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Go to Bible: Mark 7
“And the Pharisees and some of the experts in the law…” Mark can be read to mean that only the scribes came from Jerusalem, but Matthew 15:1 is clear that the entire delegation came from there. This record about clean and unclean is also recorded in Matthew 15:1-20, with some different details.(top)
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“to the wrist.” The Greek literally reads “with the fist.” This is a good example of a custom being so obscure that translating it into the text would only confuse the reader. Edersheim gives the best explanation we have seen, and Young’s Literal Translation renders according to his explanation.
The general uncertainty among commentators, however, about what the Greek texts, “with the fist” means, explains the huge number of variations in the translations: “oft” (KJV), “carefully” (NASB), “ceremonial washing” (NIV), “thoroughly” (NRSV), “to the wrist” (YLT), etc. “wash.” Greek = nipto, to wash.(top)
“they bathe themselves.” The Greek is baptizō (#907 βαπτίζω), which means “…Properly, 1. to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge. 2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water; in the middle and the 1 aorist passive to wash oneself, bathe; so Mark 7:4….metaphorically, to overwhelm, as … to be overwhelmed with calamities, of those who must bear them, Matt. 20:22f Rec.; Mark 10:38 f; Luke 12:50 (Thayer). Many commentators have had problems with this verse, believing that even the religious Jews did not bathe themselves each time they came from the marketplace, but the text seems clear, and we must assume that some people did that, because his audience did not charge him with an absurdity.
Some versions have “and couches” (YLT) or “and tables” (KJV) after “copper vessels,” Metzger (Textual Commentary) writes, “It is difficult to decide whether the words…were added by copyists who were influenced by the legislation of Leviticus 15, or whether the words were omitted (a) accidentally because of homoeoteleuton or (b) deliberately because the idea of washing or sprinkling beds seemed to be quite incongruous. In view of the balance of probabilities, as well as the strong witnesses that support each reading, a majority of the Committee preferred to retain the words, but to enclose them within square brackets.” We decided to leave them out, following the original translation of the ASV.(top)
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Quoted from Isaiah 29:13.
“The People.” The text is more properly “This People.” The nation of Israel was called “the People,” so it is appropriate to capitalize it when it refers to Israel.(top)
Quoted from Isaiah 29:13.
“doctrines.” The Greek word is didaskalia (#1319 διδασκαλία), a noun, and it has two primary meanings: It is used of the act of teaching or instruction (as if it was a verb), and it is also used for what is taught, i.e., the doctrine or material that was presented. In this verse we felt “doctrine” was better than “teaching.” For more on didaskalia see commentary on 1 Tim. 4:13).(top)
|Mar 7:8||- (top)|
“tradition.” The Greek word is paradosis (#3862 παράδοσις), and it means something that is handed over, or something that is handed down. Thus it can mean surrender or arrest, or it can refer to a “tradition.” Traditions can be a great help to people. God established traditions in the OT, such as keeping the Passover feast every year. Jesus himself started the tradition of “the Lord’s Supper.” However, there are Christians who believe that any tradition created by man is an offense to God and should not be practiced or condoned. How should Christians view traditions? It seems clear that we should view traditions the same way Jesus did. There were hundreds of traditions in the Judaism of the time of Jesus (cp. Mark 7:4), but the ones he spoke against fall into several categories.
One category that Jesus spoke against was traditions of men that had, in the minds of the religious leaders, become equal to the commands of God. No matter how helpful they are or holy they seem, and no matter how many years they have been observed, traditions are only traditions, they are not commandments, and should not be treated as such. When traditions are treated like commandments, first, the words of man become elevated to the status of the word of God, and second, someone who is unable or unwilling to keep the tradition is almost always treated badly by those who do.
Another category of tradition that Jesus spoke against was traditions that could not be kept without ignoring or rejecting the commandments of God (Mark 7:8, 9). These traditions, by their very nature, are harmful. Jesus cited the tradition of giving “to God” the support that elderly parents needed (Mark 7:10-13). Of course, the support that was supposedly given “to God” ended up enriching and empowering the religious leaders, and the honor that God commanded that children give to parents was ignored.
A third category of tradition that is harmful is a tradition that has become a burden to a Christian’s life and walk, instead of being a blessing. The religious leaders had many burdensome traditions that they enforced (Matt. 23:4). A godly tradition is to be a blessing and bring people closer to God. A tradition that makes living a godly life into a burden should not be kept.
There are many traditions in the Church, and very few are kept by all Christian denominations. Most are not harmful, and can be helpful. For example, dressing up for Sunday church is a tradition in some denominations, and is not harmful unless it takes on the force of a command and someone who comes not dressed up is scorned or rejected. It can be helpful in that it helps some people take their worship time more seriously. On the other hand, the tradition of praying to “the saints” is practiced in some denominations, but is against the command of God and therefore harmful.
Christians should view traditions like Christ did. Even if a tradition is not “in the Bible,” it can still bring people closer to God in a very meaningful way. However, if a tradition begins to take on the force of a commandment, or if it makes godly living a burden, or especially if it contradicts the Bible or can only be kept at the expense of ignoring a biblical command, then the words spoken by Isaiah more than 2500 years ago still apply: “in vain do they worship me” (Mark 7:7; cp. Isa. 29:13).(top)
Quoted from Exodus 20:12 and Exodus 21:17.(top)
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This verse is omitted in REV. This verse is absent from some important early texts such as a, B, and L. It seems to be a scribal addition, perhaps to parallel Mark 4:9 or Mark 4:23. There seems to be much more likelihood that the verse was added to later texts than removed from earlier ones. See Metzger, Textual Commentary.(top)
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“out of people’s hearts.” The “heart” is the source of life. Mark 7:20-23 is similar to what Jesus taught in Matthew 15:18-19 (see commentary on Matthew 15:18). [For more on the heart, see commentary on Prov. 4:23].(top)
“evil eye.” The “evil eye” was idiomatic in Semitic languages for someone who was greedy, covetous, and stingy, which is why some versions translate it as “envy” or “stingy” (cp. HCSB; ESV, NASB; NET; NIV; NRSV). In Western cultures, the “evil eye” was a look or glance that meant harm and brought harm, but there is no evidence it was used that way in the Bible. See commentary on Matthew 6:22. [For more on the idiom of the good eye, see commentary on Prov. 22:9. For more on the idiom of the evil eye, see commentary on Prov. 28:22].
“insults.” The Greek noun is blasphēmia (#988 βλασφημία; pronounced blas-fay-me’-ah), and was used of someone speaking against another. The primary meaning as it was used in the Greek culture was showing disrespect to a person or deity, and/or harming his, her, or its reputation. [For more on blasphēmia, see commentary on Matt. 9:3].(top)
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“Tyre.” There are manuscripts that add the words “and Sidon,” but the textual evidence is that “and Sidon” was not original.(top)
|Mar 7:25||- (top)|
“Gentile.” The Greek word is Hellenis (#1674 Ἑλληνίς; pronounced hell-lay-nis’). The word Hellenis can refer to a true ethic Greek, or it can be used in the general sense of a non-Jew, a “Gentile.” Here the word means non-Jew, and translating it as “Greek” can be confusing, especially when Matthew 15:22 says she was a Canaanite woman. Versions such as the ESV, NASB, NJB, NLT, and NRSV, read “Gentile.”(top)
“dogs.” see commentary on Matthew 15:26.(top)
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“having gone out.” Greek = exerchomai (ἐξέρχομαι 1. to move out of or away from an area. a. of animate entities go out, come out, go away, retire). Demons can inhabit the mind or body, and thus when they leave they are “gone out.”(top)
“Decapolis.” See commentary on Matthew 4:25.(top)
|Mar 7:32||- (top)|
“and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue.” This record shows the great sensitivity and compassion that Jesus had for people. People brought this deaf-mute to Jesus. It is almost certain that he had never heard or spoken in his whole life, because if he had become deaf he would still be able to speak. That means that he would not have understood much about what was happening as his family and friends led him to see Jesus. He likely picked up in the people’s excitement, but no doubt would have been confused and perhaps cautious as well. In that state, Jesus did not want him to be distracted by the crowd, but took the man aside by himself, where the two of them could make eye contact and the man could calm down and focus on Jesus.
Jesus understood the confusion the man would have been in and wanted to calm him and also communicate to him what was going to happen, but how? The man was deaf. So in this situation Jesus communicated in the best way he could, using “language” the man could understand. Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears, indicating that something was going to happen that would involve them. Then he spat and touched his tongue.
Jesus would have spat on his hand and then touched the man’s tongue with the wet fingers, and he did that because it was believed in the culture that the spit of a holy man had healing power. Robert Guelich writes: “We do know, however, that the spittle supposedly had a therapeutic function in Greco-Roman (e.g., Pliny, Nat. Hist. 28:4.7; Tacitus, Hist. 6:18; Suetonius, Vesp. 7) and the Jewish world (Str-B, 2:15-17)” (Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 1-8:26). The Bible itself has evidence that people believed in the healing power of the spit of a holy man, and Jesus has used his spit in the healings recorded in Mark 8:22-23 and in John 9:6-7.
Two other pieces of the “silent language” that Jesus used to communicate about the healing were that he looked up to heaven and that he sighed. That he looked up to heaven would indicate that he was looking to get, and perhaps asking for, help from God above. The sigh would communicate the relaxed state the man had no doubt longed for. To us, a “sigh” is generally a sign of resignation, and is associated with disappointment, defeat, frustration, sadness, and perhaps also longing. But much of that comes from the sound we make, and the man was deaf. He could not hear the sigh, and furthermore there is a “sigh of relief,” which is no doubt what this was. The man could see Jesus’ body relax after he breathed out; a relaxation that would have indicated freedom from frustration and pain.
Jesus’ non-verbal communication would have been clear enough to the man that he understood what Jesus was going to do, which shows Jesus’ desire that the man be calmed and not at all fearful. Furthermore, Jesus’ healing was much more than just a “surface healing” of some physical organs. When a baby is born it hears what is going on around it, but not knowing any words, all the talk and background sound around it is just disassociated noise. Over months of development, the sounds begin to be organized in the brain of the child, and it can begin to differentiate and eventually understand spoken language. But clinical work has now generally shown that if physical hearing is restored to someone who has been totally deaf into their mid-teens, the brain can no longer organize the mixed sounds of talk and background noise into discernable verbal communication, so the person can “hear” sounds but not learn or understand speech. So in this healing, not only did Jesus heal the man’s hearing, but the man’s brain was actually rewired so he could both understand what was said and speak. Thus this is one of the truly great healing miracles in the Bible, and it happened to a Gentile in the Gentile region of the Decapolis.(top)
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