The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide
THE GOSPEL OF S. MARK.
ARK," says S. Jerome in his Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Writers, "was a disciple and interpreter of S. Peter. At the request of the brethren at Rome, he wrote a short Gospel, based upon what he had heard S. Peter relate. This, when Peter had heard, he approved of, and sanctioned its being read in the Church." Shortly afterwards, S. Jerome proceeds to say, "Mark took his Gospel, which he had compiled, and went to Egypt. He first preached Christ at Alexandria, and founded a Church there, which possessed such great purity of doctrine and life that it influenced all followers of Christ by its example. In short, Philo, the most eloquent of the Jews, beholding the primitive Church of Alexandria, as yet Judaizing, wrote a book upon its peculiarities, as it were in praise of his own people. And similarly as S. Luke records that at Jerusalem those who believed had all things common, so has Philo preserved the memory of what he saw at Alexandria under S. Mark as the teacher of the Christians. He died in the eighth year of Nero, and was buried at Alexandria. Anianus succeeded him."
Clement of Alexandria (Strom. l vi.) and Papias of Hierapolis attest the same things; so does Eusebius (H. E. ii15), who adds that S. Peter confirmed S. Mark"s Gospel, and delivered it to be read for all time in the Churches. S. Athanasius (Synops. sub fin.) and S. Epiphanius (Hres51) say the same. Wherefore Tertullian (l. iv. cont. Marcion) attributes the Gospel of S. Mark to S. Peter, because, as S. Jerome says, "it was compiled from what S. Peter related, Mark being the writer." The same S. Jerome, or whoever is the author of the preface to his Commentary on S. Mark, says, "After Matthew soweth Mark, He, I say, who roareth as a lion, who flieth as an eagle, who learneth as a man, who sacrificeth as a priest, who watereth as a river, who flourisheth as a field, who fermenteth as wine. For Christ who is spoken of is man by being born, is a calf by dying, a lion by rising again, an eagle by ascending into heaven."
For this cause the cherubim of Ezek. i. and the Apocalypse, which have four faces, signify the four Evangelists. For the face of a man denotes Matthew, who relates the works of Christ"s humanity; the face of an eagle, John, who speaks of the divinity of Christ; the face of an ox denotes Luke, who begins with the priesthood of Zacharias; and the face of a lion designates Mark, because he begins his Gospel from the loud roaring of John the Baptist, as it were of a lion. For these four have drawn the chariot of the glory of God, the chariot of the Gospel, through the whole world, and have subdued all nations to Him, that He may triumph.
The name Mark happily agrees with this symbolism, whether we derive it from the Hebrew or from Latin. For Mark in Hebrew, says Pagninus (in inteterpret. Heb. nomin.), means the same as smoothed, polished, cleansed from rust. It is derived from ξψχ, marak, to clean, to Polish. As Jeremiah (xlvi4) says, "Stand in the helmets, polish the lances;" where for polish the Heb. has ξψχε, mircu, polish ye. Thus S. Mark polished the lance of his Gospel and preaching, that it, like a lion, might subdue the Egyptians and other nations to Christ. But S. Isidore (1. vii. Origen, c9) says, "Mark means high in commandment" (but I know not from what root), that is to say, on account of the Gospel of the Most High, which he preached. Again, the Heb. of Mark may be, as it were, ξψ λεν, mar cos, or the Lord of the Chalice, that is to say, of suffering and martyrdom.
But in Latin, Carolus Signonius (de Nom. Roman.) says, "He is called Marcus who is born in the month of March." But Isidore says Mark means a strong hammer, Marcellus is a moderate-sized hammer, and Maculus a litle one. Thus S. Mark was a mighty and strong hammer, breaking in pieces the rock, i.e., bruising with compunction the strong hearts of the Gentiles, and moving them to repentance and a Christian life. Mark, then, and Marcellus are the same as, Martellus, a hammer. So Charles, the grandfather of Charlemagne, was called Charles Martel, because of his warlike prowess, by which he crushed a host of300 ,000 Saracens. Or Marcus may be taken to be the same as Martius, a sort of heavenly Mars. The Marcian gens at Rome, an ancient patrician family, was so called from Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome. King Ancus was called the sacrificial, because he restored worship which had fallen into decay, or had been improperly performed.
How religious and brave S. Mark was appears from the institution of the Essi,* who were the first religious, and the prototypes of all religious, of whose wondrous sanctity more anon.
Lastly, the Romans used to give the prnomen Marcus to first-born sons. Marcus Tullius Cicero was so called because he was a first-born son. Thus Mark was a first-born son, and singularly beloved of S. Peter. Thus he speaks of him as Marcus, my son (1Pet. v.). For he as a son had drunk of S. Peter"s spirit, and was an express image of the wisdom and holiness of S. Peter.
You will ask, Of what country, who, and what was S. Mark? I answer1. That he was of the Hebrew nation, and of the tribe of Levi. Bede adds that he was a priest, of the family of Aaron.
2. Theophilus, Victor of Antioch, and Euthymius think that this Mark was the same as John Mark, who was nephew of Barnabas, and who journeyed with him and S. Paul to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, the same S. Mark as he to whom S. Paul refers in his Epistle to Philemon, and Col. iv., and2Tim. iv. But I say that this Mark was a different person from John Mark, for at the same time that John Mark was with Paul and Barnabas in Greece, this Mark was with S. Peter at Rome, and was sent by him to preach first at Aquileia, and afterwards at Alexandria.
3. Origen (lib. de Recta Fide), S. Epiphanius (Hres51), and Dorotheus (in Synops.) think that Mark was one of Christ"s seventy-two disciples. But the contrary, namely, that he was converted and baptized by S. Peter after Christ"s death, is more probable. For he calls him his (spiritual) son (1Pet. v13), "The Church which is at Babylon saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son." So S. Jerome, Eusebius (H. E. vii14), &c., who say that S. Mark was a disciple and companion of S. Peter.
4. S. Austin (l1 , de Cons. Evang. c2) calls Mark the abbreviator of Matthew, not because he made a compendium of his Gospel, as some say, but because he often relates more briefly, as he had received them from S. Peter, the things which Matthew records at greater length. I said "often," for occasionally Mark relates events in the life of Christ more fully than Matthew does, as is plain from the account of Peter"s denial. Some things also he unfolds with greater clearness than Matthew. Mark is fuller in narrative than Matthew, but has less of Christ"s doctrine. Mark"s, therefore, is an independent Gospel. Whence the Arabic prefixes the following title to his Gospel:—In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, One God, the Gospel of the Father, Patriarch, Apostle, S. Mar (i.e., Lord) Mark the Evangelist.
5. Mark wrote this Gospel A.D45 , in the third year of the reign of Claudius, as Eusebius says (in Chron.), shortly before he went to Alexandria, where he governed for nineteen years the Church which he there founded. His disciples were so excellent that they were called Essæi, that is, holy and pious. For they, as the first religious, lived in such purity and holiness as to become the admiration of the whole world, and afforded a mirror of perfection to all other Churches. Hence S. Jerome and Cassian call S. Mark the chief and founder of the Cœnobites. See what I have said concerning the Essæi in Acts v2.
Moreover, S. Mark founded the first Christian school at Alexandria, from which so many holy doctors, bishops, and martyrs proceeded. This school of Alexandria wonderfully flourished under the Emperor Commodus, A.D180 , when Pantnus presided over it. Pantnus was succeeded by Clement, Clement by Origen.
Finally, S. Mark added to the laurels of an Apostle, Doctor, and Evangelist the crown of martyrdom. In the Roman Martyrology for the25th of April we read concerning him thus, "At Alexandria, the natal day of B. Mark the Evangelist, he, for the faith of Christ, being stretched and bound with cords, was dragged over the rocks, and grievously tormented. Afterwards, being shut up in prison, he was first comforted by an angelic vision, and at last by the appearance of the Lord Himself, by whom he was called to the heavenly kingdom in the eighth year of Nero." The body of S. Mark was translated by merchants from Alexandria to Venice, A.D827. There it is cherished with the utmost veneration, insomuch that the Senate have adopted as their insignia a lion, the emblem of S. Mark; and when they issue any command, they call it the mandate of S. Mark.
You will ask, secondly, in what language Mark wrote his Gospel,—in Latin or Greek? Many think he wrote it in Latin. And the reason seems plain. For Mark wrote at Rome for the Romans; therefore, say they, he must have written in the Latin tongue. For the Romans did not understand Greek (as Baronius abundantly proves) in A.D45. For although S. Chrysostom on Mark asserts that he wrote his Gospel at Alexandria, yet S. Jerome, Eusebius, Clement, and other Fathers declare, passim, that he wrote it at Rome. And the author of that Commentary upon S. Mark was not S. Chrysostom, as I will prove hereafter. So the Syriac version, which at the end of S. Mark"s Gospel adds expressly, "Here endeth the holy Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, which he spake and preached at Rome, in the Roman language." S. Gregory Nazianzen, in the poem in which he gives a catalogue of Holy Scripture, thus assigns the Evangelists to languages and nations,—
"The wonders of Christ for the Hebrews S. Matthew did write;
S. Mark for Westerns; for Greeks S. Luke in learning bright;
For all S. John, who soared aloft with heavenly sight."
On the other hand, S. Jerome affirms expressly, in the preface to the Gospel, that Mark wrote in Greek. "I am speaking," he says, "of the New Testament, which, without doubt, was written in Greek, with the exception of the Apostle Matthew, who first in Juda published the Gospel of Christ in Hebrew." And he adds that he for this reason, at the command of Pope Damasus, corrected the ancient Latin Vulgate version of the New Testament, and therefore of S. Mark"s Gospel, in accordance with the Greek original. S. Augustine teaches us the same thing: "Matthew is said to have written in Hebrew, all the rest in Greek." The same was the common opinion of ancient and modern writers.
Reason favours the same view. For S. Mark wrote his Gospel when he was about to pass to Alexandria, that he might preach it there. But the inhabitants of Alexandria spoke at that time the Greek language. For Alexandria was founded, and its name given, by Alexander the Great. SS. Athanasius and Cyril, Theophilus, Clement of Alexandria, and the rest wrote in Greek. Again, Mark was more skilled in Greek than he was in Latin. Wherefore, also, the Greek text of his Gospel is more polished and elegant than the Latin. For the Jews, who were neighbours of Greek-speaking countries, and subjects of Alexander the Great and his successors, learned thoroughly the Greek language, but not so the Latin, as being far distant from Latin-speaking countries. Moreover, the Greek language was then very widely diffused, as Cicero says. For this reason the Romans, especially the patricians and the wealthier sort of people, were skilled in Greek. Indeed, they sent their sons to Athens that they might be thoroughly grounded in Grecian wisdom and eloquence. And Mark wrote this Gospel not for the Roman plebeians, but for patricians and nobles, for such persons as S. Clement, S. Pudens. Listen to Clement of Alexandria (tom6 , in Biblioth. Patr. in Edit. Parisiensi.), "Mark, the follower of Peter, when Peter was preaching the Gospel publicly at Rome, in the presence of certain knights of Csar"s household, and was advancing many testimonies about Christ, being requested by them, wrote from the things which were spoken by Peter a Gospel, which is called that according to Mark." In like manner S. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans in Greek, as I have shown in my preface to that Epistle.
Lastly, S. Mark was present with S. Peter at Antioch, where the disciples of Christ were first called Christians. And at Antioch Greek was spoken. Hence Greek was more familiar to Mark than Latin, and it is possible that Greek was his mother tongue. For although the Apostles and primitive believers received the gift of tongues from the Holy Spirit, yet they received it for sufficiency, not for elegance, and so they spoke each their own vernacular better and more elegantly.
You will reconcile both opinions if you say that Mark wrote his Gospel both in Greek and Latin, as Genebrard thinks, and our Barradi (tom1 , l. c19) and Possevin. Hear Peter Natalis (in Cat. Sanct. l4 , c86), "Peter sent Mark to Aquileia as its first bishop. There he wrote again his Gospel in Greek, which he had previously written in Latin at Rome, which Gospel, together with the ivory chair in which he sat to write it, is still shown in the church of Aquileia."
Further, some imagine that the Latin original of Mark has perished through the injuries of time, as the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew has perished. But it is difficult to believe so. For how would the Roman Church, so faithful to her trust, and so careful a guardian of the sacred writings, and especially in those early ages from Mark to Constantine, when it was so ardent and constant in zeal for religion, have suffered so great a treasure committed to her to he lost? Surely she who kept so faithfully what pertained to others did not lose her own. What, did so many copies of the Gospel of S. Mark, which noble Romans and other Italians, converted to Christ by SS. Peter and Paul, would emulously cause to be transcribed, perish to a single copy, so that not even one has survived? Wherefore we shall say, with greater probability, that Mark, for the reasons already assigned, wrote originally in Greek, but immediately afterwards, either by himself or by some other translator, rendered the Greek into Latin, and delivered both to the Romans, in a similar way to S. Paul, who wrote his Epistle to the Romans in Greek, but sent the same to them translated into Latin by Tertius, his scribe and interpreter. The reasons are—1st Because SS. Jerome and Austin affirm that Mark wrote in Greek, not in Latin2nd Because, as Bellarmine has rightly perceived (de Script. Eccles. in Marc.), it is evident, from a collation of the Greek and Latin texts, that the Old Latin and the Vulgate editions, both of Matthew and Mark, have been translated from the Greek. This is proved by Franc. Lucas by many examples. To these you may add that the Latin translator of Mark Grecized, as when he says (ii2) et convenerunt multi, ita ut non caperet neque ad januam, words which are obscurely translated into Latin from the Greek, which reads clearly and elegantly, ףפו לחךפי קשזום לחהו̀ פב̀ נזן̀ע פח̀ם טסבם, ie., so that not even the places about the door could contain the crowd. Again, in iv10 , the Vulgate has, et cum esset singularis, whilst the Greek is plain, ךבפבלםבע, i.e., alone. Also vii17 , 18 , 20 , Quæ de homine exeunt, illa communicant hominem, the Gr. ךןיםן, i.e., make a man common or unclean, is clear. For the Hebrews call common unclean things, that is, things which all, even the impure, use promiscuously and in common. So, again, in chap. i47 , היבצחלזוים, is translated verbally, diffamare, to make known abroad. Again, נסןףגגבפןם is rendered ante sabbatum, i.e., the day before the Sabbath.
The original of the Gospel of S. Mark is religiously preserved at Venice, but the letters are so corroded and worn away by age that they cannot be deciphered. When I was inquiring about the matter at Rome, several reliable persons, who had carefully investigated the subject, wrote to me to this effect, that the following is the tradition among the Venetians. They say that this Gospel was written by S. Mark at Aquileia, and left by him there, and that it was brought from thence to Venice. For when Attila took Aquileia after a three years" siege, and destroyed it, many of the inhabitants fled to the marshes bordering on the Adriatic, and there, in a marvellous manner, laid the foundations of Venice, A.D452. Moreover, a trustworthy man, a canon of S. Mark"s at Venice, who has the custody of this relic, and is therefore an eye-witness, wrote to me in answer to my inquiries, within the last few days, that this autograph of S. Mark is written in Greek, and was brought from Aquileia to Venice A.D1472.
Pagnini has written a dissertation on this question, dedicated to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which he maintains that S. Mark in the first instance wrote his Gospel in Latin at Rome, and afterwards in Greek at Aquileia, but that the Latin has been lost, since the present Latin of S. Mark is a translation from the Greek. He cites many passages which go to prove the great prevalence of Greek at Rome in those times. He also cites Damasus as saying, (lib. de Vit. Pont.) in the Life of S. Peter, that the Evangelists wrote in Latin (mentioning Mark), in Greek, and Hebrew. But it is well known that this work is not by Damasus, but by Anastasius, the librarian. What Pagnini adds, that S. Peter preached to the Romans in Greek, and that S. Mark, as his interpreter, rendered his words into Latin, cannot be considered worthy of credit. Besides, the duty of an interpreter was different from this, as I have shown on1Cor. xii10.
The Syrians, as Fabricius tells us in the preface to his Syriac New Testament, assert that Mark wrote in Latin. They also say that the same Mark translated not only his own Gospel into his Galilean or Syriac mother tongue, but all the other books of the New Testament.
But it is difficult to believe this. For there is no mention of such a translation by Clement of Alexandria, or Origen, Eusebius, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Cyril, Theodoret, S. Jerome, or other Fathers, who either were Syrians, or who lived in Syria and Egypt, and treated carefully the subject of the various editions and translations of the Holy Scriptures. Therefore this Syriac translation of the New Testament seems to have been made later than S. Mark"s time.
Lastly, S. Mark"s Gospel has always been reckoned amongst the canonical Scriptures, with the exception of the last chapter, doubts about which were formerly entertained by some, as S. Jerome testifies ( Ephesians 150 , ad Hedib. q3), because it contained certain things which savoured of Manichism, which S. Jerome recites (lib2 , cont. Pelag.). The words were these, "And they were satisfied, saying, Substance is that world of iniquity and unbelief, which suffereth not through wicked spirits the true power of God to be apprehended: therefore now call back thy righteousness." But these words have been since removed.
Observe Mark"s whole strength is given to narration, and does not care for the order in which things were done. Hence he places events which were done afterwards before some which were prior to them in order of time, and vice versa. Hear S. Jerome (Introd. to S. Matt.), "Second, Mark, the interpreter of the Apostle Peter, who indeed had not himself seen the Lord, the Saviour, but had heard his master"s preaching, related according to the truth of the things which were done, rather than the order in which they were done."
There is extant a second volume of S. Chrysostom"s Commentary upon S. Mark, which, although not devoid of genius, learning, and piety, nevertheless seems to be wanting in the style, spirit, and subtlety of S. Chrysostom. Hence Bellarmine says that it is undoubtedly not the work of that Saint, but of a certain simple monk, who expounded the Gospel to his brethren.
Victor of Antioch, an ancient author, wrote especially upon S. Mark, whom one Theodore Peltanus has translated out of Greek into Latin.
The author of the Commentary or Scholiast upon S. Mark in the works of S. Jerome is not S. Jerome himself, for he shows himself to be unskilled both in Greek and Hebrew.
Here only a few things occur to be noted, because most have been spoken of in S. Matthew. There the reader will find them annotated. Here, therefore, I shall be brief.
*The Christian Essenes of Alexandria.(Trans.) back to place
SAINT Mark"S GOSPEL
1 The office of John the Baptist9 Jesus is baptized, 12tempted: 14he preacheth: 16 calleth Peter, Andrew, James, and John: 23healeth one that had a devil, 29 Peter"s mother-in-law, 32many diseased persons, 41and cleanseth the leper.
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaias, &c. Many place a full stop before as, thinking that the beginning of the Gospel, &c., is the title of the book. But that these words are not the title, but the introduction of the book, is plain from the word beginning, and because they are really dependent upon the clause as it is written, &c. Therefore a comma, not a period, must be placed before as. The word Gospel, then, in this place does not denote the book of the Gospel which Mark wrote, as when we say, the Gospel of Mark, but the Gospel preaching of Jesus Christ as it follows. The meaning, therefore, is, "The Gospel preaching of Christ had such a beginning as Isaiah and Malachi foretold, that is to say, the preaching of John the Baptist and his testimony concerning Christ." For John began to preach the kingdom of heaven, that it would be opened by Christ"s preaching and death. Wherefore he urged them to repentance, that they might be capable of receiving the grace of Christ, saying, Repent ye, &c. For Moses and the ancient Law preached and promised a land flowing with milk and honey, if the Jews would obey God"s commandments. But Christ and the Evangelical Law preach and promise the kingdom of heaven, if men will repent of their sins, and obey the commands of Christ. John"s preaching of repentance, therefore, was the preparation for, and the beginning of, Christ"s preaching the Gospel.
Observe, Matthew and John commence their Gospels from Christ Himself—John from the divine, Matthew from the human generation of Christ. Mark and Luke begin with John the Baptist—Luke from his nativity, Mark from his preaching.
Vers2 , 3. As it is written in Isaias the prophet, Behold, I send arty angel before Thy face, who shall prepare the way before Thee. A voice of one crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. The former citation in the2nd verse is from Malachi 3:1. The latter is from Isaiah 40:3. Wherefore the Greek has, it is written in the prophets. But the Vulgate and some Greek copies, also the Syriac and Arabic, have as above. And S. Jerome says that this was formerly the reading of the Greek (lib. de Opt. Gen. Interpret. Scrip.).
You will ask, "Why does Mark only cite Isaias and not Malachi?" I answer, because the prophecy of Isaias is of greatest importance in this place, for the voice of John crying in the desert, Do penance, &c., was one beginning of the Gospel. But inasmuch as Malachi shows that John was not sent by man, but by God, to utter these words, therefore Mark prefixes the words of Malachi to arouse the attention of the reader to receive and venerate the voice of John. Besides, Malachi in reality says the same as Isaias. For the angel sent by God to prepare the way of Christ was none other than John himself, crying, and preaching repentance, by which the hearts of men must be prepared for the preaching and grace of Christ. This is therefore, as it were, one and the same oracle of two prophets, uttered concerning one and the same John, but in different words, so that they mutually confirm and explain one another. This, then, is the reason why Mark in this place, and the other Evangelists and Apostles, when they cite two prophets, or two or more sentences of the same or different books of the Old Testament, quote them as one and the same testimony. This is plain from 1 Peter 2:7, compared with Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:54, compared with Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14. The reason, I say, is, because one sentence confirms and explains the other, so that they are in truth not two, but one sentence.
Ver4. John was in the desert baptizing, and preaching the baptism of penance unto remission of sins. That this remission was to be received from Christ and His baptism, which was the perfection and consummation of John"s baptism. For Christ. as it were the King of Heaven, preached that the kingdom must be received by His grace, of which the first part is remission of sins, which is given by the baptism of Christ, inasmuch as it is furnished and, as it were, animated by the Spirit and grace of Christ, according to those words of John
(in Matthew 3: 11), "I indeed baptize you in water unto penance, but He that shall come after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire."
And immediately the Spirit drove (Gr. ו̉ךגככוי, i.e., sends out, expels) Him out into the desert. The Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit, who a little while before had glided down upon Him in His baptism in the form of a dove. Drove, that is, impelled Christ with great power of spirit and ardour, that He should, of His own accord, go into the desert, and there, as in a palæstra, match Himself in single combat with the devil.
And He was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted (Gr. נויסבזלוםןע, i.e., suffering temptation). Whence many think that Christ during the forty days was frequently tempted by Satan, by means of various spectres and horrible monsters, such as the demon presented to S. Anthony, to terrify him and distract his mind from prayer. So Franc. Lucas. But it seems better to take Mark as speaking only of the three well-known temptations (see what has been said in Matthew 4:2).
And He was with beasts (Gr. טחזשם, wild beasts). This is an intimation of the excessive solitude of the place, as well as of Christ"s innocency. Although He was in such a desert place, with lions, wolves, leopards, serpents, yet He did not fear them, nor was He injured by them. Just as Adam, so long as he was innocent, lived with such creatures without harm in Paradise. For they all looked up to him, and reverenced him as their lord.
And the angels ministered to Him. Not before His temptation and victory, as Bede supposes. For if so, Jesus would have been recognised by the devil as the Son of God; nor would the devil have dared to approach Him. But it was after the temptation and the victory, as is plain from Matt. iv11. And for this reason, that Jesus might show in His own person that consolation and comfort and the ministry of angels has been prepared by God for those who overcome temptations.
Ver14. And after that John was delivered up, &c. This was the second coming of Christ from Juda into Galilee, that He might flee from Herod, lest he should cast Him also into prison. For Christ had been preaching and baptizing in Juda. And the increase of His glory there had excited the envy of the Scribes and Pharisees, who denounced Him to Herod as though He were a revolutionist. Wherefore this is the same coming of Christ as that mentioned in Matthew 4:12, Luke 4:14, and John 4:3 and John 4:43. Although some say that this last was a different one, and the third advent of Christ into Galilee, because Christ was then fleeing from the Pharisees, as John says; but in His second coming He was fleeing from Herod, as Matthew and Mark say. But, as I have observed, He fled from the Pharisees because He fled from Herod. For they had accused Him to Herod. Wherefore this was the same flight of Christ, and the same coming into Galilee.
Ver15. And saying, Because (Gr. פי) the time, &c. The time, that is, of the advent of Messiah, and the kingdom of heaven. That, indeed, what had been shut for so many thousands of years, Christ by His preaching, His death, and His grace, might open and unclose.
Repent ye: do penance, that ye may detest the sins ye have committed, and determine to change your lives for the better. Beautifully says the Scholiast in S. Jerome, "The sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of the root, the hope of gain makes pleasant the perils of the sea, the expectation of health mitigates the nauseousness of medicine. He who desires the kernel breaks the nut; so he who desires the joy of a holy conscience swallows down the bitterness of penance."
Ver19. James the son of Zebedee and John. Again beautifully says the Scholiast, "By this chariot of the four fishermen we are carried up to heaven, as Elias was. On these four corner-stones the Church was first built. By four virtues we are changed into the image of God, being obedient by prudence, acting manfully by justice, trampling on the serpent by temperance, and gaining the grace of God by fortitude." Theophylact says, "Peter, that is, action, is first called, afterwards John, that is, contemplation."
Ver23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, i.e., a man having an unclean spirit, that is to say, possessed by a devil. The Greek has, in an unclean spirit, and it is a Hebraism. For the Hebrew uses α, beth, i.e., in, when one noun governs another in the genitive.
And he cried out, i.e., the spirit, by the mouth of the man possessed, "as though he were suffering torment," says the Scholiast in S. Chrysostom, "as though in pain, as though not able to bear his strokes." "For," as Bede says, "the presence of the Saviour is the torment of the devils." Christ desired that by this public testimony of the demon concerning Him, in the synagogue of Capernaum (for it is plain from ver21that these things occurred there), the Jews who were gathered there might acknowledge Him to be Messias. There is nothing about this demoniac in Matthew, but there is in Luke 4:33.
Saying. The Gr. subjoins ב, which the translator of Luke 4:34 renders by let alone, as if the imperative of the verb בש, i.e., suffer, permit; as Euthymius says, dismiss us. Others take ב as an adverb of grieving, wondering, beseeching. As it were, "Ah! alas! Lord, in what have I injured Thee?"
Ver24. What have we to do with Thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us? I know who Thou art, the Holy One of God. "What is there between us and Thee, 0 Jesus? We have not attacked Thee, 0 Christ, who art holy; but sinners, who are, as it were, our own. We have no contention with Thee; do not Thou, then, contend with and destroy us."
Come to destroy us. Some MSS. add, before the time. But the words are not found in the Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Arabic received texts. They seem to have been transferred hither from S. Matthew 9:25. With respect to the meaning, in the first place, Bede says that the demons, beholding the Lord upon earth, supposed that they were to be immediately judged. It was as though they said, "Do not Thou, 0 Jesus, by Thine advent bring on so quickly the day of judgment, and banish us to the bottomless pit without any hope of coming forth." Second, the Scholiast in S. Chrysostom says, "Thou givest us no place among men when Thou teachest divine things." But this is mystical. Third, and correctly, "Hast Thou come to destroy us, to cast us out from men, and send us to hell?" Whence Theophylact says, "He calls going out of men his destruction." For the highest pleasure of the devils is to possess and vex men.
I know, &c. Arab0 Holy One; the Gr. דיןע, emphatically, the Holy One. "Thou who art so holy that Thou communicatest Thy holiness to others, since Thou art, as it were, the Fountain and the Sun of holiness, who sanctifiest all the saints, the Messiah and the Son of God, for whom all are eagerly waiting so many thousand years!" There is an allusion to Daniel 9:24,"until the Holy of Holies, i.e., Messiah, be anointed."
I know, i.e., I suspect, I think. For, as the Scholiast in Chrysostom says, the devil had no firm and certain knowledge of the coming of God. Because, as S. Austin says (lib9 , de Civ. c21), He only made known to them as much as He wished; and He only wished as much as was expedient.
Ver25. And Jesus threatened him; Gr. ו̉נופלחףום, i.e., rebuked, chided him with threats. That He would punish him unless he were silent.
Saying, Speak no more: Arab. shut thy mouth. Wherefore? I answer, First, Because it was not fitting that Christ should be commanded by the devil.
Second, That He might not appear to be a friend of the devil, and to hold intercourse with him. For afterwards it was objected to Christ that He cast out devils by the aid of Beelzebub. By acting as He did, Christ has taught us to shun all dealings with the devil; for he is the sworn enemy of God, and is wholly bent upon injuring and destroying us, even when he promises or brings us any corporal aid. Wherefore, as the Scholiast in Chrysostom saith, "Be silent; let thy silence be My praise. Let not thy voice, but thy torments praise Me. I am not pleased that thou shouldst praise Me, but that thou shouldst go forth."
Third, To show that we should resist flattery, that it may not stir up any desire of vainglory in our breast.
Fourth, Euthymius says, "He has taught us never to believe the demons, even when they say what is true. For since they love falsehood, and are most hostile to us, they never speak the truth except to deceive. They make use of the truth as it were a kind of bait." For, liars that they are, they conceal their lies by a colouring of truth. They say certain things that are true at the first, and afterwards interweave with them what is false, that those who have believed the first may believe also the last. For this cause Paul drove out the spirit of Python, who praised him, Acts 16:18.
Fifth, Because the demon in an unseasonable manner, and too speedily, disclosed that Christ was Messiah. For this might have injured Him, and turned the people away from Him. For so mighty a secret should be disclosed gradually, and the people be persuaded of its truth by many miracles; for otherwise they would not at first receive it and believe it. This was why ( Mark 8:30) Christ forbids the Apostles also to say that He was Christ. So Maldonatus and others.
Symbolically: Bede, "The devil, because he had deceived Eve with his tongue, is punished by the tongue, that he might not speak."
Ver26. And the unclean spirit tearing him, &c. Tearing (Vulg. discerpens), not by lacerating or mutilating the man who was possessed by him, for Luke says ( Luke 4:35) that he did no harm to him, but by contorting and twisting his limbs this way and that, as if he wished to tear him piecemeal. For the Greek ףנבספפש, signifies to pull or tear in pieces. The devil did this through rage and madness, that being compelled by Christ to go out of the man, he might injure him as much as he could. But the nearer and the more powerful the grace of Christ is, the more impotently does the devil rage. For, observe, the devil only raised a dreadful tempest, but one that was vain and ineffectual. For he cannot hurt when Christ forbids. Christ permitted it for three reasons1. That it might be plain that this man was really possessed by the devil2. That the malice and wrath of the demon might be made apparent3. That it might be clear that the demon went forth, not of his own will, but because he was compelled to do so by Christ.
Tropologically: S. Gregory teaches (Hom12 , in Ezek.) that the devil wonderfully tempts and vexes sinners when they are converted. "As soon," he says, "as the mind begins to love heavenly things, as soon as it collects itself for the vision of inward peace with its whole intention, that ancient adversary, who fell from heaven, is envious, and begins to lie in wait more insidiously, and brings to bear sharper temptations than he was wont, so as, for the most part, to try the soul which resists in a way that he had never tried her when he possessed her. Wherefore it is written, My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, stand fast in justice and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation."
And crying out. With dreadful howlings, shrieking, and roaring, to show how unwillingly he went out, and what great power was applied to him by Christ. For he uttered no articulate speech. For Christ had forbidden him to speak when He said shut thy mouth. Thus Euthymius says, "Being scourged by the Lord"s commands, he cried out with a loud voice, and yet he spake not when he cried, because he uttered cries which signified nothing." Titus adds, "When the man was restored to himself, then he uttered the speech of a man."
Ver27. What new doctrine is this, &c. "What is this heavenly and divine doctrine, which indeed God confirms from heaven by so many and such mighty miracles? For Christ, the Teacher of this doctrine, not by prayers, but of His mere power, and by His command only, orders the devils to go out, and they obey Him. Wherefore this must be the Messias, the Son of God, and the true God; for He alone commands the devils by His power."
Ver32. When the sun had set: Gr. פו הץ כיןע, i.e., when the sun was swallowed up and sunk in the sea. For הץלבי means to be sunk, submerged, and is spoken of islands which are submerged and drowned by the sea. This is a form of speech adopted from the common people, who think that when the sun sets it is subrnerged in the ocean.
Ver33. And all the city (Capernaum, as appears from ver21) was gathered together at the door. Of the house of Peter and Andrew, where Jesus was being entertained, as is plain from ver29.
Ver34. And He healed many, i.e., all who presented themselves, for they were many.
Suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him. Arab., because they knew that He Himself was He.
Ver35. And rising very early, &c.: Gr.ךב נזש םםץקןם, i.e., in the morning, whilst it was still night. For it was at the very first commencement of dawn, whilst it was yet dark. Thus it might be called night by S. Mark, although by S. Luke ( Luke 4:42) it is called day, because the day was just about beginning to dawn.
He went into a desert place, that He might pray thus more quietly and attentively. Wherefore it follows, and there prayed, both that after so many miracles He might avoid the praise and applause of men, and to teach us to do the same. Learn here from Christ to give the early morning to prayer, and to rise up with the dawn, so as to have leisure for meditation, and to give the first-fruits of the day to God. For the dawn of day is a friend of the Muses, but a greater friend of God and the angels.
Ver43. And He strictly charged him. The Gr. is, And having threatened him, he straightway sent him out. He severely commanded him with threats to conceal the miracle of healing which He had just wrought; and therefore He dismissed him, and sent him away from Him, that it might not be known that He had cured him of his leprosy; and that this might afford us an example of avoiding the applause of men.
Ver44. Show thyself to the high priest (Vulg.). Gr. to the priest. For not only the High Priest, but any priest might judge concerning leprosy, whether it was healed or no, as is plain from Leviticus 13:2. It is probable, however, that because the case of leprosy was so grave and difficult, the decision concerning it was, by the interpretation and decree of the pontiffs, reserved for a Chief Priest, as is here said, that is, for one of the twenty-four heads of the priests, who each in turn presided for a week over the rest of the priests, and the sacrifices, and the other offices and rites of the Temple, according to the institution of David, as appears from 1 Chronicles 24:3, &c.
Ver45. But he, being gone out, began to publish and to blaze abroad the word, i.e., the fact of the miracle of his leprosy having been healed by Christ. For he thought that this was for the glory of God and Christ, although Christ, out of humility and modesty, had enjoined silence; but he himself did not consider this command binding upon him.
So that he could not openly go into the city, without feeling His modesty hurt by the honour and applause of the people. Or could not may mean would not. For so could is often put for would, as Nazianzen shows by many examples (Orat4 , de Theolog.).
*It has not been thought necessary to print in full the text of S. Mark. The citation of the few passages commented on is from the Douai Version.
Sunday, March 26th, 2017
the Fourth Sunday of Lent
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