Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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MARK - Chapter 7

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Mark 7

Supplemental Commentary:

Note.  Only those words and passages which have no parallel in the First Gospel are commented upon here.  For the rest the reader should consult the Commentary on the parallel passages in Matthew.


3.  Second Period of the Ministry in Galilee and Across Its Lake  3, 20 -- 7, 23 (continued)

7, 1-23:  Jesus and the Pharisees.  Parallel in Matt. 15, 1-20.    2-4.  Peculiar to Mar, who felt that an explanation of these Jewish customs was necessary for his Gentile readers.    2.  Defiled hands: literally "common hands"; cf. Acts 10, 14 f where the same Greek word is used; "common" is used here in the sense of "profane," i.e., "non-kosher."    3.  Without frequent washing of hands represents the reading of only a few Greek manuscripts and is hardly correct, since there is no evidence that even the strictest Pharisees demanded a frequent washing of hand before each meal; the reading of almost all the Greek manuscripts is "unless they wash their hand with the fist," the sense of which is uncertain.    4.  When they come from the market: the original is equivalent to our modern expression "from business."  Without washing first . . . washing of cups: etc.: literally, "unless they are baptized  . . . baptisms of cups," etc.  This use of the word "baptize" in its original sense of "to dip into water" shows the primitive character of this Gospel: this word had not yet become limited to its technical, religious meaning.  Normally it was sufficient to pour a little water on the hands before eating (3), but after returning "from business," where contact with Gentiles could not well be avoided, the hands had to be "dipped" into water.

4.  Ministry Mostly in the Regions Bordering on Galilee  7, 24 -- 9, 49

7, 24-30:  The Canaanite Woman.  Parallel in Matt. 15, 21-28.    30.  Lying upon the bed: i.e., resting peacefully but still weak.

7, 31-37:  Healing of a Deaf-Mute.  This miracle is peculiar to Mark.  But Matt. 15, 29-31 mentions the same journey and speaks in general of numerous miracles of our Lord in this region.    32.  Dumb: the Greek means literally, "speaking with difficulty," i.e., with an impediment in his speech, which may be the sense here, since this man, when cured, "began to speak correctly" (35); but this rare word seems to have been used in the Greek of this period (e.g., in the Septuagint of Isa. 35, 6) simply in the sense of dumb.    33.  Jesus took the deaf-mute aside from the crowd in order to keep the miracle a secret (cf. 36); for the reason of this secrecy, see Commentary on Matt. 8, 4.  The elaborate means used by Christ in working this miracle should not make one think that it cost Him a certain effort.  The reason for the unusual procedure in the present case seems to be that Jesus required a certain amount of faith on the part of the recipients of His miracles (cf. 6, 5 f); but this man had been brought by others and had given no signs of faith; since he was deaf, this sign-language was necessary in order that our Lord could inform him that, if he believed, He would open his ears and loose the bond of his tongue.    34.  On Christ's prayer to His heavenly Father before working a miracle, cf. John 11, 41.  He sighed: i.e., in prayer; for the sighs or "groans" in the prayers of Christians cf. Rom. 8, 26, where the same Greek word is used.  Mark has again preserved for us one of the very words used by our Lord in speaking Aramaic (cf. 5, 41); in standard Aramaic the form would be more like Ethphetach; the form Ephpheta may represent its pronunciation in the Galilean dialect, or more likely be a corruption due to Greek-speaking Christians in handing down this Aramaic word in the early oral catechesis.    37b.  The omission of the article in Greek before the word dumb gives the sense, "He has made the deaf-mutes both hear and speak."

Confraternity Bible:

Jesus and the Pharisees  1 And the Pharisees and some of the Scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered about him.  2 And when they saw that some of his disciples were eating bread with defiled (that is, unwashed) hands, they found fault.  3* For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat without frequent washing of hands, holding the tradition of the ancients.  4 And when they come from the market, they do not eat without washing first.  And there have been handed down to them many other things to observe: washing of cups and pots, and brazen vessels and beds.  5 So the Pharisees and Scribes asked him, "Why do not thy disciples walk according to the tradition of the ancients, instead of eating bread with defiled hands?"  6* But answering he said to them, "Well did Isaias prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

7* And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men.' 
8 For, letting go the commandment of God, you hold fast the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups; and many other things you do like to these."

9 And he said to them, "Well do you nullify the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition!  10 For Moses said, 'Honor thy father and thy mother'; and, 'Let him who curses father or mother be put to death.'  11* But you say, 'Let a man say to his father or his mother, "Any support thou mightiest have had from me is Corban"' (that is, given to God).  12 And you do not allow him to do anything further for his father or mother.  13 You make void the commandment of God by your tradition, which you have handed down; and many suchlike things you do."

14 Then he called the crowd to him again, and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand.  15 There is nothing outside a man that, entering into him, can defile him; but the things that come out of a man, these are what defile a man.  16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."

17 And when he had entered the house away from the crowd, his disciples began to ask him about the parable.  18 And he said to them, "Are you also, then, without understanding?  Do you not realize that nothing from outside, by entering a man, can defile him?  19* For it does not enter his heart, but his belly, and passes out into the drain."  Thus he declared all foods clean.  20 "And," he said, "the things that come out of a man are what defile a man.  21 For from within, out of the heart of men, come evil thoughts, adulteries, immorality, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, shamelessness, jealousy, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  23 All these things come from within, and defile a man."

The Canaanite Woman  24 And he arose and departed from there for the district of Tyre and Sidon.  And he entered a house, and wanted no one to know it, but he could not keep it secret.  25 For immediately a woman, whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, on hearing of him, came in and fell down at his feet.  26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth.  And she besought him to cast the devil out of her daughter.  27* But he said to her, "Let the children first have their fill, for it is not fair to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs."  28 But she answered and said to him, "Yes, Lord; for even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs."  29 And he said to her, "Because of this answer, go thy way; the devil has gone out of thy daughter."  30 And when she went to her house, she found the girl lying upon the bed, and the devil gone.

Healing of the Deaf-Mute  31 And departing again from the district of Tyre, he came by way of Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the district of Decapolis.  32 And they brought to him one deaf and dumb, and entreated him to lay his hand upon him.  33 And taking him aside from the crowd, he put his fingers into the man's ears, and spitting, he touched his tongue.  34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephpheta," that is, "Be thou opened."  35 And his ears were at once opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak correctly.  36 And he charged them to tell no one.  But the more he charged them, so much the more did they continue to publish it.  37 And so much the more did they wonder, saying, "He has done all things well.  He has made both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak."


3: It was characteristic of the Pharisees to insist on the binding force of traditional interpretations of the Law, which they termed the "traditions of the ancients," even at the expense of the Law itself.  This resulted in frequent frustration of the Law and laid unbearable burdens upon the law-abiding Jew.

6-7: Isa. 29, 13.

11: Corban: a gift to God which could be put to no other use.  A son could evade giving support to his parents by declaring Corban what might have been given them.  Jesus here illustrates how the Pharisees' teaching frustrated the Law of Moses.

19: The Mosaic Law prohibited certain foods and thereby declared them legally unclean.  Cf. Matt. 15, 11.

27: Jesus repeatedly pointed out that the Messias had come to bring the kingdom of God first to the children of Israel.