(1-23) Then came together unto him.—See Notes on Matthew 15:1-20.
Oft.—The Greek MSS. present two readings, one of which this is the natural meaning; another, which means literally, “with the fist,” and figuratively, “with might and main.” The evidence is, on the whole, in favour of the former.
Washing.—Literally, baptism; but the form of the word is masculine, while that used for the sacramental rite is neuter. The masculine occurs again. probably in the same sense, as meaning ablutions generally, in Hebrews 6:2.
Pots.—The Greek word (xestes) may be noted as a corrupt form of sextarius, and therefore taking its place among the Latin words used by St. Mark. (See Introduction.)
Tables.—Better, couches—i.e., the low wide benches which were placed near the tables, and on which the guests reclined instead of sitting. These also had to be scrupulously washed, because it was possible that a heathen might have lain on them. The word is, perhaps, used in the same sense in Mark 4:21.
The commandments.—The two Greek words used for “commandment” in this and the following verses are, as has been said in the Note on Matthew 15:9, not quite the same in meaning; that in this verse pointing to many detailed precepts; that in the next to the commandment which is “exceeding broad.”
He shall be free.—The words, as the italics show, have nothing corresponding to them in the Greek, nor are they needed, if only, with some MSS., we strike out the conjunction “and” from the next verse. So the sentence runs, “If a man shall say . . . ye suffer him no more . . .”
Through your tradition.—Here the structure of the sentence points to the “tradition” as being the instrument with which the Law was made null and void. In Matthew 15:6 the meaning is slightly different (see Note there).
Many such like things.—Assuming the words “washing of cups and pots,” in Mark 7:8, to be genuine, there is an emphatic scorn expressed in this iteration of the same formula.
Purging all meats.—This also is peculiar to St. Mark, and presents some difficulties. In the commonly received text, the participle is in the neuter nominative, agreeing with the nominative to the verb “goeth out.” But in this construction it is difficult to see in what sense that which goeth into the mouth—itself an article of food, with no special character—can be said to purge or cleanse all other forms of food. The better MSS., however, give the participle in the masculine. This has been explained by many as a grammatical anomaly, and the participle being treated as if it agreed (though in a different case) with the word “draught” or “cesspool,” the latter is said to cleanse all meats, as removing the excreta, or impure parts, from them, and leaving only that which nourishes the body. A far better construction, both as to grammar and meaning, is found by making the word “purging,” or better, cleansing, agree with the subject of the verb “He saith,” in Mark 7:18—“He saith this . . . and in so saying, cleanseth all meats.” So taken, the words anticipate, in almost the same terms, the truth of Acts 10:15, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” The construction is tenable grammatically, has the support of high authority both ancient and modern, and obviously gives a much better sense. It is a possible conjecture that the words “cleansing all meats” may have been, at first, a marginal note (like the addition in Mark 7:16), attached to “He saith,” and have afterwards found their way into the text.
An evil eye.—As explained by Matthew 20:15 (where see Note), the “evil eye” is that which looks askance on the good of others—i.e., envy in its most malignant form.
Pride.—Better, perhaps, haughtiness. This is the only passage in the New Testament where the word so translated occurs. The cognate adjective meets us in Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2.
Foolishness.—This, again, is a rare word in the New Testament, meeting us only in 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:17; 2 Corinthians 11:21. As interpreted by Proverbs 14:18; Proverbs 15:21, it is the folly which consists in the absence of the fear of God, the infatuation of impiety.
Tyre and Sidon.—The better MSS. omit the latter name here, and reserve it for Mark 7:31, where see Note.
Entered into an house.—The fact is peculiar to St. Mark, and seems specified as an indication of our Lord’s wish to avoid publicity.
Syrophenician.—The word, which occurs in Juvenal (Sat. viii. 159), may be noted as an instance of St. Mark’s tendency to use Latin forms. The Emperor Adrian divided the province of Syria into three parts—Syria proper, Syro-Phœnicia, and Syria-Palæstina—and we may well believe that this official distinction rested on a pre-existing nomenclature.
Decapolis.—Another instance of St. Mark’s use of a Roman nomenclature. St. Matthew says simply, “He departed thence, and came by the Sea of Galilee.” For Decapolis, see Note on Matthew 4:25.
Had an impediment in his speech.—The English rendering is quite accurate, but it may be noted that the word which St. Mark uses stands for “dumb” in the Greek version of Isaiah 35:6, and may therefore have been used by him to connect the miracle which he describes with that prophecy.
Ephphatha.—Another instance of St. Mark’s reproduction of the very syllables uttered by our Lord. (See Introduction, and Note on Mark 5:41.)
The string of his tongue.—Better, bond, that which confined and hampered his speech. (Comp. Luke 13:16.) There is no ground for thinking that St. Mark used the word in any anatomical sense, as the English word seems to suggest, for a “nerve” or “tendon,” as in the “eye-strings” of the original text of the “Rock of Ages.”