Mark 4
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
Chap. 4:1-9.] Parable of the sower. No fixed mark of date. Matthew 13:1-9. Luke 8:4-8. There is the same intermixture of absolute verbal identity and considerable divergence, as we have so often noticed: which is wholly inexplicable on the ordinary suppositions. In this case the vehicles of the parable in Matt. and Mark (see Matt. vv. 1-3: Mark, vv. 1, 2) bear a strong, almost verbal, resemblance. Such a parable would be carefully treasured in all the Churches as a subject of catechetical instruction: and, in general, in proportion to the popular nature of the discourse, is the resemblance stronger in the reports of it.

1. πάλιν] See ch. 3:7. The ἤρξατο is coincident with the gathering together of the crowd.

2.] Out from among the πολλά, the great mass of His teaching, one parable is selected, which He spoke during it—ἐν τῇ διδ. αὐτοῦ.

3. ἀκούετε] This solemn prefatory word is peculiar to Mark.

4-8.] Matt. and Mark agree nearly verbally. In ver. 7 Mark adds καὶ καρπὸν οὐκ ἔδωκεν, and in ver. 8, ἀναβαίνοντα κ. αὐξανόμενον. On this latter, Meyer remarks, that the two present partt. are predicates of καρπόν, which therefore must not be understood here of the fruit properly so called, the corns of wheat in the ears, but of the haulm, the first fruit of the successful seed. The corns first come in after ἔφερεν.

10-12.] Reason for speaking in parables. Matthew 13:10-17. Luke 8:9, Luke 8:10.

10.] οἱ π. αὐτ. σὺν τ. δώδ. = οἱ μαθ. αὐτοῦ Luke.

11.] τὸ μυστήριον = τὰ μυστήρια Matt. and Luke.

τοῖς ἔξω added here (= τοῖς λοιποῖς, Luke) means the multitudes—those out of the circle of his followers. In the Epistles, all who are not Christians,—the corresponding meaning for those days,—are designated by it.

τὰ πάντα γίνεται] the whole matter is transacted. Herod. ix. 46, ἡμῖν οἱ λόγοι γεγόνασι.

12.] We must keep the ἵνα strictly to its telic meaning—in order that. When God transacts a matter, it is idle to say that the result is not the purpose. He doeth all things after the counsel of His own will. Matt., as usual, quotes a prophecy; Mark hardly ever—except at the beginning of his Gospel; Luke, very seldom.

ἀφ. αὐτ. = ἰάσομαι αὐτούς Matt., it should be forgiven them; i.e. ‘forgiveness should be extended to them:’ no need to supply any thing, as the gloss of the . does: the expression is impersonal.

13-20.] Explanation of the parable of the sower. In τὴν παρ. ταύτην, the general question which had been asked ver. 10 (τὰς παραβολάς), is tacitly assumed to have had special reference to the one which has been given at length. Or we may understand, that the question of ver. 10 took the form which is given in Matt.: διὰ τί ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖς αὐτοῖς; in which case the τάς must be generic: asked Him concerning parables; or His parables. The three explanations (see Matthew 13:18-23: Luke 8:9-15) are very nearly related to one another, with however differences enough to make the common hypotheses quite untenable. Matt. and Mark agree nearly verbatim, Matt. however writing throughout in the singular (ὁ σπαρεὶς κ.τ.λ.). Mark has some additions, e.g. ὁ σπείρων τὸν λόγον σπ., ver. 14,—after ἡ ἀπ. τοῦ πλ., ver. 19, καὶ αἱ π. τὰ λ. ἐπιθ.:—and some variations, e.g. σατανᾶς for Matt.’s ὁ πονηρός, and Luke’s ὁ διάβ.

Such matters are not trifling, because they shew the gradual deflection of verbal expression in different versions of the same report,—nor is the general agreement of Luke’s, which seems to be from a different hearer.

16. ὁμοίως] after the same analogy:—carrying on a like principle of interpretation.

20.] Notice the concluding words of the interpretation exactly reproducing those of the parable, ver. 8, as characteristic. It is remarkable that the same is found in Matt., but in another form and order: one taking the climax, the other the anticlimax. In Luke, the two are varied.

21-25.] Luke 8:16-18; and for ver. 25, Matthew 13:12. The rest is mostly contained in other parts of Matt. (5:15; 10:26; 7:2), where see notes. Here it is spoken with reference to teaching by parables:—that they might take care to gain from them all the instruction which they were capable of giving:—not hiding them under a blunted understanding, nor, when they did understand them, neglecting the teaching of them to others.

21.] ἔρχεσθαι is also used in the classics of things without life: cf. Hom. Il. τ. 191, ὄφρα κε δῶρα " ἐκ κλισίης ἔλθωσι … and see Rost and Palm, Lex.

22.] ἀλλά here is almost equivalent to εἰ μή. Hartung, Partikel. ii. 43, cites Eur. 633, ῥᾷστον δʼ ὅτῳ τὸ μηδὲν ἀλλʼ ἀνωφελὴς " εὐηθίᾳ κατʼ οἶκον ἵδρυται γυνή· " σοφὴν δὲ μισῶ. We may add Xen. Mem. iii. 13. 6, ἤρετο αὐτόν, εἰ καὶ φορτίον ἔφερε; μὰ Δίʼ οὐκ ἔγωγʼ, ἔφη, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἱμάτιον. See Klotz, Devar. p. 7.

24.] προστ. ὑμῖν (see var. readd.), more shall be added, i.e. more knowledge: so : ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε τὴν προσοχήν, ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν ἡ γνῶσις, τουτέστιν, ὅσην εἰσφέρετε προσοχήν, τοσαύτη παρασχεθήσεται ὑμῖν γνῶσις, καὶ οὐ μόνον ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ μέτρῳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πλέον. ὃς ἂν ἔχῃ προσοχήν, δωθήσεται αὐτῷ γνῶσις, κ. ὅς οὐκ ἔχει, καὶ ὅ ἔχει σπέρμα γνώσεως ἀρθήσεται ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ. καθάπερ γὰρ ἡ σπουδὴ αὔξει τὸ τοιοῦτον, οὕτω καὶ ἡ ῥᾳθυμία διαφθείρει. ἐν τῷ κατὰ Ματθαῖον δὲ τρόπον ἕτερον ἐῤῥήθησαν ταῦτα, καὶ κατʼ ἄλλην ἔννοιαν.

26-29.] Parable of the seed growing we know not how. Peculiar to Mark. By Commentators of the Straussian school it is strangely supposed to be the same as the parable of the tares, with the tares left out. If so, a wonderful and most instructive parable has arisen out of the fragments of the other, in which the idea is a totally different one. It is, the growth of the once-deposited seed by the combination of its own development with the genial power of the earth, all of course under the creative hand of God,—but independent of human care and anxiety during this time of growth.

26.] Observe ἔλεγεν, without αὐτοῖς—implying that He is now proceeding with his teaching to the people: cf. ver. 33.

ἄνθρωπος] Some difficulty has been felt about the interpretation of this man, as to whether it is Christ or his ministers. The former certainly seems to be excluded by the καθεύδῃ, and ὡς οὐκ οἶδεν αὐτός, ver. 27; and perhaps the latter by ἀποστ. τὸ δρ., ver. 29. But I believe the parable to be one taken simply from human things,—the sower being quite in the background, and the whole stress being on the seed—its power and its development. The man then is just the farmer or husbandman, hardly admitting an interpretation, but necessary to the machinery of the parable.

Observe, that in this case it is not τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ as in Luke 8:5,—and the agent is only hinted at in the most general way, e.g. ἀποστ. τ. δρέπ., without a nom. case expressed. If a meaning must be assigned, the best is “human agency” in general. (It will be seen from this note, that I regard the exposition given in my first edition as a mistaken one.)

βάλῃ, shall have cast—past tense, whereas καθεύδῃ and ἐγ. are present. The construction seems to be, The Kingdom of God is thus, that a man shall have cast, i.e. shall be as though he have cast: but it is not easy, and, as far as I know, unexampled. It looks like a combination of ὡς ἄνθρ. βαλών, and ὡς ἐὰν ἄνθρ. βάλῃ.

27. καθ. κ. ἐγ.] i.e. employs himself otherwise—goes about his ordinary occupations. The seed sown in the heart is in its growth dependent on other causes than mere human anxiety and watchfulness:—on a mysterious power implanted by God in the seed and the soil combined, the working of which is hidden from human eye. Beware of the mistake of Erasmus, who takes ὁ σπόρος as the subject of all the verbs in this verse.

28.] No trouble of ours can accelerate the growth, or shorten the stages through which each seed must pass.

It is the mistake of modern Methodism, for instance, to be always working at the seed, taking it up to see whether it is growing, instead of leaving it to God’s own good time, and meanwhile diligently doing God’s work elsewhere: see Stier, iii. p. 12. Wesley, to favour his system, strangely explains καθεύδῃ καὶ ἐγ. νύκτ. κ. ἡμ. exactly contrary to the meaning of the parable—“that is, has it continually in his thoughts.”

εἶτα πλήρης σῖτος] then (there is) full corn in the ear: if as , then the corn (is) full in the ear.

29. παραδοῖ] offers itself: see reff. and Winer, Gr. Gr. § 38. 1 [also Moulton’s edn. p. 738, note 1].

ἀποστέλλει] he puts in—i.e. the husbandman, see above. See Joel 3:13, to which this verse is a reference:—also Revelation 14:14, Revelation 14:15, and 1Peter 1:23-25.

30-34.] Parable of the grain of mustard seed. Matthew 13:31-35.Luk 13:18Luk 13:18, Luke 13:19.

30.] This Rabbinical method of questioning before beginning a discourse is also found in Luke, ver. 18,—without however the condescending plural, which embraces the disciples, in their work of preaching and teaching,—and indeed gives all teachers an example, to what they may liken the Kingdom of God.

θῶμεν, as ἐτίθει, of Hephæstus, Il. σ. 541, &c.,—‘sollers nunc hominem ponere, nunc deum,’ Hor. Od. iv. 8. 8,—see also de Art. Poet. 34.

31.] The repetition of expressions verbatim in discourses is peculiar to Mark: so ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς here, and οὐ δύν. σταθῆναι ch. 3:24, 25, 26: and see a very solemn instance, ch. 9:44-48.

32.] καὶ ποιεῖ κλ. μεγ. is also peculiar. See notes on Matt.

33. καθὼς ἠδ. ἀκ.] according to their capacity of receiving:—see note on Matthew 13:12.

34. κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ …] We have three such instances—the sower, the tares, Matthew 13:36 ff., and the saying concerning defilement, Matthew 15:15 ff. To these we may add the two parables in John,—ch. 10:1-18, which however was publicly explained,—and ch. 15:1-12;—and perhaps Luke 16:9; Luke 18:6-8.

35-41.] The stilling of the storm. Matthew 8:18, Matthew 8:23-27. Luke 8:22-25. Mark’s words bind this occurrence by a precise date to the preceding. It took place in the evening of the day on which the parables were delivered: and our account is so rich in additional particulars, as to take the highest rank among the three as to precision.

36.] ὡς ἦν—without any preparation—as he was, E. V. Cf. Jos. B. J. i. 17. 7, αὐτὸς ὡς ἦν ἔτι θερμὸς ἐκ τῶν ὅπλων λουσόμενος ᾔει στρατιωτικώτερον.

ἄλ. δὲ πλ.] These were probably some of the multitudes following, who seem to have been separated from them in the gale.

καὶ … δέ, moreover. See Hartung, Partikell. i. 182.

37.] λαῖλ. ἀν. is also in Luke, whose account is in the main so differently worded.

ἐπέβαλλεν] not ὁ λαῖλαψ ἐπέβαλλεν τὰ κύμ.—but τὰ κ. ἐπέβαλλεν,—intransitive: see reff.

38. τὸ προσκ.] the cushion or seat at the stern, used by our Lord as a pillow. Pollux, Onom. (cited by Kuin., h. l.), proves from Cratinus that the word is put for the cushion used by rowers.

39. σιώπα, πεφ.] These remarkable words are given only here. On the variations in the accounts, see on Matt. ver. 25.

41.] The ἄρα expresses the inference from the event which they had witnessed: Who then is this?

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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