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2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
2 Verse 2. Elders] Rulers and magistrates among the Jews.

For they wash not their hands] What frivolous nonsense! These

Pharisees had nothing which their malice could fasten on in the

conduct or doctrine of our blessed Lord and his disciples, and

therefore they must dispute about washing of hands! All sorts of

Pharisees are troublesome people in religious society; and the

reason is, they take more pleasure in blaming others than in

amending themselves.

The tradition of the elders] The word παραδοσις, tradition,

has occupied a most distinguished place, both in the Jewish and

Christian Church. Man is ever fond of mending the work of his

Maker; and hence he has been led to put his finishing hand even to

Divine revelation! This supplementary matter has been called

παραδοσις, from παραδιδομαι, to deliver from hand to hand-to

transmit; and hence the Latin term, tradition, from trado, to

deliver, especially from one to another;-to hand down. Among the

Jews TRADITION signifies what is also called the oral law, which

they distinguish from the written law: this last contains the

Mosaic precepts, as found in the Pentateuch: the former, the

traditions of the elders, i.e. traditions, or doctrines, that had

been successively handed down from Moses through every generation,

but not committed to writing. The Jews feign that, when GOD gave

Moses the written law, he gave him also the oral law, which is the

interpretation of the former. This law, Moses at first delivered

to Aaron then to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar; and, after these to

the seventy-two elders, who were six of the most eminent men

chosen out of each of the twelve tribes. These seventy-two, with

Moses and Aaron, delivered it again to all the heads of the

people, and afterwards to the congregation at large. They say

also that, before Moses died, he delivered this oral law, or

system of traditions, to JOSHUA, and Joshua to the ELDERS which

succeeded him-THEY to the Prophets, and the PROPHETS to each

other, till it came to JEREMIAH, who delivered it to BARUCH his

scribe, who repeated it to EZRA, who delivered it to the men of

the great synagogue, the last of whom was SIMON the Just. By

Simon the Just it was delivered to ANTIGONUS of Socho; by him

to JOSE the son of Jochanan; by him to JOSE, the son of Joezer; by

him to NATHAN the Arbelite, and Joshua the son of Perachiah; and

by them to JUDAH the son of Tabbai, and Simeon, the son of Shatah;

and by them to SHEMAIAH and ABTALION; and by them to HILLEL; and

by Hillel to SIMEON his son, the same who took Christ in his arms

when brought to the temple to be presented to the Lord: by SIMEON

it was delivered to GAMALIEL his son, the preceptor of St. Paul,

who delivered it to SIMEON his son, and he to Rab. JUDAH HAKKODESH

his son, who compiled and digested it into the book which is

called the MISHNA; to explain which the two Talmuds, called the

Jerusalem and Babylyonish Talmuds, were compiled, which are also

called the Gemera or complement, because by these the oral law or

Mishnah is fully explained. The Jerusalem Talmud was completed

about A. D. 300; and the Babylonish Talmud about the beginning of

the sixth century. This Talmud was printed at Amsterdam in 12

vols. folio. These contain the whole of the traditions of the

elders, and have so explained, or rather frittered away, the words

of God, that our Lord might well say, Ye have made the word of God

of no effect by your traditions. In what estimation these are

held by the Jews, the following examples will prove: "The words of

the scribes are lovely beyond the words of the law: for the words

of the law are weighty and light, but the words of the scribes are

all weighty." Hierus. Berac. fol. 3.

"He that shall say, There are no phylacteries, though he thus

transgress the words of the law, he is not guilty; but he that

shall say, There are five Totaphot, thus adding to the words of

the scribes, he is guilty."

"A prophet and an elder, to what are they likened! To a

king sending two of his servants into a province; of one he writes

thus: Unless he show you my seal, believe him not; for thus it is

written of the prophet: He shall show thee a sign; but of the

elders thus: According to the law which they shall teach thee, for

I will confirm their words."-See Prideaux. Con. vol. ii. p. 465,

and Lightfoot's Hor. Talmud.

They wash not their hands] On washing of hands, before and

after meat, the Jews laid great stress: they considered eating

with unwashed hands to be no ordinary crime; and therefore, to

induce men to do it, they feigned that an evil spirit, called

Shibta , who sits on the hands by night, has a right to sit

on the food of him who eats without washing his hands, and make it

hurtful to him! They consider the person who undervalues this

rite to be no better than a heathen, and consequently

excommunicate him. See many examples of this doctrine in

Schoettgen and Lightfoot.