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Bible Commentaries
Mark 3

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99


1-6. Jesus heals a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stirs up fresh opposition against himself.

The fifth offence of Jesus against the current Judaism is a case of healing on the Sabbath. It belongs evidently to a period when the freedom of Jesus’ treatment of this sacred day had created considerable notoriety, for his enemies are on the watch for him to give them a fresh charge against him. The scene is the synagogue, and the case is that of a man with a withered hand. Jesus himself is the challenger this time, as he calls the man out into their midst, and meets their scruple with the question, whether it is allowable to confer the good of healing, or to inflict the injury of refusing to heal.

1. πάλιν εἰς συναγωγήν—again into the synagogue.1

Omit τὴν before συναγωγήν Tisch. Treg. (Treg.) WH. א B. The art is an apparent emendation.

The πάλιν, again, keeps up the connection with preceding visits to the synagogue, after the manner of Mk. See 1:21-28. ἐξηραμμένην τὴν χεῖρα—the hand withered. The article is the possessive article.2 The participle, ἐξηραμμένην instead of the adjective, denotes a process, and not simply a state, and hence, an effect produced by disease, and not an original defect.

2. παρετήρουν—they were watching. The imperfect denotes the act in its progress. There is no subject expressed here, but it is easily supplied from our knowledge of the class who insisted on these rigors of Sabbath observance. And v. 6 tells us that it was the Pharisees who went out and conspired with the Herodians against him.

3. τὴν χεῖρα ἕχοντι ξηράν (or τὴν ξηρὰν χεῖρα ἔχοντι Tisch.), Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Δ 33, one ms. of Lat. Vet. Memph. Harcl. etc.

3. Ἔγειρε3 εἰς τὸ μέσον—Arise (and come) into the midst.

Ἔγειρε instead of Ἔγειραι, Tisch. Treg. WH. א ABCDL Δ etc.

This is a pregnant construction. The action begins with ἔγειρε and ends with εἰς τὸ μέσον; but between these, there is an intermediate act, of coming or stepping. By this act, Jesus challenged the attention of the carpers to the miracle that he is about to perform. Not as a miracle, however, but as a case involving the principle in dispute between himself and them in regard to healing on the Sabbath.

4. Ἔξεστι�

οὕς καὶ�Luke 6:13. But on the whole, considering the strength of the testimony for it, it seems at least equally possible that Lk. found it in the original Mk.

κηρύσσειν—to herald, or here, where it is used absolutely, to act as heralds. The word conveys the idea of authority, a herald being an official who makes public proclamation of weighty affairs. The proclamation which they were to make was the coming of the kingdom of God.

15. ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν ἐκβάλλειν—to have power to cast out. This is in the same construction as κηρύσσειν, and denotes one of the objects of sending them forth.

Omit θεραπεύειν τὰς νόσους, καὶ, to heal diseases, and, Tisch. Treg. (Treg. marg.) WH. RV. א BC* L Δ Memph.

With this omission, the casting out of demons is taken as the representative miracle. So frequently.1

16. καὶ ἐπέθηκε.

Καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς δώδεκα, and he appointed the twelve, is inserted before καὶ ἐπέθηκε by Tisch. WH. RV.marg. א BC* Δ.

καὶ ἐπέθηκε interrupts the structure of the sentence, which is resumed in the next verse. The names that follow are in apposition with τοὺς δώδεκα in the inserted clause, and the enumeration is interrupted to give the descriptive names assigned to some of them by Jesus.

Πέτρον—Peter. Mt. gives the only explanation of this name given to Simon, in ch. 16:18. But neither in this passage nor in that, is there any definite indication that it was at either time that the name was given him. J. 1:42, however, assigns the giving of the name to a time much earlier than either, immediately after the Baptism. Πέτρον means a rock. The masculine form, instead of Πέτρα, is due to its being appropriated as the name of a man.

17. καὶ Ἰάκωβον—This resumes the structure of v. 14, as if v. 16 read Σίμωνα ᾧ ἐπέθηκε.

Βοανεργές. This is a modified form of the Heb. בְנֵי רֶגֶשׁ. רֶגֶשׁ properly means tumult or uproar, of any kind, and thunder, as a secondary meaning, is not improbable, though we have no example of it in Hebrew literature. The name probably describes a fiery, vehement temperament, rather than a thunderous eloquence, or a sonorous speech. The little that is told us about the disciples makes it impossible to follow out these hints about their character and temperament. These four, Peter, James and John, and Andrew, always stand first in these lists of the twelve, and among them, Peter is always first. Mt. calls him πρῶτος. But Mt. and Lk. put Andrew into the second place, evidently to associate him with his brother. Mk.’s order is the order of their rank, Peter, James, and John being the three disciples chosen by Jesus to attend him on special occasions, e.g. the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the scene in the garden of Gethsemane.

18. Φίλιππον—Philip heads the second group in all the Gospels, as Peter the first. The name is a Greek name. We hear nothing more about him in the Synoptics, though he is mentioned several times in the fourth Gospel.

Βαρθολομαῖον—This name does not occur in the Gospels outside of these lists, and elsewhere only in Acts 1:13. And in the passage in Acts, Bartholomew’s name is associated, as it is here, with those of Philip and Thomas. In the fourth Gospel, on the other hand, we find that Nathanael is associated with Philip and Thomas, as Bartholomew is in the Synoptics and the Acts. In J. 1:46-50, Nathanael is the one whom Philip introduces to Jesus, while in J. 21:2, Nathanael’s name is associated with Thomas. This, together with the fact that so important a personage as Nathanael appears to be in J. is not mentioned in the list of the twelve, has led to the quite reasonable supposition that the two are to be identified. In that case, Bartholomew, which means Son of Tolmai, would be a patronymic, and Nathanael would be the real name.

Μαθθαῖον—On the identification of this disciple with Levi the publican, see on 2:14. He is not mentioned after this, except in Acts 1:13. Θωμᾶν—This disciple, who is a mere name in the Synoptics and the Acts, becomes a personage in the fourth Gospel. J. 11:16, 14:5, 20:24-28. This group of four is the same in all three Synoptics, but in Mt., Thomas precedes Matthew.

Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἀλφαίου—This James is probably the same as Ἰάκωβος ὁ μικρός, James the little, the son of Mary and Clopas. See 15:40, 16:1, J. 19:25. The supposition, however, that in this passage from J., Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ is in apposition with ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, and that thus the brothers of our Lord were his cousins and included in the list of apostles, is decisively negatived, first, by its giving us two sisters having the same name, Mary; secondly, by the fact, that in Luke 2:7, Jesus is called the firstborn son of Mary, implying that there were other sons; thirdly, by Acts 1:14, in which the brothers of our Lord are distinguished from the apostles; and finally, by J. 7:5 which states distinctly, that at the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before the death of Jesus, his brothers did not believe in him.

Θαδδαῖον—This must be the same as Lebbæus, Matthew 10:3 (AV. Tisch.), and Jude the son of James, Luke 6:16.

τὸν Καναναῖον—the Zealot.

Καναναῖον, instead of Κανανίτην, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCDL Δ 33, Latt. Memph. (Pesh.) etc.

If this name meant an inhabitant of Cana, it would be Καναῖον. Probably, it comes from the Heb. קַנָּא, Chald. קַנְאָן, with the termination αιος which denotes a party (Φαρισαῖος, Σαδδουκαῖος), and is the same as Ζηλώτης zealot, the name given to him in Luke 6:15. This was the name of a party of fanatic nationalists among the Jews, leaders of the national revolt against the foreign yoke.

19. Ἰσκαριώτην—Heb., אִישׁ קְרִיּוֹת, Man of Kerioth. Judas is designated thus as an inhabitant of Kerioth, a village of Judæa. παρέδωκεν—delivered up. The word for betrayal is προέδωκεν.

There can be no doubt what significance Mk. means to give to the appointment of the twelve. It is preceded and followed in his account by the gathering of the importunate crowds about our Lord. And the connection points plainly to the conclusion that Jesus appoints them to be his helpers in the work thus growing on his hands. This is indicated in the purpose, that he may send them forth to preach, and to heal; that is, to share in the work which has been described before as done by him.1 But we do not find that much of this active work was done by them during Jesus’ lifetime. The purpose which was more fully carried out was that of permanent association with himself, expressed in the words, that they may be with him. Instead of the fluctuating attendance on his person of the ordinary disciples, he desired for these twelve such constant association that they could afterwards be his witnesses, and carry forward his work. Matthew 9:35 gives the same general reason, but the immediate occasion is a missionary tour made by Jesus through Galilee, in which he is impressed by the greatness of the spiritual harvest, and the small number of laborers. Luke 6:17-19 places the concourse of people after the appointment of the twelve. The inclusion of Judas in the number of the apostles is a certain indication that he was at the time a genuine disciple. In his case, as in that of all the apostles, there was a failure to understand our Lord’s purely spiritual programme, but the personal equation, the faith in Christ himself, overcame this doubt at first. Later, the doubt predominated in the case of Judas, and even in the rest of the apostles it led to the temporary desertion of the ten, and to the denial of Peter.


20-35. Jesus, at home again, is met by the opposition of the Scribes, and by the attempt on the part of his family to restrain him.

It is evident that there is both a logical and a chronological relation between this attitude of our Lord’s family and this new phase of the opposition of the Scribes. The logical relation is found in the language of the two. His family said, he is beside himself; the Scribes said, he is possessed by the devil himself. The close juxtaposition of these in the narrative shows that Mk. had this logical relation in his mind. On the other hand, the interruption of the story of his family’s attempt to restrain him by the introduction of the other account, and the resumption of the former in v. 31, is not explained so well by any other assumption as that there was really such an interval between the family’s original purpose and their arrival on the scene of action, which was filled up by the controversy with the Scribes. Jesus makes this opposition the occasion of teaching, of which it is easy to miss the point, and which has been badly misunderstood. In regard to the charge that he is in collusion with Satan in casting out demons, his point fully stated would be, that such collusion is possible up to the point where it involves an actual arraying of Satan against himself. And Jesus turns their charge against themselves by his counter-claim that his whole action is hostile to Satan, making such collusion impossible. And this is the acumen of his statement about the sin against the Holy Ghost. In the case of the Scribes, their charge had been very close to that sin, when they said that the Spirit in Jesus was the Devil instead of the Holy Spirit, involving a complete upsetting of all moral values, and a stupendous and well-nigh irrecoverable moral blindness in themselves. That is, their whole error lay in their failure to value the moral element in Jesus’ works. It is not implied at all that his family was in sympathy with the Scribes, their apprehension being simply that his mind was unsettled, and that he needed to be put under restraint. This lack of sympathy with him on the part of his human family led Jesus to point out the higher reality of spiritual relationship and association.

20. ἔρχεται—comes. εἰς οἶκον is here probably the colloquial anarthrous phrase, equivalent to our home. The gathering of the Scribes from Jerusalem and the visit of his family would probably both of them be at Capernaum, and this points to his own house as the one meant here, RV. margin.

ἔρχεται instead of ἔρχονται, Tisch. WH. RV. א B Γ mss. of Lat. Vet. etc.

Καὶ συνέρχεται πάλιν (ὁ) ὄχλος—And (the,) crowd gathers again.

ὁ before ὄχλος Tr. (WH.) RV. א ABDLcorr. Δ 209, 300, Memph.edd. The article is rather favored by Mk.’s habit of correlating persons and things with previous mentions of the same in his account.

πάλιν—again. This refers to 2:1, 2, and denotes a repetition of what occurred then in the same place. μὴ δύνασθαι μηδὲ—not able even.

μηδὲ, instead of μήτε, Treg. WH. RV. ABKLU Δ 28, 33 etc.

ὥστε μὴ.1

21. οἱ παρʼ αὐτοῦ—his family. v. 31, which is evidently a resumption of this part of the narrative, says his mother and his brothers. Literally, this phrase would denote those descended from him, but it has come to have this modification of its strict meaning. Κρατῆσαι—to lay hold of him, to get possession of him. They wanted to protect Jesus against his own madness. For they said that he is beside himself, ἐξέστη.2�

Matthew 12:22, Matthew 12:23 and Luke 11:14 give us a more immediate occasion for this charge in their account of the casting out of a demon at this time. In this Gospel, the connection is general, the charge being occasioned by Jesus’ frequent performance of this most prominent of all his miracles.

23. ἐν παραβολαῖς—A parable is an analogy. It assumes a likeness between higher and lower things, such that what is true in one department holds good in another. It serves the purpose not only of illustration and of figurative statement, but also of proof. Here the apologetic purpose is evident. The analogy may be drawn out into a story, or description, as in most of Jesus’ parables, but this is not essential. In this case, Jesus begins with an abstract statement of his position, and then gives several analogous cases proving the general principle.

Σατανᾶς Σατανᾶ ἐκβάλλειν—Satan is the Heb. name of the devil, the prince of the demons. It means the Adversary, and except in this passage, and Luke 22:3, the name is written with the article.1 Jesus shows the fallacy of the scribes’ position by calling their attention to one essential element in his casting out of demons, which makes it impossible to account for it in their way. And that is, that his action toward the demons is hostile action. To be sure, his ordering them round, in itself considered, may be merely an exercise of the power which their ruler exercises over them. But when his authority is exercised, not for them, but against them, and against everything for which they and their ruler stand, he must be representing, not some friendly power, but a distinctly hostile force. They are so identified with their ruler, that what he does to them he does virtually to himself, and he does not cast himself out from one of his principal vantage points, possessing a special strategic value for his cause.

24. καὶ ἐὰν βασιλεία ἐφʼ ἑαυτὴν μερισθῇ—And if a kingdom is divided against itself. This is the analogy which lies nearest at hand. Indeed, it may be called the generic statement of the preceding principle. Satan and his subjects constitute a kingdom, and what is true of any kingdom is applicable to them. There is no difference between human kingdoms and this kingdom of evil spirits, which would invalidate this common truth. In the form in which this analogy is stated, it contains the reason why it is morally impossible for Satan to cast out Satan. It is, that such division leads to destruction. The condition is here a general one, not confined to any time.

25. The second analogy is that of a house. The word is used by metonymy for the family inhabiting a house. Here, too, division ends in destruction. οὐ δυνήσεται—will not be able. The form of the conditional statement in this case belongs to the future, and not to a general condition.

δυνήσεται, instead of δύναται, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Δ mss. of Lat. Vet. and of Vulg. δύναται is an evident emendation, to correspond to v. 24.

26. καὶ εἰ ὁ Σατανᾶς�

An eternal sin may be one subjecting the person to an eternal punishment, eternal in its consequences, that Isaiah 2:0 But certainly it is equally allowable to suppose that it describes the sin itself as eternal, accounting for the impossibility of the forgiveness by the permanence of the sin,—endless consequences attached to endless sin. This is the philosophy of endless punishment. Sin reacts on the nature, an act passes into a state, and the state continues. That is, eternal punishment is not a measure of God’s resentment against a single sin, which is so enormous that the resentment never abates. It is the result of the effect of any sin, or course of sin in fixing the sinful state beyond recovery. This is more accordant with the inwardness of Jesus’ ordinary view of things.

30. πνεῦμα�

Though the resumptive οὗν is omitted, it is plain that this is a resumption of what is said about his family coming out to restrain him in v. 21. The preliminary statement is put there, in order to connect ἐξῆλθον with its cause in the tumultuous gathering of the people. Then it is interrupted by the story of the dispute with the Scribes, because that event precedes in the order of time. It is this unsympathetic attitude of his family in this visit which gives force to what Jesus says about his true family. On the brothers of Jesus, see on v. 18.�Matthew 13:55 as James, Joseph, Simeon, and Jude. καὶ ἔξω στήκοντες—and standing outside. Evidently on account of the crowd surrounding the house.1

32. περὶ αὐτόν—around him.2 καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῳ—and they say to him.

καὶ λέγουσιν, instead of εἶπον δὲ, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCDL Δ 13, 69, 124, 346, mss. of Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Pesh. Harcl. marg.

ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ�

35. τοῦ Θεοῦ—Matthew 12:50 says τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανῷ, which defines more closely the nature and reason of this relation. It is a common relation to the heavenly Father, and not to an earthly father, that is at the basis of the kinship acknowledged by him.Moreover, the relation to God is of the moral kind, shown by doing His will. It is due to a new nature begotten in the man by God, but it shows itself in obedience. Jesus’ own relation to God, making it his meat and drink to do his will, is the uppermost and central thing in his life, and those who share with him this relation come nearest to him. Spiritual kinship surpasses the accidents of birth.


The order of Mk. here, connecting this paragraph with the teaching in parables which follows, is also the order of Mt., and the latter marks this as a chronological order by the use of ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος, 12:46, and ἐν τῇ ἐκείνῃ ἡμέρᾳ, 13:1. On the other hand, Luke 11:37 connects this attack of the Pharisees with Jesus’ denunciation of them by another definite chronological mark, ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι. And Mt. puts this denunciation among the events of the passion week, and fixes it there by his introductory Τότε. This is a specimen of the disagreement of the Evangelists in their attempts to give chronological sequence to their narratives. Dr. Gardiner, Harmony, p. 70, explains this by the supposition that such expressions as ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος and ἐν τῷ λαλῆσαι may be used by the Evangelist to indicate that an event took place, not necessarily in the midst of that particular discourse, but simply of some discourse or other; that is, while he was talking, instead of walking, or healing or something. This is a good example of the ingenuities and curiosities of harmonizing interpretation. Such use of language by the Evangelists would discredit them equally with the inconsistencies that it is intended to remove.

1 The omission of the art. is probably due to the fact that εἰς συναγωγήν had passed into a phrase, like εἰς οἶκον, or our to church.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Treg. Tregelles.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

אԠCodex Sinaiticus.

B Codex Vaticanus.

2 Luke 6:6 says the right hand. Dr. Morison contends that this is the reason for the use of the art. But evidently, the art. is insufficient for this discrimination, as the other use, allowing it to apply to either hand, is so much more obvious.

RV. Revised Version.

C Codex Bezae.

L Codex Regius.

Δ̠Codex Sangallensis

33 Codex Regius.

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

Memph. Memphitic.

Harcl. Harclean.

3 On the use of ἔγειρε, see on 2:11.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

D Codex Ephraemi.


2 ὅσα is the cognate acc. after βλασφημήσωσιν, and independent of both βλασφημίαι and ἁμαρτήματα. See Colossians 3:14, where ὃ is used in the same way.

H Codex Wolfi B.

3 See Morison’s singular note.

4 In this use of a preposition after βλασφημήσῃ, there is a return to the earlier construction, for which the N.T. employs the simple acc.

1 Literally, hath not forgiveness forever. The Heb. form of the universal negative, joining the negative with the verb, instead of with the adverb.

2 So Meyer, Weiss, Holtzmann, etc.

1 See v. 20, and especially Luke 8:19.

2 With the acc., περί is used locally, with the gen., of subject matter—around a person or thing, and about a subject.

3 The Greeks used the middle, instead of the pass, of�

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Mark 3". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/mark-3.html. 1896-1924.
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