Mark 7
ICC New Testament Commentary
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

7:1-23. Certain Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem, seeing the disciples eating with unwashed hands, complain of the violation of tradition. Jesus denies the force of tradition, and the possibility of material defilement of the spirit.

This dispute is occasioned by the disregard of the disciples for the ceremonial law about eating with unwashed hands. But the Pharisees, who make the attack, signalize it by complaining of this unconventional act as a violation of the tradition of the fathers. And Jesus’ answer is at first directed towards this feature of their complaint. It is a case, he says, of the commandments of men versus the commandments of God, of tradition against law. They even set aside the law of God, in order to keep their tradition. But then, taking up the more immediate question of unwashed hands, Jesus strikes at the root not only of traditionalism, but of ceremonialism, saying that it was not what a man took into his stomach, but what came out of his heart, that defiled him. And this, Mk. says, had the effect of cleansing all foods. And of course, as the distinction between clean and unclean belonged not to tradition, but to the written law, this made a breach in the law itself. It released men from the obligation of a part of the law said to have been given by God to Moses. And it affirmed the distinction between outward and inward in religion. It was no wonder that Jesus’ fate hastened to its end, and that the next record of him marks practically the end of his Galilean ministry.

1. συνάγονται πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι—there gather together to him the Pharisees.1 The distinction made between the Pharisees and certain of the Scribes would seem to mean that the Scribes were not so well represented.

This renewed activity of the Scribes and Pharisees against Jesus is another indication that there was a Passover at some time just before this, at which either the presence of Jesus himself, or the reports brought from Galilee, drew fresh attention to him. It would not be enough of itself, but it adds to the strength of other indications of the same thing. See on 6:39.

2. καὶ ἰδόντες τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὅτι κοιναῖς χερσί, τουτʼ ἔστιν ἀνίπτοις, ἐσθίουσιν τοὺς ἄρτους—omit ἐμέμψαντο—with this omission it reads, they gather to him, having come from Jerusalem, and having seen that certain of his disciples are eating with common hands, that is, unwashed.

ὅτι … ἐσθίουσιν, instead of ἐσθίοντας, Tisch. Treg. RV. א BL Δ 33 (Memph. Pesh.). Omit ἐμέμψαντο, found fault, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABEGHLVX ΓΔ one ms. Lat. Vet. Memph.

κοιναῖς—literally, common. In the Greek, it denotes simply what is common to several people, as common property. It is only in later Greek, that it comes to denote what is ordinary, or vulgar, or profane, as distinguished from select or sacred things. Under this general head, it comes to mean ceremonially unclean. The Pharisees did not seek by these washings to remove dirt, but the defilement produced by contact with profane things.

3. Φαρισαῖοι καὶ πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι—The Pharisees and all the Jews. This custom had become general among the Jews, though it originated with the Pharisees. πυγμῇ—this means with the fist. But the awkwardness of the process has led to doubt from the very first, whether this is the meaning intended. But the doubt has not led to the substitution of any justifiable alternative rendering. The meanings, up to the wrist, or elbow, RV.marg. are both linguistically and grammatically disallowed. With a fist full of water needs too much read between the lines, and, besides, the word denotes the closed fist. Finally, frequently, or diligently, RV., was probably taken in the first instance, in the Lat. Vet. and Syrr., from the reading πυκνὰ. The supposition that πυγμῇ had come to have this figurative meaning, seems forced, and besides, there is no warrant for it in actual usage. Edersheim quotes from the Jewish ordinance the provision that the hands should be held up in order that the water might run down to the wrist, and says that the provision that washing should be performed with the fist is not found in the Jewish law. This is, of course, a serious consideration, but does not seem to compare in importance with the other fact, that the Greek word does not mean this, nor the Greek case. The custom was not necessarily a part of the law, and may have been merely a usage arising from a desire for scrupulous observance. The very fact that the reading πυγμῇ occasions this difficulty, makes the strong external evidence for that reading still more convincing, and with this reading the only translation possible seems to be with the fist.

πυκνὰ, Tisch. א mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Syrr.

τὴν παράδοσιν—the tradition. It is the Greek etymological equivalent of tradition, and denotes what is passed along from one to another, and among the Jews, the body of Rabbinical interpretation of the written law, preserved by oral transmission from one generation to another. The word occurs in the Gospels only in this account and in the parallel passage in Mt. In attacking this, Jesus was assailing the very citadel of the Judaism of his time.1

τῶν πρεσβυτέρων—the elders. The word is used here in the sense of fathers, or ancestors.

4. ἐὰν μὴ βαπτίσωνται—unless they bathe, Amer. Rev. The contrast between this and the preceding case is indicated by the ἀπὸ ἀγορᾶς, from the market place. These words are put first, in order to indicate that this is a special case, inasmuch as in the market place they would contract special defilement, owing to its being a place of public resort, where they would meet all sorts and conditions of men. This case would require special treatment, denoted by the difference between νίψωνται τ. χεῖρας, and βαπτίσωνται, they wash their hands, and they wash themselves all over. This case required the washing of the whole body. For instances of such washings, see Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:9, Leviticus 14:15:5, Leviticus 14:6, Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:10, Leviticus 14:11, Leviticus 14:13, Leviticus 14:16, Leviticus 14:21, Leviticus 14:22, Leviticus 14:27, Leviticus 14:16:4, Leviticus 14:24, Leviticus 14:26, Leviticus 14:22:6. Moreover, Edersheim says that immersion of the things washed was the Jewish ritual provided in such cases. Dr. Morison contends that sprinkling was the ritual method provided in such cases, and attempts to overthrow the plain meaning of the word by the supposed custom. But he does not prove the custom, only the supposed impossibility of wholesale bathing. Moreover, the contrast would be a very lame one in that case, since the custom required careful washing of the hands, and so an actual removal of defilement, but in the case of extreme defilement, only a sprinkling of the body for form’s sake is supposed. And his argument, that words constantly undergo such changes, amounts to nothing, as it is unaccompanied by proof that this word has gone through the process of change.

WH. non marg. RV.marg. ῥαντίσωνται, sprinkle, instead of βαπτίσωνται, with א B 40, 53, 71, 86, 237, 240, 244, 259. A manifest emendation.

παρέλαβον—the counterpart of παράδοσιν, denoting the process of receiving a thing by transmission, as the latter does its giving. ποτηρίων κ. ξεστῶν κ. χαλκίων—cups, and wooden vessels, and brazen vessels. κ. κλινῶν,—and of beds, is omitted.1 Edersheim shows that the Jewish ordinance required immersions, βαπτισμοὺς, of these vessels.

Omit καὶ κλινῶν, Tisch. WH. RV. א BL Δ 102, Memph.

5. καὶ ἐπερωτῶσιν—and they question. περιπατοῦσιν—walk; the figurative use of this word to denote manner of life, conduct, is Hebraistic.

καὶ, instead of ἔπειτα, then, before ἐπερωτῶσιν, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL 1, 33, 209, Latt. Pesh. Memph.

κοιναῖς χερσὶν—with unclean hands.

κοιναῖς, instead of ἀνίπτοις, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א B 1, 28, 33, 118, 209, mss. Lat. Vet. Memph.

6. καλῶς—well; i.e., in this case, truly. τῶν ὑποκριτῶν—the hypocrites. This is the only passage in Mk. in which this word occurs. It means properly a play-actor, and hence a person who is playing a part in life, whose real character is not represented by what men see. This secondary meaning belongs to Biblical Greek.

Omit ἀποκριθεὶς, answering, at the beginning of this verse, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ 33, 102, Memph. Pesh. Omit ὅτι before καλῶς, Tisch. (Treg.) WH. א BL Δ 33, 102, most mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Pesh. ἐπροφήτευσεν, instead of προεφήτευσεν, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א B* DL Δ 1, 13, 33, 124, 346.

ὡς γέγραπται ὅτι ὁ λαὸς οὗτος—literally, as it has been written, that this people.

Insert ὅτι before ὁ λαὸς, Tisch. WH. א BL Pesh.

This quotation is from Isaiah 29:13, and conforms for the most part to the LXX., which reads Ἐγγίζει μοι ὁ λαὸς οὗτος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐν ταῖς χείλεσιν αὐτοῦ τιμῶσί με, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρῥω ἀπέχει ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ; μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με διδάσκοντες ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων κ. διδασκαλίας—This people draws near to me with its mouth, and with their lips they honor me, but their heart is far from me. But in vain they honor me, teaching commandments and teachings of men. The Heb. is translated in the RV., Forasmuch as this people draw nigh to me, and with their mouth and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught them. The principal difference is in this last clause, which in the original charges them with fearing God only in obedience to a human commandment; while in our passage and in the LXX., it states the vanity of their worship, owing to their substitution of human commands for the Divine law. It is this misquoted part which makes the point of the quotation, and it is the misquotation which makes it available.

7. διδάσκοντες—the part. gives the reason for the vanity or uselessness of their worship, and may be translated, while teaching. διδασκαλίας—is in apposition with ἐντάλματα, and may be translated for teachings. ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων1—commandments of men. These two words contain the gist of the charge, and it is this inculcation of human teachings for the Divine law that is developed in what follows.

8. Ἀφέντες τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ—Leaving the commandment of God.

Omit γὰρ after ἀφέντες, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ* 124, Memph.

This statement, that the Scribes and Pharisees leave Divine commands for human, is a singular comment on their attempt to build a hedge about the Law. The oral tradition was intended by them to be an exposition of the Law, and especially of the application of its precepts to life. They devised it so that men should not by ignorance and misunderstanding come short of the righteousness prescribed in the Law. But, in the first place, their method of interpretation was fitted to bring out anything except the real meaning of the Scripture, being to the last degree fanciful and arbitrary; and then in the second place, they proceeded to make this interpretation authoritative, so that really a human word got to be substituted for the Divine in most cases. Their mistake does not stand by itself; it has been repeated in every age. Everywhere, the same fatality attends authoritative exposition, nay, is involved in its very nature. The human exposition gets substituted for the Divine word, and so the worship of man becomes vain.

Omit last part of this verse, beginning βαπτισμοὺς, washings, Tisch. (Treg.) WH. RV. א BL Δ 1, 209, 251, Memph.

9. καλῶς ἀθετεῖτε1—well do you set aside. καλῶς is used here ironically, like our word bravely.

10. For quotations, see Exodus 20:12 and 21:17. θανάτῳ τελευτάτω—let him surely die (RV.marg.), a rendering of the Heb. inf. abs. which simply intensifies the meaning of the verb. This last command, affixing the capital penalty to the sin of reviling parents, is adduced by our Lord to show how seriously the Law takes this fifth commandment.

11. With the omission of καὶ, and, at the beginning of v. 12, the two verses belong together, and read, But you say, “If a man say to his father or his mother, ‘Anything in which you may be profited by me is Corban (that is, an offering),’ ” you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother.2

Omit καὶ, and, at beginning of v. 12, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BD Δ 1, 13, 28, 69, 102, 346, mss. Lat. Vet. Memph.

κορβᾶν is the Hebrew word for an offering. It is the predicate, having the antecedent of the relative for its subj. The meaning is, that a man had only to pronounce this word over anything, setting it aside to a Divine use, in order to escape the obligation of giving it for the relief or comfort of his parents. Even when said in good faith, this contravenes the Divine Law, since the duty to the parent takes precedence of the obligation to make offerings. The choice in such cases is not between God and man, but between two ways of serving God, the one formal and the other real. Offerings belong to the formal side of worship, whereas God is really served and worshipped in our human duties and affections. But it was not necessary that the banning should be carried out on its positive side. The word having once been uttered, the man was freed from the human obligation, but needed not to make the offering. Nay, he was positively forbidden to use the article any longer for the human purpose with reference to which the Korban had been uttered. The regulation was not invented for this purpose, but was intended to emphasize the sacredness of a thing once set apart, even by a thoughtless word, to Divine uses. But it failed, as the uninspired mind generally does, to define Divine uses, and left out what was of real importance, while emphasizing and retaining the unimportant.

Omit αὐτοῦ after πατρὶ, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BDL Δ 28, 69, 240, 244, 245, 346, mss. Lat. Vet. Omit αὐτοῦ after μητρὶ א BDL 1, 13, 28, 56, 69, 240, 244, 346, Latt.

13. ἀκυροῦντες—invalidating is an exact translation of the Greek word, which means to deprive a thing of its strength. παραδόσει ὑμῶν ᾗ παρεδώκατε—the tradition which you handed down. It is impossible to render into English the paronomasia here. The verb describes the handing along from one generation to another which constitutes tradition. παρόμοια—nearly like.1

14. προσκαλεσάμενος πάλιν τὸν ὄχλον—Having called up the crowd again. It seems that the previous conference has been held with the Scribes and, Pharisees alone. But Jesus wishes what he says now about the matter to be heard by the people. It is a matter, not of private conference or debate, but of the utmost importance for the popular understanding of true religion.

πάλιν, again, instead of πάντα, all, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Harcl. marg.

Ἀκούσατέ μου πάντες κ. σύνετε—This is no formal introduction, but calls on his hearers to lend him not only their ears, but their understandings, in view of the special importance of what follows. He may well do so, since what he says abrogates the distinction between clean and unclean, which forms so essential a part not only of tradition, but also of the Levitical part of the Law itself.

ἀκούσατε, instead of ἀκούετε, Tisch. Treg. WH. BDHL. σύνετε,2 instead of συνίετε, Tisch. Treg. WH. BHL Δ 238.

Οὐδέν ἐστιν ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰσπορευόμενον εἰς αὐτόν, ὃ δύναται κοινῶσαι αὐτόν—There is nothing outside the man entering into him, which can defile him. The reason that Jesus gives for this statement shows that he meant to make the distinction between outward and inward in the sense of material and spiritual. The things from outside cannot defile, because they enter the belly, and not the heart, while those from within are evil thoughts of all kinds. This has nothing to do, therefore, with the question, whether, among spiritual things, it is only those from within the man himself that can hurt him. Inwardness in this sense belongs to things within the man himself and within others, and externality is to be taken in the same sense. ἀλλὰ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκπορευόμενά ἐστι τὰ κοινοῦντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον—but the things coming out of the man are the things which defile the man. The repetition of the noun man, instead of using the pronoun, which here amounts to inelegance, is quite in Mk.’s manner.

ἐκ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκπορευόμενα, coming out from the man, instead of ἐκπορευόμενα ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, coming out of him, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ 33, Latt. Memph. Omit ἐκεῖνα, those, Tisch. (Treg.) WH. א BL Δ 102, Memph.

Verse 16 is omitted by Tisch. WH. RV. (bracketed by Treg.) א BL Δ 28, 102, Memph.

17. τὴν παραβολήν—the parable (riddle).From the use of this word to represent the Heb. word מָשָׁל, it loses sometimes its proper sense of similitude, and comes to be used of any sententious saying, or apothegm, in which the meaning is partly veiled by the brevity, but especially by the material and outward form of the saying. Here, entering from the outside, and coming out, are used to express the contrasted ideas of material and spiritual, and what the saying gains in pungency and suggestiveness it loses in exactness. Hence it is called a παραβολή.

τὴν παραβολήν, the parable, instead of περὶ τῆς παραβολῆς, concerning the parable, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ 33, Latt.

18. καὶ ὑμεῖς—You too, as well as the multitude. Jesus’ saying was a riddle to them, not only because of the concrete form of statement, but also because of its intrinsic spirituality. They had been trained in Judaism, in which the distinction between clean and unclean is ingrained, and could not understand a statement abrogating this. It was all a riddle to them.

πὰν τὸ ἔξωθεν … οὐ δύναται . κοινῶσαι—nothing outside can defile.1

19. This verse gives the reason why outward things cannot defile. They do not enter the inner man, the καρδία, but the κοιλία, belly, belonging to the outward man, and are passed out into the ἀφεδρών, the privy.2

καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα—RV. This he said, making all things clean. The part. agrees with the subj. of λέγει, he says (v. 18). That is, the result of this statement of Jesus was to abrogate the distinction between clean and unclean in articles of food. The use of quotation marks would show this connection as follows: He says to them, “Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive that nothing which enters into the man from without can defile him; because it does not enter into the heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the privy,” so making all foods clean.

With the reading καθαρίζον, the part. agrees with the preceding statement; that is, the going out into the privy purifies the food, as that receives the refuse parts which have been eliminated in the process of digestion. With the masc., it is possible to connect it with ἀφεδρῶνα, but the anacoluthon involved is rather large-sized and improbable, as only a single word separates the noun from its unruly adjunct. The only probable connection is with the subject of λέγει (v. 18).

καθαρίζων, instead of καθαρίζον, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABEFGHLSX Δ 1, 13, 28, 69, 124.

20. τὸ ἐκ τ. ἀνθρῶπου ἐκπορευόμεν, ἐκεῖνο κοινοῖ—what cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. Coming out is used here to denote the spiritual, as entering in is to denote the material. Spiritual things can defile the man, and these only, not such material articles as food. And of course, this means that the real man is the spiritual part, and that defilement of the physical part does not extend to the spiritual part, which constitutes the real man. That can be reached only by spiritual things akin to itself. This principle, that spiritual and spiritual go together, and that the material cannot penetrate the spiritual, which is impervious to it, is needed in the interpretation of Christianity, as well as in the reform of Judaism.

21. οἱ διαλογισμοὶ—The article denotes the class of things collectively, whereas the anarthrous noun denotes them individually. This is the general term, under which the things that follow are specifications. The noun denotes the kind of thought which weighs, calculates, and deliberates. It is used here of designs or purposes. It is in accordance with our Lord’s whole course of thought here, that he designates the evil as residing rather in the thought than in the outward act. The order of the first four specifications is as follows: πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries. The arrangement of the TR. is an attempt at a more studied order, bringing together things that are alike. The only principle of arrangement in Mk.’s enumeration is the distinction between these grosser, more outward forms of sin, and the more subtle, inward manifestations which follow in v. 22.1

πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, instead of μοιχεῖαι, πορνεῖαι, φόνοι, κλοπαί, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ Memph.

22. πονηρίαι—In general, this is a generic term for evil. Where it is used specifically, as here, it probably denotes malice as a distinct form of evil. δόλος—deceit does not convey the flavor of this word, which, starting from the idea of bait, comes to denote any trick, and abstractly, trickery, cunning, craft. ἀσέλγεια—Here also, the EV. lasciviousness, fails to convey the meaning. The word denotes in a general way the absence of self-restraint, unbridled passion, or cruelty, and the like. License, or wantonness, may be used to translate it. ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός—an evil eye—a Hebrew expression for envy. βλασφημία—a general word for evil or injurious speech, either of God or man. Toward the former it is blasphemy, toward the latter, slander. In this connection it is probably slander. ὑπερηφανία—a common Greek word, but found only here in the N.T. It includes pride of self and contempt of others, arrogance. ἀφροσύνη—folly translates this better than foolishness, as it denotes the morally foolish.

23. ἔσωθεν—from within. These things are morally unclean, while only the physically unclean comes from without.

What Jesus says here is directed specially against the traditional law, but the thing condemned, the distinction between clean and unclean, belongs also to the written law. Plainly, then, the distinction between the word of God and the word of man has to be carried within the Scripture, and used in the analysis of its contents. The thing that Jesus calls a word of man here is found also in the O.T. itself, and is fundamental in the Levitical law.


24-30. Jesus leaves Galilee and comes into Syrophœnicia. A woman of the place asks him to heal her daughter, and overcomes Jesus’ apparent reluctance by her shrewd wit and faith.

The account reads simply that Jesus departed from that place into the borders of Tyre, where he wished to remain unknown, but could not hide his presence. For a Gentile woman, a Syrophœnician, found him out, and begged him to cast the evil spirit out of her daughter. Jesus was not there for the purposes of his work, and in general confined himself to the Jews in his ministrations. But he feels the irony of the situation that makes the Jew plume himself on his superiority to the Gentile, and reflects it in his answer, that it is not a good thing to cast the children’s bread to the dogs. The quick wit of the woman catches at these words, and her faith feels the sympathy veiled in them, so that she answers, yes, and the dogs eat the crumbs. That word is enough; Jesus assures her of her daughter’s cure, and she goes home to find the evil spirit gone. So far the account. But when we find in the succeeding chapters that Jesus’ excursion into the Gentile territory is not confined to this case, but that he continues there in one place and another, rather than in Galilee, that his teaching is restricted mostly to his disciples, and that he begins to warn them of his approaching fate, it is evident that this journey marks practically the close of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee, and that this dispute with the Pharisees about clean and unclean marks a crisis in his life. These are not missionary journeys, but are undertaken to enable Jesus to be alone with his disciples.

24. Ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς1 ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὰ ὅρια Τύρου—And from thence he arose and went into the coasts of Tyre.

Ἐκεῖθεν δὲ, instead of Καὶ ἐκεῖθεν, Tisch. Treg. marg. WH. RV. א BL Δ Harcl. marg. ὅρια, instead of μεθόρια, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BDL Δ 1, 13, 28, 61 marg. 69, 209, 346. Omit καὶ Σιδῶνος, Tisch. (Treg. marg. WH.) RV.marg. DL Δ 28 mss. Lat. Vet. It is a case in which a copyist, used to the conjunction of the two places, might easily insert the words, but the omission is improbable for the same reason. And Mk. evidently meant to discriminate, since he says afterwards that Jesus left the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon, v. 31 (Tisch. Treg. WH. RV.).

τὰ ὅρια—The word denotes primarily the boundaries of a territory, and then the country itself included within those limits. It has been contended that the original meaning of the word is to be retained here, and that Jesus did not penetrate Gentile territory, but only its borders, that part of Galilee which bordered on Syrophœnicia. But this would be the single case of this restricted meaning in the N.T., and the universally accepted reading, διὰ Σιδῶνος (v. 31), shows that he did penetrate the Gentile territory. Mt., however, in accordance with the plan of his Gospel, seems to represent this event as taking place on Jewish soil (15:22). Tyre and Sidon belonged to Syrophœnicia, a strip of territory on the Mediterranean, noted for its antiquity, wealth, and civilization, which had remained practically independent of Jewish, Greek, and Assyrian rule, though subject to the Romans since the time of Augustus.

καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς οἰκίαν, οὐδένα ἤθελε γνῶναι, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνάσθη λαθεῖν—And having entered a house, he wished no one to know it, and he could not be hidden.

Omit τὴν before οἰκίαν, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABLNX ΓΔΠ Pesh. ἠδυνάσθη,1 for ἠδυνήθη, Tisch. WH. א B.

οὐδένα ἤθελε γνῶναι—he wished no one to know it. This was in accordance with his purpose in resorting to this unaccustomed place. Morison makes a foolish distinction here between the wish of Jesus and his purpose, evidently with the idea that a purpose of Jesus could not be defeated. But aside from the fact, that N.T. usage does not bear out such a distinction, it would be difficult to draw the line between a wish that one is at pains to carry out, and a purpose. No, this is one of the cases in which the human uncertainty belonging to action based on probabilities, not certainties, appears in the life of Jesus. οὐκ ἠδυνάσθη λαθεῖν—he could not be hid. The inability is put over against the wish. This statement, which prepares the way for what follows in regard to Jesus’ unreadiness to perform the miracle, is peculiar to Mk.

25. ἀλλʼ εὐθὺς ἀκούσασα—but immediately having heard. Jesus had no sooner arrived than this took place.

This reading, instead of ἀκούσασα γὰρ, for having heard, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ 33, one ms. Lat. Vet. Memph. edd. Harcl. marg.

ἧς εἶχε τὸ θυγάτριον αὐτῆς—whose daughter had.2

Tisch. reads εἰσελθοῦσα, having entered, instead of ἐλθοῦσα, having come, with א L Δ most mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. A very probable reading.

26. Ἑλληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει—a Greek, a Syrophœnician by race. That is, she was in general a Gentile, and more particularly a Syrophœnician.

Ἑλληνίς is literally, a Greek, but used by the Jews to designate any Gentile, owing to the wide diffusion of the Greek race and language. Syrophœnician is a more particular designation of the race to which she belonged. The prefix denotes that part of Phœnicia which belonged to Syria, in distinction from Libophœnicia, or the Carthaginian district in the north of Africa.

Συροφοινίκισσα, instead of Συροφοίνισσα, Tisch. WH. txt. א AKLS marg. V marg. ΔΠ 1.

καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν ἵνα … ἐκβάλῃ—and she asked him to cast out.1

ἐκβάλῃ, instead of ἐκβάλλῃ, Tisch. Treg. WH. א ABDE, etc.

27. καὶ ἔλεγεν—and he said.

This reading, instead of ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, and Jesus said, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ 33, Memph.

Ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα—let the children be fed first. In this word, first, Jesus hints that the time of the Gentiles is coming, as he frequently does in the course of his teaching, while he restricts his own work to the Jews. Mt. omits this, and makes Jesus’ refusal to be much more definite and positive. τ. τεκνων … τ. κυναρίοις—By these terms, Jesus distinguishes between the Jews, who are the children of the household, and the Gentiles. Dogs is a term expressing the contempt of your true Jew for the heathen, and sounds strange in the mouth of our Lord. Weiss denies the contemptuous use of the term dog, and makes it merely a parable, in which an arrangement of the kingdom of God is expressed in the terms of household economy, in which the contempt for dogs plays no part. But this is to ignore the fact that “dog” is always a term of contempt, especially in the East; that as such, it was applied by Jews to Gentiles; and that, if Jesus did not mean to express contempt, his language was singularly ill-chosen, as the woman would be sure to understand him so. See Bib. Dic. But I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not use the term seriously, but with a kind of ironical conformity to this common sneer, having felt in his own experience how small occasion the Jews of his time had to treat any other people with contempt. He had good reasons for confining his work to the Jews, but they did not arise from any acceptance of their estimate of themselves or of others. It is as if he had put in a “you know,” to indicate a common opinion.

28. Ναί, κύριε· καὶ τὰ κυνάρια … ἐσθίουσιν—Yes, lord; and the dogs … eat.

Omit γὰρ before τὰ κυνάρια, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BH Δ 13, 28, 33, 69, Memph. Pesh. ἐσθίουσιν, instead of ἐσθίει, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BDL Δ.

This use of Jesus’ own words to neutralize the force of his seeming rebuff has been regarded rightly always as a unique combination of faith and wit. But it is not simply a trick of words; the beauty of it is, that it finds the truth that escapes superficial notice in both the analogy and the spiritual fact represented by it. It means, there is a place for dogs in the household, and there is a place for Gentiles in God’s world. And further, her faith was quickened by what she saw of Jesus. She knew intuitively that he was a being to take a large and sympathetic view of things, not the hard and narrow one, and that he had really prepared the way for her statement. This is of the essence of faith, to hold fast to what your heart and the highest things in you tell of God, in spite of all appearances to the contrary.

30. τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ τ. κλίνην—the child thrown upon the bed. Probably the cure had been attended by violent convulsions, as in other cases of the same kind in the Gospels.1

τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ τὴν κλίνην, καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐξεληλυθός, instead of τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐξεληλυθός, καὶ τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ most mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Pesh.


31-37. From the region of Tyre, Jesus went still further north, through Sidon, and then south again to Decapolis, on the SE. shore of the lake. Here they bring him a deaf man, whose speech has been impaired by his deafness, to be cured. Jesus is not here for the purposes of his mission, and in order to call as little attention to the cure as possible, he takes the man aside from the multitude. And as the man is deaf, and Jesus needs to establish communication with him in some way in order to draw out his faith, he employs signs, thrusting his fingers into his ears, and putting spittle on his tongue, and casting his eyes to heaven. The man is cured, and then Jesus enjoins silence in regard to the cure. But in vain, as they are more eager to tell the story of his beneficent power, the more he tries to prevent it.

31. ἦλθεν διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν—he came through Sidon to the sea.

διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, instead of καὶ Σιδῶνος, ἦλθε πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν, and of Sidon, he came to the sea, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BDL Δ 33, Latt. Memph.

This reading establishes the fact that Jesus entered Gentile territory in this visit, and also that Mk. does not mean by τὰ ὅρια Τύρου (v. 24), the Galilean territory adjoining Syrophœnicia. The two statements taken together show that he means to distinguish between two districts of Syrophœnicia, the one about Tyre, and the other about Sidon.

ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ὁρίων Δεκαπόλεως—into the midst of the region of Decapolis1 (through the midst, EV.). But plainly Jesus came to, not through, Decapolis, as he went by boat to the west shore of the lake after the feeding of the multitude (8:1-10). Jesus had been in this district before, at the time when he healed the Gadarene demoniac, and had been driven away. He meets with a different reception now.

κωφὸν καὶ μογιλάλον, deaf and having an impediment in his speech. μογιλάλον is a Biblical word, found in the Sept., but only here in the NT. Literally, it means speaking with difficulty; but in the LXX., it is used to translate the Hebrew word meaning dumb. In this case the cure is said to have resulted in the man’s speaking rightly, implying that before he had spoken, but defectively.

Insert καὶ before μογιλάλον, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BD Δ Latt.

33. καὶ ἀπολαβόμενος αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου κατʼ ἰδίαν—and having taken him aside from the crowd by himself. The AV. gives the meaning of κατʼ ἰδίαν better than the RV., which translates it privately. It means apart, by himself. ἔβαλεν—he thrust. Put, EV. does not give the force of the word. Our Lord’s symbolic action here is intended to convey by signs to the deaf man’s mind what Jesus means to do for him, and so to give him something for his faith, as well as his intelligence, to act upon.

In explaining Jesus’ action in taking the man apart from the multitude, we have to consider two things: first, the condition of the man, and the necessity of concentrating his attention on what Jesus was doing. It goes along with the other signs employed by our Lord to convey his purpose to the man, cut off from other means of communication. And secondly, Jesus’ unusual reasons for desiring secrecy. He was engaged with his disciples on this journey, not with the multitude, and he did not want the one miracle to grow into his ordinary engrossing work. The peculiar methods of this miracle have to be coördinated with those of 8:22-26, and it is evident that, in both cases, this motive of secrecy is strong. Jesus avoided publicity in all his miracles, but especially in this period of retirement.

καὶ πτύσας ἥψατο τῆς γλώσσης αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν ἐστέναξε—and having spit, he touched his tongue (with the spittle), and having looked up to heaven, he groaned. This is a part of the language of signs employed by our Lord, and is intended to convey to the man’s mind, first the help that he is to receive, the loosening of his tongue, and secondly, the heavenly source from which his help was to come. The groan was an expression of his own feelings, stirred to sympathy by the sight of human suffering, of which there was so much that he could not relieve. Ἐφφαθά1—Be opened. This is addressed to the man, who was himself to be opened to sound and speech through the opening of his organs.

35. καὶ ἠνοίγησαν2 αὐτοῦ αἱ ἀκοαί—And his ears were opened.

Omit εὐθέως, Tisch. Treg. (Treg. marg.) WH. RV. א BDL Δ 33, mss. Lat. Vet. Memph. ἠνοίγησαν, instead of διηνοίχθησαν, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BD Δ 1, etc.

ἀκοαί—literally, hearings, but applied by metonymy to the organs of hearing. δεσμὸς τῆς γλώσσης—bond of his tongue. Probably, as this was a case in which deafness and dumbness went together, the dumbness was occasioned by the deafness, and δεσμός denotes figuratively whatever stood in the way of his speech, and not necessarily a defect in the organ of speech itself. The bond in this case would be the deafness which tied his tongue. ὀρθῶς—rightly. This confirms the view, that the defect has been primarily in his hearing, and that this had resulted in partial, but incomplete loss of speech. See on μογιλάλον, v. 32.

36. καὶ διεστείλατο αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ λέγωσιν· ὅσον δὲ αὐτοῖς διεστέλλετο, αὐτοῖ μᾶλλον περισσότερον ἐκήρυσσον—and he commanded them to tell no one. But the more he commanded them, the more exceedingly they heralded it.3

λέγωσιν, instead of εἴπωσιν, Tisch. Treg. WH. א BL Δ 28, 33. Omit αὐτὸς after ὅσον δὲ, Tisch. Treg. WH. א ABLX Δ 1, mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Insert αὐτοὶ before μᾶλλον, Tisch. Treg. WH. א B(D) LN Δ 33, 61, one ms. Lat. Vet. Memph. Pesh.

Jesus accompanies this miracle with the ordinary injunction of secrecy, but it only inflamed their zeal to publish it.4 The conduct of the multitude is a good example of the way in which men treat Jesus, yielding him all homage, except obedience.5

37. ὑπερπερισσῶς—a word not found elsewhere, and expressing, like the double comparative μᾶλλον περισσότερον, the excessive feeling and demonstration of the people. ἐξεπλήσσοντο—another strong word, meaning literally were struck out of their senses.6

καὶ ἀλάλους λαλεῖν—and dumb to speak.

Omit τοὺς before ἀλάλους, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BL Δ 33.

1 Are gathered, RV., would require the perf. pass. This is the historical present.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Treg. Tregelles.

RV. Revised Version.

אԠCodex Sinaiticus.

B Codex Vaticanus.

L Codex Regius.

Δ̠Codex Sangallensis

33 Codex Regius.

Memph. Memphitic.

Pesh. Peshito.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

E Codex Basiliensis.

G Codex Wolfi A.

H Codex Wolfi B.

V Codex Mosquensis.

Γ̠Codex Tischendorfianus

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

RV. Revided Version marg.

Syrr. Syriac Versions.

Vulg. Vulgate.

1 See Schürer, N. Zg. II. I. 25, on Scribism.

1 AV. tables!

102 Codex Bibliothecae Mediceae.

D Codex Ephraemi.

1 .Codex Basiliensis

209 An unnamed, valuable manuscript.

Latt. Latin Versions.

28 Codex Regius.

13 Codex Regius.

346 Codex Ambrosianus.

1 ἐντά ματα belongs to Biblical Greek. ἐντολή is the Greek word.

1 ἀθετεῖτε is a later Greek word.

2 This is an anacoluthon, as the condition belongs to the saying of the Jews, and the conclusion to the statement of Jesus.

69 Codex Leicestrensis.

1 This word, which is common in classical Greek, is found only here in the N.T.

Harcl. Harclean.

2 This form, sec. aor. imp., occurs only here in N.T. The aor. imperatives here are appropriate to the beginning of discourse.

1 πᾶν οὐ δύναται, everything cannot, is the inexact, Hebrew form of the universal negative; the logical, Greek form being οὐδὲν δύναται, nothing can. Win. 3 c, 1.

2 τὴν καρδίαν is the heart, in the broad, Scriptural sense of the inner man. ἀφεδρῶνα is a barbarous word, probably of Macedonian origin, the proper Greek equivalent being ἄφοδος.

F Codex Borelli.

S Codex Vaticanus.

1 On the use of the plural of the abstract noun to denote the forms or manifestations of a quality, see Win. 27, 3.

1 This use of ἀναστὰς corresponds to the Heb. וַיָּקָם, and belongs to Oriental fulness, if not redundancy, of speech. Win. 64, 4, Note at end, contends that it is not redundant in all cases, but admits its redundancy here. Thay.-Grm. Lex. denies its redundancy altogether. And it is not redundant in one sense, since it is included in the action. But so is the straightening out of the limbs. It is so far redundant that the Greek, with its finer sense of the needful in speech, would omit it.

N Codex Purpureus.

Π̠Codex Petropolitianus

1 On the form, see Thay.-Grm. Lex.

2 This is a literal translation of the Heb. idiom, which inserts the personal pronoun after the relative.

K Codex Cyprius.

1 There is a double irregularity here: first, in the use of ἠρώτα to denote a request, instead of a question; and secondly, in the use of ἴνα with the subj., instead of the inf., to denote the matter of the petition. Burton, 200, 201.

Bib. Dic. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (1st or 2d edition).

1 See 1:26, 9:26.

1 On Decapolis, see on 5:1-20.

AV. Authorised Version.

1 Ἐφφαθά represents the Aramaic אֶתְפָּתַח, the ethpael imper. of the verb פְּתַח, Heb. פָּתַח.

2 Both the augment on the prep., and the sec. aor. in ἠνοίγησαν belong to later Greek.

3 The regular form of stating this proportion is τοσούτῳ ὅσον, with a comparative in each member. μᾶλλον strengthens a comparative with which it is joined.

4 See on 1:44. Cf. 5:19, 43, Note; 6:45, Note.

5 See 1 Samuel 15:22, 1 Samuel 15:27.

6 See on 1:22.

And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.
For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.
And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.
And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.
And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.
And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;
And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;
And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
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