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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Another Sabbatic conflict completes the group of incidents (five in all) designed to illustrate the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus. Then at Mark 5:7 begins a new section of the history, extending to Mark 6:13 , in which the disciples of Jesus are, speaking broadly, the centre of interest. First the people , then their religious heads , then the nucleus of the new society .

Verse 1

Mark 3:1 . καὶ : connection simply topical, another instance of collision in re Sabbath observance. πάλιν : as was His wont on Sabbath days (Mark 1:21 ; Mark 1:39 ). συναγωγήν : without the article ( [17] [18] ), into a synagogue, place not known. ἐξηραμμένην , dried up, the abiding result of injury by accident or disease, not congenital “non ex utero, sed morbo aut vulnere; haec vis participii,” Beng.

[17] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

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

Verses 1-6

Mark 3:1-6 . The withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14 , Luke 6:6-11 ).

Verse 2

Mark 3:2 . παρετήρουν , they were watching Him; who, goes without saying: the same parties, i.e. , men of the same class, as those who figure in the last section. This time bent on finding Jesus Himself at fault in re the Sabbath, instinctively perceiving that His thoughts on the subject must be wholly diverse from theirs.

Verse 3

Mark 3:3 . ἔγειρε εἰς : pregnant construction = arise and come forth into the midst. Then, the man standing up in presence of all, Jesus proceeds to catechise the would-be fault-finders.

Verse 4

Mark 3:4 . ἀγαθὸν ποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι , either: to do good or evil to one, or to do the morally good or evil. Recent commentators favour the latter as essential to the cogency of Christ’s argument. But the former seems more consonant to the situation. It was a question of performing an act of healing. Christ assumes that the ethically good coincides with the humane (Sabbath made for man). Therein essentially lay the difference between Him and the Pharisees, in whose theory and practice religious duty and benevolence, the divine and the human, were divorced. To do good or to do evil, these the only alternatives: to omit to do good in your power is to do evil; not to save life when you can is to destroy it. ἐσιώπων , they were silent, sullenly, but also in sheer helplessness. What could they reply to a question which looked at the subject from a wholly different point of view, the ethical, from the legal one they were accustomed to? There was nothing in common between them and Jesus.

Verse 5

Mark 3:5 . περιβλεψάμενος , having made a swift, indignant ( μετʼ ὀργῆς ) survey of His foes. συλλυπούμενος : this present , the previous participle aorist, implying habitual pity for men in such a condition of blindness. This is a true touch of Mk.’s in his portraiture of Christ. τῆς καρδίας : singular, as if the whole class had but one heart, which was the fact so far as the type of heart (hardened) was concerned.

Verse 6

Mark 3:6 . ἐξελθόντες : the stretching forth of the withered hand in obedience to Christ’s command, conclusive evidence of cure, was the signal for an immediate exodus of the champions of orthodox Sabbath-keeping; full of wrath because the Sabbath was broken, and especially because it was broken by a miracle bringing fame to the transgressor the result plots ( συμβούλιον ἐδίδουν , here only) without delay ( εὐθὺς ) against His life. μετὰ τῶν Ἡρῳδιανῶν , with the Herodians, peculiar to Mk.; first mention of this party. A perfectly credible circumstance. The Pharisaic party really aimed at the life of Jesus, and they would naturally regard the assistance of people having influence at court as valuable.

Verse 7

Mark 3:7 . μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν , with the disciples : note they now come to the front. We are to hear something about them to which the notice of the great crowd is but the prelude. Hence the emphatic position before the verb. πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν : as if to a place of retreat ( vide Mark 3:9 ). πολὺ πλῆθος : πολὺ , emphatic, a vast, exceptionally great crowd, in spite, possibly in consequence, of Pharisaic antagonism. Of course this crowd did not gather in an hour. The history is very fragmentary, and blanks must be filled up by the imagination. Two crowds meet (1) πολὺ πλῆθος from Galilee; (2) from more remote parts: Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Peraea, and the district of Tyre and Sidon πλῆθος πολύ (Mark 3:8 ): a considerable crowd, but not so great. ἀπὸ τ . Ἰδουμαίας : Idumaea, mentioned here only, “then practically the southern Shephelah, with the Negeb.” G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land , p. 239. Mentioned by Josephus (B. J., iii. 3 5) as a division of Judaea.

Verses 7-12

Mark 3:7-12 . The fame of Jesus spreads notwithstanding ( vide Matthew 4:25 ; Matthew 12:15 f.; Luke 6:17-19 ).

Verse 9

Mark 3:9 . ἵνα πλοιάριον προσκαρτερῇ : a boat to be always in readiness, to get away from the crowds. Whether used or not, not said; shows how great the crowd was.

Verse 10

Mark 3:10 . ὥστε ἐπιπίπτειν : so that they knocked against Him; one of Mk.’s vivid touches. They hoped to obtain a cure by contact anyhow brought about, even by rude collision. μάστιγας , from μάστιξ , a scourge, hence tropically in Sept [19] and N. T., a providential scourge, a disease; again in Mark 5:29 ; Mark 5:34 .


Verse 11

Mark 3:11 . ὅταν ἐθ . In a relative clause like this, containing a past general supposition, classical Greek has the optative without ἄν . Here we have the imperfect indicative with ἄν ( ὅτε ἄν ). Vide Klotz., ad Devar , p. 690, and Burton, M. and T. , § 315. Other examples in chap. Mark 6:56 , Mark 11:19 . προσέπιπτον , fell before ( ἐπιπίπτειν , above, to fall against ). Σὺ εἶ ὁ υ . τ . θ .: again an instance of spiritual clairvoyance in demoniacs. Vide at Matthew 8:29 .

Verse 12

Mark 3:12 . This sentence is reproduced in Matthew 12:16 , but without special reference to demoniacs, whereby it loses much of its point.

Verse 13

Mark 3:13 . εἰς τὸ ὅρος . He ascends to the hill ; same expression as in Matthew 5:1 ; reference not to any particular hill, but to the hill country flanking the shore of the lake; might be used from whatever point below the ascent was made. προσκαλεῖται , etc., He calls to Him those whom He Himself ( αὐτός after the verb, emphatic) wished, whether by personal communication with each individual, or through disciples, not indicated. It was an invitation to leave the vast crowd and follow Him up the hill; addressed to a larger number than twelve, from whom the Twelve were afterwards selected. ἀπῆλθον π . α .: they left the crowd and followed after Him.

Verses 13-19

Mark 3:13-19 a. Selection of the Twelve ( cf. Matthew 10:2-4 , Luke 6:12-16 ).

Verse 14

Mark 3:14 . He is now on the hill top, surrounded by a body of disciples, perhaps some scores, picked out from the great mass of followers. καὶ ἐποίησε δώδεκα : and He made, constituted as a compact body, Twelve , by a second selection. For use of ποιεῖν in this sense vide 1 Samuel 12:6 , Acts 2:36 , Hebrews 3:2 . God “made” Jesus as Jesus “made” the Twelve. What the process of “making” in the case of the Twelve consisted in we do not know. It might take place after days of close intercourse on the hill. ἵνα ὦσιν μετʼ αὐτοῦ , that they might be (constantly) with Him; first and very important aim of the making, mentioned only by Mk training contemplated. ἵνα ἀποστέλλῃ : to send them out on a preaching and healing mission, also in view, but only after a while. This verb frequent in Mk. Note the absence of τοῦ before κηρύσσειν and ἔχειν (Mark 3:15 ).

Verse 16

Mark 3:16 . καὶ ἐποίησεν τ . δ ., and He appointed as the Twelve the following persons, the twelve names mentioned being the object of ἐποίησε , and τοὺς δ . being in apposition. Πέτρον is the first name, but it comes in very awkwardly as the object of the verb ἐπέθηκε . We must take the grammar as it stands, content that we know, in spite of crude construction, what is meant. Fritzsche (after Beza, Erasmus, etc.) seeks to rectify the construction by prefixing, on slender critical authority, πρῶτον Σίμωνα , then bracketing as a parenthesis καὶ ἐπέθηκε … Πέτρον = first Simon (and He gave to Simon the name Peter).

Verse 17

Mark 3:17 . Βοανεργές = בְּנֵי רֶגֶש as pronounced by Galileans; in Syrian = sons of thunder ; of tumult , in Hebrew. Fact mentioned by Mk. only. Why the name was given not known. It does not seem to have stuck to the two disciples, therefore neglected by the other evangelists. It may have been an innocent pleasantry in a society of free, unrestrained fellowship, hitting off some peculiarity of the brothers. Mk. gives us here a momentary glimpse into the inner life of the Jesus-circle Peter, whose new name did live, doubtless the voucher. The traditional interpretation makes the epithet a tribute to the eloquence of the two disciples ( διὰ τὸ μέγα καὶ διαπρύσιον ἠχῆσαι τῇ οἰκουμένῃ τῆς θεολογίας τὰ δόγματα . Victor Ant.).

Verses 18-19

Mark 3:18 . Ματθαῖον . One wonders why Mk. did not here say: Levi, to whom He gave the name Matthew. Or did this disciple get his new name independently of Jesus? This list of names shows the importance of the act of selecting the Twelve. He gives the names, says Victor Ant., that you may not err as to the designations, lest any one should call himself an apostle ( ἵνα μὴ ὁ τυχὼν εἴπῃ ἀπόστολος γεγονέναι ).

Mark 3:19-21 . The friends of Jesus think Him out of His senses ; peculiar to Mk. One of his realisms which Mt. and Lk. pass over in silence.

Mark 3:19 b. καὶ ἔρχεται εἶς οἶκον , and He cometh home (“nach Haus,” Weizs.) to house-life as distinct from hill-life ( εἰς τὸ ὄρος , Mark 3:13 ). The formal manner in which this is stated suggests a sojourn on the hill of appreciable length, say, for some days. How occupied there? Probably in giving a course of instruction to the disciple-circle; say, that reproduced in the “Sermon on the Mount” = the “Teaching on the Hill,” vide introductory notes on Matthew 5:0 .

Verse 19

Mark 3:19 . And Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

Verse 20

Mark 3:20 . And He cometh home.

Verse 21

Mark 3:21 introduces a new scene into the lively drama. The statement is obscure partly owing to its brevity (Fritzsche), and it is made obscurer by a piety which is not willing to accept the surface meaning (so Maldonatus “hunc locum difficiliorem pietas facit”), which is that the friends of Jesus, having heard of what was going on wonderful cures, great crowds, incessant activity set out from where they were ( ἐξῆλθον ) with the purpose of taking Him under their care ( κρατῆσαι αὐτόν ), their impression, not concealed ( ἔλεγον γὰρ , they had begun to say), being that He was in an unhealthy state of excitement bordering on insanity ( ἐξέστη ). Recent commentators, German and English, are in the main agreed that this is the true sense. οἱ παρʼ αὐτοῦ means either specifically His relatives (“sui” Vulg [21] , οἱ οἰκεῖοι α . Theophy.), so Raphel, Wetstein, Kypke, Loesner, with citations from Greek authors, Meyer and Weiss, identifying the parties here spoken of with those referred to in Mark 3:31 ; or, more generally, persons well disposed towards Jesus, an outer circle of disciples (Schanz and Keil). ἀκούσαντες : not to be restricted to what is mentioned in Mark 3:20 ; refers to the whole Galilean ministry with its cures and crowds, and constant strain. Therefore the friends might have come from a distance, Nazareth, e.g. , starting before Jesus descended from the hill. That their arrival happened just then was a coincidence. ἔλεγον γὰρ : for they were saying, might refer to others than those who came to lay hold of Jesus to messengers who brought them news of what was going on (Bengel), or it might refer quite impersonally to a report that had gone abroad (“rumor exierat,” Grotius), or it might even refer to the Pharisees. But the reference is almost certainly to the friends. Observe the parallelism between οἱ παρʼ αὐτοῦ , ἔλεγον γὰρ , ὅτι ἐξέστη and οἱ γραμματεῖς , οἱ … ἔλεγον , ὅτι Βεελ . ἔχει in Mark 3:22 (Fritzsche points this out in a long and thorough discussion of the whole passage). ἐξέστη : various ways of evading the idea suggested by this word have been resorted to. It has been referred to the crowd = the crowd is mad, and won’t let Him alone. Viewed as referring to Jesus it has been taken = He is exhausted, or He has left the place = they came to detain Him, for they heard that He was going or had gone. Both these are suggested by Euthy. Zig. Doubtless the reference is to Jesus, and the meaning that in the opinion of His friends He was in a state of excitement bordering on insanity ( cf. Mark 2:12 , Mark 5:42 , Mark 6:51 ). δαίμονα ἔχει (Theophy.) is too strong, though the Jews apparently identified insanity with possession. Festus said of St. Paul: “Much learning doth make thee mad”. The friends of Jesus thought that much benevolence had put Him into a state of enthusiasm dangerous to the health both of body and mind. Note: Christ’s healing ministry created a need for theories about it. Herod had his theory (Matthew 14:0 ), the friends of Jesus had theirs, and the Pharisees theirs: John redivivus , disordered mind, Satanic possession. That which called forth so many theories must have been a great fact .

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

Verse 22

Mark 3:22 . οἱ γραμ . οἱ ἀπὸ Ἱ ., the scribes from Jerusalem . The local Pharisees who had taken the Herodians into their murderous counsels had probably also communicated with the Jerusalem authorities, using all possible means to compass their end. The representatives of the southern scribes had probably arrived on the scene about the same time as the friends of Jesus, although it is not inconceivable that Mk. introduces the narrative regarding them here because of the resemblances and contrasts between their theory and that of the friends. Mt. sets the incident in different relations, yielding a contrast between Pharisaic ideas and those of the people respecting the cure of demoniacs by Jesus (Mark 12:22 f.). Βεελζεβοὺλ ἔχει , He hath Beelzebub, implying that Beelzebub hath Him, using Him as his agent. The expression points to something more than an alliance, as in Mt., to possession, and that on a grand scale; a divine possession by a base deity doubtless, god of flies (Beelzebub) or god of dung (Beelzebul), still a god, a sort of Satanic incarnation; an involuntary compliment to the exceptional power and greatness of Jesus. ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τ . δ .: the assumption is that spirits are cast out by the aid of some other spirit stronger than those ejected.

Verses 22-30

Mark 3:22-30 . Pharisaic theory as to the cures of demoniacs wrought by Jesus (Matthew 12:22-37 , Luke 11:17-23 ).

Verse 23

Mark 3:23 . προσκαλεσάμενος : Jesus, not overawed by the Jerusalem authorities, invites them to come within talking distance, that He may reason the matter with them. ἐν παραβολαῖς , in figures: kingdom, house, plundering the house of a strong man. Next chapter concerning the parabolic teaching of Jesus casts its shadow on the page here. The gist of what Jesus said to the scribes in refutation of their theory is: granting that spirits are cast out by aid of another spirit, more is needed in the latter than superior strength . There must be qualitative difference in nature and interest. The argument consists of a triple movement of thought. 1. The absurdity of the theory is broadly asserted. 2. The principle on which the theory is wrecked is set forth in concrete form. 3. The principle is applied to the case in hand. πῶς δύναται , etc., how can Satan cast out Satan? It is not a question of power , but of motive, what interest can he have? A stronger spirit casting out a weaker one of the same kind? (so Fritzsche).

Verses 24-25

Mark 3:24-25 set forth the principle or rationale embodied in two illustrations. The theory in question is futile because it involves suicidal action, which is not gratuitously to be imputed to any rational agents, to a kingdom (Mark 3:24 ), to a house (Mark 3:25 ), and therefore not to Satan (Mark 3:26 ).

Verse 27

Mark 3:27 by another figure shows the true state of the case. Jesus, not in league with Satan or Beelzebub, but overmastering him, and taking possession of his goods, human souls. The saying is given by Mk. much the same as in Mt.

Verse 28

Mark 3:28 . ἀμὴν : solemn word, introducing a solemn speech uttered in a tone not to be forgotten. πάντα ἀφεθήσεται , all things shall be forgiven; magnificently broad proclamation of the wideness of God’s mercy. The saying as reproduced in Luke 12:10 limits the reference to sins of speech. The original form, Weiss thinks (in Meyer), but this is very doubtful. It seems fitting that when an exception is being made to the pardonableness of sin, a broad declaration of the extent of pardon should be uttered. τοῖς υἱοῖς τ . ἀ ., to the sons of men; this expression not in Mt., but in its place a reference to blasphemy against the Son of Man . To suspect a literary connection between the two is natural. Which is the original form? Mk.’s? (Holtz., H. C., after Pfleiderer.) Mt.’s? (Weiss in Meyer.) The latter the more probable. Vide on Mark 3:30 . τὰ ἁμαρ καὶ αἱ βλ .: either in apposition with and explicative of πάντα , or τὰ ἁμαρ ., the subject which πάντα qualifies. The former construction yields this sense: all things shall be forgiven to, etc., the sins and the blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. The last clause qualifying βλασφημίαι ( ὅσα ἐὰν βλ .) which takes the place of πάντα in relation to ἁμαρτ . is in favour of the latter rendering = all sins shall be forgiven, etc., and the blasphemies, etc.

Verses 28-29

Mark 3:28-29 . Jesus now changes His tone . Thus far He has reasoned with the scribes, now He solemnly warns to this effect. “You do not believe your own theory; you know as well as I how absurd it is, and that I must be casting out devils by a very different spirit from Beelzebub. You are therefore not merely mistaken theorists , you are men in a very perilous moral condition. Beware!”

Verse 29

Mark 3:29 . The great exception, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα : hath not forgiveness for ever. Cf. the fuller expression in Mt. ἀλλʼ ἔνοχός ἐστιν , but is guilty of. The negative is followed by a positive statement of similar import in Hebrew fashion. αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος , of an eternal sin. As this is equivalent to “hath never forgiveness,” we must conceive of the sin as eternal in its guilt, not in itself as a sin. The idea is that of an unpardonable sin, not of a sin eternally repeating itself. Yet this may be the ultimate ground of unpardonableness: unforgivable because never repented of. But this thought is not necessarily contained in the expression.

Verse 30

Mark 3:30 . ὅτι ἔλεγον , etc., because they said: “He hath an unclean spirit,” therefore He said this about blasphemy against the Holy Ghost such is the connection. But what if they spoke under a misunderstanding like the friends, puzzled what to think about this strange man? That would be a sin against the Son of Man, and as such pardonable. The distinction between blasphemy against the Son of Man and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, taken in Matthew 12:31 , is essential to the understanding of Christ’s thought. The mere saying, “He hath an unclean spirit,” does not amount to the unpardonable sin. It becomes such when it is said by men who know that it is not true; then it means calling the Holy Spirit an unclean spirit. Jesus believed that the scribes were in that position, or near it.

Verse 31

Mark 3:31 . ἔρχονται , even without the οὖν following in T. R., naturally points back to Mark 3:21 . The evangelist resumes the story about Christ’s friends, interrupted by the encounter with the scribes (so Grotius, Bengel, Meyer, Weiss, Holtz.; Schanz and Keil dissent). στήκοντες , from στήκω , a late form used in present only, from ἕστηκα , perfect of ἵστημι .

Verses 31-35

Mark 3:31-35 . The relatives of Jesus (Matthew 12:46-50 , Luke 8:19-21 ).

Verse 32

Mark 3:32 . The crowd gathered around Jesus report the presence of His relatives. According to a reading in several MSS., these included sisters among those present. They might do so under a mistake, even though the sisters were not there. If the friends came to withdraw Jesus from public life, the sisters were not likely to accompany the party, though there would be no impropriety in their going along with their mother. They are not mentioned in Mark 3:31 . On the other hand, ἀδελφὴ comes in appropriately in Mark 3:35 in recognition of female disciples, which may have suggested its introduction here.

Verse 33

Mark 3:33 . τίς ἐστιν , etc., who is my mother, and (who) my brothers? an apparently harsh question, but He knew what they had come for.

Verse 34

Mark 3:34 . περιβλεψάμενος , as in Mark 3:5 , there in anger, here with a benign smile. κύκλῳ : His eye swept the whole circle of His audience; a good Greek expression.

Verse 35

Mark 3:35 . ὃς ἂν , etc.: whosoever shall do the will of God (“of my Father in heaven,” Mt.), definition of true discipleship. ἀδελφός , ἀδελφή , μήτηρ : without the article, because the nouns are used figuratively (Fritzsche). This saying and the mood it expressed would confirm the friends in the belief that Jesus was in a morbid state of mind.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/mark-3.html. 1897-1910.
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