Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Mark
Verses: 1, 2, 38, 43, 49
Verses: 1, 17, 21, 46
Verses: 11, 13, 16
Verses: 1, 2, 4, 10, 16, 28, 41, 42
1. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
[The kingdom of God coming in power.] In Matthew, it is the Son of man coming in his kingdom. The coming of Christ in his vengeance and power to destroy the unbelieving and most wicked nation of the Jews is expressed under these forms of speech. Hence the day of judgment and vengeance:
I. It is called "the great and terrible day of the Lord," Acts 2:20; 2 Thess 2:2,3.
II. It is described as "the end of the world," Jeremiah 4:27; Matthew 24:29, &c.
III. In that phrase, "in the last times," Isaiah 2:2; Acts 2:17; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3; that is, in the last times of that city and dispensation.
IV. Thence, the beginning of the "new world," Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13.
V. The vengeance of Christ upon that nation is described as his "coming," John 21:22; Hebrews 10:37: his "coming in the clouds," Revelation 1:7: "in glory with the angels," Matthew 24:30, &c.
VI. It is described as the 'enthroning of Christ, and his twelve apostles judging the twelve tribes of Israel,' Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30.
Hence this is the sense of the present place: Our Saviour had said in the last verse of the former chapter, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels," to take punishment of that adulterous and sinful generation. And he suggests, with good reason, that that his coming in glory should be in the lifetime of some that stood there.
2. And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.
[Into a high mountain.] Now your pardon, reader; I know it will be laughed at if I should doubt whether Christ were transfigured upon mount Tabor; for who ever doubted of this thing? But let me, before I give faith to the thing, reveal my doubts concerning it: and the reader, laying before his eyes some geographical map of Galilee, perhaps, when he shall have heard me, will judge more favorably of my doubting.
I. Let him consider that Christ, in the story next going before, was in the coast of Caesarea Philippi, Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27; Luke 9:18; and, for any thing that can be gathered out of the evangelists, changed not his place before this story. Who will deny that those words, "There are some that stand here who shall not taste of death," &c., were uttered in those coasts of Caesarea Philippi? And presently the story of the transfiguration followed.
II. Six days indeed came between: in which, you will say, Christ might travel from Caesarea Philippi to Tabor. He might, indeed: but, 1. The evangelists intimate no change from place to place, saying only this, That he led up into the mountain three of his disciples. 2. It seems, indeed, a wonder that our Saviour would tire himself with so long a journey, to choose Tabor whereon to be transfigured, when, as far as we read, he had never before been in that mountain; and there were mountains elsewhere where he conversed frequently. 3. Follow the footsteps of the history, and of Christ in his travel, from his transfiguration onwards. When he came down from the mountain, he healed a child possessed with a devil: and when he betook himself into the house they said, "Why could not we cast out the devil? &c. And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee, and came to Capernaum," Mark 9:28,30,33.
III. And now, reader, look upon the chorographical map, and how incongruous will this travelling seem! 1. From Caesarea Philippi to mount Tabor through the whole length almost of Galilee. 2. Then from mount Tabor by a course back again to Capernaum, a great part of Galilee (especially as the maps place Capernaum) being again passed over. Whereas Capernaum was in the way from Caesarea Philippi to Tabor, and there was a mountain there well known to Christ, and very much frequented by him.
IV. So that it seems far more consonant to the history of the gospel, that Christ was transfigured in some mountain near Caesarea Philippi; perhaps that which, Josephus being witness, was the highest, and hung over the very fountains of Jordan, and at the foot whereof Caesarea was placed.
In that place, formerly called Dan, was the first idolatry set up, and now in the same place the eternal Son of God is shewn, both in the confession of Peter, and in the unspeakably clear and illustrious demonstration of the Messias.
38. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
[We saw one casting out devils in thy name.] I. Without doubt he truly did this work, whosoever he were. He cast out devils truly and really, and that by the divine power; otherwise Christ had not said those things which he did, "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me," &c.
II. Whence then could any one that followed not Christ cast out devils? Or whence could any one that cast out devils not follow Christ?
I answer: We suppose,
I. That this man cast not out devils in the name of Jesus, but in the name of Christ, or Messias: and that it was not out of contempt that he followed not Jesus, but out of ignorance; namely, because he knew not yet that Jesus was the Messias.
II. We therefore conjecture that he had been heretofore some disciple of John, who had received his baptism in the name of the Messias now speedily to come, (which all the disciples of John had) but he knew not as yet that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messias: which John himself knew not until it was revealed to him from heaven.
III. It is probable, therefore, that God granted the gifts of miracles to some lately baptized by John, to do them in the name of the Messias; and that, to lay a plainer way for the receiving of the Messias, when he should manifest himself under the name of 'Jesus of Nazareth.'
See verse 41: In my name, because ye belong to Christ; and chapter 13:6, "Many shall come in my name"; not in the name of Jesus, but in the name of the Messias: for those false prophets assumed to themselves the name of the Messias, to bring to nought the name of Jesus. That, John 16:24, "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name," differs not much from this sense: 'The apostles poured out their prayers, and all the holy men theirs, in the name of the Messias; but ye have as yet asked nothing in my name Jesus,' &c.
43. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
[Cut it off.] "Rabh Mona,(1) 1. Bab. Shabbath, fol. 108b. in the name of R. Judah, saith, A drop of cold water in the morning [applied to the eye], and the washing of the hands and feet in the evening, is good beyond all the collyrium [eyesalve] in the whole world. For he said, The hand applied to the eye [in the morning, before washing], let it be cut off. The hand applied to the nostril, let it be cut off: the hand put to the ear, let it be cut off," &c.
49. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
[For every one shall be salted with fire.] The great Scaliger is well chastised, and not without cause, by John Cloppenberg,(2) 2. In Spicileg. Scholæ sacrific. Problem 3. because he changed the reading here into every sacrifice shall be salted. See what he saith.
All, is not to be understood of every man, but of every one of them "whose worm dieth not," &c.
The sense of the place is to be fetched from those words, and the sense of those words from Isaiah 66:24: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Upon which place thus the Jews write; "'They shall go forth and look,' &c. Is not the finger of a man, if it be put into the fire, immediately burnt? But God gives power (or being) to wicked men to receive torments." Kimchi upon the place thus: "They shall see the carcases of them full of worms, and fire burning in them": and yet the worms die not.
The words therefore of our Saviour respect this: "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; for every one of them shall be seasoned with fire itself, so as to become unconsumable, and shall endure for ever to be tormented, as salt preserves from corruption."
That very learned man mentioned before called the common reading very improper. For what is it, saith he, to season with fire? Let me retort, And what is it to fire with salt? And yet that sense occurs very frequently in the Talmudists. For in them is to burn, (which it signifies properly indeed) and very frequently it is, to corrupt any thing with too much salting, so that it cannot be eaten: to be fired with salt. So in this place, to be salted with fire, that it cannot be corrupted or consumed.
[And every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.] Here the discourse is of salting, which was done at the altar, see Leviticus 2:13: "In(3) 3. Menacoth, fol. 21b. the ascent of the altar, they salted the parts of the sacrifice: and on the top of the altar they salt the handful of meal, of frankincense, of incense, and the mincha of the priests, and the mincha of the anointed priest, and the mincha of the drink-offerings, and the sacrifice of birds." Yea,(4) 4. Fol. 20b. the very wood is a corban of the mincha, and is to be salted.
But in the former clause, the allusion was not to the fire of the altar, but to the fire in the valley of Hinnom, where dead carcases, bones, and other filthy things were consumed. Carcases crawl with worms; and instead of salt which secures against worms, they shall be cast into the fire, and shall be seasoned with flames, and yet the worms shall not die. But he that is a true sacrifice to God shall be seasoned with the salt of grace to the incorruption of glory.
Our Saviour speaks in this place with Isaiah 66:20: They shall bring your brethren out of all the nations for a gift to the Lord,as the children of Israel offer their sacrifices to me with psalms in the house of the Lord. And verse 24: And they shall go forth, and look upon the limbs of men that transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, &c.
Every sacrifice, saith our Saviour, concerning holy men seasoned with grace: so the prophet, "They shall bring your brethren for a gift to the Lord, as the children of Israel do the sacrifices."
Shall be seasoned with fire, saith our Saviour of wicked men: in the same sense Isaiah, "They shall be in unquenchable fire, and yet their worm shall not die."
Their fire and their worm: whose? Concerning the former, it is somewhat obscure in our Saviour's words, and so, indeed, that it is without all obscurity that he refers his words only to the words of Isaiah: but who they are in Isaiah is plain enough.
1. And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
[Cometh into the coasts of Judea by the further side of Jordan.] Here is need of a discerning eye to distinguish of the true time and method of this story, and of Christ's journey. If you make use of such an eye, you will find half a year, or thereabouts, to come between the uttering of the words immediately before-going, and this travel of our Saviour; however it seems to be intimated by our evangelist, and likewise by Matthew, that when he had finished those words, forthwith he entered upon his journey: when, in truth, he went before to Jerusalem, through the midst of Samaria, to the feast of Tabernacles, Luke 9:51, &c. John 7. And again, from Galilee, after he had returned thither, through the cities and towns to Jerusalem, Luke 13:22; to the feast of Dedication, John 10:22: and again, "beyond Jordan" indeed, John 10:40; but first taking his way into Galilee, and thence beyond Jordan, according to that story which is before us. The studious reader, and that in good earnest employeth his labour upon this business, has not need of further proof; his own eyes will witness this sufficiently. Thus, the wisdom and Spirit of God directed the pens of these holy writers, that some omitted some things to be supplied by others; and others supplied those things which they had omitted: and so a full and complete history was not composed but of all joined and compared together.
I wish the reverend Beza had sufficiently considered this, who rendereth not beyond, but by Jordan, and corrects the Vulgar interpreter and Erasmus, who render it 'beyond Jordan,' properly and most truly: "As if, by Perea (saith he), or the country beyond Jordan, Christ, passing over Jordan or the lake of Tiberias, came into Judea out of Galilee; which is not true." But take heed you do not mistake, reverend old man. For he went over Jordan from Capernaum, as it is very probable, by the bridge built over Jordan between Chammath, near to Tiberias, at the Gadarene country: he betook himself to Bethabara, and stayed some time there, John 10:40: thence he went along Perea to the bank over against Jericho. While he tarrieth there, a messenger, sent from Mary, comes to him concerning the death of Lazarus, John 11; and thence, after two days, he passeth Jordan in Judea.
17. And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
[Kneeled to him.] So chapter 1:40, Beseeching him, and kneeling to him. This is variously rendered, He fell at his feet, bowing the knee, beseeching upon his knee, falling down at his knees. Which renderings are not improper, but I suspect something more is included. For, 1. It was customary for those that so adored to take hold of the knees or the legs, 2 Kings 4:27; Matthew 28:9. 2. To kiss the knees or the feet. See what we have said at Matthew 28:9.
When R. Akiba(5) 5. Bab. Kethuboth, fol. 63a. had been twelve years absent from his wife, and at last came back, his wife went out to meet him: "and when she came to him, falling upon her face, she kissed his knees." And a little after, when he was entered into the city, his father-in-law not knowing who he was, but suspecting him to be some great Rabbin, went to him, and falling upon his face kissed his knees. Speaking(6) 6. Bab. Baba Bathra. of Job, "Satan came, and he kissed his knees: but in all this Job sinned not with his lips," &c. When(7) 7. Sanhedrin, fol. 27b. a certain Rabbin had discoursed of divers things, Bar Chama rose up and kissed his knees.
21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
[Loved him.] That is, he manifested by some outward gesture that this man pleased him, both in his question and in his answer: when he both seriously inquired concerning attaining eternal life; and seriously professed that he had addicted himself to God's commandments with all care and circumspection.
Let us compare the customs of the Masters among the Jews: Eliezer(8) 8. Jer. Chagigah, fol. 77. 1. Ben Erech obtained leave from Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai to discourse of some things before him. He discoursed of Ezekiel's chariot (chapter 1), or, of mystical divinity. "When he had made an end, Rabban Jochanan arose up, and kissed his head." "R. Abba(9) 9. Jer. Horayoth, fol. 48. 3. Bar Cahna heard R. Levi disputing profoundly. When he had made an end, R. Abba rose up and kissed his head." There is a story(10) 10. Jer. Nedarim, fol. 36. 4. of a certain Nazarite young man that exceedingly pleased Simeon the Just with a certain answer that he gave. Whereupon, said Simeon, "I bowed towards him with my head, and said, O son, let such as you be multiplied in Israel." The story is found elsewhere,(11) 11. Nazir, fol. 51. 3. where for I bowed towards him with my head, it is I embraced him and kissed his head. "Miriam,(12) 12. Bab. Megill. fol. 14a. before the birth of Moses, had prophesied, My mother shall bring forth a son who shall deliver Israel. When he was born the whole house was filled with light. His father stood forth, and kissed her upon the head, and said, Thy prophecy is fulfilled. And when they cast him into the river, he struck her upon the head."
What if our Saviour used this very gesture towards this young man? And that the more conveniently, when he was now upon his knees before him. Some gesture, at least, he used, whereby it appeared, both to the young man and to the standers-by, that the young man did not a little please him, both by his question and by his answer. So I have loved, Psalm 116:1, in the LXX, I have loved, one may render well, it pleaseth me well. So Josephus of David's soldiers, (1 Sam 30:22): "Those four hundred who went to the battle would not impart the spoils to the two hundred who were faint and weary; and said, That they should 'love' [that is, be well pleased] that they had received their wives safe again."
In some parity of sense, John is called the disciple, whom Jesus loved; not that Jesus loved him more than the rest with his eternal, infinite, saving love, but he favoured him more with some outward kindness and more intimate friendship and familiarity. And why? Because John had promised that he would take care of Christ's mother after his death. For those words of our Saviour upon the cross to John, 'Behold thy mother!' and to his mother, 'Behold thy son!' and that from thence John took her home, do carry a fair probability with them, that that was not the first time that John heard of such a matter, but that long before he had so promised.
I have loved thee, Isaiah 60:10, is the rendering of I have had pity upon thee: which may here also agree very well, "Jesus had pity upon him."
46. And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
[Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.] Some suspect the evangelist here guilty of a solecism, by making a tautology: for it was neither necessary, as they think, so to render the Syriac word in Greek; nor is it done so elsewhere in proper names of that nature. For it is not said by any evangelist, Bartholomeus, the son of Tholomeus: Bar Abbas, the son of Abbas: Bar Jesus, the son of Jesus: nor in the like names. True, indeed; but,
I. When the denomination is made from a common name, and not a proper, then it is not so ill sounding to interpret the word: which is done once and again; Mark 3:17, Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: Acts 4:36, Barnabas, which is, A son of consolation.
II. Bar Timai may be rendered otherwise than the son of Timaeus: namely, either a son of admiration; or, which is more proper, a son of profit. The Targum in Esther 3:8; To the king ariseth no profit ('Timai') from them. The evangelist therefore, deservedly, that he might shew that this Bartimaeus was not named from this, or that, or some other etymology, but from his father's name, so interprets his name, Bartimeus, the son of Timeus.
III. Perhaps there was a Timeus of some more noted name in that age, either for some good report or some bad: so that it might not be absurd to the Jews that then conversed there to say, This blind Bartimaeus is the son of the so much famed Timaeus. So it is unknown to us who Alexander and Rufus were, chapter 15:21: but they were without doubt of most eminent fame, either among the disciples, or among the Jews.
IV. What if Thima be the same with Simai, blind, from the use of Thau for Samech among the Chaldeans? so that Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus might sound no more than the blind son of a blind father.
11. And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
[And when he had looked round about upon all things.] Compare Mark with the other evangelists concerning the time of casting out the merchants of the Temple, and it will appear that the word he looked about, denotes not a bare beholding or looking upon, but a beholding with reproof and correction; admonition, among the Jews.
13. And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
[For the time of figs was not yet.] See what we have said at Matthew 21:19. The sum is this:
I. The time of figs was so far off, that the time of leaves was scarcely yet present.
II. The other fig trees in the mount were of the common kind of fig trees: and on them were not leaves as yet to be seen. But that which Christ saw with leaves on it, and therefore went to it, was a fig tree of an extraordinary kind.
III. For there was a certain fig tree called Benoth Shuach, which never wanted leaves, and never wanted figs. For every year it bare fruit, but that fruit came not to full ripeness before the third year: and such, we suppose, was this fig tree.
16. And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
[And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the Temple.] "What(13) 13. Bab. Yebamoth, fol. 6b. is the reverence of the Temple? That none go into the Mountain of the Temple" [or the Court of the Gentiles] "with his staff, and his shoes, with is purse, and dust upon his feet: and that none make it his common thoroughfare, nor make it a place of spitting."
The same thing is ordered concerning a synagogue; yea, concerning a synagogue that is now laid waste, much more of one that flourisheth: "A(14) 14. Megill. fol. 28a. synagogue now laid waste, let not men make it a common passage." And(15) 15. Megill. fol. 27b. "his disciples asked R. Eleazar Ben Shammua, Whence hast thou lived so long? He answered, I never made a synagogue a common thoroughfare."
It is therefore forbid by the masters, that the court of the Temple be not made a passage for a shorter way. And was not this bridle sufficient wherewith all might be kept back from carrying vessels through the Temple? But the 'castle of Antonia' joined to the court; and there were shops in the Court of the Gentiles where many things were sold; and that profane vessels were brought hither is scarcely to be denied. And these vessels might be said to be carried through the Temple; although those that carried them went not through the whole Temple.
1. And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
[A certain man planted a vineyard.] The priests and Pharisees knew, saith Matthew, that "these things were spoken of them," Matthew 21:45. Nor is it any wonder; for the Jews boasted that they were the Lord's vineyard: and they readily observed a wrong done to that vineyard by any: but how far were they from taking notice, how unfruitful they were, and unthankful to the Lord of the vineyard!
"The(16) 16. Tanchum, fol. 54. 3. matter may be compared to a king that had a vineyard; and there were three who were enemies to it. What were they? One cut down the branches. The second cut off the bunches. And the third rooted up the vines. That king is the King of kings, the Blessed Lord. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. The three enemies are Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Haman," &c.
[A vineyard.] "If(17) 17. Kilayim, cap. 4. hal. 5. a man plants one row of five vines, the school of Shammai saith, That it is a vineyard. But the school of Hillel saith, It is not a vineyard, until there be two rows of vines there."
[Set a hedge about it.] "What(18) 18. Kilayim, cap. 4. hal. 3. is a hedge? Let it be ten handbreadths high": less than so is not a hedge.
[Digged a place for the winefat.] Let the fat be ten handbreadths deep, and four broad.
[Built a tower.] Let(19) 19. Kilayim, cap. 5. hal. 3. the watchhouse, which is in the vineyard, be ten high, and four broad. Cubits are to be understood. For Rambam saith, watchhouse is a high place where the vine-dresser stands to overlook the vineyard.
[Let it out to husbandmen.] "He(20) 20. Maimon. in שכירות c. 2. that lets out his vineyard to a keeper, either as a husbandman, or as one to keep it gratis, and he enters into covenant with him, to dig it, prune it, dress it, at his own cost; but he neglects it, and doth not so; he is guilty, as if he should with his own hand lay the vineyard waste."
2. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.
[And at the season he sent to the husbandmen.] That is, in the fourth year after the first planting it: when it now was a vineyard of four years old; at least before that year there was no profit of the fruits. "They(21) 21. Maasar Sheni, c. 5. hal. 1. paint [or note] a vineyard of four years old by some turf [or clod] of earth, coloured; and that uncircumcised with clay; and sepulchres with chalk."
The Gloss is this: "On a vineyard of four years old they paint some marks out of the turf of the earth, that men may know that it is a vineyard of four years old, and eat not of it, because it is holy, as the Lord saith, Leviticus 19:24; and the owners ought to eat the fruit of it at Jerusalem, as the second tithe. And an uncircumcised vineyard," [that is, which was not yet four years old; see Leviticus 19:23] "they mark with clay, that is, digested in fire. For the prohibition of (a vineyard) uncircumcised, is greater than the prohibition concerning that of four years old: for that of four years old is fit for eating; but that uncircumcised is not admitted to any use. Therefore, they marked not that by the turf, lest the mark might perhaps be defaced, and perish; and men not seeing it might eat of it," &c.
4. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.
[Λιθβολησαντες εκεφαλαιωσαν At him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head.] I. I see no need to wrest the word εκεφαλαιωσαν from its true and genuine sense. Κεφαλαιουν signifies to reduce and gather into a certain sum, as the lexicons teach us: and why not in the same sense in this place? They cast stones at the servant, and deriding him, made up the sum with him: saying, perhaps this, or some such thing to him, "Do you come for fruit and rent? Behold this fruit" (casting a stone at him) "behold another fruit," (casting another stone) and so many times together: and so they sent him away derided, and loaded with disgrace.
II. But be it that the word is to be translated as it is commonly rendered, "they wounded him in the head": then this way of stoning is thus distinguished from that whereby they were slain who were stoned by the Sanhedrim. That was called stone-casting: for it was the cast of a stone, indeed, but of one only, and that a very great one; and that upon the heart of the condemned person, when now he lay along upon his back. But this stoning was of many stones, thrown out of the hand through the air, striking him here and there and everywhere. The head of him that was stoned by the Sanhedrim was unhurt, and without any wound; but here, They cast stones at him, and wounded him in the head.
10. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:
[The stone which the builders rejected.] The Targum upon Psalm 118, thus the builders rejected the child. And verse 27, "Bind the child to the sacrifice of the solemnity with chains, until ye shall have sacrificed him, and poured out his blood upon the horns of the altar: said Samuel the prophet."
16. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.
[Whose is this image? Caesar's.] I. This was a Caesar's penny, denarius Caesareanus. For zuz, among the Jews, was also a penny, as we shewed elsewhere; but we scarce believe it was of the same form and inscription: "A(22) 22. Bab. Abodah Zarah, fol. 6b. certain heathen sent to R. Judah the prince a Caesarean penny, and that on a certain festival day of the heathens. Resh Lachish sat before him. R. Judah said, What shall I do? If I receive it, I shall consent (to their festival): if I receive it not, enmity will rise against me. Resh Lachish answered, Take the penny, and while he looks upon you cast it into the well," &c.
II. It was a silver penny, not a gold one. Pence, absolutely put, are to be understood silver pence. Where the Gloss is, "Pence, absolutely put, are silver, until it is explained that they are gold."
But now a gold penny was worth five-and-twenty silver pence. "When(23) 23. Kerithoth, cap. 1. hal. 7. turtle-doves and young pigeons were sold at Jerusalem sometime for a gold penny, Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel said, By this Temple, I will not rest this night, unless they are sold for a silver penny." Where the Gloss, "A gold penny is worth five-and-twenty silver pence."
III. It was a Roman penny, not a Jerusalem: for this distinction they sometimes use. The Gloss being witness, are Jerusalem zuzees. But more frequently money of Tzur, and money of Jerusalem. Money of Tzur one may well render Tyrian money. But hear the Aruch, where he had been treating of money of Tzur; at length he brings in this passage: "R. Eliezer saith, Wheresoever in the Scripture Tzur is written full, the Scripture speaks of the city Tyre: but where it is written defectively [without Vau] it speaks of Rome." Be it Tyrian or Roman money, this held among the masters: "Wheresoever(24) 24. Baba Kamma, fol. 36b. any thing is said of the silver money of Jerusalem, it is the eighth part of the Tyrian money."
Hence I should resolve that riddle at which the Glosser himself sticks, if I may have leave to conjecture in a Jewish affair, after a doubting Jew. In the tract now cited(25) 25. Baba Kamma, fol. 97b. there is a discourse concerning Jerusalem Cozbian moneys. A riddle truly. Ben Cozbi, indeed, coined moneys when he made an insurrection against the Romans.(26) 26. Jer. Maasar Sheni, fol. 52. 4. But whence is this called Jerusalem money, when, in the days of Ben Cozbi, Jerusalem lay buried in its own rubbish? If I may be the resolver, it was so called, because it was of the same weight and value with the Jerusalem money, and not with that of Tyre.
"The Jerusalem money (say they) is the eighth part of the Tyrian." Here again some words of the masters entangle me in a riddle. The Aruch(27) 27. In זוז. saith, "A penny and zuz are the same." And elsewhere,(28) 28. Baba Bathra, fol. 166b. "They call pence, in the Gemaristic language, Zuzim"; which we observed at chapter 6:37. 'Zuz' was Jerusalem money: how, then, was it the same with a penny, which was Tyrian money, when it was the eighth part only? And these words spoken by Rambam(29) 29. In Peah, cap. 8. hal. 7. do add a scruple over and above; a penny contains six zuzim. If he had said eight zuzim, it had been without scruple. But what shall we say now?
The former knot you may thus untie: that zuz, among the Jews, is called also a penny; a Jewish penny, indeed, but different from the Roman: as the Scots have their shilling, but much different from our English. But the second knot let him try to untie that is at leisure.
IV. This money was signed with the image of Caesar; but of the Jerusalem money, thus the Jews write, whom you may believe when you please: "What(30) 30. Baba Kamma, fol. 97b. is the Jerusalem money? David and Solomon were stamped on one side; and on the reverse, Jerusalem the holy city." But the Glosser inquires whether it were lawful to stamp the image of David and Solomon upon money, which he scarcely thinks. He concludes therefore that their names were only inscribed, not their effigies.
"Upon(31) 31. Bereshith Rab. fol. 24. 2. Abraham's money were stamped, on one side, an old man and an old woman; on the other, a young man and a young maid. On Joshua's money, on one side, an ox; on the other, a monoceros. On David's money, on one side, a staff and a scrip; on the other, a tower. On Mardochai's money, on one side, sackcloth and ashes; on the other, a crown." Let the truth of this be upon the credit of the authors.
28. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
[Which is the first commandment of all?] It is not seldom that this distinction occurs in the Rabbins, between the law, and the precept: by the latter they understand some special or greater rite (themselves being judges); such as circumcision, the repeating of the phylacteries, keeping the sabbath, &c. This question, propounded by the scribe, seems to respect the same: namely, whether those great precepts (as they were esteemed) and other ceremonial precepts of that nature, such as sacrifices, purifications, keeping festivals, were the greatest precepts of the law, or no: and if it were so, which among them was the first?
By his answer he seems to incline to the negative, and to prefer the moral law. Whence Christ saith, "That he was not far from the kingdom of heaven": and while he suits an answer to him from that very passage, which was the first in the reciting of the phylacteries, Hear, O Israel,he directs the eyes and the minds of those that repeated them to the sense and the marrow of the thing repeated,and that they rest not in the bare work of repeating them.
41. And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
[The people cast money.] They(32) 32. Gloss in Shekal. fol. 8. 4. were casting in small money there. According(33) 33. Gloss. in Shekal. fol. 8. 4. to his pleasure, any one might cast into the chests how little soever he would; namely, in the chest which was for gold, as little gold as a grain of barley would weigh; and in the chest for frankincense, as much frankincense as weighed a grain of barley. But if he should say, Behold, I vow wood; he shall not offer less than two pieces of a cubit long, and breadth proportionable. Behold, I vow frankincense; he shall not offer less than a pugil of frankincense: that is, not less money than that which will buy so much.
42. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
[Two mites, which make a farthing.] Two(34) 34. Jer. Kiddush. fol. 58. 4. prutahs are a farthing. "A(35) 35. Baba Mezia, fol. 44b. prutah is the eighth part of an Italian assarius. An assarius is the twenty-fourth part of a silver penny." We rendered before, "The people cast money, brass," by they were casting in small money: one would think it should rather be rendered, They were casting in brass. But consider well this passage: "He(36) 36. Maasar Sheni, cap. 2. hal. 8, 9. Adajoth. cap. 1. 9, 10. that changeth the 'selaa' of the second tenth, the school of Shammai saith, Let him change the whole 'selaa' into brass." You would perhaps render it, into moneys, or into meahs, but it is properly to be rendered into brass, as appears by what follows: "The school of Hillel saith, into a shekel of silver, and a shekel of brass." So also the Glossers; and the Aruch moreover,(37) 37. In the word פורט. "He that changeth a selaa, and receives for it brass money, that is, prutahs."
None might, by the canon even now mentioned, enter into the Temple, no, nor indeed into the Court of the Gentiles, with his purse, therefore much less into the Court of the Women; and yet scarce any entered who carried no money with him to be offered to the Corban, whether in his hand, or in his bosom, or elsewhere, we do not define: so did this very poor woman, who for two mites purchased herself an eternal fame, our Saviour himself setting a value upon the thing above all the gifts of them that offered.
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