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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 3


Mark 3:7 to Mark 7:37 . A new stage in the work of Jesus. “ Up to this point Christ’ s ministry is purely Galilean in scene, actors and horizon alike.” Now crowds come from long distances and from all parts of the country. The attention of the religious authorities at Jerusalem is drawn to Him ( cf. Mark 3:22). The work of evangelization is shared with twelve chosen disciples. The teaching of Jesus undergoes a twofold change. The seashore and the desert replace the synagogue, and the parables become Christ’ s customary form of utterance. How long this period of wider activity continues we do not know, nor is it quite clear at what point in his narrative Mk. would conclude it. But in Mark 7:17 ff. he begins to throw stress on the training of the Twelve, which has definitely led to the abandonment of the public ministry in Galilee when we reach Mark 9:30 f. Perhaps Mark 7:23 forms the point of transition.

Verses 1-6

Mark 3:1-Joshua : . The Sabbath Healing which Determined Pharisaic Hostility.— (See p. 666.) Mk. links this synagogue incident with his first ( Mark 1:21) by the word “ again.” Jesus is no longer unknown; He is suspect. Another healing in a synagogue may be used as the basis of a charge against Him. He challenges with a question the opponents who are watching Him. Is it not a more loyal observance of the Sabbath to save life as Jesus proposes to do than to be plotting evil against another man as the Pharisees are actually doing? (This interpretation seems to be more attractive than that adopted in HNT, Loisy, or Pfleiderer; who says, “ He recognises no third course between the fulfilment of duty by doing good and the transgression of duty by not doing good: for the omission of a possible work of love is in itself an evil-doing which cannot be justified by any Sabbatic ordinance.” ) The refusal of the Pharisees to answer the question moves Jesus to anger. This is one of the few passages peculiar to Mk. which attributes anger to Jesus ( cf. Mark 10:14); passionate grief rather than wrath is meant. The evangelist “ had little power of analysis and had not precise nomenclature for emotions shading into one another.” (See The Practice of Christianity by the author of Pro Christo et Ecclesia, p. 92, but note also Fairbairn’ s sentence, “ A character incapable of indignation is destitute of righteousness, without the will to give adequate expression to its moral judgments.” ) The result is the determined hostility of the religious and political leaders of Galilee, who even plot His destruction. (The plot to kill is perhaps introduced too early into the story. See Menzies.)

Mark 3:1 . The Gospel to the Hebrews adds that the man was a mason who asked Jesus to give him back the use of his arm to save him from the disgrace of begging. Such an addition is clearly an afterthought, and does not develop the main interest of the story. Cf. a more clearly irrelevant addition in the story of the rich young ruler ( Mark 10:17-Obadiah :).— his hand withered: the attempt to derive this story from that of king Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 13:6, see Loisy, p. 107) seems to depend on the word “ withered,” a very slight connexion!

Mark 3:5 . when he had looked round: characteristic of Jesus according to Mk.; cf. Mark 3:34; Mark 10:23; Mark 11:11; Mark 10:21. The “ kind but searching glance.”

Verses 7-12

Mark 3:7-2 Kings : . An editorial paragraph descriptive of the new development in the ministry. It is made up of popular generalizations, from which we gather that Jesus had to protect Himself against growing crowds by retiring from the cities to the sea-shore, and by securing a boat as a shelter. His work of healing and exorcism continues, the confessions of the demons becoming more explicit (see Swete on the phrases “ Son of God,” Mark 3:11, and “ Holy One of God,” Mark 1:24). The work of healing is itself a message of forgiveness ( Mark 2:1-2 Kings : *) for the diseases healed are described as “ plagues,” a word used in OT of Divine chastisement (see HNT and Swete). The whole paragraph suggests that the definite hostility of the Pharisees was followed by considerable changes in the scope and method of the Galilean ministry, and the suggestion is probably well founded.

Verses 13-19

Mark 3:13-Psalms : . The Appointment of the Twelve.— That Jesus associated with Himself an inner circle of twelve men is not open to reasonable question. If the number twelve be mythical, it must be suggested by the twelve tribes of Israel. The fact that His own ministry was confined to Israel, makes it natural for Jesus Himself to have acted on the suggestion. To trace the number, with the exponents of the Christ-myth, to the signs of the Zodiac, or the twelve apostles of the Jewish Patriarch of Alexandria (who are not known to have been twelve) is a gratuitous absurdity. The choice of the Twelve was made when Pharisaic hostility and popular enthusiasm increased the burden of the task of evangelization. Mk. emphasizes the choice of Christ. He called whom He would ( cf. John 15:16). These men are chosen to be with Jesus, a phrase peculiar to Mk. which discloses the meaning and the secret of disciple-ship. Bousset rightly asks, “ In which of the OT prophets does personal intercourse with disciples, this gradual outpouring of the wealth of the soul into the souls of others, play such a part as it does in the case of Jesus?” ( Jesus, p. 17). But the Twelve are also to be sent out to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom. We may note that Mk.’ s phrase suggests repeated tours, not one outstanding expedition such as is presupposed in Schweitzer’ s theory. Hence the name “ apostles” ( mg. in Mark 3:14 is perhaps part of the text; see Swete). In the list that follows, Mk. and Mt. agree in the name Thaddæ us, while Luke has Judas the son of James. The identification of Matthew with Levi rests on Matthew 9:9; Matthew 10:3. The nickname “ Sons of Thunder,” given to James and John has now been shown by Rendel Harris to be connected with the cult of twins. The sons of Zebedee were probably twins. Thomas is also a twin (see John 11:16; John 14:22 *, John 20:24; John 21:2). There is, therefore, some reason for suspecting that the apostolic list has been affected by folklore concerning twins. Simon the Cananæ an (the word has nothing to do with Canaan) is rightly identified by Lk. ( Luke 6:15) as a Zealot ( cf. mg. here). This is not a reference to his zeal but to his previous political opinions (pp. 609f., Acts 5:37 *). Swete says, “ This Simon cannot have belonged to the more advanced Zealots, who were associated with sedition and outrage.” But why cannot Jesus have converted and chosen an advanced Zealot? If He did, the fact is of some importance. The teaching of Jesus is perhaps more directly aimed at the Zealots than we sometimes suppose (see Windisch, Der Messianische Krieg; also Lake, The Stewardship of Faith, chaps. i. and ii.). [In Harvard Theological Review, Jan. 1917, Lake argues very cogently from Josephus that the use of the name Zealot to describe a Jewish sect or party cannot be earlier than A.D. 66. He thinks Mt. and Lk . may have made an error, or that we have been wrong in translating or explaining, and that Mt. and Lk. simply meant Simon the Zealous, a reference not to party but to personal character.— A.J.G.] The meaning of the name Iscariot is still obscure.

Mark 3:16 . The Ferrar group of MSS read, “ And He made first Simon.” The text adopted in RV is certainly corrupt, and some previous mention of Simon is required. This reading is perhaps better than mg.

Verses 20-35

Mark 3:20-Habakkuk : . The Answer of Jesus to the Verdict of the Jerusalem Scribes and the Intervention of His Family.— The introduction of this section would naturally link with Mark 3:6. Jesus returns home (presumably, to the house of Simon in Capernaum) after the second scene in the synagogue in Mark 3:1-Joshua :. Mk. has broken the thread of the original tradition in order to insert the list of the apostles. He certainly divides Mark 3:20 f. from Mark 3:31-Habakkuk : in order to associate with the judgment of the relatives of Jesus the still more outrageous verdict of the scribes from Jerusalem. The statement that the relatives of Jesus thought Him beside Himself (perhaps in a state of unbalanced ecstacy), is peculiar to Mk:. It is, however, necessary as leading up to the closing incident of the chapter. “ The incident in which Jesus disowns His family is only intelligible in Mk.” On the other hand, Mk. does not, like Matthew 12:22, cite a particular miracle as the occasion of the charge that Jesus was in league with the Evil One. He may regard the saying as a deliberate verdict of the official leaders of religion on the whole activity of Jesus. The relatives of Jesus doubted His sanity: the scribes denied His moral sincerity. [74] The reply to the scribes is given in parables (mentioned now for the first time). The scribal theory of exorcism was easy and convenient, but it implied an illogical division in the Satanic power. Since the overthrow of the spirits of evil is obvious, the advent of the higher power must be presupposed. Like one of the OT prophets, Jesus repudiates passionately the thoughtless denial of the purity of His inspiration. The sin against the Holy Ghost seems to lie in the intellectual laziness and moral insincerity which prefers to confound black and white, rather than recognise the coming of God in a new and unexpected quarter. Mk. may derive his version of the utterance of Jesus from Q (pp. 672, 675, 678). But it differs from the parallels in Mt. and Lk. at one or two points especially in Mark 3:28, “ sons of men,” where Mt. and Lk. have a reference to the “ Son of Man.” It is difficult to decide the question of priority (see Montefiore, i. 117). It is more important to recognise that Mk. seems to know some record or records of the teaching of Jesus from which he inserts sayings that bear on the points of special interest to himself and his readers. What Jesus said about exorcism concerns one of these points.

Mark 3:31-Habakkuk : . The crowd that gathered in Mark 3:20 is still round Jesus, so His mother and brethren can reach Him only by sending a message. Jesus refuses to recognise their claim to interfere, and enlarges the bounds of the Holy Family to include as His kinsfolk all who do God’ s will. This incident, undoubtedly historic, is difficult to reconcile with the story of the Virgin Birth. The silence as to Joseph is sometimes attributed to dogmatic reasons, but is better explained by the probability that he was already dead.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Mark 3". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.