Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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MARK - Chapter 9

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Mark 9

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.


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

9, 1-7:  Jesus Transfigured.  Parallels in Matt. 17, 1-8 and Luke 9, 28-36.    3.  The words as snow are not in the best Greek manuscripts.    7.  The sense is not that the vision departed suddenly but that the three Apostles, upon looking around, i.e., lifting up their faces from the ground (cf. Matt.), saw "at once" that the vision had meanwhile vanished.

9, 8-12:  On the Coming of Elias.  Parallel in Matt. 17, 9-13.  The sequence of thought in this conversation between Christ and the Apostles, as recorded here, may not at first sight seem quite clear.  But it is necessary to remember that these Apostles had two difficulties.  (a) Christ spoke of His resurrection from the dead, thereby implying that He must die before He entered into His glory; but why should this be so, if they had already seen Him in His glory?  (b) The sight of Elias at the Transfiguration had reminded them that the Scribes taught that Elias must come first, i.e., before the coming of the Messias, yet now it seemed to them that Elias had come at best only after the coming of Christ.  Although the Apostles asked Jesus directly only about the second difficulty, our Lord answered both difficulties at the same time, since both were intimately connected and both were caused by the false interpretation which the Scribes gave concerning the Messias and His Precursor.    9.  The original is, "And they kept the word to themselves"; but "the word" does not mean here what he said but is a Semitism meaning "the thing, the affair," i.e., the vision that they had seen (cf. Luke 9, 36b).  Therefore, instead of talking about the Transfiguration, "they discussed with one another, (saying,) 'What is this "rising from the dead"?'" (this is the literal translation of Mark's Greek text).    11 f.  Since Mark no doubt gives only a summary of Christ's words, the sense will be clearer for us if we join the first sentence, Elias is to come first and will restore all things immediately with the third sentence, But I say to you, etc.  This is the order in the First Gospel.  On the meaning of this passage, see Commentary on Matthew.  How then is it written: our Lord is undoubtedly referring to Isa. 53.  As it is written of him: Christ may be referring to the persecution of Elias by Jezabel (3 Kgs. 19) considered as a type of the persecution of the Baptist by Herodias.

9, 13-28:  A Possessed Boy.  Parallels in Matt. 17, 14-20 and Luke 9, 37-44a.  Mark's account is much longer and more detailed.    20-23.  This conversation between Jesus and the father of the boy is peculiar to Mark.    22.  The Greek reads, "This 'If thou canst'!  All things are possible to him who believes."    23.  Help my unbelief: the sense is, "Supply what is still lacking to my faith."    24.  Apparently the possessed boy, besides being an epileptic, was also a deaf-mute (cf. 16); Mark alone mentions this aspect of the effects of his diabolical  possession.    25 f.  We should not consider this an additional miracle, as if the boy had been dead and was brought back to life by our Lord.  The last violent effort of the devil had so exhausted the boy that he collapsed and lay in an unconscious and motionless state like one dead.    28.  A few of the best manuscripts omit the words and fasting.  Since prayer and fasting are often mentioned together (cf. Luke 2, 37; Acts 14, 22), possibly some early copyist added these words here, just as they are added in most Greek manuscripts in 1 Cor. 7, 5.  According to Matthew, the Apostles were unable to drive out this devil because of their "little faith."  These two reasons are, of course, not mutually exclusive.

9, 29-31:  The Second Prediction of the Passion.  Parallels in Matt. 17, 21 f and Luke 9, 44b-45.    30.  The best Greek manuscripts here, as always in Mark, have "after three days"; but this is synonymous with Matthew's "on the third day."

9, 32-40:  Against Ambition and Envy.    32-36.  Parallels in Matt. 18, 46-48; cf. also Matt. 20, 20-28; 23, 11; Luke 22, 24-30.    37-39.  Parallel in Luke 9, 49 f.    37.  St. John the Apostle is not named alone elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels.  This incident well illustrates his fiery temperament that may have won for him the title of "Son of Thunder" (3, 17).  A man who was not one of our followers: i.e., not one of our group; but this man clearly believed in Jesus, for he would not have succeeded in driving out the devils in His name unless he believed in Him (cf. Acts 19, 13-16).    38.  Christ rebukes John for his intolerance.  Even though this man did not belong to the "group," he cannot be opposed to Christ if he has such good dispositions; and every one who in such or similar circumstances is not opposed to Christ is really for Him.  This lesson given to John has permanent value for us also; we must be intolerant of error but tolerant of those who in good faith are outside the body of the Church: in as far as they do good work, we should encourage rather than hinder them.    40.  Cf. Matt. 10, 42.  Christ returns to His main theme of doing good in my name (so the phrase is in 37 also, where our text has for my sake); John had interrupted our Lord's discourse because this phrase had recalled to his mind the man who cast out devils in thy name.

9, 41-49:  Avoiding Scandal.    41-46.  Parallel in Matt. 18, 6-9; cf. also Luke 17, 1 f and Matt. 5, 30 f.    43.45.47.  This Quotation from Isa. 66, 24 is peculiar to Mark, but in the best Greek manuscripts it occurs only once, i.e., in 47.  The figure of speech is taken from the custom of dumping the refuse of Jerusalem in "Gehenna," i.e., the valley of Hinnom south of the city, translated hell in our text, where it was burnt.  Since this fire burnt on indefinitely, while the unburnt material was always full of worms and maggots, these things became symbols of the eternal punishment of the wicked; cf. also Jud. 16, 21; Ecclus. 7, 19.  Since "Gehenna" (42.44.46.) is contrasted here with the eternal life, it is correctly translated by the word hell.    48 f.  A very difficult passage which some commentators consider as a mere collection of various sayings of Christ in which the word salt occurs, without other logical connection between them; these sayings, according to this theory, were added in the early oral catechesis to the preceding words of our Lord solely because the word fire occurs in the first of them.    48.  The words For everyone shall be salted with fire are peculiar to Mark.  If understood with the preceding context, the fire would be the eternal fire of hell, which unlike the fires on earth, does not destroy but on the contrary has a preservative effect like salt.  Other commentators understand fire here of the fire of tribulation and temptation by which the just on earth are purified from the dross of their faults and preserved unto life everlasting, just as salt purifies and preserves.  The words and every victim shall be salted are missing in the best Greek manuscripts and are probably a gloss added by some early copyist who took these words from Lev. 2, 13.    49a.  The same words occur in Luke 14, 34 with no apparent logical connection with the context.  The similar words in Matt. 5, 13 refer to the power of good example.  Perhaps that is the meaning here also, since the preceding context is on the avoidance of scandal.    49b.  Have salt in yourselves: etc., peculiar to Mark.  In ancient times salt was considered the symbol both of wisdom and of friendship.  Christ seems to be referring to this latter meaning of the word here.  The words be at peace with one another probably refer back to the dispute of the Apostles (32) which was the cause of this discourse.

Confraternity Bible:

Jesus Transfigured  1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain off by themselves, and was transfigured before them.  2 And his garments became shining, exceedingly white as snow, as no fuller on earth can whiten.  3 And there appeared to them Elias with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.  4 And Peter addressed Jesus, saying, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  And let us set up three tents, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias."  5 For he did not know what to say, for they were struck with fear.  6 And there came a cloud overshadowing them, and there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear him."  7 And suddenly looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but only Jesus.

On the  Coming of Elias  8 And as they were coming down from the mountain, he cautioned them to tell no one what they had seen, except when the Son of Man should have risen from the dead.  9 And they kept what he said to themselves, discussing with one another what the words, "When he shall have risen from the dead," might mean.  10 And they asked him, saying, "Why then do the Pharisees and Scribes say that Elias must come first?"  11* But he answered and said to them, "Elias is to come first and will restore all things.  But how then is it written of the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be despised?  12 But I say to you that Elias has come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him."

Boy Possessed by a Devil  13 And on coming to his disciples, he saw a great crowd around them, and the Scribes arguing with them.  14 And immediately all the crowd, on seeing him, were amazed and struck with fear, and running up, began to greet him.  15 And he asked them, "What are you arguing about among yourselves?"  16 And one of the crowd answering, said, "Master, I have brought to thee my son, who has a dumb spirit; 17 and wherever it seizes him it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth; and he is wasting away.  And I told thy disciples to cast it out, but they could not."

18 And he answered and said to them, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring him to me."  19 And they brought him to him; and the spirit, when it saw Jesus, immediately threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell down on the ground, and rolled about foaming at the mouth.  20 So he asked his father, "How long is it since this has come upon him?"  And he said, "From his infancy.  21 Oftentimes it has thrown him into the fire and into the waters to destroy him.  But if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us."  22 But Jesus said to him, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes."  23 At once the father of the boy cried out, and said with tears, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

24 Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "Thou deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him and enter him no more."  25 And crying out and violently convulsing him, it went out of him, and he became like one dead, so that many said, "He is dead."  26 But Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him and he stood up.

27 And when he came into the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could not we cast it out?"  28 And he said to them, "This kind can be cast out in no way except by prayer and fasting."

Another Prediction of the Passion  29 And leaving that place, they were passing through Galilee, and he did not wish anyone to  know it.  30 For he was teaching his disciples, and saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and having been killed, he will rise again on the third day."  31 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Against Ambition and Envy  32 And they came to Capharnaum.  When he was at home, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?"  33 But they kept silence, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.  34 And sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, "If any man wishes to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all."  35 And he took a little child, and set him in their midst, and taking him into his arms, he said to them, 36 "Whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."

37 John said to him, "Master, we saw a man who was not one of our followers casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him."  38 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, because there is no one who shall work a miracle in my name, and forthwith be able to speak ill of me.  39 For he who is not against you is for you.  40 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ's, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Avoiding Scandal  41 "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him if a great millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.  42* If thy hand is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off!  It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than, having two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,
43* 'Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.' 
44 And if thy foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off!  It is better for thee to enter into life everlasting lame, than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire,
45* 'Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.' 
46 And if thy eye is an occasion of sin to thee, pluck it out!  It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hellfire,
47* 'Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.' 
48 For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every victim shall be salted.  49 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes insipid, what shall you season it with?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."


11: Jesus refers to the Jewish tradition that Elias was to come as precursor of the messianic age, and explains that he has come in the person of the Baptist.

42: . . . cut it off: no sacrifice, however painful it may be, is too great if one may save his soul thereby.

43: Isa. 66, 24.

45: Isa. 66, 24.

47: Isa. 66, 24.