Mark 12

The Parable of the Tenants

Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
he began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard.
The vineyard is a figure for Israel in the OT (Isa 5:1–7). The nation and its leaders are the tenants, so the vineyard here may well refer to the promise that resides within the nation. The imagery is like that in Rom 11:11–24.
He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
he leased it to tenant farmers
The leasing of land to tenant farmers was common in this period.
and went on a journey.
At harvest time he sent a slave
See the note on the word “slave” in 10:44.
This slave (along with the others) represent the prophets God sent to the nation, who were mistreated and rejected.
to the tenants to collect from them
Grk “from the tenants,” but this is redundant in English, so the pronoun (“them”) was used in the translation.
his portion of the crop.
Grk “from the fruits of the vineyard.”
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
those tenants
Grk “But they”; the referent (the tenants, v. 1) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
seized his slave,
Grk “seizing him, they beat and sent away empty-handed.” The referent of the direct object of “seizing” (the slave sent by the owner) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The objects of the verbs “beat” and “sent away” have been supplied in the translation to conform to English style. Greek often omits direct objects when they are clear from the context.
beat him,
The image of the tenants beating up the owner’s slave pictures the nation’s rejection of the prophets and their message.
and sent him away empty-handed.
The slaves being sent empty-handed suggests that the vineyard was not producing any fruit - and thus neither was the nation of Israel.
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of the tenants’ mistreatment of the first slave.
he sent another slave to them again. This one they struck on the head and treated outrageously.
He sent another, and that one they killed. This happened to many others, some of whom were beaten, others killed. He had one left, his one dear son.
Grk “one beloved son.” See comment at Mark 1:11.
The owner’s decision to send his one dear son represents God sending Jesus.
Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours!’ So
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous action(s) in the narrative.
they seized him,
Grk “seizing him.” The participle λαβόντες (labontes) has been translated as attendant circumstance.
killed him, and threw his body
Grk “him.”
out of the vineyard.
Throwing the heir’s body out of the vineyard pictures Jesus’ death outside of Jerusalem.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy
The statement that the owner will come and destroy those tenants is a promise of judgment; see Luke 13:34–35; 19:41–44.
those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
The warning that the owner would give the vineyard to others suggests that the care of the promise and the nation’s hope would be passed to others. This eventually looks to Gentile inclusion; see Eph 2:11–22.
10 Have you not read this scripture:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Or “capstone,” “keystone.” Although these meanings are lexically possible, the imagery in Eph 2:20–22 and 1 Cor 3:11 indicates that the term κεφαλὴ γωνίας (kefalē gōnias) refers to a cornerstone, not a capstone.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The use of Ps 118:22–23 and the “stone imagery” as a reference to Christ and his suffering and exaltation is common in the NT (see also Matt 21:42; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:6–8; cf. also Eph 2:20). The irony in the use of Ps 118:22–23 in Mark 12:10–11 is that in the OT, Israel was the one rejected (or perhaps her king) by the Gentiles, but in the NT it is Jesus who is rejected by Israel.

11  This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes ’?”
A quotation from Ps 118:22–23.

12 Now
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to introduce a somewhat parenthetical remark by the author.
they wanted to arrest him (but they feared the crowd), because they realized that he told this parable against them. So
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous action(s) in the narrative.
they left him and went away.
The point of the parable in Mark 12:1–12 is that the leaders of the nation have been rejected by God and the vineyard (v. 9, referring to the nation and its privileged status) will be taken from them and given to others (an allusion to the Gentiles).

Paying Taxes to Caesar

13  Then
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
they sent some of the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 2:16.
and Herodians
Pharisees and Herodians made a very interesting alliance. W. W. Wessel (“Mark,” EBC 8:733) comments: “The Herodians were as obnoxious to the Pharisees on political grounds as the Sadducees were on theological grounds. Yet the two groups united in their opposition to Jesus. Collaboration in wickedness, as well as goodness, has great power. Their purpose was to trip Jesus up in his words so that he would lose the support of the people, leaving the way open for them to destroy him.” See also the note on “Herodians” in Mark 3:6.
to trap him with his own words.
Grk “trap him in word.”
14 When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor, because you show no partiality
Grk “and it is not a concern to you about anyone because you do not see the face of men.”
but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
Teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Very few comments are as deceitful as this one; they did not really believe this at all. The question of the Pharisees and Herodians was specifically designed to trap Jesus.
Is it right
Or “lawful,” that is, in accordance with God’s divine law. On the syntax of ἔξεστιν (exestin) with an infinitive and accusative, see BDF #409.3.
to pay taxes
According to L&N 57.180 the term κῆνσος (kēnsos) was borrowed from Latin and referred to a poll tax, a tax paid by each adult male to the Roman government.
This question concerning taxes was specifically designed to trap Jesus. If he answered yes, then his opponents could publicly discredit him as a sympathizer with Rome. If he answered no, then they could go to the Roman governor and accuse Jesus of rebellion.
to Caesar
Or “the emperor” (“Caesar” is a title for the Roman emperor).
or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
15 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said
Grk “Aware of their hypocrisy he said.”
to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius
Here the specific name of the coin was retained in the translation, because not all coins in circulation in Palestine at the time carried the image of Caesar. In other places δηνάριον (dēnarion) has been translated simply as “silver coin” with an explanatory note.
A denarius was a silver coin stamped with the image of the emperor and worth approximately one day’s wage for a laborer.
and let me look at it.”
16 So
Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate their response to Jesus’ request for a coin.
they brought one, and he said to them, “Whose image
Or “whose likeness.”
In this passage Jesus points to the image (Grk εἰκών, eikōn) of Caesar on the coin. This same Greek word is used in Gen 1:26 (LXX) to state that humanity is made in the “image” of God. Jesus is making a subtle yet powerful contrast: Caesar’s image is on the denarius, so he can lay claim to money through taxation, but God’s image is on humanity, so he can lay claim to each individual life.
is this, and whose inscription?” They replied,
Grk “they said to him.”
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus’ answer to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s was a both/and, not the questioners’ either/or. So he slipped out of their trap.
And they were utterly amazed at him.

Marriage and the Resurrection

18  Sadducees
The Sadducees controlled the official political structures of Judaism at this time, being the majority members of the Sanhedrin. They were known as extremely strict on law and order issues (Josephus, J. W. 2.8.2 [2.119], 2.8.14 [2.164–166]; Ant. 13.5.9 [13.171–173], 13.10.6 [13.293–298], 18.1.2 [18.11], 18.1.4 [18.16–17], 20.9.1 [20.199]; Life 2 [10-11]). They also did not believe in resurrection or in angels, an important detail in v. 25. See also Matt 3:7, 16:1–12, 22:23–34; Luke 20:27–38; Acts 4:1, 5:17, 23:6–8.
(who say there is no resurrection)
This remark is best regarded as a parenthetical note by the author.
also came to him and asked him,
Grk “and asked him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us: ‘If a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man
Grk “his brother”; but this would be redundant in English with the same phrase “his brother” at the end of the verse, so most modern translations render this phrase “the man” (so NIV, NRSV).
must marry
The use of ἵνα (hina) with imperatival force is unusual (BDF #470.1).
the widow and father children
Grk “raise up seed” (an idiom for fathering children).
for his brother .’
A quotation from Deut 25:5. This practice is called levirate marriage (see also Ruth 4:1-12; Mishnah, m. Yevamot; Josephus, Ant. 4.8.23 [4.254–256]). The levirate law is described in Deut 25:5–10. The brother of a man who died without a son had an obligation to marry his brother’s widow. This served several purposes: It provided for the widow in a society where a widow with no children to care for her would be reduced to begging, and it preserved the name of the deceased, who would be regarded as the legal father of the first son produced from that marriage.
20 There were seven brothers. The first one married,
Grk “took a wife” (an idiom for marrying a woman).
and when he died he had no children.
21 The second married her and died without any children, and likewise the third. 22 None of the seven had children. Finally, the woman died too. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again,
The words “when they rise again” are missing from several important witnesses (א B C D L W Δ Ψ 33 579 892 2427 pc c r1 k syp co). They are included in A Θ f1, (13) Maj. lat sys,h. The strong external pedigree of the shorter reading gives one pause. Nevertheless, the Alexandrian and other mss most likely dropped the words from the text either to conform the wording to the parallel in Matt 22:28 or because “when they rise again” was redundant. But the inclusion of these words is thoroughly compatible with Mark’s usually pleonastic style (see TCGNT 93), and therefore most probably authentic to Mark’s Gospel.
whose wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”
Grk “For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Aren’t you deceived
Or “mistaken” (cf. BDAG 822 s.v. πλανάω 2.c.γ).
for this reason, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God?
25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels
Angels do not die, nor do they eat according to Jewish tradition (1 En. 15:6; 51:4; Wis 5:5; 2 Bar. 51:10; 1QH 3.21-23).
in heaven.
26 Now as for the dead being raised,
Grk “Now as for the dead that they are raised.”
have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush,
See Exod 3:6. Jesus used a common form of rabbinic citation here to refer to the passage in question.
how God said to him, ‘ I am the God of Abraham, the
Grk “and the,” but καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more.
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ’?
A quotation from Exod 3:6.
27 He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
He is not God of the dead but of the living. Jesus’ point was that if God could identify himself as God of the three old patriarchs, then they must still be alive when God spoke to Moses; and so they must be raised.
You are badly mistaken!”

The Greatest Commandment

28  Now
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.
one of the experts in the law
Or “One of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.
came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘ Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30  Love
Grk “You will love.” The future indicative is used here with imperatival force (see ExSyn 452 and 569).
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength .’
A quotation from Deut 6:4–5 and Josh 22:5 (LXX). The fourfold reference to different parts of the person says, in effect, that one should love God with all one’s being.
31 The second is: ‘ Love your neighbor as yourself .’
A quotation from Lev 19:18.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him .
A quotation from Deut 4:35.
33 And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength
A quotation from Deut 6:5.
and to love your neighbor as yourself
A quotation from Lev 19:18.
is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him.

The Messiah: David’s Son and Lord

35  While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he said, “How is it that the experts in the law
Or “that the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.
say that the Christ
Or “the Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”
See the note on Christ in 8:29.
is David’s son?
It was a common belief in Judaism that Messiah would be David’s son in that he would come from the lineage of David. On this point the Pharisees agreed and were correct. But their understanding was nonetheless incomplete, for Messiah is also David’s Lord. With this statement Jesus was affirming that, as the Messiah, he is both God and man.
36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said,

The Lord said to my lord,
The Lord said to my Lord. With David being the speaker, this indicates his respect for his descendant (referred to as my Lord). Jesus was arguing, as the ancient exposition assumed, that the passage is about the Lord’s anointed. The passage looks at an enthronement of this figure and a declaration of honor for him as he takes his place at the side of God. In Jerusalem, the king’s palace was located to the right of the temple to indicate this kind of relationship. Jesus was pressing the language here to get his opponents to reflect on how great Messiah is.

Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet. ”’
A quotation from Ps 110:1.

37 If David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
Grk “David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ So how is he his son?” The conditional nuance, implicit in Greek, has been made explicit in the translation (cf. Matt 22:45).
And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

Warnings About Experts in the Law

38  In his teaching Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
also said, “Watch out for the experts in the law.
Or “for the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.
They like walking
In Greek this is the only infinitive in vv. 38–39. It would be awkward in English to join an infinitive to the following noun clauses, so this has been translated as a gerund.
around in long robes and elaborate greetings
There is later Jewish material in the Talmud that spells out such greetings in detail. See H. Windisch, TDNT 1:498.
in the marketplaces,
39 and the best seats in the synagogues
See the note on synagogue in 1:21.
and the places of honor at banquets.
40 They
Grk “who,” continuing the sentence begun in v. 38.
devour widows’ property,
Grk “houses,” “households”; however, the term can have the force of “property” or “possessions” as well (O. Michel, TDNT 5:131; BDAG 695 s.v. οἶκια 1.a).
and as a show make long prayers. These men will receive a more severe punishment.”

The Widow’s Offering

41  Then
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
Most mss, predominantly of the Western and Byzantine texts (A D W Θ f1, 13 33 2542 Maj. lat), have ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς (ho Iēsous, “Jesus”) as the explicit subject here, while א B L Δ Ψ 892 2427 pc lack the name. A natural scribal tendency is to expand the text, especially to add the Lord’s name as the explicit subject of a verb. Scribes much less frequently omitted the Lord’s name (cf. the readings of W Θ 565 1424 in Mark 12:17). The internal and external evidence support one another here in behalf of the shorter reading.
sat down opposite the offering box,
On the term γαζοφυλάκιον (gazofulakion), often translated “treasury,” see BDAG 186 s.v., which states, “For Mk 12:41, 43; Lk 21:1 the mng. contribution box or receptacle is attractive. Acc. to Mishnah, Shekalim 6, 5 there were in the temple 13 such receptacles in the form of trumpets. But even in these passages the general sense of ‘treasury’ is prob., for the contributions would go [into] the treasury via the receptacles.” Based upon the extra-biblical evidence (see [S] following), however, the translation opts to refer to the actual receptacles and not the treasury itself.
The offering box probably refers to the receptacles in the temple forecourt by the Court of Women used to collect freewill offerings. These are mentioned by Josephus, J. W. 5.5.2 (5.200); 6.5.2 (6.282); Ant. 19.6.1 (19.294), and in 1 Macc 14:49 and 2 Macc 3:6, 24, 28, 40 (see also Luke 21:1; John 8:20).
and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts.
42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins,
These two small copper coins were lepta (sing. “lepton”), the smallest and least valuable coins in circulation in Palestine, worth one-half of a quadrans or 1/128 of a denarius, or about six minutes of an average daily wage. This was next to nothing in value.
worth less than a penny.
43 He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth,
Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amēn), I say to you.”
this poor widow has put more into the offering box
See the note on the term “offering box” in v. 41.
than all the others.
Has put more into the offering box than all the others. With God, giving is weighed evaluatively, not counted. The widow was praised because she gave sincerely and at some considerable cost to herself.
44 For they all gave out of their wealth.
Grk “out of what abounded to them.”
But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”
The contrast between this passage, 12:41–44, and what has come before in 11:27–12:40 is remarkable. The woman is set in stark contrast to the religious leaders. She was a poor widow, they were rich. She was uneducated in the law, they were well educated in the law. She was a woman, they were men. But whereas they evidenced no faith and actually stole money from God and men (cf. 11:17), she evidenced great faith and gave out of her extreme poverty everything she had.

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