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us an appalling portraiture of the heathen world, and adds, that even the Jew, with all his advantage of God's revelation, is under the same condemnation; for by the law the whole world is involved in sin, and exposed to the righteous judgment of God. This is the first division (i, 18-iii, 20). The second, which extends to the close of the eighth chapter, and ends with a magnificent expression of Christian confidence and hope, discusses and illustrates the
propos sition stated at its beginning: “Now, apart from law, a righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even a righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ unto all them that believe” (iii, 21). Under this head we find unfolded the doctrine of justification by faith, and the progressive glorification of the new man through sanctification of the Spirit. Then follows the apostle's vindication of the righteousness of God in casting off the Jews and calling the Gentiles (chaps. ix-xi), an argument that exhibits throughout a yearning for Israel's salvation, and closes with an outburst of wondering emotion over the “depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,” and a doxology (xi, 33–36). The concluding chapters (xii-xvi) consist of a practical application of the great lessons of the epistle in exhortations, counsels, and precepts for the Church, and numerous salutations and references to personal Christian friends.
It will be found that a proper attention to this general plan and scope of the Epistle will greatly help to the understanding of its smaller sections.
Having ascertained the general scope and plan of a book of Scripture, we are more fully prepared to trace the context and bear
ings of its particular parts. The context, as we have ticular passages. observed, may be near or remote, according as we seek its immediate or more distant connexion with the particular word or passage in hand. It may run through a few verses or a whole section. The last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah exhibit a marked unity of thought and style, but they are capable of several subdivisions. The celebrated Messianic prophecy in chapters lii, 13-liii, 12, is a complete whole in itself, but most unhappily torn asunder by the division of chapters. But, though forming a clearly defined section by themselves, these fifteen verses must not be severed from their context, or treated as if they had no vital connexion with what precedes and what follows after. Alexander justly condemns “the radical error of supposing that the book is susceptible of distribution into detached and independent parts." It has its divisions more or less clearly defined, but they cling to each other,
'Later Prophecies of Isaiah, p. 247. New York, 1847
Context of par
STUDY OF CONTEXT.
and are interwoven with each other, and form a living whole. It is beautifully observed by Nägelsbach, that “chapters xlix-lvii are like a wreath of glorious flowers intertwined with black ribbon; or like a song of triumph, through whose muffled tone there courses the melody of a dirge, yet so that gradually the mournful chords merge into the melody of the song of triumph. And at the same time the discourse of the prophet is arranged with so much art that the mourning ribbon ties into a great bow exactly in the middle. For chapter liii forms the middle of the entire prophetic cycle of chapters xl-lxvi.” 1
The immediate connexion with what precedes may be thus seen: In lii, 1–12, the future salvation of Israel is glowingly depicted as a restoration more glorious than that from the bondage of Egypt or from Assyrian exile. Jerusalem awakes and rises from the dust of ruin; the captive is released from fetters; the feet of fleet messengers speed with good tidings, and the watchmen take up the glad report, and sound the cry of redemption. And then (verse 11) an exhortation is sounded to depart from all pollution and bondage, and the sublime exodus is contrasted (verse 12) with the hasty flight from Egypt, but with the assurance that, as of old, Jehovah would still be as the pillar of cloud and fire before them and behind them. At this our passage begins, and the thought naturally turns to the great Leader of this spiritual exodus-a greater than Moses, even though that ancient servant of Jehovah was faithful in all his house (Num. xii, 7). Our prophet proceeds to delineate Him whose sufferings and sorrows for the transgressions of his people far transcended those of Moses, and whose final triumph through the fruit of the travail of his soul shall be also infinitely greater.
The much-disputed passage in Matt. xi, 12 can be properly explained only by special regard to the context. Literally Matt. xi, 12 extranslated, the verse reads: “From the days of John plained in the the Baptist until now, the kingdom of the heavens text. suffers violence (Bláčetai), and violent ones are seizing upon it.” There are seven different ways in which this passage has been explained.
1. The violence here mentioned is explained by one class of in. terpreters as a hostile violence—the kingdom is violently persecuted by its enemies, and violent persecutors seize on it as by storm. The words themselves would not unnaturally bear such a meaning, but we find nothing in the context to harmonize with a reference to hostile forces, or violent persecution. 2. Fritzsche translates Blášetal by magna vi praedicatur (is
1 Commentary on Isaiah, lü, 13, in Lange's Biblework.
light of its con
proclaimed with great power); but this is contrary to the meaning of the word, and utterly without warrant.
3. The most common interpretation is that which takes Bláčetai in a good sense, and explains it of the eager and anxious struggles of many to enter into the new kingdom of God. This view, however, is open to the twofold objection, that it does not allow the word Blášetal its proper significance, and it has no relevancy to the context. It could scarcely be said of the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead, and the poor, mentioned in verse 5, that they took the kingdom by violence, for whatever violence was exerted in their case proceeded not from them but from Christ.
4. According to Lange "the expression is metaphorical, denoting the violent bursting forth of the kingdom of heaven, as the kernel of the ancient theocracy, through the husk of the Old Testament. John and Christ are themselves the violent who take it by forcethe former, as commencing the assault; the latter, as completing the conquest. Accordingly, this is a figurative description of the great era which had then commenced.” So far as this exposition might describe an era which began with John, it would certainly have relevancy to the immediate context; but no such era of a violent bursting forth of the kingdom of heaven had as yet opened. The kingdom of God was not yet come; it was only at hand. Besides, the making of both John and Christ the violent ones, in the sense of breaking open the husk of the Old Testament to let the kingdom of the heavens out, is a far-fetched and most improbable idea.
5. Others take Bláčetal in a middle sense: the kingdom of heaven violently breaks in-forcibly introduces itself, or thrusts itself forward in spite of all opposition. This usage of the word may be allowed; but the interpretation it offers is open to the same objection as that of Lange just given. It cannot be shown that there was any such violent breaking in of the kingdom of God from the days of John the Baptist to the time when Jesus spoke these words. Besides, it is difficult, on this view, to explain satisfactorily the Blaotai, violent ones, mentioned immediately afterward.
6. Stier combines a good and a bad sense in the use of Bláčetai: “The word has here no more and no less than its active sense, which passes into the middle. The kingdom of heaven proclaims itself loudly and openly, breaking in with violence; the poor are compelled (Luke xiv, 23) to enter it; those who oppose it are constrained to take offence. In short, all things proceed urgently with it; it goes with mighty movement and impulse; it works effectually
Commentary, in loco.
MEANING OF MATTHEW XI, 12.
upon all spirits on both sides and on all sides. . . . Its constraining power does violence to all; but it excites, at the same time, in the case of many, obstinate opposition. He who will not submit to it, must be offended and resist; and he, too, who yields to it, must press and struggle through this offence. Thus the kingdom of heaven does and suffers violence, both in its twofold influence.” 1 Hence, according to Stier, the violent ones are either good or bad, since both classes are compelled to take some part in the general struggle, either for or against. This exposition, however, is without sufficient warrant in the history of the time, “from the days of John the Baptist until now," and it puts too many shades of meaning on the word Biaorai. Besides, this view also has no clear relevancy to the context.
7. We believe the true view will be attained only by giving each word its natural meaning, and keeping attention strictly to the context. The common meaning of Brátw is to take something by force, to carry by storm, as a besieged city or fortress; and it here refers most naturally to the violent and hasty efforts to seize upon the kingdom of God which had been conspicuous since the beginning of the ministry of John. For this view seems to be demanded by the context. John had heard, in his prison, about the works of Christ, and, anxious and impatient for the glorious manifestation of the Messiah, sent two of his disciples to put the dubious question, “ Art thou he that is coming, or look we for another?” (Matt. xi, 2, 3). Jesus' answer (verses 4-6) was merely a statement of his mighty works, and of the preaching of the Gospel to the poor-Old Testament prophetic evidence that the days of the Messiah were at hand-and the tacit rebuke: “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended (okavdanio dñ find occasion of stumbling) in me," was evidently meant for John's impatience. When John's disciples went away Jesus at once proceeded to speak of John's character and standing before the multitudes: When ye all flocked to the wilderness to hear John preach, did ye expect to find a wavering reed, or a finely dressed courtier? Or did ye expect, rather, to see a prophet? Yes, he exclaims, much more than a prophet. For he was the Messiah's messenger, himself prophesied of in the Scriptures (Mal. iii, 1). He was greater than all the prophets who were before him; for he stood upon the very verge of the Messianic era and introduced the Christ. But, with all his greatness, he misunderstands the kingdom of heaven; and from his days until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence from many who, like him, think it may be forced into manifestation. That king
1 Words of the Lord Jesus, in loco.
dom comes according to an ordered progress. First, the prophets and the law until John—the Elijah foretold in Mal. iv, 5. John was but the forerunner of Christ, preparing his way, and Christ's manifestation in the flesh was not his coming in his kingdom. Herein, we think, expositors have generally misapprehended our Lord's doctrine. Thus Nast: “The Lord speaks of the absolutely certain and momentous fact that the kingdom of heaven has come, proclaims its presence, and sends forth its invitations in tones not to be misunderstood (verse 15).” We believe, on the contrary, that this is a grave misunderstanding of our Lord's words. He neither says, nor necessarily implies, that his kingdom has come. John's preaching and Christ's preaching alike declared the kingdom to be at hand, and not fully come. Compare Matt. iii, 2 and iv, 17.' But from the beginning of this gospel men had been over anxious to have the kingdom itself appear, and in this sense it was suffering violence, both by an inward impatience and zeal, such as John himself had just now exhibited, and by an open and outward clamour, such as was exhibited by those who would fain have taken Jesus by force and made him king (John vi, 15). This same kind of violence is to be understood in the parallel passage in Luke xvi, 16. The preaching of “the Gospel of the kingdom" was the occasion of a violence of attitude regarding it. Every man would fain enter violently into it.
The word Bráčetal, accordingly, denotes not altogether a hostile violence, nor yet, on the other hand, a commendable zeal; but it may combine in a measure both of these conceptions. Stier finely says: “In a case where exegesis perseveringly disputes which of the two views of a passage capable of two senses is correct, it is generally found that both are one in a third deeper meaning, and that the disputants in both cases have both right and wrong in their argument.” The word in question may combine both the good and the bad senses of violence : not, however, in the manner in which Stier explains, as above, but as depicting the violent zeal of those who would hurry the kingdom of God into a premature manifestation. Such a zeal might be laudable in its general aim, but very mistaken in its spirit and plan, and therefore deserving of rebuke.
The context of Gal. v, 4, must be studied in order to apprehend Gal. v, 4, to be the force and scope of the words: “Ye are fallen away fimple date de coboy from grace." The apostle is contrasting justification
by faith in Christ with justification by an observance of the law, and he argues that these two are opposites, so that one
English Commentary on Matthew, in loco.