Marriage and Divorce. 1* When Jesus* finished these words,* he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan. 2Great crowds followed him, and he cured them there. 3a Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him,* saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” 4* b He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ 5c and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 7* d They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” 8He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9e I say to you,* whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” 10[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word,* but only those to whom that is granted. 12Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage* for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
Blessing of the Children.* 13f Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, 14g but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15After he placed his hands on them, he went away.
The Rich Young Man.* 16h Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”* 17He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.* If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18* i He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20* The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” 21j Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23* Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24k Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25* When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” 26l Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 27m Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” 28* n Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. 30* o But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
* [19:1–23:39] The narrative section of the fifth book of the gospel. The first part (Mt 19:1–20:34) has for its setting the journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem; the second (Mt 21:1–23:39) deals with Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem up to the final great discourse of the gospel (Mt 24–25). Matthew follows the Marcan sequence of events, though adding material both special to this gospel and drawn from Q. The second part ends with the denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1–36) followed by Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37–39). This long and important speech raises a problem for the view that Matthew is structured around five other discourses of Jesus (see Introduction) and that this one has no such function in the gospel. However, it is to be noted that this speech lacks the customary concluding formula that follows the five discourses (see note on Mt 7:28), and that those discourses are all addressed either exclusively (Mt 10; 18; 24; 25) or primarily (Mt 5–7; 13) to the disciples, whereas this is addressed primarily to the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:13–36). Consequently, it seems plausible to maintain that the evangelist did not intend to give it the structural importance of the five other discourses, and that, in spite of its being composed of sayings-material, it belongs to the narrative section of this book. In that regard, it is similar to the sayings-material of Mt 11:7–30. Some have proposed that Matthew wished to regard it as part of the final discourse of Mt 24–25, but the intervening material (Mt 24:1–4) and the change in matter and style of those chapters do not support that view.
* [19:1] When Jesus finished these words: see note on Mt 7:28–29. The district of Judea across the Jordan: an inexact designation of the territory. Judea did not extend across the Jordan; the territory east of the river was Perea. The route to Jerusalem by way of Perea avoided passage through Samaria.
* [19:3] Tested him: the verb is used of attempts of Jesus’ opponents to embarrass him by challenging him to do something they think impossible (Mt 16:1; Mk 8:11; Lk 11:16) or by having him say something that they can use against him (Mt 22:18, 35; Mk 10:2; 12:15). For any cause whatever: this is peculiar to Matthew and has been interpreted by some as meaning that Jesus was being asked to take sides in the dispute between the schools of Hillel and Shammai on the reasons for divorce, the latter holding a stricter position than the former. It is unlikely, however, that to ask Jesus’ opinion about the differing views of two Jewish schools, both highly respected, could be described as “testing” him, for the reason indicated above.
* [19:4–6] Matthew recasts his Marcan source, omitting Jesus’ question about Moses’ command (Mk 10:3) and having him recall at once two Genesis texts that show the will and purpose of the Creator in making human beings male and female (Gn 1:27), namely, that a man may be joined to his wife in marriage in the intimacy of one flesh (Gn 2:24). What God has thus joined must not be separated by any human being. (The NAB translation of the Hebrew bāśār of Gn 2:24 as “body” rather than “flesh” obscures the reference of Matthew to that text.)
* [19:9] Moses’ concession to human sinfulness (the hardness of your hearts, Mt 19:8) is repudiated by Jesus, and the original will of the Creator is reaffirmed against that concession. (Unless the marriage is unlawful): see note on Mt 5:31–32. There is some evidence suggesting that Jesus’ absolute prohibition of divorce was paralleled in the Qumran community (see 11QTemple 57:17–19; CD 4:12b–5:14). Matthew removes Mark’s setting of this verse as spoken to the disciples alone “in the house” (Mk 10:10) and also his extension of the divorce prohibition to the case of a woman’s divorcing her husband (Mk 10:12), probably because in Palestine, unlike the places where Roman and Greek law prevailed, the woman was not allowed to initiate the divorce.
* [19:12] Incapable of marriage: literally, “eunuchs.” Three classes are mentioned, eunuchs from birth, eunuchs by castration, and those who have voluntarily renounced marriage (literally, “have made themselves eunuchs”) for the sake of the kingdom, i.e., to devote themselves entirely to its service. Some scholars take the last class to be those who have been divorced by their spouses and have refused to enter another marriage. But it is more likely that it is rather those who have chosen never to marry, since that suits better the optional nature of the decision: whoever can…ought to accept it.
* [19:13–15] This account is understood by some as intended to justify the practice of infant baptism. That interpretation is based principally on the command not to prevent the children from coming, since that word sometimes has a baptismal connotation in the New Testament; see Acts 8:36.
* [19:16–30] Cf. Mk 10:17–31. This story does not set up a “two-tier” morality, that of those who seek (only) eternal life (Mt 19:16) and that of those who wish to be perfect (Mt 19:21). It speaks rather of the obstacle that riches constitute for the following of Jesus and of the impossibility, humanly speaking, for one who has many possessions (Mt 19:22) to enter the kingdom (Mt 19:24). Actual renunciation of riches is not demanded of all; Matthew counts the rich Joseph of Arimathea as a disciple of Jesus (Mt 27:57). But only the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3) can enter the kingdom and, as here, such poverty may entail the sacrifice of one’s possessions. The Twelve, who have given up everything (Mt 19:27) to follow Jesus, will have as their reward a share in Jesus’ (the Son of Man’s) judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28), and all who have similarly sacrificed family or property for his sake will inherit eternal life (Mt 19:29).
* [19:16] Gain eternal life: this is equivalent to “entering into life” (Mt 19:17) and “being saved” (Mt 19:25); the life is that of the new age after the final judgment (see Mt 25:46). It probably is also equivalent here to “entering the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23) or “the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24), but see notes on Mt 3:2; 4:17; 18:1 for the wider reference of the kingdom in Matthew.
* [19:17] By Matthew’s reformulation of the Marcan question and reply (Mk 10:17–18) Jesus’ repudiation of the term “good” for himself has been softened. Yet the Marcan assertion that “no one is good but God alone” stands, with only unimportant verbal modification.
* [19:18–19] The first five commandments cited are from the Decalogue (see Ex 20:12–16; Dt 5:16–20). Matthew omits Mark’s “you shall not defraud” (Mk 10:19; see Dt 24:14) and adds Lv 19:18. This combination of commandments of the Decalogue with Lv 19:18 is partially the same as Paul’s enumeration of the demands of Christian morality in Rom 13:9.
* [19:21] If you wish to be perfect: to be perfect is demanded of all Christians; see Mt 5:48. In the case of this man, it involves selling his possessions and giving to the poor; only so can he follow Jesus.
* [19:23–24] Riches are an obstacle to entering the kingdom that cannot be overcome by human power. The comparison with the impossibility of a camel’s passing through the eye of a needle should not be mitigated by such suppositions as that the eye of a needle means a low or narrow gate. The kingdom of God: as in Mt 12:28; 21:31, 43 instead of Matthew’s usual kingdom of heaven.
* [19:28] This saying, directed to the Twelve, is from Q; see Lk 22:29–30. The new age: the Greek word here translated “new age” occurs in the New Testament only here and in Ti 3:5. Literally, it means “rebirth” or “regeneration,” and is used in Titus of spiritual rebirth through baptism. Here it means the “rebirth” effected by the coming of the kingdom. Since that coming has various stages (see notes on Mt 3:2; 4:17), the new age could be taken as referring to the time after the resurrection when the Twelve will govern the true Israel, i.e., the church of Jesus. (For “judge” in the sense of “govern,” cf. Jgs 12:8, 9, 11; 15:20; 16:31; Ps 2:10). But since it is connected here with the time when the Son of Man will be seated on his throne of glory, language that Matthew uses in Mt 25:31 for the time of final judgment, it is more likely that what the Twelve are promised is that they will be joined with Jesus then in judging the people of Israel.
* [19:30] Different interpretations have been given to this saying, which comes from Mk 10:31. In view of Matthew’s associating it with the following parable (Mt 20:1–15) and substantially repeating it (in reverse order) at the end of that parable (Mt 20:16), it may be that his meaning is that all who respond to the call of Jesus, at whatever time (first or last), will be the same in respect to inheriting the benefits of the kingdom, which is the gift of God.