MATTHEW 15:11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”

Curious … Why would the Pharisees have been offended by this saying?

1 Answer 1


The preceding verses in Matthew provide a little bit of context, but the parallel passage in Mark is even more detailed.

The Pharisees questioned Jesus because His disciples were not following the oral tradition of the elders, which proscribed various cleansing/washing rituals (above and beyond the commands in the Torah). Matthew, writing to Jews, did not need to provide as much cultural context; Mark, writing to Gentiles, gives greater background.

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with aunwashen hands?

6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7:5-9, see also relevant context in vss. 1-4)

Jesus has just given a scathing rebuke of their traditions, suggesting that they are prioritizing the rituals of men above the commands of God. Among a group of people who prided themselves on their special status, telling them that the traditions (which they thought made them better than others) were in vain, was most displeasing to the local religious leaders.

This is the context of Jesus' summary pronouncement cited in the OP--people are not defiled because they fail to keep the impotent traditions of the elders, but they are defiled by the wicked things they say and do (some of which Jesus specifically criticizes in this pericope).

  • Appreciate the cross reference to Mark. So? were the Pharisees offended because their oral traditions were being confronted ? And if so, how does Mat 15:11 relate to this? (I suspect I’m missing something obvious here, but at the moment I can’t see what)
    – Dave
    Mar 12, 2022 at 3:47
  • 1
    @Dave yes the passage in Matthew 15 & the passage in Mark 7 are the same story in different levels of detail. The Pharisees are offended because despite their scrupulous adherence to the commandments of men, Jesus is essentially saying "that isn't important, you're breaking the commandments of God". They're being told the thing they are so passionate/zealous about is meaningless, and they've missed the point. Mar 12, 2022 at 4:31

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