Johannes Heinrich August Ebrard Hermann Olshausen.

Biblical commentary on the New Testament, Volume 1 online

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that Mary experienced moments of weakness, when her faith was
fainting and straggling. The long series of years which had elapsed

* Against this identification of the event narrated (Mark iii. 31, fif.), with that in
Matth. xii. and Luke v., compare my Kritik. der Evang. Gesch., 2 Ed., § 63 and 70.
Matthew attaches the incident of Mark iii. 20-21, closelj and definitely to his selection
of the disciples (the discourse on the Mount). On the evening of this dav it occurred,
while Jesus was still in a journey. How could then his mother and brethren in Naza-
reth learn that he was thronged by the people, and unable to eat ? How resolve at once
to traverse Galilee in search of him? How find him? And granting they had found
him, how could this be expressed by " came out to lay hold of him," since assuredly
the ** coming out" makes a manifest contrast to the "house," Matth. iiL 20, and mtist
signify a coming out of the house in front of which Jesus was teaching, not a setting
• forth from Nazareth. But entirely decisive against the identification is the fact that Mark
himself afterwards, v. 32, relates the visit of his mother and brethren as a separate event.
Had it been his mother and brethren who, v. 21, had already sought to take him, how
could he be informed afterwards for the first time that they wished to see him ? — [K.

Digitized by


472 Matthew XII. -^6-50.

since the great events which she had experienced, the form which
her son's ministry assumed — a form so entirely different from any
which she may have imagined — ^may have been a severe trial for her,
and, like John the Baptist, she may have doubted (Matth, xi 2,
seq.) She had certainly not given up her faith, but it is possible
that, according to the prophecy given to her (Luke ii. 35), it was
just now severely assailed, and the anxious mother came rather to
obtain consolation from her son and Lord, than rcaUy to taJce him
home, and yet, influenced by the tormenting rumour, asking at the
same time. Art thou he who is to come ? It is traits like these
that instil so much life into the evangelical history. It is wholly er-
roneous, as already remarked, (Matth. xi. 1), to conceive of all the
heroes of the Gospel-history as unwavering characters. The stupen-
dous events in the life of Jesus must, doubtless, have been connected
with great fluctuations in all those who surrounded him, and these
form integral features of the rich picture which cannot be effaced.
It is not to the prejudice of the holy character of the Scripture per-
sonages, that they manifest such inward fluctuation. No saint has
ever become so without heavy struggles, in which the billows may
often have passed over his head. Through these the Son of God
himself led the way for his people.

Ver. 46. — While Christ was yet talking to the people, his mother
and brethren (concerning them compare Matth. xiii. 55) arrived.
They stood tfo> (see Mark iii 34) outside the house, and sent in

Ver. 47, 48. — On receiving information thereof, Christ refused
to see them. This, it is true, is not stated in express words ; but
the form of the language : " but he answered and said," compels us
to this view. He neither went out, nor did he allow them to come
in; on the contrary, he continued his discourse. It is probable, in-
deed, that he may have seen them o/ter the close of it, but not 66-
fore it. The whole answer would otherwise lose its point.

. Ver. 49, 50. — Mark adds here the graphic : n€f)iP?iexpdfi€vo^ /cvicAy,
looking round about, as he called the whole company of his disciples,
" my mother, my brethren" (?} fj^ritrp fwv koI ol ddeX(f>oi fi&»;). But
ver. 50, extends the expression from those present to a wider
circle, inasmuch as the doing of the will of God (according to
Luke : Xoyov rov Beov dKoveiv koI noielv) is laid down as the test of
spiritual relationship. The terms mother and brethren, suggested
by the circumstances, here therefore include the general idea of re-
lationship ; this is conceived by Jesus in its most abstract form, as a
moral and spiritual union in that loftier whole, embraced in the
kingdom of God. The striking point in this representation is, that
our Redeemer seems entirely to rank himself as a member of this
great community — nay, even as a subordinate member, since he

Digitized by


MATT^EW XII. 60 ; Lukb VII. 36. 473

speaks of his mother. True, we might here appeal to the current
maxim, that, in expressions of this kind, the words must not be
overstrained. But, on the other hand, we might also say, that this
view expresses the lowliness of the Son of Man, who said : they are
my mother and my brethren, where he might have said : they are
my children. But even this would not fully exhaust the thought ;
and it would appear as though the words: "behold my mother"
were used by the Lord to indicate a peculiar view of the church,
according to which the same community of the faithful who, when
considered separately, are his brethren, may, when viewed as a unity,
be called his mother, inasmuch as; in the church, divinity continu-
ally assumes the form of humanity, and Christ is perpetually bom
anew in her. [Doubtless the sense of the whole is simply this, they
are my kindred, nearer to me than any earthly relatives.]

§ 21. A Woman Anoints Jesus.

(Luke viL 36 — viiL 3.)

Matthew, in this instance, connects the following 13th chapter
with the preceding (in harmony also with Mark iv. 1), by a chrono-
logical statement, so definite that we must consider them as belong-
ing to each other. Hence, this is the most appropriate place for
introducing a narrative whjch is found in Luke alone ; and brought
by the Evangelist into the closest connexion with the account of the
parable of the sower. True, we cannot even in this case, think of
asserting a strict order ; for, wliile in Matth. xiii. 1 we find : iv
iiceivxi ^ifiep^j on that dar/j so that the pamble must have been spoken
on the same day with the events of the preceding chapter, we read
in Luke, after the narrative of the anointing : iv tw KoOe^jg (sc.
XP^vG)) iyivero, by which formula all that follows is, at all events,
transferred to a later day. This section ought then to have been
placed before Matth. xii., provided that all in this and chap, xiii
took place on one and the same day. But as Matthew's dates leave
it altogether uncertain where the day begins ; and Luke says no-
thing on the time of the anointing, it was impossible to fix the ex-
act time with any greater certainty. For this reason, we are led by
its agreement with what follows to insert it here.

With regard to the occurrence itself, the first question which
presents itself is — In what relationship does it stand to a similar
event narrated in Matth. xxvl 6-13 ? (Compare also Mark xiv. 3,
seq. ; John xii. 1, seq.) Schletermacher (in his Versuch ilber den
Lucas, S. 110, ff.) has lately, in an acute and ingenious manner,
objected to the diversity of the occurrences, which was, for a long

Digitized by


474 Luke VII. 86.

time, unquestioned. He declares them to be identical, and thinks
that the account, as given by Luke, had been misunderstood by the
reporter from whom Luke received it, and noted down by him in its
present form. At first sight there appears much to favour this view.
It appears strange to assume two narratives in which a woman
anointed Jesus at a feast given in the house of a certain Simon. It
appears strange that a woman of bad reputation, but otherwise un-
known to the master of the house, should have obtruded herself on
such an occasion. But assuredly it is still more extraordinary, that
the occurrence should be the same, and that in Luke we have only
a distorted representation of it.* For, in the first place, it is to be
sure easily explained how Mary could so freely, in the company, ex-
press her devotion to Jesus, as, according t^ the accounts of Mat-
thew, Mark, and John, the feast was given by a family on friendly
terms with Lazarus ; and Simon the leper, whom Matthew and
Mark mention as the host, must be considered as a relative or inti-
mate friend of this very family. But fo^ this very reason, it is al-
together inexplicable how this same friendly host should have
expressed himself in a way which was, even in the remotest degree,
liable to be so misunderstood, as Luke's narrative would in that case
make it. It is improbable that he should have uttered any suspicion
whatever against the Saviour ; and still more improbable that he
should have uttered an insinuation of that kind against the sister
of Lazarus. Even supposing that it was not his intention to denote,
by the term sinner (dimpTcjkd^)^ a sinful woman in the ordinary
sense, and that this severe view of the word arose from the miscon-
ception of the reporter whom Luke followed ; yet it is clear that
something which could be thus misunderstood, must have been said
by Simon the leper. For such a supposition, however, there is, ac-
cording to the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John, not the slight-
est occasion ; nay, everything is against it. The expression of the
woman's love seems to have been singularly touching ; Judas merely
blamed the waste of the precious ointment. Supposing the circum-
stances to have been such as those so minutely described by the
three Evangelists, any occasion for all the speeches which, in Luke,
are connected with it, is absolutely inconceivable ; on the contrary,
everything testifies against the assumption that any such speeches
were uttered by the Lord in the midst of his favourites of Bethany.
Hence, assuming the identity of this transaction with the anointing
by Mary, the sister of Lazarus, at Bethany, Luke has not only mis-
understood, but totally distorted it ; the occurrence has become
specifically dificrent. But this is partly incompatible with the

• I attach no weight to the circnmstance that, according to Luke vii. 37, the erent
happened in a toum, whereas Bethany was 2k k 6 fit) (John xl 1) ; the two appellatioDfl
may not have been so strictly distmguished.

Digitized by


Luke VII. 86-38. 475

authority of the bibKcal writings, and partly also with the position
of John, who was no doubt acquainted with Luke's Gospel also, as
Schleiermacher himself supposes. This scholar even claims to find
traces — although he has not mentioned them — of the fact that John
knew both the accounts. These traces I have not been able to dis-
cover ; but so much appears to me certain, that if a narrative so
completely distorted could have crept into Luke's Gospel, John
would not have omitted to notice it as such. If, then, the identity
of the events involves diflSculties so substantial, it will be more
natural to maintain their diversity. For, although it may be strange
that a similar occurrence happened twice in the house of a certain
Simon, yet it is by no means impossible or contradictory ; especially
as the name Simon was one of so very common occurrence among
the Jews. And whatever seems offensive in the circumstance of a
woman intruding herself at a feast, is partly mitigated by eastern
usages, partly perhaps in the case of this woman, by special rela-
tions, altogether unknown to us. Were it, c. g.y a woman from the
Saviour's more immediate circle, her approach to him is easily ex-
plained. i^OTy finally y can any argument for the identity of the oc-
currence be founded on Luke's omission of the anointing at Bethany,
as similar omissions occur in all the Gospels, in John, e. g., of the
institution of the supper. In the opinion of many ancient inter-
preters, this woman, who, according to Luke, anointed Jesus, was
Mary Magdalene ; but the opinion is wholly without proof Nay,
as she is immediately (in viiL 2) named without reference to the
event here narrated, it seems improbable that it was she, unless we
assume that Luke purposely omitted to mention her name, and the
words, d0' ^c ^o,iii6via kirra i^eXTjXvOei, from whom seven devils had
gone out, are meant as an indication of her guilt. As there is thus
an entire want of any definite accoimt, we leave the person unde-

Ver. 36. — It is possible that this Pharisee himself had been healed
by Jesus, and that,' not feeling any true gratitude, he thought that
he might acquit himself of his obligation by an invitation. (See re-
marks on ver. 47.)

Ver. 37. — The city (ndXig) is here commonly understood to be
Nain, from the preceding account (vii. 11) of his raising the widow's
son from the dead at Nain ; but the formulas of transition in ver.
17, I85 20, 36, are by far too general to establish this supposition.
The woman is called dfiapTcjXSg, {, e., guilty of sexual oflences (John
viii. 7, 11). ^AXdPaargov stands for OKevog i^ d^pdarpov.

Ver. 38. — The scene must be conceived of in accordance with
ancient customs : the banqueters lay stretched out {accumhere, dva^
KXlv&jBai)^ their feet being bare or covered only with sandals. The
fervour of grateful love manifested itself in her affectionate approach ;

Digitized by


476 Luke VII. 88-46

but her feelings of shame and contrition allowed her to approach
only tlie feet of the Redeemer. The case was different with Maiy
the sister of Lazarus ; her love was not less ardent, but there was
less of the sense of shame ; she annointed the head of the Lord.
(Comp. remarks on Matth. xxvi. 7 ; Mark xiv. 3. Both here nar-
rate probably with greater accuracy than John xii. 3.)

Ver. 39. — The heartless "Pharisee, incapable of being moved by
such an exhibition of love,* takes occasion to make his reflections on
the character of Jesus. It is inconceivable that this should have
happened at the feast in Bethany ; for such a person there was no
room there. (E/ttcZv hv kavrCd = *i»^a tttit.) As regards earthly
purity, there is some truth in the thought that the pure is contam-
inated by a touch of the impure (see remarks on Matth. xi. 19) ; but
the overwhelming power of Jesus, undreamed of by the Pharisee,
renders it in his case utterly untrue.

Ver. 40, 41. — The Pharisee who was not so wicked as he was
coarse-minded, is instructed by the merciful Friend of Sinners, by
means of a narrative, in which he represents both the relation of the
woman, and that of the Pharisee himself, to God. {XpeGxpeiXerrj^ =
^iXtTTj^, found elsewhere only Luke xvi. 5. — ^avei<rrrig = niD5, fene-
rator, 2 Kings iv. 1. In the New Testament found only here.)

Ver. 42, 43. — The comparison between the more and the less of
love, necessarily leads to a parallel between the Pharisee and the
woman ; and hence the supposition is very probable, that the Pha-
risee too was indebted to Jesus for some previous kindness. [?]

Ver. 44-46. — The conduct of the Pharisee is contrasted with the
fervent love of the woman, who did more than was demanded either
by custom or by the circumstances. The water for the feet (Gen.

♦ I cannot refrain from quoting here the words of a noble man who reprove^ with
reference to the anointing of Jesus, the uncharitable criticising, by a cold and dead gene-
ration, 'of the ardour of his own love for the Saviour, and of its manifestation. The ex-
cellent von Roihj has published the following words of ZTamonn, in the preface to his edi-
tion of UamanrCs works (S. ix. of vol. 1) : " Jerusalem — ^it is the city of a gn*eat kingl
To this king whose name, like his glory, is great and unknown, flowed forth the little riyer
of my authorship, despised like the waters of Siloah that go softly (Is. viiL 6). C ritical
severity persecuted the dry stalk, as well as the flying leaf of my muse ; because
the dry stalk whistled and played with the little children, who sit in the market-place,
and because the flying leaf was tossed about being giddy with the ideal of a king, who
could say of himself with the greatest meekness and humility: '' One greater than Sok>-
mon is here.'' As a devoted lover wearies the ready echo with the name of his beloved
mistress, and does not spare any young tree of the garden or forest with en^n^ving the
initials and characters of her beloved name : thus was the remembrance of the fairest
among the children of men (Ps. xlv. 3), even in the midst of the king's enemies, like unto
a Magdalene— ointment poured out, and flowing down like the precious ointment upon
the head of Aaron, whidi ran down upon his beards-flowing down to the skirts of his
garments. The house of Simon the leper was filled with the odour of the gospel-anoint-
ing; but somo merciful I (or rather merciless) brethren and critics, were angry with what
they called the ordure, and their nostrils were filled with the odour of death only."
Precious and profound words I and full of hints for those who can see end hear.

Digitized by


Luke VII. 46, 47. 477

xviii. 4 ; Judg. xix. 21), the kiss (Gen. xxxiii. 4 ; Exod. xviii. 7),
and the oflfering of ointment, have reference to well known Jewish,
or rather universal Eastern, custom. The distinguished Pharisee
had omitted the offer of such courtesies, because, very likely, he
considered the invitation itself a sufficient honour. Jesus reproves
this coldness towards his benefactor — a coldness coupled, at the same
time, with such self-conceited exaltation above the woman.

Ver. 47. — The contrast before referred to appears here anew.
Although the words : w 6^ dXiyov cufcisrcu, he to whom liitle is for-
giveriy state the thought only generally, yet they may very appro-
priately include the ool dXiyov dfltUrcUy to thee is but little forgiven,
which was not uttered solely from polite considerateness. The first
member of this verse presents some difficulty ; for, according to it,
love does not apj)ear as the consequence (as in the second member
of the verse — quite in accordance with the parable), but as the caw^e
of forgiveness. The 5n, because, as well as the Aorist ryyaTTTyae, loved,
represent love as that which precedes, and is the ground of, forgive-
ness. It has indeed been asserted (comp. Schleusner's Lex. ii. 325),
that oTi stands for the Hebrew ""d, n^^ V?, -j?: in the sense of di6,
where/ore ; but neither the passages in the Old Testament referred
to (Ps. xvii. 6 ; cxvi. 10 ; Deut. xxii. 24, and others) are to be thus
understood, nor is the word ever found, with this signification, in the
New Testament. (Passages such as John viii. 44 ; 1 John iii. 14,
are erroneously referred to.) Further. — To escape the difficulty
offered by the Aorist, dya7Tg,v is taken with the signification : " to
give a proof of love," so that the sense of the verse would be : " thou
mayest, therefore, infer that many sins are forgiven to her, for she
has given me [in consequence thereof] a great proof of her love."
But such a view is opposed by the signification of dyan^v^ as it im-
mediately appears in the second member of the verse, for it signifies
a state, and not a mere action. The sense evidently is, not that she
has loved, and that her love is now past, but that she is constantly
living in love. It is thrown back into the past, merely in order to
connect it with the forgiveness ; we must, therefore, rather attempt to
overcome the difficulty involved in the thought. The Roman Catho-
lic Church has so far misinterpreted** it, as to infer from it the depen-
dence of forgiveness upon merit ; for she understands love (ayar/^aa^)
of active benevolence, the fruit of our natural powers, and essen-
tial to forgiveness. According to the parable, however, this cannot
be the sense. But the ability to receive forgiveness presupposes

• De Wette, in commenting on this passage, makes the remark : " We are now be-
yond any polemical opposition to the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by works."
I very much doubt this. The natural resort of an unrepenting heart is the eflbrt to gain
salTfttion through works ; and this manifests itself oven within the evangelical church, in
forms not exactly Roman Catholia

Digitized by


478 Luke VII. 48-50.

love existing in the heart as a receptive power, which must be the
more intense, the greater the guilt to be forgiven appears to man.
If this receptive love (which is identical with penitential faith), really
receives within itself the grace of forgiveness, it then unfolds and
manifests itself actively, as in the case of this woman towards Jesus.
In this love, she, as it were, makes the power which enkindled life
in her, the receptive pole of her activity, so that in these words of our
Lord, love is represented in its wondrous forms of manifestation, by
virtue of which it appears sometimes as active, sometimes as passive,
but always the same. The sense of the words, therefore, may be thus
exhibited : he who is to believe in forgivenes must carry within him-
self an analogous fund of (receptive) love, which, as soon as the par-
doning power of love, as it were the positive pole^ approaches it,
manifests itself in the same ratio as the guilt, which is taken away,
increases. At the same time, there is implied in this, an allusion
to the peculiar arrangement of the Lord, that where sin abounds,
grace does much more abound (Rom. v. 20) ; not that sin can pro-
duce any thing which is good, but only because the compassion of
the Lord reveals itself in the brightest manner towards those who
are most miserable. The Pharisee was not without love ; he loved
a littky thinking that he had received little ; but the woman who
had received every thing, loved ardently, with all the energy of her

Vcr. 49, 50. — With this is connected a solemn repetition of the
forgiving words : d(pEO)VTaX aov at dfiofyrccu^ thy sins are forgiven
thee, to the amazement of those present. Compare concerning this
the remarks on Matth. ix. iii. where faith and its relation to forgive-
ness are treated of.

A transition,^ describing in general terms the ministry of Jesus
(Luke viii. 1-3), introduces us to the parables. Our Redeemer went
about through cities and villages preaching the kingdom of Grod,
and was accompanied by living witnesses of his redeeming power.
The persons specially named are, 1. Mary of Magdala. (Compare
remarks on Matth. xv. 39.) Her condition previous to her restora-
tion is described as having been peculiarly distressing (on hrrd
dcufiSvia, compare Matth. xii. 45); all her faculties and powers seem
to have been a prey to the workings of darkness.f 2. Joanna the

• Compare what has been said in Matth xiil 58, on the relation of receptive love to
faith. The important passage Hos. ii. 19, 20, ought also to be compared, as, in the words
of the prophet, faith and love penetrate each other.

f The same is remarked of Mary, in Mark xvi. 9, in a connexion altogether dififerent
It therefore appears that her deliverance from demoniacal influences was considered as
something altogether peculiar. Her former condition was pre-eminently distressing, but
so much the more gloriously was the power of the Lord manifested in her, and so much
the more evident was her love to the Lord. Everywhere (compare the history ot the
Resurrection) she is named first among the women.

Digitized by


Luke VII. 50; Matthew XIII. 1. 479

wife of Chuza. ('EniTpo-rro^ = ohcovdfiogj steward.) 3. Snsanna,
"5»^^, lily. The two latter are only mentioned here ; but Mary-
Magdalene is known from the history of the Passion. (Matth.
xxviL 55.) According to that passage, however, others also, and
probably those mentioned here, adhered stedfastly to the Lord,
even to the cross These women afforded him support from their
private property (imdpxovray opes, facultatea)^ and ministered imto
him. The rarer the glimpses furnished in the Gospel history of the
external circumstances of the Redeemer's companions, the more
attractive are they to the reader ; they throw a peculiar light upon
his whole conduct while on earth. His indwelling divinity clothes
itself in a genuine human garb : his glory is strictly internal, and
displays itself in outward brightness only to bless others. He who
supported the spiritual life of his people, did not disdain to be sup-
ported by them bodily. He was not ashamed to descend to so deep
a poverty that he lived on the charities of love. It was only others
whom he fed miraculously ; for himself, he lived upon the love of
his people.** He thus loved, and allowed himself to be loved, in
perfect, pure love. He gave everything to men, his brethren, and
he received everything from them, and enjoyed in this the pure hap-
piness of love, which is perfect only when it is at the same time
giving and receiving. What a trait in the character of the Mes-

Online LibraryJohannes Heinrich August Ebrard Hermann OlshausenBiblical commentary on the New Testament, Volume 1 → online text (page 57 of 75)