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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Mark 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Καὶ εἰσελθὼν πάλιν. Unless ἠκούσθη is personal, to which Blass, § 72. 4, with hesitation inclines, εἰσελθών is a nom. pend. [368][369] Latt. Syrr. Goth. smooth the constr. by reading εἰσῆλθενκαὶ ἠκούσθη. If ἠκούσθη is personal, the constr. is not broken: And having entered again into [370] He was heard of as being, etc. The πάλιν looks back to Mark 1:21. Mk often notes the recurrence of scenes and incidents (Mark 2:13, Mark 3:1; Mark 3:20, Mark 4:1, etc.). One missionary circuit is ended; but there is no hint that it was the disobedience of the leper (Mark 1:45) which brought it to a conclusion; his disobedience changed the character of it from town to country. Here He returns to His headquarters. Mt. calls Capernaum “His own city.”

διʼ ἡμερῶν. After some days, interjectis diebus, seems to be the meaning. Cf. διʼ ἐτῶν δὲ πλειόνων (Acts 24:17), διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν (Galatians 2:1). This use of διά is classical. Winer, p. 475. Cf. Mark 14:58.

ἠκούσθη. Probably impersonal, as in John 9:32; and, as in 2 Esdras 16:6 (Nehemiah 6:6), ὅτι may be recitative and be omitted in translation; People were heard to say, He is at home. For this use of ἐν οἴκῳ cf. 1 Corinthians 11:34; 1 Corinthians 14:35, where it is in emphatic contrast to ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. Ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ would mean “in the house already mentioned” (Mark 1:29), viz. Simon’s, and this may have been the house in which He was “at home”; εἰς οἶκον ([371][372][373][374]) suggests “He has gone indoors and is there.”

Verses 1-12


Matthew 9:1-8. Luke 5:17-26

This incident gives the dominant thought to a group of narratives which record the hostile criticisms of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mark 2:1 to Mark 3:6). It comes after—we do not know how long after—the healing of the leper; so also in Lk. The other narratives seem to be selected because of their resemblance to this one, and are perhaps arranged so as to form a climax. Here the hostile party do not openly express their criticisms. In Mark 2:15-17 they utter them to the disciples. In 18–22 and 23–28 they utter them to Christ Himself. In Mark 3:1-6 they seek plans for His destruction.

Verse 2

2. ὥστε μηκέτι χωρεῖν. So that there was no longer room, no, not even about the door. A.V. ignores μηκέτι (cf. Mark 1:45) and renders ἐλάλει “He preached,” which would be ἐκήρυσσε. The imperf. indicates the continuation of Christ’s discourse indoors while the crowd in the street blocked the entrance. The multitude would not lose the opportunity of witnessing miracles; Christ would not lose the opportunity of instructing them. Mt., as usual, omits the impeding crowd; see on Mark 1:33; Mark 1:44. For συνήχθησαν cf. Matthew 24:28; Revelation 19:17 : for χωρεῖν cf. John 2:6; John 21:25. This graphic verse has no parallel in Mt. or Lk., who are here very independent of Mk. Of the narrative as a whole even Loisy admits: La scène est prise sur le vif, et on croirait la recueillir de la bouche d’un témoin.

τὸν λόγον. We have ἐλάλει τὸν λόγον again Mark 4:33, which shows that the first Christians used ὁ λόγος as a technical term for “the good tidings”; cf. Mark 4:14; Acts 14:25; Acts 8:4. He was speaking the word.

Verse 3

3. παραλυτικόν. Lk., as usual (Acts 8:7; Acts 9:33), has the more classical παραλελυμένος.

αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων. Mk alone has this detail. There is perhaps design in using the same verb of his being carried and of his carrying his bed (Mark 2:9; Mark 2:11-12), a point which Lk. makes clearer by saying ἄρας ἐφʼ ὃ κατέκειτο. If so, the point is lost in A.V. and R.V., “borne of four” and “took up the bed”; also in Vulg., with porto and tollo. Cf. ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε (Psalms 91:12).

Verse 4

4. μὴ δυνάμενοι. The μή does not necessarily give their view; “because they saw that they could not”: in N.T., μή with participles is normal; Mark 5:26, Mark 6:34, Mark 8:1, Mark 12:21; Mark 12:24. Blass, § 75. 5; J. H. Moulton, p. 231.

προσενέγκαι. See crit. note. An outside staircase leading to the flat roof is not uncommon in Palestinian houses, the roof being used for various purposes. If there was no staircase, ladders could be obtained, and the roof would be no great distance from the ground. Men who were so much in earnest would not think getting on to the roof and removing a small portion of it an insuperable difficulty. There has been needless discussion of a simple matter; and to treat the whole narrative as fiction, because we have no certain explanation of this interesting detail, is not sane criticism. It is not even necessary to surmise that Mk and Lk. are thinking of two different kinds of houses.

διὰ τὸν ὄχλον. Mk commonly has ὄχλος (Mark 2:13, Mark 3:9; Mark 3:20; Mark 3:32, Mark 4:1; Mark 4:36, etc., etc.), the others, ὄχλοι.

ἀπεστέγασαν τὴν στέγην. They unroofed the roof. A rare verb, not found elsewhere in N.T., or in LXX. Lk.’s διὰ κεράμων shows that only part of the roof was removed, just the part above the place where Christ was teaching. This verb and ἐξορύξαντες illustrate Mk’s correct use of compound verbs; cf. Mark 2:15, Mark 3:5, Mark 4:5; Mark 4:7. The men would “dig out” whatever clay or mortar had to be removed, so as to cause as little inconvenience as possible to those in the room below; in Galatians 4:15 and in LXX., ἐξορύσσω is used of gouging out eyes. Burglars who break into houses are said to “dig through” (διορύσσω) the mud walls (Matthew 6:20). These difficulties in bringing the patient to the Healer tested the faith of all five, and thereby strengthened it.

χαλῶσι τὸν κράβαττον. They let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. Cf. Acts 9:25 and 2 Corinthians 11:33 of St Paul being let down in a basket. The κράβαττος (Mark 6:55; cf. John 5:8-11; Acts 5:15; Acts 9:33) would be the rug or mattress on which they carried him to the house. Mt. and Lk. adopt a more literary word; but κλίνη, like “bed,” suggests something larger than a κράβαττος, and therefore less likely to be used. When Lk. comes to the letting down through the roof, he changes κλίνη, “bed” to κλινίδιον, “couch” (A.V., R.V.), but no distinction is made in A.V. or E.V. between κράβαττος and κλίνη. The spelling of κράβαττος varies greatly in MSS. of N.T. and in papyri. The Latin grabatus or grabatum commonly means a poor kind of bed, a pallet; grabatis tegetibusque concepti (Mart. vi. 39). Coelius Aurelianus, the famous physician, says, eos quiescere jubemus lecto mutato, ad grabata aegros transferendo. Κραβάτειος = cubicularius is found in inscriptions.

κατέκειτο. Was lying. Christ does not rebuke him or his bearers for interrupting His teaching.

Verse 5

5. ἰδὼν τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν. All three preserve the words. Belief in the power and good will of Christ is meant. The αὐτῶν includes the paralysed man. Theophylact and Euthymius remark that he would not have consented to be brought, if he had not believed that he could be cured. Here, as in the case of the father of the demoniac boy (Mark 9:24), and of Jairus (Mark 5:36), the faith of representatives is taken into account. Cf. Mark 7:32. This would hold good in the case of most demoniacs.

Τέκνον. My child. This affectionate address is preserved by Mk and Mt. It was doubtless intended to encourage the man and strengthen his hopes. We must insert “My,” for “Child” would sound like the beginning of a rebuke. Lk. has ἄνθρωπε, which is much less sympathetic. Τέκνα is addressed to the Twelve (Mark 10:24); also τεκνία (John 13:36). Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 4:17, and Θύγατερχ, Mark 5:34. We must not infer from τέκνον that the sick person was a lad; teachers often addressed their disciples in this way (Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 1:10; Proverbs 2:1, etc.).

ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. See crit. note. Thy sins are forgiven thee (R.V.), rather than “be forgiven thee” (A.V.), which might be understood as a wish. This “aoristic present” (Burton § 13; Blass § 56. 4) means “are forgiven now and here”; it = “I forgive thee.” Possibly, as in the case of the man at the pool of Bethesda, this man’s palsy was the result of sin (John 5:14), and the thought of this lessened the man’s hope of recovery. Therefore Christ healed the man’s conscience before healing his body, and thereby greatly strengthened his faith. See Clem. Alex. Paed. i. 2. The belief that suffering is a judgment on the sufferer’s sin is wide-spread, and it was strong in Jews (Acts 28:4; Luke 13:1-5; John 9:2). “Rabbi Ami said, No death without sin, and no pains without some transgression.” And “Rabbi Alexander said, The sick ariseth not from his sickness until his sins are forgiven” (Talmud). Cf. Job 4:7; Job 22:4-5. The silence of the paralytic and his friends is impressive.

Verse 6

6. τινες τῶν γραμματέων. See on Mark 1:22. The first appearance of the Scribes in Mk, but Mt. (Mark 2:4) has them in connexion with the Magi.

καθήμενοι. Lk. preserves this graphic detail and adds that they had come “out of every village of Galilee and Judaea and from Jerusalem.” That is popular hyperbole, but it shows that Christ’s teaching had already excited the misgivings of the hierarchy (John 4:1), as the Baptist’s teaching had done (John 1:19; John 1:24). Their sitting may have been accidental (Mark 3:34), but it may have been a mark of distinction such as they loved (Mark 12:39). In so crowded a room most would have to stand. On the combination of participles see on Mark 1:15.

ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις. It is remarkable that this Hebraistic expression is in Mk, while Mt., as also in Matthew 16:7-8, Matthew 21:25, has ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. In Mark 2:8 all three have ἐν τ. καρδίαις: in Mark 11:23 Mk alone has it. The heart is regarded as the seat of thought (Mark 7:21) as well as of emotion. The Scribes had not yet got so far as to express their hostile criticisms openly in Christ’s hearing.

Verse 7

7. Τί οὗτος οὕτως λαλεῖ; [375] has ὅτι for τί, and if it is adopted, ὅτι is interrogative, as in Mark 9:11; Mark 9:28. Both οὗτος and οὕτως express disapproval; Quid iste ita loquitur? As in Mark 1:27, we have what was thought given in rough, disjointed expressions, which some texts have made smooth. See crit. note.

βλασφημεῖ. Used in this absolute way it means blasphemy against God, punishable with death (Leviticus 24:16; 1 Kings 21:10; 1 Kings 21:13). Jesus had claimed the Divine attribute of being able to forgive sins; He was “blaspheming.” Cf. Matthew 26:66; John 10:33.

εἰ μὴ εἷς, ὁ θεός. We have the same words in Mark 10:18, where all three have εἷς. Here Lk. has μόνος, and Mt. omits the words. In Enoch, the Son of Man judges, but does not forgive sins.

Verse 8

8. καὶ εὐθὺς ἐπιγνοὺς κ.τ.λ. Mk alone states that Christ knew instantaneously, and that it was in His spirit that He did so. It was in the higher part of His human nature (Mark 8:12), in which He had communion with the Father, that Jesus possessed this supernatural knowledge (John 2:25). In John 11:33; John 13:21, it is Christ’s πνεῦμα which is affected by the presence of moral evil. In Mark 14:34; Matthew 26:38; John 12:27, it is His ψυχή that is troubled at the thought of impending suffering. Bengel draws a questionable distinction when he says that prophetae cognoscebant res in Dei spiritu, non in suo, Christus in spiritu suo divino. Was it not in Dei spiritu in both cases? The difference may have been that this exceptional knowledge was always open to Christ, but not always to the Prophets. Lk. also has ἐπιγνούς here. That the compound sometimes, and perhaps often, implies more complete knowledge than the simple verb, is clear from 1 Corinthians 13:12. Here, as in Mark 5:30, the compound has fuller meaning. All three use ἐπιγινώσκω much less often than γινώσκω: the case is not parallel to ἀποθνήσκω, which takes the place of θνήσκω without difference of meaning and almost drives θνήσκω out of use. In all three Synoptists, as well as in Jn, Christ shows Himself as ὁ καρδιογνώστης (Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8).

Τί ταῦτα διαλογίζεσθε; This reply to the Scribes’ unuttered criticism is almost verbally the same in all three, with the parenthesis in the same place in each—clear evidence that the narratives are not independent. The Scribes themselves hardly knew how far their adverse judgment was provoked by jealousy of a rival teacher rather than by jealousy for God’s honour. By reading their thoughts Christ gave them evidence of His authority, for only He who knows the hearts of men can pardon men’s sins.

Verse 9

9. τί ἐστιν εὐκοπώτερον; See on Mark 10:25. Here Christ gives them a test by which they can see whether their adverse judgment is just. It was easy to say “Thy sins are forgiven,” because no one could prove that the claim to work this invisible miracle was baseless. But the claim to have power to heal with a word could be tested at once; and if it proved to be true, it was a guarantee that the other claim was true also. His healing the body was evidence that He could heal the soul. But Christ healed the man in answer, not to the unbelief of the Scribes, but to the belief of the man and his bearers. He would have healed him, if the Scribes had not been there. As they were there, He made the healing serve a double purpose.

Verse 10

10. ἐξουσίαν ἔχει. Hath authority. God has the power, and has given authority to the Son of Man to exercise it (John 5:27; John 5:30).

ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. This remarkable expression is used 14 times by Mk. All of these are preserved in Mt., who adds 19, most of which have come from Q. The total for the four Gospels is 81, 12 of which are in Jn. Lk. has it 8 times in common with Mk and Matthew , 8 times in common with Matthew , , 8 times without either. All four Evangelists represent Christ as using this title of Himself. They never call Him “the Son of Man,” and they nowhere record that anyone gave Him this title. The theory that He never used this title of Himself is untenable. Even if it were certain, which it is not, that the difference between υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, “son of man” or “human being,” and ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, “the Son of Man,” could not be expressed in Aramaic, it is incredible that all four Evangelists have gone wrong on this point. Christ sometimes spoke Greek, and He may have used the expression ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Even if He did not, the Evangelists, whoever they were, represent the memories of numerous persons who knew whether or no Christ had applied this unusual title to Himself. Allen, S. Matthew, pp. lxxi. f.; Driver, Hastings D.B. iv. pp. 579 f.; Dalman, Words, pp. 249, 253, 259. If the first Christians had invented a designation for the now risen and glorified Lord, they would not have chosen an expression so indeterminate as “the Son of Man.”

Here, as in Mark 2:28, it is possible to conjecture that the Aramaic original meant mankind in general. The meaning then would be, not that all men possess this power, but that it is possible for a man to have it. Such an interpretation makes good sense, and Matthew 9:8 favours it. But this is not often the case: in Mark 8:13; Mark 8:38, Mark 9:9; Mark 9:12; Mark 9:31, Mark 10:33; Mark 10:45, Mark 14:21; Mark 14:41, such an interpretation is scarcely possible, and in Mark 13:26, Mark 14:62 is quite impossible.

ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. In Mt. and Lk. these words immediately precede ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας, and it is possible that they did so in the original text of Mk. So [376][377][378][379][380][381]c[382][383], Latt. Syr-Pesh. Memph. Arm. Goth. But [384] here has ἀφ. ἁμ. ἐπὶ τ. γῆς, and is supported by [385] and two cursives. A third reading, ἀφ. ἐπὶ τ. γ. ἁμ. ([386][387][388][389][390][391][392][393][394][395], Syr-Hark.) adds weight to [396] as indicating that ἐπὶ τ. γ. belongs to ἀφ. ἁμαρτ. rather than to ὁ υἱὸς τ. ἀν. The absolution which the Son of Man declares takes effect on earth, for it is in accordance with Divine rule.

Verse 11

11. Σοὶ λέγω. The emphatic pronoun marks the change of address from the Scribes to the sufferer. This change is quite different from the changes which want of power to keep the oratio obliqua through a long sentence sometimes produces, as in Mark 6:8-9. This speech, with its explanatory parenthesis, is as clear as literary skill can make it; and it is in the parenthesis, which is no part of Christ’s utterance, that the Evangelists have differences of wording, Mt. inserting his favourite τότε, and Lk. using his παραλελυμένῳ. Cf. Mark 11:32; Exodus 4:4-5.

ἔγειρε. See crit. note. Here comes the test of the man’s faith, which Christ knew to be sufficient, for He read his thoughts as easily as the thoughts of the Scribes. The man could give no proof of his belief that he had received forgiveness of his sins, but he could show his belief that he had received power to get up and walk. Like ἄγωμεν (Mark 1:38), ἔγειρε is intrans. Cf. Mark 3:3, Mark 10:49. Note the asyndeton; in the true text there is no καί before ἆρον. For ὕπαγε Lk. has πορεύου, a verb which is exceptionally freq. in his writings. It is quite in the narrative style of the O.T. that Mk. has the same fulness of expression here as in Mark 2:9; cf. 1 Kings 12:4; 1 Kings 12:9-10; 1 Kings 12:14; Daniel 3:5; Daniel 3:7; Daniel 3:10; Daniel 3:15. There is close similarity between Mark 2:11-12 and John 5:8-9.

εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου. Doubtless at Capernaum. There is no command to silence. Such a command would have had little meaning respecting a miracle wrought before such a multitude.

Verse 12

12. ἠγέρθη, καὶ εὐθὺς ἄραςἐξῆλθεν ἔμπροσθεν πάντων. Lk. substitutes three words, each of which is characteristic of his style, παραχρῆμα ἀναστὰς ἐνώπιον, of which ἀναστάς is an improvement, showing that the man raised himself and was not raised by others, which ἠγέρθη might mean. See on Mark 5:29, Mark 10:52. Both Mt. and Lk. emphasize the suddenness of the cure (cf. Mark 1:42); and, like Simon’s wife’s mother (Mark 1:31), the person healed gives proof of the completeness of the cure. He not only can use his limbs, but he has strength to carry his pallet. The crowd would gladly make way for the exit of so interesting a person, and some would come with him.

ἐξίστασθαι πάντας. Does this include the Scribes? Mt. says οἱ ὄχλοι. It was natural that amazement should be the first feeling (Mark 5:43, Mark 6:51); Mt. calls it fear; Lk. gives us both, and tells us that the healed man led the way in glorifying God. Lk. is fond of mentioning this effect of Christ’s miracles.

δοξάζειν. Note the tense; continued glorifying.

εἴδαμεν. Both Mk and Lk. represent them as impressed by what they had seen, viz., the healing. Mt. thinks of the authority to forgive sins. On the mixture of first and second aor. forms in εἴδαμεν, ἐπέβαλαν, ἦλθαν, κ.τ.λ., see Winer, p. 86; W.H. App. p. 164; Blass § xxi. 1; Deissmann, Bib. St. p. 190. As in Matthew 9:33, οὔτως = τοιαῦτα: it may be a Hebraism.

Verse 13

13. ἐξῆλθεν. From the house and the city; that He did so in order to escape from the concourse is conjecture.

πάλιν παρὰ τ. θάλασσαν. The πάλιν may be a mere mark of transition; or it may refer to a previous scene by the Lake, perhaps Mark 1:16, where παρὰ τ. θ. means “along the shore.” Here it would seem to mean “to the shore”; cf. Acts 16:13.

ἤρχετοἐδίδασκεν. The change to imperfects is accurate; cf. Mark 1:31-32. In wording, Mt. and Lk. differ considerably from Mk and from one another.

Verse 13-14


Matthew 9:9. Luke 5:27-28

Verse 14

14. παράγων εἶδεν. As in Mark 1:16; the repetition confirms the view that πάλιν refers to Mark 1:16. Once more, on the shore of the Lake, He becomes a fisher of men.

Λευείν. See crit. note. The fact that James the Less was son of an Alphaeus (Mark 3:18) may have led to the reading Ἰάκωβον. That Levi and James were brothers, sons of the same Alphaeus, is improbable. They are associated in no list of the Apostles. With Λευείν Lk. has his favourite ὀνόματι, and with ΄αθθαῖον Mt. has his λεγόμενον. Mk has λεγόμενος once (Mark 15:7) and ὀνόματι not at all.

καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον. Sitting at or near the place where toll was collected. The douane of the Lake; the word occurs only in this connexion; cf. δεκατώνιον, the office of a collector of tenths. In N.T., ἐπί c. acc. often answers the question Where? Blass § 43. 1. Capernaum was on some of the main trade routes, and here tolls were collected for the tetrarch; hence the πολλοὶ τελῶναι (Mark 2:15), some of whom would be sitting with Levi. There is no serious ground for doubting the identity of Levi the toll-gatherer with Matthew the toll-gatherer. The two names do not cause great difficulty, although they are not quite parallel to the other instances among the Apostles. In those of Simon Peter and Thomas Didymus, one name is Semitic, the other Greek. Bartholomew (who is probably Nathaniel) has a patronymic for one name. But both Levi and Matthew are Semitic, and neither is a patronymic.

Ἀκολούθει μοι. A call to be a disciple (Mark 8:34), and perhaps to be an Apostle (Mark 1:17): cf. Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:59. It certainly meant leaving his lucrative post at the τελώνιον, and therefore it was a severer test than the call to the four fishermen: Lk. inserts καταλιπών πάντα. They could, and did, return to their fishing, when the work to which Jesus had called them seemed to be at an end. Once more Jesus appears as the reader of hearts. If He had not known Levi’s character, He would not have called one of his very unpromising profession to be an Apostle: his ministrations would be unacceptable to every Jew who had known him as a toll-collector. There may have been a religious stir among the toll-collectors. Many of them had come to listen to John (Luke 3:12).

ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ. The Hebraistic pleonasm ἀναστάς is in all three. We may suppose that Levi heard Christ teach, or that he knew something of His teaching, and had thought about it. But there is nothing incredible in the thought that there was something in Christ’s look and manner and sudden invitation which answered to a craving in the toll-gatherer’s heart, and that he felt at once, like Francis of Assisi at the Portiuncula, that this was a call which came home to him. Such feeling may show want of mental ballast, as Porphyry thought. The outcome is the only practical test of its value; “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Verse 15

15. γίνεται κατακεῖσθαι. See crit. note. Reclining at meals was usual. Of the six words used in the Gospels to denote this posture (ἀνακεῖσθαι, ἀνακλίνειν, ἀναπίπτειν, κατακεῖσθαι, κατακλίνειν, συνανακεῖσθαι), Mk uses all but κατακλίνειν, Mt. all but κατακεῖσθαι and κατακλίνειν, Lk. all six, while Jn uses only ἀνακεῖσθαι and ἀναπίπτειν. This is in accordance with the fulness of Lk.’s vocabulary and the sparseness of John’s. For these six words, Vulg. has only three, accumbere, discumbere, and recumbere, and it uses them almost promiscuously. All three are employed to translate both ἀνακεῖσθαι and ἀνακλίνειν.

ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ. In Levi’s house, as Lk. expressly states; Peter’s house would not hold a large reception. In Mt., αὐτοῦ is omitted. If Levi = Matthew, and Matthew is the authority for this part of the First Gospel, αὐτοῦ would be unnecessary.

πολλοὶ τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοί. The combination is here in all three; cf. Matthew 11:19; Matthew 21:31; Luke 7:34; Luke 15:1; Luke 18:11. It is paralleled in Lucian (Necyom. 11); μοιχοὶ καὶ πορνοβόσκοι καὶ τελῶναι καὶ κόλακες καὶ συκοφάνται, καὶ τοιοῦτος ὅμιλος τῶν πάντα κυκώντων ἐν τῷ βίῳ. Cf. Aristoph. Equit. 248; Theoph. Charac. 6. Theocritus in answer to the question, which are the worst of wild beasts, says, “On the mountains bears and lions, in cities publicans and pettifoggers.” The word is derived from τέλη (Matthew 17:25; Romans 13:7) and ὠνέομαι, and therefore in etymology τελῶναι = publicani, the wealthy persons, commonly equites, who bought or farmed the taxes or Government revenues. But in usage τελῶναι = portitores, who collected the taxes. This usage is invariable in N.T. and freq. elsewhere. Taxes were usually collected for the Emperor, and for a Jew to undertake such work for a heathen conqueror was the deepest disgrace; all such were excommunicated. But this was not Levi’s case; he would be disliked for being a tax-collector, but at Capernaum tolls were collected, not for Rome, but for the tetrarch. Rome allowed the Herods some powers of taxation.

τῷ Ἰησοῦ. So always in N.T. In LXX., Ἰησοῖ is sometimes found. Levi had invited his colleagues and acquaintances to meet the Master; it was his first missionary act. After the call of Simon and Andrew Christ is entertained at their humble house (Mark 1:29-31); and after the call of the well-to-do toll-collector He is entertained at his spacious house.

ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοί. Sc. οἱ μαθηταί. Like other teachers of repute, Jesus had hearers who followed Him in His movements. His “mighty works” attracted numbers, many of whom were retained by the “authority” of His teaching. It was the number of His adherents that roused the jealousy of the hierarchy, and the character of His teaching made them bitterly hostile. It is making the πολλοί tautological to refer it to τελῶναι κ. ἁμαρτωλοί.

καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ. If the καί before ἰδόντες is genuine (see crit. note) these words are best taken with what follows. W.H., A.V., R.V. omit καί and connect κ. ἠκολ. αὐτῷ with ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοί. There is, however, more point in saying that Christ had hostile followers as well as friendly ones, than in saying that friendly people followed Him.

Verses 15-17


Matthew 9:10-13. Luke 5:29-32

Verse 16

16. οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων. Those of the Scribes who belonged to the Pharisees. There were Scribes before there were Pharisees, but most of them seem to have been Pharisees (cf. Acts 23:9). The phrase is unusual, and hence the reading of [397][398][399][400], etc. [401] also has γρ. κ. οἱ [402]. These unfriendly followers of course would not enter the house in which τελῶναι and ἁμαρτωλοί were being entertained. The strongest characteristic of the Pharisees was their holding that the unwritten tradition was as binding as the written Law; indeed some held that to transgress the tradition of the elders was worse than transgressing the Law.

ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς. The question was perhaps asked several times; but they do not as yet assail Jesus Himself. It is probably as another collision between Christ and the Scribes that this narrative is placed here.

Ὅτι μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν. We have ὅτι for τί again Mark 9:11; Mark 9:28, where Mt. has τί or διὰ τί: here both Mt. and Lk. have διὰ τί. In class. Grk ὅστις sometimes introduces an indirect question, but in these passages the question is direct. Here, however, the ὅτι may be merely recitative; He eateth and drinketh, etc. (R.V.). The changes of order in Mark 2:15-16 are curious (τελ. κ. ἁμαρ., ἁμαρ. κ. τελ., τελ. κ. ἁμαρ.), and it is not the Scribes who differ from the Evangelist, but the Evangelist from himself. In Mark 2:16 the two classes are twice coupled under one art. as a single class, and A.V. ignores the art. in both places. See on Mark 4:3. As the disciples were eating with them, the criticism touched them as well as the Master, and Lk. has ἐσθίετε for ἐσθίει. The same criticism was made by Celsus in the second century. He taunts Christians with His having as His disciples infamous persons, τελώνας καὶ ναύτας τοὺς πονηροτάτους (Orig. Cels. i. 62).

Verse 17

17. καὶ ἀκούσας. Probably He overheard. In all three accounts He takes the whole responsibility. It is His doing, not the disciples’, that they eat with sinners, with excommunicated toll-collectors and their associates. He asserts His mission as the Physician of souls; physicians do not visit healthy persons, and they are not afraid of being infected by the diseases of the sick. Moreover, they cannot heal the sick without visiting them. It is possible that this aphorism was current in Palestine before Christ used it, and that it came to Palestine from the Cynics, but the idea is “such an obvious one that different men may quite well have stumbled on it independently” (Jülicher). As Euthymius remarks, ὁ μὲν νόμος ἐξέβαλλε τὸν κακόν, ὁ δὲ Χριστὸς μετέβαλλεν.

οἱ ἰσχύοντες. They that are strong. Cf. Soph. Track. 234.

οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους. An argumentum ad hominem. They believed themselves to be δίκαιοι: He came to call those who knew themselves to be sinners, and He had no remedy for those who were convinced that they needed no remedy. The interpolation of εἰς μετάνοιαν weakens the incisiveness of the parallel; see crit. note. With ἦλθον cf. Mark 1:38, Mark 10:45. Those who attributed these expressions to Christ believed in His pre-existence; and whence came that belief? Salmon, Human Element, p. 170. Christ seems to have often used the form “not … but”; it is freq. in the Gospels, and specially freq. in Mk (Mark 3:26; Mark 3:29, Mark 4:17; Mark 4:22, Mark 5:39, Mark 6:9, Mark 7:19, Mark 9:37, Mark 10:8, etc.).

Verse 18

18. οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου. They imitated the strictness of the Baptist’s life (cf. Luke 11:1) and were fasting (R.V.), not “used to fast” (A.V.). It is the periphrastic tense again, as in Mark 1:6; Mark 1:33, Mark 2:6. John was in prison, so they could not ask him as to the difference of practice, and it would seem strange to them that their master should be in prison while Jesus was free and at a feast.

λέγουσιν αὐτῷ. This time the critics (Mark 2:6; Mark 2:16) address Him, but in their criticism they do not mention Him. Here both Mk and Mt. have διὰ τί, while Lk. has a mere statement of fact; Christ’s disciples do not keep the weekly fasts. The disciples of the Pharisees is an unusual expression.

οἱ δὲ σοί. The possessive pronouns are rare in Mk; σός here and Mark 5:19; ἐμός, Mark 8:38, Mark 10:40; ἡμέτερος and ὑμέτερος nowhere either in Mk or Mt.

Verses 18-22


Matthew 9:14-17. Luke 5:33-39

Mt. is not wholly in agreement with Mk, but the discrepancy need not trouble us. It does not matter who put the question, or whether it arose out of the feast in Levi’s house, which may have lasted till the evening on which one of the two weekly fasts which some Pharisees observed (Luke 18:12) had begun.

Verse 19

19. ΄ὴ δύνανται; Like num, μή expects a negative reply. Blass § 75. 2; Winer, p. 641; cf. Mark 4:21; Matthew 26:25; Luke 6:39. In John 4:29; John 18:17; John 18:25, A.V. goes wrong on this point. The analogy of a wedding might come home to those whose master had declared his own relation to Jesus to be that of Bridegroom’s friend to Bridegroom (John 3:29). It is morally impossible to combine ascetic fasting with a festival of exceptional joyousness. Lk. has “Can ye make them fast?” Mt. has “Can they mourn?”

οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος. Filii nuptiarum (Vulg.). The common Hebraism for “those closely connected with” whatever the gen. denotes; Mark 3:17; Luke 10:6; Luke 16:8; Luke 20:36; etc. In LXX. such phrases are somewhat rare; Genesis 11:10; 2 Samuel 12:5; 1 Kings 1:52; 1 Maccabees 4:2. Deissmann (Bib. St. p. 161) prefers to call them “Hebraisms of translation,” and he thinks that some of them are not Hebraisms at all. With this phrase compare the “comrades” of Samson (Judges 14:11; Judges 14:20), and the νυμφευταί, παράνυμφοι, or πάροχοι among the Greeks. They are analogous to our bridesmaids. Hort (Jud. Christ. p. 23) says that by custom those who were in attendance on a bridegroom were dispensed from certain religious observances. Here again (see on Mark 1:12) there is no reason to suspect that the saying is borrowed from heathen sources, such as myths about the marriage of the gods (Clemen, Primitive Christianity, p. 320). Νυμφών (Tobit 6:14; Tobit 6:17) is analogous to ἀνδρών, γυναικών, παρθενών, κ.τ.λ.

ὁ νυμφίος. In Hosea 2, the relation of Jehovah to Israel is repeatedly spoken of as betrothal. Jesus transfers the figure to the relation between Himself and His disciples, and it is often used in N.T. both by Himself (John 3:29; Matthew 25:1-11) and the Apostles (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:9). “As long as they have the Bridegroom with them” has much more point than “as long as the wedding-feast lasts.” The sentence gives a solemn fulness to Christ’s reply to the questioners. The preceding question would have sufficed. The metaphor is not an obvious one to use of disciples, and the adoption of it by Christ in a saying which is certainly His is all the more remarkable.

Verse 20

20. ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι. But days will come. There is no art.; yet even R.V. inserts it here in all three Gospels, and also Luke 17:22; Luke 19:43; Luke 21:6; Luke 23:29.

ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ. The verb is in all three, and nowhere else in N.T. He does not say simply ἀπέλθῃ or πορευθῇ (John 16:7), but implies, for the first time, that His death will be a violent one; ὅτι αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ (Isaiah 63:8). Dalman, Words, p. 263. Cf. Mark 14:7.

τότε νηστεύσουσιν. Then they will fast, of their own accord, ex arbitrio, non ex imperio (Tert.). Not, “they can fast,” or “they shall fast”; the fut. here is not imperative. We have instances of the fulfilment of this prediction, Acts 2:13; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23. The fast before Easter was observed from very early times, but for several centuries great diversity existed as to its duration; see Irenaeus in Eus. H. E. Mark 2:24; Socrates H. E. Mark 2:22; Sozomen H. E. vii. 19.

ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. See crit. note. “In that sad day,” atra dies; cf. the superfluous, but impressive, ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος, Mark 14:21. Mt. omits these words as implied in τότε, while Lk. has his characteristic ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις, in agreement with the preceding ἡμέραι, which Mk seems to have forgotten. If a change is made it should rather have been the other way; “A day will come when He will be taken away, and then will they fast in those days.” Is Mk influenced by the usage in his own day, which may have been that of fasting on the Friday?

Verse 21

21. οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα. This parable and its companion are a further reply to the criticism in Mark 2:18. All three have the pair in this connexion. Both parables set forth the truth that a new spirit requires a new form, and the second expresses it more strongly than the first. Possibly the allusion to a wedding-feast in Mark 2:19 suggested lessons from garments and wine.

ἐπίβλ. ῥάκους ἀγνάφου. A patch of undressed rag, a patch torn from new cloth. Lk. augments the folly by representing the patch as torn from a new garment. Nowhere else in Bibl. Grk does ἐπιράπτω occur. Vulg. here has adsumentum for ἐπίβλημα, in Mt. and Lk. commissura; other Latin renderings are insumentum (a) and immissura (d). Similarly, for αἴρει τὸ πλήρωμα and χεῖρον σχίσμα, Vulg. here has auferet supplementum and major scissura, in Mt. tollit plenitudinem (as if τὸ πλ. were acc.) and pejor scissura.

εἰ δὲ μή. “But if a man acts not so,” i.e. if he does commit this folly. Cf. John 14:2; Revelation 2:5. Syr-Sin. has “else the new filling up draws away the weakness of the worn-out one.”

αἴρει τὸ πλήρωμα ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ. The filling takes away from it. The new material shrinks and tears the old garment on which it is sewn.

τὸ καινὸν τοῦ παλαιοῦ. Explanatory of τὸ πλ. ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, the new from the old (R.V.); or possibly, the ἀπό not being repeated, “the new complement of the old” (Swete, Gould). The contrast between παλαιός and καινός is found Ephesians 4:23; Hebrews 8:13. See Westcott on Hebrews 8:8.

Verse 22

22. καὶ οὐδεὶς βάλλει. This second parable [1] puts the lesson that a new system needs a new form more strongly, and [2] carries it further. [1] The ἐπίβλημα is only a piece of the new system, the οἶνος νέος is the whole of it. The new piece is wasted and the old garment is made worse, but the new wine and the old skins perish utterly. [2] In Mt. and Lk. certainly, and probably in Mk, although [403] a b ff i omit, the right method is pointed out. Here again, Mt. and Lk. agree against Mk. They both say that the wine is spilled, while Mk merely says that it perishes as well as the skins; instead of abbreviating Mk (Mark 1:32) they both expand him. Hawkins, Hor. Syn.2 p. 210; Burkitt, Gosp. Hist. p. 42. Βάλλει illustrates the tendency of words to become weaker in meaning; not “throws,” but simply “puts,” as in Mark 7:33. John 13:5 is parallel; cf. Matthew 9:2; John 20:25; John 20:27; James 3:3.

οἶνον νέον. Wine recently made, in which fermentation might still continue. Quemadmodum musto dolia ipsa rumpuntur, et omne quod in imo jacet in summam partem vis caloris ejectat (Seneca, Ep. lxxxiii. 14).

ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς. Old skins, already stretched to the utmost and perhaps patched; of. Psalms 119:83; Job 13:28; and esp. Joshua 9:4-5; Joshua 9:13.

ἀλλὰ οἶνον νέον κ.τ.λ. See crit. note. Another instance of Mk’s rough brevity; see on Mark 1:27. Only in this passage is it worth while to mark in translation the difference between νέος and καινός: But new wine into fresh wine-skins. Vulg. ignores it in all three Gospels; vinum novum in utres novos. Papyri do not observe it.

We have now had four instances of Christ’s parabolic teaching; Fishers of men, the Bridegroom, the Garment and the Patch, the Wine and the Wine-skins (Mark 1:17, Mark 2:19; Mark 2:21-22), all very brief. The last two form a pair, like the Mustard-seed land the Leaven, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, the Unwise Builder and the Unwise King; cf. Matthew 13:44-46. See Hort, Judaistic Christianity, pp. 22f.

Verse 23

23. Καὶ ἐγένετοδιαπορεύεσθαι. Contrast the constr. in Mark 1:9, Mark 4:4. Mt. places this incident much later, but Lk. agrees with Mk. For ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν see on Mark 1:21.

διὰ τῶν σπορίμων. Through the sown-lands, which the context shows to have been corn-fields; per sata (Vulg.). The word is rare, but is found in papyri.

ὁδὸν ποιεῖν. See crit. note. Not “to make a road,” although this is the usual meaning of the phrase, but “to make their way” (R.V. marg.), “to go onwards,” progredi, although the usual Greek for this is ὁδὸν ποιεῖσθαι (Judges 17:8). Ὁδοποία has been found in a papyrus of the third cent. B.C. Plucking ears would not make a path where there was none, and Jesus was walking in front of the disciples. Vulg. has praegredi for ὁδὸν ποιεῖν, which makes the disciples go in front. It is possible that what Mk means is “began, as they went along, to pluck.” In any case it is an instance of his superfluous fulness (cf. Mark 1:32; Mark 1:42); ὁδὸν π. is not needed after διαπορεύεσθαι, and it has no equivalent in Mt. or Lk. The Pharisees do not accuse the disciples of damaging property, or of making a path on the Sabbath; it is the plucking (to which Lk. adds “rubbing in their hands”) that is questioned. This was regarded as harvesting, which might not be done on the Sabbath. Plucking as one went along was allowed (Deuteronomy 23:25); but not on the Sabbath. Philo (Vit. Mo. ii. 4, M. 137) says that not a sprig or leaf might be cut, nor any kind of fruit gathered. As in Mark 1:5; Mark 1:13; Mark 1:39, we have a leading fact expressed by a participle, τίλλοντες.

Verses 23-28


Matthew 12:1-8. Luke 5:1-5

Verse 24

24. ἔλεγον. With Mk, conversation is a process, and he often introduces what was said by an imperf., without meaning that the remark was repeated.

Ἴδε. “Behold,” “See.” Mt. has ἰδού, Lk. neither. They are attacking the Master through the disciples; He must be aware of what they are doing. In Lk. the reproach is addressed to the disciples; τί ποιεῖτε; Evidently Christ Himself was not plucking.

Verse 25

25. Οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε; Did ye never read? They had appealed to the traditional interpretation of Scripture; He appeals to Scripture itself. Cf. Mark 12:10; Mark 12:26; Matthew 19:4; Matthew 21:16; Matthew 21:42; Matthew 22:31. The aor. is used in all places; and ἀναγινώσκω, which occurs more than 30 times in N.T., seems always to mean “read,” and never “recognize,” or “admit.” See on 2 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 3:2. The emphatic “never” is a pointed rebuke. He might have shown that their interpretation was wrong, and that the disciples had not broken the Sabbath. But He takes higher ground; charity comes before ritual propriety. The Pharisees’ error is a common one; when we appeal to Scripture, we often mean our inferences from Scripture.

Δαυείδ. 1 Samuel 21:1-6.

Χρείαν ἔσχεν. Mk alone has this; like ὁδὸν ποιεῖν, it is superfluous, for ἐπείνασεν suffices. Mt. alone tells us that the disciples were hungry; but their conduct indicates it; thus “David and his men find their counterpart in the Son of David and His disciples” (Swete). Mk perhaps inserts χρείαν ἔσχεν to show that the disciples, like David, could plead necessity; cf. Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35; Ephesians 4:28; 1 John 3:17.

Verse 26

26. τὸν οἶκον τ. θεοῦ. Judges 18:31; cf. 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 3:15. In 1 Samuel 21:1-6 it is not stated that David entered the House of God, but it is just possible that the expression includes the τέμενος or sacred enclosure in which the Tabernacle stood. The Tabernacle was then at Nob, which was probably a little [404] of Jerusalem.

ἐπὶ Ἀβιάθαρ ἀρχιερέως. When Abiathar was high-priest (R.V.). Cf. Luke 3:2; Luke 4:27; Acts 11:28. [405][406] 33 insert τοῦ before ἀρχ., which would mean “in the time of Ab., who was high-priest,” without limiting the date to the duration of the high-priesthood. Mt. and Lk. omit the date, which is erroneous, for Ahimelech was the high-priest who gave David the shewbread. Syr-Sin. omits the date here. The error may be compared with that of Matthew 23:35, and in both cases we probably have a slip of the Evangelist (or of a very early copyist), who inserted a note of his own into our Lord’s words and made a mistake in doing so. No date is required here. Conjectures that both high-priests had both names, or that ἐπὶ Ἀβ. may mean “in the passage about [407] (cf. Mark 12:6), are unsatisfactory. Here, as in the coupling of a prophecy from Malachi with one from Isaiah, as if both were from Isaiah (Mark 1:2), Mt. and Lk. omit what is erroneous in Mk.

τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς τηροθέσεως. The bread or The loaves of the setting forth, panes propositionis (Vulg.). This expression occurs Exodus 40:23; 1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Chronicles 23:29. Other names in LXX. are ἀρ. τοῦ προσώπου, “of the Presence of God” (1 Samuel 21:6), τῆς προσφορᾶς, (1 Kings 7:28), ἄρ. ἐνώπιοι (Exodus 25:30), or οἱ διὰ παντός, “the perpetual loaves” (Numbers 4:7); cf. 2 Chronicles 13:11; 2 Chronicles 29:18. In Hebrews 9:2 we have ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων. See Deissmann, Bib. St. p. 157. “Shewbread” appears first in Coverdale (A.D. 1535), probably from Luther’s Schaubrote. Hebrew has few adjectives expressing such attributes, and hence the freq. use of the gen. Twelve loaves were placed on “the pure table” and renewed every Sabbath. Similar offerings of twelve or thirty-six loaves were made by other Semitic nations in the sacrifices to their gods as food for the gods to eat. To the Jew they signified the Presence of God and His perpetual acceptance of worship.

οὐκ ἔξεστιν. Leviticus 24:9 says that this bread is for Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place. This οὐκ ἔξεστιν was therefore stronger than the οὐκ ἔξεστιν in Mark 2:24, and yet Ahimelech allowed an exception to be made. Only here and Luke 6:4; Luke 20:22, does ἔξεστιν c. acc. et infin. occur in N.T. Contrast Mark 6:18, Mark 10:2; Mt. here has the dat., and [408][409][410] against [411][412][413] have the dat. in Mk. Bede thinks that allowing David and his followers to eat the priests’ bread may point to the fact that omnes filii Ecclesiae sacerdotes sunt.

ἔδωκεν καὶ τοῖς σὺν αὐτῷ. This also is not stated in 1 Samuel 21, but it may be inferred from David’s asking for five loaves, and from his assuring Ahimelech that the wallets of his followers were Levitically clean. Thus David allowed his followers, as the Son of David allowed His followers, to do what usage forbade.

Verse 27

27. καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς. This introductory formula may indicate that the cornfield incident is over, and that Mk is appending to it, as a sort of moral, a principle on which Christ used to insist. The formula is superfluous, if Mark 2:26-27 were spoken as a continuous utterance.

Τὸ σάββατον διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐγένετο. Neither Mt. nor Lk. has any parallel to this. Mt. may have omitted it as “a hard saying” for Jewish Christian (Hawkins, Hor. Syn.2 p. 122). Mt. substitutes the argument that the priests in the Temple were allowed to violate the Sabbath, on which day their work was not lessened, but increased; an argument which does not lead on to what follows in Mark 2:28 as Mark 2:27 does. And he again quotes Hosea 6:6. We owe the preservation of this wide-embracing principle, “The Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath,” to Mk, who may have seen its value for Gentile readers. The rigid observance of the Sabbath by Jewish Christians might sometimes hinder the conversion of heathen hearers. Cf. Ezekiel 20:12, “I gave them My Sabbaths.” The Sabbath is a boon, not a burden, as the Rabbis sometimes saw; “The Sabbath is handed over to you; not, ye are handed over to the Sabbath” (Edersheim, Life and Times, 11. p. 58). Charity comes before ritual. Cf. οὐκ ἐκτίσθη ἀνὴρ διὰ τὴν γυναῖκα, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα (1 Corinthians 11:9): and Οὐ διὰ τὸν τόπον τὸ ἔθνος, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ ἔθνος τὸν τόπον ὁ κύριος ἐξελέξατο (2 Maccabees 5:19). A few cursives, with Syr-Sin. and Syr-Pesh., read ἐκτίσθη here for ἐγένετο.

διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον. Not merely for the Jew. A periodic day of rest is a boon for the whole human race. When the observance of Sunday was abolished during the French Revolution, it was found necessary to make every tenth day a holiday. Syr-Sin. omits καὶ οὐχσάββατον.

Verse 28

28. ὥστε. Here, as in Mark 10:8, c. indic. If Mark 2:27 is omitted, the argument is incomplete. Mt. has γάρ, making the saying a premise rather than a conclusion. Lk. has neither. In all three, κύριος comes first with emphasis. The Sabbath has been given to mankind for their benefit; therefore the Representative of mankind may decide how the gift can best be used for their benefit, and it must not be used in such a way as to turn a blessing into a curse. Thus Christ not only takes the responsibility for His disciples’ action but claims it. St Paul argues in a similar way about our liberty in things indifferent; we must not use it in such a way as to lose it, by becoming slaves to a habit (1 Corinthians 6:12). See Hort, Jud. Chris. p. 33. Some Fathers seem to have thought that, because the Jews made the Sabbath a burden, it was given them as a burden, to punish them for their carnal way of life.

καὶ τοῦ σαββάτου. Either “also” (A.V.) or “even” (R.V.) may be right. If “also,” it means “in addition to other things of which He has control.” Cf. Mark 7:18.


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"Commentary on Mark 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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