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Matthew 15:1-9

Context
Breaking Human Traditions

15:1 Then Pharisees 1  and experts in the law 2  came from Jerusalem 3  to Jesus and said, 4  15:2 “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their 5  hands when they eat.” 6  15:3 He answered them, 7  “And why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition? 15:4 For God said, 8 Honor your father and mother 9  and ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’ 10  15:5 But you say, ‘If someone tells his father or mother, “Whatever help you would have received from me is given to God,” 11  15:6 he does not need to honor his father.’ 12  You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition. 15:7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said,

15:8This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart 13  is far from me,

15:9 and they worship me in vain,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” 14 

1 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.

2 tn Or “and the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.

3 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

4 tn The participle λέγοντες (legontes) has been translated as a finite verb so that its telic (i.e., final or conclusive) force can be more easily detected: The Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus in order to speak with him.

5 tc ‡ Although most witnesses read the genitive plural pronoun αὐτῶν (autwn, “their”), it may have been motivated by clarification (as it is in the translation above). Several other authorities do not have the pronoun, however (א B Δ 073 Ë1 579 700 892 1424 pc f g1); the lack of an unintentional oversight as the reason for omission strengthens their combined testimony in this shorter reading. NA27 has the pronoun in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.

6 tn Grk “when they eat bread.”

7 tn Grk “But answering, he said to them.”

8 tc Most mss (א*,2 C L W 0106 33 Ï) have an expanded introduction here; instead of “For God said,” they read “For God commanded, saying” (ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἐνετείλατο λέγων, Jo gar qeo" eneteilato legwn). But such expansions are generally motivated readings; in this case, most likely it was due to the wording of the previous verse (“the commandment of God”) that caused early scribes to add to the text. Although it is possible that other witnesses reduced the text to the simple εἶπεν (eipen, “[God] said”) because of perceived redundancy with the statement in v. 3, such is unlikely in light of the great variety and age of these authorities (א1 B D Θ 073 Ë1,13 579 700 892 pc lat co, as well as other versions and fathers).

9 sn A quotation from Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16.

10 sn A quotation from Exod 21:17; Lev 20:9.

11 tn Grk “is a gift,” that is, something dedicated to God.

12 tc The logic of v. 5 would seem to demand that both father and mother are in view in v. 6. Indeed, the majority of mss (C L W Θ 0106 Ë1 Ï) have “or his mother” (ἢ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ, h thn mhtera autou) after “honor his father” here. However, there are significant witnesses that have variations on this theme (καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ [kai thn mhtera autou, “and his mother”] in Φ 565 1241 pc and ἢ τὴν μητέρα [“or mother”] in 073 Ë13 33 579 700 892 pc), which is usually an indication of a predictable addition to the text rather than an authentic reading. Further, the shorter reading (without any mention of “mother”) is found in early and important witnesses (א B D sa). Although it is possible that the shorter reading came about accidentally (due to the repetition of –ερα αὐτοῦ), the evidence more strongly suggests that the longer readings were intentional scribal alterations.

tn Grk “he will never honor his father.” Here Jesus is quoting the Pharisees, whose intent is to release the person who is giving his possessions to God from the family obligation of caring for his parents. The verb in this phrase is future tense, and it is negated with οὐ μή (ou mh), the strongest negation possible in Greek. A literal translation of the phrase does not capture the intended sense of the statement; it would actually make the Pharisees sound as if they agreed with Jesus. Instead, a more interpretive translation has been used to focus upon the release from family obligations that the Pharisees allowed in these circumstances.

sn Here Jesus refers to something that has been set aside as a gift to be given to God at some later date, but which is still in the possession of the owner. According to contemporary Jewish tradition, the person who made this claim was absolved from responsibility to support or assist his parents, a clear violation of the Mosaic law to honor one’s parents (v. 4).

13 tn The term “heart” is a collective singular in the Greek text.

14 sn A quotation from Isa 29:13.



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