Preface to the Gospel According to St. Mark, With a Short Account of His Life
For an explication of the word Gospel, and the title Saint, see the Preface to Matthew.
Mark. This person, the second in the commonly received order of the four evangelists, was named John Mark, and was the son of a pious woman called Mary, who dwelt at Jerusalem: she was an early believer, and the disciples used to meet at her house. Peter, having been delivered out of prison by an angel, came to the house of Mary, mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying, Acts 12:12. This very first mention of John Mark assures us of Peter's intimacy in that family: it is almost universally allowed that Mark, mentioned by Peter, 1 Peter 5:13, is this evangelist, and that he is the same with him who is called sister's son to Barnabas, Colossians 4:10, and is supposed to have been converted by Peter to the Christian faith. Mr. W. Whiston supposes him to have been Peter's own son. See his Primitive New Test. Notes at the end. He traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, Acts 12:25, and some short time after he accompanied them to other countries as their minister, Acts 13:5. When they returned to the continent, and came on shore at Perga in Pamphylia, he departed from them and returned to Jerusalem, Acts 13:13. Afterwards he would have gone with Paul and Barnabas, but the former refused to take him, because of his having left them at Pamphylia; Paul and Barnabas then separated, and Mark accompanied his uncle Barnabas to Cyprus, Acts 15:36-41. Afterwards Paul and he were fully reconciled, as evidently appears from 2 Timothy 4:11 : Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry. This appears also from Plm 1:24, where Mark is styled Paul's fellow-laborer; and from Colossians 4:10, where we find the apostle recommending him in a particular manner to the Church of God at that place. He is generally supposed to have been particularly intimate with St. Peter, to have written his Gospel at Rome, a.d. 64, and to have died at Alexandria in Egypt, in the eighth year of the reign of Nero. Dr. Lardner has fully proved that Mark the evangelist, and John Mark nephew to Barnabas, were one and the same person. See his Works, vol. vi. p. 77, etc.
How Mark composed his Gospel, is a question not yet decided among learned men. Many of the primitive fathers, such as Papias, Clemens, Alexandrinus, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, etc., believed that he was only the amanuensis of St. Peter; that this apostle, through modesty, would not put his name to the work, but dictated the whole account, and Mark wrote it down from his mouth. St. Augustine appears to have been the first who maintained that Mark abridged St. Matthew's Gospel; and that it is not to be considered as an original work: - on this opinion several remarks will be made in the course of these notes. Others suppose that Mark compiled it, partly out of Matthew's Gospel, and partly out of the Gospel of Luke. But most of these are conjectures which appear to have very little foundation. Critics are also divided concerning the language in which it was written, and the people to whom it was sent. Some have contended for a Latin original, because of several Latin words found in it, such as σπεκουλατωρ, Mark 6:27, one of the guard; κεντυριων, Mark 15:39, Mark 15:44, Mark 15:46, a centurion, a captain of one hundred men; συσσημον, Mark 14:44, a signal, a sign agreed on. But such words are better accounted for by supposing that his Gospel was written for the use of the Roman people; and that it is on this account that he wholly passes by the genealogy of our Lord, as being a point of no consequence to Gentile converts, though very necessary for the Jews, and especially the Jews of Palestine. That it was originally written in Greek, is a point now acknowledged by almost all learned men.
It may be necessary to state the things omitted by Mark in the beginning of his Gospel which are mentioned by Matthew and Luke.
2. The Conception of Elizabeth, Luke 1:5-25.
3. The Salutation of Mary, Luke 1:26-38.
4. Mary's Visit to Elizabeth, Luke 1:39-56.
5. John Baptist's Birth, Luke 1:57-79.
6. The Angel's Appearance to Joseph, Matthew 1:18-25.
9. The Appearance of the Angel to the Shepherds, Luke 2:8-20.
11. The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Luke 2:22-38.
12. The Coming of the Magi, Matthew 2:1-12.
13. The Flight into Egypt, Matthew 2:13-15.
14. Herod's Murder of the Innocents, Matthew 2:16-18.
16. Christ's Journey to Jerusalem when twelve years of age, Luke 2:40-48.
From the particulars enumerated here, it appears that the things omitted by Mark are also omitted by John, except the Preface; and that St. Luke is the most circumstantial.
For other particulars relative to this Gospel, see at the end of the last chapter.
The mission, preaching, and success of John Baptist, Mark 1:1-5. His manner of life, Mark 1:6. Proclaims Christ, and baptizes him in Jordan, Mark 1:7-11. The temptation of Christ, Mark 1:12, Mark 1:13. John being put in prison, Christ begins to preach, Mark 1:14, Mark 1:15. He calls Andrew and Simon, Mark 1:16-18. James and John, Mark 1:19, Mark 1:20. Teaches in Capernaum, Mark 1:21, Mark 1:22. Casts out a demon, Mark 1:23-28. Goes into the house of Simon, and heals his mother-in-law, Mark 1:29-31. Heals many diseased persons, Mark 1:32-34. Goes to the desert, and is followed by his disciples, Mark 1:35-37. Preaches in different towns and synagogues of Galilee, and casts out devils, Mark 1:38, Mark 1:39. Cleanses a leper, who publishes abroad his miraculous cure, Mark 1:40-45.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;The beginning of the Gospel - It is with the utmost propriety that Mark begins the Gospel dispensation by the preaching of John the Baptist, he being the forerunner of Jesus Christ, and the first proclaimer of the incarnated Messiah. Gospel - for the meaning of the word see the preface to Matthew.
As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.As it is written in the prophets - Rather, As it is written by Isaiah the prophet. I think this reading should be adopted, instead of that in the common text. It is the reading of the Codex Bezae, Vatican, and several other MSS. of great repute. It is found also in the Syriac, Persic, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, Vulgate, and Itala versions, and in several of the fathers. As this prophecy is found both in Isaiah and Malachi, probably the reading was changed to τοις προφηταις, the prophets, that it might comprehend both. In one of Asseman's Syriac copies, both Isaiah and Malachi are mentioned. See all the authorities in Griesbach, 2d edit.; and see the parallel place in Matthew, Matthew 3:3, where the Prophet Isaiah is mentioned, which seems fully to establish the authority of this reading.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.The voice of one crying - See on Matthew 3:1-3 (note).
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.John - The original name is nearly lost in the Greek Ιωαννης, and in the Latin Johannes, and almost totally so in the English John. The original name is יהוחנן Yehochanan, compounded of יהוה חנן Yehovah chanan, the grace or mercy of Jehovah: a most proper and significant name for the forerunner of the God of All Grace. It was John's business to proclaim the Gospel of the grace of God, and to point out that Lamb or sacrifice of God which takes away the sin of the world.
For the remission of sins - Or, toward the remission - εις αφεσιν. They were to repent, and be baptized in reference to the remission of sins. Repentance prepared the soul for it, and Baptism was the type or pledge of it. See on Matthew 3:2 (note).
And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.All the land - See on Matthew 3:4-6 (note).
Confessing their sins - It was an invariable custom among the Jews to admit no proselyte to baptism, till he had, in the most solemn manner, declared that he forever had renounced all idolatrous worship, all heathenish superstitions, and promised an entire and unreserved submission to the law of Moses. This was necessary for a proselyte adult - a child dedicated to God by baptism must be brought up in this faith.
And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;John was clothed, etc. - See the note on Matthew 3:4.
And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.The latchet of whose shoes - The shoe of the ancients was properly only a sole tied round the foot and ankle with strings or thongs. See on Matthew 3:11 (note).
I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.I indeed have baptized you with water - As if he had said: This baptism is not to be rested in; it is only an emblem of that which you must receive from him who is mightier than I. It is he only who can communicate the Holy Spirit; and water baptism is nothing, but as it points out, and leads to, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The subject of these two verses is not found in Matthew nor John; but is mentioned with some varying circumstances by Luke, Luke 3:16.
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.See the subject of these verses which contain the account of our Lord's baptism, explained. Matthew 3:13-17 (note).
And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.The Spirit driveth him - Εκβαλλει, putteth him forth. St. Matthew says, Matthew 4:1, ανηχθη, was brought up. See this important subject of our Lord's temptation explained at large, Matthew 4:1-11 (note).
And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.With the wild beasts - This is a curious circumstance, which is mentioned by none of the other evangelists; and seems to intimate that he was in the most remote, unfrequented, and savage part of the desert; which, together with the diabolic influence, tended to render the whole scene the more horrid. Perhaps this very circumstance is mentioned, as emblematical of that savage and brutal cruelty with which he was persecuted to death by the Jews and Gentiles, instigated thereto by the malice of Satan.
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,Preaching the Gospel of the kingdom - See the notes on Matthew 3:2; and on the office of the preacher, or herald, at the end of that chapter.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.The time is fulfilled - That is, the time appointed for sending the Messiah; and particularly the time specified by Daniel, Daniel 9:24-27. Here are four points worthy of deep attention, in the preaching of the Son of God.
1. Every thing that is done is according to a plan laid by the Divine wisdom, and never performed till the time appointed was filled up.
2. That the kingdom and reign of sin are to be destroyed, and the kingdom of grace and heaven established in their place.
3. That the kingdom of God, and his reign by grace, begins with repentance for past sins.
4. That this reign of grace is at hand; and that nothing but an obstinate perseverance in sin and impenitence can keep any soul out of it; and that now is the accepted time to enter in.
Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.As he walked by the sea, etc. - See on Matthew 4:18-22 (note).
Andrew his brother - Instead of the common reading, αδελφον αυτου, his brother, the best MSS. and versions have αδελφου του Σιμωνος, the brother of Simon, which should be received into the text. The most eminent critics approve of this reading.
And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.Capernaum - See Matthew 4:13.
He entered into the synagogue - Their synagogues - εν ταις συναγωγαις αυτων, according to the Syriac, which has the word in the plural.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.As one that had authority - From God, to do what he was doing; and to teach a pure and beneficent system of truth.
And not as the scribes - Who had no such authority, and whose teaching was not accompanied by the power of God to the souls of the people:
1. because the matter of the teaching did not come from God; and
2. because the teachers themselves were not commissioned by the Most High. See the note on Matthew 7:28.
And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,A man with an unclean spirit - This demoniac is only mentioned by Mark and Luke, Luke 4:33. It seems the man had lucid intervals; else he could not have been admitted into the synagogue. Unclean or impure spirit - a common epithet for those fallen spirits: but here it may mean, one who filled the heart of him he possessed with Lascivious thoughts, images, desires, and propensities. By giving way to the first attacks of such a spirit, he may soon get in, and take full possession of the whole soul.
Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.What have we to do with thee - Or, What is it to us and to thee? or, What business hast thou with us? That this is the meaning of the original, τι ἡμιν και σοι, Kypke has sufficiently shown. There is a phrase exactly like it in 2 Samuel 16:10. What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? מה לי ולכם בני צרויה ma li v'lacem beney Tseruiah, What business have ye with me, or, Why do ye trouble me, ye sons of Tseruiah? The Septuagint translate the Hebrew just as the evangelist does here, τι εμοι και ὑμιν; it is the same idiom in both places, as there can be no doubt that the demoniac spoke in Hebrew, or in the Chaldeo-Syriac dialect of that language, which was then common in Judea. See on Matthew 8:29 (note).
Art thou come to destroy us? - We may suppose this spirit to have felt and spoken thus: "Is this the time of which it hath been predicted, that in it the Messiah should destroy all that power which we have usurped and exercised over the bodies and souls of men? Alas! it is so. I now plainly see who thou art - the Holy One of God, who art come to destroy unholiness, in which we have our residence, and through which we have our reign in the souls of men." An unholy spirit is the only place where Satan can have his full operation, and show forth the plenitude of his destroying power.
And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.And Jesus rebuked him - A spirit of this cast will only yield to the sovereign power of the Son of God. All watchings, fasting, and mortifications, considered in themselves, will do little or no good. Uncleanness, of every description, will only yield to the rebuke of God.
And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.And when the unclean spirit had torn him - And had thrown him down in the midst, Luke 4:35, και σπαραξαν, and convulsed him. Never was there a person possessed by an unclean spirit who did not suffer a convulsion, perhaps a total ruin of nature by it. Sins of uncleanness, as the apostle intimates, are against the body; they sap the foundation of life, so that there are very few of this class, whether male or female, that live out half their days: they generally die martyrs to their lusts. When the propensities of the flesh are most violent in a person who is determined to serve God, it is often a proof that these are the last efforts of the impure spirit, who has great rages because he knows his time is but short.
And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.What thing is this? - Words of surprise and astonishment.
And what new doctrine - I have added the particle and, from the Syriac, as it helps the better to distinguish the members of the sentence; but there is a vast diversity in the MSS. on this verse. See Griesbach.
For with authority - They had never heard such a gracious doctrine, and never saw any teaching supported by miracles before. How much must this person be superior to men! - they are brought into subjection by unclean spirits; this person subjects unclean spirits to himself.
And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.And immediately his fame spread abroad - The miracle which he had performed was -
2. evidenced much benevolence in the worker of it; and
3. was very public, being wrought in the synagogue.
The many who saw it published it wherever they went; and thus the fame of Christ, as an incomparable teacher, and unparalleled worker of miracles, became soon spread abroad through the land.
The word, ευθεως, immediately, occurs more frequently in this evangelist than in any other writer of the new covenant: it is very often superfluous, and may often be omitted in the translation, without any prejudice to the sense of the passage in which it is found. It seems to be used by St. Mark, as our ancient writers used forsooth, and such like words.
And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.See this account of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law explained at large, Matthew 8:14-17 (note).
When the sun did set - See on Matthew 8:14 (note).
But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.
And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
And all the city was gathered together at the door.
And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.Because they knew him - To be the Christ, is added here by several ancient and respectable MSS. and versions; but it appears to be only a gloss.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.In the morning a great while before day - By πρωΐ, the morning, is to be understood the whole space of three hours, which finished the fourth watch of the night.
And there prayed - Not that he needed any thing, for in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; but that he might be a pattern to us. Every thing that our blessed Lord did he performed either as our pattern, or as our sacrifice.
And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.And Simon - followed after him - Κατεδιωξαν, followed him eagerly. They had now begun to taste the good word of God, and thought they could never hear too much of it. Many possess this spirit when first converted to God. O! what a pity that they should ever lose it! The soul that relishes God's word is ever growing in grace by it.
And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.All men seek for thee - Some to hear; some to be healed; some to be saved; and some, perhaps, through no good motive. There are all sorts of followers in the train of Christ; but how few walk steadily, and persevere unto the end!
And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.The next towns - Κωμοπολεις properly signifies such towns as resembled cities for magnitude and number of inhabitants, but which were not walled as were cities. The Codex Bezae, most of the versions, and all the Itala, read, Let us go into the neighboring villages, And Into The Cities.
For therefore came I forth - Εις τουτο, for this purpose am I come forth - to preach the Gospel to every creature, that all might hear, and fear, and return unto the Lord. The towns and the villages will not come to the preacher - the preacher must go to them, if he desires their salvation. In this, also, Jesus has left his ministering servants an example, that they should follow his steps. Let no minister of God think he has delivered his own soul, till he has made an offer of salvation to every city and village within his reach.
And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.And he preached - He continued preaching - Ην κηρυσσων: this is the proper meaning of the words: he never slackened his pace - he continued proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation to all - there was no time to be lost - immortal souls were perishing for lack of knowledge; and the grand adversary was prowling about, seeking whom he might devour. This zealous, affectionate, and persevering diligence of Christ should be copied by all his servants in the ministry; it is not less necessary now than it was then. Thousands, thousands of Christians, so called, are perishing for lack of knowledge. O God, send forth more and more faithful laborers into thy vineyard!
And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.There came a leper - See the notes on Matthew 8:2, etc.
Should any be inclined to preach on this cleansing of the leper, Mark is the best evangelist to take the account from, because he is more circumstantial than either Matthew or Luke.
I. Consider this leper.
1. He heard of Jesus and his miracles.
2. He came to him for a cure, conscious of his disease.
3. He earnestly besought him to grant the mercy he needed.
4. He fell down on his knees, (with his face to the earth, Luke 5:12), thus showing his humbled state, and the distress of his soul.
5. He appealed to his love - if thou wilt; with a full conviction of his ability - thou canst; in order to get healed.
II. Consider Jesus.
1. He is moved with tender compassion towards him: this is the alone source of all human salvation.
2. He stretches forth his hand, showing thus his readiness to relieve him.
3. He touches him; though this was prohibited by the law, and rendered him who did it in any common case legally unclean.
4. He proves at once his infinite love and unlimited power, by his word and by his act; I will - be thou cleansed; and immediately his leprosy was removed. But see on Matthew 8:2 (note).
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;Straitly charged - See the reason for this, Matthew 8:4 (note). This verse is wanting in two copies of the Itala.
And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.Began to publish it much - Began to publish πολλα, many things; probably all that he had heard about our Lord's miraculous works.
And to blaze abroad the matter - That is, his own healing; thinking he could never speak too much, nor too well, of him who had thus mercifully and miraculously cleansed him.
Jesus could no more openly enter into the city - A city of Galilee, probably Chorazin or Bethsaida, in which he did not appear, for fear of exciting the jealousy of the secular government, or the envy and malice of the Jewish rulers.
And they came to him from every quarter - So generally had the poor man, who was cleansed of his leprosy, spread abroad his fame. And can we suppose that, of all these people who came to him from all parts, and to whom he preached the glad tidings of the kingdom, by the power and authority of God, few or none were saved? This is a common opinion; but every person who seriously considers it must see that it is unfounded. Without doubt, Christ had thousands that were brought to God by his ministry; though, in general, only those are mentioned who were constant attendants on his person. It would be strange, if, while God manifested in the flesh was preacher, there should be few brought to the knowledge of themselves, and of the truth! In this respect he does not permit his faithful ministers to labor in vain. The Son of man sowed the seed of the kingdom; and it afterwards produced a plentiful harvest. Multitudes of Jews were converted by the preaching of the Gospel; and the first Christian Church was founded at Jerusalem.