Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Mark 13

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Verse 1


(1) One of his disciples.—Note St. Mark’s vivid way of giving the very words of the disciple, instead of saying with St. Matthew that they “came to show” the buildings of the Temple.

Here, again, the juxtaposition of narratives in St. Mark gives them a special point. The “stones” of Herod’s Temple (for it was to him chiefly that it owed its magnificence) were of sculptured marble. The “buildings,” or structures, included columns, chambers, porticos that were, as St. Luke tells us (Luke 21:5), the votive offerings of the faithful. The disciples gazed on these with the natural admiration of Galilean peasants. In spite of the lesson they had just received—a lesson meant, it may be, to correct the tendency which our Lord discerned—they were still measuring things by their quantity and size. They admired the “goodly stones” more than the “widow’s mite.” They were now to be taught that, while the one should be spoken of throughout the whole world, the other should be destroyed, so that not a vestige should remain. We cannot say who spoke the words, but it is at least probable that it came from one of the four who are named in Mark 13:3.

Verse 3

(3) Over against the temple.—The view which the position commanded, and which St. Mark alone mentions, made all that followed more vivid and impressive. It may well have been at or near the very spot at which, a few days before, He had paused as “He beheld the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

Peter and James and John and Andrew.—The list of names is noticeable (1) as being given by St. Mark only; (2) as the only instance in which the name of Andrew appears in conjunction with the three who were on other occasions within the inner circle of companionship; (3) in the position given to Andrew, though the first called of the disciples (John 1:41), as the last in the list.

Verse 4

(4) When shall these things be?—Note, as, perhaps, characteristic of a Gospel written for Gentiles, the use of the vaguer words for the more definite “sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world,” in Matthew 24:3.

Verse 5

(5) And Jesus answering them began to say.—The report which follows, common as it is to the first three Gospels, serves as an admirable example of the extent of variation compatible with substantial accuracy, and with the recognition of an inspired guidance as ensuring that accuracy. The discourse obviously made a deep impression on those who heard it, as afterwards on those to whom they repeated it, and so it passed from mouth to mouth, but probably it was not committed to writing till the events which it foretold came within the horizon. On all points common to the three records, see Notes on Matthew 24:0.

Verse 6

(6) I am Christ.—Literally, I am He. The word Christ being a necessary inference from the context.

Verse 7

(7) For such things must needs be.—Better, for it must needs be.

Verse 9

(9) But take heed to yourselves.—The emphatic repetition of the warning is peculiar to St. Mark (comp. Mark 13:23). The description of the sufferings of the disciples (Mark 13:9-13) is found in Luke 21:12 and in Matthew 10:17-22 (where see Notes), but not in St. Matthew’s report of this discourse.

Verse 11

(11) It is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.—In the parallel passage of Matthew 10:20 we have, “the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” In Luke 21:15, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom.” St. Mark’s use of the more definite term reminds us of Mark 12:36 (where see Note), and may, probably, be connected with St. Peter’s habitual language. (Comp. Acts 2:33-38; Acts 8:15; Acts 10:47; 2 Peter 1:21.)

Verse 12

(12) Now the brother.—Literally, and the brother.

Verses 14-23

(14-23) But when ye shall see.—See Notes on Matthew 24:15-28.

Standing where it ought not.—St. Mark substitutes this for “in the holy place” of St. Matthew. Of the two, the former seems, in its enigmatic form, more likely to have been the phrase actually used; the latter to have been an explanation. The words “spoken of by Daniel the prophet” are omitted in many of the best MSS.

Verse 18

(18) Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.—Note St. Mark’s omission of “nor on the Sabbath day,” which is prominent in St. Matthew’s report, as characteristic of a Gospel for Gentile readers.

Verse 19

(19) From the beginning of the creation which God created.—Note the fuller form which replaces St. Matthew’s “from the beginning of the world.”

Verse 23

(23) Take ye heed.—The repetition of the warning word, as in Mark 13:9, is peculiar to St. Mark.

Verses 24-31

(24-31) But in those days.—See Notes on Matthew 24:29-35.

Verse 26

(26) Then shall they see the Son of man.—Note the simpler form, which at once replaces and explains St. Matthew’s “the sign of the Son of Man.”

Verse 27

(27) Then shall he send his angels.—Note the absence of the “trumpet,” which is prominent in St. Matthew.

Verse 28

(28) Ye know that summer is near.—Many of the best MSS. give “it is known,” but it may fairly be assumed, from the parallel passages in St. Matthew and St. Luke, that this was the error of an early transcriber of the document which served as a basis for the reports of all the three Evangelists.

Verses 32-37

(32-37) But of that day and that hour.—See Notes on Matthew 24:36-41.

Neither the Son.—The addition to St. Matthew’s report is every way remarkable. It indicates the self-imposed limitation of the divine attributes which had belonged to our Lord as the eternal Son, and the acquiescence in a power and knowledge which, like that of the human nature which He assumed, were derived and therefore finite. Such a limitation is implied by St. Paul, when he says that our Lord “being in the form of God . . . made Himself of no reputation” (or better, emptied Himself), “and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (See Note on Philippians 2:6-7.) It is clear that we cannot consistently take the word “knoweth” as having a different meaning in this clause from that which it bears in the others; and we must therefore reject all interpretations which explain away the force of the words as meaning only that the Son did not declare His knowledge of the time of the far-off event.

Verse 33

(33) Take ye heed.—Note once more the characteristic iteration of the warning. It would almost seem, from the very different conclusions of the discourse in the three Gospels, as if they had been based up to this point on a common document which then stopped and left them to a greater divergency of memory or tradition. The omission of St. Matthew’s reference to the history of Noah is, perhaps, characteristic of St. Mark’s as a Gentile Gospel.

Verse 34

(34) For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey.—The italics indicate, as usual, that the words are not found in the Greek. Their absence, seeming, as they do, essential to the meaning of the sentence, is singular. A possible explanation is, that we have an imperfect fragmentary report, as from a note taken at the time, of that which appears, in a developed form, as the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

And commanded the porter to watch.—This feature is unique in our Lord’s parables, and, as such, seems to call for a special interpretation. The “servants” we accept at once as the disciples, and we understand generally what was the authority and the work assigned to them. But who was specifically the “gate-keeper” or “porter”? The answer appears to be found in the promise of the keys of the kingdom that had been made to St. Peter (Matthew 16:19). It was his work to open the door of that kingdom wide, to be ready for his Lord’s coming in any of those manifold senses which experience would unfold to him. We may accordingly venture to trace in St. Mark’s record, here as elsewhere, the influence of the Apostle. That word “the porter” was, he felt, meant for him, and this he remembered when much that had been recorded by others had faded from his recollection. If we adopt this application of the word here, it throws light on the somewhat difficult reference to the “porter” of the sheep-fold in John 10:3.

Verse 35

(35) The master of the house.—Better, the Lord of the house. The Greek word is not the same as that commonly rendered the “goodman” or “master” of the house.

At even, or at midnight.—The four times correspond roughly to the four watches of the night, beginning at 9 P.M., 12, 3 A.M., 6 A.M. The words may be noted as having left, and having been intended to leave, on St. Peter’s mind, the impression that the promise of the coming of his Lord was undefined as to times or seasons, which is so prominent in 2 Peter 3:0. Each of the seasons named has had its counterpart, we may well believe, embracing many centuries of the world’s history.

Verse 36

(36) Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.—As before we traced a kind of echo of the parable of the Talents, so here we recognise something like a fragmentary reminiscence of that of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.

Verse 37

(37) Watch.—The impression which this command made on the hearts of Christians, is seen in a striking manner in the use of such names as Gregory, Vigilius, and the like.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Mark 13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.