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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Mark 4



Verse 1

1. πάλιν. There is no hint as to the interval between Mark 3:35 and Mark 4:1. The Evangelists do not care much about exact chronology, which had seldom been preserved by tradition. The lessons are the same, in whatever order the incidents are placed. Here πάλιν is not simply transitional (Mark 2:13); it looks back to Mark 3:7.

ἤρξατο. This favourite amplification is here omitted by both Mt. and Lk.; cf. Mark 5:17; Mark 5:20; Mark 6:7, and see on Mark 10:47.

παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν. See on Mark 10:46.

συνάγεται. See crit. note. Here again (cf. Mark 3:31) Mt. turns Mk’s historic pres. into a past tense, which has got into some texts of Mk.

ὄχλος πλεῖστος. A very great multitude. Here also some texts of Mk have been influenced by Mt. and Lk. While Mk tells us that the crowd was still larger than before, Mt. and Lk. simply say that it was great.

εἰς πλοῖον. He may have again directed that a boat should be at hand (Mark 3:9). [865][866]2[867][868] insert τό and thus suggest that it was the same boat as that which was used before. Lk. says that the parable of the Sower was delivered as Christ was going about among the towns and villages in Galilee.

πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν. Facing the sea, a feature worth preserving; cf. Mark 1:33, Mark 2:2. He sat in the boat, throwing His net to catch all within hearing. See on Mark 13:3.

Verses 1-12


Matthew 13:1-9. Luke 8:4-8

Verse 2

2. ἐδίδασκεν. The imperf. is again accurate; cf. Mark 1:21; Mark 1:32; Mark 1:35; Mark 1:45, Mark 2:2; Mark 2:13, Mark 3:2; Mark 3:11; Mark 3:23. Both A.V. and R.V. make πολλά a cogn. acc., but it is probably adverbial as usual, meaning “often,” i.e. “in many parables,” in paravolis multis (d). See on Mark 3:2. Parables appear to have become more freq. as Christ’s audiences became larger and more mixed in character. Of these Mk gives us only four, of which only one, the Seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26-29), is peculiar to his Gospel. Parables instructed the real disciples, without harming the careless, and without giving openings to hostile listeners. See Hastings’ D.B. art. “Parable.”

ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ. In the course of His teaching. Here and Mark 12:38 only; 2 John 1:9 is different. In the Gospels, διδασκαλία occurs only in Mark 7:7 = Matthew 15:9. Burkitt calls attention to the fact that the Sower, the Seed growing secretly, and the Mustard-seed “are extraordinarily appropriate in the setting given them by S. Mark. The seed had been sown, the first harvest of disciples had just been reaped, although much of what had been said had fallen on deaf or forgetful ears.”

Verse 3

3. Ἀκούετε. Hear ye. This translation preserves the resemblance to Deuteronomy 6:4 (quoted Mark 12:29), and also shows the connexion between the opening note and the concluding one, “let him hear” (Mark 4:9). This preparatory “Hear ye” is preserved by Mk alone. The people on the beach were talking to one another, and it was necessary more than once (ἔλεγεν) to call their attention: ἰδού serves the same purpose. Cf. Proverbs 4:1; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 22:17; Sirach 3:1, etc.

ὁ σπείρων. The sower, the representative of his class. Winer, p. 132. The art. is in all three, and in all three places is ignored in A.V.; cf. Mark 2:16, Mark 3:13, Mark 4:13, Mark 5:13, Mark 11:4, Mark 13:28, Mark 14:66. Moreover, A.V. varies the order of the opening words, although the Greek order is the same in all three Gospels.

σπεῖραι. The infin. of purpose is often preceded by τοῦ. Lk. is specially fond of τοῦ in this connexion, and both Mt. and Lk. have it here. Winer, p. 408.

Verse 4

4. ἐν τῷ σπείρειν. “During the sowing” or as he sowed; cf. ἐν τῷ ἐλαύνειν (Mark 6:48). [869] has ἐν τῷ σπεῖραι, which would mean “after he had sowed.” Both constructions are freq. in Lk. Contrast the aor. Luke 2:27; Luke 9:36; Luke 11:37; Luke 14:1 with the pres. Luke 5:1; Luke 5:12, Luke 8:42, Luke 9:18; Luk_9:29; Luk_9:33; Luk_9:51. For the constr. ἐγένετοἔπεσεν cf. Mark 1:9. Mt. and Lk. omit the superfluous ἐγένετο.

ὃ μέν. Sc. σπέρμα. As in 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Corinthians 5:3; Romans 7:12; Romans 10:1, no δέ follows. Winer, p. 719; Blass, § 77, 12.

παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν. Cf. Mark 2:13, Mark 4:1. Not “along the way,” but “by the side of the way”; so close to the path that it was trampled on (Lk.). The change of prepositions is graphic; παρά (Mark 4:4), ἐπί (Mark 4:5), εἰς (Mark 4:7). Mk has the sing. of the three failures, ὃ μέν, ἄλλο, ἄλλο, and the plur. of the one success, ἄλλα. What fell on the good ground was more abundant than what did not do so. This important distinction is lost in Mt. and Lk. Mt. has the plur. throughout and Lk. has the sing. throughout.

Verse 5

5. ἐπὶ τὸ πετρῶδες. Not “on stony ground” (A.V.), i.e. ground full of stones, but on the rocky ground (R.V.), i.e. with rock close to the surface, ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν (Lk.). Thin soil would cause rapid germination and rapid withering, and such soil is common in Galilee (Stanley, Sin. and Pal. pp. 425, 432). Cf. Jonah’s gourd.

ἐξανέτειλεν. In both N.T. and LXX., ἀνατέλλω is both transitive (Matthew 5:45; Genesis 3:18) and intransitive (Mark 16:2; James 1:11, which resembles this passage; Genesis 19:25). In LXX., ἐξανατέλλω is trans. (Genesis 2:9).

Verse 7

7. ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι. The thorns were as yet hardly above the surface; but they were more vigorous.

συνέπνιξαν. Vulg. suffocaverunt; Wic. “strangliden.” The συν-expresses intensity; see on Mark 3:5. Mt. and Lk. have ἀπέπνιξαν, “choked off.”

καὶ καρπὸν οὐκ ἔδωκεν. Hardly necessary after συνέπνιξαν, and omitted by Mt. and Lk. See on καὶ τότε, Mark 3:27.

Verse 8

8. τὴν γῆν τὴν καλήν. All three have the double art., which emphasizes the adj. (Mark 3:29); Lk. has ἀγαθήν, which is stronger than καλήν. Only twice, and then of persons, does Mk use ἀγαθός, Mark 10:17-18; in Mark 3:4 we should read ἀγαθοποιῆσαι. Mt. and Lk. have ἀγαθός often; it means what is good in its results, while καλός is what is good as an object of contemplation.

ἐδίδουἔφερεν. The change from aorists to imperfects is accurate. The mistake of taking ἀναβαίνοντα with καρπόν (fruit does not spring up) produced the false reading αὐξανόμενον, which is followed in A.V. On the participles see Mark 1:15.

εἰς τριάκοντα. The texts are so tangled that it is impossible to determine what word should precede the numeral in each case; but we must have the same word in each case. An estimate of the evidence which gives a change of word (εἰςἐνἐν) is intolerable. When we have decided for ειςειςεις, or for ενενεν, we have then to choose between εἰς and εἷς, or between ἐν and ἕν. If εις is preferred, εἰς “up to” is better than εἷς. If εν is preferred, ἕν is better than ἐν. In any case, after three groups of failures in the neut. sing., we have three groups of successes, the gender of which depends on the reading adopted. A hundredfold is not an imaginary increase; cf. Genesis 26:12. Herodotus (i. 193) speaks of even threehundredfold.

Verse 9

9. ἔλεγεν. Perhaps this concluding appeal, corresponding to the opening Ἀκούετε, was uttered more than once. Cf. Mark 4:23; Luke 14:35; Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:43. Deuteronomy 29:4 may be the basis. In Rev. we have the sing., ὁ ἔχων οὖς, Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29, Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22), and there, as in the Gospels, the appeal is made by Christ. Revelation 13:9 is an exception.

Verse 10

10. κατὰ μόνας. The expression is freq. in LXX., but in N.T. only here and Luke 9:18; perhaps χώρας was originally understood. Cf. Thuc. i. 32, 37. When they came to be by themselves, after other parables had been spoken, is the meaning. That there had been other parables is shown by what follows.

ἠρώτων τὰς παραβολάς. See crit. note. Mk always uses the imperf. of ἐρωτάω, never the aor. (Mark 7:26, Mark 8:5). He regards conversation as a process; see on Mark 5:9. Mt., as often, substitutes an aor., εἶπαν. Usually ἐρωτάω = “I question” is followed by περί or ὑπέρ. The reading, τὴν παραβολήν, was substituted because only one parable has been recorded.

Verse 11

11. ἔλεγεν. Conversational imperf.; or possibly it introduces His customary explanation of the use of parables. Christ’s reply, as often, goes deeper than the question put to Him. They want explanations of the parables just spoken; He explains the purpose of parabolic teaching.

τὸ μυστήριον δέδοται. Emphasis on τὸ μυσ. Mt. and Lk. have δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια, which is not the same thing. Some texts here have γνῶναι, and some have τά μυστήρια. Christ Himself, the revelation of the Father, had been given to the disciples. He, as the embodiment of the Gospel, was τὸ μυστήριον, of the import of which they as yet knew very little. He was the embodiment of the Good Tidings that the Kingdom of Heaven had been sown here and would produce a glorious harvest hereafter. Nowhere else in the Gospels does μυστήριον occur, but it is very freq. in Paul. Dalman, Words, p. 283.

τοῖς ἔξω. “The multitude of followers who were outside the circle of disciples.” The meaning of such an expression, like our “outsiders,” must depend on the context. To Jews it means non-Jews; to Christians, non-Christians; to the initiated, the uninitiated. It is not found elsewhere in the Gospels; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; Colossians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Timothy 3:7.

τὰ πάντα γίνεται. In Mk only. Not “all these things” (A.V.), nor “all things” (R.V.), but the whole, the whole contents of the mystery of the Gospel. Not “are done” (A.V., R.V.), but proves to be to them, because of the πώρωσις of their hearts. It was given as illumination and instruction, but in their case it becomes a riddle; cf. Luke 10:36; Luke 11:26.

Verse 12

12. ἵνα βλέποντες κ.τ.λ. An adaptation of the LXX. of Isaiah 6:9-10, but in LXX. there is no ἵνα. It intimates that parables may serve as a judgment on those who have rejected Christ’s teaching. They have shut their eyes so persistently to the truth that now they are unable to see it, and this is in accordance with God’s purpose. “He that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.” But this judgment is a merciful one. The parable which the cold-hearted multitudes hear without understanding they remember, because of its penetrating and impressive form; and when their hearts become able to receive its meaning, the meaning will become clear to them. Meanwhile they are saved from the guilt of rejecting plain truth. See below on Mark 4:22. Failure to see this point has caused some to say that it is incredible that Jesus can have given this explanation of the purpose of parabolic teaching, and the difficulty is perhaps the cause of Mt. substituting ὅτι for ἵνα. Hastings’ D.B. and D.C.G. art. “Parable.” Vulg. here ignores the difference between βλέπωσι and ἰδῶσιν, ut videntes videant et non videant, but in Acts 28:27, et videntes videbitis et non perspicietis. Syr-Sin. has “that seeing they may not see.” See on Mark 8:24.

μή ποτε ἐπιστρέψωσιν. It is possible that here tradition has carried the quotation from Isaiah 6:10 further than Christ did, or has confused His use of it. In LXX. it is the people who hardened their hearts μή ποτε ἐπιστρέψωσιν, not Jehovah who did so; they refused to understand and be healed. Lk. (Luke 8:10) does not carry the quotation beyond συνίωσιν, and Mt. preserves καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς, as in LXX., for which Mk has καὶ ἀφεθῇ αὐτοῖς. Their not being converted and forgiven was the just consequence of their own obstinacy; in that sense, and in that only, was it part of the Divine purpose. See on Matthew 13:13. βλἑποντες· τοῦτο τοῦ θεοῦ. μὴ βλέπωσι· τοῦτο τῆς κακίας αὐτῶν (Theoph.).

Verse 13

13. καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς. This introductory formula marks the beginning of a new section and breaks the connexion with Mark 4:10-12. It does not introduce a customary utterance (ἔλεγεν), but the explanation given on one occasion of a particular parable. This verse is peculiar to Mk.

Οὐκ οἴδατε. All English versions follow Beza in making two questions; but Luther, and apparently Vulg., make οὐκ οἴδατε categorical, Ye know not, which is probably right. In Luke 20:44 and John 12:34, καὶ πῶς is preceded by a statement. In either case we have an expression of surprise and disappointment; see on Mark 6:6. The view that parables were a common method of instruction among the Jews does not seem to be well founded. In O.T. there are few, and to Christ’s hearers they were a novelty.

καὶ πῶς; The καί accepts what has just been said and leads on to a question which καί emphasizes, How then? Cf. καὶ τίς; Mark 10:26; Luke 10:29; Luke 18:26; John 9:36; 2 Corinthians 2:2. Winer, p. 545. The question implies that the Sower is a leading and testing parable, prima et fundamentalis (Beng.). It is one of the three which all three record, the others being the Mustard-seed and The Wicked Husbandmen. It is probably accidental that all three, together with the parable which is peculiar to Mk, have to do with vegetation. The question implies a rebuke to the disciples as well as surprise on the part of Christ. Mt. does not like either and substitutes “Hear then ye the parable of the Sower.” See Mt.’s treatment of Mark 9:10; Mark 9:32; Mark 9:34; Mark 14:40. Lk. is like Mt. in sparing the Twelve, and he omits the rebuke. Both A.V. and R.V. ignore the change from οἴδατε to γνώσεσθε, and A.V. ignores the τάς: How then shall ye come to know all My parables? Cf. Mark 13:28; Luke 7:5 and see on Mark 4:3.

Verses 13-20


Matthew 13:18-23. Luke 8:11-15

Verse 14

14. ὁ σπείρων. The sower in the parable. He is not explained, and the interpretation must vary; Christ, or one of His ministers, or the Church. The emphasis is on τὸν λόγον, giving the key to the parable; What the sower sows is the word. See on Mark 2:2. The comparison between sowing and teaching is common in literature, in Plato, Plutarch, Philo. See the remarkable parallel 2 Esdras 8:41. The suggestion that this parable is borrowed from any external source is unnecessary. Bede notes that ἐξῆλθεν is not explained, and he interprets quia Dominus de sinu Patris egrediens venit in mundum, which is probably too definite.

Verse 15

15. οὗτοι δέ εἰσιν κ.τ.λ. Another instance of Mk’s lack of literary skill; the sense is clear, but the constr. is not. These are they by the wayside where the word is sown is an incomplete sentence, without any relative to correspond to “these.” “By the wayside” does not mean “casually” as distinct from listening to instruction.

ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν, εὐθὺς ἔρχεται. Whensoever they hear (Mark 13:7; Mark 13:14; Mark 13:28), Satan, like the birds, at once is there.

ὁ Σατανᾶς. Mt. has ὁ πονηρός, Lk. ὁ διάβολος. See on Mark 1:13 and Mark 3:23. This is strong evidence that Christ taught the existence of a personal evil spirit. In Mark 3:23 f. He might be said to be answering the Scribes according to the folly of their own hypothesis. But here there is nothing that requires such accommodation. He might have explained τὰ πετεινά as impersonal temptations, and the plur. invites such interpretation.

αἴρει. By doubt, ridicule, counter-attractions.

Verse 16

16. ὁμοίως. Peculiar to Mk. It means that this interpretation is parallel to the preceding one; cf. Mark 15:31.

οἱ σπειρόμενοι. There is no confusion between the seed and the soil. We talk of seed being sown and of soil being sown, i.e. receiving seed. The latter is the meaning here. Imperf. part., who were being sown, in the parable. Syr-Sin. omits σπειρόμενοι and εὐθύς.

εὐθὺςλαμβάνουσιν. In the former case Satan allowed no time, in this case the hearers take none. There is no counting of the cost (Luke 14:28-33), but an immediate enthusiasm. Lk. drops εὐθύς, but compensates by substituting his favourite δέχονται = “welcome” for λαμβάνουσιν.

Verse 17

17. ῥίζαν. Another of the commonplaces of literature; cf. Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7; 2 Kings 19:30 : ἐν ἑαντοῖς, because they are the soil.

ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιροί εἰσιν. On the contrary, they are short-lived. Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18; Hebrews 11:25. “Husbandmen, when there is warm weather too early, are afraid lest the seeds should be too luxuriant, and then a single frost should lay hold of them” (Epict. Dis. iv. 8 sub fin.). See on Mark 4:29.

θλίψεως. Frequent in N.T. and LXX. It implies being either pressed down or in great straits. Vulg. varies between tribulatio (here), pressura (John 16:21; John 16:33), and passio (Colossians 1:24). R.V. has “affliction” 2 Corinthians 4:8, but changes “affliction” (A.V.) to “tribulation” here and Mark 13:19. In 2 Thessalonians 1:4, θλίψις is joined with διωγμός.

διὰ τὸν λόγον. Cf. Mark 13:13; Matthew 5:11. This could not be expressed in the parable. The thin soil was not dried up because it contained good seed.

εὐθύς. This answers to the εὐθύς in Mark 4:16. They receive hastily, and they abjure hastily, in each case without considering the consequences.

σκανδαλίζονται. The verb is freq. in Mk and Mt., but is rare elsewhere in N.T. It combines the ideas of “trip up” and “entrap,” and in N.T. is always figurative of “causing to sin.” Cf. Sirach 9:5; Sirach 23:8, and see on Matthew 5:29. Awkward questions caused Peter to deny his Master (Mark 14:27; Mark 14:29).

Verse 18

18. ἄλλοι εἰσίν. See crit. note. Others are they (R.V.). In the following οὗτοί εἰσιν we have an anacoluthon; but, as in Mark 4:15, the meaning is clear. A.V. again ignores the art.

Verse 19

19. καὶ αἱ μέριμναι τ. αἰῶνος. See crit. note. A different constr. begins here. The cares of the age, aerumnae saeculi (Vulg.), are such as divide and distract the mind. Cf. 1 Peter 5:7, where human anxiety (μέριμνα) is set against Divine care (μέλει).

ἡ ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου. The deceitful power of riches (Mark 10:23-24; 1 Timothy 6:10); cf. ἀπάτη ἀδικίας (2 Thessalonians 2:10), ἀπ. τῆς ἁμαρτίας (Hebrews 3:13). Here, as in 2 Peter 2:13, ἀπάτη and ἀγάπη have been confused in MSS.

αἱ περὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἐπιθυμίαι. Mk alone has this. Mt., who is fond of making triplets, by dropping these words destroys a triplet. τὰ λοιπά, “the rest” (Luke 12:26; 1 Corinthians 11:34), “all the other things besides riches.” “The lusts of other things” (A.V., R.V.) is not quite adequate. The germs of these desires are in human nature before the word enters it. Philo (Leg. Alleg. iii. § 89, M. p. 136) explains the thorns in Genesis 3:18 of the passions which spring up in the fool’s soul.

Verse 20

20. καὶ ἐκεῖνοι. And those (R.V.). The change from οὗτοιοὗτοιἄλλοιοὗτοι (Mark 4:15-16; Mark 4:18) to ἐκεῖνοι marks the difference between the first three classes and the last, and the change should be kept in translation. A.V. has “these” in all five places. Here and Matthew 20:4, καὶ ἐκεῖνοι is found in the best MSS.; elsewhere (Mark 12:4-5, [Mark 16:11; Mark 16:13]) κἀκεῖνος prevails.

σπαρέντες. The change from imperf. (σπειρόμενοι) to aor. may have point. In the other cases the sowing never reached fruitful completion; the good soil was sown once for all successfully.

οἵτινες. “Who are of such a character as to”; cf. Mark 9:1, Mark 12:18.

παραδέχονται. Mk alone has this, and the compound occurs nowhere else in the Gospels; cf. Acts 15:4; Hebrews 12:6.

ἐν τριάκοντα. See on Mark 4:8. Here there is no question between εις and εν: we have to decide between ἕν, “one group,” or possibly “one seed,” and ἐν, “at the rate of.” The question is unimportant. Lk. omits the differentiation; with him it suffices to distinguish between fruitful and unfruitful. Christ could see in the hearts of His hearers counterparts of the different kinds of soils. Characteristically, Jerome gives 100 to the celibates, 60 to the widows, and 30 to the married; Augustine prefers martyrs, celibates, and married; and there are other guesses on similar lines. It is enough to recognize that there are differences among the fruitful. There is a Buddhist parable which is similar; “The best sort of land is like my monks and nuns … the medium sort like the lay associates … The bad sort is like the adherents of other religious societies. Even to them I preach my doctrine” (Clemen, Primitive Christianity, p. 322).

The interpretations of the parables of the Sower and of the Tares show us that, although each of Christ’s parables has only one main lesson, yet it is lawful to seek for meaning in some of the details. But it requires sober judgment to do this correctly; and it does not follow, because some details lend themselves to allegorical explanation, that therefore these meanings were intended by our Lord. Sanday, Outlines, pp. 68 f.

Verse 21

21. καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς. As in Mark 4:13, we have a new section marked. It consists of isolated Sayings, the setting of which has not been preserved by tradition. Cf. ἔλεγεν in Mark 4:11. Mt., as often, omits the imperf. The Sayings are scattered in Mt., and to some extent in Lk. also.

΄ήτι ἔρχεται; Does it come into the room? Is it brought in? Like the interrogative μή (Mark 2:19), μήτι expects a negative reply (Mark 14:19; Matthew 7:16; Matthew 12:23; etc.). We talk of letters and presents “coming.” Just as the seed has to be sown everywhere, so the light must shine everywhere.

ὁ λύχνος. Not “a candle” (A.V.), but the lamp (R.V.). See on Mark 4:3. See Trench, Syn. § xlvi.; D.B. art. “Lamp.” In each case the article denotes that which is commonly found in houses, “the bushel,” “the bed,” “the lampstand”; and in each case A.V. ignores the art. The λύχνος is the inner meaning of parables, the light of the Gospel without parabolic covering. The disciples who hear and understand are the λυχνίαι (Revelation 1:20); it is their business to make others understand; debet esse non modius sed candelabrum (Beng.).

τὸν μόδιον. The bushel; Lk. has the vague word σκεῦος. “Hiding one’s light under a bushel” has become an English proverb, and we must not alter the translation; but the Roman modius was about a quarter of a bushel. The Greek μέδιμνος, which is often rendered “bushel,” was about a bushel and a half. ΄όδιος occurs in papyri.

ὑπὸ τὴν κλίνην. Probably the bed for sleeping on (Mark 7:30; Luke 17:34) rather than the couch for reclining at table.

Verses 21-25


Luke 8:16-18; cf. Luke 11:33.

Verse 22

22. οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν κρυπτόν. For nothing is hidden, except for the purpose of being brought to light, nor yet anything become secret to remain so, but rather for the purpose of coming to light.

For this elliptical use of ἀλλʼ ἵνα = ἀλλὰ τοῦτο γέγονεν ἵνα cf. Mark 14:49, where Mt. (Matthew 26:56) supplies the ellipse. The ellipse is freq. in the Johannine writings; John 1:8; John 9:3; John 13:18; John 15:25; 1 John 2:19. Neither here nor Mark 10:40 does ἀλλά mean “except”; but see J. H. Moulton, pp. 191, 241. The difference between φανερωθῇ and ἔλθῃ εἰς φανερόν is worth keeping in translation; and we have a good instance of κρυπτά becoming φανερά, 1 Corinthians 14:25. The saying may have been proverbial; our Lord uses it in different connexions. In Luke 12:2 the fact that nothing remains secret is applied to condemn hypocrisy; hypocrisy is not only wicked but futile, for one day there will be a merciless exposure. In Matthew 10:26 the meaning seems to be that the Apostles proclaim publicly what Christ teaches them in private. Here and Luke 8:17 the saying indicates that parables are not given in order that unsympathetic hearers should never see or understand (Mark 4:12), but that in the end they should become sympathetic and be able to see and understand. This good result the disciples must effect by making known the light of Christ’s teaching. Things which are precious are hidden to prevent them from being misappropriated or misused; they are not hidden to prevent them from being ever seen or used. Things which are never to be seen again are not “hidden,” but “lost”; and what is put underground to remain there is not “sown,” but “buried.”

Verse 23

23. εἴ τις ἔχει. In Mark 4:9 this appeal was made to the whole audience. Here the disciples are told that it applies to them as well as to outsiders.

Verse 24

24. καὶ ἔλεγεν. The imperf. may be conversational, or it may introduce another caution which He used to give them. Mt. omits.

Βλέπετε. Not quite in the same sense as in Mark 4:12, nor yet as in Mark 13:5; Mark 13:9; Mark 13:23; Mark 13:33, where it means “take heed,” “be on your guard.” Here it is rather Heed, “look at it carefully and see that you understand it.” A.V. and R.V. have “take heed,” which is misleading. Cf. Mark 7:14. Sight, the nobler sense, directs hearing—oculus, non auris, se movet (Beng.)—is not quite the point.

ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ. “The spiritual profit which you receive from what you hear will depend upon your attention to it and apprehension of it: you will get proportionate return (μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν), and you will receive a generous addition to it” (προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν). The disciple who heeds what he hears is bounteously repaid. This saying, like the one in Mark 4:22, seems to have been proverbial, and it is applied in quite other ways elsewhere (Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:38). “Let the wise man hear and increase in learning” (Proverbs 1:5); his insight will increase by being used. Bede says that he who loves the word will receive the power to understand what he loves; Euthymius, that the measure of one’s προσοχή is the measure of one’s γνῶσις. On the use of the passive to avoid using the Name of God see Dalman, Words, p. 224.

Verse 25

25. ὃς γὰρ ἔχει. Another proverb-like utterance which is used with different applications (Matthew 13:12; Matthew 25:29; Luke 19:26). We have a parallel saying, which holds good of spiritual progress, as well as of worldly advancement, “Nothing succeeds like success.” The γάρ introduces a reason for the previous statement about measure for measure.

ὃς οὐκ ἔχει. Christ often utters startling sayings which arrest attention and make people think; e.g. that self-seeking is self-destruction, that the dead must be left to bury their own dead, that those who mourn are blessed, etc. The Beatitudes are paradoxes; they tell us that blessedness begins where man deems that misery begins. And how can a man be deprived of that which he does not possess? The answer is that something is taken from him, which he never used, and therefore never really possessed: or that something is taken, because he does not possess something else. To some extent he can grasp and appreciate the truth; but he has no desire to increase this power, and he has no desire to learn more of the truth. At last he loses the power of grasping and appreciating it. Darwin’s losing the power of appreciating music and poetry illustrates the principle. Cf. Juv. iii. 208,

Nil habuit Codrus, quis enim negat? et tamen illud

Perdidit infelix totum nihil.

Lk. lessens the paradox by substituting δοκεῖ ἔχειν for ἔχει.

Verse 26

26. Καὶ ἔλεγεν. In Mark 4:10-25 we have had specimens of Christ’s private instructions to the disciples, given probably on different occasions, and in some cases more than once. We now (26–34) have a little more of His public teaching. The omission of αὐτοῖς may intimate that the audience is changed. Certainly we have another specimen of the parables which He addressed to mixed audiences (Mark 4:33). This parable is the only one which is recorded by Mk alone. Tatian places it immediately before the Tares, with which it has, almost of necessity, a few words in common, χόρτος, σῖτος, θερισμός: but the words for “seed” differ, σπόρος and σπέρμα, and also for “sow,” βάλλω and σπείρω. The one remarkable resemblance is the sleeping (καθεύδω) of the sower. The more simple parable might easily lead on to the more elaborate one.

Οὕτωςὡς ἄνθρωπος βάλῃ. Another imperfect constr. We require ὡς ἐὰν ἄνθρ. βάλῃ (1 Thessalonians 2:7). See crit. note and J. H. Moulton, p. 185. Οὕτως in the Gospels hardly ever looks forwards, as here; it nearly always refers to something already said. The chief actor in a parable is elsewhere simply ἄνθρωπος (Mark 12:1, Mark 13:34). No carelessness on the man’s part is implied in βάλῃ (Mark 2:22, Mark 7:33; Matthew 4:18; Matthew 8:6; Matthew 25:27; Luke 13:19; etc.). We have aor. of what is done once for all, and pres. of the habitual actions which follow the sowing. Why does R.V. change “ground” to “earth” here and not in Mark 4:20?

τὸν σπόρον. “The seed which he has to sow,” his seed (cf. Mark 4:36). In Mark 4:31 we have the more usual σπέρμα. In class. Grk σπόρος is “sowing” more often than “seed,” and sometimes means “crop” (Hdt. iv. 53, viii. 109). In the Sower, Lk. has σπόρος for seed.

Verses 26-29


Omitted by Mt. and Lk

Verse 27

27. νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν. Acc. of duration of time, as in Luke 2:37; Acts 20:31; Acts 26:7. We say both “night and day” and “day and night.” So also in Greek; “night and day” is more common in N.T., “day and night” in O.T. The order seems to make no difference of meaning, but here νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν follows the order of καθεύδῃ καὶ ἐγείρηται, should go on sleeping and rising night and day. The husbandman, having sown his seed, goes on with other occupations, and the seed works on without him.

καὶ ὁ σπόρος βλαστᾷ καὶ μηκύνεται. See crit. note. This is an independent constr., showing that the development of the seed is now independent of the sower. Βλαστᾷ may be either indic. or subj., and some texts, followed by A.V. and R.V., have μηκύνηται, to make the original constr. run on; but the evidence for μηκύνεται is decisive. And the seed goes on springing and growing up. ΄ηκύνω occurs thrice in LXX. and here only in N.T.

ὡς οὐκ οἶδεν αὐτός. In a way not known to him, with emphasis on “him.” This does not mean that he takes no care of it; but he cannot do what soil and moisture do, and he does not understand the mysteries of growth. Some make ὡς temporal, dum nescit ille (Vulg.); then we might render, “without his knowing”; but the other is better, quomodo ipse nescit (Beza). Erasmus takes αὐτός of the seed, Bengel of God!

Verse 28

28. αὐτομάτη. First with emphasis; It is of herself that the earth beareth fruit. Similarly, αὐτομάτη ἠνοίχθη αὐτοῖς (Acts 12:10), the only other occurrence in N.T. Cf. τὰ αὐτόματα ἀναβαίνοντα τοῦ ἀγροῦ σου (Leviticus 25:5), of that which grows without cultivation in the sabbatical year. Theophylact interprets this of the freewill of man; αὐτεξούσιοι γάρ ἐσμεν, καὶ ἐν τῇ ἡμετέρᾳ προαιρέσει κεῖται τὸ τὸν σπόρον ἢ αὐξάνεσθαι ἢ μή. But Euthymius is probably right in saying that here only the righteous are signified, the good seed on good ground.

καρποφορεῖ. The crowning result of the soil’s action is stated first, and then the chief stages are noted.

πρῶτον χόρτον κ.τ.λ. First blade, then ear, then full corn in the ear. A.V. and R.V. thrice insert the art., without putting “the” in italics. Cf. Mark 3:32.

εἶτενεἶτεν. This very rare form of εἶτα is well attested here, although in Mark 4:17 we have εἶτα without variant. It occurs in a Messenian inscription of A.D. 91. It is said to be Ionic; Blass § 6. 2.

πλήρης σῖτον. With this reading πλήρης is indeclinable. See crit. note. If πλήρης σῖτος is the original reading, the nom. gives a sort of triumphant ring to the conclusion; “then there is the full corn in the ear.” Cf. the change to the indic in Mark 4:27.

Verse 29

29. παραδοῖ. Aor. subj. = παραδῷ (WH. App. p. 168). Cf. γνοῖ, Mark 5:43, δοῖ, Mark 8:37, παραδοῖ, Mark 14:10. The meaning is uncertain; either alloweth (R.V. marg.), or “bringeth itself forth”; cf. 1 Peter 2:23, where παρεδίδου may mean “committed himself.”

ἀποστέλλει. He sendeth forth (Mark 3:14, Mark 6:7, Mark 13:27). Perhaps an echo of Joel 3:13, ἐξαποστείλατε δρέπανα, ὅτι παρέστηκεν τρυγητός. Cf. Revelation 14:15, πέμψον τὸ δρέπανόν σουὅτι ἐξηράνθη ὁ θερισμός. It is the husbandman who does this. The earth has done her mysterious work, and now he is wanted again. In class. Grk δρεπάνη is more common.

παρέστηκεν. Is ready, ready for the sickle, as in Joel 3:13, where Vulg. has maturavit, not adest, as here.

We have Christ’s interpretation of the Sower and of the Tares, but not of this kindred parable. As in the Sower, the seed is the Gospel and the soil is the hearts of those who receive it. The Sower and Reaper is Christ. Between His first and second coming we have the mysteriously combined action of soil and seed in the whole history of the Church. There is a remarkable parallel in Epictetus (Dis. iv. 8 sub fin.); “Fruit grows thus. The seed must be buried for some time, be hid, grow slowly, that it may come to perfection … Let the root grow, then acquire the first joint, then the second, then the third. Then in this way the fruit will naturally force its way out, even if I do not wish it.” See on Mark 4:17.

Verse 30

30. Καὶ ἔλεγεν. Mt., as often, substitutes an aor.

ὁμοιώσωμεν. Delib. subj., as in Mark 12:14; 1 Corinthians 11:22. A double question, as in Luke 7:31, but there we have ὁμοιώσω. Nowhere else does Mk use ὁμοιόω, which occurs seven times in Mt. and thrice in Lk. Its use here might be quoted as evidence of Mk’s acquaintance with Q. Mk nowhere has ὅμοιος, which is freq. in Mt. and Lk. This passage stands alone in coupling Christ with His hearers. Nowhere does He use the plur. of Himself, as St Paul often does. Teaching by asking questions and answering them oneself is universal. Mt. omits the questions, perhaps as suggesting that Christ was in doubt or difficulty. The wording in Lk. is very different.

ἐν τίνι. The ἐν is literal; in what parable must we place it? The parable is a case or wrapper to contain the truth. The expression is unique.

Verses 30-32


Matthew 13:31-32. Luke 13:18-19

Verse 31

31. ὡς κόκκῳ σινάπεως. The verse is a medley of confused constructions, but with its meaning sufficiently plain. The three words seem to mix the forms of reply to the two questions, ὡς answering to πῶς and κόκκῳ to τίνι. Hence the reading κόκκον ([870][871][872] After the second ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, the constr. is lost in the superfluous καὶ ὅαν σπαρῇ. The corrections in MSS. are various, and it is difficult to determine how much of the defective grammar is due to the Evangelist. Lk. connects the parable with the healing of a woman in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Neither Mk nor Mt. gives any hint of time or place.

μικρότερον ὂν πάντων τ. σπ. This is the main feature; the smallness of the seed compared with the greatness of the development. This use of the comparative is freq. in N.T. Cf. Mark 9:34; Luke 7:28; Luke 9:48. The seed now is, not the Gospel, but the Kingdom. Again Christ seems to be using a current proverbial saying; cf. Mark 4:22; Mark 4:24. “Small as a mustard-seed” was a Jewish proverb. Lk. says that the man sows the seed “in his own garden.”

Verse 32

32. πάντων τῶν λαχάνων. More accurate than Lk., who says that it becomes a δένδρον. Lk. (Luke 11:42) gives λάχανα as the class to which ἡδύοσμον and πήγανον belong; St Paul (Romans 14:2), as the food which the weak vegetarian eats. Its derivation (λαχαίνω = dig) points to its meaning cultivated herbs, “vegetables.” Stanley (Sin. and Pal. p. 427) thinks that σίναπι in this parable probably means Salvadora Persica; but Sinapis nigra is the more usual identification (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 472). What follows seems to be an echo of Daniel 4:11-12; Daniel 4:21 or Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 31:6; the description may have been a commonplace.

κατασκηνοῦν. [873][874] here, and [875][876][877] in Matthew 13:32, have κατασκηνοῖν. Cf. ἀποδεκατοῖν, [878][879][880] in Hebrews 7:5; φιμοῖν, [881][882] in 1 Peter 2:15. Similar forms are found in inscriptions, but not in papyri or in LXX. Blass § 22. 3; WH. II. § 410.

In this chapter we have three parables, which all point in the same direction, while each in addition has its own lesson. Seed is sown on good ground, and produces 30, 60, 100 fold. Seed is sown, and the sower has a sure return. A very small seed is sown, and the result is a very large plant. In each case the necessary thing is that the seed should be sown. In like manner the reign of God has been, and must continue to be, preached, and that reign, with immense development, will surely at last be absolute and complete. Even if this parable stood alone, which it does not, it would be conclusive against the view that Jesus believed that the end of the world was very near.

Verse 33

33. ἐλάλειἠδύναντο. The imperfects are again accurate (cf. Mark 4:2; Mark 4:10), yet Mt. has ἐλάλησεν. Αὐτοῖς refers to hearers who have not been mentioned; τὸν λόγον as in Mark 2:2.

καθώς. Just as (Mark 1:2, Mark 11:6, Mark 14:16); the correspondence between His teaching and their capacity was exact. Here, Mark 14:16, and Mark 15:7, R.V. has “as” for καθώς, as if ὡς were used. This seems to imply that Christ’s parables were not elaborated beforehand. On each occasion He fitted them to His audience, whose hearts He read. Cf. Mark 4:11-12; John 16:12. In Mark 4:36 R.V. treats ὡς as καθώς.

Verse 33-34


Matthew 13:34

Verse 34

34. χωρὶςοὐκ. Cf. Philemon 1:14; Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 12:14. Nullus facile sermo ejus invenitur, in quo non aliquid parabolarum sit intermistum (Bede).

κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς ἰδίοις μαθ. But privately to His private disciples. The repetition of ἴδιος is doubtless intentional. With κατʼ ἰδίαν (freq. in Mk and Mt.) comp. κατὰ μόνας (Mark 4:10): Galatians 2:2 is parallel. With τοῖς ἰδίοις, “His own” (stronger than αὐτοῦ) comp. εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν, εἰς τὸν ἴδιον ἀγρόν (Matthew 9:1; Matthew 22:5).

ἐπέλυεν. He expounded, explicabat. The verb is used of interpreting dark sayings and questions. Solomon ῥᾳδίως ἐπελύετο τὰ προβαλλόμενα σοφίσματα of the Queen of Sheba (Joseph. Ant. VIII. vi. 5). Cf. ἐπίλυσις (2 Peter 1:20) of the interpretation of Scripture.

Verse 35

35. ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. This takes us back to Mark 3:20. Mt. gives the incident quite a different setting.

Διέλθωμεν. The verb is more often used of traversing land than of crossing water. It is freq. in Lk. and Acts, and in Acts it is almost a technical word for a missionary journey on land (Acts 14:24, Acts 15:3; Acts 15:41, Acts 18:23, Acts 19:1; Acts 19:21, Acts 20:2). For crossing water we have διαπεράω (Mark 5:21, Mark 6:53; Matthew 9:1; Matthew 14:34; Acts 21:2; also in LXX.). Where διέρχομαι is used of traversing water, it means going on foot (1 Corinthians 10:1).

Verses 35-41


Matthew 8:23-27. Luke 8:22-25

Verse 36

36. ἀφέντες τὸν ὄχλον. Mt. says that it was when He saw such a multitude that He gave the order to cross. He had been teaching from the boat (Mark 4:1). Apparently He was already lying down, too weary to help in dispersing the multitude.

παραλαμβάνουσιν αὐτὸν ὡς ἦν. They take Him with them (Acts 15:39), as He was, in their boat (cf. Mark 4:26). It is because it was their boat that they take Him rather than He them (Mark 9:2, Mark 10:32).

ἄλλα πλοῖα. Their occupants had probably come round the boat in which Christ was, to listen to Him. We hear no more of them; they would disperse when the teaching ceased. As they contribute nothing to the narrative, they are omitted by Mt. and Lk., but the mention of them here is a considerable guarantee for the truth of the tradition. Their presence was remembered.

Verse 37

37. λαῖλαψ. The word is in all three. It perhaps expresses the swishing slap with which the wind struck; λα- is sometimes an intensive prefix; λαδρέω, λακατάρατος.

ἐπέβαλλεν. The waves continued to beat into the boat. The imperf. ([883][884][885] etc.) is better than the aor. ([886][887][888] etc.). The intrans. use of ἐπιβάλλω is found in the later books of LXX. and in Polybius. Vulg. makes it trans., with λαῖλαψ as nom., procella … fluctus mittebat in navem.

ἤδη γμίζεσθαι. Was now filling (R.V.). The needless repetition of τὸ πλοῖον is characteristic. Cf. τὸν ἄνθρωπον in Mark 7:15.

Verse 38

38. καὶ αὐτός. And He Himself, as distinct from the anxious crew. Cf. Mark 6:47, Mark 8:29; καὶ αὐτὸς is very freq. in Lk.

ἐν τῇ πρύμνῃ ἐπὶ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον. This graphic detail is peculiar to Mk. In the stern He was less in the way of the crew, and “the head-rest” indicates the usual furniture (Mark 4:21), or the only one in the boat. A.V. again ignores the article. He was wearied with much teaching, and all three mention that He fell asleep; καθεύδων comes with effect at the end of the sentence—fast asleep. Nowhere else is His sleeping mentioned; but He needed sleep, as He needed food. His humanity was in all respects real.

ἐγείρουσιν αὐτόν. They awake Him (Acts 12:7).

Διδάσκαλε. Mt. has Κύριε, LK. his favourite Ἐπιστάτα. Only once in Mk (Mark 7:28) is Christ addressed as Κύριε. It is freq. in the other Gospels.

οὐ μέλει σοι. Cf. Wisdom of Solomon 12:13; 1 Peter 5:7. This reproachful question is omitted by Mt., who substitutes σῶσον, and by Lk., who substitutes a second Ἐπιστάτα. Both Mt. and Lk. are disposed to omit what seems to tell against the Twelve; see on Mark 4:13. Cf. Nate dea, potes hoc sub casu ducere somnos? Virg. Aen. iv. 560. Bede compares the helpless dismay of the disciples at the death of Christ. In neither case did their belief that He was the Messiah convince them that disaster was impossible. All three have ἀπολλύμεθα, we are perishing.

Verse 39

39. διεγερθείς. Pointing back to ἐγείρουσιν (Mark 4:38); He awoke (R.V.); not “He arose” (A.V.).

Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο. Mk alone preserves these words. Cf. Mark 1:25 and the rebuke to the braggart fig-tree (Mark 11:14). The asyndeton is peremptory. The rare perf. imperat. indicates that what is commanded is to continue in its effects; be still and remain so. Cf. ἔρρωσθε, Acts 15:29. For σιωπάω see on Mark 10:48.

ἐγένετο γαλήνη. In all three. This was more marvellous than the “sinking to rest” of the wind. Wind sometimes has dropped suddenly, and yet “the sea wrought and was tempestuous” long after the wind ceased. In Jonah 1:11, κοπάζω is used of the sea sinking to rest. There are several points of similarity between the two narratives; but there are more and far stronger points of contrast.

Verse 40

40. Τί δειλοί ἐστε; οὔπω ἔχετε πίστιν; Mt. slightly, and Lk. still more, tones down the rebuke, which is more severe than A.V. and R.V. represent. Neither here nor Revelation 21:8 does “fearful” adequately render δειλός, which means “cowardly” or “craven.” In Revelation 21:8 the δειλοί and ἄπιστοι are put in the front rank of those who are to receive the greater condemnation. Cf. Deuteronomy 20:8; Judges 7:3; and esp. Sirach 2:12-13. The two questions are closely connected. It is their want of trust in Him that has made them cowards. If they had had firm faith, they would not have feared that the Messiah could perish in a storm, or allow them to perish for obeying His command; οὔπω, after all that they had heard Him say and seen Him do; see crit. note and cf. Mark 7:18. Caesar’s encouragement to the terrified pilot, “Thou bearest Caesar and his fortunes,” may be compared. For the asyndeton cf. Mark 6:38.

Verse 41

41. ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν. Cf. Mark 5:42; Isaiah 8:12; Jonah 1:10; 1 Maccabees 10:8. Mk says that they feared, Mt. that they marvelled, Lk. gives both. We have the same cogn. acc. Luke 2:9. This fear is different from their terror during the storm, and it is not rebuked. To be suddenly conscious of the presence of the supernatural commonly engenders fear; Mark 6:50; Luke 1:12; Luke 1:30; Luke 5:10; Luke 5:26; Luke 8:37; Luke 9:32; etc. The disciples had seen His power over demons and over disease; but this power over wind and wave was a new thing.

ἔλεγον πρὸς ἀλλήλους. See on Mark 10:26. It is remarkable that in none of the accounts do they say anything to Him; and this also is natural (Mark 9:32, Mark 10:32). Even Peter is silent; contrast Luke 5:8; John 21:7. This was a miracle which, as fishermen, they could appreciate. In a legend they would have taken the miracle as a matter of course.

ὑπακούει. Sing. verb with a plurality of nominatives, the so-called σχῆμα Πινδαρικόν, which is more common when the verb precedes (Mark 13:3; Matthew 5:18; Revelation 9:12); but the other order is not rare (Matthew 6:19; 1 Corinthians 15:50). Here “wind and sea” are regarded as one entity. [889][890][891] have ὑπακούουσιν.

A comparison of the three narratives shows substantial agreement, with some difference in details, esp. as to the words spoken. Augustine (De Cons. Evan. ii. 24) says, supposing Christ used words which no Evangelist records, but which mean much the same as what is recorded, “what does it matter?” See on Mark 10:46.

It is instructive also to compare the three narratives with the description of a storm at sea in the Testaments (Naphtali vi. 4–9). It seems to be based on all three Gospels, esp. Mk and Lk., with a remarkable conclusion taken from John 6:21. Note especially γίνεται λαῖλαψ ἀνέμου μεγάλη καὶ ἐπληρώθη τὸ πλοῖον ὑδάτων, ὥστε καὶ συντρίβεσθαι αὐτό. ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατο ὁ χειμών, ἔφθασε τὸ σκάφος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν εἰρήνῃ. It is difficult to believe that this narrative was written first and influenced two, three, and possibly all four of the Gospels. The above quotation is condensed, but without change of a word, in order to show the chief points of resemblance.


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"Commentary on Mark 4:4". "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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