Gospel of Mark Chapter 12:13-17, 28-34 Antique Commentary Quotes

Catena Aurea
Mar 12:13-16
Bede: The Chief Priests though they sought to take Him, feared the multitude, and therefore they endeavored to effect what they could not do of themselves, by means of earthly powers, that they might themselves appear to be guiltless of His death.And therefore it is said, “And they send unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch Him in His words.”

Theophylact: We have said elsewhere of the Herodians, that they were a certain new heresy, who said that Herod was the Christ, because the succession of the kingdom of Judah had failed. Others however say that the Herodians were the soldiers of Herod, whom the Pharisees brought as witnesses of the words of Christ, that they might take Him, and lead Him away. But observe how in their wickedness they wished to deceive Christ by flattery; for it goes on: “Master, we know that thou art true.”

Pseudo-Jerome: For they questioned Him with honied words, and they surrounded Him as bees, who carry honey in their mouth, but a sting in their tail.

Bede: But this bland and crafty question was intended to induce Him in His answer rather to fear God than Caesar, and to say that tribute should not be paid, so that the Herodians immediately on hearing it might hold Him to be an author of sedition against the Romans.

And therefore they add, “And carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of any.”

Theophylact: So that thou wilt not honour Caesar, that is, against the truth. Therefore they add, “But teachest the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give?”

For their whole plot was one which had a precipice on both sides, so that if He said that it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, they might provoke the people against Him, as though He wished to reduce the nation itself to slavery; but if He said, that it was not lawful, they might accuse Him, as though He was stirring up the people against Caesar; the Fountain of wisdom escaped their snares.

Wherefore there follows: “But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it.”

Bede: A denarius was a piece of money, accounted equal to ten smaller coins, and bearing the image of Caesar; wherefore there follows: “And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto Him, Caesar’s.

Let those who think that our Saviour asked the question through ignorance and not by an economy, learn from this that He might have known whose image it was; but He puts the question, in order to return them a fitting answer.

Wherefore there follows: “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Theophylact: As if He had said, Give what bears an image to him whose image it bears, that is, the penny to Caesar; for we can both pay Caesar his tribute, and offer to God what is His own.
Bede: That is, tithes, first-fruits, oblations, and victims. In the same way as He gave tribute both for Himself and Peter, He also gave to God the things that are God’s, doing the will of his Father.

Pseudo-Jerome: Render to Caesar the money bearing his image, which is collected for him, and render yourselves willingly up to God, for the light of thy countenance, O Lord [Psa_4:6], and not of Caesar’s, is stamped upon us.

Theophylact: The inevitable wants of our bodies is as Caesar unto each of us; the Lord therefore orders that there should be given to the body its own, that is, food and raiment, and to God the things that are God’s. It goes on: “And they marvelled at Him.” They who ought to have believed, wondered at such great wisdom, because they had found no place for their craftiness.

John Calvin
Mat 22:15
That they might entrap him in his words. The Pharisees, perceiving that all their other attempts against Christ had been fruitless, at length concluded that the best and most expeditious method of destroying him was, to deliver him to the governor, as a seditious person and a disturber of the peace. There was at that time, as we have seen under another passage, a great disputing among the Jews about the tribute-money;for, since the Romans had claimed for themselves the tribute-money,which God commanded to be paid to Himself under the Law of Moses, (Exo_30:13,) the Jews everywhere complained that it was a shameful and intolerable crime for profane men to lay claim, in this manner, to a divine prerogative; besides that, as this payment of tribute, which was enjoined on them by the Law, was a testimony of their adoption, they looked upon themselves as deprived of an honor to which they had a just claim. Now the deeper any man’s poverty was, the bolder did it render him to raise sedition.

This trick of taking Christ by surprise is therefore continued by the Pharisees, that, in whatever way he reply as to the tribute money,they may lay snares for him. If he affirm that they ought not to pay, he will be convicted of sedition. If, on the contrary, he acknowledge it to be justly due, he will be held to be an enemy of his nation, and a betrayer of the liberty of his country. Their principal object is, to lead the people to dislike him. This is the entrapping to which the Evangelists refer; for they suppose that Christ is surrounded on all sides by nets, so that he can no longer escape. Having avowed themselves to be his enemies, and knowing that they would, on that account, be suspected, they put forward — as Matthew states— some of their disciples. Luke, again, calls them spies, who pretended to be righteous men; that is, persons who deceitfully professed an honest and proper desire to learn: for the pretense of righteousness is not here used in a general sense, but is limited to the present occasion, because they would not have been received, had they not made a pretense of docility and of genuine zeal.

With the Herodians. They take along with them the Herodians, because they were more favorable to the Roman government, and therefore would be more disposed to raise an accusation. It is worthy of attention that, though those sects had fierce contentions with each other, so bitter was their hatred against Christ, that they conspired to destroy him. What the sect of the Herodians was, we have formerly explained for, Herod being only half a Jew, or a spurious and corrupt professor of the Law, those who desired that the Law should be kept with exactness and in every part, condemned him and his impure worship; but he had his flatterers, who gave plausible excuses for his false doctrine. In addition to the other sects, therefore, there sprung up at that time a religion of the Court.

Albert Barnes

Mat_22:15
Then went the Pharisees – See the notes at Mat_3:7.

How they might entangle him – To entangle means to “ensnare,” as birds are taken by a net. This is done secretly, by leading them within the compass of the net and then suddenly springing it over them.

So to entangle is artfully to lay a plan for enticing; to beguile by proposing a question, and by leading, if possible, to an incautious answer. This was what the Pharisees and Herodians endeavored to do in regard to Jesus.

In his talk – The word “his” is supplied by the translators, perhaps improperly. It means “in conversations,” or by “talking” with him; not alluding to anything that he had before said.

John Calvin
Mat 22:16
16.Master, we know that thou art true. This is the righteousness which they counterfeit, when they offer humble subjection to Christ, as if they were desirous to learn, and as if they not only had some relish for piety, but also were fully convinced of his doctrine; for if what they said had been from the heart, this would have been true uprightness. And therefore from their words we may obtain a definition of a good and faithful teacher, such as they pretended to believe Christ to be. They say that he is true, and teaches the way of God; that is, he is a faithful interpreter of God, and that he teaches it in truth; that is, without any corruption. The way of God is contrasted with the inventions of men, and with all foreign doctrines; and truth is contrasted with ambition, covetousness, and other wicked dispositions, which usually corrupt the purity of instruction. So then he ought to be reckoned a true teacher, who does not introduce the contrivances of men, or depart from the pure word of God, but gives out, as it were, with his hands what he has learned from the mouth of God, and who, from a sincere desire of edification, accommodates his doctrine to the advantage and salvation of the people, and does not debase it by any disguise. As to this latter clause, when Paul asserts that he does not make merchandise of the word of God, (2Co_2:17,) he means that there are some persons who use dexterity, and do not openly overturn sound doctrine, or incur the disgrace of holding wicked opinions, but who disguise and corrupt the purity of doctrine, because they are ambitious, or covetous, or easily turned in various directions according to their earnest desire. He therefore compares them to jockeys, (κυπηλλεύοντες,) because they deprave the pure use of the word of God.

For thou regardest not the person of men. It is also worthy of attention, that those hypocrites likewise add, that Christ teaches rightly, because he has no regard for the person of men. Nothing has a more powerful tendency to withdraw teachers from a faithful and upright dispensation of the word than to pay respect to men; for it is impossible that any one who desires to please men (Gal_1:10 ) should truly devote himself to God. Some attention, no doubt, is due to men, but not so as to obtain their favor by flattery. In short, in order to walk uprightly, we must necessarily put away respect of persons, which obscures the light and perverts right judgment, as God frequently inculcates in the Law, (Deu_1:16,) and as experience also points out. Thus Christ (Joh_7:24 ) contrasts acceptance of persons(προσωποληψίαν) and sound judgmentas things totally different.

Adam Clarke
Mat 22:16
The Herodians – For an account of this sect, see the note on Mat_16:1. The preceding parable had covered the Pharisees with confusion: when it was ended they went out, not to humble themselves before God, and deprecate the judgments with which they were threatened; but to plot afresh the destruction of their teacher. The depth of their malice appears,

1. In their mode of attack. They had often questioned our Lord on matters concerning religion; and his answers only served to increase his reputation, and their confusion. They now shift their ground, and question him concerning state affairs, and the question is such as must be answered; and yet the answer, to all human appearance, can be none other than what may be construed into a crime against the people, or against the Roman government.

2. Their profound malice appears farther in the choice of their companions in this business, viz. the Herodians. Herod was at this very time at Jerusalem, whither he had come to hold the passover. Jesus, being of Nazareth, which was in Herod’s jurisdiction, was considered as his subject. Herod himself was extremely attached to the Roman emperor, and made a public profession of it: all these considerations engaged the Pharisees to unite the Herodians, who, as the Syriac intimates, were the domestics of Herod, in this infernal plot.

3. Their profound malice appears, farther, in the praises they gave our Lord. Teacher, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God. This was indeed the real character of our blessed Lord; and now they bear testimony to the truth, merely with the design to make it subserve their bloody purposes. Those whose hearts are influenced by the spirit of the wicked one never do good, but when they hope to accomplish evil by it. Men who praise you to your face are ever to be suspected. The Italians have a very expressive proverb on this subject: – He who caresses thee more than he was wont to do, has either Deceived thee, or is About To Do It.

I have never known the sentiment in this proverb to fail; and it was notoriously exemplified in the present instance. Flatterers, though they speak the truth, ever carry about with them a base or malicious soul.

4. Their malice appears still farther in the question they propose. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? – Mat_22:17.
The constitution of the Jewish republic, the expectations which they had of future glory and excellence, and the diversity of opinions which divided the Jews on this subject, rendered an answer to this question extremely difficult: –

1. In the presence of the people, who professed to have no other king but God, and looked on their independence as an essential point of their religion.

2. In the presence of the Pharisees, who were ready to stir up the people against him, if his decision could be at all construed to be contrary to their prejudices, or to their religious rights.

3. In the presence of the Herodians, who, if the answer should appear to be against Caesar’s rights, were ready to inflame their master to avenge, by the death of our Lord, the affront offered to his master the emperor.

4. The answer was difficult, because of the different sentiments of the Jews on this subject; some maintaining that they could not lawfully pay tribute to a heathen governor: while others held that as they were now under this strange government, and had no power to free themselves from it, it was lawful for them to pay what they had not power to refuse.

5. The answer was difficult, when it is considered that multitudes of the people had begun now to receive Jesus as the promised Messiah, who was to be the deliverer of their nation from spiritual and temporal oppression, and therefore had lately sung to him the Hosanna Rabba: see Mat_21:9. If then he should decide the question in Caesar’s favor, what idea must the people have of him, either as zealous for the law, or as the expected Messiah? If against Caesar, he is ruined. Who that loved Jesus, and was not convinced of his sovereign wisdom, could help trembling for him in these circumstances?

Jesus opposes the depth of his wisdom to the depth of their malice, and manifests it: –

1. By unmasking them, and showing that he knew the very secrets of their hearts. Ye Hypocrites! why tempt ye me? i.e. why do ye try me thus? This must cover them with confusion, when they saw their motives thus discovered; and tend much to lessen their influence in the sight of the people, when it was manifest that they acted not through a desire to receive information, by which to regulate their conduct, but merely to ensnare and ruin him.

2. Christ shows his profound wisdom in not attempting to discuss the question at large; but settled the business by seizing a maxim that was common among all people, and acknowledged among the Jews, That the prince who causes his image and titles to be stamped on the current coin of a country, is virtually acknowledged thereby as the governor. See Maimon. Gezel. c. v. in Wetstein. When Sultan Mahmoud, king of Maveralnahar, Turquestan, and the Indies, wished to seize on the dominions of Seideh, queen of Persia, who governed in the place of her young son Megededde-vlet, about a.d. 909, he sent an ambassador to her with the following order: You must acknowledge me for your King, cause the kootbah to be read, i.e. pray for me in all the mosques of the kingdom, and Get Your Money recoined, with the Impression That Is On Mine: thus denoting that she must become absolutely subject to him. See Bibliot. Orient. de Galand. p. 453. Esau Afghan carried his conquest into Bhatty, into the viceroyalty of Bengal, and caused the kootbah to be read, and coin to be struck in the name of the Emperor Akbar. Ayeen Akbery, vol. ii p. 5. See also p. 38, 92, 94, 130, 139, 187.

John Gill

Mat 22:16 And they sent out unto him their disciples,…. Who were trained up in the same way of thinking with themselves, had imbibed the same tenets, and were strenuous defenders of them; and no doubt they selected the most crafty and artful among them; and who were the best versed in their principles and sophistic method of arguing: these they the rather sent, imagining they would not be known, as they themselves were: and from their age and air of simplicity, might be taken for innocent persons, who in great sincerity, came to be instructed by him,

with the Herodians: learned men are very much divided in their sentiments about these men; some think they were Gentiles under the government of Herod; but it is not likely that the Pharisees would join themselves with such, whose company they carefully shunned; others, that they were Gentile proselytes, as Herod was; but that on either of these accounts, they should be called by his name, there seems to be no reason: others say, they were Greeks, whom Herod brought out of a desert into his own country, and formed a sect, which from him were called Herodians: this way went Drusius, in which he was followed by several learned men, until the mistake was detected; who took it from a passage in the Hebrew Lexicon, called “Baal Aruch”, mistaking the word יונים, for “Greeks”, which signifies “doves”: the Jewish writer referring to a passage in the Misna (m), which speaks of יוני חרדסיאות, “Herodian doves”; that is, tame ones, such as were brought up in houses: for that these are meant, is clear from the Misnic and Talmudic writers, and their commentators (n); and were so called, because that Herod was the first that tamed wild doves, and brought up tame ones in his own palace; and so Josephus (o) says, that he had many towers stored with tame doves, which was a new thing in Judea. Others, that they were Sadducees, which carries some appearance of truth in it; since what is styled the leaven of the Sadducees, in Mat_16:6 is called the leaven of Herod, in Mar_8:15 And very probable it is, that Herod was a Sadducee, and that his courtiers, at least many of them, were of the same sect; but yet it is certain, that the Sadducees are spoken of, as distinct from these Herodians, in Mat_22:23 of this chapter. Others, that they were a set of men, that formed a new scheme of religion, consisting partly of Judaism, and partly of Gentilism, approved and espoused by Herod, and therefore called by his name; and others, that they were such as held, that Herod was the Messiah; but it is certain, that Herod did not think so himself, nor the people of the Jews in common; and whatever flatterers he might have in his life time, it can hardly be thought, that this notion should survive his death, who was odious to the Jewish nation: others think, that they were such, who were not for paying tribute to Caesar, but to Herod, and were encouraged and defended by him and his courtiers, as much as they could; since he and his family looked upon themselves to be injured by the Romans, and secretly grudged that tribute should be paid unto them: others, on the contrary, say, that these were such, who pleaded that tribute ought to be paid to Caesar, by whose means Herod enjoyed his government, and was supported in it; and were just the reverse of the Pharisees, with whom they are here joined, in their attempts on Christ. The Syriac version renders the word by דבית הרודס, “those of the house”, or “family of Herod”, his courtiers and domestics: in Munster s Hebrew Gospel, they are called עבדי הרודוס, “the servants of Herod”; and certain it is, that Herod was at Jerusalem at this time, Luk_23:7 We read (p) of Menahem, who was one while an associate of Hillell, who with eighty more clad in gold, went המלך לעבודת, “into the service of the king”, that is, Herod, and hence might be called Herodians. Wherefore these seem rather to be the persons designed, whom the Pharisees chose to send with their disciples, though they were of Herod’s party, and were on the other side of the question from them; being for giving tribute to Caesar, by whom their master held his government; that should Christ be ensnared by them, as they hoped he would, into any seditious or treasonable expressions against Caesar, these might either accuse him to Herod, or immediately seize him, and have him before the Roman governor. Luke observes, that these men, the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians, were sent forth as “spies, which should feign themselves just men”; men of religion and holiness, and who were upright and sincere in their question, and who had strong inclinations to become his disciples: the Jews themselves own, that they sent such persons to Jesus, whom they mention by name, in such a disguised manner to deceive him: their words are these (q);

“They (the Sanhedrim) sent unto him Ananiah and Ahaziah, honourable men of the lesser sanhedrim, and when they came before him they bowed down to him–and he thought that they believed in him, and he received them very courteously.”

Saying, master: as if they were his disciples, or at least were very willing to be so: however, they allow him to be a doctor or teacher, and a very considerable one:

we know that thou art true; a true and faithful minister, that teachest truth, and speakest uprightly; one of great integrity, and to be depended upon:

and teachest the way of God in truth; rightly opens the word of God, gives the true and genuine sense the law of God, faithfully instructs men in the worship of God; and with great sincerity, directs men to the way of coming to God, and enjoying eternal happiness with him; having no sinister ends, or worldly interest in view:

neither carest thou for any man; be he ever so great and honourable, in ever so high a station, be he Caesar himself; signifying, that he was a man of such openness and integrity, that he always freely spoke the real sentiments of his mind, whether men were pleased or displeased; being in no fear of man, nor in the least to be intimidated by frowns and menaces, or any danger from men: for thou regardest not the person of men; as he had not the persons of the high priests and elders, the grand sanhedrim of the nation, who had lately been examining him in the temple: and seeing therefore he made no difference among men, whether learned or unlearned, rich or poor, high or low; whether they were in exalted stations and high offices, or not he feared no man’s face, and accepted no man’s person, but gave his sense of things, without fear or flattery; they hoped he would give a direct answer to the following question, though Caesar himself was concerned in it.

(m) Cholin, c. 12. sect 1. (n) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 139. 1. & Betza, fol. 24. 1. & 25. 1. Misn. Sabbat. c. 24. 8. & Cholin, c. 12. sect. 1. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (o) De Bello Jud. 1. 6. c. 13. (p) Juchasin, fol. 19. 1. (q) Toldos Jesu, p. 8.

Albert Barnes
Mat_22:16
The Herodians – It is not certainly known who these were.

It is probable that they took their name from Herod the Great. Perhaps they were first a political party, and were then distinguished for holding some of the special opinions of Herod. Dr. Prideaux thinks that those opinions referred to two things. The first respected subjection to a foreign power. The law of Moses was, that a “stranger should not be set over the Jews as a king,” Deu_17:15. Herod, who had received the kingdom of Judea by appointment of the Romans, maintained that the law of Moses referred only to a voluntary choice of a king, and did not refer to a necessary submission where they had been overpowered by force. His followers supposed, therefore, that it was lawful in such cases to pay tribute to a foreign prince. This opinion was, however, extensively unpopular among the Jews, and particularly the Pharisees, who looked upon it as a violation of their law, and regarded all the acts growing out of it as oppressive. Hence, the difficulty of the question proposed by them. Whatever way he decided, they supposed he would be involved in difficulty. If he should say it was not lawful, the Herodians were ready to accuse him as being an enemy of Caesar; if he said it was lawful, the Pharisees were ready to accuse him to the people of holding an opinion extremely unpopular among them, and as being an enemy of their rights. The other opinion of Herod, which they seem to have followed, was, that when a people were subjugated by a foreign force, it was right to adopt the rites and customs of their religion. This was what was meant by the “leaven of Herod,” Mar_8:15. The Herodians and Sadducees seem on most questions to have been united. Compare Mat_16:6; Mar_8:15.

We know that thou art true – A hypocritical compliment, not believed by them, but artfully said, as compliments often are, to conceal their true design. “Neither carest thou for any man.” That is, thou art an independent teacher, delivering your sentiments without regard to the fear or favor of man. This was true, and probably they believed this. Whatever else they might believe about him, they had no reason to doubt that he delivered his sentiments openly and freely.

For thou regardest not the person of men – Thou art not partial. Thou wilt decide according to truth, and not from any bias toward either party. To regard the person, or to respect the person, is in the Bible uniformly used to denote partiality, or being influenced in a decision, not by truth, but by previous attachment to a “person,” or to one of the parties by friendship, or bias, or prejudice, Lev_19:15; Jud_1:16; Deu_16:19; 2Sa_14:14; Act_10:34; Jam_2:1, Jam_2:3,Jam_2:9; 1Pe_1:17.

Albert Barnes
Mat_22:17
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar? – Tribute was the tax paid to the Roman government.

Caesar – The Roman emperor.

The name Caesar, after the time of Julius Caesar, became common to all the emperors, as Pharaoh was the common name of all the kings of Egypt. The “Caesar” who reigned at this time was Tiberius – a man distinguished for the grossest vices and most disgusting and debasing sensuality.

John Calvin
Mat 22:18
18.Knowing their malice. They had opened the conversation in such a manner that they did not appear to differ at all from excellent scholars. Whence then had Christ this knowledge, but because his Spirit was a discerner of hearts? It was not by human conjecture that he perceived their cunning, but because he was God he penetrated into their hearts, and therefore they gained nothing by attempting the concealment of flattery and of pretended righteousness. Accordingly, before giving a reply, he exhibited a proof of his Divinity by laying open their concealed malice. Now since wicked men every day employ snares of the same kind, while their inward malice is concealed from us, we ought to pray to Christ to bestow upon us the spirit of discernment, and that what he had by nature and by his own right he may grant to us by a free gift. How much we need this prudence, is evident from the consideration that, if we do not guard against the snares of the wicked, we shall constantly expose the doctrine of God to their calumnies.

John Calvin
Mat 22:19
19.Show me the tribute-money. When Christ orders them to bring forward a coin, though at first sight it appears to be of no great importance, yet it is sufficient for breaking their snares. In this way they had already made an acknowledgment of subjection, so that Christ did not find it necessary to enjoin upon them any thing new. The coin was stamped with Caesar’s likeness; and thus the authority of the Roman government had been approved and admitted by the general practice. Hence it was evident that the Jews themselves had voluntarily come under obligation to pay tribute for they had given up to the Romans the power of the sword; and there was no propriety in making a separate dispute about the tribute-money, for that question depended on the general arrangements of the government.

Adam Clarke
Mat 22:19
They brought unto him a penny – A denarius: probably the ordinary capitation tax, though the poll tax in the law, Exo_30:13, Exo_30:14, was half a shekel, about twice as much as the denarius. The Roman denarius had the emperor’s image with a proper legend stamped on one side of it. It was not therefore the sacred shekel which was to be paid for the repairs of the temple which was now demanded, but the regular tribute required by the Roman government.

A.T. Robertson
Mat 22:19
Tribute money (to nomisma tou kensou). Kensos, Latin census, was a capitation tax or head-money, tributum capitis, for which silver denaria were struck, with the figure of Caesar and a superscription, e.g. “Tiberiou Kaisaros” (McNeile). Nomisma is the Latin numisma and occurs here only in the N.T., is common in the old Greek, from nomizo sanctioned by law or custom.

John Calvin
Mat 22:21
21.Render therefore to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s. Christ reminds them that, as the subjection of their nation was attested by the coin, there ought to be no debate on that subject; as if he had said, “Ifyou think it strange to pay tribute, be not subjects of the Roman Empire. But the money (which men employ as the pledge of mutual exchanges) attests that Caesar rules over you; so that, by your own silent consent, the liberty to which you lay claim is lost and gone.” Christ’s reply does not leave the matter open, but contains full instruction on the question which had been proposed. It lays down a clear distinction between spiritual and civil government, in order to inform us that outward subjection does not prevent us from having within us a conscience free in the sight of God. For Christ intended to refute the error of those who did not think that they would be the people of God, unless they were free from every yoke of human authority. In like manner, Paul earnestly insists on this point, that they ought not the less to look upon themselves as serving God alone, if they obey human laws, if they pay tribute, and bend the neck to bear other burdens, (Rom_13:7.) In short, Christ declares that it is no violation of the authority of God, or any injury done to his service, if, in respect of outward government, the Jews obey the Romans.

He appears also to glance at their hypocrisy, because, while they carelessly permitted the service of God to be corrupted in many respects, and even wickedly deprived God of his authority, they displayed such ardent zeal about a matter of no importance; as if he had said, “You are exceedingly afraid, lest, if tribute be paid to the Romans, the honor of God may be infringed; but you ought rather to take care to yield to God that service which he demands from you, and, at the same the to render to men what is their due.” We might be apt to think, no doubt, that the distinction does not apply; for, strictly speaking, when we perform our duty towards men, we thereby render obedience to God. But Christ, accommodating his discourse to the common people, reckoned it enough to draw a distinction between the spiritual kingdom of God, on the one hand, and political order and the condition of the present life, on the other. We must therefore attend to this distinction, that, while the Lord wishes to be the only Lawgiver for governing souls, the rule for worshipping Him must not be sought from any other source than from His own word, and that we ought to abide by the only and pure worship which is there enjoined; but that the power of the sword, the laws, and the decisions of tribunals, do not hinder the worship of God from remaining entire amongst us.

But this doctrine extends still farther, that every man, according to his calling, ought to perform the duty which he owes to men; that children ought willingly to submit to their parents, and servants to their masters; that they ought to be courteous and obliging towards each other, according to the law of charity, provided that God always retain the highest authority, to which every thing that can be due to men is, as we say, subordinate. The amount of it therefore is, that those who destroy political order are rebellious against God, and therefore, that obedience to princes and magistrates is always joined to the worship and fear of God; but that, on the other hand, if princes claim any part of the authority of God, we ought not to obey them any farther than can be done without offending God.

Adam Clarke
Mat 22:21
They say unto him, Caesars – The image was the head of the emperor; the superscription, his titles. Julius Caesar was the first who caused his image to be struck on the Roman coin. Tiberius was emperor at this time.

Render therefore unto Caesar – The conclusion is drawn from their own premises. You acknowledge this to be Caesar’s coin; this coin is current, in your land; the currency of this coin shows the country to be under the Roman government; and your acknowledgment that it is Caesar’s proves you have submitted. Don’t therefore be unjust; but render to Caesar the things which you acknowledge to be his; at the same time, be not impious, but render unto God the thing’s which belong to God.
This answer is full of consummate wisdom. It establishes the limits, regulates the rights, and distinguishes the jurisdiction of the two empires of heaven and earth. The image of princes stamped on their coin denotes that temporal things belong all to their government. The image of God stamped on the soul denotes that all its faculties and powers belong to the Most High, and should be employed in his service.

But while the earth is agitated and distracted with the question of political rights and wrongs, the reader will naturally ask, What does a man owe to Caesar? – to the civil government under which he lives? Our Lord has answered the question – That which IS Caesar’s. But what is it that is Caesar’s? 1. Honour. 2. Obedience. And 3. Tribute.

1. The civil government under which a man lives, and by which he is protected, demands his honor and reverence.

2. The laws which are made for the suppression of evil doers, and the maintenance of good order, which are calculated to promote the benefit of the whole, and the comfort of the individual should be religiously obeyed.

3. The government that charges itself with the support and defense of the whole, should have its unavoidable expenses, however great, repaid by the people, in whose behalf they are incurred; therefore we should pay tribute.

But remember, if Caesar should intrude into the things of God, coin a new creed, or broach a new Gospel, and affect to rule the conscience, while he rules the state, in these things Caesar is not to be obeyed; he is taking the things of God, and he must not get them. Give not therefore God’s things to Caesar, and give not Caesar’s things to God. That which belongs to the commonwealth should, on no account whatever, be devoted to religious uses; and let no man think he has pleased God, by giving that to charitable or sacred uses which he has purloined from the state. The tribute of half a shekel, which the law, (Exo_30:13, Exo_30:14), required every person above twenty years of age to pay to the temple, was, after the destruction of the temple, in the time of Vespasian, paid into the emperor’s exchequer. This sum, Melancthon supposes, amounted annually to Three Tons Of Gold.

John Calvin
Mat 22:22
22They wondered at him. Here, too, it appears how God turns to a different purpose the wicked attempts of His enemies, and not only disappoints their expectation, but even drives them back with disgrace. It will sometimes happen, no doubt, that wicked men, though vanquished, do not cease to growl; but, though their insolence be not subdued, however numerous may be their assaults on the Word of God, there is an equal number of victories which God has in his hand, to triumph over them and Satan their head. But in this reply, Christ intended to give a peculiar display of his glory, by compelling those men to depart crowned with shame.

Catena Aurea
Mar 12:28-34
Gloss.: After that the Lord confuted the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, who tempted Him, it is here shewn how He satisfied the Scribe who questioned Him.

Wherefore it is said, “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?”

Pseudo-Jerome: This question is only that which is a problem common to all skilled in the law, namely, that the commandments are differently set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Wherefore He brought forward not one but two commandments, by which, as by two paps rising on the breast of the bride, our infancy is nourished.

And therefore there is added, “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one God.” He mentions the first and greatest commandment of all; this is that to which each of us must give the first place in his heart, as the only foundation of piety, that is, the knowledge and confession of the Divine Unity, with the practice of good works, which is perfected in the love of God and our neighbour.

Wherefore there is added, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

Theophylact: See how He has enumerated all the powers of the soul; for there is a living power in the soul, which He explains, when He says, “With all thy soul,” and to this belong anger and desire, all of which He will have us give to Divine love.

There is also another power, which is called natural, to which belong nutriment and growth, and this also is all to be given to God, for which reason He says, “With all thy heart.”

There is also another power, the rational, which He calls the mind, and that too is to be given whole to God.

Gloss.: The words which are added, “And with all thy strength,” may be referred to the bodily powers.It goes on: “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Theophylact: He says that it is like, because these two commandments are harmonious one with the other, and mutually contain the other. For he who loves God, loves also His creature; but the chief of His creatures is man, wherefore he who loves God ought to love all men. But he who loves his neighbor, who so often offends him, ought much more to love Him, who is ever giving him benefits. And therefore on account of the connection between these commandments, He adds, “There is none other commandment greater than these.”

It goes on: “And the Scribe said unto Him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Bede: He shews when he says, “this is greater than all sacrifices,” that a grave question was often debated between the scribes and Pharisees, which was the first commandment, or the greatest of the Divine law; that is, some praised offerings and sacrifices, others preferred acts of faith and love, because many of the fathers before the law pleased God by that faith only, which works by love. This scribe shews that he was of the latter opinion.

But it continues: “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”

Theophylact: By which He shews that he was not perfect, for He did not say, Thou art within the kingdom of heaven, but, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”

Bede: But the reason why he was not far from the kingdom of God was, that he proved himself to be a favourer of that opinion, which is proper to the New Testament and to Gospel perfection.

Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 73: Nor let it trouble us that Matthew says, that he who addressed this question to the Lord tempted Him; for it may be that though he came as a tempter, yet he was corrected by the answer of the Lord. Or at all events, we must not look upon the temptation as evil, and done with the intention of deceiving an enemy, but rather as the caution of a man who wished to try a thing unknown to him.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, he is not far who comes with knowledge; for ignorance is farther from the kingdom of God than knowledge; wherefore He says above to the Sadducees, “Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God.” It goes on: “And no man after that durst ask Him any questions.”

Bede: For since they were confuted in argument, they ask Him no further questions, but take Him without any disguise, and give Him up to the Roman power. From which we understand that the venom of envy may be overcome, but can hardly lie quiet.

John Calvin
Mat 22:34
Although I think that this narrative has nothing more than a resemblance to what is related by Matthew in the 22nd, and by Mark in the 12thchapter, of his Gospel, and that they are not the same; I have chosen to collect them into one place, because, while Matthew and Mark affirm that this was the last question by which our Lord was tempted, Luke makes no mention of that circumstance, and seems intentionally to leave it out, because he had stated it in another passage. And yet I do not dispute that it may be the same narrative, though Luke has some things different from the other two. They all agree in this, that the scribe put a question for the sake of tempting Christ; but he who is described by Matthew and Mark goes away with no bad disposition; for he acquiesces in Christ’s reply, and shows a sign of a teachable and gentle mind: to which must be added, that Christ, on the other hand, declares that he is not far from the kingdom of God. Luke, on the other hand, introduces a man who was obstinate and swelled with pride, in whom no evidence of repentance is discovered. Now there would be no absurdity in saying that Christ was repeatedly tempted on the subject of true righteousness, and of keeping the Law, and of the rule of a good life. But whether Luke has related this out of its proper place, or whether he has now passed by the other question — because that former narrative relating to doctrine was sufficient — the similarity of the doctrine seemed to require me to compare the three Evangelists with each other.

Let us now see what was the occasion that led this scribe to put a question to Christ. It is because, being an expounder of the Law, he is offended at the doctrine of the gospel, by which he supposes the authority of Moses to be diminished. At the same time, he is not so much influenced by zeal for the Law, as by displeasure at losing some part of the honor of his teaching. He therefore inquires at Christ, if he wishes to profess any thing more perfect than the Law; for, though he does not say this in words, yet his question is ensnaring, for the purpose of exposing Christ to the hatred of the people. Matthew and Mark do not attribute this stratagem to one man only, but show that it was done by mutual arrangement, and that out of the whole sect one person was chosen who was thought to excel the rest in ability and learning. In the form of the question, too, Luke differs somewhat from Matthew and Mark; for, according to him, the scribe inquires what men must do to obtain eternal life, but according to the other two Evangelists, he inquires what is the chief commandment in the law. But the design is the same, for he makes a deceitful attack on Christ, that, if he can draw any thing from his lips that is at variance with the law, he may exclaim against him as an apostate and a promoter of ungodly revolt.

John Gill
Mat 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer,…. Or that was “learned”, or “skilful in the law”, as the Syriac and Persic versions, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel read. The Ethiopic version calls him, “a Scribe of the city”, of the city of Jerusalem; but I do not meet with any such particular officer, or any such office peculiar to a single man any where: mention is made of “the Scribes of the people” in Mat_2:4 and this man was one of them, one that interpreted the law to the people, either in the schools, or in the synagogues, or both; and Mark expressly calls him a “Scribe”: and so the Arabic version renders the word here; and from hence it may be concluded that the lawyers and Scribes were the same sort of persons. This man was by sect a Pharisee, and by his office a Scribe; or interpreter of the law, and suitable to his office and character,

asked him a question, tempting him, and saying: he put a difficult and knotty question to him, and thereby making a trial of his knowledge and understanding of the law; and laying a snare for him, to entrap him if he could, and expose him to the people, as a very ignorant man: and delivered it in the following form.

Albert Barnes
Mat 22:36
Which is the great commandment? – That is, the “greatest” commandment, or the one most important.

The Jews are said to have divided the law into “greater and smaller” commandments. Which was of the greatest importance they had not determined. Some held that it was the law respecting sacrifice; others, that respecting circumcision; others, that pertaining to washings and purifying, etc.

The law – The word “law” has a great variety of significations; it means, commonly, in the Bible, as it does here, “the law given by Moses,” recorded in the first five books of the Bible.

Marvin Vincent
Mat 22:36
Which is the great commandment (ποία ἐντολὴ μεγάλη)

The A. V. and Rev. alike miss the point of this question, which is: which kind of command is great in the law? That is, what kind of a commandment must it be to constitute it a great one? Not, which commandment is greatest as compared with the others? The scribes declared that there were 248 affirmative precepts, as many as the members of the human body; and 365 negative precepts, as many as the days in the year; the total being 613, the number of letters in the Decalogue. Of these they called some light and some heavy. Some thought that the law about the fringes on the garments was the greatest; some that the omission of washings was as bad as homicide; some that the third commandment was the greatest. It was in view of this kind of distinction that the scribe asked the question; not as desiring a declaration as to which commandment was greatest, but as wanting to know the principle upon which a commandment was to be regarded as a great commandment.

John Gill
Mar 12:29 Jesus answered him, the first of all the commandments is,…. Christ replied at once, without taking any time to consider of it, that the chief and principal of all the commands of the law, and what is of the greatest importance is,

hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. The Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions read, “one God”; but the Syriac, and Ethiopic render it, “one Lord”; and that rightly, agreeably to the Greek text, and to Deu_6:4, from whence this is taken. This passage of Scripture, to the end of the ninth verse, is the first of the sections which were put into their phylacteries; See Gill on Mat_23:5; and was repeated twice every day, morning and evening; which is by the Jews called from the first word קריאת שמע, “the reading of the Shema”: concerning the exact time of the reciting of this, morning and evening, and of the posture in which they do it, reclining in the evening, and standing in the morning, and of the prayers before and after it, various rules are given in their Misna (p), or oral law; it is a precept of great esteem and veneration with them, and attended to with much solemnity. The account Maimonides (q) gives of it is this:

“twice every day they read Keriath Shema; (i.e. “hear, O Israel”, &c.) in the evening and in morning, as it is said, Deu_6:7. “When thou liest down, and when thou risest up”; in the hour it is the custom of men to lie down, and this is night; and in the hour it is the custom of men to stand, and this is day: and what does he read? three sections; and they are these, “hear”, &c. Deu_6:4, and it shall come to pass, “if ye shall hearken”, &c. Deu_11:13, “and Moses said”, &c. Exo_13:3, and they read the section, “hear, O Israel”, first, because there is in it the unity of God, and the love of him and his doctrine; for it is, העקר הגדול, “the great root”, or “foundation”, on which all hangs or depends.”

And it is observable, that the last letter of the word “hear”, and the last of the word “one”, are both written in very large characters in the Hebrew Bible, to denote the greatness of the command, and to cause attention to it. The Jews seek for mysteries in these letters, and think the unusual size of them, points at some very great things: they observe, that the first of these letters is numerically “seventy”, and directs to the seventy names of the law, and the seventy ways in which it may be interpreted, and the seventy nations of the world, from whom the Israelites are distinguished, by their belief of the one God (r); and that the latter stands for the number “four”, and shows that the Lord is the one God, in heaven and in earth, in all the world, and in the four parts of it; and that both these letters put together, make a word, which signifies “a witness”; showing that this passage is a glorious testimony of the unity of God, and that the Israelites are witnesses of it, by believing and professing it; and that should they depart from the faith of it, God would be a witness against them: and now, though there is no solid foundation for such interpretations, yet this shows what an opinion they had of the greatness of this command; to which, may be added, they ask (s),

“why does, “hear, O Israel”, &c. go before that passage in Deu_11:13. “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments”, &c. but because a man must take upon him, first the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and after that he must take upon him the yoke of the commandments.”

The sense is, that he must first make a confession of his faith in God, which is contained in Deu_6:4 and then he must obey his commands; so that they plainly considered this, as the first and greatest of all. These words are frequent in the mouths of the modern Jews, in proof of the unity of God, and against a plurality in the Deity; but the ancient ones, not only consider them as a good and sufficient proof, that there is but one God, but as expressive of a Trinity in the Godhead: with a view to this text they observe (t), that

“Jehovah, “our God, Jehovah”; these are, תלת דרגין, “three degrees” (or persons) with respect to this sublime mystery, “in the beginning, God”, or “Elohim, created”, &c.”

And again (u),

“there is an unity which is called Jehovah the first, our God, Jehovah; behold! they are all one, and therefore called one: lo! these three names are as one; and although we call them one, and they are one; but by the revelation of the Holy Ghost it is made known, and they are by the sight of the eye to be known, that “these three are one”, (see 1Jo_5:7,) and this is the mystery of the voice that is heard; the voice is one; and there are three things, fire, and wind, and water, and they are all one, in the mystery of the voice, and they are not but one: so here, Jehovah, our God, Jehovah, these, תלתא גוונין, “three modes, forms”, or “things”, are one.”

Once more they (w) say,

“there are two, and one is joined to them, and they are three; and when they are three, they are one: these are the two names of hear, O Israel, which are Jehovah, Jehovah, and Elohenu, or our God, is joined unto them; and it is the seal of the ring of truth.”

To which I shall subjoin one passage more, where R. Eliezer is asking his father R. Simeon ben Jochai, why Jehovah is sometimes called Elohim, he replies (x), among other things;

“come see, there are גדרגין, “three degrees”, (or persons,) and every degree is by itself; although they are all one, and bound together in one, and one is not separated from another.”

To believe this, is the first and chief commandment in the law, and is the principal article of the Christian faith; namely, to believe that there is one God, and that there are three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, in the Godhead.

(p) Berncot, c. 1. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4. (q) Hilch. Keriat Shema, c. 1. sect. 1, 2. (r) Baal Hatturim, in Deut. vi. 4. (s) Misn. Berncot, c. 2. sect. 2. (t) Zohar in Gen. fol. 1. 3. (u) Zohar in Exod. fol. 18. 3, 4. (w) Ib. in Num. fol. 67. 3. (x) Zohar in Lev. fol. 27. 2.

John Calvin
Mat 22:37
Thou shalt love the Lord thou God. According to Mark, the preface is inserted, that Jehovah alone is the God of Israel;by which words God supports the authority of his law in two ways. For, first, it ought to be a powerful excitement to the worship of God, when we are fully convinced that we worship the actual Creator of heaven and earth, because indifference is naturally produced by doubt; and, secondly, because it is a pleasing inducement to love him, when he freely adopts us as his people. So then, that they may not hesitate, as usually happens in cases of uncertainty, the Jews are informed that the rule of life is prescribed to them by the true and only God; and, on the other hand, that they may not be kept back by distrust, God approaches to them in a familiar manner, and reminds them of his gracious covenant with them. And yet there is no reason to doubt that the Lord distinguishes himself from all idols, that the Jews may not be drawn aside from him, but may adhere to the pure worship of God himself. Now if uncertainty does not keep back the wretched worshippers of idols from being carried away to the love of them by impetuous zeal, what excuse is left for the hearers of the Law, if they remain indifferent, after that God has revealed himself to them?

What follows is an abridgment of the Law, which is also found in the writings of Moses, (Deu_6:5.) For, though it is divided into two tables, the first of which relates to the worship of God, and the second to charity, Moses properly and wisely draws up this summary, that the Jews may perceive what is the will of God in each of the commandments. And although we ought to love God far more than men, yet most properly does God, instead of worship or honor, require love from us, because in this way he declares that no other worship is pleasing to Him than what is voluntary; for no man will actually obey God but he who loves Him. But as the wicked and sinful inclinations of the flesh draw us aside from what is right, Moses shows that our life will not be regulated aright till the loveof God fill all our senses. Let us therefore learn, that the commencement of godliness is the love of God, because God disdains the forced services of men, and chooses to be worshipped freely and willingly; and let us also learn, that under the love of God is included the reverence due to him.

Moses does not add the mind, but mentions only the heart, and the soul, and the strength; and though the present division into four clauses is more full, yet it does not alter the sense. For while Moses intends to teach generally that God ought to be perfectly loved, and that whatever powers belong to men ought to be devoted to this object, he reckoned it enough, after mentioning the soul and the heart, to add the strength, that he might not leave any part of us uninfluenced by the love of God; and we know also that under the word heart the Hebrews sometimes include the mind,particularly when it is joined to the word soul What is the difference between the mind and the heart, both in this passage and in Matthew, I do not trouble myself to inquire, except that I consider the mind to denote the loftier abode of reason, from which all our thoughts and deliberations flow.

It now appears from this summary that, in the commandments of the Law, God does not look at what men can do, but at what they ought to do; since in this infirmity of the flesh it is impossible that perfect love can obtain dominion, for we know how strongly all the senses of our soul are disposed to vanity. Lastly, we learn from this, that God does not rest satisfied with the outward appearance of works, but chiefly demands the inward feelings, that from a good root good fruits may grow.

Adam Clarke
Mat 22:37
Thou shalt love the Lord – This is a subject of the greatest importance, and should be well understood, as our Lord shows that the whole of true religion is comprised in thus loving God and our neighbor.

It may not be unnecessary to inquire into the literal meaning of the word love. Αγαπη, from αγαπαω, I love, is supposed to be compounded either of αγαν and ποιειν, to act vehemently or intensely; or, from αγειν κατα παν, because love is always active, and will act in every possible way; for he who loves is, with all his affection and desire, carried forward to the beloved object, in order to possess and enjoy it. Some derive it from αγαν and παυεσθαι, to be completely at rest, or, to be intensely satisfied; because he who loves is supremely contented with, and rests completely satisfied in, that which he loves. Others, from αγαν and παω, because a person eagerly embraces, and vigorously holds fast, that which is the object of his love. Lastly, others suppose it to be compounded of αγαω, I admire, and παυομαι, I rest, because that which a man loves intensely he rests in, with fixed admiration and contemplation. So that genuine love changes not, but always abides steadily attached to that which is loved.

Whatever may be thought of these etymologies, as being either just or probable, one thing will be evident to all those who know what love means, that they throw much light upon the subject, and manifest it in a variety of striking points of view. The ancient author of a MS. Lexicon in the late French king’s library, under the word αγαπη, has the following definition: ΑσπαϚος προθεσις επι τη φιλια του φιλουμενου – Σομψυχια. “A pleasing surrender of friendship to a friend: – an identity or sameness of soul.” A sovereign preference given to one above all others, present or absent: a concentration of all the thoughts and desires in a single object, which a man prefers to all others. Apply this definition to the love which God requires of his creatures, and you will have the most correct view of the subject. Hence it appears that, by this love, the soul eagerly cleaves to, affectionately admires, and constantly rests in God, supremely pleased and satisfied with him as its portion: that it acts from him, as its author; for him, as its master; and to him, as its end. That, by it, all the powers and faculties of the mind are concentrated in the Lord of the universe. That, by it, the whole man is willingly surrendered to the Most High: and that, through it, an identity, or sameness of spirit with the Lord is acquired – the man being made a partaker of the Divine nature, having the mind in him which was in Christ, and thus dwelling in God, and God in him.

But what is implied in loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., and when may a man be said to do this?

1. He loves God with all his heart, who loves nothing in comparison of him, and nothing but in reference to him: – who is ready to give up, do, or suffer any thing in order to please and glorify him: – who has in his heart neither love nor hatred, hope nor fear, inclination, nor aversion, desire, nor delight, but as they relate to God, and are regulated by him.

2. He loves God with all his soul, or rather, εν ολη τη ψυχη, with all his life, who is ready to give up life for his sake – to endure all sorts of torments, and to be deprived of all kinds of comforts, rather than dishonor God: – who employs life with all its comforts, and conveniences, to glorify God in, by, and through all: – to whom life and death are nothing, but as they come from and lead to God, From this Divine principle sprang the blood of the martyrs, which became the seed of the Church. They overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and loved not their lives unto the death. See Rev_12:11.

3. He loves God with all his strength (Mar_12:30; Luk_10:27) who exerts all the powers of his body and soul in the service of God: – who, for the glory of his Maker, spares neither labor nor cost – who sacrifices his time, body, health, ease, for the honor of God his Divine Master: – who employs in his service all his goods, his talents, his power, credit, authority, and influence.

4. He loves God with all his mind (intellect – διανοια) who applies himself only to know God, and his holy will: – who receives with submission, gratitude, and pleasure, the sacred truths which God has revealed to man: – who studies no art nor science but as far as it is necessary for the service of God, and uses it at all times to promote his glory – who forms no projects nor designs but in reference to God and the interests of mankind: – who banishes from his understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought, together with every idea which has any tendency to defile his soul, or turn it for a moment from the center of eternal repose. In a word, he who sees God in all things – thinks of him at all times – having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging him in all his ways – who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of his name: – this is the person who loves God with all his heart, life, strength, and intellect. He is crucified to the world, and the world to him: he lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image from glory to glory. Simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, he receives continual supplies of enlightening and sanctifying grace, and is thus fitted for every good word and work. O glorious state! far, far, beyond this description! which comprises an ineffable communion between the ever-blessed Trinity and the soul of man!

Albert Barnes
Mat_22:37
Jesus said unto him … – Mark says that he introduced this by referring to the doctrine of the unity of God “Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord” – taken from Deu_6:4. This was said, probably, because all true obedience depends on the correct knowledge of God. None can keep his commandments who are not acquainted with his nature, his perfections, and his right to command,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart – The meaning of this is, thou shalt love him with all thy faculties or powers. Thou shalt love him supremely, more than all other beings and things, and with all the ardor possible. To love him with all the heart is to fix the affections supremely on him, more strongly than on anything else, and to be willing to give up all that we hold dear at his command,

With all thy soul – Or, with all thy “life.” This means, to be willing to give up the life to him, and to devote it all to his service; to live to him, and to be willing to die at his command,

With all thy mind – To submit the “intellect” to his will. To love his law and gospel more than we do the decisions of our own minds. To be willing to submit all our faculties to his teaching and guidance, and to devote to him all our intellectual attainments and all the results of our intellectual efforts.

“With all thy strength” (Mark). With all the faculties of soul and body. To labor and toil for his glory, and to make that the great object of all our efforts.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Mar 12:30
And thou shalt — We have here the language of law, expressive of God’s claims. What then are we here bound down to do? One word is made to express it. And what a word! Had the essence of the divine law consisted in deeds, it could not possibly have been expressed in a single word; for no one deed is comprehensive of all others embraced in the law. But as it consists in an affection of the soul, one word suffices to express it – but only one. Fear, though due to God and enjoined by Him, is limited in its sphere and distant in character. Trust, hope, and the like, though essential features of a right state of heart towards God, are called into action only by personal necessity, and so are – in a good sense, it is true, but still are properly – selfish affections; that is to say, they have respect to our own well-being. But LOVE is an all-inclusive affection, embracing not only every other affection proper to its object, but all that is proper to be done to its object; for as love spontaneously seeks to please its object, so, in the case of men to God, it is the native well spring of a voluntary obedience. It is, besides, the most personal of all affections. One may fear an event, one may hope for an event, one may rejoice in an event; but one can love only a Person. It is the tenderest, the most unselfish, the most divine of all affections. Such, then, is the affection in which the essence of the divine law is declared to consist.

Thou shalt love — We now come to the glorious Object of that demanded affection.

Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God — that is, Jehovah, the Self-Existent One, who has revealed Himself as the “I AM,” and there is none else; who, though by His name Jehovah apparently at an unapproachable distance from His finite creatures, yet bears to Thee a real and definite relationship, out of which arises His claim and Thy duty – of Love. But with what are we to love Him? Four things are here specified. First, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”

with thy heart — This sometimes means “the whole inner man” (as Pro_4:23); but that cannot be meant here; for then the other three particulars would be superfluous. Very often it means “our emotional nature” – the seat of feeling as distinguished from our intellectual nature or the seat of thought, commonly called the “mind” (as in Phi_4:7). But neither can this be the sense of it here; for here the heart is distinguished both from the “mind” and the “soul.” The “heart,” then, must here mean the sincerity of both the thoughts and the feelings; in other words, uprightness or true-heartedness, as opposed to a hypocritical or divided affection. But next, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God” with thy soul. This is designed to command our emotional nature: Thou shalt put feeling or warmth into thine affection. Further, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”

with thy mind — This commands our intellectual nature: Thou shalt put intelligence into thine affection – in opposition to a blind devotion, or mere devoteeism. Lastly, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”

with thy strength — This commands our energies: Thou shalt put intensity into thine affection – “Do it with thy might” (Ecc_9:10). Taking these four things together, the command of the Law is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy powers – with a sincere, a fervid, an intelligent, an energetic love.” But this is not all that the Law demands. God will have all these qualities in their most perfect exercise. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” says the Law, “with all thy heart,” or, with perfect sincerity; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul,” or, with the utmost fervor; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind,” or, in the fullest exercise of an enlightened reason; and “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength,” or, with the whole energy of our being! So much for the First Commandment.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Mar 12:31
And the second is like — “unto it” (Mat_22:39); as demanding the same affection, and only the extension of it, in its proper measure, to the creatures of Him whom we thus love – our brethren in the participation of the same nature, and neighbors, as connected with us by ties that render each dependent upon and necessary to the other.

Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself — Now, as we are not to love ourselves supremely, this is virtually a command, in the first place, not to love our neighbor with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. And thus it is a condemnation of the idolatry of the creature. Our supreme and uttermost affection is to be reserved for God. But as sincerely as ourselves we are to love all mankind, and with the same readiness to do and suffer for them as we should reasonably desire them to show to us. The golden rule (Mat_7:12) is here our best interpreter of the nature and extent of these claims.

There is none other commandment greater than these — or, as in Mat_22:40, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (see on Mat_5:17). It is as if He had said, “This is all Scripture in a nutshell; the whole law of human duty in a portable, pocket form.” Indeed, it is so simple that a child may understand it, so brief that all may remember it, so comprehensive as to embrace all possible cases. And from its very nature it is unchangeable. It is inconceivable that God should require from his rational creatures anything less, or in substance anything else, under any dispensation, in any world, at any period throughout eternal duration. He cannot but claim this – all this – alike in heaven, in earth, and in hell! And this incomparable summary of the divine law belonged to the Jewish religion! As it shines in its own self-evidencing splendor, so it reveals its own true source. The religion from which the world has received it could be none other than a God-given religion!

John Calvin
Mat 22:39
39.And the second is like it. He assigns the second place to mutual kindness among men, for the worship of God is first in order. The commandment to love our neighbors, he tells us, is like the first, because it depends upon it. For, since every man is devoted to himself, there will never be true charity towards neighbors, unless where the love of God reigns; for it is a mercenary love which the children of the world entertain for each other, because every one of them has regard to his own advantage. On the other hand, it is impossible for the love of God to reign without producing brotherly kindness among men.

Again, when Moses commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he did not intend to put the love of ourselves in the first place, so that a man may first love himself and then love his neighbors; as the sophists of the Sorbonneare wont to cavil, that a rule must always go before what it regulates. But as we are too much devoted to ourselves, Moses, in correcting this fault, places our neighbors in an equal rank with us; thus forbidding every man to pay so much attention to himself as to disregard others, because kindness unites all in one body. And by correcting the self-love (φιλαυτίαν) which separates some persons from others, he brings each of them into a common union, and—as it were—into a mutual embrace. Hence we conclude, that charity is justly pronounced by Paul to be the bond of perfection, (Col_3:14,) and, in another passage, the fulfilling of the law, (Rom_13:10;)
for all the commandments of the second table must be referred to it.

John Calvin
Mar 12:32
Master, thou hast spoken well, and with truth. Mark alone mentions that the scribe was softened down; and it is worthy of notice that, though he had attacked Christ maliciously, and with the intention of taking him by surprise, not only does he silently yield to the latter, but openly and candidly assents to what Christ had said. Thus we see that he did not belong to the class of those enemies whose obstinacy is incurable; for, though they have been a hundred times convinced, yet they do not cease to oppose the truth in some manner. From this reply it may also be concluded, that Christ did not precisely include under these two words the rule of life, but embraced the opportunity which presented itself for reproving the false and hypocritical holiness of the scribes, who, giving their whole attention to outward ceremonies, almost entirely disregarded the spiritual worship of God, and cared little about brotherly kindness. Now though the scribe was infected by such corruptions, yet, as sometimes happens, he had obtained from the Law the seed of right knowledge, which lay choked in his heart, and on that account he easily allows himself to be withdrawn from the wicked custom.

John Calvin
Mar 12:33
33.Is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. But it appears to be incongruous that sacrifices, which are a part of divine worship, and belong to the first table of the Law, should be reckoned of less importance than charity towards men. The reply is, Though the worship of God is greatly preferable, and is more valuable than all the duties of a holy life, yet its outward exercises ought not to be estimated so highly as to swallow up brotherly kindness. For we know that brotherly kindness, in itself and simply, is pleasing to God, though sacrifices are not regarded by him with delight or approbation, except with a view to another object. Besides, it is naked and empty sacrifices that are here spoken of; for our Lord contrasts a hypocritical appearance of piety with true and sincere uprightness. The same doctrine is to be found very frequently in the prophets, that hypocrites may know that sacrifices are of no value, unless spiritual truth be joined to them, and that God is not appeased by offerings of beasts, where brotherly kindness is neglected.

John Gill
Mar 12:33 And to love him with all the heart,…. That is, the one God, with a sincere hearty love and affection;

and with all the understanding; of his being, perfections, and works, which will serve to draw the affections to him: this clause answers to that, “with all thy mind”, in Mar_12:30;

and with all the soul; with all the powers and faculties of it;

and with all the strength; a man has, or is given him; with all the vehemency and fervency of soul he is master of:

and to love his neighbour as himself; which are the two great commandments of the law:

is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices; that is, more excellent in their nature, more acceptable to God, and more useful among men, than all the rituals of the ceremonial law, than any sacrifice whatever: for the two words here used, “burnt offerings and sacrifices”, include all offerings; as those which were wholly consumed upon the altar, and those of which part was given to the priests; and all sin offerings, meat offerings, and peace offerings, and whatever else. This man had now at least a different sense of things, from the rest of his brethren; who placed religion chiefly in the observance of the rituals of the law, and the traditions of the elders; and neglected the duties of the moral law, respecting God and their neighbour: things which are to be preferred and attended to, before any ceremonial institutions, and especially the inventions of men. This entirely agrees with the sense of the passage in Hos_6:6. “For I desired mercy and, not sacrifice”; that is, willed and required, that men should show mercy to one another; or that every one should love his neighbour as himself, and attend to this, rather than to the offering of any ceremonial sacrifice: this being more delightful and well-pleasing to God, than that: “and the knowledge of God”; of his unity, perfections, and glory: “more than burnt offerings”; which were entirely devoted to him: and it also agrees with the ancient sentiments of the people of God; so Samuel says to Saul, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? behold, to obey is better than sacrifices, and to hearken, than the fat of rams”, 1Sa_15:22. And yet it may be observed, that there is some likeness between these things, burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the love of God and love to our neighbour; though the latter are greatly preferable to the former; true love to God being no other than the offering up of the soul, as a whole burnt offering to God, in the flames of love to him; and love to the neighbour, or doing good and communicating to him, is a sacrifice well-pleasing to God.

John Calvin
Mar 12:34
34.But when Jesus saw. Whether this scribe made any farther progress is uncertain; but as he had shown himself to be teachable, Christ stretches out the hand to him, and teaches us, by his example, that we ought to assist those in whom there is any beginning either of docility or of right understanding. There appear to have been two reasons why Christ declared that this scribe was not far from the kingdom of God. It was because he was easily persuaded to do his duty, and because he skillfully distinguished the outward worship of God from necessary duties. Nor was it so much with the design of praising as of exhorting him, that Christ declared that he was near the kingdom of God; and in his person Christ encourages us all, after having once entered into the right path, to proceed with so much the greater cheerfulness. By these words we are also taught that many, while they are still held and involved in error, advance with closed eyes towards the road, and in this manner are prepared for running in the course of the Lord, when the time arrives.

And after that, no man ventured to put a question to him. The assertion of the Evangelists, that the mouth of adversaries was stopped, so they did not venture any more to lay snares for Christ, must not be so understood as if’ they desisted from their wicked obstinacy; for they groaned within, like wild beasts shut up in their dens, or, like unruly horses, they bit the bridle. But the more hardened their obstinacy, and the more incorrigible their rebellion, so much the more illustrious was Christ’s triumph over both. And this victory, which he obtained, ought greatly to encourage us never to become dispirited in the defense of the truth, being assured of success. It will often happen, indeed, that enemies shall molest and insult us till the end, but God will at length secure that their fury shall recoil on their own heads, and that, in spite of their efforts, truth shall be victorious.

Albert Barnes
Mar_12:32-34
This answer of the scribe is not found in Matthew.

Is more than all – Is of more importance and value.

Discreetly – Wisely, according to truth.

Not far from the kingdom of God – Thou who dost prefer the “internal” to the “external” worship of God – who hast so just a view of the requirements of the law – canst easily become a follower of me, and art almost fit to be numbered among my disciples. This shows that a proper understanding of the Old Testament, of its laws and requirements, would prepare the mind for Christianity, and suit a person at once to embrace it when presented. One system is grafted on the other, agreeably to Gal_3:24.

And no man after that durst ask him any question – That is, no one of the scribes, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees durst ask him a question for the purpose of “tempting” him or entangling him. He had completely silenced them. It does not appear, however, but that his “disciples” dared to ask him questions for the purpose of information.

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