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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

Mark 1

Verses 1-99




1:1-8. Beginning of the glad tidings concerning Jesus in the authoritative proclamation of John the Baptist. Prophecies of this preliminary work in the Old Testament, the appearance of John, his proclamation of repentance, his baptism, and his announcement of the coming One mightier than he.

It is evident that the key to this paragraph is found in this announcement of the One mightier than John. Who and what the man was who made it, the general character of his mission to the nation, into the course of which it was introduced, and the way in which it fulfilled prophecy in regard to the preparation for the Messianic advent, we are told of course, but the theme itself is the announcement. That is the beginning of the good news about Jesus which is the title of the section. There are two renderings of our EV. which obscure this intention of the paragraph, viz., the translation gospel for εὐαγγελίου, v. 1, and preach for κηρύσσω, v. 4, 7. The technical meaning which both these words have acquired in our language renders them frequently unfit to translate the Greek words, but especially in this passage, the character of which is such as to make a close adherence to the specific meaning of the original words quite necessary. The statement is, that with the proclamation, κηρύσσειν, of the coming One by John began the glad tidings, εὐαγγέλιον, concerning Jesus. Furthermore, it is stated that this beginning is in accordance with prophecy, which foretold the sending of a messenger, ἄγγελος, to prepare the way of the Lord. The prophecy is further identified with the event by the description of the messenger in the second part of the prophecy as a voice crying in the wilderness, corresponding to the statement about John that he made his appearance in the wilderness. The general work of John is shown to consist in his baptism of the crowds (including mostly the people of Judaea) who came to him, his proclamation being that of a baptism of repentance for remission of sins. That is, he performed a rite of outward purification, and explained that it meant an inward purification looking to the forgiveness of sins. This message would be understood by the people to foreshadow the coming of the expected deliverer, since repentance was the acknowledged condition of national deliverance, and this public call to it would naturally therefore create expectation of his advent. As for John’s appearance, his wilderness life and food and his rough dress recall Elijah, as they are evidently intended to do, the item about the leather girdle reproducing the language of the LXX, in regard to Elijah’s dress (2 K. 1:8). It is obviously the picture of a man who has revolted from the evil world and prefers hardness to the unclean associations of its comforts. It is a significant commentary on the manners of the place and time that they should lead to such revolt not in Greece or Rome, but in Judaea. It is such a man as this, who in the midst of his own great work of impressing on the nation his sense of its sin, and issuing to it the old prophetic cry, Wash you, make you clean, interjects the beginning of the evangel, the first news that the Messiah is actually at hand. This announcement takes the form of a comparison between himself and the personage announced by him. There comes one stronger than he, with whom he is not to be compared. So far, the announcement is in line with Jewish expectation, but there is an absence of the material, and an emphasis of the spiritual element in what follows, which does not spring from Jewish Messianism, and would not have led to John’s later doubt. It is a comparison between his baptism and that of Jesus, making the latter to be the spiritual reality, of which John’s was merely the ritual expression. It was to be a baptism in the Holy Spirit, the element of spiritual purification, while John’s baptism was in the material element of water, which could only represent that purification in a figure.

1. This verse is a title or heading of the paragraph in regard to the work of John the Baptist.1 That work, but especially the announcement of the coming of the one mightier than he, is the beginning of the εὐαγγέλιον, the good news about Jesus Christ.

εὐαγγελίου.—This word, which in the later Greek means glad tidings, is in the N.T. restricted to the good news about Jesus, or of the kingdom which he came to establish, or of the salvation accomplished by him. It is under this last head, that it comes to have the technical sense of the scheme of truth relating to him and to his saving work, which has come to be so associated with the word gospel as to render that a misleading translation in a passage like this. This word is also associated with the written accounts of our Lord’s life, the Gospels, which is also confusing here.1

Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.—This gen. may be either subj. or obj., the good news brought by him, or that concerning him. Here it is evidently the latter, as John is the bearer of the εὐαγγέλιον. Ἰησοῦς is the personal name of our Lord (Matthew 1:21). It is a descriptive name, as the passage in Mt. indicates, meaning Saviour. It is used once in the N.T. as the Greek form of Joshua (Hebrews 4:8).2 Χριστοῦ—the official title of Jesus, denoting him as the Messiah, the Anointed. The word itself is of frequent occurrence in the O.T., where it is applied to kings as anointed of God. But as a title of the coming King, the hope of the Jewish nation, it does not occur. It is first used of him in the Book of Enoch 48:10, 52:4, about the close of the second century b.c.,3 and afterwards frequently in the uncanonical literature. It appears from this literature, that the general national expectation of deliverance and greatness characteristic of the O.T. period had at this time taken the definite shape of an expected deliverer in the Davidic line. And the N.T. furnishes abundant evidence that this expectation was common at the coming of Jesus, and during his life. The title Χριστός became a personal name later, and the absence of the art. would indicate that this is the use here.

υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ—Son of God. RV. puts this into the text, and omits it in the margin, which seems a good statement of the critical evidence. This term, Son of God, like the title Messiah, is applied to the Messianic King in the uncanonical Jewish literature. But its use is purely theocratic and official, corresponding to the O.T. use to denote any one whose office specially represents God among men, such as kings and judges (see J. 10:36). Its use to denote the relation to God springing from the miraculous conception is confined to Luke 1:35, and its application to Jesus’ metaphysical relation to God is not found in the Synoptics. The term is applied by Jesus to himself in his discourse without any explanation, whereas it would require explanation if it was intended to convey any other meaning than the historical sense with which the people were familiar. It is applied to him in the theophany at the baptism, where the aor. εὐδόκησα, meaning I came to take pleasure in thee, limits the title and statement to his historical manifestation, his earthly life. It is used by Peter in his confession, where its association with the title Christ, or Messiah,—thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,—also indicates the theocratic sense. In the question of the High Priest at the trial of Jesus, whether he is the Christ, the Son of God, the same collocation involves the same conclusion. In fact, there is nowhere in the Synoptics any indication that the title is used so as to involve any departure from the current theocratic sense; and indications, such as the above, are not wanting, that the title does retain its common meaning at the time. When we get outside of these historical books, we come upon the metaphysical sonship as possibly the prevalent meaning of the term. Son of God means here, then, that the Messianic kingdom is a theocracy, in which God is the real ruler, and the Messianic king represents God. Only, with the new meaning that the life and teaching of Jesus had put into all these current phrases, it would signify to a Christian writer that this representation was real, and not merely official, that in Christ the ideal of the theocratic king had been realized, a prince who really represented the mind and spirit of God, and established the Divine law among men after the Divine method.

υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ T. R. AEFGHKM etc. and Versions generally. υἱοῦ Θεοῦ RV. Treg. WH., marg. אa BDL 102. Omit Tisch. WH. RV.marg. א* 28, 255. Omission confirmed also by passages in Iren. Epiph. Orig. Victorin.

2. ἐν τοῖς προφήταις.—There is no doubt that this is a correction of the original, to meet the difficulty of ascribing the double quotation from Malachi and Isaiah to Isaiah alone. The reading of all the critical texts is ἐν τῷ Ἡσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ.

ἐν τῷ Ἡσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ 33 Latt. Memph. Pesh. Hier. Harcl. marg.

This quotation is intended to prove from prophecy that the good news about Christ had its appointed beginning in the proclamation of a forerunner who was thus to prepare the way for him. The first part is from Malachi 3:1, the second from Isaiah 40:3. In the original, the passage from Mal. reads, Behold, I send my messenger who shall prepare the way before me. Jehovah is the speaker, and he is not addressing some one else, whose way is to be prepared by God’s messenger; but he declares that he is coming himself to his temple to purge it of the profanations of the priests, and that he sends his messenger to prepare the way for him. Moreover, the messenger is the prophet himself, my messenger being in the Heb. מַלְאָבִי, Malachi, the traditional name of the prophet. The prophecy has thus a distinct historical sense. The evil of Malachi’s time, as is evident from the entire prophecy, was this abuse of their office by the priests, and the prophet announces that God is coming to do away with this abuse, and the prophecy is to announce this coming, and make ready for it. Here, it is adapted to Messianic use by the change of my and me to thy and thee, and is applied to the mission of the forerunner to prepare the way for the Messiah. This Messianic use of a passage having another primary sense is the rule, and not the exception, in Messianic prophecy. The principle underlying it is, that the Messianic kingdom founded by Jesus is the real culmination of Jewish history, and that its prophecies of near events somehow all point forward also to him. And especially, in this case, the underlying fact is that the Jewish nation is a theocracy, and that the crises in its history are due to a Divine appearance and intervention; a coming of God, moreover, for which way is made by his messengers the prophets. This common feature being shared by the culminating intervention, gives the Messianic turn to the original prophecy.

ἐμπροσθέν σου is omitted by Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. It is supported by few good authorities, and is an evident emendation. The quotation is a free translation from the Heb. The LXX. reads Ἰδοῦ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου. The form in which it is quoted by Mk. is also that of the other places in which it is cited in the N.T. (Matthew 11:10, Luke 7:27), pointing to some common Greek source, not the LXX. with which the evangelists had become familiar. See Toy, Quotations in N. T., p. 31.

3. φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ—The voice of one crying in the wilderness. This passage is quoted directly from the LXX. of Isaiah 40:3.Isaiah 40:1 Here, as in the quotation from Mal., the coming to be prepared for is that of God to his people. The purpose of his coming is to deliver his people from their captivity in Babylon by the hand of Cyrus.2 It is the note of deliverance which is common to this with the Messianic advent and intervention, and the preparation for this by the prophetic message is shared by this with the passage from Mal.

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ in the Heb. belongs with ἑτοιμάσατε. See Isaiah 40:3, RV. But it is evident that Mk. intends to join it with βοῶντος, as this makes the prophecy anticipate the appearance of John in the wilderness.

Κύριον—the Lord, stands for Jehovah, or Yahweh, in the original, this being the LXX. rendering of that name of God. But it is probable that Mk. understands it to refer to Jesus, this being one of his familiar titles. In this way, the passage becomes more directly adapted to his purpose, making the advent, and the mission of the forerunner both figure in prophecy.

4. In this verse, the art. should be inserted before βαπτίζων, without any doubt. Whether καὶ should be dropped before κηρύσσων, on the other hand, admits of much doubt. If it is dropped, the passage reads, John the Baptizer came preaching. If it is retained, it reads, John came, who baptized and preached, RV. On the whole, the reading without καὶ is preferable.

βαπτίζων Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ 33, Memph. καὶ κηρύσσων Treg. (καὶ) Tisch. RV. א ADLP Δ, Verss. generally. Omit καὶ WH. Treg. marg. B. 33, 73, 102.

In order to get at the right connection of this verse, we must read it as if the preceding quotations were omitted—Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ … John came, etc. ἐγέετο—there came, or appeared. The verb is used to denote the appearance of a person on the stage of history. The wilderness in which he made his appearance is the wilderness of Judaea, on the southern banks of the Jordan, just before it empties into the Dead Sea. κηρύσσων—proclaiming. The word means to exercise the office of a herald, to proclaim officially, and with authority. John is not represented as preaching, taking baptism for his text, but as making public proclamation, calling men to his baptism.1

βάπτισμα μετανοίας—a baptism of repentance. This rite of immersion in water signified the complete inward purification of the subject. It took up into a symbolical rite the figurative washings of such passages as Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 4:4, Jeremiah 4:14, Ezekiel 36:25, Ezekiel 36:5 Zechariah 13:1, Psalms 51:2. Outwardly, it had its counterpart in the Levitical washings of the law (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:9, Leviticus 14:15:5, Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:10, Leviticus 14:13, Leviticus 14:16, Leviticus 14:21, Leviticus 14:22, Leviticus 14:27, Leviticus 14:16:26, Leviticus 14:28, Leviticus 14:17:15 etc.). But its use by John was quite unique.2 μετανοίας—of repentance. The gen. denotes the significance of the rite, the inward act of which it is the outward sign and pledge. The word denotes primarily a change of mind, such as comes from an afterthought. A person does something from failure to consider certain things necessary to wise action, and when afterwards these neglected things come to him, there comes the corresponding change of attitude and purpose. It denotes in the N.T. a change, arising from such reconsideration, from a life of sin to rectitude and holiness. Such a call to repentance was not unexpected by the Jews, who believed that it was the sin of the nation which delayed the coming of the Messianic King. The call to repentance therefore, by one wearing the prophetic appearance and authority, would signify to the nation that the deliverer was at hand, and that they must prepare for his coming. εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν—for remission of sins. This states the purpose of the baptism of repentance. It is the repentance evidently which is the real cause of the remission, repentance being the normal and constant Scriptural condition of forgiveness.1 Baptism is related to the repentance as the outward act in which this inward change finds formal expression. Baptism is an act of profession, and is related to repentance as the declaration of forgiveness is to forgiveness itself. It is contended sometimes (so Meyer and Weiss) that this is an anticipation of the significance of Christian baptism, in which the forgiveness of sins was first realized. But surely, if this was a baptism of repentance, it would result in forgiveness, since repentance and forgiveness are necessarily connected.

5. πάντες should be removed from its position after ἐβαπτίζοντο, so as to follow Ἱεροσολυμίται, and the verse reads, … and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and were baptized. …

Ἱεροσολυμίται πάντες καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ 28, 33, 102, Latt. Memph. etc.

πᾶσαπάντες—all. These words are to be taken rhetorically. We know that John’s severity must have turned many away (Matthew 3:7-10, Luke 3:7-14). And the leaders of the people did not believe in him (Mark 11:27-33). But the λαός, the people, all recognized John as a prophet (Mark 11:32). This general outpouring was to be expected from the nature of John’s proclamation, since a prophetic call to national repentance would be hailed as a call to national deliverance. ἐξομολογούμενοι—confessing.2 This confession of sins gave reality to the baptism, making it a baptism of repentance.

6. τρίχας καμήλου—camel’s hair. Since it says camel’s hair, and not skin or fur, we are to understand probably a coarse cloth made of the hair. There are examples moreover of the cloth, but not of the skin, being used in this way. ζώνην δερματίνην—a leather girdle. This is selected to describe Elijah’s general appearance in 2 K. 1:8. And it is a distinguishing mark of coarse dress, the girdle gathering in the loose robe about the waist being generally a place for luxury and display in dress. There is some reason to suppose, too, that the description, hairy man, may refer to Elijah’s dress, which would be another correspondence. So RV.marg. καὶ ἔσθων

ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ—in Holy Spirit. We are not to look for Christian terms, nor Christian uses of terms, in John’s teaching. The line that divides them in this matter of the Holy Spirit is fine, but distinguishable. In the Jewish conception, personality is ascribed to the Holy Spirit only figuratively. In the Christian use, on the other hand, the impersonal sense is the figurative one, e.g. where it speaks of a pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5, Acts 2:17, Acts 2:18). But the Spirit of God, or of Yahweh, or the Spirit of holiness, figures more or less largely in the O.T. as the animating power in the universe, as the inspiration of the prophet, the soldier, the king, and even the workman. And the possession of this Spirit by all men is prophesied as one of the marks of Israel’s golden age. See Job 26:13, Job 33:4, Psalms 104:30, Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 61:1, Micah 3:8, Jude 1:3:10, Jude 1:6:34, Isaiah 11:2, Joel 2:28, Isaiah 59:21, Exodus 31:3. John’s reference to the Holy Spirit, the רוּחַ קֹדֶשׁ, would not therefore be strange to his Jewish hearers. The absence of the art. indicates that the Spirit is regarded here as an element, a pervading presence, like the air, in the ocean of which we are submerged. The epithet holy would not in itself suggest moral quality, as it denoted what is invested with awe or reverence, and only secondarily and rarely, moral purity. But in the connection, since the Spirit is regarded here as the purifying element, it is evidently holiness in the moral sense that is predicated of it. The contrast between the work of the Baptist, and that of the Messiah, amounts to this, that the mightier one who is to follow John will do the real work of which the Baptist is able to perform only the sign. Water cleanses only the body, and represents figuratively the inward cleansing of the man. But the Holy Spirit is the element in which man is cleansed inwardly and really, and it is this real baptism which the coming one was to perform. So far as it is given us in the Gospels, John’s annunciation of the Messiah includes only the spiritual side of his anticipated work, and thus corresponds with the historical fact. But John’s later doubt could have arisen probably only from the failure of Jesus to carry out the kingly part of the Jewish Messianic expectation. See Matthew 11:2-19. And it would be quite improbable that John would be so far separated from his time as to expect a purely spiritual Messiah.

In this paragraph, the signs of Mk.’s use of the Logia are not wanting. In the first place, O.T. citations are not common in Mk., but are quite characteristic of the Logia. And especially, the first part of the double quotation is, in Mark 1:2, Mark 1:3, Luke 7:27, taken unquestionably from that source. The somewhat clumsy junction of the two passages is due apparently to bringing together what was separated in the original source. And Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17 show signs of being connected with what precedes in the original source. Mk. omits this, but gives what precedes with the identity of language that shows a common source for all three. For the verbal resemblance, implying the interdependence of the Synoptics, cf. Mark 1:3, Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4, especially the change of τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν, LXX, to αὐτοῦ in them all (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Mark 1:5, Mark 1:6, Matthew 3:4, Matthew 3:5, Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:7, Mark 1:8, Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16).


9-11. Jesus is baptized by John. The Holy Spirit descends upon him, and the voice from heaven attests his Divine mission.

Among the rest, Jesus comes to John’s baptism. As he comes up out of the water, the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove, preparing him for the work into which baptism has inaugurated him and signifying the gentleness of his reign; and a voice out of heaven proclaims him to be the Messianic Son of God who has won the special Divine favor.

With this paragraph begins the story of Jesus’ life, but as it treats of events preceding his public ministry, the story of the baptism and of the temptation conforms to Mk.’s plan outside of that ministry, and is given briefly. E.g. Mk. does not consider it necessary to explain the evident difficulty attending the baptism of Jesus, as Mt. does, but gives only the fact. The visible form taken by the Spirit in its descent upon Jesus is evidently intended to be, like the voice, a theophany, attesting his mission. But the Spirit itself is intended to prepare him for his work, and so descends upon him now at the beginning of that work; cf. v. 12.

9. καὶ ἐγένετο ἦλθεν1—ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις—in those days. This is a general designation of time, and denotes here the period of John’s ministry. Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας—Nazareth of Galilee. The explanatory τῆς Γαλιλαίας is for the information of the uninformed, and is a sign therefore, that this Gospel was written for Gentile readers. This is the only place in Mk. where Nazareth is mentioned, though Jesus is called a Nazarene in several places (1:24, 10:47, 16:6, 14:67). It was the home of Jesus during his private life.

According to Luke 1:26, Luke 1:2:4, Luke 1:39, Luke 1:51, Luke 1:4:16, this was owing to the previous residence of his parents in Nazareth. Mt., however, tells us that they took up their abode there after their return from Egypt, because they were turned aside from Bethlehem by the succession of Archelaus to his father’s throne, which made Judæa no longer a safe place for them (2:23).

Nazareth was in the interior about midway between the Lake of Galilee and the Mediterranean. It is at present a town of about 5000 inhabitants, going by the name of En Nazira.2

εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην—into the Jordan. The prep. here coincides with the proper meaning of the verb, indicating that the form of the rite was immersion into the stream. The prep. ἐκ in the next verse,—going up out of the water,—implies the same.

10. καὶ εὐθὺς—And immediately.3

ὡς περιστερὰν—as a dove. Luke 3:22 says that this resemblance was in bodily shape. And the language itself implies that. The dove was the emblem of guilelessness (Matthew 10:16). It was not a bird of prey. The appearance accords with the gentleness of Christ’s reign. The descent of the Spirit was moreover a real event, while the appearance was only a vision. It was not merely a sign that here was a person endued with the Spirit, but a special influence beginning at the time, and preparing him for his new work. It was like the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, preparing the disciples for their new work. Neither event implied in any way that the Spirit was not present in their lives before.5 And we find in all the Synoptics mention that Jesus began his ministry under the impulsions of the Spirit. See Matthew 12:28, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1, Luke 4:14, Luke 4:18. This descent of the Spirit is moreover indicative of the meaning of our Lord’s baptism. It has already been indicated that the real baptism, of which that in the water is only the sign, is a baptism in the Holy Spirit, and it is this which is signified by the baptism of Jesus, but without the accompanying repentance which belongs to the baptism of the rest of the people.

11. καὶ φωνὴ (ἐγένετο)—And a voice (came).

Omit ἐγένετο Tisch. (WH.) א D ff.2.

Σὺ εἶυἱός μου1 Timothy 1:2). It accords with Lk.’s statement, that Jesus grew in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).1 ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα—in thee I came to take pleasure.

ἐν σοὶ (instead of ἐν ᾧ) Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDLP 1, 13, 22, 33, 69, Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Pesh.


12, 13. Jesus retires into the wilderness, where he remains forty days, tempted by Satan, and attended by angels.

Immediately after the baptism, Jesus is impelled by the Spirit who has taken possession of him into the wilderness. He remains there forty days, surrounded by the wild beasts, attended by angels, and tempted by Satan.

It is especially the story of the temptation, in the period preceding the public ministry, which is abbreviated by Mk. He gives us simply the fact of the temptation, the place, the wilderness, the time, forty days, and the descriptive touch, that he was with the wild beasts.

12. Καὶ εὐθὺς—And immediately, viz., after the baptism. This event, with its accompaniments, is of the nature of an inaugural act. And it is followed immediately by his retirement into the wilderness. The time, the circumstances, and the nature of the temptations, all point to the probability that this retirement was for the purpose of meditation upon the work into which he had been inaugurated. Moreover, the Πνεῦμα, the Spirit, connects this with the account of the baptism. He begins now immediately to act under the impulsions of the Spirit which he has just received. ἐκβάλλει—thrusts him out. Mt. and Lk. both use the milder ἄγειν, to lead, to describe this. τὴν ἔρημον—the wilderness. This is the same general region in which the baptism took place. But, inasmuch as it was from the wilderness into the wilderness, and Mk. adds that he was with the wild beasts, it must mean that he penetrated still further into its solitudes.

13. Καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας—And he was in the wilderness forty days. This period is given by both Mk. and Lk. as that of the temptation, though Mt. and Lk. both give us the three special temptations following the forty days. Mt. makes these the only temptations. πειραζόμενος—tempted. Used here of an actual solicitation to evil.

The proper meaning of πειράζειν is to try, in the sense both of attempt and test. It is through the latter meaning that it comes to be applied to the test of character, whether by trial, or by solicitation to evil.

Σατανᾶ—Satan.1 The name is Hebrew, but the personage does not figure much in O.T. narrative or discourse (1 Chronicles 21:1, Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah 3:2, Job 1:6-9, Job 1:2:1sqq.). In the N.T., he is represented, in accordance with current Jewish ideas, as the ruler of a kingdom of evil, having subjects and emissaries in the shape of demons, corresponding to the angels who act as God’s messengers. His special function is to tempt men to evil. μετὰ τῶν θηρίων—with the wild beasts. The desert of Judæa is in parts wild and untamed, and abounds in beasts of the same description, such as the leopard, the bear, the wild boar, and the jackal. This descriptive touch, in which, just as with a word, the wildness and solitariness of the scene are brought before us, and equally, the omission of details of the temptation, are characteristics of Mk. The omission accords with the plan of his Gospel, but, also, with a certain objective quality belonging to it. See Introduction. διηκόνουν—were ministering.2 This ministry, like the temptations, is represented in Mt. as taking place after the forty days. In our account, it is evidently an offset to the presence of the wild beasts. The visible things figuring in the scene were these beasts, but there were invisible presences as well, and these were ministering to him. Mk. does not tell us what the ministrations were. (Nor Mt.)

The historicity of the account of the temptation is attacked with some plausibility. There are certain things about it on which a just historical criticism throws some doubt. There is a concreteness about the appearance of Satan, and of the angels, an air of visibility even, an impression of actual transportation through the air, and the introduction of a typical number (forty),1 which can, however, easily be eliminated without touching the essential history. The account which has been preserved is evidently the pictorial and concrete story of what really took place within the soul of Jesus. But the temptations themselves, just because they represent the actual temptations of his later life, are a portrait, and not an imaginative picture. Holtzmann, in his Note on the passage, gives an admirable statement of the way in which the story corresponds to the real temptations of Jesus’ life. But his argument that some one made up this story from those falls to the ground. It implies that some one understood that life better than any contemporary did understand it.


14-20. After John’s imprisonment, Jesus goes to Galilee, where he begins his ministry with the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

After the imprisonment of John, Jesus departs into Galilee, where he begins his ministry with the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God, announcing the completion of the time for it. He finds Peter, Andrew, James, and John fishing in the lake of Galilee, and calls them to follow him and become fishers of men.

The order of events in the Synoptics is as follows:


Delivering up of John (mere mention). Delivering up of John (mere mention). Delivering up of John (account), 3:19, 20.

Departure into Galilee. Departure into Galilee. Departure into Galilee.

Change of residence from Nazareth to Capernaum. Beginning of teaching.

Rejection at Nazareth.

Coming to Capernaum.

First miracles.

Beginning of Jesus’ teaching. Beginning of Jesus’ teaching. General teaching in synagogues in Galilee.

Call of first disciples. Call of first disciples. Call of first disciples.

The general order of events is the same. The evident intention of all is to connect the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with the close of John’s work, though this is more evident in Mt. and Mk. than in Lk. They also mark at the beginning that it is a Galilean ministry. Mt. and Mk. tell us that it was the good news of the kingdom of God which was proclaimed by Jesus. Lk. also brings this in incidentally. He also introduces the rejection at Nazareth, evidently to account for the removal to Capernaum, and inserts the first miracles and a tour of preaching in Galilee before the call of the first disciples.

14. Μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν Ἰωάννην—And after the delivering up of John. Mt. and Mk. assume this as a well known fact. Lk. tells the story of it (3:18-20). The others tell it later (Mark 6:17-29). εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν—into Galilee. The connection of events is lost here in the brevity of the narrative. We are not told whether Jesus came into Galilee because of the imprisonment of John, and being there, began his ministry; or whether he began his ministry because John’s ministry was ended, and chose Galilee as the scene for it. But, inasmuch as Jesus is represented by the Synoptics as continuing his work in Galilee until the end, it is evidently the latter. It is the demands of his work that take him to Galilee, and John’s imprisonment is the occasion of his beginning his work, and only indirectly of his coming to Galilee. Moreover, they do not tell us why Galilee became the scene of his ministry. But the reason is evident. It was not the headquarters of Judaism; and events showed that Jesus’ work would have been impossible in the stronghold of that unsympathetic faith. The fourth gospel tells of a preliminary work of eight months in Judæa, but the Synoptics are not only silent about it, but exclude it by their evident intention to represent this as the beginning of Jesus’ work.

Galilee, Heb. גָלִיל, circle, was originally the name of only a small circuit in one of the tribes inhabiting the northern section of Palestine. But in the time of our Lord, it had come to be applied to the Roman province including the whole territory of the four northern tribes. It was inhabited by a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles. See Joshua 20:7, Joshua 21:32, Joshua 20:1 K. 9:11, 2 K. 15:29.

τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Θεοῦ—glad tidings of God.

Omit τῆς βασιλείας before τοῦ θεοῦ Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. BL. 1, 28, 33, 69, 209, mss. of Lat. Vet. Memph.

The glad tidings of God is here the glad tidings from God, who is the author and sender of the message (subj. gen.). The good news itself, as the next verse shows, is that of the kingdom.

15. The words, καὶ λέγων, and saying, at the beginning of this verse, are to be omitted.

Omit καὶ λέγων Tisch. WH. (καὶ λέγων) א one ms. of Lat. Vet., Orig. The insertion of καὶ λέγων is caused probably by the interpolation of τῆς βασιλείας in the preceding verse. The two go together.

πεπλήρωταικαιρός—the time has been filled up, or completed. Fulfilled, EV. is etymologically correct, but misleading, on account of its technical use to denote the accomplishment of expectation, promise, or prophecy. What is denoted here is the filling up of the time appointed for the coming of the Kingdom. This idea of an appointment of times, as well as of events, is thoroughly Jewish, referring all things to God. But to Jesus, who read the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3), the language signified not only a theology, but a philosophy of events. The time revealed itself to him as ripe for the event.

ἤγγικενβασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ—The kingdom of God has come near. This message assumes evidently the existence of the idea of a kingdom of God among the Jews as a familiar thought. The announcement is, that this expected kingdom is at hand. Jesus does not announce a new fact, nor does he enter here upon any exposition of the nature of the kingdom, such as belonged to his later teaching, but simply announces the expected kingdom. He does not enter into the question of the difference between his spiritual kingdom, and the earthly kingdom of Jewish expectation. It is enough for his present purpose to announce it as a kingdom of God, and so to prepare the way for his call to repentance.

This announcement has to be located first, in the life and teaching of Jesus; secondly, in its relation to John’s message; and thirdly, in current Jewish thought. In Jesus’ own thought it is central; the kingdom of God is the subject of his teaching, and his object is to revolutionize the current idea; but that necessary change comes later. And moreover, in its connection with his later activity, it constitutes the announcement that the object of that was the establishment of the kingdom of God, and not merely the instruction of the people as to its nature. He was in his earthly work prophet, but also king. In its relation to John’s message, this announcement of Jesus was the continuation and development of that, repeating his call to repentance, but substituting for his announcement of the coming One, that of the coming Kingdom. This is in accordance with Jesus’ impersonal manner of treating his work. In its relation to current Jewish thought, this announcement fulfilled national expectations. This is evident from the reception given to Jesus by the nation, and from the uncanonical Jewish literature. This literature shows that the idea of Jewish deliverance and greatness, started in the prophetic books of the O.T., had not been allowed to lapse, but had gradually taken shape in the idea of a universal kingdom ruled by God himself, with the Messiah as his earthly vice-gerent, having Palestine as its centre and Jerusalem as its capital, and including in itself the righteous dead, who had been raised to share its glories. And the attitude of the people during the life of Jesus shows that this had become at this time a subject of fervid popular hope and expectation.

μετανοεῖτε—repent. This is a continuation of John’s message. Καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ—and believe in the good news, is, however, a distinct addition to that message. The εὐαγγέλιον, good news, is that the expected kingdom is at hand. Our word gospel, with its acquired meaning, is again singularly out of place here, as it inevitably obscures this obvious reference to the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Θεοῦ just mentioned. πιστεύετε, believe, is another word that has to be evacuated of its theological sense. It is purely and simply belief of the message brought by Jesus, that the kingdom of God is at hand. If a crisis is coming, and men are to be prepared for it, the first requisite is, that they believe in its coming.1

16. Καὶ παράγων παρὰ—And going along by.2

Καὶ παράγων, instead of, περιπατῶν δὲ, is the reading of Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL 13, 33, 69, 124, 346, Latt. Memph. Harcl. marg. etc.

τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας—sea of Galilee. This lake was the scene of Jesus’ ministry. On its NW. shore were the towns of Capernaum, Magdala, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, referred to by Jesus himself as the district in which his mighty works were done. And its eastern shore, being uninhabited, was the place to which he used to retire to escape the multitudes. It was a lake 12 miles long, and 6 miles wide at the place of greatest width. The Jordan river enters it about 20 miles from its source. The use of θάλασσα in its name is uncommon in Greek.

In Lk., it is called commonly ἡ λίμνη the lake; once, Luke 5:1, the lake of Gennesareth, from the district on its W. shore. J. 21:1, calls it the sea of Tiberias, from the principal city on its shore. The Heb. name is יָם כִנֶּרֶת or כִנְּרוֹת sea of Chinnereth, or Chinneroth. See Numbers 34:11, Joshua 13:27, Joshua 12:8.

Σίμωνα καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν

17. δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου—Come after me.2 Following is in the N.T. a figurative expression for discipleship, especially for that which involved personal attendance upon Jesus. This use of follow belongs to a general use by which it is applied to any personal attendance, as of a soldier. ἁλιεῖς Jeremiah 16:16. This is the first instance of the use of parabolic language, so common in the discourse of Jesus. The parable is not necessarily drawn out into a story, or a stated comparison; it may be expressed in a word as here. In it, Jesus simply brings together things of the outer and inner world, expressing the unfamiliar in the terms of the common and familiar. The effectiveness of it depends on the general likeness of the two worlds.

18. Καὶ εὐθὺς

This immediate following is due probably to a previous acquaintance with Jesus and his teaching. They had been attracted to him before, and so were prepared to heed this apparently abrupt call to become his personal followers. John 1:35-43 tells us that they became disciples a year before this, during the ministry of John the Baptist.

19. Καὶ προβὰς ὀλίγον—And having gone forward a little.

Omit ἐκεῖθεν thence, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. BDL 1, 28, 118, 124, 131, 209, Lat. Vet. (some mss.) Memph. Pesh. etc.

Ἰάκωβον—James—the O.T. Jacob. He is named commonly before John, implying that he was the older brother. Ζεβεδαίου—Zebedee. Known only as the father of his two sons, and mentioned only in connection with the present event (Matthew 4:21). The mother was Salome.3 καὶ αὐτοὺς—who also, EV., gives the sense of these words. They express the identity of the occupation of these two with that of Peter and Andrew. They were also in their fishermen’s boat, though they were mending their nets, instead of casting them. καταρτίζοντας—mending.4

20. Καὶ εὐθὺς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτούς—And immediately he called them. The immediateness here attaches to the call itself, in the former case to the response. He called them immediately, i.e., without any preliminary or preparatory act on his part.

εὐθὺς is here again substituted for εὐθέως. In brief it is so substituted in most of the cases where it is used in Mk. It is unnecessary to cite the authorities in each case.

ἀπῆλθον ὀπίσω μου—they went away after him. This is a very good illustration of the way in which this act of following acquires its figurative meaning, and in which also the original and figurative meanings may be combined. Here the outward act was going away after Jesus, but the meaning of it was following in the sense of discipleship.

The accounts of this call in the Synoptics furnish a good example of the varying relations of these gospels. Between Matthew 4:18-22 and Mk., there is the close verbal resemblance which can be explained only by their interdependence. Lk., on the other hand, presents a different version, evidently from an independent source, and it differs from the others just as we should expect independent accounts of the same event to differ. The points of difference in Lk.’s account are: (a) he found the boats empty; (b) the fishermen belonging to both were washing their nets; (c) the different occasion of the promise about catching men, which is in this case addressed to Peter alone; (d) the introduction of the discourse to the multitude from the boat, and of the miraculous draught of fishes, which can be brought into the account of Mt. and Mk., but not in the connection given by Lk.; (e) he makes the whole a single event in which all four men participated, while Mt. and Mk. give two calls addressed successively and independently to the men in each boat.


21-28. Healing of a demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Jesus comes to Capernaum, and teaches in the Synagogue in such a way as to impress the people with the authority of his utterance, and with the marked difference in this respect between himself and the Scribes. The impression is deepened by his authority over demons displayed in healing a demoniac in the synagogue, and his fame travels over the surrounding country.

This is the first miracle recorded in Mk. and Lk. And it is significant that the miracle selected, the casting out of demons, is the representative miracle in Mar_1 The scene is in the Synagogue at Capernaum. This is another beginning, the synagogue being the chosen place for Jesus’ teaching in the early part of his ministry. The journey through Galilee, which immediately followed this event, is described as a preaching tour in the synagogues. The synagogue is again the scene in 3:1, and in 6:2. After that it drops out, and probably this means that the freedom of the synagogue was allowed him only at first. The effect of the miracle on the people, and Jesus’ refusal to follow up this effect, his evident desire to avoid the notoriety accompanying it, are beginnings of a more important character. They show us at the very outset the kind of success which he had, and the estimate which he placed upon it. And we also get the impression which Jesus’ teaching made upon the people from the very start, in which it is expressly contrasted with that of the Scribes. He was without outward authority, while they were the acknowledged teachers of the nation; and yet the impression which his teaching made and theirs failed to make, was that of authority. Holtzmann remarks that the sketchiness peculiar to Mk.’s opening verses ends here, and gives place in this account to greater amplitude of narration.

21. Καὶ εἰσπορεύονται εἰς Καφαρναούμ—And they enter into Capernaum.

Καφαρναούμ Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BD 33, 69, Latt. Memph. WH. App. p. 160, say that Καπερναούμ is a distinctly Syrian corruption of the name. Καφαρναούμ is substituted by Tisch. Treg. WH. in every place in which the name occurs.

Mk. does not tell us that Capernaum became the residence of Jesus at this time. He does not even tell of his leaving Nazareth, though he has implied, v. 9, that that was his home at the time of the baptism. See Matthew 4:13, Luke 4:16-31. Mt. and Lk. have very much more the appearance of ordered narration, locating what is introduced into the narrative. Capernaum is on the NW. shore of the Lake of Galilee, though there is a dispute as to its more exact location. It does not appear in the O.T.

The general opinion identifies Capernaum with Tell Hum, about three miles S. of the place where the river enters the lake. Some three miles further S., is Khan Minyeh, the site defended by Dr. Robinson. The only considerable ruins are at Tell Hum.

Καὶ εὐθὺς τοῖς σάββασιν1—And immediately on the Sabbath. Immediately on his coming into Capernaum, on the first Sabbath, he began his teaching in the synagogue. ἐδίδασκεν εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν2—he was teaching in the synagogue.

Omit εἰσελθὼν, having entered, before εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν Tisch. (Treg.) WH. marg. א CL 28, 69, 346, Memph. (2 edd.) Pesh. etc. The external evidence is not conclusive, but εἰσελθὼν seems to be an emendation of a form of expression characteristic of Mk.; cf. v. 39 (Tisch. Treg. WH. RV.). The construction ἐδίδασκεν εἰς is very nearly equivalent to the dat. of indir. obj., and denotes the direction of the act. See Thay.-Grm. Lex., εἰς, I, A, 5, b.

The provision of the synagogue service, which made it available for Jesus’ purpose, and caused him to choose that as one of his means of obtaining access to the people, was the freedom of its service. The performance of public worship or instruction was not committed to any officials, but to any one selected for the purpose by the Luke 4:16-30.

The synagogue was the formal assembly in Jewish towns, or in the Jewish quarters of the Gentile cities, for instruction in the law. No provision for such an institution was made in the law itself, and it dates probably from the exile. The service consisted of prayer, reading of Scripture, and exposition by any rabbi, or other person present and competent to teach. There was a body of elders, generally the civic authorities in Jewish towns, who had charge of the general affairs of the synagogue. The special officers were an

ἦλθες Matthew 8:29, Luke 8:31. οἶδά σε τίς εἶ—I know thee who thou art. The change from the plural ἡμῖν, to us, to the sing. οἶδα, I know, simply brings us back to the person speaking for himself, whereas in the ἡμῖν, the demon speaks for his class. The question is, what have we demons to do with you? The statement of the demoniac, I know thee, is inspired by the demon, and is so explained in v. 34.

οἴδαμεν is substituted for οἶδα by Tisch. Treg. marg. WH. marg. א L Δ Memph. etc. A probable emendation to make this agree with the plur. ἡμῖν.

ἅγιος τοῦ Θεοῦ—the holy one of God. The one consecrated to God, and employed in his service.3 See J. 10:36. It gives here the reason why the demon feared that a part of Jesus’ mission (ἦλθες) was to dismiss them to their place.

25. Καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷἸησοῦς, φιμώθητι—And Jesus charged him sharply, Be still.4

Omit λέγων, saying, T. (WH.) א A*. It is inserted apparently to get over the roughness of ἐπετίμησεν alone.

φιμώθητι—literally, be muzzled.1 Its metaphorical use to denote putting to silence in other ways belongs to later Greek.

26. σπαράξαν—having convulsed him. It is used in medical writers of the convulsive action of the stomach in retching. And it is evidently in this secondary sense of convulsing that the word is used here, not of actual tearing or lacerating. φωνῆσαν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ—having cried with a great cry.

Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL 33, etc. φωνῆσαν instead of κράξαν.

27. ὥστε συζητεῖν αὐτούς—so that they discussed.

αὐτούς, instead of πρὸς αὐτούς (ἑαυτούς) Tisch. WH. א B and mss. of Lat. Vet.

συζητεῖν—to discuss, or question.2 Τί ἐστι τοῦτο; διδαχὴ καινὴ κατʼ ἐξουσίαν· καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασι, etc.—What is this? A new teaching according to authority. And he commands, etc.

διδαχὴ καινὴ κατʼ ἐξουσίαν is the reading of Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL 33, 102.

The critical texts which adopt the above reading, with the exception of Tisch., punctuate differently. They connect κατʼ ἐξουσίαν with what follows, so that it reads, a new teaching; with authority he commands even the unclean spirits. But according to v. 22, this new element of authority resides in the teaching itself, so that κατʼ ἐξουσίαν belongs more naturally with διδαχὴ καινὴ. This new, authoritative teaching makes the first ground of their astonishment. And in addition to this, not a part of it, is their astonishment at the submission of the spirits to his command.

28. εὐθὺς, immediately. This is the third instance of this word in this short paragraph. Lk., in spite of his general verbal resemblance to Mk., omits it in every case. Here it shows the immediateness of the fame which followed such exhibitions of authority. πανταχοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν περίχωρον—everywhere, into all the neighborhood.3

Insert πανταχοῦ Tisch. (Treg.) WH. RV. א BCL 69, Lat. Vet. (some mss.), Memph.

τῆς Γαλιλαίας is partitive gen., denoting the part of Galilee that lay about Capernaum.

Lk. is parallel to Mk. here (4:31-37), and the minute verbal resemblance again shows obvious interdependence. The secondary character of Lk.’s account appears unmistakably in the report of the popular discussion that followed the miracle.


29-34. Healing of Peter’s wife’s mother, followed by a popular uprising, bringing all the sick of the city to him, at the close of the legal Sabbath.

This story is a continuation of the account of this first Sabbath in Capernaum. The miracle in the synagogue is followed by the healing at Peter’s house, and at evening, the whole population, who have been restrained only by their fear of breaking the Sabbath, gather at the house, bringing all their sick to him.

29. Καὶ εὐθὺς—And immediately. The characteristic use of this word continues in this paragraph. See v. 30. It is omitted in the parallel accounts. The whole series, taken together, shows how straight events marched from his first appearance in Capernaum to the climax of v. 32, 33. These two, v. 29 and 30, show more particularly the immediateness with which the miracle at Peter’s house succeeded that in the synagogue. One miracle follows another, until finally the whole city bring their sick to him. ἐξελθόντες ἦλθον—having gone out, they came.

ἐξελθόντες ἦλθον Tisch. WH. txt. RV. txt. א ACL ΓΔΠ Vulg. Memph. Pesh. Harcl. txt. ἐξελθὼν ἦλθεν, having gone out, he came, Treg. WH. marg. RV.marg. BD 1, 22, 69, 124, 131, 209, 346, Lat. Vet. 2 mss. of Vulg. Harcl. marg.

ἦλθον—they came. The subj. remains the same as in v. 21, viz. Jesus and his disciples, whose call to follow him is given in v. 16-20. But, since Simon and Andrew are mentioned, the writer adds James and John specifically, in order to avoid the possible inference that only Simon and Andrew are meant. The touch of the eyewitness, Peter, is seen here.

Holtzmann, by coupling this with Jesus’ instruction to his disciples (6:10), that they should stay in any house that they entered, infers that Peter’s house became Jesus’ residence. But that injunction does not apply here, as it belongs to Jesus’ instructions about their conduct when they entered a town for only a short stay during a missionary journey.

30. κατέκειτο πυρέσσουσα—was lying prostrate with a fever. The language is descriptive, the prep. in κατέκειτο denoting the prostration of disease, and the part. the fire of fever. The imperf. denotes that this was her state at the time.

31. ἤγειρεν—raised her, i.e. he made her sit up.1 καὶ

Matthew 8:16 says that they brought many demoniacs, and he cast out the demons, and healed all the sick. Lk. says that all who had sick persons brought them, and he healed them, laying his hand on each one; and that demons went out of many. In Lk.’s account certainly, it is not intended to contrast the cure of many demoniacs with that of all the sick.

Καὶ οὐκ ἤφιε λαλεῖν τὰ δαιμόνια, ὅτι ᾔδεισαν αὐτόν1—And he did not suffer the demons to speak, because they knew him. λαλεῖν is used in the N.T. with a direct obj., but not with ὅτι. Where the words follow, they are introduced with λέγων, saying; cf. Matthew 23:1, Mark 6:50, Luke 24:6. Where ὅτι is used, without any intervening word, it is causal.2 The demons are said to speak, instead of the man, because the knowledge of Jesus is attributable to the demon, and not to the man. The man is represented as inhabited by an alien spirit, who used his organs of speech.

Χριστὸν εἶναι—to be the Christ, after ᾔδεισαν αὐτόν, they knew him, (WH.) RV.marg. אc BCGLM 1, 28, 33, 69, 124, mss. of Lat. Vet. and Vulg. Memph. Harcl. etc. Omitted by Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. text, א* ADEFKSUV Latt. Pesh. etc. Probable insertion from Luke 4:41.

This knowledge is one of the arguments for the supernaturalism of these cases, and one of the difficulties in the way of the naturalistic explanation of them. And it is not to be set aside lightly. But the reflections of the evangelists are to be distinguished from their statement of facts. And a supernatural cause once posited naturally gathers supernatural phenomena.


35-45. Jesus makes a tour of Galilee, preaching and healing. Cure of a leper.

After the popular uprising following Jesus’ first day’s ministry in Capernaum, he withdraws to a solitary place to pray. His disciples beseech him to return to take advantage of his popularity, but Jesus refuses, saying that he came out to proclaim the kingdom elsewhere. In pursuance of the same policy, he enjoins silence on a leper whom he heals during this tour of Galilee, and the man’s disobedience forces him to retire from the towns and synagogues to uninhabited places, whither the people follow him. This section is of first-rate importance in this narrative of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He appears at the beginning as a miracle worker, and maintains that character consistently to the end of the Galilean ministry. But here, at the very beginning, he is represented as maintaining whatever secrecy is possible about his miracles, and avoiding the notoriety attaching to them. And the only account of a miracle in this first missionary journey is that of one in which disobedience to this injunction of secrecy made it impossible for him to continue his work in the towns, so that he was forced to retire into solitary places. The reason for this secrecy about what was nevertheless a prominent feature of his work is to be found in the fact that he sought from men a faith which was hindered, not helped, by external signs.

The miracles lent themselves also to false, outward conceptions of himself and his work. And evidently they had their raison d’être in themselves, and not in any effect which they were intended to produce. They are primarily works of benevolence, not of supernaturalism.

35. πρωῒ ἔννυχα λίαν—in the morning, a great while before day. RV. Literally, very much at night.1

ἔννυχα, instead of ἔννυχον, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCDL 1, 28, 33, 131, 209, etc.

πρωΐ denotes the last watch of the night from three to six, and ἔννυχα λίαν, the part of this watch which reached back very much into the night. ἔρημον τόπον—a solitary place. The story points to some place of this kind near Capernaum. προσηύχετο—he was praying. The imperf. denotes what he was doing when Simon and the rest pursued and found him. We are not told the subjects of Jesus’ prayers, except in Gethsemane. But the occasions are significant. The only other in Mt. and Mk. is after the miracle of feeding the 5000, where the fourth Gospel explains the urgency of Jesus to get rid of both disciples and multitude by the statement that they are about to force him to be a king. Lk. adds to these three, which are all of which we have an account in Mt. and Mk., several others of less significance. But he gives one of the same character. After the healing of the leper, Jesus is represented in that Gospel as not only retreating before the sudden access of his popularity, but as praying. One of these cases might not be enough to warrant the conclusion, but taken together they indicate that Jesus was praying that he might not be ensnared by this popularity, or in any way induced to accept the ways of ease instead of duty.

36. κατεδίωξεν αὐτόν—pursued him closely. See Liddell and Scott, Gr. Lex. The EV., followed after, is inadequate. κατά, as in our expression, to hunt down, gives the idea of hard, persistent search. The word occurs only here in the N.T. καὶ οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ —and those with him. Andrew, James, and John are meant. See v. 29.

37. Καὶ εὗρον αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν—And they found him and say.

εὗρον αὐτὸν καὶ, instead of εὑρόντες αὐτόν, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL one ms. of Lat. Vet. Memph. etc.

ὅτι πάντες ζητοῦσί σε—that all are seeking for thee.1 All the people of Capernaum, which he has just left, are meant. The disciples bring him the news that the excitement of the previous day is not abated, and are anxious evidently that he should not fail to follow up so notable a success.

38. Ἄγωμεν

43. ἐμβριμησάμενος—AV. he straitly charged him. RV. strictly charged him. Either of these is an inadequate translation. The N.T. meaning of the word is to be angry, but the difficulty is to find any cause for anger. Weiss finds it in the fact that the man had broken the wholesome law forbidding persons with this dangerous disease from coming into contact with their fellows, and attributes Jesus’ urgency to get rid of him to the same cause. Consistently with this, he supposes that the cure was only gradual, and that the leper was still liable to infect others when he left Jesus. Mk.’s story becomes secondary of course, as it is plainly inconsistent with this hypothesis. Weiss thinks that Mk. introduces this word inadvertently, as it shows plainly a different version of the whole affair. The original account he finds in Matthew 8:2-4. But it is Mk. himself who betrays this by his inadvertent ἐμβριμησάμενος. Verily, this is to hang much on a small peg. If anywhere, Mk. shows here the indubitable marks of originality. And how much more probable is his account of Jesus’ urgency to get rid of the man than Weiss’s, who lays it to the danger of infection, and so to an imperfect cure. Mk., on the other hand, attributes it to our Lord’s dread of the notoriety caused by his miracles. Weiss’s whole theory of the gradualness of Jesus’ cures, and of his regard for the Levitical law, of which this makes a part, is unsupported. But neither is Meyer’s explanation, that he foresaw the man’s disobedience, quite probable. It puts its finger on the source of the trouble, but it mistakes in making it foresight on the part of Jesus. Our Lord is vexed at the whole situation of which the man makes a part, at the clamor over the mere externals of his work, and this is expressed in some sharp word, with which he accompanies the thrusting of him out of the house (or synagogue). It may be translated, having spoken sternly to him.2 It does not denote the tone with which Jesus spoke the words given here, as the action of the verb and participle are apparently distinct. But it denotes some utterance accompanying the ἐξέβαλεν, and partaking of its spirit.

ἐξέβαλεν—AV. sent him away. RV. sent him out. Both inadequate again. Thrust, or put him out, conveys the idea. This. as well as ἐμβριμησάμενος, indicates the urgency of Jesus’ action. He wishes to repress the natural, but misguided, impulse of the leper to stay and contribute to the adulation and excitement gathering about Jesus.

44. Ὅρα, μηδενὶ μηδὲν εἴπῃς—Take heed lest you say anything to anybody.1 The reason for this prohibition is not the urgency of his performance of the legal requirements, with which nothing must be allowed to interfere, but the danger in which Jesus stood of just the results which followed his disobedience. His spreading the story prevented Jesus’ work in public, and forced him into retirement, and so Jesus forbade his telling it. And the words in which he warned him off this dangerous ground are made as sharp as possible. σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκε—show thyself to the priest, and offer.2 εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς—for a testimony to them. These words are to be connected with δεῖξον and ὑπένεγκε—show thyself to the priest, and make the prescribed offering, for a testimony to them. Take this official way, authorized and prescribed by the law, of testifying to your cure. This case, taken by itself, would be one of subservience to the law. And Weiss makes it the text of a discourse on Jesus’ strict conformity to the law, ceremonial as well as moral.3 But this is an evident overstatement, to say the least. Jesus’ general position is that of a Jew, conforming himself, as any sane man would, to Jewish law and custom. And yet, sometimes he acts as if there was no such law. But in both observance and non-observance, he acts simply as a rational spirit, bound by definite principles, but conforming to fixed rules only so far as they do not interfere with the principles. Take, e.g., what he says about the higher law in its relation to the Sabbath, and about the principle of fasting. In this very case, his touch of the leper made him unclean, so that his action combined both observance and non-observance. And in his discourse about eating with unwashed hands, he abrogates the distinction between clean and unclean. No, to judge of his action here in a large way, it is apparent that Jesus would not have encouraged the man to disregard the law, and might very likely have bidden him observe it, just as he would himself. But this insistence on it can scarcely be attributed to Jesus’ anxiety or scrupulosity about ceremonial law. But the provision for official announcement of the cure to a single person in Jerusalem, by taking the place of publishing it abroad in Galilee, gave Jesus an opportunity to supplement his prohibition with a reminder of what the law provided in such cases.

45. ἤρξατο κηρύσσειν πολλὰ καὶ διαφημίζειν τὸν λόγον—began to publish much (extensively) and to spread abroad the event. τὸν λόγον—is the object of both verbs. ἤρξατο—calls attention to the beginning of this action. He no sooner went out than he began to publish the affair. ὥστε μηκέτι αὐτὸν δύνασθαι—so that he was no longer able. An inability arising from the condition and principles of Jesus’ work. εἰς πόλιν—into a city. Jesus was on a tour, going about from place to place, and εἰς πόλιν has therefore the proper meaning of the anarthrous noun. ἐπʼ ἐπήμοις τόποις—in solitary, uninhabited places. πάντοθεν—from all sides.

πάντοθεν, instead of πανταχόθεν, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABCDL, etc. 1, 33, etc. ἐπʼ ἐρήμοις Tisch. Treg. WH. א BL Δ 28, 124.

The command not to tell the story of the cure was not confined to this case, but was so frequent as to justify us in saying that it was the custom of Jesus. And this account gives the result of disobedience to it in an extreme case. It made a turning-point in the history of this mission, producing a change in our Lord’s plans, which is apparently the reason for introducing it here.

But why should Jesus try to preserve this secrecy about his miracles? Evidently, his thought about them was different from the ordinary thought of the Church, as it was different from that of his own time. But the reason is very simple. The miracles were sure to be treated as external signs, whereas Jesus relied on internal signs. As external, moreover, exhibitions of a supernatural power, they confirmed the people in their expectation of a national, worldly Messiah, and raised in them just the false hopes which Jesus was seeking to allay. And finally, by the excitement which they created, they interfered with the quiet methods of Jesus’ spiritual work.


Holtzmann rationalizes this miracle by explaining καθαρίσαι, the cleansing of the leper, as a removal of his ceremonial uncleanness by Jesus. The man was cured already before he came to our Lord, and he wishes Jesus to pronounce him clean, in order to save him the journey to Jerusalem. He admits that the evangelists do not mean this, but intend to tell the story of a miraculous cure. But he contends that this simply shows how the story of natural events grew into supernatural form in their hands. Unfortunately for his hypothesis, he accepts the theory of the Synoptical Gospels which traces them to apostolic sources, and especially makes Mk. the rehearser of Peter’s story. This does not give the required time for myths to grow. This first-hand testimony is the starting-point in establishing the credibility of the miracles. Then, they stand or fall with the historicity of the whole account of Jesus, which is not generally denied. One of the first principles of a true criticism is, that any attempt to patch out a story with unreal details will betray itself by the incongruities of the addition. But you cannot separate the miracles from the rest of the story in this way. They are part of the texture of the story. Especially, they have a uniqueness which belongs to the character of Jesus, and to the principles of his action, and which makes invention an impossibility. A scheme of miracles which rigorously excludes everything but works of beneficence—all miracles of personal preservation, of punishment, of mere thaumaturgy, never occurred to any one but Jesus. The moment we go forward or back from him in Jewish history we find all these. And yet, the same generation tells us the story of Ananias and Sapphira, and of Elymas the Sorcerer, and, with entire unconsciousness of the difference, the story of Jesus’ miracles. His miracles are signs, not because of their power, but because of this divine uniqueness of their spirit. Jesus’ reticence about them, his endeavor to push them into the background, is another feature of this uniqueness. It is a revelation in action of his deep spirituality, the story of which is told by his contemporaries with evident unconsciousness of its significance. In fact, the grounds of Jesus’ solitary greatness are to be found in the miracles, as in the rest of the life, and in the teaching, and they are of the same kind.


With the second chapter begins the period of conflict in the life of our Lord. It is apparent in the preceding chapter that Jesus is not at all satisfied with the situation created by his sudden popularity, regarding it as a serious hindrance to his work. But now, instead of the superficial enthusiasm of the people, he has to encounter the growing opposition of their leaders. At first, this is aroused by his extraordinary claims, then by his revolutionary act in calling Levi, the tax-gatherer, to become his personal disciple, and finally by his revolutionary teaching in regard to fasting and Sabbath observance. Mk. produces this impression as plainly by his selection of events as if he had given this section the title Period of Conflict. Lk. gives the same grouping, while Mt. distributes these events.

1 Hence the absence of the article before Ἀρχὴ. Win. 19. 1. a.

1 In Homer, it means a reward given to the bearer of good news; in Attic Greek, a thank-offering for the same. The LXX form of the word seems to be εὐαγγελία, Thay.-Grm. Lex.

2 Ἰησοῦς is the Greek form of the Heb. &יְהוֹשֻּׁעַ יֵשׁוּעַ, or according to a still later form, יְשוּעָח. The first two mean Whose help is Jehovah. The last means simply help, or deliverer, and it is probably this later form to which this use is to be referred.

3 On this book, see Schürer, N. Zg. Div. II., Vol. III. § 32, V. 2. On the Messianic hope of the people in the time immediately preceding the life of Jesus, see Schürer II. II. § 29; and on the name Messiah, see II. II. 29, 3. The Heb. form is מָשִׁיחַ, Chald. משִׁיחָא, Messiah.

RV. Revised Version.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

E Codex Basiliensis.

F Codex Borelli.

G Codex Wolfi A.

H Codex Wolfi B.

K Codex Cyprius.

M Codex Campianus.

Treg. Tregelles.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

marg. Revided Version marg.

אԠCodex Sinaiticus.

B Codex Vaticanus.

D Codex Ephraemi.

L Codex Regius.

102 Codex Bibliothecae Mediceae.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

28 Codex Regius.

Orig. Origen.

Δ̠Codex Sangallensis

33 Codex Regius.

Latt. Latin Versions.

Memph. Memphitic.

Pesh. Peshito.

Hier. Jerusalem Lectionary.

Harcl. Harclean.

1 αὐτοῦ is substituted for τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν after τρίβους.

2 See Isaiah 41:25, 43:14, 44:Isaiah 41:26, Isaiah 46:1, Isaiah 41:2, 47:Isaiah 41:1-15, Isaiah 48:20.

P Codex Guelpherbytanus.

1 This word is one of several, such as καταγγέλλω, εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, having different shades of meaning, but all translated preach in the EV., whenever sacred matters are spoken of.

2 The question of the outward form of this rite has been discussed so thoroughly that it is unnecessary to go over it again in this place. In this passage, the indications corresponding to the common usage of the word itself are the river, the immersion into the river, the going up out of the water, but especially, the entireness and completeness of μετάνοια, which is expressed by the rite.

1 On the relation of repentance to forgiveness, see Isaiah 1:16-18, Ezekiel 33:14-20, Hosea 14:0, Amos 5:10-15, Jonah 3:4-10. In fact, the whole burden of prophecy is, that the nation is afflicted because of its sins, but that it needs only to repent.

2 In its compound form, this is a Biblical word. The later language, Win. says, loves compound verbs which bring out something implied in the principal verb, 16. 4. B. b. The preposition here denotes that what is hidden comes out in confession.

1 ἐσθ(ί)ων is in the same construction as ἐνδεδυμένος, was clothed … and was eating. ἔσθων is a poetic form of the participle.

2 See Meyer’s Note.

3 The art. indicates the definite person had in mind.

1 On the use of the adverb as a preposition, see Thay.-Grm. Lex. Win. 54. 6.

69 Codex Leicestrensis.

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

Vulg. Vulgate.

Win. Winer’s Grammar of N. T. Greek.

1 This circumlocution for the simple verb is a translation of the Heb. וַיְהִי וְ, and is foreign to the Greek idiom. The absence of a conj. between the two verbs is also a solecism.

2 See Bib. Dic. On the form of the Greek name, see Thay.-Grm. Lex.

3 This adverb is one of the marks of the style of this Gospel. It is used by Mk. nearly twice as often as by Mt. and Lk. together. εὐθύς is substituted for εὐθέως in the critical texts in most of these passages in Mk. See Thay.-Grm. Lex.

13 Codex Regius.

4 See Burton, N.T. Moods and Tenses, 125.

5 On this office of the Spirit, cf. Isaiah 11:2.

1 On this use of the aor., see Win. 40, 2; Burton, N. T. Moods and Tenses, 55.

1 .Codex Basiliensis

1 A Heb. word, meaning the Adversary.

2 The impf. describes the act as taking place during his stay in the wilderness.

1 Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18, Exodus 34:28), Elijah was in the wilderness forty days and forty nights (1 K. 19:8), and the Christophanies after the resurrection covered a period of forty days (Acts 1:3).

209 An unnamed, valuable manuscript.

1 The regular construction after πιστεύειν is the simple dat. In the N.T. we find this, but also εἰς with acc. and ἐπὶ with acc. or dat. This construction with ἐν is found only here, and in John 3:15.

2 The common construction after παράγων is the simple dat. This repetition of παρά is not found elsewhere.

346 Codex Ambrosianus.

S Codex Vaticanus.

U Codex Nanianus.

V Codex Mosquensis.

1 Thay.-Grm. Lex. explains the word as meaning to throw about, first in one place, and then in another.

2 Δεῦτε is a plural imperative, formed from the adv. δεῦρο. The use of the adv. as a prep., ὀπίσω μου, is a sign of the Hellenistic Greek of the N.T. (Win. 54, 6).

C Codex Bezae.

3 Cf. Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40.

4 Καταρτίζειν means in general to put in complete order, and may be applied either to the original fitting out, or to repairs.

1 See v. 39, 6:7; cf. Matthew 10:1, Luke 9:1.

1 Heb. שַׁבָּת, a rest-day. This dat. plur. of the third declension is frequent in the N.T., not in the Sept. The plural is used frequently in the N.T. for a single Sabbath, a use either corresponding to the plur. of festivals, τὰ ἐγκαίνια etc., or coming from the emphatic Chald. form שַׁבָּתָא.

2 This use of συναγωγή to denote an assembly, or the place of assemblage, belongs to the N.T. In the Gr., it denotes the act of assembling.

Thay.-Grm. Thayer’s Grimm.

AV. Authorised Version.

1 In the Gr., γραμματεύς denotes a clerk or recorder, and is applied to an official class whose general function corresponds to that of the clerks of judicial and representative bodies. Among the Jews, it meant a lettered man, one acquainted with the sacred writings. They are called also νομικοί, lawyers, or men versed in the law; νομοδιδάσκαλοι, teachers of the law; ἱερογραμματεῖς, because they dealt with the sacred writings; and Rabbis, great ones.

1 This use of πνεῦμα belongs to Biblical Greek.

2 The first aor. is “rare and late.” Sec. aor.

3 The only other place in which this term is applied to Jesus is John 6:69 (Tisch. Treg. WH. RV.).

4 For other examples of this meaning of ἐπιτιμᾷν, see Mark 8:30, Mark 3:12, Matthew 12:16.

1 For instances of the literal meaning, see 1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Timothy 5:18.

2 This is a Biblical meaning. In Greek, it is restricted to its proper sense, to search together. The N.T. meaning is a legitimate derivation from that.

3 The proper ending of adv. of place with verbs of motion is οι, not ου. The N.T. Greek does not observe this distinction, but invariably uses the ending ου. Our confusion of where and whither. The use of ἡ περίχωρος with γῆ understood is Biblical.

Γ̠Codex Tischendorfianus

Π̠Codex Petropolitianus

1 The vb. in Greek means to rouse, not to raise.

1 See Luke 13:14.

2 RV. text retains devils, marg. demons. American Revisers substitute demons in text in all passages where δαίμων, δαιμόνιον, or δαιμονίζομαι occurs.

3 The double compound ἐπισυνηγμένη is not found in classical Greek, though the simple compound συνάγειν is common. ἐπι adds to the word the idea of gathering upon or towards some point.

1 ἤφιε is a rare form of the impf. of αφίημι, from

3 See Leviticus 13:45, Leviticus 13:46.

4 The meaning and form of σπλαγχνίζομαι are late. σπλαγχνεύω is the proper form, and its meaning is to eat the inwards of a victim after sacrifice, or to obtain auguries from them. The meaning compassionate comes from the Heb., which regarded the σπλάγχνα, the inwards, as the seat of pity and tenderness.

5 See 10:16, Acts 8:18, Acts 8:9:17, Acts 8:13:3, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6.

1 See 1:31, 44, 2:12, Matthew 12:13, Mark 5:29, Matthew 9:32, Matthew 9:33, Mark 7:35.

2 See Matthew 9:30, Mark 14:5, J. 11:33, 38 for the other instances of N.T. use of word. Of these, Matthew 9:30 shares the ambiguity of this passage. The original meaning is to snort, which certainly makes room for it to denote an expression of feeling, as well as the feeling itself.

1 See Win. 56, 2, b, β. On the double negative, nothing to nobody, see Win. 55, 9, b.

2 The prescribed ceremonial and offerings for the cleansing of a leper are found in Leviticus 14:0.

3 Life of Jesus, 2 Chronicles 11:0.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Mark 1". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.