Saint Matthew – Chapter 15

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Matthew

Chapter 15


1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,


«Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? 2 They do not wash (their) hands when they eat a meal.»


He said to them in reply, «And why do you break the commandment of God 3 for the sake of your tradition?


For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’


4 But you say, ‘Whoever says to father or mother, «Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God,»


need not honor his father.’ You have nullified the word of God for the sake of your tradition.


Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said:


‘This people honors me with their lips, 5 but their hearts are far from me;


in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.'»


He summoned the crowd and said to them, «Hear and understand.


It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.»


Then his disciples approached and said to him, «Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?»


He said in reply, 6 «Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.


Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.»


Then Peter 7 said to him in reply, «Explain (this) parable to us.»


He said to them, «Are even you still without understanding?


Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine?


But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile.


8 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.


These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.»


9 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.


And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, «Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.»


But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, «Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.»


10 He said in reply, «I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.»


But the woman came and did him homage, saying, «Lord, help me.»


He said in reply, «It is not right to take the food of the children 11 and throw it to the dogs.»


She said, «Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.»


Then Jesus said to her in reply, «O woman, great is your faith! 12 Let it be done for you as you wish.» And her daughter was healed from that hour.


Moving on from there Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there.


Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.


The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.


13 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, «My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.»


The disciples said to him, «Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?»


Jesus said to them, «How many loaves do you have?» «Seven,» they replied, «and a few fish.»


He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.


Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, 14 broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.


They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over – seven baskets full.


Those who ate were four thousand men, not counting women and children.


And when he had dismissed the crowds, he got into the boat and came to the district of Magadan.

1 [1-20] This dispute begins with the question of the Pharisees and scribes why Jesus’ disciples are breaking the tradition of the elders about washing one’s hands before eating (⇒ Matthew 15:2). Jesus’ counterquestion accuses his opponents of breaking the commandment of God for the sake of their tradition (⇒ Matthew 15:3) and illustrates this by their interpretation of the commandment of the Decalogue concerning parents (⇒ Matthew 15:4-6). Denouncing them as hypocrites, he applies to them a derogatory prophecy of Isaiah (⇒ Matthew 15:7-8). Then with a wider audience (the crowd, ⇒ Matthew 15:10) he goes beyond the violation of tradition with which the dispute has started. The parable (⇒ Matthew 15:11) is an attack on the Mosaic law concerning clean and unclean foods, similar to those antitheses that abrogate the law (⇒ Matthew 5:31-32, ⇒ 33-34, ⇒ 38-39). After a warning to his disciples not to follow the moral guidance of the Pharisees (⇒ Matthew 15:13-14), he explains the parable (⇒ Matthew 15:15) to them, saying that defilement comes not from what enters the mouth (⇒ Matthew 15:17) but from the evil thoughts and deeds that rise from within, from the heart (⇒ Matthew 15:18-20). The last verse returns to the starting point of the dispute (eating with unwashed hands). Because of Matthew’s omission of ⇒ Mark 7:19b, some scholars think that Matthew has weakened the Marcan repudiation of the Mosaic food laws. But that half verse is ambiguous in the Greek, which may be the reason for its omission here.
2 [2] The tradition of the elders: see the note on ⇒ Mark 7:5. The purpose of the handwashing was to remove defilement caused by contact with what was ritually unclean.
3 [3-4] For the commandment see ⇒ Exodus 20:12; ⇒ Deut 5:16); ⇒ 21:17. The honoring of one’s parents had to do with supporting them in their needs.
4 [5] See the note on ⇒ Mark 7:11.
5 [8] The text of ⇒ Isaiah 29:13 is quoted approximately according to the Septuagint.
6 [13-14] Jesus leads his disciples away from the teaching authority of the Pharisees.
7 [15] Matthew specifies Peter as the questioner, unlike  Mark 7:17. Given his tendency to present the disciples as more understanding than in his Marcan source, it is noteworthy that here he retains the Marcan rebuke, although in a slightly milder form. This may be due to his wish to correct the Jewish Christians within his church who still held to the food laws and thus separated themselves from Gentile Christians who did not observe them.
8 [19] The Marcan list of thirteen things that defile (⇒ Matthew 7:21-22) is here reduced to seven that partially cover the content of the Decalogue. ⇒ Matthew 15:21-28: See the note on ⇒ Matthew 8:5-13.
9 [21-28] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 8:5-13.
10 [24] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 10:5-6.
11 [26] The children: the people of Israel. Dogs: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 7:6.
12 [28] As in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant (⇒ Matthew 8:10), Matthew ascribes Jesus’ granting the request to the woman’s great faith, a point not made equally explicit in the Marcan parallel (⇒ Matthew 7:24-30).
13 [32-39] Most probably this story is a doublet of that of the feeding of the five thousand (⇒ Matthew 14:13-21). It differs from it notably only in that Jesus takes the initiative, not the disciples (⇒ Matthew 15:32), and in the numbers: the crowd has been with Jesus three days (⇒ Matthew 15:32), seven loaves are multiplied (⇒ Matthew 15:36), seven baskets of fragments remain after the feeding (⇒ Matthew 15:37), and four thousand men are fed (⇒ Matthew 15:38).
14 [36] Gave thanks: see ⇒ Matthew 14:19, «said the blessing.» There is no difference in meaning. The thanksgiving was a blessing of God for his benefits.