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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Mark

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6.1–6a : Rejection in his hometown

(Mt. 13.53–58; Lk 4.16–30 ). Those who knew Jesus from his early years, before he was called into service as a prophet mediating extraordinary powers, cannot respond in faith as others can; cf. 3.21 .

5 :

The powers that work through such a prophet are dependent on people's positive response with faith.

6.6b–13 : Commissioning the twelve

(Mt 10.1,9–11,14; Lk 9.1–6; cf. Lk 10.2–16 ). Jesus commissions the twelve, appointed as symbolic heads of the renewed Israel in 3.13–19 , to expand his mission of proclamation, exorcism, and healing. They work in villages, staying in sympathetic households, building the renewal movement.

6.14–29 : Herod's execution of John

(Mt 14.1–12; Lk 9.7–9 ).

14–16 :

Herod, Antipas, son of Herod the Great, technically appointed tetrarch, but popularly known as “King,” ruled Galilee and part of Transjordan 4 BCE–39 CE. Clearly people were responding to and identifying Jesus out of their cultivation of popular tradition as “Elijah” or “one of the prophets.” Herod, however, is anxiously superstitious because he had beheaded John.

17–29 :

A popular tale of the decadent life at Herod's court and of the gruesome beheading of John that sounds an ominous note for Jesus' prophetic renewal of Israel over against the king appointed by Rome.

17–18 :

Royal marriages were instruments of international politics. John's prophecy against Herod Antipas's marriage to his brother's wife, which alienated the Nabatean king Aretas IV, father of his first wife, was politically incendiary.

19–20 :

Herod's and Herodias's respective feelings about John are reminiscent of Ahab's and Jezebel's stances toward Elijah in 1 Kings 18–19,21 .

21 :

Leaders is a misleading translation for “the first ones,” i.e., high‐ranking officials at court.

22 :

His daughter, called Salome by Josephus (Ant. 18.5.136).

29 :

John also had disciples, and perhaps headed a prophetic movement parallel to that of Jesus.

6.30–44 : Wilderness feeding of five thousand

(Mt 14.13–21; Lk 9.10–17; Jn 6.1–13; cf. Mk 8.1–10 ). First of two wilderness feedings reminiscent of God's feeding early Israel in the wilderness through Moses (Ex 16; Num 11 ).

30–33 :

In need of a temporary retreat from the rigors of their mission, Jesus and his apostles withdraw, but hordes of people clamor to them even in the wilderness.

34 :

Sheep without a shepherd, a frequent image for a people without a prophet or king to lead them (see Num 27.17; 1 Kings 22.17; Ezek 34.8; Zech 10.2 ). Coming right after Herod's execution of John, it also alludes to the prophetic tradition of political criticism of predatory and exploitative kings who become rich by “fleecing” rather than caring for their people (see Ezek 34.2–5; Zech 11.4–17 ).

35–37 :

The disciples' suggestion and protest both represent a misunderstanding of Jesus' program. That the villagers could no longer feed themselves from their own produce and had to become laborers to earn money to buy food is just the problem!

38–44 :

One of the dreams of peasants, who are always economically marginal and therefore hungry, is a future good time when food is plentiful (cf. Lk 6.20–21 ). Both the multiplication of the food and the twelve baskets left over suggest that this story is reminiscent of Elijah‐Elisha stories of feeding in times of famine (e.g., 1 Kings 4.42–44 ) and of their restoration of Israel symbolized in its twelve tribes.

41 :

Christian readers usually find eucharistic overtones in Jesus' blessing and breaking of the loaves.

6.45–52 : Second sea crossing

(Mt 14.22–33; Jn 6.15–21 ).

45 :

Bethsaida, a village at the north of the Sea of Galilee, transformed into a small “city” by Herod Philip.

47–52 :

Again the disciples are terrified, not only at the wind but also at the apparition.

50 :

Mark compares Jesus to God, using the phrase “I am” (Gk “ego eimi”; cf. Ex 3.14).

51–52 :

Yet the disciples not only lack faith, as in 4.40 , but their hearts were hardened, as had occurred with enemies of God in earlier times (e.g., Ex 7.3,14; Deut 2.30; Josh 11.20; 1 Sam 6.6 ).

6.53–56 : A summary passage

highlighting the widening response to Jesus. Mt 14.34–36 .

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