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Chapter 15

The Tradition of the Elders.[a] (A)Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, (B)“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?[b] 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[c] for the sake of your tradition? (C)For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ [d]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:

(D)‘This people honors me with their lips,[e]
    but their hearts are far from me;
(E)in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines human precepts.’”

10 (F)He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” 12 Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He said in reply,[f] “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 (G)Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Then Peter[g] said to him in reply, “Explain [this] parable to us.” 16 He said to them, “Are even you still without understanding? 17 Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? 18 (H)But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. 19 [h]For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith.[i] 21 (I)Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 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.” 23 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.” 24 [j]He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 (J)But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children[k] and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” 28 (K)Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith![l] Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

The Healing of Many People. 29 Moving on from there Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. 30 (L)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. 31 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.

The Feeding of the Four Thousand.[m] 32 (M)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.” 33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” 34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” 35 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks,[n] broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 37 (N)They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets full. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, not counting women and children. 39 And when he had dismissed the crowds, he got into the boat and came to the district of Magadan.

Footnotes

  1. 15:1–20 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 (Mt 15:2). Jesus’ counterquestion accuses his opponents of breaking the commandment of God for the sake of their tradition (Mt 15:3) and illustrates this by their interpretation of the commandment of the Decalogue concerning parents (Mt 15:4–6). Denouncing them as hypocrites, he applies to them a derogatory prophecy of Isaiah (Mt 15:7–8). Then with a wider audience (the crowd, Mt 15:10) he goes beyond the violation of tradition with which the dispute has started. The parable (Mt 15:11) is an attack on the Mosaic law concerning clean and unclean foods, similar to those antitheses that abrogate the law (Mt 5:31–32, 33–34, 38–39). After a warning to his disciples not to follow the moral guidance of the Pharisees (Mt 15:13–14), he explains the parable (Mt 15:15) to them, saying that defilement comes not from what enters the mouth (Mt 15:17) but from the evil thoughts and deeds that rise from within, from the heart (Mt 15:18–20). The last verse returns to the starting point of the dispute (eating with unwashed hands). Because of Matthew’s omission of Mk 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. 15:2 The tradition of the elders: see note on Mk 7:5. The purpose of the handwashing was to remove defilement caused by contact with what was ritually unclean.
  3. 15:3–4 For the commandment see Ex 20:12 (Dt 5:16); 21:17. The honoring of one’s parents had to do with supporting them in their needs.
  4. 15:5 See note on Mk 7:11.
  5. 15:8 The text of Is 29:13 is quoted approximately according to the Septuagint.
  6. 15:13–14 Jesus leads his disciples away from the teaching authority of the Pharisees.
  7. 15:15 Matthew specifies Peter as the questioner, unlike Mk 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. 15:19 The Marcan list of thirteen things that defile (Mk 7:21–22) is here reduced to seven that partially cover the content of the Decalogue.
  9. 15:21–28 See note on Mt 8:5–13.
  10. 15:24 See note on Mt 10:5–6.
  11. 15:26 The children: the people of Israel. Dogs: see note on Mt 7:6.
  12. 15:28 As in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:10), Matthew ascribes Jesus’ granting the request to the woman’s great faith, a point not made equally explicit in the Marcan parallel (Mk 7:24–30).
  13. 15:32–39 Most probably this story is a doublet of that of the feeding of the five thousand (Mt 14:13–21). It differs from it notably only in that Jesus takes the initiative, not the disciples (Mt 15:32), and in the numbers: the crowd has been with Jesus three days (Mt 15:32), seven loaves are multiplied (Mt 15:36), seven baskets of fragments remain after the feeding (Mt 15:37), and four thousand men are fed (Mt 15:38).
  14. 15:36 Gave thanks: see Mt 14:19, “said the blessing.” There is no difference in meaning. The thanksgiving was a blessing of God for his benefits.

That Which Defiles(A)

15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”(B)

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a](C) and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b](D) But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.(E)[c](F)

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them,(G) but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”(H)

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted(I) will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d](J) If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”(K)

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”(L)

16 “Are you still so dull?”(M) Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart,(N) and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.(O) 20 These are what defile a person;(P) but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman(Q)

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.(R) 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David,(S) have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”(T)

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”(U)

25 The woman came and knelt before him.(V) “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith!(W) Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand(X)(Y)(Z)

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.(AA) 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.(AB)

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people;(AC) they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them(AD) and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.(AE) 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 15:4 Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:16
  2. Matthew 15:4 Exodus 21:17; Lev. 20:9
  3. Matthew 15:9 Isaiah 29:13
  4. Matthew 15:14 Some manuscripts blind guides of the blind

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