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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 2

Verse 1

Again into Capernaum after some days (παλιν εις Καφαρναουμ δι' ημερων). After the first tour of Galilee when Jesus is back in the city which is now the headquarters for the work in Galilee. The phrase δι' ημερων means days coming in between (δια, δυο, two) the departure and return.

In the house (εν οικω). More exactly,

at home , in the home of Peter, now the home of Jesus. Another picture directly from Peter's discourse. Some of the manuscripts have here εις οικον, illustrating the practical identity in meaning of εν and εις (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 591-6).

It was noised (ηκουσθη). It was heard (first aorist, passive indicative from ακουω, to hear). People spread the rumour, "He is at home, he is indoors."

Verse 2

So that there was no longer room for them, no, not even about the door (ωστε μηκετ χωρειν μηδε τα προς την θυραν). Another graphic Markan detail seen through Peter's eyes. The double compound negative in the Greek intensifies the negative. This house door apparently opened into the street, not into a court as in the larger houses. The house was packed inside and there was a jam outside.

And he spake the word unto them (κα ελαλε αυτοις τον λογον). And he was speaking the word unto them, Mark's favourite descriptive imperfect tense (ελαλε). Note this word λαλεω about the preaching of Jesus (originally just sounds like the chatter of birds, the prattling of children, but here of the most serious kind of speech. As contrasted with λεγω (to say) it is rather an onomatopoetic word with some emphasis on the sound and manner of speaking. The word is com- mon in the vernacular papyri examples of social inter-course.

Verse 3

And they come (κα ερχοντα). Fine illustration of Mark's vivid dramatic historical present preserved by Luke Luke 5:18, but not by Matthew 9:2 (imperfect).

Borne by four (αιρομενον υπο τεσσαρων). Another picturesque Markan detail not in the others.

Verse 4

Come nigh (προσεγγισα). But Westcott and Hort read προσενεγκα, to bring to, after Aleph, B, L, 33, 63 (cf. John 5:18).

They uncovered the roof (απεστεγασαν την στεγην). They unroofed the roof (note paronomasia in the Greek and cognate accusative). The only instance of this verb in the N.T. A rare word in late Greek, no papyrus example given in Moulton and Milligan Vocabulary. They climbed up a stairway on the outside or ladder to the flat tile roof and dug out or broke up (εξορυξαντες) the tiles (the roof). There were thus tiles (δια των κεραμων, Luke 5:19) of laths and plaster and even slabs of stone stuck in for strength that had to be dug out. It is not clear where Jesus was (οπου ην), either downstairs, (Holtzmann) or upstairs (Lightfoot), or in the quadrangle (atrium or compluvium, if the house had one). "A composition of mortar, tar, ashes and sand is spread upon the roofs, and rolled hard, and grass grows in the crevices. On the houses of the poor in the country the grass grows more freely, and goats may be seen on the roofs cropping it" (Vincent).

They let down the bed (χαλωσ τον κραβαττον), historical present again, aorist tense in Luke 5:19 (καθηκαν). The verb means to lower from a higher place as from a boat. Probably the four men had a rope fastened to each corner of the pallet or poor man's bed (κραβαττον, Latin grabatus. So one of Mark's Latin words). Matthew (Matthew 9:2) has κλινη, general term for bed. Luke has κλινιδιον (little bed or couch). Mark's word is common in the papyri and is spelled also κραββατος, sometimes κραβατος, while W, Codex Washingtonius, has it κραββατον.

Verse 5

Their faith (την πιστιν αυτων). The faith of the four men and of the man himself. There is no reason for excluding his faith. They all had confidence in the power and willingness of Jesus to heal this desperate case.

Are forgiven (αφιεντα, aoristic present passive, cf. punctiliar action, Robertson's Grammar, pp. 864ff.). So Matthew 9:3, but Luke 5:20 has the Doric perfect passive αφεωντα. The astonishing thing both to the paralytic and to the four friends is that Jesus forgave his sins instead of healing him. The sins had probably caused the paralysis.

Verse 6

Sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts (εκε καθημενο κα διαλογιζομενο εν ταις καρδιαις αυτων). Another of Mark's pictures through Peter's eyes. These scribes (and Pharisees, Luke 5:21) were there to cause trouble, to pick flaws in the teaching and conduct of Jesus. His popularity and power had aroused their jealousy. There is no evidence that they spoke aloud the murmur in their hearts, "within themselves" (Matthew 9:3). It was not necessary, for their looks gave them away and Jesus knew their thoughts (Matthew 9:4) and perceived their reasoning (Luke 5:22).

Instantly Jesus recognized it in his own spirit (ευθυς επιγνους ο Ιησους τω πνευματ αυτου, Mark 2:8). The Master at once recognizes the hostile atmosphere in the house. The debate (διαλογιζομενο) in their hearts was written on their faces. No sound had come, but feeling did.

Verse 7

He blasphemeth (βλασφημε). This is the unspoken charge in their hearts which Jesus read like an open book. The correct text here has this verb. They justify the charge with the conviction that God alone has the power (δυνατα) to forgive sins. The word βλασφημεω means injurious speech or slander. It was, they held, blasphemy for Jesus to assume this divine prerogative. Their logic was correct. The only flaw in it was the possibility that Jesus held a peculiar relation to God which justified his claim. So the two forces clash here as now on the deity of Christ Jesus. Knowing full well that he had exercised the prerogative of God in forgiving the man's sins he proceeds to justify his claim by healing the man.

Verse 10

That ye may know (ινα ειδητε). The scribes could have said either of the alternatives in verse Mark 2:9 with equal futility. Jesus could say either with equal effectiveness. In fact Jesus chose the harder first, the forgiveness which they could not see. So he now performs the miracle of healing which all could see, that all could know that (the Son of Man, Christ's favourite designation of himself, a claim to be the Messiah in terms that could not be easily attacked) he really had the authority and power (εξουσιαν) to forgive sins. He has the right and power here on earth to forgive sins, here and now without waiting for the day of judgment.

He saith to the sick of the palsy (λεγε). This remarkable parenthesis in the middle of the sentence occurs also in Matthew 9:6 and Luke 5:24, proof that both Matthew and Luke followed Mark's narrative. It is inconceivable that all three writers should independently have injected the same parenthesis at the same place.

Verse 12

Before them all (εμπροσθεν παντων). Luke 5:25 follows Mark in this detail. He picked up (αρας) his pallet and walked and went home as Jesus had commanded him to do (Mark 2:11). It was an amazing proceeding and made it unnecessary for Jesus to refute the scribes further on this occasion. The amazement (εξιστασθα, our ecstasy, as Luke 5:26 has it), was too general and great for words. The people could only say: "We never saw it on this fashion" (Hουτως ουδεποτε ειδαμεν). Jesus had acted with the power of God and claimed equality with God and had made good his claim. They all marvelled at the

paradoxes (παραδοξα, Luke 5:26) of that day. For it all they glorified God.

Verse 13

By the seaside (παρα την θαλασσαν). A pretty picture of Jesus walking by the sea and a walk that Jesus loved (Mark 1:16; Matthew 4:18). Probably Jesus went out from the crowd in Peter's house as soon as he could. It was a joy to get a whiff of fresh air by the sea. But it was not long till all the crowd began to come to Jesus (ηρχετο, imperfect) and Jesus was teaching them (εδιδασκεν, imperfect). It was the old story over again, but Jesus did not run away.

Verse 14

And as he passed by (κα παραγων). Present participle active, was passing by. Jesus was constantly on the alert for opportunities to do good. An unlikely specimen was Levi (Matthew), son of Alpheus, sitting at the toll-gate (τελωνιον) on the Great West Road from Damascus to the Mediterranean. He was a publican (τελωνης) who collected toll for Herod Antipas. The Jews hated or despised these publicans and classed them with sinners (αμαρτωλο). The challenge of Jesus was sudden and sharp, but Levi (Matthew) was ready to respond at once. He had heard of Jesus and quickly decided. Great decisions are often made on a moment's notice. Levi is a fine object lesson for business men who put off service to Christ to carry on their business.

Verse 16

The scribes of the Pharisees (ο γραμματεις των Φαρισαιων). This is the correct text. Cf. "their scribes" in Luke 5:30. Matthew gave a great reception (δοχην, Luke 5:29) in his house (Mark 2:15). These publicans and sinners not simply accepted Levi's invitation, but they imitated his example "and were following Jesus" (κα ηκολουθουν αυτω). It was a motly crew from the standpoint of these young theologues, scribes of the Pharisees, who were on hand, being invited to pick flaws if they could. It was probably in the long hall of the house where the scribes stood and ridiculed Jesus and the disciples, unless they stood outside, feeling too pious to go into the house of a publican. It was an offence for a Jew to eat with Gentiles as even many of the early Jewish Christians felt (Acts 11:3) and publicans and sinners were regarded like Gentiles (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Verse 17

The righteous (δικαιους). Jesus for the sake of argument accepts the claim of the Pharisees to be righteous, though, as a matter of fact, they fell very far short of it. Elsewhere (Mark 2:23) Jesus shows that the Pharisees were extortionate and devoured widows' houses and wore a cloak of pride and hypocritical respectability. The words "unto repentance" (εις μετανοιαν) are not genuine in Mark, but are in Luke 5:32. Jesus called men to new spiritual life and away from sin and so to repentance. But this claim stopped their mouths against what Jesus was doing. The well or the strong (ισχυοντες) are not those who need the physician in an epidemic.

Verse 18

John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting (ησαν ο μαθητα Ιωανου κα ο Φαρισαιο νηστευοντες). The periphrastic imperfect, so common in Mark's vivid description. Probably Levi's feast happened on one of the weekly fast-days (second and fifth days of the week for the stricter Jews). So there was a clash of standpoints. The disciples of John sided with the Pharisees in the Jewish ceremonial ritualistic observances. John was still a prisoner in Machaerus. John was more of an ascetic than Jesus (Mark 2:18; Luke 7:33-35), but neither one pleased all the popular critics. These learners (μαθητα) or disciples of John had missed the spirit of their leader when they here lined up with the Pharisees against Jesus. But there was no real congeniality between the formalism of the Pharisees and the asceticism of John the Baptist. The Pharisees hated John who had denounced them as broods of vipers. Here the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees (ο μαθητα Ιωανου κα ο μαθητα των Φαρισαιων) join in criticizing Jesus and his disciples. Later we shall see Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, who bitterly detested each other, making com- mon cause against Jesus Christ. So today we find various hostile groups combining against our Lord and Saviour. See on Matthew 9:14-17 for comments. Matthew has here followed Mark closely.

Verse 19

The sons of the bridechamber (ο υιο του νυμφωνος). Not merely the groomsmen, but the guests also, the παρανψμφς (παρανυμφο of the old Greek). Jesus here adopts the Baptist's own metaphor (John 3:29), changing the friend of the bridegroom (ο φιλος του νυμφιου) to sons of the bridechamber. Jesus identifies himself with the bridegroom of the O.T. (Hosea 2:21), God in his covenant relation with Israel (Swete). Mourning does not suit the wedding feast. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all give the three parables (bridegroom, unfulled cloth, new wineskins) illustrating and defending the conduct of Jesus in feasting with Levi on a Jewish fast-day. Luke 5:36 calls these parables. Jesus here seems iconoclastic to the ecclesiastics and revolutionary in emphasis on the spiritual instead of the ritualistic and ceremonial.

Verse 21

Seweth on (επιραπτε). Here only in the N.T. or elsewhere, though the uncompounded verb ραπτω (to sew) is common enough,

sews upon: in Matthew 9:16 and Luke 5:37 use επιβαλλε, put upon or clap upon.

Verse 22

But new wine into fresh wineskins (αλλα οινον νεον εις ασκους καινους). Westcott and Hort bracket this clause as a Western non-interpolation though omitted only in D and some old Latin MSS. It is genuine in Luke 5:38 and may be so here.

Verse 23

Through the cornfields (δια των σποριμων). See on Matthew 12:1. So Matt. and Luke 6:1. But Mark uses παραπορευεσθα, to go along beside, unless διαπορευεσθα (BCD) is accepted. Perhaps now on the edge, now within the grain. Mark uses also οδον ποιειν, to

make a way like the Latin iter facere, as if through the standing grain,

plucking the ears (τιλλοντες τους σταχυας). Work of preparing food the rabbis called it. The margin of the Revised Version has it correctly: They began to make their way plucking the ears of corn (grain, wheat or barley, we should say). See on Matthew 12:1-8 for discussion of this passage, parallel also in Luke 6:15.

Verse 26

The house of God (τον οικον του θεου). The tent or tabernacle at Nob, not the temple in Jerusalem built by Solomon.

When Abiathar was high priest (επ Αβιαθαρ αρχιερεως). Neat Greek idiom, in the time of Abiathar as high priest. There was confusion in the Massoretic text and in the LXX about the difference between Ahimelech (Abimelech) and Abiathar (2 Samuel 8:17), Ahimelech's son and successor (1 Samuel 21:2; 1 Samuel 22:20). Apparently Ahimelech, not Abiathar was high priest at this time. It is possible that both father and son bore both names (1 Samuel 22:20; 2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Chronicles 18:16), Abiathar mentioned though both involved. Επ may so mean in the passage about Abiathar. Or we may leave it unexplained. They had the most elaborate rules for the preparation of the shewbread (τους αρτους της προθεσεως), the loaves of presentation, the loaves of the face or presence of God. It was renewed on the commencement of the sabbath and the old bread deposited on the golden table in the porch of the Sanctuary. This old bread was eaten by the priests as they came and went. This is what David ate.

Verse 27

For man (δια τον ανθρωπον). Mark alone has this profound saying which subordinates the sabbath to man's real welfare (mankind, observe, generic article with ανθρωπος, class from class). Man was not made for the sabbath as the rabbis seemed to think with all their petty rules about eating an egg laid on the sabbath or looking in the glass, et cetera. See 2Macc. 5:19 and Mechilta on Exodus 31:13: "The sabbath is delivered unto you and ye are not delivered unto the sabbath." Christianity has had to fight this same battle about institutionalism. The church itself is for man, not man for the church.

Verse 28

Even of the sabbath (κα του σαββατου). Mark, Matthew (Matthew 12:8), and Luke (Luke 6:5) all give this as a climax in the five reasons given by Christ on the occasion for the conduct of the disciples, but Mark has the little word "even" (κα) not in the others, showing that Jesus knew that he was making a great claim as the Son of Man, the Representative Man, the Messiah looked at from his human interest, to lordship (κυριος) even of the sabbath. He was not the slave of the sabbath, but the master of it. "Even of the sabbath, so invaluable in your eyes. Lord, not to abolish, but to interpret and keep in its own place, and give it a new name" (Bruce).

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