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The Gospel According to Mark: Chapter 1

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The beginning of the good news a Or Christ of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. b Gk in spirit 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, c Other ancient authorities lack hard to bear “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, d Gk brothers who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”

4John the baptizer appeared a Or the Christ in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with b Other authorities add here (or after verse 12) verse 14 , Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation water; but he will baptize you with b Other authorities add here (or after verse 12) verse 14 , Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation the Holy Spirit.”

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; c Gk Gehenna with you I am well pleased.”

12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news d Other ancient authorities add and of the plate of God, e Gk Gehenna 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; f Other ancient authorities lack desolate repent, and believe in the good news.” d Other ancient authorities add and of the plate

16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

21They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching‐— with authority! He a Or the Christ commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

29As soon as they b Other ancient authorities add and pestilences left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon's mother‐in‐law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

40A leper a Or stumble came to him begging him, and kneeling b Or gospel he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41Moved with pity, c Or the Christ Jesus d Or christs stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy a Or stumble left him, and he was made clean. 43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus d Or christs could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.


c Or Christ

d Gk in spirit

e Other ancient authorities lack hard to bear

a Gk brothers

b Or the Christ

c Other authorities add here (or after verse 12) verse 14 , Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation

d Gk Gehenna

e Other ancient authorities add and of the plate

a Gk Gehenna

b Other ancient authorities lack desolate

c Or the Christ

d Other ancient authorities add and pestilences

e Or stumble

f Or gospel

a Or the Christ

b Or christs

Text Commentary view alone

1.1–13 : Preparing the way of the Lord.

1 :

In the context of the Roman Empire, the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ, i.e., Jesus the “anointed” king of Israel, a people subject to Rome, would have been understood over against the “gospel” of Caesar as the “Savior” who brought peace to the world. Son of God is missing in the earliest manuscripts.

1.2–8 : John's baptism of repentance

(Mt 3.1–12; Lk 3.1–20; Jn 1.6–15,19–28 ) preparing the way as the new Exodus and covenant renewal.

2–3 :

See Ex 23.20; Mal 3.1 (cf. Mt 11.10; Lk 7.27); Isa 40.3 . That this is not all a quotation from Isaiah suggests that it is rooted in a popular (non‐scribal) oral conflation of “prophecies.” It is not clear whether my messenger ahead of you refers to John sent ahead of Jesus, or Jesus sent ahead of the addressees. “Prepare the way of the Lord” proclaims a new Exodus, as in Isa 40 . The wilderness, also suggestive of a new Exodus, was a place where other popular prophets and movements often originated (e.g., Acts 5.36 ; cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.5.1).

4–5 :

Acts 13.24 . Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, John proclaims and performs a ritual of entrance into God's renewed covenant with Israel in which those ready to change their ways are baptized as forgiven for having broken the covenantal laws.

5 :

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem, i.e., all the people of Israel, from the capital city as well as from the villages, were baptized.

6 :

John's garb evokes an image of the prophet Elijah, as in 2 Kings 1.8; cf. 9.11–13 . Jesus is also taken to be Elijah in 6.15; 8.28; 15.35–36 .

7–8 :

John also proclaims one … more powerful who will bring the enabling divine power of the Holy Spirit.

1.9–11 : Jesus' baptism

(Mt 3.13–17; Lk 3.21–22; Jn 1.29–34 ). Jesus himself is baptized into the renewal movement that began before him. From Nazareth of Galilee, a small village about 25 km (16 mi) west of the Sea of Galilee in the district now governed by “King” Herod Antipas (see 6.14 ), son of Herod the Great.

10–11 :

The heavens torn apart, as the divine Spirit breaks through empowering Jesus as the anointed king of Israel. A traditional designation for the king was “son of God,” as in 2 Sam 7.14; Ps 2.7; 89.26 (cf. Lk 9.35 ). Beloved, cf. Isa 42.1 .

1.12–13 : Jesus' testing

(cf. the particular “temptations” added in Mt 4.1–11; Lk 4.1–13 ). Jesus undergoes a forty‐day time of trial and testing in the wilderness for a prophet, such as Elijah in 1 Kings 19.8; cf. Ex 24.18 . The battle against Satan (see 3.23–27 ) is already engaged.

1.14–3.35 : Proclaiming and manifesting the kingdom of God as the renewal of Israel, over against the Jerusalem priestly rulers.

1.14–15 : Jesus' opening proclamation of the kingdom of God

(Mt 4.12–17; Lk 4.14–15 ).

14 :

John was arrested (see 6.17 ) indicates the ominous situation as Jesus begins his mission centered in Galilee, a remote area of a country subjected to Rome.

15 :

A summary of Jesus' program and of the Gospel according to Mark. At the right time, in fulfillment of long‐standing yearnings and hopes, God is finally acting to reestablish his beneficent will for the people. Repent, return to God's way, in response to the good news of God's action.

1.16–20 : Call of disciples

(Mt 4.18–22; Lk 5.1–11; Jn 1.35–42 ). Sea of Galilee or the Lake of Gennesaret is a large lake in a deep basin mostly surrounded by high hills. Simon, also called Peter ( 3.16 ).

1.21–28 : Exorcism and teaching with authority

(Mt 7.28–29; Lk 4.33–37 ).

21–22 :

Capernaum, a village at the north of the Lake, is the base of Jesus' activity in Galilee and the surrounding areas. The synagogue is the village assembly, here gathering on the sabbath (when Jesus performs the ensuing exorcism); at this time village assemblies apparently did not yet construct public buildings in which to gather. His teaching is inclusive of his healings and exorcisms, as the rest of this story indicates. Authority, the Greek word also means “power.” Scribes, the literate elite of scholars‐lawyers who represented the Jerusalem priestly rulers.

23 :

A man with an unclean spirit, possessed by an alien force or demon.

24 :

In Mark the unclean spirits immediately recognize who Jesus is, as again in 1.34; 3.11; 5.7 . Holy One of God, a prophet possessed of divine power, as Elisha, 2 Kings 4.9 .

25–26 :

The actual exorcism involves a violent struggle.

27 :

With v. 22 these exclamations frame Jesus' exorcism: In contrast to the scribal “authorities,” Jesus teaches and acts with authority and power over the unclean spirits for the benefit of the people. In Jesus' struggle against the superhuman demonic spirits his political conflict with the rulers and their scribal representatives is also engaged.

28 :

From his very first exorcism, Jesus' fame spreads rapidly throughout the region; see also 1.45; 3.7–8 .

1.29–34 : Healings and exorcisms

(Mt 8.14–17; Lk 4.38–41 ).

30–31 :

The first of several key healings of women in Mark; see 5.21–43 .

32–34 :

A Markan summary, cf. 1.39; 3.7–8 .

33 :

Mark often uses city with reference to a village.

34 :

Not permit the demons to speak, Jesus commands the demons, who know who he is, not to make him known (see 3.12 ) and sometimes asks people who witness healings not to tell anyone (e.g., 1.44; 5.43; 7.36 ). Nevertheless, his fame spreads rapidly and widely (e.g., 1.37; 1.45; 3.7–8; 7.36 ). The readers of Mark, of course, like the demons, know who he is from the beginning ( 1.1 ).

1.35–39 : Summary of Jesus' activity

(Mt 4.23–25; Lk 4.42–44 ). A Markan summary of Jesus' program of proclaiming the kingdom of God and exorcism of demons throughout the villages of Galilee.

39 :

In their synagogues, the Greek word means “assemblies.” Jesus' proclamations, exorcisms, and healings take place largely in the village assemblies (see vv. 21–22n. ).

1.40–45 : Healing a leper

(Mt 8.2–4; Lk 5.12–16 ). Leper, a person suffering from skin lesions of any sort, and interpreted in priestly sources (see Lev 13–14 ) as a channel of “unclean” contamination for individuals and society.

40–42 :

The leper dares Jesus to declare him clean, and Jesus responds to the challenge, in defiance of the elaborate and costly procedures prescribed in biblical law.

41 :

Moved with pity, some manuscripts have “with anger,” i.e., at the Jerusalem priestly establishment and their institutionalized procedures and prescribed offering necessary for the “leper” to be declared free of the stigma (clean).

44 :

Since Jesus has already made the man clean, his instructions must be intended either as a demonstrative testimony or “witness” against the priest and the costly offerings required by their code (Lev 14.10–32 ) or as a facetious remark (the now‐clean man does pointedly disobey the instructions).

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