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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 12

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Mark 12:1 . ἐν παραβολαῖς : the plural may be used simply because there are more parables than one even in Mk., the main one and that of the Rejected Stone (Mark 12:10-11 ), but it is more probably generic = in parabolic style (Meyer, Schanz, Holtz., H. C.). Jesus resumed ( ἤρξατο ) this style because the circumstances called forth the parabolic mood, that of one “whose heart is chilled, and whose spirit is saddened by a sense of loneliness, and who, retiring within himself, by a process of reflection, frames for his thoughts forms which half conceal, half reveal them” The Parabolic Teaching of Christ , p. 20. ἀμπελῶνα : a vineyard, the theme suitably named first. ἄμπελος is the usual word in Greek authors, but Kypke cites some instances of ἀμπελὼν in late authors. ὑπολήνιον (here only), the under vat of a wine press, into which the juices trampled out in the ληνὸς flowed. ἐξέδετο (W.H [109] ), a defective form, as if from δίδω . Cf. ἀπέδετο , Hebrews 12:16 .

[109] Westcott and Hort.

Verses 1-12

Mark 12:1-12 . Parable of the wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-46 , Luke 20:9-19 ).

Verse 2

Mark 12:2 . τῷ καιρῷ : at the season of fruit, or at the time agreed on; the two practically coincident. δοῦλον : a servant, one at a time, three in succession, then many grouped together, and finally the son. In Mt. first one set of servants are sent, then a larger number, then the son. ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν : a part of the fruits, rent paid in kind, a share of the crop.

Verse 4

Mark 12:4 . ἐκεφαλί ( αί , T.R.) ωσαν : ought to mean, summed up ( κεφάλαιον , Hebrews 8:1 = the crown of what has been spoken), but generally taken to mean “smote on the head” (“in capite vulneraverunt,” Vulg [110] ). A “veritable solecism,” Meyer (“Mk. confounded κεφαλαιόω with κεφαλίζω ”). Field says: “We can only conjecture that the evangelist adopted ἐκεφαλαίωσαν , a known word in an unknown sense, in preference to ἐκεφάλωσαν , of which both sound and sense were unknown”.

[110] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

Verse 5

Mark 12:5 . πολλοὺς ἄλλους , many others. The construction is very loose. We naturally think of πολ . ἄλ . as depending on ἀπέστειλε = he sent many others, and possibly that was really what the evangelist had in his mind, though the following participles, δέροντες ἀποκτέννοντες , suggest a verb, having for its subject the agents these participles refer to = they maltreated many others, beating some and killing some. So most recent writers. Vide Buttmann, N. T. G. , p. 293. Elsner suggests ἀπεσταλμένους after πολλ . ἄλλ . = and many others, sent, they either beat or slew.

Verse 8

Mark 12:8 . Mk. says: the son and heir they killed and cast out of the vineyard. Mt. and Lk. more naturally, as it seems: they cast out and killed. We must understand Mk. to mean cast out dead (Meyer, Weiss, Schanz), or with Grotius we must take καὶ ἐξέβαλον as = ἐκβληθέντα .

Verse 11

Mark 12:11 . παρὰ κυρίου , etc., from or through the Lord it (the rejected stone) became this very thing ( αὕτη ), viz. , the head of the corner κεφαλὴ γωνίας .

Verse 12

Mark 12:12 . καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν : καὶ is to all intents adversative here, though grammarians deny that it is ever so used ( vide Winer, sec. liii. 3 b) = they sought to lay hold of Him, but they feared the people. ἔγνωσαν refers to the Sanhedrists (Weiss, Holtz.), not to the ὄχλος (Meyer). It gives a reason at once for their desire to lay hold of Jesus, and for their fear of the people. They must be careful so to act as not to appear to take the parable to themselves, while they really did so.

Verse 13

Mark 12:13 . τινὰς : according to Mt. the representatives of the Pharisees were disciples , not masters; a cunning device in itself. Vide on Matthew 22:16 . ἀγρεύσωσι (here only in N.T.), that they might hunt or catch Him, like a wild animal. Mt.’s expression, παγιδεύσωσι , equally graphic. Lk. avoids both. λόγῳ : either, their question, or His reply; the one involves the other.

Verses 13-17

Mark 12:13-17 . Tribute to Caesar (Matthew 12:15-22 , Luke 20:20-26 ).

Verse 14

Mark 12:14 . The flattering speech is differently and more logically (Schanz) given in Mt. Vide notes there on the virtues specified. ἔξεστιν , etc.: the question now put, and in two forms in Mk. First, as in Mt., is it lawful, etc.; second, in the added words, δῶμεν ἢ μὴ δῶμεν ; These have been distinguished as the theoretical and the practical form of the question respectively (Meyer, Weiss, Schanz), but there is no real difference. Yet it is not idle repetition. The second question gives urgency to the matter; They speak as men who press for an answer for their guidance (Holtz., H. C.).

Verse 15

Mark 12:15 . δηνάριον : instead of Mt.’s νόμισμα τοῦ κήνσου ; as a matter of fact the denarius was the coin of the tribute. ἵνα ἴδω , that I may see: as if He needed to study the matter, a touch of humour. The question was already settled by the existence of a coin with Caesar’s image on it. This verb and the next, ἤνεγκαν , are without object; laconic style.

Verse 17

Mark 12:17 . Christ’s reply is given here very tersely = the things of Caesar render to Caesar, and those of God to God. ἐξεθαύμαζον : the compound, in place of Mt.’s simple verb, suggests the idea of excessive astonishment, though we must always allow for the tendency in late Greek to use compounds. Here only in N. T., occasionally in Sept [111] [111] Septuagint.

Verses 18-27

Mark 12:18-27 . The resurrection question (Matthew 22:23-33 , Luke 20:27-30 ).

Verse 19

Mark 12:19 . The case is awkwardly stated here as compared with Mt., though Lk. retains the awkwardness = if the brother of any one die, and leave a wife, and leave not children, let his (the brother’s) brother take his wife and raise up seed to his brother. Mk. avoids the word ἐπιγαμβρεύσει (in Mt.).

Verse 20

Verse 23

Mark 12:23 . τίνος αὐτῶν , etc., of which of them shall she be the wife? ( γυνή , without the article, vide notes on Mt.).

Verse 24

Mark 12:24 . οὐ πλανᾶσθε , do ye not err? not weaker but stronger than a positive assertion: “pro vehementi affirmatione,” Grotius. διὰ τοῦτο usually refers to something going before, and it may do so here, pointing to their question as involving ignorant presuppositions regarding the future state, an ignorance due, in turn, to ignorance of Scripture teaching and the power of God. But it is more natural to connect it with the following clause, as in cases when the expression precedes ὅτι , ἵνα , ὅταν , etc., for μὴ εἰδότες is = ὅτι οὐκ οἴδατε . So De Wette and others, vide Winer, sec. xxiii. 5.

Verse 26

Mark 12:26 . ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ Μ .: a general reference to the Pentateuch, the following phrase, ἐπὶ τοῦ βάτου , supplying a more definite reference to the exact place in the book, the section relating to the bush. “At the bush,” i.e. , Exodus 3:0 , similarly reference might be made to Exodus 15:0 , by the title: “at the song of Moses”. βάτος is masculine here according to the best reading; feminine in Luke 20:37 . The feminine is Hellenistic, the masculine Attic. Vide Thayer’s Grimm . The word occurs in Aristophanes and in the N. T.; possibly colloquial (Kennedy, Sources of N.T.G. , p. 78).

Verse 27

Mark 12:27 . πολὺ πλανᾶσθε , much ye err. This new and final assertion of ignorance is very impressive; severe, but kindly; much weakened by adding ὑμεῖς οὖν .

Verse 28

Mark 12:28 . προσελθὼν , ἀκούσας , εἰδὼς : the second and third of these three participles may be viewed as the ground of the first = one of the scribes, having heard them disputing, and being conscious that He (Jesus) answered them well, approached and asked Him, etc. ποία , what sort of; it is a question, not of an individual commandment, but of characteristic quality. The questioner, as conceived by Mk., probably had in view the distinction between ritual and ethical, or positive and moral. The prevalent tendency was to attach special importance to the positive, and to find the great matters of the law in circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, the rules respecting phylacteries, etc. (Lightfoot). The opposite tendency, to emphasise the ethical , was not unrepresented, especially in the school of Hillel, which taught that the love of our neighbour is the kernel of the law. The questioner, as he appears in Mk., leant to this side.

Verses 28-34

Mark 12:28-34 . The great commandment (Matthew 22:34-40 ). The permanent value of this section lies in the answer of Jesus to the question put to Him, which is substantially the same in both Mt. and Mk. The accounts vary in regard to the motive of the questioner. In Mt. he comes to tempt, in Mk. in hope of getting confirmation in a new way of thinking on the subject, similar to that of the man in quest of eternal life that which put the ethical above the ritual. No anxious attempt should be made to remove the discrepancy.

Verse 29

Mark 12:29 . ἄκουε , Ἰσραήλ , etc.: this monotheistic preface to the great commandment is not given by Mt. Possibly Mk. has added it by way of making the quotation complete, but more probably Jesus Himself quoted it to suggest that duty, like God, was one, in opposition to the prevailing habit of viewing duty as consisting in isolated precepts. Mt. compensates for the omission by preserving the reflection: “On these two commandments hangeth the whole law and the prophets”. In Mk. the bond of unity is God ; in Mt. love .

Verse 30

Mark 12:30 . Heart, soul, mind, strength ( ἰσχύος ); in Mt.: heart, soul, mind; in Lk. (Luke 10:27 ): heart, soul, strength, mind; in Deut. (Deuteronomy 6:4 ): heart, soul, strength ( δυνάμεως ); all varied ways of saying “to the uttermost degree” = “all that is within”; and with the full potency of that “all”.

Verse 32

Mark 12:32 . καλῶς , ἐπʼ ἀληθείας : to be taken together = well indeed! εἷς ἐστὶν : He is one (God understood, supplied in T.R.).

Verse 33


Verse 34

Mark 12:34 . νουνεχῶς , intelligently, as one who had a mind (of his own), and really thought what he said, a refreshing thing to meet with at any time, and especially there and then. Here only in N.T. = νουνεχόντως in classics. οὐ μακρὰν , not far; near by insight into its nature (the ethical supreme), and in spirit a sincere thinker. οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι , etc.: questioning given up because seen to be vain, always ending either in the confusion or in the acquiescence of questioners ( cf. Luke 20:40 ).

Verse 35

Mark 12:35 . ἀποκριθεὶς , διδάσκων ἐ . τ . ἱ .: these two participles describe the circumstances under which the question was asked addressed to silenced and disheartened opponents, and forming a part of the public instruction Jesus had been giving in the temple; a large body of people present.

Verses 35-37

Mark 12:35-37 . David’s Son and David’s Lord (Matthew 22:41-46 , Luke 20:41-44 ). On the aim and import of this counter-question vide notes on Mt.

Verse 36

Mark 12:36 . αὐτὸς Δ . Over against the dogma of the scribes, stated in Mark 12:35 as something well known (in Mt. Jesus asks for their opinion on the topic), is set the declaration of David himself, introduced without connecting particle. David , who ought to know better than the scribes. ἐν τῷ π . τ . ἁ .: especially when speaking, as they would all admit, by inspiration . εἶπεν , etc.: the quotation as given in T.R. exactly reproduces the Sept [113] The omission of ὁ before Κύριος in [114] [115] turns the latter into a proper name of God. κάθου ( κάθισον in [116] ) is a late or “popular” form of the present imperative of κάθημαι .


[114] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[115] Codex Bezae

[116] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

Verse 37

Mark 12:37 . καὶ ὁ πολὺς ὄχλος , etc.: this remark about the large crowd which had been witness to these encounters, as it stands in our N. T. at end of Mark 12:37 , seems to refer merely to the closing scene of the conflict. Probably the evangelist meant the reflection to apply to the whole = the masses enjoyed Christ’s victory over the classes, who one after the other measured their wits against His. The remark is true to the life. The people gladly hear one who speaks felicitously, refutes easily, and escapes dexterously from the hands of designing men. ( ὡς ἡδέως διαλεγομένου , καὶ εὐχερῶς αὐτοὺς ἀνατρέποντος , καὶ ὡς αὐτὸς ἀπηλλαγμένος τῆς βασκανίας Euthy. Zig.)

Verse 38

Mark 12:38 . ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ α .: this expression alone suffices to show that what Mk. here gives is but a fragment of a larger discourse of the same type an anti-scribal manifesto. Here again the evangelist bears faithful witness to a great body of διδαχή he does not record. Matthew 23:0 shows how much he omits at this point. ἔλεγεν : the imperfect here may be taken as suggesting that what follows is but a sample = He was saying things like this. βλέπετε ἀπὸ as in Mark 8:15 . θελόντων , desiring, not so much claiming as their privilege (Meyer) as taking a childish pleasure in = φιλούντων , Luke 20:46 . ἐν στολαῖς , in long robes, worn by persons of rank and distinction (“gravitatis index,” Grotius), possibly worn specially long by the scribes that the tassels attached might trail on the ground. So Wünsche, ad loc. vide picture of Pharisee in his robes in Lund, Heiligthümer . περιπατεῖν : infinitive, depending on θελόντων followed by accusatives, ἀσπασμοὺς , etc., depending on same word: oratio variata, vide Matthew 23:6 .

Verses 38-40

Mark 12:38-40 . Warning against the influence of the scribes (Luke 20:45-47 ). As if encouraged by the manifest sympathy of the crowd, Jesus proceeds to warn them against the baleful influence of their religious guides.

Verse 40

Mark 12:40 . οἱ κατεσθίοντες : this verse is probably still to be regarded as a continuation of the description of the scribes commencing with τῶν θελόντων , only the writer has lost the sense of the original construction, and instead of the genitive puts the nominative, so giving to what follows the force of an independent sentence (so Weiss). Grotius, Meyer, and Schanz take Mark 12:40 as a really independent sentence. Lk. set the precedent for this; for, apparently having Mk.’s text before him, he turns f1οἱ κατεσθίοντες into οἱ κατεσθίουσι . Holtzmann, H. C., is undecided between the two views. As to the sense, two facts are stated about the scribes: they devoured the houses, the property of widows, and they made long ( μακρὰ , vide on Luke 20:47 ) prayers in the homes of, and presumably for, these widows. προφάσει : the real aim to get money, the long seemingly fervent prayers a blind to hide this aim. It is not necessary to suppose that the money-getting and the praying were connected by regular contract (so apparently Fritzsche, and Weiss in Meyer). For πρόφασις cf. Philippians 1:18 and especially 1 Thessalonians 2:5 . οὗτοι λήψονται , etc.: this remark applies specially to the conduct just described: catching widows’ substance with the bait of prayer, which Jesus characteristically pronounces exceptionally damnable in view of its sleek hypocrisy and low greed. The appending of this reflection favours the view that Mark 12:40 is after all an independent sentence. In it and the two preceding we have a very slight yet vivid picture of Pharisaic piety in its vanity, avarice, and hypocrisy.

Verse 41

Mark 12:41 . καθίσας : Jesus, a close and keen observer of all that went on (Mark 11:11 ), sits down at a spot convenient for noticing the people casting their contributions into the temple treasury. γαζοφυλακίου ( γάζα , Persian, φυλακή = θησαυροφυλάκιον , Hesychius). Commentators are agreed in thinking that the reference is to the treasury in the court of the women, consisting of thirteen brazen trumpet-shaped receptacles, each destined for its distinctive gifts, indicated by an inscription, so many for the temple tribute, and money gifts for sacrifice; others for incense, wood, etc.; all the gifts having reference to the service carried on. The gifts were people’s offerings, generally moderate in amount: “the Peter’s pence of the Jews” (Holtzmann, H. C.). χαλκὸν may be meant for money in general, copper representing all sorts (Fritzsche, Grotius, etc.); but there seems to be no good reason why we should not take it strictly as denoting contributions in copper, the ordinary, if not exclusive, money gifts (Meyer; Holtzmann, H. C.). πολλοὶ πλούσιοι , etc., many rich were casting in much: Jesus was near enough to see that, also to notice exactly what the widow gave. Among the rich givers might be some of the praying scribes who had imposed on widows by their show of piety, suggesting reflections on where wealthy givers get the money they bestow for pious purposes. That is not a matter of indifference to the Kingdom of God, whatever it may be to beneficiaries.

Verses 41-44

Mark 12:41-44 . The widow’s offering (Luke 21:1-4 ). This charming story comes in with dramatic effect, after the repulsive picture of the greedy praying scribe. The reference to the widows victimised by the hypocrites may have suggested it to the evangelist’s mind. It bears the unmistakable stamp of an authentic reminiscence, and one can imagine what comfort it would bring to the poor, who constituted the bulk of the early Gentile Church (Schanz).

Verse 42

Mark 12:42 . μία χ . π ., one poverty-stricken widow. With what intense interest Jesus would watch her movements, after His eye fell on her! How much will she give? λεπτὰ δύο , “two mites”; minute, of course, but two : she might have kept one of them (Bengel). λεπτόν , so called from its smallness; smallest of brass coins significant of deep poverty; two given, of a willing mind.

Verse 43

Mark 12:43 . ἡ πτωχὴ , emphatic the poverty-stricken; manifest from her dress and wasted look.

Verse 44

Mark 12:44 . ἐκ τῆς ὑστερήσεως , from her state of want, cf. on Lk. ὑστέρησις , here and in Philippians 4:11 . πάντα ὅσα : this not visible to the eye; divined by the mind, but firmly believed to be true, as appears from the repetition of the statement in another form. ὅλον τὸν βίον , her whole means of life. For the use of βίος in this sense vide Luke 8:43 ; Luke 15:12 ; Luke 15:30 ; similarly in classics.

Though it has nothing to do with strict exegesis, I am tempted to give here a prayer by that felicitous interpreter and devout monk, Euthymius Zigabenus, based on this beautiful Gospel story: “May my soul become a widow casting out the devil to which it is joined and subject, and casting into the treasury of God two lepta , the body and the mind; the one made light ( λεπτυνθέντα ) by temperance, the other by humility”.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 12". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/mark-12.html. 1897-1910.
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