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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 15

Verse 1

Mark 15:1. The whole council. Comp. Luke 22:66-71, where the particulars of this morning meeting are given; also Luke 23:1.

Verses 1-19

THIS account is closely related to that of Matthew, but the remorse and suicide of Judas are omitted, and in the narrative of the trial before Pilate some independent details are introduced.

Verses 2-5

Mark 15:2-5. See on Matthew 27:11-14. The examination before Herod (Luke 23:8-12) occurred next.

Accuse thee of (Mark 15:4). The same word as in Mark 15:3, according to the best authorities.

Verse 6

Mark 15:6. He released. The original implies habitual action.

Verse 7

Mark 15:7. With them that had made insurrection, etc. Peculiar to Mark. Barabbas, doubtless the leader, was one of these insurgents and murderers.

Verse 8

Mark 15:8. And the multitude went up, i.e., before the residence of Pilate, and began to ask. This picture of the mob in Jerusalem is true to the life. As the day wore on, the crowd collected, partly to see the trial, partly to call for the usual release of a prisoner, partly to be in a crowd, as is always the case on festival occasions. Pilate proposed to the rulers the choice between Jesus and Barabbas (Matthew, Luke), but the mob had probably already desired the latter as a political prisoner.

Verses 9-14

Mark 15:9-14. See on Matthew 27:17-23. Mark’s account is much briefer than the other three. In Mark 15:9 it agrees more closely with John 18:39; referring however to the first proposal of Pilate, before the message from his wife. Mark 15:12 describes the second, Mark 15:14 the third attempt of Pilate. In Mark 15:13, again does not mean a repetition of the same cry. The cry for the crucifixion of Jesus, was the answer to the second attempt of Pilate.

Verse 15

Mark 15:15. Wishing to content the multitude. The word ‘wishing’ points to a decision, a determination, neither a hearty desire, nor a mere permission. In Matthew 1:19 the same word is translated ‘was minded.’ Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but in the dilemma (of his own making) concluded to gratify the mob. On the scourging see on Matthew 27:26.

Verse 16

Mark 15:16. Within the court, which is the Pretorium, or ‘palace.’ The governor’s residence.

Verse 17

Mark 15:17. With purple. See on Matthew 27:28. Lange: ‘The scarlet military cloak no more required to be a real purple, than the crown of thorns required to be a real crown, or the reed a real sceptre; for the whole transaction was an ironical drama, and such a one, too, that the infamous abuse might be readily perceived through the pretended glorification. The staff must be a reed, the symbol of impotence; the crown must injure and pierce the brow; and so, too, must the purple present the symbol of miserable pretended greatness: and this was done by its being an old camp-mantle.’

Verses 18-19

Mark 15:18-19. See on Matthew 27:29-30. See on Matthew 27:32-56.

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Verse 20

Mark 15:20. Lead him out, i.e., out of the city, as the other accounts imply. This verse, except the last clause, properly belongs to the last section.

Verses 20-41

Mark’s account resembles that of Matthew, but has independent details.

Verse 21

Mark 15:21. Coming from the country. Lit, ‘from the field.’ This statement throws no light on the reason why they impressed him for this service, nor upon the question whether it was the regular feast day or not.

The father of Alexander and Rufus . Persons well known to the first readers of this Gospel. As Mark probably wrote in Rome, the ‘Rufus ‘saluted in Romans 16:13, may be the person here spoken of. But the name was a common one. This ‘Alexander,’ can scarcely be the man put forward by the Jews at Ephesus (Acts 19:33), who may or may not be identical with the person mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:14.

Verse 22

Mark 15:22. To the place Golgotha. More correctly perhaps: place of Golgotha, answering to Place of a Skull, since Golgotha means ‘skull,’ and Luke (Luke 23:33) calls the place simply ‘skull.’ This is an additional reason for supposing that the name was owing to the conical shape of the ground. See on Matthew 27:33.

Verse 23

Mark 15:23. They offered him, or, ‘were giving Him;’ it was offered merely, not forced upon Him.

Wine mingled with myrrh. See on Matthew 26:34.

Verse 25

Mark 15:25. And it was the third hour, i.e., nine o’clock in the morning. The last examination before the Jewish rulers took place at daybreak, three hours intervened, during which occurred the examinations before Pilate and Herod. A later hour would scarcely give time for all the incidents up to noon, at which time the darkness began. As death on the cross set in slowly, the period could not have been shorter than from nine o’clock to early evening, before sunset (see Mark 15:42). The accounts of Matthew and Luke accord with that of Mark in regard to the time of the darkness, and thus support the accuracy of this verse. But John (John 19:14) says the final effort of Pilate to release Jesus, was ‘about the sixth hour.’ ‘The third hour’ might mean sometime during that watch (i.e., between nine and twelve noon) and ‘about the sixth’ some time before; but such an explanation is very unsatisfactory. An error in the text of John is possible, owing to the resemblance between the Greek signs for 3 and 6 , but this explanation is not supported by any considerable evidence. A third and the most probable solution is, that John uses the Roman mode of reckoning time, from midnight to midnight. In other cases (Mark 1:40; Mark 4:6) he certainly uses the common Jewish method from sunrise to sunset. The supposition of a mistake on the part of one of the Evangelists is inadmissible. About the events of such a day these two men could not make a mistake. With memories so correct about such minute details, they could not possibly forget precisely when Christ was crucified. Some good explanation can be given, even if we are not competent to do so. An apparent discrepancy of such long standing is a proof ( 1 ) that there was no collusion between the two writers, if the difference originally existed; ( 2 ) that those who have held these writings as sacred have been very honest, or such an apparent disagreement would have disappeared long ago.

Verse 26

Mark 15:26. The king of the Jews. These words are common to all four accounts. Matthew and Mark make prominent the fact that this was the one charge against our Lord.

Verse 28

Mark 15:28. This verse (a quotation from Isaiah 53:12) is omitted by the oldest manuscripts and rejected by the latest critics. In Luke 22:37, its genuineness is undoubted. Mark rarely quotes prophecies so directly.

Verse 29

Mark 15:29. Ah. The Greek word is the one used in the ancient games, as a shout of applause; here it seems to be applied ironically to our Lord. But it might have been an expression of reproach.

Verse 33

Mark 15:33. The sixth hour. The form of the verse, as well as the connection, shows that our Lord had already hung for some time upon the cross (see Mark 15:25).

Verse 34

Mark 15:34. Eloi. This is in the Aramaic dialect then in use. Our Lord probably used the Hebrew form (‘Eli’) given by Matthew, which more closely resembles the name Elijah. A quotation from the Old Testament would naturally be made in Hebrew. On the meaning of the cry, see on Matthew 27:46.

Verse 36

Mark 15:36. Saying, Let be, etc. In Matthew’s account, these words are addressed to the man who gave the vinegar, here spoken by him to the others. A sign of accuracy; such a conversation is natural; the one addressed by the crowd flinging back their own words. ‘Let be’ means ‘let this suffice,’ until we see Elijah coming. The man may have had the passing earnest thought that Elijah might come. But to keep on good terms with the excited jeering rabble, he assumes the same tone with them.

To take him down. Matthew: ‘to save Him.’ The two Evangelists give two distinct parts of the same conversation.

Verse 37

Mark 15:37. Gave up the ghost, the literal sense here is: ‘breathed out,’ expired. ‘A beautiful substitute for died, which all the Evangelists appear to have avoided’ (J. A. Alexander).

Verse 39

Mark 15:39. The centurion. Mark here and in Mark 15:44-45 gives the Latin term, Matthew and Luke the Greek.

Who stood by over against him, i.e., in front of Him, ‘watching’ (Matthew) Him.

Saw that he so gave up the ghost. The peculiar cry is mainly referred to, hence this was very early inserted, and is retained in the E. V. Mark alone gives prominence to this point, and it is characteristic of his Gospel. ‘The Lion of Judah is, even in His departing, a dying lion’ (Lange). On the centurion’s language, see on Matthew 27:54.

Verses 40-41

Mark 15:40-41. These verses agree in substance with Matthew 27:55-56, but the order is different and the other variations throw much light on the questions which have arisen as to the persons mentioned.

Mary, the mother of James the little. Undoubtedly the wife of Alpheus (John 19:25), hence ‘James the little’ is the Apostle ‘James the son of Alpheus’ (chap. Mark 3:18; Matthew 10:3). We hold that she was not the sister of our Lord’s mother (see on Matthew 13:55; John 19:25), but that Salome was. An additional reason for this view, and also against the opinion that James the son of Alpheus, here spoken of, is identical with ‘James the Lord’s brother’ (Galatians 1:19), is to be found in the expression here used: ‘James the little.’ This may refer either to his age or his stature, probably the latter; but in any case it is used to distinguish him. James the son of Zebedee had been put to death many years before this Gospel was written (Acts 12:2), and the readers of this Gospel would need this term only to distinguish this person from James the Just, the brother of our Lord, who was well known throughout the early church, and the author of the General Epistle of James.

Joses. Against the view that this too was one of the Lord’s brothers (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3) is the fact that his name occurs here twice (Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47) to distinguish this Mary, when according to the theory we oppose, two other brothers (Judas and Simon), who are thus assumed to be Apostles, are not mentioned. Mary the mother of our Lord had probably been conducted away by John before this time (see Matthew 27:56; John 19:27) .

Verse 42

Mark 15:42. The Preparation. Comp. Matthew 27:62.

The day before the Sabbath, i.e., Friday. Joseph and the Jews (John 19:31) desired ‘that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath.’ The Sabbath of the festival week was, as usual in such cases, a ‘high day’ (John 19:31).

Verses 42-47

THIS section contains some minor incidents omitted in all the parallel accounts.

Verse 43

Mark 15:43. An honourable councillor. A member of the Sanhedrin (comp. Luke 23:51). ‘Honorable’ here means noble in station.

Who also himself was, etc. He expected the Messiah, and had been a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38).

Came. Literally, having come, i.e., to the scene of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:57). He had probably seen the breaking of the legs of the other two, and was aware of the request of the Jews that the bodies should be taken down. If he would pay this tribute of respect to one whom he had followed in secret, he must quickly and publicly take this step.

And he boldly went in. The decisive act which marked the change from a secret to an open discipleship.

Verse 44

Mark 15:44. And Pilate marvelled. Not at the request, but: if he were already dead. This shows there was something unusual in this case of crucifixion. Pilate had already given orders to have the legs of the crucified broken and the bodies taken down. The first part of the order had been carried out, but our Lord was already dead. The two other bodies were probably taken down at once, but Joseph, appearing at Golgotha (as Matthew and Mark state) made known to the soldiers his purpose; hence they left the body of Jesus on the cross, perhaps going with Joseph to Pilate, in the expectation that his request (as that of a rich and influential man) would be granted. The sudden announcement of the rapid death of this Person, in whom he had been so interested that day, amazed him, and led to his inquiry of the centurion.

Verse 45

Mark 15:45. Granted the corpse to Joseph. Presented it to him. The position of Joseph seems to have occasioned this ready compliance, though Pilate was doubtless glad to hear that Jesus was dead and to have Him buried.

Verse 46

Mark 15:46. And he bought a linen cloth. It has been argued from this purchase that the day was ‘not the first day of unleavened bread, which was one of sabbatical sanctity,’ but in Leviticus 23:7, labor alone was forbidden on that day. That the tomb belonged to Joseph is implied here, that it was new is omitted by Mark alone.

Verse 47

Mark 15:47. Mary the mother of Joses. The same person mentioned in Mark 15:4 a

Beheld, lit., ‘were beholding,’ a continued action. Matthew 27:61: ‘sitting over against the sepulchre.’

Where he was laid. Luke (Luke 23:55), although mentioning the Galilean women more generally, says: ‘and how His body was laid.’ Evidently the inspection was with a view to mark the spot, for the future anointing; but affection made these two linger. The original indicates that they came after the burial, entering without hesitation the garden of the rich councillor. The two members of the Sanhedrin (Joseph and Nicodemus; John 19:38-39) were still probably there. The company was a singular one, but a type of the Christian congregations collected together by the death of Christ Salome was absent. It she were the sister of our Lord’s mother, she should go to comfort her mourning sister, who had probably left the scene of the crucifixion under the conduct of John some time before. Their temporary residence would be in the same place (John 19:27). An incidental hint of accuracy and truthfulness.

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Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 15". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.