8. Preaching the gospel, 13:53-17:23
viii] The yeast of the PhariseesSynopsis
The Pharisees and Sadducees approach Jesus and ask that he verify his authority. Jesus points out that they are expert at reading signs of the weather, but not "signs of the times." The only sign suitable for a "wicked and adulterous generation" is the sign of Jonah, namely, the preaching of the gospel of the coming kingdom and its call for repentance.
Setting sail across the lake, the disciples become aware that they have failed to obtain provisions. While this matter is being discussed, Jesus refers back to the encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees, warning the disciple to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Jesus is not impressed when the disciples think that he is chiding them for forgetting to bring along supplies. Jesus does chide them, not for forgetfulness, but for "little faith." Have they forgotten the miraculous feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000 so quickly? Jesus then returns to his warning, "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Matthew concludes by noting that the disciples did finally understand the point that Jesus was making, namely, that they are to be on their guard "against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
A world of ideas contests the claims of the gospel, debilitating faith like an infecting cancer, so "be on your guard.."
i] Context: See 13:53-58.
ii] Structure: The leaven of the Pharisees:
A conflict story - sign from heaven, v1-4:
"when evening comes ......"
"a wicked and adulterous generation ....."
The leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, v5-12:
The disciples' concern, v5;
a shortage of supplies.
Jesus' concern, v6;
the "yeast of the Pharisees".
The disciples think that Jesus' concern in theirs, 7;
Jesus addresses the disciples' concern, v8-11a;
"do you not remember ... you of little faith"
Jesus restates his concern, v11b;
Editorial comment, v12.
the disciples "understand".
The two pericopes / episodes before us are usually treated together, although we need to recognize that the second pericope, v5-12, responds to both the feeding of the four thousand, 15:29-39, and the demand for a sign by the Pharisees and the Sadducees, 16:1-4.
In the first pericope we witness the leaven / teaching of the Pharisees challenging the bread / word of Jesus. A "wicked and adulterous generation" can expect only one sign from the divine, namely, the sign of Jonah, the proclamation of the coming kingdom / the gospel, and its call for repentance. Like manna from heaven, this life-giving word / bread is given in abundance and must be received in faith.
In the second pericope we actually have a conversation between Jesus and his disciples which is at cross-purposes. The disciples are worried about a shortage of supplies, while Jesus is worried about the corrupting influence of the Pharisees' teachings. The disciples have their worry, v5, Jesus has his, v6. The disciples' think that their worry is Jesus' worry, v7, but it's not! So first, Jesus addresses their worry, v8-11a: "You of little faith ...... Don't you remember ....." Then in v11b Jesus repeats his worry; "be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Mark's conclusion leaves the question open, "Do you not understand?" Matthew closes the issue with the disciples understanding that Jesus is not concerned about sustenance, but rather "the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees", v12.
The point of this episode is simple enough: the bread / Word of Jesus is challenged by another word / teaching, a leaven which infects and corrupts, so be on guard. So again, within the context of Matthew's narrative intent, these two episodes serve as a paradigm for the gospel at work. The claims of the gospel - the sign of Jonah / the preaching of the gospel, of life giving bread / word from Jesus - stands contested by another gospel, a false gospel, the leaven / teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. A world of ideas (often religious) contests the claims of the gospel, debilitating faith like an infecting cancer ("leaven"), so "be on your guard."
What is the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees? No detailed exposition of their theology has been preserved in the gospel tradition and so we are left with those occasions when Jesus clashes with them on matters pertaining to the Law of Moses. Clashes over Sabbath Law indicate that a law / grace issue is at the heart of the conflict between the teaching of the pietists and the gospel of Jesus. It is unlikely that Israel's pietists were legalists as such, but rather nomists. They didn't need to obey the Law of Moses to gain entry to God's elect people, they were already the elect, God's chosen people. The Law was the mechanism by which they maintained their status before God and progressed their appropriation of the promised covenant blessings. The gospel, on the other hand, proclaims that a person's status before God and their full appropriation of the promised covenant blessings is received as a gift of grace through faith. Law serves only to guide the fruit of faith, namely love. The problem with the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, namely that holiness is earned, is that it undermines the truth that holiness before God is received as a gift of divine mercy. Salvation is totally dependent on the reception of God's grace through faith.
It seems likely that the apostle Paul's clash with the Judaizers, the members of the circumcision party, focuses on exactly the same issue. Like the Pharisees, they promoted sanctification by obedience, but the life of a child of God does not progress by obedience to the law, but by grace through faith. Law makes us lawless, whereas faith make us faithful.
To examine this issue further see the associated Exegetical Commentary on Galatians
Textual Criticism: The saying in v2a-3 is not found in some texts. Commentators are divided on whether to include it. See Luz for both sides of the argument; he opts for the shorter text. See Luke 12:54-56 for a similar saying.
In the first pericope, the Sign from Heaven, Matthew and Mark again align in sequence, although Mark's account is scant compared to that of Matthew. Luke is much closer to Matthew than Mark. In the second pericope, the Leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Matthew and Mark align in sequence and also in content, with, of course, a number of differences. The editorial comment, Matthew 8:12, is not found in Mark. Most commentators hold that Matthew has used Mark as his primary source, expanding the Sign from Heaven, and reworking the Leaven of the Pharisees. Luke follows Matthew's account of the Sign from Heaven. Those who hold to the primacy of Matthew disagree (the Griesbach theory). Of course, a proto Mark / common oral tradition is always possible. It is interesting though, to note the differences between Matthew and Mark's account of the Leaven of the Pharisees. Matthew's working of the tradition draws out the significance of Jesus as the source of divine manna / Word / teaching. In Mark, the disciples are without understanding, but in Matthew's account, their lack of understanding is downplayed, and inevitably, by means of Jesus' teaching, they come to understand, v12. In Matthew, the false teaching of the Pharisees is emphasized: the warning is repeated twice and an explanation as to its meaning is supplied in v12. "Matthew is determined to draw a distinction between the disciples of Jesus and the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, ie., official Judaism", Schweizer. In this way, Matthew's presentation of the received tradition serves his narrative intent.
Text - 16:1
A contest of ideas, v1-12: i] The request for a sign, v1-4. Israel's religious leaders are blind guides, they can't read the signs already before their eyes. The only sign for them is the sign of Jonah, namely, the proclamation of the gospel.
proselqonteV (prosercomai) aor. part. "came to Jesus" - [and the pharisees and sadducees] having approached [testing asked]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "asked".
peirazonteV (peirazw) pres. part. "to test him" - testing, tempting. The participle is adverbial, possibly final expressing purpose; "came and, in order to test him, asked." "Testing" expresses a hostile intent, and this with ephrwthsan, "besought", prompts Peterson's paraphrase "The Pharisees and Sadducees were on him again, pressing him to prove himself."
epideixai (epideiknimi) aor. inf. "to show" - [asked him] to show, display, reveal. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they asked Jesus, namely, to show them a sign from heaven.
autoiV dat. pro. "them" - Dative of indirect object after the verb "to show"; "to show a sign from heaven to them."
ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - [a sign] from [heaven]. Expressing source and origin. "Heaven" is the dwelling place of God, with the term sometimes a periphrasis of God himself, so a "sign from God", so Morris, Hagner. Yet, for such a meaning Matthew tends to use apo rather than ek. It seems likely that the requested sign (an evidential wonder authenticating divine authority) is of a heavenly nature rather than earthly. It is possible to argue that Jesus' earthly miracles are tricks, or worse, magic employing the dark arts. A sign from heaven is likely to be a cosmic sign, eschatological - a sign which can't be faked, eg., a voice from heaven, or the sun shining at night and the mood during the day, cf., 3:17, 17:5.
The illustration on reading the weather is not found in some of the older manuscripts. Those who favor its inclusion suggest that it was dropped in places like Egypt where a dark red sky in the morning is not an indicator of foul weather. Today we still use the same formula: "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning."
apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "he replied" - [and/but he] having answered [said]. Attendant circumstance participle, partly redundant / Semitic construction.
autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to them. Dative of indirect object.
genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. mid. part. "when [evening] comes" - [evening] having come. The participle serves within a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.
gar "for" - [you say fair weather] because [the heaven is fiery = red]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they say "fair weather", because the sky is red.
prwi adv. "in the morning" - Temporal adverb.
shmeron adv. "today" - you say today [it will be bad weather]. Temporal adverb.
gar "for" - for [the heaven is turned red]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they think it will be bad weather, because ......
stugnazwn (stugnazw) pres. part. "and overcast" - being sad, appalled = somber, gloomy. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to be fiery"; "The sky is red and has a threatening look", Cassirer.
men ..... de ".... but ...." - Adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand you know ..... but on the other hand you cannot ......"
diakrinein (diakrinw) pres. inf. "[you know] how to interpret" - [you know] to evaluate, consider. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they know, namely, "how to distinguish the look of the sky", Moffatt.
tou ouranou (oV) gen. "[the appearance] of the sky" - [the face] of the heaven. The genitive may be classified as verbal, subjective, "the signs of bad weather exhibited by the sky", but better adjectival, possessive, or attributive / idiomatic, "the signs of bad weather which are evident in the sky. "The look of the sky", Phillips = "you can tell what the weather will be like by looking at the sky", CEV.
ou dunasqe (dunamai) pres. mid./pas. "[but] you cannot interpret" - [but] you are not able [the signs of the time to know = evaluate, understand]. The complementary infinitive diakrinein, "to evaluate, consider = interpret", is assumed
ta ... shmeion (on) acc. "the signs" - Accusative of respect; "with respect / reference to the signs of the times, you are not able to evaluate." The "signs of the times" probably refers to the predicted events pointing to a "day of the Lord", a day set by God. Such a "day" is a day of judgment, eschatological, but not necessarily the final day, the parousia. It is a time of divine manifestation, a "day / time / year of visitation", days "which demand personal decision", D&A, cf., Isa.10:3. The evidence for such a day, realized in the person of Jesus, lay before the religious authorities of Israel, but they simply could not see "the signs in the ministry of Jesus marking the dawning of the messianic age", Hagner.
twn kairwn (oV) gen. "of the times" - The genitive can be taken as verbal, subjective, or adjectival, attributive, idiomatic; "the signs providing / which provide the key to these decisive times", Cassirer.
auth/ dat. pro. "[will be given] it" - [an evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign and no sign will be given] it. Dative of indirect object.
ei mh "except" - Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.
Iwna gen. prop. "[the sign] of Jonah. This genitive proper is adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the sign in mind. This Jonah sign is not the resurrection of Christ, with Jonah's three days in the belly of the whale representing the three days of Christ in the tomb, cf., 12:40. Within Matthew's paradigm for the gospel at work we learn that a sinful generation will look for miraculous signs, but the only sign for such a generation is the word of a suffering preacher. Like Jonah, the Son of Man and his disciples serve as a preachers of judgment, struggling to this end. Sadly, unlike Jonah, few in all of Israel will repent at the preaching of the gospel proving that they are indeed "a wicked and adulterous generation." This reality applies no less to our generation.
katalipwn (kataleipw) aor. part. "Jesus then left them" - [and] having left [them he went away]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to go away, depart", "he left them and departed." The participle could be treated as adverbial, temporal, as NIV.
ii] The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, v5-12.
elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "when they went [across the lake]" - [the disciples] having come. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal. Matthew's account is somewhat awkward when compared with Mark. In Mark the discussion between Jesus and his disciples seems to take place while they are sailing across the lake. Matthew, seemingly concerned not to imply that Jesus had forgotten the bread, ends up with the disciples sailing across the lake without Jesus and the discussion taking place when they disembark on the other side. This is just the type of awkward tangle that might occur when working from a received oral tradition rather than a document. The gist of the story would be preserved, there would be words in common, but local peculiarities and the author's propensities would also play their part (as here???). None-the-less, that Matthew used Mark (or possibly Mark used Matthew!!!), or some form of proto Mark, oral or written, as his prime source is supported by the parallel sequencing of the pericopes from 13:54 through to 17:23.
to "[across the lake]" - [to] the [beyond]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb peran, "beyond", into a substantive, "the other side"; "of the lake" is assumed.
labein (lambanw) aor. inf. "to take [bread]" - [forgot] to take [loaves]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the disciples forgot.
oJrate (oJraw) pres. imp. "be careful" - [but/and jesus said to them] see, look, watch. Used with the sense here "look out", "keep a sharp lookout" = "beware".
autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - Dative of indirect object.
apo + gen. "against" - [and pay close attention to / be apprehensive of] from. Here possibly expressing separation, "keep away from the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. ", Berkeley, although with verbs expression caution apo indicates the object of that caution, here "the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees"; see BDF #149.
thV zumhV (h) gen. "the yeast" - the leaven. Lane, writing within the context of Mark's gospel, suggests that the "yeast" of the Pharisees is "the disposition to believe only if signs which compel faith are produced." This is obviously not the sense in Matthew, nor probably in Mark. The "yeast" is their religious teaching. Like the teachings of say the Church of the Latter Day Saints, or the Jehovah Witnesses, not everything they teach is contrary to scripture, but from a Christian perspective, it is best to stay away from their nomist / law-based teaching - salvation is by grace through faith apart from the law. Beware! Keep away from the influence of the Pharisees' teachings.
twn farisaiwn (oV) gen. "of the Pharisees" - of the pharisees [and the sadducees]. The genitive may be treated as verbal, subjective, or adjectival, possessive; "Keep a sharp eye out for the Pharisee-Sadducee yeast", Peterson.
en + dat. "among [themselves]" - [but/and they were discussing, reasoning] in [themselves]. Expressing association; "among, with."
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "and said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "were discussing", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their discussing.
oJti "it is because" - that [we did not take loaves = bread]. The NIV takes the conjunction here as causal, but possibly also introducing direct speech, "we brought no bread", ESV, or a dependent statement of indirect speech, "they kept talking among themselves about bringing no loaves", Barclay, or even as a direct question, cf., MHT III p49.
gnouV (ginwskw) aor. part. "Aware of their discussion" - [but/and] having known what they were saying [jesus said, why are you discussing among yourselves]. The participle is adverbial, best taken as causal; "because Jesus was aware of / realized / understood what they were discussing."
oligopistoi adj. voc. "you of little faith" - little faith ones. The adjective serves as a substantive. Unlike Mark, Matthew makes little of the disciples' failings in this pericope. He is more focused on the subversive nature of the Pharisees teachings - it is all about protecting the kingdom word / gospel / bread from the nomist word / gospel / leaven of the Pharisees. Still, Matthew's perspective does not override a central issue of this pericope, namely, the failure of the disciples to keep in mind the messianic bounty which they recently experienced in the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 as they face the reality of daily living. Will not God provide for the mission of the messiah? The durative imperfect dielogizonto, "they were discussing", may well stress an ongoing debate over the failure to properly provision their trip, whereas a "she'll be right mate!" would have been more appropriate. So, for a sermon on the importance of faith in gospel ministry we are best to use Mark's account, but for a sermon on the corrupting influence of bad theology we are best to use Matthew.
oJti "about" - saying that [you have no bread]. Obviously here serving to introduce a dependent statement of indirect speech; See v7. "why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?", ESV.
oupw adv. "still not" - [do you] not yet [understand neither remember the five loaves]. Temporal adverb.
twn pentakisciliwn adj. "for the five thousand" - of the five thousand. The adjective serves as a substantive; "the five thousand men." The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic, "do you not remember the five loaves which were distributed to the five thousand men?"
posouV pro. "how many" - [and] how many [baskets you received]. Interrogative pronoun. Singular "how much, how great", but plural, "how many." A wonderful result which would be hard to forget - from five loaves 5,000 + are fed and there is an abundance left over.
oude "or" - nor [the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many baskets you received]. The negation serves to indicate a step in the argument. Syntax as for v9.
pwV "how is it" - how [is it that you are not understanding]. Here introducing a rhetorical question.
oJti "-" - that [I spoke not about loaves to you]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the disciples did not understand.
uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.
prosecete de apo thV zumhn twn Farisaiwn "but be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees" - See v6. "Haven't you realized that bread isn't the problem? The problem is yeast, Pharisee-Sadducee yeast", Peterson.
tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb serving to indicate a step in the narrative. "Then they got it!", Peterson.
oJti "that" - [they understood] that [he did not say]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the disciples came to understand.
prosecein (prosecw) pres. inf. "to guard" - to be apprehensive, alert, beware. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus did not say, namely, "to beware of the leaven of the loaves."
apo + gen. "against" - from. The basic sense of separation, "away from", is present, but again, as in v6, it identifies what the disciples should be apprehensive of, beware of, alert to (the object of caution), namely, not the leaven of bread, but the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
twn artwn (oV) gen. "[the yeast] used in bread" - [the yeast] of loaves = bread. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic, "the yeast / leaven which is found in bread"; "to beware of leaven in the sense of leaven that is in loaves (bread)", Barclay.
alla "but" - Strong adversative, as NIV, serving within a counterpoint construction; "not ..... but ......"
apo + gen. "against" - from. As above. The sentence is somewhat elliptical given that the logic is "but beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, that is / namely, the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
twn farisaiwn (oV) gen. "[the teaching] of the Pharisees" - [from the teaching] of the pharisees [and sadducees]. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective, or adjectival, possessive. "But to be more wary about allowing the Jewish leaders to influence them and lead them astray", Junkins.