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Bible Commentaries
Mark 9

Lapide's Great Biblical CommentaryLapide's Commentary

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Verses 1-50

CHAPTER 9 2 Jesus is transfigured . 11 He instructeth his disciples concerning the coming of Elias : 14 casteth forth a dumb and deaf spirit : 30 foretelleth his death and resurrection : 33 exhorteth his disciples to humanity : 38 bidding them not to prohibit such as be not against them, nor to give offence to any of the faithful. Ver. 12 . And be despised: Gr. ε̉ξουδενωθη̃ , i.e., be nothing accounted of. Understand, thus shall it happen to Elias, that when by his great labours he has restored the faith, he shall in return for such great benefits receive curses and ill-treatment from the ungrateful and the impious, and shall at last be killed by them. Ver. 15 . And presently all the people seeing Jesus, were astonished, and struck with fear: and running to Him, they saluted Him. They were astonished because they saw Jesus so unexpectedly present after His absence, and at so opportune a time, to defend His disciples against the scribes. Again, it was because they saw in the face of Jesus, who had a little while before been transfigured, some remaining rays of His splendour; just as there were in the countenance of Moses, after his converse with God, rays, and, as it were, horns of light. Ver. 19. Troubled him. Gr. ε̉σπάραξεν , i.e., bruised , tore , convulsed his whole body. Wherefore it is added in explanation, and being thrown down upon the ground , he wallowed about foaming , because, in fact, the demon was experiencing the power of Christ, and foresaw that he would speedily be cast out, therefore with indignation and gnashing of teeth he thus grievously afflicted and tormented the energumen. Ver. 29. They passed through Galilee , and He would not that any one should know it. Lest He should be detained by the Galileans from love of Himself and His benefits. For He was hastening to Jerusalem to His cross and death, about which He was speaking privately to His disciples, that He might accomplish the will of His Father, and redeem the human race. Ver. 31. But they understood not the word. That is to say, in what manner, and for what cause, Christ was to die; and how these words concerning His near approaching death agreed with what He had often told them, that His kingdom was at hand. For otherwise the Apostles understood and believed that Christ would die (see Mat 17:23 ), when they are said to have been sorry at this saying of Christ concerning His death. Unless you prefer to say that they were ignorant of the death of Christ, because they were in hesitation with respect to it on account of the different sayings of Christ, apparently inconsistent with one another, and that accordingly they inclined to the view which was the more pleasing to them. For it was this which they wished to be true. "For so lovers frame dreams for themselves." So they endeavoured to persuade themselves that these words of Christ concerning His death had some other hidden meaning, and that they were not to be taken literally, but mystically. Ver. 37 . John answered Him, saying , Master , we saw one casting out devils in Thy name , who followeth not us , and we forbade him. It is as though he said, "Have we done well or ill?" John asks this question not out of envy, as Calvin would have it, but out of love and zeal for the honour of Christ. And it was occasioned by what He had said in the preceding verse, Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. As though he said, If he who receives a little one in Thy name receiveth Thy Father and Thyself, what must we think concerning him who works miracles in Thy name, and yet followeth not us, that is, is not Thy attendant and disciple, as we are? "Because," says Cyril ( in Catena in Luke 11:49; Luke 11:49 ), "the Saviour had given power to His Apostles to cast out unclean spirits, they thought that it had been conceded to none others save themselves to enjoy such dignity." So Theophylact and Victor.

Here observe that those who thus cast out devils in the name of Christ, and yet did not follow Him, were believers, but imperfect ones, forasmuch as they shrank from the rugged poverty and renunciation of their goods, such as was the lot of the Apostles. They shrank from following Christ in His evangelical labours and His persecutions. Still they have some faith in Christ, by virtue of which they cast out devils. So S. Ambrose ( in Luke 11:49; Luke 11:49 ). And in so doing Christ wrought and co-operated with them, that His power and glory might be the more made manifest, which wrought such great things by means of those who were so imperfect, and, as it were, aliens.

Observe, in the next place, that the Apostles did not forbid such people through hatred, but out of zeal for Christ, as though they were detracting from the glory of Christ and His ordinance, according to chap. iii. 15, where Christ gives to His Apostles only the power of casting out devils. But this zeal of theirs was indiscreet, especially because they had rashly, without consulting Christ, forbidden them. And Christ showed them that this was so for a double reason. The first is what He brings forward in the next verse. In a similar manner, when Joshua saw Eldad and Medad prophesying, he wished to forbid them, as if they were detracting from the glory of Moses, in that they had not received the spirit of prophecy from Moses. But Moses checked him by saying, "Enviest thou for my sake? Would that all the people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" ( Num 11:29 ). This is the Spirit of Christ, the spirit of love and of the Holy Ghost, which makes large the heart, and envieth none, but rejoices in all good things, by whomsoever and in what way soever they are wrought (see 1 Corinthians 13:0 .). Ver. 38 . But Jesus said , Do not forbid him , for there is no man that doth a miracle in My name , and can soon (Gr. τάχα , i.e., easily ) speak ill of Me. Do not hinder him in a good work, and one that honours Me; because even if he does not follow Me, yet he is doing the selfsame thing which you do, that is to say, he is celebrating My name, and he is making it known to men by casting out devils. Wherefore he does nothing that is against My name, but rather propagates and glorifies it. Ver. 39 . For he that is not against you is for you. This man, therefore, is not your adversary, in that he does the same that you do. He stands on your side. He helps you; he does not oppose you. Ver. 40 . For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in My name , because you belong to Christ: Amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. This is Christ's further reason to show why the man must not be forbidden to cast out devils. It is as though Christ said, "If he who gives you a drink of water in My name, and for My sake, does well, and shall receive a reward from God, so likewise shall he who drives out devils in My name. For both the one and the other do a good work, and are profitable to their neighbours in regard and respect of Me. But the one confers so much the greater benefit than the other, by as much as the devil whom he drives out is more hurtful than the thirst which the other alleviates by a draught of water." So Theophylact. Ver. 41. And whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me , it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were east into the sea. This is antithetical to the 36th verse. For Christ returns after the question interposed by John to what He had said concerning those who should receive a little child in His name. For as he who receives and cherishes the little ones who believe in Me, receives Myself, and shall be rewarded by Me with eternal glory in heaven; so, on the other hand, whoso shall cause one of these little ones to offend, offendeth Me, and shall be by Me condemned to Gehenna.

Ver. 42 . And if thy hand scandalize thee , cut it of. For a scandal is so pernicious that it harms not only the doer but the sufferer of it. Wherefore, if thou sufferest a scandal from thy hand, cut it off. That is, if any one, relative or friend, as useful and as dear to thee as thy hand, thy foot, thine eye, scandalize thee, that is, draw thee into sin, separate such an one from thy company, lest he drag thee with him into Gehenna. Ver. 43 . Where their worm dieth not. He quotes Isaiah 66:24 . Christ repeats this saying three times, that He may impress these dreadful worms and these fires upon us, that through horror of them we may avoid every scandal and every sin. Ver. 48 . For every one shall be salted with fire: and every victim shall be salted with salt.

1st. Franc. Lucas and Maldonatus understand the fire of hell , that Christ gives the reason of what He had just said, where their worm , &c. The reason is, for every one , namely, such as are adjudged to Gehenna, shall be salted with fire , that is, shall be burnt and tormented with fire, but in such manner that by the same fire, as it were by salt, they shall be preserved incorrupt for everlasting torments. For salt possesses the properties both of burning and preserving. It burns and torments by burning; by its saltness it preserves from corruption. The fire of hell does the same thing, wherefore it is appropriately compared to salt.

And every victim : and , that is, like as. As though He said, As every victim of God is wont to be seasoned with salt, according to the Law ( Lev 2:13 ), so whosoever shall be adjudged to Gehenna shall be a victim, as it were, of the justice and vengeance of God for ever, and so shall be salted with fire unquenchable as with salt, that is, shall be burnt and tormented, and shall at the same time remain unconsumed in the fire." So Isaiah teaches that the wicked shall in their torments be victims of God's vengeance (Isaiah 34:6 ; see also Ezekiel 39:17 , and Jer 46:10 ). For the wicked are, as it were, victims immolated to the honour of God's justice. This sense is very plain, apposite, and in accordance with the context.

2nd Others refer the words more remotely to what Christ said in the 42nd and following verses about avoiding scandals, and that to do so a hand or a foot must be cut off. It would be as though He said, "Cut off from thee the person who is as dear and as necessary to thee as a hand or an eye, if he scandalize thee; for every one who seeks to please God, and to offer himself to Him as a spiritual victim, must cut off from him, as by the fire of mortification, the man who causes him to offend, however dear he may be. He must, therefore, be salted by suffering tribulation, that is, he must be crucified and purified. He must be salted with the mystical salt of prudence, discretion, and evangelical wisdom, which teaches us that it is better to cut off our hand than to go into hell." There is an allusion to, or, indeed, in a mystical sense, a citation of Leviticus 2:13 , "Whatsoever thou shalt offer in sacrifice, thou shalt season with salt." So Theophylact on this passage of S. Mark; Theodoret, Procopius, Bede, Radulphus, Ruperti, on Lev. ii., and Cyril ( lib . 15, de Adorat .). Wherefore it is added, salt is good. Hear the Gloss , "To be salted with fire is for the love of Christ to deny ourselves of those who are nearest to us, and as dear as a hand or an eye." Hear also Bede, "The heart of the elect is the altar , the victims are good works, the salt is wisdom." Christ opposes the fire of mortification to the fire of hell, and the salt to the undying worm. As though He said, "That ye may escape the fire and the worm of hell, which concupiscence generates, be zealous for the fire of mortification and the salt of wisdom. For this shall take away the putridity of concupiscence, from which are generated the undying worms which shall be burned in the fire of hell."

3rd By fire Bede understands charity and the Holy Spirit , and His gift of discretion , by which He guides us into all good.

Lastly, the Scholiast in S. Jerome by salt understands also the fire of Purgatory. Hear what he says, "The victim of the Lord is the human race, which in this life is seasoned with the season of wisdom, when the corruption of the blood, which is the source of putridity, that is, the mother of worms, is consumed, and after this life is tried by purgatorial fire."

Salt is good , i.e., useful. "Ye, 0 ye Apostles, who have been chosen by Me to be the salt of the earth, are profitable to the world, that ye may season with your wisdom and evangelical doctrine all nations." Hear the Scholiast, "It is a good thing to hear the Word of God; to season the heart with the salt of wisdom; yea, to be salt, like the Apostles, i.e ., to minister wisdom unto others." Also Theophylact, "Salt preserves flesh; so the speech of a doctor prevents the unquenchable fire from being generated in carnal men."

But if the salt become unsavoury (the Gr. contains an elegant pun, άλς άναλον , i.e., saltless salt ), wherewith ( i.e., with what other salt) will ye season it ? It is as if He said, "If ye, 0 ye Apostles, who are the salt of the earth, lose this virtue of saltness, and become unsavoury and insipid, that through love or fear of men, through cupidity or ambition, ye fall away from My doctrine and an evangelical life, who shall restore you to your former wisdom, vigour, and sanctity?" Christ plays upon the word salt. For salt in Lev. ii. 13 is to be understood literally, but here it is to be taken mystically for wisdom, and metonymically for the Apostles, who had in themselves this mystic salt. Hear the Scholiast in S. Jerome, "Salt is savourless which loves the chief place, and which dares not either to rebuke or confess, loving the praise of men more than the praise of God." Christ has a reference to Judas, who being corrupted by the love of money, and becoming unsavoury, lost his Apostleship, and did not hesitate to betray the Lord.

Have salt in yourselves , i.e., the salt of wisdom and a Christian life, as humility, charity, contempt of the world, but especially peace ; as Christ adds, saying, And have peace among yourselves . "Do not ambitiously contend among yourselves for the primacy, as ye have contended " (ver. 33), to which Christ refers. For such a contention will be a scandal to the whole world; and for that reason Christ subjoined what is said concerning the avoidance of scandal in verses 36 and 41. But if ye preserve peace and mutual concord, ye shall be for the edification of the whole world; and being united one with another in the bond of charity, ye will be invincible, and will draw all men to yourselves and Christ. Therefore by peace the Interlinear understands love. And the Scholiast thus expounds, Have salt in yourselves , "The love of one's neighbour tempers the salt of correction; and the salt of justice preserves love."

Have peace , &c. That is, let him who speaks eloquently greatly fear lest by his eloquence unity be broken. For, as Bede says, "to have salt without peace is not a gift of virtue, but a proof of condemnation; for the wiser any one is, the greater his sin if he fall." "For there are many," says the Gloss , "that whilst greater knowledge lifts them up, it separates them from the society of others; and the wiser they are, the more they fall from the virtue of concord."

Lastly, the Gloss thus expounds, Have salt in you , i.e ., have discretion: and have peace among yourselves. By wisdom and discretion peace is both acquired and preserved among men. For the prudent and discreet do nothing which may offend others and disturb peace. The same bear with the infirmities of others, while those who are impatient are angry, and strive with them. ( )

Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Mark 9". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/clc/mark-9.html. 1890.
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