Luke 17
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
Chap. 17:1-10.] Further discourses. The discourse appears to proceed onward from the foregoing.

1.] τὰ σκ. is perhaps owing to some offence which had happened;—the departure of the Pharisees in disgust, or some point in their conduct; such as the previous chapter alluded to.

ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν = οὐκ ἐνδέχεται, ch. 13:33.

2.] See Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:7, and notes.

τῶν μικ. τ., perhaps the publicans and sinners of ch. 15:1;—perhaps also, repeated with reference to what took place, Matt. l. c.

3, 4.] See on Matthew 18:15, Matthew 18:21, Matthew 18:22.

The προσέχετε ἑαυτ. here is to warn them not to be too readily dismayed at σκάνδαλα, nor to meet them in a brother with an unforgiving spirit.

ἐπιτίμ.] ‘ἀγάπη begins with ἀληθεύειν,’ Stier:—who remarks, that in the Church, as in the world, the love of many waxing cold,—not being strong or warm enough for this ἐπιτίμησον,—is the cause why offences abound.

5.] πρόσθ. ἡμ. πίστ.,increase our faith,’ of the E. V., is not exact: give us more faith, is more literal and simpler. Wordsw.’s rendering, “Give faith in addition to our other privileges, powers, and virtues,” is not so probable, seeing 1) that faith is not the crowning item in such a list, but the first and most elementary: and 2) that, had this been intended, it would most probably have been expressed πρόσθ. ἡμῖν καὶ πίστιν.

This is the only example in the Gospels in which the Apostles are marked out as requesting or saying any thing to the Lord. They are amazed at the greatness of the faith which is to overcome σκάνδαλα and forgive ἁμαρτήματα as in vv. 3, 4:—and pray that more faith may be added to them.

6.] See on Matt. (17:20) 21:21. On this occasion some particular tree of the sort was close at hand, and furnished the instance, just as the Mount of Transfiguration in the former of those passages, and the Mount of Olives in the latter.

συκάμινος is the mulberry-tree; not very common in Palestine, but still found there. It must not be confounded with συκομορέα, ch. 19:4, which is the Egyptian fig. See note there.

Notice the different tenses with ἄν: ἐλέγετε ἄν, ye would say: ὑπήκουσεν ἄν, it would (even while you were speaking) have obeyed.

ἐκριζώθ.] ‘Cum ipsis radicibus, in mari mansura. Tale quiddam fit ipsis fidelibus.’ Bengel.

7-10.] The connexion is,—‘Ye are servants of your Master; and therefore endurance is required of you,—faith and trust to endure out your day’s work before you enter into your rest. Your Master will enter into His, but your time will not yet come; and all the service which you can meanwhile do Him, is but that which is your bounden duty to do,—seeing that your body, soul, and spirit are His.’

7.] εὐθέως in the E. V. is wrongly joined with ἐρεῖ: it corresponds to μετὰ ταῦτα in ver. 8. ‘Construendum; cito accumbe: cito cupiunt accumbere qui missis cæteris officiis fidem sibi summam conferri oportere putant.’ Bengel.

8.] ἕως φ. κ. π., till I shall have eaten and drunken: see ch. 12:37, where a different assurance seems to be given. But our Lord is here speaking of what we in our state of service are to expect; there, of what in our state of manumission (‘mensæ servos adhibere manumissionis erat species.’ Grotius, citing from Ulpian) and adoption, the wonders of His grace will confer on us. Here the question is of right; there, of favour.

9.] Our Lord is not laying down rules for the behaviour of an earthly master to his servants,—but (see above) is speaking of the rightful state of relation between us, and Him whose we are, and whom we serve.

10.] This shews the sense of the parable, as applying to our own thoughts of ourselves, and the impossibility of any claim for our services to God.

In Romans 6:23 (see also the foregoing verses) we have the true ground on which we look for eternal life set before us;—viz. as the gift of God whose servants we are,—not the wages, as in the case of sin, whose we are not. In the case of men this is different; a good servant is εὔχρηστος (Philemon 1:11), not ἀχρεῖος, i.e. οὗ μὴ ἔχει τις χρείαν,—Etym. Mag. See Acts 17:25.

The case supposed introduces an argument à fortiori: ‘how much more, when ye have failed in so many respects.’ ‘Miser est quem Dominus servum inutilem appellat, Matthew 25:30; beatus qui se ipse.’ Bengel.

Thus closes the series of discourses which began with ch. 15:1.

11-19.] Healing of ten lepers. It does not appear to what part of the last journey this is to be referred. There is no reason for supposing it to have been subsequent to what has just been related:—this is not implied. It may have been at the very beginning of the journey. From the circumstance that these lepers were a mixed company of Jews and Samaritans, διὰ μέσον Σ. κ. Γ. probably means ‘between Samaria and Galilee,’ on the frontiers of both. Meyer supposes αὐτός to mean ‘He for his part’—separate from the others going up to the feast, who would go direct through Samaria. Xen. has διὰ μέσου δὲ ῥεῖ τούτων ποταμός, i.e. ‘between these walls.’ Anab. i. 4. 4.

This seems to be with Matthew 19:1. The journey mentioned there would lead Him διὰ μέσ. Σ. κ. Γ.

12. πόῤῥωθεν] See Leviticus 13:46: Numbers 5:2. The Rabbinical prescriptions as to the distance are given in Wetstein.

Their misery had broken down the national distinction, and united them in one company.

On the nature of leprosy and its significance, see on Matthew 8:2.

14.] One of our Lord’s first miracles had been the healing of a leper; then He touched him and said, ‘Be thou clean:’ now He sinks as it were the healing, and keeps it in the background;—and why so? There may have been reasons unknown to us; but one we can plainly see, and that is, to bring out for the Church the lesson which the history yields. In their going away, in the absence of Jesus they are healed: what need to go back and give Him thanks? Here was a trial of their love: faith they had, enough to go, and enough to be cleansed: but love (with the one exception)—gratitude, they had not.

ἐπιδείξ.] See note on Matthew 8:4.

ἐν τῷ ὑπ. αὐτ.] i.e. while on their way;—the meaning evidently being that they had not gone far, and that the whole took place within a short time. They had not been to the priests, as some suppose.

15.] The ἰδὼν ὅτι ἰάθη, and ὑπέστ. μ. φ. μεγ. δ. τ. θεόν, set before us something immediate, and, I should be inclined to think, witnessed by the narrator.

16. αὐτ. ἦν Σαμ.] Strauss supposes (and Hase, but doubtfully) from this, that the whole narrative arose out of a parable about Jews and Samaritans. Such an absurd notion is however not without its use for believers. Every miracle is a parable: our Lord did not work mere feats of supernatural power, but preached by His miracles as well as by His discourses.

17.] Were not the ten cleansed? but (of those ten) the nine, where (are they)?

18. ὁ ἀλλογ. οὗτ.] The Samaritans were Gentiles;—not a mixed race, as is sometimes erroneously supposed. They had a mixed religion, but were themselves originally from other countries: see 2Kings 17:24-41. There may have been a reason for the nine Jews not returning,—that they held the ceremonial duty imposed on them to be paramount, which the Samaritan might not rate so highly. That he was going to Mount Gerizim does not appear: from his being found with Jews, he probably would act as a Jew.

19.] σέσωκέν σε—in a higher sense than the mere cleansing of his leprosy—theirs was merely the beholding of the brazen serpent with the outward eyes,—but his, with the eye of inward faith; and this faith saved him;—not only healed his body, but his soul.

20-37.] Prophetic answer to the Pharisees. In this discourse we have several sayings which our Lord afterwards repeated in His last prophetic discourse to the four apostles on Mount Olivet; but much also which is peculiar to Luke, and most precious (eine kostliche Perle, De Wette).

20.] The question certainly is asked by the Pharisees, as all their questions were asked, with no good end in view: to entangle our Lord, or draw from Him some direct announcement which might be matter of accusation.

μετὰ παρατηρ.] with (accompanied with) anticipation, or observation. The cognate verb is used ch. 14:1 of the Pharisees ‘watching’ Jesus.

21. οὐδὲ ἐρ.…] Its coming shall be so gradual and unobserved, that none during its waxing onward shall be able to point here or there for a proof of its coming.

ἰδοὺ γάρ] for behold the kingdom of God is (already) among you. The misunderstanding which rendered these words ‘within you,’ meaning this in a spiritual sense, ‘in your hearts,’ should have been prevented by reflecting that they are addressed to the Pharisees, in whose hearts it certainly was not. Nor could the expression in this connexion well bear this spiritual meaning potentially—i.e. is in its nature, within your hearts. The words are too express and emphatic for this. We have the very expression, Xen. Anab. i. 10. 3,—ἀλλὰ καὶ ταύτην ἔσωσαν (οἱ Ἕλληνες) καὶ ἄλλα ὁπόσα ἐντὸς αὐτῶν καὶ χρήματα καὶ ἄνθρωποι ἐγένοντο πάντα ἔσωσαν:—see also John 1:26; John 12:35, both of which are analogous expressions. See the two renderings compared in Bleek’s note.

The kingdom of God was begun among them, and continues thus making its way in the world, without observation of men; so that whenever men can say ‘lo here or lo there,’—whenever great ‘revivals’ or ‘triumphs of the faith’ can be pointed to, they stand self-condemned as not belonging to that kingdom. Thus we see that every such marked event in the history of the Church is by God’s own hand as it were blotted and marred, so as not to deceive us into thinking that the kingdom has come. So it was at the Pentecostal era:—so at that of Constantine;—so at the Reformation.

The meaning ‘among you,’ includes of course the deeper and personal one ‘within each of you,’ but the two are not convertible.

22.] This saying is taken up from ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστίν. ‘He is among you, who is the Bridegroom,—the Son of Man;’—during whose presence ye cannot mourn, but when He shall be taken from you, you shall wish in vain for one of these days of His presence.

Stier (iii. 362) thinks this addressed to the Pharisees also, and to apply to their recognizing too late in their future misery the Messiahship of Jesus:—but this does not appear from the text.

Meyer tries to prove this interpretation altogether wrong, from the ἐν τ. ἡμέραις τ. υἱ. τ. ἀνθ., ver. 26. But the words have the general meaning of the days of the Son of Man’s presence, and this extends on to His future presence, or παρουσία, as well. Of course, if they hereafter desired to see one of the days of His presence, it would be a second or future presence.

23. καὶ ἐρ. ὑμ.] ‘Ye shall not see one;—therefore do not run after false reports of my coming.’ A warning to all so-called expositors, and followers of expositors, of prophecy, who cry ἰδοὺ ἐκεῖ and ἰδοὺ ὧδε, every time that war breaks out, or revolutions occur.

See on these verses, 23, 24, Matthew 24:23-27 and notes.

24. ἐκ τῆς … εἰς τὴν …] Supply χώρας … χώραν.

25-30.] The events which must precede the coming: and (1) ver. 25, as regards the Lord Himself,—His sufferings and rejection, primarily by this generation,—but in implication, by the world;—and (2) vv. 26-30, which unfold this implication as regards the whole world, which shall be in its state of carelessness and sensuality at that time: see notes on Matthew 24:37-39. The example of the days of Lot is added here,—and thereby the sanction of the Lord of Truth given to another part of the sacred record, on which modern scepticism has laid its unhallowed hands.

28.] Bornemann joins ὁμοίως with the former verse—but thus the parallelism (see ver. 29, end) is broken.

29.] ἔβρεξεν, impersonal, not ὁ θεὸς ἔβρ. That such an expression as ὁ θεὸς βρέχει is used Matthew 5:45, is no proof that when βρέχει is used impersonally the sacred name is to be supplied.

Ver. 31 refers immediately to the example of Sodom just related. In Matthew 24:16-18 it finds its place by a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, see there.

32.] A solemn caution is here added, binding the warning to the example before,—μὴ ἐπιστρεψάτωremember her who did.

33.] See on Matthew 10:39, and ch. 9:24. In connexion here, it leads the way to vv. 34, 35.

ζητήσῃ should be rendered as a futurus exactus, as an aorist conjoined with a future always must be:—shall have sought, i.e. ‘during his preceding life,’—shall lose it then.

ζωογονήσει, vivipariet (Acts 7:19): an expressive word, derived from animal parturition, bringing forth to air and life what was before concealed in the womb. That day shall come as the pains of labour (ὠδῖνες) on a woman in travail (Matthew 24:8): but to the saints of God it shall be the birth of the soul and body to life and glory everlasting. See St. Ignatius ad Rom. c. 6.” Wordsw.

34-36.] See on Matthew 24:40, Matthew 24:41. Here, there are two references: (1) to the servants of the Lord in the midst of the world out of which they shall be separated: (2) to the separation of the faithful and unfaithful among themselves.

Ver. 34 indicates a closer relationship than that of mere fellow-workmen, and sets forth the division of even families in that day.

37.] ποῦ, not ‘how?’ (Kuinoel) but literal—where shall this happen? The disciples know not the universality of this which our Lord is announcing to them, and which His dark and awful saying proclaims, see note on it, Matthew 24:28.

Observe, there is not a word, except so far as the greater coming includes the lesser, in all this, of the destruction of Jerusalem. The future παρουσία of the Lord is the only subject: and thus it is an entirely distinct discourse from that in Mat_24, or our ch. 21.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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