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Mark 9:33-50

Context
Questions About the Greatest

9:33 Then 1  they came to Capernaum. 2  After Jesus 3  was inside the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 9:35 After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 9:36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 9:37 “Whoever welcomes 4  one of these little children 5  in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

On Jesus’ Side

9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” 9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me. 9:40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 9:41 For I tell you the truth, 6  whoever gives you a cup of water because 7  you bear Christ’s 8  name will never lose his reward.

9:42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone 9  tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea. 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have 10  two hands and go into hell, 11  to the unquenchable fire. 9:44 [[EMPTY]] 12  9:45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life lame than to have 13  two feet and be thrown into hell. 9:46 [[EMPTY]] 14  9:47 If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! 15  It is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to have 16  two eyes and be thrown into hell, 9:48 where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched. 9:49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 17  9:50 Salt 18  is good, but if it loses its saltiness, 19  how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

1 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

2 map For location see Map1 D2; Map2 C3; Map3 B2.

3 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

4 tn This verb, δέχομαι (decomai), is a term of hospitality (L&N 34.53).

5 sn Children were very insignificant in ancient culture, so this child would be the perfect object lesson to counter the disciples’ selfish ambitions.

6 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.”

7 tn Grk “in [the] name that of Christ you are.”

8 tn Or “bear the Messiah’s”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”

sn See the note on Christ in 8:29.

9 tn Grk “the millstone of a donkey.” This refers to a large flat stone turned by a donkey in the process of grinding grain (BDAG 661 s.v. μύλος 2; L&N 7.68-69). The same term is used in the parallel account in Matt 18:6.

sn The punishment of drowning with a heavy weight attached is extremely gruesome and reflects Jesus’ views concerning those who cause others who believe in him to sin.

10 tn Grk “than having.”

11 sn The word translated hell is “Gehenna” (γέεννα, geenna), a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”). This was the valley along the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (cf. Jer 7:31; 19:5-6; 32:35), and it came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned. In the intertestamental period, it came to be used symbolically as the place of divine punishment (cf. 1 En. 27:2, 90:26; 4 Ezra 7:36). This Greek term also occurs in vv. 45, 47.

12 tc Most later mss have 9:44 here and 9:46 after v. 45: “where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched” (identical with v. 48). Verses 44 and 46 are present in A D Θ Ë13 Ï lat syp,h, but lacking in important Alexandrian mss and several others (א B C L W Δ Ψ 0274 Ë1 28 565 892 2427 pc co). This appears to be a scribal addition from v. 48 and is almost certainly not an original part of the Greek text of Mark. The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.

13 tn Grk “than having.”

14 tc See tc note at the end of v. 43.

15 tn Grk “throw it out.”

16 tn Grk “than having.”

17 tc The earliest mss ([א] B L [W] Δ 0274 Ë1,13 28* 565 700 pc sys sa) have the reading adopted by the translation. Codex Bezae (D) and several Itala read “Every sacrifice will be salted with salt.” The majority of other mss (A C Θ Ψ [2427] Ï lat syp,h) have both readings, “Everyone will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt.” An early scribe may have written the LXX text of Lev 2:13 (“Every sacrifice offering of yours shall be salted with salt”) in the margin of his ms. At a later stage, copyists would either replace the text with this marginal note or add the note to the text. The longer reading thus seems to be the result of the conflation of the Alexandrian reading “salted with fire” and the Western reading “salted with salt.” The reading adopted by the text enjoys the best support and explains the other readings in the ms tradition.

sn The statement everyone will be salted with fire is difficult to interpret. It may be a reference to (1) unbelievers who enter hell as punishment for rejection of Jesus, indicating that just as salt preserves so they will be preserved in their punishment in hell forever; (2) Christians who experience suffering in this world because of their attachment to Christ; (3) any person who experiences suffering in a way appropriate to their relationship to Jesus. For believers this means the suffering of purification, and for unbelievers it means hell, i.e., eternal torment.

18 sn Salt was used as seasoning or fertilizer (BDAG 41 s.v. ἅλας a), or as a preservative. If salt ceased to be useful, it was thrown away. With this illustration Jesus warned about a disciple who ceased to follow him.

19 sn The difficulty of this saying is understanding how salt could lose its saltiness since its chemical properties cannot change. It is thus often assumed that Jesus was referring to chemically impure salt, perhaps a natural salt which, when exposed to the elements, had all the genuine salt leached out, leaving only the sediment or impurities behind. Others have suggested the background of the saying is the use of salt blocks by Arab bakers to line the floor of their ovens: Under the intense heat these blocks would eventually crystallize and undergo a change in chemical composition, finally being thrown out as unserviceable. A saying in the Talmud (b. Bekhorot 8b) attributed to R. Joshua ben Chananja (ca. a.d. 90), when asked the question “When salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again?” is said to have replied, “By salting it with the afterbirth of a mule.” He was then asked, “Then does the mule (being sterile) bear young?” to which he replied: “Can salt lose its flavor?” The point appears to be both are impossible. The saying, while admittedly late, suggests that culturally the loss of flavor by salt was regarded as an impossibility. Genuine salt can never lose its flavor. In this case the saying by Jesus here may be similar to Matt 19:24, where it is likewise impossible for the camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle.



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