§ 47. A convocation of heterogeneous sayings


§ 47.

A convocation of heterogeneous sayings.

Matth. 11, 20 -30.

Matthew continues: “Then he began to rebuke the cities in which most of his miracles had taken place, because they had not repented: Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida, if in Tyre and Sidon the miracles had been done which were done among you, long ago they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, that Tyre and Sidon shall fare better in the day of judgment than you. And you Capernaum, which is exalted to heaven, even unto hell shalt thou be thrust down: for if the miracles had been wrought in Sodom, which were wrought in you, it would be standing this day. But I say unto you, that the land of Sodom shall be more tolerable in the day of judgment than thou” (vv. 20-24).


It is not only incomprehensible why the Lord should have felt the need to rebuke the cities to which only he had given a special reputation through his miraculous work, but it is also unexpected that Capernaum is attacked so harshly, since we have not heard anything about the decided unbelief of this city, but rather the opposite. But if we first leave aside the difficulty of the content, we notice another circumstance, namely the peculiar appearance that the words: “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” Matth. 11, 24, were already said above “of that city”, which would not receive the disciples on their missionary journey (C. 10, 15.). Before we assume that these words had become a standing formula for Jesus, with which he threatened the despisers of his name with terrible future judgement at every opportunity, we should rather remember from where Matthew had borrowed these words for the first time. Correct! Luke 10, 12-15 follows after the words about the fate of the city that would not receive the disciples, the woe over Chorazin and Bethsaida, and over Capernaum. But differently structured than in Matthew! As Chorazin and Bethsaida are paralleled with Tyre and Sidon by both Luke and Matthew, so Capernaum is referred by Matthew to the example of Sodom, which would still be standing if it had seen the miracles that happened in Capernaum. Here, however, this parallel was not only superfluous, but also very badly applied: for the saying about Capernaum, in its short form, is supposed to end, like a sudden shattering thunder, the storm that is unleashed upon the cities of Galilee; on the other hand, it contains (in its contrast: You are lifted up to heaven, you shall be cast down to hell) all that he needs, since he describes and threatens both at once the glory that was intended for Capernaum, and the final fate that was destined for the city. Matthew excluded the saying about the more tolerable fate of Sodom, which had been worked out in relation to the city that would not give the disciples shelter, and which he himself had already put in its place above, from its true place (Luk. 1V, 12.) and used it for the superfluous and disturbing elaboration of the saying about Capernaum (Luk. 10, 15.).


If the letter, i.e. the resolution of the letter, which Matthew wrote down, led us to the insight that Luke first gave it its existence, others *) thought they were justified by the nature of the content in claiming that “the sermon on the Galilean cities Luke 10, 13-25 certainly stands at the sending of the seventy, provided that, according to Luke’s account, this really took place at Christ’s departure from Galilee, better than at Christ’s declaration about John in the midst of Galilean activity.” To be sure, Luke has presented the matter as if Jesus had chosen and sent forth the seventy when He was already on His way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, 57). ), but of this absurdity, both that Jesus sent out the company of seventy at such an inopportune time, and of the other monstrosity of pragmatism, that those prophecies were uttered when a company of disciples was sent out for the harvest, criticism, which wants to know nothing of those seventy, has long since told us.

*) E.g. Schneckenburger, Beiträge, p. 20.

Thus, there remains the possibility that Jesus delivered the sermon about the Galilean cities at all when he departed for Jerusalem; but then, as Weisse has correctly remarked**), “the erroneous opinion would be encouraged, as if Jesus wanted to give pleasure to a deceived expectation which he had harboured in relation to his person from the inhabitants of Galilee. So on another occasion? Nevermore! For, to say nothing of the fact that the Synoptics, wherever Jesus appears in Galilee, have the multitudes willingly and enthusiastically gather around him, that Mark only represents the Pharisees as hostile, and when he wants to report the most violent outbreak of unbelief, the accusation of alliance with the devil, he has to bring the proper persons from Jerusalem for the purpose (Mark 3:22.) – apart from all these things, which he himself made later, those prophecies about the cities of Galilee would have been weak and overwrought in every case and in every situation, if Jesus had uttered them. Only an insecure spirit and a man who does not know how to assert his dignity is capable of pronouncing curses and woe on a circle in which he had not succeeded in finding entrance and success for his effectiveness. An individual – and if he were, so to say, God himself – would only betray irritated displeasure and an excessive alteration if he wanted to please his deceived expectation by a cry of woe of such a kind. The saying came into being only when the Jewish people had long since broken with the new principle and the cities, which had been glorified as the scene of Jesus’ activity, stood and looked as if the Lord had never dwelt and worked within their walls. Originating with Jesus, the saying would have been nothing but the expression of an irritation directed at an accidental, individual point; but originating later and recognised by us as such, it only develops its generality, since it is now, on the one hand, a judgement (no longer about a couple of places in Galilee, but) about the Jewish people in general and their attitude to the Christian principle, and even more a symbolic exclamation that applies to all who do not accept the salvation offered. Proverbs of this kind arise only in a congregation which lays down in them the consciousness of their authority, validity and justification.

**) ll, 73.


The individual who, within the congregation, helps to express the awareness of their justification does not need to be conscious of the generality of this background at the creative moment, and he is in no way aware of it if, as a writer of history, he incorporates a general feeling into the saying of an individual person, or even into the saying about individual places with which this person was in contact, or only expresses it in such a saying. Luke was the one who spoke on behalf of the congregation, the same Luke who first wrote the other saying, the counterpart to this one, the saying about Jerusalem, which did not want to acknowledge the love of the Lord (Luke 13, 34. 35.). Luke is the only one who made the region of Bethsaida the scene of the miraculous feeding (C. 9,10.), but where he got the name of a place called Cho- razin, of which neither the OT nor Josephus know anything, the theologians will tell us. They will tell us that for many, many years the name of this place lived on in the memory of the congregation with the saying of Jesus: so let them say! Who knows by what accidental geographical peculiarity, or by what error, or by what other means Luke arrived at this name! In any case, he wanted to put two names together, because Tyre and Sidon were to be held up to the unbelieving Jewish cities for shame.


Matthew adds several other sayings (v. 25-30). But when he says at the beginning: “at that time Jesus gave an answer,” we do not even want to claim that he finally noticed that he was communicating sayings that had nothing at all to do with the presupposed occasion, for if he had formed this new approach for this purpose, in order to indicate the special independence of the following sayings, he would in no case have introduced the sayings as an answer without reporting that someone had gone out with a question. Everything is easily solved when we look at the scripture of Luke, which Matthew himself had in mind at that moment *) and now see that the two sayings that Matthew writes down C. 11, 25-27 are supposed to be an exclamation of Jesus, which he did on the occasion of the return and relation of the seven, Luk 10, 21-22. Matthew, as he reads it in Luke, cannot include this occasion, that Jesus “in that very hour was raptured in spirit and cried out,” since at this moment he cannot say anything about the return of the disciples – and of the seventy at that – and finds himself in a completely different situation; Nevertheless, he cannot refrain from making a paragraph and describing Jesus’ exclamation as such, namely, as a provoked one, and so he now comes to use a formula – “Jesus gave an answer” – which is motivated solely by the context of a foreign scripture. And “really, says de Wette, the saying Matth. 11, 25 clearly refers to the success which the sending of the seventy had had, so that Luke deserves the preference **).” If, on the other hand, we note that the Seventy report nothing at all in their travelogue about the reception their teachings received, Schleiermacher ***) replies: “Of course they told of the attachment of the lowly and of the adverse mood of the respected. But the situation is so bad that the Seventy not only report nothing about the mood of the people, but say nothing at all about the proclamation of the Gospel; for although they have nothing more to report to the Lord than the denial that “also” the demons are subject to them, it is clear that they speak only of the miraculous activity and report only that as the most important result of their journey, that “also” the possession as well as other diseases and ills have been cured by them.

*) If one considers the Scriptures of Matthew alone, then one must of course come to assertions such as that of Frktzsche (on Matth, p. 412.): ex hac formula (v. 25.) colligas, Matthaeum de ratione temporis factis ipsis accommodandi vehementer esse sollicitum. The formula comes from this, quod scriptor antegressam quaestionem, quae responsum hujusmodi exigat, animo quidem finxerit, sed brevitatis causa omiserit.

**) 1, 1, 110.

***) P. 170.


Let us first hear the first half of the saying (Luk. 10, 22. Matth. 11, 25. 26.): “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes *)”. This reflection is said to have arisen when the Seventy returned from a journey on which they learned nothing more significant than that “also” the demons are subject to them, from a journey which they never undertook, since they themselves never existed as these Seventy? The reflection refers to the experiences of the church and is a variation on the theme which Mark (C. 2,17.) elaborated in the saying about the righteous and the sinners.

*) The sharpness of this saying, the price that the Gospel of the Lord of heaven is hidden from the wise, had of course often to be blunted by those who explained it. Thus Chrysostom says: ου τοινυν δια τουτο – that it is hidden from the wise – χαιρει, αλλ οτι, α σοφοι ουκ εγνωσαν, εγνωσαν ουτοι – namely, the immature.

Fritzsche (Matth, p. 415.) says to this: recte. But only what Bengel, for example, says is correct: duplex ratio laudandi.

Nothing but a later reflection on the authority of the Son, on His relationship to the Father, and on the principle of revelation, which no one can take from himself, but can only receive from the Son, in whom the Father is manifested; nothing but a later dogmatic reflection, of which Mark knows nothing, is also the saying (Luke 10, 22. Matth. 11, 27.): “All things are delivered unto me of my Father. And no one knows who the Son is but the Father, nor who the Father is but the Son, and to whom the Son wills to reveal it.”

On his own hand, but in a new direction, Matthew continues (vv. 28-30): “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is gentle and my burden is light.” Matthew has the following passage in mind, in which he wants to portray the Lord as the Saviour who demands and exercises compassion and mercy, and opposes them as the higher and God-pleasing things to the strict rules of Ford and the yoke of the law, and finally proves himself in his behaviour as the one of whom the prophet had already said that he does not quarrel, does not cry out, does not break the bent reed and does not extinguish the smouldering wick. Matthew has long forgotten the message of the Baptist, he hastens to the following passage, and presents the subject of it as the conclusion of a speech that had to do with quite different things. Of course, he could have produced a reflection of this kind, since he had long before brought together sayings which referred to everything else but the historical position of the Baptist *).

*) On Matth. 11, 28. 29: δευτε προς με παντες οι κοπιωντες . . . . . και ευρησετε αναπαυσιν ταις ψυχαις υμων Wilke, p. 629 correctly referred to Jerem. 6, 16: ἴδετε, ποία ἐστὶν ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀγαθή, καὶ βαδίζετε ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ εὑρήσετε ἁγνισμὸν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν. For the following (Matth. 12, 7 ελεον θελω και ου θυσιαν) Wilke refers to Jerem. 6, 20 τὰ ὁλοκαυτώματα ὑμῶν οὔκ εἰσιν δεκτά, καὶ αἱ θυσίαι ὑμῶν οὐχ ἥδυνάν μοι. We can still remember the parallel passage to Jerem. 6, namely Isa. 55. v. 1: οἱ διψῶντες, πορεύεσθε ἐφ᾿ ὕδωρ . . . V. 2: ἡ ψυχὴ ὑμῶν. V. 3: προσέχετε τοῖς ὠτίοις ὑμῶν καὶ ἐπακολουθήσατε ταῖς ὁδοῖς μου· ἐπακούσατέ μου, καὶ ζήσεται ἐν ἀγαθοῖς ἡ ψυχὴ ὑμῶν. Compare Jerem. 31, 25: ἐμέθυσα πᾶσαν ψυχὴν διψῶσαν καὶ πᾶσαν ψυχὴν πεινῶσαν ἐνέπλησα. Compare also Ps. 116, 5-7.



The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)