Mark 12:28
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28-34) And one of the scribes came.—See Notes on Matthew 22:34-40. St. Mark’s description is somewhat less precise than St. Matthew’s “one of them (i.e., the Pharisees), a lawyer.” The form of the question differs by the substitution of “first of all” for “great” commandment.

Mark 12:28-29. One of the scribes came — So Luke also, Luke 20:19; but Matthew, εις εξ αυτων νομικος, one of them being a lawyer. In this diversity of words, however, there is no difference in sense. For the scribes not only transcribed the Scriptures, but were generally, also, teachers of the law, from which they had the name of lawyers: Having heard them reasoning together — Having attended to the discourse between Jesus and the Sadducees; and perceiving that he had answered them well — Had confuted their degrading doctrine of materialism, and proved, even from the books of Moses, the divine authority of which the Sadducees themselves could not but acknowledge, the certainty of a future state; asked him another question, with a view to make a further trial of his skill in the sacred volume. Which is the first commandment of all — The principal, and most necessary to be observed? See the note on Matthew 22:34-36. Jesus answered, The first of all the commandments — And the foundation of all the rest, is, The Lord our God is one Lord — One Jehovah, one self-existent, independent, infinite, eternal Being: one in essence; inclusive, however, of three, υποστασεις, subsistences, generally termed persons. See on Matthew 28:19, and note on Exodus 3:14. Dr. Campbell translates this clause, The Lord is our God: the Lord is one; in Deuteronomy, Jehovah is our God: Jehovah is one; and not as one sentence, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. Among other reasons for rendering the words thus, he gives the following: 1st, That “it appears to have been the purpose of their great legislator, to establish among them these two important articles, as the foundation of that religious constitution he was authorized to give them. The first was, that the God whom they were to adore, was not any of the acknowledged objects of worship in the nations around them, and was therefore to be distinguished among them, the better to secure them against seduction, by the peculiar name Jehovah, by which alone he chose to be invoked by them. The second was, the unity of the divine nature, and consequently, that no pretended divinity (for all other gods were merely pretended) ought to be associated with the only true God, or share with him in their adoration. 2d, That in the reply of the scribe, Mark 12:32, which was approved by our Lord, and in which he, as it were, echoes every part of the answer that had been given to his question, there are two distinct affirmations with which he begins; these are, There is one God, and there is only one, corresponding to The Lord is our God, and the Lord is one. The first clause, in both declarations, points to the object of worship; the second, to the necessity of excluding all others. Accordingly, the radical precept relating to this subject, quoted by our Lord, Matthew 4:10, from the LXX., is exactly suited to both parts of this declaration. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God. This may be called the positive part of the statute, and corresponds to the article, The Lord is our God. Thou shalt serve him only. This is the negative part, and corresponds to the article, The Lord is one.”12:28-34 Those who sincerely desire to be taught their duty, Christ will guide in judgment, and teach his way. He tells the scribe that the great commandment, which indeed includes all, is, that of loving God with all our hearts. Wherever this is the ruling principle in the soul, there is a disposition to every other duty. Loving God with all our heart, will engage us to every thing by which he will be pleased. The sacrifices only represented the atonements for men's transgressions of the moral law; they were of no power except as they expressed repentance and faith in the promised Saviour, and as they led to moral obedience. And because we have not thus loved God and man, but the very reverse, therefore we are condemned sinners; we need repentance, and we need mercy. Christ approved what the scribe said, and encouraged him. He stood fair for further advance; for this knowledge of the law leads to conviction of sin, to repentance, to discovery of our need of mercy, and understanding the way of justification by Christ.See the notes at Matthew 22:34-40.

Mark 12:28

Perceiving that he answered them well - That is, with wisdom, and with a proper understanding of the law. In this case the opinion of the Saviour corresponded with that of the Pharisees; and the question which this scribe put to him now seems to have been one of the very few candid inquiries of him by the Jews for the purpose of obtaining information. Jesus answered it in the spirit of kindness, and commended the conduct of the man.

28. And one of the scribes—"a lawyer," says Matthew (Mt 22:35); that is, teacher of the law.

came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him—manifestly in no bad spirit. When Matthew (Mt 22:35) therefore says he came "tempting," or "trying him," as one of the Pharisaic party who seemed to enjoy the defeat He had given to the Sadducees, we may suppose that though somewhat priding himself upon his insight into the law, and not indisposed to measure his knowledge with One in whom he had not yet learned to believe, he was nevertheless an honest-hearted, fair disputant.

Which is the first commandment of all?—first in importance; the primary, leading commandment, the most fundamental one. This was a question which, with some others, divided the Jewish teachers into rival schools. Our Lord's answer is in a strain of respect very different from what He showed to cavillers—ever observing His own direction, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Mt 7:6).

Ver. 28-34. See the notes on "Matthew 22:35", and following verses to Matthew 22:40, where whatsoever Mark here hath is opened. And one of the Scribes came,.... Matthew calls him a lawyer, Matthew 22:35, an interpreter of the law, as a Scribe was:

and having heard them reasoning together; being present at the dispute between Christ and the Sadducees, which he diligently attended to:

and perceiving that he had answered them well: in a most beautiful manner. The Jews have adopted the very Greek word here used, and make use of it in the same sense as (n), "he answered him well": or, as the gloss upon it, "praise worthily"; in a manner deserving praise; and is the same with (o), "thou hast said well", or beautifully; and so the answer here was with great solidity, and judgment, and strength of argument, to their utter confusion and silence; whereby he understood he had considerable knowledge in the law, and yet was willing to try if he could not puzzle him with a question relating to it:

asked him, which is the first commandment of all? of all the commandments in the law, moral and ceremonial.

(n) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 108. 1.((o) Zohar in Lev. fol. 2. 3. & 15. 1.

{4} And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

(4) Sacrifices and outward worship never pleased God unless we first did the things which we owe to God and our neighbours.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Mark 12:28-34. See on Matthew 22:34-40.

Mark, however, has much that is peculiar, especially through the characteristic and certainly original amplification in Mark 12:32-34.

The participles are to be so apportioned, that ἀκούσας is subordinated to the προσελθών, and εἰδώς belongs to ἐπηρώτηρεν as its determining motive.

εἰδώς] not inappropriate (Fritzsche, de Wette); but the scribe knew from his listening how aptly Jesus had answered them (αὐτοῖς, emphatically placed before ἀπεκρ.); and therefore he hoped that He would also give to him an apt reply.

πάντων] neuter. Compare Xen. Mem. iv. 7. 70: ὁ δὲ ἥλιοςπάντων λαμπρότατος ὤν, Thucyd. vii. 52. 2. See Winer, p. 160 [E. T. 222]; Dorvill. ad Charit. p. 549.

Mark 12:29-30. Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This principle of morality, which binds all duties into unity (see J. Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 140 f.), was named pre-eminently קריאה, or also from the initial word שׁמע, and it was the custom to utter the words daily, morning and evening. See Vitringa, Synag. ii. 3. 15; Buxtorf, Synag. 9.

ἰσχύος] LXX. δυνάμεως. It is the moral strength, which makes itself known in the overcoming of hindrances and in energetic activity. Comp. Beck, bibl. Seelenl. p. 112 f., and on Ephesians 1:19. Matthew has not this point, but Luke has at Mark 10:27.[150]

Mark 12:32. After ΔΙΔΆΣΚΑΛΕ there is only to be placed a comma, so that ἘΠʼ ἈΛΗΘΕΊΑς (comp. on Mark 12:14) is a more precise definition of ΚΑΛῶς.

ὍΤΙ ΕἿς ἘΣΤΙ
] that He is one. The subject is obvious of itself from what precedes. As in the former passage of Scripture, Mark 12:29, so also here the mention of the unity of God is the premiss for the duty that follows; hence it is not an improbable trait (Köstlin, p. 351), which Mark has introduced here in the striving after completeness and with reference to the Gentile world.

Mark 12:33. συνέσεως] a similar notion instead of a repetition of ΔΙΑΝΟΊΑς, Mark 12:30. It is the moral intelligence which comprehends and understands the relation in question. Its opposite is ἈΣΎΝΕΤΟς (Romans 1:21; Romans 1:31), Dem. 1394, 4 : ἈΡΕΤῆς ἉΠΆΣΗς ἈΡΧῊ Ἡ ΣΎΝΕΣΙς. Comp. on Colossians 1:9.

ὉΛΟΚΑΥΤ.] “Nobilissima species sacrificiorum,” Bengel. ΠΆΝΤΩΝ ΤῶΝ applies inclusively to ΘΥΣΙῶΝ. Krüger, § 58. 3. 2.

Mark 12:34. ἸΔῺΝ ΑὐΤῸΝ, ὍΤΙ] Attraction, as at Mark 11:32 and frequently.

ΝΟΥΝΕΧῶς] intelligently, only here in the N. T. Polybius associates it with φρονίμως (1:83. 3) and ΠΡΑΓΜΑΤΙΚῶς (2:13. 1, 5:88. 2). On the character of the word as Greek, instead of which the Attics say ΝΟΥΝΕΧΌΝΤΩς (its opposite: ἈΦΡΌΝΩς, Isocr. Mark 5:7), see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 599.

οὐ μακρὰν κ.τ.λ.] The (future) kingdom of the Messiah is conceived as the common goal. Those who are fitted for the membership of this kingdom are near to this goal; those who are unfitted are remote from it. Hence the meaning: There is not much lacking to thee, that thou mightest be received into the kingdom at its establishment. Rightly does Jesus give him this testimony, because in the frankly and eagerly avowed agreement of his religious-moral judgment with the answer of Jesus there was already implied a germ of faith promising much.

καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι κ.τ.λ.] not inappropriate (de Wette, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Bleek); but it was just this peculiar victory of Jesus—that now the result of the questioning was even agreement with Him—which took from all the further courage, etc.

[150] The variations of the words in Matthew, Mark, and Luke represent different forms of the Greek tradition as remembered, which arose independently of the LXX. (for no evangelist has δύναμις, which is in the LXX.).

REMARK.

The difference, arising from Matthew’s bringing forward the scribe as πειράζων (and how naturally in the bearing of the matter this point of view suggested itself!), is not to be set aside, as, for instance, by Ebrard, p. 493,[151] who by virtue of harmonizing combination alters Mark 12:34 thus: “When Jesus saw how the man of sincere mind quite forgot over the truth of the case the matter of his pride,” etc. The variation is to be explained by the fact, that the design of the questioner was from the very first differently conceived of and passed over in different forms into the tradition; not by the supposition, that Mark did not understand and hence omitted the trait of special temptation (Weiss), or had been induced by Luke 20:39 to adopt a milder view (Baur). Nor has Matthew remodelled the narrative (Weiss); but he has followed that tradition which best fitted into his context. The wholly peculiar position of the matter in Mark tells in favour of the correctness and originality of his narrative.

[151] He follows the method of reconciliation proposed by Theophylact: πρῶτον μὲν αὐτὸν ὡς πειράζοντα ἐρωτῆσαι· εἶτα ὠφεληθέντα ἀπὸ τῆς ἀποκρίσεως τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ νουνεχῶς ἀποκριθέντα ἐπαινεθῆναι. Comp. Grotius and others, including already Victor Antiochenus and the anonymous writer in Possini Cat.; Lange, again, in substance takes the same view, while Bleek simply acknowledges the variation, and Hilgenfeld represents Mark as importing his own theology into the conversation.Mark 12:28-34. The great commandment (Matthew 22:34-40). The permanent value of this section lies in the answer of Jesus to the question put to Him, which is substantially the same in both Mt. and Mk. The accounts vary in regard to the motive of the questioner. In Mt. he comes to tempt, in Mk. in hope of getting confirmation in a new way of thinking on the subject, similar to that of the man in quest of eternal life—that which put the ethical above the ritual. No anxious attempt should be made to remove the discrepancy.28–34. The Question of the Scribe

28. one of the scribes] From Matthew 22:34-35, it appears that he was a Pharisee, and a Master of the Law.

Which is the first commandment of all?] This question, on which the schools of Hillel and Shammai were disagreed, the Lawyer put, tempting our Lord (Matthew 22:35), hoping that He would commit Himself as an enemy of the Traditions. The Rabbinical schools taught that there were important distinctions between the Commandments, some being great and others small, some hard and weighty, others easy and of less importance. Great commands were the observance of the Sabbath, circumcision, minute rites of sacrifice and offering, the rules respecting fringes and phylacteries. Indeed, all the separate commandments of the ceremonial and moral Law had been carefully weighed and classified, and it had been concluded that there were “248 affirmative precepts, being as many as the members in the human body, and 365 negative precepts, being as many as the arteries and veins, or the days of the year; the total being 613, which was also the number of the letters in the Decalogue.”Mark 12:28. Καλῶς, well) Admirably. The admirable character of Christ’s teaching is often conspicuous, even to those who do not comprehend it wholly [in all its parts]. To this we are to refer Mark 12:32, καλῶς, well.Verse 28. - St. Matthew (Matthew 22:34) says here that the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together, and that then one of them, who was a lawyer (νομίνος), that is, "a scribe," asked him this question, What commandment is the first of all? It appears here from St. Mark that this scribe had been present at the discussion with the Sadducees, and he had probably informed the others of what had taken place, and of the wisdom and power of our Lord's answer; so he was naturally put forward to try our Lord with another crucial question. It does not necessarily appear that he had an evil intention in putting this question. He may, in his own mind (seeing the wisdom and skill of our Lord), have desired to hear what Christ had to say to a very difficult question on a matter deeply interesting to all true Hebrews. The question was one much mooted amongst the Jews in the time of our Lord. "For many," says Beds, "thought that the first commandment in the Law related to offerings and sacrifices, with regard to which so much is said in Leviticus, and that the right worship of God consisted in the due offering of these." On this account the Pharisees encouraged children to say "Corban" to their parents; and hence this candid and truth-loving scribe, when he heard our Lord's answer about the love of God and of our neighbor, said that such obedience was worth "more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." With regard to the love of God, St. Bernard says, "The measure of our love to God is to love him without measure; for the immense goodness of God deserves all the love that we can possibly give to him." Well (καλῶς)

Lit., beautifully, finely, admirably.

What (ποία)

Rather, of what nature.

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