Matthew 5:47
And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?
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(47) If ye salute your brethren.—The prominence of salutation in the social life of the East gives a special vividness to this precept. To utter the formal “Peace be with you,” to follow that up by manifold compliments and wishes, was to recognise those whom men saluted as friends and brothers. But this the very heathen did (heathen rather than “publicans” being here the true reading): were the followers of Christ to be content with copying heathen customs?

5:43-48 The Jewish teachers by neighbour understood only those who were of their own country, nation, and religion, whom they were pleased to look upon as their friends. The Lord Jesus teaches that we must do all the real kindness we can to all, especially to their souls. We must pray for them. While many will render good for good, we must render good for evil; and this will speak a nobler principle than most men act by. Others salute their brethren, and embrace those of their own party, and way, and opinion, but we must not so confine our respect. It is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press towards perfection in grace and holiness. And therein we must study to conform ourselves to the example of our heavenly Father, 1Pe 1:15,16. Surely more is to be expected from the followers of Christ than from others; surely more will be found in them than in others. Let us beg of God to enable us to prove ourselves his children.And if you salute your brethren ... - The word "salute" here means to show the customary tokens of civility, or to treat with the common marks of friendship. See the notes at Luke 10:4. The Saviour says that the worst men, the very publicans, would do this. Christians should do more; they should show that they have a different spirit; they should treat their "enemies" as well as wicked people do their "friends." This should be done:

1. Because it is "right;" it is the only really amiable spirit; and,

2. We should show that religion is not selfish, and is superior to all other principles of action.

47. And if ye salute your brethren only—of the same nation and religion with yourselves.

what do ye more than others?—what do ye uncommon or extraordinary? that is, wherein do ye excel?

do not even the publicans so?—The true reading here appears to be, "Do not even the heathens the same?" Compare Mt 18:17, where the excommunicated person is said to be "as an heathen man and a publican."

Ver. 46,47. Reason obliges you, who expect a reward from God for what you do, to do something more than those who know of no such reward, or at least live in no expectation of any such thing; and you who condemn others as great sinners, and men not worthy of your converse, ought to do something by which you may outdo those whom you so condemn, both in offices of piety towards God and charity towards men. But if you only show kindness to your relations and to your countrymen, you do no more than those whom you look upon as heathens and the worst of men, who act only from the light and law of nature, and know of no reward God hath to give, nor live in any such expectation of it. By loving here is meant doing good offices, either for the souls or bodies of others. By saluting is meant common offices of kindness, such as inquiring of our neighbours’ health, wishing them well, &c. The publicans were civil officers appointed by the Romans to gather up public taxes and revenues. The chief commissioners were knights and gentlemen of Rome, who either let out these revenues to others, or employed others under them in the collecting of them. These thus employed were some Jews, (such were Matthew and Zacchaeus), some Romans. These (as is ordinary) made their own markets, and exacted of the people, upon which accounts they were exceeding odious: and therefore ordinarily in Scripture we shall find publicans and sinners put together, Matthew 9:11 11:19; and they are joined with harlots, Matthew 21:32; and the Pharisee in his justification gloried he was not as that publican, Luke 18:11. Those who condemn others ought to take care that they be better than others. And if you salute your brethren only,.... This does not mean salutation by embraces or kisses, but by words, asking of each other's welfare, and wishing prosperity and happiness to one another.

"The manner of salutation among the wise men was this (e); he that salutes says, a good day to my lord; and he replies, saying, a good, and long day to my lord: always he that replies doubles the salutation.''

The persons they usually gave their salutations to were those of their own nation, their countrymen, relations, and friends; and who are here designed by "brethren"; meaning, not brethren in the strict sense, but any kindred, acquaintance, or any of their own nation. Some copies read it "friends", who, generally speaking, only partook of such favours.

"A man, (says Maimonides (f),) might not salute his master, nor return a salutation to him in the manner they gave a salutation to "friends": and they return it to one another.''

They were not very free in saluting any persons, as strangers and Gentiles: such advice as this is indeed given (g), "prevent every man with a salutation", or be first in saluting every man; upon which passage their commentators (h) say, even a Gentile in the streets. Accordingly, it is elsewhere (i) observed, that

"R. Abai used to say, let a man be always cunning with fear, for "a soft answer turns away wrath"; and multiply salutation with his brethren, and with his relations, and with every man, even with a stranger in the streets.''

But this proceeded not from any cordial hearty respect, but out of policy, and from fear; and in order to maintain peace; and for selfish ends, and with sinister views: otherwise their salutations were confined to their brethren and kinsfolk after the flesh. Now, this being the case, says Christ,

what do ye more than others? do not even publicans so? Or, as some copies read it, Gentiles or Heathens; and accordingly the Ethiopic version, and the Vulgate Latin so render it: the Arabic renders it "idolaters". Now, what great matter was this to salute their brethren and their friends, when even the very Heathens, who had nothing but the light of nature to guide them, did the same?

(e) Sepher Chasidim, fol. 5. Colossians 2. apud Buxtorf. Florileg. Heb. p. 300, 301. (f) Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 5. sect. 5. (g) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 15. (h) Jarchi & Bartenora in ib. (i) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1.

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the {x} publicans so?

(x) They that were the toll masters, and had the oversight of tributes and customs: this was a type of man that the Jews hated to death, both because they served the Romans in those offices (whose heavy bondage they could not overthrow) and also because these toll masters were for the most part given to covetousness.

Matthew 5:47. And if ye shall have welcomed your brethren alone (saluted them lovingly), what special thing have you done? The conception, “to act in a friendly manner” (Luther, Tholuck, Bleek, Hofmann), is not the significatio, but certainly the adsignificatio of ἀσπάζεσθαι, as often in classic writers. Comp. ἀσπάζεσθαι καὶ φιλεῖν, Stallbaum, ad Plat. Ap. p. 29 D, and Rep. 499 A.

τοὺς ἀδελφ. ὑμῶν μόνον] is not to be limited to the members of families and other close associations (Tholuck and others), as was already done by the reading φίλους, approved of by Griesbach; but it refers to the members of the nation, and applies to the national particularism of the Jews; consequently the national antithesis is οἱ ἐθνικοί. Comp. Bleek.

τί περισσόν] what preference? what distinguishes you above others, “ut decet filios Dei,” Bengel. Comp. Romans 3:1; Soph. O. R. 841. Instead of τί περισσόν, Justin, Apol. i. 15, quotes τί καινόν, which substantially agrees with τί περισσόν, and belongs only to another form of the idea, not to a higher point of view (Hilgenfeld). See Ritschl in the Theol. Jahrb. 1851, p. 490 f.Matthew 5:47. ἀσπάσησθε, “Salute,” a very slight display of love from our Western point of view, a mere civility; more significant in the East; symbolic here of friendly relations, hence Tholuck, Bleek and others interpret, “to act in a friendly manner,” which, as Meyer remarks, is, if not the significatio, at least the adsignificatio.—περισσὸν, used adverbially, literally “that which is over and above”; A. V[36], “more”; here, tropically = distinguished, unusually good = “quid magnum, eximium, insigne” (Pricaeus), so in Romans 3:1. In Plutarch, Romulus, xi., of one who excelled in casting horoscopes. Christ would awaken in disciples the ambition to excel. He does not wish them to be moral mediocrities, men of average morality, but to be morally superior, uncommon. This seems to come perilously near to the spirit of Pharisaism (cf. Galatians 1:14, προέκοπτον), but only seems. Christ commends being superior, not thinking oneself superior, the Pharisaic characteristic. Justin, Apol. i. 15, mixes Matthew 5:46-47, and for περισσὸν puts καινὸν, and for τελῶναι, or ἐθνικοὶ, πόρνοι: “If ye love those who love you what new thing do ye? for even fornicators do this.”—ἐθνικοὶ, here as elsewhere in the Gospels associated with τελῶναι (Matthew 18:17). A good many of the publicans would be Gentiles. For a Jew it was a virtue to despise and shun both classes. Surely disciples will not be content to be on a moral level with them! Note that Jesus sees some good even in despised classes, social outcasts.

[36] Authorised Version.47. salute your brethren only] See Matthew 5:43. The Hebrew salutation was Shalom (peace).

The higher MS. authority gives “Gentiles” or “heathen,” instead of “publicans.”Matthew 5:47. Εἃν ἀσπάσησθε, if ye salute) contrasted with, bless ye, etc., in Matthew 5:44. The very verb ἀγαπάω, to love, is repeated in Matthew 5:46 from Matthew 5:44; but as the heathens do not also bless and pray, the verb to salute is put here instead of either blessing or praying.—τοὐς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν, your brethren[236]—ἐθνικοὶ, the heathen) The Publicans regard their own interest, the Heathens perform also offices of kindness towards their connections and friends, and more especially towards their blood relations. In Matthew 5:46, therefore, the example of the Publicans is cited; in Matthew 5:47, that of the Heathens.—τί περισσὸν, what remarkable thing)[237] such as befits the sons of God.[238]

[236] The margin of Beng. Ed. π and Vers. Germ. prefer φίλους to ἀδελφοῦς: But not so the larger Edition of α. 1734. Lucifer reads amicos, also of second rate Uncial MSS. L Δ. But the oldest MSS. and Vulg. ἀδελφοὺς, fratres.—ED.

[237] E. V. What do ye more than others?—(I. B.)

[238] He who does nothing but what is customary ought to stand in fear (soll in Sorge stehen.)—B. G. V.Verse 47. - And if ye salute. It seems almost a bathos after "love." But it expresses love publicly showing itself by kindly greeting. Your brethren; with whom you have the fellow-feeling of common origin - in this case not national, but spiritual (cf. ver. 22, note). What do you more than others? (τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε); Tyndale," What singuler thynge doe ye?" Do not even the publicans? Revised Version, the Gentiles? with the manuscripts. "The form used (ἐθνικός) describes character rather than mere position" (Bishop Westcott, on 3 John 1:7); "hethen men" (Wickliffe). So; Revised Version, the same, with the manuscripts. Τὸ αὐτό, notwithstanding its occurrence in ver. 46 and parallel passage, Luke 6:33, was altered to the commoner οὕτως ποιεῖν.
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