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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 7



Verse 2

With defiled, that is unwashen hands (κοιναις χερσιν τουτ εστιν ανιπτοιςkoinais chersin κοινος tout' estin aniptois). Associative instrumental case. Originally koinos meant what was common to everybody like the Koiné Greek. But in later Greek it came also to mean as here what is vulgar or profane. So Peter in Acts 10:14 “common and unclean.” The next step was the ceremonially unclean. The emissaries of the Pharisees and the scribes from Jerusalem had seen “some of the disciples” eat without washing their hands, how many we are not told. Swete suggests that in going through the plain the disciples were seen eating some of the bread preserved in the twelve baskets the afternoon before across the lake. There was no particular opportunity to wash the hands, a very proper thing to do before eating for sanitary reasons. But the objection raised is on ceremonial, not sanitary, grounds.

Verse 3

Diligently (πυγμηιpugmēi). Instrumental case, with the fist, up to the elbow, rubbing one hand and arm with the other hand clenched. Aleph had πυκναpukna probably because of the difficulty about πυγμηιpugmēi (kin to Latin pugnus). Schultess considers it a dry wash or rubbing of the hands without water as a ritualistic concession. The middle voice νιπσωνταιnipsōntai means their own hands. This verb is often used for parts of the body while λουωlouō is used of the whole body (John 13:10). On the tradition of the elders see note on Matthew 15:2.

Verse 4

From the marketplace (απ αγοραςap' agoras). Ceremonial defilement was inevitable in the mixing with men in public. This αγοραagora from αγειρωageirō to collect or gather, was a public forum in every town where the people gathered like the courthouse square in American towns. The disciples were already ceremonially defiled.

Wash themselves (βαπτισωνταιbaptisōntai). First aorist middle subjunctive of βαπτιζωbaptizō dip or immerse. Westcott and Hort put ραντισωνταιrantisōntai in the text translated “sprinkle themselves” in the margin of the Revised Version, because Aleph, B, and some of the best cursives have it. Gould terms ραντισωνταιrantisōntai “a manifest emendation,” to get rid of the difficulty of dipping or bathing the whole body. Meyer says: “The statement proceeds by way of climax: before eating they wash the hands always. When they come from market they take a bath before eating.” This is not the place to enter into any controversy about the meaning of βαπτιζωbaptizō to dip, ραντιζωrantizō to sprinkle, and εχχεωeccheō to pour, all used in the New Testament. The words have their distinctive meanings here as elsewhere. Some scribes felt a difficulty about the use of βαπτισωνταιbaptisōntai here. The Western and Syrian classes of manuscripts add “and couches” (και κλινωνkai klinōn) at the end of the sentence. Swete considers the immersions of beds (βαπτισμους κλινωνbaptismous klinōn) “an incongruous combination.” But Gould says: “Edersheim shows that the Jewish ordinance required immersions, βαπτισμουςbaptismous of these vessels.” We must let the Jewish scrupulosity stand for itself, though “and couches” is not supported by Aleph, B L D Bohairic, probably not genuine.

Verse 6

Well (καλωςkalōs). Appositely here, but ironical sarcasm in Mark 7:9. Note here “you hypocrites” (υμων των υποκριτωνhumōn tōn hupokritōn).

Verse 8

Ye leave the commandment of God (απεντες την εντολην του τεουaphentes tēn entolēn tou theou). Note the sharp contrast between the command of God and the traditions of men. Jesus here drives a keen wedge into the Pharisaic contention. They had covered up the Word of God with their oral teaching. Jesus here shows that they care more for the oral teaching of the scribes and elders than for the written law of God. The Talmud gives abundant and specific confirmation of the truthfulness of this indictment.

Verse 9

Full well do ye reject the commandment of God that ye may keep your traditions (καλως ατετειτε την εντολην του τεου ινα την παραδοσιν υμων τηρησητεkalōs atheteite tēn entolēn tou theou hina tēn paradosin humōn tērēsēte). One can almost see the scribes withering under this terrible arraignment. It was biting sarcasm that cut to the bone. The evident irony should prevent literal interpretation as commendation of the Pharisaic pervasion of God‘s word. See my The Pharisees and Jesus for illustrations of the way that they placed this oral tradition above the written law. See note on Matthew 15:7.

Verse 11

Corban (κορβαν ο εστιν δωρονkorban ho estin dōron). See note on Matthew 15:5. Mark preserves the Hebrew word for a gift or offering to God (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9), indeclinable here, meaning gift (dōron), but declinable korbanas in Matthew 27:6, meaning sacred treasury. The rabbis (but ye say, δωρονhumeis de legete) actually allowed the mere saying of this word by an unfaithful son to prevent the use of needed money for the support of father or mother. It was a home thrust to these pettifogging sticklers for ceremonial punctilios. They not only justified such a son‘s trickery, but held that he was prohibited from using it for father or mother, but he might use it for himself.

Verse 13

Making void the word of God by your tradition (ακυρουντες τον λογον του τεου τηι παραδοσει υμωνakurountes ton logon tou theou tēi paradosei humōn). See note on Matthew 15:6 for the word akurountes invalidating, a stronger word than athetein to set aside, in Mark 7:9. See both used in Galatians 3:15, Galatians 3:17. Setting aside does invalidate.

Verse 14

And he called to him the multitude again (και προσκαλεσαμενος παλιν τον οχλονkai proskalesamenos palin ton ochlon). Aorist middle participle, calling to himself. The rabbis had attacked the disciples about not washing their hands before eating. Jesus now turned the tables on them completely and laid bare their hollow pretentious hypocrisy to the people.

Hear me all of you and understand (ακουσατε μου παντες και συνιετεakousate mou pantes kai suniete). A most pointed appeal to the people to see into and see through the chicanery of these ecclesiastics. See note on Matthew 15:11 for discussion.

Verse 17

When he was entered into the house from the multitude (οτε εισηλτεν εις οικον απο του οχλουhote eisēlthen eis oikon apo tou ochlou). This detail in Mark alone, probably in Peter‘s house in Capernaum. To the crowd Jesus spoke the parable of corban, but the disciples want it interpreted (cf. Mark 4:10., Mark 4:33.). Matthew 15:15 represents Peter as the spokesman as was usually the case.

Verse 18

Are ye so without understanding also? (ουτως και υμεις ασυνετοι εστεHoutōs kai humeis asunetoi este̱). See note on Matthew 15:16. You also as well as the multitude. It was a discouraging moment for the great Teacher if his own chosen pupils (disciples) were still under the spell of the Pharisaic theological outlook. It was a riddle to them. “They had been trained in Judaism, in which the distinction between clean and unclean is ingrained, and could not understand a statement abrogating this” (Gould). They had noticed that the Pharisees stumbled at the parable of Jesus (Matthew 15:12). They were stumbling themselves and did not know how to answer the Pharisees. Jesus charges the disciples with intellectual dulness and spiritual stupidity.

Verse 19

Making all meats clean (καταριζων παντα τα βρωματαkatharizōn panta ta brōmata). This anacoluthon can be understood by repeating he says (λεγειlegei) from Mark 7:18. The masculine participle agrees with Jesus, the speaker. The words do not come from Jesus, but are added by Mark. Peter reports this item to Mark, probably with a vivid recollection of his own experience on the housetop in Joppa when in the vision Peter declined three times the Lord‘s invitation to kill and eat unclean animals (Acts 10:14-16). It was a riddle to Peter as late as that day. “Christ asserts that Levitical uncleanness, such as eating with unwashed hands, is of small importance compared with moral uncleanness” (Vincent). The two chief words in both incidents, here and in Acts, are defile (κοινοωkoinoō) and cleanse (καταριζωkatharizō). “What God cleansed do not thou treat as defiled” (Acts 10:15). It was a revolutionary declaration by Jesus and Peter was slow to understand it even after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus was amply justified in his astonished question:

Perceive ye not? (ου νοειτεou noeite̱). They were making little use of their intelligence in trying to comprehend the efforts of Jesus to give them a new and true spiritual insight.

Verse 21

Evil thoughts (οι διαλογισμοι οι κακοιhoi dialogismoi hoi kakoi). These come out of the heart (εκ της καρδιαςek tēs kardias), the inner man, and lead to the dreadful list here given like the crimes of a modern police court:

fornications (πορνειαιporneiai usually of the unmarried),

adulteries (μοιχαιαιmoichaiai of the married),

thefts (κλοπαιklopai stealings),

covetings (πλεονεχιαιpleonexiai craze for more and more),

murders (πονοιphonoi growing out of the others often),

wickednesses (πονηριαιponēriai from πονοςponos toil, then drudge, bad like our knave, serving boy like German Knabe, and then criminal),

deceit (δολοςdolos lure or snare with bait),

lasciviousness (ασελγειαaselgeia unrestrained sex instinct),

evil eye (οπταλμος πονηροςophthalmos ponēros) or eye that works evil and that haunts one with its gloating stare,

railing (βλασπημιαblasphēmia blasphemy, hurtful speech),

pride (υπερηπανιαhuperēphania holding oneself above others, stuck up),

foolishness (απροσυνηaphrosunē lack of sense), a fitting close to it all.

Verse 24

Into the borders of Tyre and Sidon (εις τα ορια Τυρου και Σιδωνοςeis ta horia Turou kai Sidōnos). The departure from Capernaum was a withdrawal from Galilee, the second of the four withdrawals from Galilee. The first had been to the region of Bethsaida Julias in the territory of Herod Philip. This is into distinctly heathen land. It was not merely the edge of Phoenicia, but into the parts of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21). There was too much excitement among the people, too much bitterness among the Pharisees, too much suspicion on the part of Herod Antipas, too much dulness on the part of the disciples for Jesus to remain in Galilee.

And he could not be hid (και ουκ ηδυναστη λατεινkai ouk ēdunasthē lathein). Jesus wanted to be alone in the house after all the strain in Galilee. He craved a little privacy and rest. This was his purpose in going into Phoenicia. Note the adversative sense of καιkai here= “but.”

Verse 25

Whose little daughter (ης το τυγατριον αυτηςhēs to thugatrion autēs). Diminutive with tender touch. Note “whose” and “her” like vernacular today.

Having heard of him (ακουσασα περι αυτουakousasa peri autou). Even in this heathen territory the fame of Jesus was known. When the Sermon on the Mount was preached people were there from “the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon” (Luke 6:17).

Verse 26

A Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by race (ελληνισ Συροποινικισσα τωι γενειHellēnis ηρωτα Surophoinikissa tōi genei). “A Greek in religion, a Syrian in tongue, a Phoenician in race” (Bruce), from Euthymius Zigabenus. She was not a Phoenician of Carthage.

She besought (ērōta). Imperfect tense. She kept at it. This verb, as in late Greek, is here used for a request, not a mere question. Abundant examples in the papyri in this sense.

Verse 27

Let the children first be filled (απες πρωτον χορταστηναι τα παιδιαaphes prōton chortasthēnai ta paidia). The Jews had the first claim. See the command of Jesus in the third tour of Galilee to avoid the Gentiles and the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, but he gave the Jew the first opportunity (Romans 2:9.). See note on Matthew 15:24.

Verse 28

Even the dogs under the table (και τα κυναρια υποκατω της τραπεζηςkai ta kunaria hupokatō tēs trapezēs). A delightful picture. Even the little dogs (κυναριαkunaria) under the table eat of the children‘s crumbs (εστιουσιν απο των πσιχιων των παιδιωνesthiousin apo tōn psichiōn tōn paidiōn). Little dogs, little scraps of bread (πσιχιονpsichion diminutive of πσιχοςpsichos morsel), little children (παιδιαpaidia diminutive of παιςpais). Probably the little children purposely dropped a few little crumbs for the little dogs. These household dogs, pets of and loved by the children. Braid Scots has it: “Yet the wee dowgs aneath the table eat o‘ the moole o‘ the bairns.” “A unique combination of faith and wit” (Gould). Instead of resenting Christ‘s words about giving the children‘s bread to the dogs (Gentiles) in Mark 7:27, she instantly turned it to the advantage of her plea for her little daughter.

Verse 29

For this saying (δια τουτον τον λογονdia touton ton logon). She had faith, great faith as Matthew 15:28 shows, but it was her quick and bright repartee that pleased Jesus. He had missed his rest, but it was worth it to answer a call like this.

Verse 30

And the demon gone out (και το δαιμονιον εχεληλυτοςkai to daimonion exelēluthos). This was her crumb from the children‘s table. The perfect active participle expresses the state of completion. The demon was gone for good and all.

Verse 31

Through the midst of the borders of Decapolis (ανα μεσον των οριων Δεκαπολεωςana meson tōn horiōn Dekapoleōs). Jesus left Phoenicia, but did not go back into Galilee. He rather went east and came down east of the Sea of Galilee into the region of the Greek cities of Decapolis. He thus kept out of the territory of Herod Antipas. He had been in this region when he healed the Gadarene demoniac and was asked to leave.

Verse 32

And they bring unto him (και περουσιν αυτωιkai pherousin autōi). Another of Mark‘s dramatic presents. This incident only in Mark.

Verse 33

Took him aside (απολαβομενος αυτονapolabomenos auton). The secrecy here observed was partly to avoid excitement and partly to get the attention of the deaf and dumb demoniac. He could not hear what Jesus said. So Jesus put his fingers into his ears, spat, and touched his tongue. There was, of course, no virtue in the spittle and it is not clear why Jesus used it. Saliva was by some regarded as remedial and was used by exorcists in their incantations. Whether this was a concession to the man‘s denseness one does not know. But it all showed the poor man that Jesus healed him in his own way.

Verse 34

Ephphatha (διανοιχτητιdianoichthēti be opened). Another one of Mark‘s Aramaic words preserved and transliterated and then translated into Greek. “Be thou unbarred” (Braid Scots). Jesus sighed (εστεναχενestenaxen) as he looked up into heaven and spoke the word εππαταephphatha Somehow he felt a nervous strain in this complex case (deaf, dumb, demoniac) that we may not quite comprehend.

Verse 35

He spake plain (ελαλει ορτωςelalei orthōs). He began to speak correctly. Inchoative imperfect tense.

Verse 36

So much the more a great deal they published it (αυτοι μαλλον περισσοτερον εκηρυσσονautoi māllon perissoteron ekērusson). Imperfect tense, continued action. Double comparative as occurs elsewhere for emphasis as in Philemon 1:23 “much more better” (πολλωι μαλλον κρεισσονpollōi māllon kreisson). See Robertson‘s Grammar, pp. 663f. Human nature is a peculiar thing. The command not to tell provoked these people to tell just as the leper had done (Mark 1:44.). The more Jesus commanded (οσον αυτοις διεστελλετοhoson autois diestelleto) them not to tell the more they told. It was a continuous performance. Prohibitions always affect some people that way, especially superficial and light-headed folks. But we have to have prohibitions or anarchy.

Verse 37

He hath done all things well (Καλως παντα πεποιηκενKalōs panta pepoiēken). The present perfect active shows the settled convictions of these people about Jesus. Their great amazement (υπερπερισσως εχεπλησσοντοhuperperissōs exeplēssonto), imperfect passive and compound adverb, thus found expression in a vociferous championship of Jesus in this pagan land.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Mark 7:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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