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Bible Commentaries
Mark 9

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Till they see the kingdom of God come with power (εως αν ιδωσιν την βασιλειαν του θεου εληλυθυιαν εν δυναμε). In Mark 8:38 Jesus clearly is speaking of the second coming. To what is he referring in Mark 9:1? One is reminded of Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:36 where Jesus expressly denies that anyone save the Father himself (not even the Son) knows the day or the hour. Does he contradict that here? It may be observed that Luke has only "see the kingdom of God," while Matthew has "see the Son of man coming" (ερχομενον, present participle, a process). Mark has "see the kingdom of God come" (εληλυθυιαν, perfect active participle, already come) and adds "with power." Certainly the second coming did not take place while some of those standing there still lived. Did Jesus mean that? The very next incident in the Synoptic Gospels is the Transfiguration on Mount Hermon. Does not Jesus have that in mind here? The language will apply also to the coming of the Holy Spirit on the great Day of Pentecost. Some see in it a reference to the destruction of the temple. It is at least open to question whether the Master is speaking of the same event in Mark 8:38; Mark 9:1.

Verse 2

By themselves (μονους). Alone. This word only in Mark. See on Matthew 17:1-8 for discussion of the Transfiguration. Luke 9:28 adds "to pray" as the motive of Jesus in taking Peter, James, and John into the high mountain.

Verse 3

Glistering, exceeding white (στιλβοντα λευκα λιαν). Old words, all of them. Matthew 17:2 has

white as the light (λευκα ως το φως), Luke 9:29 "white and dazzling" (λευκος εξαστραπτων) like lightning.

So as no fuller on earth can whiten them (οια γναφευς επ της γης ου δυνατα ουτως λευκανα). Γναφω is an old word to card wool. Note ουτως, so, so white. Some manuscripts in Matthew add ως χιων, as snow. Probably the snow-capped summit of Hermon was visible on this very night. See on Matthew 17:2 for "transfigured."

Verse 4

Elijah with Moses (Ελειας συν Μωυσε). Matthew and Luke have "Moses and Elijah." Both, as a matter of fact were prophets and both dealt with law. Both had mysterious deaths. The other order in Mark 9:5.

Verse 6

For he wist not what to answer (ου γαρ ηιδε τ αποκριθη). Deliberative subjunctive retained in indirect question. But why did Peter say anything? Luke says that he spoke, "not knowing what he said," as an excuse for the inappropriateness of his remarks. Perhaps Peter felt embarrassed at having been asleep (Luke 9:32) and the feast of tabernacles or booths (σκηνα) was near. See on Matthew 17:4. Peter and the others apparently had not heard the talk of Moses and Elijah with Jesus about his decease (εξοδον, exodus, departure) and little knew the special comfort that Jesus had found in this understanding of the great approaching tragedy concerning which Peter had shown absolute stupidity (Mark 8:32) so recently. See on Matthew 17:5 about the overshadowing and the voice.

Verse 8

Suddenly looking round about (εξαπινα περιβλεψαμενο). Matthew 17:8 has it "lifting up their eyes." Mark is more graphic. The sudden glance around on the mountain side when the cloud with Moses and Elijah was gone.

Jesus only with themselves (μεθ' εαυτων ε μη Ιησουν μονον). Mark shows their surprise at the situation. They were sore afraid (Matthew 17:6) before Jesus touched them.

Verse 9

Save when (ε μη οταν). Matthew has "until" (εως ου).

Should have risen (αναστη). Second aorist active subjunctive. More exactly, "should rise" (punctiliar aorist and futuristic, not with any idea of perfect tense). Luke 9:36 merely says that they told no man any of these things. It was a high and holy secret experience that the chosen three had had for their future good and for the good of all.

Verse 10

They kept the saying (τον λογον εκρατησαν) to themselves as Jesus had directed, but

questioning among themselves (προς εαυτους συνζητουντες). Now they notice his allusion to rising from the dead which had escaped them before (Mark 8:31).

Verse 12

Restoreth all things (αποκατιστανε παντα). This late double compound verb, usual form αποκαθιστημ in the papyri, is Christ's description of the Baptist as the promised Elijah and Forerunner of the Messiah. See on Matthew 17:10-13. The disciples had not till now understood that the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy in Malachi 3:5. They had just seen Elijah on the mountain, but Jesus as Messiah preceded this coming of Elijah. But Jesus patiently enlightens his dull pupils as they argue about the exegesis of the scribes.

Verse 14

And scribes questioning with them (κα γραμματεις συνζητουντες προς αυτους). Mark alone gives this item. He is much fuller on this incident (Mark 9:14-29) than either Matthew (Matthew 17:14-20) or Luke (Luke 9:37-43). It was just like the professional scribes to take keen interest in the failure of the nine disciples to cure this poor boy. They gleefully nagged and quizzed them. Jesus and the three find them at it when they arrive in the plain.

Verse 15

Were greatly amazed (εξεθαμβηθησαν). First aorist passive ingressive aorist with perfective compound εξ-. The sudden and opportune appearance of Jesus in the midst of the dispute when no one was looking for him turned all eyes to him. He would not fail, however the disciples might do so. The people were awed for the moment and then running began to welcome him (προτρεχοντες ησπαζοντο). Present participle and imperfect middle indicative.

Verse 16

What question ye with them? (Τ συνζητειτε προς αυτουσ;). Jesus had noticed the embarrassment of the nine and at once takes hold of the situation.

Verse 17

I brought unto thee my son (ηνεγκα τον υιον μου προς σε). The father stepped out and gave the explanation of the excited dispute in direct and simple pathos.

Verse 18

Wheresoever it taketh him (οπου εαν αυτον καταλαβη). Seizes him down. Our word catalepsy is this same word. The word is used by Galen and Hippocrates for fits. The word is very common in the papyri in various senses as in the older Greek. Each of the verbs here in Mark is a graphic picture.

Dashes down (ρησσε). Also ρηγνυμι, μ form. Convulses, rends, tears asunder. Old and common word.

Foameth (αφριζε). Here only in the N.T. Poetic and late word.

Grindeth (τριζε). Another hapax legomenon in the N.T. Old word for making a shrill cry or squeak.

Pineth away (ξηραινετα). Old word for drying or withering as of grass in James 1:11.

And they were not able (κα ουκ ισχυσαν). They did not have the strength (ισχυς) to handle this case. See Matthew 17:16; Luke 9:40 (κα ουκ ηδυνηθησαν, first aorist passive). It was a tragedy.

Verse 19

Bring him unto me (φερετε αυτον προς με). The disciples had failed and their unbelief had led to this fiasco. Even the disciples were like and part of the

faithless (απιστος, unbelieving) generation in which they lived. The word

faithless does not here mean treacherous as it does with us. But Jesus is not afraid to undertake this case. We can always come to Jesus when others fail us.

Verse 20

Tare him grievously (συνεσπαραξεν αυτον). Luke 9:42 has both ερρηξεν (dashed down, like Mark 9:18, ρησσε) and συνεσπαραξεν (convulsed). This compound with συν- (together with), strengthens the force of the verb as in συνπνιγω (Mark 4:7) and συντηρεω (Mark 6:20). The only other instance of this compound verb known is in Maximus Tyrius (second century B.C.).

Wallowed (εκυλιετο). Imperfect passive, was rolled. A pitiful sight. Late form of the old κυλινδω.

Verse 22

But if thou canst (αλλ 'ε τ δυνη). Jesus had asked (verse Mark 9:21) the history of the case like a modern physician. The father gave it and added further pathetic details about the fire and the water. The failure of the disciples had not wholly destroyed his faith in the power of Jesus, though the conditional form (first class, assuming it to be true) does suggest doubt whether the boy can be cured at all. It was a chronic and desperate case of epilepsy with the demon possession added.

Help us (βοεθησον εμιν). Ingressive aorist imperative. Do it now. With touching tenderness he makes the boy's case his own as the Syrophoenician woman had said, "Have mercy on me" (Matthew 15:21). The leper had said: "If thou wilt" (Mark 1:40). This father says: "If thou canst."

Verse 23

If thou canst (το ε δυνη). The Greek has a neat idiom not preserved in the English translation. The article takes up the very words of the man and puts the clause in the accusative case of general reference. "As to the 'if thou canst,' all things can (δυνατα) to the one who believes." The word for "possible" is δυνατα, the same root as δυνη (canst). This quick turn challenges the father's faith. On this use of the Greek article see Robertson, Grammar, p. 766.

Verse 24

Cried out (κραξας). Loud outcry and at once (ευθυς). The later manuscripts have "with tears" (μετα δακρυων), not in the older documents.

I believe; help my unbelief (Πιστευω: βοηθε τη απιστια). An exact description of his mental and spiritual state. He still had faith, but craved more. Note present imperative here (continuous help) βοηθε, while aorist imperative (instant help) βοηθησον, verse Mark 9:22. The word comes from βοη, a cry and θεω, to run, to run at a cry for help, a vivid picture of this father's plight.

Verse 25

A multitude came running together (επισυντρεχε οχλος). A double compound here alone in the N.T. and not in the old Greek writers. Επιτρεχω occurs in the papyri, but not επισυντρεχω. The double compound vividly describes the rapid gathering of the crowd to Jesus and the epileptic boy to see the outcome.

Come out of him (εξελθε εξ αυτου). Jesus addresses the demon as a separate being from the boy as he often does. This makes it difficult to believe that Jesus was merely indulging popular belief in a superstition. He evidently regards the demon as the cause in this case of the boy's misfortune.

Verse 26

Having torn much (σπαραξας). The uncompounded verb used in verse Mark 9:20.

Became as one dead (εγενετο ωσε νεκρος). As if dead from the violence of the spasm. The demon did him all possible harm in leaving him.

Verse 28

Privately, saying (κατ' ιδιαν οτ). Indoors the nine disciples seek an explanation for their colossal failure. They had cast out demons and wrought cures before. The Revisers are here puzzled over Mark's use of οτ as an interrogative particle meaning

why where Matthew 17:19 has δια τ. Some of the manuscripts have δια τ here in Mark 9:28 as all do in Matthew 17:19. See also Mark 2:16 and Mark 9:11. It is probable that in these examples οτ really means

why . See Robertson, Grammar, p. 730. The use of ος as interrogative "is by no means rare in the late Greek" (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 126).

Verse 29

Save by prayer (ε μη εν προσευχη). The addition of "and of fasting" does not appear in the two best Greek manuscripts (Aleph and B). It is clearly a late addition to help explain the failure. But it is needless and also untrue. Prayer is what the nine had failed to use. They were powerless because they were prayerless. Their self-complacency spelled defeat. Matthew 17:20 has "because of your little faith" (ολιγοπιστιαν). That is true also. They had too much faith in themselves, too little in Christ. "They had trusted to the semi-magical power with which they thought themselves invested" (Swete). "Spirits of such malignity were quick to discern the lack of moral power and would yield to no other" (ibid.).

Verse 30

He would not that any man should know it (ουκ ηθελεν ινα τις γνο). Imperfect tense followed by ingressive aorist subjunctive (γνο = γνω, the usual form). He was not willing that any one should learn it. Back in Galilee Jesus was, but he was avoiding public work there now (cf. Mark 7:24). He was no longer the hero of Galilee. He had left Caesarea Philippi for Galilee.

Verse 31

For he taught (εδιδασκεν γαρ). Imperfect tense, and the reason given for secrecy. He was renewing again definitely the prediction of his death in Jerusalem some six months ahead as he had done before (Mark 8:31; Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:22). Now as then Jesus foretells his resurrection "after three days" ("the third day," Matthew 17:23).

Verse 32

But they understood not the saying (ο δε ηγνοουν το ρημα). An old word. Chiefly in Paul's Epistles in the N.T. Imperfect tense. They continued not to understand. They were agnostics on the subject of the death and resurrection even after the Transfiguration experience. As they came down from the mountain they were puzzled again over the Master's allusion to his resurrection (Mark 9:10). Matthew 17:23 notes that "they were exceeding sorry" to hear Jesus talk this way again, but Mark adds that they "were afraid to ask him" (εφοβουντο αυτον επερωτησα). Continued to be afraid (imperfect tense), perhaps with a bitter memory of the term "Satan" hurled at Peter when he protested the other time when Jesus spoke of his death (Mark 8:33; Matthew 16:23). Luke 9:45 explains that "it was concealed from them," probably partly by their own preconceived ideas and prejudices.

Verse 33

In the house (εν τη οικια). Probably Peter's house in Capernaum which was the home of Jesus when in the city.

What were ye reasoning in the way? (Τ εν τη οδω διελογισζεθε;). Imperfect tense. They had been disputing (verse Mark 9:34), not about the coming death of the Master, but about the relative rank of each of them in the political kingdom which they were expecting him to establish. Jesus had suspected the truth about them and they had apparently kept it up in the house. See on Matthew 18:1 where the disciples are represented as bringing the dispute to Jesus while here Jesus asks them about it. Probably they asked Jesus first and then he pushed the matter further and deeper to see if this had not been the occasion of the somewhat heated discussion on the way in.

Verse 34

But they held their peace (Hο δε εσιωπων). Imperfect tense. Put thus to them, they felt ashamed that the Master had discovered their jealous rivalry. It was not a mere abstract query, as they put it to Jesus, but it was a canker in their hearts.

Verse 35

He sat down and called the twelve (καθισας εφωνησεν τους δωδεκα). Deliberate action of Jesus to handle this delicate situation. Jesus gives them the rule of greatness: "If any man would be first (πρωτος) he shall be last (εσχατος) of all, and minister (διακονος) of all." This saying of Christ, like many others, he repeated at other times (Mark 10:43; Matthew 23:8; Luke 22:24). Matthew 18:2 says that he called a little child, one there in the house, perhaps Peter's child. Luke 9:47 notes that he "set him by his side." Then Jesus

taking him in his arms (εναγκαλισαμενος, aorist middle participle, late Greek word from αγκαλη as in Luke 2:28) spoke again to the disciples.

Verse 37

One of such little children (εν των τοιουτων παιδιων). Matthew 18:5 has "one such little child" and Luke 9:48 "this little child." It was an object lesson to the arrogant conceit of the twelve apostles contending for primacy. They did not learn this lesson for they will again wrangle over primacy (Mark 10:33-45; Matthew 20:20-28) and they will be unable to comprehend easily what the attitude of Jesus was toward children (Mark 10:13-16; Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 8:15-17). The child was used as a rebuke to the apostles.

Verse 38

Because he followed not us (οτ ουκ ηκολουθε ημιν). Note vivid imperfect tense again. John evidently thought to change the subject from the constraint and embarrassment caused by their dispute. So he told about a case of extra zeal on his part expecting praise from Jesus. Perhaps what Jesus had just said in verse Mark 9:37 raised a doubt in John's mind as to the propriety of his excessive narrowness. One needs to know the difference between loyalty to Jesus and stickling over one's own narrow prejudices.

Verse 39

Forbid him not (μη κωλυετε). Stop hindering him (μη and the present-imperative) as John had been doing.

Verse 40

He that is not against us is with us (ος ουκ εστιν καθ' ημων υπερ ημων εστιν). This profound saying throws a flood of light in every direction. The complement of this logion is that in Matthew 12:30: "He that is not with me is against me." Both are needed. Some people imagine that they are really for Christ who refuse to take a stand in the open with him and for him.

Verse 41

Because ye are Christ's (οτ Χριστου εστε). Predicate genitive, belong to Christ. See Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 10:7. That is the bond of universal brotherhood of the redeemed. It breaks over the lines of nation, race, class, sex, everything. No service is too small, even a cup of cold water, if done for Christ's sake. See on Matthew 18:6 for discussion on stumbling-blocks for these little ones that believe on Jesus (Mark 9:42), a loving term of all believers, not just children.

Verse 43

Into hell, into the unquenchable fire (εις την γεενναν, εις το πυρ το ασβεστον). Not Hades, but Gehenna. Ασβεστον is alpha privative and σβεστος from σβεννυμ to quench. It occurs often in Homer. Our word asbestos is this very word. Matthew 18:8 has "into the eternal fire." The Valley of Hinnom had been desecrated by the sacrifice of children to Moloch so that as an accursed place it was used for the city garbage where worms gnawed and fires burned. It is thus a vivid picture of eternal punishment.

Verse 44

The oldest and best manuscripts do not give these two verses. They came in from the Western and Syrian (Byzantine) classes. They are a mere repetition of verse Mark 9:48. Hence we lose the numbering 44 and 46 in our verses which are not genuine.

Verse 46

See on Mark 9:44

Verse 47

With one eye (μονοφθαλμον). Literally one-eyed. See also Matthew 18:9. Vernacular Koine and condemned by the Atticists. See Matthew 18:8. Mark has here "kingdom of God" where Matthew 18:9 has "life."

Verse 48

Their worm (ο σκωληξ αυτων). "The worm, i.e. that preys upon the inhabitants of this dread realm" (Gould). Two bold figures of Gehenna combined (the gnawing worm, the burning flame). No figures of Gehenna can equal the dread reality which is here described. See Isaiah 66:24.

Verse 50

Have salt in yourselves (εχετε εν εαυτοις αλα). Jesus had once called them the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) and had warned them against losing the saltness of the salt. If it is αναλον, nothing can

season (αρτυω) it and it is of no use to season anything else. It is like an exploded shell, a burnt-out crater, a spent force. This is a warning for all Christians.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/mark-9.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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