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Bible Commentaries
Mark 12

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-12

2. The Parable concerning the Counsel of the Sanhedrim against the Messiah. Mark 12:1-12.

(Parallels: Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-17.)

1     And he began to speak1 unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the wine-fat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. 2And at the season he sent tothe husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of 3 the vineyard. And2 they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 4And again he sent unto them another servant: and at him they cast stones, 3 and 5 wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again4 he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my Song of Song of Solomon 7:0 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10And have ye not read this scripture: The stone which the builders re jected is become the head of the corner: 11This was the Lord’s doing [from the Lord], and it is marvellous in our eyes? 12And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people; for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.


See the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke.—Mark relates only the second of the three parables, which Christ, according to Matthew, connected with His rejection of the commission of the Sanhedrim, for the purpose of indicating to them what He awaited at their hands, and how they, as the murderers of the Messiah, should be subjected to the punishment of losing the Messianic kingdom. It is the very parable in which they are made to appear as the murderers of the Messiah in connection with the persecutors of the prophets. In the first verse, we obtain a hint from Mark that Jesus delivered several parables (ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγειν) before His opponents. Mark is, further, more exact than Matthew in the climax of the messages sent by the lord of the vineyard. According to him, the first servant is beaten upon the back, and sent empty away; the second is wounded in the head, insulted, and sent away covered with disgrace; the third is killed. This triple fate is then met by many others. In consequence of this conduct the lord of the vineyard despatches his son; and of him Mark observes that he was the only son. From Matthew we learn that servants were twice sent,—on the first occasion in smaller, on the second, in greater numbers; and their fate is to be beaten, killed, stoned. Luke records only an increased abuse of the several servants despatched. The actual ground-thought is in each case the same: repeated messages, increased injuries, and, as a consequence, augmented hardening of heart and rebellion. Then we have the opposition between the sending of the servants and the sending of the son,—between the generous hope of the lord, that pious fear and remorse would be manifested, and the flagitious design respecting the inheritance on the part of the vinedressers. Christ, according to Matthew, makes His enemies pronounce judgment, and declare what would be the dealing of that lord with his servants; according to Mark, the condemnation is expressed by Christ Himself. The passage from the Psalms, Mark quotes in conclusion, as does Luke; the citation from Isaiah, introduced by Matthew, is not here given. And further, the μὴ γένοιτο, spoken by the opponents in Luke 20:16, is wanting. Graphic narrative and a freshness of delineation are the characteristics of Mark in this passage, as in others.

Mark 12:2. Of the fruit.—The stipulated portion of the product. For the agreement of Matthew with Mark in this passage, consult Note on Matthew.

Mark 12:4. And again he sent.—We admit, there is undoubtedly a kind of periodic succession in the missions hinted at; but this is not to be settled in an external, petty way, of which an example is presented in Meyer.—At him they cast stones.—’Εκεφελαίωσαν is to be explained in accordance with the difference between it and the simple ἔδειραν. Beating with sticks upon the back, casting stones at the head, marked the first gradation, to which the second pair corresponded,—being sent away empty, shamefully disfigured. As this word, in other collocations, means simply to recapitulate, to relate summarily, we must interpret here according to the context. Meyer says, Mark has confounded κεφαλαιόω with κεφαλίζω. But the latter would have been too strong; and it is possible that the verb before us might have recommended itself to him as capable of bearing two senses, and this double-force we have endeavored to indicate. Wakefield’s interpretation, “They made short work of him,” is too one-sided.

Mark 12:9. Killed him and cast him out.—The order is reversed in Matthew and Luke. Grotius and De Wette make it a hysteron-proteron. Meyer says, it is only another description.

He will come and will.—Kuinoel, following Vatablus, makes this the reply of the Pharisees in Matthew 21:24. It is plain that Mark gives a more brief account of the matter. The Lord spoke the judgment which His parable forced from the lips of His enemies. See Note on Matthew.

Mark 12:12. For they knew that He had spoken against them.—Meyer would make these words, as well as in Luke, apply to the people and not to the members of the Sanhedrim. He intends this explanation to account for the apparent want of the proper succession in words. According to some commentators, these words should follow κρατῆσαι. But the order presents no difficulty at all. They would have seized Christ at once very willingly, and yet they ventured not, etc. This is only a reflection; and our words present the key, the concluding explanation. Their common purpose, to put the Messiah to death upon the first favorable occasion, rose in these and similar moments of exasperation to such a pitch, that they would have gladly seized Him on the spot, and killed Him, if they had only dared to do so.


1 Upon the import of the parable, see the remarks upon the passage in Matthew. The planting of the vineyard is to be looked upon as the promise and the law, or generally as the covenant-word in its identity with believing hearts. The hedge is not the law in itself, but is to be interpreted as being that external institution by which Israel was separated from the other nations (Ephesians 2:14); the wine-press, or tank, considered in connection with the altar of sacrifice and the martyrdom of the prophets, indicates the inner side of the congregation; and hence we are led to consider the tower, typifying civil order, law, and protection, as the opposite of the wine-press. The wine-fat is sunk into the earth and hidden; the tower rises on high, apparent to every eye, the sign of the vineyard.

2. We must remark, further, that we have here pictured the gradual augmentation of selfishness, of hostility to, and revolt from, the Lord, on the part of the theocratic servants and vassals of God. This representation presents at the same time a type of the climax of injuries inflicted upon the prophets, and above all, of the climax of the Lord’s magnanimity, as opposed to the disgraceful conduct of the servants. The struggle of divine grace with the obdurate unbelief of the administrators of His plan of mercy divides into two periods: 1. The period of long-suffering; and 2. the period of judgment. The first era has two chief periods: a. The Establishment, b. the Missions; which we may divide into, 1. The missions of servants, rising by a threefold climax; 2. the mission of the Son, in which, again, three points present themselves: A. The wicked proposal; B. the murder of the Son; and C. the casting of his corpse forth out of the vineyard. But, in the same manner, are three points to be observed in the Judgment: 1. The destruction of the evil-doers; 2. the entrusting of the vineyard to others; and 3. a donation of the vineyard to others, instead of a relation of vassalage.

3. The nature of the theocracy.—On the one side, it had a political, national end; on the other, a religious: and therefore the lord demands not all the fruit, but only a portion. The transformation of the theocracy into hierarchy: 1. The servants of God begin by converting His vineyard, which, under the condition of feudal service, He had let out to them, into a private possession. 2. They treat the prophets and reformers, who desire to call their condition of pependence back to their recollection, as enemies, and so treat mediately the Lord as an enemy. 3. They killed the son and heir, not in ignorance, but knowing him to be the heir, and actually because he was the heir: so evil-disposed were they.
4. The prospect, which the Lord presented, of the vineyard being handed over to strangers, to the Gentiles, must have exasperated the Sanhedrim almost more than the proclamation of their own downfall.
5. The parable before us is illustrated and expanded by the parables which Matthew makes precede and follow. If we examine the idea of this parable, we shall find that the germs of the two other parables are contained in the one before us.
6. Christ the beloved, the only Son, that is, the only-begotten Son of God; Christ, the last sent, is a mark of the revelation being perfected; Christ, the corner-stone, indicates the perfected Redeemer and Head of the Church.


See the foregoing Reflections, and the Commentary on Matthew.—The mournful, historical fact, that the administrators of the sacred things of God fail so often to attain salvation; or, the night side of the priesthood.—The history of the priestly office under the old economy, a perpetual symbol of warning to the priestly (ministerial) office under the new.—The contest which the Lord, from the remotest ages, has been engaged in with the unfaithful servants of His word and His grace.—The immemorial contrast between unfaithful officers of God and faithful messengers from God.—How the gracious generosity of God strives with the obdurate unbelief of men up to the moment of final decision.—The final purpose of God (They will reverence My Son), and the last purpose of the rebellious servants (This is the heir; come, let us kill him, etc.).—The Lord in heaven is willing rather to have the appearance of folly in sending His Son, than that His grace should not be revealed to the uttermost.—Grace in highest glory appearing alone, to the apparent neglect of wisdom, justice, and omnipotence, and yet, at that very moment, uniting in itself all the attributes of wisdom, justice, and omnipotence.—How all the perfections of God are comprehended in the glory of His grace: 1. By seeming to vanish in it; 2. by again appearing, glorified in it.—The last point by which God’s grace seeks to obtain a hold, is pious fear in men.—Finally: Christ the last mission of God’s grace to mankind, John 3:16; Hebrews 10:26-27; Hebrews 12:18.—The contradiction in the words, This is the heir, let us kill him; or, the remnant of faith in unbelief, making unbelief damning.—To the exercise of long-suffering succeeds that of judgment.—The heir and the inheritance cannot be separated.—The murder of the heir converted into the glorification of the inheritance.—The parabolical statement of Christ’s glorification, a supplement to the parable of His rejection.—The determination of God as to the wicked counsel of the opponents of Christ: 1. Their counsel allowed; 2. defeated; 3. turned to the service of God’s design.—The theocracy as a building of God: 1. A completed building; 2. a preparation for a second building.—Christ, the great miracle of God.—The enmity manifested towards the Lord’s word, enmity shown to the dazzling brightness with which the picture of His enemies was drawn.—The wicked shudder before the picture of their own life.—The impotency of Jesus’ foes.—Jesus’ address before the people; or, the fault of the priests, and the fault of the laity: 1. Difference; 2. connection.

Hedinger:—God spares neither labor nor expense in sustaining and extending His Church.—Be fruitful in good works.—The fate of the servants sent into God’s vineyard.—Osiander:—The more frequently the obdurate are called to repent, the more insane and senseless is the position assumed by them.—The riches of the goodness and long-suffering of God in sending faithful servants, who are zealous to the very death for His house.—The witnesses of the truth.—O that the pious would stir one another up to goodness with the same industry that the godless excite one another to wickedness!—Canstein:—Sin is very frightful: it ceases not where it has begun; one sin springs from another.—Quesnel:—So many deadly sins, so many murderous acts against Jesus Christ.—Canstein:—The enemies of the truth can, no doubt, in some manner say such in itself is truth; yet their answer proceeds not from truth, because their hearts are not temples of truth.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—God and His grace are bound to no people.—What the proud generation of Satan rejects, laughs to scorn, tramples under foot, that God raises in defiance of it, to the glory of Himself.—The world, despite its efforts, cannot execute its malice and wickedness sooner than God, from hidden reasons, permits.

Lisco:—That the only Son is sent, and sent the last, magnifies both the love of the Lord and the offence of the servants.—Braune:—Official sins: The wine-press is the ministerial office, which should express the letters, the peel covering the divine word, which should expound the divine word, the fruit of the vine, and make wine from it to refresh the heart. (Let it be remarked that this interpretation is not sufficient; comp. Doctrinal Reflection, 1.) Isaiah 5:1-2. Fates of prophets: Micaiah was scourged (1 Kings 22:24), and also Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:15); Isaiah, Amos, and others were killed (1 Kings 18:13); Zechariah was stoned (2 Chronicles 24:21); and we find in Nehemiah (Mark 9:26) that the prophets of God had been slain: Acts 7:52; Hebrews 11:36-38.—The judgment of Jesus in the Pharisees’ mouths (The Lord will come, etc.), the first note of the fearful cry, His blood be on us, and on our children (Matthew 27:25).—The world’s salvation is, never theless, triumphant. From the Jews it passed to the Gentiles, from the benighted east to the clear west, from the enervated south to mighty north; and when yet farther?—Still God’s kingdom remains.—They raged, but a hook had been put into their nose, and a bridle into their lips (Isaiah 37:29).

Schleiermacher:—Truth we owe to men, yet we are ourselves bound by it according to our ability.—In every circumstance we must let love point out how we can render the best service to the truth in dealing with each individual.—Brieger:—Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him, etc.: Hebrews 13:13 (referring to the heir being cast out of the vineyard); Isaiah 28:16.


Mark 12:1; Mark 12:1.—Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Meyer] read λαλεῖν instead of λέγειν, following B., G., L., Δ., [Syriac, Vulgate].

Mark 12:3; Mark 12:3.—Lachmann, Tischendorf read καί, after B., D., L., Δ. Meyer: from Matthew 21:35.

Mark 12:4; Mark 12:4.—The reading of B., D., L., Δ., Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer,] κἀκεινον ἐκεφαλαίωσαν καὶ ἠτίμησαν, does not seem thorough enough, as opposed to the climax supported by Cod. A. and others, viz., beating and sending empty—wounding in the head and sending home shamefully handled.

Mark 12:5; Mark 12:5.—Codd. B., C., D., L., Δ. omit πάλιν.

Verses 13-17

3. The Cunning Attach of the Pharisees and Herodians, and their Defeat Mark 12:13-17.

(Parallels: Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-24.)

      13And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14And when they were come, 5 they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cesar, or not? 15Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Cesar’s. 17And Jesus answering, said unto them, Render to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, 6 and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.


Comp. the parallels in Matthew and Luke.—The turning-point here is the ironical acknowledgment of Jesus’ Messianic dignity on the part of the Jewish rulers, after that they, in their attempt to overcome Jesus by the assertion of their authority in the presence of the people, had been covered with shame. It forms, consequently, the second section of our Lord’s strife in the temple on the Tuesday of the Passion Week. In this history of the temptation, the object of which was to entangle the Lord, two chief attacks are specialized by Mark: the attack made by the Pharisees in connection with the Herodians, or the history of the tribute-penny; and the attack of the Sadducees. In the latter, however, the question of the scribes leaves no longer an impression of malicious temptation, but draws the transactions to a close with an example of the triumph of Christ over many minds among the scribes and Pharisees. It is, nevertheless, the same history, written more from the bright side, while Matthew pictures it from the darker side. This individual was better than his party who had despatched him to tempt Christ: he made no concealment of the effect which the wisdom of Christ made upon him. This history is allowed by Luke to pass unnoticed. The cunning shown in the temptation now under consideration, is distinctly emphasized by each of the three Evangelists, Matthew and Mark giving the additional fact of the union between the Pharisees and Herodians to effect their ends. Matthew states that those who were sent were disciples of the Pharisees, and consequently young persons; from Luke it appears they were worldlings, who could only feign scruples of conscience. At the outset, the lively addition characterizes Mark, “Shall we give, or shall we not give?” The rest of the narrative is quickly sketched, and remarkably graphic. In the conclusion he is shorter than Matthew and Luke.

Mark 12:13. And they send unto Him.—Those mentioned in the preceding section, the Sanhedrim, are intended. But Matthew represents with propriety the Pharisees as the most active in the transaction.—To catch Him.—’Αγρεύειν refers primarily to the chase.

Mark 12:15. Shall we give?—Important application of the question to their conduct. They appear, moreover, anxious to place the negation in His mouth.

Mark 12:17. The things that are Cæsar’s.—The order of the words in Mark is peculiar; the construction is more cautious, and yet more lively.—And they marvelled at Him.—The young aristocratic portion of the population of the capital had not, in its pride, expected such a blow from the Galilæan Rabbi. Matthew informs us that they felt themselves overcome: in Mark this is implied.


1. See Matthew.

2. The feigned alliance of hostile parties against Christ, a measure of the greatness of their hatred to Christ. Mark has already (Mark 3:6) recorded the decision of the alliance. Compare the friendship of Pilate and Herod, as recorded in Luke.

3. Students and young nobles are often caught in the dangerous currents of their day. They are often, through their warm, generous feelings, misled and deceived.
4. Christ remains unmoved by the excitement; and what was confused, becomes, by a reference to manifest right, disentangled.
5. The word of Christ undermined further, the alliance between the two allied hostile parties. The Pharisees were not willing to give to the Emperor what belonged to him; the Herodians gave not to God what was God’s, not even in appearance.


See the notes on Matthew.—Perfect rest and calmness is the perfect action and quickness of the spirit.—The spiritual presence of Christ fills the present with the might of eternity.—How a stream of light from Christ can become a piercing lightning-flash.—Hypocrisy, the original sin of an impure patriotism and feeling of false freedom.—The majesty with which Christ investigates the rights of Cæsar: 1. The free examination; 2. the just recognition; 3. the holy reservation.—Christ and the young nobility of Jerusalem: 1. How little they knew; 2. how royally He revealed Himself to them.—Students and earnest youths often the unconscious and deceived tools of impure endeavors.—Divine simplicity and integrity always triumphant over human and devilish cunning.—Speak the truth without seeking to please or to injure any one.—Amazement may form, particularly with youthful and deceived minds, the beginning of wisdom.

Starke:—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—The meanest kind of persecutors betake themselves to the secular authority.—Truth must frequently find that hypocritical professors unite with worldlings against her.—Hedinger:—Every station has its rights. Fear God. Honor the king: 1 Peter 2:17.—Canstein:—The Pharisees flattered the Lord to destroy Him: He, however, put them to shame to bring them to salvation.—Braune:—Those who, from their knowledge, should have been the friends of truth, are the first in enmity against the King of truth. (Pharisees and Herodians.) No one should allow himself to be employed to vex others: this is especially the duty of young persons towards noble, venerable men.—They thought He had within Him the spark of vanity, and that He would destroy Himself in His zeal for God’s honor and His own personal dignity, which they presented in combination. So do men strive to entangle one another by praise.—See Braune’s extract from Claudius’ Asmus, p. 316.

Schleiermacher:—It were a different case if ye had never received the money, if ye had perilled blood and life for independence; but if ye have suffered the halter to be bound round your neck, and have not made any opposition, then bear the yoke.—Ye are giving your approval to the external regulations under which ye are living, as is sufficiently evident from your use of the money.—(God, what is God’s.) He would remind them that they had other wealth, and were in undisturbed possession of the same.—They should distinguish between the tributary condition and the spiritual—Gossner:—Out of hypocrisy they state the truth, in order to overthrow the truth.


Mark 12:14; Mark 12:14.—Lachmann, Tischendorf, after B., C., L., Δ., read καὶ οἱ ἐλθόντες instead of οἱ δὲ ἐλθόντες.

Mark 12:17; Mark 12:17.—Lachmann, after A., D., reads ἀπόδοτε τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι; Tischendorf and Meyer, after B., C., L., Syriac, read τὰ Καίσαρος�.

Verses 18-27

4. The Attack of the Sadducees, and their Overthrow. Mark 12:18-27.

(Parallels: Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-40.)

18     Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his7 wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20Now there were seven8 brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21And the second took her, and died, neither left he9 any seed: and the third likewise. 22And the seven had her, and left no seed: 10 last of all the wo man died also. 23In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24And Jesus answering, said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25For when they shall rise11 from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26And as touching the dead, that they rise; have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27He is not the God of the dead, but the God12 of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.


See Matthew, and the parallel in Luke.—In this section, Mark’s individuality appears only in the more pictorial description of the seven successive marriages; in special supplemental strokes; in the more positive tracing of the error of the Sadducees up to a want of knowledge of the Scriptures and to unbelief; and in the final statement, Ye therefore do greatly err. While the immediate effect of Christ’s word is not presented till the Evangelist comes to relate the next history.

Mark 12:28. When they shall rise.—The immediate, special reference is to the seven. Perhaps doubt is also expressed.

Mark 12:26. How in the bush; that is to say, in the appropriate passage, where the thorn-bush is spoken of—which ye will find something of a thorn-bush.


1. Comp. Matthew, and the conclusion of the Apostles’ Creed, Resurrection of the body, etc. John 5:0; 1 Corinthians 15:0; 2 Corinthians 5:0; Daniel 12:0, etc. Comp the doctrine of the Scripture on the Resurrection, as unfolded in the works upon Biblical Theology, and the teaching of the Church as given in works on Dogmatics; the hopes of immortality cherished by the nations, recorded in histories of religion. Comp. the proofs of an immortality. The writings bearing on the topic from Plato’s Phœdo down.

2. Unbelief has always two springs: 1. The want of historic faith (Te know not the Scriptures); 2. the want of personal faith (Ye know not the power of God).
3. Belief in immortality and belief in angels, or a world of spirits, are most intimately united: so also the respectively opposed elements of unbelief.
4. Unbelief is, on the one hand, united with rude sensuality (“marrying” in that world too); and, on the other, with a wild phantasy (indulging in phantasies upon the future state), and a carnal view of the uniformity obtaining throughout God’s universe (tout comme chez nous).

5. Unbelief, which attacks one part of the truth, understands nothing of that part upon which it intends to support itself in attacking.
6. They tempted the Lord to the abandonment of the doctrine of the resurrection, or to the retaining of it, coupled with polygamy in the future as its consequence. They supposed, He must either state an absurdity, or be struck dumb by their supposed deductio ad absurdum. But they had political designs in addition. Comp. Matthew. They intended that, by a denial of the resurrection, He should deny His work, or should present Himself as an enthusiast, and yield up to the profane world the secret of His hope. Christ sent the especially “wise” home as the especially “foolish.”


Comp. Matthew.—The Sadducees constitute the historical counter-picture to the Pharisees.—The Sadducees, the deniers of immortality, are immortal.—They invented an improbable, indecent tale to deny a most trustworthy and glorious reality.—They find in the Bible a thorny bush indeed, but not the burning bush.—The sentimental expectations of a bodily sight and possession are not tenable: 1. Too great for the reason; 2. for faith too little; 3. for both preposterous.—The external revelation is not in itself weak through too strong faith, but through credulity springing from too little faith, which believes, 1. Many things, but not much; 2. the extraordinary, but not the miraculous; 3. the spectral, but not the spiritual; 4. the earthly in heavenly hue and dress, but not the heavenly as the glorification of the earthly.—The Sadducees and their faith: I. How they attack faith (while they propound the most improbable views), either, 1. with an improper explanation of Scripture and of the law, 2. with an improper picture of life, and 3. with an improper view of the world; or, 1. with improper reasoning, 2. with improper wit. 2. How faith replies: with, 1. a deeper exposition of Scripture, 2. higher pictures of life, 3. a holier contemplation of the world in the light of God.—They say, our unbelief comes from our knowing: He says, it comes from your not knowing.—The belief in the angels makes the belief in the resurrection a necessity.—One truth of faith explains and strengthens another.—Unbelief in immortality a radical error: 1. A positive confusion; 2. a positive mistake.

Quesnel:—The devil gives the Christian no rest. If one temptation does not entangle, another is tried; hence watchfulness is essential.—Hedinger:—Preformed opinions constitute a hindrance to the truth.—Oh that there were none among Christians who doubt the resurrection! If they venture not to acknowledge their doubt, they manifest nevertheless by their deeds that they believe in no other life.—The thoughts of carnal men regarding the heavenly life are carnal and disreputable.—Canstein:—Christians must stir themselves up, in thinking of the eternal life, to separate themselves ever more and more from the lusts of the body and fleshly-mindedness.

Braune:—It was the extreme fleshly-minded (the Sadducees) who could not comprehend the reality and truth of the spiritual world.—The Gospel of the Risen One has brought forward more clearly for the spirit of man the kingdom of God and the hope of resurrection, of which we have frequent relations in the Acts of the Apostles, where the Sadducees repeatedly appear as foes.—The Saviour unites the Scriptures and the power of God. Hence comes Augustine’s statement, The more we see of the Scripture, the more we die to the world; the more we live to the world, the less we see.—“Reason digs beside (Scripture), Frivolity stalks by, and Pride flies away over” (Zinzendorf). Many of the Rabbis dreamed of marriages according to passages in the prophets, as Isaiah 65:20; Isaiah 65:23, where we read of a new heaven and a new earth; and this was not once deemed base by the Pharisees.—Of marriage, accordingly, that alone remains which was spiritual, just as sex in regard to physical distinctions is lost, and that alone remains which had spiritually been developed; for the distinction between sexes, consisting in the development of what relates to spirit, and in that which lays hold of the mind’s most inner nature, continues undoubtedly for ever.—Death breaks all bands, but destroys not existence.

Brieger:—He who has not in various ways experienced that God is the Living One, cannot from the heart believe in any resurrection. Is God called the God of Abraham? much more must He be called the God of Jesus Christ, Joh 5:29; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Romans 14:8.

Gossner:—One sort of evil men after another come to Jesus to trouble Him, to tempt Him, instead of seeking their salvation from Him.


[7][Mark 12:19.—The αὐτοῦ after γυναῖκα is omitted by B., C., L., Δ., Meyer.]

[8][Mark 12:20.—After ἐπτά, Elzevir and Fritzsche have οὖν; it is not found in A., B., C., E., F., L.]

[9][Mark 12:21.—Instead of καὶ οὐδε αὐτὸς�, B., C., L., Tischendorf read μὴ καταλιπών.]

Mark 12:22; Mark 12:22.—The reading, καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ οὐκ�, [omitting ἔλαβον αὐτὴν and the second καί,] is strongly supported by B., C., L., Δ., [Tischendorf]; but the demands of the context go to strengthen the Codd. which give the other reading. That no seed was left by the seven, is in and for itself of no importance; it is merely the occasion of the seven taking the same woman to wife.

Mark 12:23; Mark 12:23.—̓́Οταν� is omitted by B., C., L., Δ. Lachmann puts it in parenthesis; Cod. A., &c., support it; and the consideration, that its omission is easier to account for than its insertion, is an additional argument in favor of this reading.

Mark 12:27; Mark 12:27.—Θεός is wanting with ζώντων in A., B., C., D., Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. [Tischendorf omits ὑμεῖς οὖν, after B., C., L., Δ.]

Verses 28-34

5. The Scribe, first tempting, then half won. Mark 12:28-34

(Parallels: Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 20:39.)

28     And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving13 that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments Isaiah , 14 Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, 15 and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment. 16 31And the second is like, namely this, 17 Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: there is none other commandment greater than these. 32And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; 18 and there is none other but he: 33And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, 19 and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices. 34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.


Comp. Matthew.—The peculiarities of Mark: Matthew causes the tempting Pharisees, who were for the moment influenced by friendly feelings towards the Lord because He had put the Sadducees to silence, to advance; while Mark brings forward into the light their representative, a well-meaning scribe, whom Matthew designates more specifically as a lawyer. Matthew emphasizes the temptation, Mark the questioning; and, in addition, the transaction is clothed in a much richer form than in the Gospel by Matthew. The statement of Jesus is first introduced, that the greatest commandment is to hear that God is one, as therefrom proceeds the unity of the commandment of love out of the unity or absolute simplicity of the entire inner life. To this succeeds the joyful assent of the scribe, and his well-nigh literal repetition of the Lord’s words. And, lastly, the recognition by Christ that he had answered discreetly; to which the declaration is appended, that he was not far from the kingdom of God. The observation that the Jews dared not question further, forms the conclusion of this section in Mark. Luke appends this remark to the question of the Sadducees, Matthew to the counter-question of Christ. Considering the meaning, these three narratives form but one whole. For, after the Sadducees had been defeated, the hope to overcome Him was already destroyed. The temptation here narrated was only an ambiguous after-game, probably half devoted to the attempt of inducing Christ to allow Himself, in spite of all, to be won over as a partisan to the party of the Pharisees. But when Jesus had put His counter-question, to which no reply could be given, the mouths of His opponents were finally closed. Upon the allegation of Meyer, that a difference exists between Mark and Matthew, comp. Note to Matthew’s account.

Mark 12:28. The first commandment of all.—The first, and that in the sense of the chief importance. See Note upon Matthew. “The Jews enumerated six hundred and thirteen ordinances; three hundred and sixty-five prohibitions, according to the days of the year; two hundred and twenty-eight commandments, according to the parts of the body. The Pharisees distinguished between lesser and greater commandments.” Braune.

Mark 12:29. Hear, O Israel; The Lord: Deuteronomy 6:4-5.—Jesus gives the introduction to the ten commandments as the first command itself, not in so far as it forms one of the commandments, but in so far as it is the principle of the commandments,—finding its full exposition in the words: And thou shalt love, etc. The inner idea of the introduction has been explained already in Deuteronomy, from which the citation is drawn. Directly in opposition to this qualitative conception, the modern Jews reckon, according to their division, the words: Hear, O Israel, etc., quantitatively, as the first commandment. Upon this division, as well as generally upon the various divisions of the decalogue, comp. Geffken, Ueber die verschiedene Eintheilung des Dekalogus, Hamburgh, 1838, p. 9 seq. “This principle of all duties was termed specially, קריאה, or sometimes, after the initial word, שׁמע; and the words were usually recited daily, night and morning; see Vitringa, Synagoga Judaica, 2, 3, 15; Buxtorf, Syn. 9.” Meyer.

Mark 12:30. With all thy heart.—The Hebrew text has the three following specifications: with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength (מְאֹד, a might which is at once the manifesting of strength, and employing of strength; Gesenius, robur, vehementia). Instead of the first word, heart, the Septuagint reads, διάνοια; the second is of the same tenor; and the third it properly renders δύναμις. Christ’s quotation, as given by Matthew, follows the original text in the first and second word, heart, soul; but substitutes, with a fulness of meaning, for the third, διάνοια, the moral might of consciousness, of will. In Mark, the one word is expressed by two, διάνοια and ἰσχύς (=מְאֹד). On the contrary, in Mark, the scribe divides the first conception (heart) into two, καρδία and σύνεσις; while the lawyer, in the narrative in Luke 10:27, where we have a similar, though not identical, interview, speaks as Jesus here does. Only ἰσχύς precedes διάνοια. From all this, it is evident that a freer mode of handling the Old Testament text prevailed in the apostolic circle; moreover, it is worthy of being noted that no Gospel contains the δύναμις of the Septuagint. Whether the differences are only “variations of the Greek tradition,” occasioned by the habit of quoting from memory, or different points of view, is doubtful. In any case, it is noteworthy that the philosophizing Septuagint has explained καρδία by διάνοια; while, according to Matthew, Christ, spiritualizing ἰσχύς, gives its force as διάνοια, which is preceded by the heart and soul. Mark and Luke exegetically unite διάνοια and ἰσχύς. The lawyer, to indicate his legal stand-point, adds to καρδία, which the Septuagint had converted into καρδία, the σύνεσις. Upon biblical psychology (upon which Roos, Beck, and Delitzsch have written), comp. Note upon Matthew.

Mark 12:33. With all thy understanding.—Signification of the intelligence, as it develops into understanding.

Burnt offerings and sacrifices.—Psalms 51:0; 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6. This very comparison proved that the lawyer was overcome by an emotion of courageous faith, the giving utterance to which might have easily caused offence to his companions. It was in this situation a testimony.

Mark 12:34. Discreetly, νουνεχῶς: with knowledge and understanding.—Attic, νουνεχόυτως; the opposite, ἀφρόνως.


1. See remarks upon Matthew.—From the unity and spiritual harmony of God proceeds the essential unity of His law in one principle—love. This principle has already been brought into view in Deuteronomy. The true covenant-God, as the one God and the one Lord over hearts and in them,—this makes one life-experience, one life-motive, love. So appears the royal law as given by James (Mark 2:8) and Paul (Romans 13:10). Upon the element of temptation in this question, comp. Note on Matthew. In the passage before us, religion is declared to be the central, concentrated direction of the whole man, especially of his soul’s powers, to the one God.

2. The man, in whose inward parts the law of God has been by love inscribed, loves at first from the heart, in the very core of his being; next, notwithstanding the varying frames of his soul, in his soul likewise, in the disposition of his soul-life; and then in his practical intelligence or mode of thought,—in the practical resolutions and purposes of his life, with which all the powers of his life (as members and instruments of righteousness) enter into, and are spent in, the service of love.
3. Braune:—These two commandments point to the two tables of the law. Upon the first are five laws, concerning God’s glory, God’s likeness, God’s name, God’s day, God’s representatives; upon the second, five concerning person and life, marriage and household peace, goods and chattels, honor and right, and the heart of man. The two tables are one; containing the commandments of one, inseparable, heavenly law of love.

4. To be rational (discreet), the Lord here calls, not to be far from the kingdom of God. The reason, ideally conceived, is the faculty of understanding or perceiving the divine in its ideas. This faculty perceives the idea of love in the law. Discretion and subtilty mark the contrast between the true and false use of reason.
5. Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.—He who recognizes the law in its spiritual meaning, and in opposition to external forms and ceremonies (more than burnt-offerings and sacrifices), is on the road of the Spirit (rational in a moral sense), and on the way of return from self-righteousness and of turning back to self-knowledge, which conditions the entrance into the kingdom founded by Christ. Not far from, that is, near. What was still wanting was, the full surrender to his conviction, or the actual following of Jesus. This transaction is, accordingly, a sign and presage of Christ’s victory in the centre of His enemy’s camp.


See Matthew.—The three unities in religion, a type of the Trinity of the one God: 1. The one God; 2. the one faith (giving heed to Christ’s word); 3. the one commandment.—The unity of God is not mere individuality, nor singleness, but chiefly, His being alone and His being one, to which the unity of man in the simplicity of the faith must correspond.—Man is really a unity in obedience, when his inner life, in the trinity of heart (feeling), of soul (the will), and of reason or intelligence, is at one with itself and with God’s word.—Unity and trinity, the secret of all spiritual life: 1. Of the highest life above us; 2. of the deepest life within us; 3. of the richest life around us.—In the true love of God and his neighbor, man would re-obtain his true self-love, and recover from his diseased self-love.—Thou art not far from the kingdom of God; or, the tempter transformed into the disciple. Or a meaning-fraught word,—1. of recognition, 2. of warning, 3. of encouragement.—Christ explained in the temple-court, in the circle of those who hated Him, the great law of love, as He upon the night of betrayal instituted the meal of love, and upon Golgotha overcame the curse of the entire world-hate, by His act, by His suffering, and by His sacrifice of love.

Canstein:—Good men may be often so misled as to permit themselves to be employed against Christ: for such we must have compassion, pray for them, and endeavor to deliver them.—Quesnel:—True religion consists in hearing, believing, and loving.—As thou lovest thyself, so act with thy neighbor.—Hedinger:—Who can withstand the truth? Where but a little good-will is found, it pierces through. But ah! how hard the hearts that strive against her!—Osiander:—External ceremonies are no doubt good; but where they are found without love, they are only a mantle covering secret sin, and will be rejected by God.—Bibl. Wirt.:—Courage, ye teachers and preachers! God moves the heart of many a one, who has not known the fact, in a sermon, so that he goes forth better than he came in.—He who recognizes the worth of love, and what it is, is near the kingdom of God; but he who has experienced love, is in it.—Hedinger:-—Whosoever is, in the beginning, obedient and true to the divine leadings of grace, of him is there hope that he is won.—He who is near, is not therefore within the kingdom, Matthew 7:13.—Canstein:—Truth conquers.—Quesnel:—A silence of contentedness and obedience is a wholesome silence; but that of rude ignorance and obstinacy is a damning silence.

Rieger:—Upon the commandment of love to God and to our neighbor is all dependent; and yet God, on account of man’s lost state, could not leave all to be dependent on this alone, but had to reveal many other, special, explicit commandments, and make us conscious of our captivity to sin by them. Not till that institution (these laws) has fulfilled its part, can we be brought by the grace of Christ under the law of the Spirit.

Lisco:—All external sacrifices are only weak types of the one perfect sacrifice, the perfect surrender of the heart to God.—With thy earnest moral striving, thou art upon the way by which the kingdom of God may be reached; for thou recognizest the existence of true piety, and deceivest thyself not with an external righteousness by works. The entrance is by faith alone in the Saviour, who is the Way, John 14:6.—Gerlach:—Through a living acquaintance with God’s law, through heartfelt affection for its chief commandment, love, man comes near to the kingdom; but to come into the kingdom, he needs the knowledge of God, by which alone the conflict between pleasure in the law, and its constant transgression, can be stopped.—Braune:—God is one, says Paul, Galatians 3:20, to prove that law and promise are eternally one. So, too, says the Lord here, in that He calls to His support the fundamental doctrine of the law: Hear, Israel, etc. It is always the heart upon which God first looks.—The second command is the proof of the first. “If a man say, I love God,” etc., 1 John 4:20.—God says, No God beside Me; but man must say, Other men beside me.—On God’s account we are bound to love our neighbor as ourselves.—Thou shalt: it is accordingly no merit if thou do so; but it is sin if thou neglect. Thou shalt perfectly: It is not a portion which suffices. This must drive us to Him who fulfilled this law, and helps us to fulfil.—The Master gives measured praise: of beautiful views and fine declarations He never makes too much, but recognizes these in all relations in such a way as to encourage to progress.—Let each take heed, that in his case the separation between knowing and doing, between the acknowledgment of the faith and the work of faith, become not fixed, and ever grow more terrible.

Schleiermacher:—See his Sermons, vol. iii. p. 765 ff.—Brieger:—To love God, who is the Love and the Life, is to live godly. But he who lives in and with God, or godly, loves also what God loves.—Love is the only self-sacrifice, and it is the only sacrifice that God wishes.—Gossner:—One God, one heart, one love.


[13][Mark 12:28.—Lachmann reads ἰδών for εἰδὼς, after C., D., L.]

Mark 12:29; Mark 12:29.—Many variations. Tischendorf, adopting B., L., Δ., reads on ὄτι πρώτη ἐστίν; Griesbach, ὅτι πρώτη πάντων ἐντολή, after A. and Minusculi.

Mark 12:30; Mark 12:30.—Tischendorf, following D. and some Minusculi and Versions, omits καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας.]

Mark 12:30; Mark 12:30.—Αὕτη πρώτη ἐντολή omitted by Tischendorf, following B., E., L., Δ.; retained by A., D., &c.

Mark 12:31; Mark 12:31.—Tischendorf reads simply δευτέρα αὕτη, and so B., L., Δ.; this means, “this is the second in importance.” Lachmann, and the majority of the MSS., retain ὁμοία αὐτῇ.

[18][Mark 12:32.—The best MSS. omit Θεός after ἐστι.]

[19][Mark 12:33.—Tischendorf, following B., L., Δ., omits καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς. Meyer defends the reading.]

Verses 35-37

6. The decisive Counter-question put by the Lord to the Scribes. Mark 12:35-37

(Parallels: Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44.)

35     And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? 36For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said20 to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. 37 David therefore21 himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.


See Matthew, and the parallels in Luke.—The great counter-question which Jesus, after all the tempting questions of His enemies, addressed to the Pharisees, is brought forward by Matthew in all its historic importance as the decisive, concluding interrogation put to the Pharisees. In Matthew, accordingly, this question has the form of a discussion of rabbinical disputation; and without doubt this is the original, historical form of the matter. Much of this external form has been rubbed away by Mark; yet he points out by the words, “Jesus answered,” that the statement contained a reply to some question already put, with a view to try the Lord. Consequently the last is referred to. In this way, the preceding discussion also gains a new illustration; for which, consult the explanation of this last temptation. Mark, in allowing the form of the disputation to pass unnoticed, causes Christ’s spiritual triumph to stand out all the more strongly to the view; just as he presented the preceding narrative likewise from its bright side.

Mark 12:35. While He taught in the temple.—The last address Christ made to the Pharisees was a word intended for the whole people; and this is in Mark’s mind the most weighty point: and from this view we see that His triumph, and the humbling of His enemies in the presence of the multitude, are implied as matters decided from the very outset.

Mark 12:37. And whence is He then his son?—This question was intended to say to the Pharisees especially, that the Son of David, or the Messiah, as David’s Lord, must, according to the Scriptures, be of divine dignity; while to the people especially it was intended to say, that He was not to be David’s son in the sense that He had been appointed, as they expected, to found an external Messianic kingdom, after the nature of David’s kingdom. But the one conception cannot be severed from the other.—He who brings in a divine kingdom must introduce one of a different nature from an earthly one: he who introduces one of another, higher nature, must introduce a divine.—Heard Him gladly.—Not merely in the common sense, but with special reference to His divine dignity as the Messiah, was it that they listened to Him. The people were in the best mood for doing, and were on the point of doing, homage to Him.


1. See Matthew and the foregoing remarks.

2. In their last question, the Pharisees gave the Lord to understand that if God be only One, He (Jesus) could not be God’s Son, and desired in this way to force Him either to offend against monotheism, or to deny His own dignity. Christ, by His counter-question, lays down this proposition: Christ as David’s son, and at the same time David’s Lord, could not be man simply, though He is a real man. For David calls Him, not in a general way, his Lord; but Lord, the Lord, directly, and positively. At the same time, Jesus reveals to them mediately, by means of Psalms 110:0, that His kingdom is not of tie same nature as David’s, of a worldly character; that He should triumph over all His foes, and sit down upon the right hand of Majesty on high,—a declaration which comes distinctly and triumphantly forward in His trial before Caiaphas, Mark 14:62. See Hamann’s Golgotha, and Scheblimini.

3. Matthew marks chiefly the conviction which the last counter-question of Christ produced, made apparent by the silence of His opponents: Mark brings into prominence this presage of His victory over the rulers of the people, and the perfect spiritual might by which Jesus subdued His enemies. Hence, Mark notes this was a moment when Christ needed but to move His finger, and the whole hierarchy was overthrown, the people lay at His feet. And this was indeed no mere Galilæan triumphal entry, in which a few individual friends from Bethany and Jerusalem were mingled; but it was the Jewish people, who were assembled for the Paschal feast. It was the intensified repetition of the scene in Galilee, of which John gives the account, Mark 6:0. But Jesus wished to rule over the spirit, and through this rule establish a kingdom. The Israelitish authorities denied Him homage, in suppressed rage, in demoniacal silence. He retired, accordingly, now, in His full, decisive spirit-conquest over them, in secrecy, after He had finished His spiritual judgment in denunciations of woe, and in His decision regarding the gifts cast into the temple-treasury.


The people heard Him gladly. One of the many beautiful, solemn moments which Israel lost, deceived principally on this matter by its priesthood. (Similarly upon the days of palms. The general repentance after the Feast of Pentecost, Acts 5:0 The great moment in the life of Paul, Acts 22:22. A similar one in the life of James, according to Hegesippus, in Euseb. Mark 2:23.)—The mystery in the life of Jesus induces and allures unprejudiced minds to sink themselves into its depths.

Starke:—The Holy Scriptures contain very deep mysteries.—If a true Christian is to be formed out of a Pharisee, the knowledge of Christ in His humanity and divinity must spring up within that man.—Quesnel:—It is only faith which is able to unloose these knots (i. e., unite divinity and humanity).

Braune:—What think ye of Christ? This question is the sum of the law and the Gospel. He had been questioned, first, as to the tribute, from political motives; then regarding marriage and the resurrection, because of philosophical views; then concerning different commandments, on ethical grounds. He now asks the life-question of centuries (which springs from the centre of religion): Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 1:13.—Had Moses been superior to Christ, then had the chief question been, What is the chief command of the law? Because this is not the case, the question regarding the Saviour remains the chief and life-question. According to Christ’s view of the case, however, that first query, conceived not according to the law, but according to the Gospel, belongs to this second.

Schleiermacher:—He does not say, If He is his son, how is He then his Lord? but reversed, If he himself names Him his Lord, how is He then his son? He consequently represents the first as the greater (and yet it is the latter which forms the concluding point, inasmuch as He wishes to call upon them to give up their conception of the Messiah for the Old Testament conception of Him, which His life had exemplified).

Brieger:—The Pharisees having interrogated Him as to His power, He interrogates them as to His person (for they knew, it is properly remarked, that the people considered Him the Messiah).—It was now recognition or rejection. By this question Jesus wishes to lead them to decide.—The throne of God, at the right hand of which the Anointed is to seat Himself, is the throne “high and lifted up,” spoken of by Isaiah, Mark 6:0,—the heavenly throne, Psalms 9:7; Psalms 68:18; Psalms 29:10. It is the symbol of His rule over heaven and earth, Psalms 103:19; Rev 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:12.


[20][Mark 12:36.—Some MSS. read λέγει (“the Lord said”) instead of εἶπεν; Meyer asserts that εἶπεν comes from Matthew, Luke, and the cited passage in the Psalm.]

[21][Mark 12:37.—The οὖν is wanting in B., D., L., Δ., Syriac, Tischendorf; bracketed by Lachmann.]

Verses 38-40

7. The Lord’s Public Admonition to beware of the Scribes. Mark 12:38-40

(Parallels: Matthew , 23.; Luke 20:45-47)

38     And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the market-places, 39And the chief seats in the syna 40 gogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts; Which devour widows, houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.


See Matthew, and the parallels in Luke.—Mark, like Luke, gives us, of the great denunciatory speech against the Pharisees and scribes which Matthew records, but a very brief warning against the scribes. And how exactly accordant with the intention of his Gospel! It was only the Jewish Christians, for whom Matthew wrote, who could at once, and at that time, be summoned to gaze upon the pharisaic Judaism in all the blackness of its sunken state; for young Gentile Christians, the great punitive speech was to a certain extent unintelligible, and was besides too strong food. Hence the picture of the scribes is briefly given in their three principal features: ambition, avarice, and hypocritical external piety. The address is made up of the introductory word of warning by the Lord against the Pharisees, and of the first woe denounced by Him against them. The expression in Matthew, “Do not ye after their works,” is here, “Beware of them.” The religious enlarging of the garments, as Matthew relates it, is here briefly given in the going about in long clothing. The seeking of greetings precedes the desire for the chief seats in the synagogue, and the civic seats of honor; while the anxious listening for the salutation of Rabbi is passed over. With these chief seats at festivals is admirably united the devouring of widows’ houses, under pretence of long prayers, according to the first woe of Matthew. The address to the Pharisees, which we find in Matthew gradually passing into a direct, pointed attack, is here everywhere changed to the representation in the third person. Mark agrees almost verbally with Luke.

Mark 12:38. Which love, θελόντων.—Meyer: “Demand, claim.” But they did not first claim the walking about in long robes: they actually did this; and that, too, with pleasure, consciousness, and deliberation. They loved this, had pleasure in this.—In long clothing.—Gerlach: “Because they imitated the priests, who were the nobles of the Jewish people.” But are not the priests themselves included? Braune: “Because they imitated the venerable matrons.” Jewish Rabbis imitate women! The reference is undoubtedly to their wandering about the streets and public places with marks of distinction significant of religiousness, in long robes of office and rank; hence also in gowns and robes of various orders.

Mark 12:40. Which devour.—Grotius, Bengel, [Lachmann], and others, make a new sentence begin with of οἱ κατεσθίοντες. As administrators, guardians, representatives of unprotected widows (Theophylact); or also by embezzling the funds of the temple-foundations.—For the more lengthened denunciation, see Matthew.


1. See Matthew.—We have here three points of contrast: 1. Public appearance,—the proud walk in long trailing garments (devotion), the love of greetings (frivolity). 2. Demeanor in society,—love of the chief ecclesiastical seat, and at the same time of the places of honor at banquets and festive entertainments. 3. Personal and secret conduct,—the appropriation of the goods of the poor, under the veil and pretence of long prayers, and of supplications for the poor.


Comp. Matthew.—The scribes distinguished as the worst of the Pharisees.—The false scribes are considered in three different ways, apart from the Scriptures: 22 1. Upon the streets; 2. in business and at banquets; 3. as the appropriators of inheritances in families, and by secret means.—The veil of hypocrisy is a transparent covering: 1. The covering, a. the long robes, b. the long prayers; 2. the transparency of the covering, a. the walking about to be seen, b. the lust for the seats of honor, festive banquets, and unrighteous gain.—The hypocrite’s terrible picture: 1. His public appearance contradicts his secret conduct; 2. his external importance, and desire to be important, is in contradiction to his internal emptiness and unworthiness.—The extent to which a hypocritical profession is carried, is the measure of approaching punishment.—Satan, who clothes himself as an angel of light, and plays the part of man’s friend, is the archetype of all hypocrisy.

Starke:—As sinners are distinguished, so are their punishments.—The confession of sin mitigates the judgment; to hide sin, under the pretence of God’s service, makes the judgment heavier and more terrible, Proverbs 28:13.

Braune (upon the long clothing):—Somewhat as formerly many clergymen were wont to seek especial dignity from the size of their wigs, and the monks from their cowls and rosaries.—Stier:—Satan was the first who exalted himself to be brought low (the opposite of Christ).

Schleiermacher:—They used their piety only for external profit.—Brieger:—It is to be remarked, that Jesus pictures forth not individual scribes, but the whole sect. There were not wanting a few in whom better tendencies were to be found; see Mark 12:28-34.—The warning has a twofold intention: first, we are not to allow ourselves to be deceived by them; second, we are not to imitate their conduct.


[22][There is a play here upon words in the original: Schrift gelehrten ausserhalb der Schrift.—Ed.]

Verses 41-44

8. The Widow’s Mite, and our Lord’s view of the Piety and Good Works of the Jews. Mark 12:41-44

(Parallel: Luke 21:1-4)

41     And Jesus23 sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast24 into the treasury: 44For all they did cast in of their abundance: but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.


See the parallel passages in Luke.—This apparently trifling history is of inestimable importance. It shows how the Lord, in perfect quiet of spirit, can still seat Himself in the temple, after He had ended His great day’s work in it, namely, after the silence of the Sanhedrim regarding His person, in which its rejection of Him lay,—after He had opened His mouth, and pronounced the great denunciations, and with these had, as theocratic King, whom the authorities of Israel rejected, taken His departure from the temple. In this He seems like a deposed king, who seats Himself, as he leaves, on the lowest step of his palace, not to weep on account of his fall, but to bless the poor child of a palace-domestic; or like one excommunicated, who is able, under the new burden of its fanatical ban, to judge with the greatest mildness, and freedom from prejudice, that religious society which cast him out. It is the divine manifestation of His freedom from all fanatic disposition and exasperation, with which He had fought through the great decisive epochs, made His denunciatory speech, and presented His great judgment-picture. In this sunlike clearness and purity, the old Catholic Christians did not in general leave the heathen temples, and but few of the old Protestants the temples of Roman Catholicism. This eternally figurative import is gained by our passage in consequence of its position. In itself, however, it shows us, in a most instructive narrative and act of our Lord, how His eye—and how, consequently, God’s view, and the Spirit’s—rests upon the treasury of the Lord, and marks the act and manner in which we give. Luke has recorded this circumstance likewise; but Mark presents it more picturesquely and more fully. The Lord’s seating Himself opposite to the treasury, the statement of the worth of the mite, the summoning of the disciples to Himself, and the sublime elevation of tone characterizing the decision,—in all this we see plainly how important Mark deemed the history. It stands there to show that the Lord has His eye upon the offerings in His temple, and that, amid all the chaff of seeming religion, He finds out the noble grain of spirituality and truth.

Mark 12:41. The treasury, γαζοφυλάκιον—The sacrifice-fund is meant, which was distinguished from the proper temple-treasury, but yet, as belonging to it, was denoted by its name (Josephus, Ant. 19:6, 1). The Rabbis tell us that this treasury consisted of thirteen brazen chests (שׁוֹפָּרוֹת, “trumpets;” certainly not because the chests themselves were trumpet-shaped, but because the mouths through which the money was cast into the chests were wide at the top and narrow below). They stood in the outer court of the women. This offering-fund received also the voluntary gifts for the temple. Lightfoot, Hor.: “Nine chests were for the appointed temple-tribute, and for the sacrifice-tribute (that is, money-gifts, instead of the sacrifices); four chests for freewill-offerings, for wood, incense, temple-decoration, and burnt-offerings.” Before the Passover, freewill-offerings, in addition to the temple-tax, were generally presented. No one, we may easily suppose, entered the temple without putting something in. This is also the custom in the synagogue. The Church has taken an example from this habit.—Many that were rich cast in much.—They were not content to give only copper, which was the general offering, but presented silver. Or, perhaps, gave in copper, because a large gift in that metal was of greater bulk, and made more noise.

Mark 12:42. A certain poor widow.—She is singled out from the whole crowd of donors.—Two mites, λεπτόν—The very smallest copper coin. Two made one Roman quadrans, which was equal to the fourth of an as: ten or sixteen ases were equal to a denarius, which is equivalent to about five groschen, four pfennigs Prussian money (6½ pence, nearly). An as in Cicero’s time was worth nearly four pfennigs (or nearly a halfpenny); hence the quadrans would be one pfennig (one-tenth of a penny,) and the mite half a pfennig. She gave two; and Bengel remarks, she could have kept one. “The rabbinic injunction, ‘Non ponat homo λεπτόν in cistam eleemosynarum,’ is of no force here, because alms were not under consideration.” Meyer. Nevertheless, the inference drawn by Schöttgen is by no means foreign; only it is probable this rabbinic habit became, at a later period, the matter of rabbinic legislation.

Mark 12:43. More in than all they.—That is, in proportion to her means, as the Lord Himself immediately explains.


1. See Exegetical Note.

2. Jesus, to a certain degree as stranger, or observer of a religion now become foreign to Him, presents us with an ever-enduring example of the way in which one should, in the spirit of Christianity, look upon and judge all religious systems and associations. Such was the conduct of Paul at Athens, Acts 17:0. He found out the altar of the Unknown God.

3. The last object on which our Lord’s eyes rested in the temple.—The widow’s mite. It is not said that the gifts of the others were worthless. Many possessed, no doubt, no worth (Matthew 6:1); others, a greater or a lesser. The greatest value, however, attached itself to the widow’s mite.

4. And how much interest may that mite, in the course of the entire history of the Church, have accrued?


See Doctrinal Reflections.—The Lord’s sublime peace of soul in leaving the temple, where He had met no recognition.—The humble resting-place of the Lord at the temple-gate, after He had been refused the throne.—The backward glance of mildness which the Banished cast upon the Church system by which He had been banished.—Christ’s example teaches the heaven-wide distinction between godly zeal and ungodly fanaticism.—The Lord’s eyes are upon all offerings.—The mite of the widow as a gift: 1. The smallest gift; 2. the largest gift.—The freewill-offering of the heart, the real inner existence and life of the temple.—Christ observes with emotion the dying embers of the expiring fire of God in the temple.—The distinction between the treasury of the Lord in the law-church and Gospel-church (there, chiefly intended for symbolic temple necessities; here, Chiefly for the poor. See the lame beggar at the Beautiful gate of the temple, whom Peter heals).—The ancient estimable institution of Church alms.—Christo in pauperibus.

Starke:—Canstein:—The Lord Jesus pays attention, without doubt, to men’s alms; hence they should be willing to give, and take earnest heed how they give.—Bibl. Wirt.:—Christians must willingly deposit in God’s treasury, and contribute to the support of God’s service—churches, schools, the poor, 2 Corinthians 9:7.—J. Hall:—Where distribution is made to the poor, there Jesus pays attention, and takes pleasure therein.—O God, I have only two mites, a body and a soul.—Canstein:—Christ remarks a compassionate and believing heart, when alms are being given.—Nova. Bibl. Tub.:—God’s opinion regarding good works is infinitely different from that of men. Those who give the most, give often the least; and those who give the least, the most.—Servants must not exclude themselves from almsgiving.

Braune:—He says, Verily I say unto you, because He wishes to make His judgment abide, as though it were a dogma and fundamental principle in His divine kingdom.—How she must have fixed her trust upon God, and not have cared for the morrow; since she did to-day, what to-day brought with it, Malachi 1:8; Mark 12:14.

Schleiermacher:—If there had only been many such to give as this poor widow, who was ready to contribute all that she could claim as her own, to the support of God’s service, then might a purer zeal have developed itself, which had been far from degenerating into that tempest which destroyed the temple, and had contributed rather to prevent the downfall. This extreme tendency to externals on the part of the many was the first germ of destruction to that people.


[23][Mark 12:41.—‘Ο ’Ιησοῦς wanting in B., L., Δ., Tischendorf, Meyer; bracketed by Lachmann.]

[24][Mark 12:43.—Lachmann, after A., B., D., Origen, reads ἔβαλεν τῶν βαλλόντων.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Mark 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/mark-12.html. 1857-84.
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