6. The business of mission, 11:1-12:50

i] Jesus and John the Baptist


John the Baptist, now arrested and in jail, wonders whether Jesus is the "one who is to come." Jesus gives John's disciples the answer and goes on to speak of John and of the generation that has rejected him.


Even the most insignificant disciples is greater than John the Baptist.


i] Context: See 1:1-17. The teaching of the 1st. Discourse - The Great Sermon - was developed in the 1st. Narrative section 8:1-9:34. The teaching of the 2nd. Discourse / teaching section - Mission and Martyrdom, the transfer of kingdom authority from Jesus to his disciples, 9:35-10:42 - is now developed in the 2nd. Narrative section, 11:1-12:50. The narratives in this section illustrate, develop and apply the theme of mission. In chapter 11 we examine John the Baptist as he relates to Jesus and his disciples, v1-15; the fickle nature of "this generation", v16-19; Jesus' condemnation of the three cities, v20-24; and Jesus' acceptance of the weary, v25-30. Chapter 12 continues to develop the theme of mission. In equipping believers as emissaries of the gospel, Matthew focuses on the opposition aroused by the gospel, providing something of a reason for that opposition. First, Matthew records two Sabbath controversies, v1-14; Jesus, and thus his disciples, as servants of the Lord, v15-21; the Beelzebul controversy, v22-37; the request for a sign, v38-45; and finally, in an encouraging note, we are reminded that we are members of Jesus' true family, v46-50.

Allen provides us with a useful structure for chapter 11: "the editor gives us a survey of Christ's work. It falls into three sections. Christ's work is considered (a) in relation to that of the Baptist, v2-19; (b) in view of its apparent failure, v20-24; (c) in view of its real success, v25-30."


ii] Structure: Jesus and John the Baptist:

Setting, v1.

The Baptist's question, v2-6:

"are you the one coming?"

Jesus' testimony to John, v7-15:

"what did you go out into the wilderness to see?"

saying #1, 7-11:

John is a prophet.

saying #2, v12-13:

seekers are enthusiastically storming the kingdom.

saying #3, v14-15:

John is the promised Elijah.

Jesus' question, v16-19:

"to what will I compare this generation?"


iii] Interpretation:

Just as the first narrative applies the first discourse - the Great Sermon - so the second narrative, chapters 11 and 12, applies the second discourse - mission and martyrdom. Kingdom authority has been transferred from Jesus to his disciples in order to progress the realization of the kingdom in a world hostile to the gospel. In these narrative accounts of Jesus' teaching and preaching ministry, as selected and arranged by Matthew, we learn something of the reason why gospel ministry faces confusion and hostility. The tradition recorded by Matthew in chapter 11 reveals an inability to understand both the actions and the message of the missioners. This is evidenced in the Baptist's question to Jesus, and Jesus description of the world's ("this generation") assessment of both himself and John as fickle, v16-19. The world may be blind and consequently faces judgment, v20-24, but the missioners see, v25-27, and are not without support, v28-30.

In the passage before us, Jesus and John the Baptist, we see in the Baptist a man facing haunting doubts about Jesus; is Jesus truly the Messiah? We are given a clear description of his important role and we are introduced to his person: a great man, the Elijah foretold by Malachi, yet a prophet rejected. Believers will face the same confusion as we confront fickle humanity, yet even the most insignificant disciple is greater than the Baptist.


What is meant by "the kingdom of heaven is taken by force / comes forcibly and forceful people snatch it"? v13. This independent saying concerning the Baptist has prompted endless interpretations:

If we read biazetai, "forcibly confronted", as a passive, the sense is that the kingdom is being set upon, "taken by force or violence":

a) by violent men who are opponents to the gospel, "oppressed", cf. NRSV, JB, NEB;

b) by believers who forcefully enter it with burning zeal. "Only with strenuous determination does one press into it", cf. Davies & Allison, p254, cf. Moffatt;

c) by being pressed forward with violence by fundamentalists like the Zealots.

If we read biazetai as middle the meaning is that the kingdom is powerfully moving forward of its own volition, "has been coming violently", as in the NIV; "goes forward with triumphant force", Morris, cf., Carson.

Yet, what of the biastai, "the forceful, violent", who arpazousin, "seize, snatch" it? Stendahl, in Peak's Commentary, puts the two main positions simply as either "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and men of violence grab it", or that "the kingdom of heaven manifests itself violently and keen and daring men take hold of it."

Luke quotes the first part of the saying, although his version is viewed as secondary, cf., Lk.16:16. None-the-less, his take fits with the interpretation that the kingdom of heaven is dynamically being realized in our midst and is being stormed by enthusiastic people who are keen to enter it. So, v12-13 together would give the sense that from John up till now seekers with the eye of faith are grabbing hold of the coming kingdom (proclaimed in the gospel), for the law and the prophets were up till John, but now the promised new age, entailing the full realization of the promised blessings of the covenant, is bursting in upon us.


What is meant by "Wisdom has been absolved of her actions", v19b? This saying is problematic. First, there are textual problems, with many of the readings influenced by the Lukan parallel - "from all of the children of her", Lk.7:35. Metzger regards apo twn ergwn, "from the works of her", as original with teknwn, "children", and pantwn, "all", as examples of assimilation. There is much to commend the view that the original saying is "wisdom is justified by/out of her children", but that Matthew has interpreted it in relation to Christ by alluding to v2, ta erga tou Cristou "the works of Christ".

Matthew may be identifying Jesus with Wisdom (so Davies & Allison, Hagner, Luz, ..), but it is more likely he sees both John and Jesus as "the envoys of Wisdom", Nolland, see also Carson. God's Wisdom is vindicated / proved true in the actions of both John and Jesus. Any examination of the lifestyles of John and Jesus cannot but conclude that they reflect God's right-living Wisdom - the works of John and Jesus are hers.

It is possible that Matthew is expressing the same idea explicit in the Lukan version, namely that the claims of wisdom are proved true by all who accept the message of wisdom's envoys (John and Jesus), ie., the saying is referring to Jesus' disciples: "the lives of those who accept Christ's teachings show that it was excellent", Morris. Gathercole in NTS 49 nicely translates the saying as "wisdom has been absolved of her actions."


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 11:1

Christ and the Baptist, v1-19; i] Introduction, v1. At this point, Matthew gives us a summary of Jesus ministry. Luke goes to greater detail so giving us a better understanding of why John would now have doubts about Jesus' messiahship, ie., Jesus' actions are similar to Elijah, so is Jesus only just the coming Elijah, the one who prepares for the coming messiah?

kai egeneto "-" - and it came about. Typical introductory formula; "and it came to pass", AV.

oJte "after" - when. Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause, as NIV.

etelesen (telew) aor. "had finished" - [jesus] finished, completed, ended.

diatasswn (diatassw) part. "instructing" - teaching, directing, commanding. The participle is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "had finished." Probably referring to the commissioning of the disciples in chapter 10.

toiV dwdeka maqhtaiV dat. "[his] twelve disciples" - to the twelve disciples [of him]. Dative of direct object after the dia prefix verb "to command."

metebh (metabainw) aor. "he went on" - he moved on, departed [from there]. "He left that place"

tou didaskein kai khrussein pres. inf. "to teach and preach" - This construction, tou + an infinitive, introduces a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to preach and teach." It is possible that "teach and preach" refers to the same function (ie., a hendiadys), therefore "to preach the gospel."

en + dat. "in [the towns]" - in [the cities]. Locative, expressing space.

autwn gen. pro. "of Galilee" - of them. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / identification, "the cities in which they live", Olmstead.


ii] Matthew now recounts Jesus' meeting with the disciples of John, their question on behalf of John, and Jesus' reply, v2-6. As noted above, John's doubts may well be related to his wrong reading of Jesus' ministry (ie., Jesus as the Elijah, rather than the messiah), at any rate, the account is somewhat negative, eg., the implied rebuke, "blessed is he who does not take offense at me", v6; "the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he", v11. None-the-less, as Fee puts it "the rebuke of v6 does not require us to believe that John's expectation was wrong, but only that he was slow to read the evidence." Jesus then summarizes the signs associated with the coming of the messiah, the one anointed by God to proclaim the day of salvation, a day of blessing and cursing, cf., Isaiah 26:19, 29:18, 35:5-6, 42:18, 61:1. Such signs authenticate Jesus' messianic role.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "when [John ....] heard" - [john] having heard. NIV reads the participle as adverbial, temporal; "when John had heard in the prison", AV.

en + dat. "in [prison]" - [the works of the christ] in [the prison]. Locative, expressing space. Nicely rendered as a relative clause, "who was in prison at that time", TH. cf. NEB.

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "[what] Christ [was doing / [the deeds [of the Messiah]" - of the christ. The genitive is adjectival, usually treated as verbal, subjective, as NIV, or possessive, "the Messiah's deeds." Matthew is underlining who John is questioning; a brave move on John's part.

ta erga (on) "what [Christ] was doing" - the works. Accusative direct object of the verb "to hear." Probably "works" = "miracles." John has heard about the miracles and so wonders whether Jesus is the Christ.

pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "he sent" - having sent. Attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying the adverbial participle "having heard"; "when he heard ... he sent." "He asked some of his disciples to go to Jesus to find out about him", TH.

dia + gen. "-" - through, by means of [the disciples of him]. Instrumental, agency; "he sent a message by way of his disciples." "A message" understood, ie., the question in v3.


eipen (oJraw) aor. "to ask" - he said. It is John's question, although relayed through his disciples, so the TEV, "'tell us' they asked Jesus."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

su "[are] you" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be, emphatic position, ie., underlined.

oJ ercomenoV (ercomai) pres. part. "the one who is to come" - the one coming. The participle serves as a substantive, virtually ending up as a title, "the coming one", either of the promised Elijah of God, or the messiah. See notes above.

prosdokwmen (prosdokaw) sub. "should we expect" - [or] should we wait for, look for, expect (in hope, in fear, or in a neutral state of mind, BAGD)]. Either a deliberative subjunctive, "should we look", or a present indicative with a future sense, "we shall look." "Have we got to wait for someone else?" JB. The "we" obviously means "we Jews", not just "we disciples of John."

eJteron pro. "someone else" - another. Accusative direct object of the verb "to expect", emphatic by position. The sense is either a different messiah, or a messiah with different characteristics to Jesus.


apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) part. "replied" - [and jesus] answering [said]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant / pleonastic - a common Semitic construction; "and answering Jesus said to them" = "Jesus answered them", NRSV.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to them. Dative of indirect object.

poreuqenteV (poreuomai) aor. pas. part. "go back" - going. "Report" is an imperative and so this attendant circumstance participle is also read as an imperative; "Go and tell", NEB.

a} "what" - [report to john] what things [you hear and see]. This relative pronoun serves to introduce a noun clause, object of the imperative verb "to report." Note a} is plural.


anablepousin (anablepw) pres. "receive sight" - [the blind] look up again, receive sight again. The prefix adds the sense "again", "people who are blind see again." It is not "all blind people."

euaggelizontai pres. pas. "the good news is preached / proclaimed to" - [and crippled walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf hear and dead are raised and poor] are told = evangelized. The verb is normally deponent, ie. passive or middle form, but active in meaning. Here taken as passive.

ptwcoi adj. "the poor" - abject poor, beggars, those who have nothing. Nominative subject of the passive verb "to tell." Only "leper" in this list is a noun, the rest are adjectives serving as nouns, even though they are without a definite article. Interestingly, the poor remain poor, assuming that Jesus is speaking of the physically poor rather than the spiritually poor. The image underlines the truth that the gospel is for the "lost" = "the poor in spirit, those who mourn; the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ....." Such are euaggelizontai, "evangelized" - they receive an important message from God concerning the full realization of the covenant promises, namely, the establishment of the kingdom of God / God's eternal reign in Christ.


makarioV adj. "blessed" - [and] blessed. Predicate adjective. Serving as a declaration of a favored state / status before God. The person who believes in Jesus is forgiven and therefore appropriates the promised covenant blessings / enters the kingdom. Such a person is a one of the blessed.

oJV ean + subj. "the man who" - [is] whoever. Introducing an indefinite relative clause which serves as the nominative subject of the verb to-be; "whoever does not stumble on account of me is blessed." It can also be rightly viewed as conditional 3rd. class, although not usually classified as such; "whoever, as the case may be, does not stumble on account of me then they are blessed". "Whoever stays true to their faith is blessed."

mh skandalisqh/ (skandalizw) pas. sub. "does not fall way" - does not take offense. The sense is of drifting in one's reliance on Jesus, allowing doubts to flourish, so, has "no doubts about me", TEV, "does not lose faith in me", JB.

en "on account of" - by, in, with [me]. The preposition is possibly causal, "because of", as in the NIV, but also "in", JB; "about", TEV; "at", NRSV (ie., adverbial).


iii] Jesus' assessment of John the Baptist, v7-15. The Baptist serves as "the last and greatest of the prophets, fulfilling the role of the eschatological forerunner foretold in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6, and as such ushering in the time of salvation to which he himself nonetheless remains to some degree an outsider", Fee. In this passage Matthew has compiled three sayings, v7-11, 12-13, 14-15. The first saying is found in Luke's parallel account, Lk.7:24-28. The second saying is found in Luke.16:16, but in a different context.

a) Saying #1, v7-11. The first saying begins with a series of three parallel questions which build up to the declaration that John is a prophet, v7-9. This is supported with a quote from Malachi 3:1, v10. John's superior prophetic status is then qualified by comparing it with the "least" in the kingdom, v11.

toutwn ... poreumenwn (poreuomai) gen. pres. part. "as John's disciples were leaving" - these ones were leaving, going. The genitive absolute participial construction is best treated as temporal, with the present tense, being durative, indicating ongoing action; "while/as/at the time they were leaving."

legein (legw) pres. inf. "[Jesus began] to say" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb hrxato, "began".

toiV ocloiV (oV) dat. "to the crowd" - Dative of indirect object.

peri + gen. "about [John]" - Reference / respect; "concerning John."

ti neut. "what" - Interrogative pronoun, not "who", but "what", possibly "why".

qeasasqai (qeaomai) aor. inf. "to see" - [what did you go out into the wilderness] to behold, gaze at, see? The infinitive expresses purpose, "in order to see"; "When you went out into the wilderness in order to observe the prophet John, what did you expect to see?"

uJpo + gen. "[A reed swayed] by [the wind]" - [a blade of grass being shaken] by [wind]? Instrumental, expressing agency, as NIV, or cause, "because of the wind." John is anything but this, he is obviously a rugged preacher, not an insipid weakling mouthing pious platitudes. "Waving in the breeze", Phillips.


alla "if not" - but. A strong adversative: if not "a reed ..." then what...?" If not that then maybe this... "You could not have wanted to see that", so what did you go out to see ...? BAGD.

idein (eidon .. oJraw) aor. inf. "to see" - [what did you go out] to see. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to see."

hJmfiesmenon (amfiennumi) perf. pas. / mid. part. "dressed [in fine clothes]" - [and man] having been clothed [in soft clothes]. The participle is best treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "man"; "a man who who wears fine clothing." It could also be classified as the complement of the direct object man, as NIV.

oiJ .... forounteV (forew) part. "those who wear" - [behold] the ones wearing. The participle serves as a substantive; "people who live in kings palaces wear fine clothes like that", TH.

ta malaka adj. "fine clothes" - fine, fancy. The adjective here serves as a noun, "soft raiment", RSV; "fancy clothes", TEV; "[dressed in] silks and satins", NEB.

twn basilewn (euV ewV) gen. "kings' [palaces]" - [are in the houses] of kings. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.


alla "then" - but. Strong adversative, as above.

ti "what" - Note, the NEB now translates this interrogative pronoun as "why". The RSV moved to "why" in v8. The question now expects a positive answer.

idein (eidon oJraw) aor. inf. "to see" - [did you go out] to see? [Did you go out] to see [a prophet?] The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to see."

uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [yes, i say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

perissoteron (perissoV) adj. comp. "more than" - [you went out to see even] greater than. The adjective means "more than sufficient / abundant", and in it's comparative form, as here, "greater than abundant / abundantly more." The kai in this elliptic clause is ascensive, "even". The Baptist is someone who is greater than a prophet.

profhtou (hV ou) gen. "a prophet" - of a prophet. The genitive is ablative, of comparison, as NIV.


The quotation from Mal.3:1 is influenced by Ex.23:20. The LXX has "before my face ..... before me."

peri + gen. "about [whom]" - [this is he] about [whom]. Reference; "about, concerning, with reference to whom it is written."

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "it is written" - it has been written, it stands written. "John is the one of whom the scriptures declare .."

mou gen. pro. "my [messenger]" - [behold i send the angel, messenger] of me. The genitive may be adjectival, possessive, such that the messenger is his, or ablative, source/origin, "I will send a messenger from me."

pro + gen. "ahead of [you]" - before [the face of you]. Spacial; "before", as NIV.

kataskeuasei (kataskeuazw) fut. "will prepare" - [who] will get ready, equip, furnish fully. In the Malachi 3:1 quotation, Yahweh sends the messenger to prepare for his coming. Here, of course, Jesus identifies himself with Yahweh as the manifestation of Yahweh, and has John preparing for, not Yahweh's coming, but the coming of Christ.

sou gen. pro. "your" - [the way] of you. The genitive is adjectival, not possessive, as if the messiah owns "the way", but an idiomatic attributive, "who will prepare ahead of you the road which you will travel"; "who shall prepare the road ahead of you", Berkeley.

thn oJdon (oV) "way" - the way. Accusative direct object of the verb "to prepare." A road-building image is being employed where the road is made straight to speed the return of the Lord. John does this by getting people ready for the coming of the messiah.

emprosqen + gen. "before [you]" - in front of, before [you]. Spacial; "before, in front of, ahead of you."


uJmin dat. pro. "[truly I tell] you" - [truly i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. The phrase serves to underline what follows.

en + dat. "among [those born]" - [there has not arisen] in / among [people born / begotten]. Local, expressing space / association; "among". Referring to humans, so "any person who has ever lived."

gunaikwn (h) gen. "of women" - The genitive is ablative, expressing source / origin, "born from women" = "mortals".

ouk eghgertai (egairw) perf. pas. "has not risen" - "Ever lived", TEV; "has not appeared on the scene", TH.

meizwn (megaV) comp. adj. "greater than" - Predicate adjective; a comparative with superlative force. "More important than John."

Iwannou (hV ou) gen. "John" - john [the baptist]. The genitive is adverbial, of comparison, as NIV.

de "yet" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a move to a contrasting point, as NIV; "and yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is ..."

oJ ... mikroteroV (mikroV) comp. adj. "whoever is least" - the least in importance, influence, power. The adjective serves as a substantive. Again, we have a comparative with superlative force. It is usually understood that John, with regard his status in relation to the kingdom of God, is part of the old dispensation, standing outside the realization (inauguration) of the present spiritual kingdom in Christ. This doesn't mean he's not saved, just that he doesn't share the same privileges as the disciples and so even the least important disciple is greater in importance and privilege than John - the disciples stand with Christ, John looks forward to Christ. Yet, theologically this view is unsound, since all men and women of faith throughout the Old Testament fully share in the realization of the covenant promises in Christ - they are properly members of the kingdom of God with equal status to all members, past, present and future. It is possible that the reference to "the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven" is a reference to Jesus, ie., Jesus the messiah is greater than John. John himself affirms this fact, Matt. 3:11. As for Jesus referring to himself as the "least in the kingdom of heaven", he constantly describes his mission in the terms of a lowly suffering servant, cf., Matt.20:28. Obviously, we have not heard the last word on this issue!

en + dat. "in [the kingdom of heaven]" - Locative, expressing space / sphere, of existing within the sphere of the kingdom of God, a member of. The kingdom of God, the reign of God, "the dispensation of fulfillment", Ridderbos, entails the realization of God's eternal reign in Christ in which the long-awaited covenant promises are fulfilled.

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "of heaven" - For the genitive "of heaven" see 3:2.

meizwn comp. adj. "[is] greater than" - Predicate adjective.

outou gen. pro. "he" - him. The genitive is adverbial, comparative, as NIV.


b) Saying #2, v12-13. "The kingdom of heaven manifests itself violently and keen and daring men (people) take hold of it", Stendahl; See Interpretation above.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue and not translated.

apo + gen. "from [the days]" - Temporal use of the preposition.

Iwanou (hV ou) gen. "of John [the Baptist]" - A genitive following a temporal term, "days of ..., time of ....", may be classified in a number of ways, but probably best adjectival, idiomatic / temporal, limiting "days"; "the days when John the Baptist was baptizing."

e{wV + gen. "until [now]" - Temporal preposition.

arpazousin (arpazw) pres. "[forceful men] lay hold of [it] / [violent people] have been raiding [it]" - [forceful people] are robbing, carrying off, abducting, tearing out, plundering, seizing [it]. The noun biasthV is a hapax legomenon (once only use in the NT). The sense of the noun is something like "a person who employs violence in order to accomplish his purpose"*


gar "for" - for. More reason than cause, explanatory, although possibly serving here to introduce an emphatic statement.

eprofhteusan (profhteuw) aor. "prophesied" - [all the prophets and the law] prophesied. The sense is "announced God's revelation concerning the kingdom", rather than giving the word a predictive sense. So, not "foretold things to come", NEB. The fact that "the Law" is included with "the Prophets" indicates that prediction is not the sense here.

eJwV + gen. "until" - until [john]. Temporal preposition. Probably in the sense of up to, but not beyond. It is possible though, that John is not included in the "until" (ie., up to John, but not including John), given that Matthew has John as the forerunner of the messiah and not the last of the prophets, so "the Law and the Prophets revealed the truth of the coming kingdom before John began to proclaim his message."


c) Saying #3, v14-15. In v14 John's superior prophetic status as the long-promised Elijah is affirmed. Finally, the importance of Jesus' teaching is driven home in the formula saying which calls for a right hearing of this divine revelation, v15.

ei + ind. "if [you are willing]" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, [you will receive it] then [this is Elijah]." Possibly "if you are prepared."

dexasqai (decomai) aor. inf. "to accept" - to receive. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "are willing." Possibly "to believe", JB.

HliaV "Elijah" - [he is] elijah. Predicate nominative. Jesus is not saying that John is actually Elijah, but rather that "John is the man the prophet was talking about when he said Elijah would return", TH.

oJ mellwn (mellw) pres. part. "who was" - the one about. The participle is adjectival, attributive, and with its complementary infinitive serves to limit "Elijah" by description.

ercesqai pres. inf. "to come" - The infinitive completes the verbal sense of the participle "the one being about"; "John was the Elijah who was to come", TNT. Purpose may be intended, "the one whose purpose was to come", although the infinitive seems to just underline the fact of his coming, "John is the Elijah, whose coming was predicted, and which fact hopefully you are willing to believe."


oJ ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "whoever has [ears, let him hear]" - the one having [ears, let hear, listen]. The participle serves as a substantive; "he who has ears to hear." The sentence is most often treated literally, although the sense is conveyed better with a clause like "heed carefully what you hear", NAB; "pay attention to what I am saying", ATH; "pay careful attention", Fanning.


iv] The passage so far has given us an assessment of the ministry of both the Baptist and Jesus, now Matthew assesses the response of "this generation", both to the one who prepares for the coming of the messiah and to the one who bears the signs of the messiah, v16-19. Using the contrasting emphases in the ministries of John and Jesus, we are shown the unreasonableness of the crowds refusal to take either preacher seriously, cf., Morris. Matthew first recounts a proverbial saying which well illustrates the fickle response of the crowds to the ministry of the Baptist and Jesus. This generation (later ref., "this wicked / unbelieving generation") is like a group of fickle children who can't settle on what game to play, whatever the game - either a wedding game, or a funeral game. John plays the serious funeral game, neither eating nor drinking, and it is said of him that he is demon-possessed; Jesus plays the wedding game, celebrating, and it is said of him that he is a "winebibber and glutton", a person who associates with corrupt people. The argument concludes with a wisdom saying, v19b.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative / argument, so left untranslated.

tini dat. pro. "to what" - Interrogative pronoun introducing a rhetorical question. The verb oJmoiow, "like, resemble, similar to", takes a dative of the thing compared; "I will compare this generation to what?" = "to what shall I compare this generation?

oJmoiwsw (oJmoiow) fut. "can I compare" - will i compare, liken [this generation]. Either a statement eg. "I know what the people of this day are like", TH, or a deliberative future, "what description can I find for this generation?", JB.

oJmoia fem. adj. + dat. "[they are] like" - [she is] like, similar. Predicate adjective. Literally "she", since "generation" is feminine.

paidioiV (on) dat. "children" - Dative of direct object of the adjective "like" which takes a dative of the thing compared.

kaqhmenoiV (kaqhmai) dat. part. "sitting" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "children"; "like children who are sitting in the marketplace."

en + dat. "in [the marketplaces]" - Locative, expressing space.

prosfwnounta (prosfonew) nom. part. "calling out" - [who], calling out [to others, say 'we played the flute ....] The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the children's "sitting"; "sitting ..... calling out ..." The relative pronoun a}, "who", serves as the nominative subject of the verb "to say", v17; "who ....... say 'We played ....'" Interestingly, the antecedent of a}, "who", namely "children", is dative and thus we would expect the relative pronoun to take a dative. Luke has the participle dative, but causes his own syntactical problems when he follows it with the nominative relative clause o} legei, "who says", rather than Matthew's legousin, "saying". "One group shouts to the other", TEV.

toiV eJteroiV dat. adj. "to others" - to others. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object, although when the sense of this proV prefix verb is "to address, speak to" then it is classified as a dative of direct object.


legousin pres. "-" - [who ......] say. Somewhat redundant.

hulhsamen (aulew) aor. "we played the flute" - we piped. "We played wedding music", TEV.

uJmin dat. "for you" - to you [and you did not dance]. Dative of interest, advantage.

eqrhnhsamen (qrhnew) aor. "we sang a dirge" - we wept, sang a funeral song. "We sang you a dirge", NAB.

ouk ekoyasqe (koptomai) aor. "you did not mourn" - [and] you did not strike your breast and howl as a sign of mourning. "We played at funerals and you wouldn't be mourners", Phillips.


gar "for" - for [came john]. More reason than cause, here as an explanation / application of the illustration in v17; "John the Baptist appears, refraining from eating and drinking, and they say .....", Cassirer.

mhte .... mhte "neither .... nor" - neither [eating] nor [drinking]. A negated correlative construction.

esqiwn (esqiw) pres. part. "eating [nor drinking]" - This, and the following participle "drinking", are adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of John's "coming". Not that John never ate or drank, but that he lived the life of an ascetic.

daimonion (on) "[he has] a demon" - [and they say he has] a demon. Accusative direct object of the verb "to have." "He is possessed by an evil spirit."

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. Jesus' favored self-identification, but rather than Daniel's coming Son of Man, Jesus may have in mind the personal identifier "I". For "Son of Man" see 8:20.

esqiwn kai pinwn pres. part. "eating and drinking" - [came] eating and drinking. Both participles are adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Jesus' coming. Jesus came enjoying life like a normal person - he celebrated life.

idou "here is a man" - [and they say] behold, look, pay attention. Interjection; "Look at him", NEB.

fagoV (oV) "a glutton" - [a man] gluttonous [and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners]. Standing in apposition to "man". They are probably not saying that Jesus is actually a glutton and a drunk, rather that he lives life like the ordinary folk - he is quite happy to party when the opportunity presents itself. So, John lives the life of an ascetic and he is mad, Jesus lives the life of an ordinary man and he is a hedonist. You can't win!


In this saying Jesus personifies Wisdom, making the point that she stands absolved of her actions in the lives of both the Baptist and Jesus. Wisdom's revelation of the coming kingdom, in the context of the Baptist's rigor and Jesus' joy, is profoundly right and good, such that the crowd's judgment of the ministry of the Baptist and Jesus is devoid of wisdom. See Interpretation above.

kai "but" - and. Usually taken as adversative, so NIV, but best treated as an untranslated connective.

sofia (a) "wisdom" - Nominative subject of the verb "to show to be just." Here in the sense of a knowledge which makes possible skillful activity or performance*, ie., wisdom in the Old Testament sense, proverbial wisdom.

edikaiwqh (dikaiow) aor. pas. "proved right" - is shown to be right, just, righteous. The word is used by Paul meaning, "to make right with God" (justify), but obviously that is not the intention here. The sense is "to vindicate", "to prove true; "stands or falls", Phillips.

apo + gen. "by" - Here expressing cause, means, or outcome, cf., BAGD.

authV gen. pro. "her" - of her. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "her works", or verbal, subjective, "the works performed by her."

twn ergwn (oV) "actions" - the works [of her]. "By its results", TEV.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]