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Bible Commentaries

Lapide's Great Biblical Commentary

Mark 12

Verses 1-44

CHAPTER 12 1 The parable of the vineyard . 13 Touching the paying of tribute . 18 The Sadducees confuted . 35 A difficulty proposed to the scribes. Ver. 1 . Planted a vineyard. Gr. ε̉φύτευσεν , Vulg. pastinavit. The verb pastinare is especially used of vines. It means to dig the soil of the vineyard, and prepare it for planting vines, So the word repastinare means to dig up vines when they are sterile.

And dug a lake (Vulg.), a receptacle into which the must pressed from the grapes might flow. The Gr. is ύπολήνιον , i.e., beneath the winepress. For ληνός means winepress. Hence the Arabic translates, and dug a winepress in it. S. Matthew (xxi. 33) uses the same expression. For torcular , or winepress , means not only the actual press itself, but the vat or receptacle beneath the press in which the grape juice was received. This last was said to be dug , or, as in Isaiah 5:1 , to be cut out. Ver. 33 . And to love one's neighbour as oneselg is a greater thing than all holocausts and sacrifices. Holocausts were sacrifices in which the whole victim was burnt and sacrificed to God by fire. This is what God says, "I will mercy [prefer] and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than holocausts" ( Hos 6:6 ). This young man tacitly assents to the saying of Christ, and condemns the scribes, who preferred sacrifices, which yielded profit to themselves, to mercy and the love of our neighbour. And this was why they bade children say to their parents, when they were in need, corban , i.e., oblation (see on Mat 15:6 ). Ver. 34 . Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. Thou art not far from the way of salvation, for the love of God and our neighbour is the pathway to heaven. Again it means, thou art not far from My Church , by which, militant here on earth, we go to the Church triumphant in heaven. "Still, as yet thou lackest faith to believe in Me as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, and to obey My commands, so that thou mayest indeed become a Christian. And if thou wilt be perfect, leave all things and follow Me, as the Apostles have done." When, then, He says, thou art not far, "He shows," says Victor of Antioch, "that he was still at some distance, and that he ought to reach forward to that which was before, and seek diligently for the things that were yet wanting unto him."

Ver. 38 . Who love to walk in long robes, stolis (Vulg.). The stole was an elegant garment, flowing down to the heels. Wherefore the Scribes wore it for the sake of ostentation. Ver. 40 . Who devour , Gr. οί κατεσθίοντες , i.e ., who altogether consume and lick up the houses of widows , both by reason of the sumptuous feasts which they ask of them, as well as by the gifts and money which they avariciously extort from them under the pretext of offering prayers for them. "When, therefore," says Bede, "the hand is stretched out to the poor, it is wont to help prayer; but those men passed whole nights in prayer that they might take from the poor."

These shall receive greater judgment. A severer sentence of God, and a heavier condemnation shall press upon the Scribes in the day of judgment, because by a pretence of probity they are aiming at wrong-doing; and being clothed in the garments of God, they are fighting on the devil's side. "Simulated holiness," says S. Chrysostom, "is a double iniquity." Ver. 41 . How the people cast money : æs , brass (Vulg.), i.e ., all sorts of money, whether brass, silver, or gold. For the first money was made of brass , hence all money was afterwards called brass , even when made of silver or gold.

Into the treasury ; gazophylacium (Vulg.). For gaza is a Persian word, meaning riches ; and φυλάττειν is to keep. This was a chest into which gifts were cast by the people, and kept for the service of the Temple, and for supporting the priests and the poor. Hence, also, the porch in which the chest was kept was called by the same name. Thus it is said in John viii. 20, "These words spake Jesus in the treasury ( gazophylacio ), teaching in the Temple." So Bede. Ver. 42. A certain poor widow cast in two mites , which make a farthing. Not as if one mite made a farthing, as Euthymius understands, relying on Matthew 5:26 . But two mites were equivalent to one farthing, as is here clearly expressed. For a farthing was the fourth part of a little ass ; and ten small asses made a denarius . A mite was half a farthing. Ver. 43 . This poor widow hath cast in more than all. For although per se , and other things being equal, the greatest and best alms and oblations is that which is most, yet, per accidens , when other things are not equal, the greater alms is that which is offered with the greater devotion of charity and religion. For God does not so much regard the gift as the disposition of the giver. Again, the greater gift is not that which is of the greater value considered in itself, as that which is the greater and more difficult in respect of the giver. This widow, therefore, in giving a farthing, gave more than all, because she gave all that she had, although it was necessary for her life. And she would have given more if she had had more. For she trusted in God, that He in return would be more liberal to her, and provide for her necessity, according to the saying, "Give God an egg, and receive a sheep." Others truly gave of their abounding superfluities, as Christ here says. As Titus of Bostra says on Luke xxi. 3, "With such magnanimity and devotion did she offer two mites, that is, all that she had, as if she counted her own life as nothing." S. Paul gives the a priori reason ( 2Co 8:12 ), "If there be a ready mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, not according to that which he hath not." As Victor of Antioch says on this passage, "For God does not so much consider the greatness of the gifts, as weigh the greatness and alacrity of the mind." And Bede, "He weighs not the substance, but the conscience of the offerers."

For, as S. Thomas says, inasmuch as the widow gave according to her ability, therefore it was the greater affection of charity which was valued in her. S. Ambrose thought the same ( lib . 2, Offic. c. 30), "The two mites of that widow surpassed the offerings of the rich, because she gave all she had; but they offered only a small portion of their abundance." Whence he infers, "The disposition therefore makes the offering poor or valuable, and sets their true price upon things." ( )

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Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Mark 12". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. 1890.