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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Mark 7

 

 

Verse 1

Mark 7:1. καὶ connects what follows very loosely with what goes before: not temporal sequence but contrast between phenomenal popularity and hostility of the religious leaders of the people, in the view of the evangelist.— τινὲς τῶν γραμ., etc., some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem. cf. Mark 3:22, and remarks there.


Verses 1-23

Mark 7:1-23. Concerning ceremonial ablutions (Matthew 15:1-20).


Verse 2

Mark 7:2. καὶ ἰδόντες: the sentence beginning with these words properly runs on to the end of Mark 7:5, but the construction of so long a sentence overtaxes the grammatical skill of the writer, so it is broken off unfinished after the long explanatory clause about Jewish customs, Mark 7:3-4—a kind of parenthesis—and a new sentence begun at Mark 7:5 = and seeing, etc. (for the Pharisees, etc.), and the Pharisees and scribes ask; instead of: they ask, etc. The sense plain enough, though grammar crude.— τινὰς τ. μαθ., some of the disciples, not all. When? On their evangelistic tour? (Weiss; Holtz., H. C.) We have here, as in Mark 1:24, a case of attraction = seeing some that they eat ( ὅτι ἐσθίουσι, W.H(60)), for seeing that some eat ( ὅτι τινὲς ἐσ.).— ἀνίπτοις, unwashed, added to explain for Gentile readers the technical term κοιναῖς = profane (cf. Romans 14:14).


Verse 3-4

Mark 7:3-4. Explanatory statement about Jewish customs, not in Mt.— πάντες οἱ ἰουδ.: the Pharisees, the thorough-going virtuosi in religion, were a limited number; but in this and other respects the Jews generally followed ancient custom. The expression reminds us of the Fourth Gospel in its manner of referring to the people of Israel—the Jews—as foreigners. Mark speaks from the Gentile point of view.— πυγμῇ., with the first, the Vulgate has here crebro, answering to πυκνά, a reading found in (61). Most recent interpreters interpret πυγμῇ as meaning that they rubbed hard the palm of one hand with the other closed, so as to make sure that the part which touched food should be clean. (So Beza.) For other interpretations vide Lightfoot, Bengel, and Meyer.


Verse 4

Mark 7:4. ἀπʼ ἀγορᾶς, from market (coming understood = ὅταν ἔλθωσι in (62)), a common ellipsis, examples in Raphel, Kypke, and Bos, Ell. Gr., p. 98.— ῥαντίσωνται ((63) (64)), they sprinkle. The reading, βαπτίσωνται (T.R.), may be interpreted either as = dipping of the hands (mersionem manuum, Lightfoot, Wetstein), or, bathing of the whole body. (Meyer. “The statement proceeds by way of climax: before eating they wash the hands always. When they come from market they take a bath before eating.”)— ποτηρίων, ξεστῶν, χαλκίων: the evangelist explains how the Jews not only cleansed their own persons, but also all sorts of household utensils—altogether a serious business, that of preserving ceremonial purity. The two first articles, cups and jugs, would be of wood; earthen vessels when defiled had to be broken (Leviticus 15:12). The second word, ξεστῶν, is a Latinism = sextus or sextarius, a Roman measure = 1½ English pints; here used without reference to contents = urceus in Vulg(65)χαλκίων = vessels of brass. The καὶ κλινῶν, added in some MSS., will mean couches for meals on which diseased persons may have lain (lepers, etc.).


Verse 5

Mark 7:5. At last we come to the point, the complaint of the jealous guardians of Jewish custom, as handed down from the elders ( κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τ. π.), against the disciples of Jesus, and indirectly against Jesus Himself— διατί οὐ περιπατοῦσι κατὰ: for this Mt. substitutes δ. παραβαίνουσι.


Verse 6

Mark 7:6. καλῶς: twice used in Mk. (Mark 7:9), here = appositely, in Mark 7:9 ironically = bravely, finely. The citation from Isaiah is given in identical terms in the two accounts.


Verses 6-13

Mark 7:6-13. The reply of Jesus. It consists of a prophetic citation and a countercharge, given by Mt. in an inverted order. Commentators, according to their bias, differ as to which of the two versions is secondary.


Verse 8

Mark 7:8. At this point Mk.’s account seems secondary as compared with Mt.’s. This verse contains Christ’s comment on the prophetic oracle, then, Mark 7:9, He goes on to say the same thing over again.


Verse 10

Mark 7:10. ΄ωσῆς, Moses; God in Mt., the same thing in Jewish esteem.


Verse 11

Mark 7:11. κορβᾶν: Mk. gives first the Hebrew word, then its Greek equivalent.


Verse 12

Mark 7:12. Here again the construction limps; it would have been in order if there had been no λέγετε after ὑμεῖς at beginning of Mark 7:11 = but ye, when a man says, etc., do not allow him, etc.


Verse 13

Mark 7:13. παρεδώκατε, which ye have delivered. The receivers are also transmitters of the tradition, adding their quota to the weight of authority.— παρόμοια τοιαῦτα πολλὰ: many such similar things, a rhetorically redundant phrase (such, similar) expressive of contempt. Cf. Colossians 2:21. Hebrews 9:10.


Verses 14-16

Mark 7:14-16. The people taken into the discussion.— προσκαλεσάμενος: the people must have retired a little into the background, out of respect for the Jerusalem magnates.— ἀκούσατέ μου, etc., hear me all ye, and understand; a more pointed appeal than Mt.’s: hear and understand.


Verse 15

Mark 7:15. This saying is called a parable in Mark 7:17, and Weiss contends that it must be taken strictly as such, i.e., as meaning that it is not foods going into the body through the mouth that defile ceremonially, but corrupt matters issuing from the body (as in leprosy). Holtzmann, H. C., concurs. Schanz dissents on the ground that on this view the connection with unclean hands is done away with, and a quite foreign thought introduced. Mt., it is clear, has not so understood the saying; (Mark 15:11), and while he also calls it a parable (Mark 7:15) he evidently means thereby an obscure, enigmatical saying, needing explanation. Why assume that Mk. means anything more? True, he makes Jesus say, not that which cometh out of the mouth, but the things which come out of the man. But if He had meant the impure matters issuing from the body, would He not have said ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, so as to make His meaning unmistakable? On the whole, the most probable view is that even in Mark 7:15 the thought of Jesus moves in the moral sphere, and that the meaning is: the only defilement worth serious consideration is that caused by the evil which comes out of the heart (Mark 7:21).


Verses 17-23

Mark 7:17-23. Conversation with the disciples.— εἰς οἶκον ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου = alone, apart from the crowd, at home, wherever the home, pro tem., might be. Whatever was said or done in public became habitually a subject of conversation between Jesus and the Twelve, and therefore of course this remarkable saying.


Verse 18

Mark 7:18. Here, as in Mark 6:52, Mk. takes pains to make prominent the stupidity and consequent need of instruction of the Twelve.— οὕτω καὶ ., etc.: are ye, too, so unintelligent as not to understand what I have said: that that which goeth into the man from without cannot defile?


Verse 19

Mark 7:19. ὅτι οὐκεἰς τὴν καρδίαν: this negative statement is not in Mt. The contrast makes the point clearer. The idea throughout is that ethical defilement is alone of importance, all other defilement, whether the subject of Mosaic ceremonial legislation or of scribe tradition, a trivial affair. Jesus here is a critic of Moses as well as of the scribes, and introduces a religious revolution.— καθαρίζων (not - ον) is accepted generally as the true reading, but how is it to be construed? as the nominative absolute referring to ἀφεδρῶνα, giving the sense: evacuation purges the body from all matter it cannot assimilate? So most recent commentators. Or ought we not to terminate the words of Jesus at ἐκπορεύεται with a mark of interrogation, and take what follows as a comment of the evangelist? = ἐκπορεύεται;— καθαρίζων, etc.: this He said, purging all meats; making all meats clean, abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical law. This view was adopted by Origen and Chrysostom, and is vigorously defended by Field, Otium Nor., ad loc., and favoured by the Spk., Commentary. Weizsäcker adopts it in his translation: “So sprach er alle Speisen rein”.


Verse 20

Mark 7:20. ἔλεγεν δὲ: the use of this phrase here favours the view that καθαρίζων, etc., is an interpolated remark of the evangelist (Field).


Verse 21

Mark 7:21. An enumeration of the things which come out of the man, from the heart; first six plurals, πορνεῖαι, etc.; then six singulars, δόλος, etc. (Mark 7:22).


Verse 23

Mark 7:23. Concluding reflection: all these bad things come out from within and defile the man. Commonplace now, what a startling originality then!


Verses 24-30

Mark 7:24-30. The Syrophenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28).— ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς points to a change from the comparatively stationary life by the shores of the lake to a period of wandering in unwonted scenes. Cf. Mark 10:1, where ἀναστὰς is used in reference to the final departure from Galilee to the south. The δὲ, instead of the more usual καὶ, emphasises this change.— εἰς τὰ ὅρια τ., not towards (Fritzsche), but into the borders of Tyre. There can be no doubt that in Mk.’s narrative Jesus crosses into heathen territory (cf. Mark 7:31). In view of the several unsuccessful attempts made by Jesus to escape from the crowd into quiet and leisure, so carefully indicated by Mk., this almost goes without saying. Failing within Jewish territory, He is forced to go without, in hope to get some uninterrupted leisure for confidential intercourse with the Twelve, rendered all the more urgent by scenes like that just considered, which too plainly show that His time will be short.— εἰς οἰκίαν, into a house; considering Christ’s desire for privacy, more likely to be that of a heathen stranger (Weiss) than that of a friend (Meyer, Keil).— οὐδένα ἤθελε γνῶναι, He wished no one to know (He was there); to know no one (Fritzsche), comes to the same thing: desires to be private, not weary of well-doing, but anxious to do other work hitherto much hindered.— οὐκ ἠδυνάσθη λαθεῖν, He was not able to escape notice; not even here!


Verse 25

Mark 7:25. εὐθὺς: does not imply that the woman heard of Christ’s arrival as soon as it happened, but that, after hearing, she lost no time in coming = as soon as she heard. Yet sorrow, like the demoniacs, was quick to learn of His presence.— θυγάτριον: another of Mk.’s diminutives.


Verse 26

Mark 7:26. ἑλληνὶς, σύρα, φοινίκισσα, a Greek in religion, a Syrian in tongue, a Phenician in race (Euthy. Zig.). The two last epithets combined into one ( συροφ.) would describe her as a Syrophenician as distinct from a Phenician of Carthage. Mk. is careful to define the nationality and religion of the woman to throw light on the sequel.


Verse 27

Mark 7:27. ἄφες πρῶτον, etc.: a milder word than that in Mt. (Matthew 7:26); it is here a mere question of order: first Jews, then Gentiles, St. Paul’s programme, Romans 1:16. In Mt. we read, οὐκ ἔστι καλὸν, it is not right, seemly, to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the dogs. Mk. also has this word, but in a subordinate place, and simply as a reason for the prior claim of the children. We note also that Mk., usually so full in his narratives compared with Mt., omits the intercession of the Twelve with Christ’s reply. Yet Mk.’s, “first the children,” is really equivalent to “I am not sent,” etc. The former implies: “your turn will come”; the latter: “to minister to you is not my vocation”. This word, preserved in Mt., becomes less harsh when looked at in the light of Christ’s desire for quiet, not mentioned in Mt. Jesus made the most of the fact that His commission was to Jews. It has been thought that, in comparison with Mt., Mk.’s report of Christ’s words is secondary, adapted purposely to Gentile readers. Probably that is the case, but, on the other hand, he gives us a far clearer view of the extent and aim of the excursion to the North, concerning which Mt. has, and gives, no adequate conception.


Verse 28

Mark 7:28. ἀπεκρίθη, aorist, hitherto imperfect. We come now to what Mk. deems the main point of the story, the woman’s striking word.— ὑποκάτω τ. τραπ., the dogs under the table, waiting for morsels, a realistic touch.— τῶν ψιχίων τ. π., not merely the crumbs which by chance fall from the table, but morsels surreptitiously dropt by the children (“qui panem saepe prodigunt,” Beng.) to their pets. Household dogs, part of the family, loved by the children; hard and fast line of separation impossible.


Verse 29

Mark 7:29, διὰ τ. τ. λόγον, for this word, which showed the quick wit of the faith which Mt. specifies as the reason of the exception made in her favour.


Verse 30

Mark 7:30. βεβλημένον: the emphasis lies on this word rather than on παιδίον (Bengel), as expressing the condition in which the mother found her daughter: lying quietly (“in lecto molliter cubantem sine ullâ jactatione,” Grotius).

It is probable that this interesting incident cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration circumstances not mentioned in the narratives, and which, therefore, it does not fall to the expositor to refer to. On this vide my book, With Open Face, chap. vii.


Verse 31

Mark 7:31. After the instructive episode Jesus continued His journey, going northwards through ( διὰ, vide critical notes) Sidon, then making a circuit so as to arrive through Decapolis at the Sea of Galilee. The route is not more definitely indicated; perhaps it was along the highway over the Lebanon range to Damascus; it may conceivably have touched that ancient city, which, according to Pliny (H. N., v., 16), was included in Decapolis (vide Holtz., H. C., and Schürer, Div., ii., vol. i., p. 95).


Verses 31-37

Mark 7:31-37. Cure of a deaf-mute, peculiar to Mk. Mt. has, instead, a renewal of the healing ministry on an extensive scale, the thing Jesus desired to avoid (Mark 15:29-31).


Verse 32

Mark 7:32. μογιλάλον, speaking with difficulty; but here for dumb. Cf. ἀλάλους, Mark 7:37, used in Sept(66), Isaiah 35:6, for אִלֵּם, dumb, here only in N.T.


Verse 33

Mark 7:33. ἀπολαβόμενος, etc., withdrawing him from the crowd apart. Many reasons have been assigned for this procedure. The true reason, doubtless, is that Jesus did not wish to be drawn into a new ministry of healing on a large scale (Weiss, Schanz).— ἔβαλε τοὺς δακτύλους, etc.: one finger of the right hand into one ear, another of the left hand into the other, on account of the narrowness and depth of the hearing faculty, that He might touch it ( διὰ τὸ στενὸν καὶ βαθὺ τῆς ἀκοῆς ἵνα θίξῃ ταύτης, Euthy. Zig.). Deafness is first dealt with; it was the primary evil.— πτύσας, spitting; on what, the tongue of the dumb man as on the eyes of the blind (Mark 8:23)? So Meyer. Or on His own finger, with which He then touched the tongue? So Weiss, Schanz, Kloster., Holtz. (H. C.), Keil. Mk. leaves us here to our own conjectures, as also in reference to the import of these singular acts of Jesus. Probably they were meant to rouse interest and aid faith in the dull soul of the sufferer. (vide Trench, Notes on the Miracles.)


Verse 34

Mark 7:34. ἀναβλέψας, ἐστέναξε: Jesus looked up in prayer, and sighed or groaned in sympathy. In this case a number of acts, bodily and mental, are specified. Were these peculiar to it, or do we here get a glimpse into Christ’s modus operandi in many unrecorded cases? On the latter view one can understand the exhausting nature of the healing ministry. It meant a great mental strain.— ἐφφαθά, an Aramaic word = as Mk. explains, διανοίχθητι; doubtless the word actually spoken = Be opened, in reference to the ears, though the loosing of the tongue was part of the result ensuing.


Verse 35

Mark 7:35. αἱ ἀκοαί, literally, the hearings, here the instruments of hearing, the ears. So often in classics.— ἐλάλει ὀρθῶς, he began to speak in a proper or ordinary manner, implying that in his dumb condition he had been able only to make inarticulate sounds.


Verse 36

Mark 7:36. μᾶλλον περισσότερον, a double comparative, forcibly rendered in A.V(67), “So much the more, a great deal”. Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:13. This use of μᾶλλον to strengthen comparatives is found in classics, instances in Raphel, Annon., ad loc., and Hermann’s Viger, p. 719.


Verse 37

Mark 7:37. ὑπερπερισσῶς, superabundantly, a double superlative; here only.— καλῶς π. πεποίηκε, He hath done all things well. This looks like a reflection on past as well as present; the story of the demoniac, e.g. Observe the ποιεῖ, present, in next clause, referring to the cure just effected. It happened in Decapolis, and we seem to see the inhabitants of that region exhibiting a nobler mood than in chap. Mark 5:17. Of course, there were no swine lost on this occasion. Their astonishment at the miracle may seem extravagant, but it must be remembered that they have had little experience of Christ’s healing work; their own fault.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 7:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/mark-7.html. 1897-1910.

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