The Good News of Mark

Chapter 2

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 15 January 2012; Revised 26 October 2016

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Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. For background information on the book of Mark go to Witnesses of the Good News.

Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.

Kingdom Restoration

Theme: The Kingdom of God brings liberation and rest in relationships and one's use of time.

Date: Summer A.D. 28

1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.

When: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. The use of the conjunction here is continuative of the narrative from chapter one. The NASB gives kai a temporal meaning here.

He had come back: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. The NASB translates the verb as a perfect tense, but it is a simple aorist, "he returned." to Capernaum: Grk. Kapharnaoum (from the Heb. K’far-Nachum, “village of Nahum”) was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 2½ miles west of the entrance of the Jordan. Capernaum was probably founded after the return from exile. As an economic center in Galilee it was more significant than tradition has often allowed. The site had no defensive wall and extended along the shore of the nearby lake (from east to west). As an economic center in Galilee it was more significant than tradition has often allowed. The designation “city” (Grk. polis) in Mark 1:33 distinguishes it from a mere village.

Capernaum had its own synagogue (Mark 1:21), in which Yeshua frequently taught. Capernaum was a center for collecting custom and taxes (where Matthew worked) due to being an important center commanding both sea and land trade routes. Fishing and farming, as well as other light industries, were important to the local economy. Although Yeshua centered his ministry there and performed many miracles in and around the city, he eventually cursed the city for their unbelief (Matt 11:23-24; Luke 10:15). So strikingly did this prophecy come true that only recently has Tell Hum been identified confidently as ancient Capernaum (NIBD).

several days: pl. of Grk. hēmera, may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The second meaning is intended here. afterward: Grk. dia, prep., lit. "through." In other words, Yeshua had gone through two or more days since the end of the chapter one narrative and the action described here. it was heard: Grk. akouō, aor. pass., has a range of meaning, including to hear as a sense perception, to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). The passive voice of the verb stresses the receipt of information.

that: Grk. hoti, conj., that serves as a link between two sets of data, here indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. He was: Grk. eimi, pres., a function word used in a wide variety of grammatical constructions, primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate. The verb may also denote (1) temporal existence; live; (2) a sojourn; stay, reside; (3) phenomena, events; take place, occur; and (4) time references (BAG). at: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." home: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation; house, home. The term implies a residence. This comment does not mean that Yeshua owned the house. As he told one man, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58).

2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.

And: Grk. kai, conj. many: pl. of Grk. polus, extensive in scope or high degree in amount. were gathered together: Grk. sunagō, aor. pass., to bring together in a collective manner; gather. so that: Grk. hōste, conj., may be used to (1) introduce an independent clause that represents a consequence of the statement that precedes; for this reason, therefore, and so; or (2) introduces a dependent clause of an actual result; for the purpose of, with a view to, in order that. there was no longer: Grk. mēketi, adv., no more, no longer. room: Grk. chōreō, pres. inf., to make room or space.  not even: Grk. mēde, conj., negative particle used in escalation of negation near: Grk. pros, prep. of vicinity, lit. "near, facing."

the door: Grk. thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway; door, gate. and: Grk. kai, conj. He was speaking: Grk. laleō, impf., make an oral statement, to speak or talk about something. the word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning: speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, or matter (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). The use of logos in Mark is typically in reference to the message of the Kingdom. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Yeshua's return to Galilee no doubt brought a big crowd because the last time he had been in Galilee he had performed significant miracles, turning the water into wine at Cana and healing the noblemen's son.

3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.

And: Grk. kai, conj. they came: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., means to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances it means to go. When used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. bringing: Grk. pherō, pres. part., move something from one position to another, generally through physical transport; bring. to: Grk. pros, prep. Him: Grk. autos, of Yeshua. a paralytic: Grk. paralutikos, lame or unable to walk. carried: Grk. airō, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. by: Grk. hupo, prep., used here to indicate an agent or cause, by. four men: pl. of Grk. tessares, the numeral four. The word "men" is not in the Greek text, but presumptively the helpers were male. It's not clear why it took four men instead of just two unless he was a large man or they were concerned friends who wanted to help, so they each took a corner of the pallet.

4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.

[And: Grk. kai, conj. The NASB does not translate the conjunction.] Being unable: Grk. (negative particle 'not') dunamai, pres. mid. part., to be capable of doing or achieving, to have power. to get to: Grk. prospherō, aor. inf., to cause movement of something or someone to a person or place, to bring or to present. Him: Grk. autos. because of: Grk. dia, prep.,  lit. "through," but used here in a causal sense. the crowd: Grk. ochlos refers to an assembled company of people. Ochlos designates those that came to hear Yochanan the Immerser and Yeshua from a particular locality. In many passages the people are contrasted with the ruling classes (Pharisees, scribes, Saduccees) who despised the ochlos as ignorant masses they believed were accursed for not keeping Torah (John 7:49) (DNTT 2:800f). In this case "crowd" is not so much defining the number of spectators as simply identifying the people present at the house.

they removed: Grk. apostegazō, aor., cause removal of a covering, unroof. the roof: Grk. stegē, the flat roof of a house. The roof probably was formed by beams and rafters across which matting, branches, and twigs, covered by earth trodden hard, were laid (Rienecker). above Him: The Greek text is lit. "where (Grk. hopou, adv.) he was (Grk. eimi, impf.). and: Grk. kai, conj. when they had dug an opening: Grk. exorussō, aor. part., to remove by forceful extraction, dig out or up. they let down: Grk. chalaō, pres., to effect movement downward in unfilled space; let down. the pallet: Grk. krabattos, a humble pad for sleeping or resting, frequently used by the infirm. Rienecker adds that the mat was used by the poor as bedding. The word does not occur in the LXX at all.

BAG says krabattos is a loanword of uncertain origin but found in late rabbinic literature. Danker suggests the word is of Latin origin whereas Morris suggests its origin is Macedonian (303). In the rabbinic context a loanword would be from Aramaic, not Latin, although Greek would be a possibility. In my view the Greek word is more likely derived from an Aramaic root, krah, bolster, mattress (e.g., Kellim 26:5) (Jastrow 663) or krubeta, blanket (Jastrow 664). on which: Grk. hopou, adv. the paralytic: Grk. paralutikos. See the previous verse. was lying: Grk. katakeimai, impf. pass., be in a reclining posture, to be abed, to lie from sickness.

5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, " Son, your sins are forgiven."

And: Grk. kai, conj. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means “YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?

seeing: Grk. horaō, aor. part., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. their: pl. of Grk. autos. faith: Grk. pistis means (1) constancy in awareness of obligation to others, thus faithfulness or fidelity; and (2) belief or confidence evoked by another's reputation for trustworthiness, thus faith, trust or confidence. Stern notes that the Grk. pistis corresponds to Heb. emunah (229). Therefore, biblical faith is composed of two elements. The first element of faith is confidence or trust (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of true faith involves commitment, constancy or faithfulness, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10; James 2:17-18). Mark makes a point of Yeshua observing the faith of the friends of the paralytic. These men demonstrated by their trust in Yeshua and their trustworthiness toward the invalid by both bringing him to the house and then their persistence in ensuring that the invalid gained an audience with Yeshua.

said: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. to the paralytic: Grk. paralutikos. See verse 3 above. Son: Grk. teknos, voc., lit. "child," although the word may be translated as "son," though in this context not in the sense of a familial connection. The vocative case may indicate that with the observation of faith Yeshua used the address as a short form of "son of Abraham" (cf. Mark 5:34; Luke 13:16; 19:9). With this intention behind "son," then the invalid was also a man of faith.

your sins: pl. of hamartia, may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In Greek culture hamartia meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that did not conform to the community ethic (DNTT 3:577). In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (miss, go wrong, lapse, sin; Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity; Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture a sin is a violation of God's written commandments. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, i.e., "falling short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23) are not included in hamartia.

are forgiven: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. pass., to release or to let go, lit. "are being forgiven." This is the usual term for forgiving or canceling a financial debt. While the narrative will proceed to discuss the authority issue, no one has seen fit to comment on two issues inherent to Yeshua's statement. First, how did the invalid feel about such a pronouncement? There is no indication that he sought forgiveness. He sought healing of his body. Of course, his lame condition might have been caused by sin (cf. John 5: 5, 14). Second, Yeshua does not say, "I forgive you." Commentators generally assume that Yeshua is the one doing the forgiving. The verb is in the passive voice and thus Yeshua is only informing the invalid that forgiveness has been granted and the present tense emphasizes the present reality of the experience.

The text is silent on the matter of the sins being forgiven. It was not likely a matter of capital crime or the Pharisees would have pointed out the man's offense as they do on other occasions. However, a breach of Torah did occur when the friends of the paralytic destroyed the roof of a house they did not own (cf. Ex 21:18, 28, 33; 22:4-5; Lev 24:19). By Jewish law anyone doing damage to someone else's premises is liable. (See Baba Kama 1:18; 32b).

6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,

But: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). some: pl. oof Grk. tis, indef. pron., someone, anyone. of the scribes: Grk. grammateus refers to a specialist in Mosaic legal matters. In Israelite culture a scribe was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah. In the LXX grammateus renders two Hebrew words, shoter (official; officer, BDB 1000c) and more frequently sopher (secretary, scribe, BDB 708) (DNTT 3:477f). Scribes were clearly influential. They were secretaries, teachers, lawyers, judges, priests and some were members of the Sanhedrin (Matt 16:21).

Some scribes belonged to the party of the Pharisees (Matt 22:34-35; Mark 2:16; Acts 5:34; 23:9), but the majority of the scribes were Sadducees or were "of the people" (Matt 2:4), suggesting no party affiliation. Josephus mentions Sadducees who were magistrates (Ant. XVIII, 1:4) and scribes were always preferred for appointment as judges due to their knowledge of the Law (Jeremias 237). For more information on the scribes see the note on 1:22. were sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place. and: Grk. kai, conj. reasoning: Grk. dialogizomai, pres. mid. part., to engage in a mental process involving back and forth movement of ideas, or as Danker puts it, a kind of mental 'ping-pong.' in: Grk. en, prep. their hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, also used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. The use of "heart" here denotes attitude as much as thinking.

7 "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Why: Grk. ti, interr. pron. does this man: Grk. houtos, dem. pron., lit. "this one." speak: Grk. laleō, pres. See verse 2 above. that way: Grk. houtōs, adv., so, thus, in this way. He is blaspheming: Grk. blasphēmeō, pres., means to injure the reputation of, revile, defame in relation to men or to blaspheme in relation to God. From the point of view of the scribes in the circumstances, this seems like a valid assessment. who: Grk. tis, indef. pron. can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. See verse 4 above. forgive: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. inf. See verse 5 above. sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia. See verse 5 above. but: Grk. ei , lit. "if not." God: Grk. theos, a deity. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos.

Ancient polytheistic culture had no conception of one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe. In the LXX theos primarily renders the general names of God: El, Eloah and Elohim, but also YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The only God in existence is the God who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9). alone: Grk. heis, the numeral one, but used here emphatically of excluding other considerations. The Greek text lit. says, "who can forgive sins if not the One, God?" The rhetorical question seems appropriate, because according to the Torah only God can provide forgiveness and that upon completion of an appropriate sacrifice (Ex 34:7; Lev 4:20).

8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?

[And: Grk. kai, conj.] Immediately: Grk. euthus, adv., "immediately" or "at once," occurs 40 times in this book. Mark also uses a unique expression kai euthus, 25 times, 18 of which introduce verses (as here). The specific combination occurs only four other times in the Besekh (once in Matthew, once in Luke, once in John and once in Acts), but none of them introduce sentences. The small number of usages in the other apostolic narratives argues strongly against Mark being copied by the others. Jesus: Yeshua. aware: Grk. epiginōskō, aor. part., having familiarity with something through observation, experience or receipt of information.

in His spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24). Pneuma is used frequently for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). The use of pneuma here affirms that Yeshua was fully human. Whether Yeshua knew the minds of the scribes by divine omniscience is not clear. It could also have been a reasonable deduction given their body language and muttering among themselves. He knew them. He knew their values, their hypocritical lifestyle and their petty legalisms.

that: Grk. hoti, conj. they were reasoning: Grk. dialogizomai, pres. mid. See verse 6 above. that way: Grk. houtōs, adv. within: Grk. en, prep. themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, masc. reflexive pron., himself. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 5 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos. Why: Grk. ti, interr. pron. are you reasoning: Grk. dialogizomai, pres. mid. about these things: Grk. toũto, neut. demonstrative pronoun, this. in: Grk. en, prep. your hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia. See verse 6 above. Yeshua asks a question that he already knows the answer to. The question, "why," as so often the case when spoken by God, is intended to stimulate self-evaluation. What is the real reason behind the attitude and anger?

9 "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'?

Yeshua responds with a logical argument. Which: Grk. tís, interrogative pron.; who, which, what. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. easier: Grk. eukopos, adj., easy, used here for comparison purposes. The special term occurs seven times in the Besekh, all in the Synoptic Narratives. to say: Grk. legō, aor. inf. See verse 5 above. to the paralytic: Grk. paralutikos. See verse 3 above. Your sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia. See verse 5 above. are forgiven: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. pass. See verse 5 above. or: Grk. , conj. to say: Grk. legō, aor. inf. Get up: Grk. egeirō, pres. imp., to move from an inert state or position, here of movement from a position that is down to one that is up; rise, get up.

and: Grk. kai, conj. pick up: Grk. airō, aor. imp., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. The first meaning applies here. your pallet: Grk. krabattos. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. walk: Grk. peripateō, pres. imp., to engage in pedestrian activity; go about; walk about, walk around, walk. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages and renders Heb. halak (SH-1980) to go, come or walk (DNTT 3:943). Both Greek and Hebrew verbs are used fig. of how one conducts oneself in life (Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2).

Forgiveness is a work of God. Healing the body is a work of God (Ps 103:1). The ability to do one presupposes the ability to do the other. Jacob ("James") in his letter to Messianic Jews gives instruction on healing that mirrors what Yeshua says, "and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him" (Jas 5:15 NASB). In Jacob's instruction there is no mention of confession. He only says that forgiveness (healing of the soul?) is included in physical healing.

10 "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic,

But: Grk. de, conj. so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. you may know: Grk. eidō, perf. subj. of oida, to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense normally refers to action completed in the past with continuing results in the present, but is used here to emphasize the beginning point of action that will last. The verb is used for experiential knowledge, whether (1) to know about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with someone; (3) to understand how to do something; and (4) to remember (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). that: Grk. hoti, conj.

the Son: Grk. ho huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (“son,” “son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here. of Man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 1Sam 15:29); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564).

"Son of Man" translates the Heb. ben adam. The idiom "Son of Man" is thoroughly Hebraic and has no counterpart in Greek culture. Bible scholars typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite. This faulty notion is based on the fact that in the Tanakh, except in one passage (Dan 7:13), ben adam is idiomatic for "man," occurring 11 times in a general sense of all mankind (e.g., Num 23:19, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent"). This sense also occurs when God addresses two prophets as "son of man:" Ezekiel (93 times) and Daniel (Dan 8:17).

However, for Jews in the first century "son of Man" had the meaning of the eschatological supra-natural figure seen by the prophet Daniel in a vision:

"I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)

According to the vision of Daniel, the eschatological "Son of Man" is a divine redeemer in human form. Jewish intertestamental literature expounded strongly on his identity and activity (cf. Book of Enoch Chapter 46). David Flusser, Orthodox Jewish scholar and professor at Hebrew University, concurs saying,

"In all of the sources, the one resembling a man is portrayed in a consistent manner. The Son of Man has a superhuman, heavenly sublimity. He is the cosmic judge at the end of time. Sitting upon the throne of God, judging the entire human race with the aid of the heavenly hosts, he will consign the just to blessedness and the wicked to the pit of hell. Frequently he is identified with the Messiah, but he can also be identified with Enoch, who was taken up into heaven." (Flusser 112)

When Yeshua began referring to himself as the "Son of Man" his listeners tried to fit his usage into their expectation. A few times Yeshua used "Son of Man" as a simple circumlocution (e.g., "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head," Matt 18:20). Most of the time, however, Yeshua used the expression in line with common Jewish interpretation of the time. He was Daniel's cosmic judge from heaven (8:38; 13:26; 14:62), but in applying the title to his mission Yeshua added the unexpected element of suffering (8:31; 9:12, 31; 10:33, 45).

has: Grk. echō, pres., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. authority: Grk. exousia has four basic meanings: (1) freedom of choice, the right (often in a legal sense) to act, decide or dispose of one’s property as one wishes (e.g. 13:5; 22:14); (2) the ability to do something, capability, might, power (e.g. 9:10; 11:6; 16:9); (3) authority, absolute power, warrant (e.g. 11:6; 14:18); and (4) ruling or official power as exercised by kings and officials (e.g. 13:7; 17:12). In this context exousia stands for the Heb. s'mikhah ("leaning" or "laying"), a technical term for the ordination ceremony for a judge, elder or rabbi by a ceremony of laying on of hands (Stern 64). Ordination was conducted by a board of three elders, at least one of whom had also received s'mikah. An ordained rabbi was granted authority to determine points of halakhah or application of Torah. So Yeshua responds to the unasked question, “What kind of ordination did you receive that entitles you to grant forgiveness?"

on: Grk. epi, prep., expressing the idea of 'hovering,' used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'on, upon, over.' earth: Grk. can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the planet earth in contrast to the heavens (BAG 156). The LXX uses more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) “the land” in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). The earth is the location of God's redemptive activity and there is an intentional contrast with having authority in heaven.

to forgive: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. inf. See verse 5 above. sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia. See verse 5 above. The context suggests that Yeshua is asserting his authority to forgive, and his critics, seeing only a human, object to what amounts to a usurpation of divine authority. Yeshua's saying the "son of Man has authority to forgive" might be taken to mean, "As the cosmic judge from heaven the authority to condemn also gives me the authority to forgive." Yet, he does not say, "I forgive you." In later teaching he will emphasize that forgiveness comes from the Father (Matt 6:14) and Yeshua will request the Father's forgiveness for the ones who nailed him to the cross (Luke 23:34). In one other text, as here, he announces that someone has been forgiven (Luke 7:47), but Yeshua is the mediator, the ground of forgiveness. He is not the one who provides the forgiveness. He only announces what the Father has done.

Another factor to consider is that Yeshua was quite capable of loading a pronouncement with more than one layer of meaning. Yeshua may have meant that as the divine redeemer Son of Man he had the right to delegate the privilege and responsibility for granting forgiveness to other human beings. Examples of one person seeking forgiveness of another in the Tanakh are rare (Gen 50:17; 1Sam 25:28), but Yeshua makes it clear that kingdom living requires mutual forgiveness. Men are to forgive sins of those who trespass against them:

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions." (Mark 11:25)

“If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)

"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (John 20:23)

It is clear that the crowd understood this to be Yeshua's meaning, since Matthew's version records their reaction: "But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matt 9:8). This authority might be interpreted in two ways. First, Yeshua was saying that his critics could be forgiving toward the Am Ha-Aretz, "people of the land" who did not live by the traditions of the Sages and were therefore regarded as sinners. Second, by his example Yeshua asserts that men may pronounce forgiveness on God’s behalf for others who have not sinned against them personally, as long as they meet the perquisites of confession and repentance. The ministry of forgiveness belongs to all disciples since Yeshua is inaugurating a kingdom of priests originally envisioned at Sinai (Ex 19:6). It was never Yeshua's intention that forgiveness of sins (whether in penance or extreme unction) be the exclusive privilege of clergy.

He said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to the paralytic: Grk. paralutikos. See verse 3 above.

11 "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home."

I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. Get up: Grk. egeirō, pres. imp. See verse 9 above. Egeirō appears frequently in the Besekh in reference to resurrection. We might say that in a fig. sense Yeshua commands the man to take hold of resurrection power, since his healing would make a new life possible. pick up: Grk. airō, aor. imp. See verse 3 above. your pallet: Grk. krabattos. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. go: Grk. hupagō, pres. imp., to proceed from a position, here with the focus on an objective destination; go, go away, leave. The present tense means to start and keep on performing the action until fully accomplished. home: Grk. oikos. See verse 1 above. Yeshua accomplished the miracle with three succinct commands. The first command "get up" or "rise on your feet" accomplished the healing and the next two commands required the man to demonstrate his complete healing and become a responsible citizen.

12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

And: Grk. kai, conj. he got up: Grk. egeirō, aor. pass. See verse 9 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. immediately: Grk. euthus. See verse 8 above. picked up: Grk. airō, aor. part. See verse 3 above. the pallet: Grk. krabattos. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. in the sight of: Grk. emprosthen, adv., expresses position that is in front or ahead; before, in front of. everyone: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope; all, every. so that: Grk. hōste, conj., may be used to (1) introduce an independent clause that represents a consequence of the statement that precedes; for this reason, therefore, and so; or (2) introduces a dependent clause of an actual result; for the purpose of, with a view to, in order that.

they were all: pl. of Grk. pas. amazed: Grk. existēmi, pres. mid. inf., expresses the idea of causing or undergoing a psychological change outside normal expectation. In this context the verb means to make a profound impression on by astonishing, to be amazed. and: Grk. kai, conj. were glorifying: Grk. doxazō, pres. inf., (from doxa, 'glory') to enhance esteem or reputation, to praise or honor. In the LXX doxazō renders Heb. navah (SH-5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH-3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4). God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 7 above. Glorifying God means valuing Him for who He really is and personally acknowledging the greatness and goodness of God.

saying: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. We have never: Grk. oudepote, neg. adv., excluding any occurrence of action cited. seen: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 5 above. anything like this: Grk. houtōs, adv., thus, so, in this manner. The healed man did exactly as he was told in contrast to a few others who disobeyed the instruction of Yeshua after healing. The amazement and praise of the people naturally results from witnessing a great miracle of healing, but they can also be connected with the perspective expressed in Matthew 9:8 that authority to forgive has been granted to men.

13 And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them.

And He went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. See the previous verse. again: Grk. palin, adv., may mean (1) "back," when used with verbs involving motion; or (2) "again, once more, anew" when someone repeats something he has already done (BAG). The second meaning applies here. The adverb alludes to the narrative of Mark 1:16 when Yeshua called fishermen into service. by: Grk. para, prep. that conveys association; here used of proximity of place; beside, by the side of, near. The preposition does not imply being at the water's edge. the seashore: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies of water and inland bodies of water. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it.

In the LXX thalassa renders Heb. yam (SH-3220), "sea," which is used first in Genesis 1:10 for the great oceans that encompass the globe. The first named body of water called yam is the Salt Sea (Heb. Siddim, Gen 14:3), next the Red Sea (Ex 10:19), then the Mediterranean Sea (Num 13:29) and finally the inland Sea of Chinnereth (Num 34:11). Properly speaking Mark means the Sea of Galilee and not the point where the water meets the land, since he does not use aigialos (Matt 13:2) or cheilos (Heb 11:12), which has the meaning of beach or edge of the water. and all: Grk. pas, adj. See the previous verse. the people: Grk. ochlos. See verse 4 above. were coming: Grk. erchomai, impf. See verse 3 above. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110). Since the pronoun following is in the accusative case, then pros would have the meaning of being "in company with" (BAG). Him: Grk. autos, pers. pron.

and He was teaching: Grk. didaskō, impf., to teach or instruct, a verb used frequently of Yeshua. In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used primarily to render three Hebrew verbs: (1) lamad, "exercise in, learn, teach" (BDB 540), e.g., Deut 4:1; Psalm 94:10; 119:99; 144:1; (2) the Hiphal form of yada, "cause to know, teach" (BDB 393), e.g., Job 13:23; Prov 1:23; (3) yarah, "to throw, shoot, point out, direct, instruct" (BDB 434), e.g., Prov 4:4; 5:13; Isa 9:15; as well as six other Hebrew verbs (DNTT 3:760). In contrast with Greek education Jewish teaching since the time of Moses has been more concerned with communicating God's ethical demands than imparting information (DNTT 3:766). them: pl. of Grk. autos.

14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.

He saw Levi: Grk. Leui, Levi means "attached" in Hebrew (Gen 29:34). In the Tanakh, Levi is the third son of Jacob and Leah, and his tribe was a strong supporter of Moses during the wilderness years (Ex 32:26).The great apostle also bore the name Matthew (Grk. Matthaios, 3:18), the Greek form of the Hebrew name Mattiyahu, ("gift of YHVH"). Some early Greek MSS substitute Iakōbos ('Jacob') in this verse instead of Leui, including the Diatessaron (2nd cent.) and Origen (3rd cent.) (GNT 125). Metzger says this reading in Western witnesses shows the influence of 3:18, where Iakōbon ton tou Alphaiou ('Jacob son of Alphaeus') is included among the twelve (66). For more on the background of Levi-Matthew see the Witnesses of the Good News.

the son of Alphaeus: Grk. Alphaios, lit. "of Alphaios." The word for "son" does not appear in the Greek text, so it's not clear whether Alphaios was the father or a more distant ancestor. This relation made Levi-Matthew either a brother or close relative of the apostle Jacob ("James") the Less, also "of Alphaeus" (Mark 3:18). sitting in the tax booth: Levi was working as a tax collector in Capernaum at the time of his call (Matt 10:3). At this time Jewish tax collectors in Judea worked directly for the Imperial Treasury under the supervision of foreign publicani and assisted in the census taking and collecting the taxes that had been assessed. However, in Galilee tax collectors served Herod Antipas directly. Jewish tax collectors were independent contractors, not civil servants, and earned their income from fees charged to individual taxpayers for banking services.

The toll-house in Capernaum where Matthew worked was an important center commanding both the routes from the Sea of Galilee and also the great land road that ran from Damascus to the Mediterranean, the "way of the sea" (Matt 4:15). Custom could thus be levied on all goods carried by ship or caravan. Tariff rates on travel and commerce were often vague and indefinite, and this arbitrariness made the system oppressive. Archaeological evidence from the region concern the toll on fish, and it is possible that a toll on catches of fish was collected at Capernaum as well. If so, Matthew would have known the fishermen-disciples, and probably Yeshua himself, who used Capernaum as his headquarters. This would explain Matthew's immediate and total response to Yeshua's call to discipleship (DNTT 3:757).

What isn't explained is how Matthew, especially if he was a Levite, should become a tax collector. As a tax collector he would have been literate in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin, experienced in keeping records and probably knew shorthand.

15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.

He was reclining at the table: Mark describes the typical manner for eating a meal in ancient times. Sitting in chairs at a table is a much later invention. This scene may be difficult to appreciate by modern believers who have little social contact with unbelievers. Here the holy Son of God is having fellowship with people considered notorious. and many tax collectors: pl. of Grk. telōnēs, a revenue or tax officer. See the note on the previous verse. and sinners: pl. of Grk. hamartōlos, one who fails to meet religious or legal standards. The religious leaders couldn’t understand why Yeshua would go to the home of anyone believed to be a sinner. The meaning of "sinner" is important to establish. In the Tanakh the term “sinner” (Heb. chatta) referred to someone who willfully violated Torah commandments, and which tended toward habitual practice. In the apostolic writings hamartōlos equates to the Hebrew word, but has a broader usage and can mean essentially an outsider relative to the “in-group.”

Among the Pharisees, the ultimate "in-group," the category of "sinner" included prostitutes and thieves, persons of low reputation, and Sabbath violators. Indeed, habitual violation of traditions they considered important was enough to label a person as a "sinner." Some Pharisees were outraged because Yeshua associated with “sinners” and even allowed one to touch Him (Matt 9:11; Luke 7:39). Eventually they labeled Yeshua a sinner because he healed on the Sabbath (John 9:16). Modern Christians commit the same error by including mistakes or falling short of God's perfection as sin and therefore believers are never allowed to escape the label of "sinner." When one begins to call light dark, then the meaning of "sinner" loses its force.

with Jesus: Yeshua. and His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs ('mah-thay-tays;' from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives. In the LXX mathētēs occurs only in two alternate readings of Jeremiah 13:21 and 20:11 (BAG). The corresponding Hebrew noun is talmid ('tahl-meed,' SH-8527), scholar or pupil, derived from the verb lamad (SH-3925), to teach or to learn. In the Tanakh talmid occurs only in 1Chronicles 25:8 where it refers to Levites being trained in musical duties. In that passage the LXX translates talmid with the participial form of manthanō.

In the first century the talmid was a devoted pupil of a Torah scholar or Rhabbi (see the note on verse 38 below). The focus of the talmid was not just on the written laws of the Torah but the traditions of the fathers, referred to as the Oral Torah (Shabbath 31a). In the history of the Israelite people recorded in the Tanakh the Hebrew prophets had no disciples. This is illustrated by the fact that the attendants of Moses and the prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha and Jeremiah, were not called students, but servants (Ex 24:12; Num 11:28; 1Kgs 19:19-21; 2Kgs 4:12; Jer 32:12-13). In fact, the "sons of the prophets" functioned more like a guild (2Kgs 6:1-3) (TDNT 4:428). What bound the guild together was the power of the Holy Spirit (1Sam 10:10-12; 19:20-22).

However, with the development of Phariseeism in the intertestamental period when the voice of God was silent, the authority of biblical prophets diminished, and was replaced by the authority of notable Jewish scholars, called Sages (B.B. 12a; cf. John 8:53). By the first century Torah scholars considered themselves authorities in their own right and the only task of a talmid was to acquire knowledge from his teacher (Avot 2:8). In ancient times it was not a talmid who signed up for a particular rabbi. When a rabbi could see a promising student as a possible talmid, then the rabbi would himself issue the call (Kasdan 103). In Rabbinic Judaism the rabbi of talmidim was not itinerate. Rather he operated a school which talmidim attended. The most noted Rabbi-teachers of the first century were Hillel and Shammai. The Judean authorities noted that Yeshua and his disciples had not been students at any of their academies (John 7:15; 9:29; Acts 4:13).

Becoming a talmid of a notable Torah scholar would radically change a man's life. (The academies did not admit women.) A talmid had to leave family and friends to be with his rabbi. In Jewish culture studying Torah was as important as honoring one's parents, and leaving home to study Torah with a rabbi was even more important. In fact, the rabbi was to be honored above the disciple's own father, since his father only brought him into the life of this world, whereas his teacher, who taught him wisdom [i.e., Torah], has brought him into the life of the world to come (Baba Metzia 2:13). A particular hardship of a married talmid was being away from his wife.  Since a wife had conjugal rights (Ex 21:10), a man needed the permission of his wife to leave home for longer than thirty days to study with a Sage (Ketubot 5:6).

and they were following: Grk. akoloutheo, impf., may mean (1) to be in motion in sequence behind someone, to follow, or (2) to be in close association with someone, especially as a disciple. Him: Grk. autos, pers. pron. The expectations of the talmid applied to the disciples of Yeshua, but following Yeshua required four particular qualities. First, to be a disciple required sacrifice. Traveling the country meant leaving behind family, security and living under austere conditions. This was not a life of luxury. Simon Peter alluded to his sacrifice when he spoke of leaving everything to follow Yeshua (Matt 19:27). The rich young ruler was not willing to pay this price to be a disciple (Matt 19:21-22). Second, to be a disciple required commitment. Devotion to the rabbi came before all other obligations (Luke 9:57-61; 14:26). Once the commitment was made turning back would have been equivalent to rebellion against God (Luke 9:62). The disciple left behind his ordinary life and embraced an extraordinary life with Yeshua.

Third, to be a disciple required humility. A talmid came to the rabbi with an inquiring mind, a desire to know. He did not have answers, but he sought answers about God and spiritual things. He knew the rabbi had the answers (John 6:68). This humility is illustrated by the rabbinic saying "Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4; translation by Bivin 12). Miriam, sister of Martha, demonstrated this humility when she sat at the feet of Yeshua (Luke 10:39). Since Yeshua is the truth (John 14:6), he has the answers we seek. Fourth, to be a disciple required obedience. The rabbi's will became the disciple’s will. The rabbi directed, the disciple obeyed. The only authority greater in the disciple's life would be God. Similarly, Yeshua expected his disciples to obey everything he commanded without exception (Matt 28:19).

16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?"

When the scribes: Grk. grammateus. See the note on verse 6 above and 1:22. The scribes mentioned here either belonged to the party of the Pharisees or provided or provided secretarial services for Pharisees. The Sadducees had similar interpreters of the Torah (Lane 104). of the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios which translates the Heb. p'rushim, meaning “separatists.” The title was born of the fact that they separated themselves from the common people of the land who did not tithe, were ritually impure and knew nothing of the Torah (Law). They traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra. However, when the Pharisees arose as a party is difficult to determine. Josephus first mentions them as present in the time of Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus (Ant. XIII, 5:9). In the books of Maccabees they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6).

There were many aspects of Phariseeism with which Yeshua would have agreed. They believed in resurrection and immortality, and the importance of living a holy life. They regarded Greek ideas as abominations. The Pharisees accepted the traditions of the Sages as having equal authority as the written Torah. While "scribes" are often distinguished from Pharisees in apostolic narratives, here Mark identifies the critical Pharisees as being scribes. Josephus estimated that there were at least six thousand Pharisees in the Land (Ant. XVII, 2:4). There were several Pharisaic communities in Jerusalem (Jeremias 252). In addition, Pharisee rabbis had many disciples throughout Israel and the Diaspora.

Many Christians equate the term Pharisee with being synonymous with hypocrite or legalist, as if Christians have never been guilty of legalistic definitions of ethics and sinful behavior. There are many verses in the apostolic narratives that depict certain Pharisees in a bad light, as a concordance search can easily reveal. Even the Jewish Sages spoke harshly against seven types of hypocritical Pharisees (Avot 5:9; Sot. 22b). To many Pharisees almsgiving, long prayers, twice-weekly fasting and tithing were the most important components of righteous living (Matt 23:14, 23; Luke 18:12), all of them done in a manner designed to gain attention (Matt 6:16:1-2, 5-7, 16). These were the sort of adversaries with whom Yeshua contended.

Unfortunately, we know far more about the ones who harassed Yeshua than we do about his supporters among the Pharisees, like Nicodemus (John 3:1; 7:50-51), and the unnamed Pharisees who warned Yeshua of a plot by Herod to kill him (Luke 13:31). The good ones went about their daily lives focused on serving God and didn’t bother Yeshua, so we don’t have their stories. To impugn every Pharisee of that time with the same negative judgment would be unfair. While the Pharisees had many teachings with which Yeshua agreed and he enjoined his disciples to respect their authority (Matt 23:2), he also warned his disciples to avoid the hypocrisy found among so many Pharisees. (For a lengthy treatment of the Pharisee party see Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church; Lederer Books, 1996.)

He was eating: Grk. esthiō, pres. act. part., to consume food. with the sinners: See the note on the previous verse. and tax collectors: Grk. telōnēs, a revenue or tax officer. See the notes on the two previous verses. Why is He eating and drinking: The words "and drinking" do not occur in the earliest Greek manuscripts, but is a "natural accretion inserted by copyists, perhaps under the influence of the parallel passage in Luke 5:30" (Metzger 67). with tax collectors and sinners? Jewish tax collectors were considered sinners, primarily because of who they worked for, not their fiduciary integrity. Moreover, the tax collectors were disobeying the Torah prohibition of numbering and thus helping to perpetuate tyranny of the Romans and the Herods. Paying taxes using the Roman coins with Caesar’s imprint was tantamount to declaring that Caesar replaced God as the rightful King of Israel. Finally, the taxes being collected were regarded as too heavy and the equivalent of robbery. By virtue of this viewpoint a tax collector was automatically considered a robber and therefore a "sinner."

Being labeled a "sinner" the Jewish tax collector faced a number of restrictions. He was generally a religious outcast, which meant he would be unable to attend synagogue services. He could not serve as a judge or give testimony as a witness in a court case. No alms would be accepted from him if the money came from tax profits. Living as a pariah to the religious elite one can easily understand how tax collectors, such as Matthew, were happy to have Yeshua's company.

It is ironic that Christian interpreters give any credence to these hostile witnesses when their uncharitable religious exclusiveness is uniformly condemned in commentaries on the parable of the Good Samaritan. While commentators generally assume that the Jewish tax collectors in the first century were all crooks, nowhere in the apostolic writings is the integrity of any Jewish tax collector impugned nor is any tax collector actually accused of theft. To shred someone's reputation with broad generalizations and no evidence of actual wrongdoing is called defamation.

17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Yeshua rebuked his critics using irony. These hypocrites could not see their own need of spiritual reformation. He reminds his adversaries that his mission is really the same as Yochanan the Immerser.

18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"

John's: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan and means “the Lord is gracious,” an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). For more background information on Yochanan the Immerser see the note on Mark 1:4. disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs. See verse 15 above. The mention of disciples indicates that Yochanan was considered a rabbi as well as a prophet. and the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios. See the note on verse 16 above. were fasting: Grk. nēsteuō, pres. act. part., to abstain from food and drink, generally for a religious purpose, which the LXX uses to render Heb. tsūm (e.g., 1Sam 7:6), to abstain from food or to fast. Sometimes Scripture simply refers to “eating no bread and drinking no water” (Ex 34:28; Ezra 10:6; cf. Luke 7:33; Acts 9:9).

The Torah offers no direct guidance on fasting. See my article Fasting in the Bible. The only assumed fast-day prescribed by Torah is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:2-31; 23:26-32). Israelites were to “humble” (Heb. anah, lit. "afflict" or "bow down") their "souls" (Lev 16:29). In Hebrew thought man does not have a soul but is a soul; therefore to afflict one’s soul could also mean afflicting one’s body by self-denial (Lev 16:29), or it could simply mean to bow down to the instruction of God for this day. Ironically, the legislation on the Day of Atonement nowhere specifies fasting. In context the humbling meant to treat the day as a Sabbath, refraining from all work. Given the seriousness of the occasion humbling oneself would certainly include reflecting on one's need for atonement.

Scripture records the voluntary fasts of many individuals, usually in extreme situations, but obligatory fasts had become a regular part of Jewish religious life by the first century. John’s disciples are described as engaging in fasting (Mark 2:18), presumably in addition to the obligatory fasts as the Pharisees, although no further information is provided. Pharisees fasted at least two times per week (Luke 18:12), which in the time of Yeshua fell on the second day (Monday) and fifth day (Thursday) of the week. (It couldn’t be on the seventh day, since it was the Sabbath, or the sixth day as it was the day of preparation for the Sabbath and not on the fourth day since weddings normally occurred on that day. Monday and Thursday were market days and when court hearings were held so there would be a greater audience for gaining attention to the fasting.

Why … your disciples do not fast: The verb is present tense implying an assumption that fasting should be a regular practice. Apparently Yeshua's disciples did not fast in the same manner or frequency as the Pharisees and the disciples of Yochanan and they were highly offended. As in the case of the grainfield controversy it is the disciples of Yeshua that are the primary focus of criticism. Yet, Yeshua as their rabbi should have instructed his disciples to fast, making him in his critics eyes less spiritual than Yochanan.

19 And Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

In response to the criticism Yeshua employs two parables, although they're not specifically identified as such. While the bridegroom: Grk. numphios, a bridegroom (derived from numphē, bride), which may be distinguished from anēr, "husband." In the LXX numphios renders Heb. chatan 9 times (SH-2860, daughter's husband, bridegroom, son-in-law, Judg 19:5; Ps 19:5; Isa 61:10; 62:5; Jer 7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11; Joel 2:16) and numphē renders Heb. kallah (SH-3618, daughter-in-law, bride, SS 4:8; 5:1; Isa 49:18; 62:5). The use of numphios emphasizes the betrothal stage of marriage that culminates with nisuin or taking his bride. The bridegroom is the one who goes into the nuptial chamber for consummation with his bride (cf. Ps 19:5; Joel 2:16).

Using the term in a fig. sense Yeshua, although never married, clearly identifies himself with a bridegroom. Yeshua no doubt alludes to the word picture of the divine bridegroom in the Tanakh. In Ezekiel 16 YHVH describes himself as performing the duties of a bridegroom in the various stages of an Israelite marriage (verses 8-13). In the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 61 the Anointed One compares himself with a bridegroom (verse 10), which is certainly germane here. In so doing, Yeshua equates himself with God.

the attendants pl. of Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry, lit. "sons." The term is used here in a fig. sense. of the bridegroom: Grk. numphōn, lit. bride-chamber." The bride-chamber can refer to either a room where the wedding celebration is held or to the nuptial chamber, which applies in this example. The attendants or "companions of the bridegroom" (Heb. Shoshbenin) are mentioned only a few times in Scripture and the Apocrypha (cf. Judg 14:11; Luke 5:34; John 3:29; 1Macc 9:39). The companions would bring the bridegroom gifts and rejoice with him, and then their services and gifts were reciprocated on the occasion of their marriages (B.B. 144b, fn. 20; Ket. 12a). In addition, they remained with him at all times to keep him sober and even brought him to the bridal chamber in a joyous procession when it was time for consummation. They would later verify the tokens of virginity. Thus, they could be called upon as witnesses to attest to the bridegroom's integrity and the bride's virginity.

they cannot fast: In ancient times fasting would not have had any place in a wedding, whether in its preparations or its celebration. Why would the bridegroom or the attendants fast on such a joyous occasion? There is irony in Yeshua's analogy, because as the parable continues into the next verse one would expect Yeshua to speak of the bride.

20 "But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

But the days will come: This phrase asserts a prophetic certainty. when the bridegroom is taken away: Grk. apairō, aor. pass. subj., to lift, raise up, to lift off, hence the aspect of removal. In context the verb most likely refers to the lifting up of Yeshua on the cross. from them: the reference likely summarizes the arrest of Yeshua when he was taken away from his disciples and he did not seem them again until after his resurrection. and then they will fast: Grk. nēsteuō, fut. See the note on verse 18 above. in that day: Grk. hēmera normally refers to the daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place. “That day” is generally used in Scripture of the particular day of the week or a day connected to the religious calendar.

Yeshua no doubt intended this statement literally as the day of his crucifixion. On that day while the rest of Jerusalem was celebrating the festival of Passover with delicious meals, the disciples would fast as a result of their grief. How could the disciples eat a fellowship meal and celebrate when all their hopes and dreams had been suddenly extinguished? Yeshua delivers the punch line of this parable in a subtle but powerful way. For all intents and purposes Yeshua has just made the twice-weekly fasting of the Pharisees unimportant and irrelevant. His disciples would not be fasting for ritual sake or as a virtue to prove their righteousness to God. Perhaps in the future instead of fasting on Yom Kippur the disciples would fast in humility on the day of Yeshua's crucifixion.

21 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.

Yeshua offers a second parable in proverbial form. No one sews: Grk. epiraptō, to sew on or sew together. a patch: Grk. epiblēma, something thrown over, covering; a piece of cloth used to cover. of unshrunk cloth: Grk. agnophos, new, that which was not treated by the fuller, "a patch of undressed cloth" (Rienecker). on an old: Grk. palaios, old, a relative term for time past meaning much earlier than the present time.

garment: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). In the Tanakh beged meant garment, clothing, raiment, or robe of any kind, from the filthy clothing of the leper to the holy robes of the High Priest, the simplest covering of the poor as well as the costly raiment of the rich and noble (BDB 94). For Yeshua the beged was a simple rectangular cloak or robe, typically made of wool, that was worn daily. It had no connection to prayer at all. The himation was worn over an undergarment, Grk. chitōn (Matt 5:40). In the LXX chitōn renders Heb. kethoneth, "tunic," the principal ordinary garment made of linen and worn next to the skin by both men and women (BDB 509).

In post-biblical times the outer garment came to be known as a tallit, based on a loanword from Aramaic meaning "cover," but this word does not occur in the Tanakh. Beginning in Talmudic times the tallit for centuries was a full-body cloak similar to the Roman pallium and worn only by distinguished men, scholars and rabbis (B.B. 57b, 98a). The tallit took on religious significance and was not just an item of apparel. The smaller ceremonial tallit (prayer shawl) donned in synagogue services and worn over the shoulders did not come into vogue until modern times. Contrary to some modern Christian teachers Yeshua never wore a tallit of any kind. otherwise the patch: Grk. plērōma, that which is there as a result of filling, fullness. pulls away from it: Grk. airō. See verse 9 above. The entire clause would be lit. "otherwise takes the fullness from itself" (Marshall).

the new: Grk. kainos, of recent origin or different and superior in quality relative to something "old." from the old: Grk. palaios. The contrast is repeated. and a worse tear: Grk. schisma, something that is in parts through force. results: Grk. ginomai, to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The aorist tense signifies the completed action in past time, that is, creation was completed and is not now occurring as evolutionists claim. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961, to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be), e.g., 22 times in Genesis 1.

This verse and the next speak to the issue of whether faith in Yeshua the Messiah can be combined with the traditions and value system of the Pharisees. Christian expositors typically suggest that Yeshua is proposing a new religion, Christianity, to replace the old religion of Judaism. Such a conclusion totally ignores the context of the controversy between Yeshua and the Pharisees. The issue was not the Torah, but rabbinic interpretations and applications of Torah.

In context, then, the "old garment" is Phariseeism. It's really not accurate to speak of Judaism, because at this time there were many Judaisms. There were the Sadducees vs. the Pharisees, the Essenes vs. the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Zealots vs. the Herodians, and a variety of other groups with their own interpretations of Torah. The religion of Pharisaic Judaism did not really become codified until early in the second century under the leadership of Rabbi Akiva (Gruber-Akiva 24). The "unshrunk cloth" is faith and life in the Messiah which has not been conformed or adapted (“shrunk”) to the framework of the Pharisees. Unshrunk does not mean "less than Jewish" because early Jewish disciples were devoted to keeping Torah (Acts 20:21).

Yeshua does not imply that there is anything wrong with patching an old coat! Combining faith (and faithfulness) grounded in Messiah Yeshua with the legalism of Pharisaic Judaism (and its eventual heir of Rabbinic Judaism) simply doesn’t work. Attempting to change Messianic faith to satisfy Pharisaic Judaism leaves both Judaisms worse off than before. On the other hand, the early Messianic Jews did adapt their Judaism to their Messianic faith, thereby improving their Judaism. Unfortunately, the later Gentile Church rejected any connection to its Jewish roots. As Stern rightly points out, some forms of Gentile Christianity became paganized precisely because the Torah was forgotten or underemphasized (35).

22 "No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."

The third parable employs a careful choice of words. No one puts new: Grk. neos, in existence for a relatively short time, something recently made. wine: Grk. oinos, the fermented beverage of wine made from grapes. Wine was a popular beverage in ancient times and in Israelite culture featured especially in tabernacle or temple sacrifices (Ex 29:40). Some Bible expositors have asserted that the Hebrew and Greek words used to mean "wine," especially "new wine," actually referred to grape juice. However, the pasteurization process to prevent fermentation of grape juice wasn't discovered until the 19th century. In Scripture "wine" always refers to the fermented beverage regardless of its age, which explains why there were warnings about overindulgence (Prov 20:1) and prohibitions of drinking in some ceremonies (Lev 10:9).

into old: Grk. palaios. See the previous verse. wineskins: Grk. askos, skin or hide, which refers to one of the products of careful application to a task, with 'bottle, bag' produced frequently a container for wine. The corresponding Hebrew word nod meant a skin bottle for storing and transporting liquids. Old wineskins have lost their strength and elasticity, so that they cannot withstand the pressure of new wine still fermenting, although an old wineskin can be restored to service if its useful qualities are renewed (Stern 37).

For Jews the wine bottle would have to be made from a ritually clean animal. The mention of wineskin naturally alludes to the profession of tanning (Acts 9:43; 10:6), which offers a certain irony to Yeshua's proverb. Tanners were exempt from appearing at the Temple on pilgrimage festivals because their unpleasant odor prevented them from going up with all the men (Hag. 7b). Though generally despised as a profession (Kidd. 82a), the tanner's trade was very necessary to make not only ordinary items like sandals, shoes, animal straps and harnesses, and wineskins, but also the ritually important Torah scrolls, straps that comprise the phylacteries (Ex 16:13), and the contents of mezuzot, the parchment of Scripture contained in a decorative case and attached to a doorpost (Deut 6:9)

Yeshua contrasts new wine, and fresh (Grk. kainos) wineskins. Kainos means “new” or “renewed” in respect to quality, contrasting with “old” or “not renewed” and implying superiority. Yeshua makes the same point as in v. 16, except in reverse. If Pharisaic Judaism is to please God it must be adjusted to Messianic faith. If one tries to put "new wine," Messianic faith, into "old wineskins," Pharisaic Judaism, then both suffer loss. It's important to remember that Yeshua was speaking with his fellow Jews. Messianic living cannot be poured into old religious forms if they remain rigid. But if the old religious forms become “fresh,” they can honor Yeshua. The "new wineskins," then, does not refer to a Gentilized Christianity, but a transformed Judaism with Messianic faith. Beginning with that context application can be made to Christianity. Every church has its own man-made traditions and rules and Christians can be ever as much legalistic as the ancient Pharisees were. True faith must be grounded in the written Word of God and the living Word of God.

23 And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain.

And it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See the note on verse 21 above. that He was passing: Grk. paraporeuomai, pres. mid. inf., to make one's way. Mounce has to pass by the side of, to pass along. through: Grk. dia, prep., by means of, through. the grainfields: pl. of Grk. sporimos, in a sown state or condition, here of wheat fields. on the Sabbath: Grk. Sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (DNTT 3:405), which is derived from the verb shabath ("cease, desist, rest" BDB 991). Sabbaton generally refers to the seventh day Sabbath, but all the appointed times on the Hebrew calendar, including the first and last days of week-long festivals, were considered sabbaths (Lev 23). The Sabbath, according to the Fourth Commandment, was a day to desist from the work that provides one's livelihood. See my web article Remember the Sabbath for a complete discussion of this subject.

His disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs. Seeverse 15 above. began: Grk. archō, aor. mid., may mean (1) to rule or (2) to begin or commence something, which applies here. to make: Grk. poieō, pres. inf., a verb of physical action that here means to be active in bringing about a state of condition, such as carrying out an obligation or responsibility; do, act, perform, work. their way along: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling; journey, way, trip. The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (way, road, journey). while picking: Grk. tillō, pres. part., to extract from a place of growth, of removing kernels from ripening grain; pluck, pull out. the heads of grain: pl. of Grk. stachus, the head or spike of a cereal plant containing its seed.

It is noteworthy that Mark says that Yeshua was "passing through" on the Sabbath. Travel on the Sabbath was limited to 2,000 cubits from a town's boundary (Sotah 5:3; Erubin 15a; 42b; 44b). The distance limit was drawn from two passages in the Tanakh: Numbers 35:5 and Joshua 3:4-5. Yeshua was not criticized for violating the Sabbath limit, so the fields would have been located outside a village within that limit.

24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?"

For Jews the seventh day has always been the most important day of the week. The argument in this story was not over whether it was permitted to pick grain by hand from someone else’s field, for that is expressly allowed by Deuteronomy 23:25, but whether it could be done on the Sabbath. At issue behind this seemingly minor matter is whether the Pharisaic tradition—later committed to writing in the Mishnah —is God’s revelation to man and binding on all Jews. According to the Mishnah thirty-nine categories of work are prohibited on the Sabbath.

"The primary labors are forty less one, [viz.:] sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, bleaching, hackling, dyeing, spinning, stretching the threads, the making of two meshes, weaving two threads, dividing two threads, tying [knotting] and untying, sewing two stitches, tearing in order to sew two stitches, capturing a deer, slaughtering, or flaying, or salting it, curing its hide, scraping it [of its hair], cutting it up, writing two letters, erasing in order to write two letters [over the erasure], building, pulling down, extinguishing, kindling, striking with a hammer, [and] carrying out from one domain to another: these are the forty primary labors less one." (Shab. 7:2)

The 39 categories of work forbidden on the Sabbath have something in common —they prohibit any activity that is creative or that exercises control or dominion over one’s environment. When based on the principle that when God rested on the seventh day he ceased his creating. However, some of these rules go far beyond what God must have intended. God himself works on the Sabbath to preserve all our lives. In historical context its important to note that the first 11 categories are activities required to bake bread. The next 13 categories are activities required to make a garment. The next nine categories are activities required to make leather. The final six categories are activities required to build a house.

The actions of the disciples, by the above legalistic standard, violated two of the forbidden categories of work: reaping and threshing. The story narrative says the disciples were plucking the heads of grain, which is reaping; in the parallel passage in Luke (Luke 6:1) they were also rubbing the heads of grain together in their hands, which would be defined as threshing. You’ll notice that it was the disciples, not Yeshua, who were less strict in their observance of the tradition and therefore the target of criticism. Yeshua was being held responsible because he allowed it to happen.

25 And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?"

Have you never read: Yeshua did not respond with a negative attitude to the critics, but responds with a rhetorical question. He reminds them there were legitimate occasions when one could violate the rules for keeping the Sabbath. This was a matter of debate in the first century among rabbis and not a completely settled issue. Some Jewish authorities were more strict than others. Yeshua defended his disciples’ actions based on the actions of David who ate the bread of the presence, which is only for priests, on the Sabbath. Jewish commentators had justified David’s actions because of a life-threatening hunger of he and his men. Of course, the bread wouldn’t be there except that the priests baked the bread on the Sabbath, which was unlawful for everyone else to do. The law expressly forbid lighting a fire for cooking in private dwellings. The Pharisees believed that saving a life trumps all requirements of the Torah (Yom. 85a), and Yeshua appeals to this principle.

There is actually little guidance in the Torah as to how to observe the Sabbath. Even the Mishnah acknowledges that there are "scant" Scriptures on the Sabbath, but many halakhot (rabbinic laws) for observance (Hag. 1:5). We may reasonably assume that the work we are to rest from is the work that has occupied us during the six days preceding the Sabbath. Yeshua and his disciples were hungry and they took advantage of an available food source.

27 Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was made for man: Yeshua went on to make a profound statement. The Sabbath was created, as recorded simply in Genesis.

"By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." (Gen 2:2-3)

God hallowed this day for the sake of man from the beginning and has never unmade it. If anyone reading this verse takes note of the wording (use a magnifying glass if needed), one can easily see that Yeshua does not insert any words that cancel or change the day of week for observing the Sabbath. Rejecting the Sabbath is tantamount to rejecting God's gift. See my article Remember the Sabbath for more on the background and importance of this day.

not man for the Sabbath: Yeshua rebukes his critics for abusing the gift of God and by their definition of thirty-nine categories of work changing a day of rest into a day of oppression. Yeshua's disciples did not violate Torah. Yeshua's rebuttal literally says, “The Sabbath was made for Adam [and his descendants], and not Adam [and his descendants] for the Sabbath. So ben Adam is master even of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was observed long before God made it a sign of his covenant with Israel. God knew that people needed rest from labor to sustain life. It is interesting that the ruling of Yeshua is reflected by a famous Jewish rabbi, Ishmael ben Elisha in the early second century who said, “The Sabbath has been handed over to you, not you to the Sabbath” (Flusser 39).

28 "So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

So the son of man: See the note on verse 10 above. is lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In personal address kurios may be translated as "sir" to express recognition of or submission to superior rank. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, principally to translate Heb. words for God. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces the Heb. Sacred Name Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey. In addition, kurios stands in for the divine titles Adonai, Elohim, El and Eloah. In contrast to its use for deity kurios also renders Heb. adon (owner, master) 310 times, 190 of which refers to men in general recognition of superiority (DNTT 2:511).

Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. Unbelieving Jews would have called him kurios out of respect. However, expectant Jews would call Yeshua adon because the Messiah would rule over Israel. Yet, in this context it is not certain that Yeshua was referring to himself. There is only one occasion in which Yeshua referred to himself clearly as "lord" (John 13:13-14).

even of the Sabbath: Yeshua shocked His adversaries by informing them that the "son of man" is lord of the Sabbath. People generally assume that Yeshua was speaking of himself, reflected by the capitalization of "Son" and "Man," but "son of man" was a common idiom for "human being." Thus, Yeshua meant that the individual disciple is given authority by God to determine how to keep the Sabbath (cf. Matt 9:8; Col 2:16).

Every disciple as a son of Adam is the master of his or her Sabbath-keeping. That is, it is the individual’s responsibility to determine the manner of observance. Yeshua did not cancel the Sabbath and he did not cancel the necessity to rest from our labor. This controversy is important. If we are going to obey God’s commandments we must determine what work to avoid on the Sabbath. This is true just as much if you consider Sunday, the Lord’s Day, as your sabbath. Otherwise, why call the Lord’s Day a sabbath if we don’t honor it according to God’s Word.

If you consider the example of Yeshua, what activities are appropriate to the Sabbath: worship, studying God’s word, doing good to the bodies and souls of others, simple rest, enjoying nature, and family activities.

Copyright © 2012-2016 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.