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Verses 3-5

Mark 7:3-5. For the Pharisees, &c., except they wash their hands oft Greek, εαν μη πυγμη νιψωνται τας χειρας , except they wash their hands with their fist: or, as some render it, to the wrist. Theophylact translates it, unless they wash up to their elbows; affirming that πυγμη denotes the whole of the arm, from the bending to the ends of the fingers. But this sense of the word is altogether unusual. For πυγμη , properly, is the hand, with the fingers contracted into the palm, and made round. “Theophylact’s translation, however,” says Macknight, “exhibits the evangelist’s meaning. For the Jews, when they washed, held up their hands, and, contracting their fingers, received the water that was poured on them by their servants, (who had it for a part of their office, 2 Kings 3:11,) till it ran down their arms, which they washed up to their elbows. To wash with the fist, therefore, is to wash with great care.” A MS. termed Codex Bezæ, instead of πυγμη , the fist, or wrist, has πυκνη , frequently. And when they come from the market, except they wash Greek, βαπτισωνται , bathe themselves, as the word probably ought here to be rendered, (see Leviticus 15:11,) they eat not Having the highest opinion of the importance of these institutions. Indeed, some of their rabbis carried this to such a ridiculous height, that one of them determined the neglect of washing to be a greater sin than whoredom; and another declared, it would be much better to die than to omit it. See many instances of this kind in Hammond and Whitby on the place. The Pharisees, therefore, viewing these washings in this important light, did not doubt but our Lord, by authorizing his disciples to neglect them, would expose himself to universal censure, as one who despised the most sacred services of religion; services to which a sanction was given by the approbation and practice of the whole nation. Accordingly, they asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders? Hast thou taught them to despise these institutions? But while they pretended nothing but a sorrowful concern for the contempt which the disciples cast on institutions so sacred, their real intention was to make Jesus himself to be detested by the people as a deceiver. But the charge of impiety which they thus brought against him and his disciples, he easily retorted upon them with ten-fold strength. For he shows clearly, that notwithstanding their pretended regard for the duties of godliness, they were themselves guilty of the grossest violations of the divine law. And as they thus transgressed, not through ignorance, but knowingly, they were the worst of sinners, mere hypocrites, who deserved to be abhorred by all good men; and the rather, as God had long ago testified his displeasure against them, in the prophecy which Isaiah had uttered concerning them. He answered, Well hath Esaias prophesied, &c. See note on Matthew 15:7-9.

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