Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 13

Verse 1

Master, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings (διδασκαλε ιδε ποταποι λιτοι και ποταπαι οικοδομαιdidaskale ide potapoi lithoi kai potapai oikodomai). Matthew 24:1 and Luke 21:5 tell of the fact of the comment, but Mark alone gives the precise words. Perhaps Peter himself (Swete) was the one who sought thus by a pleasant platitude to divert the Teacher‘s attention from the serious topics of recent hours in the temple. It was not a new observation, but the merest commonplace might serve at this crisis. Josephus (Ant. xv. II, 3) speaks of the great size of these stones and the beauty of the buildings. Some of these stones at the southeastern and southwestern angles survive today and measure from twenty to forty feet long and weigh a hundred tons. Jesus had, of course, often observed them.

Verse 2

These great buildings (ταυτας τας οικοδομαςtautas tas oikodomas). Jesus fully recognizes their greatness and beauty. The more remarkable will be their complete demolition (καταλυτηιkataluthēi), loosened down. Only the foundation stones remain.

Verse 3

Over against the temple (κατεναντι του ιερουkatenanti tou hierou). In full view of the temple about which they had been speaking.

Privately (κατ ιδιανkat' idian). Peter and James and John and Andrew (named only in Mark) had evidently been discussing the strange comment of Jesus as they were coming out of the temple. In their bewilderment they ask Jesus a bit to one side, though probably all the rest drew up as Jesus began to speak this great eschatological discourse.

Verse 4

Tell us, when shall these things be? (Ειπον ημιν ποτε ταυτα εσταιEipon hēmin pote tauta estai̱). The Revised Version punctuates it as a direct question, but Westcott and Hort as an indirect inquiry. They asked about the when (ποτεpote) and the what sign (τι σημειονti sēmeion). Matthew 24:3 includes “the sign of thy coming and the end of the world,” showing that these tragic events are brought before Jesus by the disciples. See discussion of the interpretation of this discourse on Matthew 24:3. This chapter in Mark is often called “The Little Apocalypse” with the notion that a Jewish apocalypse has been here adapted by Mark and attributed to Jesus. Many of the theories attribute grave error to Jesus or to the Gospels on this subject. The view adopted in the discussion in Matthew is the one suggested here, that Jesus blended in one picture his death, the destruction of Jerusalem within that generation, the second coming and end of the world typified by the destruction of the city. The lines between these topics are not sharply drawn in the report and it is not possible for us to separate the topics clearly. This great discourse is the longest preserved in Mark and may be due to Peter. Mark may have given it in order “to forewarn and forearm” (Bruce) the readers against the coming catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem. Both Matthew (Matthew 24) and Luke (Luke 21:5-36) follow the general line of Mark 13 though Matthew 24:43-25:46 presents new material (parables).

Verse 5

Take need that no man lead you astray (λεπετε μη τις μας πλανησηιBlepete mē tis hūmās planēsēi). Same words in Matthew 24:4. Luke 21:8 has it “that ye be not led astray” (μη πλανητητεmē planēthēte). This word πλαναωplanaō (our planet) is a bold one. This warning runs through the whole discussion. It is pertinent today after so many centuries. About the false Christs then and now see Matthew 24:5. It is amazing the success that these charlatans have through the ages in winning the empty-pated to their hare-brained views. Only this morning as I am writing a prominent English psychologist has challenged the world to a radio communication with Mars asserting that he has made frequent trips to Mars and communicated with its alleged inhabitants. And the daily papers put his ebullitions on the front page. For discussion of the details in Mark 13:6-8 see notes on Matthew 24:5-8. All through the ages in spite of the words of Jesus men have sought to apply the picture here drawn to the particular calamity in their time.

Verse 7

Must needs come to pass (δει γενεσταιdei genesthai). Already there were outbreaks against the Jews in Alexandria, at Seleucia with the slaughter of more than fifty thousand, at Jamnia, and elsewhere. Caligula, Claudius, Nero will threaten war before it finally comes with the destruction of the city and temple by Titus in a.d. 70. Vincent notes that between this prophecy by Jesus in a.d. 30 (or 29) and the destruction of Jerusalem there was an earthquake in Crete (a.d. 46 or 47), at Rome (a.d. 51), at Apamaia in Phrygia (a.d. 60), at Campania (a.d. 63). He notes also four famines during the reign of Claudius a.d. 41-54. One of them was in Judea in a.d. 44 and is alluded to in Acts 11:28. Tacitus (Annals xvi. 10-13) describes the hurricanes and storms in Campania in a.d. 65.

Verse 9

But take heed to yourselves (λεπετε δε υμεις εαυτουςBlepete de humeis heautous). Only in Mark, but dominant note of warning all through the discourse. Note υμειςhumeis here, very emphatic.

Councils (συνεδριαsunedria). Same word as the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. These local councils (συν εδραsun δαρησεστε hedra sitting together) were modelled after that in Jerusalem.

Shall ye be beaten (δερωdarēsesthe). Second future passive indicative second person plural. The word επι ηγεμονων και βασιλεωνderō means to flay or skin and here has been softened into beat like our tan or skin in the vernacular. Aristophanes has it in this colloquial sense as have the papyri in the Koiné. Before governors and kings (στατησεστεepi hēgemonōn kai basileōn). Gentile rulers as well as before Jewish councils.

Shall stand (ιστημιstathēsesthe). First aorist passive indicative second person plural of histēmi f0).

Verse 10

Must first be preached (πρωτον δει κηρυχτηναιprōton dei kēruchthēnai). This only in Mark. It is interesting to note that Paul in Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:23 claims that the gospel has spread all over the world. All this was before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Verse 11

Be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak (μη προμεριμνατε τι λαλησητεmē promerimnāte ti lalēsēte). Negative with present imperative to make a general prohibition or habit. Jesus is not here referring to preaching, but to defences made before these councils and governors. A typical example is seen in the courage and skill of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin in Acts. The verb μεριμναωmerimnaō is from μεριζωmerizō (μεριςmeris), to be drawn in opposite directions, to be distracted. See Matthew 6:25. They are not to be stricken with fright beforehand, but to face fearlessly those in high places who are seeking to overthrow the preaching of the gospel. There is no excuse here for the lazy preacher who fails to prepare his sermon out of the mistaken reliance upon the Holy Spirit. They will need and will receive the special help of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14-16).

Verse 13

But he that endureth to the end (ο δε υπομεινας εις τελοςho de hupomeinas eis telos). Note this aorist participle with the future verb. The idea here is true to the etymology of the word, remaining under (υπομενωhupomenō) until the end. The divisions in families Jesus had predicted before (Luke 12:52.; Luke 14:25.).

Be saved (σωτησεταιsōthēsetai). Here Jesus means final salvation (effective aorist future passive), not initial salvation.

Verse 14

Standing where he ought not (εστηκοτα οπου ου δειhestēkota hopou ou dei). Matthew 24:15 has “standing in the holy place” (εστος εν τοποι αγιωιhestos en topoi hagiōi), neuter and agreeing with βδελυγμαbdelugma (abomination), the very phrase applied in 1 Maccabees 1:54 to the altar to Zeus erected by Antiochus Epiphanes where the altar to Jehovah was. Mark personifies the abomination as personal (masculine), while Luke 21:20 defines it by reference to the armies (of Rome, as it turned out). So the words of Daniel find a second fulfilment, Rome taking the place of Syria (Swete). See Matthew 24:15 for this phrase and the parenthesis inserted in the words of Jesus (“Let him that readeth understand”). See also Matthew 24:16-25 for discussion of details in Mark 13:14-22.

Verse 16

In the field (εις τον αγρονeis ton agron). Here Matthew 24:18 has εν τωι αγρωιen tōi agrōi showing identical use of ειςeis with accusative and ενen with the locative.

Verse 19

Which God created (ην εκτισεν ο τεοςhēn ektisen ho theos). Note this amplification to the quotation from Daniel 12:1.

Verse 20

Whom he chose (ους εχελεχατοhous exelexato). Indirect aorist middle indicative. In Mark alone. Explains the sovereign choice of God in the end by and for himself.

Verse 22

That they may lead astray (προς το αποπλαναινpros to apoplanāin). With a view to leading off (προςpros and the infinitive). Matthew 24:24 has ωστε αποπλασταιhōste apoplāsthai so as to lead off.

Verse 23

But take ye heed (υμεις δε βλεπετεHumeis de blepete). Gullibility is no mark of a saint or of piety. Note emphatic position of you (υμειςhumeis). Credulity ranks no higher than scepticism. God gave us our wits for self-protection. Christ has warned us beforehand.

Verse 24

The sun shall be darkened (ο ελιος σκοτιστησεταιho helios skotisthēsetai). Future passive indicative. These figures come from the prophets (Isaiah 13:9.; Ezekiel 32:7.; Joel 2:1., Joel 2:10.; Amos 8:9; Zephaniah 1:14-16; Zechariah 12:12). One should not forget that prophetic imagery was not always meant to be taken literally, especially apocalyptic symbols. Peter in Acts 2:15-21 applies the prophecy of Joel about the sun and moon to the events on the day of Pentecost. See Matthew 24:29-31 for details of Mark 13:24-27.

Verse 25

The stars shall be falling (οι αστερες εσονται πιπτοντεςhoi asteres esontai piptontes). Periphrastic future indicative, εσονταιesontai future middle indicative and πιπτοντεςpiptontes present active participle.

Verse 27

Shall gather together his elect (επισυναχει τους εκλεκτους αυτουepisunaxei tous eklektous autou). This is the purpose of God through the ages.

From the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (απ ακρου γης εως ακρου ουρανουap' akrou gēs heōs akrou ouranou). The Greek is very brief, “from the tip of earth to the tip of heaven.” This precise phrase occurs nowhere else.

Verse 28

Coming to pass (γινομεναginomena). Present middle participle, linear action. See Matthew 24:32-36 for details of Mark 13:28-32 (the Parable of the Fig Tree).

Verse 32

Not even the Son (ουδε ο υιοςoude ho huios). There is no doubt as to the genuineness of these words here such as exists in Matthew 24:36. This disclaimer of knowledge naturally interpreted applies to the second coming, not to the destruction of Jerusalem which had been definitely limited to that generation as it happened in a.d. 70.

Verse 34

Commanded also the porter to watch (και τωι τυρωρωι ενετειλατο ινα γρηγορηιkai tōi thurōrōi eneteilato hina grēgorēi). The porter or door-keeper (τυρωροςthurōros), as well as all the rest, to keep a watch (present subjunctive, γρηγορηιgrēgorēi). This Parable of the Porter is only in Mark. Our ignorance of the time of the Master‘s return is an argument not for indifference nor for fanaticism, but for alertness and eager readiness for his coming.

Verse 35

The four watches of the night are named here: evening (οπσεopse), midnight (μεσονυκτιονmesonuktion), cock-crowing (αλεκτοροπωνιαςalektorophōnias), morning (πρωιprōi).

Verse 37

Watch (γρηγορειτεgrēgoreite). Be on the watch. Present imperative of a verb made on the second perfect, εγρηγοραegrēgora to be awake. Stay awake till the Lord comes.

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 13". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.