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Jewish doctors had their schools or fol. of the elders than the words of the lowers; and as we speak of Pythagoreans phets.” My son, attend to the words and Platonists, so the Jews speak of the of the scribes more than to the words of schools of Hillel and Schammai, and the law; every one that transgresses the other ancient doctors, among whom there words of the scribes is guilty of death.” was a general agreement, though in minor How truly, therefore, did our Lord charge points, which, however, their disciples them with making “the word of God magnified into importance, they differed void through their tradition !” The in opinion. Tradition, tapadoois, 775an, Sadducees, however, rejected their tradi. “ cabbala," in its general sense, is any tions, as expositions of the written law. thing taught, or delivered down from one The mystical cabbala was distinct from to another; and that which bore that these traditions, and was a mode of interappellation in our Lord's time was entirely preting scripture by giving a meaning to oral, and was supposed to contain the parts of words, and even to the letters of opinions and decisions of the wise in dif- which they are composed, either by conferent ages, as to the import and interpre- sidering the arithmetical value of a letter, tation of what might be obscure in the or taking each letter of a word for an enlaw and customs of Moses. It originated, tire diction ; or making up a word from doubtless, in a better age, and was then the initial letters of many; or changing probably confined to a few practical par- or transposing the letters of a word ; and ticulars; but as false opinions, supersti- thus discovering, as the adepts dreamed, tions, and other corruptions prevailed, it many important mysteries. This solemn swelled to vast extent, and not only de- trifling has been preferred by many of scended to the invention and regulation the most learned of the Jews, since the of a vast number of particulars of cere- Christian era, to every other mode of exmonial observance, but, what was still position. How far it prevailed in our worse, brought in a subtle casuistry to Lord's time, does not appear; but there explain away the meaning of many moral was then a dogmatic cabbalism drawn precepts, and to palliate and give sanction out of the eastern and Greek pagan phito bad principles and a vicious practice. losophy, which before that period conAs these traditions also embodied many siderably influenced the opinions of many things, not only explanatory of the law, of the more learned Jews. but supplementary to it, the Pharisees at traces of this, however, appear in the conlength raised them above their original versations of Christ as recorded in the character, when they existed in a simple Gospels. form, as the mere opinions of wise men, They wash not their hands when they eat and pretended that they were delivered bread. — The washing of hands before by God verbally to Moses, so that he taking any food was so important a matreceived, not only a written, but also an ter with the Pharisees, that they appear oral law, which was from him transinitted to have been greatly offended that the to their elders in successive ages. These example of Christ and his disciples should traditions, or at least many of them, were diminish in the minds of the people their collected in the Misnah, by Rabbi Judah, reverence for this ceremony. How seriA.D. 180. The extravagant and even im- ous a matter they made of it, appears from pious authority given by the scribes and their writers. Rabbi Jose says, Whoever Pharisees to their traditions, appears from eats bread without washing of hands is as numerous extracts given by Lightfoot, if he committed whoredom.” “He that Schoetgenius, Gill, and others, from their blesseth food with unwashed hands is later Rabbins. Two instances from the guilty of death.” This custom, it is to be Babylonian Talmud will be sufficient for observed, was not one of cleanliness, but illustration : “Know then that the words a matter of mere superstition; for, wheof the scribes are more lovely than the ther the hands needed cleansing or not, words of the law; weightier are the words it was equally binding.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition ?
4 For God commanded, saying, “Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, “ It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. b Exod. xx. 12; Deut. v. 16. c Exod. xxi. 17; Lev. xx. 9; Prov. xx. 20.
d Mark vii. 11, 12.
Verse 3. Why do ye also transgress the out, and to wash his hands and feet.” commandment of God? &c.—The answer of Their law was also severe against cursing our Lord is, in sum, If my disciples dis- father or mother, that is, reviling them, or regard the tradition of the elders, this is using reproachful and disrespectful lanbut a transgression against a commandment guage, kataloy.a, to them, against which of men; but ye transgress even (for the real heinous crime the penalty of death was is to be taken intensively) the commandment denounced, Exodus xxi. 17; so that the of God by your tradition. Thus he strikes import and strictness of the divine law on at the foundation of the whole system of this point could not be mistaken. Nor tradition, by stripping it at once of that does it appear that the Jews in general autbority which they had fabulously as- were chargeable with any general infracsigned to it; teaching that it was not only of tion of this duty, except in the case where men, but not always of wise or good men, the wretched, selfish, and infecting so. since in several instances it stood in sin- phistry of the Pharisaic tradition interful opposition to the divine law, and was posed, and which, therefore, our Lord therefore in no case worthy of respect. selects in order to maintain his charge
Verse 4. Honour thy father and mother. against them. --In this duty our Lord includes affording Verses 5,6. It is a gift, by whatsoever thos support to parents, which indeed is im- mightest be profited by me.- -St. Mark explied in the Hebrew word 70). This presses it, “ It is corban, that is to say, command of God could not be denied by a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be the Pharisees : it had been written by the profited by me, and ye suffer him no finger of God; it was “the first command more to do ought for his father or mowith promise ; ” and by themselves it was ther.” The word corban signifies a sacred understood not merely of respect and re- gift or offering, from 27p, to offer ; and verence to parents, and cheerful obedience from hence the treasury of the temple to all their lawful commands, but also of was called kopšavov, as the depositary of the duty of honouring them with sub- the consecrated or devoted offerings. stance, of feeding, clothing, and supplying Such gifts were unalienable, and could their wants with liberality and tender not be diverted to any other use. The affection. Thus their own writers call word corban was therefore used in vow. this“the weightiest commandment among ing or dedicating any thing to a sacred or weighty ones;” and by the Jewish canons supposed sacred use, and had the import a son is bound “ to afford his father meat, of a solemn oath; for to say, Corban, or, drink, and clothing, to lead him in and Let it be corban, or, as corban, effectually
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 q 'And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand :
prohibited any thing from private use or prophesy, 8c. — Since, under pretence advantage. The Pharisees therefore held, of piety, these wretched men devoured that when application was made by a pa- the substance of the poor, and caused rent to a son for relief, and he should say, their infatuated followers to violate the “Corban whatever thou mightest be pro- most solemn laws of God, they were in fited by me,” he was released from his truth accurately described as hypocrites, obligation to the fifth commandment, and acting their part in religion for gain, and might without blame leave his parents to personating a character to which they had poverty and wretchedness; and this was no claim. The quotation from Isaiah probably done from that rapacity which cannot be considered as a mere adaptation our Lord so frequently rebukes in them, of words addressed by the prophet to the by which they encouraged the alienation Jews of his day; for our Lord expressly of property to the temple, or probably says, well or justly did Esaias Prophesy often to their own use, under pretence of of you; and upon examining the section receiving honour on account of their of prophecy from which the words are sanctity, from those superstitious persons taken, it will appear evident that it has upon whose credulity they practised. To respect also to the times of Messiah, and these vows the parties who made them ranks therefore in that class of predictions were held to be bound in the strictest which have a primary and an ulterior manner; and as they alienated to pre- application. The quotation very nearly tended pious uses that portion of their agrees with the Septuagint, but differs in property by which their parents might one clause from the present Hebrew text, have been sustained, “the tradition of which, however, may be interpreted to the elders” most clearly rendered the com- the same meaning. Of all will-worship, mandment of God of none effect.
all self-devised schemes of piety, not auOur translators, both here and in Mark, thorized by the word of God, or comhave supposed an ellipsis, which they sup- prising any thing contrary to its princi. ply with, “he shall be free.” Koinoel ples, our Lord declares, In vain they do considers the kai before the ov un Tiunon worship me, teaching for doctrines the comredundant like the Hebrew 7 and reads, mandments of men. The word rendered “Whosoever shall say, It is a gift-he worship ” includes not only all acts need not honour his father and mother.” of a directly devotional kind, but every Bowyer takes kos in the sense of therefore, thing by which reverence is manifested and translates, “ Therefore he must not and respect is had to God. It comprerelieve his father or mother.” An ellipsis hends, therefore, all the services of piety. must, however, probably be understood; The evraluala, rendered "doctrines,"are not and our translation properly fills it up to be understood in the sense of opinions ; with the natural inference from the pre- but of injunctions or regulations. Campmises. He shall be free, he shall not be bell translates “institutions merely huliable to the penalty. Verse 4.
man,” which accurately expresses the Verse 7. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias meaning; for, as he observes, “the
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
evlarua is always in the New Testament teachers, and instilled into their minds joined with av@pwtwv; and wherever it truth as solid and important, as their traoccurs is contrasted by implication with ditions were vain and trifling in every the precepts of God, which in the New thing but their corrupting effect. Either Testament are never denominatedevtanjala, he referred in what follows to the notion, but evlona..” All such worship is vain and that food eaten with unwashed hands defruitless; and not only unprofitable, but in filed those who partook of it, and so this its general tendency hurtful. As to every address to the multitude arose out of his thing required of us, the word of God conversation with the Pharisees; or he incontains either particular directions, or tended still further to expose the absurgeneral principles easily applicable to any dity of their notions by showing the folly given case ; and, only as we have its au- of reason on which they made a disthority, can we look with confidence to tinction as to clean and unclean meats the divine acceptance. This shows the beyond the rule of the Jewish law. He necessity of as simple a conformity to the might also thus tacitly intend to prepare word of God as possible in every thing his disciples, by the general principles he connected with religious services, and laid down on this occasion, for that geneought to have guarded the church against ral abolition of the Mosaic distinctions as all those attempts at improving upon the to clean and unclean meats, which was to primitive examples contained in the New follow the full institution of his religion. Testament, in order, as it has been pre- The Jewish notion was, that a moral de. tended, to render the acts of worship more filement arose from the use of certain impressive and influential. But in the prohibited food; so that forbidden meats Christian church, as in the Jewish, the are unclean in themselves, and defile gates were thrown open to a flood of both body and soul.” In this also moral ceremonial and superstitious observances, and ceremonial distinctions were conwhich produced in both hypocrisy, pride, founded ; and when the partaking of cerbigotry, and often direct and flagrant tain food was regarded as a moral defilewickedness. With the loss of simplicity ment, the abstinence from it was held, by came the loss of power ; and in both, a fair deduction, to be an important though the people “drew near to God branch of righteousness, and thus the with their mouth and honoured him with attention was turned from the state of their lips,” and that in a formal, exact, the heart to external observances. To and pompous manner, the result was that counteract this, our Lord declares to the “ their heart was removed far from him.” multitude, in direct opposition to the In all such cases religion degenerates into Pharisaic doctrine, that not that which form, or mere sentimentalism, or super- goeth into the mouth defileth a man, renders stition, or a mixture of all; and the minds him common, and unclean as the word of men, instead of being directly led to signifies in opposition to holy; that no God, to seek communion with him, are kind of meats and drinks assigned by detained amidst complex and varied ser- God for the use of man, taken tempevices, which produce a self-righteous de- rately, renders him offensive and vdious pendence, or are taken as a discharge to God, as though he had contracted from the obligations of holiness.
guilt and pollution by committing sin; Verse 11. Not that which goeth into the but that which cometh out of the mouth de. mouth defileth, 80.–Our Lord addressed fileth a man. The expression is enigmathese words to the multitude in the pre- tical, the mouth, in the second clause, sence of the Pharisees, who were malig.. signifying the HEART OF MAN; but the nantly observing him, and thus openly Pharisees sufficiently understood it to took thein out of the hands of these fals be offended with this saying, the meaning
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone : they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
g John xv. 2.
h Luke vi. 39.
of which he opens more fully to his dis- rors it was designed to displace and deciples in a following verse.
stroy. The force and instructiveness of Verses 13, 14. Every plant which my this passage is lost by those who suppose heavenly Father, 8-c.-Putela signifies the our Lord refers to the destruction of the act of planting, but by transition a plant; Pharisees themselves, by the judgments and by a common metaphor, the opinions which were to come upon the Jewish and affections of the human mind are nation. compared to plants and fruits, springing Verse 14. Let them alone : they be blind up from the seeds which have been sown leaders of the blind, fc.—Leave them ; there by instruction. Here the plants have done with them, because of their are to be understood of the doctrines and false and dangerous doctrines; renounce precepts of the Pharisees ; which, being them as your teachers, for when one opposed to the truths and laws of the blind man leads another, both shall fall Scriptures, are said not to have been into the ditch. Our translation, Let them planted by the Father, and therefore, alone, is too weak; for Christ exhorts his whatever offence might be taken by Pha- disciples, and all who might be present, risees, and whatever might be the conse- not merely not to trouble themselves quence of their rage, they were to be about them, as to whether they were ofrooted up with unsparing hand. Truth fended or not, as some understand the can make no compromise with error, and words, but the proverbial and figurative it shall ultimately prevail. Innumerable mode of speech which follows shows are the seeds of error which have been that he enjoins an entire renunciation and sown in the church, and great and dele- disallowance of them as religious guides. terious their product ; but let none des. These professedly learned instructers pair, the words of Christ are PROPHETIC were themselves ignorant of the true way as well as admonitory: every plant which of salvation ; and for any to place their springs not from heavenly seed, planted souls under their charge would be an act by the divine hand itself, shall be rooted of infatuation as fatal as that of blind up. By this general declaration the dis- persons putting themselves under the ciples were also taught their duty. Not guidance of the blind to be led along a indeed, when they became public teachers,
dangerous road. to root up supposed error, as in later Both shall fall into the ditch.—To fall times, by civil coercion and violence; but, into a ditch, conveys the idea of sustainas they had an example in their Lord, ing only a trifling inconvenience or injury, by calm but most faithful and unsparing whereas our Lord intended to intimate refutation. In this way no allowance danger of the highest kind. Both shall was to be made for errors opposed to the fall into the pit, better conveys the idea ; clearly revealed decisions of the Father; and Bobuvov is to be understood as the but at all hazards they were to proclaim image of eternal perdition : so strongly the truth, and to expose the unsound- does our Lord guard us here, as well as ness and the evil consequences of the er- in his sermon on the mount, against errino