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Matthew 8:18-22

Context
Challenging Professed Followers

8:18 Now when Jesus saw a large crowd 1  around him, he gave orders to go to the other side of the lake. 2  8:19 Then 3  an expert in the law 4  came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 5  8:20 Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky 6  have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 7  8:21 Another 8  of the 9  disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 8:22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” 10 

1 tc ‡ Codex B and some Sahidic mss read simply ὄχλον (oclon, “crowd”), the reading that NA27 follows; the first hand of א, as well as Ë1 and a few others, has ὄχλους (oclous, “crowds”); other witnesses read πολὺν ὄχλον (polun oclon, “a large crowd”). But the reading most likely to be original seems to be πολλούς ὄχλους (pollou" oclou"). It is found in א2 C L Θ 0233 Ë13 33 Ï lat; it is judged to be superior on internal grounds (the possibility of accidental omission of πολλούς/πολύν in isolated witnesses) and, to a lesser extent, external grounds (geographically widespread, various texttypes). For reasons of English style, however, this phrase has been translated as “a large crowd.”

2 tn The phrase “of the lake” is not in the Greek text but is clearly implied; it has been supplied here for clarity.

3 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then.”

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

5 sn The statement I will follow you wherever you go is an offer to follow Jesus as a disciple, no matter what the cost.

6 tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).

7 sn Jesus’ reply is simply this: Does the man understand the rejection he will be facing? Jesus has no home in the world (the Son of Man has no place to lay his head).

8 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

9 tc ‡ Most mss (C L W Θ 0250 Ë1,13 Ï lat sy mae bo) read αὐτοῦ (autou, “his”) here, but the earliest witnesses, א and B (along with 33 and a few others), lack it. The addition may have been a motivated reading to clarify whose disciples were in view. NA27 includes the pronoun in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.

10 sn There are several options for the meaning of Jesus’ reply Leave the dead to bury their own dead: (1) Recent research suggests that burial customs in the vicinity of Jerusalem from about 20 b.c. to a.d. 70 involved a reinterment of the bones a year after the initial burial, once the flesh had rotted away. At that point the son would have placed his father’s bones in a special box known as an ossuary to be set into the wall of the tomb. Thus Jesus could well be rebuking the man for wanting to wait around for as much as a year before making a commitment to follow him. In 1st century Jewish culture, to have followed Jesus rather than burying one’s father would have seriously dishonored one’s father (cf. Tobit 4:3-4). (2) The remark is an idiom (possibly a proverbial saying) that means, “The matter in question is not the real issue,” in which case Jesus was making a wordplay on the wording of the man’s (literal) request (see L&N 33.137). (3) This remark could be a figurative reference to various kinds of people, meaning, “Let the spiritually dead bury the dead.” (4) It could also be literal and designed to shock the hearer by the surprise of the contrast. Whichever option is preferred, it is clear that the most important priority is to follow Jesus.



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