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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 5

Verse 1

Mark 5:1. The Gerasenes. The preferable form here. ‘Gergesenes’ is found in some of the best authorities. The latter is the preferable reading in Luke, although there is good authority for ‘Gerasenes ‘there also. On the locality and in explanation of the cut, see Matthew 8:28.

Verses 1-20

Mark 5:1-20. THE DEMONIAC AT GERASA. See on Matthew 8:28-34. Comp. Luke 8:26-39. Luke’s account more nearly resembles that of Mark, and both are fuller than that of Matthew.

Verses 1-31

THE TIME of the voyage across the lake is fixed by the account before us. It was the evening of the day (Mark 4:35) when the discourse in parables had been uttered. The other accounts (Matthew 8:18; Luke 8:22) can readily be harmonized on this view. The conversations with some who would follow Him (Matthew 8:19-22) seems to have taken place just before He crossed the sea. It had been a busy day; our Lord had first healed a demoniac (Matthew 12:22), then encountered the accusation of His family (Mark 3:20-21); afterwards the accusation of the Pharisees (chap. Mark 3:22-30; more fully in Matthew 12:24-45), when His mother and brethren sought Him (chap. Mark 3:31-35; Matthew 12:46-50); then after some discourses narrated by Luke only (chap. Luke 10:37 to Luke 12:59), departing to the sea-side had given the long discourse, parts of which are recorded in Mark 4:0 and Matthew 13:0, then encountered halfhearted followers (Matthew 8:19-22), and in the evening crossed the lake. After such exhausting labors, it is not strange that He fell asleep, even amid the storm. Mark’s account is vivid, and in most respects more minute than that of Matthew, giving particulars omitted by both the other Evangelists.

Verse 2

Mark 5:2. Straightway. Mark’s favorite word.

A man. Matthew tells of ‘two,’ being more particular in this respect. Luke speaks of but one.

With, lit., ‘in ‘ an unclean spirit. Mark usually prefers this form of describing demoniacal possession.

Verses 3-5

Mark 5:3-5. Mark’s description of the man is most full and striking. Both he and Luke tell in different words that his dwelling was among, lit., ‘in’ the tombs, a fact only hinted at by Matthew. Peculiar to this narrative is the mention of the fact that no man could bind him any more; as well as the proof of it from the unsuccessful attempts which had been made (Mark 5:4). The case was probably one of long standing, and repeated efforts had been made to confine him (Luke 8:29.

Fetters were for the feet, chains, for any other part of the body.

To tame him, by any means. The necessity for attempting to tame him was the danger to those passing that way (Matthew 8:28). This untamable demoniac spent his time in self-laceration (Mark 5:5), crying, night and day, deprived of sleep in all probability, and wandering not only among the tombs in which he dwelt, but in the mountains, so common in that district. That he was usually naked is implied here, but stated in Luke only. A fearful picture, agreeing in most points with certain forms of insanity. It cannot be argued from these symptoms that it was merely a case of insanity. The writers who so accurately describe the symptoms, define the malady; their statements must be accepted or rejected as a whole. (See on Matthew 8:34). Mark’s gospel, more fully than any of the others, shows Christ’s power over evil spirits. The power is measured by the difficulty of the case.

Verse 6

Mark 5:6. And when he saw Jesus from afar. The prominent thought is that he ran from a distance. This running would look like a violent attack, but instead of this, he worshipped him; Luke: ‘fell down before Him,’ which may be all that the word ‘worshipped ‘means. But the next verse intimates that it was an acknowledgment of Christ’s power, even if still hostile in its tone. If the man was merely insane, how could he have known of Jesus.

Verse 7

Mark 5:7. See on Matthew 8:29. Peculiar to Mark is the strong expression: I adjure thee by God. The language of the demon, not of the man; not a mere blasphemy, but a plausible argument: ‘We implore thee to deal with us as God Himself does, that is, not to precipitate our final doom, but to prolong the respite which we now enjoy’ (J. A. Alexander). The highest acknowledgment comes from the most virulent demon.

Verse 8

Mark 5:8. For he said, or, ‘was saying.’ This and the next verse show that the language just used was that of the demon speaking through the man. The adjuration of the demon and the command of our Lord were uttered about the same moment, the conversation (Mark 5:9-12) taking place immediately afterwards.

Verse 9

Mark 5:9. What is thy name! Probably addressed to the man, since there would be no special object in finding out the name of the demon, who however answered: Legion is my name. Matthew omits this, and Luke abbreviates it. The Latin word ‘legion’ (used also in Greek and rabbinical Hebrew), was applied to a division of the Roman army, numbering from three to six thousand men. But it also denotes, indefinitely, a large number (compare our popular use of the word regiment); so that the answer means: ‘I am a host,’ as the next clause shows: for we are many. Luke narrates the fact without putting it in the mouth of the demon. Our Lord had already commanded the demon to come out (Mark 5:8); the question ‘what is thy name ‘assumed that the command would be obeyed, leaving the man free to answer; but the demons still lingered and one of them, as leader, answered thus, in pride and partial resistance. ‘Legion ‘implies, not a collection, but an organized host (comp. Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15).

Verse 10

Mark 5:10. He besought send them away. The singular and plural here used confirm the explanation just given.

Out of the country, i.e., the Gerasene district. Luke says: ‘into the deep; ‘comp. Matthew 8:29, This request seems to have been a preparation for the subsequent one (Mark 5:12). It was less definite than the first adjuration, but still uttered in the spirit of resistance. Their desire to remain in that district was probably connected with its lawless character, though it may have been merely the wish to stay where they were, in the man.

Verse 11

Mark 5:11. The mountain. The better established reading, agreeing more exactly with Luke’s account.

Verse 13

Mark 5:13. Being about two thousand. The parenthesis is unnecessary. The correct reading omits the verb, and we supply: being. This is preserved by Mark alone. The rest agrees entirely, though not verbally, with Matthew’s account.

Verse 14

Mark 5:14. In the country, lit., ‘in the fields,’ i.e., the villages and houses by which they passed. So Luke; Matthew is less minute.

They, i.e., the people who heard the report Matthew: ‘the whole city.’

Verse 15

Mark 5:15. The order of the Greek, which is reproduced in the footnote, is vivid.

Sitting, not wandering as before; clothed, not naked now;

and in his right mind, sane, not a maniac, as he had been under the demoniacal influence.

Even him that had the legion. The reality of the possession is emphasized by the fact that they identified this man as the former terror to the district

They were afraid, terrified, awe-struck.

Verse 16

Mark 5:16. And they that saw it. Probably the swine herds who had returned, possibly those who had accompanied our Lord in the boat.

How it happened. Not merely the fact which those coming already perceived, but the way in which the cure had occurred.

Verse 17

Mark 5:17. To depart out of their borders. See on Matthew 8:34. That Evangelist omits all the incidents of Mark 5:15-16; Mark 5:18-20.

Verse 18

Mark 5:18. As he was entering into the boat. The correct reading shows that he had not yet entered.

Besought him. The same word used in the last verse. The reason of this request was probably personal gratitude to our Lord. He would thus separate himself from those who rejected his Deliverer. Possibly he feared a relapse.

Verse 19

Mark 5:19. Go into thy house unto thy friends, etc. He may have been in danger of despising his friends in the district that rejected Christ. His previous life may have harmed them; our Lord would make his future life a blessing to them.

Tell them. The command to those healed was often to keep silence, here it is the reverse, and for a good reason. There was no danger of tumult attending such a proclamation in that region as in Galilee. Then our Lord, even when rejected, would leave a preacher behind Him.

How great things the Lord hath done for thee. Luke: ‘God hath done for thee.’ So that ‘the Lord ‘means Jehovah, but it is also a fair inference that it means Christ Himself (see Mark 5:20).

And hath had mercy on thee. This hints at a spiritual blessing.

Verse 20

Mark 5:20. In Decapolis . See on Matthew 4:25. The region (of ten cities east of the Jordan) of which this immediate district formed a part. The healed man became a preacher, not only where Christ had been rejected but where He had not gone. His message was his own experience: how great things Jesus had done for him , which he understood to be the same as ‘how great things the Lord hath done for thee.’ Our Lord was not altogether unknown in this region, but His personal ministry did not extend further than this visit and another through the northern part of Decapolis (chap. Mark 7:31). In Pella, a city of Decapolis, the Christians found refuge at the destruction of Jerusalem.

Verse 21

Mark 5:21. A great multitude was gathered unto him. Comp. Luke 8:40. The night after the discourse was probably passed on the lake, so that this was the day after; possibly the second day.

By the sea side. He resumed His teaching there. We disconnect this verse from what follows. See note on next section.

Verse 22

Mark 5:22. There cometh, to the house of Matthew (Levi). Mark is fond of using the present tense.

Jairus. So Luke. Matthew omits the name. The original is vivid: seeing him he falleth at his feet.

Verses 22-43

CHRONOLOGY. These miracles were performed very shortly after the return from the country of the Gadarenes. From Matthew, however (Mark 9:18), we learn that Jairus came while our Lord was discoursing after the feast at his (Matthew’s) house. The paragraph (chap. Mark 2:15-22), in order of time, should immediately precede this section. Mark’s account of these two miracles is most full and vivid. The peculiarities alone are commented on.

Verse 23

Mark 5:23. My little daughter. ‘Little daughter,’ one word in the original, a diminutive of affection; comp. the German Tochterlein Mark probably gives the exact words of the ruler; Luke narrates in his own language the state of the case; Matthew, in his briefer account, combines in one sentence the substance of what the ruler said and the actual state of the girl as reported on the way thither (Mark 5:35), omitting any special reference to the latter fact.

Is at the point of death. A correct paraphrase of a Greek expression which cannot be literally translated.

That thou come, etc. The language of the original is peculiar and broken, indicating great emotion. Hence ‘I pray thee’ has been supplied, but the strong word ‘that’ (in order that) should not be omitted. The best explanation is: He states the condition of his daughter ‘in order that coming thou mayest lay thy hands on her, in order that she may be made whole and live.’ He thus expresses his faith. ‘Made whole,’ lit., ‘saved,’ from her disease, and ‘live,’ since it threatened death.

Verse 24

Mark 5:24. A great multitude. The thronging of the people is prominent in the accounts of Mark and Luke. That so important a person as Jairus had asked our Lord’s help may have occasioned unusual excitement, though multitudes usually followed Jesus.

Verse 26

Mark 5:26. Suffered many things of many physicians. Luke, himself a physician, also states that she ‘had spent all her living on physicians,’ without any good result. Mark emphasizes the fact that she ‘suffered ‘at their hands, and grew worse instead of better. In those days such diseases especially would be poorly treated, and treated without tenderness, first because the patient was Levitically unclean, second because she was a woman. Our Lord’s conduct was a protest against both these. Just in proportion as His influence permeates society, is woman not only elevated, but tenderly dealt with, especially in the matter of delicate diseases. All, physicians included, may learn a lesson here in the treatment of invalids of the female sex.

Verse 27

Mark 5:27. When the had heard. It is not certain how long it was since she heard, but she came because she had heard.

The things concerning Jesus. This paraphrase brings out the correct sense. She had heard of His doings, as well as His name.

In the crowd (the word usually translated ‘multitude ‘). Mark alone mentions this.

His garment. Matthew and Luke are more particular: ‘the hem of His garment.’

Verse 28

Mark 5:28. For she said, literally, ‘was saying.’ Matthew: ‘within herself,’ but it is possible that she may have murmured it again and again as she tried to get through the crowd.

Verse 29

Mark 5:29. Felt in her body. Lit., ‘knew ( i.e., by feeling) in the body.’ The first clause tells of the cessation of the ordinary symptom of her disease, this points to a new sense of health.

Verse 30

Mark 5:30. That the power from him had gone forth. This is a literal rendering. The power, which was His and which proceeded from Him, He felt had on this occasion also gone forth to heal.

Verse 31

Mark 5:31. His disciples. Luke: ‘Peter and they that were with Him.’ The denial of all is mentioned by the same Evangelist. This natural answer of the disciples, according to Luke, called forth an express declaration from our Lord, that He perceived power had gone out from Him.

Verse 32

Mark 5:32. And he looked round about. Peculiar in this form to Mark.

To see her. This indicates, what is implied in any fair view of the whole transaction, that He knew who had done it.

Verse 33

Mark 5:33. Fearing and trembling. Luke inserts: ‘saw that she was not hid.’ The two accounts agree remarkably and yet differ. Her experience in the past well accounts for her conduct; rough physicians, painful treatment, loss of means, constant diminution of health, the nature of her disease, all led to the secret mode she adopted, and this was in keeping with that.

Told him all the truth, and that too ‘before all the people’ (Luke 8:47). Her faith is brought out and triumphs thus over her timidity. To this day, physicians complain of want of candor in female patients, or at least of a failure to accurately state their symptoms, etc. So that the naturalness of the picture is remarkable.

Verse 34

Mark 5:34. Be healed. Not the same word as in the previous clause.

Of thy plague, scourge, affliction. Peculiar to Mark. These words were a gracious and solemn ratification of the healing, which had been stolen, as it were.

Go in peace. Lit, ‘into peace.’ The state in which she could now live in contrast with her previous suffering and her unquiet up to this moment.

Verse 35

Mark 5:35. Why troublest thou the master (Greek: ‘teacher’) any further? The underlying thought is: the case is now beyond the help of Jesus, who might have cured, but cannot raise her. The language is kind, and indicates faith.

Verse 36

Mark 5:36. But Jesus not heeding, or, overhearing, the word spoken. The correct reading introduces a word, which usually means, to pass by as unheard, not to heed: more rarely, to overhear. In either case, it is a mark of accuracy in this account. The message was addressed to the ruler, not to our Lord. Either He did not heed it, though He heard it; or He heard it, when it was not addressed to Him, the former seems preferable.

Be not afraid, only believe. Luke adds: ‘and she shall be made whole.’ The delay seemed fatal, was in itself a trial to the faith of Jairus, especially now that the crisis had come. Yet what had just happened, for the message came ‘while He was speaking’ (Mark 5:35, would encourage Jairus, especially as faith had been exalted in the miracle which the ruler himself witnessed.

Verse 38

Mark 5:38. Beholdeth a tumult. Mark gives prominence to the noise common in such circumstances; Matthew, to the ‘minstrels; ‘Luke, to the weeping. Evidently the same scene is described and the accounts derived from eye-wit-nesses. See on Matthew 9:23.

Verse 39

Mark 5:39. When he was come in. The crowd was kept outside, three disciples accompanying Him. He then speaks to the crowd inside, and after their scornful reply (Mark 5:40), they are put out of the house, at least kept from entering into the chamber of death. See on Matthew 9:24.

Verse 40

Mark 5:40. Entereth in where the damsel was. The whole account, just here, seems to have been derived directly from Peter who was present.

Verse 41

Mark 5:41. Talitha cumi. These were the words used, in the dialect of the country. Mark cites such Aramaic expressions a number of times (Mark 3:17; Mark 7:11; Mark 7:34; Mark 14:36). The addition of an interpretation shows that he wrote for other than Jewish readers, but the insertion of the very words is a mark of accuracy, and of the strong impression made upon the eye-witness.

Damsel (I say to thee) arise. ‘Damsel ‘is a word of endearment, as if it were: ‘Rise, my child,’ and ‘Talitha’ has precisely that sense. ‘I say to thee,’ is inserted so that the meaning shall be as plain as possible. Some suggest that it was to show that the words used were not a magical formula, but an actual address or command; but this is not probable.

Verse 42

Mark 5:42. Straightway the damsel arose. Luke, the physician, speaks of her spirit returning.

And walked. Peculiar to Mark, and an incident which would be impressed upon an eye-witness.

For she was twelve years old. Before her death she was old enough to walk and was now restored just as before. Up to this point there was nothing to indicate that she was other than an infant. Luke mentions her age much earlier in his narrative, while Matthew omits it altogether. It is impossible to believe that these three Evangelists copied from each other, or from a common source, in regard to this occurrence. The attempt to differ and agree in this way would be either altogether unsuccessful or cost more than it was worth.

Amazed. A stronger word than that usually translated ‘astonished.’

Verse 43

Mark 5:43. Charged them much. A tumult might be excited, the carnal expectations about the Messiah might be roused. Comp. Mark 1:43; Matthew 8:30, etc.

That something be given her to eat. The miraculous power now ceased: she needed food; her strength would be recovered by natural means. At the same time it was an evidence that she was actually restored. Matthew, who was probably outside with the other disciples, tells of the spreading of the report of this miracle, while Mark, probably informed about it by Peter who was inside the house, gives the particulars of what occurred there.

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Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 5". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.