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The beginning (αρχη). There is no article in the Greek. It is possible that the phrase served as a heading or title for the paragraph about the ministry of the Baptist or as the superscription for the whole Gospel (Bruce) placed either by Mark or a scribe. And then the Gospel of Jesus Christ means the Message about Jesus Christ (objective genitive). The word Gospel here (ευαγγελιον) comes close to meaning the record itself as told by Mark. Swete notes that each writer has a different starting point (αρχη). Mark, as the earliest form of the evangelic tradition, begins with the work of the Baptist, Matthew with the ancestry and birth of the Messiah, Luke with the birth of the Baptist, John with the Preincarnate Logos, Paul with the foundation of each of the churches (Philippians 4:15).
The Son of God (Hυιου θεου). Aleph 28, 255 omit these words, but B, D, L, have them and the great mass of the manuscripts have υιου του θεου. If this is a heading added to what Mark wrote, the heading may have existed early in two forms, one with, one without "Son of God." If Mark wrote the words, there is no reason to doubt the genuineness since he uses the phrase elsewhere.
In Isaiah, the prophet (εν τω Εσαια τω προφητη). The quotation comes from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. The Western and Neutral classes read Isaiah, the Alexandrian and Syrian, "the prophets," an evident correction because part of it is from Malachi. But Isaiah is mentioned as the chief of the prophets. It was common to combine quotations from the prophets in testimonia and catenae (chains of quotations). This is Mark's only prophetic quotation on his own account (Bruce).
The voice of one crying (φονη βοωντος). God is coming to his people to deliver them from their captivity in Babylon. So the prophet cries like a voice in the wilderness to make ready for the coming of God. When the committee from the Sanhedrin came to ask John who he was, he used this very language of Isaiah (John 1:23). He was only a voice, but we can still hear the echo of that voice through the corridor of the centuries.
Paths straight (ευθειας τας τριβους). Automobile highways today well illustrate the wonderful Persian roads for the couriers of the king and then for the king himself. The Roman Empire was knit together by roads, some of which survive today. John had a high and holy mission as the forerunner of the Messiah.
John came (εγενετο Ιωανης). His coming was an epoch (εγενετο), not a mere event (ην). His coming was in accordance with the prophetic picture (καθως, Mark 1:2). Note the same verb about John in John 1:6. The coming of John the Baptizer was the real beginning of the spoken message about Christ. He is described as
the baptizing one (ο απτιζων) in the wilderness (εν τη ερημω). The baptizing took place in the River Jordan (Mark 1:5; Mark 1:9) which was included in the general term the wilderness or the deserted region of Judea.
Preached the baptism of repentance (κηρυσσων βαπτισμα μετανοιας). Heralded a repentance kind of baptism (genitive case, genus case), a baptism marked by repentance. See on Matthew 3:2 for discussion of repent, an exceedingly poor rendering of John's great word μετανοιας. He called upon the Jews to change their minds and to turn from their sins, "confessing their sins" (εξομολογουμενο τας αμαρτιας αυτων). See Matthew 3:16. The public confessions produced a profound impression as they would now.
Unto remission of sins (εις αφεσιν αμαρτιων). This is a difficult phrase to translate accurately. Certainly John did not mean that the baptism was the means of obtaining the forgiveness of their sins or necessary to the remission of sins. The trouble lies in the use of εις which sometimes is used when purpose is expressed, but sometimes when there is no such idea as in Matthew 10:41 and Matthew 12:41. Probably "with reference to" is as good a translation here as is possible. The baptism was on the basis of the repentance and confession of sin and, as Paul later explained (Romans 6:4), was a picture of the death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ. This symbol was already in use by the Jews for proselytes who became Jews. John is treating the Jewish nation as pagans who need to repent, to confess their sins, and to come back to the kingdom of God. The baptism in the Jordan was the objective challenge to the people.
Then went out unto him (εξεπορευετο προς αυτον). Imperfect indicative describing the steady stream of people who kept coming to the baptism (εβαπτιζοντο, imperfect passive indicative, a wonderful sight).
In the river Jordan (εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμω). In the Jordan river, literally.
Clothed with camel's hair (ενδεδυμενος τριχας καμηλου). Matthew (Matthew 3:4) has it a garment (ενδυμα) of camel's hair. Mark has it in the accusative plural the object of the perfect passive participle retained according to a common Greek idiom. It was, of course, not camel's skin, but rough cloth woven of camel's hair. For the locusts and wild honey, see on Matthew 3:4. Dried locusts are considered palatable and the wild honey, or "mountain honey" as some versions give it (μελ αγριον), was bountiful in the clefts of the rocks. Some Bedouins make their living yet by gathering this wild honey out of the rocks.
Mightier than I (ο ισχυροτερος μου). In each of the Synoptics. Gould calls it a skeptical depreciation of himself by John. But it was sincere on John's part and he gives a reason for it.
The Latchet (τον ιμαντα). The thong of the sandal which held it together. When the guest comes into the house, performed by a slave before one enters the bath. Mark alone gives this touch.
With water (υδατ). So Luke (Luke 3:16) the locative case,
in water . Matthew (Matthew 3:11) has εν (in), both with (in) water and the Holy Spirit. The water baptism by John was a symbol of the spiritual baptism by Jesus.
In the Jordan (εις τον Ιορδανην). So in verse Mark 1:10, εκ του υδατος, out of the water, after the baptism into the Jordan. Mark is as fond of "straightway" (ευθυς) as Matthew is of "then" (τοτε).
Rent asunder (σχιζομενους). Split like a garment, present passive participle. Jesus saw the heavens parting as he came up out of the water, a more vivid picture than the "opened" in Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:21. Evidently the Baptist saw all this and the Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus as a dove because he later mentions it (John 1:32). The Cerinthian Gnostics took the dove to mean the heavenly aeon Christ that here descended upon the man Jesus and remained with him till the Cross when it left him, a sort of forecast of the modern distinction between the Jesus of history and the theological Christ.
Thou art (συ ε). So Luke 3:22. Matthew 3:17 has
this is (ουτος εστιν) which see. So both Mark and Luke have "in thee," while Matthew has "in whom."
Driveth him forth (αυτον εκβαλλε). Vivid word, bolder than Matthew's "was led up" (ανηχθη) and Luke's "was led" (ηγετο). It is the same word employed in the driving out of demons (Mark 1:34; Mark 1:39). Mark has here "straightway" where Matthew has "then" (see on verse Mark 1:9). The forty days in the wilderness were under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. The entire earthly life of Jesus was bound up with the Holy Spirit from his birth to his death and resurrection.
With the wild beasts (μετα τωυ θηριων). Mark does not give the narrative of the three temptations in Matthew and Luke (apparently from the Logia and originally, of course, from Jesus himself). But Mark adds this little touch about the wild beasts in the wilderness. It was the haunt at night of the wolf, the boar, the hyena, the jackal, the leopard. It was lonely and depressing in its isolation and even dangerous. Swete notes that in Psalms 90:13 the promise of victory over the wild beasts comes immediately after that of angelic guardianship cited by Satan in Matthew 4:6. The angels did come and minister (διηκονουν), imperfect tense, kept it up till he was cheered and strengthened. Dr. Tristram observes that some Abyssinian Christians are in the habit of coming to the Quarantania during Lent and fasting forty days on the summit amid the ruins of its ancient cells and chapels where they suppose Jesus was tempted. But we are all tempted of the devil in the city even worse than in the desert.
Jesus came into Galilee (ηλθεν ο Ιησους εις την Γαλιλαιαν). Here Mark begins the narrative of the active ministry of Jesus and he is followed by Matthew and Luke. Mark undoubtedly follows the preaching of Peter. But for the Fourth Gospel we should not know of the year of work in various parts of the land (Perea, Galilee, Judea, Samaria) preceding the Galilean ministry. John supplements the Synoptic Gospels at this point as often. The arrest of John had much to do with the departure of Jesus from Judea to Galilee (John 4:1-4).
Preaching the gospel of God (κηρυσσων το ευαγγελιον του θεου). It is the subjective genitive, the gospel that comes from God. Swete observes that repentance (μετανοια) is the keynote in the message of the Baptist as gospel (ευαγγελιον) is with Jesus. But Jesus took the same line as John and proclaimed both repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Mark adds to Matthew's report the words "the time is fulfilled" (πεπληρωτα ο καιρος). It is a significant fact that John looks backward to the promise of the coming of the Messiah and signalizes the fulfilment as near at hand (perfect passive indicative). It is like Paul's fulness of time (πληρωμα του χρονου) in Galatians 4:4 and fulness of the times (πληρωμα τον καιρων) in Ephesians 1:10 when he employs the word καιρος, opportunity or crisis as here in Mark rather than the more general term χρονος. Mark adds here also: "and believe in the gospel" (κα πιστευετε εν τω ευαγγελιω). Both repent and believe in the gospel. Usually faith in Jesus (or God) is expected as in John 14:1. But this crisis called for faith in the message of Jesus that the Messiah had come. He did not use here the term Messiah, for it had come to have political connotations that made its use at present unwise. But the kingdom of God had arrived with the presence of the King. It does make a difference what one believes. Belief or disbelief in the message of Jesus made a sharp cleavage in those who heard him. "Faith in the message was the first step; a creed of some kind lies at the basis of confidence in the Person of Christ, and the occurrence of the phrase πιστυετε εν τω ευαγγελιω in the oldest record of the teaching of our Lord is a valuable witness to this fact" (Swete).
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee (κα παραγων παρα την θαλασσαν της Γαλιλαιας). Mark uses παρα (along, beside) twice and makes the picture realistic. He catches this glimpse of Christ in action. Casting a
net (αμφιβαλλοντας). Literally casting on both sides, now on one side, now on the other. Matthew (Matthew 4:18) has a different phrase which see. There are two papyri examples of the verb αμφιβαλλω, one verb absolutely for fishing as here, the other with the accusative. It is fishing with a net, making a cast, a haul. These four disciples were fishermen (αλιεις) and were
partners (μετοχο) as Luke states (Luke 5:7).
Become (γενεσθα). Mark has this word not in Matthew. It would be a slow and long process, but Jesus could and would do it. He would undertake to make fishers of men out of fishermen. Preachers are made out of laymen who are willing to leave their business for service for Christ.
A little further (ολιγον). A Marcan detail.
Mending their nets (καταρτιζοντας τα δικτυα). See on Matthew 4:21. Getting ready that they might succeed better at the next haul.
With the hired servants (μετα των μισθωτων). One hired for wages (μισθος), a very old Greek word. Zebedee and his two sons evidently had an extensive business in co-operation with Andrew and Simon (Luke 5:7; Luke 5:10). Mark alone has this detail of the hired servants left with Zebedee. They left the boat and their father (Matthew 4:22) with the hired servants. The business would go on while they left all (Luke 5:11) and became permanent followers of Jesus. Many a young man has faced precisely this problem when he entered the ministry. Could he leave father and mother, brothers and sisters, while he went forth to college and seminary to become a fisher of men? Not the least of the sacrifices made in the education of young preachers is that made by the home folks who have additional burdens to bear because the young preacher is no longer a bread-winner at home. Most young preachers joyfully carry on such burdens after entering the ministry.
And taught (εδιδασκεν). Inchoative imperfect, began to teach as soon as he entered the synagogue in Capernaum on the sabbath. The synagogue in Capernaum afforded the best opening for the teaching of Jesus. He had now made Capernaum (Tell Hum) his headquarters after the rejection in Nazareth as explained in Luke 4:16-31 and Matthew 4:13-16. The ruins of this synagogue have been discovered and there is even talk of restoring the building since the stones are in a good state of preservation. Jesus both taught (διδασκω) and preached (κηρυσσω) in the Jewish synagogues as opportunity was offered by the chief or leader of the synagogue (αρχισυναγωγος). The service consisted of prayer, praise, reading of scripture, and exposition by any rabbi or other competent person. Often Paul was invited to speak at such meetings. In Luke 4:20 Jesus gave back the roll of Isaiah to the attendant or beadle (τω υπηρετη) whose business it was to bring out the precious manuscript and return it to its place. Jesus was a preacher of over a year when he began to teach in the Capernaum synagogue. His reputation had preceded him (Luke 4:14).
They were astonished (εξεπλησσοντο). Pictorial imperfect as in Luke 4:32 describing the amazement of the audience, "meaning strictly to strike a person out of his senses by some strong feeling, such as fear, wonder, or even joy" (Gould).
And not as their scribes (κα ουχ ως ο γραμματεις). Luke 4:32 has only "with authority" (εν εξουσια). Mark has it "as having authority" (ως εχων εξουσιαν). He struck a note not found by the rabbi. They quoted other rabbis and felt their function to be expounders of the traditions which they made a millstone around the necks of the people. By so doing they set aside the word and will of God by their traditions and petty legalism (Mark 7:9; Mark 7:13). They were casuists and made false interpretations to prove their punctilious points of external etiquette to the utter neglect of the spiritual reality. The people noticed at once that here was a personality who got his power (authority) direct from God, not from the current scribes. "Mark omits much, and is in many ways a meagre Gospel, but it makes a distinctive contribution to the evangelic history in showing by a few realistic touches (this one of them) the remarkable personality of Jesus" (Bruce). See on Matthew 7:29 for the like impression made by the Sermon on the Mount where the same language occurs. The chief controversy in Christ's life was with these scribes, the professional teachers of the oral law and mainly Pharisees. At once the people see that Jesus stands apart from the old group. He made a sensation in the best sense of that word. There was a buzz of excitement at the new teacher that was increased by the miracle that followed the sermon.
With an unclean spirit (εν πνευματ ακαθαρτω). This use of εν "with" is common in the Septuagint like the Hebrew be, but it occurs also in the papyri. It is the same idiom as "in Christ," "in the Lord" so common with Paul. In English we speak of our being in love, in drink, in his cups, etc. The unclean spirit was in the man and the man in the unclean spirit, a man in the power of the unclean spirit. Luke has "having," the usual construction. See on Matthew 22:43. Unclean spirit is used as synonymous with
demon (δαιμονιον). It is the idea of estrangement from God (Zechariah 13:2). The whole subject of demonology is difficult, but no more so than the problem of the devil. Jesus distinguishes between the man and the unclean spirit. Usually physical or mental disease accompanied the possession by demons. One wonders today if the degenerates and confirmed criminals so common now are not under the power of demons. The only cure for confirmed criminals seems to be conversion (a new heart).
What have we to do with thee? (τ ημιν κα σοι?) The same idiom in Matthew 8:29. Ethical dative. Nothing in common between the demon and Jesus. Note "we." The man speaks for the demon and himself, double personality. The recognition of Jesus by the demons may surprise us since the rabbis (the ecclesiastics) failed to do so. They call Jesus "The Holy One of God" (ο αγιος του θεου). Hence the demon feared that Jesus was come to destroy him and the man in his power. In Matthew 8:29 the demon calls Jesus "Son of God." Later the disciples will call Jesus "The Holy One of God" (John 6:69). The demon cried out aloud (ανεκραξεν, late first aorist form, ανεκραγεν, common second aorist) so that all heard the strange testimony to Jesus. The man says "I know" (οιδα), correct text, some manuscripts "we know" (οιδαμεν), including the demon.
Hold thy peace (φιμωθητ). First aorist passive imperative of φιμοω. "Be quiet," Moffatt translates it. But it is a more vigorous word, "Be muzzled" like an ox. So literally in Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18. It is common in Josephus, Lucian, and the LXX. See Matthew 22:12; Matthew 22:34. Gould renders it "Shut up." "Shut your mouth" would be too colloquial. Vincent suggests "gagged," but that is more the idea of επιστομαζειν in Titus 1:11, to stop the mouth.
Tearing him (σπαραξαν αυτον). Margin,
convulsing him like a spasm. Medical writers use the word for the rotating of the stomach. Luke 4:35 adds "when the demon had thrown him down in the midst." Mark mentions the "loud voice" (φονη μεγαλη), a screech, in fact. It was a moment of intense excitement.
They questioned among themselves (συνζητειν αυτους). By look and word.
A new teaching (διδαχη καινη). One surprise had followed another this day. The teaching was fresh (καινη), original as the dew of the morning on the blossoms just blown. That was a novelty in that synagogue where only staid and stilted rabbinical rules had been heretofore droned out. This new teaching charmed the people, but soon will be rated as heresy by the rabbis. And it was with authority (κατ' εξουσιαν). It is not certain whether the phrase is to be taken with "new teaching," "It's new teaching with authority behind it," as Moffatt has it, or with the verb; "with authority commandeth even the unclean spirits" (κα τοις πνευμασιν τοις ακαθαρτοις επιτασσε). The position is equivocal and may be due to the fact that "Mark gives the incoherent and excited remarks of the crowd in this natural form" (Swete). But the most astonishing thing of all is that the demons "obey him" (υπακουουσιν αυτω). The people were accustomed to the use of magical formulae by the Jewish exorcists (Matthew 12:27; Acts 19:13), but here was something utterly different. Simon Magus could not understand how Simon Peter could do his miracles without some secret trick and even offered to buy it (Acts 8:19).
The report of him (η ακοη αυτου). Vulgate, rumor. See Matthew 14:1; Matthew 24:6. They had no telephones, telegraphs, newspapers or radio, but news has a marvellous way of spreading by word of mouth. The fame of this new teacher went out "everywhere" (πανταχου) throughout all Galilee.
The house of Simon and Andrew (την οικιαν Σιμωνος κα Ανδρεου). Peter was married and both he and Andrew lived together in "Peter's house" (Matthew 8:14) with Peter's wife and mother-in-law. Peter was evidently married before he began to follow Jesus. Later his wife accompanied him on his apostolic journeys (1 Corinthians 9:5). This incident followed immediately after the service in the synagogue on the sabbath. All the Synoptics give it. Mark heard Peter tell it as it occurred in his own house where Jesus made his home while in Capernaum. Each Gospel gives touches of its own to the story. Mark has "lay sick of a fever " (κατεκειτο πυρεσσουσα), lay prostrate burning with fever. Matthew puts it "stretched out (βεβλημενην) with a fever." Luke has it "holden with a great fever" (ην συνεχομενη πυρετω μεγαλω), a technical medical phrase. They all mention the instant recovery and ministry without any convalescence. Mark and Matthew speak of the touch of Jesus on her hand and Luke speaks of Jesus standing over her like a doctor. It was a tender scene.
When the sun did set (οτε εδυσεν ο ηλιος). This picturesque detail Mark has besides "at even" (οψιας γενομενης, genitive absolute, evening having come). Matthew has "when even was come," Luke "when the sun was setting." The sabbath ended at sunset and so the people were now at liberty to bring their sick to Jesus. The news about the casting out of the demon and the healing of Peter's mother-in-law had spread all over Capernaum. They brought them in a steady stream (imperfect tense, εφερον). Luke (Luke 4:40) adds that Jesus laid his hand on every one of them as they passed by in grateful procession.
At the door (προς την θυραν). At the door of Peter's house. The whole city was gathered together there (n episungmen, past perfect passive periphrastic indicative, double compound επ and συν). Mark alone mentions this vivid detail. He is seeing with Peter's eyes again. Peter no doubt watched the beautiful scene with pride and gratitude as Jesus stood in the door and healed the great crowds in the glory of that sunset. He loved to tell it afterwards.
Divers diseases (ποικιλαις νοσοις). See Matthew 4:24 about ποικιλος meaning many-coloured, variegated. All sorts of sick folk came and were healed.
Devils (δαιμονια). Demons it should be translated always.
Suffered not (ουκ ηφιεν). Would not allow, imperfect tense of continued refusal. The reason given is "because they knew him" (οτ ηιδεισαν αυτον). Whether "to be Christ" (Χριστον εινα) is genuine or not, that is the meaning and is a direct reference to Mark 1:24 when in the synagogue the demon recognized and addressed Jesus as the Holy One of God. Testimony from such a source was not calculated to help the cause of Christ with the people. He had told the other demon to be silent. See on Matthew 8:29 for discussion of the word demon.
In the morning, a great while before day (πρω εννυχα λιαν). Luke has only "when it was day" (γενομενης ημερας). The word πρω in Mark means the last watch of the night from three to six A.M. Εννυχα λιαν means in the early part of the watch while it was still a bit dark (cf. Mark 16:2 λιαν πρω).
Rose up and went out (αναστας εξηλθεν). Out of the house and out of the city, off (απηλθεν, even if not genuine, possibly a conflate reading from Mark 6:32; Mark 6:46). "Flight from the unexpected reality into which His ideal conception of His calling had brought Him" (H.J. Holtzmann). Gould notes that Jesus seems to retreat before his sudden popularity, to prayer with the Father "that he might not be ensnared by this popularity, or in any way induced to accept the ways of ease instead of duty." But Jesus also had a plan for a preaching tour of Galilee and "He felt He could not begin too soon. He left in the night, fearing opposition from the people" (Bruce). Surely many a popular preacher can understand this mood of Jesus when in the night he slips away to a solitary place for prayer. Jesus knew what it was to spend a whole night in prayer. He knew the blessing of prayer and the power of prayer.
And there prayed (κ'ακε προσηυχετο). Imperfect tense picturing Jesus as praying through the early morning hours.
Followed after him (κατεδιωξεν αυτον). Hunted him out (Moffatt). Perfective use of the preposition κατα (down to the finish). The verb διωκω is used for the hunt or chase, pursuit. Vulgate has persecutus est. The personal story of Peter comes in here. "Simon's intention at least was good; the Master seemed to be losing precious opportunities and must be brought back" (Swete). Peter and those with him kept up the search till they found him. The message that they brought would surely bring Jesus back to Peter's house.
Into the next towns (εις τας εχομενας κωμοπολεις). It was a surprising decision for Jesus to leave the eager, excited throngs in Capernaum for the country town or village cities without walls or much importance. Only instance of the word in the N.T. Late Greek word. The use of εχομενας for next is a classic use meaning clinging to, next to a thing. So in Luke 13:33; Acts 13:44; Acts 20:15; Hebrews 6:9. "D" here has εγγυς (near).
Throughout all Galilee (Εις ολην την Γαλιλαιαν). The first tour of Galilee by Jesus. We are told little about this great preaching tour.
Kneeling down to him (κα γονυπετων). Picturesque detail omitted by some MSS. Luke 5:12 has "fell on his face."
Being moved with compassion (σπλαγχνισθεις). Only in Mark. First aorist passive participle.
Strictly charged (εμβριμησαμενος). Only in Mark. Luke 5:14 has παρηγγειλεν (commanded). Mark's word occurs also in Mark 14:5 and in Matthew 9:30 and John 11:38. See on Matthew 9:30. It is a strong word for the snorting of a horse and expresses powerful emotion as Jesus stood here face to face with leprosy, itself a symbol of sin and all its train of evils. The command to report to the priests was in accord with the Mosaic regulations and the prohibition against talking about it was to allay excitement and to avoid needless opposition to Christ.
For a testimony unto them (εις μαρτυριον αυτοις). Without the formal testimony of the priests the people would not receive the leper as officially clean.
Began to publish it much (ηρξατο κηρυσσειν πολλα). Luke 5:15 puts it, "so much the more" (μαλλον). One of the best ways to spread a thing is to tell people not to tell. It was certainly so in this case. Soon Jesus had to avoid cities and betake himself to desert places to avoid the crowds and even then people kept coming to Jesus (ηρχοντο, imperfect tense). Some preachers are not so disturbed by the onrush of crowds.
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter