Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Mark
Verses: 1, 2, 6, 13, 24, 38
Verses: 4, 7, 9, 12, 16, 26
Verses: 4, 17, 21
Verses: 1, 4, 5, 7, 11
1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God:
[The beginning of the gospel.] The preaching and baptism of John were the very gate and entrance into the state and dispensation of the gospel. For,
I. He opened the door of a new church by a new sacrament of admission into the church.
II. Pointing, as it were with the finger, at the Messias that was coming, he shewed the beginning of the world to come.
III. In that manner as the Jews by baptism admitted Gentile proselytes into the Jewish church, he admits both Jews and Gentiles into the gospel church.
IV. For the doctrine of justification by works, with which the schools of the scribes had defiled all religion, he brings in a new (and yet not a new) and truly saving doctrine of faith and repentance.
2. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
[As it is written in the prophets.] Here a doubt is made of the true meaning: namely, whether it be in the prophets, or in Esaias the prophet. These particulars make for the former:
I. When two places are cited out of two prophets, it is far more congruously said, as it is written in the prophets; than, as it is written in Esaias: but especially when the place first alleged is not in Esaias, but in another prophet.
II. It was very customary among the Jews (to whose custom in this matter it is very probable the apostles conformed themselves in their sermons) to hear many testimonies cited out of many prophets under this form of speech, as it is written in the prophets. If one only were cited, if two, if more, this was the most common manner of citing them, as it is written in the prophets. But it is without all example, when two testimonies are taken out of two prophets, to name only the last, which is done here, if it were to be read, as it is written in Esaias the prophet.
III. It is clear enough, from the scope of the evangelist, that he propounded to himself to cite those two places, both out of Malachi and out of Esaias. For he doth two things most evidently: 1. He mentions the preaching of the Baptist; for the illustrating of which he produceth the same text which both Matthew and Luke do out of Esaias. 2. He saith that that preaching was "the beginning of the gospel," to prove which he very aptly cites Malachi, of "sending a messenger," and of "preparing the way of the Lord."
But what shall we answer to antiquity, and to so many and so great men reading, as it is written in Esaias the prophet? "I wonder (saith the very learned Grotius), that any doubt is made of the truth of this writing, when, beside the authority of copies, and Irenaeus so citing it, there is a manifest agreement of the ancient interpreters, the Syriac, the Latin, the Arabic." True, indeed; nor can it be denied that very many of the ancients so read: but the ancients read also, as it is written in the prophets. One Arabic copy hath, in Isaiah the prophet: but another hath, in the prophets. Irenaeus once reads in Isaiah: but reads twice, in the prophets.(1) 1. Lib. 3. cap. 11. 18. And "so we find it written," saith the famous Beza (who yet follows the other reading), "in all our ancient copies except two, and that my very ancient one, in which we read, in Esaias the prophet."
The whole knot of the question lies in the cause of changing the reading; why, as it is written in Esaias the prophet, should be changed into, as it is written in the prophets. The cause is manifest, saith that very learned man, namely, because a double testimony is taken out of two prophets. "But there could be no cause (saith he) of changing of them." For if Mark, in his own manuscript, wrote, as it is written in the prophets, by what way could this reading at last creep in, as it is written in Esaias, when two prophets are manifestly cited?
Reader, will you give leave to an innocent and modest guess? I am apt to suspect that in the copies of the Jewish Christians it was read, in Isaiah the prophet; but in those of the Gentile Christians, in the prophets: and that the change among the Jews arose from hence, that St. Mark seems to go contrary to a most received canon and custom of the Jews(2) 2. Megill. fol. 24. 1.: "He that reads the prophets in the synagogues let him not skip from one prophet to another. But in the lesser prophets he may skip; with this provision only, that he skip not backward: that is, not from the latter to the former."
But you see how Mark skips here from a prophet of one rank, namely, from a prophet who was one of the twelve, to a prophet of another rank: and you see also how he skips backward from Malachi to Isaiah. This, perhaps, was not so pleasing to the Christian Jews, too much Judaizing yet: nor could they well bear that this allegation should be read in their churches so differently from the common use. Hence, in Isaiah the prophet, was inserted for in the prophets. And that they did so much the more boldly, because those words which are cited out of Malachi are not exactly agreeable either to the Hebrew original or the Greek version, and those that are cited from Isaiah are cited also by Matthew and Luke; and the sense of them which are cited from Malachi may also be fetched from the place alleged out of Isaiah.
6. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
[Clothed with camel's hair.] In the Talmudists it would be read camel's wool: "He(3) 3. Menachoth, fol. 39. 2. hath not a garment besides a woolen one; to add wool (or hair) of camels, and wool of hares: wool(4) 4. Orach. Chaijim, lib. 2. 309. of sheep, and wool of camels, which they mix, &c." And a little after, "If he make a garment of camel's hair, and weave in it but one thread of linen, it is forbidden, as things of different kinds."
There is one that thinks that those garments of Adam concerning which it is said (Gen 3), that God made for them coats of skins, were of camel's hair: "In the law of R. Meir they found written garments of light. R. Isaac saith(5) 5. Beresh. Rab. sect. 20. that they were like those thin linen garments which come from Bethshan. R. Samuel Bar Nachman saith they were of the wool (or hair) of camels, and the wool of hares."
We cannot pass that by without observation, that it is said, "That in the law of R. Meir they found written garments of light, for garments of skins." The like to which is that, In(6) 6. Beresh. Rab. sect. 9. the law of R. Meir they found it written, instead of Behold, it was very good, And behold death is a good thing Where by the law of R. Meir seems to be understood some volume of the law, in the margin of which, or in some papers put in, that Rabbin had writ his critical toys and his foolish pieces of wit upon the law, or some such trifling commentary of his own upon it.
[Eating locusts.] They who had not nobler provision hunted after locusts for food. The Gemarists(7) 7. Jer. Taanith, fol. 69. 2. feign that there are eight hundred kinds of them, namely, of such as are clean. That lexicographer certainly would be very acute who could describe all these kinds particularly by their names.
"The Rabbins deliver: He(8) 8. Bab. Shabbath, fol. 106b. that hunts locusts, wasps (a kind of locusts), hornets, and flies, on the sabbath, is guilty." The Gloss there, "hagazin are a kind of clean locusts, and are eaten." And the Gemara, a little after; "He that hunts locusts in the time of the dew (on the sabbath) is not guilty." The Gloss there writes thus; "The locusts in the time of the dew are purblind, so that if you hunt them at that time they stop their pace." The Gemara goes on, "Eliezer Ben Mabbai saith, 'If they go in flocks he is not guilty.'" The Gloss writes, "If they flock together in troops, and be, as it were, ready to be taken, he is not guilty who hunts them even in the time of heat."
13. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
[And was with the wild beasts.] He was among the wild beasts, but was not touched by them. So Adam first before his fall.
[And angels ministered unto him.] Forty days he was tempted by Satan invisibly, and angels ministered to him visibly. Satan, at last, put on the appearance of an angel of light, and pretending to wait on him, as the rest also did, hid his hook of temptation the more artificially.
24. Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
[Art thou come to destroy us?] Us? Whom? The devils? or those Galileans in the synagogue? See what the masters(9) 9. Massecheth Derech Arets Zuta, c. 6. say: "In that generation, in which the Son of David shall come, saith Rabban Gamaliel, Galilea shall be laid waste, and the Galileans shall wander from city to city, and shall not obtain mercy." If such a report obtained in the nation, the devil thence got a very fit occasion in this possessed man of affrighting the Galileans from receiving Christ, because they were to expect nothing from his coming but devastation.
38. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.
[Κωμοπολεις Towns.] What this word means may be excellently well discovered by searching into the distinction between כרכים and כפרים and עײרות, to which πολεις, cities, and κωμαι, villages, and κωμοπολεις towns in the evangelists, do answer:
I. I renderכרכים by πολεις cities: but by what word, you will say, will you render עײרות? By κωμοπολεις towns:"A(10) 10. Bab. Kethuboth fol. 110. man cannot compel his wife to follow him to dwell from town to city, nor from city to town." The proper English of which take from what follows: "It is plain why he cannot force her from city to town; because in a city any thing is to be found," or to be had; but in a town any thing is not to be had. The Gloss writes, "'Kerac' is greater than 'Ir,' (that is, a city than a town); and there is a place of broad streets, where all neighbouring inhabitants meet at a market, and there any thing is to be had." So the same Gloss(11) 11. Yoma, fol. 12. elsewhere; "Kerac is a place of broad streets, where men meet together from many places," &c.
The Gemarists go on: "R. Josi Bar Chaninah saith, Whence is it that dwelling inכרכין kerachin (cities) is more inconvenient? For it is said, 'And they blessed all the people who offered themselves willingly to dwell at Jerusalem'" (Neh 11). Note, by the way, that Jerusalem was Kerac. The Gloss there is, "Dwelling in 'Kerachin' is worse, because all dwell there, and the houses are straitened, and join one to another, so that there is not free air: but in a town are gardens, and paradises by the houses, and the air is more wholesome."
כרכים Kerachim therefore were, 1. Cities girt with walls. Hence is that distinction, that there were some 'Kerachin' which were girt with walls from the days of Joshua, and some walled afterward. 2. Trading mart cities, and those that were greater and nobler than the rest.
II.כפרים therefore were villages or country towns, in which no synagogue was. Hence is that in Megill. cap. 1: A Kerac (a city), in which are not ten men to make a synagogue, is to be reckoned for a village. And Megill. cap. 1, where some of a village are bound to read the Book of Esther in the feast of Purim: It is indulged to them to do it on a synagogue-day: that is, when they had not a synagogue among them, but must resort to some neighbour town where a synagogue was, it was permitted them to go thither on some weekday, appointed for meeting together in the synagogue, and that they might not take the trouble of a journey on another day, however that day was appointed by law for that lection.
III.עיר, which word is commonly rendered urbs, or civitas, a city; denoted generally fortified cities, and towns also not fortified, where synagogues were, and villages, where they were not. Hence is that distinction, "That was a great city where there was a synagogue": "a small city where there was not."
Byκωμοπολεις therefore here are to be understood towns where there were synagogues, which nevertheless were not either fortified or towns of trade; among us English called church-towns.
Τι εστιν ευκοπωτερον ειπειν Whether is it easier to say, &c.] He that observes the use of the word ניחא it is easy and קשיא it is hard, in the Jewish schools (and the schoolmen were now with Christ), cannot think it improper that ευκοπωτερον is it easier should be of the same import with ניחא it is easy, which word denotes the thing or the sense plain, smooth, and without scruple; קשיא it is hard, denotes the contrary. As if our Saviour had said, "Were not the sense plainer, and more suited to the present business to have said, 'Arise and take up thy bed,' than to say, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee?' But I say thus, that ye may know that the Son of man hath power," &c. He does not speak of the easiness of the pronunciation of the words, but of the easiness of the sense. And I should thus render the words, "It is easier to say to the paralytic, Thy sins are forgiven thee, than to say," &c. 'Whether to say,' as it is vulgarly rendered, hath a sense not to be disapproved of; but, 'than to say,' hath a sense more emphatical. Is not the sense easier as to the present business to say, 'Thy sins are forgiven,' than to say, 'Rise up and walk?'
4. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
[They uncovered the roof, &c.] Here I recollect that phrase the way of the roof: "When(12) 12. Bab. Moed Katan, fol. 25a. Rabh Houna was dead, his bier could not be carried out through the door," the door being too strait; "therefore they thought good to draw it out and let it down through the roof, or through the way of the roof. But Rabh Chasda said to them, 'Behold, we have learned from him that it redounds to the honour of a wise man to be carried out by the door.'"
"It(13) 13. Baba Mezia, fol. 88a. is written, 'And they shall eat within thy gates' (Deut 26:12); that is, when the entrance into the house is by the gate, to except the way through the roof." "Does(14) 14. Baba Mezia, fol. 117a. he enter into the house, using the way through the gate, or using the way through the roof?" The place treats of a house, in the lower part of which the owner dwells; but the upper part, is let out to another. It is asked, what way he must enter who dwells in an upper room, whether by the door and the lower parts, where the owner dwells; or whether he must climb up to the roof by the way to the roof: that is, as the Gloss hath it, "That he ascend without the house by a ladder set against it for entrance into the upper room, and so go into the upper room."
By ladders set up, or perhaps fastened there before, they first draw up the paralytic upon the roof, Luke 5:19. Then seeing there was a door in every roof through which they went up from the lower parts of the house into the roof, and this being too narrow to let down the bed and the sick man in it, they widen that space by pulling off the tiles that lay about it.
Well, having made a hole through the roof, the paralytic is let down into the upper chamber. There Christ sits, and the Pharisees and the doctors of the law with him, and not in the lower parts of the house. For it was customary for them, when they discoursed of the law or religion, to go up into the upper chamber.
"These(15) 15. Shabbath, cap. 2. hal. 7. are the traditions which they taught in the upper chamber of Hananiah, Ben Hezekiah, Ben Garon." "The(16) 16. Jer. Sanhedr. fol. 24. 3. elders went up into an upper chamber in Jericho. They went up also into an upper chamber in Jabneh." "Rabh(17) 17. Juchasin, fol. 23. 2. Jochanan and his disciples went up to an upper chamber, and read and expounded." Compare Mark 14:15; Acts 1:13, 20:8.
7. Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
[Who can forgive sins?] "A certain heretic(18) 18. Sanhedrin, fol. 38b. said to Rabh Idith, It is written, 'And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord,' Exodus 24:1. It should rather have been said, 'Come up to me.' He answereth, This is Mitatron, whose name is like the name of his Lord, as it is written, 'My name is in him,' Exodus 23:21. If it be so, then said the other, he is to be worshipped. To whom Idith replied, It is written properly, Do not embitter or provoke him; but they illy and perversely read, Do not change for him, do not exchange me for him. If that be the sense, said the other, what is the meaning of that, 'He will not forgive your sins?' He answered, True indeed, for we received him not so much as for a messenger." The Gloss is, "'He will not forgive your sins'; that is, He cannot pardon your sins; and then, what advantage is there from him? For he had not the power of pardoning our sins; we therefore rejected him," &c. Ye rejected him, indeed, in whom was the name of Jehovah; but alas! how much to your own mischief!
9. Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
12. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
[He went out before them all.] It is very well rendered, "before them all": and it might truly be rendered "against them all," according to another signification of the word. That is, when the multitude was so crowded that there was no way of going out through it, he, being not only made whole, but strong and lusty, pressed through the press of the multitude, and stoutly made his way with his bed upon his shoulders.
16. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
[JCR - Please see the excellent treatise by John Bunyan, entitled A Discourse Upon the Pharisee and the Publican, (341k)]
[And sinners.] Who were they? "Dicers,(19) 19. Sanhedrin. fol. 25b. usurers, plunderers, publicans, shepherds of lesser cattle, those that sell the fruit of the seventh year," &c.
26. How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
[In the days of Abiathar the high priest.] It is well enough known what is here said in defence of the purity of the text; namely, that Ahimelech the father was called Abiathar, and Abiathar the son was called also Ahimelech. But I suppose that something more was propounded by our Saviour in these words. For it was common to the Jews under Abiathar to understand the Urim and Thummim. Nor without good reason, when it appears, that under the father and the son, both of that name, the mention of inquiring by Urim and Thummim is more frequent than it is ever anywhere else; and, after Abiathar the son, there is scarcely mention of it at all. Christ therefore very properly adds, in the days of Abiathar the high priest, therein speaking according to a very received opinion in the nation: as though he had said, "David ate the shewbread given him by the high priest, who had the oracle by Urim and thummim present with him, and who acted by the divine direction."
"Ahitophel,(20) 20. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 16b. that is, a counsellor, Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, that is, the Sanhedrim; Abiathar, that is, Urim and Thummim."
4. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
[But they held their peace.] This reminds me of the like carriage of the Sanhedrim in judging a servant of king Jannaeus, a murderer, when Jannaeus himself was present in the Sanhedrim.(21) 21. Sanhedrin, fol. 19a. It was found sufficiently that he was guilty; but, for fear, they dared not to utter their opinion; when Simeon Ben Sheta, president of the Sanhedrim, required it: "He looked on his right hand, and they fixed their eyes upon the earth; on his left hand, and they fixed their eyes upon the earth," &c.
17. And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
[Boanerges.] I. See what Beza saith here. To which our very learned Hugh Broughton, a man very well exercised in these studies, replies: "The Jews to this very day pronounce Scheva by oa, as Noabhyim for Nebhyim. So Boanerges. When Theodore Beza will have it written Benerges, the very Jews themselves will defend our gospel."
Certainly, it is somewhat hard and bold to accuse the Scripture of St. Mark as corrupt for this manner of pronunciation, when, among the Jews, the pronouncing of some letters, vowels, and words was so different and indifferent, that they pronounced one way in Galilee, another way in Samaria, and another way in Judea. "And I remember (saith the famous Ludovicus de Dieu),(22) 22. In his Præfat. ad. Apoc. Syriac. that I heard the excellent Erpenius say, that he had it from the mouth of a very learned Maronite, that it could not be taught by any grammatical rules, and hardly by word of mouth, what sound Scheva hath among the Syrians."
That castle of noted fame which is called Masada in Josephus, Pliny,(23) 23. Nat. Hist. 5. 17. Solinus, and others in Strabo(24) 24. Geograph. lib. 16. is Moasada, very agreeable to this our sound: They shew some scorched rocks about 'Moasada.' Where, without all controversy, he speaks of Masada.
II. There is a controversy also about the word erges: it is obscure, in what manner it is applied to thunder. But give me your judgment, courteous reader, what Rigsha is in this story: "The(25) 25. Megill. fol. 29. 1. father of Samuel sat in the synagogue of Shaph, and Jathib, in Nehardea: the divine glory came; he heard the voice of 'Rigsha,' and went not out: the angels came, and he was affrighted."
Of the word Rigsha, the Glossers say nothing. And we do not confidently render it thunder; nor yet do we well know how to render it better: if so be it doth not denote the sound as of a mighty rushing wind, Acts 2:2: but let the reader judge.
III. As obscure is the reason of the name imposed upon these two disciples, as the derivation of the word. We have only this certain in this business, that we never find them called by this name elsewhere. Christ called Simon Peter, and likewise others called him Peter, and he calls himself so. But you never find James called Boanerges, or John so called, either by themselves or by others. We must trust conjecture for the rest.
IV. It is well enough known what the phrase Bath Kol, the daughter of thunder, means among the Jews. Our Saviour, using another word, seems to respect another etymology of the name. But it is demanded, what that is. He calls Simon Peter with respect had to the work he was to play in building the church of the Gentiles upon a rock. For he first opened the door to let in the gospel among the Gentiles. Whether were James and John called sons of thunder with respect had to their stout discoursing against the Jews, we neither dare to say, nor can we deny it. James did this, as it seems, to the loss of his life, Acts 12:1, 2.
But what if allusion be here made to the two registrars, or scribes of the Sanhedrim? whereof one sat on the right hand, and the other on the left; one wrote the votes of those that acquitted, the other the votes of those that condemned.(26) 26. Sanhedrin, fol. 35a and Maimon. in Sanhedr. cap. 1. Or to the president himself, and the vice-president? whose definitive sentence, summing up the votes of the whole Sanhedrim, was like thunder and lightning to the condemned persons, and seemed to all like the oracles given from Sinai out of lightning and thunder.
V. But whatsoever that was in the mind of our Saviour, that moved him to imprint this name upon them, when these two brethren, above all the other disciples, would have fire fall from heaven upon that town of the Samaritans which refused to give Christ entertainment, Luke 9:54, they seem to act according to the sense of this surname. And when the mother of these desired a place for one of them on Christ's right hand, and for the other on his left, she took the confidence of such a request probably from this, that Christ had set so honourable a name upon them above the other disciples. And when John himself calls himself the elder, and he was sufficiently known to those to whom he writ under that bare title, the elder; I cannot but suspect this distinguishing character arose hence. All the apostles, indeed, were elders, which Peter saith of himself, 1 Peter 5:1: but I ask, whether any of the twelve, besides this our apostle (his brother James being now dead), could be known to those that were absent under this title, the elder, by a proper, not additional name, as he is in his two latter Epistles.
21. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.
[He is beside himself.] In the Talmudists it is his judgment is gone, and his understanding is ceased. "If(27) 27. Maimon. Gerush. cap. 2. any becomes mute, and yet is of a sound mind, and they say to him, Shall we write a bill of divorce for thy wife? and he nods with his head, they try him thrice, &c. And it is necessary that they make trial of him more exactly, lest, perhaps, he might be deprived of his senses." This is to be understood of a dumb person, made so by some paralytical or apoplectical stroke, which sometimes wounds the understanding.
"The(28) 28. Moed Katan, fol. 26b. Rabbins deliver: If any one is sick, and in the mean time any of his friends die, they do not make it known to him that such a one is dead, lest his understanding be disturbed." "One(29) 29. Baba Mezia, fol. 84a. thus lamented R. Simeon Ben Lachish; 'Where art thou, O Bar Lachish? Where art thou, O Bar Lachish?' And so cried out until his understanding perished." For so the Gloss renders it.
How fitly this word beside himself expresseth these phrases is readily observed by him who understandeth both languages. And a Jew, reading these words in Mark, would presently have recourse to the sense of those phrases in his nation; which do not always signify madness, or being bereft of one's wits, in the proper sense, but sometimes, and very frequently, some discomposure of the understanding for the present, from some too vehement passion. So say Christ's friends, "His knowledge is snatched away; he hath forgotten himself, and his own health; he is so vehement and hot in discharging his office, and in preaching, that he is transported beyond himself, and his understanding is disturbed, that he neither takes care of his necessary food nor of his sleep." Those his friends, indeed, have need of an apology, that they had no sounder, nor holier, nor wiser conceit of him; but it is scarcely credible that they thought him to be fallen into plain and absolute madness, and pure distraction. For he had conversed among the multitudes before, at all times in all places; and yet his friends to not say this of him. But now he was retired to his own house at Capernaum, where he might justly expect rest and repose; yet the multitudes rush upon him there, so that he could not enjoy his table and his bed at his own home. Therefore his friends and kinsfolk of Nazareth (among whom was his mother, verse 31), hearing this, unanimously run to him to get him away from the multitude; for they said among themselves, He is too much transported beyond himself, and is forgetful of himself.
1. And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
[He began to teach.] That is, he taught; by a phrase very usual to these holy writers, because very usual to the nation: Rabh(30) 30. Jer. Sanhed. fol. 18. 3. Canah began to be tedious in his prayer; that is, he was tedious. That(31) 31. Jer. Sanhed. fol. 23. 3. scholar began to weep; that is he wept. "The(32) 32. Beresh. Rabb. sect 33. ox began to low"; that is, he lowed. "When the tyrant's letter was brought to the Rabbins, they began to weep"(33) 33. Beresh. Rabb. sect. 64.; that is, they wept.
This our evangelist useth also another word, and that numberless times almost: the others also use it, but not so frequently; namely, the word presently; which answereth to the word out of hand, most common among the Talmudists. We meet with it in this our evangelist seven or eight times in the first chapter, and elsewhere very frequently: and that not seldom according to the custom of the idiom, more than out of the necessity of the thing signified.
4. And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
[And some fell.] According(34) 34. Baba Mezia, fol. 105a. to what falls. The Gloss there, "According to the measure which one sows." And there the Gemarists speak of seed falling out of the hand: that is, that is cast out of the hand of the sower: and of seed falling from the oxen: that is, "that which is scattered and sown" by the sowing oxen. "For (as the Gloss speaks) sometimes they sow with the hand, and sometimes they put the seed into a cart full of holes, and drive the oxen upon the ploughed earth, and the seed falls through the holes."
5. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
[Because it had no depth of earth.] For it was rocky, whose turf nevertheless was thick enough, and very fruitful; but this ground which the parable supposeth wanted that thickness. "You(35) 35. Sotah, fol. 34b; Kethuboth, 112a. have not a more fruitful land among all lands than the land of Egypt; nor a more fruitful country in Egypt than Zoan. And yet Hebron, which was rocky, exceeded it sevenfold." Note that 'it was rocky, and yet so fruitful.'
7. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
[Among thorns.] The parable supposeth, a field not freed from thorns.(36) 36. See Shebiith, cap. 4. hal. 2.
11. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
[Unto them that are without.] Those without, in Jewish speech, were the Gentiles; a phrase taken hence, that they called all lands and countries besides their own without the land. Would you have an exact instance of this distinction? "A tree,(37) 37. Baba Bathra, fol. 27b. half of which grows within the land of Israel, and half without the land, the fruits of it which are to be tithed, and the common fruits are confounded: they are the words of Rabba. But Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel saith, 'That part which grows within the place, that is bound to tithing" [that is, within the land of Israel], "is to be tithed: that which grows in the place free from tithing" (that is, without the land) "is free.'" The Gloss is, "For if the roots of the tree are without the land, it is free, although the tree itself extends itself sixteen cubits within the land."
Hence books that are without, are heathen books: extraneous books of Greek wisdom.(38) 38. Aruch in the word מרום
This is the common signification of the phrase. And, certainly it foretells dreadful things, when our blessed Saviour stigmatizeth the Jewish nation with that very name that they were wont to call the heathens by.
The word those without, occurs also in the Talmudists, when it signifies the Jews themselves; that is, some of the Jewish nation. Here(39) 39. Megill. fol. 24b. the Karaites, who rejected traditions, there those without, are opposed to the wise men: "He that puts his phylacteries on his forehead, or in the palm of his hand, behold! he follows the custom of the Karaites. And he that overlays one of them with gold, and puts it upon his garment which is at his hand, behold! he follows the custom of those that are without." Where the Gloss, "those without are men who follow their own will, and not the judgment of the wise men." They are supposed to wear phylacteries, and to be Jews; but when they do according to their pleasure, and despise the rules of the wise men, they are esteemed as those that are without, or heathens. So was the whole Jewish nation according to Christ's censure, which despised the evangelical wisdom.
[All things are done in parables.] I. How much is the Jewish nation deceived concerning the times of the Messias! They think his forerunner Elias will explain all difficulties, resolve scruples, and will render all things plain; so that when the Messias shall come after him, there shall be nothing obscure or dark in the law and in religion. Hence these expressions, and the like to them: "One(40) 40. Baba Mezia, cap. 1. hal. ult. found a bill of contracts in his keeping, and knew not what it meant, Let it be laid up till Elias shall come." And more in the same tract, concerning things found, when it is not known to whom they are to be restored, "Let them be laid up till Elias come." "That(41) 41. Menakoth, fol. 45a. passage, (Eze 14:18,19 where a burnt offering is called a sacrifice for sin) Elias will unfold." Infinite examples of that sort occur.
II. How those words have wracked interpreters, "Is a candle put under a bushel," &c.; and, "There is nothing hidden," &c.: you may see also without a candle. A very easy sense of them is gathered from the context. When Christ speaks in parables, "A light is put under a bushel": but "the light (saith he) is not come for this end," that it should be so hidden; nor, indeed, were it fit so to hide it, but that the divine justice would have it so, that they who will not see the light should not enjoy the light. But "there is nothing hid" which shall not be made manifest by the brightness of the doctrine of the gospel, so there be eyes that do not refuse the light, nor voluntarily become purblind. Therefore, take you heed how you hear, lest ye be like them, and divine justice mete to you by the same measure as is measured to them; namely, that they shall never hear, because they will not hear.
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