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Matthew 11:2-19

Context
Jesus and John the Baptist

11:2 Now when John 1  heard in prison about the deeds Christ 2  had done, he sent his disciples to ask a question: 3  11:3 “Are you the one who is to come, 4  or should we look for another?” 11:4 Jesus answered them, 5  “Go tell John what you hear and see: 6  11:5 The blind see, the 7  lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 11:6 Blessed is anyone 8  who takes no offense at me.”

11:7 While they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness 9  to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 10  11:8 What 11  did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? 12  Look, those who wear fancy clothes are in the homes of kings! 13  11:9 What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more 14  than a prophet. 11:10 This is the one about whom it is written:

Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, 15 

who will prepare your way before you. 16 

11:11 “I tell you the truth, 17  among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least 18  in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. 11:12 From 19  the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. 20  11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John appeared. 21  11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come. 11:15 The one who has ears had better listen! 22 

11:16 “To 23  what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another, 24 

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; 25 

we wailed in mourning, 26  yet you did not weep.’

11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 27  11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, 28  a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors 29  and sinners!’ 30  But wisdom is vindicated 31  by her deeds.” 32 

1 sn John refers to John the Baptist.

2 tc The Western codex D and a few other mss (0233 1424 al) read “Jesus” here instead of “Christ.” This is not likely to be original because it is not found in the earliest and most important mss, nor in the rest of the ms tradition.

tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”

sn See the note on Christ in 1:16.

3 tc Instead of “by his disciples” (see the tn below for the reading of the Greek), the majority of later mss (C3 L Ë1 Ï lat bo) have “two of his disciples.” The difference in Greek, however, is only two letters: διὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ vs. δύο τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ (dia twn maqhtwn autou vs. duo twn maqhtwn autou). Although an accidental alteration could account for either of these readings, it is more likely that δύο is an assimilation to the parallel in Luke 7:18. Further, διά is read by a good number of early and excellent witnesses (א B C* D P W Z Δ Θ 0233 Ë13 33 sa), and thus should be considered original.

tn Grk “sending by his disciples he said to him.” The words “a question” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.

4 sn Aspects of Jesus’ ministry may have led John to question whether Jesus was the promised stronger and greater one who is to come that he had preached about in Matt 3:1-12.

5 tn Grk “And answering, Jesus said to them.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation.

6 sn What you hear and see. The following activities all paraphrase various OT descriptions of the time of promised salvation: Isa 35:5-6; 26:19; 29:18-19; 61:1. Jesus is answering not by acknowledging a title, but by pointing to the nature of his works, thus indicating the nature of the time.

7 tn Grk “and the,” but καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more. Two other conjunctions are omitted in this series.

8 tn Grk “whoever.”

9 tn Or “desert.”

10 tn There is a debate as to whether one should read this figuratively (“to see someone who is easily blown over?”) or literally (Grk “to see the wilderness vegetation?… No, to see a prophet”). Either view makes good sense, but the following examples suggest the question should be read literally and understood to point to the fact that a prophet drew them to the desert.

11 tn Grk “But what.” Here ἀλλά (alla, a strong contrastive in Greek) produces a somewhat awkward sense in English, and has not been translated. The same situation occurs at the beginning of v. 9.

12 sn The reference to fancy clothes makes the point that John was not rich or powerful, in that he did not come from the wealthy classes.

13 tn Or “palaces.”

14 tn John the Baptist is “more” because he introduces the one (Jesus) who brings the new era. The term is neuter, but may be understood as masculine in this context (BDAG 806 s.v. περισσότερος b).

15 tn Grk “before your face” (an idiom).

16 sn The quotation is primarily from Mal 3:1 with pronouns from Exod 23:20. Here is the forerunner who points the way to the arrival of God’s salvation. His job is to prepare and guide the people, as the cloud did for Israel in the desert.

17 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.”

18 sn After John comes a shift of eras. The new era is so great that the lowest member of it (the one who is least in the kingdom of God) is greater than the greatest one of the previous era.

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

20 tn Or “the kingdom of heaven is forcibly entered and violent people take hold of it.” For a somewhat different interpretation of this passage, see the note on the phrase “urged to enter in” in Luke 16:16.

21 tn The word “appeared” is not in the Greek text, but is implied.

22 tn The translation “had better listen!” captures the force of the third person imperative more effectively than the traditional “let him hear,” which sounds more like a permissive than an imperative to the modern English reader. This was Jesus’ common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35).

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

24 tn Grk “who call out to one another, saying.” The participle λέγουσιν (legousin) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

25 snWe played the flute for you, yet you did not dance…’ The children of this generation were making the complaint (see vv. 18-19) that others were not playing the game according to the way they played the music. John and Jesus did not follow “their tune.” Jesus’ complaint was that this generation wanted things their way, not God’s.

26 tn The verb ἐθρηνήσαμεν (eqrhnhsamen) refers to the loud wailing and lamenting used to mourn the dead in public in 1st century Jewish culture.

27 sn John the Baptist was too separatist and ascetic for some, and so he was accused of not being directed by God, but by a demon.

28 tn Grk “Behold a man.”

29 sn See the note on tax collectors in 5:46.

30 sn Neither were they happy with Jesus (the Son of Man), even though he was the opposite of John and associated freely with people like tax collectors and sinners. Either way, God’s messengers were subject to complaint.

31 tn Or “shown to be right.”

32 tc Most witnesses (B2 C D L Θ Ë1 33 Ï lat) have “children” (τέκνων, teknwn) here instead of “deeds” (ἔργων, ergwn), but since “children” is the reading of the parallel in Luke 7:35, scribes would be motivated to convert the less colorful “deeds” into more animate offspring of wisdom. Further, ἔργων enjoys support from א B* W (Ë13) as well as early versional and patristic support.



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