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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Mark 12

Verses 1-12

XII.

(1-12) And he began to speak unto them by parables.—See Notes on Matthew 21:33-36. The parable which, like that of the Sower, and like that only, is related in all the first three Gospels, was one which had obviously impressed itself strongly, as that had done, on the minds of those who heard it, and was reproduced by independent reporters with an almost textual exactness.

A place for the winefat.—Better, simply, a vine vat.

Verse 2

(2) A servant.—The variations in the reports are, as has been said, few and slight, but it may as well be noted that St. Mark speaks of “one servant” having been sent, and then another, and another, and then many others, while St. Matthew divides them simply into two great groups. St. Mark, characteristically, seizes on the most vivid presentation of the facts.

Verse 4

(4) At him they cast stones.—The participle so rendered is wanting in the best MSS., and probably originated in a marginal note explaining how the labourers wounded the second servant.

Verse 6

(6) His well-beloved.—Added by St. Mark to St. Matthew’s briefer form, “he sent unto them his son.”

Verse 9

(9) He will come and destroy the husbandmen.—St. Matthew reports the words as having been spoken by ‘the by-standers. Here they form part of the parable itself. We may think of them as having been probably taken up and repeated by our Lord after they had been uttered by others.

Verse 11

(11) This was the Lord’s doing.—Better, This was from the Lord. The pronoun in the Greek is in the feminine, agreeing with the “head of the corner.”

Verse 12

(12) They sought to lay hold on him.—The pronoun carries us back to the “chief priests and scribes and elders” of Mark 11:27.

Verse 13

(13) They send unto him.—In Matthew the Pharisees are said to have “taken counsel,” or “held a council,” and then to have sent their disciples. Here the act appears more definitely as the result of a coalition of the two parties named. On the narrative as a whole, see Notes on Matthew 20:15-22.

To catch.—Better, to entrap.

Verse 14

(14) Thou regardest not the person of men.—The phrase is essentially Hebrew in its form, but had been made familiar by the Greek Version of the Old Testament.

Verse 15

(15) But he, knowing their hypocrisy.—St. Mark uses the specific word that describes the sin of the questioners, instead of the more general “wickedness” of St. Matthew. On the other hand, he omits the word “hypocrites” as applied to them by our Lord.

Verse 16

(16) Superscription.—Better, inscription, as in Matthew 22:20.

Verses 18-27

(18-27) Then come unto him the Sadducees.—See Notes on Matthew 22:15-22.

Verse 24

(24) Because ye know not the scriptures.—More literally, as in St. Matthew, not knowing the scriptures.

Verse 26

(26) How in the bush God spake unto him.—Better, at the bush, how God spake to him. The reference to the bush, not given by St. Matthew, is common both to St. Mark and St. Luke, and the order of the words in the Greek of both shows that they point to “the bush,” not as the place in which God spoke, but as the title or heading by which the section Exodus 3:0 was commonly described.

Verses 28-34

(28-34) And one of the scribes came.—See Notes on Matthew 22:34-40. St. Mark’s description is somewhat less precise than St. Matthew’s “one of them (i.e., the Pharisees), a lawyer.” The form of the question differs by the substitution of “first of all” for “great” commandment.

Verse 29

(29) Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.—The quotation is given more fully by St. Mark than by St. Matthew. The opening words (from Deuteronomy 6:4) were in common use under the name of the Shemà (the Hebrew for “Hear”), and formed the popular expression of the faith of Israel. To say the Shemà was a passport into Paradise for any child of Abraham.

Verse 31

(31) And the second is like, namely, this . . .—Better, And the second is this. The better MSS. omit “like.”

Verse 32

(32) Well, Master, thou hast said the truth.—Better, Well hast Thou said truly that there is one God. The words seem intentionally repeated from Mark 12:14, but are uttered now, not with the covert sneer of the hypocrite, but in the sincerity of admiration. Note also the real reverence shown in the form of address, “Master,” i.e., “Teacher, Rabbi.” He recognises the speaker as one of his own order. This, and all that follows, is peculiar to St. Mark, and is an addition of singular interest, as showing the existence among the scribes of some who accepted our Lord’s teaching as to the spiritual meaning of the Law, and were able to distinguish between its essence and its accidents.

Verse 33

(33) Is more than all whole burnt offerings . . .—There is a fervour in the eloquence of the scribe’s answer which indicates the earnestness, almost the enthusiasm, of conviction. Such teaching as that of 1 Samuel 15:22, Ps. 1. 8-14, Micah 6:6, had not been in vain for him.

Verse 34

(34) Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.—The words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord’s teaching. Now, as when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount, the righteousness which fulfils the law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19-20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as consisting in the fulfilment of the two commandments that were exceeding broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the Kingdom. It is instructive to compare our Lord’s different method of dealing, in Luke 10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimised the force of the commandments by his narrowing definitions.

And no man after that durst ask him.—St. Mark states the fact before, St. Matthew after, the narrative that now follows.

Verse 35

(35) While he taught in the temple.—The locality is named by St. Mark only, but it is all but implied in the other two Gospels.

Verse 36

(36) David himself said by the Holy Ghost.—St. Mark is more emphatic in ascribing the words of David to the influence of the Holy Spirit than either St. Matthew, who simply quotes, or St. Luke, who uses the more general phrase “in spirit.” (Comp. 2 Peter 1:21.)

Verse 37

(37) And the common people.—Better, the great body of the people. Stress is laid on the multitude, not on the social condition, of those who thus heard gladly.

Verses 38-40

(38-40) In his doctrine.—Better, in His teaching. See Notes on Matthew 23:1-7. St. Mark’s report is characteristically brief as compared with St. Matthew, and would seem to have been drawn from the same source as St. Luke’s (Luke 20:45-47).

Verse 40

(40) Which devour widow’s houses.—Here the word has a special force as coming after the mention of the feasts. They seek the highest places at such banquets, our Lord seems to say, and when there, this is what they feast on. The special charge is not reported by St. Matthew in this connection, but occurs in Matthew 23:14, where see Note. The better MSS., indeed, omit it even there. The relative pronoun gives a wrong idea of the construction. We have really a new sentence. “They that devour . . . these shall receive . . .”

Verse 41

(41) And Jesus sat over against the treasury.—The narrative that follows is found in St. Luke also, but not in St. Matthew. The word used is not the “Corban” of Matthew 27:6, and is, perhaps, more definitely local. The treasure-chamber of the Temple would receive the alms which were dropped into the trumpet-shaped vessels that stood near the entrance for the purpose of receiving them, but they probably contained also the cups and other implements of gold and silver that were used in the Temple ritual.

Cast money into.—The word indicates primarily copper or bronze coin, but probably, like the French argent, had acquired a wider range of meaning.

Verse 42

(42) And there came a certain poor widow.—The position of the narrative gives to the description all the vividness of contrast. Among the “many” who cast in much must have been some at least of the Pharisees who devoured widows’ houses. Here was a widow whose house had been devoured, and who yet showed by her act that she kept the two great commandments, which the scribes themselves declared to be above all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Two mites, which make a farthing.—The “farthing” is one of the Latin words which characterise this Gospel, and represents the quadrans, or fourth-part of a Roman as. The primary meaning of the word rendered “mite” is “thin” or “tiny.”

Verse 43

(43) And he called unto him his disciples.—The act was significant. He sought to teach them to judge of acts by other than a quantitative standard. For him the widow’s mites and the ointment that might have been sold for 300 pence stood on the same level, so far as each was the expression of a generous and self-sacrificing love.

Verse 44

(44) They did cast in of their abundance . . . she of her want.—The contrast between the two Greek words is somewhat stronger: They of their superfluity . . . she of her deficiency. We recognise the same standard of judgment, possibly even an allusive reference to our Lord’s language, in St. Paul’s praises of the churches of Macedonia, whose “deep poverty” had “abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

Even all her living.—This was not necessarily involved in the act itself, but the woman may have become known to our Lord in one of His previous visits to Jerusalem, or we may see in the statement an instance of His divine insight into the lives and characters of men, like that shown in the case of the woman of Samaria (John 4:18).

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Mark 12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/mark-12.html. 1905.