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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Mark
1. And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the
[Into the country of the Gadarenes.] So also Luke: But Matthew, into the
country of the Gergesenes. And, which ought not to be passed over without observation,
Mark and Luke, who call it the country of the Gadarenes, make mention only of one
possessed person; but Matthew, who calls it the country of the Gergesenes, speaks
of two. We know what is here said by commentators to reconcile the evangelists. We
fetch their reconciliation from the very distinction of the words which the evangelists
use, and that from those conclusions:
I. We say the region of the Gergesenes was of broader extent and signification
than the region of the Gadarenes was, and that the region of the Gadarenes
was included within it. For whether it were called so from the old Gergashite
family of the Canaanites, or from the muddy and clayey nature of the soil, which
was called Gergishta by the Jews, which we rather believe; it was of wider
extension than the country of the Gadarenes; which denoted only one city, and the
smaller country about it, and that belonged to Gadara. But this country
comprehended within it the country of Gadara, of Hippo, and of Magdala, if not
II. We say Gadara was a city of heathens, (hence it is less marvel if there were
swine among them) which we prove also elsewhere, when we treat of the region of Decapolis.
III. We say there were two possessed persons according to Matthew, one a Gadarene,
another coming from some other place than the country of Gadara, namely, from some
place in the country of the Gergesenes.
IV. We believe that that Gadarene was a heathen; and that Mark and Luke
mentioned only him on set purpose, that so they might make the story the more famous. Any
one skilled in the chorography of the land of Israel might understand that the country
of the Gadarenes was of heathen possession: they therefore mark him with that name,
that it might presently be perceived that Christ now had to do with a heathen possessed
person; which was somewhat rare, and except the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman,
without any example. Matthew would describe the greatness of the miracle; he therefore
mentions two most miserably possessed persons: but Mark and Luke choose out only one,
and him more remarkable for this very thing, that he was a Gadarene, and by
consequence a heathen. These things, well weighed, do not only confirm the concord between
the evangelists, but render the story far clearer. For,
First, It is to be marked that the devil adjures Christ not to "torment" him,
verse 7, which is not elsewhere done by him: as though he were without Christ's
jurisdiction among the heathens. And,
Secondly, Christ does not elsewhere ask any about their name, besides this alone, as
being of more singular example and story.
Thirdly, The heathen name legion, argues him a heathen concerning whom the story
Fourthly, The devils besought him much that he would not send them out of the country;
for being among heathens, they thought they were among their own.
Our Saviour, therefore, healed those two in Matthew together, the one, a Gadarene
and heathen, and the other from some other place, a Gergesene and a Jew; and that
not without a mystery; namely, that there should be comfort in Christ both to Jews and
Gentiles, against the power and tyranny of Satan. Of those two, Mark and Luke mention the
9. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is
Legion: for we are many.
[My name is Legion.] I. This name speaks a numerous company, the devil himself
being the interpreter; "Legion (saith he) is my name, for we are
And among the Jews, when a man would express a great number of any thing, it was not
unusual to name a legion: "R. Eliezer Ben Simeon saith, It is easier for a
man to nourish a legion of olives in Galilee, than to bring up one child in the land
II. Among the Talmudists, a legion bespeaks an unclean company; at least, they
reckoned all the legions for unclean: "The Rabbins deliver: a legion that passeth
from place to place, if it enter into any house, the house is thereby become unclean. For
there is no legion which hath not some carcaphalia. And wonder not at this, when the carcaphalion
of R. Ismael was fastened to the heads of kings." "'Carcaphal' (saith the
Gloss) is the skin of a head pulled off from a dead person, which they make use of in
III. What the Romans thought of their legions, take from the words of Caesar to
the Spaniards: "Did ye not consider, if I were overthrown, that the people of Rome
have ten legions, which could not only resist you, but pull down even heaven
itself?" What then is the power of "more than twelve legions of
14. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the
country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
[Told it in the country.] Told it in the fields. But to whom? To them
that laboured, or that travelled in the fields? So chapter 6:36: That they may go away
into the 'fields' round about, and buy themselves bread. From whom, I pray, should
they buy in the fields? And verse 56: And wheresoever they entered into towns or
'fields,' they laid the sick in the streets, or markets. What streets or
markets are there in the fields?
"Rabba saith, That food made of meal, of those that dwell in the fields, in
which they mingle much meal, over it they give thanks." Dwellers in the field,
saith the Gloss, are inhabitants of the villages. And the Aruch saith,
"private men who dwell in the fields": that is, in houses scattered here and
there, and not built together in one place, as it is in towns and cities.
15. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had
the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
[In his right mind.] Firm, or sound of understanding, in Talmudic
23. And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of
death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she
[My little daughter.] "A daughter from her birthday, until she is twelve
years old complete, is called 'little,' or 'a little maid.' But when she is full
twelve years old and one day over, she is called 'a young woman.'"
26. And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had,
and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
[And had suffered many things of many physicians.] And it is no wonder: for see
what various and manifold kinds of medicines are prescribed to a woman labouring under a
flux: "R. Jochanan saith, Bring (or take) of gum of Alexandria the
weight of a zuzee: and of alum, the weight of a zuzee: and of crocus hortensis the weight
of a zuzee: let these be bruised together, and be given in wine to the woman that hath an
issue of blood, &c.
"But if this does not benefit, take of Persian onions thrice three logs,
boil them in wine, and then give it her to drink, and say Arise from thy flux
"But if this does not prevail, set her in a place where two ways meet, and
let her hold a cup of wine in her hand; and let somebody come behind her and affright her,
and say, Arise from thy flux.
"But if that do no good, take a handful of cummin, and a handful of crocus, and
a handful of foenum groecum. Let these be boiled in wine, and give them her to drink,
and say, Arise from thy flux."
But if these do not benefit, other doses and others still are prescribed, in number ten
or more, which see, if you please, in the place cited [Bab. Schabb. fol. 110.]. Among them
I cannot omit this:
"Let them dig seven ditches: in which let them burn some cuttings of such vines
as are not circumcised, [that is, that are not yet four years old]. And let her
take in her hand a cup of wine. And let them lead her away from this ditch, and
make her sit down over that. And let them remove her from that, and make her sit
down over another. And in every removal you must say to her, Arise from thy flux,"
41. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is,
being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
[Talitha kumi.] "Rabbi Jochanan saith, We remember when boys and girls
of sixteen and seventeen years old played in the streets, and nobody was offended
with them." Where the Gloss is, Tali and Talitha is a boy and a girl.
[Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.] Talitha kumi signifies only Maid,
arise. How comes that clause then, I say unto thee, to be inserted?
I. You may recollect here, and perhaps not without profit, that which was alleged
before; namely, that it was customary among the Jews, that, when they applied physic to
the profluvious woman, they said, "Arise from thy flux"; which very probably
they used in other diseases also.
II. Christ said nothing else than what sounded all one with, Maid, arise: but in
the pronouncing and uttering those words that authority and commanding power shined forth,
that they sounded no less than if he had said, "Maid, I say to thee, or I command
thee, arise." They said, "Arise from thy disease"; that is, "I wish
thou wouldst arise": but Christ saith, Maid, arise; that is, "I command
43. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that
something should be given her to eat.
[He commanded that something should be given her to eat.] Not as she was alive
only, and now in good health, but as she was in a most perfect state of health, and
hungry: "The son of Rabban Gamaliel was sick. He sent, therefore, two scholars of the
wise men to R. Chaninah Ben Dusa into his city. He saith to them, 'Wait for me, until I go
up into the upper chamber.' He went up into the upper chamber, and came down again, and
said, 'I am sure that the son of Rabban Gamaliel is freed from his disease.' The same hour
he asked for food."
3. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and
of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
[Is not this the carpenter?] Among other things to be performed by the father
for his son this was one, to bring him up in some art or trade. "It is incumbent on
the father to circumcise his son, to redeem him, to teach him the law, and to teach him
some occupation. R. Judah saith, 'Whosoever teacheth not his son to do some work, is as if
he taught him robbery.'" "R. Meir saith, 'Let a man always endeavour to teach
his son an honest art,'" &c. Joseph instructs and brings up Christ in his
8. And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a
staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse.
[No scrip.] Concerning the scrip we said somewhat at Matthew 10:10: let
us add this story: "The Rabbins deliver: There is a story of a certain man, whose
sons behaved not themselves well. He stood forth and assigned over his wealth to Jonathan
Ben Uzziel. What did Jonathan Ben Uzziel do? He sold a third part; a third part he
dedicated to holy uses; and a third part he gave back to the sons of the deceased. Shammai
came to him with his staff and with his scrip." The Gloss saith, "He came
to contend with Jonathan, because he had violated the will of the dead." Behold the
vice-president of the Sanhedrim carrying a scrip, in which he laid up victuals for
13. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and
[Anointed with oil many that were sick.] "The oil, therefore, was
(saith the famous Beza) a symbol of that miraculous power, not a medicament whereby they
cured diseases." But the Jews say, and that truly, such an anointing was
physical, although it did not always obtain its end. But this anointing of the
apostles ever obtained its end: "R. Simeon Ben Eliezer saith, 'R. Meir permitted the
mingling of wine and oil, and to anoint the sick on the sabbath. But when he once
was sick, and we would do the same to him, he permitted it not.'" This story is
recited elsewhere; where for 'R. Simeon Ben Eliezer,' is 'R. Samuel Ben
Eliezer.' Perhaps in the manuscript copy it was written with an abbreviation and thence
came the ambiguity of the name.
Let it be granted such anointing was medicinal, which cannot possibly be denied; and
then there is nothing obscure in the words of James 5:14; "Let the elders of the
church be called, and let the sick man be anointed by them, or by others present, that
their prayers may be joined with the ordinary means."
27. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be
brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,
[An executioner.] So the Targum of Jonathan upon Genesis 39:1; Rab
Speculatoraia. See the Aruch, in the word Speculator.
37. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him,
Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
[Two hundred pence.] I. Denarius and zuz are of the same value
among the Rabbins. "The fourth part of a shekel of silver in the Targum is one zuz
of silver. For a shekel of the law was selaa. And so in the Targum, a shekel,
is selaa, and is worth four denarii," or pence.
But now a penny and zuz are the same: "They call pence, in
the language of the Gemara, zuzim."
II. But now two hundred zuzees, or pence, was a sum very famous, and of
very frequent mention. "If one of elder years lay with a woman of less years, or if
one of less years lay with a woman of elder years, or one that is wounded, their portion
is two hundred zuzees." "If one gives another a blow upon the cheek, let
him give him two hundred zuzees." "A woman that is now become a widow, or
dismissed by a divorce, who was married a virgin, let her have for her portion two
Hence, perhaps, is the same number of two hundred pence in the mouth of the
disciples, because it was a most celebrated sum, and of very frequent mention in the
mouths of all.
40. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
[By ranks.] Rank by rank, in Talmudic language. The university of Jabneh
is very frequently celebrated under the name of the vineyard in Jabneh. And R.
Solomon gives the reason; Because the scholars sat there ranks by ranks, like a
vineyard which is planted rank by rank.
3. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat
not, holding the tradition of the elders.
[Except they wash their hands oft.] The fist. When they washed their
hands, they washed the fist unto the joining of the arm. The hands are polluted, and
made clean unto the joining of the arm. "The Rabbins deliver: The washing of
hands as to common things (or common food) was unto the joining of the
arm. And the cleansing of hands and feet in the Temple was to the joint." The
joining, saith the Aruch, is where the arm is distinguished from the hand. So,
also, where the foot is distinguished from the leg.
"The second waters cleanse whatsoever parts of the hands the first waters had
washed. But if the first waters had gone above the juncture of the arm, the second waters
do not cleanse, because they do not cleanse beyond the juncture. If, therefore, the
waters which went above the juncture return upon the hands again, they are unclean."
4. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And
many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of
cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.
[And when they come from the market, except they wash.] The Jews used the
washing of the hands, and the plunging of the hands. And the word wash,
in our evangelist seems to answer to the former, and baptize to the latter.
I. That the plunging of the whole body is not understood here, may be
sufficiently proved hence; that such plunging is not used but when pollution is
contracted from the more principal causes of uncleanness. "A man and vessels contract
not uncleanness, but from the father of uncleanness: such as uncleanness from a
creeping thing, from the seed in the unclean act, from him that is polluted by the dead,
from a leper, from the water of purification, from him that lies with a menstruous woman,
from the flux of him that hath the gonorrhea, from his spittle, from his urine, from the
blood of a menstruous woman, from a profluvious man," &c. By these a man was so
polluted, that it was a day's washing; and he must plunge his whole body.
But for smaller uncleannesses it was enough to cleanse the hands.
II. Much less is it to be understood of the things bought; as if they, when they were
bought for the market, were to be washed (in which sense some interpreters render
the words, "And what they buy out of the market, unless they wash it, they eat
it not"), when there were some things which would not endure water, some things
which, when bought, were not presently eaten; and the traditional canons distinguish
between those things which were lawful as soon as they came from the market, and those
which were not.
III. The phrase, therefore, seems to be meant of the immersion, or plunging
of the hands only; and the word fist, is here to be understood also in common.
Those that remain at home eat not unless they wash the fist. But those that come
from the market eat not, unless they plunge their fist into the water, being
ignorant and uncertain what uncleanness they came near unto in the market.
"The washing of the hands, and the plunging of the hands, were from
the scribes. The hands which had need of plunging, they dipped not but in a fit
place; that is, where there was a confluence of forty seahs of water. For in the
place where any dipped vessels, it was lawful to dip the hands. But the hands which have
need of washing only, if they dip them in the confluence of waters, they are clean;
whether they dip them in waters that are drawn, or in vessels, or in the pavement. They do
not cleanse the hands [as to washing], until waters are poured upon the hands out
of a vessel: for they do not wash the hands but out of a vessel."
[Pots.] It is doubtful whether this word be derived from a sextary (a
certain measure), or from vessels planed or engraven. To take it as speaking
of sextaries is, indeed, very agreeable to the word, and not much different from
the matter. And so also it is, if you derive it from vessels planed or turned,
that is, of wood. And perhaps those vessels which are called by the Rabbins flat,
and are opposed to such as may contain something within them, are expressed by this
word. Of that sort were knives, tables, seats, &c. Concerning which, as capable of
pollution, see Maimonides, and the Talmudic Tract Kelim: where are reckoned up, 1.
The very table at which they ate. 2. The little table, or the wooden
side-table, where wine and fruits were set, that were presently to be brought to table. 3.
A seat. 4. The footstool for the feet under the seat.
[Of beds.] Beds contracted uncleanness...One can hardly put these into
good English without a paraphrase. [One] was a bed, on which a profluvious man or
woman, or a menstruous woman, or a woman in childbirth, or a leper, had either sat or
stood, or lain, or leaned, or hung. [The other] was a bed, which any thing had
touched, that had been touched before by any of these.
The word, therefore, washings, applied to all these, properly and strictly is
not to be taken of dipping or plunging, but, in respect of some things, of washing
only, and, in respect of others, of sprinkling only.
11. But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban,
that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
[Corban (that is, 'a gift').] The word a gift, was known and
common among the Talmudists: Rabba saith, A burnt sacrifice is 'a gift.' Where the
Gloss writes thus; "A burnt sacrifice is not offered to expiate for any deed: but
after repentance hath expiated the deed, the burnt sacrifice comes that the man may be
received with favour. As when any hath sinned against the king, and hath appeased
him by a paraclete [an advocate], and comes to implore his favour, he brings a
Egypt shall bring 'a gift,' to the Messiah.
19. Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into
the draught, purging all meats?
[The draught.] The house of the secret seat.
12. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek
after a sign: verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.
[Why doth this generation seek after a sign?] Instead of a comment, take a
story: "On that day, R. Eliezer answered to all the questions in the whole world, but
they hearkened not to him. He said therefore to them, 'If the tradition be according to
what I say, let this siliqua [a kind of tree] bear witness.' The siliqua was rooted
up, and removed a hundred cubits from its place: there are some who say four hundred. They
say to him, 'A proof is not to be fetched from a siliqua.' He saith to them again, 'If the
tradition be with me, let the rivers of waters testify': the rivers of waters are turned
backward. They say to him, 'A proof is not to be fetched from the rivers of waters.' He
said to them again, 'If the tradition be with me, let the walls of the school testify':
the walls bowed, as if they were falling. R. Josua chid them, saying, 'If there be a
controversy between the disciples of the wise men about tradition, what is that to you?'
Therefore the walls fell not in honour of R. Josua. Yet they stood not upright again in
honour of R. Eliezer. He said to them, moreover, 'If the tradition be with me, let the
heavens bear witness.' The Bath Kol went forth and said, 'Why do ye contend with R.
Eliezer, with whom the tradition always is?' R. Jonah rose up upon his feet, and said, 'It
is not in heaven' (Deut 30:12). What do these words, 'It is not in heaven,' mean? R.
Jeremiah saith, When the law is given from mount Sinai, we do not care for the Bath
Shall we laugh at the fable, or shall we suspect some truth in the story? For my part,
when I recollect with myself, how addicted to and skillful that nation was in art-magic;
which is abundantly asserted not only by the Talmudists, but by the Holy Scriptures; I am
ready to give some credit to this story, and many others of the same nature: namely, that
the thing was really acted by the art and help of the devil by those ensign-bearers and
captains of errors, the more to establish their honour and tradition.
Therefore, from the story, be it true or false, we observe these two things:--
I. How tenacious the Jews were of their traditions, and how unmovable in them even
beyond the evidence of miracles. That Eliezer was of great fame among them, but he was a
follower of Shammai. Hence he is called once and again the Shammean. When,
therefore, he taught something against the school of Hillel, although he did miracles (as
they themselves relate), they gave not credit to him, nay, they derided him. The same was
their practice, the same was their mind, against the miracles of Christ. And to this may
these words of our Saviour tend, "Why does this generation seek a sign?" a
generation, which is not only altogether unworthy of miracles, but also which is sworn to
retain their traditions and doctrines, although infinite miracles be done to the contrary.
II. You see how the last testimony of the miracles of this conjuror is fetched from
heaven: "For the Bath Kol went forth," &c. Which the followers of Hillel
nevertheless received not: and therein not justly indeed; when they feign such a voice to
have come to themselves from heaven, as a definitive oracle for the authority of the
school of Hillel, not to be gainsaid: concerning which the Talmudists speak very
frequently, and very boastingly.
After the same manner they require a sign from heaven of our Saviour; not content with
those infinite miracles that he had done, the healing of disease, the casting out devils,
the multiplying of loaves, &c. They would also have somewhat from heaven, either after
the example of Moses fetching manna from thence; or of Elias fetching down fire; or of
Joshua staying the sun; or of Isaiah bringing it backwards.
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