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Bible Commentaries
Mark 1

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Mark 1:1. THE TITLE. The beginning of the gospel. This is regarded by some as the title of the whole book: here begins the Gospel. But the word ‘gospel’ in the New Testament is not applied to a book. See the Matthew Book Comments: “Introduction”, “Special Introduction to the Gospels”, “ยง 7. The Gospels”. Others more properly refer it to this section alone, which gives the events forming the beginning of the gospel. As a title, the verse forms a complete sentence. Some, however, connect it with Mark 1:2: The beginning, etc., as it is written. Others again, with Mark 1:4: The beginning of the gospel (was this), John did baptize, etc. Still another view puts a period at the close of this verse, but refers it to the ministry of John, taking Mark 1:2-3, as a second confirmatory title.

Of Jesus Christ, i.e., concerning Jesus Christ, who is the subject of the gospel.

The Son of God. Matthew (Matthew 1:1), writing for the Jews, says: ‘the Son of David, the Son of Abraham;’ but Mark, writing for Gentile Christians, adds the title, the meaning of which is most fully brought out in the prologue to the Gospel according to John.

Verses 1-13

The Evangelist, intending to narrate our Lord’s ministry without dwelling upon the earlier part of His life, prefaces the whole with a title (Mark 1:1), which is followed by a reference to the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:2-8). This was necessary, since, in one sense, John’s appearance was ‘the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’ A brief narration of the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:10-11) and of the temptation (Mark 1:12-13) completes Mark’s account of the preliminary events.

Verses 2-3

Mark 1:2-3. In Isaiah the prophet. The common reading (‘prophets’) arose from the fact that only the second prophecy (Mark 1:3) is from Isaiah; the first is from Malachi (Mark 3:1). Isaiah is named, because his prediction is the more important and striking, and the key note of Malachi’s prophecy. Matthew and Luke quote the latter in a different connection (Matthew 11:10, see the notes there for an explanation of the prophecy; Luke 7:27). On Mark 1:3, see Matthew 3:3.

Verse 4

Mark 1:4. John appeared . The connection is with what precedes, as is indicated by the emphatic position of the word we translate ‘appeared,’ usually rendered: came to pass. ‘As it was written,’ so it was, so there appeared, or came, the one spoken of, John. The common version obscures the emphatic word.

He who baptised and preached . The correct reading makes this not so much a declaration of what John did, as an explanation of how he performed the duty of forerunner, according to the prophecy. On the Baptist’s preaching and baptism, see on Matthew 3:1; Matthew 3:6. Contrast the abrupt introduction of John by Matthew and Mark with the full account of Luke (Luke 1:5-80).

The baptism of repentance. ‘The baptism’ is too definite; John did not institute some new rite, but his baptism was a ceremonial washing, such as was well-known, to signify repentance and forgiveness: unto remission of sins. ‘Repentance’ was the prominent idea of John’s baptism, while ‘remission of sins’ was to come from the Messiah, whose forerunner he was.

Verse 5

Mark 1:5. And all they of Jerusalem, lit., ‘the Jerusalemites.’ This expression is peculiar to Mark. These are made prominent among the inhabitants of Judea, since they lived in the capital city. Comp. Matthew 3:5.

Confessing their sins; since ‘repentance’ was the main theme of this preparatory ministry.

Verse 6

Mark 1:6. Locusts. See on Matthew 3:4, and accompanying cut.

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Verse 7

Mark 1:7. There cometh he that is , etc. The English version does not give the definite idea of the original. The denunciation and warning recorded by Matthew (Matthew 3:7-12) and Luke (Luke 3:7-14) are omitted by Mark, who merely gives the sum of John’s preaching as a forerunner of the Messiah.

To stoop down, etc. Matthew (Matthew 3:11) speaks of bearing the shoes, Luke (Luke 3:16) and John (John 1:27) of unloosing them, but Mark only of stooping down. It is his peculiarity to mention gestures. The perfect independence of the Evangelists thus appears. Nothing could more vividly depict to an eastern audience the inferiority of John the Baptist to the Messiah, than these words.

Verse 8

Mark 1:8. With the Holy Ghost. In Matthew’s account the word ‘in’ is used, but not here: On the day of Pentecost, when the great fulfilment of this prophecy occurred (Acts 2:3), the Apostles were baptized ‘with,’ not ‘in’ the Holy Ghost ‘With fire’ is omitted here, because the Evangelist has not mentioned the severity of John’s preaching.

Verse 9

Mark 1:9. From Nazareth. Peculiar to Mark.

In Jordan , lit., ‘into the Jordan.’ Comp. ‘out of the water’ (Mark 1:10).

Verse 10

Mark 1:10. Straightway . A favorite expression in this Gospel.

He saw, i.e., Jesus Himself, though John also saw it (John 1:32).

Rending. A stronger expression than that used by Matthew and Luke.

Verse 11

Mark 1:11. See Matthew 3:17.

Came out of the heavens. The latter phrase is to be joined with ‘came,’ not with ‘voice’ as in the E. V.

In thee (compare Luke 3:22) is the better supported reading.

Verse 12

Mark 1:12. Straightway . The same favorite word as in Mark 1:10. The E. V. uses seven different words to represent this one Greek word, which may always be rendered ‘straightway.’

The spirit driveth him forth. Comp. Matthew 4:1. The expression here used is stronger than ‘led up’ (Matthew), ‘led’ (Luke).

Verse 13

Mark 1:13. Tempted . It is implied here, as in Luke, that the temptation continued during the forty days, although the more personal assault was made at the close of the fast.

Satan, the prince of darkness, was personally engaged.

With the wild beasts. A graphic touch peculiar to Mark, enhancing the horror of the scene. Christ was probably threatened with physical danger from the wild beasts. Scarcely a figurative expression of His loneliness and helplessness. Possibly a hint of His lordship over animals, who could not hurt or flee from Him: or an allusion to the second Adam as the restorer of Paradise.

Ministered . Probably with food (comp. Matthew 4:11). The fasting, though not mentioned, is thus implied.

Verse 14

Mark 1:14. Now after John was delivered up , i.e., put in prison. On the reason of this imprisonment, see chap. Mark 6:17.

Jesus came into Galilee . See Matthew 4:12. Not from fear of Herod, but on account of the opposition of the Pharisees, and also to reach the Galilean masses who had been impressed by the preaching of John.

Preaching the gospel of God . See below and comp. Matthew 4:17; Matthew 4:23, from the latter passage the words: ‘of the kingdom’ have crept in here.

Verses 14-34

CHRONOLOGY. This Gospel presents the fewest deviations from the chronological order. In the whole narrative of the ministry in Galilee, we find but one such: in the case of the feast at Levi’s house; chap. Mark 2:15-22. On the occurrences between the temptation and the appear once in Galilee, see Introduction, pp. 17 , 18 , and on Matthew 4:12-25; John 1:19 to John 4:42. All harmonists agree in placing the events recorded in this section in both chronological and immediate succession. Attention to this fact aids greatly in understanding the proper order of events as recorded by Matthew. The transfer of His residence from Nazareth to Capernaum took place before the calling of the first disciples (Mark 1:16-20); see Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:16-30.

Verse 15

Mark 1:15. The time is fulfilled . The right time, already predicted, has come in fulfilment of prophecy.

The kingdom of God is at hand. Matthew: ‘the kingdom of heaven.’ The reign of the Messiah, which is the kingdom of God, has approached. Comp. Matthew 3:2.

Repent. Comp, the preaching of John the Baptist; Matthew 3:2.

Believe in the gospel . Peculiar to Mark. The message of John the Baptist did not include this. As yet our Lord does not preach faith in Himself; that must come later. Yet even here is the germ of faith in a Personal Redeemer. The Jews all hoped for the kingdom of God. Jesus proclaims it, but adds something they do not seem to have expected: repentance and faith in order to enter it.

Verse 16

Mark 1:16 . See on Matthew 4:18, etc. The form of the original shows entire independence of Matthew, and the more graphic style of Mark.

In the sea, not ‘into;’ the net was in the water, and they were moving it there.

Verse 17

Mark 1:17. Come ye after me . A more literal rendering of the command recorded by Matthew: ‘Follow me.’

To become. More strictly accurate than Matthew 4:19, hence not copied nor condensed from that account.

Verse 19

Mark 1:19. A little further . An exact statement, peculiar to Mark. Matthew mentions in this connection that Zebedee was in the boat; Mark inserts that fact in the next verse.

Verse 20

Mark 1:20. With the hired servants. Peculiar to Mark. Zebedee was not poor, and was not left helpless by this act of his sons

Went after him , not simply ‘followed Him’ (Matt. and Luke). The great particularity of the brief account suggests that Peter himself told Mark the story. ‘Simon,’ without the addition: ‘called Peter’ (Matthew) is historically more accurate. Hence the order of Mark is probably the more exact, Peter being an eye-witness throughout.

Verse 21

Mark 1:21. And they go into Capernaum. See on Matthew 4:13. This was probably the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in that place. The events recorded by Matthew, chaps, Mark 5:1 to Mark 8:13, occurred later.

Synagogue . See on Matthew 4:23.

Verse 22

Mark 1:22. See on Matthew 7:28-29; comp. Luke 4:32.

Verse 23

Mark 1:23. Comp. Luke 4:31-37.

A man with an unclean spirit . Lit., ‘in an unclean spirit,’ in his power, in intimate union with him. See on Matthew 4:24.

Verse 24

Mark 1:24. What have we to do with thee. Lit., ‘what to us and to thee,’ what have we in common; comp. Matthew 8:29.

To destroy us. The language of the demon, overbearing the consciousness of the man. The plural indicates, either the presence of more than one evil spirit, or that this one speaks as the representative of the class. The destruction referred to includes banishment to torment (comp. Matthew 8:29), and also the destruction of the empire of Satan in the world, signified and begun in such expulsions as these.

I know thee. Already conscious of His influence, the evil spirit with supernatural sagacity recognizes Him as the Messiah.

The Holy One of God. An acknowledgment of His Messiahship, but not necessarily of His Divinity. The ‘unclean spirit’ describes our Lord as the ‘Holy One,’ because this holiness torments him already, and marks Jesus as One sent by God to destroy Satan’s empire.

Verse 25

Mark 1:25. Rebuked him. Our Lord refuses the testimony of demons to His Person.

Hold thy peace. Lit., ‘be thou muzzled,’ silenced. A command joined with enforcing power.

Come out of him. Two distinct personalities are spoken of, the demon and the possessed man.

Verse 26

Mark 1:26. Had torn him . A paroxysm attended the dispossession (comp. chap. Mark 9:26; Luke 9:42); not a natural convulsion, but the malicious act of the demon. Cried with a loud voice. The act of the demon, not a cry of pain from the demoniac. Luke (Luke 4:35) adds that the demon ‘hurt him not.’ The graphic and minute description forbids the view that this was a cure of epilepsy.

Verse 27

Mark 1:27. They questioned among themselves. Only a miracle could produce this effect. The people began to think and argue for themselves, not to ask the scribes.

What is this? a new teaching! This is the rendering of the more lively report of Mark. They rightly inferred, that such new and unexampled power was to attest a new revelation from God. Mark and Luke mention this miracle first, without saying that it was actually the first. That in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11), was the first, since this is expressly stated. The second is recorded in John 4:46-54. Matthew (Matthew 4:24) speaks of many miracles, but describes first the healing of a leper (chap. Mark 8:2-4), in accordance with the purpose of his Gospel. Mark gives special prominence to Christ’s power over demons.

Verse 28

Mark 1:28. And the report of him straightway went out everywhere. The correct reading presents most graphically the effect of the miracle.

Region of Galilee round about. Not the regions adjacent to Galilee, but the adjacent regions of Galilee.

Verse 29

Mark 1:29. And straightway. On the ‘sabbath day’ (Mark 1:21) after the occurrence in the synagogue.

The house of Simon and Andrew. Now living in Capernaum (see on Matthew 8:14).

With James and John. Mark alone mentions these. The particularity favors the theory that Peter had told Mark of it. The twelve were not yet chosen; though these four had been called to follow Christ (Mark 1:17; Mark 1:20).

Verses 29-34

Mark 1:29-34. This miracle and those in the evening following are mentioned by Matthew (Matthew 8:14-17) and Luke (Luke 4:38-41). The order of the latter agrees with that of Mark, and the time is definitely indicated. The deviations from the correct order made by Matthew can easily be explained (see on Matthew 8:1-17).

Verse 30

Mark 1:30. And straightway they tell him of her. Matthew omits this telling; Luke says: ‘they besought Him for her.’

Verse 31

Mark 1:31. Took her by the hand, and raised her up. Mark is here more minute than Matthew or Luke. See on Matthew 8:15.

Verse 32

Mark 1:32. And when evening was come, after the sun was set. The Sabbath had ended, and they felt at liberty to bring the sick and possessed.

Them that were possessed with demons, or, more literally, ‘those demonized, under the power of evil spirits.’ The two afflicted classes are distinguished.

Verse 33

Mark 1:33. Gathered together at the door. Peculiar to Mark, and suggesting the impression made on Peter looking out from the house.

Verse 34

Mark 1:34. And he healed many, etc. This does not imply that some were not healed, either because there was not time, or because they lacked faith; both Matthew (Matthew 8:16) and Luke (Luke 4:40) say that all were healed.

Suffered not the demons to speak. This was usual. See Mark 1:25; comp. the more particular account of Luke (Luke 4:41). Our Lord could be Himself the witness to His claims (comp. John 8:14-18); practically no man ever believes in Christ without first believing Christ Himself independently of other witnesses. Besides these were unworthy witnesses; it was not the right time for the truth they stated. But Satan and Satan’s emissaries can speak the truth when it will serve an evil end.

Verse 35

Mark 1:35. A great while before day, or, ‘while it was still night’ Luke: ‘when it was day,’ or literally, ‘it becoming day.’ Both refer to the same point of time, the earliest dawn. Between this and the parallel passage in Luke there is a great difference in words, though none in matter. A proof of the independence of Mark, since Matthew does not give these details.

Into a desert place . Just as in Luke. ‘Solitary place’ really expresses the uninhabited character of the region referred to, but the word is usually rendered ‘desert’ Evidently near Capernaum.

And there prayed. Our Lord’s example enjoins secret prayer. His work and prayer are closely connected. The punctilious observance of the Sabbath in Capernaum gave the people their rest, and yet must have abridged our Lord’s repose. Prayer with Him seems to have been not only intimate communion with His Father, but a necessary preparation for His ministry. How much more needful for us!

Verses 35-45

The journey through Galilee here spoken of (Mark 1:35-39) is the first one recorded in the Gospels and is identical with that mentioned in Luke 4:42-44; Matthew 4:23-25. Mark and Luke, however, are more definite than Matthew; the passage just cited from the latter may be a more general description of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee. The miracle here given in detail by Mark (Mark 1:40-45) is in its proper chronological position. Matthew (Matthew 8:2-4) deviates for a purpose. The emendations suggested in this section conform to the better established Greek text and bring out more fully the lively character of Mark’s style.

Verse 36

Mark 1:36. They that were with him. ‘Simon,’ mentioned first as head of the house from which Jesus had withdrawn; the others were: James and John and Andrew, though perhaps more may have been with them.

Verse 37

Mark 1:37. And they found him. Search and uncertainty is implied, since He had retired to an unfrequented spot.

All are seeking thee. The crowd soon followed Simon and his friends. See Luke 4:42. Peter said this to induce Him to return, and the crowd besought Him to stay. The will of the multitude did not govern Him, as they supposed, hence the reply in the next verse.

Verse 38

Mark 1:38 . Let us go elsewhere into the next towns . Spoken to the disciples, who are invited to go with Him. The answer to the multitude is given by Luke (Luke 4:43): ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also.’

That I may preach there also. Not to work miracles, but to preach; though He did both (Mark 1:39). The crowd gathered because of the works He performed, but His great object was to teach. Although indifferent to the immediate wish of the multitudes, He shows His desire to really bless them, by seeking them even while all sought Him.

For to this end came I forth, i.e., from God. Luke: ‘therefore am I sent.’ Probably neither the disciples nor the multitude understood this. It surely means more than that for this reason He came out of Capernaum or out of the house, because that coming forth (Mark 1:35) was to pray, not to preach.

Verse 39

Mark 1:39. In their synagogues. Lit, ‘into,’ implying that He went into them and reached the ears of the people.

All Galilee. Not the next towns only, but throughout the whole region; comp. Matthew 4:23, and especially Luke 4:44.

Verse 40

Mark 1:40. A leper. See on Matthew 8:2. The variations from that account are only in the choice of words and the omission of ‘Lord’ here.

Verses 40-45

Mark 1:40-45. See on Matthew 8:2-4. Mark’s account is fuller, showing independence, and confirming the view that Matthew has deviated from the chronological order. From Luke 5:12-14 we conclude that the miracle occurred at some other place than Capernaum, although Mark 2:1 suggests that it was not far from that city.

Verse 41

Mark 1:41. Moved with compassion. Peculiar to Mark, suggesting the report of an eye witness (Peter).

Verse 43

Mark 1:43. Solemnly charged him. This implies strong emotion. Our Lord perceived the man’s disobedient spirit.

Straightway sent him away. Not out of the house, for there is no evidence that the miracle was performed in a house. Possibly out of the city into which the leper had come (Luke 4:12); but away from Himself, for despite our Lord’s compassion, feelings of grief seem to have been awakened by the man.

Verse 44

Mark 1:44. The purport of our Lord’s charge to the healed leper is now given. See on Matthew 8:4. Such prohibitions (comp. Matthew 9:31; Mark 5:43) were called forth by circumstances. Evidently this man needed the warning.

Verse 45

Mark 1:45. And began to publish it much. This he did at once (‘began’). Whether he went to the priest at all is not mentioned; but he was disobedient at all events in this matter, which is mentioned by Mark only.

Spread abroad the matter. Lit., ‘the word,’ i.e., the account of what had happened, not the word of Jesus. This was wrong, a specimen and type of the injudicious zeal, all too common among those whom the Lord blesses.

Could no more. Moral inability. His purpose would have been defeated by entering where the people were excited by this report. The evil effect of the leper’s disobedience. Into a city. Meaning in general ‘into town,’ not the particular city where the numbers had been healed.

Was without in desert places. Not to avoid the people, for it is added: and they came to him from every quarter, and Luke, without stating that the leper himself had spread the report, tells of this effect of the miracle. Some think our Lord, after touching the leper, was unclean according to the Jewish law, and hence remained ‘in desert places.’ But He would not have acted from this motive unless He acknowledged the uncleanness, and such an acknowledgment could not be affected by the leper’s report, which is said to be the cause of His keeping away from the cities. Nor would the multitudes have come thus to an unclean person. The retirement was rather from motives of prudence, to avoid exciting the multitudes with their carnal expectations and prematurely increasing the hostility already awakened at Jerusalem (John 4:1) and beginning to show itself in Galilee. See next section. This hostility must be regarded as much greater, if we accept the view that the events recorded in John 5:0 had occurred before the Galilean ministry.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/mark-1.html. 1879-90.
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