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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Mark 11



Verse 1

1. Βηθφαγή. The locality is uncertain, and it is doubtful whether it was a village near Bethany or a district which contained it. It is not mentioned in O.T., and nowhere in N.T., excepting these narratives. When Mt. wrote, it was apparently better known than Bethany, which he omits. Wellhausen suspects that Bethany is an intrusion here, inserted because among Christians Bethany was so well known. In that case, Mk ought to omit and Mt. to insert it. Renan (Vie, p. 374, ed. 1863) says that passages in the Talmud show that Bethphage was a sort of pomoerium, which reached up to the eastern substructions of the Temple.

πρὸς τὸ ὄρος. Towards the mount rather than “at the mount” (A.V., R.V.); cf. Mark 1:33, Mark 2:2, Mark 4:1.

τὸ Ἐλαιών. See crit. note. Luke 19:29; Luke 21:37 there is doubt between Ἐλαιών and Ἐλαιῶν. Ἐλαιών, Olivetum, is an “olive grove” or “Olivet.” Acts 1:12 we have Ἐλαιῶνος, as in Joseph. Ant. VII. ix. 2. W.H. App. p. 158; Deissmann, Bib. St. pp. 208–212; and for description, Stanley, Sin. and Pal. pp. 185, 422. There was a tradition that the Messiah would appear there. The Egyptian pretender did appear there.

This arrival took place 8th Nisan (John 12:1); but as the year of the Crucifixion is unknown, it is impossible to say what date that would represent in our Calendar. Either A.D. 29 or 30 or 33 would fit the evidence in the Gospels, and 29 or 30 is generally preferred to 33. The Evangelists do not regard chronology as important, and the small amount which they give us is not always harmonious. Lewin, Fasti Sacri, gives the evidence clearly.

ἀποστέλλει δύο. Even as regards trifling missions, our Lord seems to have adhered to His plan of sending the Apostles out in pairs (Mark 14:13); see on Mark 3:14 and Mark 6:7. Two who had already worked together would perhaps be sent, and Mk’s details point to Peter as one of the two.

Verses 1-11


Matthew 21:1-11. Luke 19:29-44. John 12:12-19

Verse 2

2. Ὑπάγετε. So also Lk., while Mt. has his favourite πορεύεσθε.

τὴν κατέναντι. We have no means of knowing whether this was Bethany or Bethphage or another village. The two messengers could see it and there was no need to name it. The compound prep is not classical, but it is freq. in Bibl. Grk.

πῶλον. The young of horse, ass, elephant, dog, and even of man; in the last case it is usually fem., “a filly.” The word is in all three and nowhere else in N.T. In LXX. it is usually a young ass; Genesis 32:15; Genesis 49:11; Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14; Zechariah 9:9. Cf. pullus, which is also elastic in meaning, but is commonly used of birds. Vulg. has pullum here. Mk evidently regards as supernatural Christ’s knowledge of what would happen; cf. Mark 14:13; John 1:48; John 4:50; John 11:11; John 11:14. We may adopt other possibilities, but they receive no support from the Evangelists.

οὐδεὶς οὔπω. See crit. note and on Mark 1:14. The animal is required for a solemn and sacred purpose. The Virgin Birth and the new tomb harmonize with this idea, which is natural and widespread; Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 15:19; Deuteronomy 21:3; Judges 16:11; 1 Samuel 6:7; 2 Samuel 6:3; Ovid, Metam. iii. 11; Virg. Geor. iv. 540. See Wetstein ad loc. and Orelli on Hor. Epod. ix. 22.

λύσατε καὶ φέρετε. The change from aor. to pres. is accurate; cf. Acts 12:8, and contrast John 11:44 (both aor. imper.) and James 2:12 (both pres. imper.).

Verse 3

3. Τί ποιεῖτε τοῦτο; Either Why do ye this? (A.V., R.V.), or “What are you doing?” Vulg. Quid facitis?

Ὁ κύριος χρείαν ἔχει. In all three; cf. Mark 2:17, Mark 14:63. There is probably little difference between ὁ κύριος here and ὁ διδάσκαλος, Mark 14:13; both represent Rabbi. See on Mark 9:5. The Lord’s humiliation and poverty continue to the end; even for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem He has to borrow an animal to ride upon. But it was no part of His humiliation that the animal was an ass; Judges 1:14; Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4; 1 Samuel 25:20; 2 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 19:26. The ass was quite consistent with a royal personage coming peaceably. Moore, Judges, p. 274.

καὶ εὐθὺς αὐτὸν ἀποστέλλει πάλιν ὧδε. See crit. note. And straightway He sendeth him back hither (R.V. marg.). The Lord will not keep the colt longer than is necessary; He is going to send it back directly. This strongly attested reading is not prosaic and commonplace; it is pleasing and natural. Christ anticipates the owner’s anxiety. Mt. turns the promise into a prediction that the owner will at once send the ass and the foal. It is apparently through a misunderstanding of Zechariah 9:9 that he mentions two animals; the “ass” and the “foal of an ass” are the same animal.

Verse 4

4. πρὸς [τὴν] θύραν Towards the door, “close to it”; cf. Mark 1:33, Mark 2:2, Mark 4:1. Neither πῶλον nor θύραν has the art. in the true text.

ἔξω ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀμφόδον. Superfluous fulness; there is no need to say both “out of doors” and “in the open street.” See on Mark 6:25. The exact meaning of ἄμφοδον is uncertain; it originally meant a road round some building, and then it seems to have been used for any public road or street. Syr-Sin. has “a court in the street,” Vulg. bivium, which is too definite. In LXX. (Jeremiah 17:27; Jeremiah 49:2; Jeremiah 49:7) it represents buildings, “palaces”; but Aquila (Jeremiah 7:17; Jeremiah 11:6; Jeremiah 14:16) uses it of “streets.” In the [2618] text of Acts 19:28, d has in campo for εἰς τὸ ἄμφοδον. Evidently the meaning was elastic.

Verse 5

5. τῶν ἐκεῖ ἑστηκότων. See on Mark 9:1. Lk. says that they were the owners, which is probable; but in a village everyone knows everyone, and bystanders would see that the disciples were not the owners, and would ask their business. That the owners were Lazarus and his sisters is not a probable conjecture, even if the village is Bethany. Lk. at any rate would mention this; and none of the family would have questioned disciples of Christ in this way.

Τί ποιεῖτε λύοντες τ. πῶλον; What do ye, loosing the colt? (R.V.). “What do you mean by it?” Cf. Acts 21:13, τί ποιεῖτε κλαίοντες; “What mean ye by weeping?”

Verse 6

6. καθώς. Even as. They delivered Christ’s message exactly. Lk. transfers καθώς to their experiences; everything happened exactly as He had foretold.

ἀφῆκαν αὐτούς. The owners let the two disciples go with the colt. They knew ὁ κύριος by reputation and were sure that He would be as good as His word about sending the colt back. They might even “be proud that it should be used by the Prophet” (Swete).

Verse 7

7. φέρουσιν. Cf. Mark 1:32, Mark 7:32, Mark 8:22, and see on Mark 15:22.

ἐπιβάλλουσιν. See crit. note. As the colt had never been ridden, it would have no ἐπίσαγμα.

τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν. [2619] has ἑαυτῶν, “their own upper garments.” The officers of Joram took off their garments to make a throne for Jehu, when they proclaimed him king (2 Kings 9:13).

ἐκάθισεν ἐπʼ αὐτόν. The acc. is freq. (Mark 11:2, Mark 2:14, Mark 4:38; Matthew 19:28; John 12:14; etc.). In such cases the previous motion may be understood; see on John 1:32.

Verse 8

8. πολλοὶ τὰ ἱμάτια κ.τ.λ. The enthusiasm spreads to the multitude. The disciples had taken off their chief garments to form a seat; the multitude take off theirs to form a carpet. There are many examples of this impulse; e.g. the story of Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich in Dec. 1581. A close parallel is found in the solemn entry of Buddha Dîpankara (Buddhavamsa ii.); “The people swept the pathway, the gods strewed flowers on the pathway and branches of the coral-tree, the men bore branches of all manner of trees, and the Bodhisatta Sumedha spread his garments in the mire, men and gods shouted, All hail!” The similarity, as Clemen remarks, is due to “identity of Oriental customs.”

στιβάδας. So the best MSS. It means greenery of any kind, esp. when used as litter (στείβω); “branches” is too definite. R.V. marg. has “layers of leaves.”

ἐκ τῶν ἀγρῶν. “Fields” with us suggests “meadows,” whereas Mk uses the word of farms or cultivated land, and near to towns most of it would be cultivated (Mark 5:14, Mark 6:36). See crit. note. Mk alone has this detail, and Syr-Sin. omits it here. All three are silent about the crowd coming with palm branches from Jerusalem (John 12:13; John 12:18).

Verse 9

9. οἱ προάγοντες. This might include the Jerusalem contingent, which on meeting Christ turned round and headed the procession.

ἔκραζον. This cry continued; the “earliest hymn of Christian devotion” (Stanley, Sin. and Pal. pp. 190 f.; his description of the scene is famed).

Ὡσαννά. “Save, we pray”; but the word seems to have become an expression of praise rather than of prayer. Lk. in choosing an equivalent that would be intelligible to Gentile readers takes δόξα and not σῶσον δή. Contrast Acta Pilati i. It is remarkable that Mk gives no translation of Hosanna; contrast Mark 5:41, Mark 7:34, Mark 15:22; Mark 15:34. This may be either because, like Rabbi (Mark 9:5), the word was so familiar, or because he himself was in doubt about the meaning. Psalms 118, which perhaps celebrates the Dedication of the Second Temple, and is certainly processional, was sung at the [2620] of Tabernacles, and the palm branches, waved by the crowd from Jerusalem, would easily suggest the ceremonies of that Feast. In the post-communion prayer in the Didache (x. 6) “Hosanna to the God of David” occurs, and some texts have “Hosanna to the Son of David,” from Matthew 21:9.

εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχ. κ.τ.λ. In these words all four agree. Originally they were a welcome to the pilgrim who comes to the Feast; but here they imply that “He who cometh” has a mission from God.

Verse 10

10. εὐλογημένη ἡ ἐρχ. Βασ. Here Mk is alone. The cry shows that some in the crowd remembered Christ’s teaching about the Kingdom and had some vague idea that this was the inauguration of it. “The coming kingdom of our father David” points back to 2 Samuel 7:11-16 (cf. Zechariah 12:10), and they think that the glories of David and Solomon may be restored. Their ideas about Jesus of Nazareth were no doubt diverse and indefinite. To most He was a great Prophet; to some He was the Prophet who was to be the Forerunner of the Messiah; to others He was the Messiah Himself, about whom again their ideas were diverse and indefinite. Even without counting the possibility of provoking the Procurator, this public recognition of Jesus as the Messiah or His Forerunner was an audacious thing, evidently not premeditated. He was under the ban of the hierarchy. The Sanhedrin had tried to arrest Him. They had excommunicated the man born blind for saying that He had Divine power. They had made Him an outlaw by calling on all Jews to help in arresting Him (John 11:57). And yet, not only pilgrims from Galilee and countryfolk from the neighbourhood of Jericho, but numbers who came from Jerusalem joined in proclaiming Him as the Messiah. (Mark 11:9-10; Matthew 21:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13).

ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις. Glory in the heaven of heavens; or, if the idea of “save” be retained, “May our prayer for salvation be heard in heaven.” Syr-Sin. has “Peace in the highest.” Cf. Job 16:19-20. Mk omits the protest of the Pharisees and the Lamentation over Jerusalem (Luke 19:39-44).

Verse 11

11. εἰς τὸ ἱερόν. This defines εἰς Ἰεροσόλυμα more exactly, just as the approach towards Jerusalem is defined more exactly by εἰς Βηθφαγή (Mark 11:1). The ἱερόν is the whole of the Temple-enclosure or τέμενος, including the courts open to the air as well as the ναός which was roofed. See on John 2:14; John 2:20; also Sanday, Sacred Sites of the Gospels, pp. 106 f., with illustration and plan.

περιβλεψάμενος πάντα. This and the remainder of the verse are peculiar to Mk. For the last time this embracing look is remembered and recorded (Mark 3:5; Mark 3:34, Mark 5:32, Mark 10:23). This time it is all-embracing, and all the more full of meaning if we think of the Lamentation over Jerusalem as having been uttered a few hours before. To regard this as the wondering look of a provincial, who was seeing Jerusalem for the first time, is entirely to misinterpret its meaning.

ὀψίας ἤδη οὔσης τ. ὥρας. There were still a few days in which some souls might be reached and in which teaching might be given which would hold good for all time; but it was too late for anything to be done that evening. So He went back to Bethany and passed the night on the quiet slopes of the [2621] of Olives (Luke 21:37). In the city He would have been less quiet and less safe; τὰ γὰρ Ἰεροσόλυμα πάσης κακίας ἐργαστήριον ἦσαν (Theoph.). He takes all precautions to prevent being arrested before His hour is come.

Verse 12

12. τῇ ἐπαύριον. This is commonly understood to be Monday 11th Nisan.

ἐπείνασεν. The reality of Christ’s manhood is again conspicuous, and that in three ways. He suffered hunger; until He went up to the fig-tree, He did not know that it had nothing but leaves; then He felt disappointment. This hunger is some evidence that at Bethany He was not under the roof of friends; they would have provided Him with food in the morning.

Verses 12-14


Matthew 21:18-19

Verse 13

13. ἰδὼν συκῆν ἀπὸ μακρόθεν. It was a single tree by the roadside (Mt.), and its having leaves before the season would make it conspicuous. See on Mark 5:6 for the pleonastic ἀπό.

εἰ ἄρα τι εὑρήσει. Si quid forte inveniret (Vulg.). Mt. characteristically omits an expression which implies ignorance in Christ, and he merely states that Christ found only leaves. In the fig-tree the fruit precedes the leaves, and therefore abundance of foliage was a profession that fruit was there, although it was not the time for either. The ἄρα means “in these circumstances”; as there were leaves, there was good prospect of fruit. Ἄρα is rare in Mk (Mark 4:41), but is fairly freq. in Mt., Lk., and Acts; nowhere in Jn. Cf. Acts 8:22. Οὖν is also rare.

ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς οὐκ ἦν σύκων. So in [2622][2623][2624][2625][2626][2627]. For the season was not that of figs. It is not easy to see how this is an intimation from the Evangelist that the whole of Christ’s action was symbolical; that He was not desiring figs and did not expect to find any on the tree.

Verse 14

14. ἀποκριθείς. He “answered” the deceptive profession of the fig-tree. Cf. Mark 9:5, Mark 10:51, Mark 14:49.

΄ηκέτιμηδείς. The opt. of wishing (φάγοι) occurs 35 times in N.T. But only here and Acts 8:20 is the wish for something evil. Burton § 176. Neither here nor at Mark 1:44 (see note) is there a double neg. in Mt., whose wording here is different. It is possible that neither Evangelist gives the exact words. Christ may simply have predicted that such a tree would never bear fruit for anyone, a prediction which Peter regarded as a curse. Even if Mk gives the words correctly, they hardly amount to a curse; there is no ἐπικατάρατος or κατηραμένος (Galatians 3:10; Matthew 25:41). Cf. μὴ γένοιτο (Luke 20:16). If we are right in regarding the words as a judgment on the tree for its deceitful professions, it is to be noted that it is the only miracle of judgment wrought by Christ, and it is wrought on an insensate object; εἰς τὸ ἀναίσθητον δένδρον ἐπιδείκνυται τὴν δύναμιν (Theoph.). The solemn lesson is given without causing pain. But the symbolical judgment is not pointed out by Christ, still less its application to Jerusalem, which had just exhibited such enthusiasm for Him as the Messiah, and was about to show how deceptive that enthusiasm was by putting Him to death for not being the kind of Messiah that they desired. Time would show this application, when the braggart and barren city, quae verba sine operibus sonabat (Bede), was destroyed. The lesson which Christ pointed out was less obvious and of more pressing need (Mark 11:22-25).

It is sometimes suggested that this narrative is only the parable of Luke 13:6-9 in another form. Not only the story, but the moral in each case is different. The parable is a warning against spiritual unproductiveness, and we are not told that the unproductiveness continued, and that the threatened destruction took place. Here there is no warning, and the tree is destroyed, not for producing nothing, but for making a deceptive show of exceptional producing power. Still less satisfactory is the suggestion that this is a case of folklore; there was a withered fig-tree near Jerusalem, and this story was invented to account for it. Withered fig-trees must have been common enough. It is extraordinary objects that excite folklore.

ἤκουον. The disciples were listening; they were near enough to hear these unusual words, which were spoken for the sake of the lesson to which they led (Mark 11:21-25). Christ sees in His own disappointment an opportunity for giving instruction that was much needed. The incident could be made a parable, not told, but acted before the disciples’ eyes; and segnius irritant animos etc. (Hor. A. P. 180). The ἤκουον intimates that there is something more to be told.

Verse 15

15. ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν. The work would take some time and He began it at once. He refused to begin to teach in the presence of such a scandal, and in order to be thorough He treated buyers as being as offensive as sellers. In the true text ([2628][2629][2630][2631][2632] ἀγοράζοντας has the art. The buyers as a class are driven out with the sellers. This market was in the Court of the Gentiles. It was not a common market, but one for the sale of all that was required for the sacrifices and the ritual of the Temple. The Temple-tax (Matthew 17:24) might not be paid with heathen coins, and the same rule would apply to offerings to the treasury (Mark 12:41). Hence the opening for money-changers. The market was sanctioned by the hierarchy, who had a share of the profits, and near the time of the Passover business would be brisk. To a pilgrim, coming to Jerusalem full of awe in anticipation of the unique sanctity of the Temple, the shock of finding himself in the hubbub and contentious bargaining of a bazaar must have been distressing. It is said that at Mecca pilgrims are fleeced in a similar way.

τῶν κολλυβιστῶν. “The rate of exchange,” κόλλυβος (Cic. Verr. ii. 3, Att. xii. 6), was sometimes as high as 10 or 12 per cent. Jn uses κερματισταί also, “dealers in small change,” κέρματα.

τὰς καθέδρας. The change from “tables” to “seats” is not accidental. Overturning the tables of money-changers caused spilling of the coins. Overturning the tables of dove-sellers would have caused suffering to the birds; so here He overturned the seats and told the sellers to remove the cages. Syr-Sin. has “tables” in both places. See on John 2:16.

τὰς περιστεράς. “The doves” (R.V.); those which were required for the purification of women (Luke 2:22 f.) and other offerings (Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:22; Leviticus 15:14; Leviticus 15:29).

Verses 15-19


Matthew 21:12-17. Luke 19:45-48. Cf. John 2:14-22

Verse 16

16. οὐκ ἤφιεν ἵνα. Cf. Mark 6:25, Mark 9:30, Mark 15:36. This detail, peculiar to Mk, may be one of Peter’s recollections. Making the Temple a thoroughfare seems not to have been formally permitted, but the hierarchy could easily have stopped it, and did not do so.

Verse 17

17. ἐδίδασκεν. Mt. once more (see on Mark 6:34, Mark 10:1) mentions healing where Mk and Lk. mention teaching; but Mt. records more of Christ’s latest teaching than they do. Cf. Acts 3:2. Although Jesus had allowed Himself to be proclaimed as the Messiah, yet He goes back to His old work of teaching (and healing). He shows that His mission is still, not to reign, but to serve (Mark 10:45); He went on teaching and saying to them.

Οὐ γέγραπται; He again appeals to what “stands written,” for which they professed such reverence, while they habitually ignored it (Mark 2:25, Mark 7:6-7, Mark 10:6-7, Mark 12:10; Matthew 21:16). The quotation follows the LXX. of Isaiah 56:7.

πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. For all the nations. Not only Mt., but Lk. also, omit these words, which looks as if Lk. had not Mk before him at this point. The words have special significance, for it was the Court of the Gentiles that Christ was restoring to its proper purpose as a “house of prayer.” Cf. 1 Kings 8:41-42; John 12:20. See on Mark 13:10, Mark 14:9.

ὑμεῖς δέ. All are held responsible, all who took part in, or countenanced, the traffic. Renan, Vie, pp. 215, 344.

πεποιήκατε. More accurate, as covering both past and present, than ἐποιήσατε (Lk.) or ποιεῖτε (Mt.).

σπήλαιος λῃστῶν. A robbers’ den. A.V. often obscures the not unimportant difference between the mean, purloining κλέπτης and the violent λῃστής, who is more of a “brigand” or “bandit” than a “thief.” See on John 10:1; John 18:40. These words come from Jeremiah 7:11, where the Prophet is exhorting the Jews to avert judgments by repentance, as Christ does here. The reference may be to the extortionate charges; διὰ τὸ ὁμοίως τοῖς λῃσταῖς φιλοκερδεῖν (Euthym.); or λῃστής may be used of any kind of flagrant offender. In any case, as Origen says, these traffickers were doing in the house of prayer τὰ ἐναντία τῇ εὐχῇ.

Verse 18

18. οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς. So in [2633][2634][2635][2636][2637][2638][2639][2640]. The order in A.V. has little authority. For the first time in Mk, Mt. and Lk., the chief priests appear in active hostility to Christ. Their gains were being touched. It was as when Luther attacked Pope and clergy and denounced the sale of indulgences. If the Temple-market was stopped, “the hope of their gain was gone.” Note the change of tense.

πᾶς γὰρ ὁ ὄχλος. So in [2641][2642][2643][2644]. Lk. characteristically has ὁ λαὸς γὰρ ἅπας, which calls attention to the fact that the multitude was a Jewish one and representative of the whole nation, for Jews from all parts of the world were now collecting for the Passover. This second γάρ is remarkable; it explains why the hierarchy feared Christ. Not because of His miracles; no one had ever heard of His harming anyone by word or touch; but because this representative multitude was “amazed at His teaching,” so different from that of the Scribes, and “hung on His lips, listening.”

Verse 19

19. καὶ ὅταν ὀψὲ ἐγένετο. See crit. note. Not ὅτε, but ὅταν: And every evening they went forth out of the city; lit. “whenever it became late.” Cf. Mark 3:11, Mark 6:56. Blass § 63. 7; J. H. Moulton, p. 168. See on Mark 11:11. Lk. says the same in very different words.

It is impossible to be certain whether Christ cleansed the Temple twice or only once. There is no improbability in His having done so both at the beginning and at the end of His Ministry (Salmon, Human Element, p. 433). If He cleansed it at the beginning, the evil would revive, for the authorities would delight in showing public contempt for His teaching and in resuming their profits. In that case He would deal with it more severely the second time; and His condemnation of it in the Synoptics is more severe than in Jn. See on John 2:17. Mk contains facts which imply an earlier Ministry in Jerusalem. When did Joseph of Arimathaea become a disciple? When did the household at Bethany become friendly, or the owners of the colt, or the owner of the upper room? But at the present time the hypothesis that He cleansed the Temple only once finds more favour. Then which is the true date? Here there is much difference of opinion, for the probabilities are rather equally divided. But in one respect all four Gospels agree about the date; they make it “the first public act in the Ministry in Jerusalem” (J. A. Robinson, Hist. Char. of St John’s Gospel, p. 21,—an admirable little book). The Synoptists omit the early work in Jerusalem, but they place this significant action at the opening of what they do record of Christ’s work there; and in each case His protest against the licensed desecration of “the Mountain of the House” provokes a question as to His own authority (Mark 11:28; John 2:18).

Verse 20

20. πρωΐ. This was the following morning (Tuesday), the day in that week about which we have most information, excepting Friday. But the interval between the first and second seeing of the tree may have been shortened in tradition. Mt., as often, enhances the miracle. He banishes the interval altogether; “the fig-tree immediately withered away,” and the Apostles (not Peter only) express their astonishment at the suddenness of the result. No doubt Mk is nearer the truth in both particulars. There was a considerable interval, and it was Mk’s instructor who called attention to the fulfilment of Christ’s prediction. The tree may have contributed to its own death by exhausting itself with its premature abundance of foliage.

Verses 20-25


Matthew 21:19-22

Verse 21

21. ἀναμνησθείς. Perhaps none of them thought much about it, until the tree was seen in its changed condition. Then Peter remembered the unusual words to which they had listened (Mark 11:14).

Ῥαββεί. See on Mark 9:5, Mark 10:51.

ἣν κατηράσω. That is Peter’s view; the words as recorded are a prayer rather than a curse, and in them nothing is said about withering, but only perpetual fruitlessness. Hence Peter’s surprise. The acc. after καταράομαι is late; we usually find the dat.

ἐξήρανται. Like πεποιήκατε (Mark 11:17), the perf. is more accurate than the aor. (Mt., Lk.). In both cases we have the present result of past action.

Verse 22

22. ἀποκριθείς. For the curious combination of aor. part. with pres. indic. see on Mark 8:29 sub fin. No direct answer is given to Peter’s remark, which was meant to raise the question of a judgment on the tree. Christ does not gratify his natural curiosity, but gives to all of the Apostles a lesson less easy to see, but of greater importance. See on Mark 10:29.

Ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ. Not the “faith which God bestows,” but the “faith which relies on Him.” Have faith in God, faith in the efficacy of prayer. It was this faith which most of them had lacked in trying to heal the demoniac boy (Mark 9:29); it was through His possession of this faith that His prayer about the tree had been so clearly answered. Note the pres., “continually have.”

Verse 23

23. ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν. See crit. note, and on Mark 3:28.

ὃς ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ. “Removing mountains” was a Jewish figure of speech for a very great difficulty, and it would be familiar to the disciples. Like many Oriental teachers, Christ was accustomed to use strong and picturesque language which to Western ears sounds extravagant (Mark 9:45-47, Mark 10:25). Sanday, The Life of Christ in Recent Research, pp. 26 f. Lk. omits the withered tree, but has a similar Saying in a different connexion, with a sycamine tree instead of a mountain (Luke 17:6). In each case the miraculous passage from land to sea is effected by faith. The most difficult results are attainable when faith and prayer are directed towards objects which are in accordance with the Divine Will (Mark 9:23). St Paul may have known that our Lord had used this figure (1 Corinthians 13:2), but he may equally well have employed it independently. Origen interprets “this mountain” as “this hostile object presented by the devil.” Armed with faith and prayer we may say to Satan himself, “Depart,” and he will go. E. A. Abbott, The Son of Man, p. 387.

Ἄρθητι καὶ βλήθητι. Aor. of what takes place once for all; cf. λύσατε (Mark 11:2; John 2:19), βοήθησον (Mark 9:22).

μὴ διακριθῇ. Hort says that James 1:6 is “taken from our Lord’s words in Mark 11:23. Not the mere petition avails, but the mind of the asker, the trust in God as one who delights to give. Wavering is no doubt the right translation of διακρινόμενος in this verse (Acts 10:20; Romans 4:20; Romans 14:23), though singularly enough this sense occurs in no Greek writing, except where the influence of the N.T. might have led to its use. It is supported by the versions, the Greek commentators from Chrysostom and Hesychius, as well as by the context of all the passages. Cf. διαλογίζομαι, ‘dispute with oneself’ in the Gospels.” N.T. usage makes διακρίνομαι the negation of πιστεύω, for each, so far as it is true, excludes the other. See crit. note.

Verse 24

24. προσεύχεσθε καὶ αἰτεῖσθε. So [2645][2646][2647][2648][2649][2650]. See on John 11:22; προσεύχομαι (nowhere in Jn) is reserved for prayer to God (Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46); αἰτέομαι may be used of requests to man (Mark 6:24, Mark 15:8). Syr-Sin. omits καὶ αἰτεῖσθε.

πιστεύετε ὅτι ἐλάβετε. Always believe that ye received them—“at the moment when ye asked for them.”

Verse 25

25. ὅταν στήκετε προσευχόμενοι. Whenever ye stand in prayer. Christ says “stand” because that was the usual posture among the Jews (1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Kings 8:14; 1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 9:4; Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13). Yet kneeling was not unusual in cases of special earnestness (1 Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Daniel 6:10). Christ knelt (Luke 22:41), and kneeling has become usual among Christians (Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5; Ephesians 3:14). But the Eastern Church still prays standing. Stanley, East. Ch. p. 159, ed. 1883; Hefele, Chr. Councils, I. p. 435. For the very rare use of ὅταν with pres. indic. see Winer, p. 388; Burton § 309; Blass § 65. 9.

ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος. A necessary caution against the supposition, which Peter’s remark might encourage, that our curses on other men will be executed by God. “The tree which Thou cursedst is withered away; therefore we may curse with like effect.”

ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. A remarkable expression in this Gospel, and an echo of the Lord’s Prayer.

παραπτώματα. “Slips aside,” “false steps,” and so transgressions.

A.V. uses five words for παράπτωμα, “fault,” “offence,” “fall,” “trespass,” “sin,” of which R.V. uses the last three.

The similar saying, Matthew 6:14-15, may have been taken from this passage and inserted, as other Sayings seem to have been inserted, in the Sermon. We infer that the Lord’s Prayer had already been taught to the disciples. Christ does not say that our forgiving others suffices to secure forgiveness for ourselves; but refusing to forgive others is a bar to our being forgiven. Cf. Sirach 28:2; also the Testaments; “Do ye also, my children, have compassion on every man in mercy, that the Lord also may have compassion and mercy on you” (Zebulon viii. 1). Nowhere else in Mk does ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν occur.

Verse 26

26. See crit. note.

Verse 27

27. ἔρχονται πάλιν. Apparently the same day (Tuesday), but later than πθωῒ in Mark 11:20; it is called “The Day of Questions.” We may think of the scene as the Court of the Gentiles (Mark 11:15-17) in which He was walking, and teaching as He had opportunity. For the constr. see on Mark 9:28.

οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς κ.τ.λ. See on Mark 8:31, where, as here, all three elements of the Sanhedrin are mentioned, each with a separate article. The deputation is a formal one, and representatives of each of the three bodies are present. The intrinsic probability of the question which they raise and of the questions which follow is admitted by Strauss. Hausrath (N.T. Times, p. 250) gives a vivid description of this “picture with genuine Oriental local colouring.”

Verses 27-33


Matthew 21:23-27. Luke 20:1-8

Verse 28

28. Ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ; “In the right of what kind of authority art Thou acting thus?” Cf. Acts 4:7. They refer specially to His interference with the hierarchy respecting the Temple-market, but indirectly they challenge His whole career. It was a reasonable question, and they were the right people to raise it. Did He hold that He was clothed with Divine or with human authority? and by whom was it conferred? It was not merely in order to protect the public from an impostor that they pressed this question. They sought to entangle Him fatally. If He claimed Divine authority, He might be convicted of blasphemy. If He claimed human authority as the Son of David, He might be handed over to the Procurator. If He disclaimed all authority, He might be denounced to the people as a convicted impostor. The second question is not a repetition of the first; it at once arises as soon as a claim to any kind of authority is made. Authority must be received from a power that is competent to confer it. Who conferred it on Jesus? Mk alone, with characteristic fulness, adds ἵνα ταῦτα ποιῇς, and Syr-Sin. omits it here. Burton § 215, 216. For ποῖος see on Mark 12:28.

Verse 29

29. Ἐπερωτήσω. See crit. note. He answers their questions with another question; but the ἐπ- refers to directing the interrogation, not to making it on the top of previous interrogations. Wünsche says that it was a Rabbinical custom to ask another question by way of a rejoinder; but the custom is general.

ἕνα λόγον. Not “one question” (A.V., R.V.), nor “one thing” (A.V. marg.), but one statement. “You have asked me to state My authority. I will ask you for one statement.” The “one” is not in opposition to their two questions; it means that a single statement from them may settle the matter. At once they, and not He, are placed in a dilemma. But His reply is not an evasion; if they answered His question, the way to the answer to their question would be clear. As the constituted religious guides of the people, sitting on Moses’ seat, it was their place to speak first. The people had declared John to be a Prophet, and John had declared Jesus to be the Messiah. The Sanhedrin knew this, and they had allowed the popular estimate of John to pass unchallenged. That ought to mean that they admitted that John was a Prophet with a commission from Heaven to preach repentance-baptism. Did they admit this? If so, the authority of Jesus was established, for an inspired Prophet had declared Him to be the Messiah. Cf. Acts 5:38-39, where Gamaliel offers a similar dilemma.

Verse 30

30. τὸ βάπτισμα. The most conspicuous characteristic of John’s preaching is taken as indicating his whole teaching as a reformer, just as justification by faith is taken to indicate the teaching of Luther. See on Mark 1:4.

ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. A reverent desire to avoid using the Divine Name caused the Jews to employ various expressions as equivalent, of which “Heaven,” as with ourselves, was one (Luke 15:18; Luke 15:21; John 3:27; Daniel 4:26; 1 Maccabees 3:18; 1 Maccabees 4:10; 1 Maccabees 4:24; 1 Maccabees 4:55; 2 Maccabees 9:20). It is freq. in the Mishna. Dalman, Words, pp. 217 f. Cf. ἄνωθεν (John 3:3; John 3:31; John 19:11; James 1:17; James 3:15). On the omission of the art. in such phrases see Blass § 46. 5. The second “Answer Me” is omitted by Mt. and Lk. as superfluous.

Verse 31

31. διελογίζοντο πρὸς ἑαυτούς. Does this mean the same as πρὸς ἀλλήλους (Mark 4:41, Mark 8:16), and that they discussed with one another what reply they had better give? Mt. thinks this improbable and substitutes ἐν ἑαυτοῖς: the debate took place in the mind of each with the same general result. Lk. takes the other view with συνελογίσαντο. We have similarly doubtful cases, Mark 14:4, Mark 16:3. Syr-Sin. omits πρὸς ἑ.

Verse 32

32. ἀλλὰ εἴπωμεν. This is probably the interrogative deliberative subjunctive; But shall we say, From men? (R.V. marg.). Cf. δῶμεν ἢ μὴ δῶμεν (Mark 12:14).

ἐφοβοῦντο τὸν ὄχλον. This abrupt return to his own narrative is in Mk’s style, and it is effective. The abruptness is avoided by Mt. and Lk., who include the fear of stoning in the deliberations of the deputation. They both omit ὄντως, which Mk has nowhere else. It qualifies εἶχον (R.V.), not προφήτης (A.V.); the people were thoroughly convinced that John was a Prophet. Their joy in recognizing him as such had been intense; and their resentment would have been intense if the hierarchy had attempted to rob them of this satisfaction. Note the strong form ἅπαντες, which is rare in Mk (Mark 1:27, Mark 8:25), but very freq. in Lk. and Acts; “every one of them had this feeling about John.” This use of ἔχω may be a Latinism. Blass § 70. 2.

Verse 33

33. Οὐκ οἴδαμεν. This profession of ignorance is more than equalled in baseness by the profession of loyalty to the heathen Emperor a day or two later (John 19:15). As Bede says, they feared stoning, but they feared the truth still more. These teachers of Israel (John 3:10), who pronounced the multitude to be accursed for its ignorance (John 7:49), declared that they themselves were ignorant whether one whom the multitude had accepted as God’s messenger had any commission from Heaven. Again we have aor. part. combined with pres. indic., as in Mark 11:22. Syr-Sin. again omits the aor. part.

Οὐδὲ ἐγὼ λέγω. Where would have been the use? If they did not accept John’s testimony to His Messiahship, His own testimony to it would have been of no avail. Their confession of ignorance was an abdication of their official position as teachers of the nation, and they had no right now to question His authority. Hence His silence before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:61). He does not say Οὐδὲ ἐγὼ οἶδα, which would have been the exact rejoinder to their reply; and His οὐδὲ ἐγὼ λέγω suggests that they do know but refuse to tell.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Mark 11:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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