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MATTHEW - Chapter 22

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Matthew 22

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS   3-25 (continued)

6.  Last Ministry at Jerusalem  21-25 (continued)

22, 1-14:  The Marriage Feast.  Only in Matthew, although there is a very similar parable of The Great Supper in Luke 14, 16-24.    1.  Addressed them: literally, "answered them," i.e., in response to the anger and hatred that His preceding parable had evoked, Jesus reiterated His prediction of the rejection of the Jew in still stronger terms under the form of another parable.  Logically this parable is closely connected with the preceding.  As a story the whole scene is in keeping with the customs of a royal banquet in the ancient Orient.  The first refusal of the invitation is not surprising, for according to oriental customs of politeness a man often waits for a second invitation before attending a banquet.  The crossroads (9): literally "the roads by which the roads go out," are the main highways from the city which branch out into secondary country roads; the sense is therefore, "Go out into the country."  The context presupposes that it is the man's own fault that he has entered without a wedding garment (11 f), otherwise the king would not have punished him.

In the application of the parable not all the details need to be understood symbolically.    2.  The King is God.  His son is Christ, whose union with His Church through the Incarnation is frequently compared to a marriage (see Commentary on 9, 15); for the kingdom of heaven compared to a banquet, cf. 8, 11.    3 f.  Mention is made of two groups of servants who are sent to call in those who had been previously invited: perhaps we are to see in the first group the prophets of the Old Testament, and in the second group the Apostles.  In this parable Christ Himself is not considered as one of these messengers; He is the royal bridegroom.  The second call is more urgent, for now the kingdom of God is at hand.    5 f.  Most of those who had been invited fail to heed the call because they are preoccupied with worldly affairs: Christ recognized that this was the fundamental reason why the vast majority of the Jew rejected Him.  The rest: only a minority of the Jews were guilty of violent persecution of Christ and His Apostles.

7.  A clear prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.    8.  The Then need not be understood as meaning "after the destruction of Jerusalem."    9.  Those outside the city are called to the marriage feast, i.e., the Gentiles.    10.  There are both good and bad in the Catholic Church; cf. 13, 41.48 f.

11-13.  The parable of The Wedding Garment.  This is really a distinct parable, but it was probably added to the preceding by Christ Himself, not merely by the Evangelist.  This further thought was suggested by the mention of both good and bad at the marriage feast.    11.  The wedding garment does not signify faith, for this man had accepted the call and entered the Church, but charity and good works, or the preservation of the state of grace which makes a man acceptable to God.    12.  Friend: literally "comrade," a word peculiar to Matthew; cf. 20, 13; 26, 50; in all three cases the word is used in a friendly expostulation.  The man has no excuse to offer; it was clearly his own fault that he had no wedding garment.  Evidently the host had offered this guest a festive garment and the refusal to wear it constituted an insult to the host.    13.  According to the best manuscripts, Bind his feet and hands.  On the darkness outside and the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, cf. 8, 12.    14.  This verse does not refer to the parable of The Wedding Garment but to the parable of The Marriage Feast (2-10).  The sense is: "Although the Jews who were invited to the kingdom of God were many, yet comparatively few of them answered the invitation and actually entered the kingdom."  This saying of Christ therefore does not answer the question whether most or only a few of those who are baptized are actually saved.  The chosen or "the elect" is a technical expression for the members of Christ's kingdom; cf. Apoc. 17, 14.  This term has nothing to do with the Calvinistic idea of predestination.  Sometimes it is used as entirely synonymous with "the called."  When the two terms are distinguished, as here, "the elect" are those who of their own free will co-operate with grace.

22, 15-22:  Tribute to Caesar.  Parallels in Mark 12, 13-17 and Luke 20, 20-26.    15.  The ultimate purpose of Christ's adversaries in seeking to entrap him in  his talk was that, if He would deny the political supremacy of the Emperor, they would "deliver him up to the ruling power and to the authority of the procurator" (Luke); if on the other hand Jesus would acknowledge this supremacy, they hoped that He would lose caste with the people who still expected Him to proclaim Himself their ideal Messias who was to give them political independence.    16.  That the plot might be less obvious, the leading Pharisees did not come in person but sent their disciples, who of course were also "Pharisees" (Mark), to ask the question.  Why the Herodians, the supporters of Herod's dynasty, were in on the plot is not clear: either they had their own reason for opposing the payment of tribute to the Emperor, or as favorers of the imperial party they were brought along to be witnesses of any seditious statement that Jesus might make.    The question is introduced with elaborate flattery in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal their treacherous intentions.    17.  Tribute is the correct word, corresponding with the technical Greek word used by Luke; but Matthew and Mark use a more popular Greek word meaning "Poll-tax," since it was by such a tax that this tribute was collected.  The emperor at this time was Tiberius.  The questioners meant the word lawful in the sense of "morally licit."

19.  The purpose of our Lord's question was to show that He was not ignorant of their wicked trickery, and perhaps also that He might awaken their conscience to the malice of their plot.  He calls them hypocrites because they were simply pretending to seek information and because they themselves, at least in practice, approved of the tribute.  Christ wished to have the coin of tribute shown in order to drive home the object lesson.  The tribute had to be paid in the silver denarius of the Empire.  Since this bore a human figure, the head of the emperor, which was something idolatrous for a good Jew, they did not have such a coin with them and had to fetch one (cf. Mark).  The local authorities, such as Herod and the procurators, were permitted to mint only copper coins; out of regard for the scruples of the Jews these bore no human figures.    20.  Jesus asked this question, not as if He Himself did not know whose image and inscription were on the coin, but in order to have His adversaries themselves admit that they used Caesar's money.  It was an axiom, admitted also in the Talmud, that if a people used the coinage of a certain king they also acknowledged his sovereignty.  This denarius would have borne the portrait head of Tiberius in profile with the Greek words KAISAROS SEBASTOU, i.e., (denarius) "of the revered Caesar."

21Render: i.e., give back to Caesar what is due to him.  By this wise decision Christ avoided the trap set for Him.  He placed the burden of responsibility upon His adversaries.  If they are willing to accept the benefits of Roman rule---and these were many---then they also have the duty of contributing to the support of the Roman government.  They do nothing morally wrong in this, provided that at the same time they render, i.e., give back, to God whatever is due in justice and gratitude to Him.  By this answer Christ neither approved nor disapproved of either the Roman Empire or of Jewish nationalism.  His kingdom was not of this world (cf. John 18, 36) and He refused to become involved in questions of politics.  Since this saying of Christ is stated as a general principle, it is valid for all times.  Our Lord recognizes the State and the Church as distinct, each sovereign in its own sphere.  Normally there should be no conflict between the temporal jurisdiction of the one and the spiritual jurisdiction of the other.  A Christian has moral obligations to both authorities.  As long as civil authority is not unjust and tyrannical and does not interfere in the legitimate sphere of religion, it must be accepted and obeyed as God's will (cf. John 19, 11; Rom. 13, 1-7; 1 Pet. 2, 13-17); but if any conflict arises between the authority of the State and the authority of God, "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5, 29).    22.  Although they failed to trap Jesus into making a seditious statement, still they did not hesitate to accuse Him falsely before Pilate of "perverting our nation and forbidding the payment of taxes to Caesar" (Luke 23, 2).

22, 23-33:  The Sadducees and the Resurrection.  Parallels in Mark 12, 18-27 and Luke 20, 27-39.    23.  On the same day, but not necessarily immediately after the preceding discussion.  It is to be noted that the Sadducees were not concerned with the question of the immortality of the soul as such.  For all Jews took a realistic view of human life.  Man has a body as well as a soul and therefore they did not consider the mere existence of a disembodied soul as a truly human life.  The Platonic concept of the immorality of the soul is entirely foreign to all the Sacred Scriptures, the New Testament as well as the Old.  St. Paul teaches at least implicitly that if there is no resurrection of the body there is no future life (cf. 1 Cor. 15, 12-19).    24-28.  The argument of the Sadducees is based upon the Mosaic law of levirate marriage (cf. Deut. 25, 5 f).  The question is purely theoretic, for this law had already fallen into desuetude; moreover, it would be highly improbable that such a case would befall the same woman seven times.  However, seven is merely a symbolic number here, signifying "several."

29-33.  Jesus affirms the doctrine of the resurrection and refutes the objection of the Sadducees.  The doctrine itself is proved from the Scriptures (31 f); the objection is removed by explaining how the power of God will give man "a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15, 44) at the resurrection.    30.  The man is said to marry, the woman is given in marriage.  At the resurrection the body "rises in incorruption" (1 Cor. 15, 42); therefore, since the risen body will not die, as our mortal bodies do at present, there will no longer be any need to continue the existence of the human race by the procreation of offspring.  In this respect men and women after the resurrection will be as angels of God in heaven.  For the angelic existence is not continued by married life.  From this passage arose the custom of calling sexual purity "the angelic virtue"; but strictly speaking this virtue cannot be predicated of the angels who have neither body nor sex.  The comparison to the angels was probably added by Christ to show that He rejected also the fallacy of the Sadducees which denied the existence of angels.

31 f.  The scriptural proof.  The quotation is from Ex. 3, 6.  Christ's argument from this text is usually explained by emphasizing the tense of the verb, i.e., "I am the God of Abraham," not, "I was the God of Abraham."  But it is to be noted that in the original Hebrew, as also in the original Greek of Mark, no verb is used here at all.  Moreover such an argument would at best prove only the immortality of the soul, which is quite a different thing from the resurrection of the body, which Christ wished to prove.  Finally such an interpretation does not explain why Christ chose such a seemingly weak argument when He could have quoted texts from the Old Testament which directly affirm the truth of the resurrection (cf. Isa. 26, 19; Dan. 12, 2).  It is not sufficient to say that the Sadducees would not have accepted these texts because they did not hold the Prophets as inspired Scripture; for there is no certain evidence that the Bible of the Sadducees consisted only of the Pentateuch.

The reason why Christ chose this text from Exodus was because He wished not only to prove the fact of a future resurrection but also to explain why there must be a resurrection.  The force of Christ's argument is clearly explained in Heb. 11, 8-16, where the author of this Epistle alludes to this same text of Exodus in his conclusion, "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11, 16).  When God sent Moses back to Egypt, He reminded him of His promises to the Patriarchs.  But these promises concerned not only their posterity but also them personally.  These promises were made not only to Abraham (cf. Gen. 12, 1-3; 13, 14-17; 15; 17, 7 f) but also to Isaac and Jacob (cf. Gen. 26, 3-5; 28, 13-15), "the co-heirs of the same promise" (Heb. 11, 9).  For Abraham the true "Land of Promise" was not Palestine where "he abode as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents . . . ; for he was looking for the city that has the foundations, of which city the architect and the builder is God" (Heb. 11, 9 f).  The "heavenly country" (Heb. 11, 16) that was promised them, is not merely heaven itself where their immortal souls would dwell, but "the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Apoc. 21, 2), i.e., the rejuvenated earth (cf. Rom. 8, 21) where they will live a fully human life with body as well as soul.  "In the way of faith all these died without receiving the promises" (Heb. 11, 13); therefore God, who is faithful to His promises, must still raise up their bodies.  The ultimate reason for this is that, if God is the God of the Patriarchs, they share in His life.  Therefore He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, "for all live to him" (Luke), i.e., all, not only the Patriarchs, "who shall be accounted worthy of that world and of the resurrection from the dead," for they are "sons of God" and therefore "sons of the resurrection" (Luke).    33.  Only in Matthew; but cf. Luke 20, 39.

22, 34-40:  The Great Commandment.  Parallel in Mark 12, 28-31.  Luke 10, 25-28 has a similar but distinct incident introducing the parable of The Good Samaritan.    34 f.  The Pharisees were pleased at Christ's rebuttal of the Sadducees' errors; therefore they held a private meeting and sent a delegate to Jesus to see if He also agreed with them on the question of the greatest commandment in the Law.  According to the Talmud, it was the common teaching of the Rabbis that the greatest commandments were precepts to love God and one's neighbor.  This whole incident is quite amicable; there is no need to read a hostile motive here into their putting him to the test (cf. Mark).    36.  Great: by popular usage the positive degree is used for the superlative; cf. 38 where the same Greek word is translated (also in the Latin) as greatest.    37.  The quotation is from Deut. 6, 5.  With thy whole mind is the Septuagint translation of the first phrase, with all thy heart; in Hebrew the third phrase is "with all thy strength," i.e., intensely; in Mark and Luke both forms are given.  All these phrases are more or less synonymous here, the same thought being repeated for the sake of emphasis; the sense is, "Will all thy faculties."  God must be loved and served with whole-hearted devotion, because He is the only God (cf. the introductory words of this precept as cited by Mark).    39.  The quotation is from Lev. 19, 18.  As thyself: the norm of love of neighbor should be the treatment that one would wish to receive from others.  The same principle is stated in the Golden Rule; see Commentary on 7, 12.  Although Jesus had not been asked about the second commandment, still He adds these words to show the intimate bond between these two commandments, and perhaps also to show that in this matter He was in agreement with the teaching of the majority of the Rabbis.  Objectively considered, the precept of the love of neighbor is second in importance to the precept of the love of God, but it is nevertheless like it, i.e., for all practical purposes of equal importance because it is fundamentally the same precept (cf. 1 John).    40.  Only in Matthew.  The whole Law and the Prophets: the whole Old Testament.  All the other commandments of God are but elaborations and applications of these two fundamental commandments.  Cf. 7, 12.

22, 41-46:  The Son of David.  Parallels in Mark 12, 35-37 and Luke 20, 41-44.    41.  After the Pharisees had used all their arguments in vain against Jesus, it was not His turn to take the offensive.  But in proposing this question our Lord had a higher purpose than merely to put His adversaries to confusion.  According to the Second Gospel Jesus spoke these words not only to the Pharisees, but also, "while teaching in the temple" . . . "the mass of the common people" who "liked to hear him" (Mark 12, 35.37).  On His triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days before, the people had acclaimed Him as "the Son of David" and they undoubtedly hoped that He would restore the temporal kingdom of David (cf. Mark 11, 10).  Jesus therefore now teaches them that, while He accepts the title of "Son of David," He has a far higher dignity and destiny than is implied in that title.  Cf. also John 18, 33-36.

42.  This question does not, of course, mean directly, "What do you think of me?  Whose son am I?"  For the Pharisees did not accept Jesus as the Christ.  The common opinion among the Jews was that Christ would be a descendant of David (cf. John 7, 42).    43 f.  The quotation is from Ps. 109, 1.  Our Lord's words imply that His hearers considered this Psalm to be written by David about the Messias; else His argument would not be valid.  Christ Himself certainly considered this Psalm to be Messianic.  Is He also teaching here that it is Davidic?  According to almost all modern critics this Psalm was addressed to a king, not written by a king, and hence cannot possibly be written by David.  It is true that the word "David" is sometimes used merely in the sense of "the Psalter" (cf. Heb. 4, 7, literally "in David").  But Christ here says that "David himself says" this of Him (cf. Mark and Luke), and it is scarcely conceivable that He is merely accommodating Himself here to a popular but erroneous opinion.  Therefore the Biblical Commission has rightly decided (May 1, 1910) that all Catholics must hold the Davidic authorship of this Psalm.  In the Spirit means "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit"; some commentators, however, take this to mean, "in the spiritual sense" intended by God.  Literally in Hebrew, "The oracle of Yahweh for my lord," i.e., the words of God to the Messias.    45.  Jesus does not answer this question which involves the whole doctrine of the mystery of the Incarnation.  But immediately after Pentecost the Apostles proclaimed that these words were fulfilled in Jesus, who is both true God and true man (cf. especially Acts 2, 34-36).    46.  Matthew notes that this was the last discussion between Jesus and His adversaries.  Mark (12, 34b) has the same statement after the Scribe's question about the Great Commandment, for this was really the last time that the Pharisees questioned Jesus.  Luke, who omits the question about the Great Commandment, makes the same statement at the end of the preceding discussion about the resurrection from the dead (cf. Luke 20, 40).  All three Evangelists are right, because each speaks from a different viewpoint.

Confraternity Bible:

The Marriage Feast  1* And Jesus addressed them, and spoke to them again in parables, 2* saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who made a marriage feast for his son.  3* And he sent his servants to call in those invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come.  4* Again he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatlings are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.'  5* But they made light of it, and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business; 6* and the rest laid hold of his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

7* "But when the king heard of it, he was angry; and he sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.  8* Then he said to his servants, 'The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy; 9* go therefore to the crossroads, and invite to the marriage feast whomever you shall find.'  10* And his servants went out into the roads, and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; and the marriage feast was filled with guests.

11* "Now the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.  12* And he said to him, 'Friend, how didst thou come in here without a wedding garment?'  But he was speechless.  13* Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet and cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth.'  14* For many are called, but few are chosen."

Tribute to Caesar  15 Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how they might trap him in his talk.  16 And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Master, we know that thou art truthful, and that thou teachest the way of God in truth and that thou carest naught for any man; for thou dost not regard the person of men.  17 Tell us, therefore, what dost thou think: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?"  18 But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said, "Why do you test me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin of the tribute."  So they offered him a denarius.  20 Then Jesus said to them, "Whose are this image and the inscription?"  21* They said to him, "Caesar's"  Then he said to them, "Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."  22 And hearing this they marvelled, and leaving him went off.

The Sadducees and the Resurrection  23 On that same day some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him, and questioned him, 24 saying, "Master, Moses said, 'If a man die without having a son, his brother shall marry the widow and raise up issue to his brother.'  25 Now there were among us seven brothers.  And the first, after having married a wife, died, and having no issue, left his wife to his brother.  26 In like manner the second, and the third down to the seventh.  27 And last of all the woman also died.  28 At the resurrection, therefore, of which of the seven will she be the wife?  For they all had her."

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, "You err because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.  30 For at the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be as angels of God in heaven.  31 But as to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,
"32* I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."  33 And when the crowds heard this, they marvelled at his teaching.

The Great Commandment  34 But the Pharisees, hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, gathered together.  35 And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, 36 "Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?"  37* Jesus said to him,
"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.' 
38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.  39* And the second is like it,
'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'
40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

The Son of David  41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus questioned them, 42 saying, "What do you think of the Christ?  Whose son is he?"  They said to him, "David's"  43 He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying,
44* 'The Lord said to my Lord:

Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thy enemies thy footstool'? 
45* If David, therefore calls him, 'Lord,' how is he his son?"  46 And no one could answer him a word; neither did anyone dare from that day forth to ask him any more questions.


1-14: Refers, like the parable of the vineyard, to the rejection of the Jews.  A distinct thought is expressed in 11-13, on the need of proper dispositions in the guests at the marriage feast.

21: To recognize the currency of a ruler was to recognize his authority.  Our Lord would have us respect the authority God gives to civil rulers.

32: Ex. 3, 6.

37: Deut. 6, 5.

39: Lev. 19, 18.

44: Ps. 109, 1.

45: David's son is David's Lord: there is implied a claim to divinity.