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Chapter 7

7:2 With defiled, that is unwashen hands [koinais chersin, tout’ estin aniptois]. Associative instrumental case. Originally [koinos] meant what was common to everybody like the Koinē Greek. But in later Greek it came also to mean as here what is vulgar or profane. So Peter in Ac 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.

7:3 Diligently [pugmēi]. Instrumental case, with the fist, up to the elbow, rubbing one hand and arm with the other hand clenched. Aleph had [pukna] probably because of the difficulty about [pugmēi] (kin to Latin pugnus). Schultess considers it a dry wash or rubbing of the hands without water as a ritualistic concession. The middle voice [nipsōntai] means their own hands. This verb is often used for parts of the body while [louō] is used of the whole body (Joh 13:10). On the tradition of the elders see on Mt 15:2.

7:4 From the marketplace [ap’ agoras]. Ceremonial defilement was inevitable in the mixing with men in public. This [agora] from [ageirō] 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 [baptisōntai]. First aorist middle subjunctive of [baptizō], dip or immerse. Westcott and Hort put [rantisōntai] 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 [rantisōntai] “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 [baptizō], to dip, [rantizō], to sprinkle, and [eccheō], 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 [baptisōntai] here. The Western and Syrian classes of manuscripts add “and couches” [kai klinōn] at the end of the sentence. Swete considers the immersions of beds [baptismous klinōn] “an incongruous combination.” But Gould says: “Edersheim shows that the Jewish ordinance required immersions, [baptismous], 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.

7:6 Well [kalōs]. Appositely here, but ironical sarcasm in verse 9. Note here “you hypocrites” [humōn tōn hupokritōn].

7:7 Ye leave the commandment of God [aphentes 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.

7:9 Full well do ye reject the commandment of God that ye may keep your traditions [kalōs 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 on Mt 15:7.

7:11 Corban [korban ho estin dōron]. See on Mt 15:5. Mark preserves the Hebrew word for a gift or offering to God (Ex 21:17; Le 20:9), indeclinable here, meaning gift [dōron], but declinable [korbanas] in Mt 27:6, meaning sacred treasury. The rabbis (but ye say, [humeis 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.

7:13 Making void the word of God by your tradition [akurountes ton logon tou theou tēi paradosei humōn]. See on Mt 15:6 for the word [akurountes], invalidating, a stronger word than [athetein], to set aside, in verse 9. See both used in Ga 3:15, 17. Setting aside does invalidate.

7:14 And he called to him the multitude again [kai 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 [akousate mou pantes kai suniete]. A most pointed appeal to the people to see into and see through the chicanery of these ecclesiastics. See on Mt 15:11 for discussion.

7:17 When he was entered into the house from the multitude [hote 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. 4:10ff., 33ff.). Mt 15:15 represents Peter as the spokesman as was usually the case.

7:17 Are ye so without understanding also? [Houtōs kai humeis asunetoi este;]. See on Mt 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 (Mt 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.

7:19 Making all meats clean [katharizōn panta ta brōmata]. This anacoluthon can be understood by repeating he says [legei] from verse 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 (Ac 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 [koinoō] and cleanse [katharizō]. “What God cleansed do not thou treat as defiled” (Ac 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? [ou noeite;]. 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.

7:21 Evil thoughts [hoi dialogismoi hoi kakoi]. These come out of the heart [ek tēs kardias], the inner man, and lead to the dreadful list here given like the crimes of a modern police court: fornications [porneiai], usually of the unmarried), adulteries [moichaiai], of the married), thefts [klopai], stealings), covetings [pleonexiai], craze for more and more), murders [phonoi], growing out of the others often), wickednesses [ponēriai], from [ponos], toil, then drudge, bad like our knave, serving boy like German Knabe, and then criminal), deceit [dolos], lure or snare with bait), lasciviousness [aselgeia], unrestrained sex instinct), evil eye [ophthalmos ponēros] or eye that works evil and that haunts one with its gloating stare, railing [blasphēmia], blasphemy, hurtful speech), pride [huperēphania], holding oneself above others, stuck up), foolishness [aphrosunē], lack of sense), a fitting close to it all.

7:24 Into the borders of Tyre and Sidon [eis 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 (Mt 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 [kai 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 [kai] here= “but.”

7:25 Whose little daughter [hēs to thugatrion autēs]. Diminutive with tender touch. Note “whose” and “her” like vernacular today. Having heard of him [akousasa 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” (Lu 6:17).

7:26 A Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by race [Hellēnis, 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.

7:27 Let the children first be filled [aphes 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 (Mt 10:5). Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, but he gave the Jew the first opportunity (Ro 2:9f.). See on Mt 15:24f.

7:27 Even the dogs under the table [kai ta kunaria hupokatō tēs trapezēs]. A delightful picture. Even the little dogs [kunaria] under the table eat of the children’s crumbs [esthiousin apo tōn psichiōn tōn paidiōn]. Little dogs, little scraps of bread [psichion], diminutive of [psichos], morsel), little children [paidia], diminutive of [pais]. 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 verse 27, she instantly turned it to the advantage of her plea for her little daughter.

7:29 For this saying [dia touton ton logon]. She had faith, great faith as Mt 15:27 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.

7:30 And the demon gone out [kai 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.

7:31 Through the midst of the borders of Decapolis [ana 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.

7:32 And they bring unto him [kai pherousin autōi]. Another of Mark’s dramatic presents. This incident only in Mark.

7:33 Took him aside [apolabomenos 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.

7:34 Ephphatha [dianoichthēti], be opened). Another one of Mark’s Aramaic words preserved and transliterated and then translated into Greek. “Be thou unbarred” (Braid Scots). Jesus sighed [estenaxen] as he looked up into heaven and spoke the word [ephphatha]. Somehow he felt a nervous strain in this complex case (deaf, dumb, demoniac) that we may not quite comprehend.

7:35 He spake plain [elalei orthōs]. He began to speak correctly. Inchoative imperfect tense.

7:36 So much the more a great deal they published it [autoi māllon perissoteron ekērusson]. Imperfect tense, continued action. Double comparative as occurs elsewhere for emphasis as in Php 1:23 “much more better” [pollōi 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 (Mr 1:44f.). The more Jesus commanded [hoson 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.

7:37 He hath done all things well [Kalōs panta pepoiēken]. The present perfect active shows the settled convictions of these people about Jesus. Their great amazement [huperperissōs exeplēssonto], imperfect passive and compound adverb, thus found expression in a vociferous championship of Jesus in this pagan land.

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