Defence against the accusation of an alliance with Beelzebub.
Matth. 12, 25 – 37.
How the three Synoptics bring the Lord into the case, that he had to answer against the accusation that he was in league with the prince of the unclean spirits, has already been set forth.
1. The absurdity of the accusation.
Matth, 12, 25 – 30.
In His response the Lord assumes that Satan would certainly understand his own interest so far and would not conspire to the ruin of His kingdom: “every kingdom divided against itself shall be desolate, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand; and if one Satan cast out another, he is divided against himself, how then shall his kingdom stand?” (B. 25. 26.)
This proof, we think, would be sufficient. But there is no harm in adding a few more arguments, if they are conclusive and appropriate. At the most, the former, that it applies, can still apply to the following remark (v.27.): “and if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, wherein do they cast out your sons? Therefore they themselves will pronounce judgment upon you.” But if v. 28 continues, “But if I cast out demons in the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you,” it goes much too far beyond the foregoing, for in the first place it was not said whether the children of the Jews also cast out demons by the Spirit of God, or if this supposition should apply to them, they must always have proved the coming of the kingdom of God before Jesus appeared. But the confusion becomes even greater *) when finally v. 29, although the proposition that Jesus casts out demons by the Spirit of God had already been established and secured by the reference to the Jewish exorcists, is argued as if it should and must first be proved by the other proposition that it requires ‘a superior power against the devil at all: “Or, says v. 29, how can one enter the house of the devil? how can one go into the strong man’s house and rob his household goods, if one does not first bind him and then plunder his house?”
*) See Wilke, p. 453. 454.
Matthew has borrowed the whole argument, with all its members, from Luke, but has left only the last clause, not in the form which Luke gave it, but excepting it in the original form which he received from Mark. In Luke, too, the inadequacy remains that after the argument that Satan would not conspire to destroy his kingdom and that the Jewish exorcists would pronounce judgement on the accusers of Jesus themselves, the other remark follows that the coming of the kingdom of God is to be concluded when he, Jesus, casts out the devils by “God’s finger”. The last remark, however, is not made by Luke as if to prove anew the necessity of a superior power to fight Satan, but he lets the speech – although always inappropriate and slow enough – run out into a description of the brave attack on the strong man’s castle (Luk 11, 17-22). 11, 17 – 22.): “when the strong man in full armour guards his palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he comes and conquers him, he takes his armour, on which he relied, and divides the spoil.” The change was necessary, but what is the point of this meaningless epic description?
We are now in the right mood and condition to reflect on how Mark formed the proof beautifully, simply, strikingly and – for such reflections are not preserved and formed in the shifting sands of tradition – first. Very appropriately – the two others have omitted it – the question is prefixed: “how can Satan cast out Satan?” Then follows the remark that every kingdom or house that is at variance with itself cannot stand, and so not even Satan, if he wanted to stand up against himself; and finally follows the rejoinder that the house of the strong man cannot be taken and plundered unless he is first bound (Mark 3, 24-27.). Nothing more, but enough and above all coherent!
Nor does Mark want to know of the following saying, which Luke and after him Matthew add to the previous one about the storming of the strong man’s castle (Luk 11, 23. Matth. 12, 30.). “He that is not with me is against me; he that gathereth not with me scatters” If all the theologians were to join forces and try to bring about a semblance of coherence, they would not be able to do so: they, too, must finally learn to understand that what is impossible remains impossible. They have no reference to the relation of Jesus to Satan, as was formerly believed, for Jesus just now expressly said that one must bind the strong man if one wished to deal with him; they apply just as little to the relation of the Pharisees to Jesus, since they had this time appeared as resolute opponents. To what, then, do they refer? To all other things, but not to the present occasion. Luke probably only wrote this saying as a counterpart to the other saying, since it speaks of the casting out of demons: He who is not against us is for us”, a saying which he probably also first formed on the occasion that the disciples of Jesus reported that they had seen someone casting out demons in his name (C. 9, 49. 50.).
Now what are we to say and think when Matthew, after a saying of this kind with the formula: “therefore (δια τουτο) I say unto you”, passes on to the saying of the sin against the Holy Spirit, that is, to a saying which refers to the reproach of the Pharisees? We will say nothing at least that even remotely resembles the assertion that there is a connection here. Matthew returns to the Scripture of Mark – Luke has assigned another place to the saying of the sin against the Holy Spirit – and because he now sees a connection there, because he even reads there (Mark 3, 30.) that Jesus had spoken of this sin “because” the Pharisees had said: “he has the devil,” he thinks he also gives everything in the best connection when he processes this remark of Mark: “because (ότι) they had said” into the transition: “therefore”. *) The saying of the unpardonable sin was already in Matthew’s mind when he had the Lord (v.28.) draw the conclusion: “if I cast out devils in the Spirit of God, the kingdom of God has come to you.” Matthew, in consideration of the following, which Luke did not have to take into account, since he placed the saying of the greatest sin in a different place, had even deliberately changed Luke’s expression: “if I cast out devils by the finger of God” (Luke 11:20), and yet immediately before the saying of that sin he brings another one which has nothing to do with it? But why does he also want to do too much of a good thing, to unite the treasures of Luke and Mark and not let a single piece be lost, and why does he not always proceed, as he sometimes does, boldly and brazenly in the combination of the sayings which his predecessors handed down to him?
*) Luke has put Mark’ remark, when he omits the saying of the unpardonable sin, much too early and moreover unskilfully in the form of a remark by Jesus himself, namely immediately after the question: how then, if Satan is at odds with himself, can his kingdom exist? 6. 11, 18: ότι λέγετε, εν βεελζεβούλ εκβάλλειν με τα δαιμόνια. Here, Jesus’ remark seems inappropriate and unnecessary in itself, but Luke used it to remind of the occasion when he (V. 13, 16) reported two things: the accusation that Jesus was in league with Satan, and the demand for a sign. Thus, we must acknowledge Mark’s tact in expressing the opponents’ accusation in a way that made it clear that it was based on their terrible error of mistaking the spirit in which Jesus was working for a diabolical one ; οτι ελεγον, πνευμα ακαθαρτον εχει.
2. The sin against the Holy Spirit.
Matth, 12, 31. 32.
Even though he finally communicates the verdict of the unpardonable sin, Matthew does too much of a good thing. Twice he says that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, once in simple contrast to the statement that (v. 31) every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, the other time (v. 32) in a more elaborate contrast (“it will neither be forgiven in this world nor in the next”) to the statement that it will be forgiven him who speaks something against the Son of Man. But one thing was enough! For if every sin but one can be forgiven, then among the forgivable is also the blasphemy against the Son of man; or if it can be forgiven, then it is also forgiven against all others but one, because it is above all others and nearest to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This was known to Mark and Luke, the former only having the simple antithesis, the latter only the more definite, the latter saying (C. 3, 28. 29.), “all sins are forgiven the children of men, even all blasphemies which they utter: but he that blasphemeth the Holy Ghost hath no forgiveness for ever, but is guilty of everlasting judgment;” whereas Luke C. 12, 10: “and whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever blasphemeth the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him.”
Luke has linked this saying to that excellent occasion when ten thousands crowded around the Lord so that they trampled one another. Matthew knew what to make of such a beautiful occasion and audience; he put Luke’s saying together with that of Mark – although both are basically the same saying.
If it now remains to be asked how Luke arrived at the form of his saying, and if Weisse *) supposes that the mention of the children of men (υιοις των ανθρωπων) in Mark is an “error of memory” on his part, “who remembered this expression in the context of this saying from Peter’s narration – (which memory, as if the words in the memory did not rather receive themselves through the thought, its strueture and interest, and afterwards, out of the thought, either gather themselves together again or form themselves into a new shape! ) – but no longer knew how to find the right relationship” – (as if such an insignificant word as human children could cause a writer so much trouble) – if, therefore, Weisse hopes to clarify the matter in this way, we are rather permitted, no, it is certain, that Luke was rather led to his form of the saying by the allusion to that word and by an imprecise understanding of it, in that he was at the same time guided by the perception and the instinct of the contrast.
*) II. 77.
Therefore, the new saying we receive from Luke is, like some others *) in the Gospels, the discovery of that instinct which is true and correct in itself, even of deep content, but only needed a coincidence, a random occasion and connection, to find its object. The children of Mark led Luke to the Son of Man.
*) Remember the “poor in spirit.”
3. Sayings alien to the presupposed occasion.
Matth. 12, 3Z-S7.
Mark still knew – because he was the first to write the evangelical work of history – how opponents must be defeated, namely, by arguments that are short, to the point, and incisive; but he did not yet know that one could also use arguments that had nothing to do with the matter itself or were only in some contact with it through a distant allusion; in short, he did not yet know that a speech in defence must consist of a collection of the most diverse sayings and run into an incomprehensible pincer. Only his successors, who had fine sayings in mind and did not want to merely copy them, came to this insight. This insight led Luke – we have already seen how far – but it led Matthew even further.
Matthew lets four sayings follow, after the opponents had long since been thrown to the ground by the sayings he borrowed from Mark. So a dead enemy is fought – and how? First, v. 33: “either plant a good tree and its fruit will be good, or plant a corrupt tree and its fruit will be corrupt: for from the fruit the tree is known” – i.e. the definiteness of the action depends on the general definiteness of the personality. Then, “ye generation of vipers, how can ye speak good, seeing ye are evil? for what the heart is full of, the mouth overflows with it” v. 34 – continued in v. 35. A new thought follows v. 36: “of every vain word that they have spoken, men shall give account in the day of judgment.” Finally, a new turn in v. 37: “From your words you will be justified, from your words you will be condemned”, i.e. actions can still conceal the inner nature of man, but in a word the same is revealed involuntarily and in its true authenticity.
Let us not dwell on the arts and crafts of the theologians! Calvin remarks that Jesus wanted to strip the Pharisees of their hypocrisy and remind them that they must be either decidedly good or evil – but the Pharisees had previously revealed their decided wickedness. Calvin remarks on the third saying in v. 36 that it is a conclusion from the lesser to the greater: if every word is weighed, how will God let blasphemies go unpunished? But this should have been said, the more so as the saying, as it stands here, forms an independent magnitude. But if de Wette now comes with the explanation: “Jesus goes on about the malicious speech of the Pharisees and its evil source and he applies the sentence C. 7, 16 ff. First of all, we notice that the beginning of the sentence speaks of the determination of actions in general, but not of the speeches of the people, and then we remember from where Matthew had derived this sentence for the Sermon on the Mount – from the parallel speech of Jesus in Luke! Now, from here he writes down the saying about the tree and its fruit, which he had already used for the Sermon on the Mount, in a shorter form, because he finds it in close connection with the saying about the speeches that come from the treasure of the heart, and because he was reminded of this other saying by the reminiscence of the argument against the Pharisees because of their speeches. Hence the unseemliness of the first saying; hence Matthew, before he copies the saying from the speech (Luke 6:45.), prefixes it with the question (v. 34.), “how can ye, vipers, speak good things, seeing ye are evil?” hence this confusion. The last two sayings (v. 36, 37) are the work of Matthew.
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