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Matthew 12:24-32

Context
12:24 But when the Pharisees 1  heard this they said, “He does not cast out demons except by the power of Beelzebul, 2  the ruler 3  of demons!” 12:25 Now when Jesus 4  realized what they were thinking, he said to them, 5  “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, 6  and no town or house divided against itself will stand. 12:26 So if 7  Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 12:27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons 8  cast them 9  out? For this reason they will be your judges. 12:28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God 10  has already overtaken 11  you. 12:29 How 12  else can someone enter a strong man’s 13  house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can thoroughly plunder the house. 14  12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, 15  and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 16  12:31 For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, 17  but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 12:32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. 18  But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, 19  either in this age or in the age to come.

Matthew 12:38-45

Context
The Sign of Jonah

12:38 Then some of the experts in the law 20  along with some Pharisees 21  answered him, 22  “Teacher, we want to see a sign 23  from you.” 12:39 But he answered them, 24  “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 12:40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish 25  for three days and three nights, 26  so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 12:41 The people 27  of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them 28  – and now, 29  something greater than Jonah is here! 12:42 The queen of the South 30  will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon – and now, 31  something greater than Solomon is here!

The Return of the Unclean Spirit

12:43 “When 32  an unclean spirit 33  goes out of a person, 34  it passes through waterless places 35  looking for rest but 36  does not find it. 12:44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’ 37  When it returns, 38  it finds the house 39  empty, swept clean, and put in order. 40  12:45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so 41  the last state of that person is worse than the first. It will be that way for this evil generation as well!”

Matthew 16:1-4

Context
The Demand for a Sign

16:1 Now when the Pharisees 42  and Sadducees 43  came to test Jesus, 44  they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 45  16:2 He 46  said, “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be fair weather, because the sky is red,’ 16:3 and in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, because the sky is red and darkening.’ 47  You know how to judge correctly the appearance of the sky, 48  but you cannot evaluate the signs of the times. 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then 49  he left them and went away.

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

2 tn Grk “except by Beelzebul.”

sn Beelzebul is another name for Satan. So some people recognized Jesus’ work as supernatural, but called it diabolical.

3 tn Or “prince.”

4 tc The majority of mss read ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς (Jo Ihsous, “Jesus”), which clarifies who is the subject of the sentence. Although the shorter text is attested in far fewer witnesses (Ì21 א B D 892* sys,c sa bo), both the pedigree of the mss and the strong internal evidence (viz., scribes were not prone to intentionally delete the name of Jesus) argue for the omission of Jesus’ name. The name has been included in the translation, however, for clarity.

5 sn Jesus here demonstrated the absurdity of the thinking of the religious leaders who maintained that he was in league with Satan and that he actually derived his power from the devil. He first teaches (vv. 25-28) that if he casts out demons by the ruler of the demons, then in reality Satan is fighting against himself, with the result that his kingdom has come to an end. He then teaches (v. 29) about tying up the strong man to prove that he does not need to align himself with the devil because he is more powerful. Jesus defeated Satan at his temptation (4:1-11) and by his exorcisms he clearly demonstrated himself to be stronger than the devil. The passage reveals the desperate condition of the religious leaders, who in their hatred for Jesus end up attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan (a position for which they will be held accountable, 12:31-32).

6 tn Or “is left in ruins.”

7 tn This first class condition, the first of three “if” clauses in the following verses, presents the example vividly as if it were so. In fact, all three conditions in these verses are first class. The examples are made totally parallel. The expected answer is that Satan’s kingdom will not stand, so the suggestion makes no sense. Satan would not seek to heal.

8 sn Most read your sons as a reference to Jewish exorcists (cf. “your followers,” L&N 9.4), but more likely this is a reference to the disciples of Jesus themselves, who are also Jewish and have been healing as well (R. J. Shirock, “Whose Exorcists are they? The Referents of οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν at Matthew 12:27/Luke 11:19,” JSNT 46 [1992]: 41-51). If this is a reference to the disciples, then Jesus’ point is that it is not only him, but those associated with him whose power the hearers must assess. The following reference to judging also favors this reading.

9 tn The pronoun “them” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context.

10 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong.

11 tn The phrase ἔφθασεν ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς (efqasen efJuma") is quite important. Does it mean merely “approach” (which would be reflected in a translation like “has come near to you”) or actually “come upon” (as in the translation given above, “has already overtaken you,” which has the added connotation of suddenness)? Is the arrival of the kingdom merely anticipated or already in process? Two factors favor arrival over anticipation here. First, the prepositional phrase ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς (efJumas, “upon you”) in the Greek text suggests arrival (Dan 4:24, 28 Theodotion). Second, the following illustration in v. 29 looks at the healing as portraying Satan being overrun. So the presence of God’s authority has arrived. See also L&N 13.123 for the translation of φθάνω (fqanw) as “to happen to already, to come upon, to come upon already.”

12 tn Grk “Or how can.”

13 sn The strong man here pictures Satan.

14 sn Some see the imagery here as similar to Eph 4:7-10, although no opponents are explicitly named in that passage. Jesus has the victory over Satan. Jesus’ acts of healing mean that the war is being won and the kingdom is coming.

15 sn Whoever is not with me is against me. The call here is to join the victor. Failure to do so means that one is being destructive. Responding to Jesus is the issue.

16 sn For the image of scattering, see Pss. Sol. 17:18.

17 tn Grk “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men.”

18 tn Grk “it will be forgiven him.”

19 tn Grk “it will not be forgiven him.”

sn Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. This passage has troubled many people, who have wondered whether or not they have committed this sin. Three things must be kept in mind: (1) the nature of the sin is to ascribe what is the obvious work of the Holy Spirit (e.g., releasing people from Satan’s power) to Satan himself; (2) it is not simply a momentary doubt or sinful attitude, but is indeed a settled condition which opposes the Spirit’s work, as typified by the religious leaders who opposed Jesus; and (3) a person who is concerned about it has probably never committed this sin, for those who commit it here (i.e., the religious leaders) are not in the least concerned about Jesus’ warning.

20 tn Or “Then some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.

21 tn Grk “and Pharisees.” The word “some” before “Pharisees” has been supplied for clarification.

sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.

22 tn Grk “answered him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant, but the syntax of the sentence was changed to conform to English style.

23 sn What exactly this sign would have been, given what Jesus was already doing, is not clear. But here is where the fence-sitters reside, refusing to commit to him.

24 tn Grk “But answering, he said to them.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation.

25 tn Grk “large sea creature.”

26 sn A quotation from Jonah 1:17.

27 tn Grk “men”; the word here (ἀνήρ, anhr) usually indicates males or husbands, but occasionally is used in a generic sense of people in general, as here (cf. BDAG 79 s.v. 1.a, 2).

28 tn Grk “at the preaching of Jonah.”

29 tn Grk “behold.”

30 sn On the queen of the South see 1 Kgs 10:1-3 and 2 Chr 9:1-12, as well as Josephus, Ant. 8.6.5-6 (8.165-175). The South most likely refers to modern southwest Arabia, possibly the eastern part of modern Yemen, although there is an ancient tradition reflected in Josephus which identifies this geo-political entity as Ethiopia.

31 tn Grk “behold.”

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

33 sn Unclean spirit refers to an evil spirit.

34 tn Grk “man.” This is a generic use of ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo"), referring to both males and females. This same use occurs in v. 45.

35 sn The background for the reference to waterless places is not entirely clear, though some Jewish texts suggest spirits must have a place to dwell, but not with water (Luke 8:29-31; Tob 8:3). Some suggest that the image of the desert or deserted cities as the places demons dwell is where this idea started (Isa 13:21; 34:14).

36 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.

37 tn Grk “I will return to my house from which I came.”

38 tn Grk “comes.”

39 tn The words “the house” are not in Greek but are implied.

40 sn The image of the house empty, swept clean, and put in order refers to the life of the person from whom the demon departed. The key to the example appears to be that no one else has been invited in to dwell. If an exorcism occurs and there is no response to God, then the way is free for the demon to return. Some see the reference to exorcism as more symbolic; thus the story’s only point is about responding to Jesus. This is possible and certainly is an application of the passage.

41 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the concluding point of the story.

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

43 sn See the note on Sadducees in 3:7.

44 tn The object of the participle πειράζοντες (peirazontes) is not given in the Greek text but has been supplied here for clarity.

45 sn What exactly this sign would have been, given what Jesus was already doing, is not clear. But here is where the fence-sitters reside, refusing to commit to him.

46 tn Grk “But answering, he said to them.” The construction has been simplified in the translation and δέ (de) has not been translated.

47 tn Or “red and gloomy” (L&N 14.56).

48 tn Grk “The face of the sky you know how to discern.”

49 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.



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