(51) Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. (52) Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
King James Version Change your email Bible version
The first parable in the chapter concerns the response of people hearing the Word of the Kingdom. Only those who hear and understand it respond in a positive and sustained manner (Matthew 13:23). The eighth parable also hinges on understanding. Jesus prefaces it with the question, “Have you understood all these things?” After the disciples respond that they have, He proceeds with the final teaching of the occasion, the responsibility of “every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven.”
In general, the scribes of Jesus' day were negative figures, despite the office itself being an honorable one. The term “scribe” (or “secretary”) could refer to any official writer. The first usage dates to the administration of King David (II Samuel 8:17). The role of scribe began with those skilled in writing—and more importantly, recording accurately—but it took on additional significance under Ezra, “a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given” (Ezra 7:6; emphasis ours). Because the scribes were responsible for accurately copying the Scriptures, they knew well what the Scriptures said. They thus became teachers of the law.
The gospel writers frequently group the scribes with the Pharisees and priests because they had become part of the apostate religious leadership of Christ's day. They also frequently opposed Jesus and His teaching, as human traditions had infused their learning and methods of interpretation. Those who should have known the Scriptures best—and recognized the Scriptures' Author and Object—were as unseeing as the other religious leaders.
Jesus does not apply the eighth parable to all scribes but specifically to those instructed in things related to the Kingdom. To paraphrase this parable, every teacher of God's instructions who is a disciple of the Kingdom is like the head of a family—the master of a house—who “brings forth” out of his “treasure”—or more properly, out of his “treasury” or storeroom. What is this treasury? This parable builds on the previous chapter, where Jesus castigates the Pharisees for their blasphemous words in attributing His power to Satan. Jesus responds, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35).
The Pharisees had generated evil things—blasphemy—from their treasuries, their hearts. In contrast, a scribe who is a true disciple of the Kingdom will deliver good things out of his heart. These things will be “new and old.” What is in view are new things in terms of character or quality (kainos). For instance, the New Covenant is not new simply in terms of time (neos) but is of a completely different—higher—quality than the preceding covenant with Israel (Hebrews 8:6-7).
Therefore, the disciple-scribe will bring forth from his heart—from his God-given understanding—both what has come before and what is new in clarity and righteous application. This reinforces Jesus' earlier declaration that He had not come to destroy or abolish the law but to fulfill it by demonstrating its intent in His life (Matthew 5:17-19). After His resurrection, He “opened [the disciples'] understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45; see also verse 27). With inspired understanding, the disciple-scribe will maintain the instruction given in the “Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44), but he will also distill its intent.
— David C. Grabbe