A Translation of Mark Chapter 9

RomansText1Then Jesus responded and said to him, “Oh unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I be patient with you?” (Mark 9:19)

We do not often think of what it must have been like for Jesus to walk this earth as the only human being untainted by sin. He had no greed, no inappropriate ambition, no suspicion or fear. He was the only one without these all too human traits.

Since Jesus came on a mission for us, he did not focus on his own needs, but on the needs of those he came to serve. But in the verse above, we have just a small window into the soul of Jesus as the Son of Man. Although he certainly was “God with us,” he walked this earth as one of us. He was a human being in every way, just like us. He had feelings, longings, and passions, but without what theologians call “original sin,” those feelings, longings, and passions were never used in a selfish way. We know this, but as the gospel writers reveal who Jesus is to us, they rarely highlight the burden of his separateness in the way Mark does here.

Jesus had just come from the mountaintop. He had been there with Peter, James, and John. While they were there, the glory of heaven had broken through, and Jesus’ glory was revealed to the three disciples. At the same time, Jesus was able to visit with Elijah and Moses, two men who were already perfected and, like Jesus, were not crippled by a sin nature. Since we not only still have a sin nature, but are also surrounded with people who have the same nature, we can’t imagine how refreshing it must have been to Jesus to step out from the sin environment to converse with these two men.

But that was on top of the mountain. As he descended once again into the valley, he encountered this major disappointment. The disciples that had not accompanied up the mountain, whom he had already given authority to drive out demons (see Mark 6:7), had failed miserably at helping a young man who was in desperate need. Their limited understanding and lack of faith had prevented them from carrying out their mission.

The sudden contrast from the untainted interchange at the top of the mountain, to this disappointing failure, highlighted for Jesus just how alone he was as a human being on this earth. His cry of disappointment escaped his lips, and provides a window into his soul that reveals the burden he carried just walking among people in a fallen world.

When the first Adam was created, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” When the second Adam walked the earth, we see the crushing disappointment that descends on one who was truly alone. But the same God who promised a helper for the first Adam, has also planned a “helper suitable” for the second Adam. The Church will be the Bride who is able to step into that place. The Father is preparing that Bride even now as she learns to reject greed, inappropriate ambition, suspicion, and fear. She will be a bride without spot, wrinkle, or defect (See Ephesians 5:25-33). When we finally mature, Jesus will no longer be “alone.”

On to our translation:

Mark 9:1-50
A Translation by Randal Cutter

9:1   He also said to them, “I am telling you the truth, some of you standing here will certainly not taste death before you see the Kingdom of God established in power.”*

9:2   Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John and brought them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was changed into another form in front of them.*

9:3   His garments were gleaming intensely white, in a way that no one who washes or bleaches clothes on earth could possibly do.

9:4   At the same time, Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and the two of them were speaking with Jesus.

9:5   Peter responded to it all by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, It is good for us to be here. I will make three meeting tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

9:6   He said this because he was so frightened that he did not know how to respond.*

9:7   Just then a cloud came and overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to him.”

9:8   Right after that they looked around, but no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus alone.

9:9   While they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them clear instructions that they should not explain the details of what they had seen to anyone until the Son of Man rose from the dead.

9:10   They understood the instruction, but they debated among themselves what “to rise from the dead” meant.

9:11   They also questioned him asking, “Why do the scribal scholars say that Elijah must precede the Messiah?”

9:12   He responded to them, “Elijah most certainly does come first to restore all things. But why is it written about the Son of Man that he must suffer and be despised and mistreated?”

9:13   “Indeed, I am telling you that Elijah has come, and they did to him what they wished, just as it is written about him.”

9:14   When Jesus came to the disciples, he saw a large crowd around them and the scribal scholars quizzing them.

9:15   As soon as everyone in the crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran to welcome him.*

9:16   He asked the scribal scholars, “Why are you quizzing them?”

9:17   One from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you because he has a spirit that makes him mute.”

9:18   “In addition, whenever it overcomes him, it throws him to the ground in convulsions, and he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes so stiff he cannot move. I spoke to your disciples hoping they would cast it out, but they were not able.”

9:19   Then Jesus responded and said to him, “Oh unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I be patient with you? Bring the boy to me.”

9:20   They brought him to Jesus. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw him into a convulsion, and he fell down on the ground rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

9:21   Jesus asked his father, “For how long a time has this been happening to him?” The man said, “From childhood.”

9:22   “Many times he also has thrown him into the fire or water trying to kill him. But if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

9:23   But Jesus said to him, “’If you can?’ All things are possible for him who believes.”

9:24   The father of the child immediately cried out and said, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”

9:25   When Jesus saw that the crowd was surging toward him, he reproved the unclean spirit and said to him, “I command you, deaf and mute spirit, go out from him and no longer enter into him.”

9:26   After the demon cried out and threw the boy into severe convulsions, he left. The boy appeared so lifeless, that many said he had died.

9:27   But Jesus grasped his hand, raised him, and he stood up.

9:28   When he went into a house, his disciples came privately and asked him, “Why were we not able to cast it out?”

9:29   He said to them, “This type cannot come out except through prayer and fasting.”*

9:30   Then he went out and began traveling through Galilee, but he did not want anyone to know

9:31   because he was teaching his disciples. He was explaining to them that the Son of Man would be delivered into the hands of men; they would kill him, but after his death he would rise again after three days.

9:32   But they did not understand his message, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

9:33   They came to Capernaum. When he had come into his house, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the road?”

9:34   But they remained silent, for while they were on the road they had been discussing who was most important.

9:35   He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If you want to be first, you will be the last of all and the servant of all.”*

9:36   He chose a child and set the child in their midst; then he took the child in his arms and said to them,

9:37   “Whoever receives a child such as this one in my name receives me. Whoever receives me does not receive me, but the one who sent me.”

9:38   John interrupted him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out a demon in your name, but we stopped him because he doesn’t travel with us.”

9:39   Jesus responded, “Do not stop him. It is not possible for someone who does a miracle in my name to then turn and speak evil of me.”

9:40   “For the one who is not against us is for us.”*

9:41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you follow Messiah, I am telling you the truth, he will never lose his reward.”

9:42   “However, whoever leads one of these little one who believes in me to fall away, it would be better for him instead if a millstone—the type that a donkey turns*—was tied around his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

9:43   “If your right hand leads you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life with only one hand than to enter into Gehenna—into the unquenchable fire—with two hands.”*

9:44  “Where their worm does not die, and the fire never goes out.”*

9:45   “If your foot leads you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life with only one foot, than to enter into Gehenna with two feet.”

9:46   “Where their worm does not die, and the fire never goes out.”

9:47   “If your eye leads you to sin, remove it. It is better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with only one eye, than to be thrown into Gehenna with two eyes.”*

9:48   “Where their worm does not die, and the fire never goes out.”

9:49   “For everyone there will be salted with fire.”

9:50   “Salt is good, but if the salt leeches away, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”*

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9:1  Established in power: This verse actually goes with the previous chapter and the time when Peter rebuked Jesus for saying he was going to die. At that time Jesus pointed out that the path to true Kingdom power was through self-denial. This verse established that a Kingdom built on the death of self-will was a soon-to-be reality.

9:2  Changed into another form: Most translations use the theological term “Transfigured” here. However, the Greek word means, “to change into another form.” For variety, I chose to use the meaning of the word rather than our theological term.

9:6  He was so frightened: Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Mark explains Peter’s statement in a way that lets us know that we most certainly would have been just as frightened by what was going on. Even in his frightened state, Peter wanted the experience to continue, and suggested setting up new “Tents of Meeting” where God’s people could encounter the divine.

9:15  They were amazed: Mark doesn’t tell us why the crowd was so amazed as Jesus approached. Some have speculated that he may have still had a visible residual of glory similar to the brightness of Moses’ visage when he would return to camp after an encounter with God. While this is certainly possible, we have no further insight beyond what Mark wrote here.

9:29  Prayer and fasting: This verse is one of those verses that expose the presuppositions behind a Bible translation. If the translation drops the word “fasting,” they are really doing it for theological reasons rather than on the basis of manuscript evidence. The vast majority of manuscripts and versions include the word “fasting” in this verse. In Jewish thought of the time, prayer and fasting naturally went together, and it was commonplace to connect the two. It is only in our more Western mindset that we think of fasting as something separate or distinct from prayer. My favorite quote, one that exposes the theological approach to whether one includes fasting in this passage or not, comes from a well-respected commentary on the biblical text. The author states, “In the early Church the efficacy of fasting was championed and this emphasis has left its mark upon almost the entire manuscript tradition of verse 29. Jesus, however, spoke only of prayer as the source of faith’s power and the means of its strength.” Please note that the author clearly states that almost the entire manuscript evidence supports the fact that Jesus said, “Prayer and fasting.” Please also note that his argument against it is that the early church liked to fast. If you are scratching your head over that, you are not the only one. Jesus most certainly said, “Prayer and fasting.”

9:35  You will be the last of all and the servant of all: The verb is “will be,” not “must.” However, we all know that the future can be used as a command. Think of the parent saying to his or her child, “You will eat your vegetables!” However, I believe that Jesus is not using it in that way here. The simplest way to understand this passage is that Jesus is saying, “If you want to be first, you will end up last, and you will end up being everyone else’s servant.” Wanting to be first sets things in motion that will leave you far from your intended destination. God exalts the humble. The path to greatness is not through ambition.

9:40  For the one who is not against us is for us: These words are pretty much a quote of a well-known speech that Cicero gave in front of Caesar less than a hundred years earlier. Since Jesus and his disciples lived in Graeco-Roman culture, this saying had probably come to them as a cliché that Jesus now used effectively. I can imagine his smile as he tells them that they shouldn’t stop the man using his name because, in effect, “We need all the support we can get.” I can also imagine him chuckling as he finished with this well-known phrase from Cicero, “For as we all know, whoever is not against us is for us.” It would have broken a bit of the tension as everyone got to smile, and actually allowed Jesus to go a bit deeper in the next verses.

9:42  The kind that a donkey turns: Many translations simply translate this as a large millstone. However, Jesus does describe the millstone as the type that a donkey turns. Although a small, hand-turned millstone would be enough to sink most of us, Jesus is making an even clearer point when he refers to this much larger millstone.

9:43  Cut it off: Jesus is using hyperbole to point out how drastically we must take action against those things that stop us from entering the Kingdom of God. Self-mutilation is a violation of the image of God, and is nowhere in Jesus’ mind.

9:44 & 46  Where the worm does not die: Verses 44 and 46 are not in many translations. There is no doubt that Jesus spoke these words in verse 48. The only question is, did he also speak them in these two verses. The manuscript evidence is about evenly divided. Since it is easier to explain how they were added by a copyist (as a liturgical response to Jesus’ words), than it is to explain why anyone would have deleted them, most newer translations drop the two verses. Since the manuscript evidence is split, and Jesus most certainly did speak these words in verse 48, I have no problem including them.

9:47  The Kingdom of God: By adding this phrase, Jesus very clearly indicates that he is not speaking about the afterlife in these admonitions to drastic action. The concept of Kingdom is a “this life” thing. He is indicating the importance of stepping into righteousness, peace, and joy as prerequisites to the Kingdom, as opposed to allowing other things to hinder that effort.

9:47  Gehenna: Gehenna is literally the valley of Hinnom next to Jerusalem. It had become a putrid garbage site filled with dead animals, burning garbage, and decay. It is a vivid picture to Jesus’ listeners of the pain and stench of the burning regret people feel when their choices have left them outside of the Kingdom reality of righteousness, joy and peace. Everyone who misses the Kingdom will be salted with the fire of regret.

9:50  If the salt leeches away: As Jesus discusses people being salted by regret, he also speaks of the importance of spiritual salt in our lives. The people of his time did not have refined salt like we do. Their salt was mixed with other minerals. If the mixture got wet, the Sodium Chloride could be leeched out, and the remaining stuff had no taste or benefit.

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Image credit: Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Oil Paint Filter