[Cometh into the coasts of Judea by the further side of Jordan.] Here is need of a discerning eye to distinguish of the true time and method of this story, and of Christ's journey. If you make use of such an eye, you will find half a year, or thereabouts, to come between the uttering of the words immediately before-going, and this travel of our Saviour; however it seems to be intimated by our evangelist, and likewise by Matthew, that when he had finished those words, forthwith he entered upon his journey: when, in truth, he went before to Jerusalem, through the midst of Samaria, to the feast of Tabernacles, Luke 9:51, &c. John 7. And again, from Galilee, after he had returned thither, through the cities and towns to Jerusalem, Luke 13:22; to the feast of Dedication, John 10:22: and again, "beyond Jordan" indeed, John 10:40; but first taking his way into Galilee, and thence beyond Jordan, according to that story which is before us. The studious reader, and that in good earnest employeth his labour upon this business, has not need of further proof; his own eyes will witness this sufficiently. Thus, the wisdom and Spirit of God directed the pens of these holy writers, that some omitted some things to be supplied by others; and others supplied those things which they had omitted: and so a full and complete history was not composed but of all joined and compared together.
I wish the reverend Beza had sufficiently considered this, who rendereth not beyond, but by Jordan, and corrects the Vulgar interpreter and Erasmus, who render it 'beyond Jordan,' properly and most truly: "As if, by Perea (saith he), or the country beyond Jordan, Christ, passing over Jordan or the lake of Tiberias, came into Judea out of Galilee; which is not true." But take heed you do not mistake, reverend old man. For he went over Jordan from Capernaum, as it is very probable, by the bridge built over Jordan between Chammath, near to Tiberias, at the Gadarene country: he betook himself to Bethabara, and stayed some time there, John 10:40: thence he went along Perea to the bank over against Jericho. While he tarrieth there, a messenger, sent from Mary, comes to him concerning the death of Lazarus, John 11; and thence, after two days, he passeth Jordan in Judea.
[Kneeled to him.] So chapter 1:40, Beseeching him, and kneeling to him. This is variously rendered, He fell at his feet, bowing the knee, beseeching upon his knee, falling down at his knees. Which renderings are not improper, but I suspect something more is included. For, 1. It was customary for those that so adored to take hold of the knees or the legs, 2 Kings 4:27; Matthew 28:9. 2. To kiss the knees or the feet. See what we have said at Matthew 28:9.
When R. Akiba had been twelve years absent from his wife, and at last came back, his wife went out to meet him: "and when she came to him, falling upon her face, she kissed his knees." And a little after, when he was entered into the city, his father-in-law not knowing who he was, but suspecting him to be some great Rabbin, went to him, and falling upon his face kissed his knees. Speaking of Job, "Satan came, and he kissed his knees: but in all this Job sinned not with his lips," &c. When a certain Rabbin had discoursed of divers things, Bar Chama rose up and kissed his knees.
[Loved him.] That is, he manifested by some outward gesture that this man pleased him, both in his question and in his answer: when he both seriously inquired concerning attaining eternal life; and seriously professed that he had addicted himself to God's commandments with all care and circumspection.
Let us compare the customs of the Masters among the Jews: Eliezer Ben Erech obtained leave from Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai to discourse of some things before him. He discoursed of Ezekiel's chariot (chapter 1), or, of mystical divinity. "When he had made an end, Rabban Jochanan arose up, and kissed his head." "R. Abba Bar Cahna heard R. Levi disputing profoundly. When he had made an end, R. Abba rose up and kissed his head." There is a story of a certain Nazarite young man that exceedingly pleased Simeon the Just with a certain answer that he gave. Whereupon, said Simeon, "I bowed towards him with my head, and said, O son, let such as you be multiplied in Israel." The story is found elsewhere, where for I bowed towards him with my head, it is I embraced him and kissed his head. "Miriam, before the birth of Moses, had prophesied, My mother shall bring forth a son who shall deliver Israel. When he was born the whole house was filled with light. His father stood forth, and kissed her upon the head, and said, Thy prophecy is fulfilled. And when they cast him into the river, he struck her upon the head."
What if our Saviour used this very gesture towards this young man? And that the more conveniently, when he was now upon his knees before him. Some gesture, at least, he used, whereby it appeared, both to the young man and to the standers-by, that the young man did not a little please him, both by his question and by his answer. So I have loved, Psalm 116:1, in the LXX, I have loved, one may render well, it pleaseth me well. So Josephus of David's soldiers, (1 Sam 30:22): "Those four hundred who went to the battle would not impart the spoils to the two hundred who were faint and weary; and said, That they should 'love' [that is, be well pleased] that they had received their wives safe again."
In some parity of sense, John is called the disciple, whom Jesus loved; not that Jesus loved him more than the rest with his eternal, infinite, saving love, but he favoured him more with some outward kindness and more intimate friendship and familiarity. And why? Because John had promised that he would take care of Christ's mother after his death. For those words of our Saviour upon the cross to John, 'Behold thy mother!' and to his mother, 'Behold thy son!' and that from thence John took her home, do carry a fair probability with them, that that was not the first time that John heard of such a matter, but that long before he had so promised.
I have loved thee, Isaiah 60:10, is the rendering of I have had pity upon thee: which may here also agree very well, "Jesus had pity upon him."
[Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.] Some suspect the evangelist here guilty of a solecism, by making a tautology: for it was neither necessary, as they think, so to render the Syriac word in Greek; nor is it done so elsewhere in proper names of that nature. For it is not said by any evangelist, Bartholomeus, the son of Tholomeus: Bar Abbas, the son of Abbas: Bar Jesus, the son of Jesus: nor in the like names. True, indeed; but,
I. When the denomination is made from a common name, and not a proper, then it is not so ill sounding to interpret the word: which is done once and again; Mark 3:17, Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: Acts 4:36, Barnabas, which is, A son of consolation.
II. Bar Timai may be rendered otherwise than the son of Timaeus: namely, either a son of admiration; or, which is more proper, a son of profit. The Targum in Esther 3:8; To the king ariseth no profit ('Timai') from them. The evangelist therefore, deservedly, that he might shew that this Bartimaeus was not named from this, or that, or some other etymology, but from his father's name, so interprets his name, Bartimeus, the son of Timeus.
III. Perhaps there was a Timeus of some more noted name in that age, either for some good report or some bad: so that it might not be absurd to the Jews that then conversed there to say, This blind Bartimaeus is the son of the so much famed Timaeus. So it is unknown to us who Alexander and Rufus were, chapter 15:21: but they were without doubt of most eminent fame, either among the disciples, or among the Jews.
IV. What if Thima be the same with Simai, blind, from the use of Thau for Samech among the Chaldeans? so that Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus might sound no more than the blind son of a blind father.
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