Notes on Mark
Version Date: February 24, 2023. (Date of First Version: May 19, 2022.)
Mk 1:1 A close translation of Mk 1:1-2 is: "The beginnings of the good news preached by Jesus Christ were, as it is written in the prophets, 'Behold, I send my messenger before thee who will prepare thy way before thee.'" Note that αρχη του ευαγγελιου ιησου χριστου "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ" is not understood here as a book title, but as the beginning of a sentence describing the circumstances in which the Lord began to preach the good news. So Mk 1:1-4 indicates that the Lord began to preach during the ministry of John the Baptist. This fact can be seen also in Ac 1:22; after the death of Judas, when the disciples sought to appoint another apostle, the expectation was that one could be an apostle if he had been with Jesus from the time of the baptism of John. This confirms that the Lord began preaching when John was baptizing. Sometime after Jesus was baptized, he began to preach. As for translating ευαγγελιου ιησου χριστου "the good news of Jesus Christ" as "the good news preached by Jesus Christ," see Mk 1:14-15 and the note on Mk 1:15.
Mk 1:2 Considering Mlc 3:1, the statement ופנה דרך לפני "and he will prepare the way before me" speaks of the way being prepared before the one who spoke this verse, namely יהוה צבאות "the LORD of hosts." Mlc 3:1 also states that פתאם יבוא אל היכלו האדון אשר אתם מבקשים ומלאך הברית אשר אתם חפצים הנה בא "and suddenly the Lord that you seek will come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant that you delight in, behold, will come." The messenger of the covenant is the Angel of the Lord, the one through whom the covenant at Mount Sinai was made, the same person as the Lord that believers were seeking. Mlc 3:1 states that he was about to come and that his way would be prepared before him. So Mlc 3:1 declares the coming of God the Son. The text is spoken by the Son, for we read "before me" not "before him". This was not something that the Son had decided, but something that the Father had decreed and God the Son was about to carry out.
Now Mk 1:2 makes a reference to Mlc 3:1 and states the decree in the form in which it was given to the Son, through whom all things are done. Thus, Mk 1:2 is not a word-for-word quotation but something derived from Mlc 3:1. In Mlc 3:1, God the Son speaks about what he was about to do. Since the Son does exactly what the Father instructs him to, the words of the Father to the Son can be derived from Mlc 3:1 as in Mk 1:2. It is interesting to note that Mlc 3:1 is stated the same way in Mk 1:2, Mt 11:10, and Lk 7:27. When Mlc 3:1 is stated in this form, both the divinity of the Lord Jesus is declared and the fact that he is the one for whom Mlc 3:1 was decreed.
It is not uncommon for Scripture verses that are somewhat difficult to interpret to have more than one variant in Greek, where differences between variants are small. The beginning of Mk 1:2 has two main variants: "as it is written in the prophets" and "as it is written in the prophet Isaiah." Since this site follows the received text, the variant "as it is written in the prophets" is assumed to be the original form of the beginning of Mk 1:2; this variant corresponds to the Byzantine family of manuscripts. So assuming that "as it is written in the prophets" is the original form of the text, the variant "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet" could be explained as follows. If it was not a scribal mistake, but a scribe willingly modified the text, since the original form of Mk 1:2 invited the question, "Why is the quoted text not stated the same way as in Mlc 3:1?" the scribe may have thought that the quoted text was not from Mlc 1:3 but from a lost prophecy of Isaiah. So he replaced "in the prophets" with "in Isaiah the prophet," to ensure that the hearers will not think that the quotation is from Mlc 3:1.
If one regards "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet" as the original form of the text, then the text could be interpreted as follows. The main point is to introduce the prophecy of Is 40:3, while making a secondary point that what was stated by Isaiah was predicted also by Malachi. So Is 40:3 is introduced with the words of Mlc 3:1.
The Byzantine text has ως γεγραπται εν τοις προφηταις "as it is written in the prophets." This is similar to τα γεγραμμενα εν ... προφηταις "the things written in ... the prophets" in Lk 24:44 and εστιν γεγραμμενον εν τοις προφηταις "it is written in the prophets" in Jn 6:45, and is consistent with other passages in which "minor prophets" are not named when referenced, such as in Ac 7:42 and Jn 12:15.
Other manuscripts have the variant καθως γεγραπται εν τω ησαια τω προφητη "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet." In the context of the Bible, this variant is quite unique. It states that the name of the book of Isaiah was "The Prophet Isaiah", for we read "in the prophet Isaiah", not "in Isaiah". This makes this variant unique, because there is no other Scripture passage in which a book is called "The Prophet ... ." Moreover, the word ησαια "Isaiah", though frequent in the New Testament, does not appear elsewhere with the article. In fact, in every other instance in which the New Testament introduces a quotation, the name of a prophet never appears with the article. Unsurprisingly, some manuscripts do not have the word ησαια with the article in Mk 1:2. There are a few other instances in which the name of a prophet appears in the dative case in the context of a quotation, namely in Ro 11:2 and Heb 4:7. However, Ro 11:2 has εν ηλια τι λεγει η γραφη "what the Scripture says in Elijah", in which ηλια "Elijah" appears without τω προφητη "the prophet" and without γεγραπται "it is written"; the same could be said about Heb 4:7, which has εν δαβιδ λεγων "saying in David." Considering all instances in which a Scripture reference is introduced, the phrase γεγραπται εν τω ησαια τω προφητη "it is written in Isaiah the prophet" resembles the most the phrase of the Byzantine text γεγραπται εν τοις προφηταις "it is written in the prophets." As stated above, the position of this article is that the original form of Mk 1:2 has "it is written in the prophets."
Mk 1:15 The good news mentioned in this verse is the message preached by Jesus. In the context, the word ευαγγελιον "good news" must have the same meaning as in Mk 1:1, 14. In view of Mk 1:14, it refers to το ευαγγελιον της βασιλειας του θεου "the good news of the kingdom of God." See also the note on Mk 1:1 and the note on Ga 2:7.
As for the fact that the kingdom of God has drawn near, the following remarks could be made. In Old Testament times, believers who died went to Sheol, not to heaven. So God's kingdom, which is in heaven, was not near them. After the Lord's death and resurrection, believers became citizens of God's kingdom. When they die, they go to heaven and enter the kingdom of heaven. As for the believers who lived before Jesus, they are no longer in Sheol, but were taken to heaven after the death and resurrection of the Lord (Eph 4:8, Jn 12:32).
Mk 2:5 The manner in which the Lord said that the sins of the paralytic were forgiven implied that he himself was forgiving the sins. He did not introduced his words with "Thus says the LORD," but simply said, "Child, thy sins are forgiven thee." See also the note on Lk 7:49.
Mk 2:9 Note that εγειραι και αρον σου τον κραββατον και περιπατει "Rise and take up thy bed and walk" is similar to εγειραι αρον τον κραββατον σου και περιπατει "Rise, take up thy bed and walk" in Jn 5:8. Since Pharisees and teachers of the law from Judea and Jerusalem were present (Lk 5:17), the words of the Lord would have reminded them of what he did in Jn 5:8 in Jerusalem. Those who were from Galilee, having seen his miracles, already had much evidence that God was with him. However, even those who did not see Jesus' miracles in Galilee but knew what he did in Jn 5:8 could realize that God was with him. Since God was confirming the message of Jesus by means of signs and miracles, if Jesus implied that he can forgive sins, he really could forgive sins.
Mk 2:15 "And it came to pass that when Jesus reclined in the house of Levi, there were also many tax collectors and sinners who reclined with Jesus and his disciples. For there were many guests, and they followed Jesus." Here, εν τω κατακεισθαι αυτον εν τη οικια αυτου was translated "when Jesus reclined in the house of Levi." The previous verses are about Jesus, so the subject of "reclined in the house" must be Jesus. Moreover, οικια αυτου "his house" must denote Levi's house, for the word αυτου "his" would seem unnecessary if the house was the place where Jesus lived. As for ησαν γαρ πολλοι και ηκολουθησαν αυτω, it was translated "For there were many guests, and they followed Jesus." The sentence preceding ησαν γαρ πολλοι "For there were many" mentions those who were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, and makes the point that the guests included many tax collectors and sinners. Therefore, the subject of ησαν "were" must be Levi's guests. Levi opened his house to many of those who were following Jesus; they came in and were reclining with Jesus at the table.
Mk 2:26 אביתר בן אחימלך "Abiathar son of Ahimelech" is mentioned in 1Sa 23:6, which speaks about Abiathar fleeing to David when the priests at Nob were killed. The same verse mentions that אפוד ירד בידו "an ephod went down in his hand," which indicates that he fled wearing the ephod and it came off or he took it off and carried it in his hand. This was an ephod, not a linen ephod that ordinary priests would wear (1Sa 22:18). So how did Abiathar have the ephod of a high priest? The simplest answer is that he was the high priest. His father Ahimelech may have been too old to serve as a high priest or his physical condition might have been too poor for it. While his father Ahimelech remained the head of the house, he was not serving as a high priest. Since he was the head, it is not surprising to see that David was speaking with Ahimelech in 1Sa 21:2-10. Note that the phrase אחימלך הכהן "Ahimelech the priest" (1Sa 21:1 (21:2)) does not imply that Ahimelch was serving as the high priest. For example, the Scripture does not present Ezra as a high priest though he is called עזרא הכהן "Ezra the priest" (Ezr 7:11). Moreover, Zadock was called צדוק הכהן "Zadock the priest" (such as in 2Sa 15:27) before he replaced Abiathar in 1Ki 2:35. Now Mk 2:26 confirms that Abiathar was the high priest at the time of 1Sa 21, as it uses the phrase επι αβιαθαρ του αρχιερεως "at the time of Abiathar the high priest." Now the plural of αρχιερευς can denote "chief priests," not "high priests," such as in Jn 11:47. However, it would seem unlikely that αβιαθαρ του αρχιερεως could be translated "Abiathar the chief priest" because the singular forms of αρχιερευς always refer to the high priest elsewhere in the New Testament and in the LXX.
Mk 5:9 The Byzantine text has απεκριθη λεγων λεγεων ονομα μοι "he answered saying 'My name is Legion.'" Note the absence of αυτω "to him;" the text has απεκριθη λεγων "he answered saying" instead of απεκριθη αυτω λεγων "he answered to him saying." This indicates that the answer was not really meant for Jesus, who already knew his name, but for the others who were with Jesus. Note that αυτω "to him" is absent also in the parallel passage in Lk 8:30.
Mk 6:11 The meaning of shaking off the dust could be understood from Ne 5:13, which warned the hearers that the Lord would remove the disobedient as when shaking off something unwanted. The removal was carried out by God, not by Nehemiah, the governor. When a person dies in his sin, he is permanently removed from the face of the earth. He will not be part of the resurrection of the righteous and will not return when the kingdom of heaven will be on earth. A person dying in his sin ends up נעור ורק "shaken out and empty" (Ne 5:13). Whatever he has is taken away from him when he dies; his labors are not established. By shaking off the dust of that place, the disciples were testifying these things to the people. This testimony was one more invitation to repent.
Mk 6:39-40 "And he commanded them that all should sit down as separate groups on the green grass. And they sat down in ranks of 100 groups each and ranks of 50 groups each." Note that πρασιαι πρασιαι ανα εκατον και ανα πεντηκοντα "ranks, ranks, ranks of one hundred each and ranks of fifty each" speaks of two sets of ranks: each rank in one set had 100 groups and each in the other set 50 groups. Each group in a rank of 100 belonged also to a rank of 50, for all groups belonged to a rank of 50, as could be seen in Lk 9:14: κατακλινατε αυτους κλισιας ανα πεντηκοντα "make them sit down in seating rows each for fifty groups." It is apparent that the text speaks of an arrangement of groups in rows and columns, as in a matrix of 100 rows and 50 columns. There were over 5000 men, so each of the 50×100 = 5000 groups would roughly correspond to a man and his family members. This arrangement of the crowd simplified the distribution of the food and was done in accordance with the instructions of the Lord, as could be seen in Lk 9:14. Considering the translation of Lk 9:14, the plural form κλισιας "seating places" is similar to πρωτοκλισιας "first seating places" in Lk 14:7, which refers to seats of honor. Since Lk 9:14 indicates that each κλισια "seating place" was of fifty, it does not refer to seating places for only one person but for multiple persons. Thus, it was translated "seating rows." Since a family would sit together, a seating row was not for 50 persons but for 50 groups (families). There were 100 seating rows, each row for 50 groups.
Mk 9:11 The disciples were not giving much thought to the fact that the Scripture stated that the Messiah would suffer (Mk 9:12). Thus, they did not know what rising from the dead meant (Mk 9:10). Since they spoke about the coming of Elijah (Mlc 4:5-6 (3:23-24)), it appears that somehow they associated the rising from the dead with the beginning of the glorious reign of the Messiah. They perceived that this rising from the dead was in the near future, and so they thought that the reign of the Messiah would begin soon. However, as it was understood that Elijah had to come first and he had not come, they asked the Lord about it. The Lord confirmed that Elijah would come first (Mk 9:12), as could also be understood from Mlc 4:5-6 (3:23-24). However, he pointed out that he would be rejected and suffer (Mk 9:12-13), emphasizing in this way that it was not yet the time for him to reign and that he was speaking of literal death and literal resurrection.
Mk 9:13 Considering what the Lord spoke in Mk 9:12-13 and Mt 17:11-12, it can be noticed that the immediate context of Mk 9:13 has no reference to John the Baptist. Thus, while Mt 17:12 clearly refers to John the Baptist, Mk 9:13 records other words of the Lord that he spoke concerning Elijah. Comparing Mk 9:12-13 and Mt 17:11-12, it would appear that the Lord spoke Mk 9:13 before he spoke Mt 17:12. Thus, Mk 9:13 refers to Elijah and to what has been written about him.
Mk 9:29 Following the Byzantine text, both Mk 9:29 and Mt 17:21 mention prayer and fasting. The Lord answered the question of the disciples in Mk 9:28 by mentioning unbelief (Mt 17:20) and that only by prayer and fasting was it possible to cast out the demon (Mk 9:29, Mt 17:21). By saying this, the Lord indicated that it was not sufficient to simply trust that the demon would come out; prayer and fasting were necessary. He was not saying that the disciples were unable to cast out the demon because they did not have a lifestyle of prayer and fasting, for he himself had mentioned that the friends of the bridegroom cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them (Mk 2:19). Rather, he was speaking of faith that moves one to pray perseveringly. When faced with opposition, the disciples were supposed to pray and persevere, even if that meant postponing their meal time.
Mk 9:49 On the day of Pentecost, something resembling tongues of fire appeared when the Holy Spirit was given (Ac 2:3). Moreover, our God is a consuming fire (De 4:24, Heb 12:29) and the Lord Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:11, Lk 3:16). We also read that the believer should present himself as a living sacrifice to God (Ro 12:1). Old Testament sacrifices offered on the altar were consumed by fire. As the offering was burned, ascending up towards heaven was the smell of the burnt offering, ריח ניחח ליהוה "a pleasing aroma to the LORD" (Lev 1:9, 3:5, etc.) The fact that everyone will be salted with fire points out to the work of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit works in a believer and the believer responds, the outcome is that οσμην ευωδιας "pleasing aroma" to the Lord, as in Php 4:18. Though outwardly no one is perfect, since the Lord is at work in a believer, believers should seek to be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50). It follows that Mk 9:49 addresses the question of John earlier in Mk 9:38.
Mk 10:4 This verse reveals the view of the Pharisees that asked Jesus about divorce. They implied that essentially the only thing needed for divorce was that the husband should give a certificate of divorce to the wife. Doubtless, they interpreted figuratively the phrase ערות דבר "nakedness of a matter" of De 24:1. This also is the position of common translations of De 24:1 in which the phrase ערות דבר is interpreted figuratively as denoting something offending somehow the husband. It seems obvious, however, that Jesus did not take this phrase with a figurative meaning, but with its literal meaning, as referring to an instance in which actual nakedness was involved, that is, an instance of immorality. If the literal interpretation is used, then De 24:1 gave permission for divorce only in case of immorality, just as Jesus taught in Mt 19:9. A literal interpretation of the phrase ערות דבר is supported by the use of the word ערוה "nakedness" in the commandments of the law that deal with immorality in Lev 18 and Lev 20.
Mk 10:5 Marriage was meant to be permanent. Circumstances in which divorce is permissible are due to the hardness of the heart. Before sin entered the world, there was no need to have rules for divorce (Mt 19:8). Man is supposed to hold fast to his wife (Mk 10:7); he must not separate what God has joined together (Mk 10:9).
Mk 10:18 As can be seen in the following verses, the rich man had a good opinion about himself. When Jesus said that God alone is good, he also implied that the rich man was not good. So the rich man was told from the beginning that he is a sinner. As for Jesus, he is good because he is God.
Mk 10:21 As emphasized in this verse, Jesus spoke these words lovingly. The man was not a follower of Jesus and this was the very thing that he lacked. However, he could not be a follower as long as he had his riches, since these were a god for him. The Lord knew in advance that the man will not be able to do what he told him. These words, however, were pointing the man to his need to acknowledge his sin and seek God's mercy. With God's help, salvation is possible.
Mk 10:27 By saying that with man salvation is impossible, the Lord also indicated that no one can be saved by attempting to keep the law. It is true, however, that those who are saved will keep the commandments (1Jn 2:3-4). Since the rich man had a very good opinion about himself and the law reveals sin, it is not surprising that he was directed to the law (Mk 10:19). When one realizes that he is a sinner, he can understand also his need for God's mercy (cf. Lk 18:13-14).
Mk 12:26-27 The Sadducees could deny the resurrection of the dead because they did not accept the entire Scripture. They accepted apparently the books of the law, so Jesus quoted Ex 3:6. The Lord focused on the part of Ex 3:6 in which God says that he is אלהי אברהם אלהי יצחק ואלהי יעקב "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Since God did not say that he is the God that Abraham had when he was alive but simply "the God of Abraham", it followed that Abraham, though dead, was still living. Reasoning the same way about Isaac and Jacob, it followed that all of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, were still living. The same conclusion could be drawn about other godly people as well, for Ex 3:6 has also אלהי אביך "the God of thy father," which referred to Moses' father, and Ex 3:15 has אלהי אבתיכם "the God of your fathers." Now the immediate consequence of the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, were still living was that they would be resurrected. Indeed, since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continued to live, the promise that they would inherit the promised land (Ge 35:12) was not just for their descendants but also for themselves. However, they themselves cannot inherit it unless they are bodily alive at the time when the promise is fulfilled. They need a body allowing them to interact with what is theirs, so that they may really possess it.
Mk 14:8 "What she was having in her mind she did it herself; she received in advance the task of anointing my body for my burial." The Lord indicated that what she did was not her own idea, but something that God put into her heart. See the note on Mt 26:12. Following the received text, the verse begins with ο ειχεν αυτη εποιησεν "what she was having she did it herself." This phrase is somewhat similar to ο ειχεν εν πνευματι αυτου "what he was having in his spirit," which is the LXX translation of אשר היה ברוח עמו in 1Ch 28:12.
Mk 15:27-28 The things that happened at that time emphasize how serious sin is and how great God's mercy is. God could have arranged that men with lesser offenses be crucified with Jesus. However, the men crucified with Jesus were robbers. Since Jesus bore our sins on the cross, the fact that he was with big sinners in his death emphasizes how serious our sins were. God could have arranged that somebody with a small offense be released when Jesus was condemned. However, Barabbas was the one who was released, one guilty of rebellion and murder (Lk 23:19). So those set free by the sacrifice of Jesus are likened to Barabbas, not in the sense that they have the same sins, but that their sins are very serious. There are all sorts of people who have been set free through faith in Jesus, some having very big sins in their past and others who may not see big sins in their life. However, "there is no difference, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Ro 3:22-23). The Lord is holy, innocent, pure, separated from sinners (Heb 7:26). Though not all sins are equal, all sins are serious in God's sight (Jms 2:10). Though God does not look the same way to a large amount of sin and to a lesser amount of sin, any amount of sin is sufficient to separate a person forever from God and heaven, for God is separate from sinners. There are two issues here: one is that man has committed sins and the other is that man is inwardly sinful. By his suffering and death, Jesus took away our sins, dealing in this way with the first issue. He deals with the second issue by changing inwardly anyone who comes to him in faith; the one who believes in him is inwardly a new creature (2Co 5:17), created in the likeness of God (Eph 4:24). Salvation is God's work of mercy.
Mk 16:14 The eleven disciples were the apostles without Judas Iscariot. This verse refers to a time when all eleven disciples were present, including Thomas. This must be the first post-resurrection instance in which the Lord came when each of the eleven disciples was present. This occasion is also mentioned in Jn 20:26-29. As stated in Mk 16:14, at this time ωνειδισεν την απιστιαν αυτων και σκληροκαρδιαν "he spoke against their unbelief and hardness of heart." The verb ονειδιζω, translated here "to speak against," expresses an action by which one speaks disapproving words either positively, to rebuke, or negatively, to show contempt. In the Scripture, the latter use of the verb is typical. One approach to Mk 16:14 has been to interpret the text as stating that Jesus rebuked the disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart. However, this is not the closest interpretation of the text because the object of the verb ονειδιζω is not the apostles but their unbelief and hardness of heart. As written, the text states that "he spoke against their unbelief and hardness of heart." So Jesus looked down on the unbelief of the disciples and likely spoke about how unreasonable their unbelief was. He did not want his disciples to have hard hearts but to be quick to learn and apply the Scripture (Lk 24:25-27). The parallel passage in Jn 20:26-29 also mentions an instance in which Jesus addressed the topic of unbelief (Jn 20:29).