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Matthew 15:1-20 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 15

The Tradition of the Elders.[a] Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?[b] They do not wash [their] hands when they eat a meal.” He said to them in reply, “And why do you break the commandment of God[c] for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ [d]But you say, ‘Whoever says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God,” need not honor his father.’ You have nullified the word of God for the sake of your tradition. Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said:

‘This people honors me with their lips,[e]
    but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines human precepts.’”

10 He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” 12 Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He said in reply,[f] “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Then Peter[g] said to him in reply, “Explain [this] parable to us.” 16 He said to them, “Are even you still without understanding? 17 Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. 19 [h]For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith.[i]

Footnotes:

  1. 15:1–20 This dispute begins with the question of the Pharisees and scribes why Jesus’ disciples are breaking the tradition of the elders about washing one’s hands before eating (Mt 15:2). Jesus’ counterquestion accuses his opponents of breaking the commandment of God for the sake of their tradition (Mt 15:3) and illustrates this by their interpretation of the commandment of the Decalogue concerning parents (Mt 15:4–6). Denouncing them as hypocrites, he applies to them a derogatory prophecy of Isaiah (Mt 15:7–8). Then with a wider audience (the crowd, Mt 15:10) he goes beyond the violation of tradition with which the dispute has started. The parable (Mt 15:11) is an attack on the Mosaic law concerning clean and unclean foods, similar to those antitheses that abrogate the law (Mt 5:31–32, 33–34, 38–39). After a warning to his disciples not to follow the moral guidance of the Pharisees (Mt 15:13–14), he explains the parable (Mt 15:15) to them, saying that defilement comes not from what enters the mouth (Mt 15:17) but from the evil thoughts and deeds that rise from within, from the heart (Mt 15:18–20). The last verse returns to the starting point of the dispute (eating with unwashed hands). Because of Matthew’s omission of Mk 7:19b, some scholars think that Matthew has weakened the Marcan repudiation of the Mosaic food laws. But that half verse is ambiguous in the Greek, which may be the reason for its omission here.
  2. 15:2 The tradition of the elders: see note on Mk 7:5. The purpose of the handwashing was to remove defilement caused by contact with what was ritually unclean.
  3. 15:3–4 For the commandment see Ex 20:12 (Dt 5:16); 21:17. The honoring of one’s parents had to do with supporting them in their needs.
  4. 15:5 See note on Mk 7:11.
  5. 15:8 The text of Is 29:13 is quoted approximately according to the Septuagint.
  6. 15:13–14 Jesus leads his disciples away from the teaching authority of the Pharisees.
  7. 15:15 Matthew specifies Peter as the questioner, unlike Mk 7:17. Given his tendency to present the disciples as more understanding than in his Marcan source, it is noteworthy that here he retains the Marcan rebuke, although in a slightly milder form. This may be due to his wish to correct the Jewish Christians within his church who still held to the food laws and thus separated themselves from Gentile Christians who did not observe them.
  8. 15:19 The Marcan list of thirteen things that defile (Mk 7:21–22) is here reduced to seven that partially cover the content of the Decalogue.
  9. 15:21–28 See note on Mt 8:5–13.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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