Mark 2

Healing and Forgiving a Paralytic

Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.
after some days, when he returned to Capernaum,
Capernaum was a town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, 680 ft (204 m) below sea level. It was a major trade and economic center in the North Galilean region.
For location see Map1-D2; Map2-C3; Map3-B2.
the news spread
Grk “it was heard.”
that he was at home.
So many gathered that there was no longer any room, not even by
Some translations (e.g., NIV, NLT) take the preposition πρός (pros), which indicates proximity, to mean “outside the door.” Others render it as “in front of the door” (TEV, CEV), and still others, “around the door” (NAB). There is some ambiguity inherent in the description here.
the door, and he preached the word to them.
Some people
Grk “they”; the referent (some unnamed people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.
The redundancy in this verse is characteristic of the author’s rougher style.
When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof
A house in 1st century Palestine would have had a flat roof with stairs or a ladder going up. This access was often from the outside of the house.
above Jesus.
Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on.
When Jesus saw their
The plural pronoun their makes it clear that Jesus was responding to the faith of the entire group, not just the paralyzed man.
faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The passive voice here is a divine passive (ExSyn 437). It is clear that God does the forgiving.
Now some of the experts in the law
Or “some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.
were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds:
Grk “Reasoning within their hearts.”
“Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming!
Blaspheming meant to say something that dishonored God. To claim divine prerogatives or claim to speak for God when one really does not would be such an act of offense. The remark raised directly the issue of the nature of Jesus’ ministry.
Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the shift from the thoughts of the experts in the law to Jesus’ response.
immediately, when Jesus realized in his spirit that they were contemplating such thoughts,
Grk “they were thus reasoning within themselves.”
he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Grk “Why are you reasoning these things in your hearts?”
Which is easier,
Which is easier is a reflective kind of question. On the one hand to declare sins are forgiven is easier, since one does not need to see it, unlike telling a paralyzed person to walk. On the other hand, it is harder, because for it to be true one must possess the authority to forgive the sin.
to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’?
10 But so that you may know
Now Jesus put the two actions together. The walking of the man would be proof (so that you may know) that his sins were forgiven and that God had worked through Jesus (i.e., the Son of Man).
that the Son of Man
The term Son of Man, which is a title in Greek, comes from a pictorial description in Dan 7:13 of one “like a son of man” (i.e., a human being). It is Jesus’ favorite way to refer to himself. Jesus did not reveal the background of the term here, which mixes human and divine imagery as the man in Daniel rides a cloud, something only God does. He just used it. It also could be an idiom in Aramaic meaning either “some person” or “me.” So there is a little ambiguity in its use here, since its origin is not clear at this point. However, the action makes it clear that Jesus used it to refer to himself here.
has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic
Jesus did not finish his sentence with words but with action, that is, healing the paralytic with an accompanying pronouncement to him directly.
11 “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.”
Grk “to your house.”
12 And immediately the man
Grk “he”; the referent (the man who was healed) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The Call of Levi; Eating with Sinners

13  Jesus
Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
went out again by the sea. The whole crowd came to him, and he taught them.
14 As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth.
While “tax office” is sometimes given as a translation for τελώνιον (telōnion, so L&N 57.183), this could give the modern reader a false impression of an indoor office with all its associated furnishings.
The tax booth was a booth located on the edge of a city or town to collect taxes for trade. There was a tax booth in Capernaum, which was on the trade route from Damascus to Galilee and the Mediterranean. The “taxes” were collected on produce and goods brought into the area for sale, and were a sort of “sales tax” paid by the seller but obviously passed on to the purchaser in the form of increased prices (L&N 57.183). It was here that Jesus met Levi (also named Matthew [see Matt 9:9]) who was ultimately employed by the Romans, though perhaps more directly responsible to Herod Antipas. It was his job to collect taxes for Rome and he was thus despised by Jews who undoubtedly regarded him as a traitor.
“Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him.
15 As Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
was having a meal
Grk “As he reclined at table.”
As Jesus was having a meal. 1st century middle eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away.
in Levi’s
Grk “his.”
home, many tax collectors
The tax collectors would bid to collect taxes for the Roman government and then add a surcharge, which they kept. Since tax collectors worked for Rome, they were viewed as traitors to their own people and were not well liked.
and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
16 When the experts in the law
Or “the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.
and the Pharisees
Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.
saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
The issue here is inappropriate associations. Jews were very careful about personal associations and contact as a matter of ritual cleanliness. Their question borders on an accusation that Jesus is ritually unclean.
17 When Jesus heard this he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.
Jesus’ point is that he associates with those who are sick because they have the need and will respond to the offer of help. A person who is healthy (or who thinks mistakenly that he is) will not seek treatment.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Superiority of the New

18  Now
Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.
John refers to John the Baptist.
disciples and the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 2:16.
were fasting.
John’s disciples and the Pharisees followed typical practices with regard to fasting and prayer. Many Jews fasted regularly (Lev 16:29–34; 23:26–32; Num 29:7–11). The zealous fasted twice a week on Monday and Thursday.
Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “So” to indicate that in the narrative this question happened as a result of the fasting of John’s disciples and the Pharisees.
they came to Jesus
Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
and said, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t fast?”
19 Jesus
Grk “And Jesus.”
said to them, “The wedding guests
Grk “sons of the wedding hall,” an idiom referring to wedding guests, or more specifically, friends of the bridegroom present at the wedding celebration (L&N 11.7).
cannot fast while the bridegroom
The expression while the bridegroom is with them is an allusion to messianic times (John 3:29; Isa 54:5–6; 62:4–5; 4 Ezra 2:15, 38).
is with them, can they?
Questions prefaced with μή () in Greek anticipate a negative answer. This can sometimes be indicated by using a “tag” at the end in English (here the tag is “can they?”).
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they do not fast.
20 But the days are coming when the bridegroom will be taken from them,
The statement the bridegroom will be taken from them is a veiled allusion by Jesus to his death, which he did not make explicit until the incident at Caesarea Philippi in 8:27ff. (cf. 8:31; 9:31; 10:33).
and at that time
Grk “then on that day.”
they will fast.
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 the tear becomes worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins;
Wineskins were bags made of skin or leather, used for storing wine in NT times. As the new wine fermented and expanded, it would stretch the new wineskins. Putting new (unfermented) wine in old wineskins, which had already been stretched, would result in the bursting of the wineskins.
otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be destroyed. Instead new wine is poured into new wineskins.”
The meaning of the saying new wine is poured into new skins is that the presence and teaching of Jesus was something new and signaled the passing of the old. It could not be confined within the old religion of Judaism, but involved the inauguration and consummation of the kingdom of God.

Lord of the Sabbath

23  Jesus
Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
was going through the grain fields on a Sabbath, and his disciples began to pick some heads of wheat
Or “heads of grain.” While the generic term στάχυς (stacus) can refer to the cluster of seeds at the top of grain such as barley or wheat, in the NT the term is restricted to wheat (L&N 3.40; BDAG 941 s.v. 1).
as they made their way.
24 So
Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous action(s) in the narrative.
the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 2:16.
said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is against the law on the Sabbath?”
25 He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry – 26 how he entered the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
A decision about the proper translation of this Greek phrase (ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως, epi Abiathar archiereōs) is very difficult for a number of reasons. The most natural translation of the phrase is “when Abiathar was high priest,” but this is problematic because Abiathar was not the high priest when David entered the temple and ate the sacred bread; Ahimelech is the priest mentioned in 1 Sam 21:1–7. Three main solutions have been suggested to resolve this difficulty. (1) There are alternate readings in various manuscripts, but these are not likely to be original: D W {271} it sys and a few others omit ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως, no doubt in conformity to the parallels in Matt 12:4 and Luke 6:4; {A C Θ Π Σ Φ 074 f13 and many others} add τοῦ before ἀρχιερέως, giving the meaning “in the days of Abiathar the high priest,” suggesting a more general time frame. Neither reading has significant external support and both most likely are motivated by the difficulty of the original reading. (2) Many scholars have hypothesized that one of the three individuals who would have been involved in the transmission of the statement (Jesus who uttered it originally, Mark who wrote it down in the Gospel, or Peter who served as Mark’s source) was either wrong about Abiathar or intentionally loose with the biblical data in order to make a point. (3) It is possible that what is currently understood to be the most natural reading of the text is in fact not correct. (a) There are very few biblical parallels to this grammatical construction (ἐπί + genitive proper noun, followed by an anarthrous common noun), so it is possible that an extensive search for this construction in nonbiblical literature would prove that the meaning does involve a wide time frame. If this is so, “in the days of Abiathar the high priest” would be a viable option. (b) It is also possible that this phrasing serves as a loose way to cite a scripture passage. There is a parallel to this construction in Mark 12:26: “Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush?” Here the final phrase is simply ἐπὶ τοῦ βάτου (epi tou batou), but the obvious function of the phrase is to point to a specific passage within the larger section of scripture. Deciding upon a translation here is difficult. The translation above has followed the current consensus on the most natural and probable meaning of the phrase ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως: “when Abiathar was high priest.” It should be recognized, however, that this translation is tentative because the current state of knowledge about the meaning of this grammatical construction is incomplete, and any decision about the meaning of this text is open to future revision.
and ate the sacred bread,
Grk “the bread of presentation.”
The sacred bread refers to the “bread of presentation,” “showbread,” or “bread of the Presence,” twelve loaves prepared weekly for the tabernacle and later, the temple. See Exod 25:30; 35:13; 39:36; Lev 24:5–9. Each loaf was made from 3 quarts (3.5 liters; Heb “two tenths of an ephah”) of fine flour. The loaves were placed on a table in the holy place of the tabernacle, on the north side opposite the lampstand (Exod 26:35). It was the duty of the priest each Sabbath to place fresh bread on the table; the loaves from the previous week were then given to Aaron and his descendants, who ate them in the holy place, because they were considered sacred (Lev 24:9). See also Matt 12:1–8, Luke 6:1–5.
which is against the law
Jesus’ response to the charge that what his disciples were doing was against the law is one of analogy: “If David did it for his troops in a time of need, then so can I with my disciples.” Jesus is clear that on the surface there was a violation here. What is not as clear is whether he is arguing a “greater need” makes this permissible or that this was within the intention of the law all along.
for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to his companions?”
27 Then
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people,
The Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anqrōpos) is used twice in this verse in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, thus “people.”
not people for the Sabbath.
28 For this reason the Son of Man is lord
The term “lord” is in emphatic position in the Greek text.
A second point in Jesus’ defense of his disciples’ actions was that his authority as Son of Man also allowed it, since as Son of Man he was lord of the Sabbath.
even of the Sabbath.”

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