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Healing the Centurion’s Servant

When he entered Capernaum,[a] a centurion[b] came to him asking for help:[c] “Lord,[d] my servant[e] is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” Jesus[f] said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied,[g] “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof! Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.[h] I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes,[i] and to another ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave[j] ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”[k] 10 When[l] Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth,[m] I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet[n] with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob[o] in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness,[p] where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”[q] 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant[r] was healed at that hour.

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  1. Matthew 8:5 sn Capernaum was a town located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, 680 ft (204 m) below sea level. It existed since Hasmonean times and was a major trade and economic center in the North Galilean region. The population in the first century is estimated to be around 1,500. Capernaum became the hub of operations for Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Matt 4:13; Mark 2:1). In modern times the site was discovered in 1838 by the American explorer E. Robinson, and major excavations began in 1905 by German archaeologists H. Kohl and C. Watzinger. Not until 1968, however, were remains from the time of Jesus visible; in that year V. Corbo and S. Loffreda began a series of annual archaeological campaigns that lasted until 1985. This work uncovered what is thought to be the house of Simon Peter as well as ruins of the first century synagogue beneath the later synagogue from the fourth or fifth century A.D. Today gently rolling hills and date palms frame the first century site, a favorite tourist destination of visitors to the Galilee.
  2. Matthew 8:5 sn A centurion was a noncommissioned officer in the Roman army or one of the auxiliary territorial armies, commanding a centuria of (nominally) 100 men. The responsibilities of centurions were broadly similar to modern junior officers, but there was a wide gap in social status between them and officers, and relatively few were promoted beyond the rank of senior centurion. The Roman troops stationed in Judea were auxiliaries, who would normally be rewarded with Roman citizenship after 25 years of service. Some of the centurions throughout the region may have served originally in the Roman legions (regular army) and thus gained their citizenship at enlistment. Others may have inherited it, like the apostle Paul did (cf. Acts 22:28).
  3. Matthew 8:5 sn While in Matthew’s account the centurion came to him asking for help, Luke’s account (7:1-10) mentions that the centurion sent some Jewish elders as emissaries on his behalf.
  4. Matthew 8:6 tn Grk “and saying, ‘Lord.’” The participle λέγων (legōn) at the beginning of v. 6 is redundant in English and has not been translated.
  5. Matthew 8:6 tn The Greek term here is παῖς (pais), often used of a slave who was regarded with some degree of affection, possibly a personal servant. See L&N 87.77.
  6. Matthew 8:7 tn Grk “And he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  7. Matthew 8:8 tn Grk “But answering, the centurion replied.” The participle ἀποκριθείς (apokritheis) is redundant and has not been translated.
  8. Matthew 8:9 tn Grk “having soldiers under me.”
  9. Matthew 8:9 sn I say to this one ‘Go!’ and he goes. The illustrations highlight the view of authority the soldier sees in the word of one who has authority. Since the centurion was a commander of a hundred soldiers, he understood what it was both to command others and to be obeyed.
  10. Matthew 8:9 tn Though δοῦλος (doulos) is normally translated “servant,” the word does not bear the connotation of a free individual serving another. BDAG notes that “‘servant’ for ‘slave’ is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times…in normal usage at the present time the two words are carefully distinguished” (BDAG 260 s.v. 1). One good translation is “bondservant” (sometimes found in the ASV for δοῦλος) in that it often indicates one who sells himself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its force. Also, many slaves in the Roman world became slaves through Rome’s subjugation of conquered nations, kidnapping, or by being born into slave households.
  11. Matthew 8:9 tn The word “it” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
  12. Matthew 8:10 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  13. Matthew 8:10 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amēn), I say to you.”
  14. Matthew 8:11 tn Grk “and recline [at a meal].” First century middle eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away. The phrase “share the banquet” has been used in the translation to clarify for the modern reader the festive nature of the imagery. The banquet imagery is a way of describing the fellowship and celebration of participation with the people of God at the end. Cf. BDAG 65 s.v. ἀνακλίνω 2, “In transf. sense, of the Messianic banquet w. the idea dine in style (or some similar rendering, not simply ‘eat’ as NRSV) Mt 8:11; Lk 13:29.”
  15. Matthew 8:11 tn Grk “and Isaac and Jacob.” One καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more.
  16. Matthew 8:12 tn The Greek term translated “darkness” (σκότος) is associated with Tartarus in Aeschylus, Eumenides 72; other references to the darkness of death and the underworld can be found throughout the classical literature as far back as Homer. BDAG 932 s.v. σκότος 1 states: “Of the darkness of the place of punishment far removed fr. the heavenly kingdom (Philo, Exsecr. 152 βαθὺ σκότος. Cp. Wsd 17:20; PsSol 14:9.—σκ. κ. βόρβορος ‘gloom and muck’ await those who are untrue to the Eleusinian Mysteries, Ael. Aristid. 22, 10 K.=19 p. 421 D. Of the darkness of death and the underworld in Hom. and the Trag. As the domain of evil spirits PGM 36, 138; Theoph. Ant. 2, 7 [p. 110, 5]) τὸ σκ. τὸ ἐξώτερον the darkness outside Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30.”sn Not to be missed here is the high irony that those who would be expected to participate in God’s eschatological kingdom (the sons of the kingdom) instead end up separated from God, experiencing remorse in the outer darkness.
  17. Matthew 8:12 sn Weeping and gnashing of teeth is a figure for remorse and trauma, which occurs here because of exclusion from God’s promise.
  18. Matthew 8:13 tc ‡ Most mss read αὐτοῦ (autou, “his”) after “servant.” It is unlikely that the pronoun was accidentally overlooked by such diverse witnesses as א B 0250 0281 ƒ1 33 latt bo. More likely is the probability that Western, Byzantine, and some other scribes added the word for clarification (so C L N W Γ Δ Θ 0233 ƒ13 565 579 700 1241 1424 M syh sa). NA28 has the pronoun in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.