Mark 12 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Mark 12
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

(1-12) And he began to speak unto them by parables.—See Notes on Matthew 21:33-36. The parable which, like that of the Sower, and like that only, is related in all the first three Gospels, was one which had obviously impressed itself strongly, as that had done, on the minds of those who heard it, and was reproduced by independent reporters with an almost textual exactness.

A place for the winefat.—Better, simply, a vine vat.

And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.
(2) A servant.—The variations in the reports are, as has been said, few and slight, but it may as well be noted that St. Mark speaks of “one servant” having been sent, and then another, and another, and then many others, while St. Matthew divides them simply into two great groups. St. Mark, characteristically, seizes on the most vivid presentation of the facts.

And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.
(4) At him they cast stones.—The participle so rendered is wanting in the best MSS., and probably originated in a marginal note explaining how the labourers wounded the second servant.

And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
(6) His well-beloved.—Added by St. Mark to St. Matthew’s briefer form, “he sent unto them his son.”

But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.
And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.
(9) He will come and destroy the husbandmen.—St. Matthew reports the words as having been spoken by ‘the by-standers. Here they form part of the parable itself. We may think of them as having been probably taken up and repeated by our Lord after they had been uttered by others.

And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:
This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
(11) This was the Lord’s doing.—Better, This was from the Lord. The pronoun in the Greek is in the feminine, agreeing with the “head of the corner.”

And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.
(12) They sought to lay hold on him.—The pronoun carries us back to the “chief priests and scribes and elders” of Mark 11:27.

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.
(13) They send unto him.—In Matthew the Pharisees are said to have “taken counsel,” or “held a council,” and then to have sent their disciples. Here the act appears more definitely as the result of a coalition of the two parties named. On the narrative as a whole, see Notes on Matthew 20:15-22.

To catch.—Better, to entrap.

And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
(14) Thou regardest not the person of men.—The phrase is essentially Hebrew in its form, but had been made familiar by the Greek Version of the Old Testament.

Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
(15) But he, knowing their hypocrisy.—St. Mark uses the specific word that describes the sin of the questioners, instead of the more general “wickedness” of St. Matthew. On the other hand, he omits the word “hypocrites” as applied to them by our Lord.

And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.
(16) Superscription.—Better, inscription, as in Matthew 22:20.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,
(18-27) Then come unto him the Sadducees.—See Notes on Matthew 22:15-22.

Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.
And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.
And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.
In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
(24) Because ye know not the scriptures.—More literally, as in St. Matthew, not knowing the scriptures.

For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
(26) How in the bush God spake unto him.—Better, at the bush, how God spake to him. The reference to the bush, not given by St. Matthew, is common both to St. Mark and St. Luke, and the order of the words in the Greek of both shows that they point to “the bush,” not as the place in which God spoke, but as the title or heading by which the section Exodus 3 was commonly described.

He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
(28-34) And one of the scribes came.—See Notes on Matthew 22:34-40. St. Mark’s description is somewhat less precise than St. Matthew’s “one of them (i.e., the Pharisees), a lawyer.” The form of the question differs by the substitution of “first of all” for “great” commandment.

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
(29) Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.—The quotation is given more fully by St. Mark than by St. Matthew. The opening words (from Deuteronomy 6:4) were in common use under the name of the Shemà (the Hebrew for “Hear”), and formed the popular expression of the faith of Israel. To say the Shemà was a passport into Paradise for any child of Abraham.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
(31) And the second is like, namely, this . . .—Better, And the second is this. The better MSS. omit “like.”

And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
(32) Well, Master, thou hast said the truth.—Better, Well hast Thou said truly that there is one God. The words seem intentionally repeated from Mark 12:14, but are uttered now, not with the covert sneer of the hypocrite, but in the sincerity of admiration. Note also the real reverence shown in the form of address, “Master,” i.e., “Teacher, Rabbi.” He recognises the speaker as one of his own order. This, and all that follows, is peculiar to St. Mark, and is an addition of singular interest, as showing the existence among the scribes of some who accepted our Lord’s teaching as to the spiritual meaning of the Law, and were able to distinguish between its essence and its accidents.

And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
(33) Is more than all whole burnt offerings . . .—There is a fervour in the eloquence of the scribe’s answer which indicates the earnestness, almost the enthusiasm, of conviction. Such teaching as that of 1 Samuel 15:22, Ps. 1. 8-14, Micah 6:6, had not been in vain for him.

And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
(34) Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.—The words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord’s teaching. Now, as when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount, the righteousness which fulfils the law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19-20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as consisting in the fulfilment of the two commandments that were exceeding broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the Kingdom. It is instructive to compare our Lord’s different method of dealing, in Luke 10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimised the force of the commandments by his narrowing definitions.

And no man after that durst ask him.—St. Mark states the fact before, St. Matthew after, the narrative that now follows.

And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?
(35) While he taught in the temple.—The locality is named by St. Mark only, but it is all but implied in the other two Gospels.

For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
(36) David himself said by the Holy Ghost.—St. Mark is more emphatic in ascribing the words of David to the influence of the Holy Spirit than either St. Matthew, who simply quotes, or St. Luke, who uses the more general phrase “in spirit.” (Comp. 2 Peter 1:21.)

David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.
(37) And the common people.—Better, the great body of the people. Stress is laid on the multitude, not on the social condition, of those who thus heard gladly.

And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
(38-40) In his doctrine.—Better, in His teaching. See Notes on Matthew 23:1-7. St. Mark’s report is characteristically brief as compared with St. Matthew, and would seem to have been drawn from the same source as St. Luke’s (Luke 20:45-47).

And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
(40) Which devour widow’s houses.—Here the word has a special force as coming after the mention of the feasts. They seek the highest places at such banquets, our Lord seems to say, and when there, this is what they feast on. The special charge is not reported by St. Matthew in this connection, but occurs in Matthew 23:14, where see Note. The better MSS., indeed, omit it even there. The relative pronoun gives a wrong idea of the construction. We have really a new sentence. “They that devour . . . these shall receive . . .”

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
(41) And Jesus sat over against the treasury.—The narrative that follows is found in St. Luke also, but not in St. Matthew. The word used is not the “Corban” of Matthew 27:6, and is, perhaps, more definitely local. The treasure-chamber of the Temple would receive the alms which were dropped into the trumpet-shaped vessels that stood near the entrance for the purpose of receiving them, but they probably contained also the cups and other implements of gold and silver that were used in the Temple ritual.

Cast money into.—The word indicates primarily copper or bronze coin, but probably, like the French argent, had acquired a wider range of meaning.

And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
(42) And there came a certain poor widow.—The position of the narrative gives to the description all the vividness of contrast. Among the “many” who cast in much must have been some at least of the Pharisees who devoured widows’ houses. Here was a widow whose house had been devoured, and who yet showed by her act that she kept the two great commandments, which the scribes themselves declared to be above all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Two mites, which make a farthing.—The “farthing” is one of the Latin words which characterise this Gospel, and represents the quadrans, or fourth-part of a Roman as. The primary meaning of the word rendered “mite” is “thin” or “tiny.”

And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
(43) And he called unto him his disciples.—The act was significant. He sought to teach them to judge of acts by other than a quantitative standard. For him the widow’s mites and the ointment that might have been sold for 300 pence stood on the same level, so far as each was the expression of a generous and self-sacrificing love.

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
(44) They did cast in of their abundance . . . she of her want.—The contrast between the two Greek words is somewhat stronger: They of their superfluity . . . she of her deficiency. We recognise the same standard of judgment, possibly even an allusive reference to our Lord’s language, in St. Paul’s praises of the churches of Macedonia, whose “deep poverty” had “abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

Even all her living.—This was not necessarily involved in the act itself, but the woman may have become known to our Lord in one of His previous visits to Jerusalem, or we may see in the statement an instance of His divine insight into the lives and characters of men, like that shown in the case of the woman of Samaria (John 4:18).

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