The Good News of Mark

Chapter 3

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 23 January 2012; Revised 10 January 2024

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Scripture: 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.

Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud abbreviations.

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.

Kingdom Citizenship

Theme: The Kingdom of God is a commonwealth of diverse citizens called into the service of the King and into a familial relationship with fellow citizens, all united against Satan.

Date: Summer A.D. 28

1 He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered.

He entered again into a synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly. In the Besekh sunagōgē refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning. See the note on 1:21. and a man was there whose hand was withered: Grk. xērainō, perf. pass. part., to cause a dry non-functioning condition, to wither. The verb means that the limb had become useless in a paralyzed condition. No further information is given concerning the man, but the injury probably resulted from an accident or disease (Robertson). It may well have been long-standing. Unfortunately, Mark does not satisfy our curiosity with any information on the man's background or profession. In the apostolic narratives the man offers no entreaty for the healing or thanksgiving afterwards.

2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.

As in the narrative of picking grain on the Sabbath, so in this story the key issue is determining what is permitted on the Sabbath. In Matthew's version of the story the critics ask Yeshua, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" (Matt 12:10) The general practice of medicine on the Sabbath was prohibited (except in life-and-death situations), the reason being that most treatments require grinding to prepare medicine, and grinding is a prohibited form of work. Since a shriveled hand is neither life-threatening nor "serious," healing the man would violate the rabbinic definition of work concerning the Sabbath. The only exception to the rule is that ordinary healing may be done on the Sabbath if it comes as a byproduct of some other activity:

"They may not set a fracture. If someone’s hand or foot is dislocated, he may not pour cold water over it; but he may wash it in the usual way; and if it heals, it heals." (Shab. 22:5)

This instruction is so abhorrent on the face of it as to be inhuman. As Yeshua pointed out in the parallel passage (Matt 12:11), they treated their animals better than this.

3 He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!"

Yeshua was not trying to embarrass the man, but to give him an opportunity to exercise faith. Did he want to be healed? Did he believe that Yeshua could and would heal him? Requiring physical movement to get up from his seat and come to the front of the assembly, perhaps to the bimah (platform) would offer a definitive answer to these questions. The command of Yeshua also communicated to the crowd that inhumanity to man deserves to be confronted for the evil that it is.

4 And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.

And He said to them: Yeshua proceeds to ask a rhetorical question of his critics. Is it lawful: This way of framing the question points out the two aspects of the Torah - commandments that enjoin behavior that does good to others and commandments that prohibit behavior that harms others. While the Sabbath is a day designated for rest, Yeshua asserts that the Sabbath is like the other days of the week in that fundamental values that should guide ethical decision-making are not suspended on the Sabbath.

to do good or to do harm: in other passages of Sabbath controversies Yeshua argues that behaviors deemed good on other days, such as pulling a sheep out of a ditch (Matt 12:11-12) and conducting a circumcision eight days after birth (John 7:22-23), demonstrate that consideration should be given to other behaviors that would do good, especially healing.

to save a life or to kill: Yeshua alludes to the well-known Pharisaic tradition that on the Sabbath saving a life is not only permitted but a duty, even if it means breaking other commandments to do it. Conversely under Jewish law execution were not carried out on the Sabbath, which is why Yeshua's body was removed from the cross before the Sabbath began. Yeshua's challenge is not an effort to overturn all the Pharisaic rules, but to insist that they not be allowed to become oppressive—there are circumstances when one should break them in order to obey God’s will and be an active participant in his Kingdom.

But they kept silent: The silence of the critics might imply that Yeshua overcame the powers of evil at work in his adversaries, but he certainly did not mistake their silence for consent or agreement (Lane).

5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

After looking around at them with anger: Grk. orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. Orgē is the preferred word for the judgment of God at the end of the age (cf. Matt 3:7; Luke 21:23; 1Th 1:10; 5:9; Rev 11:18; 16:19; 19:15). grieved: Grk. sullupeō, pres. mid. part., to grieve or be distressed. Yeshua experienced a mixture of emotions. at their hardness: Grk. pōrōsis, a condition of hardness or callousness, and refers to one with a closed mind. of heart: an idiom that refers to more than just the mind, as the center of intellectual processing. "Heart" summarizes the will and attitudes. his hand was restored: Grk. apokathistēmi, aor. pass., to restore again, i.e., to return to its former healthy condition.

It is no wonder that the Pharisees became the target of Yeshua's anger, and thereby the anger of God. The kind of ludicrous fatalism and lack of concern for others expressed in the Talmudic quote in verse 2 above reveals how contemptible their own system of ethics had become in the eyes of God.

6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

The Pharisees: See the note on 2:16. began conspiring with the Herodians: pl. of Grk. Hrōdianoi. The Herodians were Jewish partisans who supported Herod. In Galilee this would be Herod Antipas. Being an Edomite and of a thoroughly wicked bent the Herodian family was offensive to the Pharisees. Even in ancient times politics made for strange bed-fellows. Certain Pharisees (not all) found common cause with the Herodians, because for the Pharisees Yeshua was viewed as a threat to the social and religious order and for the Herodians Yeshua was a threat to the stability of the tetrarchy.

7 Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea,

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, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). 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?

withdrew: Grk. anachōreō, aor., to depart from this or that place. to the sea: Grk. ho thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies water and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh. 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. Here the term refers to the Sea of Galilee. It's not clear whether a seaside location was simply a destination away from Capernaum or a point of embarkation to leave the area for the purpose of his planned meeting on the mountain with the twelve (verse 13).

with His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs (from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher; adherent, learner, pupil, disciple. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives. The term "disciple" is used most often for followers of Yeshua of which there were many, but especially the Twelve. Discipleship for these men had the straight forward meaning of investing in Yeshua total authority over their lives and granting absolute loyalty to him. See my article The Call of Discipleship.

The intention may have been to spend quality time in instructing his disciples, but they were soon interrupted. and a great multitude: Grk. plēthos, a relatively large number of any kind. The noun not only indicates numbers but also emphasizes the commonality of a populace from a given area. from Galilee: Grk. Galilaia from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region." Galilee measured 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 Samaria on the south. In this time, Galilee was a tetrarchy governed by Herod Antipas.

followed: Yeshua had not left the city unseen. and also from 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" probably refers to the Roman province of Judea since the territory is identified in contrast with the province of Galilee. The province of Judea incorporated the historic territories of Samaria, Judea and Idumea, north to south. Mark proceeds to give a geography lesson in identifying the widespread notoriety of Yeshua.

8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.

and from Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim, which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). What a precious name is Jerusalem! The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel, afterwards of the Kingdom of Judah and the seat of central worship in the temple. At the time of the Exodus the city was inhabited by the Jebusites (Josh 15:8), but then captured by the tribe of Judah (Judg 1:8). The city was first named in connection with David (1Sam 17:54). Later the city was taken possession of by David as King (2Sam 5:6) and became known as the City of David, as well as Zion. By the end of his reign the city had expanded to cover seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). The temple was located on Mount Moriah.

Jeremias estimated the resident population of the city in the time of Yeshua at about twenty-five to thirty thousand (252). In addition, there were about eighteen thousand priests and Levites together who all came to Jerusalem for the major festivals. Josephus estimates the number of Essenes at four thousand (Ant. XVIII, 1:5) and the number of Pharisees in the Land at six thousand (Ant. XVII, 2:4). Within Jerusalem there were several Pharisaic communities. For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. One psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5-6).

Idumea is ancient Edom and situated to the south of Judea. beyond the Jordan: also called Transjordan, east of the Jordan River and probably refers to Perea and the Decapolis. and the vicinity: Grk. peri, prep., with an orientational aspect relating to being near, about. In other words Yeshua was ministered in the countryside around the cities mentioned, but did not enter them. of Tyre: Grk. Turos, an ancient seaport of the Phoenicians situated northwest of Galilee, about 40 miles from Capernaum as the raven flies. Tyre consisted of two cities: a rocky coastal city on the mainland and a small island city just off the shore. Tyre lay about 25 miles south of Sidon. Dates of founding range from 2000 BC to 2750 BC. Tyre is mentioned 53 times in Scripture, the first at Joshua 19:29 in reference to the northern border of the tribe of Asher.

and Sidon: Grk. Sidōn. Like Tyre the city of Sidon was a Phoenician coastal city in the province of Syria northwest of Galilee. Sidon was considered a sister city of Tyre, although founded earlier before 2000 BC. The cities of Tyre and Sidon became thoroughly Hellenistic under the Seleucid kings and were treated as free cities by the Romans. a great number of people heard: It's not clear whether Mark is providing a summary statement of Yeshua's ministry from its inception to this point or only speaking of this immediate incident at the seashore. If it is the latter, it is one incredible coincidence that the people descended on Yeshua from all points of the compass on this day. In any event, news of Yeshua's accomplishments had spread over a wide area.

9 And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him;

And He told: Grk. lego, lit. "And he said to." His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs. See verse 7 above. that a boat: Grk. ploiarion, diminutive of ploion, in biblical times denoted any vessel that could go out on a body of water, whether lake, inland sea or ocean; used frequently in the apostolic narratives of the fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee. should stand ready: Grk. proskartereo, aor. subj., be close at hand for service or should remain near. for Him because of the crowd: Grk. ochlos refers to an assembled company of people from a particular locality. See the note on 2:4. so that they would not crowd Him: the NASB makes a play on words, but the Greek verb is thlibō (pres. act. subj.), which means to press close or to squeeze. Yeshua instituted a contingency plan to keep from being mobbed and perhaps even trampled. He had become a "rock star."

10 for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him.

See the note on 1:25; 32-34. These three verses recapitulate the ministry Yeshua had already accomplished that resulted in the mob scene of verses 8-9 above.

11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, "You are the Son of God!"

unclean spirits: See the note on 1:23. You are the Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. of God: Grk. theos is the God of Israel. See the note on 1:1 for the background of this title. The title "son of God" occurs only four times in Mark (here, 1:1; 5:7; 15:39). The title in 1:1 is of doubtful provenance and the one in 15:39 (huios theou) spoken by a Roman centurion could be translated as "a son of a god." The other two times the title is spoken by demonic powers. The demons might have intended the title as a synonym for the Holy One of God (1:24), but they echo Satan's use of the title in the wilderness temptation (Matt 4:6).

The title with "Son" capitalized reflects Christian interpretation of Yeshua as the second person of the triune Godhead. The acclamation does not mean that the demonic spirits recognized Yeshua as deity. The demons spoke through the voices of those whom they oppressed with that person's understanding. For Jews of that time "son of God" referred to a human descendant of King David who would establish the promised Kingdom.

12 And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was.

Some believe that Mark's narrative 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 1:34, 44; 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 leprosy (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.

13 And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him.

the mountain: Grk. oros means mountain, hill, or hill-country. In Greek literature oros was also used to denote a desert and a place to bury a corpse. 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. The CJB translates oros here as "hill country" and the TEV has "hill." 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. Modern English Bible versions tend to reflect the arbitrary standard of modern science in many passages, rather than recognizing that a single Hebrew and Greek word was used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.

The location of the mountain is unknown, but Yeshua finally was able to lead his disciples away from the crowds for the sake of privacy and perhaps spiritual retreat. Conducting the planned activity on a mountain is typical of great events of revelation in Scripture. Up to this point Yeshua had gained many disciples who followed him besides the twelve (cf. John 6:60, 66), including women (Mark 15:41; Luke 8:1-3). Yet, on this occasion Yeshua specifically selected the twelve because they were the ones he wanted. What a diverse group they were!

14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,

And He appointed: Grk. poieō, aor., to bring about a state or condition, "to do" or "to make." The English word "appointed" may imply a legal connotation of assigning to an office. The Greek verb emphasizes, however, a change of status and mission for the twelve, from being mere disciples to serving as ministers for the Messiah. the twelve: Grk. dōdeka, the number twelve, mostly used of Yeshua's disciples and the tribes of Israel. The disciples to whom Yeshua gave specific authority to represent him are often referred to as "The Twelve," occurring ten times in Mark, the most in the apostolic narratives. At this point some early MSS (4th cent.), including Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, have "whom he named apostles." These words are generally regarded as an interpolation from Luke 6:13 (Metzger), but several Bible versions include the clause (CEV, ESV, GNT, GW, HCSB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV).

so that: Mark goes on to identify a three-fold purpose for the selection of disciples for apostolic status, which stands in contrast to the stated purpose in 1:17, that is, to make them "fishers of men." they would be with Him: This purpose was not merely to keep Yeshua company, but to facilitate a mentoring relationship. This purpose is essential to discipleship in general, but as apostles they must also be unified in serving his interests. He will later speak of the divide of being either "with him" or "against him" (Matt 12:30). that He could send: Grk. apostellō, pres. subj., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authorized representative. them out to preach: Grk. kērussō, pres. inf., 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.

15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.

[And to have power to heal sicknesses: this clause, found in the KJV, is not in the earliest MSS, and thus is not included in modern versions. The NA-25 Text included the clause in brackets due to its presence in the Maj-Text, but the NA-26 Text omitted it altogether. Copyists may have added the clause in later MSS to make the verse harmonize with Matthew 10:8. Considering the mission instructions to the twelve and the 70 the charge to heal the sick would seem appropriate. However, in this context Mark is not relating a mission order but an explanation of Yeshua's reasons for apostolic appointment. The purpose statement is not found in the other apostolic narratives.]

and to have authority: Grk. exousia, See the note on 1:22. In context this authority might mean the freedom of choice, the capability or a specific commission. to cast out: Grk. ekballō, pres. act. inf., to cause to move out from a position, state or condition. The present tense emphasizes a continuing authority without end. the demons: Grk. daimonion (from daimōn, "evil spirit, demon"), a supra-natural being inferior to God but superior to humans, a fallen angel. In the Besekh the term only has a negative connotation of an evil spirit hostile toward man and God. The "casting out" can be understood in reference to both ending possession of an individual, or other forms of spiritual oppression. This third purpose recognizes the reality of spiritual warfare, in which he intended that his apostles be victorious.

16 And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter),

And He appointed the twelve: See the note on verse 14. 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.

to whom He gave the name Peter: Grk. Petros. Mark is clear that the name was not given at birth by his parents, but by Yeshua himself. Actually, according to John 1:42 the name Yeshua gave Simon was the Aramaic name Kefa transliterated in the Greek as Kēphas and rendered in the English by the inaccurate "Cephas." Petros, then, is the translation of Kefa, which means "rock" in Aramaic (Stern). 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 book 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. Yeshua later addressed him as "Simon Barjona" (Heb. bar Yona) (Matt 16:17), which means that Simon's family descended from the prophet Jonah. Simon was married (verse 1:30; 1Cor 9:5) and maintained a residence in Capernaum (1:21, 29).

Textual Note: The inclusion of the opening clause "And He appointed the twelve" is given a "C" rating by the NU-Text translation committee due to its questionable authenticity (Metzger 69; GNT 130). In fact, the TR, M-Text, and WH-Text all omit the phrase, but because of the decision of the NU-Text to include the phrase in brackets, many modern versions include it (e.g., ERV, ESV, GW, HCSB, NASB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, OJB, TLV). Metzger explains that the phrase may have come into the text of the five MSS in which it is found by simple scribal mistake or intentionally to pick up the thread of verse 14 after the parenthesis of verse 15. In reality verse 15 is a part of the sentence begun in verse 14 and should not have been separated.

17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder");

and James: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), but rendered unfortunately as "James" in Christian Bibles. See the note on 1:19. the son of Zebedee: Grk. Zebedaios transliterates the personal Heb. name Zavdai meaning, "gift." See the note on 1:19. and John: Grk. Iōannēs for Heb. Yochanan. See the note on 1:19. Jacob and John were later classified with Simon Peter as apostles to the circumcised (Gal 2:9). Jacob would be martyred (Acts 12:2), but John would go on to pen significant works: a narrative of Yeshua, three letters and the Revelation, and outlive the rest of the apostles (cf. John 21:23). See Witnesses of the Good News for more on the background of John.

to them He gave the name Boanerges: Grk. Boanērges. Yeshua gave John and his brother a nickname that is a transliteration of a Hebrew word, possibly B'nei-Regesh, lit. "sons of feeling," emotional people" or "people who get excited easily." Another possibility is B'nei-Rogez, lit. "sons of anger," that is, people who easily become angry" (Stern 89-90). which means, "Sons of Thunder": Grk. brontē, atmospheric thunder, here used euphemistically. Mark explains the phrase to non-Jewish readers as meaning "Thunderers," which says in poetic Greek about the same thing as either of the Hebrew equivalents. The latter Hebrew word may be reflected in the account of the two brothers offering to call down fire out of heaven on a village that didn't receive Yeshua (Luke 9:54). This may be the occasion that gave rise to Yeshua giving the nickname. Another time the two brothers sparked the anger of the other disciples by asking Yeshua if they could sit on his right and left in glory (Mark 10:35-45).

18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot;

and Andrew: Grk. Andreas, derived from andros the genitive case of anēr "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 Aner ("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.

and Philip: Grk. Philippos, "fond of horses," composed etymologically from philia, "fondness, affection," and hippos, "horse." This was the name of five kings of Macedon, including Philip II the father of Alexander the Great. The possibilities for the circumstances of the naming would the be the same as Andrew. It might seem strange for Andrew and Philip to have Greek names since they were Hebraic Jews from Bethsaida (John 1:44-45), but such a practice was not uncommon in Israel. There are four men named Philip in the Besekh: (1) Philip a son of Herod the Great and Mariamne; first husband of Herodias (Matt 14:3; Luke 3:19). He was a half-brother of Herod Antipas. (2) Philip the Tetrarch, a son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Luke 3:1). (3) Philip the evangelist and one of the first deacons (Acts 6:5), and (4) the apostle of Yeshua mentioned here. This Philip is mentioned 15 times in the Besekh, 11 of which are in the book of John.

It's very possible that since the birthplace of Philip was Bethsaida, Philip's parents may have named him after the Tetrarch. According to Josephus the Tetrarch's character was exceptional and his rule of 37 years was just and fair (Ant. XVIII, 4:6). He improved the town of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea, later called Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:13) to avoid confusion with Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea. He also rebuilt the town of Bethsaida and named it Julias in honor of the Emperor Augustus' daughter (Ant. XVIII, 2:1).

Philip was the fourth to follow Yeshua and may have been a follower of Yochanan the Immerser previously. Immediately after his call from Yeshua, he informed Nathanael, his close friend, of the Messiah. He was not discouraged by Nathanael's cool response to the invitation, but insisted that Nathanael meet Yeshua in person (John 1:45-46). Philip was a practical man who later determined the cost of feeding the multitude (John 6:5-7). The narrative here amplifies Philip's "come and see" viewpoint in introducing Hellenistic Jews to Yeshua. At the last supper Philip asked Yeshua to see the Father (John 14:8-9). Philip is included in the list of those who awaited Pentecost (Acts 1:13), but the Besekh says no more of him. According to Polycrates, an early church writer Philip was "one of the great lights of Asia" (Barker 284).

and Bartholomew: Grk. Bartholomaios, a transliteration of Bartalmai. Talmai is a biblical name of the King of Geshur (2Sam 3:3; 13:37). Stern suggests that in this context Talmai is a Hebrew transliteration of "Ptolemy," the name given to several Egyptian kings after the Alexandrian conquests of 336–323 BC (118). It would not be strange for a Jew to have an Egyptian name. Bar is generally identified as Aramaic for "son of." Yet, in Jewish correspondence of the time there are examples of where the Aramaic bar is used in Hebrew correspondence and, likewise, Hebrew ben is sometimes used in Aramaic correspondence, and both of these occasionally appear in Greek (Hamp 19).

However, scholars ignore the fact that bar was a Hebrew word for "son" (SH-1248), and occurs four times in the Tanakh (Ps 2:12; Prov 31:2 [3t]). While bar may have originated from Aramaic its early assimilation into Israelite culture made the word Hebrew, just as English has absorbed words from other languages. Thus, the connection of bar with a name (e.g., Barabbas, Bartholomaios, Bariēsous, Bariōnas, Barnabas, Barsabas, Bartimaios) does not make the name Aramaic and says nothing about the ethnicity or language of the person. Bartholomew is considered the same person as Nathanael (John 1:45-48), since Bartholomew does not occur at all in the book of John and Nathanael does not occur at all in the Synoptic Narratives. "Nathanael" would be the proper name of the "son of Talmai" (Lane). Nathanael is listed in the apostolic company in John 21:2.

and Matthew: Grk. Matthaios, which transliterates the Hebrew name Mattiyahu, ("gift of YHVH"). See the note on 2:14. The name Matthew hearkens back to a great Israelite hero, Matthias the Maccabean and Jewish priest, who rallied Jews against the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes. Matthias has a central role in the story of Hanukkah. Matthew also had another Hebrew name, Levi (Grk. Leui), and is identified as the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14) and the brother of the apostle Jacob ("James") the Less.

and Thomas: Grk. Thōmas, a transliteration of Heb. Toma (from Heb. toam, SH-8420, "twin"). This is the only person in the Bible named Thomas. Some scholars think it was his actual surname because in apocryphal literature his name is given as "Judas [Heb. Judah] Thomas." All that is known of Thomas in the Besekh besides his inclusion in lists of apostles (Matt 10:3; Acts 1:13) is found in the book of John where his name appears seven times. His recorded words indicate an inquisitive and loyal personality (John 11:16; 14:5; 20:25).

Thomas is best known for his doubting Yeshua's resurrection without physical evidence (John 20:25), and his great reversal of belief afterwards (John 20:28). Some scholars have assumed Thomas to be a person given to despondency and melancholy. The poor opinion many people have of Thomas cannot be objectively proven. Thomas was essentially a realist and relationships were important to him. There is an ancient tradition that Thomas was the apostle who took the good news of Yeshua to India as recorded in the apocryphal work The Acts of Thomas.

and James: Grk. Iakobos or Jacob. See the note on the previous verse. the son of Alphaeus: Grk. Halphaios, an Israelite name Alphaius, lit. "of Alphaios." Some scholars associate him with Jacob ("James") the Less in Mark 15:40, but it seems unlikely that Mark would give a second name for the same man without explanation. The word for "son" does not appear in the Greek text, but the fact that his name follows that of Matthew (also in Matt 10:3 and Acts 1:13) suggests that Jacob was a brother of Matthew, since he is also "of Alphaeus" (Mark 2:14).

However, the fact that Jacob and Matthew are never identified as brothers (as two other sets of brothers in the twelve) might suggest a more distant relation, such as grandfather. Some Christian authors incorrectly confuse this Jacob with the Lord's brother based on the assumption that Yeshua had no blood siblings, but the apostolic record is solidly against this interpretation. There is no other historical information concerning Jacob of Alphaeus.

and Thaddaeus: Grk. Thaddaios ("gift of God," HBD), a transliteration of the Hebrew name Taddai. The name occurs only here and Matthew 10:3, in which some Grk. MSS read as "Lebbaeus" (KJV). Smith identifies Lebbaeus as originating from Aramaic, meaning courageous or hearty (129). He is supposed to be the same as Judas (Heb. Y’hudah), the son of Jacob (Heb. Ya‛akov) in Luke 6:16, John 14:22, and Acts 1:13 (Barker 205). The position of his name in the lists of apostles may indicate the minor role he played. The only other mention of Thaddaeus is when he asked the question at the Last Supper on the subject of how Yeshua would revealed himself to them (John 14:22).

and Simon: Grk. Simōn, a transliteration of the Heb. Shim'on. the Zealot: Grk. kananaios, lit. "Cananean," a surname. Danker identifies kananaios as being from an Aramaic word (qanan) meaning "zealot" or "insurgent." However, the Aramaic word does not occur in Scripture and the source could just have easily been the Heb. verb qanah (SH-7065), to be jealous, zealous, or the Heb. noun qinah (SH-7068), ardor, zeal or jealousy. The verb is found in passages describing Phinehas, King Saul and Elijah as being zealous (Num 25:11, 13; 2Sam 21:2; 1Kgs 19:10, 14) and the noun is used to describe the zeal of King Jehu (2Kgs 10:16). In all these narratives the zeal of these individuals caused the death of many enemies of God.

The title distinguishes this Simon from Simon Peter. The Zealots were a group that actively opposed Roman occupation and believed in the violent overthrow of the Roman government. They staged rebellions at various times, which all failed. Their provocations led in AD 66 to open rebellion, which was crushed by the Romans with enormous loss of life, destruction of the Temple in 70, and mass suicide of the last holdouts at Masada in 73 to avoid being captured and enslaved by the Roman army.

19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.

and Judas: Grk. Ioudas, a transliteration of Heb. Y'hudah ("Judah") meaning "praise YHVH." The proper name Judas was very common in the time of Yeshua because it was not only the Greek form of one of the twelve patriarchs, but it was also made popular by the Jewish hero Judas Maccabaeus who led the nation in their fight for independence from Syria in 166 BC. The Besekh mentions seven men named Judas. Iscariot: Grk. Iskariōth is probably not a surname but a rendering into Greek of Hebrew ish-K'riot, "a man of K’riot," a town some twenty miles south of Jerusalem (Stern 38). who betrayed: Grk. paradidōmi, to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over," in this case a reference to subjecting Yeshua to arrest and a judicial process with the connotation of disloyalty and treachery. In the minds of the apostles Judas would always be remembered for this one defining moment that brought shame to himself and his family.

20 And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.

And He came home: lit. "and he comes into a house." The NASB probably uses "home" as an allusion to Nazareth, because Yeshua did not own a house. However, Mark does not say that Yeshua returned to Nazareth. He had already been ostracized there (Luke 4:16, 28-30), so there would be no point going back. This house is probably the same one mentioned in Mark 2:1. Lane suggests that the home may have been one owned by Simon and Andrew in Capernaum (139). and the crowd gathered again: this clause reinforces the location as in 2:2. they could not even eat a meal: lit. "eat bread." The demands on Yeshua's time made it extremely difficult to maintain any semblance of a daily routine.

Date: Autumn A.D. 28

21 When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."

When His own people heard: lit. "And the ones alongside of him hearing," presumptively his kinsmen as mentioned in verse 31. they went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to go out, to leave one place for another, in this case from Nazareth to Capernaum. to take custody: Grk. krateō, aor. act. inf., has two basic meanings: (1) to gain control of, to secure or to arrest. (2) to have a firm hold on, which can have a literal meaning of holding on to something, but also in an extended sense to hold fast to. Commentators generally assume that the family wanted to get hold of Yeshua, to take control of his actions (Rienecker). If this assumption be correct, what would they do with him once they had him? He was thirty years old and a responsible adult. However, if the verb were to be translated as "hold fast to" a very different interpretation emerges. See the commentary on verses 31-35 below.

for: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements and is normally translated "for." The Greek word hoti follows gar, but left untranslated in Bible versions. Hoti is a conj. that links two sets of data, indicating causality with an inferential aspect from what was previously said; for, because, inasmuch as. The double conjunction, lit. "for because," gives special emphasis to the verb following.

they were saying: Grk. legō, impf., "they said." One commentator suggests that the third person plural verb refers to other people outside the family (Rienecker). Thus, the family's departure for Capernaum was the result of public censure and not necessarily their own attitude. Given the honor-shame culture the family may have simply been embarrassed that there was such talk. He has lost His senses: Grk. existēmi, aor., lit. "to be out of one's mind." The verb reflects a psychological change that affects one's demeanor or impressionableness outside normal expectation. Lane says the term is clarified by Paul's ironical use of the contrast "if we are beside ourselves … if we are of sound mind" (2Cor 5:13) (139). The setting of the previous verse indicates a situation in which Yeshua had so many demands on him that he did not take care of himself and this is what may have led to the adverse conclusion of his mental health.

The charge of being out of his mind implies a psychological disorder that came on as a result of Yeshua's sense of eschatological mission, his passionate drive to minister to the needs of people and the resulting failure to properly eat and sleep. The total misjudgment of Yeshua's mental state reflects misunderstanding and unbelief. However, there could be another element in the assessment as suggested by the confrontation by scribes from Jerusalem in verses 22-30. The clause "for they were saying He has lost His senses," could be parallel to the phrase in verse 30, "because they were saying 'He has an unclean spirit," and thus it would be the critical scribes making the accusation, not ordinary people or Yeshua's family. The scribes' assessment is parallel to the comment of Pharisee critics in John 10:20, "He has a demon and is insane."

After the nativity stories and the Temple incident at age twelve the apostolic narratives reveal little of the attitudes of Yeshua's family toward him. Besides this story there is the later occasion in which Yeshua's brothers seem to either taunt him or attempt to provoke him into declaring himself in Judea, but as John points out they were not believing in him (John 7:2-5). For Miriam's part she was very much aware of the prophetic saying in the nativity story and she helped facilitate the sign Yeshua performed at the wedding in Cana. She may have concluded that her son needed the support of his family, so they all went to check on his condition and invite him home for some rest and recuperation.

22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."

Verses 22-30 comprise an interlude that occurs while Yeshua's family is en route. The scribes: Grk. grammateus (for Heb. sofer) refers to a specialist in Mosaic legal matters. A scribe was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah.  See the note on 1:22. who came down from Jerusalem: Adversaries from the scribes arrive from Jerusalem and attack Yeshua's moral character. The syntax suggests that these scribes were a team of legal specialists sent by the Sanhedrin to investigate (Lane 141). They might also have been members of the Sanhedrin, which did include scribes. (See the note on 14:1.)

He is possessed by: Grk. echō, pres. act., to possess in the sense of being under one's control or at one's disposal, lit. "he has." Beelzebul: a name referring to the prince of demons. The name occurs in no other Jewish writing (Lane). The accusation is repeated in verse 30. Their tactic is that of the "big lie." Satan is a liar (and has been from the beginning, John 8:44), and one of his chief weapons against the people of God has always been to spread malicious lies. Such has been the history of antisemitism.

By this false charge, the scribes unwittingly malign the Holy Spirit with whom Yeshua was filled. By their accusations the scribes brand Yeshua's work as unlawful and consign him to the category of a magician. The related charge of sorcery became widespread among Jews and the Talmud records that Yeshua was hanged because of practicing sorcery (Sanh. 43a; 107b; Sot. 47a). Various church fathers attest to this continuing calumny into the patristic age (cited in Lane). Unfortunately, the scribes were too blind because of their hatred and jealousy to realize that their own defamation would one day be used as an attack on the Jews.

He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons: This is a separate but related charge. As Stern points out, Satanic healings and miracles are possible, and many are led astray by them (Ex 7:22, 8:7). However, such false miracles cause even greater bondage. The scribes obviously failed to consider the result of Yeshua’s ministry. People had been freed from the power of Satan and such victory can only be accomplished by the power of God. As Yeshua rightly pointed out, if the victory did not come from God in His casting out demons, then the Pharisees could not claim the same source of victory in their exorcisms (Matt 12:27).

23 And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?

He … began speaking to them in parables: pl. of Grk. parabolē, something serving through comparison or analogy to encourage a new perspective, from paraballō, lit. "a laying beside" or "casting alongside." The noun is variously translated as parable, proverb, figure, illustration or type. In the LXX parabolē renders Heb. mashal, which comes from a verb meaning "to be like." The Hebrew word mashal has a broader usage than parabolē. A mashal could be in story form or in proverb form or even a discourse. Many proverbs are similes (DNTT 2:744). The parable was a primary teaching method of Yeshua (Matt 13:3). While the parable is typically thought of as a pithy story there are three one-verse parables in the apostolic narratives (Hidden Treasure, Matt 13:44; Lamp and Lampstand, Mark 4:21; and New Cloth on Old Garments, Matt 9:17). Yeshua proceeds to make five parabolic statements.

The first parable is in the form of a question. How can 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. See the note on 1:23. cast out: Grk. ekballō, pres. inf. See the note on verse 15 above. Satan? Yeshua begins his rebuttal with a rhetorical question with an obvious answer. That is like asking how can the Holy Spirit cast out the Holy Spirit? Or, can God create a rock so big that he can't lift it? Yeshua's question is a veiled insult. "How can you be so stupid and suggest such an illogical concept!" Satan doesn't want less control, he wants more control. Since Satan comes to "steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10), then he obviously wouldn't do anything that would limit those activities.

24 "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

If a kingdom: Grk. basileia means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. In his second parable, Yeshua expands on his rhetorical question by drawing attention to the nature of a kingdom. A kingdom viewed as royal power over a territory may be divided by virtue of civil war, which could easily mean the end of that kingdom. The scribes knew well the historical reality of the breakup of the kingdom of Israel after the death of Solomon. The proverb also alludes to the reality that Satan has a kingdom (Matt 12:26), and he rules over principalities and powers (Eph 6:11-12) with the authority of a potentate (1Jn 5:19).

25 "If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

If a house: Grk. oikia, a building structure for dwelling, but here used as a euphemism. In this third parable, the house may refer to a household, which is ruled over by a male head, a husband and father. A household divided could allude to a breakup by virtue of divorce or to rebellion by offspring against the parents, as Yeshua suggested would happen because of allegiance to him (Matt 10:21). In Hebrew (beit) a house can also refer to a school or house of learning, such as the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai, to which the scribes from Jerusalem may have belonged. Yeshua would then be saying, "if a school, whether Hillel or Shammai, is divided against itself, it will not be able to continue."

26 "If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!

In the fourth parable, Yeshua makes the obvious conclusion since the well educated but dimwitted scribes seem too slow to grasp the salient point. Demons don't cast out demons. If they did, Satan's kingdom would surely come to an end. The suggested scenario is not even theoretically possible. The fallen angels, the ones that followed Satan in his great rebellion against the Creator, sealed their fate and power of choice. Demons don't relinquish control unless forced to by the power of God.

27 "But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

For his fifth parable Yeshua introduces the metaphor of the "strong man," which has a basis in the Tanakh and may allude to the story of Samson who was a strong man. In order for his enemies to bind him they used deceit to discover the secret of Samson's strength (Judg 16:6-21). In so doing, Samson lost his freedom. The metaphor also occurs in Psalms 19:5 of the sun, "It rejoices as a strong man to run his course." The metaphorical language describes the brilliance of the sunrise, which attests to the sun’s vigor. The sun has the greatest physical power in the universe, but in context is probably an allusion to David's mighty men. Interestingly, the angel Gabriel's name means "strong man of God."

Yeshua used the metaphor of binding the strong man to describe His freeing individuals from demonic oppression, and in no way implies any impotence of Satan to work in the world. In Yeshua's ministry of exorcism the "strong man" would be the demon, not Satan. In fact, there is no verse in the Besekh that speaks of Satan being bound anywhere at any time, for as Peter says, he "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1Pet 5:8). At times in Scripture Satan is restrained in the sense that he had to obtain God’s permission to act against one of God’s saints (cf. Job 1:9-12; Luke 22:31-32).

Yet, other passages assert that Satan has unfettered freedom to act within all cultures and societal systems under his control (2Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12; 1Th 1:18; 1Jn 5:19). Personal prayers to "bind Satan" are really pointless. Yeshua promised that a day is coming when "the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31) and the apostles recognized that the end of Satan’s deceptive influence and grip on world power still lay in the future (Rom 16:20) and would only be accomplished by the personal return of Yeshua (2Th 1:6f).

28 "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;

Truly I say to you: Yeshua departs from stating parables to speaking the truth plainly to the entire group. all sins shall be forgiven: Yeshua says something really important on the way to saying something else. Under the Torah of the Old Covenant atonement was not authorized for any sin committed presumptuously or defiantly (Num 15:30f; Deut 17:12f) and according to the Mishnah (Ker. 1:1), violations of 36 Torah commandments could never be atoned, including blasphemy, idolatry, murder, adultery, fornication, necromancy, and profaning the holy feasts (Stern 270). The penalty for such egregious transgressions was being "cut off" from Israel or executed (Ex 30:33; 31:14; Lev 7:25ff). The good news of the New Covenant is that through the blood of the Messiah all transgressions of the Torah can be forgiven and cleansed (Matt 12:31f; John 8:11; Acts 13:39; 1Cor 6:9ff; 1Jn 1:7), although apostasy and sinning defiantly still courts eternal ruin (Heb 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 2Pet 2:20ff; 1Jn 5:16).

the sons of men: Mark gives the first half of a parallelism in Matthew 12:31-32 which contrasts sins against "men" and sin against the "Son of Man." Mark, as Peter's voice in presenting the ministry of Yeshua, may have recognized that in the "Son of Man" saying a principle that applied to all men. Saying that a sin against the Son of Man can be forgiven is no different than saying a sin against any human being can be forgiven.

29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"--

but whoever blasphemes: Grk. blasphēmeō, aor. act. subj., means to injure the reputation of, revile, defame in relation to men or to blaspheme in relation to God. Stern gives the definition as "to insult," but this is too mild and vague. In law there is a major difference between insulting someone (e.g., Matt 5:22) and defaming someone. Blasphemy includes both elements. The premise assumes a hypothetical situation and the verb describes a completed event.

In the Tanakh there are five Hebrew words translated in English versions as "blasphemy." By definition blasphemy may mean to revile God (2Kgs 19:6, 22; Isa 37:6, 23; Ezek 20:27), to despise or abhor, or to consciously view or treat with disdain (2Sam 12:14), to have contempt for God’s authority (Neh 9:18, 26), to curse in the sense of profanity or misusing God’s name (Lev 24:16), or to curse in the sense of using the name of God as part of a magic formula (Lev 24:11). Finally, as Numbers 15:30 illustrates, any transgression of the Torah committed with presumption, defiance or premeditation could be considered blasphemy because intentional sinning implies rejection of God’s authority and impugns God’s ability to punish the crime. Under the Torah, blasphemy, regardless of its form, merited the death penalty (Lev 24:16; Num 15:30). Ironically, Yeshua was convicted and sentenced to death on the charge of blasphemy (Matt. 26:65; Mark 14:64), because He claimed to be God (cf. John 10:33).

against the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit has a unique ministry, which is to convict or convince the world of sin, the righteousness of Christ and the coming judgment (John 16:8), as well as to empower disciples for life and service (Acts 1:8). never has forgiveness: Grk. aphesis, release or forgiveness. The word pictures the canceling of indebtedness. Forgiving sins is not included in the Spirit’s job description, so presumably the Spirit cannot forgive any sin committed against Him. Yeshua revealed that the Father is the one who pardons sin (Matt 6:12, 14-15; 18:35; Luke 23:34). Yeshua's own role would be to provide the ground for that forgiveness by virtue of his atoning sacrifice (Matt 26:28; Eph 1:7; 4:32). Yeshua is saying that in this circumstance the Father will not forgive (at least while the behavior is going on).

but is guilty of an eternal sin: Yeshua may well be making the same contrast contained in Eli’s rebuke of his sons who blasphemed God through immoral conduct inside the precincts of the tabernacle: "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him, but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?" (1Sam 2:25). Calling blasphemy against the Holy Spirit an "eternal sin" could be a way of saying that this sin cannot be forgiven.

"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. … whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matt 12:31-32)

On the other hand, using the term "eternal sin" may only mean that it has been a sin from the beginning and will continue through all eternity, which contrasts with the fact that some sins did not exist until the covenant with Noah and still others not until the covenant with Israel. Conversely, many transgressions relating to the ritual requirements of the Torah were ended by the atonement of Yeshua. However, some behaviors have been sins from the beginning, such as murder, adultery, harlotry and idolatry (Gen 2:17; 4:11f; 6:5ff; 18:20; 20:3; 26:10). They, like blasphemy, are eternal sins.

Identifying blasphemy as an eternal sin also illustrates the principle that there is a limit to divine patience. Noah warned his generation that the Spirit would not always strive with them and, in fact, gave them 120 years to repent (Gen 6:3). When that time expired without repentance so did their lives. In the account of the Exodus, Moses records that Pharaoh hardened his heart or refused to obey God after each of the first five plagues. However, beginning with the sixth plague the Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 9:12), indicating that the opportunity for mercy had expired. In the apostolic era, the disciples learned that God was still the same holy Judge through its experience with Ananias and Sapphira, Herod (who failed to reject idolatrous adoration, Acts 12:22-23), and certain Corinthian church members, who failed to treat the Lord’s Supper with holy respect (1Cor 11:29-30). The warning of the Psalmist needs to be heeded by this generation, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" (Ps 95:7; cf. Heb 3:7f).

Nevertheless, it is very important to remember that the reference to unforgiveness must be conditioned by all the promises of salvation upon repentance contained in Scripture. If a person genuinely committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (no matter how it is defined) and later likewise genuinely repented, God would surely forgive. God would not command His disciples to love their enemies (Matt 5:44), and then act the opposite. Confession and repentance will always be greeted with divine mercy just as Peter and Paul experienced, and God requires that the call to repentance be offered to everyone, especially the worst of sinners (Luke 24:47; Acts 17:30; 1Tim 1:15; 4:10). Unlike Eli’s dilemma we now have a mediator who has borne all our sins and will intercede with the Father on our behalf (1Tim 2:15; Heb 9:15). So, while there is life, there is still hope of salvation for all.

30 because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."

He has an unclean spirit: Grk. akatharton pneuma. See the note on 1:23. Yeshua, as a man, was filled with the Holy Spirit and performed His signs and wonders in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28; Luke 4:1), so Mark's explains that the charge of the critics amounts to saying that the Holy Spirit is an unclean spirit. Such a statement is insulting on the face of it, but it is far worse, because it is defamation. Mark's explanation goes to the heart of defining the nature of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Stern states that such blasphemy "consists in either (1) willfully continuing to deny the gospel when the Holy Spirit has made clear to you that it is true, or (2) attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the Adversary (Satan)" (46). Other commentators include denial of the faith or apostasy (which some link to the warning of Hebrews 6:4-6). See my article Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit for more discussion on these interpretations.

Mark’s definition confines the impact of this sin to the specific controversy Yeshua had with his critics and the fact that it is not raised again after the death and resurrection of Yeshua may mean that it has no practical application for the Body of Messiah after that time. Yes, people, even believers, can grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), but that is not the same thing as the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. People who are fearful of having committed this dread offense only need to be asked: "Have you ever said that Yeshua was possessed by a demonic spirit?" To my knowledge, no one other than these adversaries of Yeshua has ever made this charge.

31 Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him.

Then His mother: Grk. mētēr (=Heb. ima) refers to a biological mother, although occasionally in the Besekh the word is used as a metaphor (Rom 16:13). This is the first mention of Yeshua's mother, Miriam of Nazareth, in Mark. Most scholars presume the lack of a mention of Joseph suggests that he was deceased by this time, and John 6:42 seems to support this belief. and His brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a biological brother. Usage in the Besekh is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings (Mark 1:16, 19; 3:17; Acts 1:14; 7:13) or euphemistically as fellow Israelites (Matt 5:22-24; Acts 9:17). The phrase would be lit. "the brothers of him" and thus refer to his blood relations, or half-brothers.

The Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Miriam (aka "Mary") has no basis in Scripture and denies this godly woman her place in Jewish culture as a wife and mother. Yeshua had at least four brothers: Jacob (Heb. Ya'akov; aka "James"), Joseph (Heb. Yosef), Judah (Heb. Y'hudah, spelled as "Judas") and Simon (Heb. Shim'on) (Matt 13:55). Of the brothers two became well known: Jacob became the leader of the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 12:17; 15:13) and wrote the epistle known among Christians as "James" and Judah wrote the epistle known as "Jude."

During his visit to Nazareth Yeshua had declared, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown" (Luke 4:24). Yeshua's brothers apparently had an initial negative response to his message, and they did not actually believe in him until after the resurrection (cf. John 7:5; Acts 1:14; 1Cor 15:7). So they went with their mother to see Yeshua on this occasion, perhaps as support to her or to confront Yeshua themselves. arrived: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or to go. In typical Hebraic fashion the verb actually begins the verse, lit. "and comes the mother…." With this verse Mark returns to his account that began in verse 21 of Yeshua's family coming to see him. and standing: Grk. stēkō, pres. part., to stand, referring to a position that is up or erect. outside: Grk. exō, adv., "outside" refers to a point relative to where Yeshua sat. The adverb does not convey distance.

they sent word: Grk. apostellō, aor., to cause to move from one position to another. Often the verb has the focus of someone sent with an assignment, as here. Miriam or one of the brothers selected someone in the crowd to deliver a message. to Him and called Him: "called" is Grk. kaleō, pres. part., to say, to call, to summon. The verb indicates a persistent effort. Matthew's version of the account says they wanted to speak to him (Matt 12:46-47). Luke's version says they "wanted" him (Luke 8:20). The verb does not mean that Yeshua's family was yelling to get attention. The verb suggests that they commissioned more than one person to deliver the message to Yeshua.

32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You."

A crowd: See the note on verse 9 above. was sitting: Grk. kathēmai, impf. mid. ind., to sit down or take a seat, in this case on the floor. around Him: the preposition "around" (Grk. peri) suggests that Yeshua was in the middle of the room, seated as well. and they said to Him: The plural form of the verb indicates multiple ambassadors conveying the entreaty from Yeshua's family. 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, e.g., Gen 1:29), is used 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). The messengers are saying with emphasis to Yeshua, "Look, see," expecting his response.

Your mother and Your brothers: See the note on the previous verse. Several versions add "and sisters." See the Textual Note below. are outside looking: Grk. zēteō, pres., to look for, can have the meaning of "searching for," but in this context has the sense of seeking a meeting or looking to Yeshua to provide some answers. for You: They were unable to get inside due to the size of the crowd outside the house.

Textual Note: The Mace New Testament (1729) was the first English Bible to insert "and sisters," which is attested in Alexandrinus (5th cent. AD, one of the major MSS with the complete Besekh), Old Latin MSS from the 4th and 5th cent. AD, a 4th cent. Gothic MS, and many late MSS. The phrase does not appear in previous English versions, including the 1611 KJV, but is found in several modern versions (CEB, CEV, ERV, GNC, HCSB, HNV, JUB, MSG, MW, NLT, NRSV, OJB, and TEV). The difference between MSS could be the result of accidental omission in transcription or perhaps a deliberate omission because neither in verse 31 nor verse 34 (nor in parallel passages of this story) are the sisters mentioned. Metzger contends that from a historical point of view, it would be unlikely that Yeshua's sisters would have joined in publicly seeking him in this manner. Nevertheless, it is difficult to dismiss the weight of the majority of MSS that contain the clause and the mention of "sisters" in verse 35. The presence of Yeshua's sisters would lend even more weight to the appeal, because it reflects complete family unity. That Yeshua had half-sisters is attested in Matthew 13:56 and Mark 6:3.

33 Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?"

On the surface this seems a strange response. The rhetorical question is not meant to show disrespect to his biological family. As an observant Jew and the sinless Messiah he would certainly have fulfilled the commandment to honor his parents. Yet, he was communicating to his family that the nature of his mission and the kingdom required a shift in relationships. Yeshua had already started to distance himself from his mother's authority at the wedding in Cana where she attempted to direct his action to solve the wine shortage (John 2:2-3). Later on Yeshua would again direct attention away from his mother:

"While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." (Luke 11:27-28)

Yeshua's reply to the woman who wanted to venerate Miriam was not a rebuke but a reminder of spiritual priorities. One's relationship with God is more important than one's earthly relationships, even with blood relatives. Two other pronouncements reveal Yeshua's understanding of the inherent conflict between family and kingdom.

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life." (Matt 19:29)

"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26)

Yeshua never shared his feelings about his family. Yet, he understood the emotional pain of leaving loved ones behind in order to please his heavenly Father. He also did not "hate" his family, as the word means in English. In Hebrew "hate" not only means to have hostility toward, but was an idiomatic expression meaning to love less or "put in second place." (cf. Matt 10:37; Gen 29:31; Deut 21:15). Yeshua wanted his family to understand that he appreciated their concern and still loved them, but they had to take second place.

34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers!

Interpretation of verses 34 and 35 is difficult because the object of the declaration cannot be determined with certainty. The particle "behold" (Grk. ide) does not have the force of idou (a command) in verse 32 and most likely has the meaning of "you see" (BAG 369). Is Yeshua addressing the crowd or is he addressing his family? In either scenario it's very likely that Yeshua's family had managed to get through the crowd and heard these words coming from his lips.

Scenario One: Yeshua looks at his attentive audience in the room and perhaps pointing toward the entrance says, "you see my mother and my brothers over there." If Yeshua's family had made the trip to show solidarity and support (regardless of their personal feelings toward him), then this scenario is plausible.

Scenario Two: Yeshua looks at his biological family and pointing at his audience says, "You see? They are also my mother and brothers." In this hypothetical scenario his mother might have interpreted the words as disowning her, but she may have also realized Yeshua's spiritual meaning.

35 "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."

For: this preposition is not in the earliest and best MSS and was probably added to support the interpretation that Yeshua is rejecting his family. whoever: "whoever" translates two Greek words that open the verse, first Grk. hos, a pronoun that introduces specification through identification, i.e., "who," "which," or "what;" and Grk. an, a particle that emphasizes either contingency or generalization and affects the meaning of the immediate context in which it occurs. does: Grk. poieō, aor. subj., to do or to make. Without the preposition the opening pronoun, particle and verb continue the thought of the declaration in verse 34.

the will of God: the idiom in general refers to what God wants or desires in contrast to our own desires. The concept of God’s will is clearly expressed in two basic ways in Scripture: His sovereign will (Rom 1:20; Col 1:17) and His lifestyle will expressed in ethical instructions (Matt 5:17-19; 7:21; 1Cor 7:19). However, the concept may also occur in relation to specific vocational guidance given an individual (1Cor 1:1). For more information on the biblical use of this idiom see my article The Will of God. In this passage doing the will of God may have a more proximate meaning of responding to Yeshua's call to repentance and embracing the good news of Messiah's kingdom. he is: Grk. houtos, a demonstrative pronoun used to signify a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it. Although the pronoun is masculine, in this grammatical structure houtos would have the meaning of "this one."

My brother and sister and mother: Yeshua includes the mention of sister (Grk. adelphē), which normally has a literal meaning of a biological sibling (Mark 10:29; Luke 10:39-40; 14:26; John 11:1), but occasionally is used metaphorically of a spiritual relationship (e.g., Rom 16:1; 1Cor 7:15). Let's consider this statement in light of the two scenarios mentioned in the previous verse.

Scenario One: Luke's version gives a slightly different wording: "My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it" (Luke 8:21). The Greek lit. says, "My mother and my brothers are these, the ones hearing and doing the word of God." With the literal meaning in mind David Flusser (noted professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem) says of Luke 8:21, "Jesus recognized the religious piety of his family" (15). In other words, Yeshua holds up his family as models of those who do the will of God. Miriam's piety was documented by Luke (Luke 1:30) and from all accounts was a good and supportive mother.

Scenario Two: While Flusser's view has merit, it seems more likely that Yeshua informs his biological family that there are those who have claims on him as a family member without the necessity of being a blood relation. Such a person might be a mother, brother or sister by virtue of fulfilling the will of God (taking upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom). There is one anomaly in this list. Yeshua does not mention wife, which was probably a purposeful omission. The normal path of life for a first-born Jewish son would be to take a wife and have children, thereby ensuring the continuation of the family line. Yet, like Yochanan the Immerser, Yeshua embraced the celibate life for the sake of his Messianic mission.

We might ask, how can anyone, any woman, be a spiritual mother of Yeshua? Actually, the same question could asked of the other two relationships. The mention of "mother" and "sister" are probably meant to allude to the purity expected of relationships in the Body of Messiah. Paul instructed Timothy that he was to treat "the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1Tim 5:2). This ethical principle guided Yeshua's relations with all the women who became his disciples. Because of his identity and mission he could not relate to any woman as "wife." Yeshua's declaration to his family informed them that the Messianic Kingdom transforms relationships. Normally a kingdom is about power, a king reigning over his subjects. In the kingdom of the Messiah relationships are like that of a family.

Works Cited

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

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]

Gruber-Akiva: Daniel Gruber, Rabbi Akiva's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority. Elijah Publishing, 1999.

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.

Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.

Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.

Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.

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