Mark 3:22
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casts he out devils.
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(22-30) He hath Beelzebub.—See Notes on Matthew 12:24-32.



Mark 3:22 - Mark 3:35

We have in this passage three parts,-the outrageous official explanation of Christ and His works, the Lord’s own solution of His miracles, and His relatives’ well-meant attempt to secure Him, with His answer to it.

I. The scribes, like Christ’s other critics, judged themselves in judging Him, and bore witness to the truths which they were eager to deny.

Their explanation would be ludicrous, if it were not dreadful. Mark that it distinctly admits His miracles. It is not fashionable at present to attach much weight to the fact that none of Christ’s enemies ever doubted these. Of course, the credence of men, in an age which believed in the possibility of the supernatural, is more easy, and their testimony less cogent, than that of a jury of twentieth-century scientific sceptics. But the expectation of miracle had been dead for centuries when Christ came; and at first, at all events, no anticipation that He would work them made it easier to believe that He did.

It would have been a sure way of exploding His pretensions, if the officials could have shown that His miracles were tricks. Not without weight is the attestation from the foe that ‘this man casteth out demons.’ The preposterous explanation that He cast out demons by Beelzebub, is the very last resort of hatred so deep that it will father an absurdity rather than accept the truth. It witnesses to the inefficiency of explanations of Him which omit the supernatural. The scribes recognised that here was a man who was in touch with the unseen. They fell back upon ‘by Beelzebub,’ and thereby admitted that humanity, without seeing something more at the back of it, never made such a man as Jesus.

It is very easy to solve an insoluble problem, if you begin by taking the insoluble elements out of it. That is how a great many modern attempts to account for Christianity go to work. Knock out the miracles, waive Christ’s own claims as mistaken reports, declare His resurrection to be entirely unhistorical, and the remainder will be easily accounted for, and not worth accounting for. But the whole life of the Christ of the Gospels is adequately explained by no explanation which leaves out His coming forth from the Father, and His exercise of powers above those of humanity and ‘nature.’

This explanation is an instance of the credulity of unbelief. It is more difficult to believe the explanation than the alternative which it is framed to escape. If like produces like, Christ cannot be explained by anything but the admission of His divine nature. Serpents’ eggs do not hatch out into doves. The difficulties of faith are ‘gnats’ beside the ‘camels’ which unbelief has to swallow.

II. The true explanation of Christ’s power over demoniacs.

Jesus has no difficulty in putting aside the absurd theory that, in destroying the kingdom of evil, He was a servant of evil and its dark ruler. Common-sense says, If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself, and his kingdom cannot stand. An old play is entitled, ‘The Devil is an Ass,’ but he is not such an ass as to fight against himself. As the proverb has it, ‘Hawks do not pick out hawks’ eyes.’

It would carry us too far to deal at length with the declarations of our Lord here, which throw a dim light into the dark world of supernatural evil. His words are far too solemn and didactic to be taken as accommodations to popular prejudice, or as mere metaphor. Is it not strange that people will believe in spiritual communications, when they are vouched for by a newspaper editor, more readily than when Christ asserts their reality? Is it not strange that scientists, who find difficulty in the importance which Christianity attaches to man in the plan of the universe, and will not believe that all its starry orbs were built for him {which Christianity does not allege}, should be incredulous of teachings which reveal a crowd of higher intelligences? Jesus not only tests the futile explanation by common-sense, but goes on to suggest the true one. He accepts the belief that there is a ‘prince of the demons.’ He regards the souls of men who have not yielded themselves to God as His ‘goods.’ He declares that the lord of the house must be bound before his property can be taken from him. We cannot stay to enlarge on the solemn view of the condition of unredeemed men thus given. Let us not put it lightly away. But we must note how deep into the centre of Christ’s work this teaching leads us. Translated into plain language it just means that Christ by incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and present work from the throne, has broken the power of evil in its central hold. He has crushed the serpent’s head, his heel is firmly planted on it, and, though the reptile may still ‘swinge the scaly horror of his folded tail,’ it is but the dying flurries of the creature. He was manifested ‘that He might destroy the works of the devil.’

No trace of indignation can be detected in Christ’s answer to the hideous charge. But His patient heart overflows in pity for the reckless slanderers, and He warns them that they are coming near the edge of a precipice. Their malicious blindness is hurrying them towards a sin which hath never forgiveness. Blasphemy is, in form, injurious speaking, and in essence, it is scorn or malignant antagonism. The Holy Spirit is the divine agent in revealing God’s heart and will. To blaspheme Him is ‘the external symptom of a heart so radically and finally set against God that no power which God can consistently use will ever save it.’ ‘The sin, therefore, can only be the culmination of a long course of self-hardening and depraving.’ It is unforgivable, because the soul which can recognise God’s revelation of Himself in all His goodness and moral perfection, and be stirred only to hatred thereby, has reached a dreadful climax of hardness, and has ceased to be capable of being influenced by His beseeching. It has passed beyond the possibility of penitence and acceptance of forgiveness. The sin is unforgiven, because the sinner is fixed in impenitence, and his stiffened will cannot bow to receive pardon.

The true reason why that sin has never forgiveness is suggested by the accurate rendering, ‘Is guilty of an eternal sin’ {R.V.}. Since the sin is eternal, the forgiveness is impossible. Practically hardened and permanent unbelief, conjoined with malicious hatred of the only means of forgiveness, is the unforgivable sin. Much torture of heart would have been saved if it had been observed that the Scripture expression is not sin, but blasphemy. Fear that it has been committed is proof positive that it has not; for, if it have been, there will be no relenting in enmity, nor any wish for deliverance.

But let not the terrible picture of the depths of impenitence to which a soul may fall, obscure the blessed universality of the declaration from Christ’s lips which preludes it, and declares that all sin but the sin of not desiring pardon is pardoned. No matter how deep the stain, no matter how inveterate the habit, whosoever will can come and be sure of pardon.

III. The attempt of Christ’s relatives to withdraw Him from publicity, and His reply to it.

Mark 3:21
tells us that His kindred sent out to lay hold on Him; for they thought Him beside Himself. He was to be shielded from the crowd of followers, and from the plots of scribes, by being kept at home and treated as a harmless lunatic. Think of Jesus defended from the imputation of being in league with Beelzebub by the excuse that He was mad! This visit of His mother and brethren must be connected with their plan to lay hold on Him, in order to apprehend rightly Christ’s answer. If they did not mean to use violence, why should they have tried to get Him away from the crowd of followers, by a message, when they could have reached Him as easily as it did? He knew the snare laid for Him, and puts it aside without shaming its contrivers. With a wonderful blending of dignity and tenderness, He turns from kinsmen who were not akin, to draw closer to Himself, and pour His love over, those who do the will of God.

The test of relationship with Jesus is obedience to His Father. Christ is not laying down the means of becoming His kinsmen, but the tokens that we are such. He is sometimes misunderstood as saying, ‘Do God’s will without My help, and ye will become My kindred.’ What He really says is, ‘If ye are My kindred, you will do God’s will; and if you do, you will show that you are such.’ So the statement that we become His kindred by faith does not conflict with this great saying. The two take hold of the Christian life at different points: the one deals with the means of its origination, the other with the tokens of its reality. Faith is the root of obedience, obedience is the blossom of faith. Jesus does not stand like a stranger till we have hammered out obedience to His Father, and then reward us by welcoming us as His brethren, but He answers our faith by giving us a life kindred with, because derived from, His own, and then we can obey.

It is active submission to God’s will, not orthodox creed or devout emotion, which shows that we are His blood relations. By such obedience, we draw His love more and more to us. Though it is not the means of attaining to kinship with Him, it is the condition of receiving love-tokens from Him, and of increasing affinity with Him.

That relationship includes and surpasses all earthly ones. Each obedient man is, as it were, all three,-mother, sister, and brother. Of course the enumeration had reference to the members of the waiting group, but the remarkable expression has deep truth in it. Christ’s relation to the soul covers all various sweetnesses of earthly bonds, and is spoken of in terms of many of them. He is the bridegroom, the brother, the companion, and friend. All the scattered fragrances of these are united and surpassed in the transcendent and ineffable union of the soul with Jesus. Every lonely heart may find in Him what it most needs, and perhaps is bleeding away its life for the loss or want of. To many a weeping mother He has said, pointing to Himself, ‘Woman, behold thy son’; to many an orphan He has whispered, revealing His own love, ‘Son, behold thy mother.’

All earthly bonds are honoured most when they are woven into crowns for His head; all human love is then sweetest when it is as a tiny mirror in which the great Sun is reflected. Christ is husband, brother, sister, friend, lover, mother, and more than all which these sacred names designate,-even Saviour and life. If His blood is in our veins, and His spirit is the spirit of our lives, we shall do the will of His and our Father in heaven.Mark 3:22. The scribes (and Pharisees, Matthew 12:22) who had come down from Jerusalem, &c. — Purposely, on the devil’s errand; and not without success. For the common people now began to drink in the poison from these learned, good, honourable men! He hath Beelzebub — At command; is in league with him: And by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils — How easily may a man of learning elude the strongest proof of a work of God! How readily can he account for every incident, without ever taking God into the question! See note on Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:22-32, where this passage occurs, and is explained at large.3:22-30 It was plain that the doctrine of Christ had a direct tendency to break the devil's power; and it was as plain, that casting of him out of the bodies of people, confirmed that doctrine; therefore Satan could not support such a design. Christ gave an awful warning against speaking such dangerous words. It is true the gospel promises, because Christ has purchased, forgiveness for the greatest sins and sinners; but by this sin, they would oppose the gifts of the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascension. Such is the enmity of the heart, that unconverted men pretend believers are doing Satan's work, when sinners are brought to repentance and newness of life.And the scribes ... - See the notes at Matthew 12:24-32. The occasion of their saying this was, that he had healed a man possessed with a devil. The scribes, who came from Jerusalem to watch his conduct, charged him with having made a compact or agreement with the prince of the devils. Mr 3:20-30. Jesus Is Charged with Madness and Demoniacal Possession—His Reply. ( = Mt 12:22-37; Lu 11:14-26).

See on [1413]Mt 12:22-37; [1414]Lu 11:21-26.

Ver. 22-30. Here is no passage in all this piece of history, but what the reader will find opened these notes:

See Poole on "Matthew 9:34". See Poole on "Matthew 12:24", and following verses to Matthew 12:32. To which I refer the reader. And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem,.... Or, "but the Scribes", &c. who had an aversion to Christ, and a different opinion of him: these were they, who having heard much of the doctrine and miracles of Christ, came down from Jerusalem, which lay in the upper, and higher part of the land of Israel, into Galilee, a low country, to make their observations upon him; and take every advantage they could against him, being men, in their way, letter learned, and artful, and cunning: these

said, he hath Beelzebub: or, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it, "Beelzebub is in him": sometimes they call him Beelzebub; sometimes say that he cast out devils by him; and here, that he had him, or was in him; Beelzebub possessed him, and assisted him, and there was a confederacy and familiarity between them:

and by the prince of devils casteth he out devils; for so they reckoned Beelzebub to be; See Gill on Matthew 10:25, Matthew 12:24.

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
Mark 3:22-30. See on Matthew 12:24-32, who narrates more completely from the collection of Logia and historical tradition. Comp. Luke 11:15-23; Luke 12:10.

And the scribes, etc., asserted a still worse charge.

Mark 3:23. προσκαλεσόμ. αὐτούς] De Wette is of opinion, without warrant, that this could only have taken place in the open air, not in the house (Mark 3:20). They were in the house along with, but further away from, Jesus; He calls them to Him to speak with them.

σατανᾶς σατανᾶν] not: one Satan … the other, but: Satan … himself; see on Matthew 12:26. Comp. ὁ σατανᾶςἐφʼ ἑαυτόν, Mark 3:26. The want of the article with the proper name is not opposed to this.

Mark 3:24. Now, in order to make good this πῶς δύναται, (i.e. οὐ δύναται κ.τ.λ.), there come, linked on by the simple and (not γάρ), two illustrative analogues (ἐν παραβολαῖς), after which at Mark 3:26, but likewise by the simple and, not by a particle of inference, is added the point, quod erat demonstrandum. This symmetrical progression by means of καί is rhetorical; it has something in it impressive, striking—a feature also presenting itself in the discourse as it proceeds asyndetically in Mark 3:27-28.

Mark 3:28. The order of the words: πόντα ἀφεθ. τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὰ ἁμαρτήματα, places them so apart, as to lay a great emphasis on πάντα. See Bornemann and Herbst, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 10. 2. The expression τοῖς υἱοῖς τ. ἀνθρ., not a singular reminiscence from Matthew 12:32 (Weiss), is rather a trait of Mark, depicting human weakness.

αἰωνίου ἁμαρτ.] namely, in respect of the guilt, “nunquam delendi,” Beza.

Mark 3:30. ὅτι ἔλεγον: (He spake thus) because they said. Comp. Luke 11:18.

πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον] not again as at Mark 3:22 : Βεελζεβοὺλ ἔχει, because of the contrast with πνεῦμα τὸ ἄγιον. The less is it to be said that Mark places on a par the blasphemy against the person of Jesus (Matthew 12:31 f.) and that against the Holy Spirit (Köstlin, p. 318), or that he has “already given up” the former blasphemy (Hilgenfeld). It is included, in fact, in Mark 3:28.Mark 3:22-30. Pharisaic theory as to the cures of demoniacs wrought by Jesus (Matthew 12:22-37, Luke 11:17-23).22. And the scribes] The hostile party from Jerusalem, noticed above, consisting of Scribes and Pharisees, still lingered at Capernaum.

He hath Beelzebub] St Matthew tells us of the miracle, which was the occasion of this blasphemy, the cure of a man not only possessed with a demon, but also blind and dumb (Matthew 12:22). Beelzebub or rather Beelzebu-l was the title of a heathen deity, to whom the Jews ascribed the sovereignty of the “evil spirits.” (a) Some would connect the name with zebûl = habitation, so making it = the Lord of the dwelling (Matthew 10:25), in his character of “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), or of the lower world, or as occupying a mansion in the seventh heavens. (b) Others would connect it with zebel = dung, and so make it = the lord of dung or the dung-hill, a term of derision amongst the Jews for the lord of idols, the prince of false gods. This fearful blasphemy was repeated more than once. See Luke 11:17 sq.Verse 22. - The scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, etc. These scribes had apparently been sent down by the Sanhedrim, on purpose to watch him, and, by giving their own opinion upon his claims, to undermine his influence. They gave as their authoritative judgment, "He hath Beelzebub." One of the most prominent characteristics of the public works of our Lord was the expulsion of evil spirits. There was no questioning the facts. Even modern scepticism is here at fault, and is constrained to admit the fact of sudden and complete cures of insanity. So the scribes were obliged to account for what they could not deny. "He hath Beelzebub," they say; that is, he is possessed by Beelzebub, or "the lord of the dwelling," as a source of supernatural power. They had heard it alleged against him," He hath a devil;" and so they fall in with this popular error, and give it emphasis, by saying, Not only has he a devil, but he is possessed by the chief of the devils, and therefore has authority over inferior spirits. Observe the contrast between the thoughts of the multitude and of those who professed to be their teachers, the scribes and Pharisees. The multitude, free from prejudice, and using only their natural light of reason, candidly owned the greatness of Christ's miracles as wrought by a Divine power; whereas the Pharisees, filled with envy and malice, attributed these mighty works which he wrought by the finger of God, to the direct agency of Satan. Beelzebub

See on Matthew 10:25.


Not connecting two parts of one accusation, but two accusations, as is evident from the two ὅτις, which are equivalent to quotation marks.

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