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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 12

Verse 1

He began to speak unto them in parables (ηρξατο αυτοις εν παραβολαις λαλειν). Mark's common idiom again. He does not mean that this was the beginning of Christ's use of parables (see Mark 4:2), but simply that his teaching on this occasion took the parabolic turn. "The circumstances called forth the parabolic mood, that of one whose heart is chilled, and whose spirit is saddened by a sense of loneliness, and who, retiring within himself, by a process of reflection, frames for his thoughts forms which half conceal, half reveal them" (Bruce). Mark does not give the Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32) nor that of the Marriage Feast of the King's Son (Matthew 22:1-14). He gives here the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. Also in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-19. See discussion in Matthew. Matthew 21:33 calls the man "a householder" (οικοδεσποτης).

A pit for the winepress (υποληνιον). Only here in the N.T. Common in the LXX and in late Greek. Matthew had ληνον, winepress. This is the vessel or trough under the winepress on the hillside to catch the juice when the grapes were trodden. The Romans called it lacus (lake) and Wycliff dalf (lake), like delved. See on Matthew for details just alike.

Husbandmen (γεωργοις). Workers in the ground, tillers of the soil (εργον, γη).

Verse 2

At the season (τω καιρω). For fruits as in the end of the sentence.

A servant (δουλον). Bondslave. Matthew has plural.

That he might receive (ινα λαβη). Purpose clause with second aorist subjunctive. Matthew has infinitive λαβειν, purpose also.

Wounded in the head (εκεφαλιωσαν). An old verb (κεφαλαιω), to bring under heads (κεφαλη), to summarize. Then to hit on the head. Only here in the N.T.

Verse 5

Beating some and killing some (ους μεν δεροντεσ, ους δε αποκτεννυντες). This distributive use of the demonstrative appears also in Matthew 21:35 in the singular (ον μεν, ον δε, ον δε). Originally δερω in Homer meant to skin, flay, then to smite, to beat. Αποκτεννυντες is a μ form of the verb (αποκτεννυμ) and means to kill off.

Verse 6

A beloved son (υιον αγαπητον). Luke 20:13 has τον υιον τον αγαπητον. Jesus evidently has in mind the language of the Father to him at his baptism (Mark 1:11; Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22).

Last (εσχατον). Only in Mark. See on Matthew 21:37 for discussion of "reverence."

Verse 7

Among themselves (προς εαυτους). This phrase alone in Mark. Luke 20:14 has "with one another" (προς αλληλους), reciprocal instead of reflexive, pronoun.

Verse 8

Killed him and cast him forth (απεκτειναν αυτον, κα εξεβαλον αυτον). Matthew and Luke reverse the order, cast forth and killed.

Verse 10

This scripture (την γραφην ταυτην). This passage of scripture (Luke 4:21; John 19:37; Acts 1:16). It is a quotation from Psalms 118:22. See on Matthew 21:42 for discussion.

Verse 11

This (αυτη). Feminine in LXX may refer to

kephalˆ (head) or may be due to the Hebrew original

zoth (this thing) which would be neuter τουτο in a Greek original, a translation Hebraism.

Verse 12

Against them (προς αυτους). So Luke. It was a straight shot, this parable of the Rejected Stone (Mark 12:10) and the longer one of the Wicked Husbandmen. There was no mistaking the application, for he had specifically explained the application (Matthew 21:43-45). The Sanhedrin were so angry that they actually started or sought to seize him, but fear of the populace now more enthusiastic for Jesus than ever held them back. They went off in disgust, but they had to listen to the Parable of the King's Son before going (Matthew 22:1-14).

Verse 13

That they might catch him in talk (ινα αυτον αγρευσωσιν λογω). Ingressive aorist subjunctive. The verb is late from αγρα (a hunt or catching). It appears in the LXX and papyri. Here alone in the N.T. Luke 20:20 has the same idea, "that they may take hold of his speech" (επιλαβωντα αυτου λογον) while Matthew 22:15 uses παγιδευσωσιν (to snare or trap). See discussion in Matthew. We have seen the scribes and Pharisees trying to do this very thing before (Luke 11:33). Mark and Matthew note here the combination of Pharisees and Herodians as Mark did in Mark 3:6. Matthew speaks of "disciples" or pupils of the Pharisees while Luke calls them "spies" (ενκαθετους).

Verse 14

Shall we give or shall we not give? (δωμεν η μη δωμεν;). Mark alone repeats the question in this sharp form. The deliberative subjunctive, aorist tense active voice. For the discussion of the palaver and flattery of this group of theological students see on Matthew 22:16-22.

Verse 15

Knowing their hypocrisy (ειδως αυτων την υποχρισιν). Matthew 22:18 has "perceived their wickedness" (γνους την πονηριαν αυτων) while Luke 20:23 says, "perceived their craftiness" (κατανοησας αυτων την πανουργιαν). Each of these words throws a flash-light on the spirit and attitude of these young men. They were sly, shrewd, slick, but they did not deceive Jesus with their pious palaver. See on Matthew for further details.

Verse 17

Marvelled greatly at him (εξεθαυμαζον επ' αυτω). Imperfect tense with perfective use of the preposition εξ. Both Matthew and Luke use the ingressive aorist. Luke adds that they "held their peace" (εσιγησαν) while Matthew notes that they "went their way" (απηλθαν), went off or away.

Verse 18

There come unto him Sadducees (ερχοντα Σαδδουκαιο προς αυτον). Dramatic present. The Pharisees and Herodians had had their turn after the formal committee of the Sanhedrin had been so completely routed. It was inevitable that they should feel called upon to show their intellectual superiority to these raw Pharisaic and Herodian theologians. See on Matthew 22:23-33 for discussion of details. It was a good time to air their disbelief in the resurrection at the expense of the Pharisees and to score against Jesus where the Sanhedrin and then the Pharisees and Herodians had failed so ignominiously.

Verse 19

Moses wrote (Μωυσης εγραψεν). So Luke 20:28 (Genesis 38:8; Genesis 25:5). Matthew has "said" (ειπεν).

Verse 20

Took a wife (ελαβεν γυναικα). So Luke 20:29. Matthew has "married" (γημας).

Verse 22

Last of all (εσχατον παντων). Adverbial use of εσχατον.

Verse 23

To wife (γυναικα). Predicate accusative in apposition with "her" (αυτην). So Luke, but Matthew merely has "had her" (εσχον αυτην), constative aorist indicative active.

Verse 24

Is it not for this cause that ye err? (Ου δια τουτο πλανασθε;). Mark puts it as a question with ου expecting the affirmative answer. Matthew puts it as a positive assertion: "Ye are." Πλαναομα is to wander astray (cf. our word planet, wandering stars, αστερες πλανητα, Jude 1:13) like the Latin errare (our error, err).

That ye know not the scriptures (μη ειδοτες τας γραφας). The Sadducees posed as men of superior intelligence and knowledge in opposition to the traditionalists among the Pharisees with their oral law. And yet on this very point they were ignorant of the Scriptures. How much error today is due to this same ignorance among the educated!

Nor the power of God (μηδε την δυναμιν του θεου). The two kinds of ignorance generally go together (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:34).

Verse 25

When they shall rise from the dead (οταν εκ νεκρων αναστωσιν). Second aorist active subjunctive with οταν (οτε plus αν). Matthew 22:30 has it "in the resurrection," Luke 20:35 "to attain to the resurrection." The Pharisees regarded the future resurrection body as performing marriage functions, as Mohammedans do today. The Pharisees were in error on this point. The Sadducees made this one of their objections to belief in the resurrection body, revealing thus their own ignorance of the true resurrection body and the future life where marriage functions do not exist.

As angels in heaven (ως αγγελο εν τω ουρανω). So Matthew 22:30. Luke 20:36 has "equal unto the angels" (ισαγγελο). "Their equality with angels consists in their deliverance from mortality and its consequences" (Swete). The angels are directly created, not procreated.

Verse 26

In the place concerning the Bush (επ του βατου). This technical use of επ is good Greek, in the matter of, in the passage about, the Bush. Βατος is masculine here, feminine in Luke 20:37. The reference is to Exodus 3:3-6 (in the book of Moses, εν τη βιβλω).

Verse 27

Ye do greatly err (πολυ πλανασθε). Only in Mark. Solemn, severe, impressive, but kindly close (Bruce).

Verse 28

Heard them questioning together (ακουσας αυτων συνζητουντων). The victory of Christ over the Sadducees pleased the Pharisees who now had come back with mixed emotions over the new turn of things (Matthew 22:34). Luke 20:39 represents one of the scribes as commending Jesus for his skilful reply to the Sadducees. Mark here puts this scribe in a favourable light, "knowing that he had answered them well" (ειδως οτ καλως απεκριθη αυτοις). "Them" here means the Sadducees. But Matthew 22:35 says that this lawyer (νομικος) was "tempting" (πειραζων) by his question. "A few, among whom was the scribe, were constrained to admire, even if they were willing to criticize, the Rabbi who though not himself a Pharisee, surpassed the Pharisees as a champion of the truth." That is a just picture of this lawyer.

The first of all (πρωτη παντων). First in rank and importance. Matthew 22:36 has "great" (μεγαλη). See discussion there. Probably Jesus spoke in Aramaic. "First" and "great" in Greek do not differ essentially here. Mark quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 as it stands in the LXX and also Leviticus 19:18. Matthew 22:40 adds the summary: "On these two commandments hangeth (κρεματα) the whole law and the prophets."

Verse 32

And the scribe said (ειπεν αυτω ο γραμματευς). Mark alone gives the reply of the scribe to Jesus which is a mere repetition of what Jesus had said about the first and the second commandments with the additional allusion to 1 Samuel 15:22 about love as superior to whole burnt offerings.

Well (καλως). Not to be taken with "saidst" (ειπες) as the Revised Version has it following Wycliff. Probably καλως (well) is exclamatory. "Fine, Teacher. Of a truth (επ' αληθειας) didst thou say."

Verse 34

Discreetly (νουνεχως). From νους (intellect) and εχω, to have. Using the mind to good effect is what the adverb means. He had his wits about him, as we say. Here only in the N.T. In Aristotle and Polybius. Νουνεχοντως would be the more regular form, adverb from a participle.

Not far (ου μακραν). Adverb, not adjective, feminine accusative, a long way (οδον understood). The critical attitude of the lawyer had melted before the reply of Jesus into genuine enthusiasm that showed him to be near the kingdom of God.

No man after that (ουδεις ουκετ). Double negative. The debate was closed (ετολμα, imperfect tense, dared). Jesus was complete victor on every side.

Verse 35

How say the scribes (Πως λεγουσιν ο γραμματεις). The opponents of Jesus are silenced, but he answers them and goes on teaching (διδασκων) in the temple as before the attacks began that morning (Mark 11:27). They no longer dare to question Jesus, but he has one to put to them "while the Pharisees were gathered together" (Matthew 22:41). The question is not a conundrum or scriptural puzzle (Gould), but "He contents himself with pointing out a difficulty, in the solution of which lay the key to the whole problem of His person and work" (Swete). The scribes all taught that the Messiah was to be the son of David (John 7:41). The people in the Triumphal Entry had acclaimed Jesus as the son of David (Matthew 21:9). But the rabbis had overlooked the fact that David in Psalms 110:1 called the Messiah his Lord also. The deity and the humanity of the Messiah are both involved in the problem. Matthew 22:45 observes that "no one was able to answer him a word."

Verse 36

The footstool (υποποδιον). Westcott and Hort read υποκατω (under) after Aleph B D L.

Verse 37

The common people heard him gladly (ο πολυς οχλος ηκουεν αυτου εδεως). Literally, the much multitude (the huge crowd) was listening (imperfect tense) to him gladly. Mark alone has this item. The Sanhedrin had begun the formal attack that morning to destroy the influence of Jesus with the crowds whose hero he now was since the Triumphal Entry. It had been a colossal failure. The crowds were drawn closer to him than before.

Verse 38

Beware of the scribes (βλεπετε απο των γραμματεων). Jesus now turns to the multitudes and to his disciples (Matthew 23:1) and warns them against the scribes and the Pharisees while they are still there to hear his denunciation. The scribes were the professional teachers of the current Judaism and were nearly all Pharisees. Mark (Mark 14:38-40) gives a mere summary sketch of this bold and terrific indictment as preserved in Mark 12:23 in words that fairly blister today. Luke 20:45-47 follows Mark closely. See Matthew 8:15 for this same use of βλεπετε απο with the ablative. It is usually called a translation-Hebraism, a usage not found with βλεπω in the older Greek. But the papyri give it, a vivid vernacular idiom. "Beware of the Jews" (βλεπε σατον απο των Ιουδαιων, Berl. G. U. 1079. A.D. 41). See Robertson, Grammar, p. 577. The pride of the pompous scribes is itemized by Mark:

To walk in long robes (στολαις),

stoles , the dress of dignitaries like kings and priests.

Salutations in the marketplaces (ασπασμους εν ταις αγοραις), where the people could see their dignity recognized.

Verse 39

First seats in the synagogues (πρωτοκαθεδριας). As a mark of special piety, seats up in front while now the hypocrites present in church prefer the rear seats.

Chief places at feasts (πρωτοκλισιας εν τοις δειπνοις). Recognizing proper rank and station. Even the disciples fall victims to this desire for precedence at table (Luke 22:24).

Verse 40

Devour widows' houses (ο κατεσθοντες τας οικιας των χηρων). New sentence in the nominative. Terrible pictures of civil wrong by graft grabbing the homes of helpless widows. They inveigled widows into giving their homes to the temple and took it for themselves.

For a pretence make long prayers (προφασε μακρα προσευχομενο). Προφασε instrumental case of the same word (προφημ) from which prophet comes, but here pretext, pretence of extra piety while robbing the widows and pushing themselves to the fore. Some derive it from προφαινω, to show forth.

Greater (περισσοτερον). More abundant condemnation. Some comfort in that at any rate.

Verse 41

Sat down over against the treasury (καθισας κατεναντ του γαζοφυλακιου). The storm is over. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, scribes, have all slunk away in terror ere the closing words. Mark draws this immortal picture of the weary Christ sitting by the treasury (compound word in the LXX from γαζα, Persian word for treasure, and φυλακη, guard, so safe for gifts to be deposited).

Beheld (εθεωρε). Imperfect tense. He was watching

how the multitude cast money (πως ο οχλος βαλλε) into the treasury. The rich were casting in (εβαλλον, imperfect tense) as he watched.

Verse 42

One poor widow (μια χηρα πτωχη). Luke has πενιχρα, a poetical late form of πενης. In the N.T. the πτωχος is the pauper rather than the mere peasant, the extreme opposite of the rich (πλουσιο). The money given by most was copper (χαλκον).

Two mites (δυο λεπτα). Λεπτος means peeled or stripped and so very thin. Two λεπτα were about two-fifths of a cent.

Farthing (κοδραντες, Latin quadrans, a quarter of an as).

Verse 43

Called unto him (προσκαλεσαμενος). Indirect middle voice. The disciples themselves had slipped away from him while the terrific denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees had gone on, puzzled at this turn of affairs.

More than all (πλειον παντων). Ablative of comparison (παντων). It may mean, more than all the rich put together.

All that she had (παντα οσα ειχεν). Imperfect tense.

Cast in (εβαλεν). Aorist tense, in sharp contrast.

All her living (ολον τον βιον αυτης). Her

livelihood (βιος), not her life (ζωη). It is a tragedy to see a stingy saint pose as giving the widow's mite when he could give thousands instead of pennies.

Copyright Statement
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)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/mark-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.