Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 25 March 2012; Revised 6 March 2017
Scripture: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.
Grammar: 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.
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.
Date: Autumn A.D. 29
1 And he said to them, "Truly I say to you, that there are some of those standing here who should not taste death anyhow until they should see the kingdom of God having come in power."
This verse actually belongs with the narrative at the end of chapter eight. The chapter division at this point is purely arbitrary, since the original MSS have no chapter divisions.
And: Grk. kai, conj., 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). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek.
he said: Grk. legō, impf., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. Truly: Grk. amēn, which means "so let it be" or "truly." Amēn transliterates the Heb. 'amen (ah-mayn), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root ’-m-n means "truth, faithfulness." Stern, in his comment on Matthew 5:18 where the same phrase occurs, explains the use of amēn:
"In Hebrew ’amen points to something previously said, yet most versions translate it as if it pointed forward rather than back. For example, the King James Version (KJV) translates this passage as, "Verily, I tell you" what follows. The translators who do this have New Testament internal evidence as grounds. … Instead, one must ask whether his "Amens" make good sense understood traditionally as referring back, not forward. And in fact, they do. … To be specific, his “Amen” to himself emphasizes his own previous point, sometimes with the force, "You may not think that I really meant what I just said, but I do!" (26)
The amēn, then, points back to the previous chapter (8:34-38) where he said,
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
I say: Grk. legō, pres. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the third person. This is a Hebraic formula that occurs frequently in the apostolic narratives that asserts the absolute veracity and reliability of what follows. The present tense (lit. "I am saying") gives added emphasis. Yeshua then proceeds to amplify what he had just said in 8:38. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The second usage applies here.
there are: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, exist; a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). some: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, m. pl.; any one, someone, a certain one. of those: Grk. ho, definite article, m. pl., but used as a demonstrative pronoun. standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. pass., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; (2) to be in an upright position, used of bodily posture; (3) to set or place in a balance; (4) fig. to stand ready, to be of a steadfast mind. The first meaning applies here, but there is a hint of the fourth meaning. here: Grk. hōde, adv. of place, marker of a position that is relatively near; here, in this place. Such indirect reference is typical of Hebraic speech and is the same thing as saying the event will take place within this generation (Bruce 153).
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun; whoever, whatever; whosoever, whatsoever. should not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle of strong negation. taste: Grk. geuomai, aor. mid. sub., taste as a sensory experience, but also used in an extended sense to have knowledge or experience of something. death: Grk. thanatos, death, which refers to the natural physical sense, but may occur figuratively for a spiritual condition denoting a lack of relationship with God (Matt 4:16) or eternal death (John 8:52). The idiom "taste death" refers to the act of dying (cf. Heb 2:9). In context the idiom might function as a play on words since he has just spoken of his own anticipated death (8:31) and then called his disciples to take up crosses (8:34), certainly a word picture of death with spiritual implications.
anyhow: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might. Bible versions do not translate the particle here, but it is used here to make the future circumstance more vivid. until: heōs, a particle used here as a temporal conjunction; till, until. they should see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. the kingdom: Grk. basileia, means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. The doctrine of the kingdom in the teaching of Yeshua and the apostles relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel. of God: Grk. theos. The Hebrew expression would be Malkut Shaddai, which occurs in the Targum to Zechariah 14:9 and Obadiah 21. The hope that God would be King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in the Tanakh.
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 throughout intertestamental Jewish literature. 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).
having come: Grk. erchomai, perf. pass. part., to come or arrive as a result of moving from one point to another. The perfect tense indicates "already established" (Rienecker). in power: Grk. dunamis, which may be translated "power," "strength" or "might." In the Besekh dunamis is primarily used to refer to the power of God. In ordinary usage the Greek word suggests the inherent capacity of someone to carry something out, whether it be physical, spiritual, military or political (DNTT 2:601). In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). The event which some would experience is the coming of the kingdom of God with power. But, what does that mean? There are four ways in which the expression is used that have a bearing on interpretation.
First, the kingdom of God came in power with the beginning of Yeshua's ministry (Acts 10:38). His miracles were examples of the power of the coming age breaking into the present age. This meaning would be redundant in the circumstances since the disciples had already witnessed the power of the Kingdom. Second, "the kingdom coming with power" could refer to the Second Coming, as Yeshua announced at his trial, "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). This meaning does not work either, since he states that those living at that time would see the coming with power.
Third, "the kingdom coming with power" could refer to the disciples witnessing the resurrection of Yeshua, as Paul said, "who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom 1:4). Those standing with Yeshua obviously included his disciples, but "some of those" may have included people who were among the 500 that witnessed the resurrected Yeshua (1Cor 15:6).
Fourth, and most likely in my view, is that the kingdom coming in power refers to Pentecost, as Yeshua told his disciples: "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). As with the third option "some of those" could have participated in the Shavuot celebration with the 120 when the Holy Spirit came with mighty signs (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4) or were in the crowd that witnessed the signs and heard the apostolic message (Acts 2:5-6).
Interpretation is complicated by the fact that the description of the transfiguration that follows. The narrative of that event following the saying in all three Synoptic Narratives (Matt 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36) suggests some kind of connection between the two. Actually, the presence of Moses on the mount reinforces the Pentecost option because the disciples would be empowered to keep the laws of God (Jer 31:33; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:27). The reality is that one cannot experience the power of the Spirit until one dies to self. This verse is the logical conclusion of the teaching in 8:34-38.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36
2 And after six days, Yeshua took with him Peter and Jacob and John, and brought them to a high mountain by themselves alone. And he was transfigured before them;
And: Grk. kai, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep., may be used as (1) a marker of association or accompaniment; 'amid,' among,' 'with,' or 'in company with'; or (2) a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The second usage applies here. six: Grk. hex, the number six. days: Grk. hēmera, f. pl., may refer to (1) the daylight hours 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). Mark probably has the first meaning in mind, although the second is possible. In the Jewish way of marking days of the week this would be six days after the Sabbath or Friday. The time references introduces an historical event.
Yeshua: 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 of Yeshua, his identity, and the translation of his name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
took with him: Grk. paralambanō, pres., may mean (1) to receive to one's side; take, receive; or (2) to cause to go along; take. The second meaning applies here. Peter: Grk. Petros, , personal name meaning 'a stone' (BAG, Mounce), although Thayer says the name signifies a stone, a rock, a ledge or a cliff, and Danker defines the name as "rockman." Petros translates the Aramaic name Kępha ("rock"), a loanword in Hebrew (SH-3710; BDB 495). The name was given to him by Yeshua (John 1:42). Little considered by commentators is Simon's family ancestry. The name of Peter's father is given in John 1:42 and 21:15-17 as "John" (Grk. Iōannēs; Heb. Yochanan).
Peter's birth name was Simon, and on one occasion Yeshua addressed him as "Simon Barjona" (Heb. bar Yona) (Matt 16:17), which means that Simon's family descended from the prophet Jonah. Siimon was married (Mark 1:30; 1Cor 9:5) and maintained a residence in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29). Simon had a brother, Andrew, and together they engaged in a business of fishing from the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3). Prior to meeting Yeshua they also worked in partnership with the sons of Zebedee, Jacob and John (Luke 5:10). For more information on the life and ministry of Peter see my article The Letters of Peter: General Introduction.
Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), "James" in Christian versions. 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. For the literary history of how "Jacob" came to be "James" see my note on Mark 1:19. 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 In Defense of 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.
The Jacob mentioned here is usually distinguished from the others by the mention of his relation to John. Generally in the Synoptic narratives Jacob's name appears before John when listed together, suggesting that Jacob was older. 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 later martyred by King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2).
and John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan ("John" in Christian Bibles) and means "the Lord is gracious," an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). The Mace New Testament (1729) was the first to use the spelling of "John." This John was the son of Zebedee (Matt 4:21). 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.
Just as Moses took Joshua with him when he ascended Sinai (Ex 24:13), so Yeshua took Peter, Jacob and John with him for the unique revelation. The three disciples formed a close inner circle that joined Yeshua on special occasions. Yeshua could have taken his entire band, but this number satisfied the Torah requirement for witnesses (Deut 19:15).
to: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, towards. a high: Grk. upsēlos may mean (1) positioned at a point that is upward; high; or (2) considered to be of special importance, something highly valued or esteemed. The first meaning is primary here but the second has some relevance. mountain: Grk. oros means mountain, hill, or hill-country. The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation.
Regardless of the arbitrary standard of modern science, the Hebrew and Greek words were used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height. Lane suggests that the "high mountain" recalls the divine manifestations on the mountain of God, Sinai (Ex 24) and Horeb (1Kgs 19) where Moses and Elijah respectively received a vision of the glory of God. The high mountain is not identified. The traditional site is Mount Tabor, a loaf-shaped mountain in the middle of the Plain of Jezreel, six miles east of Nazareth. But, Tabor is not a "high mountain" (1,843 feet above sea level) compared to other mountains in Israel, although it is significant as the site of the battle between Barak and Sisera (Jdg 4:12-16). Mount Tabor's importance stems from its strategic control of the junction of the Galilee's north-south route with the east-west highway of the Jezreel Valley.
However, modern scholars cast doubt on the traditional suggestion, noting that Mark indicates no great change in location and Yeshua could scarcely have departed the neighborhood of Caesarea. Lightfoot suggests Yeshua would have gone to a mountain near at hand (2:423). Edersheim points out that at the time Mount Tabor was crowned with a fortified city, which would render it unsuitable for the scene of the Transfiguration (538). Gill suggests Mount Lebanon as a possible site, but Edersheim suggests Mount Hermon ("devoted mountain"), which is over 9,000 feet high. Barclay concurs with the nomination of Mt. Hermon (3:210). It is located near Caesarea Philippi, where the event Mark had just recorded at the end of chapter eight took place. The Mt. Hermon range is 28 miles long and 15 miles wide. From ancient times Mt. Hermon was a sacred mountain and cultic site (cf. Jdg 3:3; Ps 89:12; 133:3; 1Chr 5:23). There would have been plenty of slopes to choose from.
And: Grk. kai. he was transfigured: Grk. metamorphoō, aor. pass., to undergo a complete alteration. The word only occurs four times in the Besekh, here and Matthew 17:2 of Yeshua's appearance and in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 of character transformation. before: Grk. emprosthen, adv., expresses position that is in front or ahead; before, before the face of, in front of. them: Grk. autos, m. pl., personal pronoun; used of the three disciples. Stern suggests the reason for the transfiguration was so that his glory would not be less than that of Moses and Elijah, who were speaking with him (55). Just as likely is that after the revelation to Peter and the resulting confrontation Yeshua wanted Peter and his companions to understand that God was in him performing the will of the Father.
3 and his garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
The transformation resulted in a startling brightness to Yeshua's clothing. Mark offers a contrast from common experience to illustrate just how white Yeshua's garments appeared. The launderer was a refiner of cloth, so the whitening or bleaching, alluded to refers to the manufacturing process. For wool, the fiber of choice of ancient clothing among Israelites, removing the high percentage of dirt and grease was extremely hard work. The woolen cloth would be cleaned thoroughly with nitrium (Lane) and then exposed to the sun. Mark intends to present the transformation of the clothing as a miracle. Matthew 17:2 adds the detail of Yeshua's face shining like the sun, as occurred with Moses (cf. Ex 34:29-35; 2 Cor 3:7-18).
4 Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Yeshua.
Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, which transliterates the Heb. Eliyah ("My God is"). See the note on 6:15. Elijah apparently did not die but was carried up into heaven by a whirlwind, even though well-educated Bible scholars make the common mistake of saying that was transported in chariots of fire. Scripture says twice that Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind (2Kgs 2:1, 11). Information about the man Elijah is scant. He was originally from Tishbe in Gilead. He prophesied during reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah in the 9th century BC (1Kgs 17:1—2Kgs 2:12). Unlike previous court prophets (such as Nathan) Elijah was an independent firebrand who answered to no man. He is remembered because of his unorthodox dress and lifestyle, but especially for performing seven miracles and defeating 850 pagan prophets on Mt. Carmel. Of him God specifically promised "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Mal 4:5).
Moses: Grk. Mōusēs, which transliterates the Heb. Moshe ("drawn out of the water"). Moses was the son of Amram and Jochebed, who was Amram's aunt (Ex 6:20). Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and oppression and their journey through the wilderness with its many threats to the nation's survival. At Mount Sinai Moses served as mediator to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Ex 24:4; Deut 31:9; Mark 12:19; Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 15:21; Rom 10:5) and left Israel with the rich legacy of God's Word. Moses died at the age of 120 and God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:6).
(Matthew and Luke list the order as Moses and Elijah, which would be expected by virtue of history and importance.) The immediate question that comes to mind is how the disciples knew the identities of the men appearing with Yeshua. It's not like they wore nametags. The explanation is that they simply knew as Peter had known that Yeshua was the Messiah. More importantly is why did these two appear with Yeshua? The appearance of these two great men of former centuries has been explained various ways. Elijah, being the "first of the prophets," and Moses, being the great first leader of Israel and the mediator between God and Israel, supposedly represent the Law and the Prophets (Kasdan 184). However, Elijah was not the first Israelite prophet, and he left no literature. Whether he was the greatest prophet is certainly debatable, since his ministry was eclipsed by Elisha who performed twice as many miracles and trained a school of prophets. Nevertheless, Malachi's prophecy (4:5) about Elijah's return elevated him to a unique status and more than qualifies him to represent all the prophets of Israel.
they were talking with Yeshua: Mark does not explain the conversation, but Luke's version of the transfiguration says that Elijah and Moses "were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). The discussion of "His departure" (Grk. exodus) probably alludes to the Messianic prophecy of Micah 5:2, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth [LXX Grk. exodus] are from long ago, From the days of eternity." In its literal sense Yeshua's exodus refers to his ascension, which could only happen by virtue of his death and resurrection. Obviously the exodus mentioned by Luke refers to an anticipated event, but exodus in the Micah passage is plural, indicating repeated "goings forth" in the past of the One who would be ruler over Israel. Some of the visitations of the Angel of the Lord in Bible history could well qualify.
While the Greek word exodus is never used in the LXX of the historic event known as the Exodus, Paul does use the word in his Hebrews epistle, "By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones" (Heb 11:22). Luke's use of the term in the context of the conversation is too remarkable to be an accident. The nation of Israel exited from Egypt by mighty signs and wonders, including the death of Egyptian firstborn. A dear price was paid for their deliverance from bondage. Now Yeshua's exodus would accomplish an even greater deliverance.
5 Peter said to Yeshua, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
Rabbi: Grk. rhabbi, which transliterates Heb. rabbi ("rah-bee"). A derivative of rab, ("great one"), rhabbi means literally, "my great one," and, less literally, "my master," "my teacher." In the first century Rabbi was a title of respect exclusively used for Torah scholars, scribes, Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin. The title did not become associated with the congregational leader of a local synagogue until Medieval times. Rhabbi or its Hebrew form does not occur in the LXX, DSS, Mishnah, the Talmud or any other ancient Jewish literature. Indeed, the title was not used outside the land of Israel. Jewish Sages of later periods were typically identified by the impersonal title Rabban ("Rabbi, Rabbinate," Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., Vol. 17, p. 11). Rhabbi is only found in the apostolic narratives (Matt 23:7, 8; 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; 11:21; 14:45; John 1:38, 49; 3:2, 26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8). A derivative form rhabbouni occurs twice (Mark 10:51; John 20:16). On most occasions the title was used to address Yeshua by a present or future disciple.
Ordinarily the title Rabbi was used of someone that had been ordained by a board of three elders established by the Sanhedrin through a ceremony of laying on of hands, called in Hebrew semikhah. The term semikhah comes from the Hebrew verb samak, "to lean, lay, rest, support" (SH-5564). The word first appears in the sense of an office installation on the occasion of Moses "laying hands" on Joshua to appoint him as his successor to lead the nation of Israel after his death (Num 27:18, 23). An ordained rabbi was granted the right to judge and to decide points of halakhah or application of Torah. Mark notes early (1:22) that Yeshua taught as one "having authority," i.e., the authority equivalent to official ordination, except that his authority came from the Father. A rabbi had pupils who studied his expositions and were duty bound to obey his instructions.
Yeshua would later criticize the desire of Torah scholars to be given public recognition and called "Rabbi" (Matt 23:7). Yeshua then commanded his apostles to refrain from using the titles "Rabbi," "Father" and "Instructors [Grk. kathēgētēs]" (Matt 23:8-9). And, in compliance with this instruction these titles are never used in the Besekh of the apostles. The condemnation probably alludes to the treating Hillel and Shammai as supreme authorities on matters relating to application of Torah. Christians are prone to the same error by elevating Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley or some modern Christian leader as "the authority." The Christian use of "Father," "Reverend," "The Right Reverend," "The Very Reverend," and "Most High Reverend" for ministers and pastors is probably not a good thing. Yeshua insists there is only one authoritative Rabbi and Instructor - himself and only one Father, the One in Heaven. All ministers should consider themselves as servants of the Messiah (Matt 23:11-12).
let us make three tabernacles: Grk. skēnē, a tent or booth. Peter may have been thinking of the booths used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Rienecker). Zechariah had prophesied that when Messiah came the whole world would celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zech 14:16-21). Given the presence of Moses, Peter could well have intended a replica of the original tabernacle (Resnik 103). In any event he may have been thinking of a replacement for Herod's temple as a beginning of the revival that Malachi promised (Mal 3:3). He apparently didn't consider the new temple prophesied by Ezekiel that would welcome the Messiah (Ezek 40-44).
Lane suggests that, "The desire to erect new tents of meeting where God can again communicate with men implies that Peter regards the time of the second exodus as fulfilled and the goal of the Sabbath rest achieved" (319). The revelation of Yeshua as Messiah has just been confirmed in a most glorious way, so let's party! Peter inadvertently commits a faux pas. Suggesting three tabernacles appears to make Yeshua equal with Moses and Elijah. Nevertheless, Peter fails to understand the necessity of a suffering Messiah to accomplish the glory.
6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.
Peter's mistake is an all too common human failing. No words were necessary, but Peter felt he had to say something and ends up saying something really stupid.
7 And there came a cloud, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is My beloved Son, listen to him!"
And there came a cloud: The verbal phrase does not describe a cloud magically appearing in a clear sky, but of moving from a distant place to where the group stood on the mountain. overshadowing: Grk. episkiazō, pres. part., to darken or overshadow. The verb describes the cloud blocking the sunlight and creating a shadow over the mountaintop. them: Grk. autos, m. pl., personal pronoun. The cloud of glory has a prominent place in the history of Israel (Resnik 101-103). The first manifestation occurred in the borderlands of Egypt during the Exodus. The cloud served as a pillar of protection in the daytime and a pillar of illumination at night and marked the presence of the Lord (Ex 13:21). The second manifestation occurred after the crossing of the Red Sea, this time to chastise the Israelites for their grumbling (Ex 16:10).
The third manifestation occurred as the cloud descended on Mount Sinai and out of the cloud God spoke to Moses (Ex 19:9-21; 24:15-17). Immediately after the appearance of the cloud God gave instructions for the building of the tabernacle. The fourth manifestation of the cloud was upon the completion and dedication of the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35). The cloud filled the tabernacle with the presence of God to such a degree that Moses was not able to enter. The fifth manifestation is that the cloud remained with the tent for the duration of the wilderness wanderings and the Lord would speak to Moses at the entrance of the tent out of the cloud (Num 9:16; 11:25). The sixth manifestation of the cloud was upon the dedication of the temple by King Solomon (1Kgs 8:10-11). And, finally, the seventh manifestation of the cloud was here on Mount Hermon to mark the days of the Messiah.
and a voice came out of the cloud: A communication direct from heaven to earth revealing God's will or judgment is known in Hebrew as bat qol ("daughter of a voice," i.e., a small voice). The bat qol has a revered place in Israelite history. The revelation on Mt. Sinai to Moses was given by voice (Deut 4:12). Elijah recognized God by a "still, small voice" (1Kgs 19:12–13). This is My beloved: Grk. agapētos, to hold in affection. Son: Grk. huios normally refers to a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. God broke into Peter's inanity by reminding him of Yeshua's identity. While most Jews have a difficult time with the concept of God having a Son, the Tanakh affirms the reality (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12; Prov 30:4; Isa 9:6). See the notes on 1:1 and 1:11.
listen to him: The command alludes to the prophetic announcement of Moses, "I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him." (Deut 18:18-19). This is a not-so subtle warning to Peter. Yeshua is now the supreme teacher of God's people.
8 All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Yeshua alone.
The disappearance of Elijah and Moses was probably just as startling as their appearance. The disciples now had to return to the reality of following Yeshua.
Coming of Elijah
Parallel Passages: Matthew 17:9-13
9 And descending from the mountain, he gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead.
Yeshua gave specific instruction to keep the experience on the mountain private, at least for the time being. Stern notes that without the more public confirmation that followed his resurrection, the testimony of the three would have been of little value in proving Yeshua’s identity and would have raised more questions than it answered (55).
10 They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.
They seized: Grk. krateō, to grasp, to hold fast to, to retain in their memory (Rienecker). upon that statement: Grk. logos, which refers back to the statement at the end of the previous verse. discussing: Grk. suzēteō, to seek together, to question or to dispute. what rising from the dead meant: The disciples were not discussing the philosophical or religious concept of resurrection from the dead, which they expected to take place on the last day. They were puzzled over Yeshua's prediction of resurrection as a personal experience in the near future.
11 They asked him, saying, "Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
The appearance of Elijah is anticipated in Judaism due to the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6. It is unusual for the disciples to appeal to the scribes in an argument with Yeshua.
12 And He said to them, "Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that he will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
Elijah does first come: The presence of Elijah at the transfiguration, as well as Yeshua's reference to his resurrection suggested that the consummation was imminent. In their mind, then, the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy would make Messianic suffering unnecessary. They fail to respond with the logical question: where does it say the Son of Man must suffer? Yeshua will answer the question after his resurrection (Luke 24:44-46). See Psalm 2:1-2; 22:15-16; 34:20; 69:4, 8-10, 21; 118:22; 129:3; and Daniel 9:26.
13 "But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him."
Elijah has indeed come: Yeshua asserts that Elijah has come, but in the ministry of Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 11:14). With the phrase it is written Yeshua introduces a midrashic interpretation by suggesting that Elijah's suffering is predicted by Scripture. Jewish expectation did not conceive of a suffering Elijah any more than a suffering Messiah. Malachi's prophecy of an eschatological Elijah does not mention his suffering, but does not preclude it. Yeshua's midrash probably points back to the threat Ahab and Jezebel posed to Elijah, which foreshadowed Yochanan the Immerser's conflict with Herod and Herodias.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 17:14-19; Luke 9:37-42
14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.
When they came back: Yeshua and the three disciples come down the mountain and return to reality. Mark's narrative emphasizes Yeshua's prediction of suffering by the mention of the scribes arguing with the other disciples and the account of the demon possession. The presence of the scribes (see the note on 8:31) suggests an official investigation on behalf of the Sanhedrin (cf. 3:22-30; 7:15). While the debate is not described it probably had to do with the authority of the disciples to attempt an exorcism (Lane).
15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw him, they were amazed and began running up to greet him.
they were amazed: Mark makes no attempt to explain the crowd's amazement upon seeing Yeshua. Given the argument between the disciples and the scribes and the inexplicable absence of Yeshua, it probably seemed highly providential that Yeshua arrived at the critical moment to resolve the whole situation.
16 And he asked them, "What are you discussing with them?"
What are you discussing: Yeshua directed his question at the disciples or possibly even the scribes. Yeshua resorts to a question designed to elicit information, rather than offer a pronouncement.
17 And one of the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought you my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute;
Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. In the LXX didaskalos only occurs in Esther 6:1 where it means "reader." The equivalent in the Tanakh of didaskalos would be moreh ("teacher" BDB 435; Job 36:22; Prov 5:13; Isa 30:20). The reason for the rare occurrence of both words may not be simply that the LXX translators did not regard didaskalos as adequate for the teacher of Torah, but against the Greek concept of teacher, the Tanakh is more concerned with obedience than imparting information (DNTT 3:766).
The Qumran texts reveal a frequent usage of moreh , but also rab, (lit. "great one," a teacher of the Law) and rhabbi ("my teacher" or "my master") (DNTT 3:766f). See the note on verse 5 above for "rabbi." Since the disciples and Yeshua conversed in Hebrew, then the actual address would have been Rabbi (verse 38 below; cf. John 20:16). When other people addressed Yeshua as "Teacher" (as here), they most likely said "Moreh."
18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it."
I brought You my son: A stranger from the crowd speaks up, who turns out to be the father. He then proceeds to provide a detailed description of the demonic affliction. Historically, commentators have regarded the boy's affliction as epilepsy, but Mark clearly presents the case as demon possession, not a nervous disorder. While respectful of Yeshua, the father makes an interesting admission by saying that he "told" the disciples to perform exorcism. The father did not request, but acted as if he had a right to demand action of the disciples. To the father's great disappointment the disciples had failed to provide relief.
19 And he answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring him to me!"
O unbelieving generation: Yeshua's cry of exasperation is similar to other occasions (3:5; 4:40; 6:50; 8:12, 17-21) in which he had to contend with a lack of faith and/or hardness of heart. The rhetorical questions directed at his disciples indicate just how much like the world they still were. Yeshua knew he had to act, not only because of the need of the boy, but also for the integrity of his ministry.
20 They brought the boy to him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And he asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"
They brought the boy to him: Apparently some men assisting the father brought the boy. It probably took considerable effort to control him enough to bring him to Yeshua, whereupon the demon made a last attempt to kill the boy. The scene is almost surreal in that Yeshua carries on a diagnostic conversation with the father while the boy is writhing on the ground. The father reveals that the condition has lasted for some years and no doubt had taken its toll on the family in their constant vigilance to prevent the boy's death. The father then appeals to Yeshua's compassion for assistance, while at the same time wondering if Yeshua was up to the challenge. The phrasing of the father's request suggests that he had not witnessed any of Yeshua's miracles before.
23 And Yeshua said to him, "If you can? All things are possible to him who trusts."
If You can? Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable of doing or achieving something. Yeshua does not retort in a peevish manner, but he tactfully rejects the notion of any lack in his ability. All things are possible: Grk. dunatos, having power or competence. In the Greek Yeshua responds with a play on words contrasting what the man said about Yeshua's ability with an implied allusion to God's ability. The complete axiomatic statement could apply to many situations in life. People pretty much accomplish what they believe they can perform. By the same token the source of man's ability is God (cf. Deut 8:18; Ps 103:1-3; 1 Cor 4:19; 2 Cor 9:8; Phil 4:13; Jas 1:17; 4:15).
to him who trusts: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part., in general Greek usage, means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. 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. The axiomatic statement does not pertain to acceptance of a creedal doctrine, but trust in the sovereign God who works all things together for good (Rom 8:28) and being faithful to God while he does the working. The verb "believes" is a present tense, so the most effective faith is one that is persistent in trusting (cf. Luke 18:1). By the same token this is not an axiom to be taken literalistically. That is, no matter how much one might believe he can fly, jumping off a cliff is inadvisable. Gravity will still determine the outcome. The only "things" that should be pursued are those that would be within the moral will of God.
24 Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I am trusting; help my unbelief."
I am trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. See the previous verse. The father replied to Yeshua with refreshing honesty. He first affirms that he is trusting Yeshua to provide a remedy and then admits his weakness. help my unbelief: Grk. apistia, refusal to give credence to, lack of faith or lack of willingness to respond positively to words that invite belief or commitment.
25 When Yeshua saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27 But Yeshua took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.
He rebuked the unclean spirit: Yeshua ended the affliction of the boy with an authoritative command. Unlike previous exorcisms this time Yeshua forbids the demon from reentering the boy. Upon exiting the demon tried one last time to harm the boy and in the aftermath bystanders feared the boy was dead. In reality, he was finally at peace. Yeshua proved his deliverance by helping the boy to get up and no doubt restored him to his father.
28 When He came into the house, his disciples began questioning him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?"
Why could we not drive it out? The disciples were troubled that they had been unable to deliver the boy from the demonic control. They had been successful in conducting exorcisms in their preaching mission (6:7, 13). As soon as they could be alone with Yeshua (they wouldn't dare ask the question in public) they queried him. The disciples indirectly reveal the problems by putting the emphasis on themselves, "why could we not drive it out?" Perhaps they didn't dare ask, "why didn't God do for us this time what He did for us before?"
29 And he said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
Yeshua's answer is surprising. This kind: Grk. genos, the noun normally refers to a line of descent or a people group. However, in this context genos means a group with a distinguishing characteristic. It appears that Yeshua put this demon-possession in a special category, either pertaining to longevity or the manner of affliction or both. anything but prayer: Grk. proseuchē, a general word for prayer in the apostolic writings. In the LXX proseuchē renders Heb. tephillah (occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" and has a wide range of usage in the Tanakh, including to arbitrate, to judge, to intercede or to pray.
By definition the Hebrew and Greek words for prayer do not encompass blessing or praising God, although such expressions are important. God is worthy to be praised and He seeks worshippers who will honor His holy name (John 4:23-24). Likewise, "thanksgiving" is not strictly prayer, even though thanksgiving is to accompany prayer (Col 4:2). In simple terms prayer is making personal requests known to God, whether spiritual or material (Rom 1:10; Php 4:6). Even more important God expects that prayer be intercession for the salvation and needs of others (Eph 6:18; 1Tim 2:1-2).
The context of palal in the Tanakh is pleading before a judge. The implication of this meaning is significant. Approaching the holy God requires self-judgment because prayer automatically invokes God's judgment (Punton 79). Self-judgment means asking some hard questions. Do we meet the conditions for God to answer our prayers? (cf. 1Jn 3:22). Can we be trusted with the answer? Will we give glory to God or overestimate the worth of our own contribution? We must also judge the content of our prayers in light of God's Word. Some things should not be asked for and God is not a vending machine to satisfy our pleasures. Will we let God be the final arbiter in answering prayer? The apostles, being Jews, certainly understood proseuchē according to the Hebraic idea.
In one respect Yeshua's answer seems odd since he did not pray before conducting the exorcism. He simply commanded the demon to leave. But, he was the Son of God with power in himself to perform whatever miracle he chose. His answer suggests that his disciples were weak in prayer. In Pharisaic Judaism the recitation of the Shema and of Psalm 3 and 91 was considered a powerful agent against evil spirits (Lane), but there’s no indication this is what Yeshua meant by prayer. Yeshua could have used "prayer" in its usual sense of petitioning God for His sovereign intervention. Power over the enemy is derived from unswerving trust in God’s ability alone and speaking that power with authority as the disciples had once accomplished. Apparently, the disciples' egos had become inflated and they tried to deliver the boy in their own power.
An important aspect of prayer is asking in Yeshua's name. When Yeshua first sent out the Twelve to proclaim the good news "he gave them authority over unclean spirits" (Mark 6:7). The narrative doesn't describe how they used that authority. On the other hand when Luke recounts the mission of the seventy, they reported "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (Luke 10:17). The disciples probably left out this important element in their deliverance efforts. Later Yeshua would remind his disciples at the Last Supper, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do" (John 14:13). After Pentecost the apostles were successful in healings and deliverances by invoking the name of Yeshua (Acts 3:6; 4:10; 16:18).
The KJV adds the phrase "and fasting," which is not found in the earliest important manuscripts (especially Sinaiticus and Vaticanus). It is very likely that the emphasis in patristic Christianity on the necessity of fasting led to adding the words to this text (Metzger). Modern Bible versions do not include the phrase. Nevertheless, fasting was a common practice in Bible times and engaged in for a variety of reasons. (See my article Fasting in the Bible.) Only rarely is fasting mentioned for healing: David fasted for healing of his baby conceived by Bathsheba (2Sam 12:16), but the baby died. He fasted on another occasion to seek healing for unnamed adversaries, but he lamented "my prayer kept returning to my bosom" (Ps 35:13).
There are a number of times when a Bible character fasted as part of interceding for God's mercy toward Israel. Even so, we can only wonder how fasting (and for what length of time) would aid occult deliverance. Would you fast a day, a week, two weeks, a month while the victim continues to suffer from demonic oppression and causes harm to himself or others? It does not seem reasonable for Yeshua to insist on this approach to deliverance when there is no recorded incident of fasting for deliverance from demonic activity in the Tanakh or the Besekh. The response of Yeshua and the apostles to urgent need was always immediate, not delayed. These facts underscore the fact that manuscript copyists added something clearly not spoken by Yeshua.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 17:22-23; Luke 9:43-45
30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and he did not want anyone to know about it.
Yeshua and his disciples departed the area of Caesarea Philippi and began the trek south to return to their home base in Capernaum. During the walk Yeshua avoided public contact in order to speed his trip.
31 For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, he will rise after three days."
He was teaching: Along the way Yeshua returned to his theme of the previous chapter. This is the second time Yeshua predicts his passion with similar verbiage as in 8:31 (see the note there), although he omits the mention of suffering and rejection. One new element has been added to the prediction. The Son of Man is to be delivered: Grk. paradidōmi, pres. pass., to convey from position to another, to hand over. Here the verb refers to the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane as the verb is used in Matthew 26:45. into the hands of men: The action at this point does not involve the Jewish leaders, but rather a crowd sent by the chief priests (Matt 26:47).
and they will kill Him: Grk. apokteinō, aor. pass. inf., put an end by force to existence of someone, kill. The irony of the prophecy is that Yeshua had to let himself be killed. He could not commit suicide and accomplish atonement. Relevant to the verb choice is that both Greek and Hebrew have two words for taking a human life. The word for intentional murder or assassination in Hebrew is ratzach (BDB 953) and in Greek phoneuō. For accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war or court-ordered execution the Hebrew word is harag (BDB 246) and the Greek word is apokteinō. Yeshua prophesies that his death will come about as a result of a court-ordered execution. In contrast two apostles would later accuse Jewish leaders of murdering Yeshua (Stephen, Acts 7:52; and Jacob, Jacob 5:6).
and when He has been killed: the verb is repeated as a participle, lit. "and being killed" (Marshall). He will rise: Grk. anistēmi, fut. mid., to rise up or get up from a recumbent position. The middle voice emphasizes Yeshua's participation in the resurrection. As he says,
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." (John 10:17-18)
after: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 2 above. three days: Grk. hēmera, f. pl. See verse 2 above. The word may refer to daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place. See the extended note on 8:31 on the timeframe for Yeshua's death to resurrection. The KJV (following the TR) has "he shall rise the third day." However the earliest and best manuscripts have the prepositional clause as in 8:31.
32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him.
This time there was no debate and Peter wisely kept silent.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 18:1-5; Luke 9:46-48
33 They came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house, he began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.
What were you discussing: It seems inexplicable that in the midst of a time of Yeshua warning about his coming rejection and death the disciples should engage in a debate over who was greatest. In Jewish culture of that time the question frequently arose, whether in worship, administration of justice or meals, of precedence or rank, often reflected in where someone sat (Lane; cf. Matt 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 14:7-11; Jas 2:1-4). The focus of the disciples' debate likely had to do with how they viewed their importance to the Kingdom and Messiah's future rule. This cliquish egotism would manifest itself again in the next chapter (10:37) and even at the last supper (Luke 22:24). Peter, Jacob and John might well believe that since they had been chosen to witness the transfiguration, they were the most favored of the disciples.
35 Sitting down, he called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
Sitting down: Yeshua took the position customary for rabbis when teaching. He did not conduct a face to face confrontation, but set the stage for exhorting a new worldview. Yeshua, of course, knew the nature of the debate and set about to give a practical lesson concerning position in the kingdom. The person with the greatest status in the Kingdom is not someone with a title or someone who has control of others, but the one who is willing to serve others.
36 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
Taking a child: Mark does not clarify the identity of the child, but he could have belonged to one of the disciples.
37 "Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me, but Him who sent me."
Yeshua articulates a principle meant to guide apostolic ministry, but he unexpectedly substitutes "one child" for "you." Yeshua had named the Twelve as apostles, an office of someone sent with authority to represent the sender (Luke 6:13). When the apostles conducted ministry they did so in Yeshua's authority and in his stead. The metaphor of the child does not refer to so-called "childlike faith," but to the lack of power and status. Yeshua says that anyone who receives an unpretentious apostle also receives the apostle's sender, and then extends the saying to assert the involvement of the Father in the sending.
Allies in the Kingdom
Parallel Passage: Luke 9:49-50
38 John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us."
Teacher: See the note on verse 17 above. In Hebrew John probably addressed Yeshua as "Rabbi" as Peter does in verse 5 above. we saw someone: Since Yeshua had presented a principle related to authority, John raises an issue that must have its origin in the earlier debate of the disciples. The narrative does not explain just when the incident took place, but it was a situation that Yeshua did not personally observe. John also doesn't explain the identity of "we."
casting out demons in your name: In any event, there was someone who had witnessed Yeshua's exorcisms and decided to follow his example. Whether the man had personally accepted Yeshua as Messiah is not clear, but it's not likely he would have used Yeshua's name if there wasn't some kind of commitment. The irony is that this unnamed man had been successful because of invoking Yeshua's name, whereas the disciples had earlier failed in their deliverance efforts due to omitting this important element.
and we tried to prevent him: Grk. kōluō, impf., to stop someone from doing something; lit. "we forbade him." The imperfect tense implies that the man refused to be stopped in his good work (Lane). The audacity of the disciples to prevent someone from delivering the demon possessed is inexplicable. because he was not following us: John unwittingly reveals the selfish motive behind trying to stop a good work. He does not say "following you," which would show proper respect to Yeshua. Instead it's "us," probably the inner circle who considered themselves better than everyone else. This poacher did not recognize the importance of John and his colleagues.
39 But Yeshua said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.
Do not hinder him: Grk. kōluō, pres. imp. See the previous verse. The imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a command to stop a practice in progress. Hindering is the work of Satan (cf. 1 Thess 2:18) and disciples need to be careful they don't inadvertently aid the enemy's interests. The apostolic authority does not include preventing people from doing good works that bring glory to God. Yeshua goes on to offer a common sense perspective. Performing a genuine miracle in Yeshua's name can only enhance Yeshua's reputation. It's noteworthy that Yeshua places a time limit, "soon afterward," on speaking ill of Yeshua. It is always possible that someone would serve Yeshua and do great things for God and then at some later time backslide, just as Judas did.
40 "For he who is not against us is for us.
Matthew 12:30 has "He who is not with me is against me," but there is no necessary difference between stating the principle. In a situation where neutrality is not possible, people must either be on one side or the other, either "for" or "against" (Bruce 157). In the real world there are only two sides: the Kingdom of God and the tyranny of Satan. The Kingdom of God should have a unifying effect on those who share in it. Everyone has to choose whether he is for God's Kingdom or against it.
41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Messiah, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
For whoever gives you: Service is something normally done for others, but here Yeshua specifically refers to the apostles as the recipients. The parallel saying in Matthew 10:42 identifies recipients as "little ones," which may be a metaphor for humility or even lack of importance in status. In the larger context the receiving illustrates the dependence that ministers of Yeshua have on the generosity of others (Matt 10:9-10).
a cup of water. Matthew 10:42 identifies the water as cold. The Hebrew concept of righteousness (tzedakah) placed great emphasis on charitable works for the poor. Yeshua notes that a cup of water given to express the love of God has value anywhere it happens. The striking thing about the principle is that water in or around a community was owned by the community. A citizen did not pay for it. Water was (and is) a resource provided by God. The word picture is likely drawn from someone offering a traveler, in this case an apostle, something to drink, an expected courtesy (Gen 24:17-19; 1Sam 30:11; 1 Kgs 17:10; Matt 25:35). The charity would not be in the water but the act of serving it.
your name as followers of Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on 1:1. The complete phrase is lit. "For whoever gives you a cup of water in [the] name, because you are of Messiah…" (Marshall). The disciples are the recipients and given the frequent travel of Yeshua, he and his disciples received the simple courtesy of hospitality many times. However, the charity is not being given simply because of need, but because of who the disciples are. They are representatives of the Messiah King. Yeshua alludes back to the situation of the apostles trying to prevent an exorcism and substitutes performing a miracle with doing an act of charity. What benefits the kingdom benefits you and what benefits you benefits the kingdom.
truly: Grk. amēn. See the note on verse 1. "Truly" points back to what was just said, rather than anticipating something he is about to say. I say to you: Yeshua repeats the same Hebraic idiom as in verse 1 above. See the note there. he will not lose: Grk. apollumi, aor. subj., to cause severe damage, i.e., to destroy, or to experience disconnection or separation, i.e., to lose. The latter meaning is in view here. his reward: Grk. misthos refers to the rewards that come naturally from toil or any kind of endeavor; also of wages paid for work. In the LXX misthos stands for Heb. sakar, which means hire, wages or reward, depending on the context. A reward from the Father really means a gift because the heavenly bounty far exceeds any service that may be performed by his people. And, since there is no "wage agreement" between the servant of the Lord and his Master, then the servant cannot determine the nature of the reward.
Yeshua makes a promise by affirming the Old Covenant concept of recompense. Performing a miracle for another would certainly deserve a reward, but even the smallest charitable act has a reward, too. Repayment from the Father is guaranteed. Such reward may be in secret, that is, in a spiritual sense. You will be blessed by the knowledge of having acted as a representative of the Messiah. Rewards also come in a material sense of having your own needs met. Scripture promises that generosity toward the poor will be rewarded in a tangible way (Prov 14:21; 22:9; 28:27). Yeshua may have also included eternal rewards, as he says in Luke 12:33, "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys."
In any event, the format of the promise seems unusual. Why not say, "he who gives you a cup of water … will gain his reward." Yeshua is making a promise, yet expressing it in negative terms. This unique manner of making promises may be found in other passages (cf. Isa 45:17; Mal 3:10; Rev 3:5). To state the promise in a positive manner would simply predict a future event, but the negative expression of the promise emphasizes the current possession of the reward and the continuing nature of the promise into the future.
42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 18:6-10; Luke 17:1-2.
The intention of this verse needs to be seen in the beginning of the context in verse 37 of the disciples trying to prevent an exorcism. Whoever causes … to stumble: Grk. skandalizō, aor. subj., to lay an obstacle in another's way. The root word refers to a bait-stick in a trap. It was a stick or arm on which the bait was fixed and which operated the trap to catch the animal lured to its own destruction. So the word came to mean anything which causes man’s destruction. Spiritually speaking the verb means to cause someone to be guilty of a transgression. [KJV "offend" no longer means "to trip up" as it did in 1611, so it’s an inadequate term for today.]
little ones who believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. See the note on verse 23. "Little ones" would naturally connect to the child in verse 36, but most likely the reference serves as a metaphor for someone without the status of the apostles in the faith. These disciples may have other fields of labor, but because they believe in and serve the Messiah they are no less to be valued. "Little ones" could also be a metaphor for either youthful believers or believers who haven't been long in the faith (cf. "little children" in 1Jn 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21).
heavy millstone: Grk. mulos onikos, the upper millstone. The millstone was turned by a donkey, in contrast with a hand-mill used by a woman (Rienecker). cast into the sea: Yeshua pictures a divine judgment because only a supernatural power, whether God or an angel (cf. Rev 18:21), could attach the millstone to someone and cast them into the ocean. Yeshua warns against doing anything to destroy someone else's commitment to the Messiah.
43 "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,
Yeshua offers three conditional propositions in parallel format that feature parts of the human body. The propositions contain essentially the same terms.
If: Grk. ean, particle. lit. "And if." The particle introduces a possible circumstance that determines some other circumstance with the sense that if x happens then y will follow. your hand: The specific hand is irrelevant to the proposition. In Hebraic writing sin is often connected with the body part involved. It may be safely said that the hand is involved in most behavioral sins. causes you to stumble: Grk. skandalizō, pres. subj. See the previous verse.
cut it off: Grk. apokoptō, aor. act. imp., to cut off in reference to physically severing. The command is hyperbole, and not meant to be taken literalistically. Yeshua was not advocating self-mutilation. Committing transgressions is often viewed in Scripture in reference to the body part involved, but the part merely represents the whole. Cutting off the limb is a Jewish idiom that refers to stopping the act at an early or light stage, not actual removal of the body part. There are two laws in the Torah that mention severing limbs.
"If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity." (Deut 25:11-12)
"Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deut 19:21)
(NOTE: These laws serve as sentencing guidelines for a court, not a license for personal revenge.)
it is better for you to enter life: Grk. zōē, being in the state of life in its normal physical sense, but here used in the sense of a condition transcending physical life. "Life" is repeated in verse 45 and would be parallel to "the kingdom" in verse 47. crippled: Grk. kullos, maimed, that is missing the body part. than, having your two hands: a contrast to having only one hand.
to go into hell: Grk. geenna, transliterated in English as Gehenna, refers to a place of fiery judgment after death, commonly translated as "hell." Gehenna does not occur in the LXX or other early Jewish literature in Greek (DNTT 2:208), but is a transliteration of Heb. Gey ben Hinnom, the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem, where children were once sacrificed to Moloch (Josh 15:8; 2Kgs 23:10; Jer 2:23; 7:31-32; 19:6) and at this time served as a refuse dump. Rubbish fires were always burning there; hence its use as a metaphor for hell. Yeshua spoke of hell more than anyone else in Scripture and declared that it was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41; 2 Pet 2:4). Since the angels had to have been created on the first day (Job 2:1; 38:7; John 8:44; 1Jn 3:8), Yeshua's pronouncement implies agreement with rabbinic teaching that Gehenna was one of seven things created before the world (Ned. 39b). See Isaiah 30:33, where the Heb. Topheth is regarded as a synonym for Gehenna.
"For Topheth has long been ready, Indeed, it has been prepared for the king. He has made it deep and large, A pyre of fire with plenty of wood; The breath of the LORD, like a torrent of brimstone, sets it afire."
The seven things also included the Torah (Prov 8:22), repentance (Ps 90:1-3), the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8), the Throne of Glory (Ps 93:2), the Temple (Jer 17:12), and the name of the Messiah (Ps 72:17).
into the unquenchable: Grk. asbestos, inextinguishable. fire: Fire that cannot be put out (cf. 2Kgs 22:17; Isa 1:31; 34:10; 66:24; Jer 4:4; 7:20; 21:12). The fire of hell will not degrade in intensity over the course of eternity and it cannot be extinguished by any force other than God’s power. Thus, the fire is described as everlasting (Matt 18:8; 25:41).
Hell is a real place, a physical reality. It is not just a metaphor for a state of separation from God. Hell is referred to as "outer darkness" (cf. Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Jude 13) and may be located in outer space across the galaxy. As the place of final judgment hell may be associated with the lake of fire in Revelation 20:14-15. The KJV uses "hell" over 30 times in the Tanakh, but the word being translated is sheol, the underworld that receives all the dead. Sheol is translated in the LXX with hadēs. In the Tanakh little is known of sheol, except that it is a place of darkness devoid of joy (Job 17:13; Ps 6:5). Only Deuteronomy 32:22 speaks of sheol as a place of burning.
However, during the intertestamental period many Jews embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection, which altered the concept of hadēs. Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in hadēs. Josephus records that this was the position of the Pharisees and the Essenes (Wars II, 8:11, 14). This separation is clearly presented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26). Thus hadēs lost its role as the resting place of all souls and became a place where the unredeemed dead are kept in anticipation of the final judgment. Hadēs is always described as being down, thus it is in a subterranean region of the earth (cf. Matt 11:23; 12:40; Luke 10:15; Eph 4:9). The Bible does not admit to any belief in Purgatory, and hadēs is not a temporary abode where one’s guilt is purged in order to qualify for the blessing of heaven.
Yeshua sets up a conditional proposition based on an faulty premise and an illogical conclusion. The faulty premise is that sin is not found in a body part and therefore no body part can cause someone to sin. If the hand (or any other body part) could be blamed, then the remedy would be simple. Since the problem is in the will, the remedy is not so easy. The illogical conclusion is that the present physical body does not enter heaven or hell, as Paul says, "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (1Cor 15:50). Yeshua uses the absurd word picture to warn that sin has eternal consequences and the wise will do what's necessary to distance oneself from sources of temptation.
Another way of approaching these sayings is to consider the body parts as representative of members of the corporate body of Messiah. Paul likens individual members to a hand, eye and foot (1 Cor 12:14-21). Thus, the congregation must not tolerate sin, but confront errant members to obtain repentance. If repentance is not forthcoming then the sinning member is to be cut off (cf. Matt 18:15-19; 1Cor 5:1-13; 1Tim 5:20; Titus 3:10).
[44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
Verse 44 is placed in brackets because it is not found in important early manuscripts. The words were added by copyists from verse 48 (Metzger).
45 "If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,
If your foot: See the note on verse 43. The second proposition repeats the scenario of verse 43 with the substitution of foot for hand. The only other difference is the omission of unquenchable fire in relation to hell.
[46 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
Verse 46 is placed in brackets because it is not found in important early manuscripts. The words were added by copyists from verse 48 (Metzger).
47 "If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,
If your eye: See the note on verse 43. The third proposition repeats the scenario of verse 43 and verse 45 with the substitution of eye. The only other differences are the substitution of "kingdom of God" for "life" and the omission of unquenchable fire in relation to hell.
48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
Yeshua quotes from Isaiah 66:24 and applies the description to his mention of hell. In context the prophecy of Isaiah pertains to the age to come in which there are new heavens and a new earth.
"For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "So your offspring and your name will endure. 23 "And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD. 24 "Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind." (Isa 66:22-24)
49 For everyone will be salted with fire.
In this saying fire has a figurative meaning. The idiom of "salted with fire" is likely an allusion to the manner in which sacrifices were offered at the Temple. In fact, salt was the sign of the covenant with Aaron (Num 18:19-20). All offerings, including grain offerings, were seasoned with salt (Lev 2:13). With this background being salted with fire may be equivalent to being living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2), which is parallel to the thought of taking up one's cross. Being salted with fire may also be symbolic of persecution (cf. Heb 11:34; 1Pet 1:7). Yeshua predicted tribulation for his disciples and Paul would later say that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2Tim 3:12).
50 "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
Salt is good: Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride. Salt is essential to human and animal life. The taste of salt is one of the basic human tastes. Salt was found in abundance in the land of Israel and is so concentrated in the Dead Sea that it prevents any kind of marine life.
In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua called his disciples are to be salt, a seasoning and preservative, for the Land of Israel. Used in a figurative sense salt could have three possible meanings. First, salt represents sacrificial commitment, as noted in the previous verse. Second, salt represents purity, as it says in Exodus 30:25, "With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy." Centuries later Elisha purified bad water with salt.
"Thus says the LORD, 'I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'" So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke." (2Kgs 2:19-23)
Purity may also be reflected in Paul's instruction, "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person" (Col 4:6). Third, salt represents obedience. Being salt means a personal willingness to do what Yeshua demands (Luke 14:26-33).
if the salt becomes unsalty: Salt was rarely found in a pure state, but mixed with other substances. So long as the proportion of salt in the mixture was sufficiently high, the mixture would serve the purpose of true salt. If the salt in the mixture were leached out due to exposure to damp or some other reason, then what was left would be good for nothing (Bruce 37). The spiritual meaning is not hard to discern. If a disciple's willingness turns to unwillingness, if the disciple abandons his Master after experiencing truth and joy and returns to the world, what is left to restore him?
be at peace: Grk. eirēneuō, pres. act. imp., to keep the peace, to be on good terms. Given the connection the mention of salt has to the sacrificial system, the command to be at peace may be an allusion to the priestly blessing that God commanded in Numbers 6:23-26: "The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace." with one another: Both the Greek noun eirēnē and the Hebrew shalom refer to communal welfare, health and harmony. This peace denotes the status of a relationship and not necessarily an emotional state. Yeshua urged his disciples to forget the petty argument about position and prestige. They could only accomplish Kingdom goals by being united.
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