Mark 7:5
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?
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(5) With unwashen hands.—The better MSS. give, “with defiled hands,” the word being the same as before. It was probable that the Pharisees would use the stronger word in their question, equally probable that a transcriber might think it better to substitute that which was the more easily understood.

7:1-13 One great design of Christ's coming was, to set aside the ceremonial law; and to make way for this, he rejects the ceremonies men added to the law of God's making. Those clean hands and that pure heart which Christ bestows on his disciples, and requires of them, are very different from the outward and superstitious forms of Pharisees of every age. Jesus reproves them for rejecting the commandment of God. It is clear that it is the duty of children, if their parents are poor, to relieve them as far as they are able; and if children deserve to die that curse their parents, much more those that starve them. But if a man conformed to the traditions of the Pharisees, they found a device to free him from the claim of this duty.Market - This word means either the place where provisions were sold, or the place where men were convened for any purpose. Here it probably means the former.

Except they wash - In the original, "Except they baptize." In this place it does not mean to immerse the whole body, but only the hands. There is no evidence that the Jews washed their "whole bodies" every time they came from market. It is probable that they often washed with the use of a very small quantity of water.

The washing of cups - In the Greek, "the baptism of cups."

Cups - drinking vessels. Those used at their meals.

Pots - Measures of "liquids." Vessels made of wood, used to hold wine, vinegar, etc.

brazen vessels - Vessels made of brass, used in cooking or otherwise. These, if much polluted, were commonly passed through the fire: if slightly polluted they were washed. Earthen vessels, if defiled, were usually broken.

Tables - This word means, in the original, "beds or couches." It refers not to the "tables" on which they ate, but to the "couches" on which they reclined at their meals. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. These were supposed to be defiled when any unclean or polluted person had reclined on them, and they deemed it necessary to purify them with water. The word "baptism" is here used - in the original, "the baptism of tables;" but, since it cannot be supposed that "couches" were entirely "immersed" in water, the word "baptism" here must denote some other application of water, by sprinkling or otherwise, and shows that the term is used in the sense of washing in any way. If the word is used here, as is clear it is, to denote anything except entire immersion, it may be elsewhere, and baptism is lawfully performed, therefore, without immersing the whole body in water.


Mr 7:1-23. Discourse on Ceremonial Pollution. ( = Mt 15:1-20).

See on [1450]Mt 15:1-20.

See Poole on "Mark 7:1"

Then the Pharisees and Scribes asked him,.... Not the disciples, but Christ himself; for their chief view was to find fault, and quarrel with him:

why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashen hands? or "with common", that is, defiled "hands", as in Mark 7:2. So the words are read in Beza's most ancient copy, and in one of Stephens's copies, and in the Vulgate Latin version. The word "common" is used for that which is unclean or unholy, Acts 10:14, and so signifies unwashen hands, as we read, and render it: besides, "common hands" may have some respect to the hands of the common people, the vulgar and illiterate, who showed no regard to this tradition, but ate their common food without washing their hands. Instead of "the tradition of the elders", the Ethiopic version reads, "the constitution of the Scribes and Pharisees"; and which are sometimes by the Jews called, , "the words", or "sayings of the Scribes" (o), and are preferred by them to the written law; and the same are commonly called "ways", in which a man is to walk, and according to which he is to steer his course of life; and to which reference is here had in the word, "walk", used by the Pharisees; who suggest, that these decisions, constitutions, and traditions of the elders, were the rule, according to which men ought to order their manner of life and conversation; blaming the disciples, that they did not conform to them, and particularly in the case of eating bread, which they did without washing their hands, which was strictly enjoined among these canons; and they wanted to know the sense of Christ upon it. Though they might have known from the Scriptures, particularly from Ezekiel 20:18 that it was their duty, as well as the disciples of Christ, to walk, not in the, statutes of their fathers, nor observe their judgments, the laws and ordinances instituted by them; but to walk in the statutes of the Lord, and to keep his judgments, and do them: not the traditions of men, but the word of God, should be the rule of walk and conversation; and as many as walk according to this rule, peace will be upon them; but those that walk according to the commandments of men, justly deserve the character given of such by the prophet Isaiah, whose words our Lord produces in the following verses.

(o) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 3. 2.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why {f} walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

(f) Why live they not? This is a Hebrew idiom: for among them the way is taken for lifestyle.

Mark 7:5. At last we come to the point, the complaint of the jealous guardians of Jewish custom, as handed down from the elders (κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τ. π.), against the disciples of Jesus, and indirectly against Jesus Himself—διατί οὐ περιπατοῦσι κατὰ: for this Mt. substitutes δ. παραβαίνουσι.

Mark 7:5. Ἐπερωτῶσιν, ask Him) The Pharisees were always giving their whole zeal to mere questionings.—περιπατοῦσιν, walk) הלך is often found in this sense among the Hebrews.

Verse 5. - The Law of Moses prohibited contact with many things deemed to be unclean; and if any one had touched them he was counted unclean, so that he might not approach the temple until he had cleansed himself by the washing prescribed in the Law; the design being that by means of these ceremonial and bodily washings the Jews might be awakened to the necessity of spiritual cleansing. Hence the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, who wished to be esteemed more righteous than others, placing their whole religion in these external ceremonies, frequently washed themselves before their meals, and even at their meals. At the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee we read that there were placed "six waterpots of stone (λίθιναι ῦδρίαι)" for these purifying purposes; so that if any Jew had by accident come into contact with any unclean thing, and so had contracted any ceremonial impurity, he might remove it. This, however, was only a custom, and not a thing of legal obligation until it was exalted into a law by the Pharisees. Now, this punctilious observance of traditions by the Pharisees and other Jews yielded little or no religious profit; for it occupied their time with external purifications, and so drew away their attention from the duty of far greater moment - the cleansing of the soul from sin. They made clean "the outside of the cup and platter," but neglected the inward cleansing of the heart. Therefore our blessed Lord, who came to put an end to the old ceremonial law, and to these vain and frivolous traditions which now overlaid it, and who wished to direct all the care of his disciples to the making of the heart clean, cared not to enforce these external washings upon his disciples, although he did not say this in so many words to the Pharisees, lest he should provoke their envy and their malice. He therefore meets their question in another way. Mark 7:5
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