The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and 1 & 2 Peter

Study Guide Commentary Series, New Testament, Vol. 2. See attached PDF (324 pages)


Peter, The Man


A. Peter's family lived in Galilee of the Gentiles in the city of Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias cf. John 1:44), but apparently moved to Capernaum at some point (cf. Mark 1:21,29).


B. Peter's father's name was Jonah (cf. Matt. 16:17) or John (cf. John 1:42; 21:15-17).


C. His given name was Simon (cf. Mark 1:16,29,30,36), which was common in Palestine of the first century. It was the Jewish form of Symeon (cf. Acts 15:14; 2 Pet. 1:1), which was the name of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (cf. Gen. 29:33; Exod. 1:1).

Jesus renamed him Peter (Petros, which means "rock," meant to describe his eventual strength and stability) in Matt. 16:18; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; and John 1:42. The Aramaic form is Cephas (cf. John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal. 1:18; 2:9,11,14). Often in the NT these two names are given together (cf. Matt. 16:16; Luke 5:8; John 1:40; 6:8,68; 13:6,9,24,36; 18:10,15,25; 20:2,6; 21:2-3,7,11,15).

D. Peter's brother's name was Andrew (cf. Mark 1:16). He was a disciple of John the Baptist (cf. John 1:35,40) and later a believer and follower of Jesus (cf. John 1:36-37). He brought Simon to Jesus (cf. John 1:41). Several months later Jesus confronted them by the Sea of Galilee and called them to be His official full-time disciples (cf. Matt. 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18; and Luke 5:1-11).


E. He was married (cf. Mark 1:30; 1 Cor. 9:5), but there is no mention of children.



A. Peter's family owned several fishing boats and even hired servants.


B. Peter's family may have been partners with James, John, and their father, Zebedee (cf. Luke 5:10).


C. Peter briefly returned to fishing after Jesus' death (cf. John 21).



A. Peter's strengths

1. He was a dedicated follower, but quite impulsive (cf. Mark 9:5; John 13:4-11).

2. He attempted acts of faith, but often failed (e.g. walking on water, cf. Matt. 14:28-31).

3. He was brave and willing to die (cf. Matt. 26:51-52; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11).

4. After His resurrection, Jesus addressed him personally as the discredited leader of the Twelve in John 21 and provided an opportunity for repentance and restoration to leadership.


B. Peter's weaknesses

1. He had initial tendencies toward Jewish legalism

a. eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-21)

b. food laws (Acts 10:9-16)

2. He, like all the Apostles, did not fully understand Jesus' radical new teachings and their implications

a. Mark 9:5-6

b. John 13:6-11; 18:10-11

3. He was personally and severely chastised by Jesus (Mark 8:33; Matt. 16:23)

4. He was found sleeping instead of praying in Jesus' great hour of need in Gethsemane (Mark. 14:32-42; Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 22:40-60)

5. He repeatedly denied knowing Jesus (Mark 14:66-72; Matt. 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:16-18,25-27)



A. There are four lists of the Apostles (cf. Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13). Peter is always listed first. The Twelve were divided into three groups of four. I believe this allowed them to rotate home to check on their families.


B. Peter often serves as the spokesman for the Apostolic group (cf. Matt. 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21). These passages have also been used to assert Peter's authority within the group (cf. Matt. 16:18). However, within this very context he is chided by Jesus as a tool of Satan (cf. Matt. 16:23; Mark 8:33).


Also, when the disciples are arguing over who is greatest, Peter is not assumed to take that position (cf. Matt. 20:20-28, especially v. 24; Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45).

C. Peter was not the leader of the Jerusalem church. This fell to James, Jesus' half-brother (cf. Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19; 2:9,12).



A. Peter's leadership role is clearly seen in the early chapters of Acts

1. He led in the election of Judas' replacement (cf. Acts 1:15-26).

2. He preached the first sermon on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2).

3. He healed a lame man and preached the second recorded sermon (cf. Acts 3:1-10; 3:11-26).

4. He spoke boldly to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4.

5. He presided over the church discipline of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.

6. He spoke at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:7-11.

7. Several other events and miracles are attributed to him in Acts.


B. Peter, however, did not always embody the gospel's implications

1. He retained an OT mind-set (cf. Gal. 2:11-14).

2. He had to have a special revelation to include Cornelius (cf. Acts 10) and other Gentiles.



A. There is little or no information about Peter after the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15

1. Galatians 1:18

2. Galatians 2:7-21

3. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5


B. Early church tradition

1. Peter's being martyred in Rome is mentioned in Clement of Rome's letter to the church at Corinth in a.d. 95.

2. Tertullian (a.d. 150-222) also notes Peter's martyrdom in Rome under Nero (a.d. 54-68).

3. Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 200) says Peter was killed in Rome.

4. Origen (a.d. 252) says Peter was martyred by crucifixion, head down, in Rome.


Introduction to Mark


A. The ancient church usually bypassed copying, studying, and teaching Mark in preference to Matthew and Luke because they saw Mark as a "reader's digest" version (i.e., abridged Gospel), a view which is specifically stated later by Augustine.


B. Mark is not often quoted by the early Greek church fathers or the second century apologists (defenders of the faith).


C. Since the rise of the modern historical-grammatical approach to biblical interpretation, the Gospel of Mark has taken on new significance because it is viewed as the first written Gospel. Both Matthew and Luke use its outline in their presentations of Jesus' life and significance. Thereby Mark becomes the foundational document of the church, the first official written account of Jesus' life.



A. The Gospels are not modern biographies or histories. They are selective theological writings used to introduce Jesus to different audiences and bring them to faith in Him. They are "good news" accounts of Jesus' life for the purpose of evangelism (cf. John 20:30-31).


B. Mark addresses four distinct historical settings and four theological purposes

1. the life and teachings of Jesus

2. the life and ministry of Peter

3. the needs of the early church

4. the evangelistic purpose of John Mark


C. The four Gospels are unique in Near Eastern and Greco-Roman literature. The inspired authors had the Spirit-led task of selecting Jesus' teachings and actions which clearly revealed His character and/or purpose.

They arranged these words and actions in different ways. One example would be in comparing Matthew's

Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) with Luke's Sermon on the Plain (cf. Luke 6:20-49). It becomes obvious that Matthew tended to collect all of Jesus' teachings into one long sermon, while Luke spread these same teachings throughout his Gospel. This same thing could be said about Matthew putting Jesus' miracles together, while Luke spreads them throughout his Gospel.

This implies the Gospel writers' ability not only to select and arrange Jesus' teachings, but also to adapt them for their own theological purposes (read Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 113-134). When reading the Gospels one must continue to ask what theological point these writers are trying to make. Why include this particular event, miracle, lesson at this point in their presentation of Jesus?

D. Mark's Gospel is a good example of Koine Greek as a second language of the people of the Mediterranean world. Mark's mother tongue was Aramaic (as was Jesus' and all Jews in first century Palestine). This Semitic flavor is often evident in Mark's Gospel.



A. John Mark has traditionally been identified with the Apostle Peter in writing this Gospel. The work itself (like all the Gospels) is anonymous.


B. Another evidence of Peter's eyewitness account is the fact that Mark does not record three special events in which Peter was personally involved.

1. his walking on water (cf. Matt. 14:28-33)

2. his being the spokesperson at Caesarea Philippi for the faith of the Twelve (cf. Matt. 16:13-20), in Mark only 8:27-30 and the "on this rock" and "keys of the kingdom" passages are omitted.

3. his procurement of the temple tax for himself and Jesus (cf. Matt. 17:24-27)

Perhaps Peter's modesty motivated him not to emphasize these events in his sermons in Rome.


C. Early church tradition

1. I Clements, written from Rome about a.d. 95, alludes to Mark (as does Shepherd of Hermes).

2. Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis (about a.d. 130), wrote Interpretation of the Lord's Sayings, which is quoted by Eusebius (a.d. 275-339) in his Ecclesiastical History 3:39:15. He asserts that Mark was Peter's interpreter who recorded accurately, but not chronologically, Peter's memories of Jesus. Apparently Mark took and adapted Peter's sermons and organized them into a Gospel presentation. Papias claims to have received this information from "the elder," which could refer to the Apostle John.

3. Justin Martyr (a.d. 150), in quoting Mark 3:17, adds that it comes from Peter's memory.

4. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark, written about a.d. 180, identifies Peter as the eyewitness of Mark's Gospel. It also states that Mark wrote the Gospel from Italy after Peter's death (traditionally in Rome around a.d. 65).

5. Irenaeus, writing about a.d. 180, mentions John Mark as Peter's interpreter and compiler of his memoirs after his death (cf. Contra Haereses 3:1:2).

6. Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 195) asserts that those who heard Peter preach in Rome asked Mark to record these sermons.

7. The Muratorian Fragment (i.e., a list of accepted books), written about a.d. 200 from Rome, although the text is incomplete, seems to affirm John Mark's recording Peter's sermons.

8. Tertullian (a.d. 200) in Against Marcion (4:5) says Mark published Peter's memories.

9. In The Expositor's Bible Commentary Vol. 8, p. 606, Walter Wessel makes the interesting comment that the above early church traditions are from geographically diverse church centers

a. Papias from Asia Minor

b. Anti-Marcion Prologue and the Muratorian Fragment both from Rome

c. Irenaeus (cf. Adv. Haer. 3:1:1) from Lyons in France. Irenaeus' tradition is also found in Tertullian (cf. Adv. Marc. 4:5) from north Africa and Clement of Alexandria, Egypt (cf. Hypotyposeis 6, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. His. 2:15:1-2; 3:24:5-8; 6:14:6-7). This geographical diversity gives credence to its trustworthiness because of the tradition's wide acceptance in early Christianity.

10. According to Eusebius' Eccl. His. 4:25, Origen (a.d. 230) in Commentary on Matthew (there is no known commentary on Mark by anyone until the fifth century) says Mark wrote the Gospel as Peter explained it to him.

11. Eusebius himself discusses the Gospel of Mark in Eccl. His. 2:15 and says Mark recorded Peter's sermons at the behest of those who heard them so that they could be read in all the churches. Eusebius bases this tradition on the writings of Clement of Alexandria.


D. What do we know about John Mark

1. His mother was a well known believer in Jerusalem in whose house the church met (possibly the night of the Lord's Supper, cf. Mark 14:14-15; Acts 1:13-14; Acts 12:12). He was possibly the unnamed man who fled "naked" from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51-52).

2. He accompanied his uncle Barnabas (cf. Col. 4:10) and Paul back to Antioch from Jerusalem (Acts 12:25).

3. He was a companion of Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but returned home suddenly (Acts 13:13).

4. Later Barnabas wanted to take Mark on a second missionary journey, but this caused a terrible disagreement between Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:37-40).

5. He was later reunited with Paul and became a friend and co-worker (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24).

6. He was a companion and co-worker with Peter (1 Pet. 5:13), possibly in Rome.


E. Mark's personal knowledge of the life of Jesus seems confirmed by Mark 14:51-52, where a man flees naked from the garden of Gethsemane just after Jesus' arrest. This unusual and totally unexpected detail seems to reflect Mark's personal experience.



A. The Gospel is the eyewitness account and interpretation of Jesus' life, actions, and teachings, apparently taken from Peter's sermons. They were compiled and distributed after his death, so says the Anti-Marcionite Prologue and Irenaeus (who also adds after the death of Paul). Both Peter and Paul were martyred under Nero (a.d. 54-68) in Rome (church tradition). The exact dates are uncertain, but if true, then probably the date of Mark was in the mid sixties.


B. It is possible that the Anti-Marcionite Prologue and Irenaeus do not refer to Peter's death, but his departure (i.e., exodus) from Rome. There is some traditional evidence (i.e., Justin and Hippolytus) that Peter visited Rome during the reign of Claudius (a.d. 41 to 54), (Eusebius' Eccl. His. 2:14:6).


C. It seems that Luke concludes Acts with Paul still in prison in the early sixties. If it is true that Luke used Mark in his Gospel, then it must have been written before Acts and, therefore, earlier than the early sixties.


D. The authorship and date of Mark does not in any way affect the historical/theological/evangelistic truths of this (or any) Gospel. Jesus, not the human author, is the key figure!


E. It is surprising that none of the Gospels (even John, written a.d. 95-96) refers or alludes to the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) in a.d. 70 by the Roman general, later Emperor, Titus. Mark was probably written before this event. It is even possible that Matthew and Luke were written before this major judgment on Judaism. It simply must be stated that the exact dates for the composition of the Synoptic Gospels are uncertain at this time (as is their literary relationship to one another).



A. Mark is connected to Rome by several early church writers

1. 1 Peter 5:13

2. Anti-Marcionite Prologue (Italy)

3. Irenaeus (Rome, cf. Adv. Haer. 3:1:2)

4. Clement of Alexandria (Rome cf. Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 4:14:6-7; 6:14:5-7)


B. Mark does not specifically state his purposes in writing the Gospel. There have been several theories.

1. an evangelistic tract (cf. Mark 1:1) written specifically to Romans (cf. Mark 1:15; 10:45)

a. Jewish elements interpreted (cf. Mark 7:3-4; 14:12; 15:42)

b. Aramaic words translated (cf. Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:1,34; 10:46; 14:36; 15:22,34)

c. use of many Latin words (cf. executioner, Mark 6:27; sextanus, Mark 7:4; census, Mark 12:14; quadrans, Mark 12:42; praetorium, Mark 15:16; centurio, Mark 15:39; flagellare, Mark 15:42)

d. inclusive language in relation to Jesus

(1) inclusive language relating to those in Palestine (cf. Mark 1:5,28,33,39; 2:13; 4:1; 6:33,39,41,55)

(2) inclusive language relating to all people (cf. Mark 13:10)

2. persecution following the fire in Rome in a.d. 64, which Nero blamed on the Christians, initiated a terrible wave of persecution towards believers. Mark often mentions persecution (cf. Jesus' suffering 8:31; 9:39; 10:33-34,45 and His followers' suffering 8:34-38; 10:21,30,35-44).

3. the delayed Second Coming

4. the death of eyewitnesses to Jesus, especially the Apostles

5. the rise of heresies within the wide-spread Christian churches

a. Judaizers (Galatians)

b. Gnostics (1 John)

c. the combination of a. and b. (i.e., Colossians and Ephesians; 2 Pet. 2)



A. Mark is structured in such a way that the last week of Jesus' life is the focus of over one-third of the book. The theological significance of the Passion Week is obvious.


B. Since Mark is, according to early church tradition, taken from Peter's sermons, (i.e., probably in Rome) it becomes evident why no birth narratives were included. Mark begins where Peter's experience starts, with Jesus as an adult, and is theologically related to John the Baptist's message of repentance and faith in preparation for the work of Messiah.

Peter's sermons must have used the concepts of "Son of Man" and "Son of God." The Gospel reflects Peter's own theology of Jesus' person. At first He was a great teacher and healer, but it became obvious He was the Messiah! This Messiah was not the expected conquering military general, but a Suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 53).

C. Mark's basic geographical structural outline is shared by the other Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew and Luke)

1. a Galilean Ministry (Mark 1:14-6:13)

2. ministry outside Galilee (Mark 6:14-8:30)

3. the journey to Jerusalem (Mark 8:31-10:52)

4. the last week in the Jerusalem area (Mark 11:1-16:8)


D. It is even possible that Mark's structure emulates the basic pattern of early Apostolic preaching (i.e., Acts 10:37-43, cf. C. H. Dodd's New Testament Studies pp. 1-11). If this is true then the written Gospels are the culmination of a period of oral traditions (i.e., kerygma). Judaism considered oral teaching to be superior to written texts.


E. Mark is characterized by a fast moving account (i.e., "immediately," cf. Mark 1:10) of the life of Jesus. Mark does not record long teaching sessions, but moves rapidly from event to event (i.e., his repeated use of "immediately"). Mark's Gospel reveals Jesus by His actions. However, this fast-paced account is strewn with vivid eyewitness details (i.e., Peter).


READING CYCLE ONE  (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)


READING CYCLE TWO (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.



Mark 1


The Preaching of John the Baptist John the Baptist Prepares the Way Activity of John the Baptist The Preaching of John the Baptist The Proclamation of John the Baptist
1:1-8 1:1-8 1:1-8 1:1-3 1:1-8
The Baptism of Jesus John Baptizes Jesus Jesus' Baptism The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus Jesus Is Baptized
1:9-11 1:9-11 1:9-11 1:9-11 1:9-11
The Temptation of Jesus Satan Tempts Jesus Jesus' Temptation   Testing in the Desert
1:12-13 1:12-13 1:12-13 1:12-13 1:12-13
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry Beginning of Jesus' Activity in Galilee Jesus Calls Four Fishermen Jesus Begins to Proclaim the Message
1:14-15 1:14-15 1:14-15 1:14-15 1:14-15
The Calling of Four Fishermen Four Fishermen Called as Disciples     The First Four Disciples Are Called
1:16-20 1:16-20 1:16-20 1:16-18 1:16-18
      1:19-20 1:19-20
The Man With An Unclean Spirit Jesus Cast Out An Unclean Spirit   A Man with An Evil Spirit Jesus Teaches in Capernaum and Cures A Demonic
1:21-28 1:21-28 1:21-28 1:21-22 1:21-22
      1:23-24 1:23-28
The Healing of Many People Peter's Mother-in-Law Healed   Jesus Heals Many People Cure of Simon's Mother-in-Law
1:29-34 1:29-31 1:29-31 1:29-31 1:29-31
  Many Healed After Sabbath Sunset     A Number of Cures
  1:32-34 1:32-34 1:32-34 1:32-34
A Preaching Tour Preaching in Galilee   Jesus Preaches in Galilee Jesus Quietly Leaves Capernaum and Travels Through Galilee
1:35-39 1:35-39 1:35-39 1:35-37 1:35-39
The Cleansing of a Leper Jesus Cleanses a Leper   Jesus Heals a Man Cure of a Man Suffering From a Virulent Skin Disease
1:40-45 1:40-45 1:40-45 1:40 1:40-45

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
  In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

1:1 "The beginning" Does this introductory phrase refer to

1. the very beginning as in Gen. 1:1 and John 1:1

2. the beginning of Jesus' incarnation as in 1 John 1:1

3. the beginning of Jesus' public ministry (i.e., Peter's personal experiences)

The first paragraph specifically refers to OT prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah. The gospel story begins in the prophetic tradition of Israel. The quote in Mark 1:2 and 3 is a combination of Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3.


▣ "of the gospel" With Mark probably being the first written Gospel, this is the first use of the term euangelion (cf. Mark 1:14,15; 8:35; 10:29; 13:10; 14:9) by a Gospel writer (Paul's use in Gal. 2:2 and 1 Thess. 2:9 would be chronologically earlier). It is literally "the good news" or "the good message." This obviously reflects Isa. 61:1 and possibly 40:9 and 52:7. The Jerome Biblical Commentary says "Mark's use of the word 'gospel' is akin to that in Paul where it can mean either the act of proclaiming or the content of what is proclaimed" (p. 24).

▣ "of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" Its grammatical form can be understood as (1) the message given by Jesus or (2) the message about Jesus. Number 2 is probably the intended meaning. However, the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, published by IVP, says "The genitive ('of') is probably both subjective and objective: Jesus proclaims the gospel and it proclaims his story" (p. 285).

Verse 1 is not a complete sentence. It is possibly the title of the book. The ancient Greek uncial Manuscripts א, A, B, D, L, and W add the phrase "Son of God" which is followed by the NKJV and the NRSV, TEV, and NIV, while it is missing in (1) א*; (2) the Palestinian Syriac; (3) one Coptic manuscript; (4) the Georgian Version; as well as from the (5) Armenian translation and (6) a quote of this text from Origen's commentary on John. The UBS4 gives the inclusion a "C" rating (difficult to decide). See Special Topic on "Son of God" at Mark 3:11.

It is difficult for modern Christians who love and trust the Bible to deal rationally with these Greek manuscript variants, but as difficult as it is for our assumptions about inspiration and preservation of God's self-revelation, they are a reality. This addition even looks purposeful, not accidental. Early orthodox scribes were conscious of the early heretical views about Jesus, such as adoptionism, which asserted that Jesus became the Son of God. These early scribes often modified the Greek texts they copied to make them more theologically orthodox (cf. 1 John 5:7-8). For more reading on this troubling purposeful alteration of Greek manuscripts by orthodox scribes see Bart D. Ehrmans' The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. He specifically discusses Mark 1:1 on pp. 72-75.

"of Jesus" Usually in first century Judaism the father named the child. In this case the heavenly Father, through an angel, named the child. Jewish names often carried symbolic meaning; this one was no exception. Jesus is a combination of two Hebrew nouns: (1) YHWH and (2) salvation. The significance is captured in Matt. 1:21. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua. He proved to be the new Moses, the new Joshua, and the new High Priest.

"Christ" This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term "Messiah," which means "an anointed one." In the OT God's anointing of leaders (i.e., prophets, priests, and kings) symbolized His calling and equipping for an assigned task.

The term "Messiah" is not used often in the OT (cf. Dan. 9:25,26 for the eschatological king), but the concept surely is. It is parallel to Matt. 1:1, "son of David," which refers to a royal descendant of Israel's ideal king "David." God promised David in 2 Samuel 7 that one of his descendants would always reign in Israel. This promise seemed shattered by the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and deportation of its inhabitants (i.e., 586 b.c.). However, the prophets began to see a future Davidic seed (i.e., Isaiah, Micah, Malachi). Jesus is the promised "son of David," "son of man" (cf. Dan. 7:13), and "son of God" (used five times in Mark).

It is striking that the only time in the entire Gospel that the designation "Jesus Christ" is used is in the opening verse (only twice in Matt. and John and not at all in Luke). Normally, Mark uses "Jesus." This usage fits the theological emphasis of Mark on the humanity of Jesus, while His deity is veiled (i.e., Messianic secret) until the completion of His Messianic mission (i.e., Suffering Servant). It is not until the book of Acts that "Jesus Christ" becomes a recurrent title.

 2As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.'" 4John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7And he was preaching, and saying,"After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

1:2 "As it is written" The word "written" is perfect tense, which was a Jewish idiom used to denote God's eternal revelation (i.e., Scripture).

▣ "in Isaiah the prophet" This quote is a combination of Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3. It is not from the Hebrew Masoretic Text or the Greek Septuagint of Isa. 40:3. Because of this some scribes changed the text to "written in the prophets" (i.e., in the Prophets section of the OT canon). The singular is found in the Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L and D, but the plural is in MSS A, and W.

Isaiah 40-66 has two major eschatological emphases: (1) the Suffering Servant (i.e., especially Isa. 52:13-53:12) and (2) the new age of the Spirit (especially Isaiah 56-66). In the following brief opening of Mark there are several possible allusions to Isaiah.

▣ "'send My messenger ahead of You'" The term "messenger" can refer to an angel (cf. Exod. 23:20a, which would be another allusion to the Exodus), but here it refers to a "messenger" (cf. Mal. 3:1). This may be a word play on the term gospel (i.e., good message). This is one of the few OT quotes in Mark which was written primarily to Romans. It refers to the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Mark 1:4). It shows that the OT prophetic tradition is being fulfilled (this is also reflected in Jesus' healings and exorcisms, which are also Messianic prophecies in Isaiah). The ministry of John the Baptist is mentioned in all four Gospels.

1:3 "'The voice of one crying in the wilderness'" This is a quote of Isa. 40:3 from an unknown source. The term "wilderness" means uninhabited pasture land rather than dry, windswept, sandy desert.

▣ "'Make ready the way of the Lord'" This is an aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. In the MT, Lord (i.e., adon) is read, but YHWH (Lord) is in the Hebrew text. The phrase originally referred to physical preparation for a royal visit (cf. Isa. 57:14; 62:10). It came to refer metaphorically to the ministry of John the Baptist spiritually preparing the way for Jesus the Messiah who is also called "Lord" (i.e., kurios).

"'Make His paths straight'" The MT and LXX have "make straight the paths of our God." Mark (or Peter) modified the text (or quotes an unknown textual form) to make it specifically relate to Jesus, not YHWH.

1:4 "John the Baptist" Why did John baptize with water?

1. OT precedent to signify the inauguration of the "new covenant" (cf. Exod. 19:10,14; Isa. 1:16; Jer. 31:34; Ezek. 36:25)

2. a cleansing act from ceremonial defilement (cf. Leviticus 15).

3. a prophetic eschatological metaphor of life-giving water from God (e.g., Isa. 12:2-3; Jer. 2:13; 17:13; Ezek. 47:1; Zech. 13:1; 14:8; Rev. 22:1)

4. imitation of proselyte baptism as the initiation rite to become part of the people of God

5. a rabbinic way of preparing all pilgrims to approach YHWH in His temple (possibly by immersion, cf. Miqvaot tractate in Mishnah). This ritual bath is still practiced by Muslims before entering a mosque.


▣ "appeared" This may be Mark's way of alluding to the prophecy of the surprising appearance of Elijah before "the sudden appearance" of Messiah (cf. Mal. 3:1).

▣ "preaching" This is the term "heralding" (kērussō), which means "to proclaim widely or publicly a message" (cf. Mark 1:4,7,14,38,39,45). Mark does not use the verb form of gospel (euaggelizō).

John came preaching a baptism for repentance (se Special Topic following). This same message was continued by Jesus, but with the added emphasis of "faith" (see Special Topic at Mark 1:15). The twin covenant needs of repentance and faith shown by baptism becomes the items of the Apostolic sermons in Acts (i.e., the kerygma)

1. Peter

a. first sermon of the church (Acts 2:37-39)

(1) repent

(2) be baptized

b. second sermon of the church (Acts 3:16,19)

(1) faith

(2) repent

2. Philip (Acts 8:12)

a. believe

b. be baptized

3. Paul

a. Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31,33)

(1) believe

(2) be baptized

b. goodbye to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:21)

(1) repentance toward God

(2) faith in Christ

c. testimony before Agrippa (Acts 26:18)

(1) turn from darkness (Satan), i.e., repent

(2) to the light (God)

For me the requirements of the New Covenant are

1. repent

2. believe

3. obey

4. persevere

The goal of the New Covenant is Christlikeness now so that others will see the change and be attracted to faith in Christ!

▣ "baptism of repentance" The baptism is not the mechanism of forgiveness, but the occasion of the believers' public profession of faith. This is not a sacramental act, but a new attitude toward sin and a new relationship with God. It is an outward sign of an inner change.


▣ "for the forgiveness of sins" The term "forgiveness" literally means "put away." This is one of several biblical terms for forgiveness. It has metaphorical connections to the OT Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16) where one of the two special goats is driven away from the camp of Israel, symbolically bearing the sin away (cf. Lev. 16:21-22; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24).

The phrase "of sins" is an objective genitive.

1:5 "all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem" This is an oriental overstatement (i.e., hyperbole), but it shows the tremendous impact of John's preaching. He was the first prophetic voice since Malachi some 400 years earlier. This is imperfect tense which means that people were continually coming because they recognized John as a prophet.

▣ "being baptized" This is also imperfect tense which speaks of continuous action in past time. Many Jews were sensing a new day of God's activity and were preparing for it.

▣ "confessing their sins" This is a present middle participle, which literally means "to say the same." This was their public profession of their need for spiritual forgiveness.

There is the implication that if these Jews repented and changed their lifestyles, YHWH would fully forgive their sins (cf. Mark 1:4; Matt. 3:6; Luke 3:3). This is surely the OT pattern. It involved full forgiveness through repentance, faith, lifestyle change, and now baptism as an outward symbol! This OT pattern is modified by Jesus' Messianic ministry. The same items are still valid, but now personal faith in Jesus as the Christ is the central issue (cf. Acts 2:38; 3:16,19; 20:21). The four Gospels form a transitional period. Mark 1:14-15 is in the John the Baptist period, but it theologically foreshadows the finished gospel message (i.e., repent, believe, and live a new life). The main issue is who Jesus is! He is YHWH's representative, revealer, and agent of redemption and judgment. This is the reason for the Messianic Secret in Mark. Jesus is fully God from the very beginning (i.e., virgin conception), but this was not fully revealed until after His resurrection and ascension.


1:6 "John was clothed with camel's hair" This was his normal everyday clothing (i.e., perfect middle participle). This was not the skin of a camel, but cloth woven from its hair (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:8; Matt. 3:4). He was a man of the desert and a prophet (cf. Zech. 13:4). John dressed like Elijah, who Mal. 3:1 and 4:5 said would be the forerunner of the Messiah.

▣ "locusts and wild honey" This was typical food of desert people. Locusts were levitically clean and acceptable food (cf. Lev. 11:22). He ate what was naturally available.

1:7 This verse and Mark 1:8 show the preparatory theme of John's message. He recognized his role and place in relation to God's Coming One (cf. John 3:30). He felt himself to be a servant, a slave (i.e., only slaves took off another's shoes). John's self-depreciation is recorded in all four Gospels (cf. Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; and John 1:27; also in Paul's preaching in Acts 13:25). This was probably included by the Gospel writers because a heretical following later developed around John the Baptist (cf. Acts 18:24-19:7).

1:8 "I baptized you with water" Remember, John's baptism was preparatory. This does not refer to Christian baptism. John was the last OT prophet (cf. Luke 16:16), a transition preacher, not the first gospel preacher (cf. Luke 16:16; Acts 19:17). He, like the quotes from Isaiah, links the old covenant and the new covenant.

▣ "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" This is in contrast to John's baptism. The Messiah will inaugurate the new age of the Spirit. His baptism will be with (or "in" or "by") the Spirit. There has been much discussion among denominations as to what event in the Christian experience this refers. Some take it to refer to an empowering experience after salvation, a kind of second blessing. Personally I think it refers to becoming a Christian (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13). I do not deny later fillings and equippings, but I believe there is only one initial spiritual baptism into Christ in which believers identify with Jesus' death and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12). This initiating work of the Spirit is delineated in John 16:8-11. In my understanding the works of the Holy Spirit are:

1. convicting of sin

2. revealing the truth about Christ

3. leading to acceptance of the gospel

4. baptizing into Christ

5. convicting the believer of continuing sin

6. forming Christlikeness in the believer


 9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."

1:9 "Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee" Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, lived a few years in Egypt, and then settled in Nazareth, the hometown of Joseph and Mary, which was a small, new settlement of Judeans in the north. Jesus' early ministry was in this northern area around the Sea of Galilee, which fulfills the prophecy of Isa. 9:1.

▣ "Jesus. . .was baptized" The Gospels differ in their early chronologies of Jesus' ministries in Galilee and Judea. It seems that there was an early Judean ministry and a later one, but all four Gospels' chronologies must be harmonized in order to see this early Judean visit (i.e., John 2:13-4:3).

Why Jesus was baptized has always been a concern for believers because John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus did not need forgiveness for He was sinless (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5).

The theories have been:

1. it was an example for believers to follow

2. it was His identification with believers' need

3. it was His ordination and equipping for ministry

4. it was a symbol of His redemptive task

5. it was His approval of the ministry and message of John the Baptist

6. it was a prophetic foreshadowing of His death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

Whatever the reason, this was a defining moment in Jesus' life. Although it does not imply that Jesus became the Messiah at this point, which is the early heresy of adoptionism (cf. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 47-118), it held great significance for Him.


NASB, NKJV"immediately"
NRSV"just as"
TEV"as soon as"
NJB"at once"

This is a very common term in Mark. It characterizes his Gospel. Here euthus is translated "immediately" or "straightway" (cf. Mark 1:10,12,18,20,21,20,28,42; 2:2,8,12; 3:6; 4:5,15,16,17,29; 5:5,29,42; 6:25,27,45, 50,54; 7:35; 8:10; 9:15,20,24; 10:52; 11:3; 14:43,45; 15:1).

This is the term that gives the Gospel of Mark its fast-paced, action-oriented feel, which would have appealed to Romans. This word group is used about 47 times in Mark (cf. A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Mark by Robert Bratcher and Eugene Nida, p. 29).

▣ "coming up out of the water" This may be an allusion to Isa. 63:11, where it originally would have referred to the Red Sea (i.e., a new exodus in Jesus, who would soon be tempted for forty days as Israel was for forty years). This verse cannot be used as a proof-text for immersion. In context it may imply coming out of the river, not coming from under the water.

▣ "He saw" This may imply that only Jesus saw and heard this Messianic affirmation. If so, this would fit into the recurrent theme of Mark's Messianic Secret. However, the other Gospels also record this event in a similar way (cf. Matt. 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22).

▣ "heavens opening" This may be an allusion to Isa. 64:1. This term means to rip open, which would have been a metaphor for tearing open the canopy above the earth (cf. Gen. 1:6).

▣ "the Spirit like a dove" The origin of this metaphor may be

1. the Spirit brooding over the water in Gen. 1:2

2. the birds Noah sent out of the Ark in Gen. 8:6-12

3. the rabbis' use of it as a symbol of the nation of Israel (cf. Ps. 68:13; 74:19)

4. a symbol of gentleness and peace (cf. Matt. 10:16)

One reason I personally am so committed to the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation, which focuses on authorial intent as expressed in the literary context, is the tricky or clever way ancient interpreters (as well as modern ones) manipulated the text to fit their preset theological structure. By adding the numerical value of the letters of the Greek word "dove" (peristera), which equals 801, one gets the same numerical value of the Greek words alpha (equals 1) and omega (equals 800), so the dove equals the eternal Christ Spirit. This is so clever, but it is isogetic, not exegetic!

"upon Him" This is the preposition eis which means "into." It is not meant to imply that Jesus did not already have the Holy Spirit, but this was a special visible sign of the Spirit's empowerment for His assigned Messianic task. This may also be an allusion to fulfilled prophecy (cf. Isa. 63:11).

Mark uses the preposition "into" (eis), but Matthew and Luke use "upon" (epi). This is because Mark's Gospel, which has none of the birth narratives or visitations, begins Jesus' ministry with the baptismal event. This brevity was used by the heretical groups, Adoptionists and Gnostics, to assert that Jesus, a normal human, was supernaturally empowered with "the Christ Spirit" at this juncture and thereafter was able to do the miraculous. Later scribes, therefore, changed the preposition to "to" (pros).



1:11 "a voice came out of the heavens" The rabbis called the heavenly voice a Bath Kol (cf. Mark 9:7), which was the method of affirming God's will during the interbiblical period when there was no prophet. This would have been a powerful divine affirmation to those familiar with rabbinical Judaism.

▣ "'You are My beloved Son'" These two titles unite the royal aspect of the Messiah (Ps. 2:7) to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (Isa. 42:1). The term "son" in the OT could refer to (1) the nation of Israel; (2) the King of Israel; or (3) the coming Davidic Messianic King. See Special Topic at Mark 3:16.

Notice the three persons of the Trinity in Mark 1:11: the Spirit, the voice from heaven, and the Son, the recipient of both.


▣ "My beloved" This phrase is either (1) a title for the Messiah as in the NRSV, NJB, and Williams translations or (2) a descriptive phrase as in the NASB, NKJV, and TEV. In the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint, this would be understood as "favorite" or even "only," similar to John 3:16.

"'in You I am well-pleased'" This descriptive phrase is paralleled in Matt. 3:17 and 17:5 (the Transfiguration). However, the descriptive phrase is missing in Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35.

 12Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

1:12-13 This account of the temptation of Jesus is so brief compared to Matt. 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. In these accounts the purpose of the temptation is clear: how would Jesus use His Messianic powers to accomplish His redemptive task (cf. James Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, pp. 39-46)? But what could Mark's brief account mean? It is possible that Peter saw this event as a symbol of Jesus' defeat of evil (i.e., by the empowering of the Spirit), a foreshadowing of the Passion Week. But this is only speculation. The text itself gives no clue except the event's timing—just after Jesus' (1) enduing by the Spirit and (2) affirmation by the Father, but before His public ministry. This is one of the three events mentioned before Jesus' public ministry ([1] John's ministry; [2] John's baptism; and [3] Satan's temptation).

1:12 "Immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness" The term "impelled" is the strong term "throw out" (often used of exorcisms, cf. Mark 1:34,39; 3:15,22,23; 6:13; 7:26; 9:18,28,38). The Son's temptation was by the agency of the evil one, but instigated by the Spirit (cf. Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). It was God's will that Jesus be tested! I would like to recommend two good books on this topic, The Life and Teaching of Jesus by James S. Stewart and Between God and Satan by Helmut Thielicke.

In the OT the wilderness was a time of testing for Israel, but also a time of intimate fellowship. The rabbis called the wilderness wandering period the honeymoon between YHWH and Israel. Elijah and John the Baptist grew up in the wilderness. It was a place of seclusion for training, meditation, and preparation for active ministry. This period was crucial for Jesus' preparation (cf. Heb. 5:8).

1:13 "forty days" This is used both literally and figuratively in the Bible. It denotes a long indeterminate period of time (i.e., longer than a lunar cycle, but shorter than a seasonal change).


▣ "was being tempted" This is an imperfect passive periphrastic linked to an imperfect active "to be" verb. The term "tempt" (peirazō) has the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction." From the first class conditional sentences in Matt. 4 (cf. Mark 4:3,6) we learn that the temptation was over how to use His Messianic power to accomplish God's redemptive will.


▣ "by Satan" The Bible repeatedly asserts a personal, supernatural force of evil.


▣ "the wild beasts" This is possibly a simple reference to an uninhabited area. However, because wild beasts are used as metaphors for or names of the demonic in the OT (cf. NEB) this could also refer to a place of demonic activity (cf. Ps. 22:12-13,16,21; Isa. 13:21-22; 34:11-15).

These wild beasts could also be a continuing allusion to the new exodus, the new age of restored fellowship between mankind and the animals (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25; Hos. 2:18). The Bible often describes the new age as a restoration of the Garden Eden (cf. Genesis 2; Rev. 21-22). The original image of God in mankind (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) is restored through Jesus' sacrificial death. Full fellowship, which existed before the Fall (cf. Genesis 3), is possible again.

▣ "angels were ministering to Him" This is an Imperfect tense which means (1) ongoing action in past time or (2) the beginning of an activity in past time. Angels ministered to (1) Elijah in the wilderness in the same way (i.e., providing food, cf. 1 Kgs. 18:7-8). This may imply Jesus as the new prophetic voice (cf. Deut. 18:18-22) and (2) Israel in the wilderness, so too, to Jesus while in the wilderness. This may have implied Jesus as the new Moses paralleling his baptism and testing (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-13).

 14Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

1:14-15 These two verses are a summary statement. Mark often uses this technique (cf. Mark 1:14-15,21-22,39; 2:13; 3:7b-9; 6:7,12-13). These summaries convey several theological truths

1. Jesus was popular and many came to hear Him preach/teach

2. Jesus was powerful, exorcizing demons and healing people

3. He transferred His power to His disciples (i.e., the mission trips of the Twelve and the seventy)

4. the purpose of Jesus' proclamation was repentance and faith


1:14 "John had been taken into custody" John was imprisoned (i.e., paradidōmi, which is used twenty times in Mark for "turned over to the authorities") by Herod Antipas because he continued to publicly condemn Herod's marriage to his brother's ex-wife (cf. Mark 6:16-17).


▣ "Jesus came into Galilee" The Gospel records Jesus' ministry geographically in Galilee, in Judea, in Galilee, and in Judea. Jesus left southern Palestine when John was arrested (cf. Matt. 4:12; Luke 4:14-15; John 1:43). Ministry in the predominantly Gentile northern Palestine was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isa. 9. No one expected anything spiritually significant to begin in this region, far removed from the Temple (cf. John 1:46) and the first to be defeated and exiled by the Mesopotamian powers (i.e., Assyria and neo-Babylon).

"preaching the gospel of God" This use of the term "gospel" must be qualified. At first Jesus' message was similar to John's. The full gospel of Jesus will not be complete until after His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Verse 15 gives the content of Jesus' early preaching. What John preached was personally embodied in Jesus of Nazareth (cf. John 14:6).

1:15 "'time is fulfilled'" This phrase is introduced by hoti, which usually denotes a quote and is common in Mark. This reflects Peter's memory of Jesus' words. This is perfect passive indicative, which has prophetic/messianic significance (cf. Eph. 1:10; Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 1:3). The passive voice reflects God's activity in and control of time and history.

▣ "'the kingdom of God'" This refers to God's reign. It is both a present reality and a future consummation. In Matthew's Gospel this is usually referred to as "kingdom of heaven." These phrases are synonymous (compare Matt. 13:11 with Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10). The kingdom arrived when Jesus was born. It is described and embodied in Jesus' life and teachings. It will be consummated at His return. It was the subject of Jesus' sermons and parables. It was the central theme of His spoken messages.


NASB, NKJV"is at hand"
NRSV"has come near"
TEV"is near"
NJB"is close at hand"

This is a perfect active indicative, which implies that the kingdom was a past reality (cf. Mark 1:1-3) as well as a current reality (cf. Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; 17:21). The phrase "the time is fulfilled" parallels this phrase and emphasizes the reality of God's prophetic word now becoming a historical event. The "New Age of Righteousness" was inaugurated at Jesus' birth, but not fully known until the Passion Week's events and not fully empowered until Pentecost.

Although the Kingdom has truly come, there are also NT texts which imply that its complete manifestation is future (cf. Mark 9:1; 14:25; Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:18; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). What we do with Christ now determines our eschatological hope (cf. Mark 8:38).

▣ "'repent'" See Special Topic on Repentance at Mark 1:4.

▣ "'and believe in the gospel'" The parallels in Matt. 4:17 and Luke 4:14-15 do not have the same summary.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FAITH (PISTIS [noun], PISTEUŌ, [verb], PISTOS [adjective])

 16As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." 18Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

1:16 "the Sea of Galilee" This lake goes by several names in the Bible.

1. the Sea of Chinnereth (cf. Num. 34:11; Jos. 12:3; 13:27)

2. Lake of Gennesaret (cf. Luke 5:1)

3. Sea of Tiberias (cf. John 6:1; 21:1)

4. Sea of Galilee (most common, cf. Mark 1:16; 7:31; Matt. 4:18; 15:29; John 6:1)


▣ "Simon and Andrew. . .casting a net" Notice Peter is the first officially called in Mark, while in John 1:35-42 it was Andrew. The Sea of Galilee supplied all of Palestine with fish. This net refers to hand nets, which were about 10 feet by 15 feet across. Fish were a main staple of the Jewish diet.

1:17 "'Follow Me'" This is an adverb functioning as an Aorist imperative. This must not have been the first encounter between Jesus and these fishermen (cf. John 1:35ff). This is their call to be official, permanent followers of a rabbi (cf. Mark 1:17 and 20).

▣ "'I will make you become fishers of men'" This is a word play on their vocation. Fishing in the OT was often a metaphor for judgment (cf. Jer. 16:16. Ezek. 29:4-5; 38:4; Amos 4:2; Hab.1:14-17). Here it is a metaphor of salvation.

1:18 This is repeated in Matt. 4:18-22, but a slightly different account is found in Luke 5:1-11.

1:19-20 "boat" These were large fishing boats. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were prosperous middle class fishermen (i.e., had hired servants). John apparently had business contracts to regularly sell fish to the priestly families in Jerusalem (i.e., John was known by them, cf. John 18:15-16).

 21They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24saying, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are the Holy One of God!" 25And Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" 26Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." 28Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

1:21 "Capernaum" Jesus, because of the city of Nazareth's lack of faith (cf. Luke 4:16-30) and as a fulfilment of prophecy (cf. Matt. 4:13-16), took this city as His headquarters (cf. Mark 2:1). Ministry in the city of Capernaum (cf. Mark 1:21-3:6) is used to depict typical activity of Jesus. These events reveal clearly His authority, power, and Messiahship. This is like a glimpse into the daily life and activity of Jesus during this entire period of public ministry.

"immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

"Sabbath" Special Topic following.


This is from the Hebrew word meaning "rest" or "cessation." It is connected to the seventh day of creation where God ceased His labor after finishing initial creation (cf. Gen. 2:1-3). God did not rest because He was tired, but because (1) creation was complete and good (cf. Gen. 1:31) and (2) to give mankind a regular pattern for worship and rest. The Sabbath begins like all the days of Gen. 1, at twilight; therefore, twilight on Friday to twilight on Saturday was the official time period. All the details of its observance are given in Exodus (especially chapters 16,20,31, and 35) and Leviticus (especially chapters 23-26). The Pharisees had taken these regulations and, by their oral discussions, interpreted them to include many rules. Jesus often performed miracles, knowingly violating their picky rules so as to enter into a dialogue with them. It was not the Sabbath that Jesus rejected or belittled, but their self-righteous legalism and lack of love.

▣ "synagogue" This is from a compound word which literally means "to come together." It was Jesus' custom to attend worship regularly. The synagogue developed in Mesopotamia during the Babylonian Exile. It was a place of worship, education, and cultural preservation. It was the local expression of the Jewish faith, as the Temple was the national expression. There was at least one synagogue in every town with at least ten Jewish men.

▣ "began to teach" It was customary for someone from the congregation or a distinguished guest to be chosen to lead the teaching part of the worship service. Usually a passage from the Torah (i.e., Genesis – Deuteronomy) was read and a passage from the Prophets (i.e., Joshua – Kings and Isaiah – Malachi).

1:22,27 "amazed" Literally this meant "struck to attention." Jesus' teaching style and content were radically different from that of the rabbis. They quoted one another as authorities, but He spoke with God's authority (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). Jesus' teachings and actions caused amazement, astonishment, and even fear (cf. Mark 1:22,27; 2:12; 5:42; 6:2,51; 7:37; 9:6,15; 10:26,32; 11:18; 14:33).

1:22 "not as the scribes" Jesus did not quote oral tradition (i.e., Talmud). The Jews were concerned that they might break God's commands, so every verse of the Torah (the writings of Moses, Genesis - Deuteronomy) was interpreted by rabbinical discussions. Later these developed into schools, one liberal (i.e., Hillel) and one conservative (i.e., Shammai). The leading rabbis of these two ancient schools were often quoted as authorities. The scribes were the professional teachers of Judaism who interpreted the oral tradition to local situations and needs. Most scribes in Jesus' day were Pharisees.


1:23 "man. . .with an unclean spirit" This was a case of demon possession (cf. Mark 1:34). Notice he was still in worship, keeping up appearances. The NT makes a distinction between physical illness and demon possession, although they often had the same symptoms. In these cases the demon controls the person. The person has lost his own will. The Jewish worldview assumed the presence of spiritual beings, good (cf. Mark 1:13; Matt. 18:10; Acts 12:15; 2 Kgs. 6:17) and evil (cf. Mark 1:23,26,27; 3:11,20; 5:2,8,13; 6:7; 7:25), who affected people's lives.



NASB"What business do we have with each other"
NKJV"What have we to do with You"
NRSV"What have you to do with us"
TEV, NJB"What do you want with us"

This is literally "what to us and to you." In A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Mark Bratcher and Nida note that "In classical Greek the phrase would mean 'what have we in common?' Here, however, it corresponds to the Hebrew 'Why do you meddle with me'" (p. 49). This idiom is illustrated in Judges 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kgs. 17:18; 2 Chr. 35:12.

▣ "Jesus of Nazareth" See note at Mark 10:47.

▣ "'Have You come to destroy us'" Grammatically this could be either a question or a statement. This was an OT idiom of hostility (cf. Judg.11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kgs. 17:18; 2 Kgs. 3:13; 2 Chr. 35:21). Evil knows it will one day be judged!

▣ "'the Holy One of God'" This was an OT Messianic title. This was not a voluntary confession but a calculated attempt to cause trouble for Jesus. Jesus was later accused of receiving power from Satan (cf. Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15).


1:25 "Jesus rebuked him" Mark uses this verb often: (1) sometimes of demons (cf. Mark 1:25; 3:2; 9:25); (2) of the wind and sea (cf. Mark 4:39); and (3) of His own disciples (cf. Mark 8:30,33; 10:13).

▣ "'Be quiet'" This is an aorist passive imperative meaning "be muzzled" (cf. Mark 4:39). Jesus' two commands directed at the demon are strong terms with negative connotations.

▣ "come out of him" This is an aorist active imperative.


1:26 Several physical manifestations of an unclean spirit leaving a person are recorded (cf. Mark 1:26; 9:26; and Luke 9:39). This may have been a way of confirming that the spirit had truly left.

This first sign of power clearly shows the Messianic implications of Jesus. The OT title (cf. Ps. 16:10) by which the demons acknowledge Him and His power to control and judge them clearly reflects the spiritual authority of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Mark 1:27c). This account is paralleled in Luke 4:31-37.

1:27 "'What is this? A new teaching with authority'" This Greek word for "new" (i.e., kainos) means "new in point of quality," not "new in point of time." The phrase "with authority" can refer to Jesus' teaching (cf. Matt. 7:29; NASB, NRSV, NJB) or to Jesus' commanding (cf. Luke 4:36; NKJV, TEV). Since Luke 4:36 is a direct parallel, the second option seems best.

The source of Jesus' authority would become the central issue between Jesus and the Jewish leaders (cf. Mark 11:28; Matt. 21:23; Luke 20:2). They could not deny His power so they impugned its source. This is the unpardonable sin!

1:28 "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

"the news about Him spread everywhere" Such a public exorcism would have been told and retold repeatedly.

 29And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. 31And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

1:30 "Simon's mother-in-law" This shows that Peter was married. His wife is never mentioned in the NT. She may have been dead, but 1 Cor. 9:5 implies she traveled with Peter. This account is paralleled in Luke 4:31-37 and Matt. 8:14-17.

▣ "was lying sick" This is an imperfect tense which shows continuous action in past time. She had been sick for some time.

▣ "with a fever" This literally means "fever-stricken." This is a present tense, which implies an ongoing problem. Notice this illness was not linked to demon possession (cf. Mark 1:32). Jesus' power over sickness is another sign of His person and Messianic mission. As often in the Gospels Jesus' miracles were as much for the disciples as for the recipient. Jesus is clearly revealing Himself to His newly chosen Apostles. Here He acts in compassion on the Sabbath. This would have been shocking to these Jewish men.

 32When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

1:32 "When evening came" Apparently this was after twilight, so the Sabbath was officially over and physical healings were now rabbinically legal.

▣ "bringing to Him" This is an Imperfect tense which means "continually carrying." Jesus did not want to be known as a miracle worker, but a proclaimer of truth (cf. Luke 4:43), yet the word was out (cf. Mark 1:28).

▣ "ill" Verse 32 implies that "all" who were sick or demon possessed in the entire town were brought to Jesus. Verse 34 states that He healed or delivered "many" of them, but not everyone. It is interesting that the terms "all" and "many" are often used synonymously in the Bible (cf. Isaiah 53:6 vs. 53:11,12 and Rom. 5:18. vs. 19). It is uncertain whether Jesus healed everyone brought to Him or many of them. At the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, it is recorded that Jesus only healed one of many sick persons. Jesus did not go out of His way to heal, but if the situation presented itself (i.e., a teaching moment for the disciples plus Jesus' compassion for the hurting and needy) He acted in power. He did go out of His way for the purpose of evangelism (i.e., the Samaritan woman, cf John 4, especially Mark 1:4). Healing was a sign, but evangelism was the purpose and focus of His ministry.

There is some confusion about Jesus' methodology in healing; sometimes it is dependent on the faith response of the sick person, sometimes on the faith of one of their friends or loved ones and often for the purpose of showing His power, unrelated to faith on the receiver's part. Salvation did not automatically accompany physical deliverance or healing.

▣ "these who were demon possessed" Notice the distinction between illness and demon possession.

1:33 These townspeople were curious and some were desperate for physical health and spiritual wholeness.

1:34 "He healed many" This verse is the first of many in Mark (cf. Mark 1:34,43-44; 3:12; 4:11; 5:43; 7:24,36; 8:26,30; 9:9) which have often been referred to as "Mark's Messianic Secret." Jesus tells the disciples and those He heals not to tell about His healing acts. Jesus did not want to be known merely as a healer or miracle worker. These were only signs that pointed to His Messiahship, which at this point in His life had not been fully revealed. Jesus came to (1) reveal the Father; (2) give Himself as a sacrifice for sin; and (3) give believers an example to follow. The healings and deliverances were only signs of His compassion for the weak, sick, and outcast. This was also an OT predicted sign of the ministry of the Messiah (cf. Isa. 61:1).

▣ "was not permitting the demons to speak" This is imperfect tense, implying several exorcisms (cf. Mark 1:24). See Special Topic on the Demonic at Mark 1:24.

 35In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37they found Him, and said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You." 38He said to them, "Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for." 39And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

1:35 "In the early morning, while it was still dark" This refers to last watch of the night, sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.

▣ "was praying there" This is imperfect tense which shows Jesus' regular prayer life. In Luke's Gospel this emphasis is often repeated. In Mark there are only three examples of Jesus praying: here, the feeding of the five thousand (cf. Mark 8:6), and in Gethsemane (cf. Mark 14:32-42).

1:37-39 The people were looking for Jesus because He healed them, not because of His teaching (cf. Luke 4:43). Jesus was continually on the move because (1) He wanted all to hear His message and (2) His mission was misunderstood.


NASB"for that is what I came for"
NKJV"because for this purpose I have come forth"
NRSV"for that is what I came out to do"
TEV, NJB"because that is why I came"

Jesus felt deeply that He had been sent (cf. Luke 4:43) to proclaim the gospel of God (cf. Mark 1:14-15). He sensed that He was not sent as a miracle worker or healer, but as the establisher of a new day, a new relationship with the Father, the inauguration of the kingdom of God! The centrality of His person, the content of His message, His redemptive acts, and His glorious resurrection and ascension were the focus of His message. Mark's Messianic Secret is a literary way of asserting that these things would not be fully understood or revealed until years in the future.

1:39 There is a textual variant in Mark 1:39. Some ancient Greek manuscripts have "he went" (cf. א, B, L, the Palestinian Syriac, and the Coptic translations, also NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB), while the Greek uncial manuscripts A, C, D, W, the Vulgate, and Peshitta translations as well as the Greek text used by Augustine have "he was" (cf. NKJV). The Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger, pp. 75-76, asserts that a copyist changed "he went" to match Luke 4:44. This is a good example of the fact that most Greek manuscript variations make no significant theological or historical difference as to the overall meaning of the account.

 40And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." 41Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44and He said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." 45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.

1:40 "a leper" This is paralleled in Matt. 8:2-4 and Luke 5:12-16. Judaism saw leprosy as an illness inflicted by God (cf. 2 Chr. 26:16-21). Contact with the leper would make one ceremonially unclean. This disease meant total social alienation! It is culturally surprising that this socially ostracized person approached Jesus and that Jesus would touch him (cf. Mark 1:41). The OT disease called leprosy, discussed in Lev. 13-14, describes many types of skin diseases, all of which excluded one from worship.

"on his knees" In Luke 5:12 it says he fell prostrate before Jesus. Jesus was not like the other rabbis. He took time to care for the outcast and ostracized.

▣ "'If you are willing, You can make me clean'" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. He was not doubting Jesus' power (i.e., the leper calls Jesus "Lord" in Matt. 8:2), but His desire to act.

1:41 "Moved with compassion" Jesus cares for humanity made in the image of God. The Western Text, MS D, has "indignant," but MSS א, A, B, and C have "pity." The words are similar in Aramaic. Although the oldest and best manuscripts have "pity" the most unusual reading would have been "indignant" or "angry." See Appendix Two on Textual Criticism. There are several other places in Mark where Jesus' anger is recorded in unexpected contexts (cf. Mark 1:43; 3:5 and 10:14; also one in John 11:33, 38). His anger may have been directed at the disease or the evil of this age.

Mark portrays Jesus as fully human, feeling and expressing the full range of human emotions, for Himself as well as others.

1. pity or anger (Mark 1:41; 3:5)

2. physical hunger (Mark 2:25)

3. deep sigh (Mark 7:34, 8:12)

4. indignance/sternness (Mark 10:14)

5. love (Mark 10:21)

6. grief/trouble (Mark 10:33-34)

7. desertion (Mark 15:34)

8. thirst (Mark 15:36)


▣ "touched him" This was a ceremonial "no! no!" Jesus touching people is a common occurrence in the Gospels (cf. Mark 7:33; 8:22; 10:13; also several times people touched Jesus, e.g. Mark 3:10; 5:22-28,30,31; 6:56) as a gesture of personal care and concern.

▣ "'be cleansed'" This is an aorist passive imperative. Jesus heals with the same personal authority by which He expels demons.

1:43 "sternly warned him" Literally this is "snorted," which means an inarticulate groan. This reflects Mark's Messianic Secret. The Gospel was not yet finished, and the message was still incomplete. Jesus did not want to be known as a miracle worker.

▣ "immediately sent him away" This is the same strong word used of the Spirit driving Jesus into wilderness (cf. Mark 1:12).

1:44 "'offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded'" This requirement related to the healing of leprosy (cf. Lev. 13, 14; Deut. 24:8). Jesus did not reject the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-19), but the oral traditions that had developed within Judaism (cf. Matt. 5:21-48). Possibly this was also for a witness to the priests.

1:45 "proclaim" This is a present infinitive. This was in direct disobedience to Jesus' strong request (cf. Mark 1:43-44).

▣ "stayed out in unpopulated areas" This referred to the uninhabited pasture lands like Mark 1:3.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Mark begin with John the Baptist's ministry? Who does he represent?

2. Does baptism impart or symbolize forgiveness?

3. Why was Jesus baptized? Was He sinful and in need of repentance?

4. Where in this section is evidence for the Trinity implied?

5. Why was Jesus tempted? In what areas of His life did the temptation come?

6. Is God's kingdom here or is it future?

7. Does Mark 1 describe the first encounter between Jesus and the fishermen?

8. Why were the people in the synagogue in Capernaum so surprised at Jesus' teaching?

9. Is demon possession a reality or a cultural superstition?

10. Why did the demons reveal who Jesus really was?

11. Why is cleansing the leper so significant?

12. Why did Jesus command the leper to tell no one what had happened to him?



Mark 2


The Healing of a Paralytic Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic Healing a Paralytic Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man Cure of a Paralytic
2:1-12 2:1-12 2:1-12 2:1-5 2:1-12
The Calling of Levi Matthew the Tax Collector The Call of Levi Jesus Calls Levi The Call of Levi
2:13-17 2:13-17 2:13-14 2:13-14 2:13-14
        Eating With Sinners
    2:15-17 2:15-16 2:15-17
The Questions about Fasting Jesus is Questioned about Fasting Fasting The Question about Fasting A Discussion of Fasting
2:18-20 2:18-22 2:18-20 2:18 2:18-22
2:21-22   2:21-22 2:21-22  
Plucking Grain on the Sabbath Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath Jesus and Sabbath Laws The Question about the Sabbath Picking Corn on the Sabbath
2:23-28 2:23-28 2:23-28 2:23-24 2:23-26
      2:27-28 2:27-28

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Mark 2:1-3:6 relates four incidents during the preaching tour spoken of in Mark 1:38-39.

1. a healing (Mark 2:1-12)

2. a reaching out to an ostracized group (Mark 2:13-17)

3. a question about fasting (Mark 2:18-20)

4. a controversy over the oral tradition (Mark 2:23-38)


B. Mark 2:1-3:6 is a literary unit that shows the expanding opposition to Jesus from the religious status quo. Jesus Himself acted in opposition to the Oral Tradition (i.e., Talmud) in order to initiate a theological dialog with the religious leaders. Notice the repetition of "why" (Mark 2:7,16,18,24).


C. Parallels

1. Mark 2:1-12 — Matt. 9:1-8; Luke 5:12-26

2. Mark 2:13-17 — Matt. 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32

3. Mark 2:18-22 — Matt. 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39

4. Mark 2:23-25 — Matt. 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5


D. Jesus came to reveal the Father. Judaism had veiled Him in rituals and rules. Jesus exposes the religious leaders' bias and agenda in His conflicts with them recorded in Mark. These issues define the differences between rabbinical Judaism and Jesus' new covenant freedom and true religion.

1. Jesus' authority to forgive sin (Mark 2:1-12)

2. the necessity of fasting (Mark 2:18-22)

3. the necessity of keeping the Sabbath rules (Mark 2:23-28)

4. the necessity of the ceremonial laws (Mark 7:1-8)

5. the issue of divorce (Mark 10:2-9)

6. paying taxes to Rome (Mark 12:13-17)

7. the nature of the resurrection (Mark 12:18-27)

8. the chief commandment (Mark 12:28-34)



 1When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7"Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'? 10But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—He said to the paralytic, 11"I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." 12And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

2:1 "Capernaum" The name means "village of Nahum." Because of the unbelief of the people in Nazareth, Jesus chose this town in Galilee (cf. Matt. 4:13) as His headquarters. It was located on a major caravan route from Damascus to Egypt. For further discussion see Cities of the Biblical World by Moine F. DeVries, pp. 269-275.

▣ "it was heard" Jesus' reputation caused many people to come and see Him (i.e., the sick, the curious, the true seekers, and the religious leaders). Jesus' words are often addressed to different groups in the audience, but to which group is not usually recorded.

▣ "He was at home" Whether this was Peter's or Mary's house or a rent house is uncertain.

2:2 "many were gathered" In eastern societies an open door meant "come on in," and they did.

▣ "there was no longer any room even around the door" There may have been a small courtyard, but even so, this home would not hold a lot of people.

▣ "He was speaking the word to them" This is an Imperfect active indicative, which can be understood as (1) the beginning of an act or (2) the repeating of an act. The "word" refers to Jesus' recurring message stated in Mark 1:14-15. His signs and actions changed, but the central core of His message remained the same.

2:3 "a paralytic" This is a compound of "to loose" and "along side." Possibly this was a stroke victim, paralyzed on one side. Jesus' actions had a twin purpose: (1) to fulfill the Messianic prophecy of Isa. 61:6 and (2) to proclaim His deity and authority by forgiving sin. For those who had spiritual eyes this was a clear, unambiguous sign!

2:4 "removed the roof" This is literally "they unroofed the roof." Roofs were accessible from the street and were often the place of social gatherings. They were usually flat and made of mud and branches with grass. Luke 5:19 has "tiles" which might imply a courtyard. Can you imagine Jesus trying to teach while pieces of the roof fell on all of them?

▣ "pallet" This was a small straw mat used for sleeping.

2:5 "their faith" Jesus saw the faith of the friends as well as the paralytic's faith and acted on their belief.

▣ "your sins are forgiven" This was probably or possibly an intentional provocation to the religious leaders who were present. Jesus was also encouraging this man's faith. The Jews believed there was a relationship between illness and sin (cf. Job; John 9:2; James 5:15-16). This man may have been concerned that his sin was somehow involved in his paralysis.

The UBS4 text has a present passive indicative. Some Greek texts have a perfect passive indicative (cf. P88, א, A, C, D, L, W), which is like Luke 5:20. However, Matt. 9:2 and MS B have a present passive indicative. It is hard to choose which of these two options is original.

2:6 "scribes" These were experts on the oral and written Law. They were either (1) an official delegation from Jerusalem sent to keep an eye on Jesus or (2) local interpreters of the Jewish traditions for the townspeople. They must have come early to get into the house or they expected to be allowed to move to the front because of their social status. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SCRIBES at Mark 1:22.

NASB, NKJV"reasoning in their hearts"
NRSV"questioning in their hearts"
TEV, NJB"thought to themselves"

The theological question is did Jesus read their thoughts, thus showing another evidence of His deity (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; Ps. 7:9; 139:1-4; Pro. 16:2; 21:2; 24:12; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8; Heb. 4:12), or did He know their traditions and see their facial expressions?

This itself (cf. Mark 2:8) may have been another sign. The rabbis interpreted Isa. 11:3 as the Messiah being able to discern people's thoughts.


2:7 "He is blaspheming" The penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning (cf. Lev. 24:16). Jesus was guilty of this charge unless He was deity. Jesus' forgiving sin is also a not-so-subtle claim to deity or at least being a representative of divine power and authority.

▣ "who can forgive sins but God alone" Jesus' message of repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:14-15) was predicated on the assumption of the sinfulness of all humans (even the OT covenant people, cf. Rom. 3:9-18). Sin is serious and has not only a temporal fellowship aspect, but an eternal eschatology aspect. Sin, and its power and consequences, is why Jesus came (cf. Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Only God can forgive sin because sin is primarily against Him (cf. Gen. 20:6; 39:9; 2 Sam. 12:13; Ps. 41:4; 51:4). Since the book of Isaiah is a recurrent reference (or allusion) in Mark's Gospel here are some verses in Isaiah that deal with the new age and forgiveness: Isa. 1:18; 33:24; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22. This is another Messianic sign.

2:8,12 "Immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "Jesus, aware" See note at Mark 2:7.

▣ "in His spirit" The Greek uncial manuscripts of the NT did not have

1. space between the words

2. punctuation marks

3. capitalization (all letters were capitals)

4. verse and chapter divisions

Therefore, only context can determine the need for capitals. Usually capitals are used for

1. names for deity

2. place names

3. personal names

The term "spirit" can refer to:

1. the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 1:5)

2. the conscious personal aspect of humanity (cf. Mark 8:12; 14:38)

3. some being of the spiritual realm (i.e., unclean spirits, cf. Mark 1:23).

In this context it refers to Jesus as a person.

I personally reject the theological concept of humans having three aspects (body, soul, and spirit based on 1 Thess. 5:23). Usually those who assert this concept turn this theological assumption into a hermeneutical grid by which all biblical texts are interpreted. These categories become airtight compartments by which God relates to humans. Humans are a unity (cf. Gen. 2:7). For a good summary of the theories of mankind as trichotomous, dichotomous, or a unity see Frank Stagg's Polarities of Man's Existence in a Biblical Perspective and Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology (second edition) pp. 538-557.

2:9,11 "'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'" These are two aorist imperatives followed by a present imperative. This was an instantaneous and lasting cure. It was done for three reasons.

1. because Jesus cared for the needy man and rewarded his and his friends' faith

2. to continue to teach the disciples the gospel as it relates to His person and mission

3. to continue to confront and dialog with the religious leaders

These religious leaders have only two options: believe in Him or explain away His power and authority.

2:10 "'the Son of Man'" This was an adjectival phrase from the OT. It was used in Ezek. 2:1 and Ps. 8:4 in its true etymological meaning of "human being." However, it was used in Dan. 7:13 in a unique context which implied both the humanity and deity of the person addressed by this new eschatological royal title (cf. Mark 8:38; 9:9; 13:26; 14:26). Since this title was not used by rabbinical Judaism and therefore had none of the nationalistic, exclusivistic, militaristic implications, Jesus chose it as the perfect title of both veiling and revealing His dual nature, fully man and fully divine (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). It was His favorite self-designation. It is used thirteen times in Mark (often in relation to Jesus' various sufferings, cf. Mark 8:31; 9:12,31; 10:33,45; 14:21,41).

"'has authority on earth to forgive sins'" Jesus performed this miracle for the purpose of witnessing to these scribes. This issue of authority (i.e., exousia) will become the focal issue. They cannot deny His power, so they will assert that His power and authority is demonic or Satanic in origin (cf. Matt. 10:25; 12:24-29; Luke 11:14-22).

2:12 "they were all amazed" This was not because of the healing; they had seen Him do that earlier, but for the forgiving of sins! They (the scribes and Pharisees) had their sign. Jesus clearly showed His power and authority. I wonder if these leaders were "glorifying God" on this occasion also.

 13And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.

2:13 "all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them" These are two Imperfect tense verbs. Jesus always had time to teach the gospel and care for people. This is why the common people loved Him so much. He was so different from the judgmental, exclusivistic, religious leaders.

2:14 "Levi" The name in Hebrew means "a companion." It was the name of the priestly tribe of Israel. Jesus may have changed this man's name to "Matthew," which means "gift of YHWH" (cf. Mark 3:18; Matt. 9:9) or, like Paul, his parents gave him two names at birth.

▣ "sitting in the tax booth" Tax collecting was a profession the Jewish population despised because it was purchased from the Roman authorities. Tax collectors had to levy a certain tax on all goods for Rome. Herod Antipas would also get part of the tax collected. Anything above the set amount which they collected, they kept as their salary. Tax collecting was noted for its high incidence of fraud. Levi was probably collecting the tax on fish exports.

"'Follow Me'" This is a present active imperative. This was an official call to discipleship (cf. Mark 1:17,20). It must be remembered that the rabbis called disciples to bind themselves to the Law, but Jesus called these men to bind themselves to Him. Jesus, not human performance of Mosaic rules (i.e., the Talmud), is the way of salvation. Repentance is not a turning back to the Mosaic Law, but a turning to Jesus, YHWH's Messiah. Jesus did not reject the Law, but put Himself in its traditional place and as its only proper interpretation (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). Salvation is a person, not just a creed or the performance of a code. This issue is basically the reason Jesus came into purposeful conflict with the religious leaders.

In his book The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, Robert H. Stein makes a good point about this statement:

"Although the term 'totalitarian' has many negative connotations, Archibald M. Hunter's use of this term is an accurate one and describes well the total commitment that Jesus demanded of his followers. On the lips of anyone else the claims of Jesus would appear to be evidence of gross egomania, for Jesus clearly implies that the entire world revolves around himself and that the fate of all men is dependent on their acceptance or rejection of him. . .According to Jesus, the fate of man centers around him. Rejection of him means eternal judgment; acceptance of him means acceptance by God. The pivotal point of history and salvation, Jesus claims, is himself. To obey him is to be wise and escape judgment, but to reject his words is to be foolish and perish, for his words are the only sure foundation upon which to build (MATT. 7:24-27)" (p. 118).

 15And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" 17And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

2:15 "He was reclining at the table in his house" This was Levi's home (cf. Luke 5:29). Jesus ate with the socially and religiously outcast as a way to initiate a religious dialog with them. They flocked to Him because He acted so different from the self-righteous Jewish leaders. Eating was a special event in the Ancient Near East which expressed friendship and acceptance. They would have reclined on their left elbow around a low horseshoe-shaped table with their feet behind them (this has been challenged by J. Jeremias in his book The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, pp. 20-21. He asserts that Jews did not regularly follow the Mediterranean custom of reclining, except during feast days). In the Near East others who were not invited to the meal could come into the dining area and stand around the walls or at the door or windows and listen to the conversation.

One wonders how much eschatological symbolism should be read into this context. Is this feast a foreshadowing of the Messianic banquet which will include outcasts (cf. Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29 possibly reflecting Isa. 59:15b-21)? If so, then there is the theological insight that temporal fellowship with Jesus mirrors eschatological kingdom fellowship. Sinners are reconciled now and in eternity! All sinners are welcome (and all are sinners, even the OT covenant people, cf. Rom. 3:9-18).

▣ "sinners" This refers to those people who did not keep all the details of the Oral Traditions (i.e., the Talmud). They were often referred to in a derogatory sense as the "people of the land." They were not fully welcome at the synagogue.

▣ "and His disciples" These select men were privy to all of Jesus' words and deeds. In truth they were primarily meant for them. They would record and explain Jesus to the world.

▣ "for there were many of them, and they were following Him" The grammar is ambiguous, but seems to refer to "sinners" and not to His disciples.

2:16 "the scribes of the Pharisees" Scribes were not exclusively of one religious/political party, though most of them in Jesus' day were Pharisees. The Pharisees were a particular theological sect of Judaism which developed during the Maccabean period. They were very committed and sincere religionists who strictly followed the Oral Traditions (i.e., the Talmud).


2:16 "He was eating with sinners" This must have been a regular event, not an exception (cf. Luke 5:29; 7:34; 15:1-2). It was so shocking to the self-righteous, religious elite!

2:17 "'those who are sick'" They had a sense of need that was essential for faith (cf. Matt. 5:3-4) and Jesus was their healer and friend (cf. Luke 7:34; 19:10).

▣ "'I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" This is an ironic, possibly sarcastic statement like 7:19. This statement was not meant to imply that the religious leaders were righteous (cf. Matt. 5:20) and therefore did not need to repent, but that Jesus' message (cf. Mark 1:14-15) was more appealing to those who sensed their own spiritual need. Jesus uses proverbial statements often in His teaching (cf. Mark 2:17,21,22,27; 3:27; 4:21,22,25; 7:15; 8:35,36,37; 9:40,50; 10:25,27,31,43-44). No one is more blind than those who think they see!

The Textus Receptus adds "to repentance" at the end of this verse following the Lukan parallel (cf. Mark 5:32) and Byzantine texts, but this variant is not even included in the UBS4 critical apparatus as a possibility.

 18John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 19And Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day."

2:18-20 "fasting" The Pharisees and John's disciples were culturally conditioned to fast twice a week, on Mondays, and Thursdays (cf. Luke 18:12). The Mosaic Law only had one fast day a year, the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). These twice-a-week fasts are a good example of developed traditionalism (cf. Zechariah 7-8). Fasting loses its spiritual value when it becomes mandatory and draws attention to itself (cf. Matt. 6:16-18).


NASB, NKJV"they came"
NRSV"people came"
TEV, NJB"some people came"

Verse 18 starts out noting that John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting for some occasion. Some others took note of this and came and asked Jesus about why His disciples did not fast on this occasion.

2:19 Grammatically this question expects a negative answer.

"'bridegroom'" There is so much OT imagery involved in the concept of "bridegroom." In the OT YHWH is the bridegroom or husband of Israel. In this context Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride (cf. Eph. 5:23-32). In Mark 2:20 "the bridegroom is taken away" refers to a time when a separation will occur.

Now, as interpreters we have two choices. First, we can see this as a cultural metaphor about a time of joy connected to a wedding. No one fasts during a wedding! Second, we can see it as parabolic of Jesus' time on earth and His coming crucifixion. Mark (Peter's interpreter) would have known the full implication of these metaphorically laden terms (in Judaism the bridegroom was a metaphor, not of the Messiah, but of the coming Kingdom of God). Is this a prediction of Jesus' death? He has clearly revealed His Messiahship and deity through His words and deeds (i.e., exorcisms, healings, forgiving sins). However, the Messianic Secret of Mark causes one to wonder! But the parabolic language and its implication of Mark 2:21-22 make me see the entire context in a vicarious, yet eschatological, setting (i.e., the bridegroom dies, but the Son of God returns and remains). Between the death and return (i.e., the Messianic banquet), His followers will fast in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.

2:20 "'taken away'" This may be an allusion to Isa. 53:8 in the Septuagint. After the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension Peter fully understood the significance of Isaiah 53.

"'they will fast'" This is a future active indicative (a statement of fact), not an imperative (command).

 21"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."

2:21 This reflects a cultural truth, turned into a proverb.

2:22 "wineskins" This referred to goats being skinned in such a way as to allow the skins to be used as a container for liquids. These newly tanned skins would have elastic qualities. When these skins became old, the fermentation process and expansion of the new wine would cause them to split. Judaism was unable to receive Jesus' insights and corrections and, therefore, was about to be made null and void. The new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) has come in Jesus! Nothing can remain the same.

There are several Greek variants connected to this verse. Some come from the parallels in Matt. 9:17 and Luke 5:37-38. Mark's succinct way of recording these events caused scribes to attempt to clarify his language.

Notice the metaphorical titles for Jesus in this context: (1) the physician, Mark 2:17; (2) the bridegroom, Mark 2:19; (3) the new wine, Mark 2:21-22; and (4) the Lord of the Sabbath, Mark 2:28.

"lost" See Special Topic: Apollumi at Mark 3:6.

 23And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24The Pharisees were saying to Him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 25And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?" 27Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

2:23 "He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath" This referred to the footpaths through the grain fields which surrounded the villages and towns. These "grainfields" could refer to any kind of cereal grain (i.e., barley, wheat).

2:24 "'why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath'" The Pharisees considered the disciples' actions as (1) harvesting; (2) winnowing; and (3) preparing food on the Sabbath, which was illegal according to their oral traditions based on Exod. 34:21. Jesus' disciples were not doing anything illegal in their actions according to the gleaning laws of the OT (cf. Deut. 23:25); the problem was the day (cf. Gen. 2:1-3; Exod. 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:15; Deut. 5:12-15) on which they did it! It seems that the Gospel writers record Jesus' actions on the Sabbath to show (1) the controversies they caused or (2) that Jesus did these kinds of things everyday and the Sabbath was no exception.

2:25-28 This famous statement (cf. Mark 2:27) by Jesus is unique to Mark. It expresses His authority to reinterpret OT traditional understandings and guidelines (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). This was in reality another sign that Jesus was claiming to be God's Messiah.

2:25 Grammatically this question expects a negative answer. It refers to an account of David's life recorded in 1 Samuel 21. Jesus often used the OT to illustrate His teachings (cf. Mark 2:25-26; 4:12; 10:6-8,19; 12:26,29-30,36).

2:26 ' "the house of God'" This referred to the portable Tabernacle located at Nod.

▣ "'Abiathar'" There is a historical problem between 1 Sam. 21:1ff, when compared to 2 Sam. 8:17 and 1 Chr. 18:16 over the name Abiathar or Abimelech: (1) both the father and the son are called High Priest and (2) Jesus used a preposition, epi, with a genitive in the sense of "in the days of" which meant "during his time" (cf. Acts 11:28; Heb. 1:2). We know that shortly after this event King Saul killed Abimelech and Abiathar fled to David (cf. 1 Sam. 22:11-23) and became one of two recognized high priests (i.e., Abiathar and Zadock).

This is one example of the kinds of problems that simply cannot be explained away. This is not Greek manuscript variation. If it was one has to assume an early scribal error before the papyri manuscripts were hand copied (which is speculation). It bothers all Bible teachers that Jesus misquotes a part of the OT history, especially since in this context Jesus is chiding the Pharisees for not reading the Scripture.

There are some books that try to deal with the conservative options in interpreting difficult texts.

1. Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter C Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce and Manfred T. Branch.

2. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer.

3. Answers to Questions by F. F. Bruce.


▣ "'consecrated bread'" The loaves weighed about 6 pounds each! There were 12 loaves replaced weekly and the week-old loaves symbolizing YHWH's provisions for the twelve tribes of Israel were to be eaten by the priests only (cf. Exod. 25:23-28; Lev. 24:5-9). God made an exception to the rule in this case. Jesus is claiming to have the same authority as the High Priest and the same right as the soon-to-be king, David!

2:27 The Sabbath regulations had become the priority. These traditions had become the issue of religion, not love for humans made in God's image. The priority of rules had replaced the priority of relationship. Merit had replaced love. Religious traditions (i.e., the Oral Law) have replaced God's intent (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23). How does one please God? A good OT analogy might be sacrifice. God intended it as a way for sinful, needy humanity to come to Him and restore broken fellowship, but it turned into a ritual, liturgical procedure. So too, Sabbath law! Mankind had become the servant instead of the object (i.e., the reason for the laws).

The three statements of Mark 2:27-28 are, in one sense, parallel (i.e., all use the general terms for humanity). The term "son of man" in Mark 2:28 is the Semitic idiom for "human person" (cf. Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1). It became Jesus' self-designation. Jesus, the Man, reveals the ultimate dignity and priority of humanity! God became one of us, for us! Human need precedes religious tradition. God is for us individually and collectively.

2:28 "Son of Man" See note at Mark 2:10.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List the metaphors Jesus used to describe Himself in 17, 19, 21-22, 28.

2. Why were the religious leaders so hostile to Jesus' teaching?

3. Why did Jesus call someone who was so hated and alienated as Levi to be His disciple?

4. How are Jesus' teachings related to the oral tradition of the Jews?

5. Why isn't fasting a regular part of our worship of God?

6. What is the central truth of Jesus' parable in Mark 2:19-22?

7. Was Jesus unconcerned with ceremonial Law or is there another possibility to His actions in Mark 2:23-28?

8. What do you think about the historical error in Mark 2:26?

9. How does Mark 2:27 relate to today?



Mark 3


The Man with a Withered Hand Healing on the Sabbath Jesus and Sabbath Laws The Man with a Paralyzed Hand Cure of the Man with a Withered Hand
3:1-6 3:1-6   3:1-4a 3:1-6
A Multitude at the Seaside A Great Multitude Follows Jesus Work of Healing A Crowd by the Lake The Crowds Follow Jesus
3:7-12 3:7-12 3:7-12 3:7-11 3:7-12
The Choosing of the Twelve The Twelve Apostles The Twelve Chosen Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles The Appointment of the Twelve
3:13-19 3:13-19 3:13-19a 3:13-15 3:13-19
Jesus and Beelzebul A House Divided Cannot Stand Questions About Jesus' Power Jesus and Beelzebul His Family are Concerned about Jesus
3:20-30 3:20-27   3:20-21 3:20-21
        Allegations of the Scribes
      3:22 3:22-27
  The Unpardonable Sin      
  3:28-30 3:28-30 3:28-30 3:28-30
The Mother and Brothers of Jesus Jesus' Mother and Brothers Send for Him   Jesus' Mother and Brothers The True Kinsmen of Jesus
3:31-35 3:31-35 3:31-35 3:31-32 3:31-35

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" 4And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. 5After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

3:1 "into a synagogue" This event is paralleled in Matt. 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11. The synagogue developed during the Babylonian Exile. It was primarily a place of education, prayer, worship, and fellowship. It was the local expression of Judaism as the Temple was the national focal point.

Jesus attended the synagogues regularly. He learned His Scriptures and traditions at synagogue school in Nazareth. He fully participated in first century Jewish worship.

It is also interesting that Jesus, apparently purposefully, acted in provocative ways on the Sabbath and in synagogue. He intentionally violated the Oral Traditions (i.e., Talmud) of the elders so as to enter into a theological confrontation/discussion with the religious leaders (both local and national; both Pharisees and Sadducees). The best extended discussion of His theology as it deviates from the traditional norms is the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7, especially 5:17-48).

▣ "hand was withered" This is a perfect passive participle. Luke 6:6 says it was his right hand, which would have affected his ability to work.

3:2 "They were watching Him" This is imperfect tense. It refers to the ever-watchful presence of the religious leaders.

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true. Jesus did heal on the Sabbath in the synagogue right before their eyes!

▣ "so that they might accuse Him" This is a hina, or purpose, clause. They were not interested in the crippled man. They wanted to catch Jesus in a technical violation so as to discredit and reject Him. Jesus acts out of compassion for the man, to continue to teach His disciples, and to confront the rule-oriented, tradition-bound, self-righteousness of the religious leaders.


NASB"Get up and come forward!"
NKJV"Step forward"
NRSV"Come forward"
TEV"Come up here to the front"
NJB"Get up and stand in the middle"

This is literally "Rise into the midst." This is a present active imperative. This was so that everyone could see.

3:4 The rabbis had a highly developed Oral Tradition (Talmud) which interpreted the Mosaic Law (cf. Mark 2:24). They made rigid pronouncements on what could legally be done or not be done on the Sabbath. One could stabilize an injured person in an emergency, but could not improve his condition. Jesus' question revealed the problem of the priority of their cherished traditions above human needs. This is always true of legalists!

▣ "save" This is the Greek term sōzō. It is used in two distinct ways in the NT: (1) it follows the OT usage of deliverance from physical problems and (2) it is used of spiritual salvation. In the Gospels it usually has the first meaning (cf. Mark 3:4; 8:35a; 15:30-31; even heal, cf. Mark 5:23,28,34; 6:56; 10:52), but in Mark 8:35b; 10:26; 13:13 it might refer to the second meaning. This same double usage is in James (#1 in Mark 5:15,20, but #2 in Mark 1:21; 2:14; 4:12).

▣ "life" This is the Greek word psuchē. It is so hard to define. It can speak of

1. our earthly physical life (cf. Mark 3:4; 8:35; 10:45)

2. our feelings and self-consciousness (cf. Mark 12:30; 14:34)

3. our spiritual, eternal consciousness (cf. Mark 8:36,37)

The difficulty in translating this term comes from its Greek philosophical usage, humans having a soul, instead of the Hebrew concept of humans being a soul (cf. Gen. 2:7).

3:5 "After looking around at them with anger" Mark's Gospel is the most transparent in recording Jesus' feelings (cf. Mark 1:40-42,43; 3:1-5; 10:13-16,17-22; 14:33-34; 15:34). The deafening silence and moral superiority of the self-righteous religious leaders angered Jesus! This event continues to clarify 2:27-28.

"grieved at their hardness of heart" This is an intensified form of the term grief (lupē) with the preposition sun. It is only used here in the NT. Jesus identified with this man's problem and need as He reacted negatively toward the religious leaders' intransigence. They were unwilling to see the truth because of their commitment to tradition (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23). How often does this happen to us?

The term "hardness" means calcified (cf. Rom. 11:25; Eph. 4:18). See Special Topic: Heart at Mark 2:6.

▣ "restored" This term (i.e., to restore to its original state) implies that the withered hand was an accident, not a birth defect. The non-canonical Gospel of Hebrews records the tradition that he was a mason who had come to ask Jesus to restore his hand so that he could return to work.

3:6 "The Pharisees went out" Luke 6:11 says "in a rage." This is literally "out of the mind" (cf. 2 Tim. 3:9). See note on Pharisees at Mark 2:16.

▣ "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "began conspiring" This is an imperfect active indicative used in the sense of the beginning of an action in past time. In Mark 3:11 three imperfects are used to show repeated action in past time. These two usages are the major linguistic function of this tense.

▣ "with the Herodians" Normally the very conservative and nationalistic Pharisees would have nothing to do with the politically oriented Herodians who supported the reign of Herod and the Roman occupation.


▣ "as to how they might destroy Him" These leaders were offended by healing on the Sabbath, but saw no problem in premeditated murder! They probably based this decision on Exod. 31:13-17. Strange things have been rationalized in the name of God. This is surely a foreshadowing of Jesus' death at the hands of the Jewish leadership.


 7Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, 8and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him. 9And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him; 10for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him. 11Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, "You are the Son of God!" 12And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was.

3:7-8 Jesus' growing popularity was another reason for the opposition from the religious leaders (cf. Matt. 12:15-16; Luke 6:17-19).

3:8 "Idumea" This refers to the national lands of ancient Edom which was the home area of Herod.

▣ "beyond the Jordan" This refers to the area called Perea in the trans-Jordan region. This was one of three regions identified as responsible to the Mosaic Law (i.e., Judah, Galilee, and the land on the other side of the Jordan [i.e., Perea, cf. Baba Bathra 3:2]). It was officially defined as the land between the Jabbok and Arnon rivers (in the OT, Ammon and Moab).

▣ "the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon" This refers to the ancient kingdom of Phoenicia.

▣ "a great number of people" Apparently these were a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.

3:9 "a boat" This refers to a small row boat.

▣ "ready for Him all the time" This boat was always available lest the crushing crowd push Him into the sea (cf. Mark 1:45).

3:10 "pressed around Him" Literally this is "falling against." Every sick person wanted to touch Him (cf. Mark 5:25-34). This crowd looked like the waiting room of a county hospital's emergency room.

3:11 There is a series of three imperfect verbs in this verse which shows Jesus' ongoing confrontation with the demonic. See SPECIAL TOPIC: EXORCISM at Mark 1:25.

▣ "Son of God" These demons were not witnesses for Jesus' benefit, but to accentuate the crowd's misconceived expectations. This led to the charge in Mark 3:22 that Jesus' power came from Satan (cf. Matt. 9:34; 10:25; 11:18). The Jewish leaders could not challenge Jesus' power, so they impugned the source of His authority.


3:12 This is the continuing emphasis on "the Messianic Secret" in Mark. Jesus, by word and deed, is fully revealed as the Messiah early in Mark, but because of the misunderstanding of (1) the Jewish leadership (i.e., Messiah as national hero restoring Israel to world prominence) and (2) the crowd (i.e., Messiah as miracle worker), Jesus admonishes several different people not to broadcast their knowledge of Him. The gospel is only finished after His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

 13And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15and to have authority to cast out the demons. 16And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); 18and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.

3:13 "He went up on the mountain" This could be understood in two ways: (1) Jesus left the area close by the sea of Galilee and went up into the hill country or (2) this is a prelude to the setting of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 5-7), which Mark does not record.

3:14 "appointed twelve" This is paralleled in Luke's Sermon on the Plain, Luke 6:12-16. Mark does not record Matthew's Sermon on the Mount (i.e., Matt. 5-7).


3:14 There is another phrase added to this verse by the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, and with slight change, in C. The added phrase is "whom he also named apostles" (see footnote in NRSV). Many textual critics assume that this addition is an assimilation from Luke 6:13.

▣ "so that they would be with Him" Jesus was intimately involved in the training of the Twelve. Robert Coleman has authored two helpful books on Jesus' methods: The Master Plan of Evangelism and The Master Plan of Discipleship, both of which deal with the growth of the early church using the same principles as Jesus.

"send them out to preach" Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom. He trained His disciples to do the same: (1) the Twelve (cf. Mark 6:7-13; Matt. 10:1,9-14; Luke 9:1-6) and (2) later, seventy disciples (cf. Luke 10:1-20).

3:15 "demons" This possibly refers to fallen angels, active on Satan's behalf. However, the Bible is silent on the origin of the demonic. Jesus' authority over them establishes His power and Messianic mission. See Special Topic at Mark 1:24.

3:16 "He appointed the twelve" The Twelve are mentioned in the NT four times (cf. Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; and Acts 1:13 [identical to Matt. 10:2-4]). The list always appears in four groups of three people. The order often changes within the groups (but Peter is always first and Judas Iscariot is always last). It is possible that these groupings reflect a rotating way of allowing these men to return home from time to time to check on their family responsibilities.

It is amazing how little we know about most of the early Apostles. Early church tradition is often all we have to rely on.


"Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter)" Most Jews of Galilee had both a Jewish name (i.e., Simon or Symeon, meaning "hearing") and a Greek name (which is never given). Jesus nicknames him "rock." In Greek it is petros and in Aramaic it is cephas (cf. John 1:42; Matt. 16:16).

Peter is the eyewitness, apostolic source behind the Gospel of Mark. See Introduction for complete notes.

3:17 "Boanerges. . .Sons of Thunder" Mark translates the Aramaic name for his Gentile (probably Roman) readers. These brothers (i.e., James and John) live up to the nickname in Luke 9:54.

3:18 "Andrew" The Greek term means "manly." From John 1:29-42 we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and that he introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus.

▣ "Philip" The Greek term means "fond of horses." His call is elaborated in John 1:43-51.

▣ "Bartholomew" The term means "son of Ptolemy." He may be the Nathanael of the Gospel of John (cf. John 1:45-49; 21:20).

▣ "Matthew" The Hebrew term means "gift of YHWH." This is referring to Levi (cf. Mark 2:13-17).

▣ "Thomas" The Hebrew term means "twin" or Didymus (cf. John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2).

▣ "James" This is the Hebrew name "Jacob." There are two men named James in the list of the Twelve. One is the brother of John (cf. Mark 3:17) and part of the inner circle (i.e., Peter, James, and John). This one is known as James the less.

▣ "Thaddaeus" He was also called "Lebbeus" (cf. Matt. 10:3) or "Judas" (cf. John 14:22). Both Thaddaeus and Lebbeus mean "beloved child."

NASB, NJB"Simon the Zealot"
NKJV"Simon the Canaanite"
NRSV"Simon the Cananean"
TEV"Simon the Patriot"

The Greek text of Mark has "Cananean" (also Matt. 10:4). Mark, whose Gospel was written to Romans, may not wanted to use the politically "hot-button" word "zealot," which referred to a Jewish anti-Roman guerrilla movement. Luke does call him by this term (cf. Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13). The term Cananean may have several derivatives.

1. of the area of Galilee known as Cana

2. from the OT use of Canaanite as merchant

3. from a general designation as a native of Canaan (also called Palestine)

If Luke's designation is right, then "zealot" is from the Aramaic term for "enthusiast" (cf. Luke 6:15; Acts 1:17). Jesus' chosen twelve disciples were from several different and competing groups. Simon was a member of a nationalistic group which advocated the violent overthrow of Roman authority. Normally this Simon and Levi (i.e., Matthew the tax collector) would not have been in the same room with each other.

3:19 "Judas Iscariot" There are two Simons, two Jameses, and two Judases. "Iscariot" has two possible derivations: (1) man of Kerioth in Judah (cf. Jos. 15:23) or (2) "dagger man" or assassin, which would mean he also was a zealot, like Simon.

▣ "who betrayed Him" This verb has been colored by John's Gospel's description of Judas (cf. John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2,26-27; 18:2-5). Originally it simply meant "turn over to authorities" (cf. Mark 1:14). Judas' psychological and/or theological motivation in betraying Jesus is a mystery.

 20And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. 21When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses." 22The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." 23And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! 27But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

3:20 "He came home" This must refer to the same house as Mark 2:1 and possibly Mark 7:17; 9:38.

▣ "the crowd" This was the result of Jesus' healing and deliverance ministry (cf. Mark 1:45; 2:2,13; 3:7,20).

▣ "that they could not even eat a meal" This was what concerned His family so much. Jesus always had time for needy people. He gave Himself to them.


NASB, NKJV"His own people"
NRSV, TEV "his family"
NJB"his relations"

Literally this is "those from his side." The KJV has "friends," but apparently this was His mother and siblings.

NASB"to take custody of Him"
NKJV"to lay hold of Him"
NRSV"to restrain Him"
TEV, NJB"to take charge of him"

This is a strong verb in Matthew (cf. Matt. 14:3; 18:28), but usually not violent in Mark. It often refers to helping sick people rise by taking them by the hand. His family tried to take Him home forcefully because they thought He was acting irrationally (cf. Mark 3:31-35).

NASB"He has lost His senses"
NKJV, NJB "He is out of His mind"
NRSV"He has gone out of his mind"
TEV"He's gone mad"

The Greek text is ambiguous as to who made this statement. Was it the family (i.e., NASB, NKJV, NJB, NIV) or something the family had heard others say (i.e., NRSV, TEV)?

The term in this context means "separated from mental balance" (cf. 2 Cor. 5:13). It is often used in Mark for people being "amazed" (cf. Mark 2:12; 5:42).

This shows that although Jesus was popular with the crowds, He was misunderstood by (1) His own disciples; (2) the religious leaders; (3) His own family; and (4) the crowds themselves.

3:22 "The scribes who came down from Jerusalem" This may refer to those mentioned in Mark 2:6,16, who were apparently an official deputation from the Sanhedrin sent to gather information on Jesus' teachings and actions.

▣ "He is possessed by" This meant he was possessed by a demon and derived His power from Satan (cf. Matt. 9:34; John 7:20; 8:48-52; 10:20). The same thing was said of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 11:18). They could not deny Jesus' miracles so they impugned the source of His power and authority.

"Beelzebul" This indeclinable noun is spelled Beelzebub in KJV, but Beelzebul in most modern translations. The "beel" reflects the Semitic word ba'al, which means "lord," "owner," "master," or "husband." It was the name for the fertility storm-god of Canaan.

The "zebul" can mean (1) heights (i.e., mountain or heaven); (2) prince (i.e., Zabul); or (3) dung. The Jews often changed the letters of foreign gods to form a derogatory pun.

If it is "zebub" it could refer to

1. the baal of Ekron (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:2,3,6)

2. a god of the Philistines, Zebaba

3. an Aramaic word play or pun on "lord of enmity" (i.e., be'el debaba)

4.  "lord of the flies" (Aramaic "fly" dibaba)

This spelling, Beelzebub, is unknown in rabbinical Judaism.

For further information on the names for personal evil see The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, pp. 468-473.

▣ "ruler of the demons" The name Beelzebul was not a common name for Satan in Judaism. Jesus uses it as synonymous with Satan in Mark 3:23.

3:23-26 Jesus showed the logical folly of attributing His power over the demonic to Satan. Obviously a leader against his servants is a disaster!

3:23 "He called them to Himself" This was to show them (i.e., the scribes of Mark 3:22) that He could read their thoughts (see note at Mark 2:6b). It also gave them one more chance to clearly hear His message.

▣ "parables" The literal meaning of this term (parabolē, used 13 times in Mark) is "to throw alongside." A common occurrence of life is used to illustrate spiritual truth.

3:24 "if" This is a Third class conditional sentence meaning potential action.

3:27 "unless he first binds the strong man" This was a veiled Messianic reference to Isa. 49:24-25. It also showed Jesus' realization that He was stronger than Satan.

The act of exorcism was common in Judaism (cf. Mark 9:38; Acts 19:14). What was uncommon is the power and authority exercised by Jesus versus the magical potions and formulas used by the rabbis. Jesus clearly shows that by His coming Satan is already defeated! Augustine even quoted Mark 3:24 as evidence that the promised millennium was already present (i.e., amillennialism).

This verse is often used today as a proof-text for "binding" Satan from Christian meetings. This text cannot function as a precedent for Christians praying against Satan. Believers are never instructed to address Satan. This verse has been turned into a superstitious mantra which is totally out of character with the NT.

 28"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"— 30because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."

3:28 "Truly" This is literally "amen." Jesus' initial use of "truly" is unique. It usually precedes a significant statement.


▣ "all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter" This showed the scope of God's grace in Christ. The phrase "the sons of men" is the normal Semitic idiom referring to human beings (cf. Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1).

3:29 "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit" This must be understood in its pre-Pentecostal historical setting. It was used in the sense of God's truth being rejected. The teaching of this verse has commonly been called "the unpardonable sin." It must be interpreted in light of the following criteria:

1. the distinction in the OT between "intentional" and "unintentional sins," (cf. Num. 15:27-31)

2. the unbelief of Jesus' own family contrasted with the unbelief of the Pharisees in this context

3. the statements of forgiveness in Mark 3:28

4. the differences between the Gospel parallels, particularly the change of "son of man," (cf. Matt. 12:32; Luke 12:10) to "sons of men," (cf. Matt. 12:31; Mark 3:28).

In light of the above, this sin is committed by those who, in the presence of great light and understanding, still reject Jesus as God's means of revelation and salvation. They turn the light of the gospel into the darkness of Satan (cf. Mark 3:30). They reject the Spirit's drawing and conviction (cf. John 6:44,65). The unpardonable sin is not a rejection by God because of some single act or word, but the continual, ongoing rejection of God in Christ by willful unbelief (i.e., the scribes and Pharisees).

This sin can only be committed by those who have been exposed to the gospel. Those who have heard the message about Jesus clearly are the most responsible for its rejection. This is especially true of modern cultures that have continual access to the gospel, but reject Jesus (i.e., America, western culture).

For the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity see Special Topic following.


▣ "never has forgiveness" This statement must be interpreted in light of Mark 3:28.

▣ "but is guilty of an eternal sin" This was a willful rejection of the gospel (i.e., the person and works of Jesus) in the presence of great light!

There are many variants related to the phrase "an eternal sin." Some ancient Greek manuscripts

1. changed it to a genitive phrase (i.e., hamartias) – C*, D, W

2. added "judgment" (i.e., kriseōs) – A and C2 (cf. KJV)

3. added "torment" (i.e., kolaseōs), minuscule 1234

It was shocking to the early scribes to talk about an "eternal sin."

The UBS4 gives "an eternal sin" a B rating (almost certain).


SPECIAL TOPIC: Exegetical Procedures for Interpreting "The Unpardonable Sin"

 31Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. 32A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." 33Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" 34Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! 35For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."

3:31-35 These verses are related to Mark 3:21. There is an obvious contrast between the ignorant, but compassionate, unbelief of Jesus' family (cf. John 7:5) and the willful, hostile unbelief of the religious leaders. Jesus specifically states that God's will is belief in Himself (cf. John 6:40; 14:6).

3:33 "'Who are My mother and My brothers'" This shocking question shows Jesus self-understanding and the radical nature of biblical faith that can only be described in terms of a new birth, a new family. Family life was such an important aspect of Jewish life that to use these family terms for fellow believers is significant. Believers relate to deity as family members; God is Father, Jesus is the unique Son and Savior, but we, too, are children of God.

3:35 "'For whoever does the will of God'" Faith in Christ is God's will for all humans (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; 6:40; 14:6; 1 John 5:12,13). See Special Topic: The Will of God at 1 Pet. 2:15. Notice the inclusive, universal invitation to respond in faith to Jesus and His message.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the setting of Luke different from that of Mark? (Mark 3:22-30)

What does Matthew's account add to Mark's?

2. Why did the religious leaders make these charges against Jesus in this chapter? Did they know better?

3. Why does Jesus try to reason with them?

4. What is "the unpardonable sin?"

5. In what context can the unpardonable sin be committed today? Can one know if he/she has committed it?

6. Is this passage on the unpardonable sin related to 1 John 5:16 or Heb. 6 and 10?

7. How is this sin related to salvation? How is this sin related to the unbelief of Jesus' family?

8. Is blasphemy against Jesus forgivable but not against the Holy Spirit? What is the difference (compare Matt. 12:31-32 to Luke 12:10 and Mark 3:28)?



Mark 4


The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower Teaching in Parables The Parable of the Sower Parable of the Sower
4:1-9 4:1-9 4:1-9 4:1-2 4:1-9
The Purpose of the Parables The Purpose of Parables   The Purpose of Parables Why Jesus Spoke in Parables
4:10-12 4:10-12 4:10-12 4:10-12 4:10-12
The Parable of the Sower Explained The Parable of the Sower Explained   Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower Explained
4:13-20 4:13-20 4:13-20 4:13-20 4:13-20
A Light Under a Bushel Light Under a Basket   A Lamp Under a Bowl Receiving and Handling the Teaching of Jesus
4:21-23 4:21-25 4:21-25 4:21-23 4:21-23
        Parable of the Measure
4:24-25     4:24-25 4:24-25
The Parable of the Growing Seed The Parable of the Growing Seed The Seed Growing


The Parable of the Growing Seed Parable of the Seed Growing by Itself
4:26-29 4:26-29 4:26-29 4:26-29 4:26-29
The Parable of the Mustard Seed The Parable of the Mustard Seed The Mustard Seed The Parable of the Mustard Seed Parable of the Mustard Seed
4:30-32 4:30-32 4:30-32 4:30-32 4:30-32
The Use of Parables Jesus' Use of Parables     The Use of Parables
4:33-34 4:33-34 4:33-34 4:33-34 4:33-34
The Calming of A Storm Wind and Wave Obey Wind and Sea Calmed Jesus Calms a Storm The Calming of the Storm
4:35-41 4:35-41 4:35-41 4:35-38 4:35-41

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. The next several chapters in Mark reflect the growing opposition of the religious leaders. Mark contrasts Jesus' popularity with the crowds with His unpopularity with the religious leadership.


B. Jesus has moved from synagogue preaching to open air meetings. This was one way of reducing the influence of the religious leadership and accentuating the opportunity of the general population to hear His words.


C. The understanding of parables was and is related to a prior faith commitment. Even the Apostles did not initially understand Jesus' parabolic teachings. In some ways understanding is dependent upon

1. election

2. the illuminating power of the Spirit

3. a willingness to repent and believe

Understanding involves a divine empowering and a human faith response!


D.  "Parable" is a compound word in Greek meaning "to throw alongside." Common occurrences were used to illustrate spiritual truths. However it must be remembered that to Gospel writers this Greek word reflected the Hebrew mashal (BDB 605), which meant "riddle" or "proverb," a word of wisdom. One must be willing to rethink issues and expected outcomes in light of the surprising nature of the kingdom of God which is now present in Jesus. For some hearers parables hide truth (cf. Mark 4:10-12).


E. The parables in Mark 4 have parallels in Matthew and Luke


Mark Matthew Luke
The Four Soils
A Light Hidden
The Seed Growing
The Mustard Seed
Use of Parables
(cf. Mark 4:10-12)







F. The Parable of the Soils or the Parable of the Sower, found in all the Synoptic Gospels, is the interpretive key to the others. Jesus took time to explain it in private to the disciples. Until this they did not understand, so what is the chance that others did? This parable has typological and/or allegorical aspects, which must be identified or the intended meaning is lost.


G. Mark 4:21-25 is repeated in Matthew in different contexts:

Mark 4:21 – Matthew 5:15

Mark 4:22 – Matthew 10:26

Mark 4:24 – Matthew 7:2

Mark 4:25 – Matthew 13:12; 25:29

There are at least two explanations

1. Jesus repeated and reapplied His teachings and illustrations to different groups at different times.

2. The Gospel writers are selecting, arranging, and adapting Jesus' words for their own literary and theological purposes (cf. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart, pp. 113-134).


H. Mark records a series of miracles which reveal Jesus' power and authority in Mark 4:35-8:26. The miracles were meant to confirm the truthfulness of Jesus' radical new teachings. He made Himself the issue!




 1He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. 2And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, 3"Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." 9And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

4:1 "He began to teach again by the sea" This was not something entirely new (cf. Mark 2:13; 3:7) but now that the synagogue was becoming increasingly closed to Him, He continued these open air teaching services. Jesus wanted the common person to have access to Him and His teachings.

▣ "such a very large crowd gathered" There was a large crowd, but the parable implies that few responded. The presence of a large crowd is a recurrent theme in Mark (cf. Mark 2:13; 3:9; 4:1,36; 5:31; 7:33; 8:1,2; 9:14,17; 14:43; 15:8).

▣ "a boat" This Greek term referred to a sail boat. In Mark 3:9 Jesus asked for a waiting row boat in case the pressure of the crowd became too great. It then would became a speaking platform. Every sick person wanted to touch Him. What a press this must have caused.

▣ "sat down" One wonders if Jesus' sitting (i.e., versus standing) reflects the cultural norm of Jewish teachers (i.e., the rabbis sat to teach) or if this was caused by the instability of the boat.

"on the land" Jesus may have been using the natural voice amplification of the water to speak to such a large crowd.

4:2 "He was teaching them" This is an imperfect active indicative meaning He taught again and again (i.e., "many things").

▣ "parables" See Special Issue: Interpreting Parables at introduction to Mark 4.

4:3 "'Listen to this'" This is a present active imperative. Remember, parables were given orally. The rabbis would teach, then summarize, then illustrate. Jesus follows this pattern (cf. William L. Blevins' Birth of a New Testament, pp. 1-13).

▣ "sower" This was a very common sight in Galilee. This parable makes so much sense when one realizes how these village farmers plowed all of the ground around their villages. These farrows were across paths, weeds, etc. Then they sowed the entire field by hand. Jesus used this common practice to illustrate spiritual receptivity (i.e., four kinds of soils).

4:4 "beside the road" This refers to the public footpaths through the collective fields of the villages. When these fields were plowed the trails disappeared briefly but they quickly reappeared with use.

4:5 "rocky ground" This referred to a rocky formation, under just a few inches of soil, not loose rocks in the field. The shallowness of the soil was not obvious to the viewer.

4:7 "among the thorns" This referred to the well-established thorn patches that were also not visible after plowing.

4:8 "yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold" Different types of soil and location allowed different amounts of fruit. There are several manuscript variants related to the preposition en. However, the variety of Greek manuscript variations really does not change the meaning of the text. Probably all three should be en, which would follow an Aramaic influence.

4:9, 23 "'He who has ears to hear, let him hear'" This is a Semitic idiom. It shows the need for careful thought and personal application (cf. Matt. 11:15; 13:9,43; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9). This probably reflects the Hebrew prayer, the Shema (cf. Deut. 6:4), which meant "to hear so as to do." Hearing must result in action (cf. James 2:14-26).

 10As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven."

4:10 "As soon as He was alone" This means alone with the disciples. They were apparently embarrassed to ask questions in public. It is obvious they did not understand the parable.

4:11 "'To you has been given'" This is perfect passive indicative. We are responsible stewards of the spiritual truths we possess. "To whom much is given, much is required" (cf. Luke 12:48).

This private teaching, which seems to be a regular occurrence, may explain the differences between the Synoptic Gospels and John's Gospel. Jesus speaks very differently in John. It is possible that the parabolic teachings, so common in the Synoptics, was done before the crowds and that the totally different style (i.e., "I Am" statements) were done in private with the disciples and this is what the Gospel of John records.

It is just possible that this whole issue of special instruction for the Twelve may have functioned in the early church as a way of accentuating Apostolic authority. They, and they alone, knew the "true" interpretation of Jesus' words. All revelation comes through these chosen and inspired disciples.

"'the mystery'" This is the Greek term mustērion. It is used in the NT in several different senses. In this context it is revealed truth which the leaders and the crowd could not comprehend (cf. Isa. 6:9-10).


▣ "kingdom of God" See note at Mark 1:15.

▣ "but those who are outside" The Holy Spirit and personal receptivity are both needed to understand spiritual truth. Those who reject the Spirit commit the sin of Mark 3:29. Parables had the dual purpose of hiding truth (cf. Matt. 11:25-27) and clearly revealing truth (cf. Luke 10:29 and the parable that follows). The heart of the hearer is the key.

4:12 This quote is from an Aramaic Targum of Isa. 6:9. The Matthean parallel from the Septuagint quotes both Isa. 6:9 and 10. Isaiah's preaching was rejected by the hard-headed Israelites he addressed in the eighth century b.c. Jesus' hearers in the first century a.d. similarly rejected His teaching. subjunctive verbs dominate this quote, which shows the volitional contingency on the part of the hearers.

Although Mark is writing to Gentiles, probably Romans, he often alludes to OT texts (cf. Mark 1:2-3; 2:25-26; 4:12; 10:6-8,19; 12:26,29-31,36).

▣ "they might return" This was the OT (i.e., shub, BDB 996) term for repentance.

 13And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? 14The sower sows the word. 15These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. 18And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."

4:13 "'Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables'" This statement is unique to Mark, but shows that Jesus expected the disciples to understand. His family did not understand, the crowds did not understand, the religious leaders did not understand, and even the disciples, without special attention and explanation, did not understand.

This parable is a paradigm for the others. Here are several key principles for interpreting parables:

1. take note of the historical and literary contexts

2. identify the central truth

3. do not push the details

4. check the Gospel parallels

5. look for the unexpected twist or culturally surprising statement which will be the call to action based on the new kingdom ethic


4:14 The seed refers to gospel proclamation. Matthew's parallel (cf. Mark 13:19) calls it "the word of the Kingdom."

4:15 "Satan" This robbery of truth is expressed so clearly in 2 Cor. 4:4. The Matthew parallel (cf. Matt. 13:19) adds that "they do not understand it," then Satan takes it out of the mind and heart so they don't think more about it. See Special Topic at Mark 1:13.

▣ "takes away" This Greek term airō can mean (1) to destroy (cf. John 11:48) or (2) to take a person's life (cf. Luke 23:18; Acts 12:19); no word, no life!

4:16 "when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy" Initial acceptance of a truth is not the only criterion (cf. Mark 4:17 and 19). Biblical faith is not based on a past emotional decision, but on a growing relationship. Salvation is not a fire insurance policy or a ticket to heaven, but a restored "image of God," which allows intimate, daily fellowship with God. A joyful germination is no substitute for a fruit-bearing relationship (cf. Mark 4:20).

4:17 "and they have no firm root in themselves" This parallels John's use of believe in Mark 8:30ff.

▣ "when affliction or persecution arises" Perseverance is the evidence of true faith.


▣ "because of the word" Notice that persecution is related to the gospel (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:11-12,21; 3:14-17; 4:12-16). God's Son, God's word, and God's people are targets in a fallen world.

4:18 The third kind of soil refers to those who hear the word, but external problems (cf. Mark 4:19) cause it (i.e., the seed – the word) to die. Notice the clear difference between germination and fruit-bearing! A good start does not win the race, but a good finish (cf. John 15; Hebrews 11).

4:19 "worries of the world and deceitfulness of riches" These refer to the temptations of this fallen world (or age).

4:20 "thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold" The amount is not as significant as the fruit bearing!

 21And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? 22For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 24And He was saying to them, "Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him."

4:21 "lamp" The first two questions of Mark 4:21 grammatically expect a "no" answer. Light is meant to illuminate. Belief is meant to bear fruit. This paragraph explains why many did not understand Jesus' parables. The parables are meant to illumine, but human's evil hearts and motives, not God, block the light. God wants to communicate (cf. Mark 4:22).

Jesus, in light of the immediate context, must be speaking of the future proclamation of the full gospel after His resurrection and ascension. The recurring Messianic Secret of Mark, the concealing of truth caused by the use of parables, and the lack of understanding on the part of the inner circle of disciples demands this be seen in a future context (i.e., post-Pentecost).

▣ "basket" This was a container holding about a peck or two gallons of dry measure. This term is a Latinism, probably confirming that Mark's Gospel was written for Romans.

▣ "a bed" Literally this is "pallet." This was used not only for sleeping (cf. Mark 7:30), but for a cushion while eating in a reclining position.

▣ "lampstand" This could refer to several different ways by which lights were positioned so as to give off the most illumination: (1) an out-cropping in the wall; (2) a hanger on the wall; or (3) some type of pedestal.

4:23 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence. Jesus is assuming that some (eventually) will understand His person, mission, and promises.

4:24-25 This states a spiritual principle. The gospel message is scattered abroad; the key to growth is the type of soil on which it falls. Mankind's openness to spiritual truth is crucial. This not only refers to initial response but continuing response. A shallow, emotional response will be rejected.

4:24 "'Take care what you listen to'" This refers to the personal acceptance or rejection of Jesus. The rabbis believed that the mind was a plowed garden ready for seed. What we let our eyes see and ears hear (cf. Mark 4:9,23) takes root. We become what we dwell on, focus on, make priority!

"'by your standard of measure it will be measured to you'" This verse has nothing to do with financial giving, but with spiritual discernment. This truth is also expressed in Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:36-37; James 2:13; 5:9. This is not a works righteousness, but the truth that how one acts reveals his heart. Believers have a new heart and a new family.

4:25 When it comes to the gospel, it continues to give and give to those who have responded, but to those who reject it, it leaves nothing! Jesus is using a paradoxical proverb (cf. Mark 4:22,25;6:4; 8:35; 10:43-44). This was typical of near eastern teachers.

This passage employs a PASSIVE construction, which is probably a circumlocution for God. God is the unexpressed agent of the action.

 26And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

4:26 "seed" This parable is unique to Mark. Because of verse 14 we know this refers to the gospel message. Growth is a result of good seed and good soil. This is the divine and human aspects of covenant.

4:27-29 This may reflect salvation as a process (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor. 2:15; 2 Pet. 3:18). This parable describes the mysterious and amazing growth of faith in the life of the fallen children of Adam. The goal is fruit!


4:29 "puts in the sickle" This is a metaphor for the end-time harvesting. It refers to judgment day (cf. Joel 3:13; Matt. 3:12; 13:30).

 30And He said, "How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade."

4:30 This is paralleled in Matt. 13:31-32.

4:31 "a mustard seed" The rabbis said it was the smallest of seeds. Yet the bush grew to over twelve feet tall. This parable parallels the one above. Spiritual growth may start small, but the results are enormous! As the seed of the gospel grows in the heart of an individual into Christlikeness, so too, the kingdom of God grows into a universal kingdom (cf. Matt. 13:33).

4:32 The end of this verse may be an allusion to the huge trees in the OT texts of Ezek. 17:22-24 and Dan. 4:11-12 that represent a kingdom.

 33With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; 34and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

4:33 "With many such parables He was speaking the word to them" We only have recorded a small part of Jesus' oral ministry (cf. John 21:25). All of us wish we had more of Jesus' teachings and actions (cf. John 20:30), but we need to realize that we have everything we need to know about God, sin, life, death, etc (cf. John 20:31). We must act on what we have been given. These two verses are parallel to Matt. 13:33-35.

"so far as they were able to hear it" This refers to their spiritual receptivity (cf. Mark 4:9,23). Believers today have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us understand Jesus' words.

4:34 This reflects the previous statements of Mark 4:10-12 and 13.

 35On that day, when evening came, He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. 38Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" 39And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. 40And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?" 41They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

4:35-41 This begins an extended context of miracles, Mark 4:35-8:26. Jesus confirmed His message by showing His power. This specific event is paralleled in Matt. 8:18,23-27 and Luke 8:22-25.

4:36 This verse has several odd features not found in the parallels.

1. What does "just as He was" mean? TEV translates it "the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting." This seems to be the best option.

2. What does "and other boats were with Him" refer to? Was the apostolic group in several small boats or did other boats also find themselves in the storm?

These are obviously eye-witness details (i.e., Peter's), but their purpose and implications are uncertain.

4:37 "And there arose a fierce gale of wind" Sudden violent storms are common on the Sea of Galilee because of the surrounding hills and its being situated below sea level. This must have been a particularly bad storm because even the seasoned fishermen among them became afraid.

4:38 This event was obviously used to depict Jesus' calm and the disciples' fear of current circumstances. The question about Jesus' care is a universal one. If God is loving and all powerful, why do believers face the threatening trials of life?

▣ perishing" See Special Topic: Apollumi at Mark 3:6.

4:39 This powerfully demonstrated the power and authority of Jesus—even inanimate forces of nature obey Him.

"Hush, be still" This is a present active imperative followed by a perfect passive imperative. Jesus, as God the Father's agent of creation (cf. John 1:3,10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), had, and has, power over it (cf. Ps. 33:7; 65:2; 147:18).

4:40 This is a good question for all believers in every situation. Jesus is teaching His disciples by word and deed.

4:41 This verse clearly displays the theological infancy of the Apostles. The context contrasts several types of unbelief: (1) His family's; (2) the religious leaders'; and (3) the disciples'. Numbers 1 and 3 are spiritually growing. Their unbelief is based on ignorance, but number 2 is willful. They are given sign after sign, truth after truth, but because of preexisting biases the religious leaders not only refuse to believe, but attribute Jesus' actions and teachings to Satan's power! This is the unpardonable sin!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is this parable (Mark 4:3-5) so important in interpreting all others?

2. How is the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's free-will dealt with in this passage?

3. Give the central truth of these:

a. Mark 4:21-23

b. Mark 4:24-25

c. Mark 4:28-29

d. Mark 4:30-32

4. What is the basic truth of all these parables? (Remember context)

5. List the three groups in this context that do not believe.



Mark 5


The Healing of the Gerasene Demonic A Demon-Possessed Man Healed The Gerasene Demoniac Jesus Heals a Man with Evil Spirit The Gerasene Demoniac
5:1-10 5:1-20 5:1-13 5:1-5 5:1-20
5:11-20     5:11-13  
    5:14-20 5:14-16  
Jairus' Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Garment A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed Jairus' Daughter Raised Jairus' Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Cloak Cure of the Woman with a Hemorrhage-The Daughter of Jairus Raised to Life
5:21-24a 5:21-43 5:21-24a 5:21-23 5:21-24
5:24b-34   5:24b-34    
      5:25-28 5:25-34
5:35-43   5:35-43 5:35 5:35-43

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



This chapter is designed to show a typical day in Jesus' life during this public period of His ministry. Jesus' power and authority are demonstrated by

A. Gedarene Demoniac, paralleled in Matt. 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39

Verses 1-20 (Shows Jesus' power over the spiritual realm)

B. Jairus' daughter, paralleled in Matt. 9:18-19,23-26 and Luke 8:40-42,49-56

Verses 21-24, 35-43 (Shows Jesus' power over death)

C. Woman with a hemorrhage, paralleled in Matt. 9:20-22 and Luke 8:43-48

Verses 25-34 (Shows Jesus' power over disease)


 1They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, 3and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. 6Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7and shouting with a loud voice, he said, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!" 8For He had been saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 9And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Legion; for we are many." 10And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them." 13Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

5:1 "They came to the other side of the sea" It was probably still night (cf. Mark 4:35). The disciples had to row the boat since Jesus had completely calmed the winds.

▣ "into the country of the Gerasenes" This is the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee, called Decapolis. This area was mostly Gentile and very Hellenistic. The Synoptic Gospels vary on the spelling : Gerasa (MSS א*, B, D, and Luke 8:26), Gergesa (MSS אi2, L), Gergusta (MS W), or Gadara (MSS A, C, and Matt. 8:28). All of these were towns in this area.

5:2 "When He got out" Maybe the disciples heard the screaming (Mark 5:5) and were glad to let Jesus go first!

▣ "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "a man" Matt. 8:28ff has two men. Matthew also has two blind men outside of Jericho (cf. Matt. 20:29; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35). This is a characteristic of Matthew's Gospel. Mark and Luke agree there was only one demoniac (cf. Luke 8:26ff). For further discussion see Hard Sayings of the Bible pp. 321-322.

▣ "from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him" This is an obvious account of demon possession. The NT does not discuss the origin of the demonic or the detailed procedures on how to deal with them. Exorcism is never listed as a gift of the Spirit. See Special Topics: The Demonic and Exorcism at Mark 1:25.

5:3 "dwelling among the tombs" They had landed in the area of a local graveyard. The local people had driven a possessed lunatic into this remote area. It had become his home.

▣ "no one was able to bind him anymore" He had supernatural strength.

5:4 "he had often been bound with shackles and chains" This is a perfect passive infinitive. Apparently the town's people had attempted to chain him. He was a well known local problem.

▣ "had been town apart by him" This also shows his supernatural strength.

5:5 "screaming. . .gashing himself with stones" This behavior may be linked to expressions of self destruction or to OT pagan worship practices (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:28). The graphic information about this man's regular behavior must have come from the villagers.

5:6 "he ran up and bowed down before Him" The first term implies hostility. The second implies respect and acknowledgment of Jesus' position and authority (cf. Mark 5:4b).

5:7 "shouting with a loud voice he said, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God" One of the demons addresses Jesus. They knew who He was (cf. Mark 1:23; James 2:19). They even address Him with a Messianic phrase. In this case, their motive is fear (unlike 1:23).

▣ "I implore You by God" This was a Hebrew idiom that means "to swear to God."

▣ "do not torment me" This is grammatically either an aorist active subjunctive of prohibition or an aorist active subjunctive functioning as an aorist active imperative, which implies "never start an action" (cf. Barbara and Timothy Friberg's Analytical Greek New Testament, p. 120). The demonic knew that judgment was coming (cf. Mark 1:23-24; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9; 20:10). The parallels in Matt. 8:29 and Luke 8:28 and 31 also imply eschatological judgment. These demons apparently did not know about the two comings of the Messiah. Even "spirits" can suffer!

5:8,9 "had been saying" The imperfect tense was used primarily in two ways: (1) repeated action in past time or (2) the beginning of an action in past time. In this context only #2 appears to fit. However, if the order of Jesus' statements to the demonic are out of chronological order, then #1 may apply. Mark may be using the tense in a colloquial way because the same tense is also in Mark 5:10.

5:9 "What is your name" This question could be a Hebraic idiom and refer to their characteristics.

▣ "Legion" In the Roman Army 6,000 troops made up a Legion. This is another of the many Latin terms used in Mark. This may have been a metaphor of the degree of their control over the man. However, because of Mark 5:13, which describes the demons causing the death of 2,000 hogs, it may be literal.

5:10 "out of the country" This could refer to (1) the area of the tombs; (2) the Decapolis district; or (3) possibly to the Abyss, which is recorded in the parable of Luke 8:31. The Matthew parallel has "before the appointed time" (cf. Matt. 8:29).

25:11 The herd of swine shows it was a Gentile area.

5:12 "Send us into the swine" Notice that the demons made a request to Jesus. The text does not tell us why Jesus allowed these demons to go into the hogs or why they wanted to. Possibly the demons leaving the man and entering the hogs was a visible way to encourage the man to believe that he was delivered (i.e., a visual aid, similar to putting spit and mud into blind eyes). The demons may have requested it because (1) they preferred hogs to the abyss or (2) this action would cause the townspeople to ask Jesus to leave. Demons do not do things to help Jesus!

5:13 "they were drowned" This is imperfect passive indicative. They ran off the cliff one after another!

 14Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the "legion"; and they became frightened. 16Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. 19And He did not let him, but He said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you." 20And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

5:14 "And the people came to see what it was that had happened" Curiosity and fear motivates the town's people to come, even at night.

5:15 "sitting down" This is the first in a series of conditions which describe this man's new peace and composure.

▣ "clothed" This implies he was normally unclothed (cf. Luke 8:27).

▣ "in his right mind" Demonic possession manifests itself in many ways

1. cannot speak (Mark 9:17,25; Matt. 9:32)

2. cannot speak or see (Matt. 12:22)

3. epilepsy (Matt. 17:15,18)

4. great strength (Mark 5:3-4)

5. convulsions (Mark 1:26; 9:20)

6. paralysis (Acts 8:17)

However, not all physical problems are of demonic origin. In the Gospels illness and possession are often differentiated (cf. Mark 1:32,34; 6:13; Matt. 4:24; 10:8; Luke 4:40-41; 9:1; 13:32).

5:17 "they began to implore Him to leave their region" This is an aorist middle indicative and a present active infinitive. This rejection was one possible reason the demons wanted to enter the hogs! The townspeople wanted the One who calmed the man that none of them could calm to leave. How different is the village of John 4. Apparently economic concerns outweighed this man's restoration.

5:19 "Go home to your people" This is a present active imperative. Jesus was telling him to go back home. Jesus knew the presence of an apparently Gentile follower would alienate some Jewish people. By staying Jesus now had a witness in this Gentile area. He still cared for these materialists!

▣ "and report to them" This is an aorist active imperative. Share with your people what God has done for you. Apparently he did this well (cf. Mark 5:20). This shows Jesus' care for Gentiles.

5:20 "Decapolis" This Greek word means "ten cities." It was a confederacy going back to Alexander the Great. This region was north of Perea and east of the Sea of Galilee. It was a haven of Hellenistic culture.

 21When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore. 22One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and on seeing Him, fell at His feet 23and implored Him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live." 24And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.

5:22 "One of the synagogue officials named Jairus" His name means "YHWH has enlightened." This was the person in charge of administrative tasks like the maintenance of a synagogue building. He would have been a man of some religious standing in the community.

"fell at His feet" This was a gesture of reverence as well as worship (cf. Mark 5:6,22,33 where different words are used, but the same gesture). An Oriental leader prostrate in the street before an unofficial rabbi would have been very unexpected!

▣ "My little daughter is at the point of death" Matthew 9:18 says she had died. This man believed that Jesus' presence and touch would heal/restore his daughter.


NASB, TEV"she will get well"
NKJV"she will be healed"
NRSV"she may get well"
NJB"she may be saved"

This is an aorist passive subjunctive of the term sōzō, used in its OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15). In the NT it takes on the sense of spiritual salvation. It is theologically uncertain whether all of the ones Jesus healed were spiritually saved. His actions may have started a process that culminated later in the person's spiritual life and is not recorded in Scripture.

As an example look at this chapter where the demoniac's faith is seen after his being healed, not before. The young girl is helped because of her father's faith and the woman with a bleeding problem was willing to make Jesus ceremonially unclean in a selfish (even superstitious) act of touching a rabbi. Where does self-interest end and faith begin?

5:24 "pressing in on Him" Luke 8:42 adds that the press of the crowd was so great that it was at the point of being hard to breathe.

 25A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse — 27after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." 29Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" 31And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" 32And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. 33But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction."

5:25 "hemorrhage for twelve years" This would have made her ceremonially unclean (cf. Lev. 15:25-27) and, therefore, excluded her from all forms of Jewish worship (i.e., synagogue and temple).

5:26 "and had endured much at the hands of many physicians" Luke, the physician, leaves this comment out in Luke 8:43ff.

▣ "had spent all she had and was not helped at all" The Jewish cures for this problem listed in the Talmud were (1) carrying the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen rag around one's neck in summer and in a cotton rag in winter or (2) carrying barley corn from the dung of a white female donkey (cf. Shabb. 110 A & B).

5:27 "touched His cloak" Probably what she touched was His prayer shawl, used by men for covering their heads during worship. It was called the Tallith (cf. Num. 15:38-40; Deut. 22:12). For a ceremonially unclean woman to touch a rabbi was an inappropriate act. This woman was desperate!

5:30 "Immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "Jesus perceiving in Himself that the power" The exact nature of this power is uncertain. It was obviously from God (cf. Luke 5:17). Jesus felt its affect. Jesus was able to bestow it to others in the missions of the Twelve and the seventy.

▣ "proceeding from Him had gone forth" Matthew 8:17 quotes Isa. 53:4 that the Messiah would heal us because He bore our infirmities.

▣ "Who touched My garments" There was a great crowd (cf. Mark 5:31). Matthew 9:20 has "tassel." The prayer shawl had thirteen blue tassels, commemorative of the Mosaic Law.

5:32 "And He looked around" This imperfect tense implies He began to look over the crowd. On this occasion Jesus was not supernaturally informed about who or what had happened. Possibly the question was meant for the woman (i.e., an opportunity to publicly express her faith).

5:33 "fearing and trembling" Women had such a low place in society. She was reluctant to speak in public. She also knew that since she was ceremonially unclean she was not permitted to touch a rabbi.

5:34 "'Daughter'" The teachings of Jesus reveal the profound truth that human beings, through faith in Jesus, can become family members of God. Salvation is described in birthing or legal terms, indicating a family relationship. What powerful metaphors for the Christian experience!

▣ "'your faith has made you well'" Not her touch, but acting on her faith in Him was the key. Faith itself is not the issue, but the object of faith (i.e., Jesus). There was nothing magical here, nor was it the power of positive thinking, but the power of Jesus. This is another use of the Greek sōzō in its OT sense (cf. Mark 5:23). Here it is a perfect active indicative, which implied she was healed and remained healed of the physical problem.

▣ "'go in peace and be healed of your affliction'" These are both present active imperatives. The term peace (eirēnē) has the connotation of wholeness and well-being, not just the absence of problems. The term "affliction" is from the root "to whip."

 35While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?" 36But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid any longer, only believe." 37And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38They came to the house of the synagogue official; and He saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39And entering in, He said to them, "Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep." 40They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He took along the child's father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was. 41Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, "Talitha kum!" (which translated means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded. 43And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that something should be given her to eat.

5:35 "'has died'" This is aorist active indicative. I am sure Jairus was very impatient! This seems to be a test of his faith or another example of Jesus' power and authority.


NASB"overhearing what was being spoken"
NKJV"as soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken"
NRSV, NJB"overhearing what they said"
TEV"Jesus paid no attention to what they said"
NIV"ignoring what they said"

The Greek root means "to hear carelessly." It can be understood as "ignore" or "overhear." This term is so ambiguous that very early the scribes changed it to the term "hear" (cf. MSS אa, A, C, D, and K), which is found in the Lukan parallel, 8:50.

▣ "'Do not be afraid any longer'" This is a present imperative with a negative particle which usually means stop an act in process. The opposite of fear is faith!

▣ "'only believe'" This is another present active imperative. Such a simple, but crucial, statement (cf. Acts 16:31).

5:37 "He allowed no one to accompany Him" Why Jesus had an inner group of disciples (cf. Mark 1:29; 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33) is uncertain. Mark's Gospel is the eyewitness account of Peter. This inner circle provided no special privileges because James was killed very early.

Jesus did not want His fame as a healer and even one who could raise the dead to be known. This is one of several of these types of statements in Mark, which theologians call "the Messianic Secret" (cf. Mark 5:43). He already had major logistical problems with the large crowds.

▣ "Peter and James and John" This was Jesus' inner circle of disciples (cf. Mark 9:2; 14:33; Matt. 17:1; 26:37; Luke 9:28).

5:38 "and people loudly weeping and wailing" These were common, even expected, Jewish funeral practices. It shows that the family was expecting the death of the little daughter and had already made preparations.

5:39 "'The child has not died, but is asleep'" Sleep was an OT euphemism for death. Jesus uses it of Lazarus in John 11:11. Here it is contrasted with death. One wonders if Mark 5:37 is thought to be a reference to "Mark's Messianic Secret" then why did He say this to the crowd, unless He is trying to reduce the impact (i.e., the resulting rumors) of her being raised?

5:40 "began laughing at Him" This is an imperfect tense which implies the bystanders continued to laugh for an extended period of time or that they started laughing at this point.

▣ "His own companions" This refers to Peter, James, and John. In many ways Jesus' miracles were as much for the disciples' training and faith as for the people helped!

5:41 "'Talitha, kum'" This is an Aramaic phrase. The Jews of Jesus' day spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. This would have been Jesus' mother tongue. There are several Aramaic phrases recorded in the Gospels (cf. Sabbata, Mark 3:4; Boanerges, Mark 3:17; Satan, Mark 3:23,26; 8:33; Talitha cumi, Mark 5:41; Ephphatha, Mark 7:35; Gehanna, Mark 9:43,45,47; pascha, Mark 14:14; Abba, Mark 14:36; Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, Mark 15:34). The fact that Mark translates it shows his target audience was Gentile.

5:42 "Immediately. . .immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "she was twelve years old" This would have meant she was responsible to keep the law (i.e., bath mitzvah) and was of marriageable age. Boys became responsible to the Law and marriageable at age thirteen (i.e., bar mitzvah). The life expectancy was much shorter and generations of families lived together; therefore, they married much younger than today.

5:43 "gave them strict orders that no one should know about this" Jesus did not want to be known as a healer or miracle worker. He did these activities to reveal God's compassion and validate His message and authority (cf. Mark 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36;8:26,30; 9:30; Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 17:9).

"He said that something should be given her to eat" This is another eyewitness detail. Jesus shows thoughtfulness for the little girl. This also proves she is truly restored to physical life.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is demon possession? Can it occur today? Can Christians be affected?

2. Why did Jesus let the hogs be destroyed?

3. Why did the local townspeople send Jesus away?

4. Why did the demoniac have to stay?

5. What does it mean "power had gone out?"

6. Why does Jesus call the dead, "sleeping?"

7. Why does Jesus want to keep the raising of Jairus' daughter a secret?

8. Why did Jesus have an inner circle of disciples?



Mark 6


The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth Jesus Rejected at Nazareth Rejection at Home Jesus Rejected at Nazareth A Visit to Nazareth
6:1-6a 6:1-6 6:1-6a 6:1-3 6:1-6a
The Mission of the Twelve Sending Out the Twelve Commissioning and Instructions of the Twelve Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples The Mission of the Twelve
6:6b-13   6:6b-13 6:6b-11 6:6b-13
The Death of John the Baptist John the Baptist Beheaded Death of John The Death of John the Baptist Herod and Jesus
6:14-29 6:14-29 6:14-16 6:14 6:14-16
      6:16-18 John the Baptist Beheaded
    6:17-29   6:17-20
      6:21-23 6:21-29
The Feeding of the Five Thousand Feeding the Five Thousand Five Thousand Fed Jesus Feeds Five Thousand First Miracle of the Loaves
6:30-44 6:30-44 6:30-44 6:30-32 6:30-44
Walking On Water Jesus Walks on the Sea Jesus Walks on Water Jesus Walks on the Water Jesus Walks On the Water
6:45-52 6:45-52 6:45-46 6:45-50a 6:45-52
The Healing of the Sick in Gennesaret Many Touch Him and Are Made Well Belief in Jesus' Power to Heal Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret Cures at Gennesaret
6:53-56 6:53-56 6:53-56 6:53-56 6:53-56

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Verses 1-6a are paralleled in Matt. 13:54-58.


B. Verses 6b-13 are paralleled in Matt. 9:35-11:1 and Luke 9:1-6.


C. Verses 14-29 are paralleled in Matt. 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-16 and in Luke 9:7-9.


D. Verses 30-44, which is the feeding of the five thousand, is found in all four Gospels (Mark 6:30-44; Matt. 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).


E. Verses 45-52 are paralleled in Matt. 14:22-23 and John 6:14-21.


F. Verses 53-56 are paralleled in Matt. 14:34-36.



 1Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. 2When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. 4Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." 5And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6And He wondered at their unbelief.

6:1 "Jesus went out from there" This refers to Capernaum, which had become His Galilean headquarters.

"came into His hometown" This is literally "his native place" and refers to Nazareth (cf. Mark 1:9,24), where He grew up. It was twenty miles southeast of Capernaum. Apparently it was a recent settlement of Judeans.

▣ "and His disciples followed Him" Jesus trained His disciples by taking them with Him at all times (see Robert Coleman's The Master Plan of Evangelism). Much of Jesus' teachings and miracles were for their benefit.

6:2 "to teach in the synagogue" Jesus regularly attended synagogue. He was often invited to speak as a guest teacher, which was a common practice.

▣ "the many listeners were astonished" They did not disagree with His teachings, but questioned His qualifications and schooling. This is similar to the Pharisees questioning His authority.

"'Where did this man get these things'" Jesus' wisdom, power, and authority surprised everyone. As a child Jesus was just like the other village children. Different groups kept asking where these attributes came from? It was obvious to all that Jesus had great wisdom and authority!

▣ "such miracles as these performed by His hands" Capernaum was only 20 miles from Nazareth so word of His miracles had spread.

6:3 "'Is not this the carpenter'" The word for carpenter means "craftsman" which can mean a worker in wood, metal, or stone. Justin said it referred to someone who made ploughs and yokes (i.e., Dial. 88:8). Apparently Jesus had become the town carpenter after Joseph's untimely death.

▣ "'the son of Mary'" Like "this man" of Mark 6:2, this may have been an attempt to show contempt. The townspeople would have known of Mary's pregnancy. Origen says the original text read "the son of the carpenter and Mary" because it was so highly unusual for the mother to be mentioned. Because of John 8:41 some see this related to the widely spread rumor that Jesus was an illegitimate child of a Roman soldier. Most of the MSS variations are based on the theological bias of copyists who may have feared that the doctrine of the Virgin Birth was being comprised by the Matthean parallel phrase "the son of the carpenter and Mary" (cf. Matt. 13:55).

▣ "'the brother of'" This shows the normal childhood of Jesus (cf. Luke 2:40,52). It also shows Mary had other children. Of this list of brothers and sisters (cf. Matt. 13:55-56), two, James and Jude, are NT authors.

NASB"they took offense at Him"
NKJV"they were offended at Him"
NRSV"they took offense at him"
TEV"they rejected him"
NJB"they would not accept him"

This is the term skandalon, which meant a baited trap stick. We get the English term "scandal" from this Greek term.

This concept had great OT Messianic significance (cf. Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14; 28:16). Just like the religious leaders the townspeople could not overcome their bias (cf. Mark 6:4).

6:4 "A prophet" Verse 4 was a popular proverb of Jesus' day. Jesus was surely more than a prophet, but that was one of the titles used by Moses of God's special coming One (cf. Deut. 18:15,18).

6:5 "He could do no miracles there" This does not imply weakness on Jesus' part, but willful limiting of His ministry. The Matt. 13:58 parallel has "did not" instead of "could not." Jesus was not a respecter of persons; He had no favorites. Luke 7:11-14 shows that Jesus did not always demand a faith response, but it was the normal prerequisite. Faith in God and in Jesus opens the door to the spiritual realm. How much faith is not as important as in whom it is placed!

"He laid His hands on a few sick people" See Special Topic at Mark 7:32.


NASB"He wondered at their unbelief"
NKJV"He marveled because of their unbelief"
NRSV"he was amazed at their unbelief"
TEV"He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith"
NJB"he was amazed at their lack of faith"

This is an imperfect active indicative, implying repeated action. Jesus was amazed by the peoples' blindness and hardness (Jesus was rejected twice in Nazareth, cf. Luke 4:16-31). In the presence of great truth, even miraculous signs (cf. Mark 6:2), they refused to believe (cf. Isa. 6:9-10).

 6bAnd He was going around the villages teaching. 7And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9but to wear sandals; and He added, "Do not put on two tunics." 10And He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them." 12They went out and preached that men should repent. 13And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

6:7 "began to send them out in pairs" This word may reflect a specific mission and not a universal charge.

"in pairs" This may refer to the two witnesses needed to confirm a matter (cf. Deut. 19:15). It may even be the sociological aspect of courage in numbers. These two witnesses faced a hostile spiritual and cultural world.

▣ "and gave them authority over the unclean spirits" The parallel in Luke 9:1 adds "and to heal diseases." The parallel in Matt. 10:8 adds "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons." All of these acts are OT Messianic signs, signs of God's care, signs of God's power and His future kingdom. See Special Topic at Mark 1:25.

Jesus' power and authority can be delegated to His followers. Surely there is an intensity shared between the Twelve and Jesus that cannot be duplicated, but God's power is available to His church. Where is the power in our day? It seems that these power signs are used to confirm the gospel message and give credence to the gospel preacher. This is still true today. However, in cultures where the gospel message has taken root, then believers must walk by faith, not by sight; trust in God, not demand miracles (cf. John 4:48). Miracles are not the answer to faith problems! It is also very possible that the judgment of God on a lukewarm church is the perception of success, but the reality of ineffectiveness.

Signs and miracles as well as demonic and angelic activity increased in Jesus' and the Apostles' day. This spiritual activity is surely present in every age, but intensified at Jesus' first coming and will intensify again as His second coming draws near.

I rejoice in the manifestations of signs of God's love and power (i.e., the gifts are still active), but I trust in gospel truths, not the presence or absence of physical confirmations. Miracles and signs can be counterfeit (cf. Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 13:13; 16:14; 19:20). Believers must not demand confirmation! Childlike faith is spiritually superior to supernatural signs and wonders.

6:8 "He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff" The Synoptic Gospels all record this, but in slightly different ways. Matthew 10:9-11 implies "do not purchase another walking stick." Luke 9:3 is similar to Matt. 10:10, but omits the phrase "do not acquire" of Matt. 10:9. All travelers carried a staff for protection. The point of these statements is that these missionaries must depend totally on God's provision (both physically and spiritually) and not their own.

For a full discussion of the discrepancies between Matthew, Mark, and Luke concerning what the disciples are to take and not take on their mission trip see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 422-24.

▣ "bag" This is possibly a knapsack.

▣ "money in their belt" This possibly means a money belt.

6:9 "'Do not put on two tunics'" This refers to an outer cloak which was also used as a covering for sleeping. This means do not take extra clothes (i.e., do not try to prepare for every contingency).

6:10 "'stay there until you leave'" They were not to look for better and better accommodations. The first place that by faith opens their home was the place to stay.

6:11 "Any place that does not receive you or listen to you" "Any place" could refer to a city or a synagogue. This is literally the term "receives," but with the implication of welcome.

▣ "shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them" This involves a visual symbol of impending judgment and separation (cf. Acts 13:51; and a similar act in Mark 18:6). This was a regular Jewish custom when re-entering Judah from Samaria.

There is an additional sentence in Mark 6:11, NKJV, "Assuredly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." It is found in manuscript A and many later Greek minuscule manuscripts. It is not original to Mark, but seems to be an assimilation from Matt. 10:15.

6:12 "they. . .preached that men should repent" Repentance is crucial for a faith relationship with God (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21). The term in Hebrew meant a change of actions, while in Greek it meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change from one's self-centered existence to a life informed and directed by God. It calls for a turning from the priority and bondage of the self. Basically it is a new attitude, a new world view, a new master. Repentance is God's will for every human being, made in His image (cf. Ezek. 18:21,23,32; Luke 13:1-5; and 2 Pet. 3:9).

The NT passage that best reflects the different Greek terms for repentance is 2 Cor. 7:8-12

1. lupe, "grief" or "sorrow" Mark 6:8 (twice), 9 (thrice), 10 (twice), 11

2. metamelomai, "after care," Mark 6:8 (twice), 9

3. metanoeō, "repent," "after mind," Mark 6:9, 10

The contrast is false repentance [metamelomai], cf. Judas, Matt. 27:3 and Esau, Heb. 12:16-17 vs. true repentance [metanoeō].

True repentance is theologically linked to

1. Jesus' preaching of the conditions of the New Covenant (cf. Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3,5)

2. the apostolic sermons in Acts (i.e., the kerygma, cf. Acts 3:16,19; 20:21)

3. God's sovereign gift (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18 and 2 Tim. 2:25)

4. perishing (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance is not optional


6:13 "casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people" Notice the NT makes a distinction between illness and demon possession. See note at Mark 1:25c.

▣ "anointing them with oil" Oil was used in different senses: (1) as medicine (cf. James 5:14); (2) as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, especially in the OT of kings, priests, and prophets; and (3) as a psychological aid to recognize God's presence. Jesus used several different types of physical aids in healing.


 14And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, "John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him." 15But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others were saying, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." 16But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen!"

6:14 "King Herod" "King" was not the official title of Herod Antipas. He was called Tetrarch, which meant "a rule by four." He was the son of Herod the Great and a Samaritan woman. He ruled Perea and Galilee between 4 b.c. and a.d. 39 when he was exiled for asking Caesar to make him a King.

See Special Topic on The Family of Herod the Great at Mark 1:14.

▣ "people were saying John the Baptist has risen from the dead" This reflects the Pharisaic belief in a physical resurrection (cf. Acts 23:6; 24:21; Heb. 6:2). This was another attempt to explain away Jesus' power and authority (i.e., the religious leaders attribute it to Satan or the demonic; the hometown folks deny it because of their familiarity with Jesus' childhood; these people attribute it to John the Baptist or some other OT prophet).

6:15 "Elijah" This showed the Messianic implications of Jesus' ministry. This relates to the specific predictions in. Mal. 3:1-2 and 4:5-6.

▣ "He is a prophet like one of the prophets of old" This shows the people sensed a new authority in His teaching that had not been in Israel for hundreds of years, since Malachi (or the author of Chronicles). It also reflects the Mosaic Messianic prophecy of Deut. 18:15ff about the coming of a prophet like Moses.

6:16 "whom I beheaded" This shows Herod's guilty conscience (cf. Matt. 14:10; Luke 9:9) and lack of information about the relationship between John and Jesus.

 17For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. 21A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; 22and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you." 23And he swore to her, "Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom." 24And she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." 25Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.

6:17-29 This is out of chronological sequence. It was inserted to explain Mark 6:14.

6:17 "Herodias" She had been the wife of Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas (cf. Matt. 14:3). They had lived in Rome. She was also Antipas' niece through Aristobulus. Antipas had wooed her away from Philip and married her.

According to Josephus (i.e., Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.4), Herodias was married to Herod the Great's son, Herod (whose mother was Marianne, the high priest's daughter). He also says Herodias' daughter, Salome, later married Philip. It is possible that Herod was known as Herod Philip.

6:18 This relationship violated Lev. 18:16; 20:21.

6:19 "Herodias had a grudge against him" This is imperfect tense. She must have brought the subject up again and again to Herod Antipas. Herod kept (imperfect tense) him safe from her (Mark 6:20).

6:20 "Herod was afraid of John" This fear was because John was a holy man. Matthew 14:4 says he feared John's popularity with the people. Herod was a fearful person. He feared John, Herodias, and his guests—too bad he did not fear God!

6:21 There are three groups of guests: (1) civil authorities; (2) military authorities; and (3) local wealthy and influential leaders.

▣ "when he heard him" Herod either called for John or went to his cell at Machaerus (i.e., on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, cf. Josephus' Antiquities 18.5.2).

▣ "he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him" This shows the paradox of a man drawn to the truth, yet rejecting the light (cf. John 3:19-21).

Herodias waited until just the right moment—a public gathering, a drunken party, a lustful dance, and an outrageous promise—to force Herod's hand to do her bidding.

6:22 "the daughter of Herodias" She was called Salome by Josephus, the daughter of Philip.

▣ "danced" It was not common for woman of her social status to dance at this type of gathering. These sensual dances were usually done by prostitutes or professional dancers.

▣ "'Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you'" Herod said this in the presence of his administrative officials and could not take it back (cf. Mark 6:21,26).

6:23 "he swore to her" He used God's name to assure his believability.

6:24 This verse confirms her mother's ulterior motives and plot (cf. Mark 6:28b).

6:26 Herod's need to impress his friends and family overshadowed his fear (perilupos, which implies exceeding sorrow, cf. Matt. 26:38; Mark 14:34).

6:27 "executioner" This is a Latin term for his special bodyguards. It originally referred to a spy, but came to be used of an executioner (i.e., Seneca). Mark has more Latin terms and phrases than any other Gospel. It was probably written specifically to Romans.

▣ "in the prison" In Antiquities 18.5.2 Josephus tells us it was Herod's fort named Machaerus, which was near the Dead Sea in Moab.

6:29 John the Baptist was obviously in the will of God. Yet his ministry only lasted about eighteen months. Although the actual cause of his death was the scheming of an evil woman, God is in control of history for His purposes. This verse also reflects the Jewish concern for a proper burial.

 30The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. 33The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." 37But He answered them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said to Him, "Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?" 38And He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go look!" And when they found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." 39And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. 42They all ate and were satisfied, 43and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.

6:30 "The apostles" This is the only use of the term in Mark's Gospel. Usually he calls them "disciples." "Apostle" comes from a Greek word meaning "to send" (apostellō). Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to be with Him in a special sense and called them "apostles" (cf. Luke 6:13). This verb is often used of Jesus being sent from the Father (cf. Matt. 10:40; 15:24; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; John 4:34; 5:24,30,36,37,38; 6:29,38,39,40,57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21). In Jewish sources, the term was used of someone sent as an official representative of another, similar to "ambassador." They functioned on this mission trip as surrogates of Jesus. Their power and authority was delegated.

"they reported to Him" This was part of Jesus' training. He taught them, showed them how, sent them out, and debriefed them. This is how they learned. See Robert Coleman's The Master Plan of Evangelism, which documents and implements Jesus' training of His disciples/apostles.

6:31 As Jesus needed to get away from the press of the crowd (cf. Mark 3:20), now so did His disciples. People were coming to be helped twenty-four hours a day. Their training was not complete. They needed some privacy and some time!

6:32 "boat" This word usually refers to a large fishing trawler, which would hold up to thirteen men (cf. Matt. 4:21-22; 823; Acts 21:2-3), but is also used of smaller boats (cf. Luke 5:2).

6:33 "ran there together on foot from all the cities" Can you imagine a huge crowd of the sick, lame, and curious people running along the shore? These people were desperate.

6:34 "He felt compassion for them" Jesus always had time for needy people (cf. Matt. 9:36).

▣ "like sheep without a shepherd" This metaphor has an OT basis (cf. Num. 27:17; Ezek. 34:5; Zech. 13). This may be a veiled allusion to Jesus' words in John 10.

▣ "He began to teach" Jesus' response to the needs of the crowd was His teaching. They needed spiritual wholeness, not just physical restoration. Jesus met both needs (cf. Matt. 14:14).

6:35 "'This place is desolate'" This is the "secluded" place of Mark 6:31.

6:37 "'You give them something to eat'" Jesus was testing the disciples' faith. They accurately assessed the problem, now meet it!

▣ "two hundred denarii" A denarius was a day's wage for a common laborer (cf. Matt. 20:2) or soldier.

6:38 "'Five, and two fish'" They did not even have enough for themselves. Jesus was using this opportunity to show the disciples that what they have was enough and more if it was given to Him and if they trust Him!

6:39 "sit down by groups" This idiom (i.e., literally sumpinō, sumpinō, company, company) implied "get ready to eat!" Jesus seems to order the disciples to get the crowd organized for food distribution in a normal formation.

▣ "on the green grass" This is an eyewitness detail of Peter. This would also imply a time close to the Passover Feast in the spring.

6:41 "looking up toward heaven" The common physical position for Jewish prayer was standing with the arms and head raised and eyes open. Jesus was showing that the source of His authority was the heavenly Father.

▣ "broke. . .He kept giving" This is an aorist tense and an imperfect tense. The miracle of multiplication occurred in Jesus' hands.

The parallel in John 6 makes the theological expectations of this crowd explicit. The Jews of Jesus' day expected the Messiah to provide food for them as Moses did during the wilderness wanderings (cf. John 6:30-40). Jesus is giving them the very sign they requested, but they could not, or would not, see it.

6:42 This statement is used in the Septuagint (i.e., the Greek translation of the OT) for the OT people of God being filled by the manna and quail (cf. Ps. 78:29; 105:40). This OT theme is developed in John 6:30-40, where Jesus fulfills the rabbinical expectation of providing food as Moses did. Jesus is the new Moses; His deliverance is the new exodus; and He brings the new age of abundance (cf. Ps. 132:15; Isa. 49:10).

6:43 "twelve full baskets of the broken pieces and also of the fish" This shows that Jesus did not perform miracles for their daily food. They had to conserve what they had for future meals.

Some commentators (William Barclay) deny the miraculous element and assert that the boy shared his lunch (cf. John 6:9) and that others in the crowd saw it and shared their lunches. If so, where did the twelve baskets left over come from? Our biases affect interpretation in the same way the biases of the people of Jesus' day affected them!

6:44 "five thousand men" This was a long run (cf. Mark 6:33) and a desolate place (cf. Mark 6:32). There probably were not many women and children. We do not know the exact size of the crowd. It was huge!

 45Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. 46After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

6:45 "Bethsaida" This city's name means "house of light." It was on the western side of the lake.

"He himself was sending the crowd away" The parallel in John 6 has so much more information about the reaction of this crowd. Mark's points are the training of the disciples and Jesus' compassion, while John's account records how Jesus fulfilled the Jewish expectations about the Messiah feeding the Jews as Moses did (i.e manna). They tried to make Him king. This shows their misunderstanding of Jesus' mission (i.e., like His disciples, His family, and the religious leaders).

6:46 "He left for the mountain to pray" Jesus had a regular prayer time. This is especially obvious in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus knew this miracle would be misunderstood. As He did not want to become a healer, He did not want to become a feeder (cf. John 6:15). He came to reveal the Father, but the crowd could not or would not see. In a sense this was a fulfillment of the temptation of Satan in the wilderness of tempting people with bread (i.e., supernatural feedings, cf. Matt. 4:3-4).

 47When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. 49But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 50for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, "Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid." 51Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

6:48 "Seeing them" It is uncertain whether this was (1) physical sight or (2) supernatural knowledge.

▣ "straining at the oars" This comes from Greek into English as "torture." It was hard rowing against the wind.

▣ "about the fourth watch of the night" In Roman time this would be 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.

▣ "He came to them, walking on the sea" This was another nature miracle of Jesus for the purpose of strengthening the disciples' faith. They witnessed His power and authority in many different ways. But they still did not understand; they were still afraid (cf. Mark 6:49-50) and amazed (cf. Mark 6:51).

It is possible that this miracle was meant to fulfill Job 9:8; 38:16; Ps. 77:19; and Isa. 43:16. Jesus was acting out divine acts from the OT (cf. Mark 6:52).

▣ "He intended to pass by them" This does not seem to fit the context unless it means to link up with Job 9:8 and 11! In the TEV footnote it has "join them." This verb does have this connotation in Luke 12:32 and 17:7.

6:49 "a ghost" This is literally the term "phantom" as in Matt. 14:26. This is a strong term used of "mental and spiritual agitation and confusion" (cf. The Greek-English Lexicon of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, p. 805).

6:50 "'Take courage'" This is a present active imperative used so often by Jesus (cf. Matt. 9:2,22; 14:27; Mark 6:50; 10:49; John 16:33; Acts 23:11).

"'do not be afraid'" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative also used so often by Jesus (cf. Matt. 14:27; 17:7; 28:10; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; 12:32; John 6:20; Rev. 1:17). This may link Jesus again to Moses (cf. Exod. 14:13; 20:20). Jesus was the new Moses or the new divine spokesman (cf. Gen. 15:1; Jos. 8:1).

6:51 Noticeably absent is the account of Peter walking (and sinking) on the water (cf. Matt. 14:28-31). A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 319, has "Perhaps Peter was not fond of telling that story."

6:52 "for they had not gained any insight" They were slow learners. Jesus was patient with them. This is so encouraging to me!

"their heart was hardened" This is a perfect passive participle. This is a difficult theological concept. Does this imply (by the passive voice) that God or the Spirit closed their minds? Probably it is idiomatic for their own biases and Jewish traditions blinding them to the truths so obvious in Jesus' deeds and words (cf. Mark 8:17-18). This "man" just did not fit into any of the categories they knew (cf. Mark 4:13,40; 7:18). This is a recurrent theme in Mark. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART at Mark 2:6.

 53When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. 54When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, 55and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was. 56Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.

6:55 This shows the need, the chaos, and the compassion and power of Jesus. This was also a lesson on the priority of people. Jesus always had time for them.

6:56 "the fringe of His coat" This refers to His "prayer shawl" (cf. Num. 15:38-40; Deut. 22:12). These people were desperate and superstitious and selfish.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How do you handle the contradictions between the different Gospels?

2. Why was there such diversity of opinion over who Jesus was?

3. Was resurrection an unusual concept in Jesus' day?

4. Why did God allow a hateful, evil woman to cause the death of a great man like John?

5. Why did Jesus draw such a large crowd?

6. Why did Jesus feed the 5,000?

7. How was Jesus' teaching ministry related to His healings?



Mark 7


The Tradition of the Elders Defilement Comes from Within Tradition of the Elders The Teachings of the Ancestors The Traditions of the Pharisees
7:1-13 7:1-23 7:1-8 7:1-2 7:1-13
    7:9-13 7:9-13  
      The Things that Make a Person Unclean On Clean and Unclean
7:14-23   7:14-16 7:14-16 7:14-16
    7:17-23 7:17-19 7:17-23
The Syrophoenician Woman A Gentile Shows Her Faith The Syrophoenician Woman A Woman's Faith The Daughter of the Syro-Phoenician Woman Healed
7:24-30 7:24-30 7:24-30 7:24-27 7:24-30
A Deaf and Dumb Man Healed Jesus Heals a Deaf Mute Healings Jesus Heals a Deaf-Mute Healing of the Deaf Man
7:31-37 7:31-37 7:31-37 7:31-34 7:31-37

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1.  First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Mark 7:1-23 is paralleled in Matt. 15:1-20


B. Mark 7:24-30 is paralleled in Matt. 15:21-28


C. Mark 7:31-8:9 is paralleled in Matt. 15:29-38



 1The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" 6And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
 'This people honors Me with their lips,
  But their heart is far away from Me.
  7'But in vain do they worship Me,
  Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'
 8Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

7:1 "Pharisees" These were the most sincere religionists of their day. Culturally they were the best of the best. Jesus' conversations with them are recorded often (cf. Mark 7:5-8; 11:27-33; 12:13-17). See fuller note at Mark 2:6.

▣ "some of the scribes. . .had come from Jerusalem" The religious leaders were always following Him to find fault (cf. Mark 3:22; John 1:19). They apparently were an official fact-finding committee from the Sanhedrin (see Special Topic at Mark 12:13) of Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin was made up of 70 persons from

1. ruling priestly families (i.e., Sadducees, see Special Topic at Mark 12:18)

2. local religious leaders (i.e., Pharisees)

3. local wealthy land owners


7:2 "impure hands, that is, unwashed" This was not hygienic, but religious (cf. Mark 7:4). Ceremonial purity was a very serious matter to them (cf. Luke 11:38; Matt. 15:2). It was spelled out in specific terms in the Talmud. The controversy was over the Oral Traditions, which interpreted OT texts.

"impure" This is the Greek term koinos, which means "common" or "available to all." It is the name moderns give to the common Greek of Jesus' day. The Latin term "vulgate" has the same connotation (i.e., available to all). In this context it refers to that which is ceremonially unclean because of its contact with other unclean things.


NASB"unless they carefully wash their hands"
NKJV"unless they wash their hands in a special way"
NRSV"unless they thoroughly wash their hands"
TEV"unless they wash their hands in the proper way"
NJB"without washing their arms as far as the elbow"

There is a Greek manuscript variation in this phrase. The most unusual reading is pugmē, which means "fist," found in the ancient uncial manuscripts A, B, and L, while pukna, meaning "frequently," is found in א, W, and the Vulgate and Peshitta. Some ancient texts just omit the parenthesis of Mark 7:3-4 (i.e., ninth century manuscript 037, known by the Greek capital letter delta, and some Coptic and Syriac translations and the Diatessaron). The UBS4 gives option #1 ans "A" rating (certain).

It is possible that this difficult Greek term reflects a Greek translation of an Aramaic phrase "unless they wash their hands in a (special) jug" (cf. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey W. Broomiley, vol. 6, p. 916). The Pharisees took the OT requirement for priests on duty in the Temple and expanded them to all "true" Jews every day. They were adding to the Law of Moses.

Another option would be to take it as a rabbinical method of washing one's hands and arms with a closed fist, but this is not substantiated by any written rabbinical tradition, unless it refers to the concept of catching the water poured over the elbows (with the hands down) with an open cupped hand so that it could be rubbed on the elbow again.

The term "wash" (niptō, cf. Matt. 15:2) was usually used to refer to washing part of the body and not to a complete bath (i.e., louō, cf. John 13:10).

▣ "observing the traditions of the elders" These traditions (cf. Gal. 1:14) were codified in the Talmud (i.e., Mishna). There are two editions of these rabbinical traditions. The more complete one is from Babylon Talmud and the unfinished one is from Palestine. The modern study of this literature has been hampered because no one is sure when these discussions were originally spoken or recorded. Two later rabbinical schools of interpretation developed, one conservative (i.e., Shammai) and one liberal (i.e., Hillel). All issues are debated based on these rabbinical discussions. The rabbis would quote their predecessors as authoritative.

7:4 "unless they cleanse themselves" The Jews expanded the laws relating to the priest entering the tabernacle to include all Jews (cf. Exod. 30:19). These regulations relate to ceremonial cleanliness. They had developed over a long period of time by inference and extrapolation from Levitical rules.

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase. Some Greek texts have:

1. aorist middle subjunctive of baptizō (i.e., MSS A, D, W as well as the Vulgate and Syriac translations)

2. present passive indicative of baptizō (i.e., MSS F, L)

3. aorist middle subjunctive of rantizō "to sprinkle" (i.e., MSS א, B and the Coptic translation). Most modern translations go with option #1. Early scribes may have inserted #3 because baptizō had become a technical term for Christian baptism.

The UBS4 gives #1 a "B" rating (almost certain).

NASB"and copper pots"
NKJV"copper vessels and couches"
NRSV"bronze kettles"
TEV"copper bowls and beds"
NJB"bronze dishes"

This term "pots" is a Latin term. Mark uses more Latin words than any other NT book. This may reflect its being written in Rome for Romans.

There is a Greek textual variant which adds klinōn (i.e., beds or couches) in manuscripts A, D, and W, while P45, א, B, and L omit it. Possibly scribes, knowing Leviticus 15, added the phrase, or later scribes, unfamiliar with the OT text, thought it out of place and deleted it. Speculation is interesting, but theologically insignificant.

7:5 "asked Him" This is an imperfect tense which implies that they asked Him over and over again or else began to ask Him.

"not walk according to the tradition of the elders" This was a serious religious matter for them. There is even a recorded incident in Jewish literature of a rabbi being excommunicated for failure to properly wash his hands. The Talmud, which recorded their rabbinical discussions on how to understand and implement OT texts, had become "the authority."

7:6 "'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you'" Jesus believed that historically particular OT texts from Isaiah's day related to this generation of Pharisees seven hundred years later. This shows the relevance of the Scripture to each new generation. God's truths are affected by culture, but they also transcend time and culture! Jesus quotes Isa. 29:13.

▣ "hypocrites" This is a compound from two words "under" and "to judge." It was a term used to describe actors playing a part behind a mask. Jesus accuses them of over zealousness on some issues, but total depreciation of others (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23). It is not by accident that "hypocrites" and hand washing appear together in Ps. 26:4 and 6!


▣ "as it is written" This is perfect tense meaning "it stands written." This was a standard Jewish idiom for referring to inspired Scripture (cf. Mark 9:12-13; 11:17; Matt. 4:4,7,10). The quote is from the Septuagint of Isa. 29:13, which describes human self-righteousness. Jesus gives an example of this in Mark 7:9-19 and in the parallel of Matt. 15:4-6.

▣ "'heart'" For the Jews this was the center of mental activity, therefore, the basis of action. They used religious ritual as a means of gaining acceptance with God. Their traditions had become ultimate! This is always a danger with religious people. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

▣ "'is far away'" This means "to hold at a distance." Religious practices are often used to circumvent total dedication to God. Often religion is a barrier, not a bridge, to God.

7:7 What a devastating condemnation of religious hypocrisy and formalism.

7:8 "neglecting" This means "to send away" (i.e., God's commandment) and is in direct contrast to "hold," which means "to grab," "to grasp," or "to cling to" the traditions.

▣ "the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men" The issue is revelation (OT) versus tradition (Talmud). This is an issue for every person in every culture (or denomination). Religious authority is a crucial issue!

 9 He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death'; 11but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' 12you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."


NASB"You are experts at setting aside"
NKJV"All too well you reject"
NRSV"You have a fine way of rejecting"
TEV"You have a clever way of rejecting"
NJB"How ingeniously you get around"

This is cutting sarcasm, much like John 3:10.

7:10 "Moses said" The parallel of Matt. 15:4 has, "God said." This shows God's inspiration behind Moses' words.

▣ "'honor'" This is a quote from the Ten Commandments recorded in Exod. 20:12 and repeated in Deut. 5:16. It is from a Hebrew commercial word "to give due weight to" (BDB 457), which means to recognize the worth of something.

7:11 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which speaks of potential action. Jesus is referring to contemporary ways of circumventing God's Law (cf. Mark 7:12).

▣ "'your father and your mother'" This shows the required respect for both parents.

"'he who speaks evil of father or mother'" This is a quote from Exodus 21:17. Dishonor brought severe judgment. The rabbis had set this verse aside by means of their traditions.

▣ "'Corban'" This was a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew (not Aramaic) "gift" given to God (i.e., or to the Temple, cf. NKJV). Jesus shows one example of how the Jewish religionists of His day circumvented the intent and stated laws of the OT by their Oral Traditions. They had devised many loopholes in their Oral Traditions (cf. Matt. 5:33-34; 23:16-22).

 14After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16[If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."]

7:14 "He called the crowd to Him again" Jesus publicly exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes and their traditions.

The NKJV has the term panta (i.e., all) instead of palin (i.e., again).

"'Listen. . .understand'" These are both aorist active imperatives. This phrase introduces an important and shocking example.

7:15 This is a classical example of Jesus reinterpreting the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). He is nullifying the food code of Lev. 11. This was a powerful way of asserting His authority (i.e., He could change or negate the OT, but not them). This also should be a word of warning to those who make a religious matter out of food and drink (cf. Rom. 14:13-23; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-33). Jesus' words reveal the distinctive freedom of the New Covenant (cf. Rom.14:1-15:13; 1 Cor. 8-10).

7:16 This verse was included in many Greek uncial manuscripts (A, D, K, W, θ), the Diatessaron, and the Greek texts used by Augustine (cf. NKJV and NJB). However, it was omitted in MSS א, B, and L. It was possibly a scribal addition from Mark 4:9 or 23. The NASB (1995 Update) includes it in brackets to show that there is some doubt that it is original. The USB4 rates its omission as "A" (certain).

 17When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

7:17 "His disciples questioned Him" Matthew 15:15 says Peter. Jesus' words were so shocking to these Jews of the first century! Jesus was cancelling Moses! Who was this unofficial rabbi claiming to be?

7:18 "'Are you so lacking in understanding also'" Jesus marveled at the disciples' slowness to comprehend. His message was so different from what they had heard all their lives (i.e., Pharisaic theology). Tradition is hard to correct (cf. Mark 4:13,40; 6:52; 8:21). Trusting Jesus as the promised Messiah meant a radical break with their cherished traditions and cultural expectations. The "Living Word" supercedes the "written word"! Believers worship Jesus, not the Bible.

Usually commentators say that Jesus rejected the oral tradition of the Jews, but always affirmed the OT laws. However, this rejection of the food laws and His rejection of Moses' teaching on divorce in Matt. 5:31-32 (cf. Mark 10:2-12) clearly shows that Jesus saw Himself as the proper interpreter and even Lord over the OT (cf. Matt. 5:38-39). He is God's ultimate revelation. None of us who cherish the Bible feel comfortable with this. We see the Bible as authoritative and relevant. However, how many other OT texts did Jesus see as not clearly revealing the Father's intent? This not only shocked the scribes, to an extent it shocks me! It reminds me that the OT is not mandatory for NT believers (cf. Acts 15; Galatians 3). It surely is Scripture and it surely reveals God, but I am not bound by its rituals or procedures (cf. Acts 15:6-11,19). I am bound by its world view and revelation of God and His purposes and promises (cf. Matt. 5:17-20)!


NASB, NRSV"(Thus He declared all foods clean)"
NKJV"thuspurifying all foods"
TEV"(. . .Jesus declared that all foods are fit to be eaten)"
NJB"(Thus he pronounced all food clean)"

The parentheses reflect the translators' view that it is an editorial comment (probably from Peter's experience in Acts 10). It is such an important NT truth (cf. Rom. 14:13-23; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-33). Humans are not right with God based on what they eat or do not eat! The new covenant is not based on OT regulations (i.e., Leviticus 11; Acts 15). God looks at the heart, not the stomach!

7:20 The OT rabbis said that the mind was a fertile, prepared seed bed and that the eyes and ears are the windows of the soul. Whatever one allows to enter, takes root. Sin begins in the thought life and develops into actions. Human speech reveals the heart!


7:21 "out of the heart of men" Jesus lists a series of sinful attitudes and actions. These same types of sins were condemned by the Stoics. Paul also has several lists of sins like this one (cf. Rom. 1:29-31; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3-4; Col. 3:5-9; 2 Tim. 3:2-5). See SPECIAL TOPIC: VICES AND VIRTUES at 1 Peter 4:2.

▣ "fornications" The English word "pornography" shares the same root word as this Greek term. It meant any inappropriate sexual activity: premarital sex, homosexuality, bestiality, and even a refusal of Levirate responsibilities (a brother failing to sexually relate to the widow of a deceased brother in order to provide an heir).

In the OT there was a distinction between marital infidelity (adultery) and pre-marital promiscuity (fornication). However, this distinction is lost by the NT period.

▣ "murder. . .deeds of coveting. . .deceit. . .pride" These same terms describe the pagan world in Rom. 1:29-31. They show a heart out of control, a heart bent on "more for self at any cost."

▣ "adulteries" This is the word moicheia, which refers to extra-marital sexual relations (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10). It came to be used metaphorically for idolatry. In the OT YHWH was the husband and Israel was the wife; therefore, going after other gods was a form of infidelity.

"sensuality" This is used in Rom. 13:13 to show how believers should not live. In Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, vol. 1, p. 771, Louw and Nida define this term as "behavior completely lacking in moral restraint, usually with the implication of sexual licentiousness." Notice how many of these terms imply an uncontrolled sexuality, so characteristic of pagan culture of the first century.

7:22 The order of this list of sins changes from translation to translation. In summary, life apart from God is out of bounds! Paul's list in Gal. 5:19-21 describes the evil and the list in Gal. 5:22-23 describes the godly.

NKJV"an evil age"

This is literally "an evil eye" (cf. NASB marginal note). In the Near East people were very conscious of someone putting a hex on them (i.e., active evil). In Hebrew it has the connotation of self-centered jealousy (cf. Deut. 15:9; Prov. 23:6).

TEV, NJB"slander"

The term is literally "blasphemy," which denoted saying something about someone that was not true. It can be used of slander or falsehoods about God or humans (cf. Acts 6:11; Rom. 2:24).

"pride" This refers to a haughty, contemptuous, or proud person (cf. Luke 1:51; Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

7:23 The parallel in Matt. 15:20 summarizes the whole argument (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7).

 24Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27And He was saying to her, "Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 28But she answered and said to Him, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs." 29And He said to her, "Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter." 30And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

7:24 "Tyre" This is northwest of the Sea of Galilee, out of the boundaries of the OT Promised Land. It was predominately a Gentile area. The phrase "and Sidon" is missing in a few ancient Greek manuscripts, such as D, L, and W, but is present in Matt. 15:21 and Mark 7:31 and in manuscripts א, A, and B, as well as the Vulgate and Peshitta.

▣ "yet He could not escape notice" This was the result of His miracles (cf. Mark 3:8). Even in a predominately Gentile area He could find no rest and private time with His disciples.

7:25 "little daughter had an unclean spirit" How children become demon possessed is not stated here nor in the account in Mark 9:17-29. In neither of these cases does it seem to be a familial spirit (i.e., demon passed from generation to generation within a family). See Special Topic: Exorcism at Mark 1:25.

"fell at His feet" This was a cultural sign of (1) asking a request of a superior or (2) humility. It is possible that she had heard of Jesus' miracles and, out of desperation, approached this Jewish rabbi in fear!

7:26 "a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race" Remember, Jesus helped other Gentiles (cf. Mark 5:1; 11:17; Matt. 8:5-13; John 4), but within the geographical boundaries of the Promised Land. If Jesus had begun a healing ministry in a Gentile land, He would have been rejected by the Jewish populace because of their prejudices.

There is an interesting parallel between Jesus' ministry to a Phoenician woman and Elijah's ministry to a Phoenician woman in 1 Kgs. 17. In both God's love, concern, and help are available to the hated Gentiles. This may have been another veiled evidence of His Messiahship.

In what language was this interchange between the woman and Jesus conducted? It would seem obvious that it had to have been Greek. Growing up in northern Palestine Jesus would have been tri-lingual. In Luke 4:16-20 Jesus reads from a Hebrew scroll of Isaiah. He would have been exposed to biblical Hebrew at synagogue school. He normally spoke Aramaic. He could speak Koine Greek (i.e., the private conversation with Pilate).

▣ "she kept asking" This is an imperfect tense. She asked repeatedly!

▣ "to cast the demon out" This is aorist active subjunctive. She still had some doubts about Jesus' ability or willingness to act, which is expressed by the subjunctive mood.

7:27 "the children" This familial term refers to Israel (cf. Matt. 15:24).


NKJV, NJB"little dogs"

This is the only use of this term in the NT. Its harshness is diminished by the fact that it is diminutive in form (i.e., kunarion), "puppies" (NJB has "house-dogs"). The Jews called the Gentiles "dogs" as a term of derision. This dialogue was intended to help the disciples overcome their prejudice against Gentiles (cf. Matt. 15:23). Jesus recognized and publicly affirmed that her faith was great (cf. Matt. 15:28).

7:28 "'Lord'" This is probably used in the cultural sense of "sir" or "mister," as in John 4:11. This is surprisingly the only example of the use of kurios spoken to Jesus in Mark's Gospel.

▣ "the children's" This is literally "little children" (paidion). There are several diminutive forms found in this context. In Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 326, A. T. Robertson says "the little children purposely dropped a few little crumbs for the dog." One wishes that Jesus' voice inflection, facial expressions, and body language could have been recorded. I think the encounter was much more positive than mere words can record.

▣ "children's crumbs" The wealthy used bread to wipe the hands after eating, like a napkin.

7:29 "'Because of this answer'" Jesus was impressed with this mother's attitude of persistence and faith (cf. Matt. 15:28). Jesus healed/delivered people based on the faith of another several times (cf. Mark 2:3-12; 9:14-29; Matt. 8:5-13).

▣ "go; the demon has gone out of your daughter" This woman believed Jesus that He could expel the demons even from a distance with no ritual or magic.

7:29,30 "has gone" In Mark 7:29 it is a perfect active indicative and in Mark 7:30 it is a perfect active participle, which focus on the abiding result of a past act. The demon was gone and would stay away.

7:30 "lying on the bed" This is a perfect passive participle which could be understood in two ways: (1) the demon had violently left (cf. Mark 1:26; 9:26) and thrown the little girl on the bed or (2) her demoniac condition had caused her to be bedridden.

 31Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, "Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" 35And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37They were utterly astonished, saying, "He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

7:31 This geographical description is unusual. Sidon was north of Tyre on the coast, while the Decapolis was south and east of the Sea of Galilee. The NKJV has "departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon," but this translation is not supported by P45, A, W, and the Peshitta. Most textual critics support the more difficult text which takes Jesus north and east before going south.

▣ "Sea of Galilee" This same body of water is called (1) Chennereth in the OT; (2) Lake of Gennesaret in Luke 5:1; and (3) Sea of Tiberias during the first century Roman period in John 6:1; 21:1.

▣ "region of Decapolis" This was the area of the Gedarene Demoniac (cf. Mark 5:1-20). It was also a Gentile area to the east and south of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus' ministry in these areas shows His love for the Gentiles.

7:32 "was deaf and spoke with difficulty" This term is used only here in the NT and in the Septuagint in Isa. 35:6. Verse 37 may relate to Isa. 35:5-6, which describes the future healing ministry of the Messiah.

▣ "to lay His hand on him" See Special Topic following.


7:33 "took him aside from the crowd" This was both to stop the stories about His healing and to make the man feel more at ease (cf. Mark 8:23).

▣ "put His fingers into his ears" Jesus was communicating to the man what He was trying to do in culturally acceptable physical gestures (i.e., a finger in the ear and saliva on the tongue).

▣ "He touched his tongue with the saliva" Saliva was commonly used medicinally in the first century Mediterranean world. It was meant to increase the man's faith.

7:34 "and looking up to heaven" This was the standard physical posture for Jewish prayer in Jesus' day (i.e., standing, eyes open, head raised, hands raised).

▣ "with a deep sigh" This refers to an inarticulate sound that expresses strong emotion (cf. Rom. 4; 8:22-23; 2 Cor. 5:12). Whether it is positive (cf. Mark 7:34; Rom. 8:26) or negative (cf. Acts 7:34; James 5:9) depends on the literary context. This may have revealed Jesus' grief over sin and sickness in a world devastated by rebellion. A compound form of this term appears in Mark 8:12.

▣ "Ephphatha" This is an Aramaic aorist passive imperative, meaning "be opened" (and they were, cf. Mark 7:35). Peter remembered the very Aramaic words which Jesus spoke and Mark translated it into Greek for his Gentile (i.e., Roman) readers. See note at Mark 5:41.

7:36 "He gave them orders not to tell anyone" The reason for this was that the gospel was not yet complete. Jesus did not want to be known as a miracle worker. The press of the crowds was already a problem. This "Messianic Secret" is characteristic of Mark. However, it is surprising because Jesus does so many acts and says such revealing things about Himself in Mark. Jesus clearly reveals Himself as Messiah and fulfills current Jewish expectations to those who had spiritual eyes to see!

7:37 Healing the deaf was a clear Messianic sign (cf. Isa. 35:5-6).

▣ "'He has done all things well'" This is a perfect active indicative. What a summary statement made by the people of northern Palestine!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How should we relate to tradition? Define tradition.

2. Was Jesus setting aside the Old Testament? If so how do we treat the OT as inspired? (Mark 7:19)

3. Explain the difference between Jesus' view of religion and that of the Pharisees.

4. Why did Jesus go into a predominately Gentile area? (Mark 7:24)

5. How did a child become demon possessed? Does it happen today? (Mark 7:25)

6. Why did Jesus tell them not to tell anyone about the man's healing? (Mark 7:36)



Mark 8


The Feeding of the Four Thousand Feeding the Four Thousand Four Thousand Fed Jesus Feeds Four Thousand People Second Miracle of the Loaves
8:1-10 8:1-10 8:1-10 8:1-3 8:1-10
Demand for a Sign The Pharisees Seek a Sign Sayings on Signs The Pharisees Ask for a Miracle The Pharisees Ask for a Sign from Heaven
8:11-13 8:11-12 8:11-13 8:11-12 8:11-13
  Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod      
  8:13-21   8:13  
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod   Yeast of the Pharisees The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod
8:14-21   8:14-21 8:14-15 8:14-21
The Healing of a Blind Man at Bethsaida A Blind Paralytic Healed at Bethsaida A Blind Man Healed Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida Cure of a Blind Man at Bethsaida
8:22-26 8:22-26 8:22-26 8:22-23 8:22-26
Peter's Declaration about Jesus Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ Peter's Confession Peter's Declaration about Jesus Peter's Confession of Faith
8:27-30 8:27-30 8:27-30 8:27 8:27-30
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection   Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death First Prophecy of the Passion
8:31-9:1 8:31-33 8:31-33 8:31-33 8:31-33
  Take Up the Cross and Follow Him On Discipleship   The Condition of Following Jesus
  8:34-9:1 8:34-9:1 8:34-9:1 8:34-9:1

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. One wonders whether Jesus fed crowds often or, for some reason unknown to modern Western interpreters, this event is repeated (i.e., 6:34-44 and 8:1-10).


B. Mark 8:10-12 is paralleled in Matt. 15:39-16:4.


C. Mark 8:13-26 is paralleled in Matt. 16:5-12.


D. Mark 8:27-30 is paralleled in Matt. 16:13-20 and Luke 9:18-21.


E. Mark 8:31-37 is paralleled in Matt. 16:21-26 and Luke 9:22-25.


F. Mark 8:38-9:1 is paralleled in Matt. 16:27-28 and Luke 9:26-27.



 1In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, 2"I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance." 4And His disciples answered Him, "Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?" 5And He was asking them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven." 6And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. 7They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. 8And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. 9About four thousand were there; and He sent them away. 10And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha.

8:1 "In those days" This account occurred in the mostly Gentile Decapolis area (cf. Mark 7:31).

"there was again a large crowd" This characterized Jesus' ministry during this period.

8:2 "I feel compassion for the people" This term "compassion" comes from the Greek term for the lower organs of the body. (Liver, kidneys, bowels). In the OT the Jews assigned the seat of the emotions to the lower viscera.

Jesus loves people (cf. Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Matt. 9:36; 14:41; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Luke 7:13; 10:33). These people had been rejected by rabbis all their lives. They swarmed to Jesus' care.

▣ "they have remained with Me now three days" This was an extended teaching time. The Jews counted days from evening twilight to evening twilight. Any part of a day was counted; therefore, this does not necessarily refer to three full, 24 hour days. They could not pull themselves away even to buy more food. They had now eaten all they had brought.

8:3 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which speaks of potential action. Jesus is not asserting that they are all on the point of physical collapse, but some are sick and weak and might faint.

▣ "they will faint on the way" This fainting would be caused by lack of food. See Jdgs. 8:15 and Lam. 2:19 in the Septuagint. They had used all the food they brought and had been fasting.

"some of them have come from a great distance" This shows how Jesus' fame as a miracle worker had spread. Desperate people go anywhere, try anything for help!

8:4 "'Where will anyone be able to find enough bread'" Even if they had the money there was still no place to purchase food. Jesus was testing the disciples' faith in His provision! They failed again (cf. Mark 6:34-44).

8:6 "sit down" This refers to a reclining position, which implied get ready for food.

8:6-8 "bread. . .fish" This was the normal daily diet of the people of Palestine. This is so similar to 6:34-44.

▣ "gave thanks" This prayer of blessing over food acknowledges God's daily care and provision (cf. Matt. 6:11). Jews always prayed before eating.

▣ "broke. . .served" This is an aorist followed by an imperfect tense. The miracle of multiplication occurred when Jesus broke the bread as in Mark 6:41.

8:8 "seven large baskets full of what was left over" This is a different word for basket from 6:43. These baskets were very large (cf. Acts 9:25). These remaining pieces were collected for later use. However, from Mark 8:14 we learn the disciples forgot and left them.

8:9 "About four thousand" Matthew15:83 adds "men," which means the crowd was larger. There were probably not a large number of women and children in this isolated area, but there were surely some.

8:10 "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "the district of Dalmanutha" There are several variants in this phrase. The problem is that no place by this name was known in the Palestine of Jesus' day. Therefore, scribes changed the place name to match Matthew's "Magadan" (NKJV "Magdala").

 11The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. 12Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, "Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." 13Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.

8:11 "Pharisees. . .began to argue with Him" This was a common occurrence. They could not deny His authority, power, or popularity, so they tried to trick Him into answering questions which would alienate part of His audience. See Special Topic on Pharisees at Mark 2:16.

▣ "a sign from heaven" In John's Gospel the word "sign" had a special meaning, but here it refers to the Pharisees' request for proof of His authority, possibly (1) a prediction (cf. Deut. 13:2-5; 18:18-22); (2) a heavenly sign (cf. Isa. 7:11; 38:7-8); or (3) an apocalyptic sign (militaristic victory over enemies).

▣ "to test Him" The word peirazō has the connotation of to try, test, or tempt "with a view of destruction." This may be a veiled reference to the unbelief of the wilderness wanderings (cf. Exod 17:7; Num. 14:11-12,22; Deut. 33:8). See Special Topic on Greek Terms for "Testing" at Mark 1:13.

8:12 "Sighing deeply" This is a compound and thereby intensified form of "groaned" (cf. Mark 7:34). Jesus had showed them His authority already by deed and word, but their spiritual blindness remained.

▣ "in His spirit" This refers to Jesus' personhood (cf. Mark 2:8). It has the same connotation in Mark 14:38 in respect to human beings. The term "spirit" is used in Mark for

1. the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:10,12)

2. unclean spirits (i.e., demons, Mark 1:23,26,27; 3:11,30; 5:2,8,13; 6:7; 7:25; 9:17,20,25)

3. the human spirit (Mark 2:8; 8:12; 14:38)


"'this generation'" This term also has OT implications connected to the wilderness wandering period (cf. Num. 32:13; Deut. 1:35; 32:5,20).

▣ "Truly" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic "Amen" at Mark 3:28.

▣ "'I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation'" This is a Hebrew idiom of strong negation (not a Greek conditional sentence) involving an understood, yet unexpressed, oath. When compared to Matt. 16:4 Jesus obviously meant no further signs. Jesus had given them many signs (i.e., OT prophecies fulfilled in His acts and words), but they refused to accept them or Him because He challenged their traditions, cultural position, and popularity.

8:13 Jesus traveled extensively in northern Palestine because He wanted all to hear His message but also because of the press of the crowds.

 14And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, 19when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20"When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." 21And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

8:14 This is obviously an eyewitness detail from Peter.

8:15 "He was giving orders to them" This is an imperfect middle indicative from a strong term "to order with authority" (cf. Mark 5:43; 7:36; 8:15; 9:9). This term is characteristic of Mark (i.e., often related to the "Messianic Secret").

NASB, NRSV"Watch out!"
NKJV"Take heed"
TEV"Take care"
NJB"Keep your eyes open"

This is literally "see" (i.e., horaō). It is a present active imperative, which implies continuing diligence to maintain proper vigilance.

TEV"be on your guard against"
NJB"look out for"

This is also a present active imperative. Both of these sharp commands are from different Greek words meaning "to see" (i.e., horaō and blepō), implying that believers must be constantly on guard (cf. Mark 4:24; 12:38; 13:5,9,23,33) against self-righteous legalism and institutionalism.

"'of Herod'" Early scribes tended to standardize the sayings of Jesus. In Mark 3:6 and 12:13 Jesus says "Herodians"; therefore, the Greek manuscripts P45, G, and W, as well as some versions of the Vulgate, and Coptic translations, changed this genitive form. The overwhelming Greek manuscript attestation is genitive (cf. MSS א, A, B, C, D, and L). See Special Topic on the family of Herod at Mark 1:14.

▣ "leaven" This was usually a symbol of corruption, as it is in this text (cf. 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). This may be a word play in Aramaic because the terms "leaven" and "word" are very similar. The disciples' problem was the same as the Pharisees, that is spiritual dullness or blindness. They must constantly be on guard against it. The Herods represented the opposite problem—the worldliness, the status quo at any cost!

8:16 "began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread" This is an imperfect tense. The disciples had not learned the lesson yet. Jesus will supply all needs! Jesus is talking about corrupting influences and they think He's talking about food!

The NKJV adds the word "saying" into this abbreviated sentence (as do many later minuscule Greek manuscripts) following Matt. 16:7. The NASB accomplished the same purpose by the addition of italicized words (i.e., "began" and "the fact").

8:17 "Jesus, aware of this" It is not always obvious as to how Jesus knew things. Sometimes it is supernatural knowledge and other times knowing peoples' behavior and characteristics.

"'Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread'" This is the first in a series of six or seven questions in which Jesus expresses His disappointment that His own disciples do not yet understand! This entire context of Mark reveals how hard it was for "friend and foe" to comprehend Jesus' radically new message. His disciples, His family, His hometown, the crowds, and the religious leaders all did not have spiritual eyes or ears!

"'Do you not yet see or understand'" This is a recurrent theme (cf. Mark 8:21; 6:52). Jesus' family, hometown, own disciples, townspeople, and religious leaders do not understand Him. Possibly this is a way to show the spiritual climate before the fullness of the Spirit comes at Pentecost (or the Messianic Secret is revealed in the crucified, risen Lord).

"'Do you have a hardened heart'" This is a perfect passive participle implying a settled spiritual condition brought about by an outside agent (cf. Mark 4:13,40; 6:52; 7:18; 8:17,21,33; 9:10,32). This is exactly what will happen to Judas Iscariot. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART at Mark 2:6.

8:18 This is an OT quote from Ezekiel 12:2 (cf. Jer. 5:21), which theologically parallels Isa. 6:9-10 (cf. Mark 4:12). The OT prophets spoke the word of God, but were misunderstood because of the spiritual condition of their hearers. These OT quotes are in a grammatical form which expects a "yes" answer.

"'And do you not remember'" Jesus is chiding them for their lack of spiritual understanding related to the miraculous feedings (cf. Mark 8:17-21). This phrase also has an OT orientation (cf. Deut. 4:9-10; 8:11,19). God's people must retain and act on God's truths.

8:19 "baskets" This is a different term from 8:8. This is the term used in Mark 6:43 (i.e., smaller baskets). He is reminding them of the previous miraculous feeding. They had not made the connection (cf. Mark 8:32-33; 9:32-34; 10:35-37).

8:20 Verse 19 refers to the feeding in Mark 6, but verse 20 refers to the current feeding in Mark 8.

 22And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. 23Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" 24And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." 25Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26And He sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."

8:22 "a blind man" One of Isaiah's prophecies about the Messiah was that He would bring sight to the blind (cf. Isa. 29:18-35:5; 42:7,16,18,19).

Physical blindness is an OT metaphor for spiritual blindness (cf. Isa. 56:10; 59:10). This same play on physical and spiritual blindness is graphically seen in John 9. This is obviously related to the disciples' blindness in Mark 8:15,18.

8:23 "brought him out of the village" This was for the purpose of putting the man at ease and keeping the healing a secret (cf. Mark 7:33; 8:26).

"spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him" These were both cultural ways of healing, one physical and one spiritual. It was meant to build the man's faith. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAYING ON OF HANDS at Mark 7:32.

8:24 "'I see men, for I see them like trees'" Jesus was not limited in power, but was working with this man's faith. This is the only partial healing or healing in stages that is recorded in the Gospels.

8:25 This verse starts with Jesus laying hands on the man's eyes. Then the action switches to the man (cf. NJB). He must focus and look intently (cf. Matt. 7:5). When he cooperates, his sight immediately is restored.

8:26 This refers to Mark's repeated references to Jesus emphatically telling people He healed not to broadcast their healing. The Textus Receptus (i.e., KJV or NKJV) even adds a phrase making this more specific. Jesus did not want to be known as a healer. He used healing to show the mercy of God, build the disciples' faith, and confirm His teaching ministry.

 27Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" 28They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." 29And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ." 30And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

8:27-30 This event is a watershed event in the Gospel of Mark. The miracle stories that affirm the power, authority, and deity of Jesus cease. From this point on the emphasis is the crucifixion. Mark's Gospel changes from a focus on who He is to His great redemptive act (i.e., what He did).

8:27 "to the villages" Matthew 16:13 has "into the district of." Jesus wanted to do two things (1) get away from the crowds and (2) preach in all the villages. In this case reason #1 is predominate.

▣ "Caesarea Philippi" This city is about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee in a predominately Gentile area. It was controlled by Herod Philip, not Herod Antipas.

▣ "on the way He questioned" As they were walking Jesus began (imperfect tense) conversing with them.

▣ "'Who do people say that I am'" Matthew 16:13 has "Son of Man," which was Jesus' self-chosen title. This is the central religious question.

8:28 "John the Baptist" This was Herod Antipas' opinion, as well as some of the people's opinion (cf. Mark 6:14,16; Luke 9:19).

▣ "Elijah" This would imply that Jesus was the forerunner of the Messiah (cf. Mal. 4:5).

▣ "one of the prophets" Matthew 16:14 has "Jeremiah." All of these options involved a resuscitation and were honorific titles, but not exclusively Messianic.

8:29 "'who do you say that I am'" This is plural and was addressed to all the disciples. "You" is emphatic in Greek because the pronoun is fronted (i.e., put first in the sentence).

▣ "'You are the Christ'" Peter, the extrovert of the group, answers first. This is a transliteration of the Hebrew "Messiah" (BDB 603), which means "the Anointed One." Jesus was reluctant to publicly accept this title because of the Jews' false political, militaristic, and nationalistic interpretations. In this private setting He accepts, even seeks this title. The parallel of Matt. 16:16 has the full title, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Mark (Peter's recorder) omits Jesus' praise of Peter (cf. Matt. 16:17,19).

8:30 "He warned them to tell no one about Him" This is another example of the Messianic Secret so common in Mark (cf. Mark 1:33-34,43; 3:12; 4:11; 5:43; 7:24,36; 8:26,30). They knew the title but not the mission!

 31And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

8:31 "He began to teach them" The imperfect tense can mean (1) the beginning of an act or (2) the continuing of an act in past time. Here #1 is implied by the context, but there is another imperfect in Mark 8:32 which implies #2. This is Jesus' first prediction of His suffering and death, but there are others (cf. Mark 9:12,31; 10:33-34).

▣ "the Son of Man must" This shows that Jesus clearly understood His mission and its cost (cf. Mark 10:45). This was exactly the type of predictive sign the Pharisees were seeking in Mark 8:12 to confirm a true prophet (cf. Deut. 13:2-5; 18:18-22).

▣ "suffer many things" This was the aspect of the Messiah's ministry that the Jews missed (cf. Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isa. 52:13-53:12; Zech. 9-14). In Jewish thought the Messiah was seen as a descendant of David, a militaristic champion of Israel. But He would also be a priest, as in Psalm 110 and Zechariah 3-4. This dual nature is reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls community's expectation of two Messiahs, one royal (from Judah) and one priestly (from Levi). This dynamic leadership role expectation seemed totally separate from a suffering, dying Messiah.

Jesus tried several times to inform the disciples about His prophesied suffering (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:12,30-31; 10:33-34), but they could not understand (cf. Mark 8:32-33; 9:32-34; 10:35-37).

▣ "be rejected" This means "disapproved" because Jesus did not meet the Jewish leadership's preconceived Messianic understandings. He did not fit their expectations.

▣ "by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes" This was a way of referring to the Sanhedrin, a council of seventy leaders from Jerusalem analogous to a supreme court. See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

▣ "be killed. . .rise again" This is the essence of the gospel message: a substitutionary sacrifice, and a glorious divine confirmation of its acceptance.


▣ "after three days rise again" This phrase could refer to Hos. 6:1-2. It is interpreted in a similar way in the Aramaic Targum on this verse. However, Jesus seems to be making an allusion to Jonah 1:17 (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:4). This type of predictive sign was exactly what the Pharisees were asking for in Mark 8:12 (cf. Matt. 16:4). This type of prediction was the basis of defining a true prophet according to Deut. 13:2-5; 18:18-22. Jesus gave them sign after sign, but they could not, would not see!


NASB"He was stating this matter plainly"
NKJV"He spoke this word openly"
NRSV, NJB"He said all this quite openly"
TEV"He made this very clear to them"

This is another imperfect tense as in Mark 8:31. There it meant "began," but here it might refer to repeated action (i.e., Jesus told them about His suffering and death several times). He spoke to them plainly—no parables, no symbols, no metaphors (cf. John 10:24; 11:14; 16:25,29; 18:20).

▣ "Peter took Him aside" This was done in sincerity, but not with understanding. Peter is acting as Satan's surrogate as to how to use His Messianic office to reach and save people (cf. Mark 1:12-13; Matt. 4:1-11).

▣ "and began to rebuke Him" This is a strong Greek word (cf. LXX of Gen. 37:10; Luke 4:41; 2 Tim. 4:2). It is used of Jesus in Mark 1:25; 3:12; 4:39; and 9:25. In this context Peter "scolded" or "censured" Jesus for His remarks. Surely his motive was to protect Jesus, not condemn Him. Peter did not understand the vicarious and prophetic nature of Jesus' suffering.

Jesus rebukes Peter in Mark 8:33 for his lack of spiritual insight and slowness to understand.

8:33 "seeing His disciples" Jesus spoke this word to Peter, but in a sense He was addressing all the disciples.

▣ "Get behind Me, Satan" This is a present active imperative. Jesus commands Peter to remove himself from Jesus' sight. This has OT connotations of rejection (i.e., "cast behind the back," cf. 1 Kgs. 14:9; Ezek. 23:35). Without realizing it, Peter was tempting Jesus in the very same way that Satan did in the wilderness (cf. Mark 1:12-13; Matt. 4:1-11). Satan tried to get Jesus to win human allegiance in any way but Calvary (i.e., feed them, show them miracles, compromise His message). Peter did not realize that Jesus' suffering and death was the plan of God (cf. Mark 10:45; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29; 2 Cor. 5:21). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN at Mark 1:13.

Often the most painful and subtle temptations come from friends and family! The Kingdom of God, not personal preferences, personal privileges, or personal goals, is the highest priority (cf. Mark 8:34-38).

 34And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 36For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. 9:1And Jesus was saying to them, 'Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

8:34 "summoned the crowd with His disciples" Mark is the only Gospel that records the presence of the crowd at Caesarea Philippi. Usually this event is seen as a private teaching time, but obviously others were present. This crowd would have included may non-Jews and probably no Pharisees or religious leaders because it was out of the traditional promised land in a Gentile area. It is to this crowd that Jesus reveals the true cost of discipleship, the radical, total surrender needed to follow Him. He bids them follow, but clearly states the cost!

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed true from the author's perspective or for his literary purpose.

"anyone wishes to come after Me" Notice the universal invitation to be Jesus' disciples. But there is a cost (i.e., salvation is free, but discipleship is necessary and very expensive personally). It is interesting that Jesus' very words to Peter in Mark 8:33 (hupage opisō mou) are now used again (opisō mou), but in the sense of "come after me" (i.e., discipleship). There is an inappropriate followship (Peter as Satan's surrogate) and an appropriate followship (i.e., selfless service). The very thing Peter rebukes Jesus for thinking is now clearly stated as the goal for all, "take up your cross"!

▣ "he must deny himself" This is an aorist middle imperative of a term which implies "to deny," "to disown," "to renounce," or "to disregard" (cf. Matt. 16:24; 20:35,75; Mark 8:34; 14:30,32,72; Luke 9:23; 12:9; 23:34,61; John 13:38).

The fall (cf. Genesis 3) has made mankind's independence and self-centeredness the goal of life, but now believers must return to selfless dependence on God. Salvation is the restoration of the image of God in humanity, damaged in the fall. This allows intimate fellowship with the Father, which is the goal of creation.

▣ "take up his cross" This is an aorist active imperative. This phrase "take up your cross" referred to a condemned criminal having to carry his own crossbar to the place of crucifixion. This was a cultural metaphor for a painful, shameful death. In this context it refers to "death to our old sin nature." The gospel is a radical call for once-and-for-all followship, discipleship (cf. Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25). As Jesus laid down His life for others, so we must follow His example (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16). This clearly demonstrates that the results of the fall have been removed.

▣ "and follow Me" This is present active imperative. This is the language of rabbinical discipleship. Christianity is a decisive choice followed by continual discipleship (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Eph. 2:8-10).

8:35-37 "save his life. . .lose his life" This is a play on the Greek word for "self," psuchē. In this context there is a contrast between spiritual living (Kingdom focused) and selfish living (earthly, self-centeredness). The Williams translation of the NT has "higher life. . .lower life." If we live for Christ we shall live eternally; if we live for self we are spiritually dead (cf. Gen. 3; Isa. 59:2; Rom. 5:18-19; 7:10-11; 8:1-8; Eph. 2:1,5; Col. 2:13; James 1:15) and one day will be eternally dead (cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). This truth is similar to the parable of "the rich fool" (cf. Luke 12:16-20).

8:35 "gospel's" This is a compound of eu (good) and angelos (message). It originally meant proclaim good tidings, but it came to be used for the message about Jesus as the Messiah bringing salvation (and all its connected doctrines). It stands for the truths of Christianity and the proclaiming of those truths. Mark's Gospel may have been the first to use it in this sense (cf. Mark 1:1,14-15; 8:35; 10:29; 14:9).

8:36 "'to gain the whole world'" This also was one of Satan's temptations to Jesus (cf. Matt. 4:8-9).

▣ "'and forfeit his soul'" This is an aorist passive infinitive of a term used to describe the loss of something which one previously possessed (cf. Matt. 16:26; Acts 27:10).

8:37 This is a powerful question. Where is the priority, present life or eternal life? Selfish living robs one of the joy of life and the gift of life! This life is both a gift and a stewardship.

8:38 "'whoever is ashamed of Me and My words'" This refers to the time when each person is confronted with the gospel. This same truth is expressed in a different way in Matt. 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9. What people decide today about the gospel determines their future. Jesus is the gospel!

This phrase is a third class conditional sentence, which introduces a contingency (cf. TEV and NJB).

"'in this adulterous and sinful generation'" The Jews in the interbiblical period developed a theology of two ages. The current age was dominated by sin, self, and unrighteousness. See Special Topic: The Two Jewish Ages at Mark 13:8. However, God was going to send the Messiah and establish a new age of righteousness. Jesus is stating that He Himself was inaugurating this new day and that this new righteousness depends (i.e., is contingent upon, cf. John 1:12; 3:16) on one's personal faith and trust in Him, not one's human performance (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 5:20).

▣ "'the Son of Man'" This is Jesus' self-designation; it had no nationalistic, militaristic, or exclusivistic implications in first century Judaism. The term comes from its typical usage in Ezek. 2:1 and Ps. 8:4 ,where it meant "human being" and Dan. 7:13, where it implies Messiah and Deity (i.e., riding on the clouds of heaven, approaching God and receiving the eternal kingdom). The term combines the twin aspects of Jesus' person, fully God and fully man (cf. 1 John 4:1-3).

▣ "when He comes" The OT clearly reveals one coming of the Messiah. However, Jesus' earthly life showed that Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; and Zechariah 9-14 also refer to a suffering of the Messiah. The second glorious coming of the Messiah as Lord and Judge of the cosmos will be exactly the way the Jews were expecting Him to come the first time. Their closed-minded, theological dogmatism caused them to reject Jesus.

The Second Coming is a major and oft repeated NT truth (cf. Matt. 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:3,27,30,37; 26:64; Mark 8:38-39; 13:26; Luke 21:27; John 21:22; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:23; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7,10; 2:1,8; James 5:;7-8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 1:7).

▣ "'in the glory of His Father with the holy angels'" This is an OT prediction from Dan. 7:10 (cf. Matt. 16:27; Mark 13:20; Luke 9:26; 2 Thess. 1:7). This refers to the Second Coming. This was another way of asserting the deity of Jesus. Several times in Matthew the angels are the eschatological gatherers and dividers of humanity (cf. Mark 13:39-41,49; 24:31).

"glory" In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kabod) was originally a commercial term (which referred to a pair of scales) meaning "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (cf. Exod. 15:16; 24:17; Isa. 60:1-2). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Exod. 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. Jer. 1:14; Matt. 17:2; John 14:8-9; Heb. 1:3; James 2:1).

The term "glory" is somewhat ambiguous.

1. it may be parallel to "the righteousness of God"

2. it may refer to the "holiness" or "perfection" of God

3. it could refer to the image of God in which mankind was created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), but which was later marred through rebellion (cf. Gen. 3:1-22)

It is first used of YHWH's presence with His people in the cloud of glory during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod. 16:7,10; Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10).

9:1 There have been many theories to explain Jesus' statement. It may have referred to

1. Jesus' ascension

2. the Kingdom already present in Jesus

3. the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost

4. the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70

5. the expectation of Jesus' early return

6. the rapid spread of Christianity

7. the transfiguration.

These theories focus on different phrases in the text: (1) "some of the people standing here"; (2) "the Kingdom of God"; or (3) "come in its power." The best guess is #7 because of the immediate context of Mark. 9:2-13 and 2 Pet. 1:16-18. Also, no other theory can explain all three aspects of the text. But realize if it does, then it only referred to Peter, James, and John.

"Truly" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

"will not taste death" This is a strong double negative used as a metaphorical phrase (i.e., experience cessation of life).

"the kingdom of God" See note at a 1:15.

"it has come with power" This is a perfect active participle, which implies the full and complete coming of the kingdom. This is in contrast to the fact that the kingdom, in some real sense, was inaugurated with Jesus' coming (i.e., incarnation), but a future event is to be expected (i.e., Second Coming).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Did Jesus feed two large crowds or is there one feeding from two perspectives?

2. What kind of "sign" did the Pharisees want?

3.  Why did Jesus chide the disciples?

4. Why did Jesus only partially cure the blind man the first time?

5. Why is Matthew's account so much fuller than Mark's account of Peter's confession?

6. What exactly did Peter's confession imply about Jesus?

7. Why were the disciples so shocked at Jesus' teaching about His death at Jerusalem?

8. Explain in your own words what verses 34-38 mean.



Mark 9


Transfiguration of Jesus Jesus Transfigured on the Mount The Transfiguration The Transfiguration The Transfiguration
9:2-8 9:2-13 9:2-8 9:2-6 9:2-8
    Prophesies about Elijah 9:7-8 The Question about Elijah
9:9-13   9:9-13 9:9 9:9-13
The Healing of a Boy with an Unclean Spirit A Boy is Healed Epileptic Child Healed Jesus Heals a Boy with an Evil Spirit The Epileptic Demonic
9:14-29 9:14-29 9:14-29 9:14-16 9:14-29
Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus Again Predicts His Death and Resurrection The Passion Foretold Jesus Speaks Again About His Death Second Prophecy of the Passion
9:30-32 9:30-32 9:30-32 9:30-31 9:30-32
Who is Greatest? Who is Greatest? True Greatness Who is Greatest? Who is Greatest?
9:33-37 9:33-37 9:33-37 9:33 9:33-37
He Who Is Not Against Us is For Us Jesus Forbids Sectarianism The Unknown Exorcist Whoever Is Not Against Us is For Us On Using the Name of Jesus
9:38-41 9:38-41 9:38-41 9:38 9:38-40
      9:39-41 Generosity Shown to Christ's Disciples
Temptations to Sin Jesus Warns of Offenses Warnings of Hell Temptations to Sin On Leading Others Astray
9:42-50 9:42-48 9:42-48 9:42-48 9:42-50
  Tasteless Salt is Worthless Salty Disciples    
  9:49-50 9:49-50 9:49  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Mark 9:2-8 is paralleled in Matt. 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36.


B. Mark 9:9-13 is paralleled in Matt. 17:9-13 and Luke 9:36.


C. Mark 9:14-29 is paralleled in Matt. 17:14-20 and Luke 9:37-43.


D. Mark 9:30-32 is paralleled in Matt. 17:22-23 and Luke 9:43-45.


E. Mark 9:33-37 is paralleled in Matt. 18:1-5 and Luke 9:46-48.


F. Mark 9:38-50 is paralleled in Matt. 18:6-14 and Luke 9:49-50.



 2Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" 8All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.

9:2 "six days" Luke 9:28 has "eight days." Such a specific time designation is very unusual in Mark's Gospel.

▣ "Peter and James and John" This is the inner circle of disciples who were always present at major events (cf. Mark 5:37). This event was as much for them as for Jesus.

▣ "on a high mountain" Tradition (i.e., the non-canonical Gospel of Hebrews) says it was Mt. Tabor, but probably it was one of the foothills of Mt. Hermon.

One wonders if this experience was a typological way of mirroring Moses' Mt. Sinai experience.

1. a high mountain

2. the cloud

3. faces glorified (Exod. 34:29)

4. a six-day period (cf. Exod. 24:16)

This Exodus motif (i.e., Jesus as the new Moses, giving the new covenant, bringing His people out of the slavery of sin) is a recurrent allusion in Mark. In Luke's Gospel, it says Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed Jesus' exodus.

▣ "by themselves" Luke 9:28 states the purpose as "to pray." Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds to teach the disciples privately. In this instance it was this inner circle of leadership.

▣ "He was transfigured before them" This is an aorist passive indicative of a compound term meta (i.e., after) and morphoō (i.e., form), with the resulting meaning of "to change one's appearance." We get the English term "metamorphosis" from this Greek term. Jesus' radiant pre-existent glory shows through His fleshly body. The radiance of His true divine self was visible to these disciples (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16-18). The term morphē (cf. Phil. 2:6-7) denotes the unchanging essence of something or someone (the opposite of schēma, cf. Phil. 2:8, the changing outward form).

This same transformation is possible for His followers (cf. Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). In a sense this refers to the restoration of the divine image in mankind, damaged in the Fall of Genesis 3. Jesus enables us to become truly human, truly Christlike.


NASB"His garments became radiant and exceedingly white"
NKJV"His clothes became shining, exceedingly white"
NRSV"his clothes became dazzling white"
TEV"his clothes became shining white"
NJB"his clothes became brilliantly white"

Matthew 17:2 adds that "His face shone like the Sun." This is surely an aspect of Jesus' glory, which often has a brightness component (cf. fuller notes at Mark 8:38).

NASB, NKJV"no launderer on earth can whiten them"
NRSV"such as no one on earth could bleach them"
TEV"whiter than anyone in the world could wash them"
NJB"whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them"

This refers to a worker who cleaned cloth.

It is in verses such as this that history books are so helpful. Let me mention several that have helped me understand Ancient Near Eastern culture.

1. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, two vols.

2. Fred H. Wright, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands

3. James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible

4. Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, two vols.

5. James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era

6. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament

7. Edwin M. Yamauchi, The Stones and the Scriptures


9:4 "Elijah. . .Moses. . .Jesus" This shows God's continuing revelation. Notice they apparently already had their resurrection bodies, which is surprising in light of 1 Thess. 4:13-18. These were two major figures in the Old Testament who had an eschatological prophetic aspect (i.e., Elijah before the Messiah and Moses, a Prophet like Jesus).

▣ "appeared" This term is used of angelic appearances in Luke 1:11 and 22:43, and of Jesus in Luke 24:34.

▣ "they were talking with Jesus" This is a periphrastic imperfect, which implies a long conversation. Luke 9:31 says they were discussing Jesus' departure (i.e., exodus) from Jerusalem. There is an amazing corollary between this passage and Exod. 24:12-18.

1. the time element of "six days" (Mark 9:2)

2. the place, "on a high mountain" (Mark 9:2)

3. the presence of a cloud and God's speaking from it (Mark 9:7 )

4. the mention of glory on Moses' face and here Jesus' face (Luke 9:29; Exod. 34:29-30)


9:5 "Peter said to Jesus" Luke 9:32 says the three disciples were asleep after a long day and a hard climb and Peter woke up just in time to see Elijah and Moses departing.

▣ "'Rabbi'" The Matthew parallel has "Lord" and the Luke parallel has "Master."

▣ "it is good for us to be here" What an awesome spiritual and physical experience this must have been; what a confirmation of the person of Jesus as the promised OT Messiah.

▣ "tabernacles" This would have been a structure similar to the temporary thatch huts used during the Festival of Booths. The implication of Peter's statement was that if the glorified OT visitors would stay a while, they could stay a while longer, too!

9:6 Whenever Peter did not know what to do, he talked!

9:7 "cloud" This was the symbol of YHWH's presence in the exodus (cf. Exod. 13-14). The rabbis called this "the Shekinah cloud of Glory," meaning YHWH dwelt visibly and permanently with Israel.

▣ "overshadowing them" This term reflects the OT sense of the special cloud of YHWH's presence providing shade (i.e., protection) and guidance to the people of God during the Wilderness Wandering period (i.e., 38 years). This cloud reappears three times related to Jesus.

1. at His conception Mary is overshadowed by the Spirit (cf. Luke 1:35)

2. at His baptism Jesus is addressed by a voice from heaven (the cloud itself is not specifically mentioned, cf. Matt. 3:17)

3. at the Transfiguration a voice is heard (cf. Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:34)

This term is used two other times in the NT, once in relation to Peter's shadow falling on people and resulting in their healing (cf. Acts 5:15) and a compound form of the term in Heb. 9:5, referring to the Cherubim overshadowing the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the covenant. 

▣ "a voice" This is either (1) related to YHWH speaking out of the cloud in the wilderness or (2) a Bath Kol (i.e., a voice from heaven), which was God's way of revealing YHWH's will during the intertestamental period when there was no prophet (cf. Mark 1:11).

▣ "My beloved Son" The term "son" in this OT phrase was used for (1) Israel as a whole; (2) the Israeli King as YHWH's representative; and (3) the promised, coming Messiah (cf. Ps. 2:7). This is the second time that the Father has addressed the Son in this special way, by this special title (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5). See fuller note at Mark 1:11 and Special Topic at Mark 3:11.

▣ "listen to Him" This is a present active imperative, which reflects the prophecy of Deut. 18:15. The Father's ultimate revelation is to be acknowledged and obeyed (cf. Luke 6:46).

9:8 This verse implies either that (1) this experience was a vision or (2) a rapid change back to the visible realm occurred.

 9As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. 10They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant. 11They asked Him, saying, "Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12And He said to them, "Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him."

9:9 "He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead" This was the only occurrence where a time factor is linked to Jesus' repeated warnings about their silence (cf. Mark 5:43; 7:36; 8:30). This restriction is related to the fact that the gospel was not yet complete. At a future time, their memory of this event would be clearly understood in light of all the other gospel events (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16-18).

9:10 "discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant" The disciples did not understand the distinction between "the Second Coming" (8:38) and "the Resurrection" (9:9). The Jews of Jesus' day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE RESURRECTION at Mark 8:31.

9:11 "the scribes" These were the culturally respected OT interpreters who explained the OT and how it applied to their day. In this time most of the scribes were Pharisees. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

9:12-13 "Elijah does first come. . .Elijah has indeed come" Jesus asserts that John the Baptist had fulfilled the prophetic role of Elijah found in Mal. 3:1 and 4:5. There has been much discussion about the answer which Jesus gave. He stated specifically that Elijah had already come in the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 11:10, 14; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). However, when the Pharisees asked John the Baptist, himself, in the Gospel of John (John 1:20-25) if he was Elijah, he flatly denied it. This seeming contradiction can be handled by the fact that John denied that he was a resuscitated Elijah, but Jesus affirmed that John symbolically fulfilled the preparation ministry of Elijah. They both dressed and acted in similar ways, so the identification would be obvious in the minds of the Jews who knew about Elijah and who heard and saw John the Baptist (Luke 1:17).

9:12 "will suffer many things and be treated with contempt" This was so shocking to the Jewish people of Jesus' day who expected a powerful deliverer like the OT judges and were not expecting a suffering savior. They had missed several OT clues (i.e., Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isa. 52:13-53:12; Zechariah 9-14). It took the twelve disciples years to comprehend; even they did not fully understand until the special ministry of the Spirit at Pentecost (cf. John 16:13-14) revealed it to them.

Notice that Jesus is trying to involve the twelve disciples in theological reasoning. He is forcing them to see the relationship between two different prophecies. They were not officially "scribes," but soon they must function like them.

Jesus surprised them with an unexpected fulfillment which was not literal, but typological (i.e., John the Baptist functioned as the fulfillment of Elijah's coming and preparing the way for the Messiah).

Jesus took every private moment to teach His disciples. Even on the way down the mountain He brings up a related issue (i.e., Malachi's prophecy about Elijah). This taking advantage of every opportunity for religious training is reflected in Deut. 6:7 and 11:19.

9:13 "as it is written of him" Elijah had persecution from Jezebel (cf. 1 Kgs. 19:2,10,14) as John did from Herodias.

 14When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16And He asked them, "What are you discussing with them?" 17And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." 19And He answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" 20They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." 24Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."

9:14 "When they came back to the disciples" Jesus had left the rest of the disciples at the bottom of the mountain. Luke 9:37 says they returned the next day.

"a large crowd. . .scribes arguing" Both of these things characterized Jesus' ministry and now the disciples were experiencing a foreshadowing of Jesus' existential situation and also their coming ministry. These were recurrent problems, but also opportunities.

9:15 "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "they were amazed" Some see this amazement as referring to Jesus' face still glowing related to Exod. 34:29-30, but the context seems to imply that Jesus' appearance came at an opportune moment for ministry and teaching.

NASB"began running up to greet Him"
NKJV"running to Him, greeted Him"
NRSV"they ran forward to greet Him"
TEV"ran to him and greeted him"
NJB"ran to greet him"

This is an imperfect tense, which can mean (1) the beginning of an action (cf. NASB) or (2) a repeated action in past time. This crowd was excited to see Jesus and one after another ran up and greeted Him.

9:16 "What are you discussing with them" Jesus addresses this question to the crowd. The scribes were not concerned with the young boy, but with the theological aspect of the disciples' inability to effect a cure.

9:17 "possessed with a spirit" The Gospels make a definite distinction between demon possession and physical illness. In this particular case there seems to be a blurring of this distinction. The symptoms described by the father and the implication of several Greek words in the text imply epilepsy, especially a grand mal seizures. This physical element was aggravated or instigated by demonic possession. See Special Topic: The Demoniac at Mark 1:23.

9:18 "stiffens out" This is a description of a grand mal seizure.

▣ "I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it" The disciples were surprised also. Jesus gave them the power over the demonic in Mark 6:7,13, but in this case their attempts failed!

9:19 Jesus uses two rhetorical questions in Mark 9:19 to express His disappointment at the lack of faith of the disciples, the crowd, and the scribes.

9:20 "when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion" This was demonic possession manifesting itself in epilepsy.

9:21 There are several accounts in the Gospels of demon possession of children. How and why this occurred is never stated.

9:22 The destructive nature of the demonic is clearly seen in the father's description of this boy's life.

▣ "destroy" See Special Topic: Apollumi at Mark 3:6.

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence that is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. This was the father's affirmation of faith in Jesus' ability to heal.

▣ "'take pity on us and help us'" This father had faith in Jesus even when the disciples failed to deliver his son.

In Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1. p. 113, M. R. Vincent makes the point that this father identified completely with his son's problems, as did the Syro-Phoenician woman to her daughter (cf. Matt. 15:22).

9:23 "'If You can'" This is a repeat of the man's statement of Mark 9:22. It is another first class conditional sentence. This man affirmed Jesus' ability; now Jesus tests his faith.

▣ "'All things are possible to him who believes'" This is not a blank check for humanity, even believing humanity, to manipulate God, but a promise that God will do His will through believing faith (see Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels). There are two conditions: (1) God's will and (2) believing faith! See Special Topic: Effective Prayer at Mark 11:23.

9:24 "'I do believe, help my unbelief'" This is a present active imperative. Remember it is the object of faith, not the quantity, that is crucial (cf. Matt. 17:20; Luke 17:6). Notice that Jesus worked with this man's doubts, as He will with ours.

Jesus deals with the father's faith, not the boy's, because he has been possessed since he was a child. One wonders if one of the reasons the disciples could not exorcize the boy was the father's lack of faith in them. Jesus often focused on parent's or friend's faith in effecting cures and deliverances. This father's words admit his need and beseeches Jesus' help to further his faith. This is a prayer we could all pray!

The Textus Receptus adds kurie (i.e., the vocative of Lord), which may be a scribal addition to show the father's faith by addressing Jesus as Lord, but this addition is not in any modern English translation besides KJV and NKJV.

9:25 "a crowd was rapidly gathering" It is uncertain how this relates to the exorcism. It is opposite of the Messianic Secret found so often in Mark. Jesus demonstrates His power and authority in a situation the disciples could not handle. The press and curiosity of the crowd was always a problem, but also an opportunity. This could be the same crowd as Mark 9:14-15 or a large number of new arrivals.

▣ "'You deaf and mute spirit'" Apparently this was just another aspect of this boy's physical problems (cf. Mark 9:17) related to the demonic possession.

▣ "'come out of him and do not enter him again'" This is an aorist active imperative and an aorist active subjunctive that meant "get out and do not ever start to come back."

9:26 The physical manifestations accompanying the departure of the demonic appear to have been common in NT exorcisms.

▣ "the boy became so much like a corpse" This is another symptom of a grand mal seizure.

9:27 "Jesus took him by the hand and raised him" This procedure showed Jesus' concern and compassion (cf. Mark 1:31; 5:41). He was not afraid to touch the sick and possessed!

9:28 "'Why could we not drive it out'" They were surprised! Earlier they had been able to cast out demons; why not now? Matthew 17:20 says it was because of the smallness of their faith.

9:29 "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer" Many other Greek manuscripts add "and fasting." However, this in not found in א or B, nor the Greek manuscript used by Clement. The addition of the phrase is very ancient and wide-spread, probably because of the early church's propensity from Judaism in this area. It is included in MSS P45, אi2, A, C, D, K, L, W, X, and the Diatessaron. See Special Topic on Fasting at Mark 2:18-20. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading an "A" rating (certain).

Theologically this account implies that there are different kinds of demons which require different techniques. See Special Topic at Mark 1:25.

 30From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later." 32But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

9:30 "began to go through Galilee" This is still the setting of leaving the Mountain of Transfiguration and moving south through Galilee. Jesus wanted to personally speak to as many people as possible.

"He did not want anyone to know about it" This is another aspect of Jesus' desire not to be known as a healer or miracle worker because the press of the crowds seeking physical help made it impossible for Him to teach and preach.

9:31 "Son of Man" See note at Mark 8:38c.

▣ "is to be delivered" This is a present passive indicative. The term means "to hand over to the authorities." This was the third time that Jesus had clearly revealed to the disciples what would happen in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:12).

▣ "'He will rise'" See Special Topic at Mark 8:31.

▣ "three days" In Jewish recording of time, it was probably about 30-38 hours (i.e., a brief time on Friday before twilight, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday before dawn). This time period is linked to Jonah's experience several times (cf. Matt. 12:39-40; 16:3; Luke 11:29-32).

9:32 "they did not understand" This is a recurrent theme in the Synoptic Gospels. Luke's Gospel reveals the situation clearly.

1. the disciples did not understand (Luke 2:50; 9:45; 18:34)

2. they should have because Jesus' words were interpreted for them (Luke 8:10)

3. Jesus opened the minds of the disciples (Luke 24:45)

They were as blind as the crowds until Jesus' words and the Spirit's inspiration opened their closed minds and hearts to the truth of the new covenant. The fallen human mind cannot understand except by the help of the Spirit and even then it is a slow growing process from salvation to sanctification.

 33They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" 34But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." 36Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37"Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."

9:33 "Capernaum" This town, the hometown of Peter and Andrew, became Jesus' headquarters after the unbelief of Nazareth.

▣ "when He was in the house" This was probably Peter's home (cf. Mark 1:29) or a rented house used by Jesus.

▣ "What were you discussing on the way" They were arguing, not just discussing. He had told them of His death (three times) and they wanted to know which one of them would take His place as leader (cf. Matt. 18:1-18; Luke 9:46-48; 22:24).

9:34 "greatest" This shows the jealousy of the other groups of disciples against the inner circle of Peter, James, and John. It may also reflect their Jewish concept of a nationalistic earthly kingdom.

9:35 "sitting down" This would have denoted an official teaching session (cf. Mark 4:1; 9:35; Matt. 5:1; Luke 4:20).

▣ "If anyone wants to be first" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective. Jesus did not condemn ambition, but defined it in terms of the new ethic of the Kingdom of God. Greatness is linked to service (cf. Mark 10:31,45; Matt. 20:26; 19:30; John 13:5), not control or power! God's Kingdom is so different from human societies.

These words are a good example of how Jesus repeated His teachings in different settings and at different times (cf. Mark 10:43-44; Matt. 23:11; Luke 22:24-25).

▣ "servant" Jesus spoke Aramaic. This saying (i.e., Mark 9:35-37) may be a word play on the Aramaic word talya, which means both "child" and "servant."

9:36 "Taking a child" Matthew 18:1-18, Luke 9:46-49, and here clearly show that Jesus is talking about new believers, not children.

▣ "taking him in His arms" This is another eyewitness detail of Peter. It was even possibly Peter's house and Peter's child!

9:37 "'whoever receives one child like this in My name'" "In My Name" means "in the character of Jesus." There is no magic in the repetition of certain words. The power comes from knowing Jesus and emulating His actions. Our loving response to others because we are followers of Jesus is a way to express our love for Him (cf. Matt. 25:31-45).

From Acts 19:13-16 we know that Jewish exorcists used Jesus' name, but with surprising results. From Matt. 7:21-23 we know that it is the personal relationship with Christ that is crucial, not just the flippant or even repeated mentioning of the name.

▣ "'and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me'" Jesus characteristically affirms the exalted position of the Father. This is repeatedly recorded in John's Gospel. This submission to the Father is not one of inequality, but functions within the Trinity.


 38John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us." 39But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40For he who is not against us is for us. 41For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward."

9:38 "and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us" There are several variants in the Greek manuscripts. This verse is hard to interpret. This caused ancient scribes to modify it. The reading most modern English versions accept (following the UBS4) is found in MSS א and B and the Syriac translation tradition.

9:39 "'Do not hinder him'" This is a present imperative with a negative particle, which usually implies the stopping of an act in process.

9:40 "For he who is not against us is for us" Jesus often used cultural proverbs in His teaching (cf. Mark 2:17,21,22; 3:27; 4:21,22,25; 7:15; 8:35,36,37; 9:40,50; 10:25,27,31,43-44). Compare this with Matt. 12:30 and Luke 11:23.

There is an interesting discussion of the seeming contradiction between Mark 9:40 and Luke 11:23 in Hard Sayings of the Bible published by IVP, pp. 466-467. This book is a helpful resource by well-known, evangelical scholars. They assert that the contextual settings of the references remove the seeming discrepancy.

9:41 See the parallel passages in Matt. 10:42; 25:40. There is a sharp contrast between Mark 9:38-41 and Mark 9:42-48. Those not officially connected with Jesus are affirmed in their good deeds, but those who know Him are warned in strong metaphors about their responsibility to new believers. This shocking paradox illustrates the truth of Mark 9:33-37.

Also this verse mentions kingdom rewards for those who faithfully serve (cf. Mark 9:41; 10:21,28-31 and several times in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:12,46; 6:5-6,16-18,19-21). It is hard to balance a free salvation in the finished work of Christ and believers' covenant responsibilities to live out their faith.

It is also hard to balance the NT concept of degree of rewards and punishment (cf. Matt. 10:45; 11:22; 18:6; 25:21,23; Mark 12:40; Luke 12:47-48; 20:47). See Special Topic at Mark 12:40.

 42"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 45If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 47If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

9:42 "'Whoever causes one of these little ones'" This refers theologically to new believers. However, there may be a contextual relationship to the lesson just taught from the possessed boy. God loves children and does not want anyone to take advantage of them.

▣ "'who believe'" This is a present active participle, which emphasizes continuing belief.

Some ancient Greek manuscripts add "in Me" (cf. MSS A, B, C2, L, W, and the Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic translations). This seems to be a scribal addition from the parallel in Matt. 18:6 because these words are absent in MSS א and C. See Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

"'to stumble'" This is literally used of a baited animal trap.

"'if'" This is a first class conditional sentence. This is a strong warning to Christian leaders. The Great Shepherd cares about all the sheep, especially the new and vulnerable ones, so should they!

This is a hyperbole (cf. Matt. 5:29,30,38-46; 6:2-4; 7:3-5; 23:23-24; 10:24-25). Jesus is speaking in metaphorical language of eternal judgment. These Oriental overstatements have confused western believers for generations. Our love for the Bible and our desire to follow Jesus have caused western believers to miss the eastern genres and metaphors of the Bible.

▣ "'a heavy millstone'" This refers to the round upper part of a large animal-drawn millstone. This is another Oriental overstatement, used to accentuate His message.

▣ "'cast into the sea'" This is a perfect passive indicative, which denotes a permanent state. This was a powerful metaphor of judgment. Being desert people, the Jews were afraid of water.

9:43-47 This is metaphorical (i.e., hyperbolic) language, but it shows the radical commitment required by Jesus (cf. Robert H. Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, pp. 8-11).

These verses are a good example of Hebrew poetic, synonymous parallelism, so common in the OT (cf. Mark 2:21-22; 3:4,24-25,28; 4:22,30; 8:17,18; 9:43-47; 10:38,43-44; 13:24-25). Some examples in Mark of antithetical parallelism are Mark 2:19-20; 3:28-19; 4:25; 7:8,15; 8:35 (cf. Stein, pp. 27-29).

9:43 "If" This is a third class conditional sentence, which speaks of potential action.

"'enter life'" There are two words for life in the NT: (1) bios (i.e., earthly life) and (2) zoē (i.e., spiritual life). Jesus is talking about entering the spiritual realm (i.e., eternal life). This is paralleled by the phrase "the Kingdom of God" in Mark 9:47. Believers can enter the kingdom now and, in some sense, even experience heaven now (cf. Eph. 2:5-6).

There are several ways this is depicted in the NT.

1. the world to come, eternal life (Mark 10:17,30)

2. saving. . .losing life (Mark 8:35; Matt. 10:39; Luke 17:33)

3. enter life (Mark 9:43; Matt. 25:46)

4. enter the joy of the Lord (Matt. 25:21,23)


▣ "'hell'" This is Gehenna (cf. Jer. 7:31). This was the location of the worship of the Phoenician fertility fire god, Molech, in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, just south of Jerusalem. This was where the firstborn children were sacrificed to the Canaanite fertility god (cf. Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10; 2 Kgs. 21:6; 2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 2:23; 7:32; 32:35). The Jews were so ashamed of their ancestors' idolatry that they turned this area into the landfill, or garbage dump of Jerusalem. Jesus' metaphors for eternal separation from the Father's love (fire, worm, stench) are drawn from this garbage dump.

This term is used by Jesus many times, but only once by any other NT author (James 3:6). Hell is as much a biblical reality as heaven (cf. Matt. 25:46). See Special Topic below, II., B.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

9:44,46 Verses 44 and 46 are the same as Mark 9:48. Neither are found in the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, CL, or W. It seems that an ancient scribe took the words from Mark 9:48 and inserted them into Mark 9:44 and 46.

9:48 "'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched'" This is a quote from Isa. 66:24. The Jews were so shocked that their ancestors burned their children (2 Kgs. 21:6) that they turned this location into the garbage dump of Jerusalem. It is from this site that Jesus draws His metaphorical language about eternal separation from God—Hell. The same term, eternal, used of heaven in Matt. 25:46, is also used in the same verse of judgment.

 49"For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

9:49 "'salted with fire'" Salt was a means of healing, purification, and preservation. It also was used to seal covenants (cf. Num. 18:19). It was a very important component of life for desert people. The terms salt and fire are synonymous in this context for purification. Verse 49 has many manuscript variations. These were probably due to the uncertainty of (1) how the verse related to Mark 9:48 or (2) what the verse itself meant. Possibly a scribe saw a reference to Lev. 2:13 and put it in the margin of the text. Jesus often used salt as an analogy to communicate spiritual truth (cf. Matt. 5:13; Luke 14:34-35).

9:50 This verse, like Mark 9:49, seems to be somewhat unrelated to the previous context. As Mark 9:49 was included because of the term "fire," this verse was included because of the term "salt." It may refer to Mark 9:35. It matters how Christians live!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Jesus "transformed?"

2. How is this incident related to the OT?

3. Why were the disciples confused about Elijah?

4. Why did the disciples still not understand about Jesus' death and resurrection?

5. Is it wrong for a Christian to be ambitious?

How did Jesus define greatness?

6. Is Jesus talking about children in Mark 9:35-37 and 42 or using them as an example for adults?

7. Are there degrees of judgment?

8. Should Mark 9:43-47 be taken literally?

9. What does salt symbolize?



Mark 10


Teaching About Divorce Marriage and Divorce On Marriage and Divorce Jesus Teaches About Divorce The Question About Divorce
10:1-12 10:1-12 10:1 10:1 10:1-12
    10:2-9 10:2  
    10:10-12 10:10-12  
Little Children Blessed Jesus Blesses Little Children Blessing the Children Jesus Blesses Little Children Jesus and the Children
10:13-16 10:13-16 10:13-16 10:13-16 10:13-16
The Rich Man Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler The Rich Man The Rich Man The Rich Young Man
10:17-22 10:17-22 10:17-22 10:17 10:17-22
  With God All Things Are Possible   10:21-22 The Danger of Riches
10:23-31 10:23-31 10:23-27 10:23 10:23-27
      10:27 The Reward of Renunciation
    10:28-31 10:28 10:28-31
A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus A Third Time Predicts His Death and Resurrection The Passion Foretold a Third Time Jesus Speaks a Third Time About His Death Third Prophecy of the Passion
10:32-34 10:32-34 10:32-34 10:32-34 10:32-34
The Request of James and John Greatest is Serving James and John Seek Honor The Request of James and John The Sons of Zebedee Make Their Request
10:35-45 10:35-45 10:35-40 10:35 10:35-40
      10:39-40 Leadership with Service
    10:41-45 10:41-45 10:41-45
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus Blind Bartimaeus Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus The Blind Man of Jericho
10:46-52 10:46-52 10:46-52 10:46-47 10:46-52

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Divorce, Mark 10:2-12 (parallel in Matthew 19:1-12)


B. Blessing of Children, Mark 10:13-16 (parallel in Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17)


C. Rich Young Ruler, Mark 10:17-31 (parallel in Matthew 19:16-20:16; Luke 18:18-30)


D. Prediction of Crucifixion, Mark 10:32-34 (parallel in Matthew 20:17-20; Luke 18:31-34)


E. Sons of Zebedee, Mark 10:35-45 (parallel in Matthew 20:21-28)


F. Blind Bartimaeus, Mark 10:46-52 (parallel in Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43)



 1Getting up, He went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.

10:1 "went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan" The RSV and the ASV have "came into territories of Judea and trans-Jordan." The context implies that Jesus was on His final journey to Jerusalem. Apparently He went north through Samaria, crossed over into Galilee, and joined the crowds of pilgrims heading for Jerusalem. Most Jews refused to pass through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem, so they crossed to the eastern side of the Jordan (i.e., through Perea) and then crossed back to the western side at Jericho. If this is what happened then it explains this confusing verse (cf. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 348, asserts that over one-third of Luke's Gospel occurs between Mark 9 and 10 [i.e., 9:57-18:14]; as well as Matt. 18 and John 7-11).

"crowds gathered around Him again" This may refer to (1) pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the feast or (2) the sick, the curious, the Jewish leaders, and disciples. Jesus always drew a crowd.

"according to His custom" Whenever Jesus had opportunity to teach, He did (cf. Mark 1:21; 2:13; 4:2; 6:2,6,34; 12:35; 14:49). The content of His message was

1. repent and believe (like John the Baptist's message)

2. the Kingdom of God is entered by faith in Him

3. the Kingdom of God radically changes the way one thinks and lives.


 2Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. 3And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" 4They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." 5But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

10:2 "Pharisees" See Special Topic: Pharisees at Mark 2:16.

▣ "testing" This word periazō has the connotation of testing with a view toward destruction (cf. Mark 8:11; 10:2; 12:15; Special Topic on terms for "testing" at Mark 1:13). This question was meant to (1) polarize both the people and rabbis over the opinions of the two rabbinical schools of Shammai (conservative) and Hillel (liberal) or (2) arouse Herod Antipas' anger.

▣ "whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife" Notice that the Pharisees' question is about divorce, not remarriage. Also, notice that Jesus is responding to a specific question. Jesus is not discussing this subject in a neutral setting. These Pharisees are trying to trap Him into alienating Himself from (1) the followers of Hillel, who had a liberal attitude toward divorce. Matthew 19:3 expands the question to include the "Why" of divorce or (2) Herod Antipas because he was divorced (cf. Mark 6:17-20).

The term "lawful" could refer to the Mosaic Law or the rabbinical traditions (i.e., the Talmud). In response Jesus quotes a passage from Deuteronomy.

10:4 "to write a certificate of divorce" The quote is from Deut. 24:1-4. Moses enacted a legal procedure to protect the wife (cf. Exod. 21:1-11). This legal procedure would have several requirements.

1. it took some amount of time

2. it took a priest or Levite to write it

3. it probably required the return of the dowry

Hopefully, these procedures would give the couple a chance to reconcile.

It must also be stated that Deut. 24 assumed the right of remarriage for both the man and woman. However, the Deuteronomy passage in context was not addressing the cultural issue of divorce as much as (1) assuring the virginity and faithfulness of the bride and (2) outlining the specific procedures and limits on the remarriage.

The real problem occurred in the liberal interpretation of this passage by the rabbinical school of Hillel (cf. The Christ of the Gospels by J. W. Shepherd, pp. 451-457). This school picked up on the term "indecency" and extended its original time frame and meaning. The Pharisees were only quoting Moses to trick Jesus. They were not seeking information.

Jesus confirmed the intent of God for marriage as one man, one woman for life. Anything else is not the ideal. The problem comes in how to balance Jesus' words in this context with His words of forgiveness in other contexts. The standard for Kingdom followers is high, but so, too, is the grace of God! In this area a case-by-case approach is better than rigid legal rules.

In the OT YHWH used divorce to describe His actions toward Israel because of their idolatry (cf. Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:1-8; Hos. 2:2). There are examples in the OT where divorce is required (cf. Gen. 21:8-14; Exod. 21:10-11; Deut. 21:10-14; Ezra 9-10). There is an excellent thought-provoking article in the "Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society" vol. 40 # 4, entitled "Old Testament Perspectives on Divorce and Remarriage" by Joe M. Sprinkle.

10:5 "'Because of your hardness of heart'" Jesus describes the Israelites as "hard hearted" (cf. Ezek. 2:4; 3:7). The term "stiff-necked" is a synonymous metaphor (cf. Exod. 32:9; 33:3,5,9; Deut. 9:6,13). They always wanted to do things their way. This is always fallen mankind's propensity! This attitude was even present in His disciples (cf. Mark 3:5 and 6:52).

The subject of divorce is a good example of the problem of proof-texting. We must allow all of the Bible to speak on every subject. This is not the only biblical passage on divorce and remarriage.

This statement of Jesus is distressing to me. How would I know that Deut. 24:1-4 was not YHWH's final word on this subject? It is in the Bible. If Jesus had not been confronted with this issue, I probably would never have known its limited relevance. The problem is how many other OT texts are involved in "the hardness of heart" and how many are God's will for mankind? The only comfort comes in a truly systematic approach to theological subjects, taking into account both Testaments and historical situations (e.g., Mark 7:14-16,17-23). Modern evangelical Christians are too quick to proof-text absolute truth from isolated, atomized texts.

Theologically, Jesus' rejection of Moses is startling. It was a powerful way of asserting His authority. These Jewish disciples would have been so surprised that Jesus knew why Moses did something and that he had the power and authority from YHWH to overturn it. This section in Mark is theologically parallel to Matt. 5:17-48.

10:6 "from the beginning of creation" See SPECIAL TOPIC: KTISIS following.


▣ "'God made them male and female'" Marriage was in God's original plan of creation (cf. Gen. 1:27). Sex was/is a gift from God to accomplish His purpose of a filled earth (cf. Gen. 1:28).

10:7 "'a man shall leave his father and mother'" This is another quote from Genesis (cf. Mark 2:24). It shows the high status of marriage, even over parental authority. There was a necessary mental separation from parents even if not a physical separation (i.e., several generations lived together).

10:8 "'and the two shall become one'" This quote is also from Gen. 2:24. In marriage, two become one—physically, emotionally, and in every way. This shows the permanency of marriage in God's plan.

Moses lived many years away from the events recorded in Genesis. In the creation section of Genesis he reads the later issue of the priority of marriage back into a setting of the first couple.

10:9 "'God has joined together'" This is literally "yoked together." Divorce is one of fallen humanity's ways of breaking apart what God has established as a societal norm (i.e., marriage is a pillar for stable society, cf. Deut. 5:16,33; 4:40; 32:47, "that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you"). This is a good example of a covenant believer preferring his/her will to God's will.

▣ "'let no man separate'" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually meant to stop an act already in process. For a good discussion on marriage, family, and divorce see Frank Staff's New Testament Theology, pp. 296-302.

 10In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."

10:10 "the disciples began questioning Him about this" Matthew 19:10 records the disciples' astonishment. They were curious about what they had always been taught concerning divorce and remarriage. This phrase shows the pattern of Jesus' public teaching and private interpretation. This pattern shows how easily Jesus' words could be misunderstood. These private sessions were the opportunity to train the Twelve in the proper understanding and new radical perspective of the Kingdom of God. Jesus focused ultimate authority in Himself, not the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-19), though He honored and usually affirmed the OT.

10:11-12 "commits adultery. . .committing adultery" These are both present indicative verbs. The form (morphology) of the word "adultery" in Koine Greek could be either middle or passive voice. Matthew 5:32, which deals with the same subject, has an aorist passive infinitive. This implies that all the forms are passive. If this is true, then it is not the divorce and remarriage that was adultery, but the legal act of putting the woman away, which culturally stigmatized her as an adulteress. Literally "she is caused to commit adultery." This is not a total scriptural ban on remarriage. It relates to a theological aspect of Jewish interpretation (i.e., Hillel vs. Shammai).

However, the dissolution of the marriage covenant between believers (i.e., who swear in Christ's name to remain married) was, and is, never God's ideal. Believers are held to a higher "kingdom standard." Divorce is often the lesser of two evils; it is not the unpardonable sin! See full note at Mark 10:4.

10:12 "if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery" This translation follows the Alexandrian Greek texts. The Western texts read "that she leaves husband, but is not divorced and marries someone else, therefore, commits adultery." The parallel passage in Matt. 19: 1-12 leaves this verse out, probably because Matthew, writing to Jews, had no need to include this. In Judaism women did not have the right to divorce their husbands. Mark, writing to Gentiles, records this to show the universal aspect of Jesus's teaching. This focuses on the legal equality of husband and wife, reflected in Roman law. This is another evidence that Mark was written to Romans. Jesus is pro family (cf. Mark 10:13-16)!

"if" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action.

 13And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." 16And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

10:13 "were bringing" This is an imperfect tense. The parents continually brought their children to Him for the traditional rabbinical blessing. This has nothing to do with the salvation of these children. They were already considered a part of Israel by means of circumcision and were waiting for their transition to full covenant adulthood at twelve years of age for girls and thirteen years of age for boys.

▣ "children" Luke 18:15 has "infants." In Jewish circles girls under 12 and boys under 13 were considered children.

▣ "touch them" Matthew 19:13 has "lay His hands on them" (cf. Mark 10:16). It was very common in Jesus' day for parents to ask rabbis to bless their children. The same act is seen in Gen. 48:8ff. This was usually done on the child's birthday. This blessing was more for the parents' peace of mind than the "saved vs. lost" status of the children!

▣ "the disciples rebuked them" The "them" is ambiguous so early scribes added "those who brought them" (cf. NKJV). However, this is not in the ancient Greek manuscripts א, B, or C, but it is included in A, D, and W. The shorter reading is also found in Matt. 19:13 and Luke 18:15. Children in the Near East do not have the privileged status position they do in the West. The disciples would have thought they were protecting Jesus from disruptive, perfunctory activity. However, for Jesus people were always priority


NJB"He was indignant"
NKJV"He was greatly displeased"
TEV"he was angry"

This is a strong word used in Mark 10:41 for the disciples' anger against James and John for asking for the leadership positions and in Mark 14:4 for Judas' resentment of Jesus being anointed. Matthew also uses this term several times (cf. Mark 20:24; 21:15; 26:8).

The Gospel of Mark reveals Jesus' humanity by recording His emotions (cf. Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity by Paul Barnett, p. 156).

1. compassion for a leper (Mark 1:40-42)

2. anger at the Pharisees' hardness of heart (Mark 3:1-5)

3. indignation to the disciples (Mark 10:13-16)

4. love for the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22)

5. deep distress in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33-34)

6. abandonment on the cross (Mark 15:34)

Jesus often showed frustration with the disciples (cf. Mark 6:52; 8:17; 9:19). He saw children as significant creations of God and He loved them. He often used children as object lessons for true faith and discipleship.

▣ "'Permit the children to come to Me'" This is an aorist active imperative, which expresses urgency or intensity.

▣ "'do not hinder them'" This is a present imperative with the negative particle which usually meant to stop an act already in process.

▣ "'the kingdom of God'" This common gospel phrase referred to the reign of God in human hearts now which will one day be consummated over all the earth as it is in heaven. See Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

10:15 "'Truly'" See Special Topic: Amen at Mark 3:28.

▣ "'whoever does not receive'" This referred to adults. Jesus often used children as spiritual examples (cf. Matt. 18). The NT is a revelation for adults. It does not discuss the spiritual status of children!

This Greek term dechomai originally meant "to take hold of something." In that sense it is parallel to lambanō. It came to be used in the sense of "receiving" or "believing" or "welcoming." There may be a subtle distinction in the sense that dechomai emphasizes the giver, while lambanō reflects an active participation by the receiver (cf. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains by Louw and Nida, vol. 1, p. 572, footnote 31).

The theological thrust is that humans must "receive," "believe," "welcome" Jesus. Salvation involves welcoming a person, believing truths about that person (i.e., the gospel), and living a life emulating that person. There is an initial and ongoing volitional aspect to salvation.

▣ "'will not enter it at all'" This is a strong double negative construction which means "never, no never."

In a sense Jesus is identifying the Kingdom of God as childlike trust and faith in Himself and His teachings. This sounds intolerant in our day, but it is the clear teaching of the NT. It is often called "the scandal of the exclusivism of the gospel." Yet it is true. Faith in Jesus is the only way to the Father (cf. John 14:6)! This should engender prayer, witness, and humility, not arrogance, judgmentalism, and pride!

10:16 "And He took them in His arms" Here is another eyewitness detail of Peter, like 9:36.

▣ "began blessing them, laying His hands on them" Jesus took time for each one. We can trust our children to God's love so clearly revealed in Jesus. As Jesus raised the social standing and worth of women, so too, children. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAYING ON OF HANDS at Mark 7:32.

 17As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 18And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments, 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" 20And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." 21Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

10:17 "As He was setting out on a journey" Mark's Gospel is characterized by Jesus' travel. This was Mark's literary technique of structuring his presentation of Peter's memories (or sermons).

▣ "a man" Matthew 19:20 adds the adjective "young"; Matt. 19:22 adds "He was one who owned much property (i.e., rich)"; while Luke 18:18 calls him a "ruler." This man was apparently a wealthy, moral, significant civic and religious leader. The term "ruler" implies that he was a leader in the local synagogue. See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS at 1 Peter 3:14.

▣ "ran. . .and knelt" This was very unusual action for a wealthy Oriental man in public. This man seems to be sincere in his question and desire to know. This is not an attempt to test or trick Jesus.

▣ "'Good Teacher'" This phrase opened the opportunity for Jesus to probe this man's spiritual worldview (cf. Mark 10:18). The term "good" (i.e., agathos) can be understood in several ways (good, profitable, generous, beneficial, upright, or virtuous). The man meant it one way, but Jesus used it in an ultimate sense.

▣ "'what shall I do'" His understanding of spiritual matters focused on his actions. This man had been steeped in rabbinical performance tradition (cf. Matt. 19:16).

"'to inherit'" This familial word implies a personal relationship with God. In the OT the priests were said to be God's inheritance and He was theirs because they received no land allocations as did the other tribes. This very question implies the man believed he was fully accepted by God, but just wanted to make sure.

▣ "'eternal life'" The concept of an afterlife (or eschatological kingdom) came from passages such as Dan. 12:2 or Job 14:14; 19:25-27. The Pharisees affirmed an afterlife in physical terms. They were confident that YHWH would grant them eternal life because of (1) their racial identity (i.e., children of Abraham) and (2) their performance of the Orad Traditions (i.e., Talmud).

10:18 "good" This is used to show that the only true standard of comparison is God's righteousness. The term "righteous" comes from an OT construction term (i.e., river reed), used as a standard or ruler.

▣ "'No one is good except God alone'" Jesus is not making a statement about His own goodness, but He wanted to jolt this man's shallow thinking about God and true goodness (cf. Matt. 5:48). This may be an OT allusion to 1 Chr. 16:34; 2 Chr. 5:13; 7:3; Ps. 25:8; 86:5; 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1; Ezra 3:11.

The Matthew parallel changes the ruler's question to "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16). This change gives a clue to this man's concept of goodness and his attainment of that goodness (cf. Mark 19:20).

10:19 "'You know the commandments'" This is a summary of the second half of the Ten Commandments, which dealt with how covenant partners are to treat one another.

▣ "'Do not defraud'" This may refer to coveting. This commandment, as it is stated, was not part of the Ten Commandments, nor is it found in this form elsewhere in the OT. Also the parallels in Matt. 19:18-19 and Luke 18:20 do not have this phrase. However, to be fair, the Synoptics all disagree on Jesus' quote of the Commandments. This again is a common problem with eyewitness testimony. It surely does not affect the inspiration or trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (cf. Exod. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21)

10:20 "'I have kept these things'" This man had performed all of the religious requirements of his culture. The Apostle Paul also felt he had also fulfilled the religious requirements (cf. Acts 23:1-2; Phil. 3:6). This man was not lying. He believed he was blameless before God.

▣ "from my youth up" This referred to the Bar Mitzvah ceremony at age 13 by which a boy became a man and responsible for keeping the Law.

10:21 "Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him" This is unique to Mark. Jesus' love, however, did not lower the standards of the Kingdom of God. Here is the paradox of unconditional love requiring an appropriate faith response.

▣ "'One thing you lack'" This comment is similar to Mark 12:34. Jesus recognized that humans were degrees closer or farther from the true Kingdom, which was not conditioned on Mosaic performance or racial identity (cf. John 8:33), but personal faith in Him. This religious leader came in the right spirit, to the right person, asked the right question, but was apparently unable to make a decisive choice! Jesus did not lower the standard! The man went away sad! So close and yet so far!

▣ "'sell all you possess and give to the poor. . .and come, follow Me'" This shows the radical nature of NT faith (cf. Luke 14:33). Jesus knew where this man's priorities were. To be a Christian one must lay down all other priorities. In one sense this makes Christianity very difficult indeed! In this statement Jesus was focusing on the first half of the Ten Commandments relating to one's priority commitment to God and God alone (cf. Matt. 5:20).

This text cannot be turned into a law for all believers (i.e., poverty is God's best). It must be seen in its context. Spiritual relationship between God and mankind must be priority over physical relationship (i.e., wealth, fame, work, family, possessions, even life itself). If possessions are evil in and of themselves, why would they be given to the poor?

One more point. We always focus on Jesus' demand, but did you realize that Jesus gave this man an unprecedented motivation also. He invited him to join His group of disciples! His opportunity was far greater than its cost!

▣ "'you will have treasure in heaven'" Because of humanity's rebellion, God's blessings are reserved for the afterlife (cf. Mark 10:30; Matt. 5-7). Humans must be willing to renounce earthly riches as evidence of spiritual conversion, not as a basis.

10:22 "he was saddened" This term can be understood in two senses: (1) shock or surprise or (2) sadness expressed by a downcast or gloomy face. Both of these make sense in this context.

 23And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" 24The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 26They were even more astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?" 27Looking at them, Jesus said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."

10:23 "And Jesus, looking around" This expression is used several times to denote that Jesus took notice of how His teachings affected others (cf. Mark 3:5,34; 5:32; 10:23; 11:11). Only Luke 6:10 is a parallel. This is uniquely a memory of Peter.

▣ "'How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God'" This would have been so surprising to the disciples (cf. Mark 10:24). The OT traditional view, based on Deut. 27-28, was that wealth and health were related to one's covenant performance and God's blessing. This is the very issue addressed by Job and Psalm 73. Wealthy humans tend to trust in their own resources instead of God.


10:24 "'Children'" Jesus called the disciples by the term used in His previous teaching session (cf. Mark 10:13-16). This reenforces that "children" refers to adult believers.

"'how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God'" This is a shocking statement. Salvation is a free gift in the finished work of Christ for anyone/everyone who responds by repentance and faith. The problem comes when we somehow think we deserve it or merit it! Faith is hard for prideful, self-sufficient, fallen humanity. We would like it better if our relationship with God was difficult and hard so that we could take pride in our achieving it, but as it is, God's way of repentance and faith is humiliating to fallen mankind, especially wealthy, educated, privileged mankind.

Because this verse is so terse several ancient scribes tried to limit its scope by inserting a qualifying phrase (cf. Bruce M. Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament:

1.  "for those who trust in riches" found in MSS A, C, D, and the Textus Receptus

2.  "a rich man" in MS W

3.  "those who have possessions" in minuscule 1241


10:25 "'camel to go through the eye of a needle'" Like Matt. 23:24, this phrase is an Oriental overstatement. Several scribes and many commentators have tried to explain this statement as (1) a word play between "camel" (kamēlos) and "rope" (kamilus), which comes from the fifth century or (2) using "needle's eye" to refer to a small gate in one of the large gates of Jerusalem, but neither of these have historical evidence (cf. Fee and Stuart's How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, p.21). These attempts miss the point of the hyperbole (cf. Matt. 19:24; Luke 18:25).

10:26 "astonished" Mark often uses this term (ekplēssomai) to describe how the people reacted to Jesus' teachings and actions (cf. Mark 1:22; 6:2; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18; and a synonym thambeō in Mark 10:24). Jesus' message was so different from the rabbis, both in form (i.e., His authority) and message (i.e., the nature of the Kingdom).

NASB"saying to Him"
NKJV"saying among themselves"
NRSV"said to one another"
TEV"asked one another"
NJB"saying to one another"

These differing translations relate to various Greek manuscript variants.

1. NKJV, MSS A, D, W, and Textus Receptus

2. NRSV, TEV, NJB, MS M* and the Peshitta translation

3. NASB, MSS א, B, and C

4. one minuscule manuscript (i.e., 569) and some Coptic translations omit the phrase, as do Matt. 19:25 and Luke 18:26


10:27 This verse's emphasis on the grace of God is such a welcome balance to the radical nature of NT discipleship. Humans are unable to approach a holy God, but the wonderful, amazing truth is that He approaches us!

This saying may be an OT allusion to Gen. 18:14 or Jer. 32:17,24. Mankind's only hope is in the character, promises, and actions of the one true God!

 28Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." 29Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, 30but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last, first."

10:28 "'we have left. . .and followed You'" This is an aorist active indicative (i.e., left once for all), followed by a perfect active indicative (i.e., continue in a state of discipleship). In one sense Peter is recounting the disciples' decision to become Jesus' followers. Peter may have been trying to compare their commitments with Jesus' demand to the rich, young ruler.

10:29 This verse lists some of the normal aspects of Jewish society in which His followers were involved. It also clearly links their commitment to Him personally (i.e., "for My sake") and His truths (i.e., "the gospels' sake").

The early church was affected by Greek asceticism, particularly celibacy. It is interesting that wives are not specifically mentioned in the lists. This may imply marriage was not something they were expected to give up. However, the inclusion of "children" may indicate that wives were included in the phrase "left house." One's priority commitment to Jesus must supersede even family (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8). This does not imply celibacy, but where one's ultimate allegiance must lie.

10:30 Jesus describes the kingdom of God in (1) very earthly ways which parallel what the disciples "missed" in this life and (2) relation to this present world-order. Some of the hundred-fold blessings are enjoyed now by being a part of the People of God.

These normal familial terms basically assure that the family life affected by discipleship is restored through the larger family—the family of God. I do not believe that this phrase is meant to promise abundance of material goods in this life, as did Deut. 27-28. If you place blessings in a reward-for-service structure, then why grace? Material blessings are not the experience of all godly believers, but the joy and abundance of the larger Christian family experiences are!

▣ "along with persecutions" This is a shocking inclusion, unique to Mark. Christians will be persecuted in this fallen age (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5,7; Phil. 3:10; 2 Tim. 2:9-12; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). This persecution serves several godly purposes: (1) evidence that we are saved; (2) God's means of molding us into Christlikeness; and (3) proof that the world will be judged.

▣ "in the age to come" Interbiblical Judaism (rabbis and Dead Sea Scroll writers) saw history in two ages. The current evil age dominated by angelic and human rebellion and the age where God is going to break into history through the Messiah and set up a new age, an age of righteousness and peace. This is sometimes described in earthly abundance following Deut. 27-28 (cf. Amos 9:13-15) and sometimes in a "new heaven and a new earth" (cf. Isaiah 56-66). From the NT it is obvious that the new age (i.e., the Kingdom of God) was established at the incarnation of Christ at Bethlehem, but it has not yet been fully consummated. The NT clearly reveals the two comings of the Messiah, the first as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and a second as King of Kings. Christians live in the "already, but not yet" of the overlapping of these two Jewish ages. As followers of Christ we are spiritually blessed in both ages (cf. Eph. 2:5-6). See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at Mark 13:8.

"eternal life" This is what the rich young ruler asked about—life with God, God's kind of life. Mark uses the adjective (aiōnios) for an eternal sin in Mark 3:29 and eternal life here. This applies to the life (i.e., zōa) of the new age, the life of the Kingdom of God. It is present in Christ, but will be fully consummated at His return (i.e., parousia = presence).

This descriptive phrase is rather rare in the Synoptic Gospels, but so common in John. This is a key phrase throughout John's writings (cf. John 3:15; 4:36; 5:39; 6:54,68; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2,3; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11,13,20). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ETERNAL at Mark 3:29.

10:31 "first will be last" This was a startling spiritual truth (cf. Matt. 19:30; 20:16). True wealth and position have nothing to do with earthly standards (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). This reversal of roles was contrary to the disciples' OT works-righteousness mindset (cf. Matt. 19:30; Luke 13:30). See Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel.

This may have been directed to Peter's outburst of their self-sacrifices to become disciples (cf. Mark 10:28). This passage set the theological stage for 10:41-45. Jesus, the eschatological King of Kings, becomes the Suffering Servant of Isa. 52:13-53:12! Believers must emulate His life/death/service (cf. 1 John 3:16). The gospel is service, not power; love, not force!

 32They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, 33saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."

10:32 "on the road" In the OT the metaphor of a way or path was used to describe the godly life (cf. Ps. 23:3; 32:8; 50:23; 119:1; 139:3; Prov. 2:12-15; 4:18; 12:28; 15:24). It also describes John the Baptist's ministry of preparing "the way of the Lord" (cf. Isaiah 40). In Acts the earliest title for the church was "the Way" (cf. Mark 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4,14,22).

Mark seems to structure his Gospel around this biblical metaphor of lifestyle faith (cf. Mark 1:2,3; 8:27; 9:33,34; 10:32,52). Jesus was on a pilgrimage to the cross (cf. Mark 10:45).

▣ "Jesus was walking on ahead of them" This could refer to the Apostolic group or a band of pilgrims heading for the feast in Jerusalem.

▣ "they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful" This phrase must be related to Jesus' three previous prophecies about His suffering and death in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jewish and Roman leaders. Jesus knew what faced Him there and yet He moved toward it with speed and confidence. They may have been worried about how His suffering and death would affect them!

▣ "He took the twelve aside" This is the fourth prediction of Jesus' suffering and death (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:12;31). This is the most detailed of Jesus' predictions. He knew exactly what lay before Him (cf. Mark 10:45). The disciples still could not comprehend its purpose and necessity (cf. Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45; 18:34).

"began to tell them what was going to happen to Him" Most of the verbs in Mark 10:32 are imperfects, which refer to repeated action. I think this also refers to Jesus' repeated prophecy about His suffering; therefore, "began" is the wrong translation of this imperfect (cf. TEV).

In one sense Jesus was revealing His power and authority by knowing the future and having control over His own death and resurrection (cf. John 10:17-18).

10:33 "'Son of Man'" See note at Mark 8:38c.

▣ "will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes" This was a descriptive phrase for the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 14:43ff) which was the supreme court for the Jews, although in the first century it had only limited authority. See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

Jesus predicted the reaction of the Sanhedrin. Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His cleansing of the Temple sealed His fate. The first act infuriated the Pharisees and the second act infuriated the Sadducees.

▣ "will hand Him over to the Gentiles" This referred to the Roman army of occupation (cf. Mark 15:1). The Sanhedrin did not have the power of capital punishment; only the Roman government did.

10:34 "They will mock Him" This was fulfilled by the Roman soldiers in Mark 15:16-20. Mark does not record Jesus' trial before Herod Antipas (cf. Luke 23).

▣ "spit on Him" This was an OT sign of contempt (cf. Num. 12:14; Deut. 25:9; Job 17:6; 30:10; Isa. 50:6). Roman soldiers took out their hatred of all Jews and their exclusivistic ways on Jesus (cf. Mark 14:65).

▣ "scourge" Scourging was a common practice before crucifixion (cf. Mark 15:15). A person's hands were tied to a low stake. A soldier used a whip made with pieces of rock, metal, or bone tied to the ends of leather strips about two feet long to beat the prisoner across the back. The action of the whip tore open the body cavity and knocked out the teeth and even the eyes. Many prisoners died from this beating alone. It was a brutal beating (cf. Isa. 52:14).

▣ "and three days later" This is literally "after three days." This time period probably relates to Jonah's experience (cf. Matt. 12:39-41; 16:4,21; Luke 11:39,32). It is even mentioned by Paul in his summary of the gospel in 1 Cor. 15:4.

Jesus used this "third day" prophecy in connection with two events: (1) His resurrection from Hades (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34), but also (2) His building of a new temple (cf. Mark 14:58; 15:29; John 2:19; Acts 6:14).

There is a Greek manuscript variant connected to this phrase. In the parallels (Matt. 20:19 and Luke 18:33) there is the phrase "on the third day." This is found here in Mark in MSS A and W. However, Mark's characteristic phrasing found in Mark 8:31 and 9:31 is "after three days," which occurs in MSS א, B, C, D, and L.

▣ "He will rise again" This is a future middle indicative. It focuses on Jesus raising Himself (cf. John 10:17-18). Most of the passages on the resurrection of Christ are passive voice, focusing on God the Father as the agent of the resurrection showing His acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice. In one sense all of the Trinity is involved in Jesus' resurrection (i.e., the Spirit in Rom. 8:11). See Special Topic: Resurrection at Mark 8:31

 35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You." 36And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" 37They said to Him, "Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory." 38But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" 39They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

10:35 "the two sons of Zebedee" Matthew 20:20 says it was their mother who asked the question.

▣ "'we want You do to for us whatever we ask of You'" Every time Jesus predicted His suffering and death, His disciples began planning who would take His place as leader! Their mental perspective was still on an earthly kingdom and their being its leadership. The disciples did not understand until Pentecost!

In one sense this incident is recorded to show how much the disciples did not understand (cf. Luke 18:34). This is cutting irony!

10:37 "'right. . .left'" They wanted the places of honor and authority. This incident shows that Peter was not accepted as the obvious leader of the apostolic group. His personality caused him to always speak out first, but they did not sense him as their leader.

▣ "'in Your glory'" Matthew 20:21 has "in your kingdom." In Mark it refers to the visible manifestation of the eschatological kingdom of God (Mark 8:38; 10:37; 13:36).


10:38 "'You do not know what you are asking'" "Asking" is middle voice, which focuses on the subject, "you yourselves." The next phrase "are you able" is also middle voice.

▣ "the cup" This was used in the OT of a person's destiny, usually in a negative sense (cf. Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17-23; Jer. 25:15-28; 49:12; 51:7; Lam. 4:21-22; Ezek. 32:34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2). This is the very metaphor used by Jesus in Gethsemane (cf. Mark 14:36) for His crucifixion.

▣ "'the baptism with which I am baptized'" This was a metaphor of suffering, even death (cf. Luke 12:50). His glory involved pain (cf. Heb. 2:18; 5:8).

10:39 These leaders would be involved in the same persecution and misunderstandings that Jesus experienced (i.e., James in Acts 12:2 and John in Rev. 1:9).

10:40 "'is for those for whom it has been prepared'" This is another example of Jesus' subordination to the Father's plan and purpose. There is a divine plan (cf. Acts 2:3; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29). The ancient Alexandrian text (MS A*) adds "by my Father," which is also found in Matt. 20:23.

The ancient uncial Greek manuscripts were written in all capital letters with no space between words, no punctuation or paragraphing. Sometimes deciding how to divide the sentence into words is confusing. This sentence can be divided in two ways (cf. Interpreting the New Testament by Hans Conzelmann and Andreas Lindemann translated by Siegfried S. Schotzmann, p. 22)

1.  "for whom it is meant"

2.  "it is meant for others" (cf. the Syriac translations).


 41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

10:41 "Hearing this" This showed James and John waited until they were alone with Jesus. It also shows the humanness of the Apostles. These were not "super saints," just men called, equipped, and used by God. The others became indignant, not because of the inappropriateness of James' and John's request, but the fact they got to ask first. These chosen Apostles still exhibited selfishness and sin.

10:42 Jesus again addresses their ambition and misunderstanding of the Kingdom.


NASB"But it is not this way among you"
NKJV"Yet it shall not be so among you"
NRSV"But it is not so among you"
TEV"This, however, is not the way it is among you"
NJB"Among you this is not to happen"

These translations reflect a Greek manuscript variant. In some manuscripts (א, B, C*, D, L, W) the Present tense is used (cf. NASB, NRSV, TEV), which is also found in the parallel in Matt. 20:26. However, in other manuscripts (A and C3) the future tense is found (cf. NKJV and implied in NJB).

▣ "'whoever wishes to be great'" Jesus does not discourage greatness or ambition, but defines true greatness as service and humility (cf. Matt. 20:26; Mark 9:35).

▣ "servant" This is the term diakonos, which later becomes the office/function of deacon. All believers are called to serve (cf. Eph. 4:11-12).

10:44 This helps explain Mark 10:31.

▣ "slave" This is the term doulos, which referred to a domestic servant.

10:45 "'the Son of Man'" See note at Mark 8:38c.

▣ "'did not come to be served, but to serve'" This is the true definition of greatness. Jesus models the life of the Kingdom for us to emulate (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21). This truth was taught symbolically in Jesus' washing the disciples' feet in the Upper Room the night He was betrayed (cf. John 13:14-15).

This truth is always difficult for church leadership. But without it there is no servant church.

▣ "'to give His life'" This is the summary verse of Mark's Gospel. Jesus always refers to His death as His gift or His glory. It denotes the vicarious, substitutionary atonement (i.e., sin offering, cf. 2 Cor. 5:21) of Christ (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isa. 52:13-53:12).

▣ "'ransom'" This is literally "to buy back" or "to pay a price" (cf. Matt. 20:28; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18). It reflects the OT term used of slaves and prisoners of war being bought back, often by a near kin (go'el). Jesus unites in Himself the love and justice of God the Father. Sin costs a life—God provided one!


▣ "for" This is the Greek preposition anti. Sometimes it is joined to the noun "ransom" (lutron = antilutron, cf. 1 Tim. 2:6). It can mean "instead of," "on behalf of," or "in the place of." The relationship between the prepositions anti and huper must be determined by the context (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14; Heb. 10:12; 1 Pet. 2:21; 3:18; 1 John 3:16). All of these have the connotation of Jesus' vicarious, substitutionary atonement. He died in our place, bore our sin (cf. Isa. 53:4-6).

▣ "many" The term many has been used by some commentators to limit Christ's atonement to "the elect." The terms "many" and "all" are synonymous in two key passages that deal with redemption. Compare Isa. 53:11-12, "many" with Isa. 53:6, "all." This parallelism is clearly seen in Rom. 5:18, "all" and Rom. 5: 19, "many." Jesus paid the price for all, but only those who respond by repentance and faith to the wooing of the Spirit are redeemed.

Mark 10:45 is the theological heart of the Gospel. It came in response to personal ambition. Human ambition must be given back to God as a gift (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). Christians must emulate Christ's self-giving (cf. 1 John 3:16).

 46Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 49And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you." 50Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!" 52And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

10:46 "Jericho" It is one of the oldest cities in the world and was often called the "City of Palms." The name means "the perfumed." It was a very fertile and beautiful area. In Jesus' day there were two Jericho's, the old city and a new Roman one about a mile away. It was about 18 miles northeast of Jerusalem at a ford of the Jordan River.

▣ "as He was leaving" Matthew 20:29 has "going out"; Luke18:35 has "approaching." This confusion is a sign of eyewitness accounts. Remember there were two Jerichos in Jesus' day. He could have been leaving one and approaching the other.

▣ "a large crowd" These were pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem for the Passover, along with interested townspeople. Many of the priests of the Temple lived at Jericho. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was very dangerous because of robbers (i.e., the parable of the Good Samaritan); therefore, people traveled in large groups.

"a blind beggar. . .was sitting by the road" There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase. The noun for "beggar" is a rare term (cf. John 9:8). Usually the concept is expressed by a participle (i.e., MSS A, K, W, א and Textus Receptus, cf. NKJV). However, the noun (i.e., prosaiteō) is in MSS א, B, L (cf. NASB, NRSV, TEV, and NJB). Manuscript D has a synonym (i.e., epaiteō, both formed from the root "to ask"), which is found in the parallel of Luke 18:35. These variants have no affect on the interpretation of the passage.

▣ "Bartimaeus" This word means "son of Timaeus." It is very unusual for Mark to record the names of people whom Jesus healed or exorcized. Interestingly, Matthew has two blind men (cf. Matt. 20:30). Exactly why this occurs is uncertain, but it is a regular difference between Matthew and Mark/Luke.

▣ "son of Timaeus" This word in Aramaic meant "unclean." This was an attempt to explain the name Bartimaeus to a Gentile readership.

"was sitting by the road" This was probably where the blind beggar sat every day hoping for alms (i.e., required Jewish offerings to the poor).

10:47 "Jesus the Nazarene" Mark uniquely spells out the title as Nazarēnos (cf. Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6). Matthew's Gospel says "He shall be called a Nazarene" (cf. Matt. 2:23).

The village where Jesus grew up was called Nazareth. It is not mentioned in the OT, the Talmud, or in Josephus. It apparently was not settled until the time of John Hyrcanus (i.e., a Hasmonaen), who ruled from 134-104 b.c. The presence of Joseph and Mary from this village implies that a clan of David's line settled here.

There may be an etymological connection between the name Nazareth and the Messianic title Branch, which is netser in Hebrew (cf. Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Rev. 5:5; 22:16).

It was apparently a term of reproach because of its location far from Jerusalem in a Gentile area (cf. John 1:46 and Acts 24:5; even though this, too, was a prophecy, Isa. 9:1). This may be why it was included in the charge placed over Jesus' head on the cross.


▣ "'Son of David'" This was a Messianic title (cf. 2 Sam. 7), which had nationalistic implications. This title is very rare in Mark (cf. Mark 10:47,48; 12:35).

▣ "'have mercy on me'" This is an aorist active imperative, which denotes intensity. It was a common prayer in the Psalms (cf. Mark 51:1).

10:48 "Many were sternly telling him" This is imperfect tense. He was crying again and again and some in the crowd were scolding him again and again (cf. Luke 18:39).

10:49 "Jesus stopped" Even on His way to die, Jesus had time for a blind beggar! This is yet another prophetic sign from Isaiah for those who would spiritually see!

▣ "'Take courage, stand up. He is calling for you'" Usually in Koine Greek every phrase is connected with the previous phrase by a conjunction or a pronoun that refers to something in the previous context. When these connectors are absent (as they are here) they draw attention to the statements. These are emphatic, staccato statements. The first and second are present active imperatives and the last a present active indicative.

10:50 "Throwing aside his cloak" This cloak was used for (1) sleeping in and (2) collecting food and alms. In a sense this was a symbol of his faith that he would be healed.

▣ "he jumped up" These are graphic eye-witness details remembered by Peter.

10:51 "'What do you want Me to do for you'" Jesus was forcing him to state his faith request.

▣ "'I want to regain my sight'" Healing the blind had Messianic significance (cf. Isa. 35:4-5; 42:7,16; 61:1). This was one of the proof-signs the Pharisees had been asking for.

10:52 "'your faith has made you well'" This is literally "saved" (i.e., sōzō) in a perfect active indicative form. This term is used in its OT connotation of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15).

▣ "began following Him" Luke 18:45 adds, "glorifying God."


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did the parents want Jesus to lay hands on their children?

2. Why did the disciples try to stop them?

3. Why was Jesus so indignant towards them?

4. How are children related to the Kingdom of God?

5. What qualities of a child does Jesus seek in disciples?

6. Why did Jesus tell His disciples so often about His approaching death?

7. Define true greatness.



Mark 11


The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem The Triumphal Entry Palm Sunday The Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem The Messiah Enters Jerusalem
11:1-11 11:1-11 11:1-10 11:1-3 11:1-11
    11:11 11:11  
The Cursing of the Fig Tree The Fig Tree Withered Fig Tree Cursed Jesus Curses the Fig Tree The Barren Fig Tree
11:12-14 11:12-14 11:12-14 11:12-14a 11:12-14
The Cleansing of the Temple Jesus Cleanses the Temple Cleansing the Temple Jesus Goes to the Temple The Expulsion of the Dealers from the Temple
11:15-19 11:15-19 11:15-19 11:15-17 11:15-19
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree The Meaning of the Withered Fig Tree The Lesson from the Fig Tree The Fig Tree Withered Faith and Prayer
11:20-25 11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20-21 11:20-25
  Forgiveness and Prayer   11:22-25  
  11:25-26 11:25    
omits Mark 11:26   omits Mark 11:26 omits Mark 11:26 omits Mark 11:26
The Authority of Jesus Questioned Jesus' Authority Questioned On Jesus' Authority The Question About Jesus' Authority The Authority of Jesus is Questioned
11:27-33 11:27-33 11:27-33 11:27-28 11:27-33

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. The Triumphal Entry was a significant prophetic sign; Jesus was proclaimed as the promised Messiah. It is paralleled in Matt. 21:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19.


B. There is a paradoxical aspect to the Triumphal Entry. Jesus was obviously fulfilling the prediction of Zech. 9:9 and the shouts (i.e., liturgy from the Psalms) of the crowd were an affirmation of His Messiahship. However, it must be remembered that these Hallel Psalms were used to welcome the pilgrims every year as they came for the Passover. The fact that they were applying them to a particular person was the uniqueness of this event. This is clearly seen in the consternation of the religious leaders.


C. The cleansing of the Temple recorded in Mark 11:15-19 was apparently the second cleansing by Jesus. The first one is recorded in John 2:15. I do not accept the tenets of literary criticism that telescope these two events into one. Although there is a problem in unifying the chronology of the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, it still seems best to me, because of the differences between the two accounts, to hold to two cleansings, one early in His ministry and one near the end. This could also explain the early and growing animosity of the religious leaders of Jerusalem. This cleansing is paralleled in Matt. 21:12-16 and Luke 19:45-47.


D. The cursing of the fig tree is an obvious reference to Judaism. It is paralleled in Matt. 21:18-19 and Luke 19:45-48.


E. The withered fig tree (Mark 11:20-25) is paralleled in Matt. 21:19-22 and Luke 21:37-38.


F. Jesus' authority is questioned (Mark 11:27-12:12). His authority is the key theological issue! It is paralleled in Matt. 21:23-46 and Luke 20:1-19.



 1 As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 2and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' you say, 'The Lord has need of it'; and immediately he will send it back here." 4They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5Some of the bystanders were saying to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" 6They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. 7They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. 8And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!"

11:1 "Bethphage" The name means "house of figs" or "place of unripe figs." It was located on the ridge overlooking Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives. In rabbinical literature it is a suburb of Jerusalem. It was close to the major road from Jericho, which the pilgrims used.

▣ "Bethany" The name means "house of dates." John 11:18 says it is two miles southeast of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho and it was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. During the three major annual feast days (cf. Lev. 23) everyone around Jerusalem shared their homes with pilgrims. Jesus stayed here when He was in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 11:11; Matt. 21:17).

▣ "near the Mount of Olives" These two small villages were located on the same ridge (about 2.5 miles long) that is known as "the Mount of Olives."

▣ "He sent two of His disciples" Possibly Peter was one of them and recalled this event to John Mark.

11:2 "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "colt" This incident is prophetic fulfillment (cf. Gen. 49:11; Zech. 9:9). Donkeys were the common mounts of Jewish kings (this is also mentioned in the Mari Tablets and the Sumerian Gilgamesh Epic). This young donkey would fulfill the kingly prophecies (only the king rode on his donkey, this young donkey had never been ridden), but would also communicate that He came in peace. At the Second Coming the Lord will appear on a white charger as King of Kings and Judge of the universe (cf. Rev. 19:11-16). The rabbis recognized these Messianic prophesies and said if Israel was worthy, even for one day, that the Messiah would come on the clouds of glory, but if not, He would still come one day on a donkey.

▣ "'no one yet has ever sat'" The royal donkey was ridden by no one but the king. An example of this powerful symbol is seen when Solomon rides David's donkey (cf. 1 Kgs. 1:33).

11:3 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which speaks of potential action.

▣ "'The Lord has need of it'" It is often hard to determine in the Gospel accounts whether Jesus is using His prophetic insight or has personally prearranged some events (cf. Mark 14:12-16).

This is a rare use in Mark of kurios as a title applied to Jesus (cf. Mark 7:28; 11:3). Since the word can mean "master" or "owner," it may refer to the owner of the colt. However, the context implies it refers to Jesus. The theological significance would be that this is the OT way of referring to YHWH (cf. Mark 11:9) by the name Adon, which means "owner," "master," "lord," or "husband" in Hebrew.

"and immediately he will send it back here" It is uncertain whether this is a comment by the disciples about the colt or part of Jesus' message. There are several Greek manuscript variants because of the ambiguity of the phrase.

11:5 "Some of the bystanders" The parallel in Luke 19:33 has "owners."

11:7 "put their coats on it" The coats functioned as a cushion or riding blanket. Their colors may have given a festive or parade look (i.e., royal procession).

11:8 "many spread their coats in the road" Who does the "many" refer to? If to the disciples, then this is a gesture of Jesus' kingship (cf. 2 Kgs. 9:13). If to the townspeople of Jerusalem one is surprised that they did this every year because of the damage caused by a donkey walking on clothing on a hard road. Possibly they had heard of Jesus and recognized His uniqueness.

▣ "others spread leafy branches" John 12:13 states that they were palm branches which grew on the Mount of Olives (cf. Josephus). Apparently they were a sign of victory or triumph (cf. Rev. 7:9). This ritual was performed each year by the residents of Jerusalem at the feasts of Tabernacles and Passover for the bands of pilgrims approaching the city. This year the significance of the approaching King was fulfilled.

Although this symbolic act was regularly done during the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Lev. 23:13-20), those branches were much larger than these. The branches used here were smaller and are comparable to the modern custom of spreading rose petals before a bride as she walks down the aisle. These three acts—(1) the coats on the animals, (2) the coats spread in the road, and (3) the branches spread in the road—show that they were honoring Jesus as the coming royal (cf. Psalm 2), Davidic (cf. 2 Samuel 7) Messiah.

11:9 "Those. . .shouting" Apparently the liturgy of Mark 11:9-10 was part of the annual festivals. They had significant nationalistic implications (i.e., this may have been an Aramaic idiom for "royal power to"). However, since they were repeated every year, the Romans were not threatened by them. This year they uniquely found fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. What had been liturgy was now revelation!

"'Hosanna'" The Hebrew idiom means "welcome Him." It was part of the Hallel Psalm 118:25, which was quoted every year as the pilgrims came to Jerusalem. It literally meant "save now" (cf. 2 Sam. 14:4; 2 Kgs. 6:16), but had become a standard greeting.

▣ "'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord'" This is a quote from Ps. 118:26. This was one of the Hallel Psalms (113-118) quoted at the Feast of Passover. Psalm 118 had powerful Messianic implications (cf. Mark 11:22). The parallel in Luke 19:38 has "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord." This annual ritual liturgy has become fulfilled prophecy!

11:10 "'the coming kingdom of our father David'" This has nationalistic implications (cf. 2 Samuel 7; Hos. 3:5). One wonders whether this was a regular litany every year or was added to specifically refer to Jesus. This may have been a reference to Zech. 9:9. Matthew 21:5 states this prophecy directly. The parallel in Luke 19:39 shows the intense anger of the Pharisees when these phrases were directly attributed to Jesus.

"'Hosanna in the highest'" This idiom could mean (1) praise to God in heaven or (2) may the God in heaven save Him (i.e., Jesus).

 11Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

11:11 "the temple" This word (hieron) meant the whole temple area, not just the central shrine (Holy of Holies and Holy Place).

▣ "it was already late" They had already walked 18 miles from Jericho. The temple area may have already been almost empty. Jesus wanted all to see His symbolic act of cleansing and restoration of the temple to its original God-given purpose.

 12On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening.

11:12 Jesus used a common need (i.e., food) as an opportunity to teach a powerful lesson of judgment and rejection.

11:13 "a fig tree" Remember the name of the city of Bethphage means "house of figs." There were obviously many of these fruit trees in the area.

▣ "in leaf" There has been much discussion among commentators about this fig tree and why Jesus came to it.

1. it was in a sheltered place and had leaves early, so perhaps it might also have small figs

2. the leaves show promise, but no fulfillment, just as Israel did

3. Jesus was not looking for the figs, but the precursor "knobs" that are also sometimes eaten (cf. F. E. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 56 or Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 441-442).

I think it was a symbolic act of judgment (cf. Luke 13:6-9), like the cleansing of the Temple, of the Judaism of Jesus' day, headquartered in Jerusalem. It foreshadowed the destruction in a.d. 70 by the Roman general (later Emperor) Titus and the eschatological judgment because of their unbelief in Jesus (cf. v.14).

▣ "it was not the season for figs" It was the Passover season and usually not even full leaves had appeared yet. This phrase shows the symbolic nature of the event. Notice also Jesus spoke out loud so the disciples could hear. Israel was often symbolized by fig trees (however, usually grape vines, cf. Jer. 29:17; Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7; Mic. 7:1-6). The fact that the tree had many leaves showed that it should have produced fruit. Israel did not! This account of the fig tree is split into two sections with the cleansing of the temple placed between to signify that it refers to the judgment of God on the first century Jewish religious system and its leaders (as did the cleansing of the temple). It is uncertain whether all Israel or only the illegal leaders (i.e., those Sadducees who had purchased the office from the Romans) were so condemned. This judgment on Israel is emphasized in Luke 13:6-9 and Mark 12:1-12.

11:14 This is a strong permanent judgment!


 15Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a robbers' den." 18The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.

11:15 "entered the temple" This refers specifically to the court of the Gentiles where the merchants had their booths (those booths were owned by the family of the High Priests). John's Gospel records an earlier cleansing (cf. John 2:13ff). Jesus was not always the mild-mannered man we think!

This act challenged the Sadducees' authority as the pilgrims' acts and words at the triumphant entry challenged the Pharisees. These acts doomed Jesus to death (cf. Mark 11:18).

"began to drive out those who were buying and selling" This may be an allusion to Zech. 14:21, "there will no longer be a Canaanite (i.e., merchant) in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day."

"those who were buying and selling" These merchants represented the High Priest's family, who had purchased both the priesthood and the concession rights from Rome (i.e., at least from a.d. 30 on. I think Jesus was crucified in a.d. 34).

▣ "the money changers" The temple tax was ½ shekel (cf. Exod. 30:13). In Jesus' day the only shekel was a Tyrian shekel. The pilgrims were charged 1/24 of a shekel to exchange their currency.

▣ "those who were selling doves" A dove was the sacrifice for the poor, lepers, and women. The normal price was tripled at these booths. Even when the pilgrims brought their own sacrificial animals from home, the priest would regularly find some fault in them and demand that they purchase another animal.

11:16 "would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple" This phrase is unique to Mark. The Court of the Gentiles had become a shortcut between the city and the Mount of Olives. It had lost its distinctive religious purpose as a place for the nations to come to YHWH.

11:17 "'my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'" This is a quote from Isa. 56:7. It shows the universal love of God. Matthew, writing to Jews, leaves off this last phrase.

▣ "'it a robbers' den'" This is a quote from Jeremiah's famous temple sermon that dealt with faithless ritual and religious superstition (cf. Jer. 7:11). In the name of religion, larger profits were being made at the expense of a place of quietness and prayer for the Gentiles. The term "robbers" can mean "insurrectionists."

11:18 "The chief priests and the scribes" Wealthy families controlled the office of High Priest. This was no longer a family position related to Aaron, but an office sold by the Romans to the highest bidder.

▣ "scribes" This category of leaders began with Ezra. In Jesus' day most of them were Pharisees. They interpreted the practical aspects of the Law for the common person, especially from the Oral Tradition (i.e., Talmud). This group is similar in function to the modern rabbi. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

▣ "began seeking how to destroy Him" This is an imperfect tense. It could mean "began" (cf. NASB, TEV), but it could also imply that they sought over and over again from this point on to kill Jesus (cf. NRSV).

All the verbs in Mark 11:18 are imperfects, referring to actions started and continued through this last week of Jesus' life. Recurrent patterns begin to emerge. The Triumphal Entry and the cleansing of the temple sealed Jesus' doom, as He knew it would.

 19When evening came, they would go out of the city.

11:19 This verse should probably go with the paragraph Mark 11:15-18. This is another eyewitness detail of Peter. This little phrase is recorded differently in several Greek manuscripts (some have the plural and some have the singular).

 20As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21Being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." 22And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. 23Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."]

11:20 "As they were passing by" They took the same route from Bethany to Jerusalem.

▣ "withered from the roots up" This was the sign of total rejection of Israel (cf. Mark 12:1-12), or at least her current leaders.

11:21 "Being reminded, Peter said" Peter vividly remembers!

11:22 "Jesus answered saying to them" Peter again acted as the spokesman for what all of the disciples were thinking.

▣ "'Have faith in God'" This is a present active imperative. This is a common theme in the Gospel. Faith/trust/belief (i.e., noun, pistis; verb, pisteuō; see Special Topic at Mark 1:15) in YHWH (and His Messiah) is fallen mankind's only hope. This current world system and its power structures must not attract our attention and concern. God is with us and for us. Look to Him, only to Him!

This symbolic act of judgment and rejection affected their entire traditional belief system. We can only imagine how radical Jesus' new teachings and perspectives were to these traditional first century Jewish men! Jesus powerfully and obviously rejected the Temple (as it was functioning) and the leadership, both Sadducees and Pharisees (both liberal, Hillel, and conservative, Shammai).

There is a Greek manuscript variant which adds the Greek conditional particle ei (i.e., "if") in MSS א and D. This would make it a first class conditional sentence. However, its presence could be a Hebraic idiom denoting a direct quote. It is not included in MSS A, B, C, L, or W, nor in any of the English translations used in this commentary. It probably came from scribes wanting to make it exactly like Luke 17:6 or even Matt. 21:21 (which has ean instead of Luke's ei).

11:23 "Truly" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

▣ "'to this mountain'" This was (1) possibly a literal reference to the Mount of Olives (cf. Zech. 14:4) or (2) a figure of speech as in Zech. 4:7. This phrase was a common rabbinical metaphor for removing difficulties.

In the OT this type of "leveling" language was often used to describe YHWH's coming (cf. Mic. 1:3-4; Hab. 3:6). He would be available to all the earth because the mountains would be leveled (cf. Zech. 14:4) and the valleys filled up and the rivers and seas dried up, so that all may approach Him in Jerusalem. This metaphorical nature language is replaced in the NT by needy people coming to Jesus, not Jerusalem. In the NT "Jerusalem" in Palestine becomes "new Jerusalem," the holy city coming down out of heaven. The NT has universalized the OT prophecies related to geographical Jerusalem and Palestine.

▣ "'into the sea'" This is possibly a reference to the Dead Sea, which is visible from the Mount of Olives.

▣ "'does not doubt'" Faith is a key factor in prayer (cf. James 1:6-8).

"heart" See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

11:23-24 "they will be granted him" This statement must be balanced with other biblical statements about prayer. This is a good example of why we should not proof-text one verse and say "the Bible says it, that settles it." The Bible says a lot more about prayer. The worst thing God could do to most Christians is answer their prayers! Usually we pray for all the wrong things. Please read and contemplate the Special Topic below on "Effective Prayer."


11:24 "'that you have received them'" There is a manuscript variant related to the tense of the verb lambanō. The aorist, which reflects a Hebrew idiom of an expected fulfillment, is found in MSS א, B, C, L, and W. Apparently this was altered by scribes (1) to the future tense to match Matt. 21:22 (cf. MS D and the Vulgate) or (2) to the present tense (cf. MS A and the Armenian translation).

11:25 "'Whenever you stand praying'" The normal posture for prayer was standing with the eyes open and the head and arms lifted upward. They prayed as if in dialogue with God.

▣ "'forgive, if you have anything against anyone'" Our forgiveness of others is the evidence, not the basis, of our forgiveness (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2; 18:21-35; Luke 6:36-37; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; James 2:13; 5:9). The unforgiving person has never met God!

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence. Believers often hold grudges. Knowing God in Christ must change these attitudes. We are forgiven so much how can we treat others made in God's image with contempt and settled animosity?

"'your Father who is in heaven'" Jesus spoke Aramaic, which means that many of the places where "Father" appears as the Greek, Pater, it may reflect the Aramaic Abba (cf. Mark 14:36). This familial term "Daddy" or "Papa" reflects Jesus' intimacy with the Father; His revealing this to His followers also encourages our own intimacy with the Father. The term "Father" was used only in the OT for YHWH, but Jesus uses it often and pervasively. It is a major revelation of our new relationship with God through Christ.

11:26 This verse is absent in the Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L, and W. It is included with several variations in MSS A, D, K, X, and the Peshitta translation and the Diatessaron (i.e., the four Gospels merged into one). It seems that an ancient scribe added this phrase from Matt. 6:15.

 27They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28and began saying to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?" 29And Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me." 31They began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' 32But shall we say, 'From men'?"— they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33Answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

11:27 "They came again to Jerusalem" This seems to imply they left Jerusalem and spent the nights back in Bethany, possibly with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.

▣ "walking in the temple" Can you imagine how the merchants were watching Him! Jesus did not hide from or avoid confrontation. This was His moment of impact on Jerusalem.

▣ "the chief priests and the scribes and the elders" This is the full designation for the Sanhedrin. This was an official ruling body of seventy members in Jerusalem, which developed out of the Great Synagogue of Ezra's day. It was made up of the High Priest and his family, local scribes, and wealthy, influential elders from the Jerusalem area. See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

11:28 "'By what authority are You doing these things'" This has been and is the crucial question about Jesus. Where did He get His power and authority to speak and act? Jesus did not fit their expected mold of what YHWH's Messiah would do and say!

11:29 Jesus often used this second-question technique when dealing with those who tried to trick or trap Him (cf. Mark 2:6-9,19,25-26; 3:23-24; 10:3,37-39; 12:14-16). He would be open with them if they would be open to Him (cf. Mark 11:33).

11:30 "'Was the baptism of John from heaven'" Jesus answered their question with a question that dealt with their rejection of John the Baptist. They were not really seeking truth (cf. Mark 11:31-33). They were more concerned with their reputations and maintaining power (cf. Mark 11:32).

11:31 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

11:33 Jesus answers them by the parable in Mark 12:1-12, which is one of the most severe condemnations of Israel and her leaders in the entire NT.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What does this chapter reveal about Jesus?

2. Why did Jesus accept the title "Son of David?"

3. How is faith related to healing?

4. Why is the Triumphal Entry so important?

5. What did the shouts of the crowd mean?

6. Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

7. Why did Jesus drive out the merchants? Was it the first time?

8. Why didn't the Temple police stop Him?

9. Can we ask God for anything? How is our faith related to answered prayer?

10. Why is Mark 11:28 such a crucial question?



Mark 12


The Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants The Parable of the Wicked Vine Dressers Parable of the Vineyard The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard Parable of the Wicked Tenants
12:1-11 12:1-12 12:1-11 12:1-8 12:1-11
12:12   12:12 12:12 12:12
Paying Taxes to Caesar The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar? Paying Taxes to Caesar The Question About Paying Taxes On Tribute to Caesar
12:13-17 12:13-17 12:13-17 12:13-14 12:13-17
The Question About the Resurrection The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection? Questions About the Resurrection The Question About Rising from Death The Resurrection of the Dead
12:18-27 12:18-27 12:18-23 12:18-23 12:18-23
    12:24-27 12:24-27 12:24-27
The Great Commandment The Scribes: Which is the First Commandment of All? The Great Commandment The Great Commandment The Greatest Commandment of All
12:28-34 12:28-34 12:28-34 12:28 12:28-34
The Question About David's Son Jesus: How Can David Call His Descendant Lord? David's Son The Question About the Messiah Jesus Not Only Son but Also Lord of David
12:35-37 12:35-37 12:35-37 12:35-37a 12:35-37
The Denouncing of the Scribes Beware of the Scribes Sayings On Pride and Humility Jesus Warns Against the Teachers of the Law The Scribes Condemned by Jesus
12:38-40 12:38-40 12:38-40   12:38-40
The Widow's Offering The Widow's Two Mites The Widow's Offering The Widow's Offering The Widow's Mite
12:41-44 12:41-44 12:41-44 12:41-44 12:41-44

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Representatives of the Sanhedrin ask questions (cf. Mark 11:27-12:12) and Jesus responds by a parable (Mark 12:1-12). This is paralleled in Matt. 21:33-46 and Luke 20:1-19.


B. The Pharisees and the Herodians ask about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26.


C. The Sadducees ask a question about the resurrection (Mark 12:18-27), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-40.


D. A scribe asks about the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:34-40.


E. Jesus asks the Jewish leadership a question about the Messiah's relationship to David (Mark 12:35-37), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:41-46 and Luke 20:41-44.


F. Jesus denounces the scribes (Mark 12:38-40) and it is paralleled in Matt. 23:1-39 and Luke 20:45-47.


G. The widow's sacrificial offering (Mark 12:41-44) is paralleled in Luke 21:1-4.



 1And He began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 2At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 3They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. 6He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7But those vine-growers said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!' 8They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not even read this Scripture: 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; 11This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

12:1 "to speak to them in parables" "Them" refers directly to the representatives from the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 11:27), but indirectly to the large crowd.

This whole chapter is a series of questions from the religious leaders:

1. from the Sanhedrin (Mark 11:27-12:12)

2. from the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13-17)

3. from the Sadducees (Mark 12:18-27)

4. from a scribe (Mark 12:28-34)

5. from Jesus (Mark 11:29-33; 12:9,35-37)


"'planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower'" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 5:1-2. The grapevine was one of the symbols for the nation of Israel (as was the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14,20-25). Isaiah 5 uses a vineyard folk song to address Israel. Matthew includes several other parables that also address the nation of Israel (cf. Matt. 22:1-14). It is hard to determine whether God rejected

1. Israel's illegal, non-Aaronicc leaders

2. her self-righteous, judgmental legalism

3. the unbelief of the nation as a whole. Israel, with all her covenantal privileges (cf. Rom. 9:4-5), was also held responsible for the Mosaic covenant responsibilities (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28)

It is striking how different Isaiah 5's procedure in describing God's free and available love for all who would come is compared to the stringency and violence of these tenant farmers in this parable.

12:2 "'At the harvest time'" Usually it took at least five years for grapevines to begin to produce at commercial levels. The owner expected to participate in his investment.

12:2,4,5,6 "'sent'" God attempted to communicate by sending several representatives, even His own son. This represents the longsuffering of God and His desire to establish a covenantal relationship.

12:2,4,5 "'a slave'" These slaves represent the OT prophets. Matthew, as is characteristic, has two slaves (cf. Matt. 21:34). This text clearly shows how Matthew combines Mark's account of several slaves one at a time into one occurrence.

12:3 "'beat'" This refers to a severe beating. It literally means "to skin" or "to flay" (cf. Mark 13:9).

12:4 "'wounded him in the head'" This refers to being repeatedly struck on the head. It shows the abuse suffered by those who represented God and spoke for Him (i.e., the OT prophets) to His rebellious covenant people.

▣ "'and treated him shamefully'" This is a verbal form of the name Timothy, which means "honor" or "worth" with the alpha privative. It connotes "to treat with contempt" or "total disrespect" (cf. James 2:6).

12:5 Why did God send servant after servant? God created humanity for a purpose—fellowship with Himself. He wants to establish a people like Himself, but they/we will not. Yet, God tries again and again to reach us! He has a "love that will not let go" for His creation.

12:6 "'He had one more to send, a beloved son'" This obviously refers to Jesus. This same phrase is used by the Father at Jesus' baptism (Matt. 1:11; 3:17) and transfiguration (9:7; Matt. 17:5). This same truth is seen in John 3:16 and Heb. 1:1-2. It is a combination of a Royal Psalm (i.e., 2:7) and a Suffering Servant passage (i.e., Isa. 42:1).

12:7 "'and the inheritance will be ours'" This refers legally to the Jewish law of "ownerless property" that could be claimed by right of possession. It reflects mankind's fallen attitude of "more and more for me at any cost." Humanity wants to be its own god (cf. Genesis 3).

12:8 "'threw him out of the vineyard'" Improper burial shows the tenant's complete contempt for the owner and his son!

The Gospel parallels describe the sequence as they threw the son out of the vineyard and then killed him (cf. Matt. 21:39; Luke 19:15). This was probably to identify further with Jesus' death outside of the city walls of Jerusalem.

12:9 This verse shows God's response toward those who killed His only Son. In Mark's Gospel Jesus asks the crowd a question. This reflects Isa. 5:3-4, where the prophet asks a question. The hearers are condemned out of their own mouths (i.e., Matt. 21:41). God will hold all conscious creation accountable for the gift of life. We will reap what we sow (cf. Mark 4:21-25; Matt. 13:12; 25:14-30; Gal. 6:7).

▣ "will give the vineyard to others" The "others" seems to refer to the church, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

12:10 "'Have you not even read this Scripture'" This is Jesus' introduction to a verse that was used every year in their processionals welcoming pilgrims into Jerusalem (i.e., Ps. 118:22-23). This question is a recurrent theme in the NT (cf. Matt.21:42; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Pet. 2:7). It explains the problem of how Israel could miss her Messiah (cf. Rom. 9-11). This statement was a slap in the face to the very ones who claimed to know the Scriptures!

▣ "stone" This is a quote of Ps. 118:22-23 from the Septuagint. In rabbinical writings, this stone referred to Abraham, David, or the Messiah (cf. Dan. 2:34-35). This same Psalm was quoted as part of the Hallel Psalms, used to welcome the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover.

▣ "builders" In rabbinic writing this term referred to the scribes. The comments Jesus added are recorded in Matt. 21:43-44. Notice here the builders are condemned for missing the most important truth: Jesus is the promised Messiah.

"'the chief corner stone'" The metaphor of the Messiah as a stone comes from several OT usages.

1. YHWH's strength and stability (cf. Ps. 18:1-2)

2. Daniel's vision in chapter 2 (cf. Dan. 2:34-35,48)

3. the building component which either

a. starts the building (i.e., cornerstone)

b. holds the weight of the building (i.e., center stone or keystone in the arch)

c. finishes the building (i.e., top stone or cap stone)

The building refers metaphorically to the people of God, the true temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22).


12:11 This verse implies that everything which occurred in the rejection and death of Jesus was foreknown and prophesied (cf. Isa. 53:10; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 1 Pet. 1:20).

 12And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

12:12 "they were seeking to seize Him" The Jewish leaders understood the parable was referring to them and they acted in the predicted way (i.e., tried to kill Him).

"they feared the people" These leaders looked to current opinions (cf. Mark 11:18,32; Matt. 21:26,46; Luke 19:48) rather than to God's Word in order to decide their actions.

▣ "they understood that He spoke the parable against them" This pronoun "they" can be understood in one of two ways: (1) the leaders were afraid of Jesus' popularity with the crowd (cf. Matt. 21:45) or (2) the crowd also understood that the parable was addressed to the religious leaders.

 13Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14They came and said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15Shall we pay or shall we not pay?" But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at." 16They brought one. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" And they said to Him, "Caesar's." 17And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him.

12:13 "they sent" This refers to the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish religious authority (cf. Mark 11:27).


▣ "Pharisees" This was the religious group that developed during the Maccabean period. They were very committed to the Oral Traditions (i.e., Talmud). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES at Mark 2:16.

▣ "Herodians" This was a political group that supported the reign of the Idumean Herods. They were also in favor of the Roman status quo. Normally Pharisees and Herodians were enemies. The fact that they were cooperating shows how serious they perceived Jesus' teachings to be. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HERODIANS at Mark 1:14.

▣ "in order to trap Him" This is literally "to catch." It was used of capturing wild animals. It had become a metaphor for acquiring information so as to show a fault or error (cf. Luke 11:54). They thought that by asking Him this question they had Him trapped between two opposing groups: the Roman authorities and the people.

12:14 "'Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for you are not partial, but teach the way of God in truth'" These leaders were flattering Jesus in order to find fault, but in reality, they were speaking correctly about Him. Jesus handled truth exactly like YHWH handles truth. This is supreme irony! Their tricky statements were in reality the greatest compliment.

"'You are not partial'" The literal Hebrew idiom is "for You do not look at the face of men." This historically referred to the Judges of Israel. When they tried a case, the defendants kept their heads bowed so that their identity could not be seen. If a judge put his hand under the chin and lifted the face so as to see the person's identity, the chances for bias increased. Therefore, justice was to be blind!

"'Is it lawful to pay'" This is a legal question related to the Mosaic legislation, but also relating to Israel's current domination by Rome. This is the type of question that scribes dealt with daily. There were two ways to answer the question, one based on the Mosaic texts and one related to the reality of Roman law and occupation. These leaders wanted legal grounds to bring the Roman government into their religious dilemma (cf. Luke 20:20). By answering "yes" He would offend the zealots; by answering "no" He would be arrested by the Roman government.

▣ "poll-tax" This was a transliteration of the Latin term "census." It was a head tax which Rome placed on all conquered peoples. This empire-wide tax (i.e., a.d. 6-20) on males fourteen years through sixty-five years and on women twelve to sixty-five, who lived in imperial provinces went directly to the Emperor. It was the reason why Joseph had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem with the pregnant Mary (cf. Luke 2:1-6).

12:15 "He, knowing their hypocrisy. . .why are you testing Me" The term hypocrisy (hupokrisis) originally referred to actors playing a part behind a mask. They pretended to be someone they were not (cf. Matt. 23:28; Luke 12:1; 20:20; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 2:1). It came to be used of manipulative people who tried to trick others into thinking that which was untrue. Everything these leaders said (ironically) to Jesus in Mark 12:14 was contradicted in their actions of Mark 12:15. The term testing (peirazō) had the added connotation of testing with a view towards destruction or failure. See Special Topic: Terms for Testing at Mark 1:13.

▣ "a denarius" This silver coin was the only way this tax could be paid. It was a day's wage for a common laborer or soldier. It was a symbol of Rome's control. See Special Topic at Mark 12:42.

12:16 "'Whose likeness and inscription is this'" Tiberius (a.d. 14-37) was the current Emperor. On this coin was a claim of the deity of the Emperor. On the front of the coin it said "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus." On the back of the coin was a picture of Tiberius seated on a throne and the inscription "Highest Priest."

12:17 "'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's'" Believers are to obey civil authority because God has ordained it (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). The Greek term "render" may imply "give back to someone that which belongs to him."

▣ "'and to God the things that are God's'" Although the state has divine sanction, it does not have divine status. If the state claims ultimate authority, this is to be rejected by the followers of the one true God. Many have tried to promote and support the modern political doctrine of the separation of church and state from this verse. In a very limited sense this verse does address the issue, but it is surely not a Scriptural support for this modern political theory. This theory is a truth seen from history, not primarily from Scripture.

 18Some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Jesus, and began questioning Him, saying, 19"Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves behind a wife and leaves no child, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. 20There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died leaving no children. 21The second one married her, and died leaving behind no children; and the third likewise; 22and so all seven left no children. Last of all the woman died also. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her." 24Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken."

12:18 "Sadducees" This was an aristocratic, priestly sect of Judaism that controlled the High Priesthood and the Sanhedrin. They were the wealthy, politically powerful "in" group. They were very conservative and accepted only the writings of Moses (i.e., Genesis through Deuteronomy) as authoritative (i.e., rejected the Oral Tradition).


12:19 "'Moses wrote for us'" This is referring to Moses' discussion of Levirate marriage found in Deut. 25:5-10.

"'that if a man's brother dies'" This Jewish law came to be known by "Levirate marriage." The term was from Latin for "a husband's brother." Inheritance rights were very important in Israel because God had given the Promised Land to the tribes by lot (cf. Joshua 12-19). Therefore, if a man died with no male heir, his brother was expected to marry the widow and father a child by the widow; the child then became the heir of all of the dead brother's property.

12:23 Here is the purpose of the question, to ridicule the concept of a bodily resurrection in a physical afterlife.

12:24 Jesus' withering question focuses on the Sadducees' lack of understanding of both the Scriptures and God. Its grammatical form expects a "yes" answer.

12:25 "'but are like angels in heaven'" This brief reference has caused much speculation. Angels in the OT are usually masculine (except for Zech. 5:9). Does this brief comment of Jesus refer to their sexuality or sexual unions? How does this affect one's understanding of Gen. 6:1-2? Maybe we are trying to infer too much theology from this Sadducean encounter. Heaven is an entirely different relational experience than earth. Exactly how this new interpersonal, eternal, spiritual realm functions is uncertain. The Bible has chosen not to reveal much information about the afterlife. The Sadducees took this lack of information as an excuse to deny the reality of the afterlife. It is better to affirm the reality based on the promises of God and Christ, but be willing to remain uninformed until death. The Bible provides all that believers need to know!

  Jesus asserted that there is no sexual aspect (i.e., procreation) to existence in heaven. There are many questions one would like to ask about this, but no further clarification is given in the NT. It may simply refer to the fact that angels are created by God and not by sexual procreation.

12:25-26 "'angels. . .But regarding the fact that the dead rise again'" The Sadducees denied both the existence of angels and the resurrection. The Pharisees affirmed both.

12:26 "'But regarding the fact that the dead rise again'" There are several texts in the OT that affirm this truth (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Ps. 23:6; Isa. 25:6-9; 26:14-19; Dan. 12:2). Yet the afterlife in the OT is a veiled reality. The progressive revelation of the NT clarifies and defines the reality, but still in veiled, metaphorical language. Heaven is a sure promise and truth, but its exact nature is a mystery.

▣ "'in the book of Moses'" Jesus asserts that Moses is the source of Deuteronomy. This question also expects a "yes" answer.


▣ "'I am the God of Abraham'" This reference to Exod. 3:2-6 is a play on the tense of the Hebrew verb "to be." A form of this verb (i.e., causative) becomes the covenant name for the God of Israel, YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14). The title implies that God is the ever-living, only-living One. Because He lives, His people live also (cf. Mark 12:27; Ps. 103:15-17; Isa. 40:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:24-25). Notice that Jesus affirms the reality of the afterlife from the writings of Moses, which was the only section of the Hebrew canon that these Sadducees accepted as authoritative for doctrine.

 28One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" 29Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no other commandment greater than these." 32The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.

12:28 "scribes" These were usually non-priestly (i.e., not Levite), who became scholars in the Oral Traditions (i.e., the Talmud) of the Jews. In the OT local Levites interpreted the sacred writings to the people (cf. Neh. 8). As the local synagogue developed in Babylonian exile, the role of local teachers and interpreters grew in significance. By Jesus' day most of these scribes were Pharisees. They developed historically (i.e., after the destruction of the Temple) into rabbinical Judaism. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

▣ "heard them arguing" The parallel in Matt. 22:34-35 seems to imply ulterior motives, but Mark's Gospel implies he was truly interested in the theological question.

12:29 "'hear'" Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:4-5, but not from the Masoretic Text or the Septuagint (the parallel in Matt. 22:37 is closer to the MT, but not exact). Jesus' quote adds a phrase to both the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Septuagint Greek text. This exact quote is unknown from any OT text. The LXX changes the Hebrew "heart" to "mind" or "understanding." But this quote adds the phrase "with all your mind" to the three-fold phrasing (i.e., heart, soul, strength) in the MT and LXX. The NJB recognizes this by printing the phrase as not part of the OT quote (i.e., not in italics). It is interesting that the Greek uncial manuscript D (i.e., Bezae) from the fifth century omits the phrase "and with all your mind" entirely. This may reflect the original because its absence matches the scribes' response in Mark 12:33.

In the Matthew parallel (i.e., 22:32) Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Here the Hebrew clause "with all your strength" is left out. It is so surprising that Mark and Matthew disagree with each other and with both the MT and the LXX. This is a perfect example of the looseness of many of the OT quotes in the NT (even those attributed to Jesus). Here is where precision is impossible. They all (i.e., LXX, Matt. and Mark) reflect the general sense of the quote from Moses.

This OT text (i.e., Deut. 6:4-5) is called the Shema, which is the Hebrew word "hear." It means to hear so as to do. It has become the Jewish affirmation of monotheism. It is prayed daily by faithful Jews and on every Sabbath. There are other texts on the oneness and uniqueness of God in the Prophets, but this one is in the writings of Moses (i.e., Gen. ― Deut.) and is, therefore, binding on all of Jesus' listeners (i.e., Sadducees and Pharisees).

12:30 Jesus' answer shows that there are two aspects to God's primary commandment: (1) the unity and uniqueness of God and (2) our total commitment to Him and Him alone!

▣ "heart" See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

12:31 "'you shall love your neighbor'" This is a quote from Lev. 19:18 in the Septuagint. Jesus linked theological truth to practical, ethical demands (cf. Zechariah 7-8). It is impossible to love God and hate those made in His image (cf. 1 John 2:9-11; 3:15; 4:20).

It is impossible to love your neighbor (i.e., covenant brother or sister) as yourself if you do not love yourself. There is an appropriate self-love which is based on God's priority love for mankind. We are His creation, fashioned in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26,27). We must rejoice in our giftedness and accept our physical, mental, and psychological makeup (cf. Ps. 139). To criticize ourselves is to criticize our Maker! He can transform our fallenness into a reflection of His glory (i.e., Christlikeness).

Christianity involves a personal faith commitment to God through Christ. It starts as an individual volitional decision of repentance and faith. However, it issues in a family experience. We are gifted for the common good (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). We are part of the body of Christ. How we treat others reveals our true devotion to Christ. The oneness of God and mankind made in the image and likeness of God demands an appropriate response toward God and toward other humans (i.e., especially those of the household of faith).

"'There is no other commandment greater than these'" This statement is so hard for legalistic (i.e., weak; cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13) believers to accept. With a total love for God and covenant brothers (and even the lost) there are no rules. Rules are to flow from a changed heart and mind; they do not produce godliness!

12:32-33 "'He. . .Him'" These pronouns refer to YHWH. Because of Exod. 20:7, most Jews would have been uncomfortable pronouncing the Covenant name of God.

▣ "'there is no one else besides Him'" This phrase does not deny the existence of other spiritual beings such as angels. This literally meant that no one was before or beside YHWH. He is a unique category (cf. Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Deut. 4:35,39). This scribe is expressing YHWH's uniqueness!

12:33 "'love. . .is much more than all burnt offerings'" This scribe had great understanding about the relationship between faith and rituals (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11-14; Hos. 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). This is not to depreciate temple ritual, but to assert that proper motive and faith are crucial (i.e., joining the priestly and prophetic insights).

12:34 "'You are not far from the kingdom of God'" This statement was another way that Jesus asserted the centrality of a positive and immediate faith response to Himself. The kingdom was available then (i.e., through faith in Jesus), not somewhere in the future. Although this man understood OT theology, he was not right with God without placing his faith in Christ. Correct theology does not assure salvation! Knowledge of the Bible does not assure salvation! The performance of religious ritual and liturgy does not assure salvation! Faith in Christ does!

 35And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36David himself said in the Holy Spirit, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet." 37David himself calls Him 'Lord'; so in what sense is He his son?" And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.

12:35 "'How is it that'" This chapter records a series of questions

1. from the Sanhedrin (Mark 11:27-12:12)

2. from the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13-17)

3. from the Sadducees (Mark 12:18-27)

4. from a scribe (Mark 12:28-34)

5. from Jesus (Mark 11:29-33,35-37)

Now Jesus asks them a question as He did in Mark 11:29-30. This question-and-answer method is characteristic of rabbinical Judaism.

▣ "'Christ is the son of David'" Read Matt. 12:23ff; 21:15; 2 Sam. 7:11-16 and compare it to Ps. 110:1. Jesus was trying to reach the religious leaders. He cared for them so He used their type of reasoning and exegesis. They had so much light, but were so blinded by tradition.

12:36 "David himself said in the Holy Spirit" This asserts the inspiration of Psalm 110 by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is divine truth (i.e., from the Spirit), but written in the language and culture of its original authors.

▣ "'the Lord said to my lord'" This is a quote from Ps. 110:1 from the Septuagint. In Hebrew the first "Lord" (i.e., translated in English by all capitals) is our English translation's way of translating YHWH. This occurred because the Hebrews were very reluctant to use the covenant name for deity. Therefore, when one came to YHWH in a text to be read aloud, he substituted the Hebrew term Adon, which means "lord," "husband," "owner," or "master." In Greek this was translated by kurios. This distinction does not show up in the Greek text where kurios is translated both YHWH and adon.


▣ "'Sit at My right hand'" The "My" refers to YHWH. This anthropomorphic phrase (i.e., speaking of God in human bodily terms) was meant to show the Messiah's place of power, authority, and preeminence. This would reflect the King of the universe sharing His throne with another (i.e., His Messiah, cf. Mark 14:62).

"'Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet'" This continues the quote from Ps. 110:1. This phrase asserts YHWH's victory on behalf of His Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). This truth is further revealed in 1 Cor. 15:24-27 and even carried on ultimately in the eternal kingdom of the Father in 1 Cor. 15:28!

Mark's (and Matt. 22:44) quote of Ps. 110:1 deviates from the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Septuagint (as does Mark's quote of Deut. 6:4-5 in Mark 12:29-30). The MT and the LXX have "until I make your enemies a footstool for Your feet" (cf. Luke 20:43; Acts 2:34-35). The scribes (i.e., MSS א, A, L, and the Vulgate and Peshitta translations) changed Mark's quote to conform to the OT quote.

12:37 This was the crux of the question. It shows that (1) the religious leaders did not understand (i.e., were spiritually blind to) the Scriptures, even about the Messiah or (2) Christ, though son of David, was spiritually superior to David and in fact, had a divine origin. As they had tried to trick Jesus with questions, so now He asked them a question that silenced them.

I think #2 is theologically the appropriate answer. YHWH of the OT chose the Messianic line apart from human effort or cultural traditions (i.e., all the Patriarchs married infertile women and never did the eldest son become the chosen line)! This is a subtle, but strong, affirmation that the Messiah will be greater than David (i.e., David's "lord" or "master"), which surely implies a divine act, even a divine person.

"And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him" Large crowds are a recurrent characteristic of Mark's Gospel. The people of the land, who were often ridiculed and overlooked by the religious elite (cf. Mark 12:38-40), enjoyed seeing Jesus turn the tables on the arrogant religionists using their very method.

 38In His teaching He was saying: "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation."

12:38 "'the scribes who like to'" The temporal connection between Mark 12:25-27 and Mark 12:38-40 is uncertain. Obviously He is addressing the same category of leaders (i.e., scribes), but it is uncertain if the scribes of 35-37 are being addressed or other scribes who like to flaunt their religion. Surely Jesus' words also relate to the Sadducees and the Pharisees who put on a religious show in order to be recognized by the people.

▣ "'who like to walk around in long robes'" This refers to a distinctive white linen tallith with large blue tassels worn by the scribes. The Talmud taught that one is required to stand in the presence of a rabbi. These men liked this special treatment (i.e., distinctive prayer shawls, respectful greetings, best seats in worship, and place of honor at meals). They had it all, but missed Christ!

12:40 "'who devour widow's houses'" This may be metaphorical language referring to (1) the burden of almsgiving that these leaders required of all the people or (2) the practice of convincing widows to give their inheritance (i.e., livelihood) to the temple. This thereby refers to the manipulative fund-raising techniques of the religious leaders.

"'for appearance's sake offer long prayers'" They prayed to be seen by others, not heard by God. Their religion was an outward show (cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 7:21-23; Col. 2:16-23), but they did not recognize God's greatest gift!

▣ "they will receive greater condemnation" Their religious faith was an outward show, not an active inner faith of love and service (cf. Mark 12:28-34). This phrase may reflect (1) degrees of punishment (cf. Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; 18:6; 25:21,23; Luke 12:47-48; 20:47; James 3:1) or (2) Oriental metaphorical overstatement (i.e., hyperbole).


 41And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."

12:41 "the treasury" The Mishnah (and Alfred Edersheim's Temple, pp 48-49) says there were thirteen trumpet shaped chests, each marked for a specific charitable purpose, located in the Court of the Women. There has never been found any physical evidence of these nor any other literary confirmation beside the Mishna of their existence.

12:42 "two small copper coins" This is literally "lepton" (the thin one), which was worth only a fraction (1/24 or 1/96) of a denarius. It was the least valuable Jewish copper coin.

▣ "which amount to a cent" This is the Latin term quadrans, which was equivalent to the lepton, the smallest Roman copper coin (1/4 of an assarion, which was itself 1/16 of a denarius). Mark was probably written to Romans.


12:43 "'Truly'" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

12:44 This woman's complete faith is contrasted with the scribes' religious pride and shallowness. They rip off widows' resources. This widow gives all her resources to God and thereby depends on Him by faith to provide her needs. In giving, God looks at the heart, not the amount (cf. 2 Cor. 8-9). But also notice the amount was all she had. Giving, like deeds and words, reveals the heart! See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at Mark 10:23.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List what each of the following items stood for in the parable (12:1-12)

a. Owner of the Vineyard_____________________________________________________________

b. Vineyard________________________________________________________________________

c. Tenants_________________________________________________________________________

d. Slaves__________________________________________________________________________

e. Son____________________________________________________________________________

2. Why is the partial quote of Psalm 118 so appropriate here (i.e., Mark 12:10)?

3. What is the significance of the parable (i.e., Mark 12:1-12) to the Jewish nation (cf. Matt. 21:43-44)? Also examine Rom. 9-11 for a balancing statement.

4. Summarize the central truths of Christ's statements.

a. In regard to civil authorities (Mark 12:13-17)

b. In regard to resurrections (Mark 12:18-27)

c. In regard to the law (Mark 12:28-34)

d. In regard to the title "Son of David" (Mark 12:35-40)

e. In regard to giving and commitment (Mark 12:41-44)

5. Are there degrees of punishment (cf. Mark 12:40)?



Mark 13


The Destruction of the Temple Foretold Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold Jesus Speaks of the Destruction of the Temple The Eschatological Discourse: Introduction
13:1-2 13:1-2 13:1-2 13:1-2 13:1-2
The Beginning of Woes The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age On the End of the Age Troubles and Persecutions  
13:3-13 13:3-13 13:3-13 13:3-8 13:3-4
        The Beginning of Sorrows
      13:9-13 13:9-10
The Great Tribulation The Great Tribulation   The Awful Horror The Great Tribulation of Jerusalem
13:14-23 13:14-23 13:14-23 13:14-20 13:14-20
      13:21-23 13:21-23
The Coming of the Son of Man The Coming of the Son of Man   The Coming of the Son of Man The Coming of the Son of Man
13:24-27 13:24-27 13:24-27 13:24-27 13:24-27
The Lesson of the Fig Tree The Parable of the Fig Tree   The Lesson of the Fig Tree The Time of This Coming
13:28-31 13:28-31 13:28-31 13:28-31 13:28-31
The Unknown Day and Hour No One Knows the Day or Hour   No One Knows the Day or Hour  
13:32-37 13:32-37 13:32-37 13:32-37 13:32
        Be On the Alert

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. New Testament eschatological passages reflect Old Testament prophetic insight that viewed the end-time through contemporary occurrences. Jesus follows this pattern. The OT prophets Micah and Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as a sign of God's judgment on unbelieving Israel. God would call Gentiles to judge His people and take over their land. Now in the NT God's people still act in unbelief. They reject His Messiah. They will be destroyed, along with their city and temple (i.e., a.d. 70 by Titus). Their promised land is now given to others (cf. Mark 12:1-12, especially Mark 13:9, i.e., apparently Gentile believers. The Gentile mission is described in Mark 13:9-13).


B. Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are so difficult to interpret because they deal with several questions simultaneously.

1. when will the temple be destroyed?

2. what will be the sign of the Messiah's return?

3. when will this age end?


C. The genre of New Testament eschatology is usually a combination of apocalyptic and prophetic language, which is purposely ambiguous and highly symbolic.


D. Several passages in the NT (cf. Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 and 21, 1 and 2 Thess. and Rev.) deal with the Second Coming. These passages emphasize

1. that the exact time of the event is unknown, but the event is certain

2. that the last generation will know the general time, but not specific time, of the events

3. that it will occur suddenly and unexpectedly

4. that every generation of believers must be prayerful, ready, and faithful to assigned tasks


E. The primary focus of this chapter is on practical advice (19 imperatives), not pinpointing the exact time or chronological sequence of the events of the Second Coming.


F. The two key phrases are (1) "look out" (Mark 13:5,9,23,33) and (2) "not yet" (Mark 13:7,10). These twin foci of "be ready" and "wait patiently" are balanced with the other paradox of "the already" and "the not yet."




POSSIBLE OUTLINE RELATED TO THE DISCIPLES' QUESTIONS (taken from E. F. Bruce's Answers to Questions, p. 57)

A. Warnings against being misled (Mark 13:5-8)

B. Predictions of persecution (Mark 13:9-13)

C. The destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:14-23)

D. The return of Christ (Mark 13:24-27)

E. Exhortations to be watchful in their contemporary situation which led to the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:28-31, i.e., that generation Mark 13:34)

F. Exhortations to be watchful for the Lord's return (Mark 13:32-37; i.e., no one knows but the Father, Mark 13:36)

G. F. F. Bruce makes Mark 13 parallel to first six seals of Revelation 6 (cf. p. 57 and 138)



 1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" 2And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down."

13:1 "the temple" This was the word (hieron) for the whole temple area. Jesus had been teaching there since the events of Mark 11 (cf. Matt. 26:55). These buildings had become the great Jewish hope, a symbol of God's exclusive love for Israel (cf. Jer. 7; John 8:31-59).

▣ "one of His disciples" It may have been Peter (cf. Mark 13:3). John Mark may have given us Peter's memory of Jesus' words. This is the longest teaching session in Mark's Gospel.

▣ "'wonderful stones'" This is literally "huge stones." Josephus tells us Herod the Great used huge polished limestones or mezzeh that were native to this area. They were 25 x 8 x 12 cubits (cf. Antiquities 15.11.3). Stones of similar shape and material are still visible at the wailing wall in Jerusalem.

"'wonderful buildings'" This is literally "huge buildings." They were white polished limestone with gold trim. This huge and expensive building project was meant to placate the Jews who were upset over an Idumean being king. This remodeling and expansion was begun in 20/19 b.c. and finished in about a.d. 63/64 (cf. Josephus' Antiquities 15.11.1-7; Wars 5.5.1-6).

13:2 "'Not one stone will be left upon another'" This phrase has two double negatives with the Subjunctive mood. There is no stronger grammatical negation possible in the Greek language! This speaks of total destruction. This must have dumbfounded them! Josephus tells us that in a.d. 70 the Romans destroyed this site so completely that one could plow the ground as a field (cf. Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:18).

There are some Greek manuscript variants related to this phrase. One follows the wording of Matt. 24:2 found in the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L, and W. The second follows the wording of Luke 21:6 found in MS A and the Vulgate. The UBS4 follows Matt. 24:2, which adds the adverb "here" or "in this place."

 3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" 5And Jesus began to say to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 6Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He!' and will mislead many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs."

13:3 "sitting on the Mount of Olives" This 2.5 mile ridge on the east overlooked (i.e., about 300-400 feet higher) Jerusalem and the temple area.

▣ "Peter and James and John and Andrew" Only Mark's Gospel mentions this detail. This is probably one of Peter's eyewitness memories.

13:4 "'when will these things be said, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled'" Matthew 24:3 records the expanded questions. There were several events that these disciples wanted to know about: (1) the time of the destruction of the temple; (2) the time of the Second Coming; and (3) the time of the end of the age. The disciples probably thought all three would happen at one time. Notice Jesus merges the temporal and the eschatological, just as the OT prophets did.


13:5-13 "'See to it that no one misleads you'" "See" is a present active imperative. Jesus commands them to be on constant alert. In some ways these Jewish traditions about the Messiah had already biased them. These verses mention false signs or precursor signs that are present in every age. This statement is repeated often (cf. Mark 13:5,9,23,33). There will be many who try to trick them on these issues.

Every generation of Christians has tried to force its contemporary history into biblical prophecy. To date they have all been wrong! Part of the problem is that believers are to live in a moment-by-moment expectation of the Second Coming, yet the prophecies are all written for one end-time generation of persecuted followers. Rejoice that you do not know!

13:6 "'Many will come in My name'" This refers to false Messiahs (cf. Matt. 24:11,23-24). There is even a reference in Josephus' Wars of the Jews 6.54 which asserts that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem because of the fanaticism of the false prophets, who led the people astray with false promises of YHWH's intervention in saving Jerusalem based on Isaiah's prophecies (i.e., Isa. 37), but of course not mentioning Jeremiah's repeated predictions of faithless Jerusalem's fall.

▣ "'saying "I am He"'" This is literally "I am." This was a Messianic designation using the title of the OT Covenant God, YHWH, from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:12,14; John 4:26; 8:24,58; 13:19; 18:5). See Special Topic at Mark 12:36.

▣ "'and will mislead many'" These types of warnings and terminology are common in apocalyptic literature. This shows the persuasive power of the false Messiahs and the spiritual vacuum of fallen humanity (cf. Matt. 24:11,23-26). It also shows the naivete of new believers and/or carnal Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-14).

13:7 "'do not be frightened'" This is a present imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in progress.

▣ "'those things must take place; but that is not yet the end'" Wars and earthquakes are not signs of the end, but precursors/signs present in every age (cf. Mark 13:8,10; Matt. 24:6-8). These violent natural events are not signs of the Second Coming, but of life in a fallen world (cf. John L. Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, pp. 25,28, which is a good presentation ot the Preterist Interpretation).

13:8 "'there will also be famines'" Some Greek manuscripts add the phrase "and troubles" (cf. MSS A, W, and NKJV). There are several other variants, but most English translations have "and famines," which is found in Matt. 24:7 and MSS א, B, and L (and MS D in a slightly different form). The parallel in Luke 21:11 has several other things listed. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

▣ "'birth pangs'" The full idiom is "birth pangs" of the new age (cf. Isa. 13:8; 26:17; Jer. 30:6-7; Micah 4:9-10; Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8; Acts 2:24; 1 Thess. 5:3). This reflects the Jewish belief in the intensification of evil before the new age of righteousness (cf. Mark 13:19-20 and the Book of Jubilees 23:18 along with the Apocalypse of Baruch 27-29). The Jews believed in two ages: the current evil age, characterized by sin and rebellion against God, and the "age to come." The New Age would be inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). It would be a time of righteousness and fidelity to God. Although the Jewish view was partially true, it did not take into account the two comings of the Messiah. We live in the overlapping of these two ages: the "already" and "not yet" of the kingdom of God!


 9"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."

13:9-13 This material is not paralleled in Matthew 24, but appears in Matt. 10:17-22. This shows that Jesus must have repeated these same truths on several occasions or that Matthew and Mark structured this material topically.

13:9 "'be on your guard'" This is a present active imperative (the same form as Mark 13:5 and 23). There is an element of personal responsibility involved in preparation for the persecution of the end-time events.

▣ "'courts. . .synagogues. . .before governors and kings'" "Courts and synagogues," a phrase not found in Matt. 24:9, shows both governmental and religious persecution of Christians by both Jews and Gentiles (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-16).

▣ "'the courts'" This is the plural form of Sanhedrin. It refers to local synagogue courts (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24).

▣ "'flogged'" This is literally "beaten" or "skinned" (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24). Jews whipped offenders thirty-nine times—thirteen times on the front and twenty-six times on the back in accordance with Deut. 25:1-3.

13:9,12 "'for My sake'" Will believers be persecuted, not for their own wickedness or civil crimes, but simply because they are Christians (cf. Matt. 5:10-16; 1 Pet. 4:12-16)?

13:10 "'The gospel must first be preached to all the nations'" The term "must" is the Greek dei, which implies necessity. Jesus (or Peter or Mark, all of whom are inspired) was trying to show the disciples (1) their Gentile mission (cf. Gen. 12:3; 1 Kgs. 8:60; Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 52:10; 60:1-3; Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 11:25-27) and (2) that there would be an extended period of time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2; 2 Peter 2). We must hold in tension the any-moment return of our Lord and the truth that some things must happen first. There is a real tension in the New Testament concerning the time of the Second Coming: imminent, delayed, or unknown.

13:11 The Spirit will always be with believers! The Spirit will empower believers amidst persecution (cf. Acts 4)! The Spirit is often identified with Jesus as the parallel in Luke 21:15 shows. This promise does not replace personal preparation for regular preaching and teaching opportunities; therefore, it is not a substitute for proper study. This is a special grace which allows believers to witness to faith in Christ in times of persecution (cf. Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12; 21:14-15).

▣ "in that hour" See Special Topic: Hour at Mark 14:35.

13:12 "'brother. . .brother'" Family was the heart of Jewish life, but families will be split over Christ (cf. Matt. 10:21,35-37). This is also a recurrent theme in apocalyptic writings (cf. Jubilees 23:19 and II Baruch 70:3).

13:13 "'but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved'" This is the doctrine of perseverance (cf. Matt. 10:22). It must be held in a dialectical tension with the doctrine of security (cf. Rev. 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21; 21:7). See Special Topic: The Need to Persevere at Mark 4:17.

 14"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15the one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 17But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 19For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance."


NASB, NKJV"the abomination of desolation"
NRSV"the desolating sacrilege"
TEV"the Awful Horror"
JB"the disastrous abomination"


NASB"'standing where it should not be'"
NKJV"'standing where it ought not'"
NRSV, NJB"'set up where it ought not to be'"
TEV"'standing in the place where he should not be'"

The participle standing is perfect active accusative masculine in The Analytical Greek New Testament by Barbara and Timothy Friberg, p. 154 (cf. TEV), but perfect active accusative neuter in The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament by William D. Mounce, p.219 (cf. NASB, NRSV, NJB). If neuter, then it refers to (1) "the abomination" (bdelugma) or (2) to Titus' army (strateuma). Matthew 24:15 adds "standing in the Holy Place" (i.e., the Holy Place of the temple), which implies the masculine gender and refers to the Roman General. This, too, fits Titus, who set up the Roman standards (which stood for their gods) in the temple in Jerusalem.

"(let the reader understand)" This means "to think about carefully" or "to consider well" (cf. 2 Tim. 2:7). This is a comment from the author of the Gospel. It apparently was meant to trigger further discussion (i.e., the Abomination of Desolation from Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) on the subject by the person reading the text aloud to a study group in a worship setting, somewhat like our modern Sunday School classes.

▣ "'those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains'" Eusebius, a church historian from the fourth century, records that the Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella, about twenty miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, just before the Roman siege encircled the city in a.d. 70 (cf. Hist. Eccl. 3:5:2-3).

13:15 "'the one who is on the housetop'" The houses had flat roofs. They were used as the place of social gathering in the hot months. It has been said that one could walk across Jerusalem on the roofs of houses. Apparently some houses were built next to the city's wall. When the army was seen, immediate flight was necessary.

13:16 "'coat'" This referred to the outer robe, which was also used as sleeping cover. Men working in the field would not have had this with them.

13:17 "'woe'" This term is used in the OT to designate judgment prophecies. It was a way of referring to a funeral dirge or lament. God's judgment on Jerusalem would affect believers as well as unbelievers (as will the Great Tribulation).

▣ "'to those who are pregnant'" This obviously refers to the destruction of Jerusalem only. It would have been difficult for pregnant women to flee rapidly over the wall. This has nothing to do with the Second Coming! These disciples' questions to Jesus relate to three separate issues: the destruction of Jerusalem, His Second Coming, and the end of the age. The problem is that these questions were dealt with at the same time. There is no easy verse division by topic.

13:18 "'in winter'" Rapid travel would have also been difficult in winter for pregnant women and little ones.

13:19 This can be viewed as (1) the severity of the end-time persecution of believers and God's judgment on unbelievers or (2) an Oriental hyperbole. It is hard to know whether references are literal or figurative (compare Joel 2:28-32 and Peter's use of it in Acts 2, where it is not taken literally). The NT is an eastern book. They were much more accustomed to exaggerations and figures of speech than we are as modern westerners. It is never a question of taking the revelation seriously. It is a hermeneutical question of the intent of the original inspired author. To take the NT literally every time and in every place is not biblical conservatism, but improper interpretation.

This verse might be an allusion to Dan. 12:1, but with an added phrase. The elect are those whose names are in the book of life (i.e., believing Jews, the true remnant, and believing Gentiles, the mystery of God hidden, but now revealed, cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13)!

▣ "since the beginning of the creation" See Special Topic at Mark 10:6.

13:20 The interpretive question is to which of the three events (i.e., (1) destruction of Jerusalem; (2) the Coming of Christ; or (3) the end of the age) does this refer? These three events are discussed in overlapping ways. There is no clear and precise verse division. It seems to me this refers to the Second Coming and the end of the age and not the destruction of Jerusalem, because the Christians fled the city before its destruction.

▣ "'Unless'" This is a rare second class conditional sentence called "contrary to fact." It states an incorrect premise which makes the conclusion incorrect. Literally this would imply "If the Lord had not shortened the days (which He did) no one would be saved (but they were)."

▣ "'the Lord'" This must refer to YHWH, not Jesus. YHWH is the One who elects/chooses (cf. Eph. 1:4).

"'been saved'" This is the use of the term in its OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15), not spiritual salvation.

"'but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose'" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

▣ "'He shortened the days'" This phrase implies that the unchangeable God (cf. Ps. 102:26-27; Mal. 3:6) can alter His plans! His character and redemptive purposes never change, but the prayers of His people do affect Him and often alter His plans. This is mystery! But it is the essence of intercessory prayer.



13:21 "'if'" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

▣ "'do not believe Him'" This is a Present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act in process, but in this context it could not have this normal implication.

Christians need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves (cf. Matt. 10:16). Naive Christians, gullible Christians, baby Christians are all too common. We must test the spirits (cf. 1 John 4:1) to see if they are truly God's spokespersons. It is so sad to me when I hear of believers flocking to trees, screen doors, or special holy sites to see Jesus. This context is very clear! When He comes all will see Him and know Him (cf. Matt. 24:27).

The immediate context of Mark 13:14-23 refers to those escaping from Jerusalem, not to be deterred by someone claiming Christ had appeared in the city, in this place, or that.

13:22 "'will show signs and wonders'" These false christs will perform miracles. Be careful of always identifying the miraculous with God (cf. Exod. 7:11-12,22; Deut. 13:1ff; Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rev. 13:13-14). False believers can do miracles (cf. Matt. 7:21-23).

"'if possible'" It seems to me that the contingency of Mark 13:22 may be contextually related to the contingency of Mark 13:20 (i.e., a second class conditional) because the elect (cf. Mark 13:20 and 22) cannot be led astray!

13:23 This was one of Jesus' ways (which reflect YHWH's predictions in the OT) of proving to His followers His control of history and redemption by foretelling upcoming events. YHWH and His Christ control time and history! Even hard times are part of His overarching redemptive plan.

 24"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven."

13:24 "'But'" This is a strong adversative that shows a break in context. A new time segment is being revealed.

13:24 "'the sun will be darkened'" This is the OT apocalyptic language of the end-time (cf. Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10; 3:15; 28:3-4; Amos 8:9; also see II Esdras 5:5; Assumption of Moses 10:5; and I Enoch 80:4-7). This is a series of OT quotes:

1. v. 24 is from Isa. 13:10 

2. v. 25 is from Isa. 34:3

3. v. 26 is from Dan. 7:13

Yet this may refer to upheavals in nature as the Creator approaches (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7,10,11,12; Rom. 8:18-22). Often these apocalyptic cosmic events are used to describe the fall of governments.

13:25 This is a quote from Isa. 34:4. It reflects the belief that stars are heavenly powers (cf. Jdgs. 5:20; Job 38:7). In apocalyptic literature falling stars often refer to angels (cf. Rev. 8:10; 9:1; 12:4). In the Bible angels are God's servants, but in Mesopotamian idolatry they refer to gods who control human destiny (i.e., twelve signs of the Zodiac or planet movements).

13:26 "'the Son of Man coming in clouds'" Jesus' humanity and deity are emphasized by the term "Son of Man" as it is used in Ps. 8:4; in its regular Jewish idiomatic sense as human being in Ezek. 2:1; and in its divine sense in Dan. 7:13 (cf. Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62 all use Dan. 7:13). The fact that this "Son of Man" rides on the clouds of heaven shows His deity (cf. Ps. 68:4; 104:3). The clouds are the transportation and covering of YHWH (the Shekinah Cloud of Glory during the wilderness wandering period of Exodus and Numbers. Jesus leaves on a cloud [cf. Acts 1:9] and returns on the clouds [cf. 1 Thess. 4:17]).


▣ "'great power and glory'" This shows the drastic contrast between His first coming (cf. Zech. 9:9; Isa. 53) and the Second Coming (cf. Rev. 19). This is paralleled, but in different terms, in Matt. 24:30.

13:27 "'the angels'" In 2 Thess. 1:7 the angels are called Jesus' angels. Usually they are called YHWH's angels (cf. Jude 14).

▣ "'gather together His elect'" This is OT prophetic language (cf. Deut. 30:35; Isa. 43:6; and Ps. 50:5). The exact order of these specific end-time events is uncertain. Paul taught that at death the believer is already with Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6,8). 1 Thess. 4:13-18 teaches that apparently something of our physical bodies, which were left here, will be united with our spirits at the Lord's coming. This implies a disembodied state between death and resurrection day. There is so much about the end-time events and afterlife experience that is not recorded in the Bible.

"'from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven'" This implies a world-wide following of Jesus! It also implies a long period of time for the gospel to spread.

The number four in the Bible is symbolic of the world. It referred to the four corners of the world (Isa. 11:12), the four winds of heaven (Dan. 7:2; Zech. 2:6), and the four ends of heaven (Jer. 49:36). The elect will be gathered from wherever they are scattered.


 28"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

13:28 "'the fig tree'" In this parable the fig tree is apparently not a symbol of national Israel as in Mark 11:12-14, but a metaphor of believers knowing the general season, if not the specific time, of the Lord's return. The fig tree was a late bloomer. It signaled the coming of summer, not spring.

13:29 "'recognize'" This is either a present active indicative or a present active imperative. The last generation will understand exactly these prophetic passages. The church's problem is that every generation of believers has tried to force the prophecies into its own contemporary history and culture. So far every generation has been wrong. The church loses her credibility by all of these false predictions!

▣ "'He'" There is no pronoun in the Greek text. The "to be" verb can be masculine or neuter. Because of Mark 13:14, the neuter "it" fits best. If so, then this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem.

13:30 This is a strong double negative grammatical construction. It could refer to

1. the destruction of Jerusalem

2. the transfiguration (cf. Mark 9:1)

3. the signs of the Second Coming

The problem is that Jesus merges all three questions (cf. Matt. 24:3) the disciples asked into one context, with no clean division between events.

13:31 "'Heaven and earth will pass away'" This great truth is couched in OT apocalyptic language (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7,10). God's Word will never pass away, but the physical creation which has been affected by human sin will be cleansed. This is the recurrent theme of Scripture (cf. Jos. 21:45; 23:14-15; 1 Kgs. 8:56; Isa. 40:6-8; 55:8-11; Matt. 5:17-20).

13:32 "'that day'" This is an abbreviation of the OT phrase "the Day of the Lord" (so common in Amos and Joel). It refers to the Second Coming or a judgment day (i.e., temporal= destruction of Jerusalem or eschatological = the last judgment).

▣ "or hour" See Special Topic: Hour at Mark 14:35.

▣ "'no one knows. . .but the Father alone'" This refers to the Second Coming and the New Age, not the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus specifically addressed that generation in Mark 13:30. This is a strong verse to deter Christians from setting specific dates for the Second Coming.


"'not even the angels in heaven'" The angels are viewed as curious about God's dealing with humanity (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:12). Even though they are present with God, they do not fully understand His plans. In Christ these eternal purposes are made evident!

"'nor the Son'" This lack of information clearly shows Jesus' true humanity. Jesus, though fully man and fully God, left part of His divine attributes in heaven when He was incarnated (cf. Phil. 2:7). The limitation was only in affect until after the ascension.

Jesus' use of the term "Son" to describe Himself reveals His self-understanding (i.e., YHWH is the Father, He is the chosen, Messianic Son). This is a rare usage of the term "Son" implying "Son of the Father" (i.e., God). Jesus often referred to Himself as "Son of Man," but this phrase would have been understood by His hearers as "human person" unless they were familiar with its specialized use in Dan. 7:13. But, Judaism did not emphasize this OT text and title.

The phrase "nor the Son" is not included in Matt. 24:36 nor in some ancient Greek uncial manuscripts אa, K, L, W. It is included in most translations because it does occur in manuscripts א, B and D, the Diatesseron, and the Greek texts known to Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and the old Latin manuscript used by Jerome. This may have been one of the texts modified by orthodox scribes to accentuate the deity of Christ against false teachers (See Bart D. Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 91-92).

 33"Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the morning— 36in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37What I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'"

13:33 "'Take heed, keep on the alert'" These are present active imperatives (cf. Mark 13:5,9,23). Believers are to live in the constant hope of the Second Coming. In Mark 13:33-37 there are two different Greek terms translated "watch":

1. blepō (verse 33, cf. Gal. 6:1)

2. grēgoreō (verses 34,35,37, cf. Eph. 6:18)

In Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, vol. 1, p. 333, these words have a semantic overlap of "stay awake" or "stay alert" for #1 and "be aware of" or "watch out for" for #2. 

Although the reality of the Second Coming will only be the experience of one generation, each generation lives in the constant hope of the any-moment return of the Lord. This explains why the Apostles and the early church thought the return was imminent. The 2000 year delay is surprising, but God is longsuffering and wishes that none should perish (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). He tarries so that the church may fulfill the Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8) and that the full number of believing Jews and believing Gentiles shall be gathered in (cf. Rom. 11). The return is wonderful for believers, but a disaster of eternal consequences for unbelievers.

▣ ["and pray"] These words are present in many ancient Greek uncial manuscripts, including א, A, C, K, L, W, X, but are missing in B and D. They very well might be original (cf. NKJV). The UBS4, however, gives the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

"'the appointed time'" This is not the term for chronological time chronos, which is not used in Mark, but the term for a special appointed time (kairos, cf. Mark 1:15). This refers to a major eschatological event. The question is which one: (1) the destruction of Jerusalem; (2) the appearing of the Son of Man; or (3) the beginning of the New Age? Number one occurred in a.d. 70. Number two, in one sense, has already occurred (i.e., the incarnation and life of Jesus), but in another sense, is future (i.e., the consummation of the Kingdom of God at Jesus' Second Coming). Number three, like number two, has in some sense already occurred. Believers live in the already – not yet of the New Age, the Kingdom of God (cf. Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 131-134).

13:34 "'like a man away on a journey'" This is common terminology for many of Jesus' parabolic teachings (cf. Mark 12:1; Matt. 21:33; 25:14; Luke 15:13; 19:12; 20:9). The issue is the time factor (cf. Mark 13:35-37). Given enough time, the true nature of people comes out. The delayed return causes people's true loyalties and priorities to manifest themselves. Matthew's Gospel expands these words in Matt. 24:42-51.

▣ "'assigning to each one his task'" This possibly relates to the gifts of the Spirit, listed in Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; and Eph. 4. Christians will be judged (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10), but for what? Surely not for sins, because Jesus' blood forgives all sin (cf. Heb. 9). Possibly Christians will give an account to God for the stewardship of the gospel and the use of their spiritual gift.


NASB"'whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the morning'"
NKJV"'in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning'"
NRSV"'in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn'"
TEV"'in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or at sunrise'"
NJB"'evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn'"

This wording reflects the four Roman night watches of three hours each:

1. evening, 6 - 9 p.m.

2. midnight, 9 p.m. - midnight

3. cockcrow, 12:00 a.m.- 3 a.m.

4. dawn, 3 - 6 a.m.


13:37 See note at Mark 13:33.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the basic purpose of this chapter?

2. Do verses 4-7 describe the end time?

3. How is Daniel's prophecy of chapters 7-12 related to the Second Coming?

4. Why does Jesus use apocalyptic language like verse 24?

5. Can believers know when the Lord will come again?

6. Is the Second Coming: imminent, delayed, or time uncertain?

7. How could Jesus not know the time of His return?

8. Do you expect Jesus' return in your lifetime? 


Biblical Topics: 

Mark 14


The Plot to Kill Jesus The Plot to Kill Jesus Jesus' Death The Plot Against Jesus The Conspiracy Against Jesus
14:1-2 14:1-2 14:1-2 14:1-2 14:1-2
The Anointing at Bethany The Anointing at Bethany   Jesus Is Anointed At Bethany The Anointing at Bethany
14:3-9 14:3-9 14:3-9 14:3-5 14:3-9
Judas' Agreement to Betray Jesus Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus   Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus Judas Betrays Jesus
14:10-11 14:10-11 14:10-11 14:10-11 14:10-11
The Passover with the Disciples Jesus Celebrates the Passover with His Disciples The Last Supper Jesus Eats the Passover Meal with His Disciples Preparations for the Passover Supper
14:12-21 14:12-21 14:12-16 14:12 14:12-16
      14:16 The Treachery of Judas Foretold
    14:17-21 14:17-18 14:17-21
The Institution of the Lord's Supper Jesus Institutes the Lord's Supper   The Lord's Supper The Institution of the Eucharist
14:22-26 14:22-26 14:22-25 14:22 14:22-25
    Gethsemane 14:23-25 Peter's Denial Foretold
    14:26-31 14:26 14:26-31
Peter's Denial Foretold Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial   Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial  
14:27-31 14:27-31   14:27-28  
The Prayer in Gethsemane The Prayer in Gethsemane   Jesus Prays in Gethsemane Gethsemane
14:32-42 14:32-42 14:32-42 14:32-34 14:32-42
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane   The Arrest of Jesus The Arrest
14:43-50 14:43-50 14:43-50 14:43-44 14:43-52
The Young Man Who Fled A Young Man Flees Naked   14:50  
14:51-52 14:51-52 14:51-52 14:51-52  
Jesus Before the Council Jesus Faces the Sanhedrin Jesus Before Caiaphas Jesus Before the Council Jesus Before the Sanhedrin
14:53-65 14:53-65 14:53-65 14:53-56 14:53-54
      14:65 14:65
Peter's Denial of Jesus Peter Denies Jesus, and Weeps   Peter Denies Jesus Peter's Denial
14:66-72 14:66-72 14:66-72 14:66-67 14:66-72

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. The plot to kill Jesus in Mark 14:1-2 is paralleled in Matt. 16:1-5 and Luke 22:1-2.


B. The anointing at Bethany in Mark 14:3-9 is paralleled in Matt. 16:6-13 and John 12:2-8 (possibly another anointing in Galilee in Luke 7:36-39).


C. Judas' agreement to betray Jesus in Mark 14:10-11 is paralleled in Matt. 26:14-16 and Luke 22:3-6.


D. The Passover with the disciples in Mark 14:12-21 is paralleled in Matt. 26:17-25, Luke 22:21-23, and John 13:21-30.


E. The institution of the Lord's Supper in Mark 14:22-26 is paralleled in Matt. 26:26-29 and Luke 22:17-20 (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-26).


F. Peter's denial foretold in Mark 14:27-31 is paralleled in Matt. 26:31-35.


G. Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane in Mark 14:32-42 is paralleled in Matt. 26:36-46, Luke 22:39-40, and John 18:1.


H. The betrayal and arrest of Jesus in Mark 14:43-50 is paralleled in Matt. 26:47-56, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:2-12.


I. Jesus before the Sanhedrin in Mark 14:53-65 is paralleled in Matt. 26:57-68 and John 18:12,19-24.


J. Peter's denial of Jesus in Mark 14:66-72 is paralleled in Matt. 26:69-75, Luke 22:54-62, and John 18:15-18,25-27.



 1Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2for they were saying, "Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people."

14:1 "the Passover and Unleavened Bread" Originally these were two separate feasts commemorating the same event, the last plague that caused Pharaoh to allow the Hebrews to leave Egypt. The requirements for the Passover meal are found in Exod. 12:1-14,21-28,43-51. The procedures for the seven day feast of Unleavened Bread are found in Exod. 12:8,15-20 (cf. Num. 28:16-25, Deut. 16:1-8, and Josephus' Antiquities 3.10.5).

▣ "two days away" Because there were two feasts combined, the Jews sometimes referred to the whole period as "the Passover." Therefore, it is uncertain whether the "two days" means (1) two days before the eight-day feast or (2) two days before the Passover itself.

John 12:1-8 states this occurred on a different day; verses 3ff may be a flashback. The chronology of the last days of Jesus' life are recorded differently by the four Gospel writers. In my opinion the early church realized the discrepancies among the four Gospels, but did not try to reconcile them. The differences are caused by (1) the eyewitness nature of the writings and (2) the theological/evangelistic purposes of each individual writer. They each had the freedom (under inspiration) to select, adapt, and arrange Jesus' teachings and actions to fit their purposes and target groups (cf. Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 126-129).

▣ "priests and the scribes" Matthew adds "elders," which is the full designation for the Sanhedrin. See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

▣ "to seize Him by stealth and kill Him" This was nothing new (cf. Mark 3:6; 11:18), but Jesus' actions in accepting the crowd's affirmations during the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and His cleansing of the merchants from the Court of the Gentiles sealed His fate with both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

14:2 "there might be a riot of the people" Jesus was very popular in Galilee. During the Passover Jerusalem grew to three times her normal population with pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean area, many of whom were from Galilee. The possible "riot" is mentioned in Matt. 26:5 and 27:24.

 3While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. 4But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? 5For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her. 6But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her."

14:3 "Bethany" A city on the ridge known as the Mt. of Olives, not far from Jerusalem, was a popular place for pilgrims to sleep during the three annual mandatory feasts. Every Jewish family who lived close to Jerusalem was culturally obligated to open their homes to pilgrims.

▣ "Simon the leper" In the OT leprosy was a sign of God's displeasure. It had terrible social ramifications. This man had apparently been cured, possibly by Jesus. Leprosy in the ancient world incorporated many different kinds of skin diseases (cf. Leviticus 13-14), not just our modern leprosy.

The parallel in John 12:2-8 implies that this was the home of Lazarus and that Mary, his sister, was the woman. Could it be that Simon was their father whom Jesus had previously healed?

▣ "reclining at the table" They did not use chairs, but reclined at three low tables forming a horseshoe-shape, on their left elbow with their feet behind them.

▣ "came a woman" Luke 7:36-50 records a very similar anointing experience in the same place, but by a sinful woman. John 12:3 names this woman as Mary, Lazarus' sister, but Mark gives no name. Mark, writing so early, possibly was afraid to identify her as a follower of Jesus, while John, writing much later, felt free to name her (cf. Lenski's St. Mark's Gospel).

This is surely a wonderful loving act which symbolized Jesus' soon to be burial.

NASB"an alabaster vial"
NKJV"alabaster flask"
NJB"alabaster jar"

This was a sealed container of white opaque stone from Alabastron, a city in Egypt. Once opened it could not be resealed. John 12:3 tells us it contained a whole pound. This could have been her marriage dowry. It was obviously an act of extravagant love and devotion.


NASB"costly perfume of pure nard"
NKJV"very costly oil of spikenard"
NRSV"very costly ointment of nard"
TEV"very expensive perfume made of pure nard"
NJB"very costly ointment, pure nard"

Nard was made from the root of a Himalayan plant. It had a very strong fragrance. The word "pure" is from pistikos, which implies a trustworthy quality (i.e., "genuine" or "unmixed," cf. John 12:3).

The term "nard" is probably from Latin (cf. A. T. Robertson Word Pictures in the New Testament vol. 1 p. 380). Mark's Gospel has more Latin words and phrases than any other Gospel. Apparently it is targeted to Romans.

▣ "over His head" John's Gospel tells us the nard was poured on His feet (cf. John 12:3). Probably both are true because a whole pound would have been too much for just His head, but would easily anoint His whole body.

It is possible that being anointed on the head would have reminded these Jews of the anointing of a King (cf. 1 Sam. 10:1; 2 Kgs. 9:3,6 and implied in 1 Sam. 16:13). This may be a royal Messianic symbol as well as a burial procedure/prophecy (cf. Mark 15:46; 16:1; Luke 23:56; John 19:39-40).

14:4 "some" John 12:4-5 identifies the questioner as Judas Iscariot. Apparently Jesus's disciples were discussing this among themselves (cf. Mark 9:10; 10:26; 11:31; 12:7; 16:3).

▣ "were indignantly remarking to one another" This is an imperfect periphrastic. The disciples were talking among themselves and deploring the woman's extravagance. They were angry, even indignant. This term is used of Jesus' attitude in Mark 10:14 about the disciples keeping the children away.

▣ "'might have been sold for over three hundred denarii'" Modern monetary equivalents are not helpful because of the changing purchasing power of money. A denarius was the daily wage of a soldier or laborer; therefore, this was almost a year's wage.

14:5 "'the money given to the poor'" Giving money to the poor during Passover was an important religious requirement of the rabbis (cf. John13:29). It was called almsgiving.


14:6 "'Let her alone'" This is an aorist active imperative. Jesus defends this loving, gracious act. He saw it as a prophetic act of preparation for His rapidly approaching death and burial (cf. Mark 14:8).

14:7 "'For you always have the poor with you'" This is not a disparaging comment about the poor (cf. Deut. 15:4,11), but an emphasis on the uniqueness of Jesus and His special time on earth.

14:8 "'she has anointed My body beforehand'" Could she have understood what the disciples did not? The same type of perfume was used in burial preparations (cf. John 19:40).

14:9 "'Truly'" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

▣ "'whenever the gospel is preached'" The gospel refers to the message that Jesus taught about God, about humanity, about sin, about Himself, about salvation, and about the afterlife. Jesus revealed these truths to the inspired writers of the NT through the mediation of the Spirit. They are revelatory, not human discovery. It is primarily the revelation of a person and a relationship with that person, not only a creed or a system of doctrines about that person. It involves a personal relationship with Christ by faith and understanding of who He is and why He came, which leads to Christlike living in light of this new relationship with God and a totally new world view.

▣ "'in the whole world'" Jesus expected the gospel to permeate the entire globe (cf. Mark 13:27 and Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).

▣ "'what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her'" Jesus does not forget acts of kindness and devotion. This one is recorded in Scripture, but many others are kept in the heart of God and will be revealed on that great day (cf. Gal. 6:7-9; 1 Tim. 5:25; Rev. 14:13; also 2:1,19; 3:8).

 10Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.

14:10 "Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve" There are several theories concerning Iscariot (the word is spelled differently in various Greek manuscripts). It could refer to

1. a man of Kerioth, a city of Judah

2. man of Kartam, a city of Galilee

3. the bag used to carry money

4. the Hebrew word for "strangling"

5. the Greek word for assassin's knife

If #1 is true he was the only Judean in the Twelve. If #4 or #5 is true he was a zealot like Simon.

There has recently been released an interesting, but highly speculative (depreciates John's Gospel), book that interprets Judas in a positive light. The book is entitled Judas, Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen, Fortress Press, 1996.

▣ "who was one of the twelve" He was a member of Jesus' hand-picked disciples. He was part of the mission trips and present at Jesus' teaching sessions, miracles, and the Last Supper.

This phrase has the definitive article "the one." There have been several suggestions as to the meaning of this: (1) Judas was a leader of the Apostolic group. He kept the money for the group and he had the seat of honor at the Last Supper or (2) it refers to the murmuring in Mark 14:4.

▣ "went off to the chief priests" Luke 22:4 adds and "temple police." Judas asked how much they would give him (cf. Matt. 26:15). It was the price of a gored slave (cf. Exod. 21:32; Zech. 11:12).

Matthew 26:16 tells us it was "thirty pieces of silver." This fulfilled the prophecy of Zech. 11:12-13 (cf. Matt. 27:9-10). Jesus was the rejected "Shepherd." The Gospel writers quote chapters 9-14 of Zechariah as a prophetic source or typology in relation to Jesus' ministry.

1. Matt. 21:4-5 quotes Zech. 9:9

2. Matt. 24:3 quotes Zech. 12:10

3. Matt. 26:15 quotes Zech. 11:12-13

4. Matt. 26:31 quotes Zech. 13:7

5. Matt. 27:9-10 quotes Zech. 11:12-13


▣ "betray" This is the Greek term "to give over" (paradidōmi). The English Bibles always translate it "betray," but this is not an established meaning. It can have a positive meaning of "entrust" (cf. Matt. 11:27) or "restore" or "command" (cf. Acts 14:26; 15:40), as well as negative sense of "to hand someone over to the authorities" or "to put someone in Satan's hands" (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20), or for God to abandon someone to his own idolatry (cf. Acts 7:42). It is obvious that context must determine the meaning of this common verb. Betrayal fits Judas' actions.

14:11 "they were glad" It does not say they were surprised. Judas' motivation has always been a source of speculation. These religious leaders would have seen his defection from the Apostolic group as vindication of their murderous scheming!

▣ "at an opportune time" Luke 22:6 adds "apart from the crowd." They were afraid of Jesus' popularity with Galilean pilgrims present in Jerusalem for the feast (cf. Mark 11:18; 12:12; Matt. 26:5; 27:24).

 12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?" 13And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 15And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there." 16The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

14:12 "first day of Unleavened Bread" There is a great problem as to which day the Lord and His disciples ate the Last Supper, Nisan 13th or 14th. John seems to imply 13th (cf. Mark 18:29; 19:14,31,32), while the Synoptic Gospels state the 14th. Possibly the difference is related to

1. the use of the Roman calendar versus the Jewish lunar calendar

2. the different ways to start a day, i.e., evening for the Jews vs. morning for the Romans

3. the evidence that the Dead Sea community, following a solar calendar, had the Passover a day earlier as a symbol of rejecting the priestly leadership in Jerusalem

The four Gospels are eyewitness accounts written for theological and evangelistic purposes. The authors had the right, under inspiration, to select, adapt, and arrange the life and words of Jesus. This accounts for most of the perceived difficulties in the Gospel accounts (cf. Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 126-129). The very fact that they are different speaks of their genuineness. The early church accepted the four versions without trying to unify them (except for the Diatessaron of Tatian in the late second century).

Hermeneutically the Gospels need to be interpreted in light of their own context (their author's intent) and not compared to other Gospels, just to get more historical information.

14:13 "two of His disciples" Luke 22:8 says it was Peter and John. From rabbinical sources we know that only two from each household were allowed in the temple to offer the lamb with the help of a priest.

▣ "'and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water'" It was highly unusual in this culture for a man to carry water and especially to carry it in a pitcher. If men were needed to carry large amounts of water they used sheep or goat skins, not clay pitchers. This is another eyewitness account of Peter.

14:14 "'say to the owner of the house'" Many believe that this was John Mark's (the compiler of Peter's sermons in Rome into the Gospel of Mark) home, the probable location of the Last Supper and post resurrection appearances. John Mark was Barnabas' cousin and a participant in the initial part of the first missionary journey of Barnabas and Saul (i.e., Paul). He was also Peter's companion and apparently the author of the first Gospel, using Peter's memories or sermons. This seems to be a prearranged event, not a prediction.

14:15 This was also the location of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances (cf. Acts 1:12). This room became the Jerusalem headquarters for the disciples.

 17When it was evening He came with the twelve. 18As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me." 19They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, "Surely not I?" 20And He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. 21For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born."

14:17 "When it was evening" The Jewish day begins at twilight (cf. Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). This was the Passover meal because usually Jewish evening meals were in late afternoon. Only the Passover meal was eaten after 6:00 p.m.

14:18 "reclining" Originally the Passover was eaten standing because of Exod. 12:11. The Jews of the first century did not use chairs, a custom which they learned from the Persians (cf. Esther 1:6; 7:8). They ate at low cushions, usually three in number, at a table in the shape of a horseshoe (so servers could bring food easily), reclining on pillows on their left elbow with their feet behind them.

▣ "'Truly'" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

▣ "'that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me'" This is an allusion to Ps. 41:9. This was a cultural way of accentuating Judas' guilt (cf. John 13:18). Table fellowship was a significant cultural symbol of friendship and commitment. To betray someone with whom you had eaten would be appalling to an easterner.

14:19 "one by one, 'Surely not I'" Each disciple thought it might be himself. This shows that at this point in time, none of them suspected Judas. Each of them was unsure of his own standing.

14:20 "'who dips with Me in the bowl'" This was a special dish of gray colored fruit dip, which resembles brick mortar. Judas was sitting right next to Jesus in the place of honor! Jesus was still, even at this late hour, trying to spiritually reach Judas.

14:21 "'but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born'" John 13:27ff implies that Judas left after the third cup of blessing before the institution of the Lord's Supper. Judas is an enigma. His motives for betraying Jesus are never revealed. Some see him as a noble Jewish patriot (i.e., zealot) trying to force Jesus to act militarily against Rome. Others see him as a committed Jew who was upset with Jesus' rejection of the Oral Tradition and His fellowship with the outcasts and sinners of Jewish society. The Gospel of John depicts him as a thief from the beginning, someone who was driven by his love of money. However, Judas' actions after Jesus' arrest do not fit this characterization. Whatever the true motive or rationale, whatever the involvement of Satan, whatever the foreknowledge involved in predictive prophecy, Judas is responsible for his actions, as are all of us (cf. Gal. 6:7).

 22While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Takeit; this is My body." 23And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

14:22 "took some bread" Notice it was not the Passover Lamb (nor bitter herbs), but the unleavened bread (azumos, cf. Mark 14:1). The Greek term here is artos, which is usually used to denote regular bread (cf. Mark 3:20; 6:8,16,36,37; 7:2,5,27; 8:4,14,16,17). But it also is used of unleavened bread in the parallel of Matt. 26:26; Luke 22:19. Probably the lamb had too much of a nationalistic connotation. For all the historical connections between the Passover and the Last Supper, there is a purposeful theological distinction.

If there is a sustained typology between the Exodus and Jesus, which seems to be true, then the bread takes on a special relationship to "manna" (cf. Exod. 16), given by YHWH during the wilderness wandering period. This provided a stable life-giving diet to God's people. Now YHWH gives the "true" bread of heaven, provides the "real" life-giving provision, sends the "perfect" leader, and inaugurates the new Passover from sin and death. The NT authors often used Christological typology in their presentations of Jesus as prefigured in the OT.

Wine in the OT was known as the blood of the grape and was often used in a judicial sense (i.e., the grapes of wrath). Now it is the sacrifice which brings eternal life. The imagery is clearly seen in John 6.

▣ "after a blessing" There was a set procedure for the Passover meal. In all probability the symbolism of the broken bread and wine occurred at the point in the ritual called "the third cup of blessing" (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16).


▣ "Take it; this is My body" John 6:22ff and 1 Cor. 10:16 show the strong theological imagery of this ritual. Jesus' words about His body and blood would have shocked these Jews. Cannibalism and the consumption of blood would be violations of Lev. 11. These statements are obviously symbolic, but still startling.

Jesus was symbolizing the crucifixion by breaking the bread. As the color of the wine was similar to blood, the color of the bread was similar to human flesh. Jesus was the true Bread of Life (i.e., manna, cf. John 6:31-33,51), the true Passover, the new Exodus!


14:23 "given thanks" The Greek term for "thanks" is eucharistē, from which we get the English name for the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist.

14:24 "This is My blood of the covenant" The color of the wine resembled the color of human blood. This phrase has three possible OT origins.

1. Exod. 24:6-8, the inauguration of the Book of the Covenant by covenant blood

2. Jer. 31:31-34, the only text in the OT which mentions "new covenant"

3. Zech. 9:11, which is in the literary unit 9-14, the source of many prophecies (i.e., Christological typology) of Jesus' life

There are two variants in the Greek manuscript traditions.

1.  "the covenant" following Matt. 26:28, which is found in the Greek manuscripts א, B, C, D2, and L (and also D* and W with slight change). The UBS4 gives this shorter reading an "A" rating (certain).

2.  "the new covenant" following Luke 22:20 and 1 Cor. 11:25, which is found in MSS A and E and the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian translations (cf. NKJV). This probably was an addition to relate Jesus' words to the "new" covenant of Jer. 31:31-34.

In all of this discussion one thing is obvious. Jesus' death was crucial to the restoration of fallen mankind to fellowship with the Father (cf. Mark 10:45). Jesus came to (1) reveal the Father; (2) give us an example to follow; and (3) die in our place for our sin. There is no other way for redemption (cf. John 10,14). This was the central aspect of God's eternal plan (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29).


▣ "'which is poured out for many'" Jesus' death, symbolized by His poured out blood, was a sacrifice for sin (cf. Mark 10:45; Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:11-15). The term "many" does not refer to a limited group, but is a Hebraic (or Semitic) metaphor for "all who would respond." This can be seen in the parallelism of Rom. 5:18 and 5:19 as well as Isa. 53:6 "all" compared with 53:11-12, "many." See note at Mark 10:45.


14:25 "'I will never again drink'" The Passover liturgy involved four cups of blessing. The rabbis established this procedure based on Exod. 6:6-7. The third cup symbolized redemption. This is the one that forms the basis of the Lord's Supper. Jesus refused to drink the fourth cup of blessing because it symbolized the consummation. Jesus related this to the end-time Messianic banquet (cf. Isa. 25:6; 55; Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29; 14:15,24; 22:30; Rev. 19:9,17).

▣ "'until that day'" This obviously refers to a future coming of Jesus in glory and power so different from His current situation in which He faced shame, pain, rejection, and death! The two comings of Jesus differentiate His tasks as redeemer (i.e., vicarious, substitutionary atonement) and victor/judge. This two-fold coming surprised the Jews. It was probably Jesus Himself, perhaps on the road to Emmaus, who showed the full significance of the key OT passages (i.e., Gen. 3:15; Ps. 22; Isa. 53 and Zech. 9-14).

▣ "'the kingdom of God'" See Special Topic at Mark 1:15c.

 26After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

14:26 "singing a hymn" This Greek verb is the source of the English word "hymn." This was probably part of the Hallel Psalms (i.e., Ps. 113-118, cf. Matt. 26:30), which was the last part of the Passover ritual. These psalms were expressions of joy and gratitude for YHWH's redemption. They are recited or chanted in whole, or in part, at all major feast days, except the Day of Atonement. Psalms 113-114 are chanted early in the Passover meal and 115-118 towards the end of the meal.

▣ "the Mount of Olives" Jesus and the disciples must have regularly used this as a campground or place of prayer during the Passover period (i.e., eight days).

 27And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, because it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.' 28But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." 29But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away, yet I will not." 30And Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times." 31But Peter kept saying insistently, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And they all were saying the same thing also.


NASB, NJB"You will all fall away"
NKJV"All of you will be made to stumble"
NRSV"You will all become deserters"
TEV"All of you will run away"

This is a future passive indicative. This is another evidence that Jesus knows and controls future events. The passive idea is captured in the ASV translation "all ye shall be offended" (i.e., skandalizō, which was used of baited trap sticks). There is a second future passive, "will be scattered," from Zech. 13:7. This same terminology of unbelief (i.e., "fall away") was used for others rejecting Christ (cf. Matt. 11:6; 13:21,57; 24:10; 26:31). The disciples' faith will fail! Peter's denials were only exemplary of all their fears.

▣ "'it is written'" Literally this is "it has been written," which is a perfect passive indicative. It was a characteristic phrase (i.e., Hebrew idiom) referring to the inspired OT.

▣ "'I will strike'" This is a quote from Zech. 13:7. It was the Father's plan that Jesus should give His life as a sacrifice for sin (cf. Isa. 53:4,6,10; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29; 2 Cor. 5:21).

14:28 Jesus told the disciples several times that He would meet them on a mount in Galilee (cf. Matt. 26:32; 28:7,10,16). This special meeting was the occasion for the Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:16-20), which is probably the post-resurrection appearance spoken of in 1 Cor. 15:6. This does not refer to the ascension, which took place from the Mount of Olives forty days after the resurrection (cf. Acts 1:12).

This was a prediction of His resurrection, but they did not perceive its significance. This phrase is an excellent opportunity to show that the NT often attributes the works of redemption to all three persons of the Godhead.

1. God the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 6:4,9; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1;Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:10)

2. God the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; 10:17-18)

3. God the Spirit raised Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:11). This same Trinitarian emphasis can be seen in Mark 14:9-10. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Mark 1:11.


14:29 "'Even though'" This is literally "even if" (cf. NKJV and NJB). It is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Peter could imagine the others fleeing, but not himself!

▣ "'yet'" This is the strong adversative alla. Peter was making the emphatic assertion that he would never leave Jesus (cf. Luke 22:33; John 13:37-38). Peter was publicly proclaiming an allegiance he would not, could not fulfill! His desire superceded his ability!

14:30 "this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times" "You, yourself" is emphatic! This is a future middle indicative. Luke's account is longer (cf. Mark 22:31-34). The detail that the rooster crows twice is an eyewitness memory of Peter. It is only recorded in Mark's Gospel.


NASB"kept saying insistently"
NKJV"spoke more vehemently"
NRSV"said vehemently"
TEV"answered even more strongly"
NJB"repeated still more earnestly"

This term (perisseia) for excess or extreme degree is used often in its various forms in the NT (cf. Matt. 5:20; 27:23; Acts 26:11; Phil. 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:1). The intensified form with its ek prepositional prefix is only found in Mark. It is probably from Peter himself! He remembered how vehement his denial was!

▣ "'Even if'" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. Literally "even if it must be."

▣ "'I will not deny You'" Peter truly felt this way. With all his heart and will power he was determined to stand by Jesus! As David's sins and subsequent forgiveness function to encourage later believers, so too, Peter's assertions and failures. Sinful, weak humans want to do the right thing (cf. Rom. 7), they just find themselves incapable! Jesus can deal with failure, but not unrepentant unbelief.

 32They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed." 33And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." 35And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." 37And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 39Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41And He came the third time, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!"

14:32 "Gethsemane" "Gethsemane" means "oil press" in Hebrew. It apparently was a private garden just outside the city limits of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. It was illegal to have gardens within the city because the manure needed for the plants made the city ceremonially unclean. Apparently Jesus came to this garden quite often. It is even possible that during Passion Week He bivouacked here with His disciples. Judas knew the place well.

▣ "'Sit here until I have prayed'" In the parallels in Matt. 26:41 and Luke 22:40 Jesus asks them to pray that they would not enter into temptation.

14:33 "He took with Him Peter and James and John" This was the inner circle of leadership among the disciples. They were present with Jesus on several special occasions when the other disciples were not. Apparently this led to both special training and jealousy on the part of the other disciples. Exactly why Jesus had an inner circle is uncertain. The list of the Twelve is always in four groupings of three. The groups never change. It is possible that the groups formed a rotating schedule for the disciples to go home periodically and check on their families. See Special Topic at Mark 3:16.

NASB"began to be very distressed and troubled"
NKJV"he began to be troubled and deeply distressed"
NRSV"began to be distressed and agitated"
TEV"Distress and anguish came over him"
NJB"he began to feel terror and anguish"

Jesus was in a deep state of anxiety! These are strong terms in Greek. As modern readers we are on very holy ground here in the garden as we see the Son of God in what may have been His most vulnerable human moment. Jesus must have related this account to His disciples after His resurrection. Apparently it was meant to be helpful for those who face temptation and for those who seek to understand the agony and cost of Jesus' Calvary experience.

▣ "'My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death'" This is an astonishingly emphatic statement of concern, fear, and grief on Jesus' part. Although the text itself does not provide the reason, it seems that what Jesus feared was the disruption in the intimate fellowship He had always known with the Father. This is characterized by Jesus' words in Mark 15:34. This is one of the most human moments we are allowed to witness in Jesus' struggle of faith.

This was an Old Testament idiom (cf. Ps. 42:5) which expressed the tremendous intensity which was involved in the redemption of sinful mankind. All of Psalm 42 reflects Jesus' experience of rejection and death as does Psalm 22. Something of the struggle can be seen in the parallel of Luke 22:43-44 (although the UBS4 rates their omission "A" [certain]) , which records that an angel came to minister to Him and He sweat great drops of blood. The victory over the evil one was won here in the garden. The insidiousness of Satan's temptation in Matthew 4 and of Peter's supposedly helpful, but extremely destructive, comments in Matt. 16:22, are fully revealed in this passage.

"'remain here and keep watch'" This is an aorist active imperative followed by a present active imperative. They were on guard duty watching for Judas and the mob, but they fell asleep!

14:35 "fell to the ground and began to pray" These are two imperfects. Usually this tense means continual action in past time, but it is obvious this cannot be what is meant here. The other typical usage of this Greek verb tense is the beginning of an action in past time. Praying prostrate shows the intense emotion.

14:35 "'if it were possible'" This is a first class conditional, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective. Jesus knew YHWH was able to do anything (cf. Mark 14:36, "all things are possible for You!").

"the hour"


"the hour might pass Him by" This is an aorist active subjunctive. Jesus is asserting that YHWH is able to do anything and Jesus is hoping that He might be spared the cross (cf. Mark 14:36). This was exactly Satan's temptations in the wilderness, cf. James Stewart's The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, pp.39-46). From Matt. 26:39,42 and 44 and Mark 14:39 and 41 we learn that Jesus prayed this same prayer three times, which was a Jewish way of showing intensity.

14:36 "'Abba'" This is Aramaic for the familiar term that children call their fathers at home, dad, daddy, pop, papa, etc. Jesus knew family intimacy with YHWH (cf. Heb. 1:2; 3:6; 5:8; 7:28). His death will provide this intimacy to us.

This context is the only time the Aramaic word Abba is used (i.e., in the Greek text) by Jesus. Jesus reveals the intense struggle He faced in this moment of fleshly temptation (i.e., He describes His intense emotions; He fell on the ground; He prayed three times). Here He played His trump card, His best chance of changing the Father's mind about Calvary. He calls YHWH by the most intimate family term! But still every prayer was concluded with "not my will, but Thine." God the Father demonstrates His love for fallen humanity by not responding to Jesus' expressed will. There needed to be an ultimate sacrifice for sin, but it was not easy or without great cost, emotionally and physically, for Jesus and for the Father!

Jesus knows us because He knows all the temptations of humanity (yet without sin). Fear and terror and discouragement and disillusionment are not sin! The victory was won at Gethsemane.

"'Father'" The Gospel of Mark often uses Aramaic words and phrases (cf. Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:34; 14:36;15:34). Aramaic would have been the spoken language of Jesus and the disciples. Mark translates each of these, which shows he was not writing for Jewish readers, but Gentile readers, probably Romans because of all the Latin terms and phrases found in Mark. See Special Topic: Father at Mark 13:32.

▣ "'this cup'" This was an OT metaphor for one's destiny (cf. Ps. 16:5; 23:5; Jer. 51:2; Matt. 20:22). It was usually used in a judgmental (i.e., negative) sense (cf. Ps. 11:6; 75:8; Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15-16,27-28; 49:12; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 23:31-33; Hab. 2:16). This idiom is often associated with drunkenness, which is another OT metaphor for judgment (cf. Job 21:20; Isa. 29:9; 63:6; Jer. 25:15-16,27-28). Jesus wants out! Fear is not sin. He faced fear with faith; so must we!

▣ "'yet not what I will, but what You will'" The pronouns "I" and "You" are in the emphatic position in the Greek. This was Jesus' continuing submission to the Father's will. In this context the true humanity and faith of Jesus shines forth! Though His human nature cries out for deliverance, His heart is set on fulfilling the will of the Father in substitutionary atonement (cf. Mark 10:45; Matt. 26:39).

14:37,40 "found them sleeping" These disciples had also fallen asleep during the Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 26:43 and Luke 9:32). They were not evil or even thoughtless, but human! Before we are too quick to condemn the disciples, let's note that in Luke 22:45 the phrase "they were asleep from sorrow" describes that they were unable to bear the pain of Jesus' prophecy about His own death and their subsequent scattering. Though Jesus longed to have human fellowship and intercession at this time of ultimate crisis in His life, He had to face this moment alone, and He faced it for all believers!

14:37 "'Simon'" This is the only time Jesus calls him "Simon" since He renamed him in Mark 3:16. The rock (i.e., Peter) was anything but stable, sure, and trustworthy. Peter must have remembered this "reverse" name change with great pain. I am sure that he got the message!

14:38 "'Keep watching and praying'" This is a Present active imperative and a present middle (deponent) imperative. The following context reveals the enemy.

▣ "'that you may not come into temptation'" There have been several theories as to what "temptation" refers to in this context:

1. Jesus' immediate prophecy in Mark 14:27

2. to the disciples sleeping instead of praying, Mark 14:37,40

3. to the disciples desertion of Jesus in Mark 14:56

4. to Peter's denial in Mark 14:69-75

5. to governmental or religious trials (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; John 9:22; 16:2)

The term "temptation" (peirasmos) had the connotation of "to tempt or try with the goal of destruction" (cf. Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4; James 1:13). It is often contrasted with another Greek term for test (dokimazo) which had the connotation of "to try or tempt with a view toward strengthening." However, these connotations are not always present in every context. Theologically it can be said that God does not test or tempt His children to destroy them, but He does provide opportunities for spiritual growth through trials (cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Duet. 8:2,16; Matt. 4; Luke 4; Heb. 5:8). However, He always provides a way through (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). See Special Topic: Greek Terms for Testing at Mark 1:13.

▣ "'the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak'" This may be a comment on Peter's and the other disciples' words in Mark 14:29,31. Jesus understands this tension completely (cf. Mark 14:36).

The use of "spirit" in connection with mankind's human spirit speaks of our inner life and thoughts (cf. Ps. 51:10,12,17).

In Paul's writings "spirit" is often contrasted with "flesh" (cf. Rom. 8:1-11).

14:40 "they did not know what to answer Him" They had no explainable reason (cf. Mark 9:6) except the weakness of the flesh (cf. Luke 9:32).

14:41 "'Are you still sleeping and resting'" It is hard to interpret this Greek idiom. Is it a question? Is it irony? Is it a statement? Although the meaning is uncertain, it is obvious that Jesus has won the victory and He now stands erect, ready to face the night trials, the morning beatings and the crucifixion.

▣ "It is enough" This term caused several scribal changes in the Greek manuscript tradition. Does this phrase refer to the disciples' sleep? It can be translated (1) "it is enough"; (2) "it is settled"; or (3) "it is over" (cf. NJB "it is all over"). It was used in the Koine Greek papyri found in Egypt of something paid in full (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, pp. 57-58). This, then, would be something of a parallel to John 19:30, "it is finished" or "it is paid in full." Possibly it refers to Judas and his betrayal, which must have weighed heavily on Jesus. Jesus won the spiritual victory in Gethsemane!

14:41c-42 These staccato statements are emphasized by having no conjunctions or connectors (asyndeton) between them. The events were unfolding just as Jesus had predicted. The hour had come.

▣ "the hour has come" See Special Topic at Mark 14:35.

▣ "'betrayed'" This term (paradidōmi) normally means "delivered into the hands of" (cf. Mark 9:31), but its connection with Judas in most English translations intensify the meaning of "betray." See fuller note at Mark 14:10d.

 43Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard." 45After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, "Rabbi!" and kissed Him. 46They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 47But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48And Jesus said to them, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures." 50And they all left Him and fled.

14:43 "Immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "a crowd" John 18:3,12 says a Roman cohort was present. Luke 22:52 says representatives from the Sanhedrin were in the crowd, which implies the temple police. The reason for so many soldiers was because it was the Passover season and the authorities were afraid of a riot (cf. Mark 14:2; Matt. 26:5; 27:24).

▣ "swords and clubs" This term "swords" referred to the short sword worn by the Roman soldiers in their belt. "Clubs" refers specifically to the weapons of the temple police.

▣ "the chief priests and the scribes and the elders" This referred to the Sanhedrin. See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

14:44 "seize Him" This is an aorist active imperative.

TEV"lead Him away under guard"
NKJV"lead Him away safely"
NJB"see that he is well guarded when you lead him away"

This is the Greek term sphallomai ( "to fall or stumble") with the alpha privative, which negates it. This term is metaphorical for "to be secure, firm, steady." Judas was afraid Jesus would do something to thwart His arrest. This reveals Judas' fear. He had seen Jesus' miracles and knew His power.

14:45 "saying, 'Rabbi!' and kissed Him" Kissing on the cheek or forehead was the normal greeting in this culture (especially between rabbis). Read Jesus' comments on Judas' actions in Matt. 26:50; Luke 22:48. This sign shows that it was probably Roman soldiers because the temple police would have recognized Jesus.

14:47 "But one of those who stood by drew his sword" From the parallel in John 18:10 and Luke 22:50-51, we know that this was Peter and the servant who was wounded was Malchus. The disciples had previously been admonished to buy swords (cf. Luke 22:36-38), but obviously, they had misunderstood Jesus' true meaning concerning this issue. It must be said on Peter's behalf that he was fully willing to die for his Lord at this point. In the face of great odds, he drew one of two swords. But, again, the inappropriateness and impulsiveness of his actions characterized his personality.

▣ "the slave of the high priests" John 18:10 names him Malchus.

▣ "cut off his ear" In Luke 22:51, Jesus put it back!


NASB, NKJV"a robber"
NRSV, NJB"a bandit"
TEV"an outlaw"

They are treating Jesus as a criminal, not a blasphemer. They were doing to Jesus what should have been done to Barabbas (for whom the same word is used, cf. John 18:40).

14:49 "'Every day I was with you in the temple teaching'" This was addressed to the members of the Sanhedrin or temple police. Jesus exposes their secret agenda.

"'But this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures'" In Mark 14:50 "all His disciples forsook Him" (cf. Mark 14:27, which quotes Zech. 13:7 and Matt. 26:31). One wonders how John 18:15-16 fits this prophecy. It seems that John accompanied Jesus through all the trials and was present at the crucifixion (cf. John 19:26-27).

 51A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.

14:51-52 "young man. . .wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body" Church tradition says this was John Mark, the compiler of this Gospel. He was an early missionary companion of his uncle, Barnabas (cf. Acts 12:25), and Saul (Paul) of Tarsus. Tradition strongly asserts that he was the scribe for Peter's recollections of Jesus' life (i.e., the Gospel of Mark). Tradition also says it was in his home that the Last Supper was held (cf. Acts 12:12).

It is uncertain why he was dressed like this. Possibly he was told while sleeping that Jesus was in the process of being arrested or maybe he tried to stay close to Jesus and the disciples and was sleeping close by in the garden.

 53They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together. 54Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. 55Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58"We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'" 59Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. 60The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, "Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" 61But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." 63Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? 64"You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

14:53 "They led Jesus away to the high priest" John 18:13a mentions Annas, but Caiaphas was High Priest from a.d. 18-36 (cf. Matt. 26:57). The Synoptic Gospels do not record the interrogation by Annas. He was the previous High Priest and really the power behind the office (cf. John 18:13b).

▣ "all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes" This phrase was used to designate the Great Council, the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 14:55). See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

14:54 This verse sets the stage for Peter's denials in the courtyard. Peter could not stay away, but would not/could not identify himself with Jesus. What irony!

NASB"he was sitting with the officers"
NKJV"he sat with the servants"
NRSV"he was sitting with the guards"
TEV"he sat down with the guards"
NJB"was sitting with the attendants"

This is a periphrastic imperfect middle (deponent) participle. It seems to imply that Peter tried to act like one of the servants/attendants. He wanted to melt into the group, but the light on his face and the Galilean accent gave him away. Peter remembers this night well!

14:55 This was not a legal trial; it was a sham trial (cf. A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in The New Testament, pp. 24-47).

14:56 "For many were giving false testimony against Him" The imperfect tense (in this verse twice and in Mark 14:57 and 59) shows the repeated attempt at false testimonies, but no two agreed. This was a parade of bad liars!

▣ "their testimony was not consistent" In the OT it took the testimony of two witnesses to convict (cf. Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Also in the OT if someone bore false witness they were to bear the penalty of the accused.

14:58 "'I will destroy this temple'" This verse is a good example about Jesus' use of metaphors to describe upcoming events. The word "temple" stands for two things and two time frames.

1. Jesus' body (cf. John 2:19-22) crucified, but resurrected in three days (i.e., the sign of Jonah, cf. Matt. 12:39-40; Luke 11:29-32). This was to happen within hours.

2. Herod's temple in Jerusalem was going to be destroyed by the Romans in a.d. 70 and not rebuilt. This was a future judgment in about 40 years, but it reflects an eschatological judgment (i.e., 2 Thess. 2; and Revelation).

It is easy to see how Jesus' temporal, yet eschatological, kingdom and its ethics could be misunderstood by dogmatic, legalistic religionists, both then and now.

"'in three days'" This time reference (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34) is linked to OT prophecy in 1 Cor. 15:3-4. The "three day" time frame is linked both to a "new temple" and the new resurrection body. Jesus intentionally merged these two. The temple of the new age is the believer, both individually and corporately (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

▣ "'I will build another made without hands'" This is an awesome prophecy of Jesus' death and resurrection. As the temple was central in OT worship, now it will be Jesus Himself. He is the rejected cornerstone! He is the new focus of worship!

He has the power to lay down His own life and pick it up again (cf. John 10:11,15,17,18). He is in total control of His life and death and resurrection.

14:60 "The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned" The High Priest was trying to get Jesus to incriminate Himself. This was illegal under Jewish law, as was a night trial and a trial and punishment on the same day.

14:61 "He kept silent" This may be fulfillment of Isa. 53:7 (cf. Matt. 26:63; 27:12-14; Mark 15:5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9).

▣ "Again the high priest was questioning Him" Matt. 26:63 adds that he put Him under an oath.

▣ "Christ" This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term Messiah which meant "an anointed one." In the OT prophets, priests, and kings were anointed as a special symbol of God's choice and equipment for an assigned task. The term came to be used for the special royal "Son of David" (cf. 2 Sam. 7) who would redeem and restore Israel.

▣ "the Son of the Blessed One" "Blessed One" is a common Jewish title (i.e., circumlocution) for God. The Jews did not expect the Messiah to be God incarnate, but a gifted/empowered human, like the Judges. But Jesus used this family relationship to assert His fully equality with the Father (cf. John 5:18; 10:30,33; and also 1:1).

14:62 "'I am'" This may have been an allusion to the OT name of the Covenant God, YHWH, which was from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; John 4:26; 8:24,28,58; 13:19; 18:5). See Special Topic: Names for Deity at Mark 12:36. This very straightforward answer is similar to Luke 22:70. Matthew records a much more cryptic response (cf. Matt. 26:64).

It is Mark's Gospel that depicts Jesus' self understanding from the very beginning as God's Son and Messiah (cf. Mark 1:1). The demons also recognized Him as such and verbally affirmed Him (cf. Mark 1:24,34; 3:11), but the disciples were slow to understand (cf. Mark 8:29) both Jesus' person and work. They still looked through first century, Jewish eyes (as did the High Priest).

▣ "'the son of man seated at the right hand of Power'" This is an allusion to Ps. 110:1. It was an anthropomorphic metaphor for the place of authority. The term "power" is a circumlocution reference to YHWH. Jesus (i.e., the Son of Man, cf. Mark 14:21,41,62) is asserting in eschatological terms which they would have understood that He was YHWH's Messiah. Even though Ps. 110:4 has a priestly connotation, this verse has a royal connotation (cf. Heb. 1:3).

It must be reiterated that the High Priest's understanding of the question in Mark 14:61 was different from Jesus' understanding (the same is true of Pilate's questions in Mark 15). The High Priest understood it as a threat to his power and authority and Rome's power and authority. The OT concept of the Messiah as a conquering King was equally shared by the Apostles (cf. Mark 10:37).

Jesus, however, saw His kingdom as future and spiritual (cf. John 18:36). This is why He quotes these eschatological passages from Psalm 110 and Daniel 7.

There is surely a paradox involved in the two comings, one as humble, suffering servant and one as glorified King and Judge. The OT presents both, but the Jews focused only on the second. This is the same theological tension as the Kingdom of God—inaugurated, but not consummated! It is so hard for us to imagine how difficult it was for Jewish people of Jesus' day to understand His message.

▣ "'coming with the clouds of heaven'" This is a quote from Dan. 7:13. It is a phrase that asserted the Deity of Jesus in very clear OT terms. No one rode on the clouds except YHWH, but now His "Son" does also (cf. Mark 13:26; Acts 1:9; Rev. 1:7).

14:63 "Tearing His clothes" This was a sign of a deeply disturbed spirit caused by the supposed blasphemy. The penalty for blasphemy from Lev. 24:15 was death by stoning. Jesus deserved to die on the basis of Deut. 13:1-3 and 18:22 if He was not the Coming One, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. There is no middle ground here. Either He is who He claimed to be or He is a blasphemer who deserved death (cf. Josh McDowell's, Evidence That Demands a Verdict).

14:64 "blasphemy" Speaking falsehood about YHWH deserved the death penalty by stoning (cf. Lev. 24:14-16).

14:65 "to spit at Him" This was an OT symbol of rejection (cf. Num. 12:14; Deut. 25:9; Job 17:6; 30:10; Isa. 50:6). Members of the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers (cf. Mark 15:19) spit on Jesus.

"to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, 'Prophesy!'" They blindfolded Him, hit Him and then asked, "Who hit you?" They were mocking His claim to be God's prophet. The rabbis of Jesus' day had interpreted Isa. 11:3 that the Messiah could judge by smell, not just sight. This may or may not refer to this incident. It certainly relates to Isa. 52:14. The rabbis interpreted this verse by saying the Messiah would have leprosy, but I think this refers to these severe beatings by several different groups of soldiers.

Several Greek manuscripts expand this text in Mark to reflect Matt. 26:68 and Luke 22:64.

NASB"to beat Him with their fists"
NKJV"struck Him with the palms of their hands"
NRSV"to strike him"
TEV"hit him"
NJB"hitting him"

This account of Jesus' abuse uses the Greek terms kolaphizō, which means to beat with the fist, and hrapizō, which means to slap with the open hand (cf. Matt. 26:67). The slap with an open hand is an Oriental symbol of contempt (cf. Matt. 5:39; John 18:22; 19:3). These same terms refer to "beating with rods" in Acts 16:27.

Both the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers humiliated Jesus as well as physically abused Him (cf. Isa. 52:14; 53:4).

 66As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, 67and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Nazarene." 68But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about." And he went out onto the porch, and a rooster crowed. 69The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, "This is one of them!" 70But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too." 71But he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this man you are talking about!" 72Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, "Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And he began to weep.

14:66 "one of the servant-girls of the high priest came" John 18:17 says that she was the gate keeper. Matthew, as usual, has two persons, while Mark only has one servant (cf. Matt. 26:69-71). Peter must have told John Mark this embarrassing story or he used it in one of his sermons in Rome and John Mark heard it.

14:67 "seeing Peter" It was a full moon (at Passover). She could clearly see Peter by the firelight (cf. Mark 14:54, 67; John 18:18,25) and the moonlight.

▣ "'Jesus the Nazarene'" The Jews who grew up in Galilee (cf. Matt. 26:69) had a distinct accent. This linked Jesus to his disciples (cf. Mark 14:70). See Special Topic at Mark 10:47.

14:68 "'I neither know nor understand what you are talking about'" The exact order of these three accusations differs from Gospel to Gospel. The fact that Peter denied Jesus three times with successive emphasis is common to all of the accounts.

▣ "And he went out onto the porch" Apparently Peter tried to leave. The ancient Greek uncial manuscripts are evenly divided over whether the phrase "and the rooster crowed" should be included at Mark 14:68 (MSS A, C, D as well as the Vulgate, Peshitta translations include it, while א, B, L, and W omit it). It clearly explains "the second time a cock crowed" of Mark 14:72. Some modern translations (cf. NASB, NIV) omit it, but several include it with a footnote (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB). The UBS4 cannot decide which is original.

14:70 "after a little while" Luke 22:59 has "about an hour."

▣ "Galilean" Either Peter's dialect or possibly his clothing gave him away.

14:71 "began to curse and swear" The term "curse" (anathematizō) originally referred to something devoted to God (anathēma), but came to refer to a curse (cf. Acts 23:12,14,21). It was a way of asserting the trustworthiness of a statement by calling down the judgment of God on oneself if not telling the truth.

Peter, in the strongest cultural ways (i.e., an oath and swearing) perjured himself before God! Judas did nothing worse than Peter! Peter denied His Lord in repeated, emphatic, and binding terms publicly (cf. Matt. 26:34,74).


"'I do not know this man'" It is possible the phrase "this man" was a derogatory Semitic idiom referring to Jesus.

14:72 "a rooster crowed a second time" Peter remembered Jesus' words (cf. Luke 22:31-32). Luke 22:61 says Jesus looked at him. Apparently Jesus was being moved from Annas' to Caiaphas' part of the High Priest's palace.

The phrase "a second time" is omitted in some Greek manuscripts. The problem scribes faced was that the other three Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Luke and John) only mention one rooster crowing, while Mark apparently has two (cf. MSS A, B, C2, D and W), so some manuscripts omit the phrase (cf. MSS א, C and L).

"And he began to weep" Peter was fulfilling prophecy in his denials and giving hope for all believers who have denied Jesus with their tongue, with their lives and with their priorities. There is also hope for anyone who turns back to Him in faith (cf. John 21).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is there a contradiction between Mark and John as to the day on which the Lord's Supper occurred?

2. Why was Mary so extravagant? Why did Jesus allow it?

3. Does Mark 14:7 teach Jesus' lack of concern for the poor?

4. Why were the religious leaders trying to kill Jesus?

5. What about Judas, how are we to explain his actions?

6. How is the Lord's Supper related to Passover? What is the significance of the Lord's Supper?

7. Why is Gethsemane so paradoxical (i.e., Jesus wants the cup to pass, but also wants God's will)?

8. Why was the High Priest so upset by Jesus' quoting Ps. 110 and Dan. 7:13?



Mark 15


Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Faces Pilate Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate
15:1-5 15:1-5 15:1-5 15:1-2a 15:1
      15:2b 15:2-5
Jesus Sentenced to Die Taking the Place of Barabbas   Jesus is Sentenced to Death  
15:6-15 15:6-15 15:6-15 15:6-10 15:6-15
The Soldiers Mock Jesus The Soldiers Mock Jesus The Crucifixion The Soldiers Make Fun of Jesus Jesus Crowned with Thorns
15:16-20 15:16-20 15:16-20 15:16-20 15:16-20a
The Crucifixion of Jesus The King on a Cross   Jesus is Crucified The Way of the Cross
15:21-32 15:21-32 15:21-24 15:21-28 The Crucifixion
      15:29-30 The Crucified Jesus is Mocked
      15:31-32a 15:29-32
The Death of Jesus Jesus Dies on the Cross   The Death of Jesus The Death of Jesus
15:33-41 15:33-41 15:33-41 15:33-34 15:33-39
      15:38-39 The Women on Calvary
      15:40-41 15:40-41
The Burial of Jesus Jesus Buried in Joseph's Tomb   The Burial of Jesus The Burial
15:42-47 15:42-47 15:42-47 15:42-47 15:42-47

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1 Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. 2Pilate questioned Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him, "It is as you say." 3The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. 4Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, "Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!" 5But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.

15:1 "Early in the morning" Mark, like all Jewish writings, does not focus on specific times. It is probable that the Jews of Jesus' day divided the night and day into twelve hours each (cf. John 11:9), with three four-hour segments. The twenty-four hour day comes from Babylon. The Greeks and Jews borrowed it from them. The sundial was divided into twelve segments.

In chapter 15 Mark has several time markers;

1. sunrise, Mark 15:1 (around 6 a.m. depending on the time of the year)

2. third hour, Mark 15:25 (around 9 a.m.)

3. sixth hour, Mark 15:33 (around noon)

4. ninth hour, Mark 15:34 (around 3 p.m.)

5. evening, Mark 15:42 (sunset, around 6 p.m.)

Luke 22:66-71 gives the details of this meeting. This early meeting was held in an attempt to give some legality to their illegal night trial (cf. A. N Sherwin-White, Roman

Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, pp. 24-47). The chronology of Jesus' trial before Pilate and His crucifixion is:

  Matthew Mark Luke John
Pilate's Verdict       6th Hour
Crucifixion   3rd Hour
Darkness Fell 6th-9th Hour
6th-9th Hour
6th-9th Hour
Jesus Cried Out 9th Hour
9th Hour

When these time designations are compared, two interpretive options arise: (1) they are the same. John used Roman time, counting from 12:00 a.m. (cf. Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 364), and the Synoptics used Jewish time, counting from 6:00 a.m. (2) John is asserting a later time for Jesus' crucifixion which would be another example of the differences between the Synoptics and John. However, it seems from John 1:39 and 4:6 that John sometimes uses Jewish time and sometimes Roman time (cf. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, Vol. 1, p. 403).

The time designations may be symbolic in all the Gospels for they relate to (1) time of daily sacrifices (i.e., the continual) in the Temple (9 a.m. and 3 p.m., cf. Acts 2:15; 3:1) and (2) just after noon was the traditional time to kill the Passover Lamb on Nisan 14. The Bible, being an ancient eastern book, does not focus on strict chronology as do modern western historical accounts.

"the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council" See Special Topic: Sanhedrin at Mark 12:13.

"immediately" Mark's gospel is characterized by action ( "then," "and," "immediately"). Jesus is revealed primarily through His actions. The pace of the narrative moves forward through these action words. See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "and binding Jesus" This may have been a common procedure with criminals or subconsciously it showed their fear of Jesus. Many were afraid He was a magician or sorcerer and that His power was in His hands.

▣ "delivered Him to Pilate" Exactly where this was done is uncertain. Most scholars think Pilate stayed at Herod's palace when in Jerusalem. His normal residence was Caesarea by the sea, where He used another of Herod's palaces as the praetorium. Others feel he stayed in the military headquarters, which was the fortress Antionia, next to the temple. The time would be at daybreak, following Roman customs of early court (probably because of the heat). Pilate ruled Palestine as a representative of the Emperor from a.d. 25/26-36/37 and then was removed because of repeated accusations by Vitellius, Legate of Syria.


15:2 "Pilate questioned Him" In what language? The chances of Pilate speaking Aramaic are less than that Jesus could speak Koine Greek. For a good discussion of this see

1.  "Did Jesus Speak Greek" by Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, chapter 21, pp. 253-264 in Approaches to the Bible: the Best of Bible Review

2.  "The Languages of the New Testament" by J. Howard Greenlee in Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 410-411


▣ "'Are You the King of the Jews'" "You" is emphatic and sarcastic. Luke 23:1-2 lists the charges of the Sanhedrin. John 19:8-19, adds great detail to the conversation between Jesus and Pilate. Pilate was not concerned with the religious aspect of the charge, but the political aspect.

NASB, NKJV"'It is as you say'"
NRSV, TEV"'You say so'"
NJB"'It is you who say it'"

This is literally "you say that I Am," which may be a Hebraic idiom of affirmation (cf. Matt. 26:25,64; Luke 22:70; 23:3) or a cryptic way of answering, implying, "You say so, but implying I am a different kind of king." This seems to have been a private consultation (cf. John 18:33-38) within the Praetorium. Jesus must have told the disciples about it or John was present. The Jews would not have entered because it would have made them ceremonially unclean to eat Passover.

The account of Jesus' interrogation by Herod Antipas is left out of Mark's Gospel, but is found in Luke 23:6-12.


NASB"began to accuse Him harshly"
NKJV, NRSV"accused Him of many things"
TEV"were accusing Jesus of many things"
NJB"brought many accusations against him"

This is imperfect tense meaning they accused Him again and again. This must have occurred after Pilate had spoken to Jesus privately (cf. Mark 15:4). A list of some of the accusations is found in Luke 23:2.

15:5 "Jesus made no further answer" This may be a fulfillment of Isa. 53:7 (cf. Mark 14:61; Matt. 26:63; 27:12; John 19:9).

"so Pilate was amazed" Why was Pilate amazed?

1. Jesus spoke in private to him, but would not speak in the presence of His accusers.

2. The High Priest made so many charges against Him and they were so vehement.

3. Jesus did not act like most prisoners who vigorously defended themselves.


 6Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 9Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" 10For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12Answering again, Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?" 13They shouted back, "Crucify Him!" 14But Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify Him!" 15Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

15:6 "the feast" This refers to the Passover. Scholars have often debated the length of Jesus' public ministry. The only reason church tradition affirms a three-year public ministry is because of the three Passovers mentioned in John's Gospel. However, in John there is a mention of "the feast," as here, which implies another Passover. I think Jesus may have had a four-year or possibly five or six-year public ministry. It is obvious the Gospel writers were not concerned with chronology per se, but theology. The Gospels are not western histories, but eastern theological accounts. They are neither biographies or autobiographies. They are a genre to themselves. Gospel writers, under inspiration, had the freedom to select, adapt, and rearrange the words and actions of Jesus to present Him to their target audiences. I do not believe they had the freedom to put words in His mouth; however, eyewitness material written down at a much later time, along with the theological purposes and differing target audiences, answers the questions about why the four Gospels differ.

▣ "he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested" This seems to have become an annual Roman tradition in Palestine of Jesus' day. There is no historical corroboration for this except Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:9:3. Pilate was trying to get the crowd to feel sympathy for Jesus so that he could let Him go free (cf. Mark. 15:14; Luke 23:14-16; John 18:38-39; 19:4).

15:7 "Barabbas" This name is a combination of Bar = "son of" and Abbas = "father." The non-canonical Gospel of Hebrews has Bar Rabbas, "son of Rabbi." Several Greek MSS of Matt. 27:16-17 have "Jesus Barabbas," which is an attempt at irony based on both being called "Jesus," who was truly "the Son of the Father."

▣ "with the insurrectionists" The man the crowd wanted released was the very type of person they were accusing Jesus of being. What irony!

15:8 "The crowd" Some think Barabbas' friends were waiting for this annual opportunity. Others feel the crowd was made up not of pilgrims, but of the false witnesses and others involved in the night trials. These had nothing in common except that they both wanted Barabbas released, but for very different reasons.

The city was full of pilgrims, many from Galilee, but they would not have been up this early, nor at Pilate's court.

NASB, NJB"went up"
NKJV"crying aloud"

The Greek words "go up" (anabainō) and "cry aloud" (anaboaō) are spelled and pronounced similarly, which means they were easily confused by the ancient method or making copies of the NT by one scribe reading the text aloud and several others making copies. The Greek manuscript tradition is split:

1.  "went up" aorist active participle in MSS א*, B, and the Vulgate.

2.  "cried aloud" aorist active participle in MSS אi2, A, C, W, and the Peshitta.

"Cried aloud" is not found in Mark in any other place, but "went up" is found nine times for:

1. things growing (4:7)

2. boarding a ship (6:51)

3. going up (15:8)

Probably NASB and NJB are correct.

15:9 Mark, like Luke (i.e., in both his Gospel and Acts), writes to show that Christianity was no threat to the Roman authorities.

15:10 "because of envy" Pilate understood the motives of the Sanhedrin (cf. Matt. 27:18), but refused to act in justice!

Jealousy is surely a possible motive of the Jewish leadership, but I am surprised that their theological and political motives were not also obvious to Pilate (i.e., Luke 23:2). It is also possible that Pilate had heard of Jesus through spies or informants (or even his wife, cf. Matt. 27:19).

15:12 "'Him whom you call the King of the Jews'" John 19:15 records that this mob of Jews (i.e., insurrectionists and Jewish leaders) said "We have no King but Caesar." What irony!


TEV, NJB"they shouted back"
NKJV"they cried out again"

The Greek term palin is interpreted as "back" by modern translations. Both "again" and "back" are standard translation options in Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 606. The context here demands "back."

15:14 "'what evil has He done'" John's Gospel parallels this statement of Pilate three times in Mark 18:38; 19:4,6. Pilate tried to gain sympathy for Jesus and release Him (cf. John 18:38; 19:6,12), but this biased crowd would not have it!


NASB, NRSV"wishing to satisfy the crowd"
NKJV"wanting to gratify the crowd"
TEV"wanted to please the crowd"
NJB"anxious to placate the crowd"

For Pilate civil order was more important than justice. These Jewish leaders had succeeded in intimidating Pilate (cf. John 19:12). Pilate had been accused of many things to the authorities in Syria and Rome. He could not afford more charges. They knew this and used it!

Several modern linguists note that the Greek words hikanon poiēsai are a Latin idiom (i.e., Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, p. 374; Moulton and Milligan, p. 302; C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book of the New Testament Greek, p. 192). This is significant because Mark has so many Latin words, phrases, and idioms, probably because it was written to witness to Romans.

▣ "scourged" This is a fulfillment of Isa. 53:5. Flogging was the standard Roman preliminary procedure for those being crucified. It was a horrible beating. A man was bent over and his hands tied to a low stake. Then two soldiers, one on each side, beat him with whips made out of nine leather straps with some hard objects attached to each of the strap's ends. Often prisoners died just from this beating.

 16The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. 17They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him 18and they began to acclaim Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 19They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. 20After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.

15:16 "The soldiers took Him away" These Roman soldiers (cf. Matt. 27:27) hated the Jews because of their exclusive attitudes toward Gentiles and they took their animosity out on Jesus. Luke 23:11 implies that Herod the Tetrarch's soldiers also mocked Him as king.

NASB"into the palace (that is, the Praetorium)"
NKJV"into the hall called Praetorium"
NRSV"into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters)"
TEV"inside to the courtyard of the governor's palace"
NJB"to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium"

This referred to the Roman officials' residence when they were in Jerusalem. This may have been the fortress Antonio, which was next to the Temple or more probably Herod the Great's palace in Jerusalem.

NASB"the whole Roman cohort"
NKJV"the whole garrison"
NRSV, NJB"the whole cohort"
TEV"the rest of the company"

The Greek term speiran (i.e., cohort) originally referred to something twisted together, like a strand or rope. It came to be used figuratively for a band of men working together for a purpose. Cohort is another Latin term. It was used of one-tenth of a legion, normally 600 men. But it could refer to many less (cf. John 18:3). The Roman military was structured by (1) legions, 6,000; (2) cohorts, 600; (3) maniples, 200; and (4) centuries, 100.

15:17 "dressed Him up in purple" Matthew 27:28 has a "scarlet robe" of a Roman cavalry officer. Purple was the symbol of royalty. Originally a Roman officer's robe would have been scarlet, but in time it faded to a shade of purple. They were mocking Jesus as the supposed King of the Jews (cf. Mark 15:18,20; John 19:2).

Luke 23:11 records that the Jewish soldiers of Herod the Tetrarch or Herod Antipas also mocked Jesus as King/Messiah by placing a kingly robe on Him.

▣ "crown of thorns" Traditionally this has been thought of as a mode of torture whereby the thorns were pressed into Jesus' brow. However, it is quite possible that it was a radiant crown made of palm leaves, which was another way of mocking Jesus as a king (cf. Matt. 27:27-31; Mark 15:15-20). The Greek term "crown" (stephanos) was used of an athletic victory garland or a laurel wreath worn by the Emperor.

15:19 This verse describes the mockery of the Roman soldiers.

1.  "hail," specialized greeting to a leader (Mark 15:18)

2.  "beating His head with a reed," this probably was first put in Jesus' hand as a mock scepter

3.  "spitting on Him," a cultural sign of contempt or mimicking a kiss (i.e., a type of salute)

4.  "kneeling and bowing before Him," another mock symbol of His kingship

5. a purple robe placed on His shoulders, symbolizing kingship

Numbers two through four are imperfect tenses, which mean repeated action in past time. Many of the soldiers did these actions again and again or possibly each soldier present did it.

15:20 "they led Him out" Jesus, as all condemned prisoners, had to carry His own cross beam to the place of crucifixion outside the city walls. They took the long way through the streets of Jerusalem so that all would see and fear Roman justice.

This leading of criminals outside the walls of Jerusalem to be killed may have been done out of respect for Jewish law (cf. Lev. 24:14 and Num. 15:35-36). The Romans did not want a riot during these crowded feast days.

▣ "to crucify Him" The Phoenicians invented crucifixion. Alexander the Great crucified 2,000 after the fall of Tyre. The Romans perfected the technique so that condemned criminals suffered several days before their death. This cruel torture was meant as a deterrent to crime. It could not be performed on a Roman citizen.

 21They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

15:21 "pressed into service" This is a Persian loan word used of official confiscation of property or conscription of workers for governmental use.

NASB"a passer-by coming from the country"
NKJV"as he was coming out of the country"
NRSV"a passer-by, who was coming in from the country"
TEV"who was coming into the city from the country"
NJB"a passer-by. . .who was coming from the country"

Does this imply a person now living in Palestine or a visitor to the Passover? I think it refers to a pilgrim who was housed in the suburbs of Jerusalem who just happened to be walking by at the time. However, there were many from Cyrenaica (i.e., North Africa) who lived in Jerusalem. There was even a special synagogue for them (cf. Acts 6:9). His children are mentioned who apparently were known by the early church (not in Jerusalem, but in Rome).

▣ "Simon of Cyrene" Cyrenaica was a province of North Africa. Cyrene was its capital. However, the name Simon is a Jewish name. We learn from Acts that there were many Jews from this area (cf. Acts 2:10; 6:9; 11:20; 13:1). His racial identity is uncertain. There were black Jews from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba's day (i.e., Ethiopia).

▣ "the father of Alexander and Rufus" Obviously this specific description implies that Simon and/or his children became well known in the early church. Since Mark is written to Romans possibly the Rufus in Rom. 16:13 is the same man.

▣ "cross" There are several possible shapes used by the Romans, T, X, t, or a scaffold holding several vertical beams. All of these shapes have been found by archaeological research as being used in first century Palestine.

 22Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. 24And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take. 25It was the third hour when they crucified Him. 26The inscription of the charge against Him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS."

15:22 "Golgotha" This is an Aramaic term. The term "calvary" is Latin for "skull." The terms do not refer to the full skull, but the forehead. The location is uncertain, but it was outside the old walls of Jerusalem, probably on a low, bald hill on a major thoroughfare into the holy city (cf. Lev. 24:14; Num. 15:35-36; John 19:20).

15:23 "They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh" This is imperfect tense meaning they tried several times. Talmudic tradition says that the women of Jerusalem did this as a ministry to condemned prisoners. It was in effect a strong drug to ease the pain and dull the mind.

▣ "but He did not take it" The reason is unknown.

15:24 "crucified Him" The Romans did not nail through the palms of the hand but through the wrists with the body supported mostly by ropes around the arms. The legs were slightly bent with the feet nailed to a small triangular box. This was done to cause a person to continually lift themselves up in order to breathe. There was also a small piece of wood, called the saddle, on which the person could sit and briefly rest their weight. Most crucified people died from asphyxiation. The person was suspended off the ground only high enough to get their feet about one foot above the ground.

▣ "divided up His garments" The Roman soldiers who crucified criminals got to keep their possessions as part of their pay.

▣ "casting lots" This was predicted in Ps. 22:18. This psalm describes Jesus' crucifixion (Christological typology). Jesus quotes the first line of this Psalm in Mark 15:34. Also Ps. 22:7-8 foreshadows the comments of those who passed by and mocked Jesus (cf. Mark 15:29).

15:25 "the third hour" In John 19:14 it says "the sixth hour." The Synoptic Gospels consistently use Jewish time, while John, often, but not exclusively, uses Roman time.

"they crucified Him" The Gospel writers do not play on our emotions describing the gruesome physical steps that were involved. The theological issue is not how (although Deut. 21:23 is significant, cf. Gal. 3:13) He died, but who He is and why He died!


NJB"the inscription. . .read"
NKJV"the inscription. . .written above"
TEV"the notice of the accusation against him said"

The information that this inscription was in three languages comes from John 19:20. The information that it was nailed over Jesus' head comes from Matt. 22:37.

The KJV and NKJV translate Mark 15:26 in such a way as to imply it clearly states "above," but the term "inscription" is repeated in the verb, which means to engrave, inscribe, imprint, write on, but not "above."

▣ "the charge read" This small sign was called the Titulus by the Romans. It was usually black letters on a white background. This official charge was either (1) carried before the condemned or (2) hung around the neck of the condemned. At the place of crucifixion it was placed above Jesus' head on the cross (cf. Matt. 27:37). See Manners and Customs of the Bible by James M. Freeman, pp. 395-6.

▣ "'THE KING OF THE JEWS'" It is interesting to note the variety among the Gospels as to the exact wording of the charge placed over Jesus' head on the cross.

1. Matt. 27:37 – "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews"

2. Mark 15:26 – "The King of the Jews"

3. Luke 23:38 – "This is the King of the Jews"

4. John 19:19 – "Jesus, the Nazarene, the King of the Jews"

Each one is different, but basically the same. This is true of most of the variety of historical details among the Gospels. Each writer recorded his memories (and sources) in slightly different ways, but they are still the same eyewitness account.

Pilate meant to irritate the Jewish leaders by putting the very title they feared on Jesus' cross (cf. Mark 15:21-22).

 27They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. 28[And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And He was numbered with transgressors."] 29Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30save Yourself, and come down from the cross!" 31In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. 32"Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!" Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.

15:27 "two robbers with Him" This term meant "robbers" or "insurrectionists." This is a specific fulfillment of Isa. 53:12.

Psalm 22 and Isa. 52:13-53:12 are specific in some of their details, but not all! Reading these types of Messianic prophecies is very difficult because only some of the details apply to Jesus' situation. Others must have been (1) symbolic; (2) poetic; or (3) concerned only the original historical situation. It is only through the inspiration of NT authors that this type of Christological typology is valid. Modern believers are led by the Spirit when they read the Bible (i.e., illumination), but we disagree on the details, which shows that inspiration is superior to illumination.

Typology has been so abused by post-NT writers that I refuse to accept this type of biblical interpretation except when recorded by NT authors. We cannot reproduce the hermeneutical procedures of inspired biblical writers. We must rely on understanding what those original, inspired authors were saying to their day (see Introductory Article, "Good Bible Reading"). We must then apply these truths to our cultural situation.

15:28 This verse is omitted by the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, A, B, C, and D. It is left out of the NRSV, TEV, NJB, and NIV translations. It was apparently added as a marginal note by an ancient scribe from Luke 22:37. It is not part of the original text of Mark. It is uncharacteristic for Mark, writing to Gentiles, to include an OT quote (i.e., Mark 15:28 is an allusion to Isa. 53:12). The UBS4 gives the omission an "A" rating (certain).

15:29 "Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him" Probably in keeping with the purpose and procedures of Roman crucifixion, the site of execution was located on a major road entering Jerusalem.

These passers by may have been fulfilling the prophecy of Ps. 22:6-8,12-13,16-17.

▣ "'Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple'" These mockers may be those false accusers who were at the night trial of the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 14:58).

15:30 This comment is a continuing mockery (cf. Mark 15:31-32) of Jesus' powers. They still wanted a miraculous sign, even at this late date. They claimed they would yet believe in Him (cf. Mark 15:32).

15:31 "He saved others" The term "saved" is used in its OT sense of physical deliverance. These leaders could not deny Jesus' miracles, but attributed His power to Satan (cf. Mark 3:22). The people of Jerusalem were well aware that Jesus had raised Lazarus (cf. John 11).

15:32 "Christ, the King of Israel" This is the chief priests' mockery of Pilate's title, "King of the Jews," which was nailed above Jesus' head. This is sarcasm, not affirmation!

This surely fits into the ridicule foreshadowed in Ps. 22:6-8,12-13,16.

▣ "Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him" It is only in Luke 23:35-43 that the account of the repentant criminal is recorded.

 33When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, "Behold, He is calling for Elijah." 36Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down." 37And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. 38And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

15:33 "the sixth hour" If Jewish time is used, this would be twelve o'clock noon. See note at Mark 15:1.

▣ "darkness fell over the whole land" This is one of the OT judgment signs, either in a covenantal sense (i.e., one of the Egyptian plagues, cf. Exod. 10:21; Deut. 28:28-29) or an apocalyptic sense (cf. Joel 2:2; Amos 8:9-10; Zeph. 1:15). This was a symbol of God the Father taking His presence away from His Son, who bore the sin of all humanity. This is what Jesus feared most in Gethsemane (symbolized by "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" in Mark 15:34). Jesus became a sin offering and bore the sin of all the world (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). He experienced personal separation from the Father. Darkness was a physical symbol of God the Father turning away from His Son.

15:34 "at the ninth hour" If Jewish time is used, this was three o'clock in the afternoon.

"'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me'" This is a quote from Ps. 22:1. Since the Jewish scrolls had no chapter and verse divisions (all of which were added to Bible texts in the middle ages), it seems that by quoting the first verse, Jesus wanted to highlight the entire Psalm.

There is a difference of scholarly opinion on how this phrase should be translated

1. The Septuagint has "O God, My God, attend to me" (which happens in the Psalms)

2. The Peshitta (translated by George M. Lamsa) has

a. Ps. 22:1, "My God, my God, why hast thou let me live?"

b. Mark 15:34, "My God, my God, for this I was spared!"

3. The Jewish Publication Society of America has, Ps. 22:1 as "My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?"

4. Codex Bezae (fifth century) has "My God, my God, why have you reviled me?" For a full discussion of the Gnostic problems connected to this verse see Bart D. Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Affect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament, pp. 143-145.

Jesus was experiencing the last full measure of human sin—separation from fellowship with the Father (cf. Isa. 54:2). Humans were created for fellowship with God; without it we can never be whole!

15:34,35 "He is calling for Elijah" Jesus and the Apostles (and all Jews in Palestine of the first century) spoke Aramaic. Mark, writing to Romans, always translates these Aramaic phrases, which Peter remembered so well. In Aramaic Elijah is Elia. The Aramaic phrase is also recorded in Matt. 27:46. This is the most startling phrase Jesus cried from the cross. He felt alienated from the Father. Elijah was traditionally the prophet who would come in times of trouble and before the Messiah (cf. Mal. 3:1-6; 4:4-6), therefore, the bystanders thought Jesus was praying for him to come help Him.

One of my favorite authors is F. F. Bruce. In his book Answers to Questions, p. 65, he mentions an article in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Jan. - April, 1951, by Alfred Guillaume, which notes that the suffix "my" is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls as iya. When Jesus said, "My God," the form would be Eliya, which is pronounced very close to Elijah's name. This may explain why the bystanders misunderstood Jesus' words.

15:36 "with sour wine" This was the cheap wine that the populace and soldiers drank. This may relate to Ps. 22:15. Jesus was so dry that He needed a drink to help Him speak the last few words from the cross (cf. John 19:28-30).

▣ "put it on a reed" The reed was used to reach His mouth. Giving a drink to crucified persons was not an act of compassion, but a way to prolong life and agony.

▣ "'Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down'" This was not from compassion, but the desire to see a sign (cf. Matt. 27:47-48).

15:37 "a loud cry" John 19:30 tells us He said, "It is finished!" This word has been found written across business documents in the Koine Greek papyri from Egypt. It apparently was a commercial term that meant "paid in full" (i.e., Isaiah 53).

15:38 "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" There were two curtains to the inner shrine of the Temple, one in the Holy Place and a second before the Holy of Holies. If the second was ripped no one would have seen it except the priests, unless the first one was regularly pulled back and tied to the sides. These curtains are described in Exod. 26:31-37. In Jesus' day, in Herod's remodeled Temple, this curtain was 60' by 30' and about 4" thick! If the outer one was ripped all worshipers in the different outer courts would have seen it. This seems to show that the way to intimate fellowship with God has been reestablished by God at Christ's death (cf. Gen. 3:15; Exod. 26:31-35). In Matt. 27:51-53 other miracles are recorded as attesting signs.

15:39 "a centurion" This was the rank of a low-level Roman military officer. It literally means "a leader of one hundred." These men were the backbone of the Roman army. Cornelius in Acts 10 is also a centurion. Mark is written to evangelize Romans!

▣ "Truly this man was the Son of God" This is literally "this man was a son of God." However the absence of the article does not automatically mean it is not definite (cf. Matt. 4:3,6; 14:33; 27:43; and Luke 4:3,9). This was a hardened Roman soldier. He had seen many men die (cf. Matt. 27:54). This may be "the focal passage" of Mark because this Gospel was specifically written to Romans. It has many Latin words and very few OT quotes. Also Jewish customs and Aramaic phrases are translated and explained. Here is a Roman centurion professing faith in a crucified Jewish insurrectionist!

It is possibly theologically purposeful that passers by, chief priests, and even fellow prisoners mock Jesus, but the Roman centurion responds in affirmation and awe!

 40There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. 41When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

15:40 "There were also some women looking on from a distance" The apostolic group was ministered to both financially and physically by several women (i.e., cooking, washing, etc., cf. Mark 15:41; Matt. 27:55; Luke 8:3).


▣ "Mary Magdalene" Magdala was a small city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, three miles north of Tiberias. Mary followed Jesus from Galilee after He had delivered her from several demons (cf. Luke 8:2). She has unfairly been labeled as a prostitute but there is no NT evidence of this. See Special Topic at Mark 16:1.

▣ "Mary, the mother of James the Less and Joses" In Matt. 27:56 she is called "the mother of James and Joseph." In Matt. 28:1 she is called "the other Mary." The real question is, to whom was she married? In John 19:25 possibly she was married to Clopas, yet her son James, was said to be the "son of Alphaeus" (cf. Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). See Special Topic at Mark 16:1.

▣ "Salome" This was the mother of James and John, who were part of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples, and the wife of Zebedee (cf. Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1-2). See Special Topic: The Women Who Followed Jesus at Mark 16:1.

 42When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.

15:42 "When evening had already come" Mark is the only Gospel that mentions this. Exodus 12:6 has "evenings" as if there were two: (1) 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and (2) 6:00 p.m. and later. Context implies it must have been after 3:00 p.m. (the time of the evening sacrifice), but before 6:00 p.m. (the start of the Passover Sabbath).

▣ "the preparation day" This refers to the day everything had to be made ready for the high holy Sabbath of Passover week (i.e., Passover and Unleavened Bread was an eight-day feast, therefore, it had two Sabbaths), not the Passover meal itself.

15:43 "Joseph of Arimathea" He seems to have been a secret disciple, along with Nicodemus (cf. Matt. 27:57; John 12:42). However, after Jesus' death he went publicly to ask Pilate for Jesus' body (cf. John 19:38). It was dangerous to be identified as a friend of a crucified insurrectionist.

As an orthodox Jew of his day Joseph would have made himself ceremonially unclean to observe the Passover Sabbath by:

1. going into a Gentile house

2. touching a dead body

However, he may have been attempting to remove the curse of Deut. 21:22-23. Usually the Romans let the bodies of the crucified remain unburied at the place of death, but because the Jews were so squeamish about unburied bodies, the Romans allowed them to bury their dead, but usually not immediately.

The term Arimathea means "height" and apparently is another name for the city of Ramah, which was five miles northeast of Jerusalem.

▣ "prominent member of the Council" Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, as was Nicodemus. See Special Topic: Sanhedrin at Mark 12:13.

▣ "waiting for the kingdom of God" Joseph was a religious man (cf. Matt. 27:58). The Kingdom of God was a common Jewish expectation among Pharisees and the common people. Jesus often preached on this subject. It was the subject of His first and last sermons and the focus of His parables. See Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

In what sense Joseph was waiting for the kingdom is uncertain. How could he be a disciple and not know the kingdom had come? Perhaps he was still expecting an earthly kingdom (like the disciples, cf. Acts 1:6).

▣ "went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus" This would have made him ceremonially unclean to participate in the high Sabbath of Passover week. This would also have identified him with Jesus, a crucified insurrectionist. This was a bold and decisive act.

"asked for the body" Normally the Romans left the bodies on the cross to decay, as a deterrent to rebellion. These bodies were the property of Rome. They were usually not given back to the families for proper burial, which was especially important to Jews. This was a special, unusual request. It was granted because of the Jewish sensibilities about dead bodies ceremonially polluting the land especially during the Passover season.

15:44 "Pilate wondered if He was dead at this time" Crucifixion was a very slow painful death. Often it took several days. The Roman soldiers gave the victims water or wine from time to time, not out of mercy, but to prolong their death. However, this time the condemned had to die quickly because of the upcoming Passover Sabbath, so the soldiers broke the two criminals' legs (cf. John 19:31ff). This was so that they could not push up on their legs to breathe properly. They would have died quickly after this. Jesus, however, was already dead, so His legs were not broken. This fulfills prophecy (cf. John 19:36, quoting from Exod. 12:46. See hermeneutical comment at Mark 15:27).

"If" is not a marker for a conditional sentence, but an indirect question. Pilate was amazed Jesus had died so quickly, therefore, he asked his attendants this indirect question.

15:45 "body" The Greek word is not soma, but ptōma, which means corpse. Jesus was dead!

15:46 "Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth" Nicodemus was also there (cf. John 19:39-40). They quickly prepared Jesus' body (i.e., because of the rapid approach of the Sabbath at  6 p.m.) according to Jewish tradition. The Jews did not practice embalming as the Egyptians did, but they had a set procedure involving linen wraps and spices.

▣ "laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock" This fulfills the specific prophecy of Isa. 53:9. Matt. 27:57-60 tells us it was Joseph's personal tomb.

"hewn out in the rock" Jesus was not buried in the ground, but in Joseph's family crypt. It was hollowed out of a rock cliff and would have included several burial slabs. There were many of these in the Jerusalem area.

▣ "stone" This large hewn round slab of rock was shaped like a grinding stone. These graves were regularly robbed so they were sealed with a heavy stone. The size of the stone showed it was a rich man's grave.

15:47 "were looking on to see where He was laid" This term means "to view with interest and attention." They wanted to make sure that Jesus was properly prepared for burial. However, this also provided the needed two witnesses (i.e., Deut. 17:6; 19:15) to confirm a legal testimony. Jesus was dead and they did not go to the wrong tomb!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1.  Who arrested Jesus? (i.e., the make-up of the crowd)

2. How was the trial of Jesus improper, even by Jewish standards?

3. Were there one or two servant girls in verses 66-69?

4. Why was Peter so nervous in the courtyard?

5. Read the accounts of the trials in all four Gospels and make your own chronological list.

6. Describe if possible, Pilate's motivation in all this?

7. How can we explain the crowd's behavior?

8. Why did the soldiers make sport of Jesus? How many different groups made fun of Him?

9. List the different ways they mocked Jesus.

10. Where was Jesus crucified?

11. Why did Jesus feel abandoned by the Father (cf. Mark 15:34)?

12. Why is Mark 15:39 one of the key verses in Mark's Gospel?

13. Why did Joseph want Jesus buried quickly?



Mark 16


The Resurrection He Is Risen The First Easter The Resurrection The Empty Tomb.
The Angel's Message
16:1-8 16:1-8 16:1-8 16:1-5 16:1-2

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. I do not believe verses 9-20 are original to the Gospel of Mark. They are not inspired and should not be included in the New Testament.


B. Everything past verse 8 is absent from the ancient uncial Greek manuscripts of

1. Sinaiticus, known by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet א. This manuscript includes the whole NT and is from the fourth century. It was found at St. Catherine's monastery on Jebul Musa, the traditional site of Mt. Sinai

2. Vaticanus, known by the Greek letter B. This manuscript includes the whole NT except Revelation and is also from the fourth century.

It was found in modern times in the Vatican library in Rome.


C. The third ancient uncial witness to the Greek New Testament, Alexandrinus, is known by the Greek letter A. This manuscript includes the whole NT and is from the fifth century. It is from Alexandria, Egypt. It does include an ending to Mark (the one found in the Textus Receptus and KJV). This long ending first appeared in Irenaeus' (a.d. 120-202) Against Heresies III:10:5; and Titian's (a.d.110-172) compilation of the four Gospels called The Diatessaron. However, Clement of Alexandria and Origen of Alexandria never quote or allude to these verses even one time. This tells me that the ending was not original even in Alexandrinus, which was from the same city. The verses are included in MS C, which is also from Alexandria sometime in the fifth century.


D. Eusebius (a.d.275-340), an early church historian of the fourth century, said "the most accurate copies" end at Mark 16:8.


E. Jerome (a.d. 347-420), the translator of the Latin Vulgate, said that almost all Greek manuscripts lack an ending after verse 8.


F. Verses 9-20 contain 14-17 words that are not used previously or are used differently in the Gospel of Mark. There is also a marked change of style and syntax. The obviously non-biblical signs of Mark 16:18 affirm the uninspired nature of these additional verses.


G. Manuscripts from Egypt (Coptic) have four different endings after verse 8. Some Greek manuscripts include the long ending (i.e., Mark 16:9-20) and then the short ending or the short ending and then the long ending or one of the other endings in combination.

1. Here is one short ending from a Coptic manuscript: "And all things which He commanded Peter and those who were His, they finished telling, and after this Jesus manifested Himself to them; and from the rising of the sun as far as the West, He sent them to preach eternal salvation by the Holy Gospel which is incorruptible."

2. Here is another short ending. "But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation." This is called "the short ending" and is found in the old Latin manuscript K.


H. The major problem is that the Gospel of Mark seems to end so abruptly in verse 8. There are many theories, but no one knows for certain why Mark ends so abruptly on a note of fear.


I. There is a good explanation of this textual problem in Bruce M. Metzger's book A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, published by the United Bible Societies, pp. 122-126, or Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Nida's book A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, published by the United Bible Societies, pp. 517-522.


J. For a brief discussion of textual criticism see Appendix Two at the end of this commentary.



 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" 4Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'" 8They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

16:1 "When the Sabbath was over" The ancient Israelites started their days at twilight (i.e., evenings), following Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31. However, the Romans (and Greeks) had adopted a Babylonian method of dividing the day and night into twelve divisions. These divisions were not of equal length because of seasonal changes in the length of light/dark periods. Mark 15 uses several of these time markers (i.e., third hour, Mark 16:25; sixth hour, Mark 16:33; ninth hour, Mark 16:34).

This phrase appears to refer to the ancient Israelite method and would, therefore, be 6 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Saturday for the Sabbath.

▣ "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome" See Special Topic following.


▣ "brought spices. . .anoint Him" Although these women had seen Joseph and Nicodemus prepare and place the body of Jesus in a tomb, apparently because of the time limitations (i.e., between 3 - 6 p.m.) something of the normal Jewish burial procedures may have been left out (possibly the aromatic candles or some particular type of spices), and these women were going to properly finish the traditional procedures.


16:2 "Very early on the first day of the week. . .when the sun had risen" All the Gospels record a slightly different time.

1. Matthew 28:1 has "at dawn"

2. Luke 24:1 has "at early dawn"

3. John 20:1 "while it was still dark"

Apparently these women left their home while it was still dark, but by the time they arrived (possibly they had to buy the spices) at the tomb it was already light.

16:3 "They were saying to one another" This is an Imperfect tense. They kept worrying about and asking each other over and over again as they walked to the tomb.

▣ "'Who will roll away the stone'" They were already well on their way with the spices before they thought of the large stone which sealed the tomb. Mark records nothing of the guard and the seal of Matt. 27:62-66.

This stone was round and shaped to fit into a sloping groove dug just in front of the rock vault's opening. It was relatively easy to roll into the trench, but very difficult to remove.

16:4 "Looking up" Apparently they were very downcast, looking at the ground in mourning.

▣ "the stone had been rolled away" From Matt. 28:2 it seems that the stone was knocked out of its groove by an earthquake (caused by an angel, cf. Luke 24:4; John 20:12) and it was lying on its side.

▣ "although it was extremely large" Grave robbing was a common occurrence because of the value of the spices and other burial objects. The location and type of the vault as well as the size of the stone would show it was a rich man's tomb (cf. Isa. 53:9).

16:5 "Entering the tomb" John 20:11 has Mary outside the tomb looking in, but Luke 24:3 confirms that, at least at some point, the women went in.

▣ "they saw a young man sitting at the right" Normally it is Matthew that has two—two Gerasene demoniacs, two blind men in Jericho, etc.—but here it is Luke and John that have two angels while Mark and Matthew only have one.

In the Bible angels are usually depicted as males, except in Zechariah 5:9-10.

▣ "wearing a white robe" A much fuller account of his clothing is found in Matt. 28:3 (cf. Luke 24:4 has "in dazzling apparel").

16:6 "Do not be amazed" This is a Present imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process. Humans are always awed and frightened at the physical manifestations of the spiritual realm.

▣ "'Jesus the Nazarene'" See fuller note at Mark 14:67.

▣ "who has been crucified" This is a perfect passive participle (cf. Matt. 28:5). This has the definite article and may be a title, "the Crucified One" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Gal. 3:1). When we see Jesus He will still have the marks of the crucifixion, which have become a badge of honor and glory (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4 and Rev. 5:12). Jesus is the only Person of the Trinity with a physical body.

▣ "He has risen" The resurrection is the central pillar of the Christian faith (cf. 1 Cor. 15). This shows God's approval of Jesus' life and sacrifice. This is a recurrent theme of Peter (cf. Acts 2:24-28,32, 3:15,26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 1 Pet. 1:13, 3:18,21, and Paul, Acts 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 4:24, 8:11; 10:9; 2 Cor. 4:14). This is confirmation of the Father's acceptance of the Son's substitutionary death (cf. 1 Cor. 15). Theologically all three persons of the Trinity were active in Christ's resurrection: the Father (Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34; 17:31); the Spirit (Rom. 8:11); and the Son (John 2:19-22; 10:17-18). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE RESURRECTION at Mark 8:31.

▣ "behold here is the place where they laid Him" This refers to one of several rock ledges in Joseph's tomb. John 20:6-7 describes this burial place and how the linen burial cloths were lying.

16:7 "But go, tell His disciples and Peter" Why is Peter singled out? How thoughtful and tender our Lord (through the angel), that He would single out the backslidden and hurting Peter! Peter remembers!

▣ "He is going ahead of you to Galilee" Jesus had prearranged a meeting with His disciples in Galilee after His resurrection. The disciples did not clearly understand the theological implications of this event (cf. Mark 14:28; Matt. 28:32; 28:7,10; John 21; 1 Cor. 15:6). I think this was the time and place of the Great Commission.

16:8 "for trembling and astonishment had gripped them" Matthew 28:8 adds with "great joy."

▣ "they said nothing to anyone" Was this temporary or did they not obey the angel's message of Mark 16:7? John 20:1-10 gives an account of Mary of Magdala reporting to the disciples about the grave being empty, but no angel's message!

▣ "for they were afraid" This Gospel ends so abruptly and on such a negative note that apparently ancient scribes tried to add some type of summary ending to it.

16:9-20 I am committed to inspired Apostolic writings as the true word of God, the only source for faith and practice. However, these verses are not inspired, possibly even heretical (drinking poison, handling snakes). I refuse to comment on them! For a full discussion of the textual problem see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary On the Greek New Testament, pp. 122-126.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are there such differences between the four Gospel accounts?

2. Why does Mark's Gospel end on such a negative note?

3. Why is the resurrection the central pillar of Christian faith?



Introduction to I Peter


A. Internal evidence for the Apostle Peter's authorship

1. specifically stated in 1 Pet. 1:1

2. allusions to the words and life experiences of Jesus and the Twelve

a. examples taken from E. G. Selwyn's The First Epistle of St. Peter, 1946

(1) 1 Pet. 1:3 – John 21:27

(2) 1 Pet. 1:7-9 – Luke 22:31; Mark 8:29

(3) 1 Pet. 1:10-12 –  Luke 24:25ff; Acts 15:14ff

(4) 1 Pet. 3:15  – Mark 14:29,71

(5) 1 Pet. 5:2 – John 21:15ff

b. examples taken from Alan Stibbbs' The First Epistle General of Peter, 1971

(1) 1 Pet. 1:16 – Matt. 5:48

(2) 1 Pet. 1:17 – Matt. 22:16

(3) 1 Pet. 1:18 – Mark 10:45

(4) 1 Pet. 1:22 – John 15:12

(5) 1 Pet. 2:4 – Matt. 21:42ff

(6) 1 Pet. 2:19 – Luke 6:32; Matt. 5:39

(7) 1 Pet. 3:9 – Matt. 5:39

(8) 1 Pet. 3:14 – Matt. 5:10

(9) 1 Pet. 3:16 – Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:28

(10) 1 Pet. 3:20 – Matt. 24:37-38

(11) 1 Pet. 4:11 – Matt. 5:16

(12) 1 Pet. 4:13 – Matt. 5:10ff

(13) 1 Pet. 4:18 – Matt. 24:22

(14) 1 Pet. 5:3 – Matt. 20:25

(15) 1 Pet. 5:7 – Matt. 6:25ff 

3. words and phrases similar to Peter's sermons in Acts

a. 1 Pet. 1:20 – Acts 2:23

b. 1 Pet. 2:7-8 – Acts 4:10-11

c. 1 Pet. 2:24 – Acts 5:30; 10:39 (esp. use of the Greek term xylon for cross)

d. 1 Pet. 4:5 – Acts 10:45

4. contemporary first century missionary comparisons

a. Silvanus (Silas) – 1 Pet. 5:12

b. Mark (John Mark) – 1 Pet. 5:13


B. External evidence for the Apostle Peter's authorship

1. accepted early and widely by the early church

a. similar phrasing, possibly quotes, by Clement of Rome in his Letter to Corinthians (a.d. 95)

b. similar phrasing, possibly quotes, in the Epistle of Barnabas (a.d. 130)

c. alluded to by Papias, the Bishop of Hieropolis (a.d. 140) in a quote from Eusebius' His. Eccl.

d. quoted by Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians 8:1, but he does not mention 1 Peter by name (Polycarp died in a.d. 155)

e. quoted by Irenaeus (a.d. 140-203)

f. quoted by Origen (a.d. 185-253). Origen believed that 1 Pet. 5:13, where Peter calls Mark "my son" means he wrote Peter's Gospel.

g. quoted by Tertullian (a.d. 150-222)


C. Reasons for questioning the Apostle Peter's authorship

1. it is not listed in the Muratorian Fragment, a list of canonical books compiled in Rome between a.d. 180 and 200

2. the Greek is good, polished Koine Greek, which is surprising from an "uneducated" (a grammatos, cf. Acts 4:13) Galilean fisherman

3. it sounds so much like Paul's writings in Romans and Ephesians

4. its description of persecution described in 1 Peter better fits a later date

a. Domitian (a.d. 81-96)

b. Trajan (a.d. 98-117)


D. Possible answers to modern scholarship concerns

1. The Muratorian Fragment is damaged and missing at least one line of text (cf. B. F. Westcott's A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, 6th ed. p. 289).

2. Peter was not uneducated (cf. Acts 4:13), but merely untrained in a recognized rabbinical school. Apparently most Jews in Galilee were bilingual from birth. The other major issue in this discussion is Peter's use of a scribe. The wording of 1 Pet. 5:12 suggests he may have used Silvanus (Silas).

3. Both Peter and Paul often quoted liturgical or training material (catechism documents) common in the early church. They also had some contact with each other through the years (i.e., Acts, Gal. and 2 Pet. 3:15-16).

For me the most probable reason for the similarity between Peter and Paul's writing can be explained by Peter's use of Paul's missionary companion Silas (Silvanus) as a scribe.

4. 1 Peter does not necessarily reflect an Empire-wide persecution. Peter's affirmation of believers needing to be subject to government (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13-17) would be unusual in a day of official Empire-wide persecution.

Nero's (a.d. 54-68) growing mental illness (e.g. grandiose claims) encouraged local emperor cults, especially in Asia Minor, to instigate local persecutions. 1 Peter fits Nero's day better than Domitian's (a.d. 81-96) or Trajan's day (a.d. 98-117). It is even possible that some of the persecution is coming from Jewish groups as well as local governmental officials or emperor cults.

E. There is nothing in 1 Peter itself which demands a later period or author.



A. The date is obviously related to authorship.


B. Tradition links Peter's and Paul's deaths in Rome under Nero, probably a.d. 65. If so, then 1 Peter had to have been written about a.d. 63-64.


C. A mid-first century date is probable if 1 Peter is alluded to by Clement of Rome (a.d. 95).


D. A. T. Robertson believes Peter died in a.d. 67-68 and wrote 1 Peter in a.d. 65-66. I think he died in a.d. 64-65 and wrote just before this.



A. Typical of first century letters, the recipients are noted in 1 Pet. 1:1 as "those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." These Roman provinces (assuming Galatia is northern ethnic Galatia) are located in northern modern Turkey. These areas are apparently places that Paul did not evangelize (cf. Acts 16:6) nor did Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). Possibly these churches originated from Jewish converts who returned home after Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:9-11).


B. Although these churches may have originally been started by Jewish believers at the time of Peter's writing, they were mostly Gentile

1. formerly ignorant of God (1:14)

2. futile ways of life inherited from their forefathers (1 Pet. 1:18)

3. now God's people (1 Pet. 2:9-10, a play on Hosea 1:9-10; 2:23)

4. among the Gentiles (1 Pet. 2:12)

5. lists of Gentile vices (1 Pet. 4:3-4)


C. The book does contain Jewish elements

1. the use of the terms "aliens" and "diaspora" reflect a Jewish setting (cf. John 7:35; Acts 7:6)

2. the use of OT Scriptures

a. Exodus 19 (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9)

b. Isaiah 53 (cf. 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22,24,25)

However, these examples do not necessarily reflect a Jewish church, but

1. the transfer of OT titles from Israel to the church (i.e., "a kingdom of priests")

a. 1 Pet. 2:5

b. 1 Pet. 2:9

2. a church training document (i.e., catechism materials for new believers), which employed OT Messianic texts

a. 1 Pet. 1:19 – Isaiah 53:7 (i.e., Lamb)

b. 1 Pet. 2:22 – Isaiah 53:5 

c. 1 Pet. 2:24 – Isaiah 53:4,5,11,12

d. 1 Pet. 2:25 – Isaiah 53:6


D. Although Peter was called specifically to minister to Jews (cf. Gal. 2:8), he, like Paul, worked with both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 10). Cornelius' conversion showed Peter the radical inclusiveness of the gospel! 1 Peter reflects this new realization.



A. 1 Peter has both a doctrinal and practical aspect. However, as Paul divided his letters into a beginning section on doctrine and a concluding section on application, Peter merges the two. His book is much more difficult to outline. In many ways it reflects a sermon more than a letter.


B. The major issue discussed is suffering and persecution. This is done in two ways.

1. Jesus is presented as the ultimate example of suffering and rejection (cf. 1 Pet. 1:11; 2:21,23; 3:18; 4:1,13; 5:1).

2. Jesus' followers are called on to emulate His pattern and attitude (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 2:19; 3:13-17; 4:1,12-19; 5:9-10).


C. In light of the suffering and persecutions so common in the early years of Christianity, it is not surprising how often the Second Coming is mentioned. This book, like most NT writings, is thoroughly eschatological.



A. This book has a typical first century Greco-Roman opening and close

1. 1 Pet. 1:1-2

a. author

b. recipients

c. prayer

2. 1 Pet. 5:12-14

a. closing greetings

(1) from whom

(2) to whom

b. prayer


B. The main body of the letter resembles a sermon more than a letter. Some have assumed it was

1. first a sermon

2. first a baptismal liturgy

3. first pieces of early church catechism material combined


C. The letter seems to close at 1 Pet. 4:11 with a doxology, but no Greek manuscript stops at this point. It is possible that 1 Pet. 4:12-5:11 is a purposeful summary of the entire letter.


D. I personally believe that 1 Peter functions as a cyclical letter to churches which Peter did not personally start, much like Paul's Colossians (sent to Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, cf. Col. 4:13), but also a general encouragement to believers to watch out for coming problems, much like Paul's Galatian and Ephesian letters.

This cyclical genre explains the lack of a personal opening and closing to the letter. It also explains the lack of specific examples of persecution.



A. I include the category of canonization in 1 Peter because the issue is so controversial with 2 Peter.


B. 1 Peter is listed in Eusebius' Eccl. His. 3:3:25, as being part of "the undisputed books." In the ancient church it was never doubted as a true letter from the Apostle Peter.


C. The issue of canonicity is exacerbated because of the number of spurious writings attributed to Peter. The early church never accepted any of these, recognizing only 1 Peter and the disputed 2 Peter as truly from the Apostle.

1. Acts of Peter

2. Acts of Peter and Andrew

3. Acts of Peter and Paul

4. The Passion of Peter and Paul

5. The Acts of Peter and the Twelve

6. Apocalypse of Peter

7. Gospel of Peter

8. Passion of Peter

9. Preaching of Peter

10. Slavonic Acts of Peter

(For a discussion of each of these pseudonymous writings see the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 4; pp. 721-723, 732-733, 740.) None of these writings supposedly attributed to Peter were even seriously considered to be part of the canon of the NT. This, in and of itself, says much about the inclusion of 1 and 2 Peter.

READING CYCLE ONE  (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)


READING CYCLE TWO  (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.



I Peter 1:1-2:3


Salutation Greeting to the Elect Pilgrims Salutations Introduction Address and Greetings
1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1a 1:1-2
A Living Hope A Heavenly Inheritance Rejoice in Salvation A Living Hope Introduction and The Inheritance of Christians
1:3-9 1:3-12 1:3-9 1:3-5 1:3-5
        Faithfulness to Christ and Love of Christ
      1:6-9 1:6-9
        The Hope of the Prophets
1:10-12   1:10-12 1:10-12 1:10-12
A Call to Holy Living Living Before God our Father An Appeal for Holiness A Call to Holy Living The Demands of the New Life and Holiness of the Newly Baptized
1:13-16 1:13-21 1:13-16 1:13-16 1:13-21
1:17-21   1:17-21 1:17-21  
  The Enduring Word     Regeneration by the Word
1:22-25 1:22-2:3 1:22-2:3 1:22-25 1:22-2:3

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
  In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

1. First paragraph

2.Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

1:1 "Peter" Peter was the obvious spokesman for the twelve Apostles. He was a part of the inner circle (Peter, James, and John). Peter's eyewitness account of Jesus' life and teachings (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1) is recorded in the Gospel of Mark (possibly the first Gospel written; also possibly written by Mark from Peter's sermons in Rome).

Jesus' special relationship to Peter is documented in both Matthew 16 and John 21. However, this special relationship was not acknowledged as headship. Peter as the leader (Pope) of western Christendom is a historical development (as is the Roman Catholic view of Mary), not a clear biblical teaching. 1 Peter gives a window into the pastoral heart and tumultuous life of this wonderful leader.

The term petros in Greek means "a detached stone" in contrast to (petra, i.e., feminine) "bedrock" (cf. Matt. 16:18); in Aramaic both would have been translated Cephas; any distinction between the two Greek terms would have been missing in Jesus' words to Peter!

"an apostle" This was used in rabbinical Judaism with the connotation of "one sent with authority." Peter is always listed first. Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to be with Him in a special sense and called them "Apostles" (cf. Luke 6:13). This term is often used of Jesus being sent from the Father (cf. Matt. 10:40; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; John 4:34; 5:24,30,36,37,38; 6:29,38,39,40,57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21). The Twelve are listed in Matt. 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:12-13.

"Jesus" The Hebrew name meant "YHWH saves" or "YHWH brings salvation." This name was revealed to his parents by an angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). "Jesus" is derived from the Hebrew word for salvation, hosea, suffixed to the covenant name for God, YHWH. It is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua.

"Christ" This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term messiah, which meant "an anointed one." It implies "one called and equipped by God for a specific task." In the OT three groups of leaders were anointed: priests, kings, and prophets. Jesus fulfills all three of these anointed offices (cf. Heb. 1:2-3). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANOINTING IN THE BIBLE (BDB 603) in the Bible at Mark 6:13.

NASB"to those who reside as aliens"
NKJV"to the pilgrims of the diaspora"
NRSV"to the exile of the Dispersion"
TEV"to God's chosen people who live as refugees"
NJB"to all those living as aliens"

This cyclical letter was sent to congregations of mostly Gentile believers (1 Pet. 1:14,18; 2:9-10,12; 4:3-4). Peter often uses OT terminology to describe the NT Church (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9).

"scattered throughout" This is literally "diaspora," which means "to sow." This term was usually used by Palestinian Jews to refer to Jews living outside of Palestine (cf. John 7:35). Peter uses it to refer to churches made up of Gentiles and Jewish believers in northern Asia Minor. These believers are now citizens of heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20; Heb. 11:8-10,13-16), but for the remainder of their earthly lives they live as aliens and exiles.

"Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" Pontus was not a Roman province. This list refers mostly to racial groups. The list seems to reflect the route of the bearer of this letter, starting at Sinope on the Black Sea and moving clockwise back to Bithynia. Several of these groups are mentioned as being present at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:9-11).

1:2 "who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" This is a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God (which characterizes 1 Peter), often used in the OT to acknowledge YHWH's choice of Israel (cf. Deut. 4:37; 7:6-7; 14:2; Isa. 65:9). In the OT election is related to service; however, in the NT the term relates to spiritual salvation.

Foreknowledge (the noun [prognōsis] only here and Acts 2:23; the verb [proginōskō] is used theologically in Rom. 8:29; 11:2) is not related to human effort or merit (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). God is sovereign and all history is present to Him. Only humans experience time as past, present, and future. Remember that Peter, the spokesman for the Apostolic group and denier of the Lord, is the one who writes these words. Peter was chosen because of who God is, not because of who Peter was! God's grace is not related to foreknowledge or else salvation would be based on a future human act.

The Trinity is actively seen here: the Father (1 Pet. 1:3-5); the Son (1 Pet. 1:6-9); and the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:10-12). The word "Trinity" is not a biblical term, but the Triune God is often mentioned in unified contexts. See Special Topic: The Trinity at Mark 1:11.


"by the sanctifying work of the Spirit" "Sanctify" is from the same Greek root as "saint" or "holy"; in Aramaic this root implies "set apart for a special task." Believers are the "called out, separated, and task-assigned ones" (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13, which is also a Trinitarian passage).

This opening affirmation of the redemptive functions of all three persons of the Trinity in relation to fallen mankind's sin problem is crucial in understanding Peter's gospel.

1. The Father – chose

2. The Spirit – sanctified

3. The Son – laid down His life

Since this phrase is found in both 2 Thess. 2:13 and 1 Pet. 1:2, it is interesting to speculate whether Silvanus (cf. 1 Pet. 5:12, also called Silas) may have been the scribe Peter used to write 1 Peter as well as the scribe Paul used to write 1 and 2 Thessalonians (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). There are several hints like this throughout 1 Peter. See Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit at Mark 3:29. This also demonstrates the freedom of composition (i.e., words and phrases) given to scribes on common liturgical phrasing used by the early church community.

▣ "to obey Jesus Christ" The Bible presents mankind's relationship with God in covenantal terms. God always takes the initiative and sets the agenda, but mankind must respond in repentance, faith, obedience, service, and perseverance. We are saved to serve! Obedience is crucial (cf. Luke 6:46; Eph. 2:10). See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT at Mark 14:24.

▣ "and be sprinkled with His blood" This is an OT metaphor for

1. cleansing and forgiveness (cf. Lev. 14:1-7)

2. inaugurating the book of the Covenant (cf. Exod. 24:3-8)

3. installment into a new position (cf. Exod. 29:20-22)

Jesus' sacrifice (cf. Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21) allows His followers to be accepted, cleansed, forgiven, and to obtain a new relationship with God (cf. Heb. 10:22; 12:24). Believers are a blood-bought (redeemed) and blood-sprinkled (sanctification) people.

"May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure" This is similar to 2 Pet. 2:1 and Jude 2. Paul also used a similar opening in his letters. Peter may have been acquainted with Paul's letters, especially Romans and Ephesians, or they both drew from a common first century catechismal (i.e., set training materials for new believers) tradition. Remember that Silas may have served as a scribe to both Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 5:12) and Paul (cf. 1 and 2 Thess. 1:1). Silas also replaced John Mark, who possibly taught new believers. If so, Silas was also involved in catechismal training and thereby was familiar with the early church's written material for new believers.

"Grace and Peace" is a uniquely Christian opening greeting as well as a theological affirmation of the priority of God's gracious character and redemptive acts which set the stage for mankind's peace, a peace brought about by the actions of the Triune God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2). Our peace is only possible because of who God is and what He has done.

It is a bit of a stretch to state this common Christianized letter opening as proof that Peter wrote to both believing Gentiles (grace, which was a Christianized form of Greek greeting, charein) and Jews (peace, which was a translation of the typical Jewish greeting shalom).

"be yours in the fullest measure" This is a Hebraic idiom common in Jewish prayers (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 2).

 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, 8and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

1:3 "Blessed" This term (eulogētos) is not like the one used in Matthew 5 (makarios). It is exclusively used of God in the NT. We get the English word "eulogy" from this word. This is similar to the praise to the Trinity found in Eph. 1:3-14: 1 Pet. 1:3-5 relate to the Father, 1 Pet. 1:6-9 to the Son, and 1 Pet. 1:10-12 the Spirit.

"the God and Father of" Thomas Aquinas attempts to prove the existence of God by focusing on

1. design

2. logical necessity of a first cause or prime mover

3. cause and effect

However, these deal with human philosophical and logical necessities. The Bible reveals God in personal categories not available to human reason or research. Only revelation reveals God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHER at Mark 13:22.

▣ "Lord" The Greek term "Lord" (kurios) can be used in a general sense or in a developed theological sense. It can mean "mister," "sir," "master," "owner," "husband" or "the full God-man" (cf. John 9:36, 38). The OT usage of this term (Hebrew, adon) came from the Jews' reluctance to pronounce the covenant name for God, YHWH, from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). See Special Topic: Names for Deity at Mark 12:26. They were afraid of breaking the Commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (cf. Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). Therefore, they thought if they did not pronounce it, they could not take it in vain. So when they read the Scriptures they substituted the Hebrew word adon, which had a similar meaning to the Greek word kurios (Lord). The NT authors used this term to describe the full deity of Christ. The phrase "Jesus is Lord" was probably the public confession of faith and a baptismal formula of the early church (cf. Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11).

"who according to His great mercy" This passage, extolling the character of God the Father (1 Pet. 1:3-5), may reflect an early hymn, poem, or catechismal liturgy. The main character of the Bible is God! It is His purpose, character, and actions which are fallen mankind's only hope for acceptance and perseverance (cf. Eph. 2:4; Titus 3:5).

"has caused us" This kind of phrase is used to assert God's sovereignty as the only biblical truth related to salvation (cf. Acts 11:18; James 1:18; Eph. 1:4), but this is only half of the covenant concept. See Special Topic at Mark 14:24.

"to be born again" This is the same root (anagennaō, cf. 1 Pet. 1:23) as in John 3:3 (gennaō). It is an aorist action participle, which speaks of a decisive act. The NT also uses other metaphors to describe our salvation: (1) "quickened" (cf. Col. 2:13; Eph. 2:4-5; (2) "new creation" (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15); and (3) "partaker of Divine Nature," (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4). Paul is fond of the familial metaphor "adoption" while John and Peter are fond of the familial metaphor "new birth."

Being "born again" or "born from above" is a biblical emphasis on the need for a totally new start, a totally new family (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). Christianity is not a reformation or a new morality; it is a new relationship with God. This new relationship is made possible because of

1. the Father's mercy and grace

2. the Son's sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead

3. the work of the Spirit (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2)

This divine will and action gives believers a new life, a living hope, and a sure inheritance.

"to a living hope" The adjective "living" is a recurring emphasis in 1 Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3,23; 2:4,5,24; 4:5,6). All that God wills and does is "alive" and remains (i.e., word play on YHWH).

"through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" Jesus is the Father's agent and means of redemption (as He is the Father's agent in creation as well as judgment). Jesus' resurrection is a central truth of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15). The resurrection is the aspect of the Christian message that the Greeks could not accept (cf. Acts 17:16-34).

1:4 "to obtain an inheritance which is" In the OT every tribe except Levi received a land inheritance. The Levites, as the tribe of priests, temple servants, and local teachers, were seen as having YHWH Himself as their inheritance (cf. Ps. 16:5; 73:23-26; 119:57; 142:5; Lam. 3:24). NT writers often took the rights and privileges of the Levites and applied them to all believers. This was their way of asserting that the followers of Jesus were the true people of God and that now all believers were called to serve as priests to God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6), as the OT asserts of all Israel (cf. Exod. 19:4-6). The NT emphasis is not on the individual as a priest with certain privileges, but on the truth that all believers are priests, which demands a corporate servant attitude (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). The NT people of God have been given the OT task of world evangelization (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5b; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

This is the concept of Jesus as owner of creation because He was the Father's agent of creation (cf. John 1:3,10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2-3). We are co-heirs because He is the heir (cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7; Col. 3:24).


"imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away" In 1 Pet. 1:4 three descriptive phrases are used to describe the believer's inheritance using OT historical allusions to the Promised Land. Palestine was geographically located on the only land bridge between the empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt. This led to many invasions and much political maneuvering. The believer's inheritance is not affected by earthly conflict.

1. it is "imperishable" or "secure from invasion"

2. it is "undefiled" or "not worn out"

3. it will "not fade away"; there is no time limit on its possession


"reserved in heaven for you" This is a perfect passive participle, which means God has guarded and continues to guard believers' inheritance. This is a military term for a guarded or garrisoned fortress (cf. Phil. 4:7).

The term "heaven" is plural. This reflects the Hebrew plural. Ancient Hebrew had many plural nouns which may have been a way of emphasizing them (e.g. the later rabbinical use of the plural of Majesty used for God). The rabbis debated whether there were three levels of heaven (cf. Deut. 10:14; 1 Kgs. 8:27; Neh. 9:6; 2 Cor. 12:2) or seven heavens because seven is the perfect number (cf. Gen. 2:1-3).

1:5 "who are protected by the power of God" This is a present passive participle. As our inheritance (spiritual life) is guarded, so, too, is our person (physical life). God's person and promises encompass every aspect of our lives. This was such a needed and helpful word of encouragement in a time of persecution, suffering, and false teaching (cf. 2 Peter). This is not to imply that believers will not be killed and tortured; rather God was with them and for them and ultimately they are victors through Him. This is theologically similar to the message of the book of Revelation.

▣ "through faith" Notice the covenantal paradox. God is guarding them and their inheritance, but they must remain in faith. It is the tension between these biblical dialectical pairs (i.e., God's sovereignty and human free will) which has caused the development of theological systems emphasizing only one side of the paradox. Both sides are biblical; both sides are necessary! God deals with humans by means of unconditional (God providing) and conditional (individual's responding) covenants.

▣ "a salvation ready to be revealed" The Bible uses all Greek verb tenses to describe salvation. We will not be fully, completely saved until Resurrection Day (cf. 1 John 3:2). This is often called our glorification (cf. Rom. 8:29-30). See Special Topic below.


▣ "in the last time" This is the later Jewish concept of two ages, but from the New Testament we realize that these two ages are overlapped. The last days began at the Incarnation in Bethlehem and will conclude at the Second Coming. We have been in the last days for almost two millennia. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME at Mark 13:8.


NASB"In this you greatly rejoice"
NKJV"In this you rejoice"
(footnote)"Rejoice in this"
TEV"Be glad about this"
NJB"This is great joy to you"

This is a present middle indicative (A. T. Robertson) or imperative (Barbara and Timothy Friberg). Believers continue to exalt because of their secure relationship with God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-5) even amidst a fallen world (cf. James 1:2-4; 1 Thess. 5:16; Rom. 5:3; 8:18).

"even though now for a little while" The trials and persecutions of the present cannot compare with eternity with our Lord (cf. Rom. 8:18).

"if necessary you have been distressed by various trials" This is the Greek term dei, which means required or necessary, connected to a conditional sentence. There is an assumed "to be" verb which would make it a periphrastic first class conditional, which is assumed to be true. Peter assumes that godly living will result in persecution. He repeats this theme of persecution often (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 2:19; 3:14-17; 4:1,12-14,19; 5:9).

"you have been distressed" This is an aorist passive participle. The unexpressed agent of the passive voice is the evil one; God uses even evil for His good purposes. Even Jesus Himself was perfected by the things He suffered (cf. Heb. 5:8-9). Suffering serves a needed goal in the life of faith!

The theological dilemma is that suffering has three possible sources

1. the evil one

2. a fallen world

3. God

a. for temporal punishment of sin

b. for Christlike maturity

The problem is I never know which one it is! So I choose to believe that if it comes, yea when it comes, God will use it for His purposes. My favorite book in this area is Hannah Whithall Smith's The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life.

"by various trials" This Greek adjective means variegated or multicolored (cf. James 1:2). There are many types of trials, temptations, and persecutions. In 1 Pet. 4:10 the same term is used to describe the variegated graces of God. We never are tried and tempted beyond His provision (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).

1:7 "so that the proof of your faith" This is a hina or purpose clause. Suffering does strengthen faith. Throughout the Bible, God has tested His children (cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 15:22-25; 16:4; Deut. 8:2,16; 13:3; Jdgs. 2:22; 2 Chr. 32:31; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1-2; Rom. 5:2-4; Heb. 5:8-9; James 1:2-4).

This verse has the noun dikimon and the participle of dikimazō, both of which have the connotation of testing with a view towards strengthening and thereby approval. See Special Topic on Greek Terms for "Testing" and their Connotations at Mark 1:13b.

▣ "being more precious than gold" In this life our greatest gift to God is our faith (cf. John 20:27; 2 Cor. 4:17). In eternity faith is changed to sight. God is honored and pleased when by faith we endure trials caused by our faith in Him (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-16). Spiritual growth only comes through tested faith (cf. Rom. 5:2-5; Heb. 12:11; James 1:2-4).

"the revelation of Jesus Christ" This same word (apokalupsis) is used as the title for the last book of the NT, Revelation. It means "to uncover," "fully disclose," or "make known." Here it refers to the Second Coming, a common theme in Peter's writings (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7,13; 2:12; 4:13; 5:4).

1:8 "and though you have not seen Him" Even amidst suffering believers are to trust in Him. Jesus prayed for those who believe in Him but have never seen Him in John 17:20; 20:29.

▣ "but believe in Him" The etymological background of this term helps establish the contemporary meaning. Remember the NT authors were Hebrew thinkers writing in Koine Greek. In Hebrew it originally referred to a person in a stable stance, (his feet positioned so he could not be pushed over). It came to be used metaphorically for someone who was dependable, loyal, or trustworthy. The Greek equivalent (pistis or pisteuō) is translated into English by the terms "faith," "believe," and "trust." Biblical faith or trust is not primarily something we do, but someone in whom we put our trust. It is God's trustworthiness, not ours, which is the focus. Fallen mankind trusts God's trustworthiness, faiths His faithfulness, believes in His Beloved and in His provision. The focus is not on the abundance or intensity of human faith, but the object of that faith (cf. 1 Pet. 1:8,21; 2:6-7). See Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

▣ "you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible" The term "greatly rejoice" was used earlier in 1 Pet. 1:6. It refers to an intense joy usually accompanied with physical expressions such as shouting, dancing, etc. (cf. Luke 1:44,47; 10:21; John 5:35; 8:56). This joy, which Peter speaks of, is found even amidst suffering (cf. 1 Pet. 4:13; Rom. 5:3; 1 Thess. 5:17). This joy is one of the unexpected blessings of the Spirit in times of testing and persecution.

▣ "full of glory" This is a perfect passive participle. Believers by faith (not sight yet) burst out with both inexpressible joy and full glory! This joy and glory cannot be hidden. It is a flowing fountain produced by the Spirit (cf. John 4:14; 7:38). It is a witness to the power of the gospel to all who come into contact with gospel people under pressure. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at Mark 10:37.

1:9 "obtaining as the outcome of your faith" This is a present middle participle. This implies that our joy is not only a future consummation, but also a present reality even amidst suffering because of the Triune God's actions on our behalf (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2).

"the salvation of your souls" This refers to our glorification. Salvation is viewed in the NT as a decision made (aorist tense, cf. Rom. 8:24), but also as an ongoing process (present tense, cf. 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 1 Thess. 4:14) with a future consummation (i.e., future tense, cf. Rom. 5:9,10; 10:9). See Special Topic at 1 Peter 1:5. This future aspect is often characterized as "glorification" (cf. Rom. 8:29-30). Believers will one day see Jesus as He is and be changed into His likeness (cf. 1 John 3:2).

The Greek term psuchē (soul) is used often in Peter's writings (cf. 1 Pet. 1:9,22; 2:11,25; 3:20; 4:19; 2 Pet. 2:8,14). It is used as a Hebraic idiom for the entire person. Humans are not two-part or three-part beings, but a single unity (cf. Gen. 2:7). It is true that we as humans relate to this planet, because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we relate to the spiritual realm. We are citizens of two realms.

It is inappropriate to build a systematic theology on 1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12 and thereby try to relate all biblical texts into these three categories (body, soul, and spirit). They simply refer to the whole person and the penetrating power of the word of God. Be careful of someone claiming that the key to the whole Bible is found in two oblique texts, proof-texted out of context and made into a theological grid through which to view all Scripture (Watchman Nee). If this was a key the Spirit would have placed it in a clear teaching context and would have repeated it often. The Bible is not a book of riddles or brain teasers! God wants to communicate with us and major truths are found in clear teaching contexts.


A. 1 Pet. 1:10-12 deals with the Old Testament prophets' knowledge of NT salvation in Christ.


B.  "The Spirit" through the prophets, reveals three things to believers in 1 Pet. 1:11-12.

1. the suffering of the Messiah (Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isa. 52:13-53:12)

2. the glory that will follow (Isaiah 56-66)

3. the prophets were speaking of more than just their own day (i.e., Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Zechariah)


C. In 1 Pet. 1:13-17, Peter asks believers to do six things to protect themselves

1. gird their minds, 1 Pet. 1:13

2. keep sober in spirit, 1 Pet. 1:13

3. fix their hope on end-time grace, 1 Pet. 1:13

4. do not be conformed to present age, 1 Pet. 1:14

5. live holy lives, 1 Pet. 1:15

6. live in respect of God, 1 Pet. 1:17

7. fervently love one another (seventh added from 1 Pet. 1:22)



 10As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.

1:10 "As to this salvation" This has been the topic since (1) 1 Pet. 1:2, which describes the work of the Triune God in salvation; (2) 1 Pet. 1:3-5, which describe God keeping and protecting this salvation; and (3) 1 Pet. 1:6-9, which describe these believers' suffering because of this salvation.

"the prophets" This refers to the OT prophets (cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). In rabbinical thought all inspired writers were considered prophets. Moses is called a prophet (cf. Deut. 18:18) and what we call in English the historical books (i.e., Joshua through Kings) were called by the Jews "the former prophets."

"of the grace that would come to you" This phrase implies that the OT prophets knew something of the new covenant. This is also the implication of Jesus' statement concerning Abraham in John 8:56 (cf. II Esdras 3:14). This same implication is stated in Heb. 11:13b. It is difficult to know exactly how much the OT prophets knew about the gospel. Jeremiah's description of the New Covenant in Jer. 31:31-34 (also Ezek. 36:22-38) points toward an acceptance based on God's love and actions, not human performance. Matthew 13:17 states that many OT prophets see and hear what Jesus was doing and saying.

Even Isaiah's prophecy about a virgin birth (cf. 1 Pet. 7:14), when interpreted in context, refers to a natural birth with supernatural timing (cf. 1 Pet. 7:15-16), not exclusively a future Messianic birth. It is Matthew and Luke who see the full implication of Isaiah's prophecy. This would be true of other specific prophecies in Hosea (cf. Hos. 11:1) and Zechariah (cf. Zech. 9:9; 11:13; 12:10). It was the Greek-speaking Jews of the NT and the Apostles who fully reveal Jesus from the OT (Christological typology). They may have learned this from Jesus Himself as He taught the two on the road to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35, especially 1 Pet. 1:27).

"made careful searches and inquiries" These seem to be synonyms (cf. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1, p. 331).


NASB"seeking to know what person or time"
NKJV"searching what, or what manner of time"
NRSV"inquiring about the person or time"
TEV (footnote)"tried to find out when the time would be and how it would come"
NJB"searching out the time and circumstances"

This implies both a person and a time. They expected a Davidic Messiah to break into history at a specific God-appointed time. Like us, they "looked through a glass darkly" (cf. 1 Cor. 13:9-13).

▣ "the Spirit of Christ within them" The Spirit and the Messiah are linked in the OT (cf. Isa. 11:1-2; 48:16; 61:1). Notice that the Holy Spirit is called "The Spirit of Christ" (cf. Rom. 8:9; Gal.4:6). Note also the indwelling aspect of the Spirit, even in the OT. Jesus' and the Spirit's tasks are overlapping. See the same truth expressed in 2 Pet. 1:21.


"predicted the sufferings of Christ" This was what surprised the Jews (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23). The Suffering Servant became a central pillar of the early sermons of Peter and Paul in Acts which we call the kerygma (i.e., that which was proclaimed, cf. Acts 2:23,24; 3:18; 4:11; 10:39; 17:3; 26:23). This is exactly what Jesus had tried to tell the Twelve during His time with them (cf. Matt. 16:21; 20:17-19; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22), but they could not receive it (cf. Mark 9:31-32; 10:32-34; Luke 9:44-45; 18:31-34).

There are hints of the Messiah's suffering in the OT (i.e., Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53), but the OT Israelites were expecting the Messiah to come as a conquering hero to judge all mankind and restore Israel to a place of prominence and power. They simply missed the two comings of the Messiah which are revealed by Jesus' life and teachings (i.e., Savior, Judge).

Below is an interesting chart of the kerygma found in H. Wayne House's Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament, (p. 120).


"and the glories to follow" This is alluded to in Isa. 53:10-12.

1:12 "they were not serving themselves, but you" There are several places in Paul's writings where he asserts this same truth (cf. Rom. 4:23-24; 15:4; 1 Cor. 9:9-10; 10:6,11). This is basically the same theology revealed in 2 Tim. 3:15-17. God's actions (revelation) and their recording and interpretation (inspiration) were for all future believers (illumination).

If Peter was writing to mostly Gentile believers, this phrase has the added theological affirmation of the inclusion of the Gentiles, which has always been God's plan (cf. Gen. 3:15; Romans 9-11; Eph. 2:11-3:13).


▣ "through those who preached the gospel to you" This seems to imply that Peter did not start all of these churches. They may have been started by believing Jews returning from Pentecost (cf. Acts 2), or by the preaching of Paul or other evangelists.

▣ "by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" The Holy Spirit is mentioned at several key places in 1 Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2,11; 4:14). This phrase was a Hebrew idiom for asserting that the new age of righteousness, which was from God, brought by the Spirit, had fully come (cf. Acts 2).

"things into which angels long to look" This is literally "to stoop over to see" as in John 20:5,11. In James 1:25 it is translated "look intently." This refers to both good and evil angels (cf. Eph. 3:10; 1 Cor. 4:9).

In rabbinical Judaism angels were seen as the mediators between YHWH and Moses on Mt. Sinai (cf. Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). They were also depicted as jealous of God's love and attention to humans. In Heb. 1:14 angels are described as servants of "those who will inherit salvation." Paul even asserts that believers will judge the angels (cf. 1 Cor. 6:3).

God uniquely revealed Himself to angels through His dealings with fallen humanity (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:10).

 13Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

1:13 "Therefore" This (dio, cf. 2 Pet. 1:10,12; 3:14) shows that the exhortations that follow are the result of the previous discussion.

NASB"prepare your minds for action"
NKJV"gird up the loins of your mind"
NRSV"prepare your minds for action"
TEV"have your minds ready for action"
NJB"your minds. . .ready for action"

This is an aorist middle participle used as an imperative. Its form denotes that a decisive act of personal choice is demanded. This is a Hebrew idiom, literally "gird up the loins of your mind." In the Ancient Near East both men and women wore robes. By reaching through the legs and pulling the back of the robe forward and tucking it into the belt, the robe became pants, which allowed strenuous action. Similar admonitions of preparation for mental activity is found in Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:17,23.

"keep sober in spirit" This is a present active participle in a series of imperatives and participles used with imperatival force. This is not a call to sobriety, but a metaphor for mental alertness and level headedness (cf. 1 Pet. 4:7; 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:6,8; 2 Tim. 4:5).

"fix your hope completely" This is an aorist active imperative which means make a decisive choice to trust completely in Christ's return. "Hope" in the NT often refers to the Second Coming (cf. Titus 2:13). Our hope is based on the settled and sure character and actions of the Triune God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2,3-5).

"on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" This is the same grace for which the OT prophets made careful search (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10). This clearly shows that the believers' hope is in the character and actions of the Triune God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2,3-5) and that His grace will be fully manifested at Jesus' return (cf. 1 John 3:2). Salvation is described by all Greek verb tenses. See Special Topic at 1 Peter 1:5.

1:14 "obedient children" This is a Hebrew idiom of our family relationship with God the Father and Jesus the Son (negative expressions are found in Eph. 2:2; 5:6). Believers are co-heirs through Him (cf. Rom. 8:15-17). Amazingly, sinners are part of the family of God by His invitation and Jesus' sacrifice.

NASB, NRSV"do not be conformed"
NKJV"not conforming yourselves"
TEV"do not allow your lives to be shaped"
NJB"do not allow yourselves to be shaped"

This is a present middle or passive participle used as an imperative. As so often in the NT believers are described as being acted upon by God or the Spirit (passive voice), but there is the grammatical possibility that believers are being called on to clearly live out their new relationship to God through the power of His Spirit (middle voice).

As salvation is a conditional covenant, initiated by God but with a mandated response, so too, the Christian life. Eternal life has observable characteristics (cf. 1 Pet. 1:15). Much of Peter's terminology is from Paul's letters, here Rom. 12:2.

▣ "to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance" This refers to the Gentile believers' immoral and godless pagan past (cf. 1 Pet. 4:2-3; Eph. 4:17-19).


NASB"but like the Holy One who called you"
NKJV"but as He who called you is holy"
NRSV"instead, as he who called you is holy"
TEV"instead. . .just as God who called you is holy"
NJB"after the model of the Holy One who calls us"

This is an emphasis on God's character and sovereign choice (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9; 5:10). No one can come to God unless the Spirit draws them (cf. John 6:44,65). This is another theological way of repudiating divine acceptance by means of human performance (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). My sermon title on this text is "The Holy One's holy ones."

▣ "be holy yourselves also" This is an aorist passive (deponent) imperative. Believers are called to holiness. God's will has always been that His children reflect His character (cf. Titus 2:14). The goal of Christianity is not only heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now (cf. Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; 2:10; 4:13; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:3,7; 5:23). Jesus' task was not only remission of sin, but the restoration of the image of God in fallen mankind. We must always be suspicious of an assurance of salvation that lacks Christlikeness! The gospel is (1) a person to welcome; (2) a truth about that person to believe; and (3) a life emulating that person to live (cf. Eph. 4:1; 5:1-2,15; 1 John 1:7; 2:4-6). Remember the shocking words of Jesus in Matt. 5:20 and 48! Always be careful of "what's-in-it-for-me" Christianity. We are saved to serve. We are called to holiness in no uncertain terms. God have mercy on a western church trapped by (1) prosperity; (2) materialism; and (3) health/wealth preaching!


"in all your behavior" Notice the emphasis on "all." The challenge is not selected righteousness, but pervasive holiness (cf. 1 John 3:3).

1:16 "because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" "Written" is a perfect passive indicative, which is an idiom for Scripture used so often by Jesus, but only here in Peter. This is a quote from Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7,26. This is not a new requirement, but a repeated requirement (cf. Matt. 5:48). Holiness in the OT sense was not sinlessness, but a conformity to the covenant requirements of God (i.e., Exod. 19:6; 22:31; Deut. 14:2,21; 26:19). The NT also has covenant requirements which issue in Christlikeness (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; 4:13; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:3,7; 5:23). See Special Topic below.


 17If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, 21who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1:17 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "you address as Father" This is a present middle indicative (cf. Hos. 11:1-3; Jer. 3:19), implying that believers will continue to call upon YHWH in family terms (cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) as Jesus taught them (cf. Matt. 6:9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHER at Mark 13:32.

▣ "the One who impartially judges" God will call into account not only those who have never known Him, but also those who claim to know Him (cf. 1 Pet. 4:5,17-18; Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Those to whom much is given, much is required (cf. Luke 12:48)!

If we call Him Father, then we should reflect the family characteristic, as does the eldest Son! Our Father, the Holy One, is an impartial judge (cf. Deut. 10:17; 2 Chr. 19:7; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17).

Human beings have a choice (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Jos. 24:15; Ezek. 18:30-32) in how they will relate to God. He can be a loving Father if they trust in Christ (cf. John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-13) or He can be a holy judge if they rely on their own merits or performance of religious rites, rules, and procedures (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Col. 2:20-23). Do you want mercy or justice?

The term "impartial" reflects an OT idiom, "to lift the face." Judges should not be affected by who is accused, rather by their actions.

"according to each one's work" This is a moral universe. God is the Judge. Humans will give an account unto God for the gift of life (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:11-15). We are all stewards and we reap what we sow (cf. Job 34:11;Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 12:14; 24:12; Isa. 3:10-11; Jer. 17:10; Hos. 4:9; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:8; Gal. 6:7; Col. 3:25; Rev. 2:23; 20:12-13; 22:12).

▣ "conduct yourself in fear" There is an appropriate respect due a holy God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). That respect is that His children live godly lives, knowing that they will give an account to God for the gift of life and the gospel.

▣ "during the time of your stay on earth" This refers to believers sojourning in an alien land (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11; Heb. 11:9-10). This world is not our home!

1:18 "knowing" Our knowledge of Christ's work on our behalf causes us to live a life of Christlike obedience.

There has been speculation among commentators as to Peter's use of early church creeds, hymns, or worship liturgy. 1 Peter 1:18-21 and 2:21-25 show signs of poetic pattern. Paul also made use of this creedal, hymnic, liturgical material or possibly even catechismal literature made lyrical to aid memory (cf. Eph. 5:19; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-16; 3:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:11-13).

"redeemed" The term "redeemed" reflects an OT term "to buy someone back" from poverty or slavery. There are two Hebrew terms (ransom, redeem). One has the added connotation of "to be bought back by a near kin" (go'el, the kinsman redeemer, cf. Ruth 4:1,3,6,8,14). Jesus is our near-kin who has purchased our forgiveness with His own life (cf. Isa. 53; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21). See SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM at Mark 10:45.

NASB, NJB"from your futile way of life"
NKJV"from your aimless conduct"
NRSV"from the futile ways"
TEV"from the worthless manner of life"

There are two ways of interpreting this phrase.

1. It refers to OT traditions (cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23) and reflects the Hebrew term "vain," "empty" or "mist" (cf. Jer. 2:5; Zech. 10:2). The next phrase alludes to the sacrificial system of the OT. If so, then Peter is speaking to believing Jews.

2. It refers to 1 Pet. 1:14 and to the immoral, pagan, past experience of Gentile believers.

For a general sense of this term see Acts 14:15; 1 Cor. 15:17; Titus 3:9 and James 1:26.

1:19 "with precious blood as a lamb" This phrase is an allusion to Israel's sacrificial system (cf. Lev. 1-7). God graciously allowed sinful mankind to approach Him by means of sacrifice. Sin takes a life. Life is in the blood (cf. Lev. 18:11,14). God allowed the substitution of an animal life. John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (cf. John 1:29). Jesus' prophesied death (cf. Isa. 53:7-8) dealt with the sin of the entire world (cf. John 3:16,17; 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:14).

"unblemished and spotless" These are OT sacrificial metaphors for acceptable animals for sacrifice (cf. Lev. 22:19-20), but here they refer to the sinlessness of Jesus (cf. John 8:46; 14:30; Luke 23:41; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27: 1 Pet. 2:22, 3:18, 1 John 3:5). He was an acceptable, holy sacrifice.

1:20 "For He was foreknown" This is a perfect passive participle. God's redemptive work is described by this very term in 1 Pet. 1:2. Christ's death was not an afterthought (cf. Gen. 3:15; Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Mark 10:45; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29). Jesus came to die!

"before the foundation of the world" This phrase is used several times in the NT. It speaks of the pre-creation activity of God for mankind's redemption (cf. Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). This also implies the pre-existence of Jesus (cf. John 1:1-2, 8:57-58; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-7; Col. 1:17; Rev. 13:8).

▣ "but has appeared" This is an aorist passive participle which means "God has caused Him to be clearly revealed" (cf. Heb. 9:26; 1 John 1:2; 3:5,8).

▣ "in these last times" This refers to Jesus' incarnation at Bethlehem. He existed as deity from all eternity, but was clearly revealed in human form in Bethlehem according to prophecy (cf. Mic. 5:2).

The last days began with Jesus' birth as He inaugurated the Kingdom. They will be consummated at the Second Coming. See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at 1 Peter 1:5.

▣ "who through Him are believers in God" This is literally "the ones. . .believing." The adjective pistos is used as a substantive ( "the believing ones").

The etymological background of the term believe (Hebrew emeth, Greek, pistis) helps establish the contemporary meaning. In Hebrew it originally referred to a person in a stable stance. It came to be used metaphorically for someone who was dependable, loyal, or trustworthy. The Greek equivalent is translated into English by the terms "faith," "believe," and "trust." Biblical faith or trust is not primarily something we do, but someone in whom we put our trust. It is God's trustworthiness, not ours, which is the focus. Fallen mankind trusts God's trustworthiness, faiths His faithfulness, believes in His Beloved. The focus is not on the abundance or intensity of human faith, but the object of that faith.

1:21 "who raised Him from the dead" This shows God's approval of Jesus' life and death. This is a recurrent theme of Peter (cf. Acts 2:24-28,32, 3:15,26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 1 Pet. 1:13, 3:18,21, and Paul, Acts 13:30,,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 4:24, 8:11; 10:9; 2 Cor. 4:14). This was confirmation of the Father's acceptance of the Son's substitutionary death (cf. 1 Cor. 15). Theologically all three persons of the Trinity were active in Christ's resurrection.

1. the Father (Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34; 17:31)

2. the Spirit (Rom. 8:11)

3. the Son (John 2:19-22; 10:17-18)


▣ "and gave Him glory" In this context the Father's acceptance and approval of the Son's words and works are expressed in two great events.

1. Jesus' resurrection from the dead

2. Jesus' ascension to the Father's right hand

See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at Mark 10:37b.


 22Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For, "All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, 25But the word of the Lord endures forever." And this is the word which was preached to you.

1:22 "in obedience" Obedience is a recurrent theme in chapter one (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2,14,22). It refers to receiving the gospel (i.e., truth, cf. John 17:17; 2 Thess. 2:12) and walking in it. Remember the gospel is (1) a person; (2) truth about that person; and (3) a life like that person. Jesus expressed the importance of obedience so clearly in Luke 6:46. Obedience is the evidence that we have truly met Him and been changed by Him. Eternal life has observable characteristics.

▣ "to the truth" Literally "by obedience of the truth," which is an objective genitive. Truth is the characteristic of both God and His children. See Special Topic: Truth at 2 Pet. 1:12.

▣ "purified your souls" This is a perfect active participle. Obedience to the truth issues in a personal purging (cf. James 4:8; 1 John 3:3). This spiritual purging does not earn God's love and acceptance, but reflects it instead. This purifying process starts at salvation and continues throughout life (perfect active participle). It results in a sincere love of the brothers (cf. 1 John 4:7-21). Christianity is both (1) an individual faith response to God's offer of salvation through Christ and (2) a corporate experience of service to the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). Believers express their love for God by loving His other children (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13). See fuller note on "souls" at 1 Pet. 1:9.

▣ "love of the brethren. . .fervently love another" The first use of "love" in this phrase is in a compound Greek word philadelphi  (brotherly love). The second is an aorist active imperative of the verb agapaō. These terms (phileō and agapaō)were used interchangeably in the NT (cf. John 5:20 versus 3:25 and 16:27 versus 17:23). In some passages like John 21:15-17, they might convey different aspects of love. The early church took a relatively unused noun (agapē) and began using it to express the unique self-giving love of God in Christ.

1:23 "for you have been born again" This is a perfect passive participle. This develops the theological thought from 1 Pet. 1:3. It is a family metaphor used to describe Christians as new members of God's family through their faith in Christ (cf. John 1:12-13). It is similar in meaning to John's "born from above" in John 3:3.

Notice the marvelous truth conveyed in the verb.

1. perfect tense = our salvation started in the past and continues into a current state of being

2. passive voice = we did not save ourselves, it was an outside act by the Triune God

3. This same verb form (different Greek word) is found in Eph. 2:5,8, which is also a wonderful verse on the believer's assurance and security.


▣ "not of seed which is perishable" Seed is a biblical metaphor for (1) procreation (i.e., used by the rabbis for sperm) or (2) physical descent (i.e., Gen. 12:1-3 for Abraham's descendants). It is that which brings forth life.

▣ "through the living and enduring word of God" Gospel preaching is personified as the means by which the Father has brought forth believers (cf. James 1:18). This Apostolic preaching of the truth of the gospel is described as both alive and remaining (cf. Heb. 4:12), which are both aspects of YHWH!

1:24 Verses 24-25a are a quote from the LXX of Isaiah 40:6-8 (cf. Job 14:1-2; Ps. 90:5-6, 103:15-17) which also emphasized the frailty and finitude of human life (cf. James 1:10-11) versus the eternality of God's Word (cf. James 1:21). In their original context these verses referred to Israel, but now they refer to the church (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9). This transfer is characteristic of 1 Peter.

1:25 "the word of the Lord" There are two Greek words usually translated "word" or "message." In Koine Greek logos (cf. John 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:23) and rēma (cf. the OT quote from the Septuagint in 1 Pet. 1:25a and alluded to in 1 Pet. 1:25b) are usually synonymous. Context, not a lexicon, determines synonymity. God has revealed Himself (i.e., revelation)!

 1Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

2:1 "Therefore" This shows that the following discussion is based on what has just been stated.

▣ "putting aside" This is an aorist middle participle which literally refers to personally "stripping off." The removal of clothing is a common biblical metaphor describing the spiritual life (cf. Job 29:14; Psalm 109; 29; Isa. 61:10; Rom. 13:12; Eph. 4:22,25,31; Col. 3:8; Heb. 12:1).

Notice the middle voice, which emphasizes the action of the subject. Believers are to once-and-for-all (aorist tense as a completed act) strip off all evil. This is only possible because of the previous theological presentation of the work of the Triune God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2). Fallen mankind is not able unaided to turn from sin and evil, but God in Christ through the Spirit has enabled believers to turn completely to God (cf. Rom. 6). The tragedy is that believers continue to relinquish this God-given power and choose to return to evil (cf. Rom. 7).

▣ "all malice" This refers to an "active ill-will"(cf. Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:8; 14:20; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Titus 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:16). Lists of vices were common in the Roman world (e.g. Stoics) and the NT (cf. Mark 7:21-27; Rom. 1:29-31; 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:10; 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 12:2; Gal. 5:19-20; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Pet. 2:10-14; Rev. 21:8, 22:15).

▣ "all deceit" This term was used of "fishing bait." It depicts an attempt to entrap another by means of trickery (cf. 1 Cor. 12:16; 1 Thess. 2:3; 1 Pet. 2:1,22; 3:10).

▣ "hypocrisy" This is literally "to judge under." It is a theatrical word used of actors speaking behind a mask.

"envy" This is a jealousy caused by the desire to have something another person possesses (cf. Matt. 27:18; Mark 15:10; Rom. 1:29; Phil. 1:15; 1 Tim. 6:4; Titus 3:3; James 4:5).

▣ "slander" This refers to speaking evil of another person, to defame them (cf. Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Pet. 2:1,12; 3:16). This activity is used in both the OT and the NT to describe Satan. It is obvious by its very mentioning that it was also a problem in these early churches who were experiencing such persecution.

2:2 "like newborn babies" This possibly related to Jesus' admonition to His disciples to have faith like little children (cf. Matt. 18:3ff). It also relates to the earlier familial metaphor of being born again (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3,23; John 3:3).

In 1 Peter 2, Peter uses several metaphors to describe believers.

1. newborn babes, 1 Pet. 2:1

2. living stones forming a spiritual house, 1 Pet. 2:5

3. a priesthood, 1 Pet. 2:5,9

4. a people, 1 Pet. 2:9-10

5. aliens and strangers, 1 Pet. 2:11

6. sheep, 1 Pet. 2:25


▣ "long for" This is an aorist active imperative. This is a strong word for desire (cf. Phil. 1:8; 2:26). Spiritual growth and maturity are not automatic in the Christian's life. The essence of this command may be seen in Ps. 42:1-4 and Matt. 5:6.

▣ "the pure" This is a term taken from the wine industry of the first century. It is the term dolon (guile, cf. 1 Pet. 1:1) with the alpha privative. Wine was often mixed with water, especially older wine. Often merchants tried to sell watered down or diluted wine. Therefore, this term was used metaphorically of that which was "unmixed"or "genuine."

Keeping with the contextual metaphor of newborn baby Christians, this refers to the necessary nourishment of babies, milk. These people were saved by the word of God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23); now they need to develop in the word of God. This is an expected and required result of new birth. Oh, the tragedy of believers remaining baby Christians.

▣ "milk" Tertullian gave "new believers" milk and honey after their baptism as a symbol of their new life in Christ based on this very texts. We need the truth of God, which is revealed in Christ and the preaching of the Apostles continually (cf. Heb. 5:12).

NASB, NKJV"of the word"

This is the philosophical term logikos as in Rom. 12:1. It can refer to mental reasoning (cf. NASB, NKJV) or metaphorically of the spiritual (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB). It is obviously related to the new believers' need for Apostolic preaching and teaching (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23-25). Believers need to read and know the Bible.

▣ "you may grow in respect to salvation" This is an Aorist passive subjunctive. Apostolic preaching is personified as the agent of the passive voice, which causes believers to grow. Salvation is viewed in the NT as

1. a past decision (aorist tense)

2. an ongoing process (present tense)

3. a past event culminating in a current state (perfect tense)

4. a future consummation (future tense)

This context is stating that spiritual growth by means of God's revealed truth (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23,25; 2:2) is crucial for a consummated Christian life. See Special Topic at 1 Pet. 1:5.

2:3 "if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" This is a first class conditional which is assumed to be true. Believers who have experienced the grace of God are expected to desire God's truth and grow in God's truth into a full and complete salvation. Verse 3 is an allusion to Ps. 34:8. The Psalm refers to YHWH, but here it refers to Jesus. The United Bible Societies Handbook on the First Letter from Peter asserts that this may refer to a believer's first communion (p. 53).

1. a word play between kindness (chrēstos) and Christ (Christos)

2. Psalm 34 was used by the early church during communion services

3. "taste" (aorist tense) refers to the first communion (possibly after baptism)



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is Peter writing to Jews or Gentiles, or both?

2. What is the central truth of Peter's prayer in 1 Pet. 1:3-9?

3. Why do Christians suffer?

4. Why is our salvation said to be still in the future?

5. What did the OT prophets long to know in 1 Pet. 1:10-12?

6. List the commands found in 1 Pet. 1:13-22.

7.  What do new believers need most?


Biblical Topics: 

I Peter 2:4-25


The Living Stone and the Holy Nation The enduring Word An Appeal for Holiness The Living Stone and the Holy Nation Regeneration by the Word
  (1:22-2:3) (1:23-2:10)   (1:22-2:3)
2:1-8 The Chosen Stone and His Chosen People   2:1-8 The New Priesthood
  2:4-10 2:4-8   2:4-8
2:9-10   2:9-10 2:9-10 2:9-10
Live as Servants of God Living Before the World The Obligation of Christians Slaves of God The Obligations of Christians: Toward Unbelievers
2:11-12 2:11-12 2:11-12 2:11-12 2:11-12
  Submission to Government     The Obligations of Christians: Toward Civil Authority
2:13-17 2:13-17 2:13-17 2:13-17 2:13-17
The Example of Christ's Suffering Submission to Masters   The Example of Christ's Suffering The Obligations of Christians: Toward Masters
2:18-25 2:18-25 2:18-25 2:18-25 2:18-20

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For this is contained in Scripture: "Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed." 7This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, "The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone," 8and, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

2:4 "And coming to Him" This is a present middle (deponent) participle. NKJV, NRSV and TEV translate this as an imperative. Note the continual coming and personal element, "to Him." The gospel is primarily a person to welcome, to trust, and to emulate. This term may have the connotation of approaching God, as a priest or worshiper (cf. Heb. 4:16; 7:25; 10:1,22; 11:6). Peter changes his metaphor from milk in 1 Pet. 2:2-3, to construction metaphors in 1 Pet. 2:4-8 (believers as living stones and Jesus as the cornerstone). This is possibly a continuing allusion to Ps. 34:4 from the Septuagint.

▣ "as to a living stone" In the OT God's stability, strength, and perseverance are often described by using the analogy of rock as a title (cf. Deut. 32:4,15,18,30; Ps. 18:2,31,46; 28:1; 31:3; 42:9; 71:3).

The metaphor of Jesus as a stone is found in

1. a rejected stone (Ps. 118:22)

2. a building stone (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16)

3. a stone to stumble over (Isa. 8:14-15)

4. an overcoming and conquering stone (kingdom), (Dan. 2:45)

Jesus used these passages to describe Himself (cf. Matt. 21:40; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17).

▣ "which has been rejected by men" This is a perfect passive participle. This may be an allusion to 1 Pet. 2:7, which is from the Septuagint of Ps. 118:22. The stone is disapproved by "the builders," which may refer to the Jewish leadership, but in Peter it is widened to all unbelieving humans. This term, from apo and dokimazō, means the testing of someone or something to find if it is genuine. The Jews continued to reject Jesus as the Messiah and this rejection became a state of spiritual blindness (cf. Mark 8:31; Matt. 6:23).

▣ "but is choice and precious in the sight of God" This is in direct contrast to the previous phrase. The term "choice" is literally "elect" in the sense of "foreordained" (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2,20). A rejected (crucified or unreceived) Messiah has always been God's only plan of redemption (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29; Eph. 1:11).

2:5 "as living stones" The NT uses several corporate metaphors to describe the church.

1. a vine (John 15:5)

2. a flock (John 10:16)

3. a bride (i.e., a family, cf. Eph. 5:27; Rev. 19:7, 21:9)

4. a body (Eph. 1:22-23, 1 Cor. 12)

5. a family (Rom. 8:15-17; 1 Tim. 3:15)

6. a city (Heb. 11:10,16; 12:22, 13:14; Rev. 2:2,10)

7. here, a temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9,16; 6:19)


▣ "are being built up as a spiritual house" This is probably a Present passive indicative, although in form it could be a present passive imperative. This is the same verb used in Matt. 16:18 to describe the church being built on the rock of personal faith (i.e., Peter as an example). The entire context is continuing to develop the metaphor of 1 Pet. 2:4. Jesus is the new Temple (cf. John 2:18-22). Believers in Christ are the true priesthood. The unbelieving Jews have stumbled over (cf. 1 Pet. 2:7-8) the very stones on which YHWH built His spiritual Temple—(1) Jesus and (2) the Church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). Only those who have faith in Christ can function in God's spiritual temple, offering spiritually acceptable sacrifices (i.e., holy self-giving lives, cf. 1 Pet. 1:14-16; Rom. 12:1-2).


▣ "for a holy priesthood" Peter is using the names of God's OT people, Israel, to describe the church (cf. Exod. 19:5; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 1:6). In the OT YHWH promised through Eve's offspring to redeem all mankind (cf. Gen. 3:15). YHWH called Abram (cf. Gen. 12:1-3) to call a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6) to reach all the world (cf. Gen. 12:3 and Exod.19:5). Israel failed in this task (cf. Ezek. 36:27-38). Therefore, God appointed a new people of faith (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) to reach the world (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:47Acts 1:8; 1 Pet. 2:9).

Martin Luther used the authority of the Bible and the Pauline truth of justification by grace through faith to reject the traditions of the Catholic Church. He coined the phrase "the priesthood of the believer" (singular). Western individualism has taken this slogan and turned it to a license for personal freedom in belief and lifestyle. But this concept is corporate, not individual (i.e., notice the plural pronouns in 1 Pet. 2:5,7,9). It is gospel-proclamation focused, not personal-freedom focused. Believers have been given Israel's world-wide evangelistic assignment (cf. Rom. 15:16; Heb. 13:15-16). To view the priesthood as meaning that we have direct access to God through Christ is true, but this is not the purpose of the metaphor. A priest stands between a needy people and a holy God. He advocates not his own position, but the needs of the people. The NT affirms the priesthood of believers (plural, corporate) as they bring a lost world to faith in Christ.


▣ "to offer up spiritual sacrifices" After the destruction of the Temple in a.d. 70, the Jews accentuated the OT passages which advocate non-animal sacrifices (cf. Ps. 50:14, 51:27, 69:30-31, 107:22, 141:2; Hos. 14:2). Hebrews 13:5 reflects this type of Christian sacrifice. In context this refers to believers living holy and self-giving lives from 1 Peter 1 (esp. 1 Pet. 2:14-16; Heb. 13:15-16).

2:6 "A choice stone, a precious corner stone" This is a quote from Isa. 28:16. This concept of the Messiah as a rock or stone is recurrent in the OT (cf. Ps. 118:22; Dan. 2:34-35; Isa. 8:14, 28:16). These OT passages are often quoted in the NT (cf. Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; 1 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 2:22; 1 Pet. 2:6-8) to refer to Jesus as God's promised One. Peter also used it in his sermon in Acts 4:11. See note at 1 Pet. 2:4b. See Special Topic: Cornerstone at Mark 12:10.

NASB"and he who believes in him will not be disappointed"
NKJV "and he who believes on him will by o means be put to shame"
NRSV"and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame"
TEV"whoever believes in Him will never be disappointed"
NJB"no one who relies on this will be brought to disgrace"

This phrase is from the LXX of Isa. 28:16. Notice the invitation is open to all (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). This is a double negative, "never, no never, be disappointed" or "ashamed." For "believes" see Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

F. F. Bruce, answers to Questions (p. 158) points out the difference between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Hebrew texts.

1. The LXX – "will not be disappointed" (NASB) or "brought to disgrace" (NJB) is the verb yēbōsh

2. The MT – "will not be disturbed" (NASB, margin), "in a hurry" is the verb yahish

On page 157 Bruce comments that NT authors probably quoted the version in common use in the early church unless they had a special theological reason to depart from it and use another one. The general thrust of a passage is the key to the concept of inspiration, not a fight over each and every individual word. Humans have been given a trustworthy revelation!

2:7 "the builders" The Jewish Targums (Aramaic translation with commentary) use this term as a title for the Scribes. This is a quote from Ps. 118:22. Jesus uses this same OT quote in His parable of the wicked tenant farmers in Matt. 21:42. This parable described the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day. It is uncertain whether Jesus' strong words of judgment related to (1) His rejecting the concept of non-Aaronic Jewish leadership (i.e., Annas and Caiaphas) who purchased their positions from Rome or (2) His rejecting all Jewish people (i.e., Israel) who refuse to believe in Him (cf. Rom. 9-11).

2:8 "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" This is a quote from Isa. 8:14. It is also quoted in Rom. 9:32, where it refers to Jesus. The special stone has been rejected and becomes the object of destruction!

▣ "they are disobedient" This is a present active participle. They (unbelievers of Peter's day, both Jews and Gentiles) continue to be disobedient because they reject Jesus as the Suffering Messiah. They have rejected both Jesus' preaching and that of His Apostles (cf. 1 Pet. 1:24,25). They have rejected the eternal word (i.e., the gospel, cf. 1 Pet. 1:22-2:2).

NASB"and to this doom they were also appointed"
NKJV"to which they also were appointed"
NRSV"as they were destined bo do"
TEV"such was God's will for them"

Calvinists use this verse and Rom. 9:22; 1 Thess. 5:9 to assert that God chose some to salvation and some to damnation. However, verses like John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9 show this cannot be true. God's election is primarily for holiness (cf. Eph. 1:4; 2:10); for Christlikeness (cf. Rom. 8:29).

This verse reminds me of Isa. 6:9-13. God's covenantal people had the light they needed to respond appropriately to Him, but they would not. This continual rejection issued in hard hearts that could not respond. Only judgment was possible. The God of time and history knows what humans will do but allows them to do it and then He affirms and recognizes the consequences of their temporal/eternal choices.

It must have been very hard for these Jewish believers to deal with the Jewish rejection of Jesus. How could this happen? These early believers began to read the Scriptures for clues to this surprising unbelief.

1. Isaiah 6:9-10; 8:14-15; 43:8

2. Jeremiah 5:21; 7

3. Matt. 21:33-44; Mark 12:1-12

4. Luke 2:34; 20:9-18

5. Romans 9-11

6. 1 Corinthians 1:23

The following quote is from F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 196-197, about "election" vs. "selection."

"Are 'election to salvation' and 'election to damnation' correlative terms?

In certain theological systems they are, but it is important to test all theological systems by Scripture, and to remember that, when the teaching of Scripture is systemized, something is usually left out in the process. The term 'election' has become so involved in theological controversy that the sense of the Biblical teaching on the subject might be better grasped if we used a non-theological word like 'selection' in its place. Christ selected twelve men to be apostles (Luke 6:13); He selected Saul of Tarsus to be a 'chosen vessel' (Acts 9:15); but His selection of these men for a special purpose implies no disparagement of others who were not so selected. God selected Israel from among the nations (Acts 13:17)—to the great benefit of the other nations, not to their disadvantage. When the election of the people of God in this age is in question, it is not so much their 'election to salvation' as their election to holiness that is emphasized. This is so, for example, in Eph. 1:4 and 1 Pet. 1:1f; and similarly, in Rom. 8:29, the purpose for which God foreordained those whom He foreknew was that they should be 'conformed to the image of his Son.' In none of these places is there any suggestion of 'election to damnation' as a correlative. We should beware of generalizing from such particular references as those in Rom. 9:22 ('vessels of wrath made for destruction') and 1 Pet. 2:8 'they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do'). The general analogy of Biblical teaching on this subject indicates that some are chosen or selected by God—not in order that others, apart from them, may be left in perdition, but in order that others, through them, may be blessed."

 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

2:9 "But you" Notice the plural "you" and the contrast. The author uses a composite allusion from Exod. 19:6 and then 19:5.

"a chosen race" This same descriptive title is found in Deut. 7:6; 10:15; Isa. 43:20-21. Chosen for ministry! This is an OT title for elect servants.

▣ "a royal priesthood" This title is found in Exod. 19:6; Isa. 61:6; 66:21. As Israel was chosen to bring the knowledge of YHWH to the world, now the church is called to inform and bring needy, sinful people to YHWH.

"a holy nation" This same title is found in Exod. 19:6; Deut. 7:6; 14:2,21; 26:19. Israel was called to be uniquely holy and thus reveal a holy God (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:15-16) to a fallen world.

"a people for God's own possession" This same descriptive title is found in Exod. 19:5; Deut. 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Mal. 3:17. This passage speaks of the church as spiritual Israel (cf. Gal. 6:16). These OT titles for the people of God are now applied to the NT Body of Christ (cf. Rom. 2:28-29: Gal. 3;29, 6:16; Eph. 2:11-3:13; Rev. 1:6). In some ways the church has replaced Israel, as in the world mission mandate (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

"may proclaim the excellencies of Him" The purpose of God's people is to witness to the greatness of the one true creator/redeemer God! They are chosen and equipped to live and speak the gospel.

"who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" Darkness and light are biblical metaphors of sin, rebellion, and evil versus hope, truth, healing, and goodness (cf. John 1:4-5; 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:35-36,46; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 John 1:5; 2:8-9.11). As the previous phrase might be an allusion to Isa. 42:12, this phrase may allude to Isa. 42:16.

2:10 "for you once were not a people" This introduces a quote from Hos. 1:10 and 2:23. The key term is lo ammi (the name of one of Hosea's children), which originally referred to Israel not being God's people because of their idolatry and covenant-breaking lifestyles. They were (1) trusting in political alliances and not in God and (2) worshiping Ba'al using YHWH's name.

"but now you are the people of god" This is a further quote from Hos. 2:23. This passage in its OT context affirms that though Israel had sinned and departed from their covenant God, He was ready to reestablish them to covenant status (i.e., marriage metaphor). This same loving and forgiving God now holds out His hand to wayward Gentiles.

This use of Hosea that originally addressed the wayward northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century b.c. is now used by Peter to relate to pagan Gentiles. This extension of OT texts from a Jew/Gentile context to a unbeliever/believer context characterizes the NT! Believing Gentiles are now included in the covenant people of God (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

▣ "you had not received mercy" The prophet Hosea had three children to whom he gave prophetic names

1. a boy named Jezreel, meaning "God makes fruitful"

2. a girl named Lo-Ruhamah, meaning "no compassion"

3. a boy named Lo-Ammi, meaning "not my people"

As the first part of 1 Pet. 2:10 uses the third child's name, the last part of 1 Pet. 2:10 uses the second child's name (cf. Hos. 1:6; 2:20,23). God fully receives sinners because He has compassion for them.

The grammatical forms found in 1 Pet. 2:10 are helpful in expressing the theological point. There was a stated objection on the part of the Gentiles, brought about by the agency of Satan (i.e., perfect passive participle), but the covenant God has decisively broken into history by means of His Messiah and brought about a new day of opportunity for covenant inclusion (i.e., aorist passive participle). This truth is similar to the mystery of God's plan, once hidden, but now disclosed (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

 11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

2:11 "aliens" This OT term speaks of non-residents with limited rights living in a place that is not their home, like Abraham (cf. Gen. 23:4; Ps. 39:12; Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11). Here it is used metaphorically for believers living in the fallen world system.

"strangers" This term implies a short stay (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1,17). This alludes to the fact that believers are citizens of a heavenly realm, not this time-space physical reality only. We are creatures of flesh and spirit (cf. Gen. 1:26-27).

"to abstain" This is literally "continue to hold yourself back from" (i.e., present middle infinitive). Believers must continue to struggle with sin and temptation (cf. Romans 7). The battle with evil does not cease at salvation (cf. Eph. 6:10-20). In many ways it intensifies. When one believes in and receives Christ he/she is indwelt by the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9) and given the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4). However, this does not mean that the old sin nature is removed. It is made inoperative by Christ's finished work on our behalf (cf. Romans 6, see Special Topic: Null and Void).

The rabbis say that in every human's heart is a black and a white dog. The one you feed the most becomes the biggest. Believers face the continuing choice of seeking the good, dwelling on righteousness, walking in light, or reactivating the old sin nature! Believers are citizens of two realms (fallen human nature and the Spirit, cf. Rom. 8:5-17); two ages (i.e., current evil age and the age of righteousness, cf. Titus 2:11-14); which one exerts the most influence?

▣ "from fleshly lusts" The body itself is not evil (Greek thought), but it is the battleground of self-centered and Satanic temptations (cf. Romans 6-8; Gal. 5:16-24).

▣ "which wage war" this is a present middle indicative. This war is described in James 4:1-4.

2:12 "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles" This is a present active participle used as an imperative. Unbelievers are watching! How believers live and react to the common struggles of life are loud witnesses to all who know them. Often our lives speak louder than our words!

▣ "slander you as evildoers" The early Christians were accused of

1. cannibalism (because of the Lord's Supper terminology)

2. incest (because they loved each other)

3. atheism (because their God was invisible)

4. treason (because they would not serve in the army or pledge allegiance to Caesar)

5. immorality (possibly the holy kiss)

This slander of The Way (cf. 1 Pet. 24:14; Acts 28:22) seems to have developed in the pro-Emperor eastern provinces or the Roman Empire (Asia Minor).

▣ "they may because of your good deeds. . .glorify God" How we live as Christians reflects the God we claim to know and serve (cf. 1 Pet. 2:15; 3:16; Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:15; Titus 2:7-8). The subjunctive mood introduces a contingency. God's glory is our highest calling and evangelistic mandate (cf. 1 Pet. 4:11,16).

▣ "in the day of visitation" This refers to any time that God draws near, either for blessing or for judgment (cf. Isa. 10:3; Jer. 8:12; 10:15; 11:23; 23:12; 46:21; 48:44; 50:27; 51:18; Hos. 9:7; Mic. 7:4). It can be temporal or eschatological (cf. Luke 19:44). Some see this as relating to believers on trial, but in context it seems to refer to any opportunity for the unsaved to hear and respond to Jesus as Savior before they face Him as Judge.


A. Submission to government and community (1 Pet. 2:13-17)

B. Submission to earthly masters (1 Pet. 2:18-25)

C. Submission in the Christian home (1 Pet. 3:1-7)

D. Submission amidst persecution (1 Pet. 3:8-22)


 13Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

2:13 "submit" This is an aorist passive imperative, but NASB and NKJV translate it as a middle (cf. 1 Pet. 2:18). "Yourselves" is not in the Greek text. It implies that they are to make a decisive choice to submit (cf. 1 Pet. 2:18; 3:1). This is a military term used for the chain of command. It literally means "to arrange oneself under authority." This is a common theme of Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13,18; 3:1,5,22; 5:5). Submission does not imply inequality, for Jesus is described by this term. It is an attitude of service under authority. In Eph. 5:21 it is one of the five characteristics of the Spirit-filled life (mutual submission to one another in Christ).


▣ "for the Lord's sake" This is the motive for all of our actions (cf. 1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17; Eph. 6:5).

▣ "to every human institution" For "institution" see Special Topic at Mark 10:6. From what follows, this is an admonition to submit to governmental or civil authority, much like Rom. 13:1-7 and Titus 3:1. This is all the more significant in light of the governmental persecution these believers faced. It is uncertain whether the persecution was Jewish, pagan, local government, or Empire wide. Our strongest witness to the power of the gospel is in times of persecution. Our attitude, words, and actions when unfairly treated cause unbelievers to take notice.


▣ "as the one in authority" This term in Classical Greek meant "the human founder of a city"; however, in the NT it is always used of God's authority (cf. Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-7; Titus 3:1-8), which is often given to human organizations. God prefers order over anarchy.

2:14 "or to governors as sent by him" This is a Present passive participle. God is in control of all things. This text does not teach "the divine right of Kings," but affirms that God supports law and order (i.e., a stable society) over anarchy.

The pronoun "him" could refer to (1) God or (2) the governor.

▣ "for the punishment of evildoers" Government has the God-given authority to maintain order and to restrain and punish disorder. Capital punishment is one form of this mandate (cf. Rom. 13:4; Acts 25:11).

2:15 "For such is the will of God" See Special Topic below.


▣ "silence" This is literally "muzzle" (cf. Mark 1:25, 4:39).

▣ "the ignorance" This refers to someone who lacks spiritual discernment (cf. 1 Cor. 15:34).

▣ "of foolish men" This term is listed in a series of sins in Mark 7:22. It describes unbelieving Jewish teachers in Rom. 3:20, but it is used to describe believers in Eph. 5:17. Therefore, it implies a lazy mental state that affects both the saved and the unsaved. Here it refers to uninformed pagans who are accusing believers of things which are not true (cf. 1 Pet. 2:12).

2:16 "Act as free men" This is an implied imperative (cf. NASB, TEV, NIV). It is in contrast to the pagans who are slaves to sin. Believers have the choice. Jesus has freed them from the mastery of sin (cf. Romans 6), but often they use their new freedom to choose sin again.

▣ "do not use your freedom as a coverage for evil" This is literally "having" (a present active participle) negated, used as an imperative. How often our freedom becomes a license (cf. 1 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 5:13) instead of a sacrificial living witness (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13). Freedom always brings responsibility but be careful of legalism or ritualism (cf. 1 Cor. 8-10; Col. 2:16-23). Believers are now free from sin to serve God (cf. Romans 6) and each other (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23).

▣ "but use it as bondslaves of God" Believers have been freed from sin and are now free to serve God (cf. Rom. 6:22).

2:17 "Honor all people" This is an aorist active imperative, the first of four stark summary commands in 1 Pet. 2:17. This means to recognize the worth of all humans in God's sight (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; John 3:16) and to live so as to attract them to faith in Christ (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

▣ "love the brotherhood" This is a present active imperative. Christians must continue to love each other (cf. 1 Pet. 1:22; John 13:34, 15:12,17; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 John 2:7-8, 3:11, 23; 4:1,11; 2 John 5). Love is the true evidence that we know God, that we have trusted Christ, and that we are guided by the Spirit. It is the family characteristic of God. Believers are to love all humans for the sake of the gospel and love other Christians because they are part of the family of God.

▣ "fear God" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative (cf. Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Pro. 1:7;15:33). We get the English word "phobia" from this Greek word. It is used in the sense of awe and respect. All believers' actions must issue from their relationship with and respect for God!

▣ "honor the king" These last two present imperatives may be an allusion to Pro. 24:21. Remember in Peter's day that the Emperor was Nero (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13)!

 18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

2:18 "Servants, be submissive to your masters" This is a present middle participle used as an imperative (see note and Special Topic at 1 Pet. 2:13). Believing slaves respect their earthly masters because they respect God! This even refers to those unbelieving masters who are unfair and cruel or Christian slave masters who are acting inappropriately. In our day an application of this admonition would relate to Christian employers and Christian employees. This is similar to Paul's teachings in Eph. 6:5-9. Notice #3 in the Special Topic below.

This is a good place to discuss the cultural aspect of biblical interpretation. If the gospel had challenged (1) the first century Greek-Roman patriarchal culture or (2) its slave culture, it would have been rejected and destroyed by first century society. By preaching the gospel both of these barriers fell in time! The Bible must always be interpreted in its historical setting and then the inspired truths applied to our day and culture with the same power and impact. It does not mean that we try to reproduce the first century culture as God's will for every society in every age. The goal is the preaching of the eternal truth of the gospel which impacts individuals and ultimately society itself.



NASB"For this finds favor"
NKJV"For this is commendable"
NRSV"For it is a credit to you"
TEV"God will bless you for this"
NJB"You see, there is merit"

This refers to God's approval of submission even amidst persecution, when this suffering is related to our Christian convictions and trust in Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 3:14,17; 4:13-14,16). "Favor" is the Greek term charis (grace) used in its non-theological sense.

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Christian slaves were suffering under cruel masters for Christ's sake.

▣ "conscience" See note at 1 Peter 3:16.

2:20 "for what credit is there" This is a term for honor connected to one's reputation (cf. Luke 6:32-34). It is from the Greek verb kaleō, which means to call. Therefore, it refers to calling praise, honor, or glory on someone.

▣ "if" There are two first class conditional sentences in this verse, which are assumed to be true. The first conditional sentence is used in a negative sense and the second in a positive sense. God is pleased when believers suffer unfairly, but patiently, for being believers (cf. 1 Pet. 1:29; 3:24,27; 4:12-16; Matt. 5:10-16).

2:21 "For you have been called for this purpose" This is an aorist passive indicative. In context this phrase means that believers were called to emulate Jesus' life, which brings glory to God and salvation to mankind. This is a call to submissiveness on behalf of all believers which will bring spiritual maturity and a powerful gospel witness.

That believers are called by God to suffering is a startling statement, especially to a western culture which thinks of Christianity in terms of (1) "what's in it for me" or (2) a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. The persecution of believers is a real possibility in a fallen world (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 3:14; 4:12-19).

▣ "Christ also suffered" The suffering of the Messiah was a surprise to the Jews who expected a conquering military Messiah. There are specific hints in the OT (cf. Gen. 3:15; Ps. 22; Isa. 53). Jesus Himself showed (1) His Apostles (cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:12,22-23; 20:18-19) and (2) the early church these prophetic passages (cf. Luke 24:25-27).

His suffering and death were an integral part of the apostolic preaching of the early church in Acts called the Kerygma (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:13-14,18; 17:3; 26:23). See Special Topic at 1 Pet. 1:11.

There are several key theological truths connected with His suffering.

1. Christ is our example (1 Pet. 2:21)

2. Christ bore our sins on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24)

3. Christ's work caused us to die to sin and live for God (1 Pet. 2:24)

4. Christ is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Pet. 2:25)

The term "suffered" (epathen) is found in MSS P72, A, B, and C, but other ancient MSS, P81, א have "died" (apethanen). The UBS4 gives the first reading an "A" rating (certain), assuming that "died" has been transposed by copyists from 3:18.

▣ "an example" The NT gives three reasons why Christ came:

1. To be the vicarious, substitutionary atonement. He, the innocent, blameless (cf. 1 Pet. 2:22) Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29), offered Himself on our behalf (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24).

2. To be the full revelation of the Father (cf. John 1:1-14; 14:8-9).

3. To be an example for believers (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21) to emulate. He is the ideal Israelite, the perfect man, what humanity should have been, could be, and one day, will be.


2:22 "who committed no sin" This is a quote from Isa. 53:9. This concept is also expressed in John 8:46, 14:30; Luke 23:41; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15, 7:26-27; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22; 3:18, 1 John 3:5. He could die on our behalf because He did not have to die for His own sin!

"nor was any deceit found in his mouth" Jesus was the ideal Israelite (cf. Isa. 53:9 and Zeph. 3:13).

2:23 "while being reviled, He did not revile in return" There is a series of three imperfect active indicatives, which mean repeated action in past time. The first one is an allusion to Isa. 53:7. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in His trials before Caiaphas, Annas the High Priest, Pilate, and Herod.

"while suffering, He uttered no threats" He did speak, but in forgiveness to all those involved in His death (cf. Luke 23:34).

"but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" This entrusting was the normal attitude of Jesus' life. It is seen so powerfully in Luke 22:42 and 23:46.

2:24 "He Himself bore our sins" This is obviously from Isa. 53:4,11,12. The term "bore" is used of a sacrifice in Lev. 14:20 and James 2:21. This is the essence of the vicarious, substitutionary atonement (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:6,8,10; 2 Cor. 5:21).

▣ "in His body on the cross" Although there is no specific Gnostic element connected to 1 Peter (an early Christian/Greek philosophy asserted that Jesus was not truly human, cf. Col.; 1 Tim.; 1 John). This text is another powerful affirmation of the true humanity and physical death of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Col. 1:22).

The phrase "on the cross" may have a connection to Deut. 21:23, where anyone who was impaled on a stake (i.e., tree) instead of being properly buried was cursed by God. By Jesus' day the rabbis had interpreted this as including Roman crucifixion. Jesus was accused of blasphemy which, according to the Mosaic Law, demanded stoning. Why then did the Jewish leaders want Him crucified, which required Roman approval and ceremonial defilement for them before the Passover? Some have said they did this because the Jews did not have the authority under Roman law to put someone to death, but what about Stephen in Acts 7?

I think they wanted Jesus crucified to suggest that this messianic pretender was cursed by God! But this is exactly what happened. Jesus became the curse for us (cf. Gal. 3:13). The OT itself had become a curse (cf. Col. 2:14). It states that the soul that sins must die (cf. 2 Kgs. 14:6; Ezek. 18:4,20). But all humans have sinned (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23; Gal. 3:22). Therefore, all deserve to die and were under its death penalty. Jesus the sinless Lamb of God (John 1:29) bore the sin of the entire fallen world (cf. Rom. 5:12-21)

▣ "that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" This is a purpose (hina) clause. This is the goal of Christianity (cf. Rom. 6:20; Gal. 2:20). It is the restoration of the image of God in humans which restores intimate fellowship with God.

▣ "by His wounds you were healed" This is an aorist passive indicative. In Isa. 53:4-6 this speaks of our spiritual healing, not that physical healing. I do not deny physical healing as an ongoing act of a gracious God, but I do deny that it is a promised aspect of the atonement of Christ. In the OT sin was characterized as physical illness (cf. Isa. 1:5-6; Ps. 103:3). This is a metaphor for the forgiveness of sin, not a promise that if believers have enough faith God will heal every physical problem of every believer.

For a good discussion of Isa. 53:4 and its use in Matt. 8:17, F. F. Bruce's Answers to Questions, pp. 44-45, is very helpful.

2:25 "for you were continually straying" This is an allusion to Isa. 53:6. It is an imperfect passive periphrastic, which refers to repeated action in past time or the beginning of an action. Does this refer to

1. OT Jews (cf. Rom. 3:9-18, which is a series of OT quotes)

2. all humanity

3. Gentile believers who were succumbing to persecution (i.e., possibly denying Jesus at trial)

4. believers, Jews and Gentiles, who were losing the daily battle to the sin nature


▣ "but now you have returned" This is an aorist passive indicative which implies a decisive return by the agency of God, Christ, or the Spirit (cf. TEV "you have been brought back"). Most English versions translate it as a middle (cf. NASB, NRSV, NJB, NIV). In the OT "turn" or "return" (shub) is often used for God's people repenting and coming back to Him.

▣ "Shepherd" This title is used of God (cf. Ps. 23:1, Ezek. 34) and here of Jesus as in John 10:1-18 and Heb. 13:20. It connotes tender, thoughtful, continuous care. This title may even reflect Peter's discussion with Jesus in John 21 (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-3).


Here the term episkopos is used of Jesus, but usually it refers to local church leaders. The term translates as "bishop" or "overseer" and has a Greek city/state background, while the synonymous term "elder" (presbuteros) has a Hebrew tribal background. These terms are usually used synonymously to refer to the NT role of pastor (cf. Acts 20:17,28; Titus 1:5,7).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Do all Christians start out as baby Christians? Why?

2. Why does Peter use so many OT titles to describe NT believers?

3. What is the significance of believers being called "stones?"

4. Why is our lifestyle so important?

5. Why should we as Christians obey governmental authority?

6. Why did Christianity not attack slavery?

7. What was Peter's advice to those in unfair circumstances?

8. What is the significance of Christ's death?



I Peter 3


Wives and Husbands Submission to Husbands The Obligations of Christians Wives and Husbands The Obligations of Christians: in Marriage
3:1-6 3:1-6 3:1-6 3:1-6 3:1-6
  A Word to Husbands      
3:7 3:7 3:7 3:7 3:7
Suffering for Righteousness' Sake Called to Blessing   Suffering for Doing Right The Obligations of Christians: Love the Brothers
3:8-12 3:8-12 3:8-12 3:8-12 3:8-12
  Suffering for Right and Wrong     The Obligations of Christians: in Persecution
3:13-22 3:13-17 3:13-22 3:13-22 3:13-17
  Christ's Suffering and Ours     The Resurrection and the Descent into Hell
  3:18-4:6     3:18-22

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

1.  First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



  1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

3:1 "In the same way" This points back to his admonition to the Christian citizens (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13) and Christian slaves (cf. 1 Pet. 2:18).

▣ "you wives, be submissive" This is a present middle participle like 2:18. This is a military term which means "to arrange oneself under authority" (cf. Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-19; Titus 2:4-5). This entire chapter is related to Peter's discussion of "submission" of believers to government (2:13-17) and believing slaves to their masters (2:18-20). Submission is not a negative term; it describes Jesus Himself. He was submissive to His earthly parents. He was submissive to His heavenly Father.

"in order that" This is a purpose (hina) clause, which states the theological purpose for a wife's submission. It is always for evangelism! Believers are to model daily the Kingdom of God (cf. the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. This context is discussing unbelieving husbands. In the first century many mixed families were prevalent because one of the partners became a believer. This is not a biblical proof-text for marrying a non-believer!

"any of them are disobedient" This is a present active indicative, which implies continual action. As biblical faith is an ongoing experience, so too, is unbelief!

"to the word" In 1 Peter "the word" (i.e., logos) is a metaphor for Apostolic preaching of the gospel. Believers are born again by the word (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23). They are to desire the spiritual or sincere milk of the word (i.e., logikos, cf. 1 Pet. 2:2).

▣ "won" This is a future passive indicative. This term means "to profit." It is used of salvation in 1 Cor. 9:19-22. The natural goal of a believing wife is the salvation of her family. This should be the goal of all believers.

▣ "without a word" Her life of faith will speak louder and clearer than words! However, at some point words are needed to communicate the gospel message!

▣ "by the behavior" Our lifestyle often shouts louder than our words.

3:2 "observe" This term was used of eyewitnesses. Peter used it three times in his letters (cf. 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:16). Believers' lives are on display. Although it is a cliche it is true that believers' lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. Believers' lives are the only Jesus some people will ever know. What an awesome responsibility.

NASB"your chaste and respectful behavior"
NKJV"your chaste conduct accompanied by fear"
NRSV"the purity and reverence of your lives"
TEV"pure and reverent your conduct is"
NJB"the reverence and purity of your way of life"

Peter has used the term "fear," understood as respect earlier, in 1 Pet. 1:17 and 2:18 (cf. Acts 9:3; 10:2; Rom. 3:18; 13:7; Eph. 5:33; Rev. 11:18). Believers live selfless, godly, culturally acceptable lives for the purpose of Kingdom witness and evangelism.

The term "chaste" (agnos) is translated in several ways (pure, chaste, modest, innocent, blameless). It is used of women in 2 Cor. 11:2; Titus 2:5; and here.

3:3 "Your adornment must not be merely external" This is an emphasis on the inner qualities of a believer, not a prohibition against all cultural adornment. External cultural adornment can become a problem if it becomes ultimate and prideful and characterizes an evil heart (cf. Isa. 3:18-24). How one dresses is a window into the heart (cf. 1 Pet. 3:4).

The term "adornment" is a unique usage of the term, kosmos (the verb form in 1 Pet. 3:5). This usage is where we get the English word "cosmetic."

"braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses" All of these refer to the expensive and elaborate hair and clothing fashions of the women in Greco-Roman first century. Believers must not desire or emulate this lust for social acceptance and social ranking based on outward ornaments. This does not imply we should wear rags, but that believers should dress in ways which are socially acceptable to their particular culture and time, but do not draw undue attention to themselves.

3:4 "the hidden person of the heart" This refers to the new person after salvation. The New covenant has given a new heart and spirit (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38). For "heart" see Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

▣ "the imperishable quality" Peter has used this term of (1) God's imperishable inheritance, which He guards for believers in heaven (i.e., 1:4) and (2) of believers being born again of imperishable seed (i.e., 1:23).

Paul uses this same term of our new resurrection bodies in 1 Cor. 15. and of believers' incorruptible crown in 1 Cor. 9:25.

"gentle and quiet spirit" The first term praus (meek, gentle) describes Jesus in Matt. 11:29 and 21:5 and is to characterize believers in the beatitudes (cf. Matt. 5:5). It is also used in 1 Pet. 3:15 to characterize a believer's witness.

The second term, hēsuchios or hēsuchia, is used several times in Paul's writings to describe believers as quiet, tranquil, peaceful, or restful (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:12; 1 Tim. 2:2,11,12).

There is an implied contrast between the changing styles of the world (cf. 1 Pet. 3:3) and the settled character of a redeemed life (cf. 1 Pet. 3:4).

3:5 "being submissive" This is the general theme of this entire context (believers submit to civil authority, 1 Pet. 2:13-17; believing slaves submit to masters, 1 Pet. 2:18-20; Christ submits to the Father's plan, 1 Pet. 2:21-25; believing wives submit to husbands, 1 Pet. 3:1-6). It is an observable reorientation from the Fall of Genesis 3. Believers no longer live for themselves, but for God.

3:6 "Sarah. . .calling him Lord" This is an OT example (i.e., Gen. 18:12) of a godly woman's submission.

"you become her children" Old Testament saints are often used to encourage believers (cf. Heb. 11). They are also used to show that believers are fully accepted by God by faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 4:11; Gal. 3:7,9). We are of the faith family of Abraham and Sarah. We are the new people of God. The new Israel of faith (cf. Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5,9).

▣ "if you do what is right" See note at 1 Pet. 2:14. The conditional element ( "if") expressed in the English translation (NASB, NKJV, TEV) is not in the Greek text, but is implied. The life of faith has observable characteristics.

▣ "without being frightened by any fear" This is another characteristic of the life of faith (cf. 1 Pet. 3:6,14). This may be an allusion to Prov. 3:25 and the truth of Ps. 23:4; 27:1; and 91:5.

 7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

3:7 "You husbands" This section to believing husbands is much shorter than that addressed to believing wives; however, it reflects a radically positive balance for Peter's day, much like Paul's (cf. Eph. 5:21-31).

▣ "in an understanding way" This could refer to (1) the truths of Scripture (i.e., Gen. 1:26-27; 2:18-25; Gal. 3:28) or (2) being mindful of women's unique physical structure (see note below).

▣ "weaker vessel" This means physically (cf. Job 4:19; 10:9; 33:6; 2 Cor. 4:7), not spiritually or intellectually (cf. Gal. 3:28). Some commentators relate it to social status. This same "vessel" may be used in 1 Thess. 4:4 as a reference to one's wife (or an idiom of describing an eternal spirit within a physical body made from clay, cf. Gen. 2:7; 3:19).

▣ "show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life" This reflects the spiritual equality (i.e., co-heirs, cf. 1 Pet. 1:4-5) of men and women (cf. Gen. 1:27; 2:18; Gal. 3:28). In some ways even now salvation removes the consequences of the Fall (cf. Gen. 3:16) and restores the mutuality between men and women of Genesis 1-2.

▣ "so that your prayers will not be hindered" How believing couples treat one another affects their relationship with God (cf. 1 Cor. 7:5).

 8To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10For, "The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 11He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."


NASB"To sum up"
TEV"To conclude"

This is a Greek idiom ( "now the end") which means "in summation," not of the entire letter, but of this context on submission (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13-17,18-25; 3:1-7,8-22).

▣ "all of you be" This is addressed to the entire community of faith. There is no verb in this list of encouraged attributes.

NKJV"of one mind"
NRSV"unity of spirit"
TEV"the same attitude"
NJB"you should all agree among yourselves"

This is literally a compound of homos (one or the same) and phrēn (mind or thinking). The same concept is encouraged in John 17:20-23; Rom. 12:16; Phil. 1:27 and 2:2.

NASB, NJB"sympathetic"
NKJV"having compassion for one another"
TEV"having the same feelings"

This is literally a compound of sun (with) and paschō (to suffer). We get the English term "sympathy" from this Greek compound. In times of persecution and trials this is so important, as are the other qualities mentioned in 1 Pet. 3:8.

NKJV"love as brothers"
NRSV"love for one another"
TEV"love one another"
NJB"love the brothers"

This is literally a compound of philos (love) and adelphos (brother). This is, of course, the generic use of brother. Possibly a better way to express this is "show family love for all believers"( cf. Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9). This reflects Jesus' command in John 13:34; 1 John 3:23; 4:7-8,11-12,19-21. In Koine Greek philos and agapē were usually synonyms (compare John 3:35 and 5:20).

NRSV"a tender heart"
TEV"be kind"
NJB"have compassion"

This is a compound of eu (good) and splagchnon (viscera, bowels). The ancients believed that the lower viscera (cf. Acts 1:18) were the seat of the emotions (cf. Luke 1:28; 2 Cor. 6:12; Phil. 1:8). This compound calls on believers to have "good feelings" toward one another (cf. Eph. 4:32).

NASB"humble in spirit"
NRSV"a humble mind"

This is a compound of tapeinos (humble) and phrēn (minded). It is used in Acts 20:19; Eph. 4:2 and Phil. 2:3. This is a uniquely Christian virtue. It means the opposite of self-assertion and egocentric pride.

3:9 "not returning evil for evil" This is a present active participle used as an imperative. This refers to true forgiveness (cf. Pro. 17:13, 20:22; Rom. 12:17, 1 Thess. 5:15). Remember that 1 Peter is written to persecuted and suffering believers, but they must respond as Christ responded to unfair treatment.

▣ "insult for insult" This reflects Jesus' life (cf. 1 Pet. 2:23).

"but giving a blessing" This is another present active participle used as an imperative. Literally it means "to speak well of" or "eulogize" in English (cf. Matt. 5:10,12,44, 6:14-15; Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:143; 1 Cor. 4:12).

3:9 "but you were called for the very purpose" This is exactly the same truth stated in 1 Pet. 2:21. Suffering, like Christ's example, is the believer's means of maturity (cf. Heb. 5:8) and witness (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

"that you might inherit a blessing" This reflects the words of Jesus in Matt. 5:44 and Luke 6:28. The believer's inheritance has been a recurrent theme (cf. 1 Pet. 1:4-5; 3:7,9). We are family members with God and co-heirs with Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:17).

3:10-12 This is a quote from Psalm 34, from the MT and not the Septuagint. The Psalm is also alluded to in

1. 1 Pet. 2:3 – Ps. 34:8 (cf. Heb. 6:5)

2. 1 Pet. 2:22 – Ps. 34:13

3. 1 Pet. 3:10 – Ps. 34:12-13

4. 1 Pet. 3:11 – Ps. 34:14 (cf. Rom. 14:19; Heb. 12:14)

5. 1 Pet. 3:12 – Ps. 34:15-16


Notice the three admonitions.

1. must keep his tongue from evil (1 Pet. 3:10, see SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH at Mark 7:20)

2. must turn away from evil (1 Pet. 3:11)

3. must seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11)

This shows the human aspect of the believer's covenant response. The reasons for believers' actions are given in 1 Pet. 3:12:

1. the Lord takes personal notice toward the righteous

2. the Lord hears the righteous

3. the Lord is personally against the wicked

Throughout the Psalms "the Lord" originally referred to YHWH, the covenant God of Israel, yet in this context it refers to Jesus, the bringer of the new covenant (as do 1:25 and 2:3). This is a common technique of NT authors to affirm the deity of Jesus.

 13Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

3:13 "Who is there to harm you" This may be an allusion to Ps. 118:6 because this Psalm is quoted in 1 Pet. 2:7 and 9. This same truth is expressed in Rom. 8:31-34.

Believers must be continually reminded that this world is not their home and the physical is not ultimate reality! We are pilgrims here, just passing through. We must not be afraid (i.e., 1 Pet. 3:14).

It is ironic that those protected by the Lord are often the ones who are being persecuted. Knowing, loving, and serving God does not insulate one from pain, unfair treatment, even death. It may look like evil has won, but wait, even amidst suffering, the believer is blessed (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41).

▣ "if you prove zealous for what is good?" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. They were suffering expressly because they were Christians (cf. 1 Pet. 3:14; 2:19; 3:16; 4:16). However, notice the contingency (i.e., subjunctive mood), "zealous for what is good"!

3:14 "But even if you should suffer" This is a rare fourth class conditional sentence (farthest condition from reality), which means possible, but not certain action (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). Not every believer everywhere was suffering. Suffering was never and is never the experience of every Christian, but every Christian must be ready (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-16; John 15:20; Acts 14:22; Rev. 8:17)!

"righteousness" In this context it must refer to godly living or our verbal witness about the gospel. See Special Topic following.


▣ "you are blessed" This is a different term from 1 Pet. 3:9. This is the term used in the Beatitudes of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 5:10-12). Believers are linked with the OT prophets as God's light and revelation to a lost world. By our witness even amidst persecution, the unbeliever may turn and praise God (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1,8-9).

▣ "and do not fear their intimidation" This is an allusion to Isa. 8:12-13 (see similar concept in Isa. 50:9; 54:17; Rom. 8:31-38). Literally it is "fear not their fear." This phrase could be understood in two ways: (1) the fear of God that the persecutors felt or (2) the fear they instill in others. Lack of fear is a characteristic of the child of God (cf. 1 Pet. 3:6).

3:15 "but sanctify" This is an aorist active imperative, which implies a decisive past act of setting someone apart for God's use (this may also reflect Isa. 8:14, which has "sanctuary"). Believers must sanctify Christ in their hearts as Christ sanctified Himself for them (cf. John 17:19).

Notice that in 1 Thess. 5:23 it is God who sanctifies believers. Now believers are commanded to sanctify themselves. This is the covenant paradox of biblical faith (compare Ezek. 18:31 with 36:26-27). God is sovereign, yet humans are also free and must exercise that freedom in God's will. And how are we to sanctify Christ?

1. with our love for one another (cf. 1 Pet. 3:8-9)

2. with our lives (cf. 1 Pet. 3:13-14)

3. with our verbal witness (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15)


▣ "Christ as Lord" The King James Version has "Lord God," which reflects Isa. 8:12-13, which has "the Lord of hosts," while 1 Pet. 3:14 is a Messianic text. However, the ancient Greek manuscripts P72, א, A, B, and C have "Christ as Lord," which fits this context better.

▣ "in your hearts" "Hearts" is an OT idiom referring to the whole person. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART at Mark 2:6.

▣ "always being ready to make a defense" This is the Greek term apologia, which is a compound of apo (from) and logos (word). It refers to a legal defense in a courtroom setting (cf. Acts 19:33; 22:1; 25:16; 26:1,2,24). This text is often used to encourage believers to be an evangelistic witness, which is surely needed, but in context this probably refers to official trials or interrogations. Notice that it is important for all believers to have a prepared, logical presentation of their faith in Christ, whether for a court or for a neighbor. Every believer should be ready to be a verbal witness!

▣ "for the hope that is in you" Hope here is a collective word for the gospel and its future consummation. Believers live now in godly ways because of their confidence in Christ's promises and return.


▣ "with gentleness and reverence" The first term is used of wives in 1 Pet. 3:4, where it describes an attitude which is pleasing to God. This is true, not only in the interpersonal relationships of the home, but also of the believer's relationship to others, even those who instigate persecution (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25).

The second term is used often in 1 Peter and also reflects a day of persecution and intimidation (cf. 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:17,18; 3:2,15). We are to respect God and because of that, honor even unbelieving masters, husbands, and persecutors, as we witness to His power and kingdom.

3:16 There is some confusion as to where 1 Pet. 3:16 starts. NASB and NKJV start here and UBS4, NRSV, TEV, and NJB start it a phrase earlier.

▣ "keep a good conscience" This is a present active participle used as an imperative.

There is not an OT counterpart to the Greek term "conscience" unless the Hebrew term "breast" implies a knowledge of self and its motives. Originally the Greek term referred to consciousness related to the five senses. It came to be used of the inner senses (cf. Rom. 2:15). Paul uses this term twice in his trials in Acts (cf. Acts 23:1 and 24:16). It refers to his sense that he had not knowingly violated any expected duties toward God (cf. 1 Cor. 4:4).

Conscience is a developing understanding of believers' motives and actions based on

1. a biblical worldview

2. an indwelling Spirit

3. a knowledge of the word of God

4. the personal reception of the gospel

Peter has used this expression three times, 1 Pet. 2:19; 3:16 and 21. This is exactly what religious legalism could not provide, but the gospel can.

▣ "so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame" See notes at 1 Pet. 2:12 and 2:15.

3:17 "if God should will it so" This is a rare fourth class conditional as in 1 Pet. 3:14. Peter has consistently expressed the contingency, but not certainty, of suffering and persecution (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6; 2:15; 3:17; 4:14).

3:18-22 Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis In the Apostolic Period, pp. 69, 172, asserts that these verses are from a baptismal hymn. Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, thinks just 1 Pet. 3:18 is poetic (none of the translations used in this commentary print it as a poem). If it is hymnic or poetic, then it should not be "pushed" for doctrine!

3:18 "for Christ also died for sins" This phrase is used in the Septuagint for "a sin offering" (cf. Lev. 5:7, 6:30; Isaiah 53; 2 Cor. 5:21). This phrase speaks of the vicarious, substitutionary death of Jesus, as does 2:22-24.

There are two parts of this phrase which have Greek variants.

1.  "Christ died" (cf. NASB, TEV, NJB). This is found in the Greek manuscripts P72, א, A, B, and C. Other ancient Greek uncials have "suffered" (NKJV, NRSV, i.e., MSS B, K and P). "Suffered" fits both the context and Peter's vocabulary (he uses "suffered" eleven times) best, but if it were original why would any scribe have changed it to "died"?

2.  "For sins." There are over seven variants of this section of the verse. Most of them incorporate "for us" or "on behalf of us." The problem is that the Greek preposition peri is used in connection with sin instead of the more expected huper.


▣ "once for all" This is the theme of the book of Hebrews (cf. Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:17; 9:12,18,26,28; 10:10). Christ is the perfect, effective, once-given sacrifice for sin!

▣ "the just for the unjust" This may be an allusion to Isa. 53:11-12 and could be translated "the righteous for the unrighteous" (cf. NRSV). "The righteous one" may have been a title for Jesus in the early church (cf. Acts 3:14; 7:52; 1 John 2:1,29; 3:7). It emphasizes His sinless life (cf. 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22) given on behalf of the sinful (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24).

▣ "in order that" This is a purpose (hina) clause.

▣ "He might bring us to God" This refers to "access" or "introduction" to deity (cf. Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12). Jesus' death restores the relationship with God lost in the Fall. The image of God in mankind is restored through Christ. Believers have the possibility of intimacy with God as Adam and Eve experienced in Eden before the Fall of Genesis 3.

▣ "having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" There is a contrast (parallelism) between Jesus' physical body (cf. 1 Pet. 4:1) and His spiritual life (cf. 1 Pet. 4:6; 1 Cor. 15:45). This same truth may be reflected in the early creed or hymn recorded in 1 Tim. 3:16.

Both of these phrases are aorist passive participles, which implies a historical event (crucifixion and resurrection, cf. Rom. 1:3-4) performed by an outside agency (i.e., the Father or the Holy Spirit). It is difficult in this passage to determine whether "spirit" should be capitalized (i.e., Holy Spirit) or not (i.e., Jesus' human spirit). I prefer the latter (as does A. T. Robertson), but F. F. Bruce prefers the former.

▣ "made proclamation to" This is the Greek term kērussō, which means to proclaim or publicly announce. In the related passage, 4:6, the verb is euangelizō, which refers exclusively to preaching the gospel. It is uncertain whether a distinction should be drawn in this context between these two terms (cf. Mark 5:20; Luke 9:60, where kērussō is used of gospel proclamation). I think they are synonyms.

▣ "the spirits" There are two theories concerning this: (1) dead men (4:6; Heb. 12:23) or (2) evil angels (Gen. 6; 2 Pet. 2:4-5; Jude 6: I Enoch). Humans are not referred to in the NT as "spirits" without other qualifiers (cf. F. F. Bruce, answers to Questions, p. 128).

▣ "now in prison" There are several items in the text which must be linked together in some way to determine to what Peter is referring:

1. Jesus was "in the spirit" (1 Pet. 3:18)

2. Jesus preached to spirits who were imprisoned (1 Pet. 3:19)

3. these spirits were disobedient in the days of Noah (1 Pet. 3:20)

When all of these are compared, a message to the fallen angels of Gen. 6 or the humans of Noah's day who drowned seem the only textual options. Noah's day is also mentioned in 2 Pet. 2:4-5, along with Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. 2 Pet. 2:6). In Jude rebellious angels (cf. Jude 6) and Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Jude 7) are also linked together.

It is unclear from the larger context why Peter even mentions this subject unless he is using the flood as an analogy to baptism (i.e., being saved through water, cf. 1 Pet. 3:20).

Two of the major points of contention in interpreting this passage are (1) when and (2) the content of Christ's preaching?

1. the preexistent Christ preached through Noah (cf. 1 Pet. 1:11 where the Spirit of Christ preaches through the OT writers) to the people of his day, now imprisoned (Augustine)

2. Christ, between death and resurrection, preached to the imprisoned people of Noah's day

a. condemnation to them

b. salvation to them (Clement of Alexandria)

c. good things to Noah and his family (in Paradise) in front of them (in Tartarus)

3. Christ, between death and resurrection, preached to

a. the angels who took human women and had children by them (cf. Gen. 6:1-2)

b. the half-angel, half-human offspring of Gen. 6:4 (see Special Topicic at Genesis 6 online at The content of the message was their judgment and His victory. I Enoch says these disembodied half-angel/half-humans are the demons of the NT.

4. Christ as the victorious Messiah ascended through the heavens (i.e., angelic levels of the Gnostics or the seven heavens of the rabbis, cf. 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 4:9). II Enoch 7:1-5 says that the fallen angels are imprisoned in the second heaven. He, by this very act, announced His victory over the angelic realms (i.e., all spiritual opposition, cf. the Jerome Bible Commentary, p. 367). I like this option best in this context.


SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

3:20 "when the patience of God kept waiting" This is a compound of mēkos (distant, remote) and thumos (anger). This is an imperfect middle (deponent) indicative, implying God Himself continued to wait again and again. God's long-suffering, slow to avenge, loving patience characterizes His dealings with rebellious humans (cf. 1 Pet. 3:20; Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:16-23; Ps. 103:8-14; Joel 2:13; Micah 6:18-20; 2 Pet. 3:15; Rom. 2:4; 9:22). This godly character is also to be manifest in His children (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:2; Col. 1:11; 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:10; 4:2).

In Peter's writings God is depicted as patiently waiting and withholding His judgment so that people may be saved.

1. He waited in the days of Noah, 1 Pet. 3:20

2. He delayed the Second Coming, 2 Pet. 3:9

God wants all people to be saved (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9,15)!

▣ "who once were disobedient. . .Noah" This seems to refer to the angels of Genesis 6 (cf. 2 Pet. 2:4-5; Jude 6) or the unbelieving humans of Noah's day.

▣ "were brought safely through the water" Contextually it seems that Peter brings up the historical account of Noah and the flood as a way to talk about being "saved" (OT physical delivery versus NT spiritual salvation) through water (i.e., OT flood of Genesis 6-9 versus Christian baptism). If I Enoch is the background, then Noah and his family (i.e., all mankind) were saved by the flood waters from the evil, mixed race of humans and angels.


NASB"corresponding to that"
NKJV"there is also an antitype"
NRSV"which this prefigured"
TEV"which was a symbol pointing to"
NJB"corresponding to this"

This is the Greek term antitupon, which is a compound of anti (i.e., as over against or corresponding to) and tupos (an image or copy). This is the only example of the adjective in the NT, but the noun is in Heb. 9:24. This phrase shows the symbolic, typological nature of Peter's reference.

▣ "baptism" Baptism was the early church's opportunity for a person's public profession (or confession). It was/is not the mechanism for salvation, but the occasion of a verbal affirmation of faith. Remember the early church had no buildings and met in homes or often in secret places because of persecution.

Many commentators have asserted that 1 Peter is a baptismal sermon. Although this is possible, it is not the only option. It is true that Peter often uses baptism as a crucial act of faith (cf. Acts 2:38,41; 10:47). However, it was/is not a sacramental event, but a faith event, symbolizing death, burial, and resurrection as the believer identifies with Christ's own experience (cf. Rom. 6:7-9; Col. 2:12). The act is symbolic, not sacramental; the act is the occasion of profession, not the mechanism of salvation.

▣ "saves you" This term is used mostly in the OT for physical deliverance, but is used mostly in the NT for spiritual deliverance. In this context of persecution it obviously has both connotations.

▣ "but an appeal to God for a good conscience" This shows that it is not the ritual of baptism that saves, but a believer's attitude toward God (cf. 1 Pet. 3:16). However, I would add that baptism is not an option but (1) an example given by Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34 and (2) a command from Jesus (cf. Matt. 28:19) for all believers. The NT knows nothing of unbaptized believers. In the NT baptism was inseparably related to one's profession of faith.

See note on "conscience" at 1 Pet. 3:16.

▣ "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" This shows that the essence of salvation is in Jesus' resurrection (cf. Rom. 1:4-5), not our baptism. This line of thought is clearly seen in Rom. 6:3-4. Baptism by analogy, by immersion, symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection. In reality the mode is not as significant as the heart of the candidate.

3:22 "who is at the right hand" This is an anthropomorphic metaphor of authority, power, and prestige (cf. 1 John 2:1). This imagery is drawn from Ps. 110:1.

The Bible uses human language to describe supernatural persons, places, and events. It is obviously analogous, symbolic, and metaphorical. It is able to communicate reality, but within limits (limits of (1) our fallen human perception and (2) its physical, time-bound, cultural particularity). It is adequate, but not ultimate.

▣ "angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" This seems to refer to angelic ranks (cf. Rom. 8:38-39; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:20-21, 6:12; Col. 2:15; I Enoch). It shows Christ's complete authority and power over the spiritual realm.

Although 1 Peter is not directly addressing Gnosticism, it is clear from other NT writings (Col., Eph,. 1 Tim., Titus, and 1 John) that the cultural context of the first century Greco-Roman world was impacted by this philosophical/theological thinking. In second century gnosticism (and the Nag Hammadi texts) the Greek term pleroma (fullness), used often by Paul, refers to the "fullness of God," the angelic levels (aeons i.e., possibly the Jewish seven heavens) between a high good god and lesser gods. Jesus is the key to heaven, not secret passwords or knowledge related to these intermediary angelic/demonic beings.

Even if the Gnostic aeons are not the focus of the passage it seems that angels are! This would imply that the "spirits in prison" refers to the disobedient angels who took human women and produced offspring (cf. Gen. 6:1-4).



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Were the writers of the NT male chauvinists?

2. How should women dress? (Send for my tape #1337 entitled "A Theology of Christian Dress")

3. How can our family relationships affect our prayers?

4. List the characteristics that should guide our social relationships.

5. Why do Christians suffer?

6. Should every Christian be a verbal witness?

7. Who are the spirits in prison?

8. Does baptism save us? (Send for my tape #1962 entitled "Baptismal Regeneration")



I Peter 4


Good Stewards of God's Grace Christ's Suffering and Ours The Obligations of Christians Changed Lives The Break with Sin
  (3:18-4:6) (2:11-4:11)    
4:1-6   4:1-6 4:1-6 4:1-6
  Serving for God's Glory   Good Managers of God's Gifts The Revelation of Christ is Close
4:7-11 4:7-11 4:7-11 4:7-11 4:7-11
Suffering as a Christian Suffering for God's Glory Recapitulation Suffering as a Christian Suffering for Christ
4:12-19 4:12-19 4:12-19 4:12-19 4:12-19

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

4:1 "Therefore" This links the previous discussion to what follows.

▣ "Christ has suffered in the flesh" This relates to 3:18. Flesh refers to Jesus' physical life. He was really one of us (i.e., human). He died in our place (cf. 1 Pet. 4:18; Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21). 1 Peter emphasizes Christ's suffering (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21,23; 3:18; 4:1) and the reality of His followers' suffering because they are following Him (cf. 1 Pet. 2:19-20; 3:14,17; 4:15,19; 5:10).

The substitutionary nature of Christ's suffering mentioned in 1 Pet. 3:18 and 2:21 is accentuated by several Greek manuscripts adding "suffered for you" (i.e., א) or "for us" (i.e., אc, A, K, and P).

The same type of pronoun specifying addition can also be seen in 1 Pet. 4:3. Early church scribes tried to clarify their texts.

"arm yourselves also" This is an aorist middle imperative. "Arm" is a military term for putting on heavy armor and preparing for battle. There is a spiritual conflict in our daily lives (cf. Eph. 6:10-20; Rom. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:8).

"with the same purpose" Jesus' attitude toward suffering, including innocent suffering, is that it is normative for the godly in a spiritually fallen world (cf. John 15:20; Rom. 8:17; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12-19).

▣ "because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" This phrase can be interpreted in several ways depending on the grammatical form. Christ is our example in suffering innocently, even vicariously (aorist active participle). Believers are now involved in suffering because of their identification with Him.

The main verb can be either middle (A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament, p. 121) or passive (Moulton's Analytical Greek Lexicon and Barbara and Tim Friberg's Analytical Greek New Testament). If it is middle it is encouraging believers to be actively involved in not sinning as followers of Christ's example. If passive it is emphasizing the spiritual fact of the believer's deliverance from the power of sin.

Death annuls one's relationship to sin. This may be connected to the theological concepts of Rom. 6. Death to the old life brings potential service to God (cf. Rom. 6:2,6,7) or baptism symbolizes one's newness of life (cf. Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

The whole point is that as believers follow Christ's example of suffering, so too, His example of victory over sin. We are new creatures in Christ! We must live like it. Christlikeness is the will of God (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; 4:13; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:3,7; 5:23; 1 Pet. 1:15). It reflects the fact that the image of God lost in the Fall (cf. Genesis 3) is fully restored in Christ. Christians have a choice again on how they will live. They are no longer slaves of sin! Walk in Him!

4:2 "so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men" This reflects the same theological truth as Romans 6. Believers have died to sin and are now alive to God's service (cf. Rom. 6:20). Salvation is a new life, a new creation. It has observable characteristics.

"but for the will of God" See Special Topic: The Will of God at 1 Peter 2:15.

4:3 This verse is a condemnation of the readers' previous lives in paganism. This is one of the verses that causes commentators to assert that the churches to which Peter is writing are mostly Gentile congregations. Pagan society was very immoral, even in its worship practices. Christianity should make a noticeably different and dramatic change in lifestyle habits. This change is often the beginning of the persecution by other pagans. Sin loves company.

After the opening "for," some Greek texts add "you" and others "us." These are both scribal additions trying to clarify the author's phrasing.


▣ "having pursued a course of" This is a perfect middle participle. Unbelievers have purposefully and permanently set their course on self and sin.

NKJV, NRSV"licentiousness"
NJB"behaving in a debauched way"

This term implies a total lack of self control, a determined violation of social norms, especially in the sexual area (cf. Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:7,18; Jude 6).

▣ "lusts" This term means to strongly desire something or someone. The intense craving can be positive (cf. Luke 22:15; 1 Tim. 2:1; 1 Pet. 1:12), but usually it is negative (cf. 1 Pet. 1:14; 2:11; 4:2,3; 2 Pet. 1:4; 2:10,18; 3:3; Mark 4:19).

▣ "drunkenness" This is a compound term, found only here in the NT of "wine" (oinos) and "bubble over" (phluō). The ancient world drank wine regularly, as did Jesus (cf. Matt. 11:18-19) and the early church. It is the excess that is condemned (cf. Pro. 23:29-35; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21).



This term kōmos is related to the Greek term for village, kōmē. It implies a large community-wide festive party involving excess of eating, drinking, and unrestrained sexual activity (cf. Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21).

"drinking parties" This term is related to the previous term. The NJB combines them into "having wild parties and drunken orgies."

NASB, NKJV"abominable idolatries"
NRSV"lawless idolatry"
TEV"the disgusting worship of idols"
NJB"sacrilegiously worshiping false gods"

This list of sins relates to pagan worship practices that often involved excess of drinking, eating, and sexual immorality of the most base kind. It was similar to the Canaanite fertility worship so condemned in the OT.

4:4 This verse relates to 2:12,15; 3:16. Christians were misunderstood and attacked because (1) their lives and priorities changed so obviously and radically that family, friends, and neighbors noticed and (2) some of the Christian terms and practices were misinterpreted (i.e., love feasts as incest, Lord's Supper as cannibalism, etc.).

4:5 "they will give account to Him who is ready to judge" Judgment is certain (cf. Matt. 12:36; Heb. 9:27; 10:27; 2 Pet. 2:4,9; 3:7). The one who judges is

1. God (cf. Rom. 2:2-3; 14:10,12; 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:23; Rev. 20:11-15)

2. Christ (cf. John 9:39; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1)

3. the Father through the Son (cf. John 5:22-27; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16)

Judgment is an unpleasant subject, but a recurrent theme in the Bible. It is based on several bedrock biblical truths.

1. This is a moral universe created by an ethical God (we reap what we sow, cf. Gal. 6:7).

2. Humanity is fallen; we have rebelled.