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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-35

III:1-6 Cure of a Man with a Withered Hand; cf.Matthew 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11-1-3. Here again the question at issue is the observance of the law of sabbath rest. The hostility of the Pharisees has increased; they now spy on Christ to see whether he will perform a cure on the Sabbath so that they may accuse him of violation of the Law.

4. This question means, Is it permissible to perform a good deed on the Sabbath in contravention of the letter of the law, or must one allow evil to happen, by refraining from action in order to keep the letter of the law? May one take action to save life on the Sabbath, of should assistance be withheld despite danger to life? It was admitted in practice by the Pharisees that one should assist a person whose life was in danger. The principle thus established had obviously a far wider application in all cases where the needs of mankind seemed to conflict with the positive law.

5. Mark alone notes the anger and grief of Christ on this occasion, ’blindness bf their hearts’: Gk ’the callousness of their hearts’. The silence of the Pharisees is proof of their obduracy.

6. The first mention of a plot against our Lord. The Herodians (cf.Matthew 22:16), were either a party who supported the dynasty of Herod, or persons of influence at the court of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee. Christ was within Herod’s territory at this time and the sanction of the tetrarch would have been necessary, for the success of any scheme to bring about his death.

7-12 Enthusiastic Crowds come to Jesus; cf.Matthew 4:24 f.; Luke 6:17-19—This section gives a vivid picture of the excitement caused by Christ’s teaching and miracles. The crowds came from districts far removed from Galilee, and even from outside Palestine, in order to avail of his miraculous healing powers. They so pressed upon him that it was necessary for him to address them from a boat moored near the shore. In Matthew 4:24 f. and Luke 6:17-19 this account of the coming of the crowds to Jesus (7-8) leads on to the Sermon on the Mount. For a discussion of the absence of the Sermon on the Mount from Mk, especially in relation to the Synoptic Problem, see Vaganay, RB 58 ( 1951) 5-46. 11-12. The casting out of demons was not merely a work of mercy, but a proof that Jesus was mightier than Satan. Later Jesus pointed out that the breaking of Satan’s power was a sign that the kingdom of God had come; cf.Luke 11:20. The title ’Son of God’ suggests more forcibly than ’Holy One of God’, 1:24, the unique relation between Christ and the Father. There is no certainty as to the precise sense intended by the demons, but probably they had some notion of Christ’s divinity by this time. Christ did not refuse the title but for motives of prudence (cf. 1:34) forbade the demons to proclaim it.

13-19 The Call of the Twelve Apostles; cf.Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13—The twelve disciples now specially chosen by Christ were to be the duly accredited witnesses who would proclaim the message of salvation after the death of Christ. Hence the solemnity attached to their calling. Luke tells us that Christ spent the whole night in prayer beforehand. Mark emphasizes that the choice came from Jesus; cf.John 6:70; John 15:16.

14-15. The number twelve had symbolic significance in relation to the twelve tribes of Israel. The Apostles would be the rulers of the new spiritual Israel, the Church which Christ was about to establish. Their companionship with Christ during his public life, their intimate knowledge of his teaching and acquaintance with his supernatural powers, fitted them in a special way to be the authentic witnesses of the good news of the Redemption. The power of working miracles would be a confirmation of their teaching they shared in the ministry of Christ even during his life on earth; cf.Mark 6:7 ff.

16. It is significant that Simon (Peter) is placed first in all the lists of the Apostles, though there is some variation in the order of the others, with the exception of Judas who is always placed last.

17. ’Boanerges’ is probably a defective transcription into Greek letters of the Aramaic Benê-reg+?eš ’Sons of thunder’ = The Thunderers. This title may be explained by the incident recorded in Luke 9:54, which suggests the fiery disposition of the brothers. Some writers take the expression as a reference to their eloquence, and especially to the theology of John, the author of the Fourth Gospel.

18. ’Simon the Canancan’. Lk calls him ’the Zealot’, translating the Aramaic Qenana of which the Gk Ka?a?a?+??? is a transcription. It is unlikely that Simon belonged to the fanatical political group known as Zealots. The word refers rather to a personal trait of character or to zeal for the Law; Cf.Acts 21:20; Galatians 1:14.

THE MINISTRY IN GALILEE AND ADJOINING DISTRICTS 20-30 Different Attitudes towards Chrlst—20-21 are found only in Mk. The crowds are still enthusiastic and so eager to be with Christ that it is impossible for him and the disciples to take their meals. This eagerness of the crowds is a contrast to the anxiety shown by the persons mentioned in 21,and still more to the blasphemous accusations of the Scribes and Pharisees.

21. ’Piety adds to the difficulty of this passage; for the mind shrinks not merely from believing but from the very thought that Christ’s relatives said or considered that Christ was mad’, Maldonatus. The usual interpretation is that relatives (or followers) of Christ, disturbed by reports, came out to take charge of him. The following points are to be noted. (1) The phrase ??+? pa?? a?+?t??+? does not necessarily mean relatives (friends). It has a wider usage which would include disciples, followers, members of a household. It is not certain that the persons designated by this phrase are the same as ’his mother and brethren’, 31. Even if they are, there is no reason for thinking that our Lady shared in the sentiments of the others, though she would naturally wish ’to be present when the welfare of her divine Son was in question. (2) ’For they said’, rather, ’For people were saying’. If this be correct, then 21b refers to reports which reached Christ’s friends, not to an expression of opinion by them. (3) ’He is become mad is too strong as a translation of e+??e9+´stð. This verb is used by Mark to describe the astonishment and awe caused by the teaching and miracles of Christ, Mark 2:12; Mark 5:42; Mark 6:51. In the present context a more satisfactory rendering would be ’he is beside himself’. Those who came to seize Christ may have thought that his conduct, e.g. neglect of his health, 20b, was imdent. ’For not even his brethren believed in him’, John 7:5. An alternative explanation, which would obviate the difficulties of the usual interpretation, was put forward by Hartmann, BZ 11 ( 1913) 249-79. The gist of his interpretation is conveyed by the following translation: ’When they who were with him (in the house) heard (the crowd), they went out to control it [the crowd]. For they said, it [the crowd] is out of hand’. A strong argument against this interpretation is drawn from Marcan usage. In no other instance in Mk do we find the singular of the pronoun a?+?tó? used when referring to the crowd (?+?+´????). It is always the plural (a?+?t??+´?, a?+?t??+??) which is found; see MacRory, IER 65 ( 1945) 1-5; Fahy, ibid. 6-15. We must take it, therefore, that the pronoun in the phrase ??atð+?sa? a?+?tò? ’to lay hold on him’ refers to Christ. If Mark intended to refer to the crowd he would have used the plural a?+?t??+^?; cf. CBQ 4 ( 1942) 357-9.

22:22-30 The Scribes calumniate Our Lord; cf.Matthew 12:22-33; Luke 11:14-22-22. The Scribes from Jerusalem had probably been sent by the Sanhedrin to spy on our Lord. The blasphemous charge that Christ was in league with Satan in expelling the demons shows the blindness and obduracy of his opponents. It also indicates the indisputable character of the evidence that Christ had really performed these miracles. ’Beelzebub’ is the name given to the god of Accaron in 4 Kg 1:2 f. It appears in the Ras-Shamra tablets also as the name of a pagan divinity; cf. R. Dussaud, Les Découvertes de Ras Shamra et l’Ancien Testament ( Paris 1937), 69. It is uncertain how this name came to be applied to the prince of demons. In the Greek MSS of the Gospels the name usually appears in the form ’Beelzebul’, which is variously explained as ’lord of the dwelling’, ’lord of dung’, ’lord of flies’. Some think that Beelzebul is a corruption of the Aramaic form Beelzebub, which means ’enemy’, ’accuser’. It would correspond, therefore, to the Hebrew ’Satan’ = Adversary, and d?a+´ß???? = Accuser.

23-26. The illustrations introduced here by Christ show the absurdity of the blasphemous charge which had been levelled against him. Every kingdom or household which is torn by internal strife will come to ruin. If Christ is in league with the prince of demons in order to cast out devils, then the kingdom of Satan is divided against itself and its collapse cannot be far off. It was clearly absurd to suppose that Satan would be willing to destroy his own kingdom in this way.

27. This parable points to the only correct conclusion from Christ’s power over the demons. The ’strong man’ is Satan, the ’prince of this world’, John 12:31. But Christ ’a stronger one’, Luke 11:22, has come and overcome Satan. The expulsion of demons from men is the proof of Christ’s victory and the sign of the destruction of Satan’s kingdom.

28-30 Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; cf.Matthew 12:31 f.; Luke 12:10—In this context ’blasphemy’ is to be understood in accordance with the primary sense of ß?asFðµe?+?? ’to slander, calumniate’. It is clear from 30 that ’blasphemy against the Holy Ghost’ is the sin committed by those who attributed to the power of Satan the expulsion of demons by Christ. These miraculous works of mercy were so clearly due to the beneficent operation of divine power that to attribute them to Satan was a calumny of diabolical malice. Unlike other blasphemies or sins which might be partially excused by ignorance, passion or inadvertence, this was a sin of wilful malice and blindness to the light. As long as such a mentality persists, pardon is impossible, not because of any limitation on the power or mercy of God, but because those who are guilty of this sin refuse to respond to the promptings of grace.

31-35 The Mother and Brethren of Jesus; cf.Matthew 12:46-150; Luke 8:19-21-31. According to the usual interpretation, Christ’s mother and brethren are the persons referred to in 21 as ’friends’, and their arrival is the sequel to the facts there described.

33-35. These words of Christ are not a repudiation of the ties of blood nor a refusal to acknowledge the duties which arise from such relationship. Christ condemned the casuistry which made it possible for undutiful children to evade the obligations imposed by the Fourth Commandment, Mark 7:9-13, and when dying on the Cross showed his solicitude for his mother, John 19:26 f. Here, however, he wished to inculcate the doctrine that the claims of natural kinship are subordinate to the primary duty of performing God’s will. ’Hisbrethren’. Other references to the brethren of Christ are to be found in Mark 6:3; Matthew 12:46-50; Matthew 13:55 f.; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12; John 7:3, John 7:5, John 7:10; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19. The evidence of the NT and of Tradition leads to the conclusion that the ’brethren’ were cousins of Christ. The precise degree of relationship and also the question whether they were related to Christ through our Lady or through St Joseph remains uncertain; cf. Lagrange, Saint Marc, 79-93; Holz meister , De S. Joseph Quaestiones Biblicae (Romae 1945) 40-67; cf. also §§ 672-3.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Mark 3". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/mark-3.html. 1951.
 
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