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The Call of Matthew; Eating with Sinners

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth.[a] “Follow me,” he said to him. So[b] he got up and followed him. 10 As[c] Jesus[d] was having a meal[e] in Matthew’s[f] house, many tax collectors[g] and sinners came and ate with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees[h] saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”[i] 12 When[j] Jesus heard this he said, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.[k] 13 Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’[l] For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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Footnotes

  1. Matthew 9:9 tn While “tax office” is sometimes given as a translation for τελώνιον (telōnion, so L&N 57.183), this could give the modern reader a false impression of an indoor office with all its associated furnishings.sn The tax booth was a booth located at a port or on the edge of a city or town to collect taxes for trade. These taxes were a form of customs duty or toll applied to the movement of goods and produce brought into an area for sale. As such these tolls were a sort of “sales tax” paid by the seller but obviously passed on to the purchaser in the form of increased prices (L&N 57.183). The system as a whole is sometimes referred to as “tax farming” because a contract to collect these taxes for an entire district would be sold to the highest bidder, who would pay up front, hire employees to do the work of collection, and then recoup the investment and overhead by charging commissions on top of the taxes. Although rates and commissions were regulated by law, there was plenty of room for abuse in the system through the subjective valuation of goods by the tax collectors, and even through outright bribery. Tax overseers and their employees were obviously not well liked. There was a tax booth in Capernaum, which was on the trade route from Damascus to Galilee and the Mediterranean. It was here that Jesus met Matthew (also named Levi [see Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27]) who, although indirectly employed by the Romans, was probably more directly responsible to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee appointed by Rome. It was Matthew’s job to collect customs duties for Rome and he was thus despised by his fellow Jews, many of whom would have regarded him as a traitor.
  2. Matthew 9:9 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the narrative.
  3. Matthew 9:10 tn Grk “And it happened that while.” The introductory phrase καὶ ἐγένετο (kai egeneto, “it happened that”) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
  4. Matthew 9:10 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  5. Matthew 9:10 tn Grk “was reclining at table.”sn As Jesus was having 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.
  6. Matthew 9:10 tn Grk “in the house.” The Greek article is used here in a context that implies possession, and the referent of the implied possessive pronoun (Matthew) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  7. Matthew 9:10 sn See the note on tax collectors in 5:46.
  8. Matthew 9:11 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  9. Matthew 9:11 sn The issue here is inappropriate associations (on the status of tax collectors see the note at 5:46; the phrase often occurs in the NT in collocation with sinners). Jews were very careful about personal associations and contact as a matter of ritual cleanliness. Their question borders on an accusation that Jesus is ritually unclean because of who he associates with.
  10. Matthew 9:12 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  11. Matthew 9:12 sn Jesus’ point is that he associates with those who are sick because they have the need and will respond to the offer of help. People who are healthy (or who think mistakenly that they are) will not seek treatment.
  12. Matthew 9:13 sn A quotation from Hos 6:6 (see also Matt 12:7). The statement both in the Hebrew text of Hosea and the Greek text of Matthew creates an apparent antithesis between mercy and sacrifice. Even among the church fathers, some understood this to be an absolute rejection of sacrifice by Jesus, and to signal the end of the sacrificial cult with the arrival of the new covenant. This interpretation is unlikely, however, both for Hosea and for Matthew. The LXX renders the Hebrew text of Hos 6:6 as comparative: “I want mercy more than sacrifice,” and this is probably closer to Hosea’s meaning (see the note at Hos 6:6). Such an understanding is also consistent with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere in Matthew (e.g. 5:18-24; 23:23-28). Obedience to the law is important, but even more important is to show mercy to those who are in dire need, as demonstrated by Jesus himself in his ministry of healing (alluded to in Matt 9:12 with the imagery of the physician, and in Matt 9:1-8 by the healing of the paralytic).

The Call of Levi; Eating with Sinners

13 Jesus[a] went out again by the sea. The whole crowd came to him, and he taught them. 14 As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth.[b] “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him. 15 As Jesus[c] was having a meal[d] in Levi’s[e] home, many tax collectors[f] and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the experts in the law[g] and the Pharisees[h] saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”[i] 17 When Jesus heard this he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.[j] I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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Footnotes

  1. Mark 2:13 tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  2. Mark 2:14 tn While “tax office” is sometimes given as a translation for τελώνιον (telōnion, so L&N 57.183), this could give the modern reader a false impression of an indoor office with all its associated furnishings.sn The tax booth was a booth located at a port or on the edge of a city or town to collect taxes for trade. These taxes were a form of customs duty or toll applied to the movement of goods and produce brought into an area for sale. As such these tolls were a sort of “sales tax” paid by the seller but obviously passed on to the purchaser in the form of increased prices (L&N 57.183). The system as a whole is sometimes referred to as “tax farming” because a contract to collect these taxes for an entire district would be sold to the highest bidder, who would pay up front, hire employees to do the work of collection, and then recoup the investment and overhead by charging commissions on top of the taxes. Although rates and commissions were regulated by law, there was plenty of room for abuse in the system through the subjective valuation of goods by the tax collectors, and even through outright bribery. Tax overseers and their employees were obviously not well liked. There was a tax booth in Capernaum, which was on the trade route from Damascus to Galilee and the Mediterranean. It was here that Jesus met Levi (also named Matthew [see Matt 9:9]) who, although indirectly employed by the Romans, was probably more directly responsible to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee appointed by Rome. It was Levi’s job to collect customs duties for Rome and he was thus despised by his fellow Jews, many of whom would have regarded him as a traitor.
  3. Mark 2:15 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  4. Mark 2:15 tn Grk “As he reclined at table.”sn As Jesus was having a meal. 1st 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.
  5. Mark 2:15 tn Grk “his.”
  6. Mark 2:15 sn The Roman system of taxation was frequently characterized by “tax farming” where an individual would bid to collect taxes for the Roman government throughout an entire district and then add a surcharge or commission (often exorbitant) which they kept for themselves as their profit. The tax collectors referred to in the NT were generally not the holders of these tax contracts themselves, but hired subordinates who were often local residents. Since these tax collectors worked for Rome (even indirectly), they were viewed as traitors to their own people and were not well liked. In addition, the system offered many opportunities for dishonesty and greed, both of which were often associated with local tax collectors.
  7. Mark 2:16 tn Or “the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.
  8. Mark 2:16 sn Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.
  9. Mark 2:16 sn The issue here is inappropriate associations. Jews were very careful about personal associations and contact as a matter of ritual cleanliness. Their question borders on an accusation that Jesus is ritually unclean.
  10. Mark 2:17 sn Jesus’ point is that he associates with those who are sick because they have the need and will respond to the offer of help. A person who is healthy (or who thinks mistakenly that he is) will not seek treatment.

The Call of Levi; Eating with Sinners

27 After[a] this, Jesus[b] went out and saw a tax collector[c] named Levi[d] sitting at the tax booth.[e] “Follow me,”[f] he said to him. 28 And he got up and followed him, leaving everything[g] behind.[h]

29 Then[i] Levi gave a great banquet[j] in his house for Jesus,[k] and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting[l] at the table with them. 30 But[m] the Pharisees[n] and their experts in the law[o] complained[p] to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”[q] 31 Jesus[r] answered them, “Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.[s] 32 I have not come[t] to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”[u]

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Footnotes

  1. Luke 5:27 tn Grk “And after.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.
  2. Luke 5:27 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  3. Luke 5:27 sn See the note on tax collectors in 3:12.
  4. Luke 5:27 sn It is possible that Levi is a second name for Matthew, because people often used alternative names in 1st century Jewish culture.
  5. Luke 5:27 tn While “tax office” is sometimes given as a translation for τελώνιον (telōnion; so L&N 57.183), this could give the modern reader a false impression of an indoor office with all its associated furnishings.sn The tax booth was a booth located at a port or on the edge of a city or town to collect taxes for trade. These taxes were a form of customs duty or toll applied to the movement of goods and produce brought into an area for sale. As such these tolls were a sort of “sales tax” paid by the seller but obviously passed on to the purchaser in the form of increased prices (L&N 57.183). The system as a whole is sometimes referred to as “tax farming” because a contract to collect these taxes for an entire district would be sold to the highest bidder, who would pay up front, hire employees to do the work of collection, and then recoup the investment and overhead by charging commissions on top of the taxes. Although rates and commissions were regulated by law, there was plenty of room for abuse in the system through the subjective valuation of goods by the tax collectors, and even through outright bribery. Tax overseers and their employees were obviously not well liked. There was a tax booth in Capernaum, which was on the trade route from Damascus to Galilee and the Mediterranean. It was here that Jesus met Levi (also named Matthew [see Matt 9:9]) who, although indirectly employed by the Romans, was probably more directly responsible to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee appointed by Rome. It was Levi’s job to collect customs duties for Rome and he was thus despised by his fellow Jews, many of whom would have regarded him as a traitor.
  6. Luke 5:27 sn Follow me. For similar calls on the part of Jesus see Luke 5:10-11; 9:23, 59; 18:22.
  7. Luke 5:28 sn On the phrase leaving everything see Luke 5:10-11; 14:33.
  8. Luke 5:28 tn The participial phrase “leaving everything behind” occurs at the beginning of the sentence, but has been transposed to the end in the translation for logical reasons, since it serves to summarize Levi’s actions.
  9. Luke 5:29 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
  10. Luke 5:29 sn A great banquet refers to an elaborate meal. Many of the events in Luke take place in the context of meal fellowship: 7:36-50; 9:12-17; 10:38-42; 11:37-54; 14:1-24; 22:7-38; 24:29-32, 41-43.
  11. Luke 5:29 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  12. Luke 5:29 tn Grk “reclining.” This term reflects the normal practice in 1st century Jewish culture of eating a meal in a semi-reclining position. Since it is foreign to most modern readers, the translation “sitting” has been substituted.
  13. Luke 5:30 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the implied contrast present in this context.
  14. Luke 5:30 sn See the note on Pharisees in 5:17.
  15. Luke 5:30 tn Or “and their scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 5:21.
  16. Luke 5:30 tn Or “grumbled”; a term often used in the OT for inappropriate grumbling: Exod 15:24; 16:7-8; Num 14:2, 26-35; 16:11.
  17. Luke 5:30 sn The issue here is inappropriate associations (eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners) and the accusation comes not against Jesus, but his disciples.
  18. Luke 5:31 tn Grk “And Jesus.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.
  19. Luke 5:31 sn Jesus’ point is that he associates with those who are sick because they have the need and will respond to the offer of help. A person who is well (or who thinks mistakenly that he is) will not seek treatment.
  20. Luke 5:32 sn I have not come is another commission statement by Jesus; see 4:43-44.
  21. Luke 5:32 sn Though parallels exist to this saying (Matt 9:13; Mark 2:17), only Luke has this last phrase but sinners to repentance. Repentance is a frequent topic in Luke’s Gospel: 3:3, 8; 13:1-5; 15:7, 10; 16:30; 17:3-4; 24:47.