Mark 3
ICC New Testament Commentary
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.

1-6. Jesus heals a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stirs up fresh opposition against himself.

The fifth offence of Jesus against the current Judaism is a case of healing on the Sabbath. It belongs evidently to a period when the freedom of Jesus’ treatment of this sacred day had created considerable notoriety, for his enemies are on the watch for him to give them a fresh charge against him. The scene is the synagogue, and the case is that of a man with a withered hand. Jesus himself is the challenger this time, as he calls the man out into their midst, and meets their scruple with the question, whether it is allowable to confer the good of healing, or to inflict the injury of refusing to heal.

1. πάλιν εἰς συναγωγήν—again into the synagogue.1

Omit τὴν before συναγωγήν Tisch. Treg. (Treg.) WH. א B. The art is an apparent emendation.

The πάλιν, again, keeps up the connection with preceding visits to the synagogue, after the manner of Mk. See 1:21-28. ἐξηραμμένην τὴν χεῖρα—the hand withered. The article is the possessive article.2 The participle, ἐξηραμμένην instead of the adjective, denotes a process, and not simply a state, and hence, an effect produced by disease, and not an original defect.

2. παρετήρουν—they were watching. The imperfect denotes the act in its progress. There is no subject expressed here, but it is easily supplied from our knowledge of the class who insisted on these rigors of Sabbath observance. And v. 6 tells us that it was the Pharisees who went out and conspired with the Herodians against him.

3. τὴν χεῖρα ἕχοντι ξηράν (or τὴν ξηρὰν χεῖρα ἔχοντι Tisch.), Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Δ 33, one ms. of Lat. Vet. Memph. Harcl. etc.

3. Ἔγειρε3 εἰς τὸ μέσον—Arise (and come) into the midst.

Ἔγειρε instead of Ἔγειραι, Tisch. Treg. WH. א ABCDL Δ etc.

This is a pregnant construction. The action begins with ἔγειρε and ends with εἰς τὸ μέσον; but between these, there is an intermediate act, of coming or stepping. By this act, Jesus challenged the attention of the carpers to the miracle that he is about to perform. Not as a miracle, however, but as a case involving the principle in dispute between himself and them in regard to healing on the Sabbath.

4. Ἔξεστι ἀγαθοποιῆσαι4—Is it allowable to do good? ἀγαθοποιῆσαι, and its contrasted verb κακοποιῆσαι, may mean to do good or evil, either in the sense of right and wrong, or of benefit and injury. The connection here points to the latter meaning.

Mt. says that the Pharisees began by asking him if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath; Lk., that he knew their thoughts, and so asked them the question about doing good and evil. Both are attempts to explain the apparent abruptness of Jesus’ question.

This question of Jesus not only suggests the general principle that makes healing permissible on the Sabbath, but is aimed directly at the specious distinction made by the Scribes. They admitted no healing, except where life was in danger, on that day. The point of Jesus’ answer is found in the substitution of the positive for the negative in the second part of the contrast. They regarded the not healing as simply an omission of ἀγαθοποιῆσαι; Jesus treats it as a positive κακοποιῆσαι. Not to do good to a person needing it is the same as to do him evil; to withhold a good is to inflict an injury. But he deals more directly and boldly with their fallacy in the second part of the question, showing that not to heal is in any case to be classed with killing. The case in which life is in danger is not therefore a case by itself, but includes in itself a principle applicable to all cases of sickness. To weaken life is not the same thing in degree as to end life, but of the same kind notwithstanding, and therefore morally in the same class. The principle is analogous to that stated in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus shows that the law against murder is directed equally against any manifestation of anger. In all these discussions, beginning with 2:13, Jesus appears as the emancipator of the human spirit, revealing principles, instead of rules, as the guide of human conduct, and so delivering all men possessed of his spirit from the fetters of conventional morality.

5. ἐσιώπων—they kept silence. This is a case in which the imperfect denotes the continuance of a previous state. μετʼ ὀργῆς—Anger is legitimate in the absence of the personal element. Anger caused by wrong done to me, and seeking to retaliate on the person doing it, is clearly wrong. But anger against wrong simply as wrong, and without evil design or wish against the perpetrator, is a sign of moral health. συλλυπούμενος—The preposition in composition may denote merely the inwardness of the act, as in σύνοιδα, to be conscious, i.e. to have inward knowledge; or it may denote what is shared with others, as the same word σύνοιδα may mean to know with others, to be privy to. Probably it is the latter here, denoting the sympathetic character of his grief. He was grieved because they hurt themselves. ἐπὶ τῇ πωρώσει τῆς καρδίας—at the hardness of their heart. The expression does not denote, as with us, the callousness of their feelings, but the unsusceptibility of their minds. They were hardened by previous conceptions against his new truth. The collocation of anger and sympathetic grief excited by the same act is significant of the nature of Christ’s anger, showing how compatible it was with goodwill. ἀπεκατεστάθη1—it was restored.

ἀπεκατεστάθη instead of ἀποκατεστάθη, Tisch. Treg. WH. א ABL etc. Omit σου after τὴν χεῖρα Tisch. (Treg.) WH. marg. BEMSUV Γ II2, 126, etc. Doubtful. Omit ὑγιὴς ὡς ἡ ἄλλη Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABC* D etc. mss. of Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Syrr. etc.

6. εὐθὺς—The immediateness of this act is noted by Mk. only, and is quite characteristic of his style, hitting off a situation with a word. The immediateness is here a sign of the violence of the feeling excited against Jesus. To estimate their fanatical zeal, we must remember that they valued the Sabbath far beyond any mere morality, and reacted with corresponding violence against any supposed violation of its sacredness. Fanaticism is always busy and eager over the mere outworks of religion.

τῶν Ἡρωδιανῶν—the Herodians. The adherents of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. The Pharisees were zealous patriots, and as such were generally opposed to any foreign yoke. But here was an opportunity to use the foreign power against a common enemy. The common opinion ascribed Messianic pretensions to Jesus, and on more than one occasion attempted to force him to play the role according to the popular conception of the Messiah. This would be the argument by which the Pharisees excited the temporal power against him, as they did finally at Jerusalem. The preceding paragraphs have given us a view of Jesus in his work of undermining one after another of the Pharisaic positions, and this conspiracy is the natural result.

συμβούλιον ἐποίησαν (or ἐδίδουν)1—they took counsel.

ἐποίησαν, instead of ἐποίουν, Tisch. א C Δ 238 etc. ἐδίδουν, Treg. WH. BL 13, 28, 69, etc.


7-12. Jesus departs to the sea of Galilee, followed by a great multitude.

The narrative of opposition is interrupted here, and we are introduced to a scene of another kind. The multitude about Jesus heretofore has been from Galilee, with a sprinkling of hostile Scribes and Pharisees (from Jerusalem?). But now we see it swelled by people from Judæa, and from the Gentile districts both north and south. It is an eager crowd, moreover, who fall upon him and threaten to crush him in their attempt to obtain his healing touch, so that Jesus has to procure a boat to be in attendance on him. The meaning of it all is, that the period of conflict does not signify a loss of popularity, but rather that the great access of favor with the people swells the tide of opposition.

7. ἀνεχώρησεν—withdrew. The verb is used of such retirement from public view as would be natural in such a position of danger as Jesus found himself in. Mt. uses the same verb, 12:15. It does not seem probable, in these circumstances, that he would choose the part of the lake near to Capernaum which was the scene of his usual work, because it was a place of resort. This time, he was seeking retirement, and he would find it in some more secluded part of the lake.

8. The last clause of v. 7 should be included in this verse. As it stands in the T.R., the first statement, with ἠκολούθησεν as its verb, goes as far as πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου; the second, with ἦλθον as its verb, begins with οἱ περὶ Τύρον. But with the omission of οἱ before περὶ Τύρον, we can make the break where we please. Tisch. makes it at the end of v. 7, transferring ἠκολούθησεν to the end of the verse. But this separates Judæa and Jerusalem in an unwarrantable way. Most probably, the first statement is about Galilee, the district near at hand, and the second includes all the remote districts beginning with Judæa. Those from the neighboring Galilee are represented as following him, and those from the remote districts as coming to him. Read, And a great multitude from Galilee followed. And from Judæa, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumœa, and beyond Jordan, and about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, hearing what things he is doing, came to him.

ἠκολούθησεν, instead of ἠκολούθησαν, Treg. WH. ABGL Γ etc. mss. of Lat. Vet. Vulg. ἠκολούθησαν Tisch. א CEFK etc. mss. of Lat. Vet. This verb is transferred to the end of v. 7 after τῆς Ἰουδαίας by Tisch. WH. marg. א C Δ 238 Lat. Vet. Vulg. Placed after τῆς Γαλιλαίας by Treg. ABL Γ etc. Memph. Syrr. After Ἱεροσολύμων by WH. 235, 271. The separation of Judæa and Jerusalem caused by the transfer is clearly against it. Omit αὐτῷ after ἠκολούθησεν Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Memph. etc. Omit οἱ before περὶ Τύρον Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א* and c BCL Δ mss. of Lat. Vet. Pesh. etc. ἀκούοντες instead of ἀκούσαντες Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א B Δ 1, 13, 69, etc. mss. of Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. ποιεῖ, instead of ἐποίει, Treg. WH. BL. Internally probable.

Idumæa is the Greek name for Edom, a district situated E. of the Jordan, between Southern Palestine and Arabia. Tyre and Sidon were the two great cities of Syro-Phœnicia on the Mediterranean Sea, NW. of Galilee.

9. εἶπε—he told, i.e. he gave orders. προσκαρτερῇ—should be in constant attendance. The verb expresses this idea of assiduous waiting. It was rendered necessary by the crowd, which was in danger of crushing him.

10. ὥστε ἐπιπίτειν αὐτῷ—so that they were falling upon him. Not in a hostile sense, but the verb is a strong word, like προσκαρτερῇ and θλίβωσιν, and is intended to bring before us vividly the turbulent eagerness and excitement of the crowd. ἅψωνται—touch him. They believed that there was some virtue in his touch, and that it made no difference whether he touched them, or they him. See 6:19. μάστιγας—scourges, a strong figurative term for diseases.

11. τὰ πνεύματα τὰ ἀκάθαρτα—The unclean spirits are here put by metonymy for the men possessed by them, because the action is directed by them. ὅταν ἐθεώρουν1—whenever they beheld him.

ἐθεώρουν, προσέπιπτον, … ἔκραζον, instead of the singular, Tisch. Treg. WH. א ABCDL etc. λέγοντες, instead of λέγοντα, Tisch. WH. marg. א DK 61, 69 etc.

προσέπιπτον καὶ ἔκραζον—would fall down before him and cry out. The impf. denotes repeated action. Ὅτι σὺ2—ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ—the Son of God. This title was a Messianic title, denoting theocratic sonship, and there is nothing here to indicate that it is used in any other than this common sense. The onus probandi is not on those who deny the use of the term in the Synoptical Gospels, of metaphysical sonship, but on those who claim this use. Unless it was accompanied by language pointing out the metaphysical sonship, no Jew would have understood it.


13-19. Jesus goes up into the mountain, and chooses the twelve.

The appointment of the twelve is put in different connections in the Synoptics. But in them all, the connection is such as to point to the growth of our Lord’s work as the occasion of the appointment. They are to aid him in his work of proclaiming the kingdom, and of healing. But after all, the other purpose named, the association with himself, is the one most in evidence in the subsequent history.

13. τὸ ὄρος—the mountain, i.e. the one in the neighborhood. οὓς ἤθελεν αὐτὸς—whom he himself wished. The pronoun is emphatic, the form of the verb being enough to indicate the person. Those who came to Jesus at this time came not of their own accord, but in accordance with his desire.

14. ἐποίησε δώδεκα—he appointed twelve. This use of the verb comes under the head of making one something,—king or priest, for instance. Only here, that to which they were appointed is expressed, not as an office, but as the purpose of the appointment. This purpose is expressed under two heads, the first being association with himself, and the second, to act as his messengers in the work of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and of healing the sick. Apparently, the former was the only one fully carried out during our Lord’s life, the second becoming their work when they were made necessarily independent of him by his death. And in accordance with this, the name generally given in the Gospels is disciples, and afterward, in the Acts and Epistles, they are called apostles.

οὕς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμαζεν, whom he also named apostles, is inserted after ἐποίησε δώδεκα by WH. RV.marg. א BC* Δ 13, 28, 69, 124, 238, 346, Memph. Harcl. marg. Tisch. thinks it has been copied from Luke 6:13. But on the whole, considering the strength of the testimony for it, it seems at least equally possible that Lk. found it in the original Mk.

κηρύσσειν—to herald, or here, where it is used absolutely, to act as heralds. The word conveys the idea of authority, a herald being an official who makes public proclamation of weighty affairs. The proclamation which they were to make was the coming of the kingdom of God.

15. ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν ἐκβάλλειν—to have power to cast out. This is in the same construction as κηρύσσειν, and denotes one of the objects of sending them forth.

Omit θεραπεύειν τὰς νόσους, καὶ, to heal diseases, and, Tisch. Treg. (Treg. marg.) WH. RV. א BC* L Δ Memph.

With this omission, the casting out of demons is taken as the representative miracle. So frequently.1

16. καὶ ἐπέθηκε.

Καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς δώδεκα, and he appointed the twelve, is inserted before καὶ ἐπέθηκε by Tisch. WH. RV.marg. א BC* Δ.

καὶ ἐπέθηκε interrupts the structure of the sentence, which is resumed in the next verse. The names that follow are in apposition with τοὺς δώδεκα in the inserted clause, and the enumeration is interrupted to give the descriptive names assigned to some of them by Jesus.

Πέτρον—Peter. Mt. gives the only explanation of this name given to Simon, in ch. 16:18. But neither in this passage nor in that, is there any definite indication that it was at either time that the name was given him. J. 1:42, however, assigns the giving of the name to a time much earlier than either, immediately after the Baptism. Πέτρον means a rock. The masculine form, instead of Πέτρα, is due to its being appropriated as the name of a man.

17. καὶ Ἰάκωβον—This resumes the structure of v. 14, as if v. 16 read Σίμωνα ᾧ ἐπέθηκε.

Βοανεργές. This is a modified form of the Heb. בְנֵי רֶגֶשׁ. רֶגֶשׁ properly means tumult or uproar, of any kind, and thunder, as a secondary meaning, is not improbable, though we have no example of it in Hebrew literature. The name probably describes a fiery, vehement temperament, rather than a thunderous eloquence, or a sonorous speech. The little that is told us about the disciples makes it impossible to follow out these hints about their character and temperament. These four, Peter, James and John, and Andrew, always stand first in these lists of the twelve, and among them, Peter is always first. Mt. calls him πρῶτος. But Mt. and Lk. put Andrew into the second place, evidently to associate him with his brother. Mk.’s order is the order of their rank, Peter, James, and John being the three disciples chosen by Jesus to attend him on special occasions, e.g. the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the scene in the garden of Gethsemane.

18. Φίλιππον—Philip heads the second group in all the Gospels, as Peter the first. The name is a Greek name. We hear nothing more about him in the Synoptics, though he is mentioned several times in the fourth Gospel.

Βαρθολομαῖον—This name does not occur in the Gospels outside of these lists, and elsewhere only in Acts 1:13. And in the passage in Acts, Bartholomew’s name is associated, as it is here, with those of Philip and Thomas. In the fourth Gospel, on the other hand, we find that Nathanael is associated with Philip and Thomas, as Bartholomew is in the Synoptics and the Acts. In J. 1:46-50, Nathanael is the one whom Philip introduces to Jesus, while in J. 21:2, Nathanael’s name is associated with Thomas. This, together with the fact that so important a personage as Nathanael appears to be in J. is not mentioned in the list of the twelve, has led to the quite reasonable supposition that the two are to be identified. In that case, Bartholomew, which means Son of Tolmai, would be a patronymic, and Nathanael would be the real name.

Μαθθαῖον—On the identification of this disciple with Levi the publican, see on 2:14. He is not mentioned after this, except in Acts 1:13. Θωμᾶν—This disciple, who is a mere name in the Synoptics and the Acts, becomes a personage in the fourth Gospel. J. 11:16, 14:5, 20:24-28. This group of four is the same in all three Synoptics, but in Mt., Thomas precedes Matthew.

Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἀλφαίου—This James is probably the same as Ἰάκωβος ὁ μικρός, James the little, the son of Mary and Clopas. See 15:40, 16:1, J. 19:25. The supposition, however, that in this passage from J., Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ is in apposition with ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, and that thus the brothers of our Lord were his cousins and included in the list of apostles, is decisively negatived, first, by its giving us two sisters having the same name, Mary; secondly, by the fact, that in Luke 2:7, Jesus is called the firstborn son of Mary, implying that there were other sons; thirdly, by Acts 1:14, in which the brothers of our Lord are distinguished from the apostles; and finally, by J. 7:5 which states distinctly, that at the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before the death of Jesus, his brothers did not believe in him.

Θαδδαῖον—This must be the same as Lebbæus, Matthew 10:3 (AV. Tisch.), and Jude the son of James, Luke 6:16.

τὸν Καναναῖον—the Zealot.

Καναναῖον, instead of Κανανίτην, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCDL Δ 33, Latt. Memph. (Pesh.) etc.

If this name meant an inhabitant of Cana, it would be Καναῖον. Probably, it comes from the Heb. קַנָּא, Chald. קַנְאָן, with the termination αιος which denotes a party (Φαρισαῖος, Σαδδουκαῖος), and is the same as Ζηλώτης zealot, the name given to him in Luke 6:15. This was the name of a party of fanatic nationalists among the Jews, leaders of the national revolt against the foreign yoke.

19. Ἰσκαριώτην—Heb., אִישׁ קְרִיּוֹת, Man of Kerioth. Judas is designated thus as an inhabitant of Kerioth, a village of Judæa. παρέδωκεν—delivered up. The word for betrayal is προέδωκεν.

There can be no doubt what significance Mk. means to give to the appointment of the twelve. It is preceded and followed in his account by the gathering of the importunate crowds about our Lord. And the connection points plainly to the conclusion that Jesus appoints them to be his helpers in the work thus growing on his hands. This is indicated in the purpose, that he may send them forth to preach, and to heal; that is, to share in the work which has been described before as done by him.1 But we do not find that much of this active work was done by them during Jesus’ lifetime. The purpose which was more fully carried out was that of permanent association with himself, expressed in the words, that they may be with him. Instead of the fluctuating attendance on his person of the ordinary disciples, he desired for these twelve such constant association that they could afterwards be his witnesses, and carry forward his work. Mat_9:35-4 gives the same general reason, but the immediate occasion is a missionary tour made by Jesus through Galilee, in which he is impressed by the greatness of the spiritual harvest, and the small number of laborers. Luke 6:17-19 places the concourse of people after the appointment of the twelve. The inclusion of Judas in the number of the apostles is a certain indication that he was at the time a genuine disciple. In his case, as in that of all the apostles, there was a failure to understand our Lord’s purely spiritual programme, but the personal equation, the faith in Christ himself, overcame this doubt at first. Later, the doubt predominated in the case of Judas, and even in the rest of the apostles it led to the temporary desertion of the ten, and to the denial of Peter.


20-35. Jesus, at home again, is met by the opposition of the Scribes, and by the attempt on the part of his family to restrain him.

It is evident that there is both a logical and a chronological relation between this attitude of our Lord’s family and this new phase of the opposition of the Scribes. The logical relation is found in the language of the two. His family said, he is beside himself; the Scribes said, he is possessed by the devil himself. The close juxtaposition of these in the narrative shows that Mk. had this logical relation in his mind. On the other hand, the interruption of the story of his family’s attempt to restrain him by the introduction of the other account, and the resumption of the former in v. 31, is not explained so well by any other assumption as that there was really such an interval between the family’s original purpose and their arrival on the scene of action, which was filled up by the controversy with the Scribes. Jesus makes this opposition the occasion of teaching, of which it is easy to miss the point, and which has been badly misunderstood. In regard to the charge that he is in collusion with Satan in casting out demons, his point fully stated would be, that such collusion is possible up to the point where it involves an actual arraying of Satan against himself. And Jesus turns their charge against themselves by his counter-claim that his whole action is hostile to Satan, making such collusion impossible. And this is the acumen of his statement about the sin against the Holy Ghost. In the case of the Scribes, their charge had been very close to that sin, when they said that the Spirit in Jesus was the Devil instead of the Holy Spirit, involving a complete upsetting of all moral values, and a stupendous and well-nigh irrecoverable moral blindness in themselves. That is, their whole error lay in their failure to value the moral element in Jesus’ works. It is not implied at all that his family was in sympathy with the Scribes, their apprehension being simply that his mind was unsettled, and that he needed to be put under restraint. This lack of sympathy with him on the part of his human family led Jesus to point out the higher reality of spiritual relationship and association.

20. ἔρχεται—comes. εἰς οἶκον is here probably the colloquial anarthrous phrase, equivalent to our home. The gathering of the Scribes from Jerusalem and the visit of his family would probably both of them be at Capernaum, and this points to his own house as the one meant here, RV. margin.

ἔρχεται instead of ἔρχονται, Tisch. WH. RV. א B Γ mss. of Lat. Vet. etc.

Καὶ συνέρχεται πάλιν (ὁ) ὄχλος—And (the,) crowd gathers again.

ὁ before ὄχλος Tr. (WH.) RV. א ABDLcorr. Δ 209, 300, Memph.edd. The article is rather favored by Mk.’s habit of correlating persons and things with previous mentions of the same in his account.

πάλιν—again. This refers to 2:1, 2, and denotes a repetition of what occurred then in the same place. μὴ δύνασθαι μηδὲ—not able even.

μηδὲ, instead of μήτε, Treg. WH. RV. ABKLU Δ 28, 33 etc.

ὥστε μὴ.1

21. οἱ παρʼ αὐτοῦ—his family. v. 31, which is evidently a resumption of this part of the narrative, says his mother and his brothers. Literally, this phrase would denote those descended from him, but it has come to have this modification of its strict meaning. Κρατῆσαι—to lay hold of him, to get possession of him. They wanted to protect Jesus against his own madness. For they said that he is beside himself, ἐξέστη.2 ἀκούσαντες has for its object the preceding statement. Jesus’ permitting the multitude to gather about him in this tumultuous way and to engross him so entirely, seemed to them an unwarranted absorption in an entirely visionary work. This absence of prudence and of care of himself seemed to them misplaced.

Weiss, with some show of reason, makes the subject of ἔλεγον the persons from whom the family received their account. But the more natural subject is the same as that of ἐξῆλθον, unless a different one is pointed out. And it is just as probable that the family inferred the ἐξέστη from what they heard, as that it made a part of the report.

Καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς οἱ ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων καταβάντες—And the Scribes who came down from Jerusalem.

This delegation is introduced here with the article, as if it had been mentioned before. But the article may be taken as meaning the Scribes who were present, and οἱ καταβάντες as an incidental statement of the reason of their presence. This slight change of meaning would be indicated by a comma,—and the Scribes, who came down from Jerusalem.

22. Καταβάντες—It was down from Jerusalem, which was situated on high land, to most other parts of the country. This is the first mention of the presence of Scribes from Jerusalem, and it is an indication of an increased activity and hostility of the religious leaders against Jesus.

Βεελζεβοὺλ ἔχει—he has Beelzebul. This is a modification of a Heb. name, and is one of their names for Satan.1 One is said to have a demon, or here, the prince of demons, as he is said to have a disease, that is, to be afflicted with it.

The particular form of this charge, that he is possessed, not with an ordinary demon, but with the devil himself, is in order to account for his power over demons, as representing their prince. But we may suppose that they took a malicious pleasure in making his an exaggerated case. ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων—in the prince of the demons. The preposition has the same force as in the phrases in Christ, in the Holy Spirit. It is a local designation of intimate union, as if the two were so absorbed in each other, that they dwelt, one in the other. The charge is, that Jesus cast out demons by virtue of this connection with their prince. It is not merely an attempt to explain these miracles, so as to do away with the effect of them, but a distinct charge on the strength of them. They said, this man is in collusion with the devil. It is evident all through his course, but this assumed miracle is distinct proof of it. How else does this insignificant person coming among us without any credentials, get this extraordinary power over demons, unless there is some connection between him and their ruler. The devil has power to order them round, and has authorized this man to act for him, and so further the dangerous delusion about himself which is spreading among the people. There is no connection between the attitude of the religious leaders, and of Jesus’ own family here. Rather, the hostility of the Scribes was one of the dangers of the situation, to which Jesus himself seemed rashly indifferent, and which led his family to seek to restrain him.

Matthew 12:22, Matthew 12:23 and Luke 11:14 give us a more immediate occasion for this charge in their account of the casting out of a demon at this time. In this Gospel, the connection is general, the charge being occasioned by Jesus’ frequent performance of this most prominent of all his miracles.

23. ἐν παραβολαῖς—A parable is an analogy. It assumes a likeness between higher and lower things, such that what is true in one department holds good in another. It serves the purpose not only of illustration and of figurative statement, but also of proof. Here the apologetic purpose is evident. The analogy may be drawn out into a story, or description, as in most of Jesus’ parables, but this is not essential. In this case, Jesus begins with an abstract statement of his position, and then gives several analogous cases proving the general principle.

Σατανᾶς Σατανᾶ ἐκβάλλειν—Satan is the Heb. name of the devil, the prince of the demons. It means the Adversary, and except in this passage, and Luke 22:3, the name is written with the article.1 Jesus shows the fallacy of the scribes’ position by calling their attention to one essential element in his casting out of demons, which makes it impossible to account for it in their way. And that is, that his action toward the demons is hostile action. To be sure, his ordering them round, in itself considered, may be merely an exercise of the power which their ruler exercises over them. But when his authority is exercised, not for them, but against them, and against everything for which they and their ruler stand, he must be representing, not some friendly power, but a distinctly hostile force. They are so identified with their ruler, that what he does to them he does virtually to himself, and he does not cast himself out from one of his principal vantage points, possessing a special strategic value for his cause.

24. καὶ ἐὰν βασιλεία ἐφʼ ἑαυτὴν μερισθῇ—And if a kingdom is divided against itself. This is the analogy which lies nearest at hand. Indeed, it may be called the generic statement of the preceding principle. Satan and his subjects constitute a kingdom, and what is true of any kingdom is applicable to them. There is no difference between human kingdoms and this kingdom of evil spirits, which would invalidate this common truth. In the form in which this analogy is stated, it contains the reason why it is morally impossible for Satan to cast out Satan. It is, that such division leads to destruction. The condition is here a general one, not confined to any time.

25. The second analogy is that of a house. The word is used by metonymy for the family inhabiting a house. Here, too, division ends in destruction. οὐ δυνήσεται—will not be able. The form of the conditional statement in this case belongs to the future, and not to a general condition.

δυνήσεται, instead of δύναται, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Δ mss. of Lat. Vet. and of Vulg. δύναται is an evident emendation, to correspond to v. 24.

26. καὶ εἰ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἀνέστη ἐφʼ ἑαυτόν, ἐμερίσθη καὶ οὐ δύναται στῆναι—And if Satan arose against himself, he was divided and cannot stand.1

ἐμερίσθη, καὶ instead of καὶ μεμἐρισται, Tisch. א * C Δ mss. of Lat. Vet. Vulg. καὶ ἐμερίσθη Treg. marg. WH. RV. אc BL. καὶ ἐμερίσθη is a probable emendation to bring the aorists ἀνέστη and ἐμερίσθη together, instead of ἐμερίσθη and the pres. οὐ δύναται. στῆναι, instead of σταθῆναι, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BCL.

This verse applies the principle to the case in hand, and the form of conditional statement corresponds. It states the condition as belonging to past time, and says of an event actually past, if it was of such a character. In the conclusion, the aor. states what was involved, the pres. what is involved.

27. οὐ δύναται οὐδεὶς εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ εἰσελθὼν τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ διαρπάσαι—no one can enter into the strong man’s house, and plunder his tools.

εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ εἰσελθὼν τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ, instead of τὰ σκεύη τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Δ 33, Memph. Pesh.

In what precedes, Jesus has simply taken the negative attitude towards their charge that he is in collusion with Satan, showing that that is impossible. But in this verse he shows what is the real relation to Satan involved in his casting out demons. What it does mean is conflict with Satan, and victory over him. This also is stated in the form of an analogy, that no one can enter a strong man’s house, and despoil his tools, except he first bind the strong man. σκεύη is here not possessions or goods, but utensils, and denotes the demons as Satan’s instruments, or tools. What Jesus says is not simply an inference from his casting out of demons, though that is the proof of it to others. But this victory over Satan is a part of his self-consciousness. He knows that he has met Satan here on his own stamping ground, where he has been accustomed to take advantage of the weakness of men for their undoing; moreover, that Satan has approached him on this same side of his human weakness, and for once, has met his master. Instead of mastering, he has been himself mastered, and the mastery has been followed up by crippling; he has been bound. Here we come upon one of the deepest truths of Jesus’ life, that the real basis of his power, which is a spiritual power, is to be found in his own righteousness under difficulties, and those difficulties the same which are inherent in human nature, and due to the exposure of that nature to a subtle and victorious power of evil which had so far dominated the world.

28. Ἀμὴν—Verily.1 This has the effect of solemn emphasis. πάντα ἀφεθήσεται … τὰ ἁμαρτήματα—all sins shall be forgiven. The statement that all the sins of men shall be forgiven is not to be taken of individual sins, but of classes, or kinds of sin. αἱ βλασφημίαι—the blasphemies. This word means primarily injurious speech, and, as applied to God, speech derogatory to his Divine majesty. ὅσα ἂν βλασφημήσωσιν—Literally, whatsoever things they blasphemously utter.2

αἱ before βλασφημίαι Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABCEFGHL Δ Memph. etc. ὅσα, instead of ὅσας, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDE* GH Δ etc.

Blasphemy is not here regarded as that into which all sins may be resolved,3 but it adds to the general term sins, the special class to which the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit belongs.

29. εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον—against the Holy Spirit.4 What is meant by the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? The difficulty on one side, has been the consideration of this question without reference to the case in hand, and on the other hand, so superficial an explanation of this case as to leave what Jesus says about the enormity of the sin involved practically unexplained. Plainly, the Holy Spirit is not to be considered here in his independent action, but as the inward source of Jesus’ acts. What Jesus says is occasioned by their charge that he had an evil spirit; that is, that the power acting in him was not good, but bad. Now, the Holy Spirit is the Divine power to which the acts of Jesus are attributed. The Spirit is represented as descending on him at his baptism, and driving him into the wilderness, and Jesus is said to have begun his ministry in Galilee in the power of the Spirit. Especially, Jesus ascribes his expulsion of evil spirits to the Holy Spirit. Hence, a distinction is to be made between his other acts, and those which manifestly reveal the Holy Spirit in him, and between slander directed against him personally, as he appears in his common acts, and that which is aimed at those acts in which the Spirit is manifest. Just so far as there is in the man who utters the slander any recognition, however vague, of this agency, or so far as there is in the person against whom it is directed so manifest a revelation of the Spirit as should lead to this recognition, so far, there is danger, to say the least, of this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Moreover, this act of driving out evil spirits was the act in which the holiness of the Spirit operating in Jesus specially appeared. It is not in the power shown in the miracles that the operation of the Holy Spirit is most evident, but in their moral quality. There is the moral uniqueness about the miracles of Jesus which appears in the rest of his life, only there, it is, if anything, most conspicuous. And this quality appears specially where he not only cures the bodily diseases of men, but frees them from an evil spirit which deranges their inner life. To call that evil, instead of good, and especially to ascribe it to the very prince of evil, is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The only alleviation of it is the failure to recognize fully these facts. οὐκ ἔχει ἄφεσιν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα—hath never forgiveness,1 ἀλλὰ ἔνοχός ἐστιν αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος—but is guilty of an eternal sin.

ἁμαρτήματος, instead of κρίσεως, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ 28, 33 (C* D 13, 69, 346, ἁμαρτίας), Latt. Memph.

An eternal sin may be one subjecting the person to an eternal punishment, eternal in its consequences, that Isa_2 But certainly it is equally allowable to suppose that it describes the sin itself as eternal, accounting for the impossibility of the forgiveness by the permanence of the sin,—endless consequences attached to endless sin. This is the philosophy of endless punishment. Sin reacts on the nature, an act passes into a state, and the state continues. That is, eternal punishment is not a measure of God’s resentment against a single sin, which is so enormous that the resentment never abates. It is the result of the effect of any sin, or course of sin in fixing the sinful state beyond recovery. This is more accordant with the inwardness of Jesus’ ordinary view of things.

30. πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον ἔχει—he has an unclean spirit. The report of their saying above is, he hath Beelzebul, and it is changed here in order to make the contrast between πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον and Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον, the Holy Spirit.

31. καὶ ἔρχονται ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔξω στήκοντες … καλοῦντες αὐτόν—and there came his mother and his brothers, and standing outside … calling him.

Καὶ ἔρχ (ονται), instead of Ἕρχονται οὗν, Treg. WH. RV. (Tisch. Καὶ ἔρχεται) א BCDGL Δ 1, 13, 28, 69, 118, 124, 209, Latt. Memph. Pesh. etc. ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, instead of οἱ ἀδελφοὶ καὶ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCDGL Δ Latt. Memph. Pesh. στήκοντες, instead of ἐστῶτες, Tisch. Treg. WH. BC Δ 28. καλοῦντες, instead of φωνοῦντες, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL 1, 13, 28, 69, 118, 124, etc.

Though the resumptive οὗν is omitted, it is plain that this is a resumption of what is said about his family coming out to restrain him in v. 21. The preliminary statement is put there, in order to connect ἐξῆλθον with its cause in the tumultuous gathering of the people. Then it is interrupted by the story of the dispute with the Scribes, because that event precedes in the order of time. It is this unsympathetic attitude of his family in this visit which gives force to what Jesus says about his true family. On the brothers of Jesus, see on v. 18. ἀδελφοί is used sometimes to denote less intimate relationship, but it is not at all common, and aside from usage, the supposition that the ἀδελφοί of Jesus were anything else than brothers is quite against the evidence. The names of these brothers are given in Matthew 13:55 as James, Joseph, Simeon, and Jude. καὶ ἔξω στήκοντες—and standing outside. Evidently on account of the crowd surrounding the house.1

32. περὶ αὐτόν—around him.2 καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῳ—and they say to him.

καὶ λέγουσιν, instead of εἶπον δὲ, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCDL Δ 13, 69, 124, 346, mss. of Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Pesh. Harcl. marg.

ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαί σου—thy mother, and thy brothers, and thy sisters.

καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαί σου—Tisch. (Treg. marg.) WH. marg.. ADEFHMSUV Γ 22, 124, 238, 299, 433, mss. of Lat. Vet. Harcl. marg. Omitted probably to accord with v. 33, 34, and with Mt. and Lk.

33. καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς3—And answering, he says.

ἀποκριθεἰς λέγει, instead of ἀπεκρίθη, λέγων, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCL Δ Vulg. Memph. Harcl. καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί μου, and my brothers, instead of ἢ, or, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BCGL Δ 1, mss. of Lat. Vet. Memph. Pesh.

Jesus does not wish, in this question, to deny or underrate the human relations. But he feels with a strength, not common among men, the Divine relation and the human relations to which this gives rise. Moreover, the present errand of his family has made him feel that they come short of the real connection which alone gives worth to the family relation.

34. τοὺς περὶ αὑτὸν καθημένους—those seated around him. v. 32 has stated that the crowd was seated about him. But evidently from what follows, this was made up in this case of his disciples.

35. τοῦ Θεοῦ—Matthew 12:50 says τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανῷ, which defines more closely the nature and reason of this relation. It is a common relation to the heavenly Father, and not to an earthly father, that is at the basis of the kinship acknowledged by him.Moreover, the relation to God is of the moral kind, shown by doing His will. It is due to a new nature begotten in the man by God, but it shows itself in obedience. Jesus’ own relation to God, making it his meat and drink to do his will, is the uppermost and central thing in his life, and those who share with him this relation come nearest to him. Spiritual kinship surpasses the accidents of birth.

ὃς ἀν ποιήσῃ—whoever does.

Omit γὰρ, for, Tisch. (Treg.) WH. B mss. of Lat. Vet. Memph. γὰρ is an emendation. Omit μου, my, after ἀδελφή Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABDL Δ mss. of Lat. Vet.

The order of Mk. here, connecting this paragraph with the teaching in parables which follows, is also the order of Mt., and the latter marks this as a chronological order by the use of ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος, 12:46, and ἐν τῇ ἐκείνῃ ἡμέρᾳ, 13:1. On the other hand, Luke 11:37 connects this attack of the Pharisees with Jesus’ denunciation of them by another definite chronological mark, ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι. And Mt. puts this denunciation among the events of the passion week, and fixes it there by his introductory Τότε. This is a specimen of the disagreement of the Evangelists in their attempts to give chronological sequence to their narratives. Dr. Gardiner, Harmony, p. 70, explains this by the supposition that such expressions as ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος and ἐν τῷ λαλῆσαι may be used by the Evangelist to indicate that an event took place, not necessarily in the midst of that particular discourse, but simply of some discourse or other; that is, while he was talking, instead of walking, or healing or something. This is a good example of the ingenuities and curiosities of harmonizing interpretation. Such use of language by the Evangelists would discredit them equally with the inconsistencies that it is intended to remove.

1 The omission of the art. is probably due to the fact that εἰς συναγωγήν had passed into a phrase, like εἰς οἶκον, or our to church.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Treg. Tregelles.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

אԠCodex Sinaiticus.

B Codex Vaticanus.

2Luke 6:6 says the right hand. Dr. Morison contends that this is the reason for the use of the art. But evidently, the art. is insufficient for this discrimination, as the other use, allowing it to apply to either hand, is so much more obvious.

RV. Revised Version.

C Codex Bezae.

L Codex Regius.

Δ̠Codex Sangallensis

33 Codex Regius.

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

Memph. Memphitic.

Harcl. Harclean.

3 On the use of ἔγειρε, see on 2:11.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

D Codex Ephraemi.

4 ἀγαθοποιῆσαι is a Biblical word. εὐεργετεῖν is the Greek word, or εὗ ποιεῖν. κακοποιεῖν is a good Greek word.

1 On the double augment, see Win. 12, 7 a.

marg. Revided Version marg.

E Codex Basiliensis.

M Codex Campianus.

S Codex Vaticanus.

U Codex Nanianus.

V Codex Mosquensis.

Γ̠Codex Tischendorfianus

Vulg. Vulgate.

Syrr. Syriac Versions.

1 συμβούλιον belongs to later Greek.

13 Codex Regius.

28 Codex Regius.

69 Codex Leicestrensis.

G Codex Wolfi A.

F Codex Borelli.

K Codex Cyprius.

Pesh. Peshito.

1 .Codex Basiliensis

1 ὅταν ἐθεώρουν is a rare construction. Generally, ὅταν is used with conditions belonging to the future, or with general conditions belonging to any time, and is construed with the subjunctive. The indefiniteness in the time of past conditions expressed in our -ever is denoted by -ποτε.

2 On this use of ὅτι to introduce direct quotation, see on 1:15.

346 Codex Ambrosianus.

1 See on 1:39.

AV. Authorised Version.

Latt. Latin Versions.

1 See 1:34.

209 An unnamed, valuable manuscript.

1 Where the inf. is used with ὥστε, the N.T. invariably employs the neg. μή, even when the result is stated as a fact. See Win. 55, 2d.

2 See on 2:12.

1 The Heb. is בַּעַל זְבוּל, זְבוּל, being a rabbinical form of זֶבֶל. The whole means god of filth.

1 See on 1:13.

1 ἀνέστη and ἐμερίσθη are aorist, and it preserves the flavor of the original better to translate them as simple pasts, arose, and was divided, instead of perfects.

1 Ἀμήν is the Heb. particle of affirmation from אָמֵן, to be firm, sure. Its proper place is at the end of the sentence, and disconnected with it, like our Amen. This adverbial use of it, placed at the beginning of the sentence, belongs to the report of our Lord’s discourses in the Gospels. Elsewhere in the N.T. it is used after the Heb. fashion.

2 ὅσα is the cognate acc. after βλασφημήσωσιν, and independent of both βλασφημίαι and ἁμαρτήματα. See Colossians 3:14, where ὃ is used in the same way.

H Codex Wolfi B.

3 See Morison’s singular note.

4 In this use of a preposition after βλασφημήσῃ, there is a return to the earlier construction, for which the N.T. employs the simple acc.

1 Literally, hath not forgiveness forever. The Heb. form of the universal negative, joining the negative with the verb, instead of with the adverb.

2 So Meyer, Weiss, Holtzmann, etc.

1 See v. 20, and especially Luke 8:19.

2 With the acc., περί is used locally, with the gen., of subject matter—around a person or thing, and about a subject.

3 The Greeks used the middle, instead of the pass, of ἀποκρίνω, in the sense of answer. This use is peculiar to N.T. Greek.

And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea,
And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.
And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.
For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues.
And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.
And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.
And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:
And Simon he surnamed Peter;
And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,
And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.
And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.
And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?
And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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