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Go to Bible: Mark 10
“And from there.” The fact that Mark 10:1 starts with, “And from there,” makes it seem like he was going from Capernaum (9:33), but that is not the case. One of the things that Bible readers must become accustomed to is that the word “and” simply means there is a flow in the story from the author’s perspective. Jesus did go from Capernaum to the Transjordan, the land East of the Jordan River (Mark 10:1), but not before he went through Samaria to Jerusalem and then to the Transjordan. In fact, the entire record of Luke 9:51-18:14 occurs between Mark 9:50 and Mark 10:1. The phrase “beyond the Jordan” refers to Perea, the portion of the kingdom of Herod the Great occupying the eastern side of the Jordan River valley.(top)
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” This record in Mark contains the same event recorded in Matthew 19, but with different details. When the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark cover the same event, Mark usually has a more abbreviated version of the event, as is the case here. To properly understand what Jesus said, it is important for us to know the full question the Pharisees asked, but Mark only records part of their question. Mark records the Pharisees’ question as, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?” However, Matthew records the full question as, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any reason at all?”
The background of the question was the ongoing debate between the rabbis at that time about divorce. The school of Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, while the school of Shammai taught that divorce was only called for in the case of sexual immorality. The Pharisees, who were followers of the school of Hillel, thought a man could divorce his wife for any reason, and it is likely that there were some of the Pharisees in the group talking with Jesus who had divorced their wives without good cause based on that teaching.
When we understand the rabbinic debate, and the question the Pharisees asked, we are in a position to understand Jesus’ answer in Mark 10:11-12. See commentary on Matthew 19:3 and the commentary on Mark 10:11.(top)
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Mark 10:7 is quoted from Genesis 2:24 in the Septuagint (the “LXX”). The Hebrew text differs slightly from the LXX. This occurs again in Ephesians 5:31. Matthew 19:5 is similar, but uses a different word for “joined.”
“be joined to.” The Greek is proskollaō (#4347 προσκολλάω), and it literally means to glue to. See commentary on Ephesians 5:31, which uses the same Greek word and quotes the same Old Testament verse.(top)
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“about this matter.” Jesus had a conversation with the Pharisees about marriage and divorce, which is recorded in Matthew (see the commentary on Matthew 19:3 and commentary on Matthew 19:9). What Jesus said, however, was of such interest to the disciples that they asked him “about this matter.” It seems that the disciples were so steeped in the culture of the day that they had just accepted divorce and remarriage as part of life (as many people have today), and were shocked at the way Jesus defended the sanctity of marriage. The Gospel of Mark leaves out the full conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees and goes forward to an event that Matthew does not mention, and that is that Jesus spoke privately to his disciples about what he had said to the Pharisees. The disciples had waited until they were all back at a house and in private before bringing up this matter. Jesus occasionally taught his disciples in private in houses (cp. Mark 7:17; 9:28, 33; 10:10).(top)
“commits adultery against her.” The context of this statement that Jesus made to his disciples is the Pharisees’ question to him, which is partially given in Mark 10:2, but fully given in Matthew 19:3 (see commentary on Mark 10:2 and commentary on Matt. 19:3). The Pharisees were asking Jesus about the teaching of the school of Hillel, that a man could divorce his wife for any reason at all. The social context and the question are specific, and the reason Jesus answered the way he did is explained in Matthew (see commentary on Matthew 19:9).
We should immediately notice that Mark is giving us an abbreviated version of Jesus’ comments when we compare Jesus’ answer here and in Matthew 19:9. At least in Matthew 19 Jesus seems to allow for divorce in the case of sexual immorality, but he leaves that out here. This shows us that we are to understand Jesus’ answer in light of the full question and debate, not just grab onto Jesus’ short answer here in Mark and try to run our lives by it as if it was the whole truth of the situation.
Mark leaves out the part of the event that is the answer Jesus gives directly to the Pharisees, and moves forward to something Matthew does not cover: the disciples being in the house and asking Jesus again about the subject. The rabbinic debate and social context of the disciples’ question is well understood and defined by Pharisee’s beliefs and actions and also by the record of the event in the Gospel of Matthew. That is why Mark only needs to record Jesus giving a very short, possibly abbreviated, answer to the disciples’ question.
The disciples knew that the Pharisees were not divorcing their wives because of sexual immorality. The Pharisees were champions of easy divorce and wanted Jesus’ opinion on it, which is why they asked him about divorce in the first place (Matt. 19:3; Mark 10:2). So Jesus was answering the disciples’ question in a well-known social situation: some of the Pharisees were divorcing their wives just to be with other women, and in the culture, although it was rare, some women were divorcing their husbands just to be with other men. Josephus records that Salome, wife of Costobarus, divorced him (Antiquities 15.7.10); and we know that Herodias divorced her husband Philip and married Herod Antipas ruler of Galilee. John the Baptist confronted Herod Antipas about his marriage to Herodias, which is why he ended up in jail and then executed (Mark 6:17-28).
We are now in a position to understand Jesus’ very short answer to his disciples about divorce and remarriage. In the context of people such as the Pharisees getting divorced simply because they liked someone else better than their spouse, the answer Jesus gave his disciples in Mark 10:11-12 is certainly correct. Divorcing someone for no other reason than you like someone better than your spouse is in effect the same as simply having an affair with that other person—you are committing adultery.
We should note that technically, Mark 10:11-12 are similar to Matthew 19:9 in that the phrase “commits adultery” is actually a passive verb in the Greek text. The verb is moichaō (#3429 μοιχάω, pronounced moy-'kah-ō), and it is in the passive voice. The passive verb is very important for the interpretation of the verse in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where the wife is clearly a victim (see commentary on Matthew 5:32), but not so important here or in Matthew 19:9, because in these verses the wicked husbands and wives are both the agent and the subject of the verb. They are the “victim” of their own action. Thus, while it is true that the husband or wife “is made to commit adultery,” he or she was made adulterous by their own action of divorcing and remarrying another person. Nevertheless, a technically correct translation of the phrases would be “is made adulterous,” instead of “commits adultery.” The person makes themselves adulterous by their own action.(top)
“commits adultery.” See commentary on Mark 10:11. This verse about a woman divorcing her husband is only in Mark. Although it was difficult for a woman to divorce a husband in the ancient culture, it did occur. We know of some “high profile” cases, but that is understandable. Historians have always focused on the rich and famous, but that does not mean that other women of more ordinary status did not also sometimes divorce their husbands.(top)
“so that he could lay his hands on them.” It was common in the culture that people would bring their children to the rabbis, and the rabbis would put their hands on the children and bless them. Note that in this case, Jesus was not asking to bless the children, this is what the parents wanted.(top)
“angry.” The Greek word is aganakteō (#23 ἀγανακτέω), and it refers to being angry or displeased at a situation that is perceived to be unjust.(top)
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“And as he was going out onto the road, a man ran up to him.” The record of the rich young ruler is in Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23. It is Luke who tells us that the man was a ruler.
“life in the age to come.” This is the everlasting life that begins with the new Messianic Age, the Millennial Kingdom.
[For more information, see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.”](top)
“No one is good except God alone.” In Mark 10:17, a man ran up to Jesus and called him “good teacher,” and then asked him the most important question that any person could ever ask Jesus: “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” The fact that the man asked that question to Jesus instead of asking it to his local synagogue leader, and the fact that the man began talking to Jesus by addressing him as “good teacher,” shows us that the man must have seen things in the life of Jesus that set him apart from the rest of the religious leaders and made Jesus seem “good” to him. Understanding those things sets the stage for us to be able to understand Jesus’ answer to the man.
Jesus was sinless (Heb. 4:15) and was good (cp. John 10:11, “the good shepherd”), but he was “good” in the eyes of this man because of what the man had heard him teach and seen him do (or the man had heard about those things from others). There is no evidence at this point the man thought that Jesus was the Messiah. In that situation, it would have been very inappropriate for Jesus to overlook the question and thus imply that he was indeed “good” on his own. Jesus knew that a lot of what he was able to do to live the wise and sinless life that caught the man’s attention was due to God’s guidance and power in his life.
Without God’s help, Jesus would not have been the “good” person this man was believing him to be. Jesus had made that very plain in his teachings. For example, Jesus said, “the Son is not able to do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19). “I am not able to do anything on my own. As I hear, I judge” (John 5:30). “My teaching is not my own, but his that sent me” (John 7:16). “I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak” (John 8:28). “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me, he has given me a command as to what to say…so whatever I say, I say just as the Father has said to me” (John 12:49-50).
Jesus did what he did and taught what he taught because of God’s guidance, and he gave God the credit. Thus, Jesus was like Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, who gave the credit to God (Gen. 41:16), and like Daniel who did not take the credit for interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream but gave the credit to God (Dan. 2:26-30). Jesus was not going to take the credit for being “good” in this man’s sight when in fact he knew that if he did not have guidance from God he would have almost certainly made a number of mistakes in what he said and did just like any other well-meaning person does. The only one who is truly “good” without the help of others is God, which explains Jesus’ statement: “There is no one good but God.”
Mark 10:18 is one of the verses that shows us that Jesus was not God in the flesh, as the Trinitarians teach, because if he was God, then his answer that there is no one who is good except God makes no sense. Jesus’ answer would then be in essence, “Why do you call me good? There is no one good but God—and that’s me.” Furthermore, if Jesus was God in the flesh, but was trying to say that in his flesh body he was still not good, he would not have said there is no one good but “God,” he would have said there is no one good but “the Father.” Beyond that, if a person has to believe that Jesus is God to be saved, as many Trinitarians teach, then not only did Jesus miss a perfect opportunity to say that he was good and he was God, but his answer actually denied that he was God and would have prevented the man from believing in the Trinity. The biblical truth is that Jesus is the Son of God, not “God the Son.”
[For more on the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, see Graeser, Lynn, Schoenheit, One God & One Lord (fourth edition); or www.biblicalunitarian.com.]
[For more on Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler, see commentary on Matt. 19:16.](top)
“do not defraud.” This is not in the Hebrew Old Testament or in the Septuagint, but it is in Sirach, one of the books in the Apocrypha.(top)
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“And looking around, he said to his disciples.” Jesus looked around at his disciples, making eye contact with them before he spoke so that what he said would be deeply impressed upon them, then he spoke, looking at the rich man himself (Luke 18:24). Then the man walked away (Matt. 19:22; Mark 10:22).
“will be.” The future tense “will be” is supplied from the verb “to enter” which is a future tense (in Luke 18:24 the verb is present tense in the most reliable Greek manuscripts). A more literal rendering of the verb, and one that would maintain the future tense of “to enter,” would be to say, “How difficult it will be to enter the Kingdom of God for those who have wealth!” But this is more difficult in English.(top)
“Children, how hard it is to enter into the Kingdom of God.” The manuscript evidence is that this is the reading of the original text. Through the centuries, scribes softened the text so Jesus’ words did not seem so harsh. One of the ways that textual scholars can tell is something has been added is that it is not added with the same wording. If scribes take out a word or phrase, what is left in the manuscripts is always the same. But if scribes don’t like the way a verse reads and add something to make it more acceptable, then what they add often differs in different manuscripts, and that is the case in Mark 10:24. Some later Greek texts add “for those who trust in riches,” some add “a rich man,” and one even adds “those who have possessions.”a Of course the context is referring to wealthy people, but that does not justify adding to the text to make that point clear.
“camel.” Here, “camel” is a hyperbole, an exaggeration to make a point. Jesus’ illustration is not extreme given the fact that Jesus, and Orientals from that era in general, were fond of hyperbole (cp. Luke 6:41, a person having a “beam” in his eye). As the “gnat” in Matthew 23:24 is a hyperbole, so also is the camel. For the idea of the needle’s eye being a gate, or the “camel” being a “rope,” see commentary on Luke 18:25.(top)
“to themselves.” There is manuscript evidence for “to him” and “to themselves,” but most scholars believe the stronger evidence is for “to themselves.” Also, it makes more sense that given the context the scribes would change “to themselves” to “to him” because it seems that the disciples were in a discussion with Jesus, while there would be little reason to change “to him” to “to themselves.” Thus the textual evidence and logical evidence supports “to themselves” as being the original reading.(top)
“for people...for God...for God.” The key to understanding this passage, and the parallel passage in Matthew 19:26, is the word “for,” which is the Greek preposition para (#3844 παρά). In this case, the preposition para is modifying “people” and “God.” The point that Jesus is making is that when it comes to getting saved, human effort alone will never get anyone saved. There is no amount of human effort that will get a person saved and into the Kingdom of God. In this context, it fits better to say that it is impossible “for” people to be saved by their own efforts, whereas it does not fit as well to translate para as “with” because there is no evidence that it was in the minds of the disciples that they could be saved if they had someone “with” them helping them. The context was rich people getting into the Kingdom of Heaven and their unwillingness to do what it took to let go of their riches to do the will of God. Jesus is not saying that a rich person cannot be saved, but the fact is that most rich people value their money more than God; the attitude one has toward money and material possessions is a heart issue—the heart has to be right with God. It seems the rich young ruler did not have the right attitude about his wealth.
For God “all things are possible,” so God can save people even though they cannot save themselves. Peter responded to Jesus’ statement by pointing out that he and the others have certainly looked to God for salvation because he said, “We have left everything and followed you.”
This verse shows that salvation is indeed a team effort between God and the sinner. It is not, like some theologians teach, that God saves who He wants and rejects who He wants, or that salvation is totally accomplished by God apart from human will. We know that God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and if He could save people without them wanting or asking for salvation, then everyone would be. The reason God wants everyone to be saved but not everyone will be, is that salvation is a team effort—the person must want it and do what it takes to receive it before God can save the person, and not everyone does what is necessary to be saved.(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention (see commentary on Matthew 1:20). Here it is not spoken with great force, but to remind Jesus of the sacrifices the apostles had made. In this context, the meaning is close to “Look at what we have done. We have left everything and followed you.”(top)
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“everlasting life.” This is the everlasting life that begins with the new Messianic Age, the Millennial Kingdom.
[See Appendix 2: “Life in the Age to Come.”](top)
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“And they were on the road going up to Jerusalem.” This record of Jesus telling the Twelve Apostles that he would be arrested and killed is in Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, and Luke 18:31-34. At this time Jesus would have taken what is now the old Roman road that goes uphill from Jericho (c. 800 feet below sea level) to Jerusalem (c. 2600 feet above sea level). The distance between Jerusalem and Old Testament Jericho is about 18 miles.
“amazed...afraid.” The amazement and even fear that the disciples were experiencing is natural. For some time now the Jews in Jerusalem had been trying to arrest and kill Jesus. At the Feast of Dedication (in our December), the Jews were trying to arrest him (John 10:39). Then, when Jesus went back to the Jerusalem area to raise Lazarus from the dead, the Jews made plans to kill him (John 11:53). After that, Jesus made one last itinerary.(top)
“Pay attention!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.(top)
“will be raised.” The Greek verb is anistēmi (#450 ἀνίστημι ; pronounce an-'hiss-tay-me). Here the verb acts like a passivea and it means to be raised from the dead. Like many verses say, God raised Jesus from the dead. Although many English translations have the translation “rise again,” that translation is confusing and unnecessary because the verb does not ordinarily mean “rise again” and also because Jesus was never raised before.
“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him.” This record is also in Matthew 20:20-28. Actually, it was the mother of James and John who brought her sons to Jesus (Matt. 20:20), but James and John were willing participants and the blessing was for them so that detail is left out of the record in Mark. In fact, it is possible that James and John asked their mother to ask Jesus because it was common in the culture to have someone else ask for a favor for you than ask for it yourself.(top)
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“angry.” The Greek word is aganakteō (#23 ἀγανακτέω), and it refers to being angry or displeased at a situation that is perceived to be unjust.(top)
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“life.” See commentary on Matthew 20:28, which is a similar verse.
“ransom.” The Greek word is lutron (#3083 λύτρον; pronounced 'loo-tron). In the Greek literature, the lutron, “ransom” was the price paid for the release of a slave or prisoner of war. There have been huge debates in Christendom about to whom the ransom is paid. Before summarizing some basics, it is important that we realize that the Bible never says to whom the “ransom” is paid. This should speak volumes to us. God certainly could have told us. The word ransom is specifically used in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45, and the closely related word antilutron, also translated “ransom,” is used in 1 Timothy 2:6. The New Testament tells us that we, by our sin, earned “death.” “The wages of sin are death” (Rom. 6:23). Then to magnify the work of Christ, we are told that Christ paid the price that we owed and died on our behalf (cp. Rom. 5:6, 8; Heb. 2:9). The sinner is “ransomed,” “redeemed,” “bought with a price” “declared righteous,” etc.
God could have told us “to whom” the ransom or price of redemption was paid. He did not clearly say it. This should tell us that we should not put our emphasis there. We can talk about it, surely, but the obvious emphasis in the Word is that redemption is done. It is accomplished. To go beyond “It is finished” is to drift from the realm of certainty, to some degree anyway, into the realm of speculation. That can be seen at once simply by studying the “theories of atonement.” Dozens of books have been written on the subject specifically because there are unclear issues involved. What is clear is that we are ransomed, we are redeemed, the price has been paid on our behalf, and when we have trust (“faith”) in Christ we are saved and promised everlasting life.
That having been said, it may help to briefly cover a few points. One is that many unbelievers reject the theory of atonement altogether and say that it in and of itself disproves Christianity. They say that no matter to whom the ransom is paid, how can one man righteously die for another? We answer that by saying that unbelievers did not create the universe nor the rules by which God governs it or the people who live in it. It is clear from the sacrifices in the Old Testament that God righteously accepts substitutionary sacrifice, and if He does, He does.
The Church Father Origen said that the ransom paid by the death of Jesus was paid to Satan, and many people still believe that. However, it seems clear that both righteousness (holiness), and the penalty for acting and becoming unholy and unrighteous were established by God. Satan has power today only by virtue of the fact that he is a liar and murderer. He lied his way into getting his power, and will end up destroyed in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10). Satan was not owed any ransom just because he tricked mankind into sin; mankind did not break any of his laws; and Satan cannot, in fact, would not, accept the blood of Christ as a ransom. He cannot because he does not have the power to release mankind from the penalty of sin, he did not give the laws or set the penalty in the first place. Furthermore, if a person is jailed in lieu of payment of a fine, would he pay it to the jailer? No, he would pay it to the court, the system that put the law in place. Lastly, Satan would not accept the ransom of Christ because it is against his purposes: he does not desire mankind to be saved; he desires the destruction of all mankind.
That having been said, there are two more theories of atonement that should be mentioned. The first is that the ransom or redemption price is paid to God. That theory in and of itself has so many variations that books have been written on that alone. The basics of the theory that the payment is made to God as expounded by Anselm, Bishop of Canterbury (1033-1109) is that because God is righteous He must respond with anger and punishment when His laws are broken, thus the payment of breaking those laws is made to Him. Adding to the logic of this theory is that under the Law of Moses, the sacrifices for sin were offered to Yahweh (cp. Exod. 12:48; Lev. 4:3, 4, 14, 15, 24; 5:6, 7, 15; 22:24; 23:12; etc.), and the Passover, and sacrifices, were shadows of Christ. In contrast, sacrifices to the Devil or demons were strictly forbidden. It foreshadowed nothing (cp. Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20). It is this theory of atonement that has dominated the orthodox Church for some 1000 years.
Another theory of atonement is that the payment was not actually made to anyone. God set up the laws, and His justice required death for sin. When Christ died, that fulfilled the law, it did not actually “pay” anyone. In that sense, the word “ransom” is understood figuratively, as if “Justice” was personified. We can best understand this in terms of someone paying for his crime by being imprisoned. If a person is in prison for a year and “pays his debt to society,” who gets paid? Not society, they do not receive a dime. Not the jailor (Satan), not the Judge (God). The debt is “paid” in a figurative sense simply by fulfilling the law. The strongest evidence for this argument is that of all the scriptures that refer to the death of Christ, atonement, ransom, redemption, substitution, being “bought with a price,” etc., not once is anyone said to be paid. Not God, and certainly not the Devil. The simple biblical truth would be that Jesus paid the legal price required by mankind’s sin, which was death, and thus fulfilled the legal requirement that the wages of sin is death.(top)
“as he went out from Jericho.” This record occurs in Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43. The timing of the event in Matthew and Mark seems to contradict Luke 18:35-39, but they actually do not (see commentary on Luke 18:35).(top)
“Son of David.” A messianic title. It is not known how this man came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but he did. God reveals the truth to people who are humble and hungry for truth (see commentary on Matthew 1:1).(top)
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“Be encouraged.” Many translations have the phrase “Take courage,” and in this context, to “take courage” and “be encouraged” essentially mean the same thing. The lexical definition of the Greek is to “be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances.”a Here, we see that the blind man was already courageous because he repeatedly called out to Jesus after the crowd told him to be silent. So, the meaning of the text is more like, “be encouraged because he is listening to you and calling for you.”
“tossing aside his outer garment.” This is an indication of how badly Bartimaeus wanted to be healed. The heavy outer garment was essential to stay warm and protected from the weather. It was so important to a poor person that if he needed to borrow money and gave his garment as collateral, even if he could not repay the debt, the garment had to be returned to him by nightfall, so he could use it (Deut. 24:13). But the garment was heavy and long, and if someone wanted to move quickly it could get in the way. Bartimaeus did not want anything to get in the way of his healing, and he did not want to be so slow that Jesus moved on before he could be healed. So he risked losing his valuable garment so he could get his healing, which was of much greater value to him.
“jumped to his feet.” The Greek is more literally, “jumped up,” but it is understood in the context that he jumped to his feet (cp. NIV).(top)
“I want to regain my sight!” The blind men (see Matt. 20:30; there were two men) had not been born blind, they lost their vision at some point in their lives. There was a large amount of eye disease in the ancient world, often due to the fact that it was hard to keep insects out of one’s eyes. Today we have screens on our windows, but in the ancient world people’s faces were always under attack by insects and many people became blind because of it. The man in John 9 was the only person Jesus healed who was born blind (John 9:32). So Blind Bartimaeus lost his sight sometime during his life.(top)
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