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Matthew 19 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Matthew 19 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

(19:4-5) Is Jesus praising marriage and condemning polygamy here?
Is marriage a good thing?
Is polygamy OK?
Yes, Jesus praises marriage here. See 1 Cor. 7:1 for an explanation of the statement of the apostle Paul. In short: if one practice is called good, it does not mean that the opposite practice is evil.
And although polygamy is practiced by individuals in the Bible, as many other sins are, the Bible never accepts or condones it. Such “marriages” are never described as happy.

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Is divorce ever permissible?

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

"Except it be for fornication"
In Mark (10:11) and Luke (16:18), Jesus categorically condemns all divorces. But Matthew's Jesus (see also Mt.5:31) makes an exception when the wife is guilty of fornication.
Is divorce ever permissible?
(19:10-12) After Jesus denounces divorce, his disciples say that if divorce isn't allowed, then "it is good not to marry." Jesus agrees by saying that it is better to make yourself a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Many have castrated themselves attempting to follow Jesus' advice in this verse. Is marriage a good thing?
Dangerous words from a guy who recommends cutting of body parts if they cause you to sin (Mt.5:29-30, Mt.18:8-9, Mk.9:43-48). It might make someone castrate himself so that he could be one of the 144,000 male virgins, who alone will make it to heaven (Rev.14:3-4).
The author of the SAB asks “if divorce is ever permissible:” it is permissible when the marriage bond is broken due to adultery. In that case it isn't really a divorce as the marriage bond has been broken by the other party. So the divorce has actually already happened. In such cases a divorce is more like a public announcement of the fact that the marriage bond has been broken. So it is perhaps better to say that divorce is never permitted, as adultery isn't permitted.
But then we have another case, the case where the marriage bond is broken by either the husband or the wife, and the other is innocent. In such cases the Bible gives the innocent party certain protections and allows them to remarry, see Deut. 24:1 and 1 Cor. 7:15.
A much more detailed look into these things, such as why the Pharisees asked this particular question, can be found in “Divorce and remarriage in the bible” by Samuele Bacchiocchi. Although I do not agree with his conclusion that adultery is not a ground for a divorce, this article contains many worthwhile observations.

10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

On if marriage is a good thing, see 1 Cor. 7:1.
It seems that cutting yourself isn't intended when Jesus speaks in the next verse about “to whom it is given.” Cutting yourself seems incompatible with that and looks more like taking. The author of the SAB doesn't mention any examples for his “many have castrated themselves,” so I cannot possibly react to the number and occasions. I'm not aware of any instances though, except of Origin about whom John Gill remarks:

in which the words are not to be taken, as they were by Origen; who though otherwise too much pursued the allegorical way of interpreting Scripture, here took it literally, and castrated himself

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.

14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

"Such is the kingdom of heaven"
Is it good to be childish?
It is good to be like children in certain respects, but not in others, see chapter 18:3.

15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

(19:16-17) "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Is salvation by faith alone?
What must you do to be saved?
(19:17)"There is none good but ... God."
Is Jesus God?
Jesus also says (chapter 5:20):

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Entering into heaven by keeping the commandments is an impossible work. So what is the meaning here? Jesus' aim is to teach this young man a lesson. This young man was convinced he could enter into heaven by his works, see verse 20. Jesus follows him in this train of thought and asks one more work of him. But this last work he couldn't do. So salvation is by faith alone as is clearly demonstrated again in this story.
The author of the SAB also asks if Jesus is God: but in the most limited verse this verse does not address that question: Jesus says God is good, but if Jesus was God, the verse does not contradict that. But in a wider sense this verse is anoter confirmation of the deity of Christ as in another verse (John 8:46) Jesus says: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” Jesus kept the commandments perfectly, he was sinless, he was perfectly good.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

(19:18-19) Jesus lists the "ten commandments," but his list has only six, and the sixth is not one of the ten. The commandments given by Jesus are secular, not religious, in nature.
What was Jesus' sixth commandment?
The Ten Commandments: Jesus couldn't name them all either.
(19:18) "Thou shalt do no murder, ... Thou shalt not steal"
To kill or not to kill
Is it OK to steal?
Jesus lists the religious commandments, in the form of a summary, in verse 21. With “follow thou me” Jesus makes it clear that he is God, and following him is following God, and obeying the first four commandments.
And I agree with the author of the SAB that these are all secular commandments and that Jesus lists six of them. I have no idea why the author of the SAB says the sixth isn't one of them. Perhaps following the false Roman Catholic teachings? The Roman Catholic church has seven secular commandments, in direct contradiction of this verse. In order to support their idolatrous worship of images, icons and saints they have combined two of the religious commandments and split the tenth commandment.
But regardless, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” captures the tenth commandment (Ex. 20:17) “Thou shalt not covet” very well because the apostle Paul writes (1 Cor. 13:4): “charity envieth not.”

19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

(19:23-24) "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Rich people don't go to heaven.
Is it OK to be rich?
What must you do to be saved?
What the Bible says about rich people
Yes, it is OK to be rich. Many people in the Bible were such as Job, Abraham or David. Jesus here says that if your wealth is a stumbling block to come into the kingdom of heaven, give it away. Just as if a hand or an eye was a stumbling block to come into heaven, it was better to do away with it than to not enter into heaven, see chapter 5:29-30 and chapter 18:8-9. That is how serious the matter is.
The author of the SAB asks again what you must do to be saved. See on this verse 17 for example.

24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

"With God all things are possible."
Can God do anything?
God cannot do everything in the sense that the author of the SAB interprets it. For example God cannot sin (James 1:15) and God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).
See the other verse, for example Mark 6:5, for comments on instances where the author of the SAB reads that God was powerless.

27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Abandon your wife and children for Jesus and he'll give you a big reward.
Jesus does not say that you must abandon your wife and children. Jesus says that if you forsake these for his sake you will inherit everlasting life. The dictionary defines abandon first as: “To withdraw one's support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility;” It defines forsake first as “To give up (something formerly held dear); renounce.” They are different words with a different meaning. There is no example in the Bible of someone who abandons his wife or children and is rewarded.
What Jesus says here is that if wife or children will want to stop you of pursuing eternal life and you forsake them in this respect, not abandon them, be rewarded. John Bunyan gives a beautiful account of this in his account of the pilgrimage of Christiana:

She was moreover much broken with calling to remembrance the restless groans, brinish tears, and self-bemoanings of her Husband, and how she did harden her heart against all his entreaties and loving persuasions (of her and her Sons) to go with him.

So although Christian forsook the beggings of his wife to not go on pilgrimage, he did not abandoned her. He loved her so much that he wanted her to have eternal life as well.
John Gill sums it up as:

but when these things stand in competition with Christ, he is to be loved and preferred before them; and believers are always to be ready to part with them for his sake, when persecution arises, because of the word. All these things are to be relinquished, rather than Christ, and his Gospel; and such who shall be enabled, through divine grace, to do so,

30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.