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The attempt to write this commentary has been made
under impulses given, in the one case consciously, in the
other not, by two friends. For some years, Bishop Lloyd
of Newcastle-on-Tyne, whose loss we are still deeply
lamenting, had been urging the writer to do something
of the kind ; and one of the latest letters received from
him, — a letter written shortly before his death, expressed
delight that this volume was progressing. And it was the
writer's privilege to take a very small part in the produc-
tion of the invaluable work on this Gospel by the Rev.
W. C. Allen in the International Critical Commentary
published by Messrs. T. Sc T. Clark. To share in that
work was to be inspired to continue it.

This volume, therefore, has two aims over and above
the desire to do something in accordance with Bishop
Lloyd's earnest wishes. On the one hand, this sequel to
Mr. Allen's commentary has for its object to call the
attention of some who do not already know it to a book
which Leaflet 31 of the Central Society of Sacred Study
(July 1907) pronounces to be "the best English com-
mentary on the first Gospel" (p. 5), and of which reviewers
have said much the same. On the other hand, this
volume aims at supplementing the earlier one. A re-
viewer in the Guardian doubted whether Mr. Allen " was
well advised to restrict himself so rigidly to questions of
literary, as distinct from historical — not to say theological
and religious — interest." Mow well he would have dealt


with the historical, theological, and religious sides of his
subject is shown in those places in which he somewhat
transgresses his self-imposed limits. But there can be no
doubt that his desire to do the critical and literary part of
the work (which was the part most needed) with thorough-
ness has caused him to omit a good deal that his readers
would have been glad to have from him. To supply, if
possible, some of the elements which he has passed by,
or has treated very briefly, is another of the aims of this

The works to which this commentary is indebted are
numerous. A list of some of them is given below, partly
as an expression of gratitude, partly as some help to
others who desire to labour in the same field. An asterisk
indicates that the writer's debt is large, and that others
may expect to find much to aid them. For further
information the list of works in the writer's IntcrnationaL
Critical Covimentary on St. Luke, pp. Ixxx-lxxxviii, 577-
580, may be consulted.

Abbott, E. A. . Faj-adosis, London, 1904.

Johannitie Vocabulary, 1905.

'''/ohannine Gt-ammar, 1906.

Alexander, W. M. Deino?iic Possession in the New Testament,

Edinburgh, 1902.

Allen, W. C. . . *A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the

Gospel according to St. Mattheiv, Edinburgh,


Briggs, C. A. . *The Messiah of the Gospels, Edinburgh, 1894.

JVew Light on the Life of Jesus, Edinburgh,

The Ethical Teaching of Jestis, New York,

Criticism and the Dogtna of the Virgin Birth
(N. Amer. Rev., June 1906).!
Bruce, A. B. . , The Synoptic Gospels (The Expositor's Greek

Testament), London, 1897.
Burkitt, F. C. . *Evangelion Da- Mepharreshe, Cambridge,
Tiie Gospel History and its Transmission,
Edinburgh, 1906.
^ This valuable essay has been published separately. Scribner, 1909.


Burton and Constructive Studies in the Life of Christ,

Mathews Chicago.

Charles, R. H. . The Book of Enoch, Oxford, 1893.

The Apocalyf'se of Baruch, London, 1896.
The Assumption of Moses, London, 1897.
The Ascension of Isaioh, London, 1900.
The Book of Jubilees, London, 1902.
*The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,

translated from the Greek, London, 1908.
*The Greek J'ersions of the Testaments of the
T-iVelve Patriarchs, Oxford, 1908.
Dahnan, G. . . *The Words of Jesus, Edinburgh, 1902.
Deissmann, G. A. * Bible Studies, ^L<!i\v^)\^v^^, 1903.

The Philology of the Greek Bible, London,

New Light on the New Testament, Edinburgh,
Donehoo, J- de Q. The Apocryphal and Legendary Life of Christ,
New York, 1903.
Encyclopedia Biblica, London, 1 899-1 903.
Girodon, P. . . Commentaire critique et moral sur Fl^vangile

selon Saint Luc, Paris, 1903.
Godet, F. . . Lntroductio7iauNouveauTesiament,'^QMc\\dXf\,

Gore, C. . . . The Incarnation of the Son of God (The
Bampton Lectures, 1891), London, 1891.
* Dissertations on Subjects con?iected with the
Incarnation, London, 1895.
The New Theology and the Old Religioti,
London, 1907.
Gould, E. P. . . A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the
Gospel according to St. Mark, Edinburgh,
Gregory, C. R. . Canon attd Text of the N'ew Testament,

Edinburgh, 1907.
Grenfell and Sayings of our Lord from an early Greek
Hunt Papyrus, London, 1897.

Nexv Sayings of Jesus, London, 1904.
Harnack, A. . . Die Chronologie der altchristlichen Literatur
bis Eusebius, Leipzig, 1897.
*The Sayings of Jesus, the Second Source of
St. Mattheiv and St. Luke, London, 1908.
Harris, J. Rendel The Newly Recovered Gospel of St. Peter,

London, 1893.
Hastings, J. . . * Dictionary of the Bible, Edinburgh, 1898-
1902, with Extra Volume, 1904.


Hastings, J. . .

Hawkins, Sir J. C.
Herford, R. T. .

Holtzmann, H. J.

Holtzmann, O. .
Hort, F. J. A. .

Jiilicher, A. . .

Kennedy, H. A.

Klostermann, E.

Knowling, R. J.
Lang, C. G. . .

Lock and Sanday

Mackinlay, G. .

Maclaren, A.

Moulton, J. H. .

Moulton, R. G. .
Nicholson, E. B.

Oxford Society
of Historical

Plummer, A,. .

* Dictionary of Christ a7id the Gospels, 1906-

*Horce. Synopticce, Oxford, 1899; 2nd ed. 1909
Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, London,

Einleitung in das Neue Testament, Freiburg i.

B., 1892.
The Life of Jesus, London, 1904.
*Judaistic Christianity, London, 1894.
*The Christian Ecclesia, London, 1897.
An Introduction to the New Testament,

London, 1904.
Sources of New Testament Greek, Edinburgh,

Ha?idbuch zum Neuen Testament ; Markiis,

Tiibingen, 1907.
Our Lord's Virgin Birth, London, 1907.
Thoughts on Some of the Parables of Jesus,

London, 1906.
Two Lectures on the Sayings of Jesus re-
cently discovered at Oxyrynchus, Oxford,

The Magi, How they recognised Chrisfs Star,

London, 1907.
*The Gospel according to St. Alattheiv,

London, 1905, 1906.
*A Grammar of New Testament Greek,

Edinburgh, 1906.
The Modern Reader's Bible, London, 1907.
The Gospel according to the Hebrews, London,

The Gospel according to St. Afatthew, London,

The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers,

Oxford, 1905.

A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the
Gospel according to St. Luke, Edinburgh,

Polano, H. . . The Talmud (The Chandos Classics),

London, n.d.
Resch, A. . . Das Kindheits Evangelium (Texte und

Untersuchungen, x. 5), Leipzig, 1897.
*Agrapha, Ausseirafionische Schriftfragmcnte

(Texte und Untersuchungen, NF. xv. 3, 4),

Leipzig, 1906.


Robinson, J. A. .

Robinson and

Salmon, G. .

Sanday, W. . .

Schiirer, E.

Smith, D. .

Steinbeck, J.
Swete, H. B.

Taylor, C.

Wright, A.

Zahn, T. .

The Historical Character of Sf. John's Gospel,

London, 1908.
The Gospel according to Peter, London, 1892.

*The Human Element in the Gospels, London,

* Inspiration (The Bampton Lectures, 1893),

London, 1893.
Sacred Sites of the Gospel, Oxford, 1903.
The Criticism of the fourth Gospel, Oxford,


* Outlines of the Life of Christ, Edinburgh,

*The Life of Christ in Recent Research, Oxford,

* History of the Jewish People in the Time of

Jesus Christ, Edinburgh, 18S5-1890.
*Geschichte des Jiidischen Volkcs im Ze Halter
Jesu Christi; dritte Auflage, Leipzig, 1898.
The Gospel according to St. Matthciv (The
Westminster New Testament), London,
*Das gottliche Selbstbe'ivusstsein Jesu nach dem
Zeugnis der Synoptiker, Leipzig, 1908.
The Akhm'wi Fragment of the Apocryphac
Gospel of St. Peter, London, 1893.
*The Gospel according to St. Mark, London,

*The Appearances of our Lord after the Passion,
London, 1907.
Sayings of the Jewish Fathers comprising
Pirqe Aboth in Hebrew and English,
Cambridge, 1897.
Das Evangelium Matthaei, Berlin, 1904.
*Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek, London,
Einlcitung m das Neue Testament, Leipzig,
*Das Evangelium des Matthiius, Leipzig, 1903.
Introduction to the New Testament, Edin-
burgh, 1909.

*The Journal of Theological Studies, London
and Oxford, 1 899-1 909.


Since this commentary was printed, several works of great
importance have been published. Dr. Stanton has given us
The Synoptic Gospels, being Part II. of his very valuable dis-
cussion of 77^1? Gospels as Historical Documents (Cambridge
Press). A great many of his conclusions confirm views that are
advocated in this volume. He is, however, not quite accurate
in stating (p. i8) that the Oral Theory is adopted in the com-
mentary on St. Luke in the International series : see p. xxiii in
that volume. What was doubted there, and is doubted still by
Dr. Stanton himself, is whether St. Luke can have had the Second
Gospel in as full a form as that in which we possess it. Several
of the Cambridge Biblical Essays, edited by Dr. Swete, contain
a great deal that is most instructive to students of the first three
Gospels. The same may be said in a still higher degree of the
very remarkable commentary on The Synoptic Gospels by the
Jewish scholar C. G. Montefiore (Macmillan). Some things in
it a Christian must read with dissent, if not with distress ; but
there are many generous tributes to the character and teaching
of Jesus of Nazareth, and also to the immense influence for good
which the Gospels have had upon European society for nineteen
centuries. References to all three of these works have been
inserted in the present edition.

Moreover, a second and enlarged edition of Sir John Hawkins'
invaluable fforce Synopticce has appeared. The references to the
first edition in this commentary (pp. xxiii, 23, 89, 120, 141) may
be corrected to the second edition, as follows : p. 1 3 1 = p. 163;
PP- 174, i75 = PP- 210, 211; p. 4i=p. 53; p. i32=p. 165;
p. 174 = p- 210.

Those who desire a small commentary on St. Matthew will
find the recent one by E. E. Anderson (T. & T. Clark) helpful.

The essay of Professor S. L. Tyson on The Teaching of our
Lord as to the Indissolubility of Marriage (University Press,
Sewanee) may be read in connexion with what is urged in this
commentary, pp. 81, 82, 259-261.




§ I. The Author ....

§2. The Sources ....

§3. Plan of the Gospel .

§4. The Christology of the First Gospel

§5. The Date ....

§6. "The Testaments of the Twelve Pat

riarchs" and their Relation to thi

First Gospel


The Birth and Infancy of the Messiah

The Preparation for the Ministry .

The Ministry in Galilee

The Ministry in or near Galilee

The Journey through Per/ea to Jerusalem

The Last Work in the Holy City

The Passion, Death, and Resurrection

INDEXES . . ...

I. General .....
II. Greek .....













The Author.

In no case is the title to a book of the New Testament part'
of the original document. It was in all cases added by a
copyist, and perhaps not by the first copyist. Moreover, in all
cases it varies considerably in form, the simplest forms being the
earliest. The "according to" neither afifirms nor denies author-
ship ; it implies conformity to a type, and need not mean more
than " drawn up according to the teaching of." But it is certain
that the Christians of the first four centuries who gave these titles
to the Gospels meant more than this : they believed, and meant
to express, that each Gospel was written by the person whose
name it bears. They used this mode of expression, rather than/,
the genitive case used of the Epistles, to intimate that the same |
subject had been treated of by others ; and they often emphasized \
the oneness of the subject by speaking of "the Gospel" rather
than " the Gospels." This mode of expression is accurate ;
there is only one Gospel, 'the Gospel of God' (Rom. i. i)
concerning His Son. But it has been given us in four shapes
(cuayyeAtov Ttrpa/io/x^oi/, Iren. HI. xi. 8), and "according to"
indicates the shape given to it by the writer named.

Was the belief of the first Christians who adopted these
titles correct? Were the Gospels written by the persons whose
names they bear ? With the trifling exception of a few passages,
wc may believe this with regard to the Second, Third, and Fourth
Gospels : but it is very difficult to believe this with regard to tlie
First, the authorship of wliich is a complicated problem not yet
adequately solved. But the following results may be accepted
as probable, and some of them as very probable.

Ancient testimony in favour of Matthew being the author is

very strong. It begins with Papias and Irena^us in the second

century, and is confirmed by Origen in the third and Eusebius

in the fourth,^ not to mention a number of other early writers,

1 Kusebius, //. E. iii. 39, v. 8, vi. 25, iii. 24, v. 10.

b i-vii


whose evidence repeats, or is in harmony with, these four.

Papias speaks of "the oracles " or " utterances " (ra Xo'yia) which
Matthew composed; the other three speak of his "Gospel"
UiayyiXiov). Assuming that the two expressions are equivalent,
the testimony is uniform that the First Gospel was written in
He^^rew by Matthew, the tax-collector and Apostle. In that
case the Greek Gospel which has come down to us must be a
translation from this " Hebrew " original^ _

But the First Gospel is evidently not a translation, and it is
difficult to believe that it is the work of the Apostle. Whoever
wrote it took the Second Gospel as a frame,^ and worked into it
much material from other sources. And he took, not only the
substance of the Second Gospel, but the Greek phraseology of it,
showing clearly that he worked in Greek. It is mcredible that

'lie translated the Greek of Mark into Hebrew, and that then
some one translated Matthew's Hebrew back into Greek that is
almost the same as Mark's. The retranslation would have
resulted in very different Greek.3 And it is not likely that the
Apostle Ivlatthew, with first-hand knowledge of his own, would
take the Gospel of another, and that other not an Apostle, as the
framework of his own Gospel. There would seem, therefore, to
be some error in the early tradition about the First Gospel.

Very possibly the Aoyta of Papias should not be interpreted
as meaning the whole of the First Gospel, but only one of its
elements, viz. a collection of facts respecting Jesus Christ, chiefly
consistinc^ of His utterances, and the circumstances in which they
were spoken. The expression, rb. Xoyca, would fitly describe a
document largely made up of discourses and parables. That
such a document is one main element in both the l^irst and
the Third Gospels, may be regarded as certain, and it may have
been written originally in Hebrew by S. Matthew.^

1 The subscriptions of certain cursives state that the Hebrew Matthew was
translated into Greek "by John," or " by James," or "by James the brother
of the Lord," or "by Bartholomew." Zahn, Etnleitu7ig in das JSI 1 . ii.

^' 2^" The main common source of the Synoptic Gospels was a single written
document" (Burkitt, The Gosp. Hist, and its Transmission, p. 34). Mk
contains the whole of a document which Mt. and Lk. mdependently used

^'^'f The?eader will find a good illustration of this in Duggan's translation of
Tacquier's History of the Books of the Neza Testament, pp. 35 127. Jacquier
translated passages from English into French. Duggan translates them back
into English, and his English is sui-prisingly unlike the originals.

4 "Hebrew" in this connexion must mean the Aramaic which Christ
Himself spoke. It is scarcely credible that any one would translate the words
of Christ into the Hebrew of the O.T., which was intelligible to none but the

'^^Tht collection of Utterances often spoken of as "the Logia" is now
frequently denoted by the symbol " Q."


When the unknown constructor of the First Gospel took the
Second Gospel and filled on to it the contents of this collection
of Utterances, together with other material of his own gathering,
he produced a work which was at once welcomed by the first
Christians as much more complete than the Second Gospel, and
yet not the same as the Third, // that was already in existence.
What was this Gospel to be called ? It was based on Mark ;
but to have called it " according to Mark " would have caused^
confusion, for that title was already appropriated. It would be '
better to name it after the other main element used in its con-
struction, a translation of S. Matthew's collection of Utterances.
In this way we get an explanation of the statement of Papias, /
that " Matthew composed the Utterances in Hebrew, and each'
man interpreted them as he was able," a statement which seems
to be quite accurate. We also get an explanation of the later
and less accurate statements of Irenoeus, Origen, and Eusebius,
which seem to refer to our First Gospel as a whole ; viz. that
Matthew wrote it in Hebrew. It was known that Matthew had
written a Gospel of some kind in Hebrew : the First Gospel, as
known to Irenceus, was called " according to Matthew" ; and hence
the natural inference that it had been written in Hebrew. There
was a Gospel according 1o the Hebrews, which Jerome had trans-
lated into Greek and Latin, and from which he makes quotations.
A Jewish Christian sect called Nazarenes used this Gospel, and
said that it was by S. Matthew. It was Aramaic, written
in Hebrew characters. We do not know enough of it to be
certain ; but it also may have contained a good many of the
Utterances collected by Matthew, and for this reason may have
been attributed as a whole to him. It seems to have been very
inferior to our First Gospel, and this would lead to its being
allowed to perish. See Hastings' DB. extra vol. pp. 338 f.

Dr. C. R. Gregory {Canon and Text of the New Testament, pp. 245 ff.)
writes thus of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. " One book that now
seems to stand very near to the Gospels, and again moves further away from
them, demands particular attention. But \vc shall scarcely reach any very
definite conclusion about it. It is like an ignis fattius in the literature of the
Church of the first three centuries. We cannot even tell from the statements
about it precisely who, of the writers who refer to it, really saw it. Yes, we
are even not sure that it is not kaleidoscopic or plural. It may be that
several, or at least two, different books are referred to, and that even by
people who fancy that there is but one book, and that they know it. . . .
Nothing would be easier for any one or every one wlio saw, read, or heard of
that book to call it the Gospel to the Hebrews, the Gospel according to the
Hebrews, or the Hebrews' Gospel. . . . We shall doubtless some day receive
a copy of it in the original, or in a translation. It may have contained much
of what Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain, without that fact having been
brought to our notice in the quotations made from it. For those who ([uoted
it did so precisely in order to give that which varied from the contents of our
four Gospels, or especially of the three synoptic ones." The origin of this


perplexing document must be placed early. After ^Matthew and Luke l)ccame
well known a Gospel covering much the same ground would hardly have been
written. E. B. Nicholson has collected and annotated the quotations from it ;
R. Handmann, in Texte und Untersitchuivj;eii, 1888, has done the same. See
also Mgr. A. S. Barnes, yi??^^ of Th. St., April 1905.

The collection of Utterances made by Matthew and used by
the compiler of the First Gospel, and the similar collection used
by Luke, were not such as we might have expected. The
selection was determined by the needs and hopes of the first
Christians, who wanted moral guidance for the present and
revelation as to the future. Hence the sayings of Christ pre-
served in the Synoptic Gospels are largely of either a moral or
an apocalyptic character.^ Utterances which seemed to teach
principles of conduct, and prophecies or parables respecting the
Coming and the Kingdom were specially treasured. Some of
them were misunderstood at the time, and some appear to have
been misreported, either from the first or in repeated transmis-
sion ; but the result is a body of doctrine, of marvellous unity
and adaptability, the great bulk of which must be faithftilly
reported, because it is inconceivable that the Evangelists or their
informants can have invented such things. It is evident that
these informants, in the last resort, are the memories of the first
body of disciples, who, happily for us, were sometimes stronger
in memory than in understanding. They remembered what per-
plexed them, because it perplexed them ; and they reported it
faithfully. That a collection of sayings and narratives was made
during our Lord's lifetime, as Salmon {The Human Elejiient ifi
the Gospels, p. 275) and Ramsay {Expositor, 1907, p. 424)
suppose, is scarcely probable (Sanday, The Life of Christ in
Recetit Research, p. 172).
^' The answer, therefore, to the question, Who was the author
of the First Gospel ? is a negative one. It was not S. Matthew.
The writer was an early Jewish Christian, not sufficiently import-
ant to give his name to a Gospel, and in no way desiring to do
so. But he used a great deal of material which was probably
collected by S. Matthew, whose name thus became connected
with the First Gospel as we have it.^ That it is in no sense the
work of S, Matthew is not probable. Some more conspicuous
Apostle than the toll-collector would have been chosen, if the
title had no better basis than the desire to give a distinguished
name to a nameless document. Andrew, or James the son of
^ J. R. Ropes, The Apostolic Age, p. 222. There is good reason for
believing that there existed a written collection of sayings which had the
definite title Ktr/oi rod Kvpiov 'lijffov, to which reference is made Acts xx. 35 ;
also in Clem. Rom. Cor. xiii., xlvi. ; and in Polycarp, ii. See Harnack, TAe
Sayings o/fesus, pp. 187-189.

' See Briggs, T/ie Ethical Teaching of Jesus, pp. 2, 3, 20.


Zebedee, or Philip would have been preferred. And the writer
has given us "a Catholic Gospel," written in " a truly Catholic
temper." " Wherever his own hand shows itself, one sees that
his thought is as universalistic as it is free from the bondage of
the Law. . . . The individuality of the author makes itself so
strongly felt both in style and tendency, that it is impossible to
think of the Gospel as a mere compilation " (Jiilicher).

On the contrary, as Renan says, " the Gospel of Matthew, all
things considered, is the most important book of Christianity —
the most important book that has ever been written." Not
without reason it received the first place in the N.T. "The
compilation of the Gospels is, next to the personal action of
Jesus, the leading fact in the history of the origins of
Christianity ; — I will even add in the history of mankind "
{Les Evangiles, p. 212 ; Eng. trans, p. 112).

The writer of this Gospel rises far above the limitations of
his own Jewish Christianity. To see in it anything directed
against the teaching of S. Paul is strangely to misunderstand it.
So far as there is anything polemical in Mt., it is directed, not
against the Apostle of the Gentiles, but against Pharisaic
Judaism. This wide outlook as to the meaning and scope of
Christianity is clear evidence that what he gives us as the
Messiah's teaching is not the writer's own, but the teaching of
Him in whom both Jew and Gentile were to find salvation. Its~\
Catholic Christianity, which is the spirit of Christ Himself, has

Online LibraryAlfred PlummerAn exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to S. Matthew .. → online text (page 1 of 59)