Mark 1 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Mark 1
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers




Late Dean of Wells.




I. The Writer.—There is but one person of the name of Mark, or Marcus, mentioned in the New Testament, and, in the absence of any evidence, it may reasonably be assumed that the Gospel which bears his name is ascribed to him as being, directly or indirectly, its author. The facts of his life as they are gathered from the New Testament may be briefly put together. He bore also the Hebrew name of John, i.e., Joannes, or Jochanan (Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25; Acts 15:37). The fact that he took a Latin and not a Greek surname suggests the probability of some point of contact with Jews or others connected with Rome. As was natural, when he entered on his work among the Gentiles the new name practically superseded the old, and in the Epistles (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24; 1 Peter 5:13) he is spoken of as “Mark” only. He was cousin to Barnabas, and was therefore, on his mother’s side probably, of the tribe of Levi (Colossians 4:10; Acts 4:36). His mother bore the name of Mary, or Miriam, and it may be inferred from the fact that her house served as a meeting-place for the disciples at Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), that she, like her brother, was one of the prominent and wealthy members of the Apostolic Church. St. Peter speaks of him as his “son” (1 Peter 5:13), and it is a natural inference from this that he was converted by that Apostle to the new faith, but whether this was during our Lord’s ministry on earth or after the day of Pentecost must remain matter for conjecture. When Paul and Barnabas return from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 12:25) he accompanies them, and this may be taken as evidence that his sympathies were at that time with the wider work which they were carrying on among the Gentiles. So, when they were sent forth on their first missionary journey, they chose him as their “minister,” or attendant (Acts 13:5). His function, as such, was probably to provide for their personal wants in travelling, and to assist in the baptism of new converts. For some unrecorded reason, possibly want of courage, or home-sickness, or over-anxious care about the mother whom he had left at Jerusalem, he drew back at Perga in Pamphylia from the work to which they were sent, and returned home (Acts 13:13). We find him, however, again at Antioch, after the council at Jerusalem, and he had so far regained his uncle’s confidence that he was willing to take him once more as a companion in his missionary labours (Acts 15:37-39). To that course, however, St. Paul would not agree, and the result was that the two friends who had so long been fellow-workers in the cause of Christ were divided after a sharp contention.

From this point onwards we get but few glimpses of the writer of the Gospel. He accompanied Barnabas (A.D. 52) in his work among the Jews and Gentiles of Cyprus (Acts 15:39). About eight years later he was with St. Peter in the city on the banks of the Euphrates which still bore the old name of Babylon, and there must have met Silvanus, or Silas, who had taken his place as the companion and minister of St. Paul (see Note on 1 Peter 5:12-13). It is possible that this may have led to a renewal of the old intimacy between him and the Apostle of the Gentiles, and about four years later (A.D. 64) we find him with St. Paul at Rome, during the Apostle’s first imprisonment (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24), and there, it may be noted, he must have met his brother Evangelist, St. Luke (Colossians 4:14). He was then, however, on the point of returning to the Asiatic provinces, and contemplated a visit to Colossæ (Colossians 4:10). Two years later (A.D. 66), accordingly, we find him at Ephesus with Timotheus, and the last mention of his name shows that St. Paul had forgotten his former want of steadfastness in the recollection of his recent services, and wished for his presence once again as being “profitable for ministering”[9] (2 Timothy 4:11).

[9] This rather than “for the ministry” is the sense of the Greek.

To these facts, or legitimate inferences, we may now add the less certain traditions that have gathered round his name. Epiphanius (Contr. Hœr.) makes him one of the Seventy whose mission St. Luke narrates (Luke 10:1), and says that he was of those who turned back when they heard the hard saying of John 6:60; John 6:66. Eusebius (Hist. ii. 15; vi. 14) states, on the “authority of the ancient elders” and of Clement of Alexandria, that he was with St. Peter at Rome, acting as his “interpreter,” or secretary, and that he was sent on a mission from Rome to Egypt (Hist. ii. 16). There, according to Jerome (de Vir. illust. 8), he founded the Church of Alexandria, became bishop of that church, and suffered martyrdom at the hands of the people on the Feast of Serapis, in the fourteenth year of Nero, A.D. 68, about three years after the death of St. Peter and St. Paul. In A.D. 815 his body was said to have been taken to Venice, and the stately cathedral in the Piazza of St. Mark in that city was dedicated to his memory. Some recent commentators identify him conjecturally with “the young man with the linen cloth round his naked body” of Mark 14:51. (See Note on that passage.)

II. The Authorship of the Gospel.—St. Mark is named by Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (circ. A.D. 169), on the authority of a certain “John the Presbyter,” as writing down exactly, in his character as Peter’s interpreter, “whatever things he remembered, but not in the order in which Christ spoke or did them, for he was neither a follower nor hearer of the Lord’s, but was afterwards a follower of Peter.” The statement is probable enough in itself (Euseb. Hist. iii. 39), and receives some additional weight from the fact that the city of which Papias was Bishop was in the same district as Colossæ, which Mark, as we have seen, meant to visit (Colossians 4:10). In another passage, above referred to, Eusebius (Hist. ii. 15; 5:8) speaks of him as having been asked to write by the hearers of St. Peter at Rome, and that the Apostle at first acquiesced in, and afterwards sanctioned his doing so. The same tradition appears (A.D. 160-225) in Tertullian (Cont. Marc. iv. 5). It receives some confirmation from the language of the second Epistle ascribed to St. Peter. The Apostle there promises that he will “endeavour” that those to whom he writes may have these things (i.e., the facts and truths of the gospel) in remembrance, that they might know that they had not “followed cunningly-devised fables,” but were trusting those who had been eye-witnesses, at the Transfiguration and elsewhere, of the majesty of Christ (2 Peter 1:15-16). Such a promise seems almost to pledge the Apostle to the composition of some kind of record. Mark, we have seen, was with him when he wrote his first Epistle, perhaps also when he wrote the second, and it would be natural that he should take down from his master’s lips, or write down afterwards from memory, what he had heard from him. It may be added that the comparatively subordinate position occupied by St. Mark in the New Testament records makes it improbable that his name should have been chosen as the author of a book which he did not really write. A pseudonymous writer would have been tempted to choose (let us say) Peter himself, not Peter’s attendant and interpreter.

The Gospel itself, we may add, supplies some internal evidence in favour of this hypothesis:—(1.) It differs from St. Matthew, with which to a great extent it runs parallel in the facts narrated, in giving at every turn graphic descriptive touches which suggest the thought that they must have come in the first instance from an eye-witness. These are noticed in detail in the Notes on the Gospel, and here it will be enough to mention a few of the more striking instances. Thus, e.g., we have (a) the “very early in the morning, while it was yet night,” of Mark 1:35, as compared with “when it was day” in Luke 4:42; (b) there being no room, “not so much as about the door,” in Mark 2:2; (c) the “taking off the roof and digging a hole in it” in Mark 2:4; (d) the “making a path by plucking the ears of corn” in Mark 2:23; (e) the “looking round with anger” in Mark 3:5; (f) the “taking Him, even as He was, into the ship,” and the “lying in the stern on the pillow” (Mark 4:36; Mark 4:38); (g) the account of the manner in which the Gadarene demoniac had “burst asunder” his chains and “worn away” his fetters (Mark 5:4), and how he was “in the mountains crying and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:5); (h) the “green grass,” and the “sitting in ranks and companies by hundreds and by fifties” (Mark 6:39-40); (i) the “exceeding white as snow so as no fuller on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3); (j) the “Jesus beholding him, loved him” of the young ruler (Mark 10:21); (k) the “young man with the linen cloth round his naked body” (Mark 14:51); and many others of a like character. (2) As pointing to the same direction, we may note the instances in which St. Mark, and he alone, reproduces the very syllables which our Lord uttered in Aramaic. Whether they were an exception to His usual mode of speech or not may be an open question, but as connected with His works of healing they had the character of words of power for those who heard them, and so fixed themselves in their memories. So we have the TALITHA CUMI of Mark 5:41, the EPHPHATHA of Mark 7:34, the RABBONI in the Greek of Mark 10:51, the BOANERGES of Mark 3:17, the ABBA of Mark 14:36, the COBBAN of Mark 7:11, and, though here in common with St. Matthew, the ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI of Mark 15:34. (3.) So, too, in a few cases, St. Mark gives names where the other Gospels do not give them: Levi is the son of Alphæus (Mark 2:14); the ruler of the Synagogue, not named by St. Matthew, is Jairus (Mark 5:22); the blind beggar at Jericho is Bartimæus, the son of Timæus (Mark 10:46); the mother of James and John is Salome (Mark 15:40); Simon the Cyrenian is the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). (4.) Some have seen grounds for the inference thus suggested in St. Mark’s omission of the promise made to Peter in Matthew 16:17-19, and of his “weeping bitterly” after he had denied his Master, but the proof in this case I seems somewhat precarious.

III. The first readers of the Gospel.—The position which St. Mark occupied in relation both to St. Paul and St. Peter—his connection with the former being resumed, as we have seen, after a long interval—would make it probable that he would write with a special eye to Gentile rather than Jewish readers; and of this the Gospel itself supplies sufficient evidence in the full explanation of the customs of the Jews as to ablutions and the like in Mark 7:3-4, in the explanation of the word Corban in Mark 7:11, perhaps, also, in his description of “the river of Jordan” in Mark 1:5. A closer study suggests the thought, in full agreement with the tradition mentioned above, that he wrote with a special view to Christians of the Roman Church. He alone describes Simon the Cyrenian as the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21), as though that fact had a special interest for his readers. There is but one Rufus mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, and he meets us in Romans 16:13 as one who was prominent enough in the church of that city for St. Paul to send a special message of remembrance to him; and it may be inferred, with some likelihood, that the wife or widow of Simon of Cyrene (having previously met St. Paul at Corinth, for some personal knowledge is implied in the words “his mother and mine”) had settled with her two sons in the imperial city, and had naturally gained a position of some importance. The very name of Marcus indicates, as has been said, some Latin affinities; and it is noticeable, in this connection, that a larger number of words Latin in their origin appear in his Gospel than in any one of the others. Thus we have him giving the Latin centurio instead of the Greek έκατοντάρχης (hekatontarches) in Mark 15:39; Mark 15:44-45; the Latin speculator for “executioner” in Mark 6:27; grabatus for bed (this in common with John 5:8-10) in Mark 2:4; Mark 2:9; Mark 2:11-12; quadvans for “farthing” in Mark 12:42; a verb formed from the Latin flagellum for “scourging” (this in common with Matthew 27:26) in Mark 15:15; a noun formed from sextarius for “vessels” in Mark 7:4; Prætorium (this in common with Matthew 27:27 and John 18:28) in Mark 15:16; the denarius in Mark 6:37, Mark 12:15, Mark 14:5 (this, however, is common to all four Gospels); the legio (found also in Matthew 26:53, Luke 8:30) in Mark 5:9; census (found also in Matthew 17:25; Matthew 22:17; Matthew 22:19) in Mark 12:14.

IV. The characteristics of the Gospel.—The distinguishing features of St. Mark’s Gospel are, it will be seen, (1) vividness and fulness of detail in narrating the events of the history; (2) compression or omission in dealing with our Lord’s discourses. This may have been owing partly to the object which he had in view, writing, it may be, for the instruction of catechumens, for whom he judged this method the most fitting, and partly to the idiosyncrasies of his own character. What we have seen of his life and work would prepare us to accept the latter as, to a great extent, an adequate explanation. One who had been chiefly a “minister” or “attendant” (the latter word is the more accurate rendering of the Greek of Acts 13:5) on the two Apostles may well be supposed to have been chiefly distinguished for his activity in service, for the turn of mind which observes and notes particulars, rather than for that which belongs to the student, and delights to dwell on full and developed statements of the Truth. We may see in what he has left us accordingly, pre-eminently the Gospel of Service, that which presents our Lord to us as in the form of a servant, obedient even unto death (Philippians 2:7-8); and so far it forms the complement to that in which St. Matthew presents Him to us pre-eminently in His character as a King. Even the characteristic iteration of the ever-recurring “immediately,” “anon,” “presently,” “forthwith,” “by-and-by,” “straightway”—all representing the self-same Greek word, occurring not less than 41 times—may not unreasonably be connected with his personal experience. That had been, we may believe, a word constantly on his lips in daily life, the law and standard of his own service, and he could not think of his Lord’s work otherwise than as exhibiting the perfect fulfilment of that law, a work at once without haste and without pause. So, too, in another point in which he stands in singular contrast to St. Matthew, the almost entire absence of any reference, except in reporting what had been said by our Lord or others, to any prophecies of the Old Testament—there are but two such references in the whole Gospel (Mark 1:2-3; Mark 15:28), as rising out of his own reflection—may be explained in part, perhaps, by the fact that he was writing not for Jews, but for Gentiles, to whom those prophecies were not familiar, and also by the fact that his own life in its ceaseless round of humbler service led him to be less than others a student of those prophecies. Assuming the genuineness of the latter of the two passages just referred to (it is absent from nearly all the best MSS.), we may, perhaps, trace the connection of thought. Words from that 53rd chapter of Isaiah had been quoted by the Apostle to whom he ministered (1 Peter 2:22-23), at a time when he was with him, in special connection with the work of servants and the duty of obedience, and so his mind had been called to those words, but there does not appear to have been in him, as there was in St. Matthew, a deliberate purpose to trace the fulfilment of prophetic words in the circumstances of our Lord’s life and work. He was content to paint the scenes that passed before his mind clearly and vividly, and to leave the teaching which the facts embodied to do its work on the minds of his readers.

V. Relation to St. Matthew and St. Luke.—The Gospels of St. Mark and St. Matthew have so much in common, sometimes with each other only, sometimes with St. Luke also, that it is clear that they must have drawn more or less from a common source. Nothing, however, can be more against the whole tenor of internal evidence than the hypothesis that St. Mark epitomised from St. Matthew, or that St. Matthew expanded from St. Mark. The narrative of the second Gospel is in almost every instance fuller than that of the first, and its brevity is obtained only by the absence of the discourses and parables which occupy so large a portion of the other. On either of these assumptions the perplexing variations in the order of events (see Note on Matthew 8:1) are altogether inexplicable. What is, with our scanty data, the most probable explanation is, that the matter common to both represents the substance of the instruction given orally to disciples in the Church of Jerusalem and other Jewish-Christian communities coming, directly or indirectly, under the influence of St. Peter and St. James, as the Apostles of the Circumcision (Galatians 2:9). The miracles that had most impressed themselves on the minds of the disciples, the simplest or most striking parables, the narratives of the Passion and Resurrection, would naturally make up the main bulk of that instruction. St. Matthew, the publican Apostle, and therefore conversant, as has been said before, with clerkly culture, writing for his own people, closely connected with James the Bishop of Jerusalem (see Introduction to St. Matthew), would naturally be one exponent of that teaching. St. Mark, the disciple and “interpreter,” or secretary, of St. Peter, would as naturally be another. That they wrote independently of each other is seen, not only in the details above noted, the addition of new facts, the graphic touches of description, but from variations which would be inexplicable on any other assumption; such, e.g., as Mark’s “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10) for Matthew’s Magdala (Matthew 15:39), “Syro-Phœnician woman” (Mark 7:26) for Canaanite (Matthew 15:22), “Levi the son of Alphæus” (Mark 2:14) for Matthew (Matthew 9:9). Short as the Gospel is, too, there is one parable in it (Mark 4:26-29), and one miracle (Mark 7:31-37), which arc not found in St. Matthew. It is remarkable, moreover, that there are some incidents which St. Mark and St. Luke have in common, and which are not found in St. Matthew: that of the demoniac in Mark 1:23-27, Luke 4:33-37; the journey through Galilee (Mark 1:35-39, Luke 4:42-44); the pursuit of the disciples (Mark 1:36-37, Luke 4:42); the prayer of the demoniac (Mark 5:18, Luke 8:38); the complaint of John against one that cast out devils (Mark 9:38, Luke 9:49); the women bringing spices to the sepulchre (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1). Of these phenomena we find a natural and adequate explanation in the fact that the two Evangelists were, at least at one period of their lives, brought into contact with each other (Colossians 4:10; Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24). It is probable, as has been said above, that neither wrote his Gospel in its present form until the two great Apostles whom they served had entered on their rest; but when they met each must have had the plan formed and the chief materials collected, and we may well think of them as comparing notes, and of the one, whose life had led to less culture, and whose temperament disposed him to record facts rather than parables or discourses, as profiting by his contact with the other, and while content to adhere to the scope and method which he had before marked out for himself, adding here and there what he learnt from his fellow-worker whose “praise was in the Gospel” (2 Corinthians 8:18). (See Introduction to St. Luke.)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
(1) The beginning of the gospel.—The opening words are interesting as presenting a transition stage in the history of the word Gospel, between its earlier sense, as meaning generally the “good news” of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35), and the later sense, as a book recording the main facts in our Lord’s life and work. In 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2 Timothy 2:8, where it clearly includes a narrative of some kind, we have an instance of a like transition.

The Son of God.—This also is significant as to the Church’s faith at the time when St. Mark wrote. He, of whom he speaks, was not a prophet or righteous man only, but was, in the highest sense which could be attached to the words, the Son of God. If we think of St. Mark as reproducing St. Peter’s teaching, we cannot fail to connect the words, thus placed, as they are, in the very title of his Gospel, with the Apostle’s confession in Matthew 16:16.

As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
(2) In the prophets.—The better MSS. give the more accurate reference, “in Esaias the prophet.” On general grounds, however, it seems more probable that the general reference should have been specialised by a transcriber than the reverse. With one exception, and that very doubtful as to its genuineness (see Note on Mark 15:28), this is the only quotation from a prophet made by the Evangelist himself in this Gospel. The fact that St. Mark wrote for Gentiles furnishes a partial explanation of his silence in this respect, as compared with the other Gospels. (See Introduction.)

Behold, I send my messenger.—See Notes on Matthew 11:10-11.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
(3) The voice of one crying in the wilderness.—See Note on Matthew 3:3.

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
(4) John did baptize.—No other Gospel passes so abruptly, so in medias res, into the actual work of the Forerunner. There is no account of the birth or infancy of our Lord, as in St. Matthew and St. Luke; none of the pre-existence of the Son of Man, as in St. John. St. Mark is here, as elsewhere, emphatically the Evangelist of action. (On the rest of the verse, see Notes on Matthew 3:1.) The special phrase “baptism of repentance”—i.e., the sign of repentance, that which was connected with it, and pre-supposed it—meets us in Luke 3:3 and Acts 19:4. In the former passage we find also “forgiveness of sins” as the result of the baptism; and we cannot doubt, therefore, that then, as evermore, repentance was followed by forgiveness, even though the blood which availed for that forgiveness (Matthew 26:28) had not as yet been shed.

And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
(5) There went out unto him. . . .—See Note on Matthew 3:5. Note St. Mark’s use of the term “in the river of Jordan,” as writing for those who were not familiar with the topography of Palestine.

And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
(6) And John was clothed. . . .—See Note on Matthew 3:4.

And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
(7) There cometh one mightier than I.—See Note on Matthew 3:11; but note the slight difference—not, as there, “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear,” but “the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” Latchet,” a word now obsolete, was the “thong” or “lace” with which shoes or sandals were fastened. To stoop down and loosen the sandals was commonly the act of the servant who afterwards carried them, but it expressed more vividly what we should call the menial character of the office, and therefore, we may believe, was chosen by St. Mark. (See Introduction.)

I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
(8) I indeed have baptized you with water.—See Note on Matthew 3:11. St. Mark omits the “fire” which St. Matthew joins with the Holy Ghost, possibly as less intelligible to his Gentile readers.

And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
(9) And it came to pass.—See Note on Matthew 3:13. St. Mark adds “from Nazareth” to St. Matthew’s more general statement, “from Galilee.”

And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
(10) He saw the heavens opened.—Better, as in the margin, rent open, St. Mark’s language here, as elsewhere, being more boldly vivid than that of the other Gospels. (See Notes on Matthew 3:16-17.)

And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.
(12) Immediately the spirit driveth him.—See Notes on Matthew 4:1; but note also St. Mark’s characteristic “immediately,” and the stronger word “driveth him.”

And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
(13) And he was there in the wilderness.—See Notes on Matthew 4:2-11. St. Mark compresses the history by omitting the several forms of the Temptation. Peculiar to him are (1) the use of “Satan” instead of “the devil;” (2) the statement that Jesus was “with the wild beasts.” In our Lord’s time these might include the panther, the bear, the wolf, the hyena, possibly the lion. The implied thought is partly that their presence added to the terrors of the Temptation, partly that in His being protected from them there was the fulfilment of the promise in the very Psalm which furnished the Tempter with his chief weapon, that the true child of God should trample under foot “the lion and the adder,” the “young lion and the dragon” (Psalm 91:13).

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
(14) Now after that John was put in prison.—St. Mark agrees with St. Matthew in omitting all our Lord’s early ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem, and takes the imprisonment of the Baptist as his starting-point. That imprisonment is assumed here to be known; but the facts connected with it are not related till Mark 6:17-20.

And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
(15) The time is fulfilled.—The words are not found in the parallel passages of the other Gospels, and are interesting as embodying the same thought as St. Paul’s “in the fulness of time” (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10). So, too, St. Mark adds “believe the gospel” to the simple “repent” of St. Matthew, and gives “the kingdom of God” instead of “the kingdom of heaven.”

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
(16) As he walked by the sea of Galilee.—See Notes on Matthew 4:18-22. St. Mark names Simon without the addition of Peter.

And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
(20) With the hired servants.—Peculiar to this Gospel, and of some interest as throwing light on the relative social position of the sons of Zebedee.

And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
(21) And they went into Capernaum.—Here St. Mark’s narrative ceases to run parallel with that of St. Matthew, and agrees almost verbally with Luke 4:31-37.

Straightway.—The frequent recurrence of this adverb, often disguised in the English version as “immediately,” “anon,” “by-and-by,” should be noticed as we proceed. It occurs forty-one times in the Gospel; nine times in this first chapter.

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
(22) And they were astonished.—The verbal agreement with Matthew 7:28 (where see Note) suggests the thought that St. Mark had heard or read that passage. For “doctrine” read teaching. Stress is laid, as in Matthew 7:28, on the manner rather than the thing taught.

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
(23) An unclean spirit.—The phrase occurs in all the first three Gospels (not in St. John’s), but with special frequency in this. As in most Eastern cities, in both ancient and modern times, madness had an immunity from restraint, and the demoniacs seem to have mingled, if they chose, with the crowd of worshippers in the synagogue.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
(24) What have we to do with thee?—The cry is identical with that of the Gadarene demoniacs (Matthew 8:29). Here, as there, the possessed man has a preternatural intuition of our Lord’s greatness.

The Holy One of God.—The name occurs, as applied to Christ, only here, in the parallel passage of Luke 4:34, and in the better MSS. of John 6:69. It probably had its origin in the Messianic application of “Thy Holy One” in Psalm 16:10. Its strict meaning is “the Holy One whom God owns as such,” who has attained, i.e., the highest form of holiness.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
(25) Hold thy peace.—Literally, be still, be gagged. The same verb is used in the calming of the winds and waves in Mark 4:39.

And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.
(26) He came out of him.—St. Luke adds the fact “and hurt him not.”

And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.
(27) What new doctrine is this?—A various-reading gives a different structure, “What thing is this? A new doctrine with power. He commandeth even the unclean spirits . . .” “Doctrine” is, as elsewhere, the teaching taken as a whole, including manner as well as substance.

And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
(29) And forthwith.—Again we have St. Mark’s characteristic word, as in the “immediately” of Mark 1:28, and in the “anon” of Mark 1:30. (See Notes on Matthew 8:14-15.)

But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.
And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
(32) And at even.—See Notes on Matthew 8:16-17. The special features in St. Mark are (1) the fuller description, in Mark 1:33, that “all the city was gathered together at the door;” and (2) the omission of St. Matthew’s reference to the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4.

And all the city was gathered together at the door.
And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
(34) And suffered not the devils to speak.—St. Luke (Luke 4:41) gives the reason of the prohibition more distinctly. The demoniacs had cried out, “Thou art the Son of God.” They knew that He was the Christ.

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
(35) A great while before day.—Literally, very early, while it was yet night. The note of time is peculiar to St. Mark. Prayer seems to have been sought now, as at other times, after a day of extraordinary and exhausting labour.

And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.
(36) Simon and they that were with him.—This part of the narrative is given by St. Luke also, but not by St. Matthew. The definite statement who they were that followed after Him is, however, peculiar to St. Mark; while St. Luke alone gives their motive: “they stayed Him that He should not depart from them.” They would fain have kept Him at Capernaum, that He might teach them and heal their sick. This is to some extent, perhaps, implied in the words “All men seek for Thee.”

And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.
(38) Let us go into the next towns.—The word translated “towns” occurs here only. It is a compound word, “village cities,” and seems to have been coined to express the character of such places as Bethsaida, Chorazin, and others on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which were more than “villages,” yet could hardly be classed as “cities.”

That I may preach there also.—St. Luke gives more fully “to publish the good news of the kingdom of God.” The word “preach” has here its full significance of “proclaiming,” doing a herald’s office.

For therefore came I forth.—In this form the words might refer simply to His leaving Capernaum; but the report in St. Luke, “for therefore was I sent” connects them with His mission as a whole. In any case, however, the disciples in this stage of their progress, would hardly enter, as we enter, into the full meaning of that mission. To them His “coming forth,” even as being “sent,” would be as from His home at Nazareth, not as from the bosom of the Father.

And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
(39) And he preached.—See Note on Matthew 4:23.

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
(40-43) And there came a leper.—See Notes on Matthew 8:1-4. The miracle appears in St. Matthew as following closely on the Sermon on the Mount.

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
(43) He straitly charged him.—The word is the same as that in Matthew 9:30 (where see Note).

And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
(45) But he went out.—St. Mark alone describes the man himself as the agent in spreading the report of the miracle, and gives in more vivid terms than St. Luke the consequent pressure of the multitude, and the necessity for retirement into “desert places.”

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