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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Mark 9

 

 

Introduction

Mark 8:27 to Mark 9:1. The Great Confession, and the First View of the Cross.—Here opens a new section of the gospel. The tendency to seek retirement with the Twelve, pronounced from Mark 6:31 onwards, now dominates the story. Jesus devotes Himself to traming the Twelve in the shadow of the Cross. This concentration on His disciples becomes possible when they pierce His secret. The full significance of the confession is only apparent if Jesus has not previously revealed Himself or been recognised as Messiah (cf. HNT). It constitutes a decisive development. The scene is laid near Cæsarea Philippi (p. 32), a largely Gentile town on the east side of Jordan, not to be confused with Cæsarea on the coast. The praise bestowed on Peter in Matthew 16:17 f. is not recorded in Mk. If Mk.'s dependence on Peter is to be proved by his showing "a special regard for Peter," the proof is wanting. But Eusebius rightly suggested that Mk.'s silence may reproduce the natural silence of Peter. A genuinely Petrine record might fail to praise Peter.

The charge to keep silence seems to be sufficiently explained by the intention of Jesus to await the Father's revelation (cf. Matthew 16:17) and by His unpopular expectation as to Messiah's task and end. Either from now on Jesus spoke much with the Twelve of the death He anticipated, or else the evangelist assumes that Jesus must have foreseen His fate and so boldly attributes such foresight to Him. The chief difficulty of the first alternative is found in the conduct of Jesus at Jerusalem, which "makes the impression that He journeyed thither, not in order to die but to fight and conquer, and that in looking forward to the conflict His own death presented itself not as a certainty, but at the most as a possibility" (Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity, ii. 34f.). This assumes that Jesus must have regarded His death either as certain or as possible. But why may He not have considered it overwhelmingly probable—a judgment which would not exclude flashes of hope that even now Israel might repent? The difficulty of the second alternative is that it compels us to discard so much that looks like genuine tradition, e.g. the parable of the husbandmen, the answer to the sons of Zebedee, the lament over Jerusalem, and the upbraiding of the cities of Galilee, not to mention the whole development of the ministry from public evangelization to private communion with the Twelve, as Mk. conceives it. Such a surrender of material is not defensible. The note of necessity—the Son of Man must suffer—is best explained by the use of the same verb in Luke 24:26. Prophecy points this way and must be fulfilled.


Verse 1

Mark 9:1 is added here though not necessarily spoken on this occasion. Menzies and others question its genuineness in its present form. If it conflicts with Mark 13:30, some simpler saying must have been modified by those who lived to see nearly the whole generation pass away.


Verses 2-13

Mark 9:2-13. The Transfiguration and the Coming of Elijah.—After an interval, defined with curious exactness as six days, which may reflect the influence of Exodus 24:16, the three most intimate disciples of Jesus receive a Divine endorsement of His Messianic claim in a vision on a mountain-top (probably a slope of Hermon, not Tabor, see pp. 29, 32). Jesus was transfigured before them. Mk. dwells on the changed appearance of His clothes, which is described in a vigorous phrase. He does not say much of the more personal change in Jesus, nor does he mention the spiritual occasion of the transformation. "As He prayed," Lk. tells us. Both Moses and Elijah are seen talking with Jesus. Law and Prophecy meet and bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah. To the presence of Moses and Elijah is added the direct testimony of the Divine voice from the cloud. The voice which addressed Jesus as God's Son at His baptism now reveals Him as God's Son to the three disciples. The cloud itself confirms the Messianic claim. "And the glory of the Lord shall be seen, even the Cloud, as in the days of Moses it was visible and as when Solomon prayed" (2 Maccabees 2:8). Peter's unfortunate interruption (Mark 9:5) is held by Loisy to break the unity of the story. He would regard it as an insertion by the Paulinist Mk., who insists that even in this vision Peter failed to appreciate the Messianic dignity of His Master. Similarly, "Dr. Carpenter thinks the transfiguration is Pauline. Peter would like to find room for Moses and Elijah along with Christ. This is not Paul's view" (Montefiore, i. 217; cf. also Jerome quoted by Swete, "You are wrong, Peter. Do not ask for three tabernacles, since there is one tabernacle of the gospel, in which the law and the prophets are fulfilled"). Carpenter's view is better than Loisy's, in so far as it takes Peter's remark as an integral part of the story. But both fail to explain the excuse added for Peter (which one does not expect from a Paulinist), and it is almost incredible that such a remark should have been put into the mouth of Peter in order to condemn his Judaistic tendencies. It might convey such a suggestion to a learned commentator like Jerome. It would hardly have made any such impression on the earliest readers of the gospel. It is more intelligible as a genuine reminiscence from Peter himself. Wellhausen and Loisy suggest. without sufficient reason, that the whole story may be a Resurrection-appearance in Galilee transferred to this point in the narrative to bring out the significance of the Great Confession (see summary of Wellhausen in Montefiore, i. 217). The Transfiguration is really best understood as a mystic experience of self-dedication and Divine assurance, which Jesus actually went through soon after the decisive disclosure to the disciples of what lay in store for Him. Though the story is told from the point of view of the disciples, who emphasize its influence on them, its true character, as Lk. hints, lies in its being a record of the inner life of Jesus (cf. E. Underhill, The Mystic Way, p. 117f.). Perhaps for that reason even the other apostles were not to hear of it, till after the Resurrection. The question of Elijah is not necessarily raised either by Mark 9:1 (HNT, pp. 73f.) or by the vision of Elijah, as Origen suggests. It arises out of the whole programme sketched in Mark 8:31 and reaffirmed by allusion in Mark 9:9. The Son of Man is to suffer and rise again. But what, then, of the part traditionally attributed to Elijah (e.g. Malachi 4:5) in Messiah's coming? Jesus affirms that Elijah is to play his part and yet Messiah must suffer. Indeed Elijah has come in the person of John the Baptist, and the fate of John foreshadows the fate of Jesus. That Jesus regarded John as fulfilling the ministry of Elijah is of great importance for understanding how He came to anticipate His own death. The Scriptures pointed the same way. The reference in Mark 9:12 must surely be to Isaiah 53. The Scripture suggesting the fate of Elijah will be either 1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 19:10 or some apocalyptic writing such as underlies Revelation 11:6 f.


Verses 14-29

Mark 9:14-29. The Healing of the Demoniac Boy.—This story is told in greater detail by Mk. than by Mt. or Lk., who omit the conversation between Jesus and the boy's father (Mark 9:20-24). Perhaps they wished to avoid representing Jesus as asking a question for information (Mark 9:21). In any case, they lose genuine and valuable material (especially Mark 9:23 f.). Possibly AV is right in giving us the singular, "he came," in Mark 9:14, instead of RV, "they came." If so, the story may not originally have followed the Transfiguration, and Mk. may have designed the contrast which is reproduced in Raphael's picture. The references to the scribes and their discussion with the disciples in Mark 9:14-16 seem to have little to do with the demoniac boy. The apparent irrelevance of these details is probably a sign of their historical accuracy (cf. Mark 4:36*). The amazement of the crowd at the sight of Jesus (Mark 9:15) has been traced to the influence of Exodus 34:29 f. or to the sudden and opportune character of His intervention. J. Weiss seems to be justified in citing Mark 10:32 as the best parallel. Throughout this section, the very presence of Jesus evokes awe and wonder. Men are conscious of His dedication unto death. The expectation of the end also prompts or colours the exclamation in Mark 9:19. Loisy sees in this an artificial rebuke to Jews and Judaizers, inserted by the evangelist. Weiss, with more insight, regards it as one of the most impressive sayings of Jesus which we possess. It suggests how lonely Jesus felt Himself to be in His faith in God, and how He longed to be set free from the apparent failure of His preaching in Galilee (cf. Luke 12:50). As Mk. records it the miracle is accomplished in two stages (cf. Mark 8:22 f.). The closing stage (Mark 9:26 f.) recalls the story of Jairas' daughter. It is not necessarily suggested by it. The query of the disciples in Mark 9:28 (follow AV or RVm, not RV text) forms a natural sequel. The answer of Jesus (Mark 9:29) is perhaps better reported in Matthew 17:20. Prayer plays no part in the previous story. Possibly the saying reflects the experience of the early Church, which found prayer and fasting necessary for some kinds of exorcism.

Mark 9:23. RV is here more correct and more vivid than AV.

Mark 9:25. The reference to the coming together of the crowd is not expected. Mk. has not told us that Jesus had taken the man aside. Mk.'s references to the crowd seem sometimes confused (cf. Mark 8:34).

Mark 9:29. There is good authority for retaining the word "fasting" in this verse. "If it is not the true reading, it is the true experience."


Verses 30-32

Mark 9:30-32. Further Prediction of the Passion.—Jesus now journeys through Galilee, avoiding public attention. Mk. explains the desire for privacy as due to the purpose of Jesus to devote Himself to the disciples. Some scholars suggest that the necessity of avoiding a collision with Herod may have been the real motive. But apart from the question of Herod's hostility, this section of the gospel represents Jesus as breaking off the public ministry to train the Twelve. Mk. is probably right both as to the main motive of seeking privacy and as to the central theme of the teaching given to the disciples. In this second summary prediction of the end, the verb paradidonai is used for the first time. The delivering up of the Son of Man may refer not simply or chiefly to the act of betrayal but to the thought of "the Father delivering up His Son for us all" (cf. Abbott, Paradosis). The failure of the disciples to understand is not due to any obscurity in the words used, but to the unexpected character of their contents, and to the suggestion that this is God's plan for His beloved Son.


Verses 33-50

Mark 9:33-50. A Conversation with the Twelve.—This section illustrates the kind of teaching which Jesus gave in private to His disciples. It may embody fragmentary recollections of a particular discussion, but more probably Mk. has strung together utterances and incidents belonging to different occasions, the connecting links being sometimes the mere repetition of a single word, such as "cause to stumble" (Mark 9:42 f.), or "fire" (Mark 9:48 f.), or even "in my name" (Mark 9:37; Mark 9:39). The latter half of Mark 9:37 and Mark 9:41 are paralleled in Matthew 10:40-42, where they are rightly connected more closely together.

Mark 9:33-37. The question of precedence seems to have occupied the minds of the disciples more than once. It reveals the ideas of the Kingdom which made it difficult for them to understand the Cross. Jesus corrects their ambitions by laying down the principle of greatness through service which is further developed in Mark 10:42 f. The introduction of the child, and the saying about receiving a little child, do not seem to continue the lesson. Mk. has omitted the pointed sayings recorded in Matthew 18:3 f. Mk. alone gives us the characteristic action of Jesus in throwing His arms round the child (cf. Mark 10:16). The phrase "in my name" is ambiguous. Swete says, "on the ground of My Name," i.e. "the act being based upon a recognition of his connexion with Me." This is supported by parallels, and in that case, the child represents humble believers who bear Christ's name. But perhaps it means simply "for My sake" (see Montefiore).

Mark 9:38-40. The Exorcist who Stood Outside the Apostolic Succession.—The disciple John now recalls the case of one who effected cures in the name of Jesus, but did not join His followers. If historic, this incident reveals the freedom with which the disciples brought their questions to Jesus. Its historicity has been challenged on the ground that such exorcisms in the name of Jesus would not have taken place in His lifetime. Loisy regards the reference to receiving little ones and the lesson of tolerance in this incident, as a plea for a frank recognition of Paul by the original apostles. But we do not know that any such plea would have been either necessary or intelligible when the gospel was written. Neither Mark 9:37 nor the description of the exorcist really fits the position of Paul and his relations with the Twelve. No Paulinist would defend Paul by claiming that he would not readily speak evil of Christ (Mark 9:39). Nor is the use of the name of Jesus in exorcism during His lifetime incredible, if Jesus exerted the influence over demons which Mk. attributes to Him.

Mark 9:41-50. Mark 9:41 is the complement of Mark 9:37, but it also connects with the verses immediately preceding. The disciple who receives a child for Christ's sake is richly rewarded. Conversely, not only a spiritual skirmisher like John's exorcist, but anyone who renders the least service to a disciple is within the circle of blessing. On the other hand, the man who shakes the faith of a humble believer deserves a severe punishment. The following verses (Mark 9:43-48) turn from offences against others to offences against one's-self. Jesus urges men to make the hardest sacrifices to avoid fatal temptations. RV rightly omits Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46. The scene of corruption in the accursed valley of Gehenna (Jeremiah 7:31*) is described in words taken from the last verse of Isaiah. The valley, which lies to the south-west of Jerusalem, had been defiled by Moloch-worship (p. 480). In Enoch (Enoch 27:1, see Charles's note) it was the appointed place of punishment for apostate Jews. The description implies eternal loss rather than everlasting torture.

Mark 9:49 f. Detached sayings, which suggest first that every man must be purified by fire (? persecution or the last judgment) though not all must be punished by fire. and second, that the contribution of the disciples to the health of the world depends on their own whole-someness. The need of harmony among the disciples brings us back to the starting-point of Mark 9:34.

 


Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Mark 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/mark-9.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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