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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

Mark 8

Verses 1-99

MIRACULOUS FEEDING OF THE FOUR THOUSAND

8:1-9. The report of the miracle performed on the deaf and dumb man seems to have gathered a multitude about Jesus in Decapolis, reproducing the effects of his Galilean ministry. They had been with him three days, enough to exhaust whatever provisions they had brought with them, when Jesus proposes to his disciples, as in the preceding miracle, that they feed them. They meet his proposition with the same incredulity as before, but he simply inquires how many loaves they have. They answer seven, and with these and a few fishes, Jesus proceeds to feed the multitude, numbering four thousand men alone.

The objection to the repetition of this miracle seems to be based on a misconception of our Lord’s miracles. If they were acts of thaumaturgy, intended to reveal Jesus’ power, the repetition of this miracle would seem improbable, and the similarity of the two accounts would point with some probability to their identity. But if the real object of the miracles was to meet some human need, then the recurrence of like conditions would lead to a recurrence of the miracle. And, in the life of Jesus, with its frequent resort to solitary places, and the disposition of the multitude to follow him wherever he went, the emergency of a hungry crowd in a place where supplies were not to be obtained would be certain to recur. Weiss objects that there was nothing to bring the multitude together, and that the miracle occurred at a time when Jesus had definitely closed his ministry in Galilee. But both Mt. and Mk. lead up naturally to this event, the one stating directly that he was healing the sick of all kinds of a great multitude that had resorted to him (Matthew 15:30, Matthew 15:31), and the other narrating the report of his healing of the deaf and dumb man circulated by his friends throughout the region, and the excitement created by it. Moreover, we have here, as Weiss himself admits, the results of Jesus’ previous visit to this region, and of the cure of the Gadarene demoniac, which the healed man had spread abroad in accordance with Jesus’ express command. Do we not have here a solution of the real difficulty underlying Weiss’ objection? It is true that we have in the gathering of the multitude, and the stay of three days, in which Jesus must have taught and healed, an episode in this period of retirement that is out of harmony with its evident character and design. But is not the exception justifiable? Here was a region where Jesus had been prevented from exercising his ministry by the opposition of the people, and now, on his first return to it, he finds the people in a different mood. This causes him to deflect from his purpose of retirement for a time, in order to exercise the ministry from which their previous unbelief had kept him. This seems more natural than to suppose that the evangelists created a second miracle out of certain minor variations in telling the story of the first, and then, having a miracle on their hands, proceeded to make a place for it in their narrative.


This account is found only in Mt. and Mk. The verbal resemblance of the two accounts is remarkable, the following words being identical. προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς μαθητὰς … σπλαγχνίζομαι ἐπὶ τὸν ὄχλον, ὅτι ἤδη τρεῖς ἡμέραι προσμένουσί μοι, καὶ οὐκ ἔχουσι τί φάγωσι …�

10. τὸ πλοῖον—the boat constantly in attendance on him, 3:9, 4:36, 6:32. Δαλμανουθά—Nothing is known of this place, which is not mentioned elsewhere. Probably, it was a small village near Magadan (Magdala), which is the place mentioned in the parallel account, Matthew 15:39. This would make it on the west shore of the lake, and in the southern part of the plain of Gennesareth.


11. ἐξῆλθον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι—the Pharisees came out. Jesus has been absent in Gentile territory since his dispute with the Pharisees about the washing of hands, 7:1 sqq., and now, immediately on his return, they are on his track again. They came out, Meyer says, from their residences in the neighborhood. But see Morison’s Note. All explanations are conjectural and uncertain. Mt. couples together Pharisees and Sadducees, and the same in the warning against their leaven which follows. This is ominous of the final situation in Jerusalem, when the combination of the party of the priests and of the Scribes brought about his fate. συνζητεῖν αὐτῷ—to discuss with him.1

σημεῖον�Mat_23. Here, where Jesus is fresh from his controversy with them about signs, the thing specially in his mind would be the spirit that leads them to ask for a sign, when his whole life and teaching was a sign. It would be, in a word, their unspirituality, their blindness to spiritual things, which led them to seek outward proof of inward realities. The leaven of Herod, on the other hand, was worldliness. The Herods were professed Jews, who sought to leaven Judaism with the customs of heathenism. They represented the escape from the rigors and scruples of Pharisaism into the license and irreligion of the world, instead of into the freedom of a spiritual religion. But the escape from spiritual blindness does not lie that way.


16. Καὶ διελογίζοντο πρὸς�

Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι;—But who do you say that I am? Ὑμεῖς is emphatic in itself, and by its position.1 When the announcement of Jesus’ Messianic character is made, it does not come from himself, but is drawn out of the disciples by this question. He would have them enjoy the blessedness of not receiving it from flesh and blood, i.e. by oral communication, even from himself, but of that inward reception by silent communication from the Father which is the only source of true knowledge of spiritual things. See Matthew 16:17. He manifested himself to them, admitting them to an intimate companionship and intercourse with himself; and when he had made his impression on them, he drew from them the confession made under the guidance of the Spirit, that he was no inferior and preparatory personage in the Messianic Kingdom, but the King himself. Here, as everywhere, Jesus’ method is the truly spiritual one, that depends very little on external helps, but on the silent movings of the Spirit of God. ὁ Πέτρος λέγει—This is the first time in the Gospel that Peter appears as the spokesman of the disciples. Σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός—thou art the Christ. On the meaning of χριστός, see on 1:1.


30. ἵνα μηδενὶ λέγωσιν—that they tell no one. The silence that Jesus enjoins on them is due to the same reasons as his own silence up to this time, and his breaking it only when he was alone with them. It was esoteric doctrine as yet, that only those could receive, who knew something about the Messianic office on the one hand, and about the person of Jesus on the other. In the prevalent misconception of the Messiah, such an announcement would work only disaster. The time was coming for it, but when it did come, the tragedy of Jesus’ life followed immediately.

JESUS PREDICTS HIS CRUCIFIXION. PETER REBUKES HIM, AND JESUS REPELS THE EVIL SPIRIT WHO SPEAKS THROUGH HIM

31-33. After drawing out from his disciples the confession of his Messianic claim, Jesus proceeds to tell them how that claim will be treated by the authorities. In general, it will bring him much suffering, and finally his rejection and violent death at the hands of the Sanhedrim, from which, however, he will be raised after three days. Peter, who evidently regards this as a confession of defeat, and as vacating the claim just made, takes Jesus aside, and begins to rebuke him. But Jesus, recognizing in this the very spirit of the Temptation, meets rebuke with rebuke, telling Peter that he is acting the part of the Tempter, and that he reflects the mind of men, not of God.

31. ἤρξατο διδάσκειν—he began to teach. This is a true beginning, being the first teaching of this kind.1 δεῖ—it is necessary. The necessity arises, first, from the hostility of men; secondly, from the spiritual nature of his work, which made it impossible for him to oppose force to force; and thirdly, from the providential purpose of God, who made the death of Jesus the central thing in redemption. But in order to take its place in the Divine order, his death must come in the human, natural order. That is to say, his death is the natural result of the antagonism of his holy nature to the world; it is the martyr’s death. But it has also a Divine purpose in it, and it is necessary to the accomplishment of that purpose. The Divine purpose can use, however, only the death that results from the human necessity, the martyr’s death. Jesus must be put to death by man. τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ�

Ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου—Ὕπαγε denotes withdrawal, get away. And the whole phrase means, Get out of my sight. Σατανᾶ—Satan. Our Lord is not calling names here, but indicating in strong language the part that Peter is playing. He is putting temptation in our Lord’s way, and is so acting the rôle of Satan. Jesus recognizes that it is not Peter in propria persona that is speaking, but the Spirit of evil speaking through him, just as he recognized the invisible Tempter in the wilderness (Matthew 4:10). φρονεῖς—thou thinkest not, thou dost not regard. φρονεῖν τά τινος means to side with one.1 Peter did not keep in mind God’s purposes, but men’s. He did not look at things as God looks at them, but as men regard them, and hence he played the part of the Adversary, the Tempter. And it was not a minor and incidental temptation, but the great thing that separates God’s ways and man’s, the temptation to consider himself, instead of imitating God’s self-sacrifice.


JESUS TEACHES THE MULTITUDE THAT THE SELF-SACRIFICE PRACTISED BY HIMSELF IS THE NECESSARY CONDITION OF DISCIPLESHIP

34-9:1. Jesus now calls up the multitude, having closed the purely esoteric part of his teaching, relating to his own fate, and teaches them that the condition of discipleship is self-denial, and following him even to death. He bases this on the general principle that to lose life is to save it, and to save it is to lose it. And there is no profit in gaining the whole world and losing one’s life, because that is an irreparable loss. Nothing will buy it back. These ultimate gains and losses follow a man’s attitude towards Him because the Son of Man is to return in the glory of his Father, and will then be ashamed of the man who is now ashamed of Him.

34. τὸν ὄχλον—the multitude. It seems from this, that in spite of his being away from his usual place of work, and in heathen territory, Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people. And his language implies that they had some knowledge of him. Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου�

Εἴ τις, instead of ὅστις, Treg. WH. RV. א BC* DL Δ Latt. Harcl. marg.�Matthew 10:38, is fairly conclusive of the originality of the reading.


ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν—let him deny himself. The person is made here the direct object of the verb, not the indirect. He is not to deny something to himself, but he is to renounce himself. He is to cease to make himself the object of his life and action. The verb is the same that is used to denote Peter’s denial of his Master, and means to deny that one stands in a supposed relation to another, and hence to reject, or renounce. To deny self is therefore to deny the relation of self-interest and control which a man is supposed to hold to himself, in the interest of humanity and of God; in other words, to renounce himself. It is the negative side of the command to love, and like that, does not refer to special acts, but to a change of the fundamental principle of life. κ.�

2 Both these words are peculiar. νήστεις is a good Greek word, but is found in the N.T. only here and in the parallel passage, Matthew 15:32. The same is true of ἐκλυθήσονται in this sense of exhaustion.


3 This adverb itself belongs to later Greek, and the combination of prep. and adverb is also late. With an adverb of this ending, moreover, the prep. is superfluous. Win. 54, 1. 65, 2.

4 This perf, from ἥκω is late. Thay.-Grm. Lex.

346 Codex Ambrosianus.

5 See on 6:42.

1 Thay.-Grm. Lex., under κελεύω.

2 See on 6:41.

C Codex Bezae.

3 On the form εἶχαν, see Thay.-Grm. Lex. ἰχθύδια is found in the N.T. only here and in the parallel (Matthew 15:34).


marg. Revided Version marg.

Pesh. Peshito.

1 The proper meaning of συζητεῖν is to search or inquire in company. This meaning discuss is peculiar to the N.T.

1 See Win. 55, Note at end.

1 This meaning of βλέπειν is foreign to the verb in earlier Greek, and the construction with�

3 See on 1:1, 14, 15; cf. Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 24:14.


1 An irregular form of sec. aor. subj. for δῷ. The mood is that of deliberative questions. Win. 41 a, 4 b.

2 This use of ἐὰν for ἂν is due to the use of ἄν as a contracted form of ἐάν, leading to a mistaken use of the two as interchangeable. See Thay.-Grm. Lex.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Mark 8". International Critical Commentary NT. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/mark-8.html. 1896-1924.