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Matthew 8:21-22

Context
8:21 Another 1  of the 2  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.” 3 

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

2 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.

3 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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