Mark 1:2
As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
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(2) In the prophets.—The better MSS. give the more accurate reference, “in Esaias the prophet.” On general grounds, however, it seems more probable that the general reference should have been specialised by a transcriber than the reverse. With one exception, and that very doubtful as to its genuineness (see Note on Mark 15:28), this is the only quotation from a prophet made by the Evangelist himself in this Gospel. The fact that St. Mark wrote for Gentiles furnishes a partial explanation of his silence in this respect, as compared with the other Gospels. (See Introduction.)

Behold, I send my messenger.—See Notes on Matthew 11:10-11.



Mark 1:1 - Mark 1:11

The first words of In Memoriam might be taken to describe the theme of Mark’s Gospel. It is the ‘strong Son of God’ whom he sets forth in his rapid, impetuous narrative, which is full of fiery energy, and delights to paint the unresting continuity of Christ’s filial service. His theme is not the King, as in Matthew; nor the Son of Man, as in Luke; nor the eternal Word manifested in flesh, as in John. Therefore he neither begins by tracing His kingly lineage, as does the first evangelist; nor by dwelling on the humanities of wedded life and the sacredness of the family since He has been born; nor by soaring to the abysses of the eternal abiding of the Word with God, as the agent of creation, the medium of life and light; but plunges at once into his subject, and begins the Gospel with the mission of the Forerunner, which melts immediately into the appearance of the Son.

I. We may note first, in this passage, the prelude, including Mark 1:1 - Mark 1:3.

We need not discuss the grammatical connection of these verses, nor the relation of Mark 1:2 - Mark 1:3 to the following section. However that be settled, the result, for our present purpose, is the same. Mark considers that John’s mission is the beginning of the gospel. Here are two noteworthy points,-his use of that well-worn word, ‘the gospel,’ and his view of John’s place in relation to it. The gospel is the narrative of the facts of Christ’s life and death. Later usage has taken it to be, rather, the statement of the truths deducible from these facts, and especially the proclamation of salvation by the power of Christ’s atoning death; but the primitive application of the word is to the history itself. So Paul uses it in his formal statement of the gospel which he preached, with the addition, indeed, of the explanation of the meaning of Christ’s death {1 Corinthians 15:1 - 1 Corinthians 15:6}. The very name ‘good news’ necessarily implies that the gospel is, primarily, history; but we cannot exclude from the meaning of the word the statement of the significance of the facts, without which the facts have no message of blessing. Mark adds the dogmatic element when he defines the subject of the Gospel as being ‘Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ In the remainder of the book the simple name ‘Jesus’ is used; but here, in starting, the full, solemn title is given, which unites the contemplation of Him in His manhood, in His office as fulfiller of prophecy and crown of revelation, and in His mysterious, divine nature.

Whether we regard Mark 1:2 - Mark 1:3 as connected grammatically with the preceding or the following verses, they equally refer to John, and define his position in relation to the Gospel. The Revised Version restores the true reading, ‘in Isaiah the prophet,’ which some unwise and timid transcriber has, as he thought, mended into ‘the prophets,’ for fear that an error should be found in Scripture. Of course, Mark 1:2 is not Isaiah’s, but Malachi’s; but Mark 1:3, which is Isaiah’s, was uppermost in Mark’s mind, and his quotation of Malachi is, apparently, an afterthought, and is plainly merely introductory of the other, on which the stress lies. The remarkable variation in the Malachi quotation, which occurs in all three Evangelists, shows how completely they recognised the divinity of our Lord, in their making words which, in the original, are addressed by Jehovah to Himself, to be addressed by the Father to the Son. There is a difference in the representation of the office of the forerunner in the two prophetic passages. In the former ‘he’ prepares the way of the coming Lord; in the latter he calls upon his hearers to prepare it. In fact, John prepared the way, as we shall see presently, just by calling on men to do so. In Mark’s view, the first stage in the gospel is the mission of John. He might have gone further back-to the work of prophets of old, or to the earliest beginnings in time of the self-revelation of God, as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews does; or he might have ascended even higher up the stream-to the true ‘beginning,’ from which the fourth Evangelist starts. But his distinctly practical genius leads him to fix his gaze on the historical fact of John’s mission, and to claim for it a unique position, which he proceeds to develop.

II. So we have, next, the strong servant and fore runner {Mark 1:4 - Mark 1:8}.

The abruptness with which the curtain is drawn, and the gaunt figure of the desert-loving ascetic shown us, is very striking. It is like the way in which Elijah, his prototype, leaps, as it were, full-armed, into the arena. The parallel passage in Matthew links his appearance with the events which it has been narrating by the phrase ‘in these days,’ and calls him ‘the Baptist.’ Mark has no such words, but lets him stand forth in his isolation. The two accounts may profitably be compared. Their likenesses suggest that they rest on a common basis, probably of oral tradition, while their differences are, for the most part, significant. Mark differs in his arrangement of the common matter, in omissions, and in some variations of expression. Each account gives a general summary of John’s teaching at the beginning; but Matthew puts emphasis on the Baptist’s proclamation that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, to which nothing in Mark corresponds. His Gospel does not dwell on the royalty of Jesus, but rather represents Him as the Servant than as the King. Mark begins with describing John as baptizing, which only appears later in Matthew’s account. Mark omits all reference to the Sadducees and Pharisees, and to John’s sharp words to them. He has nothing about the axe laid to the trees, nothing about the children of Abraham, nothing about the fan in the hand of the great Husbandman. All the theocratic aspect of the Messiah, as proclaimed by John, is absent; and, as there is no reference to the fire which destroys, so neither is there to the fire of the Holy Ghost, in which He baptizes. Mark reports only John’s preaching and baptism of repentance, and his testimony to Christ as stronger than he, and as baptizing with the Holy Ghost.

So, on the whole, Mark’s picture brings out prominently the following traits in John’s personality and mission:-First, his preparation for Christ by preaching repentance. The truest way to create in men a longing for Jesus, and to lead to a true apprehension of His unique gift to mankind, is to evoke the penitent consciousness of sin. The preacher of guilt and repentance is the herald of the bringer of pardon and purity. That is true in reference to the relation of Judaism and Christianity, of John and Jesus, and is as true to-day as ever it was. The root of maimed conceptions of the work and nature of Jesus Christ is a defective sense of sin. When men are roused to believe in judgment, and to realise their own evil, they are ready to listen to the blessed news of a Saviour from sin and its curse. The Christ whom John heralds is the Christ that men need; the Christ whom men receive, without having been out in the wilderness with the stern preacher of sin and judgment, is but half a Christ-and it is the vital half that is missing.

Again, Mark brings out John’s personal asceticism. He omits much; but he could not leave out the picture of the grim, lean solitary, who stalked among soft-robed men, like Elijah come to life again, and held the crowds by his self-chosen privations no less than by his fierce, fiery eloquence. His desert life and contempt for ease and luxury spoke of a strength of character and purpose which fascinated commoner men, and make the next point the more striking-namely, the utter humility with which this strong, self-reliant, fiery rebuker of sin, and despiser of rank and official dignities, flings himself at the feet of the coming One. He is strong, as his life and the awestruck crowds testified; how strong must that Other be! He feared not the face of man, nor owned inferiority to any; but his whole soul melted into joyful submission, and confessed unworthiness even to unlace the sandals of that mightier One. His transitional position is also plainly marked by our Evangelist. He is the end of prophecy, the beginning of the Gospel, belonging to neither and to both. He is not merely a prophet, for he is prophesied of as well; and he stands so near Him whom he foretells, that his prediction is almost fact. He is not an Evangelist, nor, in the closest sense, a servant of the coming Christ; for his lowly confession of unworthiness does not imply merely his humility, but accurately defines the limits of his function. It was not for him to bear or to loose that Lord’s sandals. There were those who did minister to Him, and the least of those, whose message to the world was ‘Christ has come,’ had the honour of closer service than that greatest among women-born, whose task was to run before the chariot of the King and tell that He was at hand.

III. We have the gentle figure of the stronger Son.

The introduction of Jesus is somewhat less abrupt than that of John; but if we remember whom Mark believed Him to be, the quiet words which tell of His first appearance are sufficiently remarkable. There is no mention of His birth or previous years. His deeds will tell who He is. The years before His baptism were of no moment for Mark’s purpose. Nor has he any report of the precious conversation of Jesus with John, when the forerunner testified to Christ’s purity, which needed no washing nor repentance, and acknowledged at once his own sinfulness and the Lord’s cleansing power, and when Christ accepted the homage, and, by implication, claimed the character, purity, and power which John attributed to Him. The omission may be accounted for on a principle which seems to run through all this Gospel-of touching lightly or omitting indications of our Lord’s dignity, and dwelling by preference on His acts of lowliness and service. The baptism is recorded; but the conversation, which showed that the King of Israel, in submitting to it, acknowledged no need of it for Himself, but regarded it as ‘fulfilling righteousness’ is passed by. The sinlessness of Jesus, and the special meaning of His baptism, are sufficiently shown by the descending Spirit and the approving voice. These Mark does record; for they warrant the great name by which, in his first verse, he has described Jesus as ‘the Son of God.’

The brief account of these is marked by the Evangelist’s vivid pictorial faculty, which we shall frequently have to notice as we read his Gospel. Here he puts us, by a word, in the position of eye-witnesses of the scene as it is passing, when he describes the heavens as ‘being rent asunder’-a much more forcible and pictorial word than Matthew’s ‘opened.’ He says nothing of John’s share in the vision. All is intended for the Son. It is Jesus who sees the rending heavens and the descending dove. The voice which Matthew represents as speaking of Christ, Mark represents as speaking to Him.

The baptism of Jesus, then, was an epoch in His own consciousness. It was not merely His designation to John or to others as Messiah, but for Himself the sense of Sonship and the sunlight of divine complacency filled His spirit in new measure or manner. Speaking as we have to do from the outside, and knowing but dimly the mysteries of His unique personality, we have to speak modestly and little. But we know that our Lord grew, as to His manhood, in wisdom, and that His manhood was continually the receiver, from the Father, of the Spirit; and the reality of His divinity, as dwelling in His manhood from the beginning of that manhood, is not affected by the belief that when the dovelike Spirit floated down on His meek head, glistening with the water of baptism, His manhood then received a new and special consciousness of His Messianic office and of His Sonship.

Whilst that voice was for His sake, it was for others too; for John himself tells us {John 1:29} that the sign had been told him beforehand, and that it was his sight of the descending dove which heightened his thoughts and gave a new turn to his testimony, leading him to know and to show ‘that this is the Son of God.’ The rent heavens have long since closed, and that dread voice is silent; but the fact of that attestation remains on record, that we, too, may hear through the centuries God speaking of and to His Son, and may lay to heart the commandment to us, which naturally follows God’s witness to Jesus, ‘Hear ye Him.’

The symbol of the dove may be regarded as a prophecy of the gentleness of the Son. Thus early in His course the two qualities were harmonised in Him, which so seldom are united, and each of which dwelt in Him in divinest perfection, both as to degree and manner. John’s anticipations of the strong coming One looked for the manifestations of His strength in judgment and destruction. How strangely his images of the axe, the fan, the fire, are contrasted with the reality, emblemed by this dove dropping from heaven, with sunshine on its breast and peace in its still wings! Through the ages, Christ’s strength has been the strength of gentleness, and His coming has been like that of Noah’s dove, with the olive-branch in its beak, and the tidings of an abated flood and of a safe home in its return. The ascetic preacher of repentance was strong to shake and purge men’s hearts by terror; but the stronger Son comes to conquer by meekness, and reign by the omnipotence of love. The beginning of the gospel was the anticipation and the proclamation of strength like the eagle’s, swift of flight, and powerful to strike and destroy. The gospel, when it became a fact, and not a hope, was found in the meek Jesus, with the dove of God, the gentle Spirit, which is mightier than all, nestling in His heart, and uttering soft notes of invitation through His lips.

1:1-8. Isaiah and Malachi each spake concerning the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the ministry of John. From these prophets we may observe, that Christ, in his gospel, comes among us, bringing with him a treasure of grace, and a sceptre of government. Such is the corruption of the world, that there is great opposition to his progress. When God sent his Son into the world, he took care, and when he sends him into the heart, he takes care, to prepare his way before him. John thinks himself unworthy of the meanest office about Christ. The most eminent saints have always been the most humble. They feel their need of Christ's atoning blood and sanctifying Spirit, more than others. The great promise Christ makes in his gospel to those who have repented, and have had their sins forgiven them, is, they shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; shall be purified by his graces, and refreshed by his comforts. We use the ordinances, word, and sacraments without profit and comfort, for the most part, because we have not of that Divine light within us; and we have it not because we ask it not; for we have his word that cannot fail, that our heavenly Father will give this light, his Holy Spirit, to those that ask it.As it is written in the prophets - Mark mentions "prophets" here without specifying which. The places are found in Malachi 3:1, and in Isaiah 41:3. See the notes at Matthew 3:3. 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).Ver. 2,3. The prophets Malachi and Isaiah (saith the evangelist) prophesied of this beginning of the gospel. Malachi prophesied that before the great King should come unto Zion, a harbinger should come before him, to prepare his way. The angel, Luke 1:17, expounds both their prophecies, and also that Malachi 4:5; And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. John by his preaching turned the ears of the people to the sound of the gospel, and so prepared them for Christ. For further explication of these words:

See Poole on "Matthew 3:3". See Poole on "Matthew 11:10". This name given to John the Baptist, A voice crying, gives us the right notion of a gospel minister. Here is but a voice crying, speaking what God hath first suggested to him. Thus God saith to Moses, Exodus 4:15, Thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth.

As it is written in the prophets,.... Malachi and Isaiah; for passages out of both follow; though the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Persic versions read, "as it is written in the prophet Isaias"; and so it is in some Greek copies: but the former seems to be the better reading, since two prophets are cited, and Isaiah is the last; to which agree the Arabic and Ethiopic versions, and the greater number of Greek copies. The following citations are made to show, that according to the writings of the Old Testament, John the Baptist was to be the harbinger of Christ, to come before him, and prepare his way; and also the propriety of the method the evangelist takes, in beginning his Gospel with the account of John's ministry and baptism: the first testimony stands in Malachi 3:1, and the words are the words of the Father to the son, concerning John, pointing out his character and his work:

behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. John the Baptist is here called a messenger, and the message he was sent and came with, was of the greatest moment and importance, and required the closest attention to it; wherefore this passage is introduced with a "behold!" signifying that something momentous, and what should be strictly regarded, was about to be delivered: and indeed, the work of this messenger was no other, than to declare that the long expected Messiah was born; that he would quickly make his public appearance in Israel; that the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of the Messiah, was at hand; and that it became the Jews to repent of their sins, and believe in Christ: he is called the messenger of God, "my messenger"; because he was sent, and sanctified by him; he was called unto, and qualified for his work by him; see John 1:6, his father Zechariah says, he should be called the prophet of the Highest, Luke 1:76. The reason of his being called the messenger of God, may be observed in the text itself, "behold, I:send": the words in Malachi are by us rendered, "behold, I will send", Malachi 3:1, because this was at the time of the prophet's writing a thing future, but in the times of the evangelist a thing done: and indeed, it is a more literal version of the Hebrew text, to render it "I send", or "am sending"; and it is so expressed, to denote the certainty of it, and because in a little time it would be done: the words "before thy face", are not in the original text of Malachi, nor in the Septuagint version, but are inserted by the evangelist; who might do it with authority, since Christ had done it before him, Matthew 11:10, and which, as Surenhusius (c) observes, is for the greater elucidation of the matter. The prophet does not say before whom he should be sent, though it is implied in the next clause, but here it is expressed: besides, this messenger had now appeared before the face of Christ, had prepared his way in the wilderness, and had baptized him in Jordan; all which is designed in the following words, "which shall prepare thy way before thee", by his doctrine and baptism: in the text in Malachi it is, "before me", Malachi 3:1; which has made it a difficulty with the interpreters, whether the words in the prophet, are the words of Christ concerning himself, or of his Father concerning him. But sending this messenger before Christ, may be called by the Father sending him before himself, and to prepare the way before him; because Christ is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and is the angel of his presence, or face; besides, Jehovah the Father was greatly concerned, and the glory of his perfections, in the work the Messiah was to do, whose way John came to prepare. That the prophecy in Malachi here cited, is a prophecy of the Messiah, is owned by several Jewish writers (d); who expressly say, that those words which follow, "the Lord whom ye seek", are to be understood of the king Messiah: and though they are divided among themselves, who should be meant by this messenger; see Gill on Matthew 11:10, yet some of them are of opinion, that Elias is intended, even Abarbinel himself: for though in his commentary he interprets the words of the prophet Malachi himself, yet elsewhere (e) he allows Elias may be intended: indeed he, and so most that go this way, mean Elijah the prophet, the Tishbite; who they suppose will come in person, before the Messiah appears: yet not he, but one in his Spirit and power is designed; and is no: other than John the Baptist, in whom the passage has had its full accomplishment.

(c) Biblos Katallages, p. 229. (d) Kimchi & Ben Melech in Malachi 3.1. Abarbinel, Mashmia Jeshua, fol. 76. 4. (e) Abarbinel, Mashmia Jeshua, fol. 76. 4.

{1} As it is written in the {a} prophets, Behold, {b} I send my messenger {c} before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

(1) John goes before Christ as it was foretold by the prophets.

(a) This is the figure of speech called metonymy, by which is meant the books of the prophets Malachi and Isaiah.

(b) The prophet uses the present tense when he speaks of a thing to come, as he is as sure of it as if he had already seen it.

(c) A metaphor taken from the practice of kings, who used to have ushers go before them.

Mark 1:2-4. καθὼς introduces a prophetic citation as protasis to the historical statement about John in Mark 1:4 = in accordance with, etc., John appeared. The prophetic reference and the historical statement are given in inverse order in Matthew.—ἐν τῷ Ἠσαίᾳ, in Isaiah, the actual quotation being from Isaiah and Malachi (Mark 1:2) conjointly. An inaccuracy doubtless, but not through an error of memory (Meyer and Weiss), but through indifference to greater exactness, the quotation from Isaiah being what chiefly occupied the mind. It is something analogous to attraction in grammar. It is Mark’s only prophetic citation on his own account.—ἰδοὺ begins the quotation from Malachi 3:1, given as in Matthew 11:10, with μου, after προσώπου and ὁδόν, changed into σου.

2. in the prophets] The citation is from two prophets, (1) Malachi 3:1, (2) Isaiah 40:3. Some would read here in Isaiah the Prophet according to certain MSS. Observe that St Mark in his own narrative quotes the Old Testament only twice, here and Mark 15:28. See Introduction, p. 12.

Mark 1:2. Ὡς, as) Mark shows, from the prophets, that the beginning of the Gospel ought to have been such as it actually was; and having proved that point, all the rest is proved. The Apodosis is at verse 4.[4]—ἐν Ἡσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ, in Isaiah the Prophet) Mark brings forward a testimony first [Mark 1:2] from Malachi, next [Mark 1:3] from Isaiah. Therefore some have written thus, ἐν τοῖς προφἡταις, in the prophets. But yet, in the same way as Matthew 21:4-5, quotes Zechariah under the title of one prophet [That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, etc.], and at the same time blends with Zechariah’s words something out of Isaiah 62:11 [Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh, etc.]; and as Paul also, in Romans 9:27, quotes Isaiah by name, and yet has interwoven with Isaiah’s words something out of Hosea 2:1 : so Mark quotes two prophets, and yet mentions by name only the one, the prophet Isaiah (as I have long since been of opinion):[5] however it is not without show of probability, that Beza conjectures that the passage of Malachi crept from the blank space in the margin [ex albo] into the context of Mark. Isaiah is more copious and better known, and his testimony, which has been quoted by Mark, used to be read in public on the Sabbath; and Mark here produces the testimony of Malachi in a kind of parenthetic way, equivalent to a supplement, intending, as he did below, to omit that section of the Gospel history in which Malachi is properly [in the peculiarly appropriate place] quoted in Matthew 11:10, and Luke 7:27 : whereas the quotation of Isaiah, as in Matthew, Luke, and John, so also here in Mark, is peculiarly appropriate to this place. John the Baptist himself quoted Isaiah, not Malachi, concerning himself.

[4] As it is written, etc., Behold I send my messenger, so “John did baptize,” being that messenger.—ED.

[5] Porphyry, an infidel of the third century, in charging Mark, on the ground that he has ascribed to Isaiah the words ἰδοὺπροσώπου σοῦ, by the very fact of this charge establishes the fact, that the reading at that early date in the Greek or Syriac copies was ἐν Ἡσαΐᾳ τᾠ προφήτῃ, and therefore that it was not a reading spuriously reproduced from the Latin copies, as may be seen at greater length in J. D. Michaelis’ Enleitung, etc., T. i., p. m. 162, 586, 587.—E. B.

Ἐν τῷ Ἡσαΐᾳ τῳ προφήτῃ is the reading of BD (omitting the second τῷ)LΔ Vulg. be, Syr. Memph. Origen, Iren. 191: “in Eseiam (Esaiam) prophetam” in ad. But Rec. Text ἐν τοῖς προφήταις, with A P, and Iren. 187, 205, expressly. Lachm. from Orig. 4,15e, which represents Mark, in accordance with his wonted style, abruptly to pass from “the beginning of the Gospel,” etc., Mark 1:1, to ‘John,’ Mark 1:4, is of opinion Mark 1:2-3 were inserted by pious readers. See Lachm. Gr. Test., vol. ii. p. 6.—ED. and TRANSL.

Verse 2. - Even as it is written in the prophets. The weight of evidence is here in favor of the reading "in Isaiah the prophet." Three of the most important uncials (א, B, and L), and twenty-six of the cursives, have the reading "Isaiah." With these agree the Italic, Coptic, and Vulgate versions. Of the Fathers, Irenaeus quotes the passage three times, twice using the words "in the prophets," and once "in Isaiah the prophet." Generally the Fathers agree that "Isaiah" is the received reading. The more natural reading would of course be "in the prophets," inasmuch as two prophets are quoted; but in deciding upon readings, it constantly happens that the less likely reading is the more probable. In the case before us we can hardly account for "Isaiah" being exchanged for "the prophets," although we can quite understand "the prophets" being interpolated for "Isaiah." Assuming, then, that St. Mark wrote "in Isaiah the prophet," we may ask why he mentions Isaiah only and not Malachi? The answer would seem to be this, that here the voice of Isaiah is the more powerful of the two. But in real truth, Malachi says the same thing that Isaiah says; for the messenger sent from God to prepare the way of Christ was none other than John, crying aloud and preaching repentance as a preparation for the receiving of the grace of Christ. The oracle of Malachi is, in fact, contained in the oracle of Isaiah; for what Malachi predicted, the same had Isaiah more clearly and concisely predicted in other words. And this is the reason why St. Mark here, and other evangelists elsewhere, when they cite two prophets, and two or more sentences from different places in the same connection, cite them as one and the same testimony, each sentence appearing to be not so much two, as one and the same declaration differently worded. Mark 1:2
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