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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Mark 7

 

 

Verses 1-23

2. Contest with the Pharisees and Scribes from Jerusalem concerning Traditions respecting Eating. Mark 7:1-23.

(Parallel: Matthew 15:1-20.)

1Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem 2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled [common ], that is to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault.[FN1] 3For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the 4 elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, 5and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then[FN2] the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart 7 is far from me. Howbeit, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments 8 of men. For, laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.[FN3] 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth [revileth] father or mother, let him die the death: 11But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou 12 mightest be profited by me; he shall he free. And[FN4] ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother; 13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye 14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them [again[FN5]], Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15There is nothing from without a Prayer of Manasseh, that entering into him, can defile him: but the things which come out of him,[FN6] those are they that defile the16, man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.[FN7] 17And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable 18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the Prayer of Manasseh, it cannot defile him; 19Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging[FN8] all meats? 20And he said, That which cometh out of the Prayer of Manasseh, that defileth the Prayer of Manasseh 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications. murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Comp. the parallel place in Matthew. The occurrence before us took place in the summer of the year782: in the midst of the year of persecutions. The combination of the Pharisees of Galilee and the Pharisees of Judea in their opposition to Jesus had already been concerted and entered upon. They had begun to institute against Him ecclesiastical proceedings in Galilee, and to watch His every step. The basis of the conspiracy consists of the preceding Galilean crisis, Mark 2, 3, and the confederacy against Jesus at the Feast of Purim in Jerusalem, 782 ( John 5). The progress and the conclusion of the scheme appear in Mark 8:11. From the time of the Feast of Purim a common action and combination of the Sanhedrim in Jerusalem and the Galilean synagogue was inaugurated. The Sanhedrim were in constant connection and correspondence with the synagogues of the provinces, and even with those of foreign lands (see Acts 9:2). Some, therefore, appointed by them, diligently visited the provinces; and watched especially those teachers whose doctrines declined from the principles of Pharisaism, at the head of which stood that of tradition (Ammon, Leben Jesu, ii264). There were two official transactions or interferences. And there were two retreats on the part of Jesus: the first time, as far as the borders of the Gentile territory; the second time, into the solitude of the mountain beyond the sea, and even to the borders of the other world (transfiguration);—and all for the preparation of the new Church. (See my Leben Jesu, ii2, 858.)—Between the narrative of the first feeding, the walking of Christ upon the sea, and our present narrative, there are many things to be interposed, which Mark has already communicated. Among these are the heretication of Jesus in the cornfield; the healing the man with a withered hand; the allegation of the Galilean Pharisees, that the works of Christ were done in the power of Beelzebub, etc. (See the Table of Contents, Leben Jesu, ii2, 14.)—Peculiar to Mark is the expression, συνάγονται πρὸς αὐτόν, in which we cannot fail to see reference to an official interference of the Sanhedrim with our Lord. Also the exact account of the religious washings of the Jews; the detailed characterization of the conflict between the Pharisaic traditions and the commandment of God, including the Corban; the striking and profound sentence concerning the purging all meats; and the perfect description of those evil things which proceed out of the heart. Also, in the following section, which may be glanced at here, the design of Christ to remain concealed in a house (belonging to a friend) on the borders of Phœnicia, during the time of His sojourn there; and the Lord’s return to the Sea of Galilee through the Sidonian territory and that of Decapolis. It is observable that Peter must have communicated the account of these remarkable travels, having faithfully preserved the individual details. On the other hand, this Evangelist omits the intercession of the disciples on behalf of the woman of Canaan, and the declaration of Christ that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Mark 7:2. And when they saw.—Probably on the appearance of the disciples in Jerusalem at the Passover, which He did not attend in the year782. The spiritual impulse of freedom which actuated the disciples might at that time have led them into the commission of certain acts of thoughtlessness.—With common, that is to say, with unwashen hands.—So Mark explains for Roman readers. We must particularly define the idea of unwashen hands by that of unwashen in the sense of a religious ceremony prescribed by tradition; and the idea of common by that of ecclesiastically profane, unclean, and defiling. Those who persisted in this uncleanness, which had for its result excommunication, must at last draw down upon themselves the decisive ban.

Mark 7:3. With the fist; oft. [Margin of Eng. Ver. diligently.] Πυγμῇ.—Among the many explanatory translations which have missed the meaning of the difficult expression are these: Vulgate, crebro; Gothic, ufta (oft); Syriac, diligenter. See in De Wette and Meyer the various exegetical methods adopted. “Probably it was part of the rite, that the washing hand was shut; because it might have been thought that the open hand engaged in washing might make the other unclean, or be made unclean by it, after having itself been washed” (Leben Jesu, 2:2, 858). The expression might mean a vigorous and thorough washing.

Mark 7:4. And from the market.—Codex D. has the addition, ἐὰν ἔλθωσιν, when they come; which Meyer, De Wette, and others regard as a sound interpretation. According to this view the progression would be this: 1. Before every meal the washing of hands; 2. but, after the return from market, where there was so much danger of coming into contact with unclean men, the bath was used as a washing of the whole body; hence ἐὰν μὴ βαπτ. But that which follows—the βαπτισμοὶ ποτηρίων—requires still another degree in the progression, and proves that βαπτισμός must be understood in a wider sense. Therefore we interpret it, with Paulus, Kuinoel, and Olshausen, of that which came from the market. De Wette, on the contrary, observes that this was everywhere customary. But it was not customary as a religious ceremony of washing, or as a kind of baptism, like that of the pots and cups, or the Romish baptism of bells. And, moreover, the same held good of the washing of hands; for the washing of hands before eating was generally customary amongst the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Thus, in our view, there was a triple washing at meals: 1. That of the persons; 2. that of the victuals; 3. that of the vessels.—Cups and pots.—Made of wood, in contrast with those of brass, which follow; or, it may be, considered as earthen. [“Pots,” ξεστῶν, perhaps from ξέω, to polish; or else from the Latin sextus or sextarius, denoting the sixth part of a larger measure.—Ed.] Meyer says, indeed, “Earthen vessels, when they were Levitically unclean, were broken to pieces, according to Leviticus 15:12.” But the case supposed there was that of positive desecrations; and it is not to be supposed that the Jews, after or before every meal, broke all the earthen vessels which they used. [Tables (in the margin beds), i.e., couches, anything on which men recline, whether for sleep, or, according to the later use of the ancients, to partake of food,—which accounts for the word used in the text of our Bible. That these couches were immersed in every instance of ceremonial washing, can be thought probable, or even possible, only by those who are under the necessity of holding that this Greek word not only means to dip or plunge, originally, but, unlike every other word transferred to a religious use, is always used in that exclusive and invariable sense, without modification or exception; to those who have no purpose to attain by such a paradox, the place before us will afford, if not conclusive evidence, at least a strong presumption, that beds (to say no more) might be baptized without immersion. Alexander, in loco.—Ed.]

Mark 7:9. Full well, καλῶς.—Ironically, as among ourselves.—Your own tradition, ἵνα.

Very strong and deep. At the bottom of all rigorous enforcement of traditional observances there is an unconscious or half-conscious repugnance to submit perfectly to the law of God. Bengel: Vere accusantur, hanc suam esse intentionem. “Not only unconsciously, but with the fullest purpose, the Rabbis exalted their precepts above the law of Moses.” In the Talmud we read: “The words of the scribes are more noble than the words of the law; for the words of the law are both hard and easy, but the words of the scribes are all easy (to be understood).”—“He who deals with Scripture, it is said in the Bava Mezia, does a thing indifferent; he who reads the Mishna has a reward; but he who devotes himself to the Gemara is most meritorious of all.” Sepp, Leben Jesu, ii. p345.

Mark 7:11. Corban.—Comp. on Matthew 14:5; as also, for the ellipsis in Mark 7:11, Luther’s marginal note: “Corban means an offering, and it was as much as to say, Dear father, I would willingly give it to thee, but it is Corban: I count it better to give it to God than to thee, and it will help thee better.”

Mark 7:14. He said again.—The significant πάλιν—the reading we adopt—throws light upon the whole preceding occurrence; and, together with the συνάγονται at the beginning, gives it the appearance of a judicial process of the synagogue.

Mark 7:17. His disciples asked Him.—Comp. Matthew, where Peter is marked out as the questioner; and observe here, as elsewhere, his modest suppression of himself in the Gospel which sprang from himself. And here, again, there is emphatic prominence given to the disciples’ want of developed spiritual vigor and insight of faith, and their slow advancement in knowledge.

Mark 7:19. Purging all meats.—Meyer: καθαρίζον might be connected with the ἐκπορεύεται as an appositional expression. The apposition, however, would not be connected with the ἐκπορεύεται, but with its subject, that Isaiah, meat; and that could not be tolerated. Καθαρίζον is rather the substantival definition of ἀφεδρών, as being a general means of purification for all the external impurities of meats: the better supported reading καθαρίζων, on the other hand, expressed the same thought adjectivally.—The ἀφεδρών makes all meats clean, not because it simply takes away all impurities, but because the uncleanness or impurity of the object consists in its being out of its place, and therefore defiling something else. It is therefore a place of filth for all the house; a place of cleansing, on the contrary, for the great household of nature. Not without irony does Christ make prominent this ideal significance of the external means of cleansing for meats, addressing as He did the men of traditions, who strove to ensure a prophylactic external purity to their food.

Mark 7:21. Evil thoughts.—In relation to the distribution here, we must notice the change between the plural and the singular forms; or, 1. predominant actions, and2. dispositions. The acts in the plural are arranged under three categories: a. lust; b. hatred; c. covetousness. They then combine into wickednesses (πονηρίαι), by which the forms of evil dispositions are then introduced: deceit and lasciviousness indicate, in two contrasts, the concealed and the open wickedness of self-gratification; whilst the evil eye and blasphemy indicate concealed and open enmity (blasphemy against God and man). Pride or self-exaltation, and foolishness (נְבָלָה), are the internal and the external side of the one ungodly and wicked nature. “The evil eye” is notorious in the East; here it is the description of an envious look.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. See the parallel passage in Matthew.

2. The Jews have fallen through their Sabbath or Rest-day traditions into eternal unrest, through their law of purification into moral defilement, through their many baptisms into an abiding lack of baptism, through their service of the letter into Talmudist fables, through their separation into dispersion all over the world, through their millenarian Messiahship into enmity to Christ, through their trifling with the blessing into the power of the curse. The irony of the Spirit, that He punishes extremes by extremes.

3. The prophecy of Isaiah ( Isaiah 29:13) pronounces a condemnation, always in force, upon all dead and fanatical zeal, and upon all mere ceremonial worship and work.

4. Zeal for traditional observances in its abiding conflict with the eternal commandments of God and laws of humanity. The conflict between false ecclesiasticism and morality. The contradiction of fanaticism has for its foundation an evil bias towards externalizing the inner life. The worm of superstition is unbelief; the worm of fanaticism is religious death or atheism; the worm of hypocritical outside religion is impiety. For the conflict between human fanatical ecclesiasticism and the divine fundamental commandments of morality, see the history of By-zantism and Romanism.

5. Tradition and human ordinances identical. Tradition needs continual reform through the law of God; and human ordinances, through the living development of this law.

6. Contrast between external and internal fellowship; i.e., between being excommunicated, and being out of the Church.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

See on Matthew.—Christ in judgment upon human tradition.—Christ the Deliverer of His disciples: 1. The Originator, 2. the Defender, 3. the Guardian, 4. the Director and Consummator, of their freedom.—Christ and Christianity a hundred times exposed to spiritual censure: 1. The censure of school-learning (theology); 2. of the tradition of the elders (clerical office); 3. of the synagogue (popular assembly).—Christ and tradition: 1. He is the foundation or kernel of all true internal tradition; 2. therefore He unites in one and renews all external tradition; 3. and He is the Judge of all externalized and impious tradition.—The conflict between the law and human ordinances, or between ecclesiasticism and morality. It Isaiah, 1. an unnatural conflict, for true ecclesiasticism and true morality can never come into collision2. It is a light conflict, when false morality contends with true ecclesiasticism3. It is a critical conflict, when false ecclesiasticism fights against true morality4. There is a frightful doom upon both, when false ecclesiasticism and false morality struggle with each other.—The old conflict between fanaticism and humanity Ecclesiastical systems which bury piety (household relations, filial obligations, etc.) condemn themselves.—The indivisible unity of faith and love, of piety and duty.—The fearful perversion of the conflict between divine revelation and human sin into a contradiction between the divine and the human nature.—The triumph of human ordinance is always upon the ruins of the law of faith.—To enjoy with thankfulness, is the sanctification of enjoyment, 1 Timothy 4:4.—In the place of the washing of hands before meat, has come in the folding of hands. Therefore we must mind the reality of the symbol, even in this latter case.— Isaiah, Christ, and the Reformation, agreeing in their judgment upon what is true and what is false worship of God.—The right process of a true reformation: 1. It distinguishes between spirit and flesh, between the internal and the external2. It fights against the false intermixtures of the two, in which the spirit is made subservient to the flesh, and the internal to the external3. It seeks to connect the two aright, so that the spirit may make the flesh its own and glorify it4. It therefore contends also against a false and unnatural separation between the two.—The purity and the purifying power of the great divine economy of nature.—Christianity has consecrated even natural infirmity; or, a beam of the glorification which shines upon the dark natural ways of men.—The decisive objection against human ordinances, that they vainly attempt to effect symbolically a purity which actual life better provides for: 1. Holy water, God’s Streams; 2. arbitrary penances, divine burdens; 3. ecclesiastical purgatory fires, God’s salting fires.—The evil things which proceed from the heart and defile the man. See Critical Notes on Mark 7:21.

Starke:—Majus:—As Christ and His disciples were not without their slanderers, so the devout are never without their accusers and rebukers, 1 Peter 2:12.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—From Jerusalem hypocrisy went forth into all the land.—Hedinger:—What is the dross to the pure gold? what the inventions of men to the truth of God? what superstition to faith?—Quesnel:—As man may dishonor God by overmuch caring for beauty and external purity, Isaiah 3:16, so God is honored by the neglect of these things, when that neglect springs from humiliation of self and true mortification, Jonah 3:6-10.—We must wash the heart after having been defiled by the world; that Isaiah, we must test ourselves and cleanse ourselves of sin, Job 1:5.—Majus:—With hypocrites, regard to man and human ordinances has more weight than the commandments of God.—The hypocrisy of hypocrites must be revealed.—Cramer:—The enemies of the truth must be confounded by the word of God.—Canstein:—The true worship of God is the union of the heart with Him.—Men commonly do willingly and cheerfully all things that do not set them about changing their own hearts.—Self-love, or the selfish mind, is so mad, that it prefers expending its care upon pots and cups rather than upon itself.—Many external ceremonies and human ordinances are not good in the Church of God; for, those who are bent upon rigidly observing them easily come to forget, or postpone to them, the true commandments of God.—Quesnel:—The openly impious do not dishonor the truth of the divine law so much by their evil life, as those do who give themselves out to be lovers of the law of God, and yet falsely interpret it.—After God, our parents are most important; and them their children should honor as the channel of the first gifts of God—nature, life, nourishment, and education.—Bibl. Wirt.:—Christian children should learn well the fourth and fifth commandments.—Quesnel:—Man may disguise his godlessness under the fairest show of piety, but God sees it nevertheless; and, as He condemns it now, He will hereafter make it manifest to all the world.—Majus:—Vows against the honor of God are sinful, and must not be paid.—Bibl. Wirt.:—He who departs from God’s word in one point, and in that point prefers the ordinances of men, may become so thoroughly entangled as not again to escape, Titus 1:15.—In the New Testament, the making distinctions of meats is classed among the works of the devil, 1 Timothy 4:1-3.—Canstein:—All depends upon the state of the heart: as that Isaiah, we are.—As the heart is the source of all evil, we should carefully watch its issues, Jeremiah 17:9.

Schleiermacher:—This was the sense in which the Lord Himself said that His yoke was easy and His burden light; for He contrasted Himself, and the fellowship which He would found upon His own name, with the yoke and the manifold external burdens which the elders were never weary of imposing upon the Jews.—Those who rest wholly on external things have always the same vain labor as the Pharisees; and this has its ground in a lack of confidence. It springs from the fact that man can never have so much firm assurance concerning that which is not the truth as he can concerning that which is the truth; and this unrest manifests itself in looking anxiously at the letter, and in seeking after external uniformity. The greater the number, the greater their hope of internal confidence: of that which is strictly internal they have nothing.—This also He would say, that whosoever contributes to confirm such notions in the minds of men, and make their notions of God’s service purely external, leads them thereby away from the true worship of God in spirit and in truth, and seeks to give their ideas of God such a direction and such a form, that they no longer represent to themselves that God who will be worshipped in spirit and in truth, but an imaginary Being, such as the Gentiles frame in their imaginations.—The same feeling which leads to the honor of father and mother leads to the honor of our Father in heaven.—Gossner:—Manifestly, wicked human ordinances do not injure the divine doctrine so much as specious and seemingly holy superstitious inventions and false interpretations, which are received with confidence by the weak devout, and held fast with stubborn pertinacity.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Mark 7:2.—The addition ἐμέμψαντο (after ἄρτους) has slight support; and the κατέγνωσαν (after ἄρτους) of Cod. D. is equally weak. The former arose from undervaluing the emphatic συνάγονται, which itself suggests an act of the synagogue. Hence we cannot, with Tischendorf, take Mark 7:3-4 as a parenthesis, and Mark 7:5 as the conclusion.

FN#2 - Mark 7:5.—The ἔπειτα is a continuation of the former misunderstanding: Codd. B, D, L, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, &c, read καί.—The κοιναῖς, instead of ἀνίπτοις, is sanctioned by B, D, Versions.

FN#3 - Mark 7:8.—Βαπτισμοὺς to ποιεῖτε is wanting in B, L, Δ., &c. It is bracketed by Lachmann, struck out by Tischendorf. Meyer defends it.

FN#4 - Mark 7:12.—The καί is omitted by Lachmann and Meyer, after B, D. It disturbs the connection of thought.

FN#5 - Mark 7:14.—The reading πάλιν, recommended by Griesbach and adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Meyor, following B, D, L, Δ., is important. It shows, that Isaiah, that the previous incident must be regarded as an examination by the synagogue, in which Christ was separated from the people.

FN#6 - Mark 7:15.—Τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκπορευόμενα, according to B, D, L, Δ., Lachmann, Tischendorf.

FN#7 - Mark 7:16.—This verse is wanting in B, L. Omitted by Tischendorf, it is retained by Lachmann and Meyer. An interpolation here is not probable. The connection requires this point.

FN#8 - Mark 7:19.—A, B, E, F, G, Δ., Chrysostom, Lachmann, Meyer, read καθαρίζων, not καθαρίζον; D. reads καθαρίζει.


Verses 24-31

3. The Withdrawal of Jesus to the Gentile Borders of Tyre and Sidon, and to the District of Decapolis. The Woman of Canaan. Mark 7:24-31

(Parallel: Matthew 15:21-29)

24And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon,[FN9] and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but [and] he could not be hid 25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him,[FN10] and 26 came and fell at his feet; (The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation,) and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter 27 But Jesus said[FN11] unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the [little] dogs 28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the [little] dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs 29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter 30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.[FN12] 31And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto[FN13] the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

See the parallel passage in Matthew, and the preliminary summary of the foregoing section, Critical Notes, p282.

Mark 7:24. And from thence He arose, and went.—That His departure was at the same time a breaking away from the Pharisaic party, is emphatically shown both by Matthew and Mark. His travelling towards the borders of Tyre and Sidon was the prophetic and symbolic representation of the future progress of Christianity from the Jews to the Gentiles. So in ancient times Elijah travelled out of his own land into Phœnicia. Elijah was driven away by the ascendency of idolatry in Israel; Christ was driven away by ascendency of a hierarchy and of a traditionalism which in his eyes was apostasy from the law of God, and therefore idolatry. Yet Jesus did not yet separate from His unbelieving people; He did not actually go into Phœnicia, but only into the adjoining borders of Galilee (εἰς τὰ μεθόρια), that Isaiah, into the district of the tribe of Asher. But afterwards, during His travels among the mountains and on His return to the Galilean sea, He actually passed through the Sidonian region. On those travels, see on Matthew 15:21, Critical Note, p281.—And entered into an house.—Here also He had friends and dependants, as He had in the opposite direction, on the borders of Perea.

Mark 7:26. A Gentile, or Greek.—Ἑλληνίς, according to the Jewish phraseology of the time, indicating a Gentile woman generally. This was not merely the result of the intercourse of the Jews with the Greeks specially; but it sprang from the fact that in the Greeks and in Greece they saw the most finished and predominant exhibition of this world’s culture and glory. Syrophenician, as distinguished from the Λιβυφοίνικες, the Phœnicians of Africa, that Isaiah, Carthage (Strabo). The Tex. Rec. has Συροφοίνισσα; but the true reading wavers between Συροφοινίκισσα (Codd. A, K, &c, Lachmann) and ΣυραΦοινίκισσα (Tischendorf, after Codd. E, F, &c). Thus she was a Phœnician-Syrian woman: most generally viewed, a Gentile; more specially, a Syrian; and still more specifically, a Phœnician. Phœnicia belonged to the province of Syria. But the word may also, more precisely still, describe the Syrian of Phœnicia, the Canaanite woman (Matthew).

Mark 7:30. And her daughter laid upon the bed.—A sign of her perfectly tranquil condition: the demon had previously driven her hither and thither. But there is also an intimation of her exhaustion after the last paroxysm; and this is one more instance of that gradual restoration which Mark loves to describe. The arrival of her mother, who was the subject of healing faith, perfected then her now life and vigor.

Mark 7:31. Through Sidon.—Meyer thinks that the analogy of Τύρου requires us to understand the town of Sidon. But the coasts of Tyre do not refer to Tyre as a city, but to Tyre as a country. Thus we agree with Ewald, that only the travelling through the district of Sidon is settled. The direction of the journey was first northward towards Lebanon; thence from the foot of Lebanon northeasterly, and back through the district of Decapolis, that Isaiah, back through the region which lay to the east, or the farther side, of the sources of the Jordan, to the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee. On Decapolis, comp. Winer, and the Critical Notes on Matthew 15:21.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. See on the parallel passage in Matthew.

2. The circumstance that Mark passes over the mediation of the disciples on behalf of the Gentile woman, is explained by the critics in various ways, after their favorite fashion of external comparison. Meyer thinks Matthew’s the original account. But if we look at internal motives, this whole intervening occurrence, which would be very easily understood by the Jewish-Christian readers of Matthew, would not, without some commentary, be at all intelligible to the Gentile-Christian readers of Mark. Matthew gave prominence to the points which proved to the Jewish-Christian how strictly Christ remained, during His work in the flesh, within the limits of His calling; and that He received the Gentile woman into communion and fellowship of His healing works, only on account of her strong faith, attested by the Israelite witness of the disciples themselves. This motive had no force in Mark’s account. Hence he might, in harmony with his own design, paraphrase the repelling word of the Lord, modifying it according to its inner meaning; and we need not, with Meyer, attribute it to the “softening down of later tradition.”

3. As Christ, in the former narrative, let a ray of His transfiguring glory fall upon the low region of meats and the “draught,” so here He casts one upon the poor dog. Under the light of the kingdom of heaven, everything common and natural obtains a higher meaning; it obtains a value in the economy of God, and as a figure of the relations of His kingdom. The place of daily corruption is a figure of the purifying grave and kingdom of the dead; the dog a figure of the Gentile world. Sin remains more than ever condemned, but only that it may be made subservient to the judgments and honor of God.

4. As the earnest coming of the Syrophenician woman evinced a strong susceptibility among the Phœnicians, humbled by many severe judgments, it was needful that Christ should for the present leave this country, in order that His Jewish people might not be alienated by his premature labors among the Gentiles. But He left the region with the glad anticipation that the prophecy of Psalm 2:8 would one day be fulfilled.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

See on Matthew.—A solemn sign, when Jesus only seems to go forth.—The travels of Jesus towards west, north, east, south: also a sign.—Jesus has everywhere His hidden friends.—He could not remain hidden: that Isaiah, 1. He hid from Himself, in His humility, the consciousness of the great influence of His majesty; 2. He sacrificed His rest to the restlessness of passionate men; 3. He ever submitted His human will to the ruling will of His Father.—The work of the Song of Solomon, under His Father’s government, though free, yet conditioned: 1. In Nazareth, His own city, He could not reveal Himself; 2. in the dark boundary of heathenism, He could not be hidden.—The Gentile longing everywhere feels from afar and seeks after salvation, whilst the Jews reject it before their very eyes. (The nobleman at Capernaum; Cornelius, Acts 10; the Canaanitish woman; the symbolical man of Macedonia, Acts 16:9)—The Gentiles likened to the dogs (house-dogs, not wild ones), not to awaken, but to humble a fanatical party spirit: 1. Unclean indeed, and without the natural gift to distinguish the pure from the impure; 2. but modest, tractable, docile, thankful table-companions of unthankful children.—Christ present with His fulness of help, wherever there is the slightest germ of faith.—“For this saying.” Faith manifest in new and wonderful words: 1. Its source, words unspeakable ( Romans 8:26); 2. its expression, new words of the Spirit, clear and joyful in confession, preaching, and prayer; 3. its glory, the speaking with new tongues.—The regeneration, sanctification, and glorification of speech.—Christ, the terror of evil spirits far beyond His own personal manifestation.—The great sign which the Lord gave His disciples, that the door of the Gentile world was open.—Even among a people of Moloch-worshippers, maternal love was not extinct.—Humility the test of faith.—Humility the deep ground into which all the streams of heavenly blessing are poured.—The Lord is high, and yet hath respect unto the lowly, Psalm 113:5-7.—As Mary prophesied in her song of praise, such was Christ’s rule.—The tarrying of Jesus in the mountain-range of Lebanon, a silent anticipation of His entrance into the heathen world; as the tarrying in the wilderness was an anticipation of His entrance into Israel.

Starke:—Canstein:—Christ’s travels from one place to another.—Quesnel:—A servant of Christ in the Gospel may indeed remain hidden, but it must be so as not to incur the shame of neglecting any duty owing to his neighbor.—Cramer:—When we pursue honor in an unreasonable manner, it flies from us; when we fly from it, it pursues us.—Quesnel:—Every sin is an unclean spirit which possesses the sinner; from Jesus we must in all humility, every man for himself, seek the only remedy.—Sufferings urge men to seek God: happy those who use them to that end.—Christ is still, and for ever, the Saviour of the Gentiles, Romans 3:29.—Parents should feel the utmost anxiety on account of their children, that they be delivered from the power of Satan and led back to God.—Lange:—The sharper the test, the more blessing does it bring when believingly endured.—Bibl. Wirt.:—Faith in the heart permits no displacence against God’s rule to arise in the soul. However God disposes, and whatever He says, must be best, 1 Peter 5:5-6.—Hedinger:—Perseverance presses through, and a good warfare obtains the prize.—Quesnel:—It is a great consolation to a Christian mother when God converts, in answer to her prayer, a daughter possessed by a worldly spirit. But how little prayer is urged for that blessing!—Rieger:—A very little word, falling into a softened, broken, and humbled heart, works great things.—Faith derives greater advantage and strength from humble submission and willing acknowledgment of its unworthiness than from anything else.—Braune:—Let every one limit himself to the field of labor which God has appointed to him: he will soon see whether or not God gives him a commission to go beyond it.—Let no one be offended if he is hemmed in by a narrow limit, according to God’s will. Holy charity and heroic love are all in all.—Schleiermacher:—For this word, go thy way. It was not merely a word of faith, but such an answer, too, as fell in with our Saviour’s design. Without abolishing the distinction between those who belonged to the people of the old covenant and those who were idolaters, it yet threw such a veil over the distinction that many demonstrations of love might seem proper to pass from the one to the other.—Gossner, on Mark 7:24 :—Many might remain hidden enough, but they will not.—A seemingly great severity is often a preparation for great benefactions.—Bauer:—The first act of salvation in the Gentile world.—Ahlfeld:—Persevering faith is sure to win its object. When a heavy cross weighs thee down, seek the light of Christ’s countenance; hold on in faith, and doubt not; He will give at last all that thou needest.—Thomasius:—How the Lord awakens faith in the hearts of men.—Greiling:—The time of suffering is a time of test.—Hartog:—The three stages of victorious faith: 1. It looks with longing at the divine Saviour; 2. it waits with all humility for help; 3. it holds fast its hope with firm confidence.—Bödecker:—Wherefore doth God delay His help?—C. G. Hoffmann:—The mighty word of faith: I will not lot Thee go.—Dittmar:—Great faith in its three stages: 1. Its stage of distress; 2. its stage of sifting; 3. its stage of confirmation.

Footnotes:

FN#9 - Mark 7:24.—Ὄρια: Lachmann, after B, D, L, Δ. καὶ Σιδῶνος is wanting in B, L, Δ., &c. Tischendorf and Meyer omit it; taken from Matthew 15:21.

FN#10 - Mark 7:25.—Tischendorf, after B, L, Δ., Versions: ἀλλ’ εὐθύς ἀκούσασα γυνή.

FN#11 - Mark 7:27.—Lachmann and Tischendorf: καὶ̀ ἔλεγεν, after B, L, Δ., &c. (D.: καὶ λέγει; Vulgate: que dixit). And this is more in keeping; for it is not a definitive utterance, like the δὲ ’Ιησοῦς εἶπεν.

FN#12 - Mark 7:30.—See Meyer, concerning the inversions of this clause. [Lachmann and Tischendorf, after B, D, L, Δ., Versions, have adopted the transposition: τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ κλίνην καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐξεληλυθός. The Received Text is to be retained; the reading of Lachmann is accounted for from the fact, that the copyist passed immediately from the καί following ἐξεληλυθός to the καί in Mark 7:31, so that the clause, καὶ τὴν θυγατ. to κλίνης, was left out, and was afterwards inserted in the wrong, but what seemed to be the more fitting, place. Hence the clause, θυγατ. to κλίνης, and not the clause, τὸ δαιμόν. ἐξεληλ., is the omitted and restored one; so that all the variations in the readings are found in the former and not the latter. Meyer, in loco.—Ed.]

FN#13 - Mark 7:31.—Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, after weighty authorities, read εἰς instead of πρός (as in Mark 3:7). Lachmann and Tischendorf, after B, D, L, Δ., Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Vulgate, Saxon, Itala, read ἦλθε διὰ Σιδῶνος instead of καὶ Σιδῶνος ἦλθε.


Verses 32-37

4. The Healing of the Deaf and Dumb Man. Mark 7:32-37

(Parallel: Matthew 15:29-31)

32And they bring unto him one that was deaf,[FN14] and had an impediment in his speech33[a stammerer]; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his 34 tongue: And, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that Isaiah, 35 Be opened. And straightway[FN15] his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain 36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he[FN16] charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

See on Matthew.—The healing of the deaf and dumb man on the east side of the Jordan is a narrative peculiar to Mark. In regard to time it is closely connected with the two foregoing events: occurring at the termination of the Lord’s travels towards Phœnicia and through Decapolis back to the eastern border of the Sea of Galilee (Gaulonitis). Mark shows, in his account of the miracles, a preference for those healings in which the gradual process of the cure, as connected with the instrument and the development of it, is vividly presented. Thus, in his account, the daughter of the Syrophenician woman lies exhausted upon her bed after her deliverance. Thus, he represents Jesus as commanding them to give the daughter of Jairus something to eat. And he alone records the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida—a process which was gradual, and performed in two stages. And here he alone communicates a narrative in which the miraculous act of the Lord is closely connected with the application of the saliva.

Mark 7:32. A deaf Prayer of Manasseh, who could not well speak.—Meyer opposes this translation: “κωφὸν μογιλάλον is wrongly translated, a deaf man difficult of speech (see Beza, Maldonatus, De Wette).—Μογιλάλος, although it seems in its formation to be hard of speech, corresponds in the Septuagint to the Hebrew אִלֵּם, dumb. See Isaiah 35:5, &c. Hence it is a deaf and dumb man (Vulgate, Luther, Calovius, Ewald), which is also confirmed by ἀλάλους.” Since μογιλάλος does literally mean one who speaks with difficulty,—and it is said of this one, that after his cure he spoke ὀρθῶς (not simply he spoke),—the meaning of the words is sufficiently established. With deafness there is connected a disturbance of the organs of speech, or a general perversion of speech.

Mark 7:33. Aside from the multitude.—Wherefore? 1. He would make no display (Theophylact); He would not nourish superstition (Reinhard); He would have an undisturbed relation between Himself and the sick man (Meyer). This last is the weakest reason; for we might for the same reason except the same thing elsewhere. Rather we may assume that the district of Decapolis was something like the region of Tyre and Sidon: it was not a purely Jewish land. Here it was necessary, especially in this time of crisis, that He should avoid a publicity which might bring together the Gentiles in crowds, excite superstition as much as faith, and create in the minds of the Jews a prejudice against Him. In an analogous manner the Lord acted in the case of the blind man of eastern Bethsaida: He led him altogether out of the village. In both cases, however, we must remember that it was a susceptibility of faith which was to be gradually awakened. See the Doctrinal Reflections.And put His fingers.—A similar circumstantial procedure we have in the healing of the blind Prayer of Manasseh,, Mark 8. “But we are not to assume that Jesus desired in any sense to conceal the miraculous element in the cures (Lange, Leben Jesu, ii1, p282), which would amount to untruth.” Meyer. But, upon this principle, the disguise thrown over the evangelical truths of the Gospel through the employment of parables, would amount to untruthfulness.

And He spit.—Spitting, He touched His tongue. Meyer thinks that the touching was the direct spitting upon the tongue. But as the touching (ἅπτεσθαι) is elsewhere an application of the hand, it may be assumed that He moistened His finger and touched therewith the man’s tongue. Saliva used in healing: here; Mark 8:23; John 9:6. De Wette: Saliva was in antiquity a remedy for the eyes (Plin. H. N. 28, 7; Tacit. Hist. 4, 21; Sueton. Vesp. Cp7; Tanchuma, f10, 2; Sanhed, f101, 1; Hieros. Sotah, f16, 4; Vajikra Rabba, f175, 2. Comp. Wetstein and Lightfoot, ad Joh. ix6). Meyer: “The saliva Isaiah, like the oil ( Mark 6:13), to be regarded as a conductor of the miraculous power.” Yet it was not applied in the cure of the ear, but only in the healing of the tongue here, as Mark 8 in the healing of the eyes. Wherefore then was this distinction? Probably because the saliva was better suited to be a symbolical medium for the awakening of faith, and it was never wont to be applied to the ear.

Mark 7:34. Looking up to heaven, He sighed.—Manifestly the sighing of prayer. How much more easily He seemed to accomplish His healing on other occasions! Or was deafness, in its spiritual significance, much worse than blindness and possession; and did the Lord intend to signify that? We assume, 1. that in this half-heathen district, more imperfect and disturbed forms of faith presented themselves to Him, which made the healing on His part more of a conflict; and2. that in this half-heathen district, where they generally believed in demigods and magic, He desired to make more definitely prominent His own dependence on God the Father. For the like reason—that Isaiah, because the Pharisees had blasphemed the source of His miraculous power—He accomplished the raising of Lazarus before the Jews from Jerusalem in connection with a loud prayer to the Father; and in healing the man born blind, John 9, He joined with Himself in the work the temple-fountain Siloam, the holy spring of the priests3. Since the Lord could not influence the deaf man by word, it was necessary that He should influence Him by a strongly speaking sign.—Mark everywhere sets a special mark on the sighing of the Lord, as also upon His manner of looking: comp. Mark 8:12. Meyer remarks, and rightly, that this sigh was at the same time a sigh of painful sympathy.—Ephphatha.—An Aramæan word, in the Imperative: Be thou opened. Related, though not identical, is the Hebrew פָּתַח, in the Imper. Niphal.

Mark 7:35. And the string of His tongue was loosed.—Thus he did not merely speak with difficulty on account of his being dumb, as Olshausen supposes.

Mark 7:36. But the more He charged them.—The stronger His prohibition was, the more it enkindled a desire to spread the report of the miracle.

Ver: 37. He hath done all things well; that Isaiah, in the healing.—Thence they draw the conclusion: As well the deaf, He hath, &c.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Nothing is more instructive and full of significance than the prudence of our Lord in respect to the publication of His miracles, as soon as He had entered the borders of the land where there were closer relations with heathenism, and the people were more infected by heathen views:—the history of the woman of Canaan, the present narrative, and the healing of the blind man in eastern Bethsaida, all illustrate this. The reason was, that Christ would have a monotheistic faith, which traces all up to God the Father as the final source, and that He would not suffer His divine power of healing to be mingled and debased with superstitious and magical notions. This holy prudence will explain many and great restraints upon the full influence of Christianity in the heathen or heathen-Christian world, down to the present day.

2. We may compare the doxology of this people, Mark 7:37, with the doxologies of Mark 1:27; Mark 2:12; Mark 3:11, &c. Matthew explains: They glorified the God of Israel.

3. It must be particularly observed here also, that Jesus could affect this deaf and dumb man only through His glance, His immediate Revelation, His signs, and manner of action. So far this instance stands alone; for the youth who was deaf and dumb through possession, Mark 9:25, suffered not through the sealing up of his organs, but through the perversion and violence done to his soul. So also the possessed who was dumb, Matthew 9:32; and the demoniac who was blind and dumb, Matthew 12:22.

4. Our Christian institutions for the deaf and dumb are an abiding monument of that miraculous healing in the mountains: the natural development of the miraculous act of our Lord. The healing of the deaf and dumb by signs, was a type of the instruction of the deaf and dumb.

5. The Romish rite of baptism relies especially on this miraculous history, because it exhibits the use of several symbolical elements: 1. Separation from the multitude: dedication of Christ in baptism2. The baptizing priest touches, with an Ephphatha, the ears of the infant; 3. moistens its nostrils with saliva; 4. lays salt in its mouth. The Christian Church should do all this in a real manner, and not in a symbolical. As the symbol for it, and at the same time the reality of it, Christ instituted simple baptism.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Sufferers to be brought to Jesus.—The healing of the deaf and dumb; or, the double disease and the double cure in their reciprocal connection1. The connection between deafness and the inability to speak: a. in physical things; b. in spiritual2. Right speaking conditioned by right hearing: in natural life, in spiritual things.—He who does not persevere to the end in hearing aright will surely cease by degrees to speak aright.—The true obedience is of eminently quick and sure hearing.—The education of the deaf and dumb man in faith: 1. He must yield himself up to be led by the strange Wonder-worker, who can only speak to him by looks, into the wilderness; 2. he must see His signs, especially the signs of His prayer and His sighing; 3. he must hear his word of power, that he may have his hearing and be able also to speak.—The holy care of the Lord in all His wonderful works, aiming ever at the glory of God’s name.—How the wonder-working majesty of Jesus is concealed in His humility.—Christ, as He went on His way, opposed and avoided with the same decided earnestness the heathenism which deified men and the world, and the Judaism which deified the letter and ceremonial observances.—Christ had to struggle as well with superstition as with unbelief, to exalt both into faith.—All Christ’s miracles were to the honor of God: 1. All His miracles were miracles of prayer, dependence on God, and strict union with His Father; 2. all His miracles were distinguished, not only in their reason and their end, but also in their form and manner, from the magical works of the heathen world.—Christ ever conceals the thousands of His miracles by the disguise of an unpretending medium.—Christ in His whole being full of saving power.—The sighing of Christ and of His Spirit ( Romans 8:26) over the sin and the misery of humanity and the creature.—The sympathy of Christ.—Guilt and innocence in the popular proclamation of Christ’s works.—The words of His astonished people: He hath done all things well: 1. In its human limitation; 2. in its higher significance.—Concerning redemption as concerning the creation, the word holds good, The Lord hath done all things well ( Genesis 1:31): 1. in the whole, 2. in the details.

Starke:—Where Jesus goes in and out, there is nought but blessing.—Canstein:—When we look at the deaf and dumb, it should make us reverence all the more the glorious gifts of hearing and speech, and determine to use both prudently to the glory of God.—Zeisius:—Most people can both hear and speak; but how great and how common is spiritual deafness and dumbness!—Luther:—Christ begins His cure with the ears, and acts in accordance with nature; since from hearing speaking comes: ἀκοή begets ὑπακοήν.—Lange:—Let us seek silence.—A Christian should often sigh over spiritual and bodily misery.—The ears should be open for God, but shut to the devil and the world.—It is a sign that the tongue has been loosened by Christ, when the words become holy, and the new song is sung to His glory out of a new heart.—Quesnel:—The humility of the benefactor, and the thankfulness of him who has received the benefit, may contend without damaging peace in the heart.—Wondering at God’s works is well; but it should never end there.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—God doeth all things well, not only in healing and binding up, but also in smiting and wounding.—Zeisius:—As Satan damages and ruins everything, Song of Solomon, on the contrary, Christ repairs all things.—Braune:—The Lord guides all His own in various ways, every one in his own; but the goal for all is the great salvation longed for.—Jesus speaks the right language of signs to the deaf and dumb.—Gerlach:—The words, “He hath done all things well,” seem to express an anticipation of the new creation.—Jesus finds His glory in the deaf ears of hardened sinners, and in the speechless or restrained tongues of unthankful, earthly-minded unbelievers. Even from among them He takes many into solitude with Him: His creating hand touches the sealed ear and the idle tongue, His high-priestly intercession groans to the Father for them, and often His Ephphatha opens the ear and looses the bonds of their tongue, so that they may speak plainly.—Lisco:—The turning of the eyes of Jesus towards heaven should teach us to expect our help from thence, and thither to direct our thanksgivings.—Schleiermacher:—That love which could manifest itself so mightily in the Redeemer is among us in our benevolent institutions. But if we ask what has driven men to think upon this, we can say no more than that it is the selfsame Spirit of love who is for ever striving to meet and overcome all the woes and sufferings of humanity.—What a great and wonderful word is this “Be opened,” which the Redeemer was ever speaking throughout His whole manifestation, and the influences of which have never ceased, but will go on until the whole race of mankind have come to the hearing and knowledge of His salvation, and their tongues shall be loosed to the praise of the Most High!—Heubner:—The significance of the healing of the deaf and dumb (in its spiritual application): 1. The person of the wretched one; 2. the leading him to Jesus; 3. the action of our Lord; 4. His looking up to heaven and sighing; 5. His work; 6. His prohibition (the conversion of a sinner should not be boastfully trumpeted to the world; it should exert its influence silently).—Christ the only Physician who can repair the mischiefs in God’s creation.—How much knowledge of God may come through the senses.—Bauer:—How many are still deaf and dumb towards the kingdom of God!

Klefeker:—Even in the sufferings of His creature Prayer of Manasseh, God finds His glory.—Reinhard:—How we, as Christians, should sanctify to our own good the defects, infirmities, and sicknesses of our bodies.—Huffell:—The Christian’s look to heaven.—Reinhard:—The quiet unostentatious zeal with which Christians should do good.—Thiess:—The deaf and dumb man is a type of us.—Couard:—He took him out of the crowd apart.—Bomhard:—The Ephphatha of our Redeemer: 1. A word of omnipotence and grace; 2. great and glorious in its effect; 3. it is uttered to all of us; 4. it is vain for many; 5. it proves its virtue on believers, ever more beautifully and abundantly; 6. it will one day abolish for ever all our fetters.—Rautenberg:—He hath done all things well: 1. Praise of His perfection—wonder; 2. praise of His benevolence—thanksgiving; 3. praise of His glory—adoration.

Footnotes:

FN#14 - Mark 7:32.—After κωφόν, Lachmann and Tischendorf, after B, D, Δ., Versions, have καί.—Ed.]

FN#15 - Mark 7:35.—Εὐθέως is wanting here in B, D, L, Δ., Versions, Lachmann, Tischendorf. Instead of διηνοίχθησαν, Lachmann and Tischendorf, after B, D, Δ., read ἠνοίγησαν.

FN#16 - Mark 7:36.—Αὐτός is wanting in A, B, L, Δ., Vulgate, Laehmann, Tischendorf.—Ed.)

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Mark 7:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/mark-7.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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