Johannes Heinrich August Ebrard Hermann Olshausen.

Biblical commentary on the New Testament, Volume 1 online

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his public appearance among the people, were necessary epochs fixed
by divine appointment.



§ 2. Jesus Chooses Disciples.

(Matth. i. 18-22; Mark L 16-20.)

The calling of the brothers, Peter and Andrew, and afterwards
of James and John (of whom a fuller account will be found in note
on Matth. x. 1, ff.), is left, in this place, without either an explana-
tion of the motives for it, or a detail of the circumstances. John as-
sures us (chap, i.), that these disciples became known to Christ imme-
diately after his baptism ; and this passage refers, therefore, only to
their being received to a more intimate companionship with the
Saviour. Matthew, whom Mark here follows, makes but a passing
allusion to the calling of the apostles, in order to pass immediately
to what was with him specially important — the discourses of Jesus.

(On TToiTJcG) {?/xaf dXielg dvOpamayv, see note on Luke v. 10, where
the thought stands in a more definite connexion. — 'AfupipXrjCTgov,
from dfixpiPdXXcj, does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
It signifies a double net of considerable size, while dUrvov, denotes
a smaller net, used for hunting or fishing. On OdXaaoa -nj^ TaXtkalag,
see note on Luke v. 1.)



§ 3. Christ's Sermon on the Mount.

(Matth. iv. 23— viL 29.)

The Evangelist first sketches, in its general features, the work of
the newly appeared Saviour — ^the same words occur Matth. ix. 35—
in order afterwards to portray fully his character as a teacher. He
diffused blessings on all sides, and went about to do good ; like the
sun, quietly and majestically pursuing his course. He did not de-



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Matthew IV. 23-25 ; V. 1. 289

mand like the law, but jjoured hleaainge on men ; lie shewed by
actions that the kingdom of God was come ; teaching and healing,
restoring soul and body, were his great business. (Synagogues
[awayioyrj = no?sn n-^a] are not mentioned till after the captivity.
See Joseph. Aiiiiq. xix. 6, 3, de Bell, Jud. vii. 3, 3. In the time of
Jesus they were spread all over Palestine, as well as among the dis-
persed Jews \6iaaTTo^a\ ; in Jerusalem there are said to have been
480 of them. Smaller places of meeting in villages, or for smaller
congregations, were called n^aevxat ; [Acts xvi. 13.] They served,
like the synagogues, for the daily meetings for prayer ; doctors of
the law, even if they were not strictly priests or Levites, could speak
in them. — N6<7oc, diseasey and frnXoKia^ infirmity , are related as sthenic
and asthenic disorders, while pdaavog denotes especially such diseases
as are accompanied with excruciating pains.)

Ver. 24. — The fame of Christ's healing power (the effects of
which are not particularly narrated till viii. 1*) spread through the
whole land to the borders of Syria, and all the sick people came to
him in crowds. (JAkotj = ny^ttt:; Luke iv. 37 has fjxog. — Sraa de-
notes the regions of Palestine bordering on Syria, and the border'
districts of Syria itself, which the Saviour touched in his journeys.
Mark has in the parallel passage, i. 28 ; el^ rrpf 7:eptxo>pov t^^
TaXikalag, into the region around Galilee, We shall afterwards speak
particularly of the different forms of disease. — On the dcufiovc^ufievoi,
see note on Matth. viii. 28. — leXTpftd^eadai is not found elsewhere in
the New Testament, except in Matth. xvii, 15. — Iwixeiv = ^i^jt, to
bi'iidy to fetter; the disease is conceived as some power that restrains
the free action of the organization.)

Ver. 25. — People from all parts of the Jewish land, stimulated
by the mighty manifestations of his healing power, joined our
Lord, and the longer to enjoy his society accompanied him (some
distance) in his journeys.

{^EKdTToXig, Mark v. 20 ;^vii. 31. In Plin, H. N. V. 16, regio
decapolitana, a district of ten towns, which cannot, however, be
named with certainty, on the further side of the Jordan, in the tribe
of Manasseh. See note on Matth. viii. 28.)

Chap. V. ver. 1. — After this preliminary description of the cures
wrought by Jesus, and the impression they made upon the people,
Matthew immediately introduces his readers to the long discourse
of Jesus, which, from the locality on which it was delivered, is
usually called The Sermon on the Mount, But before we consider
minutely this first larger division in the Gospel by Matthew, we
shall prefix some general observations.f

* Compare also the explanations on the cores by Jesus and his Apostles in general,
Ipren in the note on Matth. yiiL 1.

I' This important section, the antitype of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, has
Vol. L— 19



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290 Matthew V. 1.

The Sermon on the Mount, in the form in which it is given us
by Matthew, cannot possibly have formed a whole when delivered
by Jesus.** For the connexion of its sentiments is such as to make
it appear extremely improbable that the Saviour should, in speaking,
have thus passed from one thought to another. It is only the pur-
poses of written composition, and the special objects of the Evan-
gelist, that could warrant such a combination. But a comparison
of Luke is decisive in favour of this opinion.f We do indeed find
in that Gospel (vi. 17, flf.) a discourse of Jesus, evidently very nearly
related to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and at the be-
ginning and end apparently identical with it, but much shorter
than that in Matthew. If it should be said, Luke gives a selection
from the full discourse in Matthew, it is true, that in Luke there
are only two verses (vi. 89, 40) which Matthew has in a different
connexion (xv. 14 ; x. 24 ;) and as these are both conceived in a
proverbial form, they might have been repeatedly uttered. But
those parts, which Matthew only has in the Sermon on the Mount,
are found in Luke mostly in an entirely different connexion, and
that so definitely conceived, that we are compelled to regard them
as preserved by Luke in their original connexion. J Add to this that
Luke's Gosi)el exhibits an accuracy of historical combination, which
is wanting in that of Matthew. If, therefore, we wish to maintain
the unity of the Sermon on the Mount, we are driven to the
hypothesis, that those parts of it which stand in Luke in a different
and distinctly specified connexion (e. g., the Lord's Prayer, Luke xL
1, ff., compared with Matth. vi. 7, ff.), were spoken twice. But as
this hypothesis will scarcely find supi)orters now, there is no alter-
native left but to adopt the opinion, that the unity of the Sermon
on the Mount proceeds not from the Saviour himself, but from Mat-
thew. Matthew attached parts of kindred discourses to one actually
delivered by Jesus on a specific occasion. The circumstances, under
which Jesus spake, are exactly detailed by Luke. According to

been (Vequefitly the subject of special treatises ; particularly by Pott (TTelmHtadt, 1789;)
Rau (Erlangon, ] 805) ; Grosze (Gottingon, 1819) ; best of all, by Thohick (Hamburg:. 1831.
The third edition appeared in 1845). Among the Fathers, Augustine has left a sep&rate
work on the Sermon on the Mount.

♦ Apainst this view corap. my Kritik. der Kv. Gesch. § 69. — [E.

f Tholuck has decided that the discourse in Matthew is the original, laying particuhi
stress on the circumstance, that our Lord might have repeated many things twic^^
Granting this, however, the pUico of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew cannot but be pro-
nounced less appropriate than that which it occupies in Luke. That which Tholack
(Clark's Biblical Cabinet, No. xx, p. 134) says — viz., that our Lord may have repeated
the prayer to one of his disciples, according to Luke xi. 1, is possible indeed, but not
probable.

X On the connexion of the single passages in Luke, which are parallel with pa*
■ages in the Sermon on the Mount, see the Commentary on Luke, from ix. 51, onward



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Matthew V. 1. 291

Luke vi 12, ff., Jesus had gone upon a mountain^ for thfe purpose of
prayer. On the moramg after the prayer, he completed the num-
ber of the twelve disciples (see note on Matth. x. 2), and, descend-
ing to the level ground (Karafidg tarrj I-ttI rdiTov Tredivov, Luke vi. 17),
taught the people who pressed upon him. The circumstance that
Jesus, according to Luke, descended from the mountain, while, ac-
cording to Matthew (v. 1), he went up to it, may be thus reconciled
— either Matthew connects the previous ascent with the teaching,
without mentioning the subsequent descent ; or the pressure of the
people, eager to be healed, caused Jesus, after his descent, to retire
up the hill, so as to be able thence to address a greater multitude.
This appears to have been one of the first public and solemn dis-
courses of Jesus addressed to vast multitudes. (Hence dvol^ag rb
orSfia avTov [ver. 2], which Tholuck correctly regards as denoting
the solemn and silently expected commencement of the discourse.)
As such, Matthew made use of it to attach to it all those parts of
other discourses, which might serve to give a general view of the
peculiarities of the Gospel, in relation to the Old Testament.
Neither the oral discourse of the Saviour, nor Matthew's written
one, could have been intended as an initiatory discourse /or the dis-
ciples. Both were intended as much for the multitudes as for the
disciples (Matth. v. 1 ; Luke vi. 17, 20); but it was doubtless in-
tended to unfold to the view of all the nature of the kingdom of
God. In Matthew, particularly, the discourse appears like a second
giving of the law, which is distinguished from that on Sinai, be-
cause, in the first place, it teaches the most comprehensive spiritual
interpretation of the commandments, and, in the second, presup-
poses fxerdvoia, repentance (as an effect of the law of Moses, Bom. iii.
20), and, with the law, proclaims, at the same time, the grace which
accomplishes its fulfilment. This placing of the New Testament law-
givingf at the commencement of the Messiah's work, is designed for
the members of the Old Testament theocracy, who, on the authority
of Deuteronomy xviii. 15, ff., looked upon the Messiah as a second
Moses.

In both Evangelists, Matthew as well as Luke, a connexion may

• On the situation of the mountain, it ia impossible to come to a definite opinion.
Tabor has been thought of by some, probably incorrectly. Tradition speaks of a hill
near Saphet (Bethnlia) under the name " Hill of the Beatitudes," as that from which our
Lord pronounced this discourse.

f The assertion, that Christ was not a lawgiver, contains a truth which I by no means
wish to deny by my view of the Sermon on the Mount. The specific end of the Saviour's
work was not to bring any new law, but to deliver from the yoke of all law. But in so
far as he taught us to view the law of the Old Testament, in its spirituality, as it had
not till then been viewed, he reiterated, as it were, the law of Sinai, and perfected it
Moreover, as Son of God, the Sinaitic law is his also. Moses was but the fieairrjCi medi-
ioTj at its proclamation ; and it was not simply law for others, but for himself also. Soe
SchUientiacher^e beautiful explanation of this point in the Festpredigten, B. il, & 66.



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292 Matthew V. 1.

be traced in tlie discourses. It is, indeed, more close in Lute, as lie
gives the discourse in an abbreviated form.* For as, in the first
paift, four woes exactly correspond to the four beatitudes (ver. 21-
26), so again, the exhortations to pure, disinterested love (ver. 27-31)
correspond to the descriptions of natural interested love, which does
not suffice for the Gospel (ver. 32-34), and is followed, by way of
conclusion (ver. 35-38), and with a reference to ver. 27, by the re-
newed exhortation to the disciples of the New Testament to live
in pure, genuine love. The whole, therefore, forms a delineation of
the nature of the Gospel, in contrast with the strict law ; only,
that in Matthew the contrast is drawn more sharply and at greater
length. At ver. 39, Luke breaks off the discourse with the remark,
that the Saviour continued his address in parables. (On 7rapa/3oA^,
see note on Matth. xiii. 8.) The words : But I say unto you, pro-
bably indicate an abbreviation of the discourse, as Luke has omitted
here the more pointed contrast between the Old and New Testa-
ments, furnished by Matthew (v. 13-43.) The pambolical parts
are also incorporated by Matthew, only in quite a different order.
We may, therefore, conclude, with probability, tliat they formed an
integral part of Christ's address. The arrangement of the parables,
as given by Luke, is entii-ely natural. For in all of them this
thought is presented to the disciples, that, so far as they desired to
gain influence in the world for the new higher principles of life
(before described), they must first receive it entirely into themselves
and live according to it. Accordingly, they must first be cured of
their spiritual blindness — ^have the motes removed out of their eyes
— themselves bring forth good fruit, and build their house on the
eternal foundation of God's word (in opposition to pharisaical human
doctrine), and then they may help others. The only passage which
does not seem to fit in with this course of thought, is ver. 40, on
which see the remarks on Matth. x. 24. On closer consideration of
the context, however, this thought also appears to be inserted in its
appropriate place. The previous expression, '• Can the blind lead
the blind?" (ver. 89), as well as the subsequent parable of the mote
(ver. 41, ff.), evidently points to the Pharisees, as exercising a de-
termining influence on the Old Testament life, in the form which it
had taken among the Jews at that time. For these Pharisees were
occupied with the hypocritical work of seeking to produce in others
what was lacking in themselves ; and against this our Lord intends
to warn in his parables. The thought that " the disciple is not
above his master," fits thus very properly into the train of thought :

♦ I cannot coincide with Schleiermaeher's view of the discouree in Luke (Ueber die
Schriften des Lucas, S. 89, ff.), who thinks unfavourably of it The discourse is, indeed,
abridged (the " woes'* only appear to be explanatory additions, see note on Matth. v. 3)
bat still, in the main, it is accurately and connectedly epitomized.



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Matthew V. 1. ' \ 298

" Break loose from all attachment to your old teacher ; the law and
Pharisees cannot guide you farther than they themselves have
reached, and the perfect scholar is only equal to the teacher ; choose
me rather as your new teacher, with decision and earnestness ;
then you will not remain hlind leaders of the blind, hut will walk
in the light of the living."

As in Luke, so also in the discourse, as given by Matthew, a
connexion may be traced.** For though we must suppose that Mat-
thew has connected kindred thoughts uttered by the Saviour on
other occasions with those uttered at this time, yet out of them the
Spirit of God in him formed a new connected whole. In the be-
ginning and end, Matthew's version agrees perfectly with Luke's,
which circumstance sufficiently proves their identity. Only in the
fifth chapter Matthew carries out the contrast between the Old and
New Testaments much more carefully, since he accurately expounds
the nature of both in a series of propositions. In this form the dis-
course appears more expressly as the giving of a new and more spi-
ritual law ; but, at the same time, with the law grace is brought
into view, since the increased strictness of the commandments fol-
lows only in the train of blessings pronounced on the poor and the
sorrowing. Hence true repentance, which necessarily includes faith,
is presupposed, in order to receive the law of love. By means of
this, really to receive the higher principle of life into oneself, and to
preserve it, and thus properly to conceive of the relation of Gospel
and Law, is the connecting thought between the beatitudes and
our Lord's new commandments. (See Matth. v. 13-20.) Of the
new cc^mmandments, six forms are specified by way of example (ver.
22-47) ; in which, however, the spirit of the New Testament was
sufficiently unfolded, so that the general proposition in ver. 48, " Be
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is per-
fect," might conclude this comparison. Then, in the sixth chapter,
the Evangelist, with a reference to chap. v. 20, proceeds further in
the comparison of Old and. New Testament piety, viewing the
Pharisees as the representatives of the Old Testament — impure re-
presentatives indeed, but at that time exercising a potent influence
on the popular religious character. The depth and truthfulness of
spiritujil life form a contrast to the external show and pretence of
pharisaic piety. The usual forms in which such piety exhibited it-
self—viz., alms-giving (ver. 2), praying (ver. 5), and fasting (ver. 16),
form the points in which the Saviour unfolds the contrast of the
new with the old. The giving of the Lord's Prayer forms here the
central point, since its first half sets forth the spirituality of life
which characterizes the subjects of the new dispensation, and its

* See R Slier, in bis " Andeuiungen,^ Th. L, S. 104, £ The connexion ia more mi«
notel/ considered at the individual passages.



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294 Matthew V. I, 3.

second half a state of penitence, too, as essential to the subjects of
the kingdom of God, but as precisely that in which the Pharisees
were deficient. The close of the chapter (ver. 19-34) is occupied
with a discussion on the relation of the children of the kingdom to
the necessities of their life on earth, particularly food (ver. 25) and
clothing (ver. 28) ; and this concludes the contrast between the
New and the Old Testaments, which prevails through the whole
discourse. The Pharisees, in their eagerness to gather earthly
treasure (see Luke xvi. 13, 14), served two masters (Matth. vL 24),
and thus corrupted the singleness of their spiritual eye (ver. 22, 23);
instead of this, childlike faith in the fatherly love of God, and con-
sequently an entire separation from all care for earthly things, ane
insisted on as the marks of the children of God ; and this places our
Lord's Prayer in a more striking light, as embodying all the wishes
and cares of the children of the kingdom. The thoughts, which in
the seventh chapter are connected more loosely, are gathered up by
the concluding exhortation, and placed in connexion with what
precedes. After the contrast between the piety of the Old and New
Testaments, the whole is appropriately concluded by an exhortation
to the hearers, in every thing to exemplify the character of the
higher life in the kingdom of God. The first condition insisted
upon is to have a constant regard to our own sins, with true re-
pentance, and a warning is given against that regard to others which
diverts us from right personal endeavor (ver. 1-5) ; while still, a
reckless casting of what is good before men is forbidden (ver.
6). With this negative duty, the positive one (ver. 7-14) is con-
joined of serious prayer and striving, as necessary conditions of the
perfecting of a life in God. A demand for a searching examina-
tion of all to whose influence they yield themselves, forms the close
(ver. 15-23), while the last verses (24-27) present, in figurative
language, the consequences of a faithtul application of the word of
God, heard by us, as well as of a careless use of such a blessing.

In the form thus given by the Evangelist to the discourse of
Jesus from the Mount, it constitutes a magnificent porch by which
the reader of the Gospel is conducted into the temple of Jesus'
ministry. It may be said, that his whole subsequent life, all his
discoui-ses and conversations, form a commentary on the Sermon on
the Mount, which contains the quintessence of all that is peculiar
to the kingdom of our Lord.

Ver. 3. — Matthew opens the Sermon on the Mount with a noble
summary of the characteristic features of the children of the king-
dom of God, and the children of the world. True, those of the lat-
ter are not expressly mentioned, but they lie, as opposites, at the
foundation of the portraiture ; the blessings pronounced on the one
class stand opposed to the unuttered woes of the other. Luke, who



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Matthew V. 3. 295

has chosen the second person as more appropriate to a discourse
than the third, makes this contrast distinctly prominent (vi. 24-26) ;
but as he abridges the number of the beatitudes, it is not improba-
ble that he has expressly enunciated this contrast only for the sake
of greater plainness. The discourse would fiave been too long and
uniform, if there were a" woe" to answer to each of Matthew's sen-
tences. But the idea that Matthew's fuller record is an amplifica-
tion of our Lord's shorter discourse, is refuted by the peculiar nature
of the portions found in Matthew alone ; a supplementary amplifi-
cation of the fundamental thought would have been less profound
and original. Nor does Luke's abridged form omit any thing essen-
tial ; the first and last blessings he has preserved, and omitted
nothing but the rich amplification. In Matthew, the arrangement
of the separate sentences is such, that ver. 3 corresponds with ver.
10, where the words, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven," with which
the dLscourse commenced, recur. Consequently, there are only
seven beatitudes to be reckoned, for ver. 10-12 do not add any new
thought ; they merely form the transition to What folloAvs, since
• they characterize the relation which the children of God bear to the
world, the description of their subjective character being completed.
In all the beatitudes, the one thought is expressed, that, according
to God's law of eternal recompense, he who here thirsts for divine
things shall obtain full satisfaction in the kingdom of God ; but, on
the contrary, he who is satisfied with the perishable, shall hereafter
experience, to his sorrow, the need of that which is eternal. There
is, therefore, here no contrast between virtue and vice ; even the Old
Testament punishes crime ; but the sensible need of salvation is
placed in contrast with the deadness of the natural man, who, with-
out a deeper craving for eternal things, can find his rest in what is
transitory. Over such a woe is pronounced, because when the
perishable things in which they rest, shew their true character, dis-
quietude will thence arise. The position which Christ thus takes
up, is therefore one above the law ; this last is seen to have fulfilled
its office, a sense of the need of salvation is awakened (Rom. iii. 20)
— the matter is now to satisfy it. The only circumstance that oc-
casions surprise is, that several of the points particularized by the
Saviour : Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the pure, the peace-
makers, appear to rise above this condition of awakened need of
salvation, inasmuch as they express an inward state of moral excel-
lence. But this feature is easily accounted for, if we remember how
frequently, in the language of Christ and his apostles, the germ of
the new higher life is viewed as coincident with its consummation.
True poverty of spirit, as the necessary condition of eveiy develop-
ment of the higher life, includes it ; and in this very unity Christ
views it here. Thus understood, the first statements of the Sermon



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296 Matthew V. 8.

oa the Mount contain a description of the character of God's chil-
dren, which is true for all grades of development, the highest as weU
as the lowest. For as in the lowest, purity of heart exists in its
germ, the highest still maintains poverty of spirit.

The first word of insthiction with which the Saviour breaks silence
is, fiOKoQiot ol TTTCJxoty blcssed are tJie poor, with the addition of tw
Tvev^ari, in spirit, which must be supplied in Luke, where it is
wanting.** The term TrroyxSg, poor, corresponds to the Hebrew '♦^i;,
which so frequently occurs in the Psalms with a kindred meaning.
It comes near to Ta7Teiv6g=z^^, humble (Prov. xxix 23, nii V§i),yet
is not s}-nonymous with it, because he who is endowed with the ful-
ness of the Divine Spirit may be called raneivogj humble (Jesus calls
himself so, Matth. xi. 29), but not 7TT(i)x6g, poor. The word denotes
here (as the hungering and thirsting in ver. 6) the state of felt spir-
itual need, the sincere repentance of the soul. — Hence also, nvevfia,
spirit, must, by no means, be referred to genius, mental capacity
{vovg) (for the intellectual, as well as the feeble, must become poor);



Online LibraryJohannes Heinrich August Ebrard Hermann OlshausenBiblical commentary on the New Testament, Volume 1 → online text (page 34 of 75)