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Go to Bible: Mark 4
Mar 4:1

“facing the lake.” The crowd was on the land, and Jesus was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee, so the crowd was “facing the lake.”a

Cp. Lenski.
Mar 4:2(top)
Mar 4:3

“The Parable of the Sower.” The Parable of the Sower and its explanation is in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 14-20; and Luke 8:5-8, 11-15.

The parable Jesus tells in verses 3-8 is almost universally referred to as “The Parable of the Sower” because that is what Jesus called it (Matt. 13:18). However, it could just as well be called “The Parable of the Soils,” because the parable is not primarily about God who sows the seed; nor is it about the seed itself, which is the Word of God (Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11). The “sower” in the Parable of the Sower is not specifically named because it is anyone who speaks the Word to lead people to salvation.

[For more information on the Parable of the Sower, see commentary on Matt. 13:3.]

“Listen!” The Greek is akouō (#191 ἀκούω), which means to hear, to listen, or to understand, and it is in the imperative mood. Coupled with idou (“Pay attention!) it is an extremely powerful way to say that we better pay attention to what Jesus is saying in the parable.

“Pay attention!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.

“The sower went out to sow.” The seed in this parable is the word of God (Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11), specifically the “message about the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19) which Jesus and others were preaching and teaching that if a person believed would lead to salvation. Now, in the Administration of Grace, people believe in the death, resurrection, and Lordship of Jesus to be saved (Rom. 10:9). The “sower” is not specifically named in this parable because it is anyone who speaks the Word to lead people to salvation.

Mar 4:4

“the birds.” In biblical times, birds were usually considered evil or harmful, and in the Parable of the Sower, the “birds” represent the Devil and his demons and the demonic influence they exert in the world. Thus, in the explanation of the parable, the birds are “the Wicked One” (Matt. 13:19), “the Adversary” (Mark 4:15); and “the Devil” (Luke 8:12).

[For more information on the birds being evil, see commentary on Matthew 13:4.]

Mar 4:5

“because the soil was not deep.” The Greek is more literally, “because it had no depth of soil,” but that is awkward in English (cp. CEB; NAB; NET).

Mar 4:6(top)
Mar 4:7(top)
Mar 4:8

“some fell.” The manuscripts are divided, with some reading the singular and some the plural, but Mark has been using the singular and the accompanying verb is singular.

Mar 4:9

“Anyone who has ears to hear had better listen!” This is almost the same Greek phrase as occurs in Matthew 11:15. For an explanation of the exclamation, see the commentary on Matt 11:15. This verse is longer, reading, “Anyone who has ears to hear had better listen,” while the occurrences in Matthew read, “Anyone who has ears had better listen!”

Mar 4:10

“began asking him the meaning of the parables” The disciples’ question is asked and answered in Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12; and Luke 8:9-10. Matthew has the most complete answer.

Mar 4:11

“sacred secret.” The Greek word mustērion (#3466 μυστήριον) means “sacred secret.” It refers to a secret in the religious or sacred realm.

[For more information on the “Sacred Secret” and the Administration of Grace, see commentary on Eph. 3:9.]

“those who are outside.” The “outside” is not referring to outside the Twelve, because more people than the Twelve were around him and were taught the sacred secrets of the Kingdom (cp. Mark 4:10). Rather, the outside refers to those outside Christ’s group, many of whom were not invested in following Christ. Some of them were new, some of them were only interested in seeing miracles and such, and some of them were detractors who did not believe what he was teaching.

“everything is in parables.” Jesus spoke in parables to reveal the hearts of the people who were hearing him speak. Humble, godly people found out what the parables meant while pious, arrogant people did not bother to find out.

[For more on Christ speaking in parables, see commentary on Matt. 13:13.]

Mar 4:12

“with the result that they indeed see but do not perceive.” This verse is quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10 and follows the Septuagint more closely than the Hebrew text. The “so that” is the translation of the Greek proposition hina which in this context shows the purpose of the parables. Jesus taught in parables with the result that the hearts of his listeners was revealed, and that is more clearly stated here in Mark than in any other of the Four Gospels.

Some New Testament Greek texts such as the Byzantine Text from which the KJV was translated, read “of sins” at the end of the verse, but scholars are now aware that this is an explanatory gloss that worked its way into the text.

[For this quotation from Isaiah and the purpose of parables, see commentary on Matthew 13:13.]

“otherwise they would turn to God.” The people who are sinning, who are so hardhearted that they will not even try to understand Christ’s parables, do not want to stop sinning, so they have no interest in knowing the will of God (cp. Job 21:14; 22:17; Isa. 30:11). If they did turn to God, He would heal them.

and their sin would be forgiven.” The more literal translation is, “and it be forgiven them,” but the verb “be forgiven” is singular in the text, so it does not refer to the people but to the sin of the people.

Mar 4:13

“understand...understand.” In the REV, there are two Greek words translated “understand,” oida (#1492 οἴδα), and ginōskō (#1097 γινώσκω). Many times in the New Testament the two words are synonyms, which explains why so many English versions translated them both as “understand” here in Mark 4:13. It seems here that Jesus thought his parable was so clear that his disciples would just “grasp” what he was saying, and when they didn’t, he wondered how they would come to understand all his parables.

Mar 4:14(top)
Mar 4:15

“the Adversary.” The Greek word for Adversary is Satanas (#4567 Σατανᾶς), which has been transliterated into “Satan” in most versions. This causes the meaning of the word, which is important, to be lost.

[For more information on it, see commentary on Mark 1:13. For information on the names of the Devil, see Appendix 14: “Names of the Devil.”]

Mar 4:16(top)
Mar 4:17(top)
Mar 4:18(top)
Mar 4:19

“and he becomes unfruitful.” For the translation “he,” see commentary on Matthew 13:22.

Mar 4:20(top)
Mar 4:21

“Is a lamp brought out.” The Greek is worded in the negative, “A lamp is not brought out to be placed under a basket,” but then to make the sentence make good sense words have to be added like “is it? So for clarity, many English versions word the sentence without the negative like the REV does.

“basket.” The Greek is modios (#3426 μόδιος), a dry measure of about a peck, or 9 liters.

Mar 4:22

“hidden.” “Hidden” has the same root word as “concealed” later in the verse.

“For what is hidden is meant to be revealed​.” Mark 4:21-22 (and Luke 8:16-17) are about the Kingdom of God being hidden, not about secret sins coming to light. The Greek text of Mark 4:22 uses a double negative, which can be seen in Young’s Literal Translation: “for there is not anything hid that may not be manifested.” This is difficult to reproduce in English because we do not use the double negative in the same way the Greeks did, and that difficulty explains why the English versions differ so widely in their translations. Some versions simply make the two negatives into a positive like the REV and NIV do for clarity in English.

The meaning of Mark 4:22 has been much discussed by scholars. This is in large part because the subject of the verse is not well understood. Many people believe that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are about hidden sins being revealed, but that is not what these verses are talking about. The reason for most of the discussion is that the Gospel of Mark uses the Greek preposition, hina, which in this context describes purpose and means, “in order to,” or, “for this purpose.” Thus, Mark is saying that the purpose of hiding the thing was in order to bring it out in the open at a later time. That is confusing to the people who think that Mark 4:22 is about sin, because people do not hide their sins with the purpose of later revealing them.

The reason that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are worded the way they are in the Greek text is they are about the Kingdom of God and the secrets of the Kingdom, which God hid and is still hiding in part from people, but will reveal when the time is right. The context, as well as the verses themselves, show that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are speaking about the Kingdom of God and not “secret sins.” For example, the lamp which is “brought out” is not a bad thing, it is a good thing, and it is brought out to be put on the lampstand to give light for all to see by. There is no indication in the text that the “lamp” is a bad thing like a secret sin that is dragged out of someone against their will and then revealed to others, or revealed on the Day of Judgment to the shame of the one who sinned. Also, Mark 4:22 says that what is hidden is hidden “in order to” (hina) be revealed, but that is not true of secret sins. As has been pointed out, people do not hide their sins with the purpose of later revealing them, and also, although some hidden sins will be revealed on Judgment Day, many sins are confessed and cleansed before they are publicly revealed, so in fact, those sins are never revealed. In contrast, the Kingdom of God, which is hidden now, will be revealed and it will come to light in a powerful way that is obvious to everyone (cp. Rev. 1:7).

More evidence from Mark 4:21-22 that Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom of God being hidden but later being revealed comes from the context immediately before and after the event described in Mark 4:21-22. Just before that teaching, Jesus taught the parable of the Sower, and in explaining it he told the disciples that the secrets of the Kingdom of God were given to them (Matt. 13:11; Luke 8:10). Furthermore, immediately after the event described in Mark 4:21-22, Jesus told parables that confirmed that the Kingdom was small and hidden but would become huge and unable to be missed. For example, he told the parable of the Kingdom being like seed on the ground, which would hardly be noticeable, but it grows up into a crop (Mark 4:26-29). Then he told the parable about the Kingdom being like a small mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). He also told the parable about the Kingdom being like leaven that a woman “hid” in a large amount of meal (Matt. 13:33). Invisible at first, it would eventually leaven the entire loaf.

Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are about God hiding the Kingdom of God so that He could later reveal it, and that fits perfectly with the context. In contrast, there is nothing in the contexts of Matthew, Mark, or Luke that give any reason why Jesus would suddenly shift his teaching topic from the Kingdom of God to hidden sin.

As was stated at the opening of this entry, the fact that Mark 4:22 has a hina purpose clause has been a problem for translators. Understandably, it is a problem for most translators to think that Mark 4:22 is about secrets sins being revealed when the Greek text says that the thing was hidden “in order to” later reveal it, or that it was hidden “with the purpose of” later being revealed. Sadly, some English translations get around the problem by translating Mark 4:22 in a way that totally ignores the Greek preposition hina and its meaning, “in order to.” For example, the NLT translates Mark 4:22 as “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.” No one would ever read that translation and be able to discern that what was hidden was purposely hidden in order to reveal it later, and no one would conclude from that translation that Mark 4:22 is about the Kingdom of God. It is in part due to translation such as is in the NLT that the teaching that Mark 4:22 is about secret sins continues to be taught.

However, there are English translations that are more faithful to the meaning of Mark 4:22 and bring out its meaning. For example, the NIV reads, “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” The Kingdom New Testament, a translation by N. T. Wright, has, “No: nothing is secret except what’s meant to be revealed, and nothing is covered up except what’s meant to be uncovered.” The translation by Heinz Cassirer, God’s New Covenant, has this translation: “Nothing is kept hidden except with the intention that it should come into the open, nothing kept secret except with the intention that it should be brought to light.” It is easy to see from those translations that this verse cannot be about secret sins being revealed; no one hides their sin for the purpose of revealing it later.

Mark L. Strauss sees that Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom of God and writes, “In context, the lamp more likely represents either (1) the message of the kingdom of God or (2) the kingdom itself, the coming of which Jesus had been announcing. Either of these fits the context….This may also be the point in Mark: the kingdom of God, though presently veiled, will one day be revealed.”a

Another piece of evidence that needs to be explained is the singular nouns and verbs in Mark 4:22. The Emphasized Bible by Rotherham gets the sense, and translates the opening phrase as, “For it is not hidden.” The thing that is hidden is not a lot of secret sins, which would seemingly be represented by a plural subject, verb, and object, but rather it is a singular thing, a “what” or an “it,” and that is expressed by the subject (it), verb (is), and object (hidden), which are all singular in the Greek text. The thing hidden is the Kingdom of God that was purposely hidden by God with the purpose of fully revealing it when He was ready to reveal it.

Realizing that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are about the Kingdom of God being hidden with the purpose of later being revealed does not mean that people’s unconfessed secret sins will not be revealed on the Day of Judgment, because they will be revealed, but secret sins is simply not what Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are talking about.

Strauss, Mark [ZECNT].
Mar 4:23

“Anyone who has ears to hear had better listen!” This is the same Greek phrase as occurs in Mark 4:9 (see commentary on Mark 4:9), and almost the same Greek phrase as occurs in Matthew 11:15. For an explanation of the exclamation, see the commentary on Matthew 11:15. Jesus emphasized his teaching that everything we do will be disclosed on Judgment day with this solemn command and warning.

Mar 4:24(top)
Mar 4:25

“For whoever has.” Jesus taught this principle of having and not having five different times. See commentary on Matthew 25:29.

Mar 4:26(top)
Mar 4:27(top)
Mar 4:28(top)
Mar 4:29(top)
Mar 4:30(top)
Mar 4:31

“mustard seed.” For more information on this parable, see commentary on Matthew 13:32.

“when it is sown on the ground.” The farmer literally scatters the seed on the ground. It is not planted in the ground, but thrown on top of the soil, which is why the birds can come and eat it so easily.

Mar 4:32

“becomes larger than all the garden plants.” See commentary on Matthew 13:32.

Mar 4:33(top)
Mar 4:34(top)
Mar 4:35

“Let’s cross over to the other side.” The record of Jesus calming a storm—which is immediately followed by the record of Jesus healing a man afflicted by demons—occurs in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25. The most detail occurs in Mark. For one thing, in Mark, we see that Jesus was exhausted from ministering all day. In fact, he was so tired that even the water splashing on him from the great storm did not wake him up. It is also in Mark that we see that there were other boats sailing along with the boat Jesus was in, so the storm not only endangered Jesus and the disciples, but also other boats and people as well.

Mar 4:36

“just as he was.” This is a very important verse that shows us how hard Jesus pushed himself to serve and bless people. He was exhausted from serving. That is why he went right to sleep in the boat. The storm on the lake may have been natural, but the fact that it came up so quickly and was so fierce is evidence that it was likely caused by the Devil, the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). Thus, this would be similar to the deadly storm caused by the Devil in Job 1:18-19. The Devil knew Jesus was exhausted and would have tried to kill him off, thinking he might be too weak to really defend himself and calm the storm.

Mar 4:37(top)
Mar 4:38(top)
Mar 4:39

“And he got up,” In v. 38 the disciples woke him up, and the verb in v. 39 is stronger. He was not “sleepy” or “just coming to his senses” as so many do when they are awakened. He became fully awake and thus got up.

“subdued.” In this context, epitimaō (#2008 ἐπιτιμάω) has a technical meaning: it is used in Greek religion of gaining control over a spirit, a demon. Jesus subdued the storm, which was no doubt caused by a demon, by the power of God he wielded, which he expressed in words. The power came from God and was used by Jesus. Jesus did not gain control over the storm by some “magic words” or formula that he used. “It is not a magical is powerful Word of the Son.”a For a more complete explanation, see commentary on Mark 1:25.

“Silence!” The Greek siopaō (#4623 σιωπάω). “To refrain from speaking or making a sound, keep silent, say nothing, make no sound.”b Although this word gets translated “Peace” in many versions, it is not the standard word for peace.

“Be still!” As with the word “subdued” (above), the Greek word phimoō (#5392 φιμόω), translated “be still,” also has a technical meaning that applies in this context. Ordinarily phimoō means to close the mouth with a muzzle or to silence. However, it was used in Greek magic to denote the binding of a person with a spell. Moulton and Milligan write that it can refer to “the binding of a person by means of a spell, so as to make him powerless to harm.”c (Cp. A. Nyland, The Source NT; footnote on Matt. 22:12 and her translation: “Be bound!”). Jesus commanded the water to “be still,” but also conveyed in the Greek is a spiritual power behind the command. Jesus did not just command the storm to be still—he bound it and the demon behind it with the power of his word. See commentary on Mark 1:25.

Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary, s.v. “ἐπιτιμάω,” 2:626.
BDAG, s.v. “σιωπάω.”
Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament.
Mar 4:40(top)
Mar 4:41

“were filled with great fear.” The Greek is literally, “they were afraid with a great fear.” The word can mean “awe” in some contexts, and here in this context, the feeling the disciples had would have been a blend of fear and awe. Awe at the power of Christ, but fear of that power as well and how it would show itself. Especially to the people of this time period, God seemed somewhat unpredictable.

“Who is this.” The text is literally, “Who then is this,” but the “then” is drawn from the context and the event that had just occurred, but that is not clear and is not the way we would say that in English, so adding the “then” makes the sentence awkward. The NIV and some other translations omit it for clarity, as does the REV.


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