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Had nothing to eat (μη εχοντων τ φαγωσιν). Genitive absolute and plural because οχλου a collective substantive. Not having what to eat (deliberative subjunctive retained in indirect question). The repetition of a nature miracle of feeding four thousand in Decapolis disturbs some modern critics who cannot imagine how Jesus could or would perform another miracle elsewhere so similar to the feeding of the five thousand up near Bethsaida Julias. But both Mark and Matthew give both miracles, distinguish the words for baskets (κοφινοσ, σφυρις), and both make Jesus later refer to both incidents and use these two words with the same distinction (Mark 8:19; Matthew 16:9). Surely it is easier to conceive that Jesus wrought two such miracles than to hold that Mark and Matthew have made such a jumble of the whole business.
Now three days (ηδη ημερα τρεις). This text preserves a curious parenthetic nominative of time (Robertson, Grammar, p. 460). See on Matthew 15:32.
Are come from far (απο μακροθεν εισιν). This item alone in Mark.
Here (ωδε). Of all places, in this desert region in the mountains. The disciples feel as helpless as when the five thousand were fed. They do not rise to faith in the unlimited power of Jesus after all that they have seen.
Brake and gave (εκλασεν κα εδιδου). Constative aorist followed by imperfect. The giving kept on.
To set before them (ινα παρατιθωσιν). Present subjunctive describing the continuous process.
A few small fishes (ιχθυδια ολιγα). Mark mentions them last as if they were served after the food, but not so Matthew 15:34.
Broken pieces that remained over (περισσευματα κλασματων). Overplus, abundance, remains of broken pieces not used, not just scraps or crumbs.
Into the parts of Dalmanutha (εις τα μερη Δαλμανουθα). Matthew 15:39 calls it "the borders of Magadan." Both names are unknown elsewhere, but apparently the same region of Galilee on the western side of the lake not far from Tiberias. Mark here uses "parts" (μερη) in the same sense as "borders" (ορια) in Mark 7:24 just as Matthew reverses it with "parts" in Matthew 15:21 and "borders" here in Matthew 15:39. Mark has here "with his disciples" (μετα των μαθητων αυτου) only implied in Matthew 15:39.
And the Pharisees came forth (κα εξηλθον ο Φαρισαιο). At once they met Jesus and opened a controversy. Matthew 16:1 adds "and Sadducees," the first time these two parties appear together against Jesus. See discussion on Matthew 16:1. The Pharisees and Herodians had already joined hands against Jesus in the sabbath controversy (Mark 3:6). They
began to question with him (ηρξαντο συνζητειν αυτω). Dispute, not mere inquiry, associative instrumental case of αυτο. They began at once and kept it up (present infinitive).
He sighed deeply in his spirit (αναστεναξας τω πνευματ). The only instance of this compound in the N.T. though in the LXX. The uncompounded form occurs in Mark 7:34 and it is common enough. The preposition ανα- intensifies the meaning of the verb (perfective use). "The sigh seemed to come, as we say, from the bottom of his heart, the Lord's human spirit was stirred to its depths" (Swete). Jesus resented the settled prejudice of the Pharisees (and now Sadducees also) against him and his work.
There shall no sign be given unto this generation (ε δοθησετα τη γενεα ταυτη σημειον). Matthew 16:4 has simply ου δοθησετα, plain negative with the future passive indicative. Mark has ε instead of ου, which is technically a conditional clause with the conclusion unexpressed (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1024), really aposiopesis in imitation of the Hebrew use of ιμ. This is the only instance in the N.T. except in quotations from the LXX (Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:5). It is very common in the LXX. The rabbis were splitting hairs over the miracles of Jesus as having a possible natural explanation (as some critics do today) even if by the power of Beelzebub, and those not of the sky (from heaven) which would be manifested from God. So they put up this fantastic test to Jesus which he deeply resents. Matthew 16:4 adds "but the sign of Jonah" mentioned already by Jesus on a previous occasion (Matthew 12:39-41) at more length and to be mentioned again (Luke 11:32). But the mention of the sign of Jonah was "an absolute refusal of signs in their sense" (Bruce). And when he did rise from the dead on the third day, the Sanhedrin refused to be convinced (see Acts 3 to 5).
Loaves , plural.
More than one loaf (ε μη ινα αρτον). Except one loaf. Detail only in Mark. Practically for thirteen men when hungry.
Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod (Hορατε, βλεπετε απο της ζυμης των Φαρισαιων κα της ζυμης Hηρωιδου). Present imperatives. Note απο and the ablative case. Ζυμη is from ζυμοω and occurs already in Matthew 13:33 in a good sense. For the bad sense see 1 Corinthians 5:6. He repeatedly charged (διεστελλετο, imperfect indicative), showing that the warning was needed. The disciples came out of a Pharisaic atmosphere and they had just met it again at Dalmanutha. It was insidious. Note the combination of Herod here with the Pharisees. This is after the agitation of Herod because of the death of the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus (Mark 6:14-29; Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9). Jesus definitely warns the disciples against "the leaven of Herod" (bad politics) and the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (bad theology and also bad politics).
They reasoned one with another (διελογιζοντο προς αλληλους), implying discussion. Imperfect tense, kept it up. Matthew 16:7 has εν εαυτοις, in themselves or among themselves.
Mark here (vv. Mark 8:17-20) gives six keen questions of Jesus while Matthew 16:8-11 gives as four that really include the six of Mark running some together. The questions reveal the disappointment of Jesus at the intellectual dulness of his pupils. The questions concern the intellect (νοειτε, from νουσ, συνιετε, comprehend), the heart in a
hardened state (πεπωρωμένην, perfect passive predicate participle as in Mark 6:52, which see), the eyes, the ears, the memory of both the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand here sharply distinguished even to the two kinds of baskets (κοφινουσ, σφυριδων). The disciples did recall the number of baskets left over in each instance, twelve and seven. Jesus "administers a sharp rebuke for their preoccupation with mere temporalities, as if there were nothing higher to be thought of than bread" (Bruce). "For the time the Twelve are way-side hearers, with hearts like a beaten path, into which the higher truths cannot sink so as to germinate" (Bruce).
Do ye not yet understand? (ουπω συνιετε;). After all this rebuke and explanation. The greatest of all teachers had the greatest of all classes, but he struck a snag here. Matthew 16:12 gives the result: "Then they understood how that he bade them not beware of the loaves of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They had once said that they understood the parables of Jesus (Matthew 13:51). But that was a long time ago. The teacher must have patience if his pupils are to understand.
Unto Bethsaida (εις Βηθσαιδαν). On the Eastern side not far from the place of the feeding of the five thousand, Bethsaida Julias. Note dramatic presents
they come (ερχοντα),
they bring (φερουσιν). This incident in Mark alone (verses Mark 8:22-26).
Brought him out of the village (εξηνεγκεν αυτον εξω της κωμης). It had been a village, but Philip had enlarged it and made it a town or city (πολις), though still called a village (verses Mark 8:23; Mark 8:26). As in the case of the deaf and dumb demoniac given also alone by Mark (Mark 7:31-37), so here Jesus observes the utmost secrecy in performing the miracle for reasons not given by Mark. It was the season of retirement and Jesus is making the fourth withdrawal from Galilee. That fact may explain it. The various touches here are of interest also. Jesus led him out by the hand, put spittle on his eyes (using the poetical and Koine papyri word ομματα instead of the usual οπθαλμους), and laid his hands upon him, perhaps all this to help the man's faith.
I see men, for I behold them as trees walking (Βλεπω τους ανθρωπους οτ ως δενδρα ορω περιπατουντας). A vivid description of dawning sight. His vision was incomplete though he could tell that they were men because they were walking. This is the single case of a gradual cure in the healings wrought by Jesus. The reason for this method in this case is not given.
He looked steadfastly (διεβλεψεν). He saw thoroughly now, effective aorist (διεβλεψεν), he was completely restored (απεκατεστη, second aorist, double compound and double augment), and kept on seeing (ενεβλεπεν, imperfect, continued action) all things clearly or at a distance (τηλαυγως, common Greek word from τηλε, afar, and αυγη, radiance, far-shining). Some manuscripts (margin in Westcott and Hort) read δηλαυγως, from δηλος, plain, and αυγη, radiance.
To his home (εις οικον αυτου). A joyful homecoming that. He was not allowed to enter the village and create excitement before Jesus moved on to Caesarea Philippi.
Into the villages of Caesarea Philippi (εις τας κωμας Καισαριας της Φιλιππου). Parts (μερη) Matthew 16:13 has, the Caesarea of Philippi in contrast to the one down on the Mediterranean Sea. Mark means the villages belonging to the district around Caesarea Philippi. This region is on a spur of Mount Hermon in Iturea ruled by Herod Philip so that Jesus is safe from annoyance by Herod Antipas or the Pharisees and Sadducees. Up here on this mountain slope Jesus will have his best opportunity to give the disciples special teaching concerning the crucifixion just a little over six months ahead. So Jesus asked (επηρωτα, descriptive imperfect)
Who do men say that I am? (Τινα με λεγουσιν ο ανθρωπο ειναι;). Matthew 16:13 has "the Son of Man" in place of "I" here in Mark and in Luke 9:18. He often described himself as "the Son of Man." Certainly here the phrase could not mean merely "a man." They knew the various popular opinions about Jesus of which Herod Antipas had heard (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31). It was time that the disciples reveal how much they had been influenced by their environment as well as by the direct instruction of Jesus.
And they told him (ο δε ειπαν). They knew only too well. See on Matthew 16:14; Matthew 16:28 for discussion.
Thou art the Christ (Συ ε ο Χριστος). Mark does not give "the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16) or "of God" (Luke 9:20). The full confession is the form in Matthew. Luke's language means practically the same, while Mark's is the briefest. But the form in Mark really means the full idea. Mark omits all praise of Peter, probably because Peter had done so in his story of the incident. For criticism of the view that Matthew's narrative is due to ecclesiastical development and effort to justify ecclesiastical prerogatives, see discussion on Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:18. The disciples had confessed him as Messiah before. Thus John 1:41; John 4:29; John 6:69; Matthew 14:33. But Jesus had ceased to use the word Messiah to avoid political complications and a revolutionary movement (John 6:14). But did the disciples still believe in Jesus as Messiah after all the defections and oppositions seen by them? It was a serious test to which Jesus now put them.
Of him (περ αυτου). As being the Messiah, that he was the Christ (Matthew 16:20). Not yet, for the time was not yet ripe. When that comes, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the very stones will cry out, if men will not (Luke 19:40).
He began to teach them (ηρξατο διδασκειν αυτους). Mark is fond of this idiom, but it is not a mere rhetorical device. Matthew 16:21 expressly says "from that time." They had to be told soon about the approaching death of Jesus. The confession of faith in Jesus indicated that it was a good time to begin. Death at the hands of the Sanhedrin (elders, chief priests, and scribes) in which Pharisees and Sadducees had about equal strength. The resurrection on the third day is mentioned, but it made no impression on their minds. This rainbow on the cloud was not seen.
After three days (μετα τρεις ημερας). Matthew 16:21 has "the third day" (τη τριτη ημερα) in the locative case of point of time (so also Luke 9:22). There are some people who stickle for a strict interpretation of "after three days" which would be "on the fourth day," not "on the third day." Evidently Mark's phrase here has the same sense as that in Matthew and Luke else they are hopelessly contradictory. In popular language "after three days" can and often does mean "on the third day," but the fourth day is impossible.
Spake the saying openly (παρρησια τον λογον ελαλε). He held back nothing, told it all (παν, all, ρησια, from ειπον, say), without reserve, to all of them. Imperfect tense ελαλε shows that Jesus did it repeatedly. Mark alone gives this item. Mark does not give the great eulogy of Peter in Matthew 16:17; Matthew 16:19 after his confession (Mark 8:29; Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20), but he does tell the stinging rebuke given Peter by Jesus on this occasion. See discussion on Matthew 16:21; Matthew 16:26.
He turning about and seeing his disciples (επιστραφεις κα ιδων τους μαθητας αυτου). Peter had called Jesus off to himself (προσκαλεσαμενος), but Jesus quickly wheeled round on Peter (επιστραφεις, only στραφεις in Matthew). In doing that the other disciples were in plain view also (this touch only in Mark). Hence Jesus rebukes Peter in the full presence of the whole group. Peter no doubt felt that it was his duty as a leader of the Twelve to remonstrate with the Master for this pessimistic utterance (Swete). It is even possible that the others shared Peter's views and were watching the effect of his daring rebuke of Jesus. It was more than mere officiousness on the part of Peter. He had not risen above the level of ordinary men and deserves the name of Satan whose role he was now acting. It was withering, but it was needed. The temptation of the devil on the mountain was here offered by Peter. It was Satan over again. See on Matthew 16:23.
And he called unto him the multitude with his disciples (κα προσκαλεσαμενος τον οχλον συν τοις μαθηταις αυτου). Mark alone notes the unexpected presence of a crowd up here near Caesarea Philippi in heathen territory. In the presence of this crowd Jesus explains his philosophy of life and death which is in direct contrast with that offered by Peter and evidently shared by the disciples and the people. So Jesus gives this profound view of life and death to them all.
Deny himself (απαρνησασθω εαυτον). Say no to himself, a difficult thing to do. Note reflexive along with the middle voice. Ingressive first aorist imperative. See on Matthew 16:24 about taking up the Cross. The shadow of Christ's Cross was already on him (Mark 8:31) and one faces everyone.
And the gospel's sake (κα του ευαγγελιου). In Mark alone. See on Matthew 16:25 for this paradox. Two senses of "life" and "save." For the last "save" (σωσε) Matthew 16:25 has "find" (ευρησε). See on Matthew 16:26 for "gain," "profit," and "exchange."
For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words (ος γαρ εαν επαισχυνθη με κα τους εμους λογους). More exactly,
whosoever is ashamed (first aorist passive subjunctive with indefinite relative and εαν = αν. See Robertson, Grammar, pp. 957-9. It is not a statement about the future conduct of one, but about his present attitude toward Jesus. The conduct of men toward Christ now determines Christ's conduct then (επαισχυνθησετα, first future passive indicative). This passive verb is transitive and uses the accusative (με, αυτον).
In this adulterous and sinful generation (εν τη γενεα ταυτη τη μοιχαλιδ κα αμαρτωλω). Only in Mark.
When he cometh (οταν ελθη). Aorist active subjunctive with reference to the future second coming of Christ with the glory of the Father with his holy angels (cf. Matthew 16:27). This is a clear prediction of the final eschatological coming of Christ. This verse could not be separated from Mark 9:1 as the chapter division does. These two verses in Mark 8:38; Mark 9:1 form one paragraph and should go together.
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 8". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11