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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Mark 2



This chapter and the first six verses of the next report incidents which, though not represented as happening at the same time, have all one aim: to exhibit Jesus as becoming an object of disfavour to the religious classes, the scribes and Pharisees. Sooner or later, and soon rather than later, this was inevitable. Jesus and they were too entirely different in thought and ways for good will to prevail between them for any length of time. It would not be long before the new Prophet would attract their attention. The comments of the people in Capernaum synagogue, doubtless often repeated elsewhere, on the contrast between His style of teaching and that of the scribes, would soon reach their ears, and would not tend to promote a good understanding. That was one definite ground of offence, and others were sure to arise.

Verse 1

Mark 2:1 . Thereading of [4] [5] [6] (W.H [7] ) with εἰσελθὼν for εἰσῆλθεν in T. R., and omitting καὶ before ἠκούσθη , gives a ruggedly anacolouthistic construction (“and entering again into Capernaum after days it was heard that He was at home”), which the T. R. very neatly removes. The construction of the sentence, even as it stands in the critically approved text, may be made smoother by taking ἠκούσθη not impersonally, but as referring to Jesus. He entering, etc., was heard of as being at home (Schanz and Holtzmann alternatively). πάλιν , again, a second time, Mark 1:21 mentioning the first. He has not been there apparently since He left it (Mark 1:35 ) on the preaching tour in Galilee. διʼ ἡμερῶν , after days, cf. Galatians 2:1 ; classical examples of this use of διὰ in Wetstein and Elsner. The expression suggests a short period, a few days, which seems too short for the time required for the preaching tour, even if it had been cut short by hostile influence, as is not improbable. The presence of scribes at this scene is very significant. They appear hostile in attitude on Christ’s return to Capernaum. They had probably been active before it. Fritzsche translates: interjectis pluribus diebus . For a considerable time διὰ χρόνου would be the appropriate phrase. We get rid of the difficulty by connecting διʼ ἡμερῶν with ἠκούσθη (Kloster.), the resulting meaning being that days elapsed after the arrival in Capernaum before people found out that Jesus was there. He had been absent possibly for months, and probably returned quietly. ἐν οἴκῳ or εἰς οἶκον (T. R.) = at home (in Peter’s house presumably); εἰς οἶκον suggests the idea of entrance.

[4] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[5] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[6] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[7] Westcott and Hort.

Verses 1-12

Mark 2:1-12 . The palsied man (Matthew 9:1-8 ; Luke 5:17-26 ).

Verse 2

Mark 2:2 . συνήχθησαν πολλοὶ : with the extraordinary incidents of some weeks or months ago fresh in their memory, a great gathering of the townspeople was inevitable. ὥστε , etc.: the gathering was phenomenal; not only the house filled, but the space round about the door crowded no room for more people even there ( μηδὲ ), not to speak of within. τὸν λόγον : the phrase has a secondary sound, as if an echo of the speech of the apostolic church, but the meaning is plain. Jesus was preaching the gospel of the kingdom when the following incident happened. Preaching always first.

Verse 3

Mark 2:3 . ἔρχονται : historic present with lively effect. The arrival creates a stir. φέροντες : this may mean more than the four who actually carried the sick man ( ὑπὸ τεσσάρων ), friends accompanying. The bearers might be servants (Schanz).

Verse 4

Mark 2:4 . The particulars in this verse not in Mt., who did not care how they found their way to Jesus; enough for him that they succeeded somehow . προσεγγίσαι (T. R.): here only in N. T. to approach; προσενέγκαι (W.H [8] ), to bring near (the sick man understood) to Him, Jesus. ἀπεστέγασαν τ . σ ., removed the roof, to which they would get access by an outside stair either from the street or from the court. ὅπου ἦν , where He was; where was that? in an upper room (Lightfoot and Vitringa), or in a room in a one-storied house (Holtz., H. C.), or not in a room at all, but in the atrium or compluvium , the quadrangle of the house (Faber, Archäol. , Jahn, Archäol. ). In the last-mentioned case they would have to remove the parapet (battlement, Deuteronomy 22:8 ) and let the man down into the open space. ἐξορύξαντες : not something additional to but explanatory of ἀπεστέγασαν = they unroofed by digging through the material tiles, laths, and plaster. κράβαττον : a small portable couch, for the poor, for travellers, and for sick people; condemned by Phryn., p. 62; σκίμπους the correct word. Latin grabatus , which may have led Mk. to use the term in the text.

[8] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 5

Mark 2:5 . τὴν πίστιν α ., their faith, that of the bearers, shown by their energetic action, the sick man not included ( οὐ τὴν πίστιν τοῦ παραλελυμένου ἀλλὰ τῶν κομισάντων , Victor Ant., Cramer, Cat.). τέκνον , child, without the cheering θάρσει of Mt.

Verses 6-12

Mark 2:6-12 . Thus far of the sick man, how he got to Jesus, and the sympathetic reception he met with. Now the scribes begin to play their part. They find their opportunity in the sympathetic word of Jesus: thy sins be forgiven thee; a word most suitable to the case, and which might have been spoken by any man. τινες τ . γρ .: Lk. makes of this simple fact a great affair: an assembly of Pharisees and lawyers from all quarters Galilee, Judaea, Jerusalem, hardly suitable to the initial stage of conflict. ἐκεῖ καθήμενοι : sitting there. If the posture is to be pressed they must have been early on the spot, so as to get near to Jesus and hear and see Him distinctly. ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις α .: they looked like men shocked and disapproving. The popularity of Jesus prevented free utterance of their thought. But any one could see they were displeased and why. It was that speech about forgiveness.

Verse 7

Mark 2:7 . τί οὗτος οὕτω λάλει ; βλασφημεῖ . This reading of [9] [10] [11] [12] is far more life-like than that of the T. R., which exemplifies the tendency of copyists to smooth down into commonplace whatever is striking and original = why does this person thus speak? He blasphemes. The words suggest a gradual intensification of the fault-finding mood: first a general sense of surprise, then a feeling of impropriety, then a final advance to the thought: why, this is blasphemy! It was nothing of the kind. What Jesus had said did not necessarily amount to more than a declaration of God’s willingness to forgive sin to the penitent. They read the blasphemy into it.

[9] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[10] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[11] Codex Bezae

[12] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

Verse 8

Mark 2:8 . εὐθὺς ἐπιγνοὺς : Jesus read their thoughts at once , and through and through ( ἐπὶ ). τῷ πνεύματι , by His spirit , as distinct from the ear, they having said nothing.

Verses 9-10

Mark 2:9-10 , vide notes on Mt.

Verse 11

Mark 2:11 . σοὶ λέγω , I say to thee, a part of Christ’s speech to the man in Mk., not likely to have been so really; laconic speech, the fewest words possible, characteristic of Jesus. ἔγειρε , means something more than age (Fritzsche) = come, take up thy bed. Jesus bids him do two things, each a conclusive proof of recovery: rise , then go to thy house on thine own feet, with thy sick-bed on thy shoulder.

Verse 12

Mark 2:12 tells how the man did as bidden, to the astonishment of all spectators. πάντας , all, without exception, scribes included? (Kloster.) It might have been so had the sentence stopped there. For no doubt the scribes were as much astonished as their neighbours at what took place. But they would not join in the praise to God which followed. οὕτως οὐδέποτε εἰδομεν : elliptical, but expressive, suited to the mental mood = so we never saw, i.e. , we never saw the like.

N.B. The title “Son of Man” occurs in this narrative for the first time in Mk.’s Gospel; vide on Matthew 8:20 ; Matthew 9:6 .

Verse 13

Mark 2:13 interrupts the continuity of the history. It states that Jesus went out again ( cf. Mark 1:16 ) alongside ( παρὰ ) the sea, that the multitude followed Him, and that He taught them. A very vague general notice, serving little other purpose than to place an interval between the foregoing and following incidents.

Verses 13-17

Mark 2:13-17 . Call of Levi, feast following (Matthew 9:9-13 ; Luke 5:27-32 ). This incident is not to be conceived as following immediately after that narrated in the foregoing section.

Verse 14

Mark 2:14 . Λευῒν . Levi, the son of Alphaeus, the name here and in Lk. different from that given in first gospel, but the incident manifestly the same, and the man therefore also; Levi his original name, Matthew his apostle name. Mk. names Matthew in his apostle list (Mark 3:18 ), but he fails to identify the two, though what he states about Levi evidently points to a call to apostleship similar to that to the four fishermen (Mark 1:16 ; Mark 1:20 ). The compiler of the first Gospel, having Mk. before him, and, noticing the omission, substituted the name Matthew for Levi, adding to it λεγόμενον (Mark 9:9 ) to hint that he had another name. ἀκολούθει μοι : a call to apostleship (in terms identical in all three Synoptics), and also to immediate service in connection with the mission to the publicans ( vide on Mt.).

Verse 15

Mark 2:15 . ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτου : whose house? Not perfectly clear, but all things point to that of Levi. There is no mention of a return to Capernaum, where Jesus dwelt. The custom house may have been outside the town, nearer the shore. Then if the house of Jesus (Peter’s) had been meant, the name of Jesus should have stood after οἰκία instead of at the close of the verse. The main point to note is that whatever house is meant, it must have been large enough to have a hall or court capable of accommodating a large number of people. Furrer assumes as a matter of course that the gathering was in the court. “Here in the court of one of these ruined houses sat the Saviour of the lost in the midst of publicans and sinners” ( Wanderungen , p. 375). πολλοὶ , etc.: many to be taken in earnest, not slurred over, as we are apt to do when we think of this feast as a private entertainment given by Mt. to his quond m friends, Jesus being nothing more than a guest. ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ : Mk. here takes pains to prevent us from overlooking the πολλοὶ of the previous clause = for they, the publicans, and generally the people who passed for sinners, were many , and they had begun to follow Him. Some (Schanz, Weiss, etc.) think the reference is to the disciples ( μαθηταῖς ), mentioned here for first time, therefore a statement that they were numerous (more, e.g. , than four ), quite apposite. But the stress of the story lies on the publicans, and Christ’s relations with them . (So Holtz., H. C.) It was an interesting fact to the evangelist that this class, of whom there was a large number in the neighbourhood, were beginning to show an interest in Jesus, and to follow Him about. To explain the number Elsner suggests that they may have gathered from various port towns along the shore. Jesus would not meet such people in the synagogue, as they seem to have been excluded from it ( vide Lightfoot and Wünsche, ad Matthew 18:17 ). Hence the necessity for a special mission.

Verse 16

Mark 2:16 . ἔλεγον : the scribes advance from thinking (Mark 2:6 ) to speaking ; not yet, however, to Jesus but about Him to His disciples. They note, with disapproval, His kindly relations with “sinners”. The publicans and other disreputables had also noted the fact. The story of the palsied man and the “blasphemous” word, “thy sins be forgiven thee,” had got abroad, making them prick up their ears, and awakening decided interest in these tabooed circles, in the “Blasphemer”.

Verse 17

Mark 2:17 . καλέσαι : to call, suggestive of invitations to a feast (Fritzsche, Meyer, Holtz.), and making for the hypothesis that Jesus, not Matthew, was the real host at the social gathering: the whole plan His, and Matthew only His agent; vide notes on Mt. He called to that particular feast as to the feast of the kingdom, the one a means to the other as the end. δικαίους , ἁμαρτωλούς : Jesus preferred the company of the sinful to that of the righteous, and sought disciples from among them by preference. The terms are not ironical. They simply describe two classes of society in current language, and indicate with which of the two His sympathies lay.

Verse 18

Mark 2:18 . καὶ , and , connection purely topical, another case of conflict. ἦσαν νηστεύοντες , either: were wont to fast (Grotius, Fritzsche, Schanz, etc.), or, and this gives more point to the story: were fasting at that particular time (Meyer, Weiss, Holtz., H. C.). ἔρχονται καὶ λέγ ., they come and say, quite generally; they = people, or some representatives of John’s disciples, and the Pharisees.

Verses 18-22

Mark 2:18-22 . Fasting (Matthew 9:14-17 , Luke 5:33-39 ).

Verse 19

Mark 2:19 . μὴ δύνανται etc.: the question answers itself, and is allowed to do so in Mt. and Lk. Mk. at the expense of style answers it formally in the negative. ὅσον χρόνον , etc. For all this the Syriac Vulgate has a simple no .

Verse 20

Mark 2:20 . Here also the style becomes burdened by the sense of the solemn character of the fact stated: there will come days when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast in that day! This final expression, ἐν ἐκείνἡμέρᾳ , singular, for plural in first clause, is very impressive, although Fritzsche calls it prorsus intolerabile . There is no ground for the suggestion that the phrase is due to the evangelist, and refers to the Friday of the Passion Week (Holtz., H. C.). It might quite well have been used by Jesus.

Verse 21

Mark 2:21 . ἐπιρράπτει , sews upon, for ἐπιβάλλει in Mt. and Lk.; not in Greek authors, here only in N. T.; in Sept [13] , Job 16:15 , the simple verb. εἰ δὲ μή : vide on εἰ δὲ μήγε in Matthew 9:17 . εἰ δὲ μήγε , etc.: that which filleth up taketh from it ( ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ) the new, viz. , from the old; the second clause explanatory of the first. καὶ χ . σ . γ ., and a worse rent takes place.


Verse 22

Mark 2:22 . ῥήξει . Pricaeus ( ad Matthew 9:17 ) quotes from Seneca (83 Epist.): “musto dolia ipsa rumpuntur” of course, a fortiori , old skins . καὶοἶνος , etc.: and the wine is lost, also the skins. ἀλλὰ , etc.: this final clause, bracketed in W. and H [14] , with the βλητέον , probably inserted from Lk., gives very pithy expression to the principle taught by the parable: but new wine into new skins! As to the bearing of both parables as justifying both John and Jesus, vide notes on Mt., ad loc.

[14] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 23

Mark 2:23 . καὶ ἐγ .: connection with foregoing topical, not temporal; another case of conflict. αὐτὸν παραπορεύεσθαι : ἐγένετο is followed here by the infinitive in first clause, then with καὶ and a finite verb in second clause. It is sometimes followed by indicative with καὶ , and also without καὶ ( vide Burton’s Syntax , § 360). παραπορ . stands here instead of διαπορ . in Lk., and the simple verb with διὰ after it in Mt. It seems intended to combine the ideas of going through and alongside. Jesus went through a corn field on a footpath with grain on either side. ὁδὸν ποιεῖν is a puzzling phrase. In classic Greek it means to make a road = viam sternere , ὁδὸν ποιεῖσθαι meaning to make way = iter facere . If we assume that Mk. was acquainted with and observed this distinction, then the meaning will be: the disciples began to make a path by pulling up the stalks ( τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας ), or perhaps by trampling under foot the stalks after first plucking off the ears . The ἤρξαντο in that case will mean that they began to do that when they saw the path was not clear, and wished to make it more comfortable for their Master to walk on. But it is doubtful whether in Hellenistic Greek the classic distinction was observed, and Judges 17:8 (Sept [15] ) supplies an instance of ὁδὸν ποιεῖν = making way, “as he journeyed”. It would be natural to Mk. to use the phrase in the sense of iter facere . If we take the phrase in this sense, then we must, with Beza, find in the passage a permutata verborum collocatio , and translate as if it had run: ὁδὸν ποιοῦντες τίλλειν : “began, as they went, to pluck,” etc. (R. V [16] ). The former view, however, is not to be summarily put aside because it ascribes to the disciples an apparently wanton proceeding. If there was a right of way by use and wont, they would be quite entitled to act so. The only difficulty is to understand how a customary path could have remained untrodden till the grain was ripe, or even in the ear. On this view vide Meyer. Assuming that the disciples made a path for their Master by pulling up the grain, with which it was overgrown, or by trampling the straw after plucking the ears, what did they do with the latter? Mt. and Lk. both say or imply that the plucking was in order to eating by hungry men. Meyer holds that Mk. knows nothing of this hunger, and that the eating of the ears came into the tradition through the allusion to David eating the shewbread. But the stress Mk. lays on need and hunger (duality of expression, Mark 2:25 ) shows that in his idea hunger was an element in the case of the disciples also.


[16] Revised Version.

Verses 23-28

Mark 2:23-28 . The Sabbath question (Matthew 12:1-8 , Luke 6:1-5 ).

Verse 24

Mark 2:24 . ἔλεγον αὐτῷ . In this case they speak to Christ against His disciples; indirectly against Him. ὁ οὐκ ἔξεστιν : the offence was not trampling the grain or straw, but plucking the ears reaping on a small scale; rubbing = threshing, in Lk. χρείαν ἔσχε καὶ ἐπείνασεν : another example of Mk.’s duality, intelligible only if hunger was the point of the story. The verbs are singular, because David ( αὐτὸς ) is the hero, his followers in the background.

Verse 26

Mark 2:26 . ἐπὶ Ἀβιάθαρ ἀρ .: under A., a note of time, also implying his sanction: the sanction of a distinguished sacerdotal character = of Abiathar as priest . But Ahimelech was the priest then (1 Samuel 21:2 f.). Either a natural error arising from the close connection of David with Abiathar, the well-known high priest, or we must adopt one or other of the solutions proposed: father and son, Ahimelech and Abiathar, both bore both names (1 Samuel 22:20 , 2 Samuel 8:17 , 1 Chronicles 18:16 ) so the Fathers; Abiathar, the son, Ahimelech’s assistant at the time, and mentioned as the more notable as approving of the conduct of his own father and of David (Grotius); ἐπὶ taken in the sense it bears in Mark 12:26 ( ἐπὶ βάτου ) in the passage about Abiathar not a satisfactory suggestion.

Verse 27

Mark 2:27 . καὶ ἔλεγεν , etc., and He said to them; this phrase is employed to introduce a saying of Jesus containing a great principle. The principle is that the Sabbath is only a means towards an end man’s highest good. Strange that Mk. should have been allowed to have a monopoly of this great word! For this saying alone, and the parable of gradual growth (Mark 4:26-29 ), his Gospel was worth preserving.

Verse 28

Mark 2:28 . ὥστε : wherefore, so then, introducing a thesis of co-ordinate importance, while an inference from the previous statement. ὁ υἱὸς τ . α .: the Son of Man, as representing the human interest, as opposed to the falsely conceived divine interest championed by the Pharisees. καὶ τ . σ ., even of the Sabbath, so inviolable in your eyes. Lord, not to abolish but to interpret and keep in its own place, and give it a new name. No disparagement of Sabbath meant.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.