Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK Commentary by David Brown
That the Second Gospel was written by Mark is universally agreed, though by what Mark, not so. The great majority of critics take the writer to be "John whose surname was Mark," of whom we read in the Acts, and who was "sister's son to Barnabas" (Col 4:10). But no reason whatever is assigned for this opinion, for which the tradition, though ancient, is not uniform; and one cannot but wonder how it is so easily taken for granted by Wetstein, Hug, Meyer, Ebrard, Lange, Ellicott, Davidson, Tregelles, &c. Alford goes the length of saying it "has been universally believed that he was the same person with the John Mark of the Gospels." But Grotius thought differently, and so did Schleiermacher, Campbell, Burton, and Da Costa; and the grounds on which it is concluded that they were two different persons appear to us quite unanswerable. "Of John, surnamed Mark," says Campbell, in his Preface to this Gospel, "one of the first things we learn is, that he attended Paul and Barnabas in their apostolical journeys, when these two travelled together (Ac 12:25; 13:5). And when afterwards there arose a dispute between them concerning him, insomuch that they separated, Mark accompanied his uncle Barnabas, and Silas attended Paul. When Paul was reconciled to Mark, which was probably soon after, we find Paul again employing Mark's assistance, recommending him, and giving him a very honorable testimony (Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 24). But we hear not a syllable of his attending Peter as his minister, or assisting him in any capacity." And yet, as we shall presently see, no tradition is more ancient, more uniform, and better sustained by internal evidence, than that Mark, in his Gospel, was but "the interpreter of Peter," who, at the close of his first Epistle speaks of him as "Marcus my son" (1Pe 5:13), that is, without doubt, his son in the Gospel—converted to Christ through his instrumentality. And when we consider how little the Apostles Peter and Paul were together—how seldom they even met—how different were their tendencies, and how separate their spheres of labor, is there not, in the absence of all evidence of the fact, something approaching to violence in the supposition that the same Mark was the intimate associate of both? "In brief," adds Campbell, "the accounts given of Paul's attendant, and those of Peter's interpreter, concur in nothing but the name, Mark or Marcus; too slight a circumstance to conclude the sameness of the person from, especially when we consider how common the name was at Rome, and how customary it was for the Jews in that age to assume some Roman name when they went thither."
Regarding the Evangelist Mark, then, as another person from Paul's companion in travel, all we know of his personal history is that he was a convert, as we have seen, of the Apostle Peter. But as to his Gospel, the tradition regarding Peter's hand in it is so ancient, so uniform, and so remarkably confirmed by internal evidence, that we must regard it as an established fact. "Mark," says Papias (according to the testimony of Eusebius, [Ecclesiastical History, 3.39]), "becoming the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, though not in order, whatever he remembered of what was either said or done by Christ; for he was neither a hearer of the Lord nor a follower of Him, but afterwards, as I said, [he was a follower] of Peter, who arranged the discourses for use, but not according to the order in which they were uttered by the Lord." To the same effect Irenæus [Against Heresies, 3. 1]: "Matthew published a Gospel while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the Church at Rome; and after their departure (or decease), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, he also gave forth to us in writing the things which were preached by Peter." And Clement of Alexandria is still more specific, in a passage preserved to us by Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 6.14]: "Peter having publicly preached the word at Rome, and spoken forth the Gospel by the Spirit, many of those present exhorted Mark, as having long been a follower of his, and remembering what he had said, to write what had been spoken; and that having prepared the Gospel, he delivered it to those who had asked him for it; which, when Peter came to the knowledge of, he neither decidedly forbade nor encouraged him." Eusebius' own testimony, however, from other accounts, is rather different: that Peter's hearers were so penetrated by his preaching that they gave Mark, as being a follower of Peter, no rest till he consented to write his Gospel, as a memorial of his oral teaching; and "that the apostle, when he knew by the revelation of the Spirit what had been done, was delighted with the zeal of those men, and sanctioned the reading of the writing (that is, of this Gospel of Mark) in the churches" [Ecclesiastical History, 2.15]. And giving in another of his works a similar statement, he says that "Peter, from excess of humility, did not think himself qualified to write the Gospel; but Mark, his acquaintance and pupil, is said to have recorded his relations of the actings of Jesus. And Peter testifies these things of himself; for all things that are recorded by Mark are said to be memoirs of Peter's discourses." It is needless to go farther—to Origen, who says Mark composed his Gospel "as Peter guided" or "directed him, who, in his Catholic Epistle, calls him his son," &c.; and to Jerome, who but echoes Eusebius.
This, certainly, is a remarkable chain of testimony; which, confirmed as it is by such striking internal evidence, may be regarded as establishing the fact that the Second Gospel was drawn up mostly from materials furnished by Peter. In Da Costa's Four Witnesses the reader will find this internal evidence detailed at length, though all the examples are not equally convincing. But if the reader will refer to our remarks on Mr 16:7, and Joh 18:27, he will have convincing evidence of a Petrine hand in this Gospel.
It remains only to advert, in a word or two, to the readers for whom this Gospel was, in the first instance, designed, and the date of it. That it was not for Jews but Gentiles, is evident from the great number of explanations of Jewish usages, opinions, and places, which to a Jew would at that time have been superfluous, but were highly needful to a Gentile. We can here but refer to Mr 2:18; 7:3, 4; 12:18; 13:3; 14:12; 15:42, for examples of these. Regarding the date of this Gospel—about which nothing certain is known—if the tradition reported by Irenæus can be relied on, that it was written at Rome, "after the departure of Peter and Paul," and if by that word "departure" we are to understand their death, we may date it somewhere between the years 64 and 68; but in all likelihood this is too late. It is probably nearer the truth to date it eight or ten years earlier.
Mr 1:1-8. The Preaching and Baptism of John. ( = Mt 3:1-12; Lu 3:1-18).
1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God—By the "Gospel" of Jesus Christ here is evidently meant the blessed Story which our Evangelist is about to tell of His Life, Ministry, Death, Resurrection, and Glorification, and of the begun Gathering of Believers in His Name. The abruptness with which he announces his subject, and the energetic brevity with which, passing by all preceding events, he hastens over the ministry of John and records the Baptism and Temptation of Jesus—as if impatient to come to the Public Life of the Lord of glory—have often been noticed as characteristic of this Gospel—a Gospel whose direct, practical, and singularly vivid setting imparts to it a preciousness peculiar to itself. What strikes every one is, that though the briefest of all the Gospels, this is in some of the principal scenes of our Lord's history the fullest. But what is not so obvious is, that wherever the finer and subtler feelings of humanity, or the deeper and more peculiar hues of our Lord's character were brought out, these, though they should be lightly passed over by all the other Evangelists, are sure to be found here, and in touches of such quiet delicacy and power, that though scarce observed by the cursory reader, they leave indelible impressions upon all the thoughtful and furnish a key to much that is in the other Gospels. These few opening words of the Second Gospel are enough to show, that though it was the purpose of this Evangelist to record chiefly the outward and palpable facts of our Lord's public life, he recognized in Him, in common with the Fourth Evangelist, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father.
As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
2, 3. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee—(Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3).
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—The second of these quotations is given by Matthew and Luke in the same connection, but they reserve the former quotation till they have occasion to return to the Baptist, after his imprisonment (Mt 11:10; Lu 7:27). (Instead of the words, "as it is written in the Prophets," there is weighty evidence in favor of the following reading: "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet." This reading is adopted by all the latest critical editors. If it be the true one, it is to be explained thus—that of the two quotations, the one from Malachi is but a later development of the great primary one in Isaiah, from which the whole prophetical matter here quoted takes its name. But the received text is quoted by Irenæus, before the end of the second century, and the evidence in its favor is greater in amount, if not in weight. The chief objection to it is, that if this was the true reading, it is difficult to see how the other one could have got in at all; whereas, if it be not the true reading, it is very easy to see how it found its way into the text, as it removes the startling difficulty of a prophecy beginning with the words of Malachi being ascribed to Isaiah.) For the exposition, see on Mt 3:1-6; Mt 3:11.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
Mr 1:9-11. Baptism of Christ and Descent of the Spirit upon Him Immediately Thereafter. ( = Mt 3:13-17; Lu 3:21, 22).
See on Mt 3:13-17.
And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.
Mr 1:12, 13. Temptation of Christ. ( = Mt 4:1-11; Lu 4:1-13).
See on Mt 4:1-11.
And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
Mr 1:14-20. Christ Begins His Galilean Ministry—Calling of Simon and Andrew, James and John.
See on Mt 4:12-22.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
Mr 1:21-39. Healing of a Demoniac in the Synagogue of Capernaum and Thereafter of Simon's Mother-in-Law and Many Others—Jesus, Next Day, Is Found in a Solitary Place at Morning Prayers, and Is Entreated to Return, but Declines, and Goes Forth on His First Missionary Circuit. ( = Lu 4:31-44; Mt 8:14-17; 4:23-25).
21. And they went into Capernaum—(See on Mt 4:13).
and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught—This should have been rendered, "straightway on the sabbaths He entered into the synagogue and taught," or "continued to teach." The meaning is, that as He began this practice on the very first sabbath after coming to settle at Capernaum, so He continued it regularly thereafter.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
22. And they were astonished at his doctrine—or "teaching"—referring quite as much to the manner as the matter of it.
for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes—See on Mt 7:28, 29.
And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit—literally, "in an unclean spirit"—that is, so entirely under demoniacal power that his personality was sunk for the time in that of the spirit. The frequency with which this character of "impurity" is ascribed to evil spirits—some twenty times in the Gospels—is not to be overlooked.
and he cried out—as follows:
Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
24. Saying, Let us alone—or rather, perhaps, "ah!" expressive of mingled astonishment and terror.
what have we to do with thee—an expression of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament (1Ki 17:18; 2Ki 3:13; 2Ch 35:21, &c.). It denotes entire separation of interests:—that is, "Thou and we have nothing in common; we want not Thee; what wouldst Thou with us?" For the analogous application of it by our Lord to His mother, see on Joh 2:4.
thou Jesus of Nazareth—"Jesus, Nazarene!" an epithet originally given to express contempt, but soon adopted as the current designation by those who held our Lord in honor (Lu 18:37; Mr 16:6; Ac 2:22).
art thou come to destroy us?—In the case of the Gadarene demoniac the question was, "Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Mt 8:29). Themselves tormentors and destroyers of their victims, they discern in Jesus their own destined tormentor and destroyer, anticipating and dreading what they know and feel to be awaiting them! Conscious, too, that their power was but permitted and temporary, and perceiving in Him, perhaps, the woman's Seed that was to bruise the head and destroy the works of the devil, they regard His approach to them on this occasion as a signal to let go their grasp of this miserable victim.
I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God—This and other even more glorious testimonies to our Lord were given, as we know, with no good will, but in hope that, by the acceptance of them, He might appear to the people to be in league with evil spirits—a calumny which His enemies were ready enough to throw out against Him. But a Wiser than either was here, who invariably rejected and silenced the testimonies that came to Him from beneath, and thus was able to rebut the imputations of His enemies against Him (Mt 12:24-30). The expression, "Holy One of God," seems evidently taken from that Messianic Psalm (Ps 16:10), in which He is styled "Thine Holy One."
And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him—A glorious word of command. Bengel remarks that it was only the testimony borne to Himself which our Lord meant to silence. That he should afterwards cry out for fear or rage (Mr 1:26) He would right willingly permit.
And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.
26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him—Luke (Lu 4:35) says, "When he had thrown him in the midst." Malignant cruelty—just showing what he would have done, if permitted to go farther: it was a last fling!
and cried with a loud voice—the voice of enforced submission and despair.
he came out of him—Luke (Lu 4:35) adds, "and hurt him not." Thus impotent were the malignity and rage of the impure spirit when under the restraint of "the Stronger than the strong one armed" (Lu 11:21, 22).
And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.
27. What thing is this? what new doctrine—teaching
is this?—The audience, rightly apprehending that the miracle was wrought to illustrate the teaching and display the character and glory of the Teacher, begin by asking what novel kind of teaching this could be, which was so marvellously attested.
And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
28. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee—rather, "the whole region of Galilee"; though some, as Meyer and Ellicott, explain it of the country surrounding Galilee.
And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
29. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue—so also in Lu 4:38.
they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John—The mention of these four—which is peculiar to Mark—is the first of those traces of Peter's hand in this Gospel, of which we shall find many more. The house being his, and the illness and cure so nearly affecting himself, it is interesting to observe this minute specification of the number and names of the witnesses; interesting also as the first occasion on which the sacred triumvirate of Peter and James and John are selected from among the rest, to be a threefold cord of testimony to certain events in their Lord's life (see on Mr 5:37)—Andrew being present on this occasion, as the occurrence took place in his own house.
But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.
30. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever—Luke, as was natural in "the beloved physician" (Col 4:14), describes it professionally; calling it a "great fever," and thus distinguishing it from that lighter kind which the Greek physicians were wont to call "small fevers," as Galen, quoted by Wetstein, tells us.
they tell him of her—naturally hoping that His compassion and power towards one of His own disciples would not be less signally displayed than towards the demonized stranger in the synagogue.
And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
31. And he came and took her by the hand—rather, "And advancing, He took her," &c. The beloved physician again is very specific: "And He stood over her."
and lifted her up—This act of condescension, most felt doubtless by Peter, is recorded only by Mark.
and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them—preparing their sabbath-meal: in token both of the perfectness and immediateness of the cure, and of her gratitude to the glorious Healer.
And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
32. And at even, when the sun did set—so Mt 8:16. Luke (Lu 4:40) says it was setting.
they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils—the demonized. From Lu 13:14 we see how unlawful they would have deemed it to bring their sick to Jesus for a cure during the sabbath hours. They waited, therefore, till these were over, and then brought them in crowds. Our Lord afterwards took repeated occasion to teach the people by example, even at the risk of His own life, how superstitious a straining of the sabbath rest this was.
And all the city was gathered together at the door.
33. And all the city was gathered together at the door—of Peter's house; that is, the sick and those who brought them, and the wondering spectators. This bespeaks the presence of an eye-witness, and is one of those lively examples of word-painting so frequent in this Gospel.
And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
34. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils—In Mt 8:16 it is said, "He cast out the spirits with His word"; or rather, "with a word"—a word of command.
and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him—Evidently they would have spoken, if permitted, proclaiming His Messiahship in such terms as in the synagogue; but once in one day, and that testimony immediately silenced, was enough. See on Mr 1:24. After this account of His miracles of healing, we have in Mt 8:17 this pregnant quotation, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying (Isa 53:4), Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses."
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
35. And in the morning—that is, of the day after this remarkable sabbath; or, on the first day of the week. His choosing this day to inaugurate a new and glorious stage of His public work, should be noted by the reader.
rising up a great while before day—"while it was yet night," or long before daybreak.
he went out—all unperceived from Peter's house, where He slept.
and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed—or, "continued in prayer." He was about to begin His first preaching and healing circuit; and as on similar solemn occasions (Lu 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28, 29; Mr 6:46), He spent some time in special prayer, doubtless with a view to it. What would one not give to have been, during the stillness of those grey morning hours, within hearing—not of His "strong crying and tears," for He had scarce arrived at the stage for that—but of His calm, exalted anticipations of the work which lay immediately before Him, and the outpourings of His soul about it into the bosom of Him that sent Him! He had doubtless enjoyed some uninterrupted hours of such communings with His heavenly Father ere His friends from Capernaum arrived in search of Him. As for them, they doubtless expected, after such a day of miracles, that the next day would witness similar manifestations. When morning came, Peter, loath to break in upon the repose of his glorious Guest, would await His appearance beyond the usual hour; but at length, wondering at the stillness, and gently coming to see where the Lord lay, he finds it—like the sepulchre afterwards—empty! Speedily a party is made up to go in search of Him, Peter naturally leading the way.
And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.
36. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him—rather, "pressed after Him." Luke (Lu 4:42) says, "The multitudes sought after Him"; but this would be a party from the town. Mark, having his information from Peter himself, speaks only of what related directly to him. "They that were with him" would probably be Andrew his brother, James and John, with a few other choice brethren.
And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
37. And when they had found him—evidently after some search.
they said unto him, All men seek for thee—By this time, "the multitudes" who, according to Luke (Lu 4:42), "sought after Him"—and who, on going to Peter's house, and there learning that Peter and a few more were gone in search of Him, had set out on the same errand—would have arrived, and "came unto Him and stayed Him, that He should not depart from them" (Lu 4:42); all now urging His return to their impatient townsmen.
And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.
38. And he said unto them, Let us go—or, according to another reading, "Let us go elsewhere."
into the next towns—rather, "unto the neighboring village-towns"; meaning those places intermediate between towns and villages, with which the western side of the Sea of Galilee was studded.
that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth—not from Capernaum, as De Wette miserably interprets, nor from His privacy in the desert place, as Meyer, no better; but from the Father. Compare Joh 16:28, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world," &c.—another proof, by the way, that the lofty phraseology of the Fourth Gospel was not unknown to the authors of the others, though their design and point of view are different. The language in which our Lord's reply is given by Luke (Lu 4:43) expresses the high necessity under which, in this as in every other step of His work, He acted—"I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore"—or, "to this end"—"am I sent." An act of self-denial it doubtless was, to resist such pleadings to return to Capernaum. But there were overmastering considerations on the other side.
And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Mr 1:40-45. Healing of a Leper. ( = Mt 8:1-4; Lu 5:12-16).
See on Mt 8:1-4.
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.