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Bible Commentaries

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide

Mark 8

Verses 1-38


1 Christ feedeth the people miraculously: 10 refuses to give a sign to the Pharisees: 14admonisheth his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod: 22giveth a blind man his sight: 27 acknowledgeth that he is the Christ, who should suffer and rise again: 34and exhorteth to patience in persecution for the profession of the gospel.

Ver15. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod. The leaven is the doctrine of the Pharisees, by which they taught children to say to their parents corban, as well as other things contrary to the law of God. The leaven of Herod is the doctrine of the Sadducees, for with them Christ had had His most recent controversy, as appears from Matt. xvi1-12. For Herod, as well as many of the principal people at that time, were Sadducees (see Jos. xviii. c2). They denied the immortality of the soul, and lived as Atheists. So Herod lived in adultery, killed John, and committed many other crimes, having no fear of God. For although he thought that John had risen again in Christ, yet that opinion did not arise, out of faith, but was wrung out of him by fear. Others, with Origen and S. Jerome, understand by leaven the sect of the Herodians, who flattered Herod, saying that he was the Messiah. But that referred to Herod of Ascalon, not Herod Antipas, as I have shown on Matt. xxii16.

Ver23. And taking the blind man by the hand, He led him out of the town, i.e., outside of Bethsaida, as is plain from ver22. He led him forth for the same reason that when He was about to heal the deaf and dumb man He took him aside from the multitude. This was, 1st For the sake of prayer, that, being alone, He might collect His thoughts, and unite Himself wholly to God, and pray the more intently and collectedly2To fly from the applause of men, and teach us to do the same3Because the citizens of Bethsaida were unworthy of the miracle of Christ; for although they had seen Him work so many miracles, they would not believe in Him.

And spitting upon his eyes. Fasting spittle does good to the purblind, but does not illuminate those who have actually lost their sight. The saliva, therefore, of Christ was not a natural but a supernatural remedy for blindness, being the instrument by which Christ"s Godhead wrought.

S. Hilarion imitated this miracle by which Christ gave sight to a blind man, as S. Jerome relates in his Life. "A blind woman was brought to S. Hilarion, who said that she had expended all her substance upon physicians. Hilarion said to her, If thou hadst given to the poor what thou hast thrown away upon physicians, Christ the true Physician would have healed thee."

Laid His hands, i.e., when He had placed His hands upon the eyes of the blind man, and again removed them. For that is improbable which the Scholiast in S. Chrysostom says, that this blind man saw people (ver24) when Christ"s hands were over his eyes. For this would have been a new and uncalled-for miracle.

Ver24. And looking up, he said, I see men as it were trees, walking. As much as to say, I see something obscurely and confusedly; for I see men walking, but in such a way that I cannot distinguish whether they are men or trees. Just as it happens to ourselves, says Bede; when we see people at a great distance, we can only distinguish men from trees by their motion, because men walk, but trees do not. The word walking must be referred to men, not to trees, as is plain by the Greek. The word walking in the Latin text, however, might refer to trees in this sense: I see men as it were trees split, and therefore two-footed, and so walking. This blind man, therefore, as yet in darkness, saw men as it were through a mist and cloud, in which they appeared greater than they really were, it might be as thick and tall as trees, as by means of magnifying glasses letters appear larger than they are in reality.

It is related of S. Gregory Thaumaturgus, that in the Decian persecution he fled with his deacon to a certain hill. A certain traitor made known where they were to the persecutors, who carefully searched the whole hill to discover Gregory. With strong faith in God, he stood in prayer, with eyes immovable and hands stretched out. But God smote the persecutors with inability to see. They returned and reported that they had seen nothing on the hill except two trees a little distant from one another. When they had gone away, the traitor himself went up the hill and saw two men, Gregory and his deacon, instead of the trees. He acknowledged that it was the work of Divine power that they had appeared to the persecutors to be trees, and he fell down at their feet, and from a traitor became a confessor of the faith. (S. Greg. Nyss. in Vita.)

Mystically: The Scholiast in S. Jerome says, "The blind man is a penitent sinner. He sees men as trees walking, because he esteems every one superior to himself. With David he counts himself unworthy to be called a man, deeming himself to be a dead dog and a flea" (2Sam. xvi.).

Ver25. After that again He laid His hands upon his eyes, and he began to see, and was restored, so that he saw all things clearly. Christ wished not suddenly, but by degrees, perfectly to illuminate this blind man: 1That He might exhibit miracles of every description2That this miracle might be more esteemed3And principally, That He might accommodate Himself to the imperfect faith of the blind man and those who brought him, their faith increasing as the miracle proceeded; and that He might the more kindle in them faith, hope, and desire that it might be brought to a perfect work. "In the first place, He cured this blind man imperfectly," says Euthymius, "inasmuch as he believed imperfectly, that he who as yet had but a little vision might by means of the little light believe more perfectly, and be healed more completely; for He was the wise Physician." And by and by he says, "Increase of faith deserved increase of healing."

Tropologically: Christ wished to teach us that the unbeliever and the sinner are gradually illuminated by God, and that they ought correspondingly to make gradual increase in the knowledge and worship of God. "He did it," says Bede, "that He might show the greatness of human blindness, which is wont to arrive step by step, and by certain grades, as it were, of progression, at the light of the Divine knowledge." For as the Scholiast says, "There are degrees of knowledge; neither can any one arrive in a single hour, or, indeed, without considerable time, at perfect knowledge." We have experience of this in children and scholars, who must be taught and instructed step by step. For if the teacher, being impatient of delay and trouble, should wish to teach them everything at once, he would crush their memory and intellect, so that they would take in nothing. It is like wine when it is poured into a vessel with a narrow neck; if you try to pour it all in at once, you pour in scarcely anything, but nearly the whole is spilled. Worthy of note is the Italian proverb, "Gently, gently, if you would go far;" or the saying of the philosopher, "Progression is by degrees."

Symbolically: The Scholiast in S. Jerome says, "Christ laid His hands upon his eyes, that he might see all things clearly, that is, that by visible works he might understand things invisible, and which eye hath not seen; and that after the film of sin he might clearly behold the state of his soul with the eye of a clean heart. For blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Ver34. In this adulterous generation, of depraved Jews, who are sons of God, though not genuine ones, but like spurious children, the offspring of adultery. For they are degenerate from the faith of their fathers, the Patriarchs, since they will not receive Me, who am the Messiah promised to them. Therefore they are not so much children of God as of the devil. Such are called in Hebrew bene nechar, i.e., children born of a strange, alien, or adulterous father. See what has been said on S. Matthew 10:33.

Ver39. The kingdom of God, i.e., the glory of the kingdom of God, which is about to be in My transfiguration.

Coming, i.e., appearing, and showing itself to Peter, James, and John. In power, i.e., with great power, glory, splendour, and majesty. (Top)

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Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Mark 8". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. 1890.