Category Archives: Teaching

A Translation of Mark Chapter 13

RomansText1“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders in order to deceive the elect, if that were possible.” (Mark 13:22)

I believe these verses in the book of Mark refer back to what happened in the nation of Israel between the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the time that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans about forty years later. The topic of Mark chapter 13 is clearly the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In that context, Jesus warns against false messiahs and prophets who would attempt to lead God’s people away from truth. Of course, Jesus didn’t limit this phenomenon to just that time period. It has been an evident problem throughout much of history since then. It is one of those problems that seems never to go away.

That is why Jesus’ promise is so wonderful. He states that these false messiahs and prophets would target the elect in order to lead them away from God, and then adds, “if that were possible.” The clear meaning is that the elect cannot be targeted for deception in such a fashion. It is impossible to deceive them in this way.

This might appear puzzling at first, since most of us feel deceived by false voices on occasion. However, it is clear what Jesus meant. The elect are God’s people, those he has chosen. The apostle Peter described the elect in this way: “But you are an elect family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession, so that you might make known the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9 My Translation). These people are the people of whom Jesus speaks in Mark 13. If you are reading this blog, it almost certainly includes you, by the virtue of the fact that you are so interested in God’s truth that you are spending some of your precious time reading commentary on a translation of a chapter in the book of Mark. Since you belong to this elect group, the promise of Mark 13 can be applied. You are unable to be deceived in the way Jesus describes in Mark 13.

Note that I must add that qualification about the type of deception. At this exact point in our lives, most all of us reading this post are deceived about a whole variety of things in and around us. Some of it happens because people do not always tell us the truth. Some of it is because we draw wrong conclusions about things. Some of it is because of our prejudices. Although God is most certainly working in our lives diligently bringing us into as much truth as we can handle on all things, these normal deceptions are not the type of which Jesus speaks. He is speaking about being deceived in such a way that we fall away from God. False messiahs and false prophets invariably target our faith. Although we may be confused by them for a time, they will not ultimately win the battle.

I truly appreciate this promise, and have over the years. If we are honest, there are so many competing voices and theologies in the Christian Church that seek our allegiance, discerning truth can be a daunting task. There are those who step firmly into fear because there are so many competing voices, but there is no need. Truth seekers will always find their way through the cacophony. They will always find their way back to the truth. They will not be deceived by the false messiahs and false prophets. We have Jesus’ word on that.

On to our translation:

Mark 13:1-37
A Translation by Randal Cutter

13:1   While he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, notice the impressive stones and buildings.”

13:2   But Jesus responded to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. They will all be pulled down.”

13:3   Later, while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

13:4   “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what sign will there be that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

13:5   Then Jesus began to tell them, “Watch that no one deceives you.”

13:6   “Many will come in opposition to my name.* They will say, ‘I am the Christ,’* and they will deceive many.”

13:7   “But when you hear of wars and reports of wars, do not be alarmed, it must happen, but the temple’s end* has not yet come.”

13:8   “For people group will rise against people group, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in place after place. There will also be famines. These things are the beginning of labor pains.”*

13:9   “But you all must pay attention. They will deliver you to the Sanhedrin and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings on account of me as a witness to them.”*

13:10   “It is of first importance* that the good news must be preached to all the Gentiles.”

13:11   “Whenever they take you and deliver you to the authorities, do not worry ahead of time about what you will say. On the contrary, speak what is given to you in that hour. For it will not be you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

13:12   “Brother will deliver brother unto death at the hands of the authorities, and a father his child. A child will rise up in rebellion against his parents, and the authorities will put them to death.”

13:13   “You will be hated by everyone on account of my name. But the one who endures to the temple’s destruction, will be delivered.”*

13:14   “So, when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it must not be (let the one reading understand),* then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”

13:15   “Anyone on top of his house must not descend from the roof in order to enter his house to take anything from it.”

13:16   “Anyone in the field must not turn back to take his cloak.”

13:17   “How terrible it will be for those who are pregnant and those who are nursing in those days.”

13:18   “So pray in order that it not happen in harsh weather conditions.”

13:19   “For those days will be filled with tribulation of a kind that has not occurred from the beginning of the creation, from when God created it, until that moment. Such tribulation will never happen again.”

13:20   “Unless the Lord shorten the time, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect whom he has chosen, he will shorten that time.”

13:21   “If someone says to you at that time, ‘Look, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘Look he is there,” do not believe them.”

13:22   “For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders in order to deceive the elect, if that were possible.”

13:23   “But you pay attention. I have told you all this ahead of time.”

13:24   “Then in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.”

13:25   “The stars will be falling from heaven, and the rulers that are in the heavens will be shaken.”

13:26   “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with much power and glory.”*

13:27   “At that time he will send his messengers, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other.”*

13:28   “Learn from the parable of the fig tree. When its branch is already tender and it puts out leaves, you know that summer is near.”

13:29   “In the same way also you, when you see these things happening, know that it is near at the door.”

13:30  “I am telling you the truth, this current generation* will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

13:31  “The heaven and the earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.”

13:32  “Now concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.”

13:33  Watch and stay alert, for you do not know when that time will come.”

13:34  “It will be like a man going on a journey who leaves his house and gives to each of his servants the authority to accomplish his master’s work. He then charges the doorkeeper to keep watch.”

13:35  “Therefore keep watch. For you do not know if the Lord of the house will return in the evening, at midnight, before sunrise, or in the morning;”

13:36  “you do not want him to come unexpectedly and find you sleeping.”

13:37  “Now what I say to you, I say to all of you, ‘Keep watch.’”

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13:6  In opposition to my name: The Greek preposition can be translated “in,” as the NIV translates it, or it can be translated “against” or “in opposition” (the Greek text is not using the normal word for “in” that one would expect if they were coming “in Jesus’ name”). I have translated it “in opposition” because the context demands it. When one comes “in Christ’s name,” it means to come in connection to everything that Jesus is. The concept of name in that culture was profound. Hypocrites and deceivers could not come in Christ’s name. Since these people were coming to deceive, this sentence is best translated in the way in which I have translated it.

13:6  I am the Christ: Rather than use the word Christ or Messiah, Mark uses an idiom that everyone recognized as a claim to being Messiah. Other translations are correct when they translate the word, “I am he.” However, what the people heard was, “I am the Messiah” or “I am the Christ.” I have translated the meaning of the idiom here.

13:7  Please note that the disciples only asked about the destruction of the temple. Many of those who read this are programmed to immediately think that this is a discussion of the end of the world. It is not. Mark is only focused on one topic, the destruction of the temple. I have translated this entire section contextually in order to remind everyone who has been programmed to view Jesus’ words in another fashion, that he is only speaking of the destruction of the temple in these verses.

13:8  Labor pains: The rabbis recognized a concept of Messianic birth pains, drawn on their understanding of the prophetic scriptures. When Jesus brings up birth/labor pains, he was speaking of a well-known teaching among the Jewish people.

13:9  Sanhedrin: The book of Acts fills in the details about how all of this took place.

13:10  It is of first importance: There are two ways to translate proton, the Greek word used here. One is to translate it in a way that highlights the order of things (first, second, third, etc.). The other equally valid translation is as I have translated it, to indicate degree of importance of something. In this context, a context where Jesus has just told the disciples they will be witnesses to kings and those in authority, and immediately after this Jesus teaches that it is so important that the Holy Spirit will be using their vocal chords to communicate to these kings and authorities, it seems more fitting to translate it as indicating degree of importance, not order of sequence.

13:13  The one who endures to the temple’s destruction: The Greek word used here describes completion or fulfillment. If we look back to verse 4, it is clear that Jesus is describing the events surrounding the destruction of the temple. In this context, there can be virtually no doubt that Jesus is referring to it as a line of demarcation for the believing community. If they could hold on until this awful fulfillment, the persecutions would greatly diminish.

13:14  Let the one reading understand: Both Mark and Matthew use an obscure reference to the Old Testament “abomination of desolation” to conceal some of their meaning. That is why they add “let the one reading understand.” They are asking their readers to give extra thought to the meaning of this phrase because they are writing in a type of biblical code. Only Luke, writing to the Greeks, drops the obscure reference and spells it out, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.” (Luke 21:20-21 NIV).

13:26  Coming in the clouds with much power and glory: When one studies the cloud imagery of the Old Testament, we see God coming in the clouds against a variety of nations. This imagery was used in the Old Testament to describe judgment against a nation. The reason the Chief Priest would later rip his robes when Jesus used this same imagery (see Matthew 26:65) is that it was a clear reference to judgment coming against the Israel of the time. It was a horrifying image for a political or religious leader of that time. It referenced judgment.

13:27  At that time he will send his messengers, and they will gather his elect: God’s messengers have been gathering in the elect from the four corners of the earth ever since.

13:30  This current generation: The word I have translated “generation” means a generation or lineage. When Jesus adds the word translated “this,” he can only mean the current generation of people who were living in his time. For theological reasons, many commentators want the word to also mean race, because they want to shoehorn the end of the world into this discussion. But the word does not mean race, and when well-meaning commentators attempt to make it mean race, they set the stage for some alarming heresies in other passages that use this word. I know this may be unfamiliar ground to some of my readers. If you do a word study of this word (genea), and simply look up every instance of its use in the New Testament, you will see that it means generation or lineage every time it is used. The only time people attempt to make it mean race is in the parallel passages of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. They do so for theological reasons, not linguistic.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 12

RomansText1“Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if someone’s brother dies, and leaves a wife but not a child, that his brother should take his wife and raise up seed for his brother.” (Mark 12:19)

When the Sadducees decided to test Jesus on the resurrection, they used the Law of the Levirate as the bait for their trap. According to the Law of Moses, if a married man died before he was able to have children, his brother was obligated to marry the widow. The first child born of this union was considered the dead brother’s child.

A form of this law could be found in many ancient civilizations. It was a primary way of protecting a widow who did not have children to care for her. While most cultures have abandoned the practice today, it was still practiced in Jesus’ day.

The Sadducees used this law in their arguments against the beliefs of the Pharisees. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. The Pharisees believed in it. As a part of their ongoing debate, the Sadducees had come up with the hypothetical situation in which a woman marries seven brothers in a row without having children. They thought that their question was insoluble. If everyone is raised from the dead, then to whom would this woman be married?

In response, Jesus undercuts the Sadducees’ entire argument by pointing out that they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. The Scriptures clearly proclaim that there will be a resurrection from the dead. God’s power is more than sufficient to raise the dead and sort out any relationship issues at that time. Since the Sadducees refused to see this, Jesus told them they were very deceived.

When I read this passage, I am even more encouraged to study the Scriptures, and to grapple with their content. The Sadducees were among the most educated men in Israel in Jesus’ time, and yet they did not sufficiently know their own book to recognize why they were wrong. I do not want to succumb to the error of thinking I know the Book, if I really don’t. Then I, too, would be deceived.

I also don’t want to underestimate the power of God. The Sadducees allowed their reason to cloud their faith. They could not understand how God could restore bodies that had crumbled to dust. The truth is, that none of us can truly understand how God can do this. However, it is not difficult to imagine that the same God who called this complex and enormous universe into existence is quite capable of calling those who have lived back to life. If God has the power to create, he also has the power to recreate.

When I read this passage, I am more determined to know the Bible, and the God the Bible reveals. That is one reason I am translating the Scriptures I teach in this much more than cursory fashion. It helps me achieve this purpose.

On to our translation:

Mark 12:1-44
A Translation by Randal Cutter

12:1   Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a vat for the juice of the crushed grapes, and built a watchtower. He leased it to farmer tenants,* and left for an extended journey.”

12:2   “He sent a servant to the tenants at harvest time in order that he might receive from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.”

12:3   “They took the servant, physically mistreated him, and sent him away with nothing.”

12:4   “Again the owner of the vineyard sent another servant to them, but they hit him over the head and humiliated him.”

12:5   “The owner sent another, but they killed him. He also sent many others, they beat some of them and killed others.”

12:6   “He had one more he could send, a son he deeply loved. He sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will give proper honor to my son.’”

12:7   “But those tenants said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’”*

12:8   “They took him, killed him, and threw his body out of the vineyard.”

12:9   “Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the farmer tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

12:10   “Haven’t you read this scripture? ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this one has become the most important stone.’

12:11   “‘This has come from the Lord, and it is wonderful to our eyes’?”

12:12   The chief priests, scribal scholars, and elders* began seeking a way to arrest him, for they knew that he spoke this parable against them, but they were afraid of the crowd. They allowed him to continue as they left,

12:13   but they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to him in order to catch him in what he said.

12:14   When they arrived, they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and are not influenced by anyone. We know this because you pay no attention to status among men, but you teach the way of God according to truth. Is it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not? Do we pay it or not pay it?

12:15   But Jesus recognized their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius that I might see it.”

12:16   They brought one. He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They responded to him, “Caesar’s.”

12:17   Then Jesus said to them, “Give back* the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God.” They were astonished at him.

12:18   Then the Sadducees came to him. They teach that there is no resurrection. They began questioning him saying,

12:19   “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if someone’s brother dies, and leaves a wife but not a child, that his brother should take his wife and raise up seed for his brother.”

12:20   “There were seven brothers. The first took a wife, but died and left no seed.”

12:21   “So the second brother took her, but he died and did not leave offspring. The third brother did likewise.”

12:22   The seven brothers did not leave any children; last of all the woman also died.”

12:23   In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.”

12:24   Jesus said to them, “Isn’t the reason you are deceived that you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”

12:25   “For when they rise from the dead, they will not marry nor be given in marriage, but they will be like the angels in heaven.”

12:26   “But concerning those who are dead, that they will be raised, have you not read in the Bible about Moses and the bush? How God spoke to him saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’”

12:27   “He is not the God of dead people, but of those who are alive. You are very deceived.”

12:28   When one of the scribal scholars came and heard their question, and saw that Jesus responded well to them, he asked Jesus, “What commandment is the greatest of all?”

12:29   Jesus replied, “The first is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.’”

12:30   “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul—that is, your mind*—and with all your strength.’”

12:31   “This is the second, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is not another commandment greater than these.”

12:32   The scribal scholar said to him, “Well done, teacher. You have spoken truthfully that he is one, and there is no other except him.”

12:33   “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding,* with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is greater than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

12:34   When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” After that, no one dared any longer to question him.

12:35   Some time after Jesus had answered them, while he was teaching in the temple, he began to ask, “How can the scribal scholars say that the Christ is David’s son?”

12:36   “David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies under your feet.”’”

12:37   “David himself calls him Lord, then how is he his son?” And the large crowd was listening gladly.

12:38   While he was teaching, he said, “Pay attention to the scribal scholars, the ones who love to walk about in scholarly robes and be recognized in the marketplace.”

12:39   “They love the special seats in the synagogue, and places of honor at meals.”

12:40   “They devour the wealth of widows, and to conceal their actions, they pray lengthy prayers. Men like these will receive extreme judgment.”

12:41   Later, after he sat down across from the place that people gave their offerings, he saw how the crowd threw less valuable coins into the offering box, but many wealthy people were putting large amounts into it.

12:42   Then one poor widow came and put in two leptons, which is equivalent to a couple dollars.*

12:43   He called his disciples together and said to them, “I am telling you the truth, this poor widow put more in the offering box than anyone else who gave an offering.”

12:44   “All the rest gave from their expendable income, but she gave even though she can’t make ends meet. She gave everything; all that she had to live on.

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12:1  He leased it to farmer tenants: This was a very common practice in Israel during Jesus’ time. Wealthy absentee landowners rented their fields to farmer tenants for a share of the crops.

12:7  The inheritance will be ours: By using the word inheritance, the farmer tenants demonstrated that they believed the son was coming because the father had died. In that instance, if they killed the heir, the disposition of the property became clouded. That is how they hoped to gain the property.

12:12  The chief priests, scribal scholars, and elders: Mark more literally writes, “They began seeking.” We find the antecedent of the third person plural verb all the way back in chapter 11 verse 27. Since verse 11 is in a previous post, I have brought the antecedent forward for this post.

12:17  Give back the things of Caesar to Caesar: The verb that Jesus uses carries the idea of repaying a debt. Thus, Give back is a good translation because it communicates the idea of paying a debt. The idea is that Caesar provided certain services that indebted those who lived under his rule. In the same way, God also provides services that require a financial response. We are to render unto each as appropriate.

12:30  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul—that is, your mind: In response to the man’s question, Jesus quotes the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4ff). This was one of the most well known passages in all Judaism. It says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus would not have forgotten the Shema, nor could he have added the word mind without causing a furor over his misquotation. The scribal scholar would certainly not have commended one who misquoted the Shema. It is far more likely that Jesus used inflection to indicate that he was adding the word mind as an explanation of what the word soul meant. This understanding works grammatically and contextually.

12:33  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength: Note how the scribal scholar indicates that he understood what Jesus had done by adding the word mind as an explanation of the word soul. In his affirmation of Jesus, he spoke of the soul as the understanding. Both he and Jesus were making it clear about what the word soul meant in the context of the Shema.

12:42  Which is equivalent to a couple dollars: While the value biblical coinage can be confusing, it is important to communicate the value of the coins in stories such as this. Mark thought it so important that his Roman readers understand the value, that he translated the coinage into a Roman currency. Rather than translating the currency Jesus mentioned (lepton) into an equally obscure Roman coinage (the quadran), I have valued the leptons the widow gave at what they would be worth in 2016 in US dollars.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 11

RomansText1“For this reason I am telling you, believe that you have received the things that you are asking and praying, and it will happen for you. However, whenever you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone, in order that your Father who is in heaven might forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:24-25)

I find it interesting, in fact, intensely interesting, that Jesus often links forgiving others with answered prayer. There is something about refusing to forgive someone else that hurts our ability to have our own prayers answered.

This is an important concept. Many people focus on the importance of believing what we pray when we pray, and this is certainly important. However, if we only focus on believing, without also recognizing what Jesus taught about forgiving, we are only focused on half the story. Powerful prayer starts with forgiving others, and then becomes even stronger as we believe for what we are praying.

On to our translation:

Mark 11:1-33
A Translation by Randal Cutter

11:1   When they were approaching Jerusalem by Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples

11:2   and instructed them, “Go into the village ahead of you and, as soon as you enter it, you will find a colt that has been tied. No one has ever sat upon it. Untie it and bring it here.”

11:3   “If someone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ He will immediately send it back here.”

11:4   So they went and found the colt tied outside at a door on the street, and they untied it.

11:5   Some of those who were standing there asked them, “What are you doing untying the colt?”

11:6   But they spoke to them just as Jesus had instructed, and they gave the disciples permission.

11:7   They brought the colt to Jesus, and they threw their garments upon it, and he sat on it.

11:8   Many also spread their clothing on the road, and others cut leaf-filled branches from the fields.

11:9   Those who went ahead, and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.”

11:10   “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest.”

11:11   Jesus entered Jerusalem, went to the temple, and examined every part of it. Then, because it was already evening, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

11:12   On the next day, after they departed from Bethany, Jesus grew hungry.

11:13   When he spotted a fig tree with leaves some distance away, he approached to see what he might find on it. When he arrived at the tree, he did not find anything except leaves, for it was not yet the season for figs.*

11:14   In response, he said to it, “May no one eat fruit from you ever again.”

11:15   When they came to Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple and began to cast out those buying and selling in the temple. He also overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the stands of those selling doves.

11:16   In addition, he did not allow anyone to carry their goods through the temple.*

11:17   He taught them and explained to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a bandits’ lair.”

11:18   When the chief priests and scribal scholars heard, they began to seek how they might destroy him, because the entire crowd was astonished by his teaching.

11:19   When evening came, he went out from the city.

11:20   In the morning, when they passed by the fig tree, they saw it was withered from the roots.

11:21   Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered away.”

11:22   Jesus responded and said to him, “Have faith in God!”

11:23   “I am telling you the truth, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Lift yourself off the ground and throw yourself in the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he is speaking will happen, it will happen for him.”

11:24   “For this reason I am telling you, believe that you have received the things that you are asking and praying, and it will happen for you.”

11:25   “However, whenever you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone, in order that your Father who is in heaven might forgive your transgressions.”

11:26   “If you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”

11:27   They came again to Jerusalem, and while he was walking around in the temple, the chief priests, the scribal scholars, and the elders approached him.

11:28   They asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things?” and, “Who gave you this authority that you do these things?”

11:29   In response, Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

11:30   “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men? Answer me.”

11:31   They discussed it among themselves saying, “If we say that it is from heaven, he will say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’

11:32   “But can we say that it is from men?”* They were afraid of the crowd, for the people all believed John truly was a prophet.

11:33   They responded to Jesus and said, “We do not know.” So Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

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11:13  Not the season for figs: It wasn’t the season for ripe figs, but when a tree was in leaf, there was the possibility that it would have unripened fruit, which isn’t tasty, but it will do if you are hungry.

11:16  Carry goods through the temple: Herod’s temple took up about one sixth of the total geographic area in Jerusalem. It was massive, and a major road block to getting easily from one side of Jerusalem to another. The easy route was through the temple. Of course, carrying things through the Court of the Gentiles not only disrespected the worship of the Gentiles, it violated the spirit of rest. Jesus stopped this type of traffic.

11:32  Can we say? — Although most of the major translations do not interpret the words of the scribal scholars and chief priests as a question, the Greek text includes a question mark. I have translated it appropriately for a question mark.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 10

RomansText1“Whoever desires to be important among you will be your servant. Whoever wishes to be first among you will be a slave to everyone.” (Mark 10:43-44)

These verses remind us why human ambition is so toxic in God’s Kingdom: It only leads down.

God desires to exalt his people. The apostle Peter wrote,

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:5-6 NIV)

God’s  job description is to raise us up when we have humbled ourselves. However, when we try to do his job through exalting ourselves, he opposes us. When we do our job of humbling ourselves, God does his job of raising us up. When we do his job by lifting ourselves up, he then opposes our ambition and does our job for us. Since he is so much better at doing our job than we are, we will inevitably end up as a servant or slave to everyone.

In the section of Mark I have translated below, Jesus points this truth out because his disciples were jockeying for position in his Kingdom. They wanted most important seats of honor. Jesus took the time to teach them about the inevitable result of such a quest so that they could avoid it. He is teaching us the same thing today.

On to our translation:

Mark 10:1-52
A Translation by Randal Cutter

10:1   Jesus arose and went from there to the territory of Judea and the regions beyond the Jordan. The crowds gathered around him once more, and as he was accustomed, he again began to teach them.

10:2   When the Pharisees arrived, they began to test him by asking him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.*

10:3   Jesus responded to them, “What did Moses command you?”

10:4   They replied, “Moses permitted the writing of a certificate of divorce so that a man could divorce his wife.”

10:5   But Jesus said to them, “He wrote this command for you because of the hardness of your heart.”

10:6   “From the beginning of creation, ‘He made them male and female.’”

10:7   “’Because of this a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife,’”

10:8   “’And the two will be one flesh,’ so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

10:9   “Therefore what God has joined as a couple, let man not separate through divorce.”

10:10   When they were in the house, his disciples again began to question him about this.

10:11   He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.”

10:12   “In the same way, if a woman abandons* her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

10:13   At that time, they began to bring small children to Jesus so that he might hold them. But his disciples scolded them.

10:14   When Jesus saw it, he was displeased and said to the disciples, “Allow the children to come to me, do not stop them; for the Kingdom of God is made up of those who are like these children.”

10:15   “I am telling you the truth, except you receive the Kingdom of God like a small child, you will never enter into it.”

10:16   Then he hugged the children, placed his hands on them, and blessed them.

10:17   Later, while he was going out along the road, one man came running and knelt before him asking him, “Good teacher, what must I do in order that I may inherit eternal life?”

10:18   Jesus said to him, “Why are you calling me good? There is no one good except the one God.”

10:19   “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honor your father and mother.’”

10:20   He responded to Jesus, “Teacher, I have been careful to keep all these things from my youth.”*

10:21   Jesus looked directly at him and felt love for him, so he said to him, “You still need to do one thing. Go and sell everything you own, give it to the poor, and you will possess treasure in heaven. After that, come and follow me.”

10:22   The man was appalled by Jesus’ statement, and he went away grieving; for he had much property.*

10:23   Jesus looked around at his disciples and said, “How difficult it is for those who are wealthy to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

10:24   His teaching astonished the disciples. In response to that astonishment, Jesus again said to them, “Children, how difficult it is to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

10:25   “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

10:26   The disciples were overwhelmed with amazement, saying to each other, “Who is able to be saved?”

10:27   Jesus looked at them, and said, “It is impossible from men’s perspective, but not from God’s perspective. For all things are possible with God.”

10:28   The Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and have followed you.”

10:29   Jesus said to him, “I am telling you the truth, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or fields for my sake and the sake of the gospel,”

10:30   “who will not also receive a hundred times more now in this age—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields, together with persecutions, and in the coming age, eternal life.”

10:31   “For many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

10:32   At another time, they went up on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way ahead of them. The disciples were amazed, but those who were following them were afraid. He again took the twelve to the side, and began to explain to them what was about to happen to him,

10:33   “Pay close attention! We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priest and the scribal scholars. They will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles.”

10:34   “They will mock him, spit on him, whip him, and kill him. But after three days he will come back to life.”

10:35   After this, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him petitioning him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask you.”

10:36   He responded to them, “What do you wish that I might do for you?”

10:37   They said to him, “Grant to us that one of us might sit on your right hand, and one of us might sit on your left hand in your glory.”

10:38   But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup which I personally am drinking, or to be baptized with the baptism I myself am experiencing?”

10:39   They responded to him, “We are able.” Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I personally am drinking, and you will be baptized with the baptism that I myself will experience.”

10:40   “But the ability to sit on my right or my left is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

10:41   When the twelve heard, they began to be angry with James and John.

10:42   However, Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles reign over them, and their important men exercise authority over them.”

10:43   “This is not the way you are to do it. Instead, whoever desires to be important among you will be your servant.”*

10:44   “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be a slave to everyone.”

10:45   “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom price for everyone.”

10:46   At that time they arrived at Jericho. While Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus (the Son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting along the road.

10:47   When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was there, he began to cry out and to say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:48   Many in the crowd were admonishing him to be quiet. But he cried out even more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:49   Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” They called the blind man telling him, “Take courage. Get up. He is calling you.”

10:50   He threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

10:51   Jesus responded to him and asked, “What do you wish that I do for you?” The blind man said to him, “Rabbi, that I might see again.”

10:52   Jesus said to him, “Go! Your faith has rescued you.” Immediately he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the road.

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10:2  Testing Jesus: Since Jesus was in Herod’s territory, there is relevant conjecture that those who opposed Jesus may have hoped that he would refer to Herod’s adulterous union, as John had done before Herod put him in prison. Herod had divorced his wife, and Herodias had abandoned her husband. It would have been a natural application.

10:12  If a woman abandons her husband: Jesus uses the same verb in verses 11 and 12. The verb is usually translated “divorce” in a context about marriage. However, in Jewish culture a woman had no right to divorce. Her husband could divorce her, but she could not divorce her husband. The people around Jesus would have understood the word to mean “abandon” since that is all a woman could do.

10:20  From my youth: He is referring to the time he was considered responsible under the Law, about age thirteen.

10:22  He went away grieving: Jesus had taught that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom. If you gave a child a simple formula to achieve his goals, that child would rejoice that the path was clear and obvious. This man could not rejoice, because he was not like a little child. He allowed his fears for the future, and his appreciation for his wealth, to compromise his ability to enter the Kingdom.

10:25  The eye of the needle: It has become popular to teach that Jesus was speaking about a camel kneeling to get through a Needle gate. I will quote from a commentary on the topic, “As Rawlinson (p. 141) says, it [the idea of a camel kneeling to enter a needle gate] has ‘no authority more trustworthy than the imaginative conjectures of modern guides to Jerusalem.’”

10:43  Will be your servant: Jesus uses the future tense of the verb here. Many translations choose to translate the future as an imperative (“Must be your servant”) believing that Jesus was giving a command about how to become first in the Kingdom. I have translated it as a simple future rather than a command on how to achieve our ambitions to be first. Anyone who desires to be important in the Kingdom, will inevitably slip to the position of a servant. Anyone who desire to be first, will inevitably become a slave.

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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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