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The Call of the Disciples

18 As[a] he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen).[b] 19 He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!”[c] 20 They[d] left their nets immediately and followed him.[e] 21 Going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, in a boat[f] with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Then[g] he called them. 22 They[h] immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.

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  1. Matthew 4:18 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  2. Matthew 4:18 tn The two phrases in this verse placed in parentheses are explanatory comments by the author, parenthetical in nature.
  3. Matthew 4:19 tn The Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) is used here in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, thus “people.”sn The kind of fishing envisioned was net—not line—fishing (cf. v. 18; cf. also BDAG 55 s.v. ἀμφιβάλλω, ἀμφίβληστρον) which involved a circular net that had heavy weights around its perimeter. The occupation of fisherman was labor-intensive. The imagery of using a lure and a line (and waiting for the fish to strike) is thus foreign to this text. Rather, the imagery of a fisherman involved much strain, long hours, and often little results. Jesus’ point in using the analogy may have been one or more of the following: the strenuousness of evangelism, the work ethic that it required, persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), the infinite value of the new “catch” (viz., people), and perhaps an eschatological theme of snatching people from judgment (cf. W. L. Lane, Mark [NICNT], 67). If this last motif is in view, then catching people is the opposite of catching fish: The fish would be caught, killed, cooked, and eaten; people would be caught so as to rescue them from eternal destruction and to give them new life.
  4. Matthew 4:20 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  5. Matthew 4:20 sn The expression followed him pictures discipleship, which means that to learn from Jesus is to follow him as the guiding priority of one’s life.
  6. Matthew 4:21 tn Or “in their boat.” The phrase ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ (en tō ploiō) can either refer to a generic boat, some boat (as it seems to do here); or it can refer to “their” boat, implying possession. Mark (unlike Matthew) assumes a certain preunderstanding on the part of his readers about the first four disciples and hence in Mark the translation “their boat” is justified (Mark 1:19; cf. also Mark 1:20 in which the “hired men” indicates that Zebedee’s family owned the boats)sn In 1986 following a period of drought and low lake levels, a fishing boat from the first century was discovered on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was excavated and preserved and can now be seen in the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar north of Tiberias. The remains of the boat are 27 ft (8.27 m) long and 7.5 ft (2.3 m) wide; it could be rowed by four rowers and had a mast for a sail. The boat is now known as the “Jesus boat” or the “Sea of Galilee boat” although there is no known historical connection of any kind with Jesus or his disciples. However, the boat is typical for the period and has provided archaeologists with much information about design and construction of boats on the Sea of Galilee in the first century.
  7. Matthew 4:21 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
  8. Matthew 4:22 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.