Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 9 January 2012; Revised 29 April 2019
Scripture Text: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1).
Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
Ministry of Yochanan the Immerser, 1:2-8
Immersion of Yeshua, 1:9-11
Wilderness Temptation, 1:12-13
Ministry in Galilee, 1:14-28
Many Healings, 1:29-45
The beginning of
the gospel [good news] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The beginning: Grk. archē, the point of derivation or originating moment, and may be rendered as "beginning" or "start." of the gospel: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. It occurs 76 times in the Besekh. Among the Romans euangelion was associated with the cult of the emperor, whose birthday, attainment to majority and accession to power were celebrated as festival occasions for the whole world. The reports of such festivals were called "evangels" in the inscriptions and papyri of the Imperial Age (Lane). Mark's opening words are exactly the same as an announcement to celebrate the birthday of Caesar Augustus in 9 BC. G. Friedrich comments on the parallel between the Imperial "evangel" and the Bible:
"Caesar and Christ, the emperor on the throne and the despised rabbi on the cross, confront one another. Both are evangel to men. They have much in common. But they belong to different worlds." (quoted in Lane)
However, euangelion was used by Jews long before the Imperial Age without any reference to a Roman ruler. In the LXX euangelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). (NOTE: The plural form Besorot refers to the narratives of Yeshua and the apostles.) Most Evangelical Christians think of the "gospel" only as 'Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven.' Notice the "me" and "my," similar to the narcissistic song that "when Jesus was on the cross I was on his mind." This self-serving "gospel" is totally divorced from the original Jewish context. However, the message of the apostles was the good news that God had fulfilled the promises given to Israel through the prophets and sent His Messiah in Jewish flesh to provide deliverance and atonement and to establish his kingdom on the earth. Thus, Mark is able to communicate the significance of the good news to both Jews and non-Jews in Rome.
Mark does not repeat the essential elements of Yeshua's story already given in the nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke, but it is important to the context here to understand the good news of which Mark speaks. For Jews the good news began with the message the angel Gabriel gave initially to Zechariah:
"But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to your son, and you will name him John. … 16 "Many of B'nei-Israel will turn to Adonai their God. 17 "And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to the children and the disobedient ones to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for Adonai a prepared people." (Luke 1:13, 16-17 TLV)
Then the angel Gabriel announced the essential elements of the good news to Miriam:
"Do not be afraid, Miriam; for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Yeshua. 32 He will be great and will be called Ben-Elyon. Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of David, His father. 33 He shall reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and His kingdom will be without end." (Luke 1:30-33 TLV)
Then an angel, presumptively Gabriel, visited Joseph and gave him the good news with an important new element:
"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Miriam as your wife; for the Child conceived in her is from the Ruach ha-Kodesh. 21 "She will give birth to a son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matt 1:20-21 TLV)
This is the same message that Zechariah then declared to his fellow Jews:
"Blessed be ADONAI, God of Israel, for He has looked after His people and brought them redemption. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ages past, 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us! 72 So He shows mercy to our fathers and to remembers His holy covenant, 73 the vow which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us-- 74 rescued fearlessly from the hand of our enemies -- to serve Him 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” (Luke 1:68-75 TLV)
An angel then gave the Good News to shepherds:
"Do not be afraid! For behold, I proclaim Good News to you, which will be great joy to all the people. 11 A Savior is born to you today in the city of David, who is Messiah the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11 TLV)
When Joseph and Miriam presented Yeshua at the temple Simeon repeated the Good News:
"Now may You let Your servant go in peace, O Sovereign Master, according to Your word. 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples: 32 a light for revelation to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32 TLV)
All of the foregoing announcements reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer. Consistent with these prior announcements the apostles declared that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, who fulfilled the promises made to Israel through the prophets; that God has made Yeshua Lord; that forgiveness of sins is available to all through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice; and that the proof of God’s Word is that Yeshua was raised from the dead (Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43; 13:16-41). Gentiles were therefore called to turn to the God of Israel and serve him. The Gentiles all have different gods (small "g”). Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20; Acts 17:23-31).
Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
Christ: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer and ruler, "Jewish Messiah." In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos was chosen by the Jewish translators of the LXX to render the Heb. title Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. The significance of being known as "The Anointed One" is that Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. The oil was poured on the head in sufficient quantity that it ran down the beard (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1Sam 10:1; Ps 23:5; 133:2).
Mashiach appears in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King of Israel, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; and (4) the Messianic King, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26 (BDB 603). This last usage defined the term among first century Jews. Of interest is that the transliteration Messias was used by Galilean and Samaritan Jews (John 1:41; John 4:25), but since the Jewish Greek of the Besekh relies on the LXX for vocabulary Christos is used uniformly instead of Messias.
Yeshua's anointing was not in the customary manner. Since Yeshua was the Son of David (Matt 1:1), then in a figurative sense he was anointed with oil when David was anointed as king (1Sam 16:1, 12-13) on the same basis that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek because Levi was in Abraham's loins at the time (Heb 7:9-10). At his immersion Yeshua was anointed with the Holy Spirit to fulfill the ministry prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Then he was anointed with nard in preparation for the ministry of being an atoning sacrifice (Mark 14:3-8; John 12:3). Finally he was anointed with the power of resurrection to assume his rightful place on the throne of David as King and Judge over the earth (Luke 1:32; Acts 3:18-26; 10:40-42; 13:30-34; 17:31; Eph 1:18-23).
When Yeshua arrived on earth most Jews were looking for deliverance from the oppression of Imperial Rome. Jewish anticipation was grounded in the future hope expressed by the Hebrew prophets of one who would come to deliver and rule as God's anointed (Deut 18:15-17; Isa 7:14; 9:1-7; 11:1; 16:5; 22:22; 53:1-12; Jer 23:5; 30:9; 33:15-21; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:37:24-25; Dan 7:13-15; Hos 3:5; Amos 9:11-15; Obad 1:21; Mic 5:2; Zech 9:9; 12:8; Mal 3:1-2; 4:1-3). The failure of the Hasmonean Kingdom (37 B.C.) led later Jewish writers to promise a victorious deliverer (Psalms of Solomon 17:21-23; 18:5-7; 2Esdras 7:28-29; Enoch 48:11; 51:4; 92:133, 135; Sirach 48:10) who would usher in an Olam Habah ("the world to come") or Messianic Age.
Jewish leaders believed that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David and born in Bethlehem (Matt 2:4-6). He would fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs and to Israel. Those promises included redemption for Israel, destruction of the enemies of Israel, the restoration of Israel to sovereign rule in its land and establishment of the Davidic monarchy over Israel and the nations (Luke 1:68-74). In fact, the angel Gabriel provided assurance of fulfillment to Miriam (Luke 1:32) and Paul reiterated the truth (Acts 13:32-34). What the Jews did not expect was that in order to have a victorious Messiah, they would have to first have a suffering Messiah, one who would be an atoning sacrifice (John 1:29).
After the first century Pharisee rabbinical leaders, having rejected Yeshua as Messiah, posited separate Messiahs, because they stumbled over the paradoxical nature of Messianic prophecies. On the one hand some prophecies speak of a victorious Messiah descended from King David who will destroy the enemies of Israel and reign as king. Other prophecies speak of a suffering Messiah who dies for Israel. So the rabbis called the former Mashiach ben David (Sanhedrin 97a) and the latter Mashiach ben Yosef (Sukkah 52a). In the first century the expectation among Jews was of the return of King David's throne accomplished by a mighty deliverer.
Among Christians "Christ" is generally used first and foremost to mean the second person of the triune Godhead as presented in Christian creedal statements. Sometimes Christians use "Christ" as a last name, which is strange since no one would say "David King." The fact that the Greek New Testament has Iēsou Christou ("Jesus Christ," both in the genitive case) some 96 times does not obviate the fact that the Jewish writers would not have intended Christou as anything other than the Messianic title, as the 64 occurrences of just tou Christou ("the Christ") attest. Wherever the construction Iēsou Christou occurs the two proper nouns should either be separated by a comma "Yeshua, Messiah" or given simply as "Messiah Yeshua."
While Yeshua is described by a variety of titles (Lord, Redeemer, Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Rabbi, Emmanuel, Lamb of God, Mediator, Apostle, Prophet and the Word) the predominate title (531 times in the Besekh) is Christos. The importance of this title is the authority it represents. Yeshua is the supreme ruler over the Kingdom of God. All authority has been given to him in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18). Yeshua's authority extends to all the nations of the earth (Rev 15:3) as was prophesied in Genesis 49:10, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [i.e. Messiah] comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the nations." The essential part of the Great Commission is to bring about recognition of Yeshua's ruling authority and obedience to everything he taught (Matt 28:20; cf. Ezek 37:24).
The apostolic writings repeatedly interpret the Messianic role in terms of kingship and emphasize that Yeshua is the present King of Israel (John 1:49; 12:13), King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11, 37) and King of the nations (Gen 49:10; Rev 15:3), but will also be the future king reigning from Jerusalem in the age to come (Rom 11:26; Rev 14:1; 20:6-9). While Jews understood the kingship context of Christos, Gentiles moved away from this meaning as Christianity separated itself from Judaism. The Church had so use for a Jewish Messiah who would fulfill covenant promises to the Jews, including possession of the Land and the obligation to live by Torah. Through many centuries of church-sponsored persecution of Jews, the title "Christ" became the name of their oppressor, not their Savior. And, the simple decision by translators to use "Christ" instead of "Messiah" in Christian Bibles has contributed to the failure of Gentiles to fully appreciate the Jewishness of Yeshua and the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.
Christian scholars, as Wessel, suggest that Yeshua's infrequent use of the title "Messiah," and never directly of himself, indicates a reticence to declare his Messianic identity. However, Yeshua did use many metaphors and idiomatic expressions that contemporary Jewish religious authorities associated with the Messiah. (For more on this topic see Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings and The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings.)
[the Son of God]: The NASB, as other versions, includes the title at the end of the verse even though it is not found in many MSS. The Nestle Text encloses the title in brackets to indicate its debatable provenance (Metzger).
Son of: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (“son,” "son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here.
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times, including combinations such as El Bethel, El Elyon, and El Shaddai), Eloah (55 times) and Elohim (which occurs over 2500 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70).
The only God in existence is the "God of Israel," an expression that occurs 199 times in the Tanakh and two times in the Besekh (Matt 15:31; Luke 1:68). Parallel to this formula is "God of Jacob,” which appears 21 times in Scripture, 13 of which include the longer formula, "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Every nation had their deity, but only to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Moses did the true God reveal His name, His election and His commandments. This God may be the God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29), but only if they accept the revelation that He is the God of Israel and join themselves to Israel. Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20).
The title "Son of God" occurs 43 times in the Besekh and all but one refer to Yeshua. "Son of the Father" appears in 2 John 1:3 and eight times Yeshua is referred to as the only begotten Son of the Father. Indeed, he is the "begotten God" (John 1:18). Yeshua constantly referred to God as his Father. When he said "I and the Father are one," his opponents accused him of blasphemy (John 10:33). In response Yeshua replied, quoting Psalm 82:6,
"Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'?' If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? (John 10:34-36)
Christianity has traditionally interpreted the title "Son of God" as representative of deity, but this assumption is difficult to substantiate in Scripture. Lest the reader misunderstand my point, there is no equivocation in the Besekh that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God and agent of creation. When Yeshua and the apostles want to declare His deity unambiguously, they do so with other terminology and descriptions (John 1:1; 8:58-59; 10:30, 33; 15:26; 20:28; 2Cor 4:4; Php 2:5-7; Col 1:15-17; 2:9; 1Tim 3:16; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:2-3, 8; 2Pet 1:1; Rev 19:11-14).
However, in John 10 Yeshua chides his critics by reminding them of the human character of the title. According to Scripture all Israelites are sons of God (Isa 43:6; Hos 1:10; Matt 17:25-26; 2Cor 6:18), because Israel is collectively the son of God (Ex 4:22). Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38). The disciples, too, can be described as "sons of God" (Matt 5:9, 45; cf. Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26; 4:6-7; Heb 12:7-8). So, Yeshua argues that there can be nothing wrong with him claiming to be the special son of God sent into the world. However, unlike most of the rest of the sons of God, Yeshua was one with the heavenly Father.
While Jews typically object to the concept of God having a son, the Tanakh clearly presents this reality as contained in the Hebraic meaning of the Davidic deliverer (e.g., Matt 26:63; John 1:34, 49; 20:31). After all, in Scripture "son of" may indicate immediate blood relation, a distant blood relation or simply manifesting the characteristics of someone. In addition, the various references to Yeshua being the descendant of David would reinforce this sense (Matt 1:1; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9; 22:42; Luke 3:31; 18:38; Acts 13:34; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5; 22:16).
The basis for "son of God" being a divinely appointed deliverer from the line of David, i.e., the Messiah, is found in two key passages that speak of God's revelation to David:
"I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14)
"But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." 7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. … 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12)
The revelation of God's son is also given in other passages:
"He will cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.' 27 I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. 28 My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. 29 So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven." (Ps 89:26-30)
"Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4)
"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6)
"Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit." (Isa 48:16)
God's promise that he would bring His Anointed from the line of David explains the presence of the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. The apostles demonstrated that Yeshua is the expected son of David on both sides of the family tree. David's words in Psalm 2:7 are replicated in Paul's sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:33) and twice in his letter to the Hebrews (1:5; 5:5). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority (Leman 95). Robert Alter in his commentary The Book of Psalms (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) says that it was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (6). So when Mark introduces his book with the old title for the king of the House of David he means "Son of God" as the Messiah of Israel, just as Yochanan the Immerser (John 1:34), Nathanael (John 1:49) and Martha (John 11:27) intended when they called Yeshua "Son of God."
Ministry of Yochanan the Immerser, 1:2-8
Parallel: Matthew 3:1-11; Luke 3:2-16; John 1:6-8.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;
Mark begins his story with the entrance of Yochanan the Immerser. Assuming Matthew and Luke were written before Mark, as Clement of Alexandria says, then Mark apparently considered inserting a genealogy and nativity narrative to be superfluous.
As it is written: the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. Christian theologies have different theories of biblical inspiration but for authors of the Besekh it was a simple matter that God spoke and man wrote (e.g., Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num 33:2; 36:5; Deut 30:10; 2Pet 1:20-21). Mark uses the formula six times (also 7:6; 9:12, 13; 14:21, 27). The use of the formula is significant given the often appeal to tradition by the opponents of Yeshua whenever they disagreed with something Yeshua or his disciples did (e.g. Matt 12:2, 10; 15:2; 19:3). God's intention from the establishment of his covenant with Israel is that his people would ground their lives in the Scripture received by Moses from God and written down (Ex 24:4-8, 12; Lev 10:11; 26:46; Num 36:13; Deut 17:18-20; 27:2-3, 8, 26), not man's interpretations and rules that often contradict Scripture or substitute for Scripture.
in Isaiah: Grk. Ēsaias, a Graecized form of Heb. Yesha'yahu ("YHVH is salvation"). Isaiah was the son of Amoz of the tribe of Judah and perhaps related to the royal house. He lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and probably the first years of Manasseh. He married a prophetess and had two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2; cf. Heb 11:37).
the prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The literary works of the prophets in the Tanakh are authoritative Scripture (Matt 5:17-19; Luke 24:44-45; 2Tim 3:16-17).
Isaiah received his call to ministry in a dramatic fashion c. 740 BC (Isa 6:1), and prophesied for forty years during which he was an adviser (court prophet) to King Ahaz and King Hezekiah. He was contemporary with the prophets Micah and Hosea. He left a monumental literary work of 66 chapters, the longest of the prophetic books, containing almost half of the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Isaiah wrote mostly warnings in the first half of his book and mostly comfort and promise in the second half.
Various scholars have proposed that some unknown author wrote the second half of the book of Isaiah (40─66) and a few scholars have actually suggested a Third Isaiah (56─66). Against this viewpoint are these arguments: (1) for 25 centuries no one doubted that Isaiah was the author of all 66 chapters; (2) there is no evidence whatever that the two (or three) parts of the book ever existed separately; and (3) all the quotations in the Besekh from parts of Isaiah labeled as "Second" and "Third Isaiah" attribute those passages to Isaiah the prophet.
We’re supposed to believe that some of the greatest literature in the Bible, not to mention the world, with its many and detailed prophecies of the Messiah, was written by someone completely anonymous and unremembered in Judaism. Modern scholars go to incredible lengths to avoid believing in the truth of biblical material, just because they can’t accept that the Lord revealed the name of Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1) almost two hundred years before he was born or that Isaiah was given words of exhortation and comfort for a people he knew would go into exile (Isa 39:6). If they can't believe the prophecy about Cyrus, how can they believe the prophecies that named the Messiah (Isa 7:14; 9:6; 46:13; 51:5; 59:16)?
In rabbinic fashion Mark conflates Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, but only mentions Isaiah. As Metzger notes, it would be easy to see why copyists would have altered the words to "in the prophets" as found in the TR/Maj-Text (and reflected in the HNV, KJV, LITV, NKJV, WEB and YLT).
Behold: Grk. idou, demonstrative interjection (the aor. mid. imp. of eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek particle, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009) in divine monologues or narratives (e.g., Gen 1:29), serves particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). I send: Grk. apostellō, pres., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authorized representative; lit. "I am sending." my messenger: Grk. angelos means messenger. The corresponding Hebrew word is malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. The messenger may be human or angelic, which must be determined from the context. In this verse angelos refers to a divinely appointed human messenger.
ahead of you: Grk. prosōpon, the face of a person, lit. "before your face," idiomatic of "before you," reflecting personal presence. The expression may allude to the promise of God to send an angel before Israel in order to take the promised land (Ex 33:2). who will prepare: Grk. kataskeuazō, fut., arrange proper conditions, prepare or make ready. your way: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a way of life. It's important to remember that the quotation of Scripture always considers the context. Malachi's prophecy declares that the Lord will come to his temple, purify the sons of Levi and restore the proper expression of worship.
Coming from a priestly family this message would especially resonate with Yochanan. In Isaiah's prophecy the Lord will come to his people with rewards for those who humble themselves and punishment for the wicked. These elements are reflected in Yochanan's preaching. The fact that Mark appears to attribute this quotation to Isaiah is not a mistake. As Stern points out the scroll of the Prophets (Neviim) begins with Isaiah, and it was common to refer to a scroll by its first book (87).
3 THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.' "
This quotation of Isaiah 40:3 apparently follows a variant LXX text, since the standard LXX text reproduces the MT word for word except that it substitutes the plural "paths" for the singular "highway." There is a subtle but significant difference between the MT and the verse quoted here. The MT has someone calling for a way to be cleared or prepared in the desert for the Lord. The Greek translation puts the emphasis on the proclamation being made in the desert.
Date: Autumn A.D. 26
Luke 3:1-2 mentions six prominent men with whom the ministries of Yeshua and Yochanan were concurrent. The beginning of Yochanan's ministry coincides with the first person in the list, Caesar Tiberius, who began the fifteenth year of his reign. Caesar Augustus died on the 19th of August A.D. 14 (per Dio Cassius, Book 56, 30:5), but at least two years earlier Tiberius was granted co-princeps powers. In other words, Tiberius functioned as co-ruler from A.D. 12. It was customary in the provinces to reckon the co-sovereignty period as part of the Emperor's reign, thus setting the commencement of Yochanan's ministry in Autumn A.D. 26 (Edersheim 183; Santala 125). See the note on Luke 3:23, which says that Yeshua was "about 30" at his immersion..
John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan and means "the Lord is gracious,” an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Kasdan 27). Yochanan was a cousin (degree unknown) of Yeshua, born just six months before him (cf. Luke 1:26, 36, 56-57). In Luke's birth narrative Zechariah was directed by the angel Gabriel to name his son Yochanan (Luke 1:13) and when the time came for Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) bystanders were surprised by the choice of the name, saying "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name" (Luke 1:61). Jewish custom from ancient times is to name a child after a relative (based on Num 2:2), usually a grandparent.
Actually, Zechariah could have pointed out that there were three distant relatives with the name Yochanan (Barker 193f), a Levite who was descended from a distinguished line of priests and who served as high priest in King Rehoboam's time (1Chr 6:9-10), one who was high priest when Ezra returned from exile (Ezra 10:6; Neh 12:11, 22-23) and another post-exilic priest (Neh 12:13, 42). There are also seven notable men from other tribes who bore this name and in all cases the name is transliterated as "Johanan" in standard English versions. In the Besekh there are four other men with the name Iōannēs: (1) the disciple and apostle of Yeshua, Mark 1:19; (2) the father of Simon Peter, John 1:42; (3) a relative of the high priest, Caiaphas, Acts 4:6; and (4) the nephew of Barnabas, Acts 12:12. (For the purposes of this commentary the name "Yochanan" will be used for the Immerser and "John" for the apostle.)
Iōannēs was rendered as "Iohannes" in the Vulgate (AD 405), but beginning in the 14th century English Bible versions inexplicably shortened Yochanan to four letters by dropping the last syllable. If those early translators had been consistent with their usage in the Old Testament (as in the Coverdale Bible, Bishop's Bible, Geneva Bible, KJV-1611) they would have used "Iohanan" for both the forerunner of Yeshua and the apostle of Yeshua. The Mace New Testament (1729) was the first to use the spelling of "John." For the purposes of this commentary the name Yochanan will be used for this person.
While Mark offers no dating information on Yochanan's birth or the commencement of his ministry, Luke does:
Birth: "In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a kohen named Zechariah, from the priestly division of Abijah." (Luke 1:5 TLV)
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of the Galil, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the time of the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, a word of God came to Yochanan, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-3 Mine)
Yochanan was most likely born in March, 3 BC, six months before Yeshua. (See my nativity commentary on Luke 1.) The beginning of Yochanan's ministry coincides with Caesar Tiberius, who began the fifteenth year of his reign. Caesar Augustus died on the 19th of August A.D. 14 (per Dio Cassius, Book 56, 30:5), but at least two years earlier Tiberius was granted co-princeps powers. In other words, Tiberius functioned as co-ruler from A.D. 12. It was customary in the provinces to reckon the co-sovereignty period as part of the Emperor's reign, thus setting the commencement of Yochanan's ministry in Autumn A.D. 26 (Edersheim 183; Santala 125).
the Baptist: Grk. baptizō, pres. part., lit. "the one immersing," means to dip, soak, or immerse completely into a liquid. The verb is typically translated as a title in English versions, probably to make it conform to Matthew 3:1 and Luke 7:20 where the title Baptistēs occurs. (This textual difference would rebut the theory that the Besorah of Mark was written first and Matthew and Luke copied from it.) Since in modern terms Yochanan was not a Baptist, then the title should be "Immerser" (Heb. ha-matbil). appeared: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., may speak of presence, i.e., to be there or appear, or of movement, to come or arrive. In typical Hebraic fashion the verb actually begins the verse. The verb could allude to Yochanan's first public appearance or arrival at the particular place where he conducted the ministry described below. in the wilderness: Grk. erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. The location is not precise, but a reasonable walking distance from Jerusalem would be a reasonable assumption. Matthew 3:1 identifies the location as the "desert of Judea," but in Luke 1:80 erēmos is plural indicating various desert locations.
preaching: Grk. kērussō, pres. part., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. The verb applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. a baptism: Grk. baptisma, from the verb baptizō, referred to any ceremonial washing and means plunging, dipping or immersing. This term does not occur in the LXX at all. However, the corresponding Hebrew word is tevilah, "dipping, immersing" (Jastrow). Ordinary ritual immersion occurred on a variety of occasions, including (1) restoring the right to join in worship after a period of illness, menstruation or contact with a dead body (Niddah 29b; 30a); and (2) preparing for Temple ceremonies, including priests and Levites engaged in leading or conducting rituals, as well as pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the annual feasts (Sanh. 39a; Yoma 88a) A quick review of Leviticus shows how frequently the matter is mentioned. One of the six major divisions of the Talmud, Tohoroth, is devoted to it and named for one of its tractates (Tohoroth, "Cleansings”).
Proselytes were required to be immersed as well a circumcised, and the Sages even regarded immersion to be more important than circumcision (Ker. 9a; Yeb. 46a-b). Immersion alone sufficed for female proselytes. The circumcised and immersed male proselyte, and the immersed female proselyte, were "as children newly born" (Yeb. 22a). Ritual immersion had to take place in a pool (Heb. mikveh) with water from a fresh water source and deep enough to submerge oneself by squatting. In the first century there were many ritual pools that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. Excavations of the southern wall of the Temple area, begun in 1968, have uncovered dozens of mikva'ot. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.) For Yochanan the Jordan served as the most "kosher" mikveh with its continuous flow of fresh water, the most practical from the standpoint of handling large crowds and perhaps the most spiritual for its symbolic value.
of repentance: Grk. metanoia, a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior. The immersion represented the person's repentant heart. They were not immersing in order to repent. Metanoia only represents the beginning point of the underlying Hebrew concept of t’shuvah. As a word for repentance t’shuvah means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing sin, and to turn toward God in obedience to his will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909). See verse 15 below.
Repentance was a virtue to Pharisees and so it might seem strange that they and Yochanan should be at odds as reflected in Yochanan's rebuke (Matt 3:7-9). The daily prayer, Amidah, included repentance, for the fifth benediction reads, in its original Jerusalem form, "Return us, O Lord, unto Thee, and we shall return. Renew our days as before. Blessed are Thou, Who hast pleasure in repentance" (quoted in Lane 596). Rabbinic revision, reflected in the Babylonian form, would emphasize returning to Torah. There is a considerable difference in perspective between Pharisaic teaching and rabbinic tradition, and the proclamation of first Yochanan the Immerser and then Yeshua.
Yochanan and Yeshua demanded a once-for-all "turning" of one's whole self to the fulfillment of God's will. The urgency in the call to repentance stems from the anticipation of God's wrath. In the Pharisaic and rabbinic tradition repentance is a formula in daily prayer, one of the repeated practices, including fasting and almsgiving, that substituted for atonement. In Phariseeism such daily repentance did not confront the pattern of repeated sin (cf. Rom 6:1 written by a Pharisee). True repentance with its unequivocal turning away from sinful conduct is at the heart of the good news.
for the forgiveness: Grk. aphesis, a 'letting go,' a term frequently used of canceled penal liabilities or indebtedness. Thus by extension aphesis means forgiveness (of) or release (from). In the LXX aphesis occurs about 50 times, 22 of which occur in Leviticus 25 and 27 for Heb. yobel (SH-3104), designation of the 50th year, and five in Deuteronomy 15:1-9 for Heb. shemittah (SH-8059), a letting drop, a remitting, used in reference to the release from debts in the year of jubilee (DNTT 1:698). Only once does aphesis appear without Hebrew equivalent and that referring to the release of the scapegoat into the wilderness to complete the atonement on Yom Kippur for the people (Lev 16:26). The scapegoat figuratively carried all the transgressions of the people away from them, an acted out parable of cleansing (Lev 16:30).
of sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss the mark, to fail, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that does not conform to the dominant community ethic (DNTT 3:577). This breadth of application has unfortunately influenced Christian theology among those who espouse the "sinning every day in thought, word and deed" viewpoint. In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16).
Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23). Religious people may erect their own codes for determining sinful behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave to mankind as recorded in Scripture. If someone calls a certain behavior "sin," then it is reasonable to expect the pronouncement to be backed up by Scripture. Otherwise, it is strictly personal opinion.
Yochanan was not negating the need of a blood sacrifice to atone for sin, although some scholars believe his immersion ministry reflected the Essene disdain for the corrupt sacrificial system superintended by the Sadducees. However, washing with water as symbolic of both repentance and God cleansing a person of sin is well established in the Tanakh and it is upon this tradition that Yochanan draws:
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. … Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Ps 51:2, 7)
"Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, that you may be saved." (Jer 4:14)
"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil." (Isa 1:16)
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." (Ezek 36:25)
The message of Yochanan the Immerser is considerably truncated in the Besorah of Mark. Yochanan's call to repentance was based on the assumption of the imminence of the day of God's wrath and judgment of the nations (Matt 3:2-12; Luke 3:2-16). The Messiah would deliver Israel from all her enemies.
5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). Beginning verses with a conjunction, as well as the excessive use of conjunctions, is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek.
all: Grk. pas, adj., has a comprehensive intention in context. the country: Grk. chōra, a stretch of territory in contrast with owned property, a region or area of countryside. of Judea: Grk. Ioudaia transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea and corresponds to the Heb. name Y'hudah, which means "praised" or "object of praise" (Gen 29:35; BDB 397). "Judea" most likely refers to the historic territory of Judea (which lay between Samaria and Idumea), since the context is during the reign of the Herods, although the first readers of Mark might assume he meant the Roman province of Judea, which comprised all three territories. was going out: Grk. ekporeuomai, impf. mid., to move from one place to another. to him: the preposition pros emphasizes facing or being in front of, and the pronoun stresses the solitariness of Yochanan in his ministry.
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., every, all. the people of Jerusalem: pl. Grk. Hierosolumitēs, residents of Jerusalem. The population reference serves as a parallel to the opening clause. The form of the name to indicate its population may hint at the words of the Psalmist, "Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together; To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD - An ordinance for Israel- To give thanks to the name of the LORD" (Ps 122:3-4). See the note on 3:8 for more on the background of the city.
and they were being baptized: Grk. baptizō, impf. mid., may mean (1) to wash or purify, or (2) to immerse, dip, or plunge into a liquid. The verb is lit. "were immersing." As Stern notes, baptizō is derived from baptō (immerse or plunge) and means that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in—such as cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution. In the LXX baptō translates the Heb. taval (to dip) 13 times. Baptizō occurs only four times in the LXX: in Isaiah 21:4; 2 Kings 5:14 (re: Naaman); Sirach 34:25; and Judith 12:7. While baptizō in the Isaiah passage speaks of being overwhelmed by a vision, the other three passages report incidents of self-immersion in water (DNTT 1:144).
by: Grk. hupo, prep., the root meaning of which is "under" in a spatial sense or the sense of submission to authority, but with the genitive case of the pronoun following the preposition expresses agency, resulting in the translation of "by." However, recognizing agency has resulted in a completely erroneous understanding of what happened. As Thayer explains, the agency is the effective cause of the action—in this case the immersing—not the conduct of the action. Yochanan had required immersion to represent sincere repentance (see the previous verse).
him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, genitive. The middle voice (the subject = the agent) of "immersed" and the preposition with the personal pronoun reflects Jewish practice. Yochanan did not personally put his hands on people and shoved them under the water. Not generally considered in Christian discussion of baptism is that Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion, and gender-specific. That is, men were not present when women immersed. And, no one was allowed to touch the one immersing. Yochanan did not need to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Rather, this phrase depicts Yochanan superintending the immersion of all those who came to him. As an attending witness he would insure that each person completely immersed himself. In all likelihood several people would be immersing at the same time. (See Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism.)
in the Jordan River: this important river runs through a deep valley known as the Jordan Rift. It begins in the mountains of Syria, flows into the Sea of Galilee, which is 212 meters below sea level and finally empties into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the face of the earth, 400 meters below sea level with the ridges on either side rising 1000 meters above the valley floor. The rift is also an earthquake fault and the land is often shaken by quakes. The areas neighboring the Jordan might only mean those places close to the point where Yochanan was ministering, but more broadly the geographical reference could well include the provinces of Perea, Samaria, Decapolis and even Galilee where Yeshua travels from to be immersed.
Yochanan conducted his immersion ministry in different locations, perhaps beginning in Bethany (John 1:28) and then ministering in "Aenon near Salim" (John 3:23). The latter site is located just inside the southern border of the Decapolis, which is about 45 miles north-northeast of Jerusalem as the vulture flies. Yochanan's choice of having people immerse in the Jordan River may seem unusual. According to Jewish custom of the time ritual immersion had to take place in a pool (Heb. mikveh) with water from a fresh water source and deep enough to submerge oneself by squatting. The Talmud tractate Tohoroth ("Cleansings”) explains the ritual procedures. In the first century there were many pools (mikvaot) that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. Excavations of the southern wall of the Temple area, begun in 1968, have uncovered dozens of mikvaot. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.)
Yochanan's choice of conducting his ministry at the Jordan may have been for four reasons. First, Yochanan described the Temple leadership as a "brood of vipers" (Matt 3:6). Even though he was of priestly descent Yochanan did not want to give any impression that he was acting on behalf of the corrupt priesthood in charge of the Temple. Second, according to the Mishnah there are six descending orders of ritual baths and the sixth and highest order is that of "living water," a spring or flowing river (Mikvaoth 1:1-8; Ron Moseley, cited above). For Yochanan the Jordan served as the most "kosher" mikveh with its continuous flow of fresh water.
Third, conducting immersion ministry in the Jordan had great spiritual meaning. When Israel crossed the Jordan to claim the land God promised, the priests went before the people and stood in the water. The water parted and the people walked across the dry river bed. Only after the entire nation completed the crossing did the priests leave the river bed and the waters returned (Josh 3:6-17). Crossing the Jordan became symbolic of entering the new life God promised. Like the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land, the crossing of the Jordan symbolized being immersed (cf. 1Cor 10:1-2). Fourth, the Jordan was also the most practical place from the standpoint of handling large crowds.
confessing: Grk. exomologeō, pres. mid. part., to make a public statement or response indicating agreement or acknowledgement, to admit or to confess wrongdoing. their sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia, refers to the action itself, as well as its result, every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the apostolic writings. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss, to miss the mark, to lose, not share in something, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia essentially meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that offends against the right, that does not conform to the dominant ethic, to the respect due to social order and to the polis (DNTT 3:577).
This breadth of application has unfortunately influenced Christian theology among those who espouse the "sinning every day in thought, word and deed" viewpoint. In the LXX hamartia translates a whole range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (lapse, sin). In the Tanakh a sin is an offense against the religious and moral law of God. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God’s covenant. Hamartia is not displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, but violating the clear instructions of God. "Sin is lawlessness" (1Jn 3:4). Given Yochanan's priestly background it is highly unlikely he was employing a Pharisaic definition of sin that classified one a sinner for breaking man-made traditions.
In any event the confession likely did not involve a detailed recitation of wrongdoing. This wasn't a Billy Graham Crusade with scores of workers meeting with individual seekers to hear their confession and pray for their salvation. Yochanan was a solitary prophet and given the location the topography probably amplified his voice so that the crowds of hundreds, if not thousands, clearly heard his call to repentance. Just as bringing a sin offering to the Temple declared that one had need of atonement, so entering the water declared public acceptance of Yochanan's message and expressed the need and desire for God's mercy. The penitent likely expressed a prayer of thanks privately similar to the formula, "Blessed are You, LORD God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding immersion" and/or "Blessed are You, LORD God, king of the universe, for the cleansing waters that puts away the old life and prepares for the new life."
6 John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.
John: Yochanan. was clothed: Grk. enduō, perf. mid. part., to provide covering, thus, to put on, clothe oneself or wear. The perfect tense indicates the longevity of the practice and the participle indicates the habitual manner of dress. with camel's hair: lit. "hairs of a camel." The camel was included in the list of unclean animals (Lev 11:4), and so it seems highly unlikely that Yochanan, especially of priestly lineage, would wear a garment made from the carcass of an unclean animal while he's calling people to repent. and wore a leather: Grk. dermatinos, made of hide of an animal. belt: Grk. zōnē, a belt. about his waist: Grk. osphus, the pubic area, lit. "around his loins." The description is reminiscent of what was said about Elijah, "He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins" (2Kgs 1:8). Therefore, the reference to the camel's hair probably means that Yochanan was a very hairy man and that in itself constituted clothing (cf. 1Cor 11:15, "For her hair is given to her for a covering").
and his diet: Grk. esthiō, pres. part., to consume food, lit. "and eating." was locusts: pl. of Grk. akris, the grasshopper in migratory phase. Locust was permitted for eating according to the Torah (Lev 11:22) and there is a discussion in the Talmud defining the characteristics of kosher versus non-kosher locusts (Hull. 65a). Shulam reports of his own experience that locust is a tasty food and notes that Elijah reportedly ate locust (cf. 1Kgs 17:6) (23). Kasdan thinks that the Greek translation of Matthew may be a mistake. The word for locust (akris) has a very similar sound to the word for "carob" (karis), and the carob tree in Israel to this day is called St. John's tree (29). However, this suggestion requires the copyists of the Besekh to make the same mistake in Mark 1:6, which is highly unlikely. and wild: Grk. agrios, not cultivated. honey: Grk. meli, honey of the bee. He ate such honey as could be found in the wilderness.
According to the divine instruction Yochanan was to drink no wine or liquor (Luke 1:65). It may be that Yochanan, like Samson, was to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God in the special way outlined in Numbers 6:1–21. The Nazirite was the only person required by the Torah to abstain from wine or other alcoholic beverages. The regulation for Nazirites went even further. The outward requirements included eating no grapes or grape products, not cutting the hair, and not going near a dead person. This means that Yochanan would not follow in his father’s footsteps and serve as a priest. This was a radical requirement and ordinarily would bring shame not to serve as ordained by Torah. However, his calling as the messenger of the Messiah would bring great honor to the family.
7 And he was preaching, and saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.
And he was preaching: Grk. kērussō, impf., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. In the Besekh the verb applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. and saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form. The verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. After: Grk. opisō, prep., refers to a state, condition or situation that is subsequent, either in a spatial sense, 'behind,' or a temporal sense, 'after.' Yochanan may be engaging in a word play, emphasizing both senses with the added component of giving special recognition and allegiance to the person he names. me: Grk. egō, personal pronoun of the first person. It is usually expressed to make an emphatic point.
One: Grk. ho, a demonstrative pronoun functioning as a personal pronoun of the third person; the pronoun could be translated 'this one' or 'that one.' is coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or to go. The present tense verb declares that the One promised to come is now here. who is mightier: Grk. ischuros means strong, mighty or powerful. When used to denote living beings ischuros may refer to physical strength, or mental or spiritual power, especially of beings such as angels and the Messiah. than I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. and I am: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, to exist. not: Grk. ou, a particle used in denial or negation, no or not. The particle ou is an emphatic denial of the possibility, as well as the fact. fit: Grk. hikanos, adj., refers to a quality that is quite enough, often of a personal sense of adequacy, qualified, good enough, worthy.
to stoop down: Grk. kuptō, aor. part., to bend forward, stooping, bend over or down. and untie: Grk. luō, aor. inf., to remove a hindrance, to loose or release. the thong: Grk. himas, strap or thong for sandals. of his sandals: Grk. hupodēma, anything bound under, a sandal (Mounce). The shoe was considered the humblest article of clothing and could be bought cheaply. Two types of shoes existed: slippers of soft leather and the more popular sandals with a hard leather sole. Thongs secured the sandal across the insole and between the toes. Going barefoot was a sign of poverty and reproach. During the first century, Jewish practice forbade the wearing of sandals with multilayered leather soles nailed together, as this was the shoe worn by Roman soldiers (HBD). The humility of Yochanan is a gentle correction of the obsession among modern Christians for self-worth.
8 "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
I baptized: Grk. baptizō, aor., immersed. See verse 5 above. The active voice does not mean that Yochanan conducted baptisms as modern Christian clergy. In this verse, given the parabolic contrast being offered, baptizō probably means "washed" or "purified." you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Since the pronoun is plural Yochanan is addressing a group of people who have immersed themselves under his ministry. with water: Grk. hudōr, water as a physical element and the medium into which a person immersed or washed. but He: Grk autos. The singular masculine pronoun alludes back to the One who coming, mentioned in the previous verse, i.e., the Messiah. will baptize: Grk. baptizō, fut. The future tense means an unequivocal promise.
you with: Grk. en, prep. the root meaning is 'within,' but here has the sense of agency; in. the Holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God. The Greek text omits the definite article, but in the Hebraic sense the article is not needed since hagios is part of a name, not a title. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), separate, sacred, holy (DNTT 2:224; BDB 872). Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44. Spirit: Grk. pneuma for Heb. ruach. The Greek word order is en pneumati hagiō and this exact phrase also occurs in the parallel passages (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). Matthew and Luke add the dimension of immersion in fire. The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh.
The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Jdg 3:10; Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). For this name of God Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, HNV, MW, TLV, OJB) transliterate the noun Qodesh phonetically as ha-Kodesh, with "ha" serving as a definite article. This form mimics the English translation, but not reflect the Hebrew text of passages that mention the Spirit of God. All of the passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is divine, not less or other than God. The contrast of water-immersion vs. Spirit-immersion hints at the fact that Yeshua did not immerse anyone in water (John 4:2). Yeshua himself makes this promise (Luke 24:49; John 15:26, 16:13–14; Acts 1:8) and its fulfillment begins at Acts 2:1. Just as Yochanan superintended the immersion of penitents so Yeshua superintends the receipt of the Holy Spirit in power.
Immersion of Yeshua, 1:9-11
Parallel: Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22.
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
In those days: pl. of Grk. hēmera, may refer to (1) the time period from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). Here the last meaning applies with the reference being to the time when Yochanan the Immerser was conducting his ministry. Santala places the time as February A.D. 27 (110).
Nazareth: Grk. Nazaret, which transliterates the Heb. Natzeret. Nazareth was located in lower Galilee about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. It lay in the hill country north of the Plain of Esdraelon. The hills formed a natural basin with three sides, but open toward the south. The city was on the slopes of the basin, facing east and southeast. Cana was about five miles to the northeast. A Roman road from Capernaum westward to the coast passed near Nazareth.
The mention of Nazareth would evoke the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke, which were already known. The angel went to Nazareth to announce to Miriam and Joseph the coming birth of Yeshua (Luke 1:26-28). Following Yeshua's birth in Bethlehem and the sojourn in Egypt, Joseph and Miriam returned with Yeshua to Nazareth (Matt 2:19-23), where Yeshua spent his childhood (Luke 2:39-40; 4:16).
Nazareth was apparently a place people thought little of, as indicated in Nathanael’s remark, "Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). Such lack of respect may have been due to an unpolished dialect, a perceived lack of culture, a measure of irreligion and or even a moral laxity. Nazareth does not appear in the Tanakh at all and only came to prominence because of its association with Yeshua, who is referred to both as "Yeshua of Nazareth" (Matt 26:71; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; 18:37; John 1:45; Acts 10:38; 26:9) and "Yeshua the Nazarene" (Mark 10:47; 14:67;16:6; Luke 24:19; John 18:5, 7; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 22:8).
Matthew declared that Yeshua's residing in Nazareth fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene" (Matt 2:23). There is no verse in the Tanakh that declares such a specific prophecy, although the birthplace of Bethlehem is given (Mic 5:2). It is noteworthy that Matthew says "spoken" and not "written." Matthew may have been offering a midrash based on Isaiah 11:1, which predicts that the Messiah will be a netzer (“branch”) from the stock of Jesse, King David’s father. Matthew may also have been referring to the many prophecies that say the Messiah would be despised (e.g., Ps 22, Isa 52:13–53:12) and indicates that these prophecies were fulfilled, in part, by his being known as a resident of a belittled town (Stern 14).
Galilee: Grk. Galilaia from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region.” Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and of Judah and encompassed the areas originally given to the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan. In the time of Yeshua Galilee was a Roman province measuring about 40 miles north to south and about 30 miles east to west. Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and the Province of Judea on the south. In this time, Herod Antipas governed Galilee and Perea. Yeshua grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, being known as the Nazarene (Matt 2:23) or Yeshua of Nazareth (Matt 21:11; Luke 4:34; John 1:45). He devoted most of His earthly ministry to Galilee, and was also known as the Galilean (Matt 26:69).
was baptized Grk. baptizō, aor. pass., "was immersed." See verse 5 above. by: Grk. hupo, lit. "under." All Bibles translate the preposition with "by" in the sense of agency, but there was no difference in mode or method of Yeshua's immersion from that of the crowds. Yeshua immersed himself in the Jordan under the watchful eye of his cousin. John: Heb. Yochanan. in the Jordan: See verse 5 above.
10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;
Immediately: Grk. euthus, adv., immediately or at once. The adverb, occurring 40 times in this book, is a dramatic device that energizes the narrative, often to shift the reader's attention to another scene. Mark also uses a unique expression kai euthus ("and immediately") 25 times, 18 of which introduce verses. The specific combination occurs only four other times in the Besekh (once in Matthew, once in Luke, once in John and once in Acts), but none of them introduce sentences. The small number of usages in the other apostolic narratives argues strongly against Mark being copied by the others. coming up: Grk. anabainō, pres. part., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. out of: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). the water: Grk. hudōr. See verse 8 above. In one fascinating piece of evidence, there is an ancient drawing from a Roman catacomb which depicts Yochanan and Yeshua at Yeshua's immersion. Yochanan is standing on the bank of the Jordan River extending a hand to Yeshua assisting him from the water (R. Steven Notley, John's Baptism of Repentance, Jerusalem Perspective Online, 2004; also Moseley mentioned above).
He saw: Grk. horaō, aor., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. Yeshua was looking upward when he came out of the water. the heavens: pl. of Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. word hashamayim ("the heavens"), which is only translated into the plural 51 out of the 667 times it occurs in the LXX (DNTT 2:191). The consistent use of the plural form for "heaven" is thought to signify completeness, yet different activities and places are associated with hashamayim.
The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1Sam 2:10; 2Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8), populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth. Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father, the home of angels and the place where Yeshua now sits at the right hand of God (1Kgs 8:30; 2Chr 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4; Eph 1:20).
opening: Grk. schizō, pres. pass. part., to cause to be in parts through force, to tear or rend. The parallel passage in Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:21 has anoigō, to open, used of doors and other objects. Lane suggests that the mention of the heavens opening alludes to Isaiah 64:1 where the prophet prays, "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down." However, the LXX of that verse renders Heb. qara (SH-7167), to rend or tear, with Grk. anoigō, so Mark's choice of schizō is unusual. In Scripture the rending of the heavens is normally associated with the Day of the LORD (Isa 13:13; 34:4; Joel 2:10; Hag 2:6; Heb 12:26; 2Pet 3:10; Rev 6:14; 20:11). In Ezekiel 1:1 the opening of the heavens is associated with receiving visionary revelation from God. In 2Baruch 22:1 the opening of the heavens is associated with the hearing of a voice. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs the opening of the heavens makes possible the bestowal of the Holy Spirit (Test. Levi 18:6; Test. Judah 24:2).
The mention of the heavens opening is noteworthy in this context because heaven had been silent for 400 years. Since the time of Malachi the door of heaven had been closed to revelation. Now that was about to change. and the Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 8 above. like: Grk. hōs, adv. used for comparison, as, like as, even as, according as, in the same manner as, etc. a dove: Grk. peristera, a pigeon or dove without distinguishing the particular species. The dove gave visible evidence of the invisible presence of the Spirit. descending: Grk. katabainō, pres. part., to proceed in a direction that is down, lit. "coming down." The present tense emphasizes the duration of the descent from the starting point. upon: Grk. eis, prep., into, upon, thus a dual meaning. Him: A dove might have landed on Yeshua, but the point of the narrative is that the Spirit came into Yeshua. This momentous event explains how Yeshua departed the Jordan for the wilderness "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1). He didn't walk around with a dove on his shoulder.
11 and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."
voice out of the heavens: an idiomatic expression from the Heb. bat qol, lit. "daughter of a voice." While the speaker was not specifically identified those who heard knew it was God. You are My beloved: Grk. agapētos, to hold in affection. Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant. See verse 1 above. The immersion marks the beginning of Yeshua's ministry and according to Luke 3:23 he was "about" 30 years of age, which can mean a little less or a little more than the exact age.
Wilderness Temptation, 1:12-13
Parallel: Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.
12 Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.
Yeshua was not quite thirty years of age at this point (see my note on Luke 3:23), since Luke inserts the time reference between the immersion and the wilderness temptation. Immediately: Grk. euthus. See verse 10 above. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 8 above. The Father spoke in the previous verse and now the Spirit acts to send the Son on his first mission. impelled: Grk. ekballō, pres., to cause to move out from a position, state or condition; to put out, to send out, to bring out. The verb emphasizes the urgency of the activity. to go out into the wilderness: Grk. erēmos generally refers to place that is unpopulated, lonely, deserted or desolate.
13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.
And he was in the wilderness: See the previous verse. forty days: There is no reason not to take the time period literally. The parallel accounts in Matthew (4:2) and Luke (4:2) indicated that Yeshua abstained from food for that period. being tempted: Grk. peirazō, pres. pass. part., from peira, an effort to accomplish by making a trial of something. The verb can have one of three meanings: (1) to make an effort to do something in the face of uncertainty about the outcome; (2) to make a trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims, i.e., to test; or (3) to act in a manner that amounts to defiance of another's resources for retribution, i.e., to tempt to sin. The paradox of Scripture is that God tests his people and allows Satan to tempt his people (cf. Job 1):
"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut 8:2)
"I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not." (Jdg 2:21-22)
"The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.” (Ps 11:4)
God's servant Israel failed the test, so God's servant, the Messiah, must be tested. The parallel accounts in Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) detail the nature of the temptations. In every case Yeshua defeated the enemy by quoting Scripture. Yeshua's manner of victory highlights the reason for Israel's failure to defeat temptation. They forgot the Word of God that they were supposed to remember (Deut 6:1-12; Jdg 8:34; Neh 9:17).
by Satan: Grk. satanas, adversary, the chief enemy of God and all who belong to God. Satanas may be a name, but functions more as a descriptive title of his function as heavenly prosecutor. In both the Besekh and the LXX satanas transliterates the Heb. satan (pronounced "sah-tahn"), which means accuser or adversary (BDB 966). In the Tanakh the Heb. satan refers to a person, whether human (1Sam 29:4; 1Kgs 11:14, 24, 25; Ps 109:6) or heavenly being (Num 22:22, 32; 1Sam 29:4; 1Chr 21:1; Job 2:1; Zech 3:1), who opposes other humans. Satan is a created being and not equal to God in power or knowledge.
Many commentators believe that the taunt against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:11-15 and the lament for the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:11-19 depict the original perfection and downfall of the leading cherub. Exactly when Satan was created or became evil is not disclosed in Scripture. The angels were most likely created on the second day (cf. Job 38:4-7). In contrast to the common depiction of angels the cherubim and seraphim are the only heavenly beings described as having wings. All the other heavenly messengers, translated as "angels," appeared as ordinary men. Of importance is that Satan is not an angel, and is sometimes contrasted with angels (here; Zech 3:1; 2Cor 11:14; Rev 12:9).
In the Tanakh Satan is most frequently mentioned in the story of Job in which the prince of cherubs is an adversary of man. There is no question that the serpent in Genesis 3 who tempts the first couple is Satan (Rev 12:9). Why the good and loving God permits the existence of Satan is also not explained. In the Besekh satanas is never used to describe a human. In the apostolic histories Satan is depicted as an opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), as a tempter (Mark 1:13) and as the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). In contrast with the "God of peace" Satan’s character and life goals are summed up in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
the angels: pl. of Grk. angelos means messenger. The corresponding Hebrew word is malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. The messenger may be human or angelic, which must be determined from the context. were ministering: Grk. diakoneō, impf., to serve or care in the sense of meeting personal needs or attending to in some practical manner.
Date: Spring A.D. 28
Ministry in Galilee, 1:14-28
Parallel: Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 4:31-37; 5:2-11.
Mark omits the account of Yeshua visiting Nazareth, the town of his youth (Luke 4:16-30) to begin his Galilean ministry. In the local synagogue he proclaimed his Messianic identity by reading Isaiah 61:1 and saying it had been fulfilled. He also repeated the proverbial saying, "No prophet is welcome in his hometown," and then rebuked the local residents for unbelief. They in turn drove him out of the city and attempted to throw him off a cliff, but he escaped.
14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
Now after: Mark makes an important chronological point here, since he leaps ahead over a year from the start of his narrative. Only John tells us of the very beginning of Yeshua's public life. After his immersion and wilderness temptation (Jan-Mar A.D. 27) Yeshua went to Cana for a wedding (John 2:1-12), then to Capernaum for an unspecified time (John 2:12), and finally to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:13), and while there purged the temple (John 2:13-25). Then John tells of the visit of Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). From May to December of A.D. 27 nothing more is mentioned other than Yeshua and some unnamed disciples (probably Andrew, Philip and Nathanael; cf. John 1:35-51) were immersing people (John 3:22). John 3:22-36 records Yochanan's last testimony to Yeshua. In the winter of A.D. 27-28 Yeshua encounters the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), then goes to a feast in Jerusalem (John 4:45) where he heals the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-16), and then goes to Cana where he heals the son of a royal official (John 4:46-54).
John: Yochanan. had been taken into custody: Yochanan had been arrested by King Herod for accusing him publicly of an unlawful marriage (Matt 14:3-4). Yeshua had been conducting ministry, both teaching and healing for over a year since his immersion. This early ministry is chronicled in the first three chapters of the book of John. See my commentary on John. Some authorities place the imprisonment immediately preceding Yeshua's trip to Sychar (John 4:3-5) and but others suggest a time during or after the Samaria sojourn because immediately before that narrative John 3:24 says, "Yochanan had not yet been thrown into prison." Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. came: Grk. erchomai, aor., to come or to go. The verb reflects a completed act.
into Galilee: Mark says that Yeshua did not enter Galilee to begin his kingdom ministry until after Yochanan had been arrested. Mark is not saying that Yeshua had not done any ministry in Galilee before this point. Rather, Yochanan's arrest was the trigger for a dramatic change in Yeshua's ministry. Probably Yeshua was in Sychar when Yochanan was arrested and somehow learned of it and instead of heading back to Jerusalem traveled on to Galilee. preaching: Grk. kērussō, pres. part., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. In the Besekh the verb applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. the gospel: lit. "good news." See verse 1 above. Mark's clear point is that Yeshua did not begin preaching the good news of the kingdom until after Yochanan had been arrested. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. When Yeshua began his Galilean ministry it was the Spring of A.D. 28 and he was about 30 years of age (Luke 3:23).
The time: Grk. kairos, an appropriate or set segment of time; a period, definite or approximate, in which an event takes place, especially in regard to the end times. is fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, perf. pass., to cause to abound in content to a maximum, to fill or to bring to fruition or completion. In other words, all that had been prophesied in the Tanakh has now come to pass. and the Kingdom: Grk. basileia, means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. For the use of the title the size of the territory was immaterial, ranging from a city to a country to an empire. In the LXX basileia renders Heb. malku, "royalty, reign, kingdom" (BDB 1100).
of God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. Of note is that the term "Kingdom of God" does not occur in the Hebrew Bible at all, but "Kingdom of the LORD [Heb. Malkut YHVH] occurs twice (1Chr 28:5; 2Chr 13:8). The doctrine of the kingdom of God in the teaching of Yeshua and the apostles relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel, not to a future religion called Christianity. Israel first sang the praise of God's reign after crossing the Red Sea (Ex 15:18) and then at Mount Sinai they accepted the yoke of God's Kingdom (Ex 19:6, 8). According to the Book of Jubilees (12:19), Abraham set the example for his descendants by declaring God to be his king (cf. Gen 14:22).
"Kingdom of God" is equivalent to "Kingdom of Heaven" (Heb. Malkut ha-Shamayim) in Matthew where "Heaven" serves as a euphemism for the sacred name (Stern 16). In writing for non-Jews as well as Jews Mark's choice of theos emphasizes its LXX usage for the God of Israel, but also respects Jewish sensitivities and avoids saying the sacred name. If Yochanan or Yeshua in speaking of the Kingdom had used the Greek title kurios, which predominates as a replacement for YHVH in the LXX, Jews would have been offended and the Roman authority confused if not hostile since Caesar regarded himself as kurios. (cf. "kingdom of our Lord," 2Pet 1:11; Rev 11:15, which occurs very late in the development of the canon. Perhaps this was the reason Peter was martyred.)
The hope that God would establish his reign as King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93-99; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 34:23; 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; Obad 1:21; and Zech 14:9). The theme of God's kingdom is also found in intertestamental Jewish literature: Tobit 13:1; Sibylline Oracles 3:47-48, 767; Psalms of Solomon 17:3; Wisdom of Solomon 10:10; Assumption of Moses 10:1; Prayer of Azariah and the Three Men 33; and Enoch 84:2. Ancient Jewish prayer liturgy, such as Aleinu and Kaddish, include the phrase that "God may establish His Kingdom speedily" It was even laid down by the Sages that no benediction would be effective without reference to the Kingdom (Ber. 12a).
In the covenant with Israel God expressed his will for a kingdom, "you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). Then, God promised David,
"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2Sam 7:12-13)
So, here are two kinds of kingdom: a priestly kingdom and a Davidic kingdom. Which kingdom did Yeshua announce? Yochanan the Immerser's message was of both kingdoms, but he saw them occurring simultaneously. The immersion of Spirit would be the inauguration of the priestly kingdom and the immersion of fire would be the judgment on the wicked and victory of the Davidic kingdom (cf. Matt 3:7-12).
In the history of Christianity the Church was thought of as the Kingdom (so Augustine, City of God). Beginning in the 19th century dispensational tradition interpreted the kingdom as a future eschatological event with political implications for a restored Israel, when Yeshua comes back and sets up his kingdom. The Second Coming will involve apocalyptic judgment and final consummation of all things. Probably most Evangelicals associate the kingdom with heaven, i.e., the world to come, the afterlife. Thus, to be saved means to have a place in heaven when one dies. None of these interpretations were included in the definition of the kingdom Yeshua proclaimed when he went into Galilee.
is at hand: Grk. engizō, perf., to come or draw near, to approach. The verb occurs often in the temporal sense of a real kingdom. The perfect tense points to an event completed in past time with continuing results in the present. In other words, the kingdom had been planned, prophesied and promised long ago has now arrived in the person of Yeshua (cf. Dan 7:18, 22, 27; Obad 1:21; Mic 4:8). In this respect the Kingdom is not equivalent to going to heaven when we die or limited to the Millennial Kingdom in the age to come. Rather, Malkut Shaddai is God exercising dominion in the lives of those who receive Him as the all-sufficient King. The Kingdom is thus not limited to any specific place or time, but the power of God released in the lives of individuals surrendered to Him.
Yeshua demonstrated the sort of kingdom he was announcing when he went to Nazareth. Mark does not relate this account. In the synagogue at Nazareth Yeshua read from Isaiah 61:1-2, but deliberately stopped reading in the middle of the sentence. After the words "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," he hands the scroll back to the attendant. He does not read "and the day of vengeance of our God," as those present would have been expecting. Yeshua indicated that he was announcing God's favor, not to execute God's vengeance (Pryor 109).
repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. imp., to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, generally translated as "repent." In the LXX metanoeō almost always renders Heb. nacham (SH-5162), to be sorry, change one's mind or repent, sometimes used of God (1Sam 15:29; Jer 4:28; 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2; Zech 8:14) and other times of humans (Jer 8:6, 10; 31:19; Joel 2:13, 14). In Greek culture metanoeō did not fully convey the intent of the biblical concept. In the Tanakh repentance is best represented by the word shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around. In modern Hebrew the term is t'shuvah (Stern 16). When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8).
Jewish translators generally used epistrephō (SG-1994) or strephō (SH-4762), to translate shuv as repentance. These Greek verbs mean to turn, turn around, turn back or be transformed (DNTT 1:354). However, the use of metanoeō by Yeshua and the apostles is obviously meant to express the force of shuv (DNTT 1:357). In the LXX metanoeō is used one time to render Heb. shuv and this passage could easily be the inspiration for Yeshua's entreaty: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring again [Heb. shuv] to mind, you transgressors." (Isa 46:8 mine). God goes on to say, "I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion and my glory for Israel" (46:13). The use of metanoeō may reflect a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will to receive the salvation being offered.
and believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. imp., in general Greek usage, means to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone; believe, trust. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal form 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil form 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6). In the Hebrew concept trust and faithfulness are inseparable. If one trusts, then one is faithful. Far too many Christians limit "believe" as affirming a creed or believing in the God of the Bible or even trusting in Yeshua's atoning work for salvation. Unfortunately, such believing and trusting does not always result in faithfulness and obedience. The present tense imperative indicates not only something commanded, but something that continues once begun.
in the gospel: Grk. euangelion, good news or glad tidings. See verse 1. Yeshua proclaimed the good news that God had fulfilled the promises given to Israel through the prophets, including Moses. The good news is the same message the angel Gabriel gave to Zechariah (Luke 1:13-17), to Joseph (Matt 1:20-23) and Miriam (Luke 1:30-37). This is the same message that Zechariah then declared to his fellow Jews (Luke 1:68-75), all of which reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer, except that Yeshua explained that fulfillment in terms of Kingdom personified in himself.
16 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.
As he was going: Grk. paragō, pres. part., pass in the act of going, pass by. along by: Grk. para, prep., associates a person or thing as being beside or alongside an entity, by, beside, alongside. the Sea: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies of water and inland bodies of water. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. In the LXX thalassa renders Heb. yam (SH-3220), "sea," which is used first in Genesis 1:10 for the great oceans that encompass the globe. The first named body of water called yam is the Salt Sea (Heb. Siddim, Gen 14:3), next the Red Sea (Ex 10:19), then the Mediterranean Sea (Num 13:29) and finally the inland Sea of Chinnereth (Num 34:11). By the hermeneutic principle of "first mention," thalassa translating yam in reference to this body of water should have the name "Sea," instead of "Lake" as found in many versions.
of Galilee: In contrast to the Dead Sea the Sea of Galilee is freshwater, situated in the hills of southern Galilee, thirty miles to the west of the Mediterranean. Its surface is nearly 700 feet below sea level, but the surrounding hills reach an altitude of well over 1,000 feet above sea level. Fed chiefly by the Jordan River, the sea is thirteen miles long north to south and eight miles at its widest point. Because of its location, it is subject to sudden and violent storms which are usually of short duration. In the Tanakh this sea is called Kinneret (Num 34:11, transliterated as Grk. Chinnereth), because it is shaped like a harp (kinnor in ancient Hebrew). Luke transliterated the Hebrew name as Grk. Gennēsaret and associated it with a town of that name (Luke 5:1), but John the apostle refers to the sea as "Tiberias" (John 6:1, 23; 21:1), because of the prominence of the city of Tiberias, a Gentile city constructed by Herod Antipas when Yeshua was a young man.
he saw Simon: Grk. Simōn, which almost transliterates the Hebrew name Shimon ("he has heard"). Greek does not have the "sh" sound, so the Latin letter "S" is used. The apostle's name should be pronounced "Shee-mown," not "Sigh-mun." There are nine men in the Besekh with the name "Simōn," but this name does not occur in the LXX at all. In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shimon appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33). His name is translated in the LXX as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon." Then the tribe descended from him bore his name, which eventually had its territory within the area assigned to the tribe of Judah. There is one other man in the Tanakh named Simeon, a post-exilic Israelite noted for taking a foreign wife (Ezra 10:31). It's possible that the apostle Simon was named in honor of the patriarch.
Soon after his call Yeshua gave Simon the Aramaic name Kefa, which is transliterated with the Grk. Kêphas (English "Cephas") and then translated as Petros, both of which mean "rock" (Mark 3:16; John 1:42) (Stern 162). Simon is referred to eight times by his Aramaic name in Paul's letters (1Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14). The name Peter occurs most frequently in the Besekh (150+ times), but only twice in Paul's letters (Gal 2:7, 8). The combination name Simon Peter occurs twenty times, all but three in the Besorah of John. The name of Simon's father is given in John 1:42; 21:15-17 as John (Grk. Iōannēs; Heb. Yochanan). Little considered by commentators is Simon's family ancestry. While Simon's father was Yochanan ("John," John 1:42; 21:15-17), Yeshua later addressed him as "Simon Barjona" (Heb. bar Yona) (Matt 16:17), which means that Simon was a descendant of the prophet Jonah. Simon was married (verse 30 below; 1Cor 9:5) and maintained a residence in Capernaum (verse 21 and 29 below).
and Andrew: Grk. Andreas, derived from andros the genitive case of anêr "of a man." Andrew is the brother of Simon Peter and apparently the first disciple to join Yeshua (John 1:40). Andrew, being a Greek name, may have been only a nickname or a translation of his real Hebrew name, which is not known. There is a Hebrew name Anêr ("boy") found twice in the Tanakh, once of an Amorite chieftain who aided Abraham in the pursuit of the four invading kings (Gen 14:13, 24) and once of a Levitical city west of the Jordan in Manasseh allotted to the Kohathite Levites (1Chr 6:70). "Andrew" could also have been chosen by his father because he liked the name or wished to honor someone important to the family. Before becoming disciples of Yeshua, Simon and Andrew had been influenced by the teaching of Yochanan the Immerser (John 1:35-42).
the brother: Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." In the books Matthew—Acts adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. of Simon: It is an interesting detail that Andrew is almost always identified as the brother of Simon, but Simon is never called the brother of Andrew. Such order might imply that Simon was older or simply a nod to the preeminence of Simon as one of the chief apostles. The name of ancestry for Simon, Barjona (son of Jonah), is never given to Andrew. The detail might imply different fathers, if Andrew was older and his mother a widow whom Simon's father married. Perhaps more likely is that Andrew had the same ancestry, but the surname only became significant for Simon in the context of his acting like his ancestor in rebelling against God's purposes (Matt 16:17, 21-23). (See my web article The Sign of Jonah.) In any event Simon and Andrew originally came from Bethsaida (John 1:44).
casting a net: Grk. amphiballō, pres. part., to throw or put around, to cast a net. in the sea for they were fishermen: Grk. halieus, one associated with salty sea or one who makes his living catching fish, a fisherman. Simon and Andrew were Galilean fishermen (Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3), in partnership with the sons of Zebedee, Jacob and John (Luke 5:10). In the first century the Sea of Galilee was of major commercial significance and most Galilean roads passed by it. Nine towns lined its shores and in some of these the sound of ax and hammer rose above the marketplaces as ships of many sizes were constructed. Fishing boats searched the edges of the lakes by day and night and so many fish were taken that one town was named Tarichaea (from tarichei, Greek for fish), because in it thousands of tons of fish were salted down or dried and sent to Jerusalem and abroad each year (Lindsey 2).
17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
Follow Me: lit. "come after me." This is an invitation, not a command. and I will make: Grk. poieo, fut., to make or create something, to bring about a result. you become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf., to come into being or undergo a state of change or development. fishers: pl. of Grk. alieus, one associated with salty sea, a fisherman. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind. In ancient times it was not a disciple who signed up for a particular rabbi. When a rabbi could see a promising student as a possible disciple (Heb. talmid), then the rabbi would himself issue the call (Kasdan 103).
18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Immediately: Grk. euthus, 'immediately' or 'at once,' used frequently by Mark as a dramatic device to shift scenes. they left: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. part., to let remain behind, to leave or leave behind. their nets: pl. of Grk. diktuon, a net that is thrown or cast for use in catching fish. Here the term is figurative of their fishing business. and followed him: Grk. akoloutheō, may mean either (1) to be in motion in sequence behind someone or (2) to be in close association with someone, especially as a disciple. The latter meaning applies here, but the former meaning would apply on many occasions when Yeshua led the way. The quick response to the invitation to follow Yeshua implies former knowledge of Yeshua and respect for his ministry.
He saw James: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"). Barker commits the faux pas of saying, "Strangely, no one is named James in the Old Testament" (161). Actually, there is no one named "James" in the New Testament either. The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," had no negative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. (For more on the background of the name and the first "Jacob" see my web article Our Father Jacob.) The son of Isaac held great honor among the people of Israel and so it is not surprising that five different men bear this name in the Besekh: also Jacob the son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18); Jacob the Less (Mark 15:40); Jacob the father of Judas (aka 'Thaddaeus,' Luke 6:16; John 14:22) and Jacob the brother of Yeshua (Matt 13:55).
The Jacob mentioned here is usually distinguished from the others by the mention of his family relations. As one of the twelve disciples, he, with Peter and John, formed Yeshua's innermost circle of associates and was present for some of Yeshua's more significant miracles, including the transfiguration and the raising of Jairus' daughter. He and he brother were known as "sons of thunder" (Grk. Boanērges, Mark 3:17). Commentators generally attribute the name to having a stormy temper. It's more likely that since thunder is often associated with God's wrath in Scripture, the brothers gained the name by their suggestion that a Samaritan village be destroyed by fire from heaven (Luke 9:54). Jacob was the first of the twelve to be martyred, put to death by the sword at the order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea in about AD 44 (Acts 12:2).
The literary journey from Ya'akov (Jacob) to James is an interesting history. The Latin Vulgate (405) prepared by the church father Jerome (347-420) transliterated Iakōbos as "Iacobus." The Wycliffe Bible (1395), the first English translation of the whole Bible, was based on Jerome's Vulgate and inexplicably translated the Latin Iacobus into a totally new name, "James." The English alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet and originally the "J" was a vowel, simply a fancy "I." After the Renaissance (14th-17th century) "J" became a consonant with a hard sound. The Etymology Online Dictionary says that James is the Middle English vernacular form of Late Latin Jacomus (source of Old French James, Spanish Jaime, Italian Giacomo), altered from Latin Jacobus. The website BehindtheName.com concurs with this point of view in its article on James, saying that the Late Latin name Iacomus is a variant of Iacobus.
In contrast the Wycliffe Bible translates the Latin Iacob as "Jacob" in both the Tanakh (e.g. Gen 25:25) and the Besekh (e.g. Matt 1:2) and yet translates Iacobus (which only adds two letters to Iacob) as "James." The next five English Bible versions (1526-1611) used "Iames," but the Mace New Testament in 1729 returned the spelling to "James," and it's been that way ever since. The Wycliffe translators would have known that the Latin name Iacobus was derived from Iacob, meaning Jacob. So, why spell the name as James when they knew how to spell Jacob?
The dramatic change in the spelling convention can only be explained by the longstanding prejudice within Christianity against the patriarch Jacob. The Wycliffe translation was part of the trend to separate the apostles and their writings from their Jewish identity. Christian Bibles, Christian commentaries, Christian scholarly works and Christian popular usage continue to perpetuate the inaccuracy and thereby deny each of the men named "Jacob" in the Besekh this key element of Jewish identity. From my research only a small number of Christian scholarly works even mention the Hebrew origin of the name. Standard Greek lexicons and dictionaries (e.g., BAG, Danker, DNTT, and Thayer) acknowledge that Iakōbos is a Hellenized form of Iakōb, but then translate the name as "James."
The correct English transliteration (and followed in this commentary) is "Jacob," as found in the Messianic Jewish Bible versions Tree of Life: The New Covenant and Daniel Gruber's The Messianic Writings. The Complete Jewish Bible, Hebrew Names Version and the Orthodox Jewish Bible consistently use "Ya'akov" to emphasis the Hebrew origin of the name. Of interest is that the Aramaic Peshitta has Ya'aqub for both the patriarch and the five disciples who bore the name in the Besekh. The Etheridge English translation of the Peshitta (1846-1849) renders the name as "Jakub" and the Younan English version (2004) has "Yaqob." Of the several Christian Bibles I own only the NASB has a marginal note "or Jacob."
the son of Zebedee: Grk. Zebedaios transliterates the personal Heb. name Zavdai meaning, "gift.” Nothing is known further of Zebedee other than he owned a fishing business and was the father of two significant apostles. His Capernaum-based business employed several hired servants. It is generally thought that Salome was the mother of the Zebedee's sons (cf. Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40). In addition, Salome may have been the sister of Yeshua's mother mentioned in John 19:25, and in that case the sons of Zebedee would have been blood cousins of Yeshua. The Bible does not say if Zebedee ever became a believer, but he did not stand in the way of his sons or wife becoming disciples of Yeshua.
and John: Grk. Iōannēs for the Heb. Yochanan or John. See verse 4 above. When John's name appears with his brother in the Synoptic narratives he is almost always listed second, suggesting that he was the younger of the two. When Yeshua first called John to discipleship, he was engaged in mending fishing nets along with his father and brother (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-19). John and Jacob had a close working relationship with Simon Peter in fishing (Luke 5:10). For more biographical information on John see my web article Witnesses of the Good News.
who were also in the boat: Grk. ploion, in biblical times denoted any vessel that could go out on a body of water. In modern times "ships" are classified as vessels that can traverse oceans, whereas "boats" cannot, and it is this distinction that has probably guided translation of the word in modern Bible versions. mending: Grk. katartizō, pres. part., to make something functional by fitting out, to restore or fix (up). the nets: Grk. diktuon, a net for casting. A net was the most common tool for fishing. These nets were homemade and might be small and circular for casting from the shore into the shallow water or much larger for casting from the boat while on the sea.
20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.
Jacob and John reacted in the same manner to Yeshua's invitation as Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Such immediate response could only be explained by their own Messianic expectations and prior acquaintance with the Rabbi's teaching.
21 They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.
They went into Capernaum: Grk. Kapharnaoum (from the Heb. K’far-Nachum, "village of Nahum”) was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 2½ miles west of the entrance of the Jordan (see verse 18 above). Capernaum was probably founded after the return from exile. As an economic center in Galilee it was more significant than tradition has often allowed. The designation "city" (verse 33 below) distinguishes it from a mere "fishing village.” It had its own synagogue, in which Yeshua frequently taught. Apparently the synagogue was built by the Roman soldiers garrisoned in Capernaum (Matt 8:8; Luke 7:1-10).
The toll-house for collecting custom and taxes in Capernaum where Matthew worked was an important center commanding both sea and land trade routes. Fishing and farming, as well as other light industries, were important to the local economy. After being rejected in his hometown of Nazareth, Yeshua made Capernaum the center of his ministry in Galilee. Although Yeshua centered his ministry there and performed many miracles in and around the city, he eventually cursed the city for the unbelief (Matt 11:23-24; Luke 10:15). So strikingly did this prophecy come true that only recently has Tell Hum been identified confidently as ancient Capernaum (NIBD).
and immediately on the Sabbath: Grk. sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (DNTT 3:405), which is derived from the verb shabath ("cease, desist, rest" BDB 991). "Sabbath" is generally considered to mean the seventh day of the week, but all the appointed times on God's calendar, including the first and last days of week-long festivals, were considered sabbaths (Lev 23), because ordinary work was prohibited on those days. The seventh-day Sabbath is the most frequently mentioned day of the week in the Besekh, occurring 60 times, only two of which are outside the apostolic histories. The Sabbath, first created by God in the beginning (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8) for all people, became an eternal sign of the covenant between God and Israel (Ex 31:13, 16f; Lev 24:8; Ezek 20:12, 20). Yeshua was an observant Jew who faithfully kept the Sabbath. Yeshua attended synagogue services on the Sabbath, visited the Temple on the Sabbath, rested on the Sabbath, taught on the Sabbath and healed on Sabbath days. If we are to walk in his steps (Luke 6:40; 1Pet 2:21), what would this obligation imply about the Sabbath? See my web article Remember the Sabbath.
He entered the synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Greek apostolic writings refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning as well as the congregation that met (Acts 6:9; 9:2), including that of Messianic Jews (Jacob 2:2). Sunagōgē occurs 56 times in the apostolic writings, but not at all in the writings of Paul. The origin of sunagōgē dates back to the 5th century BC and in ancient times was used to refer to any collection of things or people. Sunagōgē had a particular usage by Gentile trade guilds to refer to both their business meetings and religious feasts. In the LXX sunagōgē occurs 225 times and is generally used to translate the Heb. words qahal (a summons to an assembly, Ex 16:3) and edah (the assembly or congregation of Israel, Ex 12:3). Interestingly, qahal was also translated with ekklēsia in the LXX, but edah was never translated by ekklēsia (DNTT 1:292ff).
The origin of the synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date its beginning during the Babylonian exile (NIBD 1019). Pious Jews, far from their native land, without the ministry of the temple, no doubt felt the necessity to gather on the Sabbath in order to listen to the word of God and engage in prayer (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1). Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the temple. According to the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 50) synagogues were houses of prayer and schools of wisdom (On the Life of Moses II, 39).
By the first century, synagogues emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place. The Talmud tells us that, at the time of the destruction of the second temple, there were 394 synagogues in Jerusalem alone (Ket. 105a; TJ Sot. 7:7, 8; Yom. 7:1). As Jews emigrated west synagogues followed. In any community where at least ten Jewish men lived, the Jews would meet together for study and prayer and eventually build a sanctuary for their meetings. In Israel where the Sadducees exercised supervision over the temple, Pharisees supervised the learning of Torah in the synagogue.
and began to teach: Grk. didaskō, impf., to teach or instruct, often used in the Besekh of instructing disciples.
22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
They were amazed: the people were in shock. at his teaching: Grk. didachē means the act of teaching or instruction or the content of teaching. The term "teaching" does not refer simply to education in various areas of knowledge as might be obtained in a formal school or college. The word translated "teaching" is often associated in the apostolic writings with a particular source, such as Yeshua (John 7:16f), the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:12), the apostles (Acts 2:42; Rom 16:17). One who teaches is known as Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor (Matt 10:24; Luke 6:40; Rom 2:20). The Heb. equivalent is moreh. A moreh comes from the same root as Torah and means one who throws out, or points out, directs, or instructs (BDB 435).
one having authority: Grk. exousia has four basic meanings: (1) freedom of choice, the right (often in a legal sense) to act, decide or dispose of one’s property as one wishes; (2) the ability to do something, capability, might, power; (3) authority, absolute power, warrant; and (4) ruling or official power as exercised by kings and officials (BAG). In this context exousia stands for the Heb. s’mikhah (“leaning" or "laying”), a technical term for the ordination ceremony for a judge, elder or rabbi by a ceremony of laying on of hands (Stern 64). An ordained rabbi was granted authority to determine points of halakhah or application of Torah.
Jews expected the Messiah to function as a rabbi and teacher as the woman at the well said, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us" (John 4:25). Yeshua embodied that expectation and functioned as a rabbi as he roamed the country teaching about the kingdom and how to live by Torah as God intended. Like other rabbis of his time Yeshua gathered disciples, developed a close relationship with them, taught his disciples and others using methods common to the scribes and rabbis of the day, and expected his disciples to change and conform to his will. Unlike other rabbis Yeshua taught as one possessing independent authority (Matt 7:29; John 3:2). He did not need to speak in the name of one of the Sages or one of the two prominent authorities of the day, Hillel and Shammai. Yeshua never appealed to any other authority other than his Father or the Scriptures.
and not as the scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus refers to a specialist in Jewish legal matters. In Israelite culture a scribe was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah. In Greek culture grammateus was the title of officials at Athens and elsewhere, from secretary and registrar to clerk. The term was also used of scholars. In the LXX grammateus renders two Hebrew words, shotêr and more frequently sophêr (DNTT 3:477f). The word shotêr (SH-7860, official; officer, BDB 1009) is used of an officer or overseer in Egypt (Ex 5:6), men chosen to be part of the seventy elders (Num 11:16), administrative officers in the army (Deut 20:5) and judicial officials (1Chr 23:4; Ezra 4:8). The word sophêr (SH-5608, secretary, scribe, BDB 708) was used for the secretary to a king or government official (2Sam 8:17; Ezra 4:8), the military scribe who kept the muster rolls (Jer 37:15), an amanuensis to a prophet (Jer 36:4, 18, 32) and in the later books, one skilled in the law of Moses (Ezra 7:6, 12, 21; Neh 8:1).
In ancient Israel the art of writing was preserved as a craft by certain families, such as the Kenites dwelling at Jabez (1Chr 2:55). An ancient scribe's appearance with a writing case on his lap is mentioned in Ezekiel 9:2. Scribal schools trained priests and Levites, who in turn instructed the people in the Torah on great feast days and made legal judgments (cf. Deut 33:10). During the monarchy Levitical scribes were needed in the fiscal and administrative organization of Temple operations (2Kgs 12:10; 1Chr 24:6; 2Chr 34:13; Jer 8:8). Government scribes ranked above the priests and wielded considerable authority and influence (cf. 2Sam 8:16-18; 2Kgs 22:3-13; 25:19; 1Chr 18:15-17; 27:32; 2Chr 34:8-21). With the return from exile the profession of scribe gained considerable status "when the need arose to copy, study and expound the Scriptures to make them the basis of national life" (DNTT 3:478). The most noted of these post-exilic scribes skilled in all the Torah was the priest Ezra, who "had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10).
The word grammateus occurs 65 times in the Besekh, 60 of which are in Matthew—Luke. In all but one passage the term occurs in the plural form. The term always has its Jewish meaning of one learned in Torah, a rabbi or ordained theologian. Scribes were clearly influential. They were secretaries, teachers, lawyers, judges, priests and some were members of the Sanhedrin (Matt 16:21). Some scribes belonged to the party of the Pharisees (Matt 22:34-35; Mark 2:16; Acts 5:34; 23:9) and some were "of the people" (Matt 2:4), suggesting no party affiliation. The terms "scribes" and "Pharisees" are paired together nineteen times, suggesting the majority of the scribes were Sadducees or belonged to no party. Josephus mentions Sadducees who were magistrates (Ant. XVIII, 1:4) and scribes were always preferred for appointment as judges due to their knowledge of the law (Jeremias 237).
Luke uses two synonyms of scribe, nomikos, "legal expert or lawyer," 5 times, twice paired with Pharisees (Luke 7:30; 14:3), and nomodidaskalos, "teacher of the law" (Luke 5:17; Acts 5:34). In almost all passages the scribes are seen as opponents of Yeshua or recipients of his criticism, but three times a scribe is seen in a positive light (Matt 8:19; 13:52; Mark 12:28-32). One notable Pharisaic scribe and member of the Sanhedrin is Gamaliel, who counseled moderation in the treatment of the apostles (Acts 5:34-39).
In the pursuit of their profession scribes were forbidden to charge fees for their services (Bechoroth 4:6; Nedarim 37a, 62a). This practice was emulated by Yeshua who directed the apostles on their first missionary journey "Freely you received, freely give" (Matt 10:8). Scribes earned a living from working at a trade, but in the main were dependent on subsidies from students, distribution of tithes for the poor and sometimes support from the Temple treasury (Jeremias 112f). Scribes employed at the Temple were paid from the annual Temple tax (Jeremias 115).
Yeshua said that the scribes (along with the Pharisees) "have seated themselves in the chair of Moses" (Matt 23:2), which could be an allusion to the Sanhedrin, the final authority for judging violations of Torah. It may seem ironic that Yeshua instructed his disciples "therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them" (Matt 23:3). Yeshua also condemned scribes (and Pharisees) for wanting to be called Rabbi in market places (Matt 23:7; cf. Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46). Flusser says that the epithet "Rabbi" was in common use in those days and was especially popular for describing scholars and teachers of the Torah. It had not yet become restricted to expert and ordained teachers (13).
Jeremias (Chap. 10) describes the stages of a scribe's professional development that helps to understand the contrast between Yeshua and the scribes. Scribal education began as a pupil (talmid) at an early age (adolescent years), and progressed for several years in a regular course of study. When the talmid as able to prove his skill to teachers in making personal decisions on questions of religious legislation and penal justice, the pupil would be considered a "non-ordained scholar" (talmid hakam). As a non-ordained scholar the scribe could be employed in a professional capacity. It was only when the talmid hakam attained the age of 40 (mentioned in Sotah 22b) that he could be ordained and accepted into the prestigious company of ordained scholars (hakam). As an ordained scholar the scribe was authorized to make his own decisions on matters of religious legislation and of ritual (Sanhedrin 5a), to act as a judge in criminal proceedings (Sanhedrin 3a) and to pass judgment in civil cases either as a member of the court or as an individual.
There is no question that scribes held considerable power and influence in Jewish culture (Jeremias 243). So to say that Yeshua had authority different from a scribe could mean a variety of things. First, it may indicate that his wisdom was superior to the scribes. Josephus, the Jewish historian, called Yeshua a "wise man" (Ant. XVIII, 3:3). Second, Yeshua's disciples called him Rabbi (e.g. Mark 9:5), but they primarily called him "Lord" (e.g. Matt 8:25; 14:28). Even outsiders called Yeshua "Lord" (e.g. Matt 8:2, 6; 15:22). Yet, no scribe was ever called "Lord." Third, Yeshua taught a "strict construction" view of Torah, that is, the original intent of Torah. Scribes, on the other hand, invented interpretations that allowed them to violate Torah commandments. Fourth, and most important, is that Yeshua taught as one who had authority in himself, even though he was not yet 40 and possessed no credentials from Jerusalem. Moreover, Yeshua asserted that his authority came directly from his Father (Matt 28:18; John 5:27; 10:18; 12:44–50).
a man in their synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē. See verse 20 above. We can easily wonder why or how a demon possessed man came to be in the synagogue. with an unclean: Grk. akathartos, unclean or impure, used generally in a religious sense of isolating one from contact with deity. spirit: Grk. pneuma, breath, wind or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement. Pneuma is used in reference to man's spirit, unclean spirits and the Holy Spirit. It is probably no accident that the Holy Spirit is mentioned three times in Mark (verses 8, 10, 12 above) before the first mention of "unclean spirit."
The reference to an unclean spirit first occurs in Zech 13:2 and then 22 times in the Besekh. The term "unclean" does not pertain to physical hygiene (although it wouldn't be excluded), but rather alludes to the Torah standard of clean and unclean. Involvement in paganism or the occult makes one unclean because the source is unclean (Lev 19:31). However, the spirit or demon is unclean because of being part of the Satanic organization opposed to God. An unclean spirit contrasts with Holy Spirit in a number of ways. For every characteristic of the Holy Spirit (whether of nature or ministry) an unclean spirit is the radical opposite.
What should be considered is that the many mentions of demons and demon-possessed people in the histories of Yeshua indicate a Satanic invasion coincidental with the revelation of Messiah. The demonic activity was unprecedented in Israelite history, and while some may have dabbled in the occult the evidence indicates that the victims were random targets. Scholars are tempted to attribute these accounts of demons to ancient superstition and it is true that ancient people attributed some misfortune and suffering to unseen spirits. After all, they had the story of Job and a few other accounts in the Tanakh of spirit activity (Jdg 9:23; 1Sam 16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9; 1Kgs 22:21-24). However, the apostles clearly present all the stories of demon-afflicted people as true life accounts, and Yeshua did not cast out superstitions, but actual demons.
he cried out: Grk. anakrazō, to let out a loud vocal sound. The unclean spirit expressed himself by using the vocal cords of the man.
24 saying, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!"
What business do we have with each other: The word "business" seems inappropriate to the context. The translation is an effort to smooth the Greek that lit. says, "what to us and to you." Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. of Nazareth: Grk. Nazarēnos, adj., lit. "the Nazarene," not "of Nazareth." Yeshua is identified six times with this adjective (also in Mark 10:47; 14:67; 16:6; Luke 4:34; 24:19). The naming convention of identifying persons by place of origin distinguished them from other persons with the same name. (Yeshua was a common name.) The last letter of "Nazareth" was dropped and an adjectival suffix added to form the label, the masculine nos for Nazareth, resulting in Nazarēnos. The same Greek construction may be found in other names, such as Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1), and Dionysius the Areopagite (Acts 17:34).
Have you come to destroy us? The Grk. verb apollumi, aor. inf., means to cause severe damage by either making ineffective or incapable of functioning or eliminating in the sense of killing. The rhetorical question is apt consider that Yeshua came into the world to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn 3:8). The means of destruction is by separating the demonic from those whom they oppress.
I know who You are--the Holy One of God: the unclean spirit addressed Yeshua using a title that alludes to the Jewish expression of respect, "the Holy One, Blessed be He." However, the spirit is not offering respect. The comment probably came out as a sneer.
25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"
And Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. rebuked him: Grk. epitamō, aor. act. ind., means to express urgently to elicit compliance. Yeshua acted quickly to come to the man's aid. saying, "Be quiet: Grk. phimoō, aor. pass. imp., may mean to shut a mouth with a tightening device, i.e., to muzzle, or to cause to cease making a sound, to silence. Considering the next verse we might think the command was ineffectual, but Yeshua was probably forbidding any more disrespectful speech about the name of God. and come out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. imp. to move away from a place or position, to go out or come out. of: Grk. ex, prep., from out, out from among, from. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Yeshua issued the second command to remove the unclean spirit from the man's body.
26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.
Throwing him into convulsions: Grk. sparassō, aor. part., to shake to and fro; used of a hostile spirit causing a convulsion. The demon tried to harm the victim as he exited. The human spirit, though considered "non-physical" in Greek philosophy (and in Western thought) is just as real as the physical body and cannot be understood by the laws that govern material objects. The same is true of unclean spirits or demons. While they live unseen to human eyes, they nevertheless have a physical reality and can cause great harm in our physical world.
27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."
They were all amazed: See verse 22 regarding the crowd's amazement. These two verses represent a sharp contrast between two very different worlds, that of the scribes and that of demons. Once a person surrenders himself to the demonic the power of evil is in control. A possessed person does not have the power to free himself. Deliverance from come from another. A new teaching with authority! See verse 22 above. He commands even the unclean spirits: In one respect the crowd should not have been amazed since exorcism was an accepted practice in Judaism (cf. Acts 19:11). Perhaps the earliest incident is the melancholia of King Saul caused by an evil spirit, which David, by his harp-playing, drove away (1Sam 16:14-23).
Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian relates this eye-witness account:
"I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal, in the presence of Vespasian and his sons and his captains and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down, immediately he abjured him to return into him no more." (Ant. VIII. 2, §5)
Dr. Fred Rosner lists these accounts of exorcism in ancient Jewish literature: "The placenta of a black cat was used for demonic exorcism (Ber. 6a). A man possessed by the demon of madness is treated by making smoke with roots and then sprinkling water to chase the demon away (Numbers Rabbah 19:8). A demon was once driven away with smoke made from fish heart and fish liver (Tobit 8:2). An extensive procedure to exorcise a demon causing a burning fever is depicted in the Talmud (Shab. 7a). (Encyclopedia of Medicine in the Bible and the Talmud , p. 121)
The reason that Yeshua's exorcism made such an impact on the bystanders is that the demon was expelled with just a verbal command. Jewish exorcism was a part of medical practice because in their ancient superstitions so many maladies in their ignorance were attributed to demons. In this story Yeshua confronts a very real demon.
28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.
The grapevine worked well in ancient times and the report of Yeshua's teaching, healing and deliverance from demonic oppression spread like wildfire. Such a report, perhaps with some embellishment as gossip generally does, would have spiked widespread interest in his ministry and sparked increasing expectations and demands on his attention.
Many Healings, 1:29-45
Parallel: Matthew 8:14-17; Luke 4:38-41.
29 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
they came out of the synagogue: See verse 21 above. With the morning service concluded Yeshua departed to go to the house of Simon and Andrew: See verse 16 above for their names. The mention of "house" is a further indication of economic and social status of the Yona family (Matt 16:17) in the community. with James: Grk. Iakōbos, Jacob. See verse 19 above. and John: Grk. Iōannēs, Yōchanan or John. See verse 4 and 19 above.
30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her.
Now Simon's mother-in-law: Grk. penthera, the mother of one's wife. This is the first indication of the marital status of any of the disciples. Peter's wife was apparently supportive of his discipleship and later traveled with him (1Cor 9:5). Paul's comment there implies that all of the apostles were married. In fact, it was customary for a wife to help her husband in his vocation (Jeremias 362; cf. Acts 18:1-3). The fact that Simon's mother-in-law was living in his house is not surprising. Ancient Israelites generally cared for their parents and Simon's mother-in-law may have been a widow. sick with a fever: Grk. puressō, pres. part., fever-stricken, no doubt with a high temperature. they spoke to Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. about her: The two brothers cared for their mother-in-law. They had witnessed other needy people being healed, but those were people they didn't know. Now the need arose in their own family and they knew who to turn to for help.
31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.
Mark downplays the real drama of the event with an economy of words. Yeshua came, touched and took the fever away. Then, acting as hostess, Simon's mother-in-law served them a meal, no doubt with the assistance of her daughter. No big deal. However, they all knew the severity of the need. Without intervention she might well have died.
32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed.
When evening: Grk. opsia, a variant form of opsios, the period between daylight and darkness, evening. By itself "evening" is not a definite clock time, and determination must be made from the context. Jews reckoned a day (Heb. yom) in two ways. Yom was first defined as an evening and morning (Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 31). Days listed on a Hebrew calendar begin at sundown the day before. This practice is obvious with the observance of Passover which occurs after sundown on Nisan 14 (Ex 12:6). Yom was also defined as "morning and evening" (e.g. 1Sam 17:16; Acts 28:23). In other words "until the sun passed the meridian all was morning; after that, all was afternoon or evening" (Clarke 108). Hours of the day were measured from sunrise. The morning and evening sacrifices specified in (Ex 29:39, 41; Num 28:1-4) were conducted about 9 A.M. (the third hour) and about 3 P.M. (the ninth hour) respectively (Edersheim-Temple 108; Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:3).
came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to come to be, to become or to take place; lit. "having come." The aorist tense refers to a completed event. after: Grk. ote, a temporal marker connecting one event to another event, here a coincidence in time, "when." the sun: Grk. hēlios (Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles from the earth, which assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165).
had set: Grk. dunō, aor., go down, set of the sun. The word "evening" is defined in this context, a reminder that by Jewish reckoning a calendar day begins at sunset. they began bringing: Since there is at least an hour between sunset and twilight there was still enough light for people to come and receive help. all who were ill: Grk. kakōs, badly ill. and those who were demon-possessed: Grk. daimonizomai, pres. mid. part., to experience inward control by a hostile spirit or to be afflicted by a demon.
33 And the whole city had gathered at the door.
And the whole city: The word "whole" does not mean every citizen, but a substantial number that was representative of the population. Given the occasion not only would those in need be seeking Yeshua, but family and friends and the curious.
And he healed: Grk. therapeuō, aor., to offer helpful service or to heal in a physical sense. Here the latter meaning is intended. The news of healing Simon's mother-in-law no doubt spread, resulting in many more seeking Yeshua's help. various: Grk. poikolos, with many features, of various kinds, probably intending a variety of symptoms. diseases: pl. Grk. nosos, a generic term for physical maladies. The scope of Yeshua's healing ministry provided dramatic results for every illness or infirmity brought to him. and cast out: Grk. ekballō, aor., from the prep. ek, "out" or "out of" and ballō, which normally refers to something in the hand that is thrown or cast, such as the scattering of seed, casting of lots, throwing stones at someone or in this case figs blown by the wind (the hand of God) from a tree. Thus, it was the hand of God in the person of Yeshua who removed demonic trespassers from their human victims.
many demons: pl. of Grk. daimonion refers to a deity or transcendent being of lesser or subordinate rank. In the Besekh the term only has a negative connotation of an evil spirit hostile toward man and God. Daimonion was historically derived from daiomai, to divide or apportion and may be connected with the idea of the god of the dead as a divider of corpses (DNTT 1:450). The terms "demon" and "unclean spirit" are essentially synonymous in Scripture (verse 23 above; Luke 9:42). Neither term refers to a ghost or a spirit of a dead person. Demons are subordinate to Satan and are his angels (Mark 3:22-23) and while active in the world, they are destined for judgment (Matt 8:29; 25:41).
Worship in false religions brings people into contact with demons that are the true reality behind the pagan deities (Lev 17:7; Deut 32:17; 2Chr 11:15; Ps 106:37; 1Cor 10:20f; Rev 9:20). In the LXX daimonion occurs only in Isaiah 34:14 for Heb. sa'iyr (SH-8163, 'satyr, demon,') and in Isa 65:11 for Heb. gad (SH-1409, 'fortune, or 'god of fortune'). The related term daimōn ('demon') occurs in Isaiah 13:21 for Heb. sa'iyr. The Tanakh has two other words for evil spirits: Heb. shedim (SH-7700, "demons" Deut 32:17; Ps 106:37), and lilith (SH-3917, 'female night demon,' Isa 34:14). Scripture is silent on the origin of demons, but they are likely the angels who followed Satan and were cast down to earth (Rev 12:9; cf. Jude 1:6).
Demons might be considered the foot soldiers in Satan's army. According to the cases reported in the apostolic narratives they have the power to cause great harm. Jewish scribes were steeped in belief in demons and had many names for them, such as powerful ones, harmers, destroyers, attackers, satyrs, and evil spirits. According to Jewish belief in the first century demons ascend from beneath the earth (cf. 1Sam 28:13) and fill the world. They have access to heaven, and though they belong to Satan's kingdom, God gives them authority to inflict punishments on sinners. Their power began in the time of Enosh (Gen 4:26), but will end in the days of the Messiah. Their main goal is to lead men into sin. They are the cause of some, but not all diseases, and they can also kill (DNTT 1:451).
He was not permitting the demons to speak: Some believe that Mark does not openly declare Yeshua to be the Messiah because on several occasions, particularly after a deliverance or healing, Yeshua warns someone not to speak of him (also 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30; 9:9).
· The prohibitions of speaking of Yeshua's miraculous works that identified him as the Son of God are not unique to Mark. They are also found in Matthew and Luke in parallel passages.
· In the early part of his ministry Yeshua did not publicize the fact that he was the Messiah, because the people expected a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Rome and rule in glory, not one who would die a criminal’s death. Had he been publicly identified as the Messiah, the people would have tried to make him king then and there, as they did soon after (John 6:15). Had the attempt succeeded, with Yeshua ruling in glory, he would not have fulfilled Isaiah 53’s prophecy of a Messiah who must suffer and die. Only at his Second Coming will Yeshua fulfill the prophecies concerning the Messianic Age of world peace (Stern 34f).
· Conversely, Yeshua could have faced a premature arrest and trial for inciting rebellion. In fact, at one point Herod tried to arrest him (Luke 13:31).
· Yeshua's prohibitions to certain individuals whom he had healed relate to special circumstances. He healed people from the beginning of his ministry, but like the man with a skin disease (1:40) Yeshua wanted the requirements of Torah to be respected more than he wanted any attention because of the miracle.
· In the case of silencing demons, if the demons knew who he was, then his true identity was not a secret and in recounting these incidents Mark himself does not conceal the supposed secret.
· The prohibitions occurred in Galilee in the early part of his ministry, but not in his later ministry in Judea. In many ways from the beginning of his public ministry Yeshua declared that the was the Messiah.
35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
In the early morning: Grk. prōi, early in the morning. The adverb is often used of the fourth watch before six am (BAG). Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. got up: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to one who is sitting or lying down. left … went to a secluded place: Grk. erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. See verse 4 above. and was praying: Grk. proseuchomai, impf. mid., pray. The imperfect tense indicates continuous activity in past time. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal, to intervene or interpose. The verb has a variety of applications, including arbitrate, judge, intercede and pray. The context of prayer in the Tanakh is addressing the Sovereign Judge of all people and thus prayer by its nature requires self-examination. The verb "pray" in Scripture refers to petitioning God for his help or answer primarily with respect to the needs of others.
36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You."
It may seem disrespectful for Simon to interrupt Yeshua while he was praying, but Yeshua does not react negatively. It may be that in the time of prayer the Father gave direction for the day's activity and Simon's arrival coincided with Yeshua's intention to carry out the plan.
38 He said to them, "Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for."
Let us go … that I may preach: Grk. kērussō, aor. subj., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, proclaim. what I came for: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, lit. "for this I came forth." The expression refers to the purpose for commencing his ministry, but the phrasing also alludes to taking on human flesh to fulfill the Father's will (cf. Php 2:5-8).
39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.
And He went into their synagogues: See verse 21 above. throughout all Galilee: See verse 9 above. preaching: See the previous verse. and casting out the demons: See verse 34 above. This verse summarizes Yeshua's ministry activities, essentially continuing what he had begun.
And a leper: Grk. lepros, adj., refers to one afflicted with a skin disorder. Parallel accounts of this encounter occur in Matthew 8:2-4 and Luke 5:12-14. In the LXX lepros translates Heb. metsora, participle of the verb tsara (SH-6879), one afflicted with a skin disease called tza'arat (SH-6883). The diagnosis and treatment of various types of skin disorders are covered in Leviticus 13 and 14 and discussed at length in the Talmud Tractate Nega'im. If a skin disease developed into tza'arat the afflicted person would be considered unclean and therefore religiously and socially separated (Lev 13:45). See my Drash on Leviticus 13:6-7. The list of curses pronounced in Moab includes "the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed" (Deut 28:27).
Rabbinic Judaism attributed such impurities as arising from slander, bloodshed, false oaths, and immorality (Arakin 15b). The use of "leper" and "leprosy" in Christian versions is a bad translation choice because in the English vernacular leprosy means the terrible affliction of Hansen's Disease and there is no biblical account of someone with that disease. Also tza'arat can infect clothes, pottery and dwellings, which is not characteristic of Hansen's Disease. Danker suggests translating lepros with "afflicted with a skin disorder." Several versions follow this advice with "skin disease" (CEB, EXB, GW, HCSB, NCV, NIRV, NLV, NOG, TEV). Messianic Jewish versions give a more precise translation with "one afflicted with tza'arat" (CJB, TLV) and metzorah (DHE, OJB).
The earliest reported skin disease was Job who was afflicted from head to feet with boils by Satan (Job 2:7). How long Job actually suffered from the boils before God healed him is not stated, but it was certainly long enough that had the Torah instruction been in effect he would have been diagnosed with tza'arat. The first mention of tza'arat is in Leviticus 13 and several named cases of tza'arat are reported in the Tanakh. The first case was Moses whose skin was changed to tza'arat as a miraculous sign (Ex 4:6). The fourth plague on Egypt was boils (Ex 9:9-11), and although not called tza'arat the extensive nature of the affliction and the indefinite duration would qualify. The next case was Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was punished with tza'arat for opposing the marriage of Moses to a Cushite woman (Num 12:10). Her skin turned white.
Then there was Naaman, a military leader of Aram (2Kgs 5). Naaman's skin disorder was probably divinely caused in order to set the stage for the later miracle of healing. In any event, it did not prevent him from being successful in his occupation. The nature of Naaman's disease is hinted at in the judgment of tza'arat imposed on Gehazi, that of the skin being bleached white (2Kgs 5:27). The modern medical term for the loss of pigmentation resulting in white patches is leukoderma. There were also four men who suffered from tza'arat (2Kgs 7:3) during the time of Elisha. The last case mentioned in the Tanakh is that of King Uzziah who was divinely punished with tza'arat for his pride (2Chr 26:16-20). The nature of the man's disease who sought Yeshua's help is not described.
came: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 7 above. The present tense gives dramatic emphasis to the action. to Jesus: Yeshua. The description of the man's action contains a certain irony. The Torah requires that the one with a skin disorder "be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests" (Lev 13:2). Perhaps due to the corruption of the Sadducean priesthood at this time the diseased man had no confidence in their help. Later Yeshua will gain the title "high priest" (Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14) and therefore had the right to minister to this man's need. beseeching: Grk. parakaleō, pres. part., may mean (1) call to be at one's side; invite, entreat, implore for securing help or assistance; (2) hearten in time of trouble; comfort, console; (3) encourage performance; urge, exhort, encourage. The first meaning applies here. and falling on his knees: Grk. gonupeteō, pres. part., to kneel down or before. The man's action reflects an impassioned plea for help.
If You are willing: Grk. thelō, pres. subj., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. This only place in the Besekh where the subject of God’s will arises in connection with healing. You can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable for doing or achieving as qualified in the content of the statement or question. The man seems to limit Yeshua's ability to his willingness. make me clean: Grk. katharizō, aor. inf., to make clean, cleanse or purify (BAG). Danker's definition of "make ceremonially clean" diminishes the character of the word. In the LXX katharizō renders Heb. taher, to be clean or pure (first use in Gen 35:2). The verb has wide application and is used of physical, religious, ethical and moral cleansing. The verb is normally associated with removal of uncleanness that will enable an object or a person to have contact with God and/or other people.
The only use of the verb in the Tanakh in relation to an actual case of healing a skin disorder is that of Naaman (2Kgs 5:10, 12-14). The afflicted man's question to Yeshua is interesting and puzzling. In spite of Yeshua’ record of healing, the leper was not confident that God’s healing grace would be extended to him. He should have realized the degree of insult the question represented.
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."
Moved with compassion: Grk. splagchnizomai, aor. pass. part., to be inwardly moved by circumstance or condition. It's important to note what Yeshua did not do. He does not tell the man to repent. There is no assumption that the man's disease was divine retribution for some offense. He may have been like Job who was afflicted by Satan. The disease might have simply been a natural occurrence. In the Torah instruction on diagnosis and treatment of skin problems (Leviticus 13 & 14) there is no assumption of personal sin. The priest's role is simply to examine and determine the appropriate action for the health of the individual and the community. The purpose of the sin offerings in the case of physical uncleanness (Lev 14:19) was not to atone for personal transgressions. Sin offerings were also required of a woman after giving birth (Lev 12:6). The sin offering restored the person to a clean status and admitted the person back into the community.
Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above. stretched out: Grk. ekteinō, aor. part., cause an object to extend in space, most often used of hands. his hand: Grk. cheir, the limb of the hand, used fig. of authority or control. and touched him: The verb is Grk. haptō, aor. mid., to make contact with, to touch, take hold of or grasp. It is commonly assumed that no one could touch a person with skin problems or its worst form tza'arat, even though there is no such ban in the Torah. Touching was specifically prohibited for certain types of uncleanness, such as a dead animal or a dead person, or a person with a menstrual flow or a discharge (Lev 5:2-3; 7:19, 21; 11:8, 24, 26-27; 15:5, 7, 10, 19, 21), but even in those circumstances the remedy was washing and separation until sundown. For the one with tza'arat the priest was required to look closely at the skin problem to determine its seriousness and prescribe appropriate action. So, Yeshua did not violate Torah instruction by touching this man. Besides, he was inherently immune from contracting uncleanness from another person.
I am willing: Grk. thelō. See the previous verse. In this one and only case where the willingness of Yeshua (and thus of God) was questioned, Yeshua replied that he was willing and healed the man. Indeed every person who came to Yeshua for help with a physical problem went home healed (Matt 4:23f; 8:16; 9:35; 14:14; 15:30; 19:2; 21:14). be cleansed: Grk. katharizō, aor. pass. imp. See the previous verse. Danker says that removal of the disease constitutes a ceremonial cleansing. Such a definition diminishes the significance of the healing. Christian scholarship typically refers to any command related to being fit for or conducting Temple worship as "ceremonial," as if it isn't all that important. The problem with this viewpoint is the fact that the Torah makes no distinction in authority between "ceremonial" and ethical laws. Disobedience of the "ceremonial" laws could result in death.
42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Immediately: Grk. euthus, adv. See verse 10 above. the leprosy: Grk. lepra, a variant spelling of the same disorder as lepros (verse 40 above) that means a skin disease or disorder of a kind that could leave one religiously and socially separated. As in verse 40 "leprosy" is a bad translation choice. Danker suggests a translation of "skin disorder." A few versions translate the noun with "skin disease" (CEB, GW, NOG) and other versions that have "skin disease" in verse 40 have simply "disease" here. left: Grk. aperchomai, to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination, to go away, depart or leave. The verb is normally associated with the movement of persons, as well as the physical movement of an object, but here is used of the disease departing the body. him and he was cleansed: Grk. katharizō, aor. pass. See verse 40 above. The healing occurred instantly. For more discussion on the subject of healing see my web article Divine Healing.
43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away,
And he sternly warned: Grk. embrimaomai, aor. mid. part., to be indignant with, address vehemently, to scold. Yeshua shifted from compassionate healer one moment to an admonishing prophet the next. him and immediately: Grk. euthus. See verse 10 above. sent him away: Grk. ekballō, aor., to cause to move out from a position, state or position. Translation can vary with put out, drive out, reject, cast out, or send out. Yeshua was apparently anxious to send the man on his way for religious reasons. Just because the man had been healed did not mean he had been officially restored to his family and community.
44 and He said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
See that you say nothing: Yeshua directed the man not to go home or any other destination of personal preference. go: Grk. hupagō, pres. imp., to proceed from a position, with the focus on an objective destination, go. show: Grk. deiknumi, aor. imp., to show. In other words, the man is to present himself for a personal physical inspection. yourself to the priest: Grk. hiereus refers almost exclusively in the apostolic writings to an ordinary Jewish priest in contrast with a chief priest. The Heb. term for priest (kohen) literally means "one who intervenes, one who stands up for another, and mediates in his cause" (Edersheim-Temple 57). The first use of the word "priest" in Scripture is in Genesis 14:18 where it refers to Melchizedek, who brought bread and wine to Abraham, blessed him and received tithes from him as an act of worship. The ministry of Melchizedek illustrates the essential activities of exalting God, interceding with God and serving the needs of others.
Following Genesis the priesthood became identified with the tribe of Levi and the high priest was selected from the descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. Being a priest was considered a gift and call of God (Num 18:7; Heb 5:4), but candidates had to complete training and be without physical defect in order to be ordained. The priests were originally organized into twenty-four divisions, the names of which appear at 1Chronicles 24:7–18. Only four of the original divisions returned from captivity and those four were divided into the prescribed 24 divisions. Each division served twice a year, but all divisions were present for Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), since Torah required all males to appear for those festivals (Deut 16:16).
The number of ordinary priests was considerably large. Joachim Jeremias has calculated that 56 priests officiated in the Temple each day, with 28 more being necessary on sabbaths. Each priest was on duty for one day during his division's week, so each of the 24 divisions would number about 300 priests, a grand total of 7,200 (203). The number of Levites would be comparable or slightly greater than the number of priests. According to Josephus in the first century there were in excess of 20,000 priests and Levites (Against Apion II, 8). Except when required to be in Jerusalem for duty the ordinary priests lived in towns and villages scattered over the land.
At this time of this event there was a courtyard in the Temple called the Chamber of the Lepers, where those who had experienced a healing were to take a mikveh-immersion and then submit to a physical inspection by the priests to verify the healing (Mishnah Negaim 14:8) (Kasdan 82). and offer: Grk. prospherō, aor. imp., to cause movement of something or someone to a person or place, to bring or to present. for your cleansing: Grk. katharismos, the state of being clean in either a religious or spiritual sense. The required sacrificial offerings are explained in Leviticus 14.
what Moses: Grk. Mōusēs, the transliteration of Heb. Mosheh, which is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water." Moses was the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel. Moses was a Levite, the son of Amram and Jochebed (Num 26:59). He had two wives, Zipporah (Ex 2:21; 18:2) and a Cushite woman (Num 12:1), and two sons of Zipporah, one named Gershom and the other named Eliezer (Ex 18:3-4).
Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their Exodus from Egyptian slavery and oppression, their journey through the wilderness with its many threats, and finally in their meeting with God at Mount Sinai where the distinctive covenant bonding between Israel and God took place. The Tanakh describes Moses as the author of the Pentateuch, a heroic leader of the people and as a devout man of God. His story is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His name appears 764 times in the Tanakh and 80 times in the Besekh. Moses was a giant of a man. See my article Moses and Yeshua.
commanded: Grk. prostassō, aor., to give an authoritative directive, to enjoin, order or prescribe. There is no intention here as giving Moses the credit for inventing the instruction. The "law of Moses" is "the law of the God of heaven" (Ezra 7:12, 21). Moses was merely the agent for God and conveyed God's instructions to the people. The specific command is "Be careful against an infection of leprosy [Heb. tsa'arat], that you diligently observe and do according to all that the Levitical priests teach you; as I have commanded them, so you shall be careful to do" (Deut 24:8). as a testimony: Grk. marturion, that which serves to corroborate or attest, a testimony or witness. It is clear from this instruction that Yeshua did not annul the Torah, but as elsewhere affirmed the continuing authority of the commandments God gave to Israel (Matt 5:1-48; 15:3; 19:1-9, 17; 22:36, 38, 40; John 14:15, 21; 15:10ff).
to them: to the priests. Healing of skin disorders was a rare occurrence and as such was considered a sign of the end days and the Messianic Age (Kasdan 81). This viewpoint can be found in the Talmud:
"R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah [the prophet] … He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself,’ was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?’ ‘At the entrance.’ And by what sign may I recognize him?’ ‘He is sitting among the poor lepers: all of them untie their bandages all at once, and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately, before treating the next, … The Rabbis said: His name is ‘the leper scholar,’ as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted." (Sanh. 98a+b)
Showing the priests would be tantamount to announcing that the Messiah had arrived.
45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.
But he went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. and began: Grk. archō, aor. mid., may mean (1) to rule or (2) to begin. to proclaim: Grk. kērussō, pres. inf. See verse 4 above. it freely: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, typically of numbers; lit. "many things." and to spread around: Grk. diaphēmizō, pres. inf., to spread abroad, to circulate. the news: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (BDB 182). to such an extent: lit. "so as." The clause introduces a result of the preceding action. that Jesus: Yeshua. See verse 1 above.
could: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. inf. See verse 40 above. no longer: Grk. mēketi, adv., no longer, not from now on. publicly: Grk. phanerōs, in a state or condition openly viewable. enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. inf., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. a city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly. but stayed: Grk. eimi, impf., to be. out: Grk. exō, adv. of place, outside. in unpopulated: pl. of Grk. erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. areas: pl. of Grk. topos, a spatial area, which may be an unnamed geographical area or a named locality. and they were coming: Grk. erchomai, impf. mid. See verse 7 above. to Him from everywhere: Grk. pantothen, adv., from all directions, all around.
One can only wonder at what might have happened to this man after so blatantly disregarding and disobeying the clear commandment of Yeshua. Christians may be inclined to excuse such behavior as so much enthusiasm for what Yeshua had done for him. After all, aren't we all supposed to let our light shine? In this instance, no. Yeshua commanded. The man sinned by his disobedience and actually hindered Yeshua's ministry, thereby placing himself under the wrath of God. We can only imagine the outcome. Perhaps his affliction returned as it did to Gehazi (2Kgs 5:27). How long Yeshua remained in this unplanned separation from cities is not explained. It may have only been a short time, perhaps a few weeks and then he returned to Capernaum (2:1).
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah(1883). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Also online.
Edersheim-Temple: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Temple: It's Ministry and Services (1874). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994. Also online.
Fisher: Anthony J. Fisher (d. 2000), Greek New Testament [NA26]. University of York, nd.
Flusser: David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus' Genius. 4th ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Josephus: Flavius Josephus (Yosef ben Matityahu; c. 75-99 A.D.), Wars of the Jews. trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Kasdan: Barney Kasdan, Matthew Presents Yeshua, King Messiah: A Messianic Commentary. Lederer Books, 2011.
Lane: William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1974. (NICNT)
Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.
Wessel: Walter W. Wessel, Mark. Vol. 8, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
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