalitatis, in quo transivit corruptela.

Matthew 13:41. Out of His kingdom,—clearly showing that the συντέλεια must be regarded as an interval of time, and hence indicating that there is a period intervening between the reappearing of Christ and the first resurrection connected with it, and the last resurrection, or that transformation of the present Æon, which marks the close of the final judgment; Rev. 20, compared with 1 Cor. 15:23. Meyer: “The separation of which the Lord speaks, is that of the good and the evil (individuals), and only thereby a separation of good and evil (things).” But in the text the σκάνδαλα are mentioned before the ποιοῦντες, who are here identified with these σκάνδαλα. Similarly also the righteous are identified with that heavenly brightness which now shines forth in them.

Matthew 13:42. A furnace of fire.—Not Sheol, or Hades, but Gehenna, or Hell, Rev. 20:15; Matt. 25:41; the place of punishment and Æon of those who are subject to the second death. [TRENCH: Fearful words indeed! and the image, if it be an image, borrowed from the most dreadful and painful form of death in use among men. David, alas! made the children of Ammon taste the dreadfulness of it. It was in use among the Chaldeans, Jer. 29:22; Dan. 3:6. Antiochus resorted to it in the time of the Maccabees, 2 Macc. 7; 1 Cor. 13:3. In modern times, Chardin makes mention of penal furnaces in Persia.—P. S.]

Matthew 13:43. Then shall the righteous shine forth, ἐκλάμψουσιν.—Then the brightness of their δόξσ shall visibly break forth; Dan. 12:3; Rom. 8; and other passages.


1. THE PARABLE OF THE TARES among the wheat.—The basis of this parable is the natural tendency of the ground to produce noxious weeds, thorns, and briers, or to degenerate. Hence the parable is intended to represent the obstacles with which the kingdom of heaven meets, and which it has to overcome. As in the natural earth tares and weeds rapidly spread, till they threaten to destroy the precious grain, so the seed of natural corruption in the heart and life threatens to choke that of the kingdom of heaven. The parable embodies three leading ideas. In opposition to the heavenly sower we see His adversary similarly employed; by the side of the good seed which Christ scatters we have that of the tares and the weeds of the devil; while the noxious plants, as they spring up, threaten to choke or to spoil the precious fruit. In other words, the kingdom of God is opposed by another kingdom—that of conscious malice, of which Satan, the adversary of Christ, is the head. His seed are the σκάνδαλα, or spiritually seductive principles, here represented by the tares, which look like the wheat, just as heresies resemble the truth. This seed he scatters at night; i.e., the enterprise, dictated by the malice of the enemy, succeeds through the weakness and folly of man. Protected by the darkness of night, the noxious weed, scattered all through the wheat, springs up, and, resembling the good fruit, grows up luxuriantly, till it threatens to choke the wheat, or to spoil it by foreign and dangerous admixture. In passing, we have already hinted that the picture of men sleeping may refer to the contrast between the religious comforts and enjoyments indulged in by the Church, and the watchfulness of schools on behalf of purity of doctrine.

2. Movement on the part of the servants.—This constitutes the second great feature of the parable. Their proposals arose partly from indignation against the enemy, partly from an impatient zeal for outward appearance of purity—from pride in the field, and partly from apprehension for the good seed. They were desirous of removing the tares. The Lord prohibited it, lest they should also root up the wheat. These considerations have been matter of the utmost importance in the history of the Church of Christ. It is well known that Novatianism on the one hand, and the papal hierarchy on the other, have addressed themselves to this work of uprooting, despite the prohibition of the Lord, and that the Romish Church has at last ended by condemning to the flames only the best wheat. But from this passage we learn that, according to the ordinance of the Lord, the Old Testament punishment denounced upon false prophets and blasphemers does not apply to the New economy.31 It is contrary to the mind and will of Christ to pronounce a ban, in the sense of denouncing final judgment upon men, by way of removing them and their errors from the Church. This toleration must not, however, be regarded as implying that evil and sin are to escape all punishment in the Church: it only implies that we are to remember and strictly to observe the distinction between the sowing and the reaping time. But within the limits here indicated, it is our duty to correct all current mistakes, James 5:19; to refute every error and heresy, 1 Tim. 4:1–6; and either to remove from the Church anti-christian doctrine and practical offences, with all who are chargeable therewith, or else to induce such persons to leave the Church by refusing to own and acknowledge them, Matt. 18:15; 1 Cor. 5; 2 John Matthew 13:10.

But all these arrangements are only intended by way of discipline during the course of the development of the New Testament economy—in hope, not as a punitive economy of judgment. It is scarcely necessary to add, that they bear no reference whatever to the civil administration of justice (Rom. 13:4).

[Dr. Lange might also have referred to the famous Donatist controversy in the African Church during the fourth and fifth centuries, whose chief exegetical battle-ground was this parable of the tares. The Catholics, represented by St. Augustine, claimed the whole parable, and especially the warning in Matthew 13:29 and 30, against the disciplinarian rigorism and ecclesiastical purism of the Donatists; while the Donatists tried to escape the force of the parable by insisting that the field here spoken of is not the Church but the world, Matthew 13:38. The parable, they said, has no bearing on our controversy, which is not whether ungodly men should be endured in the world (which we all allow), but whether they should be tolerated in the Church (which we deny). The Catholics replied that the mixture of good and bad men in the world is beyond dispute and known to all; that the Saviour speaks here of the kingdom of heaven, or the Church which is catholic and intended to spread over the whole world. Trench speaks at length on this important disciplinarian controversy in his Notes, p. 84 sqq., and defends throughout the Augustinian view (as does Wordsworth); but there was an element of truth in the puritanic zeal of the Donatists and kindred sects in their protest against a latitudinarian, secularized state-churchism. Comp. the forthcoming second volume of my History of Ancient Christianity, ch. vi. §§ 69–71.—P. S.]

3. Until the harvest.—A final and complete separation shall certainly be made. But it requires the heavenly clearness, purity, calmness, and decidedness of angels properly to accomplish this process.—“Then shall the righteous shine forth.” This shining forth is brought about by the deliverance of the Church from the burden of its former connection with evil, by its complete redemption (Luke 21:28), and by the change and entire transformation now taking place in everything around,—thus combining at the same time inward blessedness with outward, glorious manifestation of spiritual life, in all its fulness and perfectness.

4. The enemy that sowed them is the devil.—This passage has rightly been adduced as one of the strongest proofs that Christ propounded the doctrine concerning the devil as of His own revelation, and not from accommodation to popular prejudices. For, (1) Our Lord speaks of the devil not in the parable, but in His explanation of its figurative meaning, which, of course, must be taken in its literal and proper sense; (2) He speaks of him not in presence of the people, but within the circle of His intimate disciples; (3) He refers to the devil as the personal founder and centre of the kingdom of darkness, and as opposed to the person of the Son of Man, the centre and founder of the kingdom of light. Other passages show that, on many occasions, Jesus of His own accord bore witness to this doctrine (comp. Matt. 4; John 8:44, etc.).

[TRENCH, Notes, p. 89: “We behold Satan here not as he works beyond the limits of the Church, deceiving the world, but in his far deeper skill and malignity, as he at once mimics and counterworks the work of Christ: in the words of Chrysostom: ‘after the prophets, the false prophets; after the Apostles, the false apostles; after Christ, Antichrist.’ Most worthy of notice is the plainness with which the doctrine concerning Satan and his agency, his active hostility to the blessedness of man, of which there is so little in the Old Testament, comes out in the New; as in the last parable, and again in this. As the lights become brighter, the shadows become deeper; not till the mighty power of good had been revealed, were we suffered to know how mighty was the power of evil; and even here it is in each case only to the innermost circles of disciples that the explanation concerning Satan is given.” BENGEL (Gnom. on Eph. 6:12) makes a similar remark: “Quo apertius quisque Scripturœ liber de œconomia et gloria Christi agit, eo apertius rursum de regno contrario tenebrarum.”—P. S.]

5.The furnace of fire, into which the wicked are to be cast at the manifestation of the new Æon, is probably intended as a counterpart to the fiery furnace to which, during the best period of the old Æon, the faithful had so often been consigned (Dan 3). If from the one furnace a hymn of praise and thanksgiving rose to heaven, from the other resounds the wailing of anguish and pain, and the gnashing of teeth in rage and malice; comp. Rev. 9:2. The fiery torments which the righteous underwent afforded a view of heaven as in and among men; those which the wicked endure bring out the inward hell existing in the bosom of humanity. Similarly the “outer darkness,” where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (8:12, etc.), forms an antithesis to the sacred darkness in which Jehovah dwelleth, Ex. 20:21, amidst the praises of Israel, Ps. 22:3; and to the darkness of trials and sorrows which the Lord lightens up, Isa. 58:10. All these contrasts point to the fact, that it is the wicked who make hell what it is. The autos da fe of the Middle Ages were only a horrible caricature and anticipation of that fiery judgment.

6. Then the righteous shall shine forth as the sun. With the separation at the judgment, the Christian life, subjectively and objectively considered, appears in its full heavenly glory. [TRENCH: “As fire was the element of the dark and cruel kingdom of hell, so is light of the pure heavenly kingdom. Then, when the dark, hindering element has been removed, shall this element of light, which was before struggling with and obstructed by it, come forth in its full brightness. Col. 3:4; Rom. 8:18; Prov. 25:4, 5. A glory shall be revealed in the saints: not merely brought to them and added from without; but rather a glory which they before had, but which did not before evidently appear, shall burst forth and show itself openly, as once in the days of His flesh, at the moment of transfiguration, did the hidden glory of our Lord. That shall be the day of ‘the manifestation of the sons of God.’ ”—P. S.]

7. THE GRAIN OF MUSTARD-SEED.—The first two parables were intended (just as Mark 4:26–29) to delineate the succession of events in the development of the kingdom of heaven; that of the grain of mustard-seed bears reference principally to its extension in space, not in time, while at the same time it depicts the conquering power of the gospel. At first it seems as if the hostile principle had now wholly disappeared. The grain of mustard-seed—so small and despised in the outward appearance of Him who bore the form of a servant, or rather, in that of His disciples—shoots up, and the smallest of seeds grows into a high bush, so as even to resemble a tree. But in consequence of this very growth, the birds of the air mistake the bush for a tree, and seek to make a lodgment in its branches. This was verified in the ecclesiastical establishment which Constantine founded, in the mediæval Church, and indeed applies to the visible Church generally. Not only sweet songsters, but even birds of prey, seek to build their nests on this heavenly tree.

[ALFORD: “This parable, like most others respecting the kingdom of God, has a double reference—general and individual. (1) In the general sense, the insignificant beginnings of the Kingdom are set forth: the little babe cast in the manger at Bethlehem; the Man of sorrows with no place to lay His head; the crucified One; or again the hundred and twenty names who were the seed of the Church after the Lord had ascended; then we have the Kingdom of God waxing onward and spreading its branches here and there, and different nations coming into it. ‘He must increase,’ said the great Forerunner. We must beware, however, of imagining that the outward Church-form is this kingdom. It has rather reversed the parable, and is the worldly power waxed to a great tree, and the Churches taking refuge under the shadow of it. It may be, where not corrupted by error and superstition, subservient to the growth of the heavenly plant: but is not itself that plant. It is at best no more than (to change the figure) the scaffolding to aid the building, not the building itself. (2) The individual application of the parable points to the small beginnings of divine grace; a word, a thought, a passing sentence, may prove to be the little seed which eventually fills and shadows the whole heart and being, and calls ‘all thoughts, all passions, all delights,’ to come and shelter under it.”—P. S.]

8. THE LEAVEN.—Heubner: “If the former parable presents the extensive power of Christianity, this exhibits its intensive, dynamic force.” See also the list furnished by that author (p. 199) of works on the effects of Christianity, and the works of writers on Apologetics, Missions, etc. The woman is an apt figure of the Church.32 Leaven, a substance kindred and yet quite opposed to meal,—having the power of transforming and preserving it, and of converting it into bread, thus representing the divine in its relation to, and influence upon, our natural life. One of the main points in the parable is the “hiding,” or the mixing of the leaven in the three measures of meal. This refers to the great visible Church,33 in which the living gospel seems, as it were, hidden and lost. It appears as if the gospel were engulfed in the world; but under the regenerating power of Christianity it will at last be seen that the whole world shall be included in the Church. Here, then, the transformation of human nature, of society, of institutions, of customs, in short, of the whole Cosmos—or the gradual “regeneration” (Matt. 19:28)—forms the principal point in view.34 But this Christianization of the whole world is not incompatible with the development of Antichrist in the world, nor with the unbelief and the hardening of individual sinners. Nay, this very dedication of life as a whole, in consequence of which the Church will at last possess and claim everything, only becomes a judgment, unless it be made ours by personal regeneration, just as unbelief transforms the most glorious truths into the most awful and the most dangerous errors, 2 Thess. 2.

[ALFORD: “The two parables are intimately related. That was of the inherent, self-developing power of the kingdom of heaven as a seed containing in itself the principle of expansion; this, of the power which it possesses of penetrating and assimilating a foreign mass, till all be taken up into it. And the comparison is not only to the power but to the effect of leaven also, which has its good as well as its bad side, and for that good is used: viz., to make wholesome and fit for use that which would otherwise be heavy and insalubrious. Another striking point of comparison is in the fact that leaven, as used ordinarily, is a piece of the leavened loaf put amongst the now dough—(τὸ ζυμωθὲν ἄπαξ ζνμη γίνεται τῷ λοιπῷ πάλιν. Chrys. Hom. xlvi. p. 484 A)—just as the kingdom of heaven is the renewal of humanity by the righteous Man Christ Jesus.—The parable, like the last, has its general and its individual application: (1) In the penetrating of the whole mass of humanity, by degrees, by the influence of the Spirit of God, so strikingly witnessed in the earlier ages by the dropping of heathen customs and worship;—in modern times more gradually and secretly advancing, but still to be plainly seen in the various abandonments of criminal and unholy practices (as e.g. in our own time of slavery and duelling, and the increasing abhorrence of war among Christian men), and without doubt in the end to be signally and universally manifested. But this effect again is not to be traced in the establishment or history of so-called Churches, but in the hidden advancement, without observation, of that deep leavening power which works irrespective of human forms and systems. (2) In the transforming power of the ‘new leaven’ on the whole being of individuals. ‘In fact the Parable does nothing less than set forth to us the mystery of regeneration, both in its first act, which can be but once, as the leaven is but once hidden; and also in the consequent (subsequent?) renewal by the Holy Spirit, which, as the ulterior working of the leaven, is continual and progressive.’ (Trench, p. 97.) Some have contended for this as the sole application of the parable; but not, I think, rightly.—As to whether the γυνή has any especial meaning (though I am more and more convinced that such considerations are not always to be passed by as nugatory), it will hardly be of much consequence here to inquire, seeing that γυναῖκες σιτοποιοί would be everywhere a matter of course.”—P. S.]

9. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet (not as a verbal, but as a typical prophecy).—Asaph was a seer, and the Psalm here quoted was prophetic, tracing in a series of historical pictures the disobedience and the hardening of Israel; the divine judgments, and the subsequent compassion and mercy of God. This prophecy was fulfilled in the parables of Christ, so far as concerned both their form and their matter. In reference to their form, Christ unfolded in them all the mysteries of the kingdom of God; in reference to their matter, the first parables bear chiefly on the hardening of the people, while the subsequent parables exhibit His infinite and glorious compassion.


A. THE PARABLE OF THE TARES, Matt. 13:24–30, and interpretation of the same in Matthew 13:36–43.—The tares among the wheat in the field of Christ: 1. What is their character? (outwardly they resemble the wheat, but in reality they are quite different and opposed.) 2. How did they come among the wheat? (through the malice of the devil and the weakness of man.) 3. What are the dangers accruing from their presence? (they injure the wheat by robbing it of its beauty and strength; and, indirectly, through the imprudent zeal of the servants, they even endanger its existence.) 4. Still they are made to subserve a good purpose (teaching us to watch, to discern, to live, and to spare life, and to wait in humility and patience). 5. They assuredly shall be separated in the day of harvest (judged by their own fruit, by the sentence of Christ, by the angels of heaven, by fire).—And he went his way (cowardice, malice, calculation).—How the seed of the evil one frequently assumes the appearance of human nature, and even of the divine life.—Mark! it is not the wheat among the tares, but the tares among the wheat (in answer to the charges of ancient and modern Novatianism against the Church).—An enemy hath done this.—Impatience of the servants in the kingdom of God: 1. Its higher and nobler motives; 2. marks of its carnal and sinful origin.—Spurious zeal (fanaticism) the worst enemy we have to meet in the Church.—Satan accomplishes more by calling forth false zeal in the disciples than even by sowing tares.—Has the Church of Christ always obeyed this injunction of the Master?—Let both grow together: 1. Absolutely and unconditionally; yet, 2. within how narrow limits!—How the tares and the wheat mutually protect each other till the time of harvest.—How the godly and the ungodly serve and assist each other in the kingdom of God.—Freedom of religion must be connected with religion of freedom.—A proper religious toleration, at the same time a proper discipline, in the spirit of the gospel.—Let us seek to distinguish the visible and the invisible Church, but not to separate them upon earth.—The whole world is the field of Christ.—As the seed in our hearts, so are we.—Final judgment upon the offences in the kingdom of God, and the glorious manifestation of the Church of Christ.

Starke:—Osiander: God spares the wicked for the sake of the godly who live among them.—Chrysostomus: Fortem diabolum facit nostra negligentia, non illius potentia.—When the watchmen sleep, the devil is awake, Acts 20:29, 30; Nova Bibl. Tub.—Quesnel: Let faithful ministers be careful to point out the tares.—Cramer: The devil is the cause of all the evil in the world, John 8:44.—It is not every kind of zeal for the glory of God which deserves commendation.—Zeisius: The good seed must not be neglected on account of the tares: one sincere and earnest Christian is worth far more in the sight of God than a thousand hypocrites and sinners.—It is impossible to transform the tares into wheat; but the grace of God may, through the earnest zeal of the disciples, convert the ungodly into humble followers of Jesus.—The ungodly despise Christians, but they are indebted to them for preservation and immunity from judgments, Gen. 18:26.—Canstein: If we would understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God, let us in retirement seek enlightenment from the Lord.—The Church is the husbandry of God.

Heubner:—The enemy goeth his way.—How the evil one succeeds in craftily concealing his presence!—Along with the spread and extension of good, evil also increaseth.—The will of the Master is, Nay!—The long-suffering and patience of God puts them to shame, and worketh patience in them.—Here Christ bears witness to that divine toleration which He manifests in the government of His Church.—Reasons of this prohibition: 1. The servants might commit a mistake (confound the wheat with the tares)—some may have the root of the thing in them; 2. they might root up the wheat along with the tares (since good and evil are often very closely intertwined): 3. the godly are to be tried; 4. the wicked may yet be saved.—They are bound in bundles: indicating their fellowship in misery.—The real and internal dignity of God’s people does not yet appear.

Dräseke:—The enemy comes when people are asleep.—What a strange mixture in the kingdom of heaven!—Bachmann: The mixture of the godly and of sinners in the Church of Christ.—Reinhard: On the view which Christ Himself entertained of His kingdom upon earth.

B. THE PARABLE OF THE GRAIN OF MUSTARD-SEED.—The kingdom of heaven under the figure of a grain of mustard-seed: 1. The least of all seeds (poverty and humility of Christ; His Apostles, publicans and fishermen; His message, reconciliation through a crucified and risen Saviour). 2. The greatest among herbs (the Church universal and a universal religion): a. The richest and best among herbs (the planting of the Lord); b. appearing to be a tree (so strong as to be able to bear even that worldly spirits should lodge in its branches).—Christianity, as reflecting both the humility and the majesty of its Founder (at first so small in its outward appearance, that men could scarcely seize it; then so large, as to comprehend all: thus, both in history and in the life of the individual Christian).—The contrast between the infinite smallness of the seed and the greatness of the herb, an evidence of the intensity of the principle of growth in the plant.—Christianity twice misunderstood and twice glorified: at first in its smallness, and then in its vast extent.—The commencement of all the works of God small in the eyes of the world: commencement of creation (the light), of humanity (the first pair), of the covenant-people (Isaac, the younger of the two brothers), of the Church (the confession of fishermen), of the new life (faith).—Contrast between the commencement of Christianity and that of the kingdoms of this world.

Starke:—Marginal note of Luther: There is not anywhere a word more despised than the gospel; yet there is none more powerful, since it justifies those who believe in it, which neither the law nor works could do.—This passage may be applied either to the gospel or to the Church.—Canstein: This is the work and wisdom of God, that He makes something of things which are not, and mighty things of those which are weak, while He humbleth and abaseth the things which are high and great, 1 Cor. 1:26, 27.—Zeisius: The weakest faith will grow and extend, and comprehend more than heaven and earth, even Christ Himself, with all that He is, and all that He hath, Eph. 3:17; 1 Pet. 5:10.—Majus: No human power is able to obstruct or prevent the extension of the Church.

Lisco:—Small the beginning, gradual the progress, but great and glorious the issue.—Nations shall flock into the Church of Christ, where they will find safety, salvation, peace, and true happiness.—Heubner: The great things of God have always had a small beginning (to outward appearance).—When commencing, in humble confidence on the Lord, what seemeth a small work, always remember that it may grow into a mighty blessing to those who are near, and to those who are afar off. This, indeed, is the proper way of triumphing: a small beginning and a mighty ending. The opposite is a lamentable failure.

C. THE PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN.—Christianity the hidden power of regeneration both in the world and in the life of believers.—The Church under the figure of the woman hiding the leaven among the meal: 1. The woman; 2. the leaven; 3. the three measures of meal; 4. the hiding of the leaven among them; 5. the result.—The life from God in its progressive victory over the natural life of the world.—The more fully the leaven is hid, and the more completely it seems to have disappeared, the more rapidly and powerfully does it penetrate and leaven the whole mass.—The work of regeneration: 1. On what it depends (leaven stronger than meal); 2. its process (hidden, gradual, all-subduing); 3. the result (all the measures of meal leavened, the divine life penetrating everywhere and everything).—The regeneration of humanity does not necessarily imply that of every individual.—The higher society as a whole is elevated by Christianity, the lower may the individual sink.—The transformation of the heart must correspond to that of the world.

Starke:—The eye of the Lord is not only upon important affairs of state, but also upon our common and humble employments.—Hedinger: Not only vices, but also good examples are infectious.—If the word of God is to appear in all its power and efficacy it must be mixed with faith in the heart.

Lisco:—Man remains man, but he becomes partaker of the divine nature, 2 Pet. 1:3, 4; and hence an entirely changed being.—This power works invisibly, gradually, effectively, and irresistibly, till the whole nature of man, from its principle to its individual faculties, is penetrated, transformed, subdued, and assimilated, and until every foreign and ungodly element is expelled.—Indissoluble communion between what is leavened and the leaven: between believers and Christ.

Heubner: The all-penetrating power of the gospel and of its economy, especially of the blood of reconciliation in the death of Jesus.—Even avowed enemies of Christianity have been obliged partly to own the power of the gospel.—Where the leaven of Christianity is wanting, the whole mass will become corrupt.—Each Christian should operate as leaven upon all around.

D. FULFILMENT OF THE PROPHECY ( Matthew 13:34, 35).—Christ the revelation.—Christ the revealer of all secrets: 1. Of those of God; 2. of humanity; 3. of the history of the kingdom of God; 4. of the kingdom of heaven.—The parables of Christ revealed secrets of God.—Even the parabolic form used by Christ, partly for concealing the truth, became a new revelation.

Starke:—Osiander: Whenever we see natural things, let us elevate our minds to heavenly realities.—Quesnel: The mysteries which from all eternity had been hid in God, and which from the beginning of the world had been presented in types and prophecies, were at last revealed by Christ, and are more and more fulfilled in and by Him, Rom. 16:25.


[13] Matthew 13:24.—[Παρέθηκεν, He set or laid before them another parable as a spiritual riddle, challenging the close attention and solution of the hearers; comp. Mark 4:34, ἐπέλυεν πάντα, he solved all, viz., the parables, E. V.: he expounded all things to his disciples.—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 13:24.—B., M., X., al. σπείραντι. [So also Lachmann and Alford, following the Vatican Codex, etc. Tischendorf in his edition of 1859, reads σπείροντι (seminanti, instead of qui seminavit). Perhaps he will in a new edition adopt the other reading, since the Cod. Sinaiticus, as published by him in 1868, reads σπιρ αντι, a provincial (Egyptian?) spelling for σπείραντι, as the same Cod. frequently has ι, for ει, e.g., φοβισθε for φοβεῖσθε in Matt. 10:28, 31.—P. S.]

[15] Matthew 13:25.—Cod. B., [also Cod. Sinait.], Lachmann, Tischendorf: ἐπ έσπειρεν for ἔσπειρε. [Vulg.: superseminsvit; Rhemish Vers.: over sowed; Lange: säete darauf; sowed over the first seed.—P. S.]

[16] Matthew 13:25.—[Ζιζάνια (probably a Hebrew word), i.e., darnel; lolium temulentum; Germ.: Lolch, Tollkorn; French: ivroie, so called to indicate the vertigo which it causes when eaten in bread. See the Exeg. Notes. But tares is more popular, as the German Unkraut in Luther’s version is better understood than Lolch or Tollkorn. Hence the propriety of a change in this case might be questioned. I would prefer the term bastard wheat.—P. S.]

[17] Matthew 13:27.—[CONANT: “The form in the Common Version: didst not thou, gives a false emphasis; for, in the Greek, the negative verb qualifies the verb, and not its subject.”—P. S.]

[18] Matthew 13:27.—The ancient testimony is decidedly against the article in τὰ ζιζάνια. [Lange misplaces this note to ver 26, where the critical authorities have the article. The Engl. Vers. is right in both cases.—P. S.]

[19] Matthew 13:32.—[In Gr.: μεῖζον τῶν λαχάνων; Lange: grösser als die (andern) Kräuter (alle andern Gartengewächse) i. e., larger than any herb.—P. S.]

[20] Matthew 13:34.—B., C., M., [Cod. Sinait], Lachmann, Tischendorf read οὐδέν [instead of οὐκ].

[21] Matthew 13:35.—The addition: Isaiah, is false in fact and on critical grounds. [Comp. the critical note in Tischendorf’s large edition in loc., vol. i., p. 59.—P. S.]

[22] Matthew 13:36.—Ὁ Ἰησοῦς is an explanatory addition not found in the oldest MSS.

[23] Matthew 13:37.—Lit.: He answering said; αὐτοῖς (to them) is omitted in the critical editions.

[24] Matthew 13:39.—[Angels, without the article which is omitted in the Greek: ἄγγελοί εἰσιν.—P. S.]

[25] Matthew 13:40.—Lachmann, Tischendorf, following B., C., D., al., read simply τοῦ αἰῶνος [omitting τούτου. Alford, however, retains it against the decided weight of authorities, including Cod. Sinait.—P. S.]

[26] Matthew 13:43.—[Shine forth, ἐκ λάμψουσιν, which is more than λάμψουσι, effulgebunt (not simply: fulgebunt, is the Latin Vulg. translates), herrorslrahlen, and signifies the sudden bursting forth of the inherent glory of the righteaus. Comp. Dan. 12:3, and Meyer in loc.—P. S.]

[27][It should be observed that the Saviour says: “while men slept,” not: “while the men (belonging to the owner of the field). or the servants slept:” and that, in the exposition of the parable. He brings so charge of negligence against them, although there is, alas! always more or less of it in all ages and branches of the church. TRENCH: “The phrase is equivalent to ‘at night,’ and must not be further urged (Job 33:15; Mark 4:27). This enemy seized his opportunity, when all eyes were closed in sleep, and wrought the secret mixbief upon which he was intent, and having wrought it undetected, withdrew.” So also Alford.—P. S.]

[28][And to a very considerable size, in the fertile soil of Palestine, as high as the horses heads.—P. S.]

[29][But the Salvadora Persica was also found by Irby and Mangles on or near the peninsula of the Dead Sea. See Royle in Journal of Sacred Lit., 1849. p. 271, and Robinson, Dict. sub σίναπι. But if the mustard-tree had been intended, it would hardly have been numbered among the herbs, λάχανα, Matthew 13:32, which grow in the garden.—P. S.]

[30][Augustin, and quite recently Slier, refer it to the three sons of Noah.—P. S.]

[31][The mediæval divines who defended the capital punishment of heretics, found a loophole in the words: lest ye root up also the wheat with them; from which they inferred that the prohibition was binding only conditionally. But unfortunately for this inference, the Saviour continues: Let both grow together until the harvest, and makes no exceptions at all. On the other hand, however, this passage must not be abused and misunderstood so as to sanction the Erastian latitudinarianism and to undermine discipline which is elsewhere solemnly enjoined by Christ and the apostles, and is indispensable for the spiritual prosperity of the Church.—P. S.]

[32][So already St. AMBROSE (Expos. in Luc. vii). TRENCH (Notes. p. 115) remarks: “In and through the Church the Spirit’s work proceeds: only as the Spirit dwells in the Church (Rev. 22:17) is that able to mingle a nobler element in the mass of humanity, in the world.” .. “The woman took the leaven from elsewhere to mingle it with the lump: and even such is the gospel, a kingdom not of this world, not the unfolding of any powers which already existed therein, a kingdom not rising, as the secular kingdoms, ‘out of the earth’ (Dan. 7:17), but a new power brought into the world from above; not a philosophy, but a Revelation.”—P. S.]

[33][Lange calls it Weltkirche, by which he does not mean either the church secularized nor the various established or state-churches. But the large body of nominal Christendom.—P. S.]

[34][Dr. TRENCH (p. 16) aptly illustrates this feature of the parable from the early history of Christianity, whose working below the surface of society was long hidden from the view of the heathen writers and yet went on with irresistible force until the whole Roman world was leavened by it. And yet the external conversion of the empire was only a part of the work. Besides this, there was the eradication of innumerable heathen opinions, practices, and customs which had entwined their fibres round the very heart of society. This work was never thoroughly accomplished till the whole structure of Roman society went to pieces, and the new Teutonic civilization was erected on its ruins.—P. S.]

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
3. The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Parables, and Parabolical Close of this Section. MATTHEW 13:44–52

44     Again,35 the kingdom of heaven is like unto [a] treasure hid in a [the, τῷ] field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth [which a man found, and concealed;], and for joy thereof [he] goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

45     Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman [merchant],36 seeking 46goodly pearls: Who [And],37 when he had found one pearl of great price, [he] went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

47     Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net [draw-net], that was cast into the sea, and gathered [gathering together, συναγαγούσῃ] of every kind: 48Which, when it was full, they drew to [the] shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels but cast the bad away. 49So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come 50[go] forth, and sever [separate] the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

51     Jesus saith unto them,38 Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.39 52Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is40 instructed unto [in] the kingdom of heaven,41 is like unto a man that is a householder [to a householder], which [who] bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.


Matthew 13:44. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a treasure.—Tischendorf, following Codd. B., D., etc., omits πάλιν, again. But Meyer with good reason defends it. The omission appears to have originated in a stylistic correction. But a consideration of the parables in their connection will convince us that this particle is necessary.—After a general introduction about the parables, the first of them is at once introduced in the form of a simple narrative. This parable is then succeeded by the following well-marked parallelism:—

1)ἄλλην παραβολὴν, Matthew 13:24.

1)πάλιν ὁμοία, Matthew 13:44.

2)ἄλλην παραβολὴν, Matthew 13:31.

2)πάλιν ὁμοία, Matthew 13:45.

3)ἄλλην παραβολὴν, Matthew 13:33.

3)πάλιν ὁμοία, Matthew 13:47.

From the unmistakable antithesis here indicated, we gather that the first three parables—introduced by an ἄλλος—are intended to exhibit the kingdom of heaven under a threefold aspect, being each time presented as more enlarged and universal in its character. And although the third parable bears more particularly upon the unseen efficacy of Christianity, this power is only hid in order afterward to appear all the more glorious in its absolute universality, when the entire mass shall have been leavened by the gospel. It is at this point that the antithesis comes in. Most significantly it is introduced by πάλιν, which seems to point back to the seed hid in the ground, spoken of in the first parable. Shortly before, Christianity had been presented in its universal extent, under the figure of a tree in whose branches the birds sought lodgment, and as humanity leavened by the gospel. Now again the scene is changed, and Christianity is likened unto a treasure hid in the field—to a rare pearl which seems to have disappeared,—nay, even to a draught of fishes concealed in the depths of the sea. [The transition in these parables is very easy and natural: from the seed buried in the ground and the leaven hid in the meal, to the treasure buried in the field; from the treasure to the pearl of great price, the treasure of the deep, which suggests the sea; the fishermen with their net, the mixed throng on the beach, the bank of time, the final separation. Comp. also Alford and Trench.—P. S.]

In the field.—Meyer remarks in reference to the article: “In that particular field in which it lay concealed.” But this were mere tautology. The article points out a contrast, showing that the treasure was left there, having no special owner. The circumstance that it lay hid in a field where it would not be looked for, implies that the finder might regard it as a treasure-trove. But there was still a defect about the title to this possession. Accordingly, the finder again hides the treasure, and purchases the field in which he had discovered it. Meyer quotes a similar instance from Bava Mezia, F. 28. 2. R., in which Rabbi Emi purchases a field where he had found a treasure, “ut pleno jure thesaurum possideret, omnemque litium occasionem prœcideret.” Paulus (Exeg. Handbuch, 2:187) rightly observes: “It would have been foreign to the purpose of this parable, and to the point of the comparison, if Jesus had entered on the question as to the legal right and title to what was found.” However, the action of the person who found the treasure is intended to show his strict honesty. The treasure is represented as a lost and unclaimed possession, lying where such a deposit would never be looked for. But as the field itself belonged to another proprietor, the person who found it selleth all that he hath in order to purchase the ground. Even in this view of the matter, however, it is not intended to discuss the absolute right of the case. The notions of right current on such a question, serve as a basis for presenting higher and spiritual relationships.

For joy thereof.—With Erasmus, Luther, Beza, etc., we read αὐτοῦ as the genitive of the object.

Matthew 13:45. A merchant.—In this figure of the kingdom of heaven, the merchant and the goodly pearl must be regarded and treated as a unit. The kingdom of heaven is here exhibited as presenting the contrast of conscious aim, and of the surpassing possession accorded to it.

Matthew 13:48. The good fishes.Τὰ καλά and σαπρά, here in the same sense as above, in chaps. 7 and 12. Not bad fishes only, but all kinds of unclean sea animals, had got into the net. That such animals are here referred to, and not merely fishes, appears from the contrast between καλόν and σαπρόν—clean or good, and unclean, wild, or whatever is devoted to destruction, whether in the vegetable or in the animal kingdom. To the same conclusion point the words, ἐκ πανός γένους συναγαούσῃ. Bad fishes could scarcely be designated as forming a peculiar γένος. The Aorists in Matthew 13:47 and 48 are used in the narrative sense, and not in the sense of habit or custom.

Matthew 13:52. [Every scribe, γραμματεύς.—The Jewish writer or scribe, סופֵר, a teacher (connected with סֵפֶר, a book), also called νομικός, νομοδιδάπσκαλος, is a transcriber and interpreter of the sacred Scriptures of the O. T., a theologian and a lawyer. So the word is used in the Septuagint and in the N. T. Many of them were members of the Sanhedrim, and hence they are often mentioned in connection with the elders and priests. But here, as Meyer correctly suggests, the empirical conception of a Jewish scribe is raised to the higher idea of a Christian teacher, who is a pupil of the kingdom of heaven: μαθητευθεὶς τῇ βασ τ. οὐρ., or a disciple of Jesus, as the Jewish scribes were disciples of Moses, 23:2; John 9:28. The true Christian divine is always learning at the feet of Jesus, and true learning is always connected with childlike docility and humility.—P. S.]

Things new and old.—Olshausen, following many older commentators, applies the expression to the law and the gospel; Meyer, to things hitherto unknown, and to things already known and formerly propounded. The most obvious explanation is, the things of the new world [the Christian order of things] under the figures of the old.42


1. THE TREASURE IN THE FIELD.—The following points are clearly laid down in this parable: 1. The kingdom of heaven is represented as having once more become invisible in the visible Church, as hid like a treasure, erst concealed in a most unlikely place (in the midst of worldly things). 2. It appears as a treasure-trove, i. e., as a free gift of grace, discovered by a person in a fortunate hour, though while he was engaged in digging. 3. True Christianity, when again discovered, a subject of great joy. 4. The surrender of all our possessions (of works, of our own righteousness, of the world, and of self) in order to secure this treasure. We first become poor in order to be made rich by the possession of this treasure.—The only difficulty in the parable lies in the statement about buying the field. If “the field” refers to external worldly ecclesiasticism, the expression might mean that we were not to carry the treasure out of the visible Church, as if we were stealing it away; but that we should purchase the field in order to have a full title to the enjoyment of the possession hid in it. Accordingly, it would apply against Novatianism and every other kind of sectarianism. But if the expression included also the mediæval Church, it would of course not imply that we were to become Papists, but that we were to make Catholicism our own, as the symbolical garb under which the gospel was presented,—in other words, that we were to convert all mediæval and legal symbols into evangelical truths and forms of life. (Comp. my work: The legal Catholic Church a symbol of the free Evangelical Church.)

2. THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE.—The following points are plain: He who obtains the kingdom of heaven is no longer represented merely as a fortunate finder, but at the same time as an untiring searcher. He is consciously seeking and striving after goodly pearls, or precious spiritual goods.43 At the same time, what was formerly described as a treasure is now characterized as a pearl of great price: it is presented in a concentrated form, as the one thing needful, bright and glorious in its appearance,—i. e., the person of Christ, and life in Him, are now all and in all. Accordingly, all former possessions are readily surrendered. Not that everything great and good, which may formerly have been sought or attained, is to be cast away, but that it merges into this new possession and pearl of great price.—The difficulty in this parable lies in the circumstance that the pearl of great price seems to have become matter of merchandize, and, like the jewel of the fable, is found somewhere in a distant part of the world. Probably the meaning of this is, that Christianity is now in the midst of the most active mental life and intercourse, and that the pearl of great price cannot be found without merchandize, i. e., without spiritual inter course, and moral and earnest aspiration. But when this pearl is discovered, it is made the inmost property of the soul, and our highest ornament: the merchant gives up his business, and has become a prince through his new possession.

3. THE NET IN THE SEA.—The whole Church is now presented in her missionary capacity, as a net cast into the sea of nations. Christianity alone combines the nations of the world, and converts them, so to speak, into one spiritual ocean. The net itself is, of course, only intended to enclose a draught, not to separate its contents. Accordingly, along with the good fishes, unclean sea animals, bad fishes, mud, etc., are brought to land. This exactly applies to the Church in her missionary capacity. Hence the process of separating judgment at the close, which forms the main point in this parable; while in that of the wheat and tares it was only introduced in order to supplement and explain the prohibition addressed by the Lord to His servants. From the circumstance that those to whom the process of separation is entrusted are said to sit down on the shore, and to gather out the good, we infer that “the day of judgment” will be a season of judgment, or an æon in the appearing of Christ.

4. The leading idea which pervades the three last parables is, that vital Christianity is concealed from common view. In the first parable it was represented as hid in a field which sparingly yielded earthly bread—or amid established ecclesiastical order; in the second, we discover it in the course of busy mercantile enterprises, or in the midst of active mental interchange; while in the last parable it appears concealed by the waves and the depths of the sea of life. Similarly, the believer is represented, first, as a husbandman cultivating a field not his own, or, as dependent, without possession of his own in the Church, and only able to acquire anything for himself in his private capacity (in consequence of his own researches and prayer); in the second parable he is described as a merchant, who has entered into active mental and spiritual intercourse; and in the last, under the figure of a fish in the sea, whose new nature and life are safely preserved amid the waves, the dangers, and the unclean animals of the deep. Lastly, we note, that while in the first parable Christianity was characterized as a treasure that had been hid, of undefined, unknown, yet of infinite value; and in the second, as the one pearl of great price; it is set before us in the third as a draught of good fishes—Christianity and Christians being here indissolubly connected and identified. In the first case, the acquisition of the treasure was a happy discovery, granted while the finder was earnestly engaged in the service of works; in the second, it was the highest aim of conscious endeavors; and in the third, it was the experience of the decisive final catastrophe, when Christians are to be separated from the things of the world, put into a clean vessel, and thus made to fulfil their heavenly destiny. Hence also the judgment is in this instance exhibited in all its power. In the first parable the judgment was chiefly negative—the land yielded no fruit; in the second parable it was confined to the real authors and representatives of spiritual evil on the earth; while in the third, every kind of unclean animals are doomed to share the fiery judgment awarded to the wicked.

5. THE TRUE SCRIBE.—The expression manifestly applies to Christian teachers, or else to genuine disciples who follow the example of the Lord. The true scribe must bring forth out of his treasure not only things old and dead, but also things new and living—the one along with the other; the new in the garb and in the light of the old, and the old in its fulfilment and development as the new.

[CHR. WORDSWORTH: “Christ in His own parables, precepts, and prayers did not disdain to avail Himself of what was already received in the world. He built His religion on the foundation of the Old Testament, and also on the primeval basis of man’s original constitution and nature rightly understood. And He teaches His Apostles and ministers not to reject anything that is true, and therefore of God; but to avail themselves of what is old, in teaching what, is new, and, by teaching what is new, to confirm what is old; to show that the gospel is not contrary to the law, and that both are from one and the same source, in harmony with nature, and that one and the same God is the author of them all. God the Father is the original of all; and God the Son, the eternal Logos, who manifests the Father by creation and by revelation,—who made the world and who governs it,—is the dispenser and controller of all.” MATTHEW HENRY: “See here (1) what should be a minister’s furniture, a treasure of things new and old. Those who have so many and various occasions, need to stock themselves well in their gathering days with truths new and old, out of the O. T. and out of the N.; with ancient and modern improvements, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. Old experiences and new observations, all have their use; and we must not content ourselves with old discoveries, but must be adding new. Live and learn. (2) What use he should make of this furniture; he should bring forth: laying up is in order to laying out, for the benefit of others. Sic vos non vobis—you are to lay up, but not for yourselves. Many are full, but they have no vent (Job 32:19), have a talent, but they bury it; such are unprofitable servants. Christ Himself received that He might give; so must we, and we shall have more. In bringing forth things, new and old do best together; old truths, but new methods and expressions, especially new affections.”—P. S.]


The three parables in their connection: Christianity manifested in a threefold form, and again concealed in a threefold manner.—The divine invisibility of the Church concealed under its worldly visibility.—Christianity the great revelation, and yet the great mystery in the world, to the end of time, 1 Tim. 3:16.

1. THE TREASURE IN THE FIELD.—True Christianity ever again like an unexpected discovery, even in the ancient Church.—The best possession we can find, a gift of free grace.—Every one must find and discover Christianity for himself.—Description of him who found the heavenly treasure of a free gospel in the earthly field of the Church. 1. What he may have been: one who had taken the field for a time, and was busily employed upon it (engaged in earnest endeavors after righteousness); or else a miner, who may have anticipated the possibility of some discovery; but certainly not an indolent person engaged in digging for treasures. 2. What he certainly was most faithful in his labors, and happy in his discovery; finding something for which he had not wrought, nor even sought.—In order to secure possession even of what we have found, without any merit of our own, we must be willing to sacrifice all; or, salvation, though entirely of free grace, requires the fullest self-surrender.

Starke:—Marginal note of Luther: The hidden treasure is the gospel, which bestows upon us all the riches of free grace, without any merit of our own. Hence also the joy when it is found, and which consists in a good and happy conscience, that cannot be obtained by works. This gospel is likewise the pearl of great price.—Hedinger: Let us hazard everything—honor, possessions, and life—for the sake of the gospel, which so far surpasses everything else in value. What were temporal possessions without this treasure! comp. 16:26—If we lose Christ, then indeed all is lost; but if Christ be found, nothing can be said to be lost.—He who has Christ as his own is rich indeed, and may well rejoice.

Braune:—He was silent about his discovery. By silence the kingdom of God is most effectually promoted. (Yet there is a time for speech and a time for silence.)

Lisco:—Learn to understand and know this mark of the kingdom of heaven. It always seemeth as if he possessed it who possesses it not, and again as if he possessed it not who really possesses it. The treasure is hid, etc.

Gerlach:—In order to be certain of our possession of the kingdom of heaven, let us first seek inward assurance of our part in it by faith, before we come forward openly, lest we lose everything.—Not, as if we could purchase or acquire for ourselves the kingdom of God.—Self-abnegation is always requisite. Only, it must be of free choice and willingly, not of constraint.

Heubner:—The treasure is lost. 1. The natural man knows not its character or value; 2. the world does not care for it; 3. it can only be received by and in the heart.—Where is it concealed? In the field: the visible Church, or else the word.44—Comp. Muslin, Sermon iv. on Col. 3:3, “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (although this is a different thought).

2. THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE.—Without spiritual aspirations, Christian life is impossible.—Christianity the necessary goal of all true aspirations of the soul.—If we have been awakened to true, inward aspirations, we shall not be satisfied with anything less than goodly pearls: 1. We shall seek genuine spiritual possessions; 2. such as are simple, most precious, and yet easily preserved; 3. which never lose their value.—Christianity under the figure of a merchant: 1. The man and his calling (he takes pleasure in his business, and carries it on with enthusiasm, not as a hired laborer). 2. His object: to find goodly pearls. What he wishes to avoid—spurious pearls; what he scarcely dares anticipate—the pearl of great price. 3. His discovery: far surpassing his hopes. 4. His resolution: to give up his merchandize, and to retire, enjoying his new princely possession.—The goodly pearl: the person of Christ, all in one.—This pearl reflects both the waters of the world and the brightness of heaven.—On the dangers and the blessings connected with the rapid mental interchange of modem times.—True disciples combine the gracious and free gift of life from above with earnest seeking and striving after heavenly blessings.—Who has discovered the goodly pearl? He that has found the Lord in His gospel, that has found himself in the election of grace, and that has found both heaven and earth, by finding and experiencing the love of God.

Starke:—Quesnel: Merchants who go from one end of the earth to the other, and venture everything in search of worldly gain, may well put to shame many Christians who care so little for the Lord, and their own salvation.—Osiander: Men often at great cost buy pearls and jewels, which cannot save them from death; but the gospel, etc.—One thing is needful, Luke 10:42.—Zeisius: Oh wise diligence! Oh blessed discovery!—To adorn the body with pearls, but to forget the pearl of great price, will bring to shame in the day of judgment.—Gossner: Christ—truth—peace—a pearl of great price indeed.—Lisco: The transcendent value of the kingdom of heaven.—Heubner: In the first parable the discovery was, so to speak, a matter of good fortune, while in the present instance the merchant is busy searching for pearls.—Souls awakened (Justin Martyr).—Christ in us is the pearl of great price.

3. THE NET CAST INTO THE SEA.—The whole Church of Christ essentially missionary in its character.—The net encloses every species, both good and bad.—First they are gathered, and then separated.—For a season souls are at the same time in the sea and in the net: 1. In the sea, and yet in the net; 2. in the net, and yet in the sea.—The whole world drawn to the shore of eternity in the net of the Church.—Ultimately, it is not the net, but the draught of fishes, which is of importance.—The kingdom of heaven in the Church at the end of the world: 1. The whole world one sea; 2. the entire Church one net; 3. the whole kingdom of heaven one draught of fishes.—The separation of the clean from the unclean: 1. It is not done precipitately (only when the net is full); 2. nor tumultuously (they sit down and gather); 3. but carefully (the good into vessels); and, 4. decisively (the bad are cast away); 5. universally.—Fiery Judgments descending upon sinners.—The gnashing of teeth of the condemned shows that their wailing is not weeping.—Those who are finally cast away cannot truly weep.

Starke:—Quesnel: In the net of the divine word souls are drawn from the depths of error and sin into faith and blessedness.—The world as resembling a tempest-tossed sea, Isa. 57:20.—The fishermen are the ministers of the gospel.—Hedinger: Bad fishes, or hypocrites, will be found even in the holiest assemblage.—Everybody wishes to appear pious, and none likes to be thought godless; but the day of judgment will disclose the true character of men.—The net is still in the sea.—Heubner: The kingdom of heaven here means the apostolic or ministerial office in the Church. (This is too narrow. It is the Church as an institution of grace.)

4. THE TRUE SCRIBE.—“Have ye understood all these things?”—The parable about the parable.—The scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven.—The living treasury containing old, and ever sending forth new treasures.—Defects and dangers of common religious instruction: 1. It presents the old without the new; 2. or the new without the old; or, 3. fails to exhibit the proper relationship between them.—The ministerial office a constant “bringing forth:“ 1. Presupposing a continual receiving from on high; as, 2. again manifesting itself by a right “bringing forth” (of wise, fresh, and rich instruction).

Starke:—Let teachers frequently examine their pupils.—The kingdom of heaven must form the central-point of all theological learning. Nov. Bibl. Tub.—Majus: Approved teachers are only trained in the school of Christ and of the Holy Spirit.

Lisco:—The ability and the activity of a true teacher.

Gerlach:—Everything connected with the kingdom of heaven is at the same time old and new.

Heubner:—Jesus the model for all preachers.—Love the secret of true popularity.—Rhetorical figures and worldly oratory is what many hearers most admire.—Authentic definition here given of what constitutes a good divine: his inspirations are drawn from Scripture (he is instructed in the kingdom of heaven, and bound to extend it. All science and learning which do not tend to the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom cannot be divine); his treasure (things new and old. He learns from others and draws from his own resources, finding in his meditation and spiritual experience things both new and old).—On the danger of preaching oneself empty [by neglecting and despising the old, or by ceasing to produce new thoughts and sermons].


[35] Matthew 13:44.—[Again, πάλιν, is wanting in the best MSS., as B., D. also in Cod. Sinait., in the Latin Vulgate, and is thrown out by Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and Conant. Lachmann retains it, but in brackets. It may easily have been inserted from Matthew 13:45 and 47; but it may also have been omitted here at the beginning of a new series of parables. Lange retains it in his translation and ingeniously defends it in the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[36] Matthew 13:45.—[Merchant-man is now only used of a trading vessel, as distinguished from a ship-of-war. See the English Dict—P. S.]

[37] Matthew 13:46.—[According to the true reading of Codd. Sinait., Vatic, Contabr., etc., and the critical editions: εὑρὼν δέ instead of ὁς εὑρών. See Meyer, p. 278.—P. S.]

[38] Matthew 13:51.—Codd. B., D, Ital., Vulg, etc., omit: λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς. So Lachmann and Tischendorf, [Tregelles. Alford, Conant]; but Meyer defends the sentence. It looks like an exegetical interpolation. [Cod. Sinait. omits the words.]

[39] Matthew 13:51.—Κύριε is wanting in numerous authorities.

[40] Matthew 13:52.—[The interpolated words: Which is, are better omitted]

[41] Matthew 13:52.—Different readings. Τῇ βασιλείᾳ [for εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν] is supported by B., C., K., etc. [Also by Cod. Sinait. which reads: τη βασιλια, substituting ι for ει, as usual in this MS. It is the dative of reference: “instructed in the kingdom of heaven.”—P. S.]

[42][Doubtful. Better: the old truths reproduced in new and living form from the Bible, from history and from personal experience. In the kingdom of God the old is ever new, and the new old. The old becomes stagnant and dead, if not always renewed and personally applied; the new must be rooted in the old, and grow out of it. Comp. the additions in the Doctrinal and Ethical Notes, sub No. 5.—P. S.]

[43][Trench instances Augustine as an example of the diligent seeker and finder. Nathanael and the Samaritan woman as examples of the finders without seeking.—P. S.]

[44][Not world, as the Edinb. translation has it. Heubner means the Bible, as containing the treasure of truth.—P. S.]

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.

Christ Manifests Himself as the High Priest in his Sufferings; Being Rejected—(a.) By his own City Nazareth

CHAPTER 13: 53–58 (Mark 6:1–6; Luke 4:14–30)

53     And it came to pass, that45 when Jesus had finished these parables [of the kingdom of heaven], he departed thence. 54And when he was come [having come, ἐλθών] into his own country,46 he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch [so] that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works [the miracles]?4755Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren 56[brothers],48 James, and Joses [Joseph],49 and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57And they were offended in [at] him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58And he did not many mighty works [miracles] there because of their unbelief.


According to Schleiermacher and many others, the passage before us is identical with Luke 4:16. But this view is controverted by Wieseler, Ewald, and Meyer. The opinion of Schleiermacher is, however, supported by the fact, that in both passages the people of Nazareth are described as putting the question: Is not this the carpenter’s son, or the son of Joseph? and that in both cases the Saviour replies that a prophet is not without honor, etc. But the chronological arrangement seems to be rightly given by Luke, as his narrative fully accounts for the removal of Jesus to Capernaum. Matthew indeed furnishes different details as to the time and circumstances of this occurrence ( Matthew 13:53, 54). But we would suggest as probable, that the Lord may, after His controversy with the Pharisees, have retired for a time with His disciples into the mountains and to Nazareth. This may explain the introduction of this narrative. When recording the stay at Nazareth, Matthew, in his usual pragmatic method, also relates some events which had formerly taken place there. At the same time, it will be observed that the Evangelist only states the great outlines of this conflict of Jesus with His fellow-citizens, without repeating the details connected with it.

Matthew 13:54. His own city.—On the situation of Nazareth, and the meaning of the word, comp. the Exegetical Notes on Matthew 2:23.

Whence hath this man?τούτψ. By way of contempt, as if they were inquiring what schools He had attended while in their city.

Matthew 13:55. The carpenter’s son.—The word τέκτων (artifex), faber lignarius in the widest sense (carpenter, wright, etc.).

[The occupation of a carpenter was always regarded as an honorable and respectable employment; hence this question was not a question of contempt, but of surprise. The Nazarenes regarded Jesus not as their inferior, but themselves as His equals, and doubted only His claim to superiority, which was forced upon

them by His wisdom and miracles. It is the same natural surprise which is always felt if an old acquaintance meets his former humble associates with a distinguished rank or reputation as a scholar, or artist, or statesman, or merchant-prince.—P. S.]

A prophet.—A fact of experience—exculpatory in its general bearing, but condemnatory in its special application in this instance.

Matthew 13:58. He did not many miracles.—Mark: “He could there do no mighty works;” i. e., He found them not prepared to receive, and therefore would not as He could not. The latter expression indicates not a want of power, but the moral limits which Himself imposed on the exercise of His power. However, it also implies that we are not to regard these displays of Christ’s power as merely the manifestations of absolute might.

Matthew 13:55–57. The brothers of Jesus.

Matt. 13:55. James, Joses,50 Simon, Judas (Mark 6:3).

Mark 15:40.      James the Less, Joses, their mother Mary.

John 19:25.      (Mary the wife of Cleophas.) The Apostles.

Matt. 10:3. James (the son of Alphæus or Cleophas).

Simon Zelotes.

Lebbeus (Thaddeus) (or Judas, the brother of James. Luke 6:16).

Acts 1:13. James, the son of Alphæus.

Simon Zelotes.

Judas, the brother of James.

From the above we conclude:

(1) That three brothers of the Lord bore the names of James, Simon, andJudas;

That three Apostles also bore the names of James, Simon, and Judas:

(2) That James, the brother of the Lord, had a brother called Joses [Joseph];

That the Apostle James, the son of Alphæus, had a brother called Joses:

(3) That the father of the Apostle James the Less bore the name of Alphæus;

That the father of Joses, the son of Mary, bore the name of Alphæus:

(4) That the Apostle Judas had a brother called James;

That Judas, the brother of Jesus, had a brother called James:

(5) That the wife of Clopas or Cleophas was called Mary, and that she was the mother of James and Joses.

(6) Hence that

Cleophas was the father of James and Joses;

Cleophas was the father of the Apostle James;

Cleophas was the father of Judas, the brother of James.

(7) Besides, we have Simon, Brother of the Lord; Brother of James (brother of the Lord); Apostle of the Lord.

Manifestly, then, the brothers of the Lord and the Apostles whom we have just named are identical. The relationship existing between them was probably as follows: Clopas (Cleophas), or Alphæus, was a brother of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus (Eusebius, 3:11). It is a mistake to suppose that Mary the wife of Cleophas was the sister of the mother of the Lord.51 Alphæus probably died early [?], and Joseph [the poor carpenter?] adopted his family [of at least six children? and this, when their mother was still living, John 19:25?—P. S.]; so that the cousins of Jesus became His adopted brothers, and in the eye of the law were treated as His brothers. Probably they were older than Jesus, and hence appear to have interfered on several occasions with His work. Although at an early period they were in the faith, some time elapsed before they attained to full obedience. Besides these sons, Alphæus seems also to have left daughters [?].

The idea that the Apostles James the Less and Judas were different from the brothers of the Lord, originated among the Judæo-Christian sect of the Ebionites. The oldest Catholic tradition, on the contrary, has always regarded them as identical (Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen).52 For further particulars, see my article Jakobus in Herzog’s Real Encyclop. [vol. vi., p. 406 sqq. Comp. also ALFORD on Matt. 13:55; Dr. MILL: On the Brethren of our Lord (quoted by Alford and Wordsworth, as defending the cousin-theory), and SAM. S. ANDREWS: The Life of our Lord, N. Y., 1863, p. 104 sqq.—P. S.]

[NOTE ON THE BROTHERS OF JESUS.—After a renewed investigation of this difficult exegetical and historical problem, I beg leave to differ from the cousin-theory, even in the modified form so plausibly defended by Dr. Lange here and elsewhere. I shall present as clearly and concisely as I can the principal exegetical data in the case, on which the right conclusion must be based. For a fuller treatment I refer to my monograph on James (Berlin, 1842), where the whole subject is discussed exegetically and historically, with special reference to James the brother of the Lord and his relation to James the Less. (Compare also my History of the Apostolic Church p. 378, and the notes in previous parts of this Commentary, on Matthew 1:25; 12:46, 47; 13:55 above.)

1. The brothers of Jesus, four in number, and bearing the names Jacob or James, Joseph (or Joses), Simon, and Jude, are mentioned with or without their names, fourteen or fifteen times in the N. T. (not ten times, as Alford in loc. says), twice in connection with sisters (whose number and names are not recorded), viz., twelve times in the Gospels, Matt. 12:46, 47; 13:55, 56 (ἀδελφοί and ἀδελφοί); Mark 3:31, 32; 6:3 (here the sisters are likewise introduced); Luke 8:19, 20; John 7:3, 5, 10;—once in the Acts, 1:14;—and once by St. Paul, 1 Cor. 9:5, to which must be added Gal. 1:19, where James of Jerusalem is called “the brother of the Lord .” Besides, the Saviour Himself speaks several times of His brothers (brethren), but apparently in a wider sense of the term, Matt. 12:48, 49, 50; Mark 3:33, 34, 35; Matt. 28:10; John 20:17.

In the former fourteen or fifteen passages it is agreed on all hands that the term brothers must be taken more or less literally of natural affinity, and not metaphorically or spiritually, in which sense all Christians are brethren. The question is only, whether the term means brothers proper, or cousins, according to a somewhat wider usage of the Hebrew אָח.

2. The exegetical or grammatical (though not perhaps the dogmatical) a priori presumption is undoubtedly in favor of the usual meaning of the word, the more so since no parallel case of a wider meaning of ἀδελφός (except the well-known and always apparent metaphorical, which is out of the question in our case), can be quoted from the New Testament. Even the Hebrew אָח is used only twice in a wider sense, and then only extended to nephew (not to cousin), viz., Gen. 13:8; 14:16; of Abraham and Lot, who was his brother’s son (11:27, 31), and Gen. 29:12, 15, of Laban and Jacob his sister’s son (comp. Matthew 13:13). Here there can be no mistake. The cases are therefore not strictly parallel with ours.

3. There is no mention anywhere of cousins or kinsmen of Jesus according to the flesh; and yet the term ἀνεψιός, consobrinus, cousin, is well known to the N. T. vocabulary (compare Col. 4:10, where Mark is called a cousin of Barnabas); so also the more exact term υἱὸς τῆς ἀδελφῆς, sister’s son (comp. Acts 23:26, of Paul’s cousin in Jerusalem); and the more general term συγγενής, kinsman, relative, occurs not less than eleven times (Mark 6:4; Luke 1:36, 58; 2:44; 14:12; 21:16; John 18:26; Acts 10:24; Rom. 9:3; 16:7, 11, 21).

Now, if the brothers of Jesus were merely His cousins (either sons of a sister of Mary, as is generally assumed, or of a brother of Joseph, as Dr. Lange maintains), the question may well be asked: Why did the sacred historians not in a single instance call them by their right name, ἀνεψιοί, or υἱοὶ τῆς ἀδελφῆς τῆς Μαρίας, or τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ τοῦ Ἰωσήφ, or at least more generally συγγενεῖς?53 By doing this they would have at once prevented all future confusion among commentators: while by uniformly using the term ἀδελφοί, without the least intimation of a wider meaning, they certainly suggest to every unbiased reader the impression that real brothers are intended.

4. In all the passages where brothers and sisters of Jesus are mentioned, except in John 7 (where they are represented in conflict with the Lord), and 1 Cor. 9 (which was written probably after the death of Mary), they appear in close connection with Him and His mother Mary as being under her care and direction, and as forming one family. This is certainly surprising and unaccountable, if they were cousins. Why do they never appear in connection with their own supposed mother, Mary the wife of Clopas (or Alphæus), who was living all the time, and stood under the cross (Matt. 27:56; John 19:25), and at the sepulchre (Matt. 27:61)?

Lange calls to his aid the double hypothesis of an early death of Clopas (whom he assumes to have been the brother of Joseph54), and the adoption of his children by the parents of Jesus, so that they became legally His brothers and sisters. But this adoption, if true, could not destroy their relation to their natural mother, Mary, who was still living, and one of the most faithful female followers of Christ. Besides, both the assumption of the early death of Clopas and the adoption of his children by Joseph, is without the shadow of either exegetical or traditionary evidence, and is made extremely improbable by the fact of the poverty of the holy family, who could not in justice to themselves and to their own Son adopt at least half a dozen children at once (four sons and two or more daughters), especially when their own mother was still living at the time. We would have to assume that the mother likewise, after the death of her husband, lived with the holy family. But would she have given up in this case, or under any circumstances, the claim and title to, and the maternal care of, her own children? Certainly not. The more we esteem this devoted disciple, who attended the Saviour to the cross and the sepulchre (Matt. 27:56, 61; John 19:25), the less we can think her capable of such an unmotherly and unwomanly act.

5. There is no intimation anywhere in the New Testament, either by direct assertion or by implication (unless it be the disputed passage on James, in Gal. 1:19), that the brothers of Christ, or any of them, were of the number of the twelve Apostles. This is a mere inference from certain facts and combinations, which we shall consider afterward, viz., the identity of three names, James, Simon and Judas, who occur among the brothers of Christ and among the Apostles, and the fact that a certain Mary, supposed to be an aunt of Jesus, was the mother of James and Joses (but she is never called the mother of James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude), and with the fact of the eminent, Apostle-like position of James, the brother of the Lord, in the church at Jerusalem.

6. On the contrary, the brothers of Jesus are mentioned after the Apostles, and thus distinguished from them. In Acts 1:13, 14, Luke first enumerates the eleven by name, and then adds: “These all [the Apostles] continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” Here they seem to form a distinct class with their mother, next to the Apostles. So also 1 Cor. 9:5: οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ Κυρίου. Such distinct mention of the brothers after the Apostles was not justified if three of the four, as is assumed by the cousin theory, were themselves Apostles; consequently, only one remained to make a separate class. The narrative, Matt. 12:46–50, likewise implies that the brothers of Jesus who stood without, seeking to speak with Him, were distinct from the disciples ( Matthew 13:69), who always surrounded Him.

7. More than this: before the resurrection of Christ, His brothers are represented in the Gospel of John, in Matthew 7:3–10, long after the call of the Apostles, as unbelievers, who endeavored to embarrass the Saviour and to throw difficulties in His way. This makes it morally impossible to identify them with the Apostles. Even if only one or two of the four had been among the twelve at that time, John could not have made the unqualified remark: “Neither did His brethren (brothers) believe in Him” (7:5); for faith is the very first condition of the apostolate. Nor would Christ in this case have said to them: “My time has not yet come; but your time is always ready; the world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth” ( Matthew 13:6, 7); nor would He have separated from them in His journey to Jerusalem. It will not do here to weaken the force of πιστεύειν, and to reduce their unbelief to a mere temporary wavering and uncertainty. The case of Peter, Matt. 16:23, and that of Thomas, John 20:25, are by no means parallel. The whole attitude of the brothers of Christ, as viewed by Christ and described by John, is entirely inconsistent with that of an apostle. It is an attitude not of enemies, it is true, but of doubtful, dissatisfied friends, who assume an air of superiority, and presume to suggest to Him a worldly and ambitious policy. After the resurrection they are expressly mentioned among the believers, but as a distinct class with Mary, next to the Apostles.

All these considerations strongly urge the conclusion that the brothers of Christ were real brothers, according to the flesh, i. e., either later sons of Mary and Joseph, or sons of Joseph by a former marriage (more of this below), unless there are very serious difficulties in the way, which make this conclusion either critically, or morally, or religiously impossible.

Let us now approach these difficulties.

8. There are serious but no insurmountable objections to the conclusion just stated.

(a) The first objection is the identity in name of three of these brothers with three of the Apostles, viz., James, Simon, and Jude.55 But it should be remembered that these were among the most common Jewish names. Josephus mentions no less than twenty-one Simons, seventeen Joses’s, and sixteen Judes. Why could there not be two or three persons of the same name in the apostolic Church? We have at all events two James’s, two Simons, and two Judes among the twelve Apostles. This difficulty is more than counterbalanced by the opposite difficulty of two sisters with the same name.

(b) The second objection, likewise of a critical and exegetical character, is derived from Gal. 1:19: “But other of the Apostles saw I none, save (εἰ μή) James, the Lord’s brother.” Here James, who was one of the brothers of Jesus, seems to be included among the Apostles, and this must have been James of Alphæus, or James the Less.56 But the passage bears the exactly opposite interpretation, if after εἰ μή we supply simply: εῖδον, and not εῖδον τὸν ἀπόστολον, viz.: “I saw none other of the Apostles (besides Peter, Matthew 13:18), but only (I saw) James, the Lord’s brother.” This interpretation is very old,57 and is defended by some of the highest grammatical authorities of our age.58 I think with Meyer 59 that James is here distinguished from the twelve to whom Peter belonged, and yet at the same time mentioned with the Apostles in a wider sense of the term. In other words, he is represented as a man who, on account of his close natural relationship to Christ, and of his weight of character and piety, enjoyed an apostolic dignity and authority among the strict Jewish Christians. He was the acknowledged head and leader of this branch and the first bishop of Jerusalem, where he permanently resided and died, while the apostles proper were not fixed in a particular diocese, but traveling missionaries, with the whole world for their field of labor. That this was precisely the position of James is evident from various passages in the Acts, in the epistle to the Galatians, from Josephus, Hegesippus, and the traditions of the Eastern Church.”60

(c) The third objection is of a moral character, and derived from the consideration that Christ on the cross could not have commended His mother to the care of John if she had other sons (John 19:26, 27). “But why,” we may ask with Andrews,61 “if James and Judas were Apostles and His cousins, sons of her sister and long inmates of her family, and it was a question of kinship, did He not commend her to their care? “The difficulty then remains, and must be solved on other grounds. The brothers of Jesus at that time, as appears from John 7, were not yet full believers in Christ, although they must have been converted soon after the resurrection (Acts 1:14). Moreover, John was the most intimate bosom friend of the Saviour, and could better sympathize with Mary, and comfort her in this peculiar trial than any human being. If the modern interpretation of John 19:25 be correct, as it probably is, Salome (not Mary, wife of Clopas) was a sister of Christ’s mother, consequently John His cousin. But we would not urge this as an additional reason of the commendation, which must be based on a deeper spiritual affinity and sympathy.

(d) The fourth objection is religious and dogmatical, arising from the pious or superstitious belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the apparent impropriety of the birth of any later descendants of the house of David after the birth of the Messiah. The perpetual virginity of the mother of our Saviour is an article of faith in the Greek and Roman Church; it is taught also in a few of the older Protestant symbols,62 and held to this day by many evangelical divines. Bishop Pearson says that the Church of God in all ages has maintained that Mary continued in the same virginity,63 Olshausen takes the same view, and Lange, though the latter only as far as offspring is concerned. Dr. Jos. Addison Alexander, a Presbyterian, who will not be accused of any sympathy with Romanism, says with apparent approbation: “Multitudes of Protestant divines and others, independently of all creeds and confessions, have believed, or rather felt, that the selection of a woman to be the mother of the Lord, carries with it as a necessary implication that no others could sustain the same relation to her; and that the selection of a virgin still more necessarily implied that she was to continue so; for if there be nothing in the birth of younger children inconsistent with her maternal relation to the Saviour, why should there be any such repugnance in the birth of older children likewise? … The same feeling which revolts from one hypothesis in some, revolts from both hypotheses in both.”64

A doctrine or feeling so old and widely spread must be treated with proper regard and delicacy. But it should be observed:

In the first place, that these doctrinal objections hold only against the view that the brothers of Christ were younger children of Mary, not against the other alternative left, that they were older children of Joseph by a former marriage.

Secondly, the virginity of Mary can be made an article of faith only as far as it is connected with the mystery of the supernatural conception and the absolute freedom of Christ from hereditary as well as actual sin. But neither His nor her honor require the perpetual virginity after His birth, unless there be something impure and unholy in the marriage relation itself. The latter we cannot admit, since God instituted marriage in the state of innocence in Paradise, and St. Paul compares it to the most sacred relation existing, the union of Christ with His Church.

Thirdly, the Apostles and Evangelists, who are certainly much safer guides in all matters of faith and religious feeling than even fathers and reformers, seem to have had no such feeling of repugnance to a real marriage between Joseph and Mary, since they not only frequently mention brothers and sisters of Christ, without any intimation of an unusual or indefinite sense of the word, but Matthew and Luke (2:7) call Christ the first-born son of Mary, and Matthew moreover says (1:25), that Joseph knew not Mary, i. e., did not cohabit with her as man and wife, till she had brought forth her first-born son. I admit that neither πρωτότοκος nor ἕως οὗ are conclusive in favor of subsequent cohabitation and offspring, but they naturally look that way, especially in a retrospective historical narrative, and in connection with the subsequent frequent mention of the brothers and sisters of Christ by the same writers. At all events, we are warranted to say that those terms could not have been used by the Evangelists if they had regarded legitimate cohabitation as essentially profane, or in any way degrading to Joseph and His mother. The Old Testament, it is well known, nowhere sustains the ascetic Romish views on the superior merits of celibacy, and represents children as the greatest blessing, and sterility as a curse or misfortune.

Finally, it may be regarded as another proof of the true and full humanity and the condescending love of our Saviour, if He shared the common trials of family life in all its forms, and moved a brother among brothers and sisters, that “He might be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.” This last consideration, however, has its full weight if we adopt Dr. Lange’s modification of the cousin-hypothesis, viz., the formal adoption of Christ’s cousins into the holy family.

9. It remains to be seen whether the cousin-theory is more free from difficulties. This theory is comparatively late and cannot be traced beyond the time of Jerome in the fourth century,65 but has since been adopted by the whole Latin Church, and by the older Protestant divines, who, however, paid very little critical attention to this question.66 Jerome’s view did not obtain credit and currency without an undue weight of dogmatical considerations connected with the perpetual virginity of Mary and the superior sanctity of celibacy (as is very evident from Jerome’s violent work against Helvidius). It has moreover to contend with all the facts presented under No. 1–7, which are as many arguments against it. And finally it has to call to its aid two assumptions, which are at least very doubtful, and give the theory an intricate and complicated character. These assumptions are:

(a) That Mary, the mother of James and Joses (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40), was a sister of the Virgin Mary, and that consequently her children were cousins of Jesus. But who ever heard of two sisters bearing the same name without any additional one by which to distinguish them? Then, the only passage on which the alleged relationship of the two Marys is based, John 19:25, admits of a different and more probable explanation, by which the term “His mother’s sister” is applied to Salome,67 who stood certainly under the cross (see Matt, 27:56; Mark 15:40), and could not well be passed by in silence by her own son, St. John, while he, with his accustomed modesty and delicacy, omitted her name, and intimated her presence by bringing out her relation to Mary.

(b) That Clopas, or Cleophas, the husband of Mary, the supposed sister of the Virgin Mary, is the same with Alphæuns, the father of James, the younger Apostle of that name, who is called Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ἀλφαίου (Matt 10:3; Mark 2:14; 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). But this, though not improbable, and supported by the testimony of Papias, is at least not certain. Besides, Matthew (or Levi) was also a son of Alpbæus, Mark 2:14, and if Ἰον̓δας Ἰακάβου, and Simeon, two of the twelve, were likewise among the brothers of Christ, we would have four Apostles, of whom it is said in John 7 that they did not believe. Finally, Mary, it should be remembered, is called the mother of James and Joses only, but never the mother of Simon and Jude, the other two brothers of Jesus, and both of them supposed to have been Apostles, which Joses was not. It is nowhere intimated that she had more sons than two, or any daughters at all; and even from her two sons, one, Joses, must be exempt from being a namesake, since Joseph, and not Joses, according to the correct reading, in Matt. 13:55, is the second brother of Christ.

Dr. Lange, it is true, avoids some of these difficulties by giving up the sisterhood of the two Marys, and assuming in its place the brotherhood of Clopas, or Alphæus, and Joseph,68 as the basis of the cousinship of their sons, and calling to his aid the additional hypothesis of the early death of Alphæus and the adoption of his children into the holy family,—but all this without a shadow of exegetical proof. The absence of all allusion in the Evangelists to Mary, the real and still living mother of these children, when they are collectively mentioned, is a surprising fact, which speaks as strongly against Lange’s hypothesis as against the older and usual form of the cousin-theory.

10. We conclude, therefore, that the strict grammatical explanation of the term brothers and sisters of Christ, though not without difficulties, is still far more easy and natural than the explanation which makes them mere cousins.

But from the exegetical data of the New Testament we are still at liberty to choose between two views:

(a) The brothers of Jesus were younger children of Joseph and Mary, and hence His uterine brothers, though in fact only half-brothers, since He had no human father, and was conceived by the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Blessed Virgin. This view may be supported by the ἕως and the πρωτότοκος in Matt. 1:25 and Luke 2:7, and has been adopted by Tertullian, Helvidius, and many modern Protestant divines of Germany, as Herder, Neander, Winer, Meyer, Wieseler, Rothe, Stier, and by a few English divines, Alford (on Matt. 13:55), T. W. Farrar (in W. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. i., p. 231), and, though not decidedly, by Andrews (Life of our Lord, p. 114). This view of the case is the most natural, and would probably be taken by a majority of commentators, if it were not from the scruples arising from the long and widely cherished doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Once clearly and fully established on the testimony of Scripture and history, this theory would give a powerful polemical weapon into the hands of Protestants, and destroy by one fatal blow one of the strongest pillars of Romish Mariology and Mariolatry, and the ascetic overestimate of the state of celibacy. But the case is by no means so clear at the present state of the controversy that we could avail ourselves of this advantage; and Protestants themselves, as already remarked, differ in their views, or feelings, or tastes, concerning the perpetual virginity of Mary.

(b) The brothers of Jesus were older sons of Joseph from a former marriage, and thus in the eyes of the law and before the world, though not by blood, brothers and sisters of Christ. This view has the doctrinal advantage of leaving the perpetual virginity of Mary untouched. It seems, moreover, to have been the oldest, and was held not only among the Ebionites, and in the pseudo-apostolical constitution, but by several early fathers, as Origen, Eusebius (who calls James of Jerusalem a “son of Joseph,” but nowhere of Mary), Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius (who even mentions the supposed order of birth of the four sons and two daughters), Hilary, Ambrose, etc.69 It is equally consistent with the Scripture data on the subject as the other alternative, and in some respects even more so. For it agrees better with the apparent difference of age between Joseph (who early disappears in the gospel history) and Mary, and especially with the patronizing and presumptuous air of the brothers of Christ, when they sought an interview with Him at a particular crisis (Matt. 12:46), and when they boldly dared to suggest to Him a more expeditious and ostentatious Messianic policy (John 7:3–10). This is at least more readily explained, if they were older according to the flesh; while on the other theory some of them must have been almost too young to figure so prominently in the gospel history. It is true, they are nowhere called sons of Joseph;70 but neither are they called sons of Mary. The reason in both cases must be found in the fact, that Christ is the great central figure in the Gospels, round which all others move. On the other hand, however, it is difficult to believe that God should have selected an old widower with at least six children, as the husband of the mother of Christ. And the old tradition on which this view rests, may itself be explained as an attempt to escape the force of scriptural statements against the cherished belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary.—P. S.]


1. In this narrative the Evangelist sets before us the circumstances under which the sufferings of our High Priest were introduced—by successive rejections of His person and claims. This in all probability induced him to relate in this connection that Christ was rejected even in His own city. But the historian drops a veil over the particulars and circumstances of His rejection. Nazareth adjoined Matthew’s native city, and, perhaps, lay even within the district of his home.

2. On the fact that our Lord had no uterine brothers or sisters, comp. my Leben Jesu, 2:1, p. 139 sqq. To our mind, there seems nothing offensive in the idea, that Joseph and Mary lived on conjugal terms;71 but it appears to us inconceivable that the mother of Jesus should afterward have given birth to other children. Besides, the brothers of the Lord are introduced as speaking and acting like persons who claim to have more enlarged experience than Jesus, or, as we infer, as His seniors.


The question: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” or prejudice.—How the people of Nazareth condemned themselves, while imagining that they judged Jesus.—How they unconsciously verified the exclamation of Nathanael: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”—How every prejudice against Christianity contains the germ of its own condemnation. For, 1. it evidences a want of proper faith, (a) in the power of God, (b) in humanity, (c) in the miracles of history, (d) in the deeper recesses of our own inner life; 2. and yet even prejudice must confess that the wisdom and the works of Christ are most mysterious and inexplicable. Hence such persons readily have recourse to lying and hostile criticisms.—The offence of the people of Nazareth on account of the humble origin of the Lord, a picture of all other offences in Him. 1. An offence, (a) in His terrestrial state and existence; (b) in His human lowliness; (c) in His brothers and sisters with their human weaknesses. 2. Yet an offence which will leave us self-condemned, since it implies an admission of His wisdom and of His deeds. 3. A most fatal offence, since unbelief deprives us of the blessings of Christ’s wondrous works.—The saying of Christ, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own home:” 1. As an extenuation; 2. as a reproof.—Jesus rejected by His own city.—The rejection of Jesus in Nazareth a prelude to His rejection by the people.—Nazareth, so poor, yet casting out the Lord of glory: 1. Nazareth in Galilee; 2. the land of Judea so poor; 3. the earth so poor.—The inmost characteristic of unbelief is, that it implies contempt of our own being and higher nature.—Whenever we read that the Lord “could not do,” or else that He “knew not,” the circumstances connected with it show that it was not from weakness or ignorance, but that His infinite power and wisdom were controlled and limited by supreme love and faithfulness.—How the King gradually merged into the High Priest.

[Matt. Henry:

Matthew 13:58. Unbelief is the great obstruction to Christ’s favor.—If mighty works are not wrought in us, it is not for want of power or grace in Christ, but for want of faith in us.—P. S.]

Starke:—Canstein: Jesus is in truth the son of the carpenter; but of that Carpenter who made heaven and earth.—Ungrounded prejudices are too often obstacles in the way of faith, John 7:40–42.—Jerome: Naturale prop modum est cives civibus in videre.—Homines familiaria con’emnere, peregrina exosculari et in admiratione ac pretio habere solent.72

Gerlach:—Carnal men look at the outward appearance; and this state of mind repels them from the Son of God, appearing in the form of a servant.

Heubner:—Jesus does not force His love or His blessings upon us.—Pride brings its own punishment. (Of this, history furnishes ample confirmation.)


[45] Matthew 13:53.—[That is an unnecessary interpolation placed before when in Cranmer’s and James’s versions, or before he departed by Tyndale and the Geneva Bible, and is omitted by Wiclif, the N. T. of Rheims, also by Conant in his work on Matthew, but restored before he departed, in the revised Vers. of the Am. Bible Union.—P. S.]

[46] Matthew 13:54.—[Lange, as also de Wette, Ewald, and others, translate πατρίδα here: Vaterstadt, paternal (maternal) town, for Vaterland (Luther), fatherland. Nazareth is meant as the residence of his mother and reputed father. Euthym. Zigab.: λέγει τὴν Ναζαρὲτ, ὡς πατριδα τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ νομιζομένου πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὠς τραφεὶς ἐς αὐτῇ.—P. S.]

[47] Matthew 13:54.—[Αἱδυνάμεις, de Wette: die Wunder; Lange: die Wunderkräfte; Ewald: die Heilsmächte, Comp. the note on 11:20, p. 210. The definite article here is more emphatic than the demonstrative pronoun of the E. V.—P. S.]

[48] Matthew 13:55.—[Comp. my note on 12:46, p. 231.—P. S.]

[49] Matthew 13:55.—B., C, and several translations read Ἰωσήφ. So Lachmann, Tischendorf. Many uncial MSS. D., E., F., G., etc., Ἰωάννης;—K., L., etc., Ἰωσῆς. In the parallel passage of Mark the reading Joses is by far better supported than Joseph. According to Lightfoot the Talmudists write יוֹסֵי for יוֹסֵף. Perhaps the person in question was called by both names already in the apostolic age. [Dr. Lange, in his German translation, retains Joses from the received text. But Joseph is undoubtedly the true reading according to the ancient authorities, including Cod. Sinaiticus, and is adopted also by Meyer, Tregelles, Alford Conant. The reading has some bearing on the question concerning the brothers of Christ. For if Ἰωσήφ be the true reading, there remains but one brother of Christ, viz. James, of the same name with one of the two sons of Mary, the wife of Alphæus (supposed to be the same with Cleophas), Matthew 27:56 (“Mary the mother of James and Joses”); and this argues against the view defended by Dr. Lange, that the brothers of Christ were merely his cousins. See below.—P. S.]

[50](Or rather Joseph. See the critical note above.—P. S.]

[51]Comp. Wieseler in the Studien und Kritiken for 1840. p. 648: “There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and the sister of His mother—i. e. , Salome—, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.” John 19:25. Comp. Mark 15:40; Matt. 27:56.

[52][But it must be added, that the oldest tradition, including the most distinguished Greek and Latin fathers, as Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius, Hilary, and Ambrose, regarded the brothers of Christ as sons of Joseph by a former marriage. See the passages in full in my book on James, p. 80 sqq.—P. S.]

[53]Hegesippus (ap. Euseb. H. E. 4:22) speaks of cousins of Christ, calling Simeon, the successor of James in Jerusalem: ἀνεφιὸν τοῦ Κυρίου δεύτερος.

[54]Hegesippus (in Eusebius’ H. E. iii. 11) asserts that Clopas was the brother of Joseph. Lange denies that Mary, the wife of Clopas, was the sister of the Virgin Mary. But Lichtenstein (Lebensgeschichte des Herrn, Erlangen, 1856, p. 124) assumes, that the two brothers, Joseph and Clopas, married two sisters, both named Mary. Clopas dying, Joseph took his wife and her children into his family. Schneckenburger reverses the hypothesis and assumes that Mary, after the early death of Joseph, moved to the household of her sister, the wife of Clopas.

[55]Dr. Lange, in his article Jakobus in Herzog’s Encycl., vol. vi., p. 412, calls this die Unhaltbarkeit einer dreinamigen Doppelgängerlinie in dem apostolischen Kreise, and afterward eine unerhörte swei- bis vierfache Doppelgängerei.

[56]So Schneckenburger on the Epistle of James, and all the commentators on Galatians who adopt the cousin-hypothesis, also Ellicott ad Gal. 1:19, who, however, does not enter into a discussion of the general question.

[57]Victorinus, in his Commentary in loc., says: “Paul disclaims James as an apostle, saying, that he saw no other apostle besides Peter, but only James.”

[58]Winer, Grammatik, 6th ed., p. 557 (§ 67, sub I. e); who quotes for a similar use of εἰ μή Acts 27:22 and Rev. 21:27; Fritzsche, Comment. in Matt., p. 482. who translates: alium apostolum non vidi, sed vidi Jacobum; Bleek (in Studien und Kritiken for 1836, p. 1059), and, as to the inference drawn, also Meyer and Hilgenfeld ad Gal. 1:19.

[59]In his Comment. on Gal. 1:19.

[60]This subject is fully discussed in my book on James.

[61]The Lift of our Lord upon the Earth, p. 115.

[62]The Articles of Smalkald, Pars. I. art. IV. (p. 303. ed. Hase): “Ex Maria pura, sancta, semper virgine.” The Form of Concord, p. 767: “Unde et vere θεοτόκος, Del genetrix est, et tamen virgo mansit.” Even Zwingli shared in this view, Comment. in Matt. 1:18, 25. and the Helvetic Confession speaks of Jesus as “natus ex Maria semper virgine.

[63]Exposition of the Creed, art. III.

[64]Commentary on Matthew, 13:56, pp. 388 and 384, and in the same language. Com. on Mark 6:3. Dr. Alexander does not decide one way or the other (though leaning to the cousin-theory), and thinks that the difference of taste and sensibility on this subject is likely to continue to affect the interpretation until the question has received some new and unequivocal solution.

[65][Dr. Wordsworth and others would carry the cousin-theory to Papias in the second century, and quote a fragment, ascribed to his name, on the four Marys (ap. ROUTH, Reliquiæ sacræ, ex Cod. MSS. 2397): “I. Maria, mater Domini. II. Maria, CLEOPHÆ SIVE ALPHÆI uxor, quæ fuit mater Jacobi Episcopi et Apostoli, et Simonis, et Thadei [Judæ Jacobi], et eujusdam Joseph. III. Maria Salome, uxor Zebedei, mater Joannis evangelistæ. et Jacobi. IV. Maria Magdalena.” But this extract is evidently a part of a dictionary written by a mediæval. Papias, which still exists in MS. both at Oxford and Cambridge.—P. S.]

[66]Calvin for instance regards the question as one of idle curiosity in Matt. 1:25: “Certe memo unquam hac de re questionem movebit nisi curiosus; nemo vero pertinaciter insistet nisi contentiosus rixator.”

[67]This explanation was brought out first clearly by Wieseler (in the Studien und Kritiken for 1840. p. 648 sqq.), and adopted by Meyer, Lange, and Alford. But the old Syriac version already implied this interpretation by inserting a καί before Μαρία, and translating: “And there were standing near the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister [Salome], and Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”

[68]Hegesippus, in Eusebius’ H. E. iii. 11, comp. 4:29, asserts, that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, but it does not appear whether he uses the term brother strictly, or for brother-in-law.

[69]See my book on James, p. 80 sqq. Chrysostom may also be included in this class; at least he clearly separates the brothers of Christ from the apostles, for the reason that they were for a long time unbelievers (Hom. 5 in Matt.).

[70]Eusebius, however, H. E. ii. 1, calls James of Jerusalem a “son of Joseph.”

[71][In this point Lange differs from the view of the Greek and Latin Churches, which deny every conjugal intercourse as degrading the character of the holy Virgin.—P. S.]

[72][Comp. the proverbs: “Familiarity breeds contempt;” “Distance lends enchantment to the view;” “Es ist nicht weit her” (It is not far off).—P. S.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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