Page images

the scriptures made an essential part of the Jewish public worship. But it was not confined to those, who were properly the ministers of religion. The rulers of the synagogue assigned it to such persons in the congregation, as they knew were capable


with which this part of the service was accompanied; and only one verse with part of another was read. Vitringa also affirms, that, as far as he knows, the passage mentioned makes no part of any section of the prophets now read in the synagogue, De Vet. Synag. p. 1000. But the first objection proves too much; for the forecited passage, Acts xiii. 15. shews that a call from the rulers was necessary to a person's preaching in the place of public worship. It is therefore strange, that Vitringa should have insisted on the omission of this circumstance, to prove that Jesus now performed the office, not of a reader but a teacher. The truth is, an omission of this kind can prove nothing at all, as it is well known that the revangelists in their narrations have omitted many circumstances which really existed. But to pass this, the historian himself seems to have determined the matter in dispute; for he says expressly, that Jesus went into the synagogue on the sabbath day and stood up for to read, which I think implies, that he did read the section for the day, and that he was authorised to do so. The reason is, it does not appear that any portion of scripture was used in the synagogue-service besides the appointed sections, the shemas excepted, which were three passages in the books of Moses, beginning with the word shema, whose signification is bear thou, and which were written on the Phylacteries; see on Matt. xxiii. 5. § 121. As for the benedictions, it was quite foreign to the evangelist's purpose to take any notice of them at all. And that there was only one verse read with part of another, if I mistake not, Vitringa will find it hard to prove from any thing Luke has said. He tells us, that Jesus stood up for to read. 17. And there svas delivered to him the book of the prophet Isaias, and when he had opened the book he found the place; no sooner had he separated the two rolls of the volume (αναπτυξης το Co) than that lesson of the prophet presented itself, subere it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Therefore, since the evangelist says expressly, that Jesus stood up for to read, those who understand the customs of the synagogue, and the manner in which the books of the ancients were written and rolled up, must acknowledge that what he read was in all probability the section for the day, which presented itself of course, and that he did not deliver the book to the minister till he had finished it. For consistently enough with these suppositions, Luke might characterize the lesson read, by that particular passage of it which Jesus chose to make the subject of his sermon to the congregation, especially as that sermon occasioned his removal to Capernaum, which was the principal point the historian had in view.-To Vitringa's last argument I reply, that though the passage read should not be found in any section of the prophets read at present in the synagogue, it will by no means follow, that it was not used in the synagogue anciently, especially as it is well known, that all the Jews do not now observe one rule in this matter. Or, though they were perfectly agreed about the lessons, should the practice of men, who in many instances have deviated from the institutions of their fathers, outweigh in a matter of antiquity, the testimony of an author who lived in the age he wrote of, and who could not but know the form of worship then practised. Nevertheless, if the reader pleases to consult the table printed at the end of Vander klooght's edition of the Hebrew Bible, he will find that Isa Ixi. 1. according to the custom of all the synagogues, falls to be read with the fiftieth section of the law. For the section of the prophets corresponding with the fiftieth section of the law,

of it. Nay, they sometimes conferred the honour upon strangers, and incited them to give the people an exhortation on such subjects, as were suggested by the passage read; see Acts xiii. 15. Wherefore, though Jesus was none of the stated ministers of religion in the town of Nazareth, the office of reading the scriptures, and of exhorting the people which they now assigned him, was agreeable to the regulations of the synagogue. Perhaps the rulers, knowing the reports which went of his mira. cles, and having heard of the Baptist's testimony concerning him, were curious to hear him read and expound the scriptures; and the rather, because it was well known in Nazareth, that he had not had the advantage of a learned education. Wherefore, as the Hebrew was now a dead language, and Jesus had not been taught to read, his actual reading, and with such facility, the original Hebrew scriptures, as well as his expounding them, was a clear proof of his inspiration.-17. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written: The books of the ancients consisted of one long sheet of paper or parchment, which they rolled up neatly on a round piece of wood. When a book of this kind was to be read, they unrolled it gradually as they read it, and put what was read round another piece of wood of the same sort with the former. Wherefore, as the scriptures were read in order, the passage of the prophet Isaiah which fell of course to be read in the synagogue of Nazareth, would naturally present itself on separating the two rolls of the book. This happened to be the celebrated prediction, Isa. lxi. 1. in which Messiah is introduced describing his own mission, character, and office.-18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: This was said of the prophets, when they


begins at Isa. Ix. 1. and ends where the next section begins, viz. at lxi. 11. It was therefore the section for the day which Jesus read in the synagogue of Nazareth. If so, the chronology of this part of the histo ry is determined. For the first section of the law being anciently read on the first Sabbath of Tizri, the seventh month, answering to our September, because Ezra, the father of the synagogue, began the public reading on the first day of that month, Neh. viii. 2. the fiftieth section, with its corresponding passage in the prophets, fell to be read on the last Sabbath of August, or the first of September. The Jews at present begin the law according to the primitive institution of Moses, Deut. xxxi. 10, 11. on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, that is, the 22d day of Tizri. By this commencement it was a week or two later in the year when our Lord read the Scriptures publicly in the synagogue of Nazareth, was expelled the town, and fixed his residence in Capernaum, of which the history will lead us to speak in the next section. It is hoped the reader will not think such a particular discussion of this point improper, in a commentary on the harmony of the gospels, when he considers the use that is made of it for fixing the chronology of so important an event in our Lord's history, as his removal from Nazareth to Capernaum, which from that time forth became the place of his ordinary residence.


were under an immediate afflatus of the Spirit-because he hath anointed me, i. e. commissioned me; in allusion to the Jewish kings, priests, and prophets, who were consecrated to their office by anointing,-to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted: The reason why I Messiah enjoy so great a degree of inspiration, and am endowed with the power of working such astonishing miracles, is, because God hath commissioned me to preach the glad tidings of salvation to the poor, and by so doing, hath sent me to heal all without distinction, whose hearts are broken by sharp convictions of sin and fears of punishment. To one who considers the matter attentively, it must appear an unspeakable recommendation of the gospel dispensation, that it offers the pardon of sin, and salvation to all, on the same terms. The rich here have no pre-eminence over the poor, as they seem to have had under the law, which prescribed such costly sacrifices for the atonement of sin, as were very burdensome to the poor. The prophet Isaiah, therefore, in describing the happiness of gospel times, very fitly introduces Messiah mentioning this as one of the many blessings which would accrue to the world from his coming, that the glad tidings of salvation were to be preached by him and his ministers to the poor, and consequently were to be offered to them without money and without price," as it is expressed Isa. lv. 1. (See on Luke vii. 22. § 42.)-To preach (ungvžai to proclaim) deliverance to the captives, † and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. This is a magnificent description of Messiah's miracles. All that he needed to do for the deliverance of such persons as were held captives, or, as the apostle expresses it, Acts x. 38. were oppressed of the devil, was to proclaim or declare them delivered. In like manner, to give recovery of sight to the blind, or to work any other miracle of healing whatever, no more was requisite but


3 I


• Ver. 18. Preach the gospel to the poor.] The passage of Isaiah here quoted runs in our translation thus, Preach good tidings to the meek. But the Hebrew word rendered meek, signifies more properly one in a low and afflicted condition.

+Ibid. And recovering of sight to the blind.] Instead of this clause, which is likewise in the LXX. the present Hebrew copies of Isaiah have, And the opening of the prison to the bound. Perhaps the alteration was made by the Masoreths, because the original reading preserved by the LXX. and by the evangelists, gave too much countenance to the pretensions of the Christians, who affirmed that the miracles which Jesus performed on the blind, were the very miracles which, according to the predictions of Isaiah, Messiah was to perform.

Ibid. To set at liberty them that are bruised.] This clause is neither in the LXX. nor in the original Hebrew. We find it indeed, Isa. Iviii. 6. where the LXX. have the very words. Le Clerc therefore supposes that this passage, from the Iviii. chapter, having been placed on the margin of Luke as parallel to the citation from the lxi. chapter, came at length to be inserted into the text as part of that citation.


that he should speak the word.-19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, to proclaim that happy period of the divine 'dispensations towards mankind, in which a full and free remission of all their offences was to be offered to them, and which might be fitly represented in prophecy by the Jewish jubilee, wherein debts were forgiven, slaves released, and inheritances restored to their original owners. It is observable that in this description of Messiah's ministry, Isaiah has alluded to the manners of the Eisterns, who in ancient times were so inhuman as to lead captive into far distant lands, those whom they conquered. Their principal captives they cast into prison loaded with irons, which sore burised their bodies; and to render them incapable of raising fresh disturbances, or, it may be, to increase their misery, they sometimes put out their eyes. In this manner, Nebuchadnezzar treated Zedekiah. Wherefore, as Messiah in many other prophecies had been represented under the notion of a great and eighty conqueror, Isaiah, in describing his spiritual triumphs, with great propriety introduces him declaring, that he was come to subdue the oppressors of mankind, and to deliver from captivity and misery those wretches whom they had enslaved, by opening their prison doors, healing the wounds and bruises occasioned by their chains, and even by giving sight to those whose eyes had been put out in prison. Some, understanding this prophecy in a literal sense, are of opinion, that it foretels the alteration which by the Christian religion hath been made in the policy of nations, but especially in the manner of making war, and of treating the vanquished; in both which, much more humanity is used now than anciently, to the great honour of the Christian institution and of its author. 20. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister (vængira the servant who had brought it to him) and * sat down; and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him: they looked on him with great attention, expecting to hear him explain the passage. 21. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. In speaking to the congregation from the prophecy, he told them it was that day fulfilled in their ears. For although no miracle had been done in their city, they were credibly informed of many that had been wrought by him; and, it may be, also at the passover, hid seen him do such things as fully answered the prophet's description



Ver. 20. Sat down, &c.] The Jewish doctors, to shew their reverence for the Scriptures, always stood when they read them, but when they Thus we find our taught the people they sat down. See Matt. xxiii. 2. Lord sitting down in the synago ue to preach, after he had read the passage in the prophet which he made the subject of his discourse. The custom of preaching from a text of Scripture, which now prevails throughout all the Christian churches, seems to lave derived its origin from the authority of this example.

of Messiah.-By some illustration of this kind, Jesus proved his assertion in a sermon of considerable length, the subject of which only is mentioned by Luke, though at the same time he leads us to think of the sermon itself; for he tells us, verse 22. That (And) all the congregation bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. It seems on this occasion, Jesus delivered his thoughts with such strength of reason, clearness of method, and beauty of expression, that his townsmen, who all knew he had not had the advantage of a liberal education, were so astonished, that in their conversation with one another, they could not forbear expressing their admiration. At the same time, the malevolence of their disposition led them to mingle with their praises a reflection, which they thought sufficiently confuted his pretensions to Messiahship, and shewed the absurdity of the application which he had made of Isaiah's prophecy to himself as Messiah: And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? (see John vii. 26.) From the harmony it appears, that when our Lord came into Galilee, with a view to exercise his ministry, he did not go to Nazareth; on the contrary, he passed by it, and went straight to Cana, which lay not far from Sidon. (See on John ii. 1. § 19.) This exasperated the Nazarenes. Besides, he had not performed any miracle in their town, far less had he done any like that which they heard he had performed in Capernaum, where he cured the nobleman's son without stirring from Cana. It seems they thought, since their townsman could so easily give health to the sick at a distance, there ought not to have been so much as one diseased person in all Nazareth. Our Lord's own words suggest this conjecture. 23. And he said unto them, * Ye surely say to me, ye apply to me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country, plainly alluding to the cure of the nobleman's son: as if they had said, Since thou possessest powers so great, and art able to cure sick people at a distance, we cannot help thinking, that in thine absence thou oughtest to have recovered the sick of thy native city, rather than those of any other town: it being expected of every physician, that he will bestow the healing virtue of his art upon his own relations and friends who need it, sooner than upon strangers. In answer to their ill-natured whispers, Jesus told them plainly, that his character would suffer nothing by their rejecting him, because it ever had been the lot of the prophets to be despised in their own country. 24. And he said, Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. And with relation to his having wrought no miracle of healing in their town, he insinuated



*Ver. 23. Ye surely say to me.] So the translation should run: for sgart, the word in the original, is not the future of sigw dico, but the present tense of $ga dico.


« PreviousContinue »