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A Translation of Mark Chapter 16

RomansText1It is a bit embarrassing when we miss the obvious, but the disciples had repeatedly done so on the Sunday after Jesus was crucified. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb, but only the women had seen the angels. The disciples had heard the reports of amazing things, but only the women had heard from Jesus. This made things difficult for the disciples. They didn’t know what to think, but they certainly did not think that Jesus had risen. Then the two disciples on the way to Emmaus had added their testimony, but even that was not enough. The eleven kept their blinders firmly on. They refused to believe in spite of all the evidence.

But Jesus is in the blinder removing business. He is very good at confronting our obstinate refusal to believe, and moving us in the right direction. The process isn’t always pretty, but he will get the job done. In the disciples’ case, it took a rebuke from the resurrected Lord himself. We are told in Mark 16, “Later, Jesus appeared to the eleven while they were eating and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe the ones who had seen him after he had risen.” (Mark 16:14).

There are some heart-warming scenes that played out on the day of the resurrection. Jesus’ incredible care and concern for Mary Magdalene is revealed in his appearance to her, and his personal use of her name to reveal himself. We can imagine the gentle sound of his voice as he spoke her name, and we can imagine Mary’s tear-filled response when she realized that Jesus stood in front of her. We can also imagine the scene when Jesus revealed himself to the rest of the women as they returned from the tomb, and they clasped his feet in humble awe. These are scenes that warm our hearts during our resurrection celebration.

Then there is this scene with the disciples. It doesn’t feel warm. It doesn’t feel affirming. The disciples had refused to believe. The soft tone used with the women was replaced by the firmer tones of rebuke. Jesus not only needed to reveal himself to the disciples, he needed to remind them, and all Christians, that there is a point when healthy inquiry about a supernatural event crosses the line and becomes stubborn refusal to believe.

If such a malady could infect the remaining eleven who had walked with Jesus, how much more must we guard our hearts to defend against this spiritual sickness? There is a reason that Mark’s gospel ends with this warning to the disciples; the Church needed to be protected from those who refuse to believe the things that God is doing. That is why Jesus gave the Church signs, confirmations, to demonstrate what true belief would look like among his people.

As you read through the verses of Mark 16, check your heart. Are there signs of a stubborn refusal to believe? Or is faith growing? It is always appropriate to pray, “Lord, increase our faith.”

Now, on to the translation of Mark 16.

Mark 16:1-20
A Translation by Randal Cutter

16:1  After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices that they might anoint Jesus’ body.

16:2  They came to the tomb very early on the first day of the week, as the sun began to rise.

16:3  They were discussing among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”

16:4  When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large.

16:5  When they came to the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side; he was wearing a white robe. The women were startled.

16:6  But the man said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are seeking Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified. He has been raised to life; he is not here. Look at the place where they placed him.”

16:7  But you go tell his disciples and Peter, “He will go ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there. It is just as he told you.”

16:8  They went out from the tomb and ran away; for they were overwhelmed by shaking and religious ecstasy;* so they said nothing to anyone because they were overcome with reverence and awe.*

16:9  *When Jesus had arisen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

16:10  She went and reported to those who had been with him. They were mourning and weeping.

16:11  But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it.

16:12  After these things, he appeared in a different guise to two of them while they were walking on their way to the country.

16:13  They also went and reported to the others, but they did not believe them either.

16:14  Later, he appeared to the eleven while they were eating and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe the ones who had seen him after he had risen.

16:15  He said to them, “When you go into all the world, preach the good news to all the creation.

16:16  The one who has believed and has been baptized will be delivered, but the one who has refused to believe will be found guilty.*

16:17  These confirmations* will accompany those who have believed: In my name they will expel demons; they will speak with new languages;

16:18  they will take up snakes with their hands, and should they drink any deadly thing, it will by no means harm them; they will put their hands upon the sick, and they will be healthy.*

16:19  When the Lord Jesus had spoken with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God.

16:20  Then they went out and preached everywhere. The Lord kept working with them and confirming the word through the signs that attended them.


16:8  They were overwhelmed by shaking and religious ecstasy: The Greek words refer to shaking such that would accompany religious ecstasy. Since this is a relatively unknown phenomenon in the evangelical church, the translations struggle with the how to translate these words. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, a Greek word study, discusses the word translated ecstasy in this way: Ecstatic phenomena are found in the OT just as in the Gk. and Hel. worlds. In the early days of Israel there was the ecstasy of the elders in the wilderness (Num. 11:24-29) and the description of the trance condition of Balaam (Num. 24:4). The ecstatic character of the early Israelite prophetic bands is described in 1 Sam. 10:5 f., 10; 19:20-24. When occasionally prophets are said to be mad (2 Ki. 9:11; Hos. 9:7) or drunken (Isa. 28:7; Jer. 23:9), the passages point to the link between prophecy and ecstasy.

16:8  They were overcome with reverence and awe: Remember, they also ran into Jesus along the way (See Matthew 28:9-10). It is easy to understand why they didn’t say anything right away when you realize this. The encounter with the angels, the truth of the resurrection, and the encounter with Jesus had all overwhelmed them.

16:9 When Jesus had arisen early on the first day of the week: The NIV and other translations discount the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, since it is such an obvious shift from Mark’s style, and doesn’t appear in some manuscripts. However, it is apparent not only that is appeared very early in church history, but also that it was received by the early followers of Christ as communicating a genuine report. It is not my purpose to get into a scholarly defense of these verses. Rather, I will simply point out that even though Moses was the author if Deuteronomy, he didn’t write the closing verses of Deuteronomy (those verses report Moses’ death). Even if Mark didn’t personally write these verses (and he certainly may have appended them at a later date after his initial copies), for most of two thousand years the church has received them as inspired, in just the same way we receive the closing words of the book of Deuteronomy even though it is obvious Moses did not write them.

16:16  The one who had refused to believe: The Greek here, often simply translated as unbelief, actually has a sharper point. It refers to one who refuses to believe, just like the disciples had refused to believe that Jesus was alive. Since the context is about the disciples’ refusal to believe the supernatural reports in spite of many witnesses, so we need to be careful not to take the focus away from that context. We have a responsibility to believe the supernatural reports about Jesus because it is so well-attested.

16:16  Will be found guilty: When we translate the Greek word “condemned,” we often conflate the verdict with the execution of the punishment. The Greek word means “to be found guilty,” without indicating the punishment.

16:17  These confirmations will accompany those who have believed: So what does “believing” look like? Jesus details the signs to look for among those who walk in true faith. These are signs that are intended to confirm that those wielding them are walking in belief. Notice the collective nature of this verse. It isn’t that every individual in the group will do these things, but that one can expect these types of confirmations among churches and groups that “believe.”

16:18  They will take up snakes with their hands: In essence, the five confirmations that God will intermittently release in groups in order to verify that they are a group that is not refusing to believe: 1). Freeing people from bondages and addictions; 2). Manifesting unlearned languages in contexts that require it; 3.) Having a level of authority over negative environmental factors; 4.) Having a level of authority over murderous intent; 5.) Growing in supernatural authority over sickness and disease. Please note that these are not listed as acts of worship, or required of each individual, since the pronouns used are collective in nature. Please also note that putting someone’s life in danger as a test of faith is a clear violation of Jesus’ words, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (see Matthew 4:7 NIV).


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A Translation of Mark Chapter 15

RomansText1“There was one man named Barabbas in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion. The crowd came before him and began to ask that he do what he normally did for them during the feast.” (Mark 15:7-8)

One of the great questions that hovers around the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, is how the crowds could so easily have turned away from Jesus toward Barabbas. We often picture these crowds as consisting of the same folks who welcomed Jesus just a few days earlier waving palm fronds and shouting, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!”

That common understanding about the crowd is wrong. It is certainly not the picture that Mark gives us as he describes events. The two verses above tell us much about the crowd. Remember that Jesus was arrested in secret late in the evening, and that his trial took place while most everyone else was sleeping. His followers were also in the midst of their Passover observances, and did not know that Jesus was in need. Jesus’ disciples had fled in fear. They were in hiding, and were not rallying the troops on Jesus’ behalf.

So whence the crowds? Mark reveals that particular detail to us. Barabbas, a prisoner who had committed murder during a riot against Rome, was scheduled to be executed with two other insurrectionists. However, his followers knew of Pilate’s normal custom of releasing one prisoner during the Passover observances. They had come together in the early morning to intervene on Barabbas’ behalf. That was the crowd which had gathered on that morning.

You can imagine their surprise to find out that Jesus the Nazarene was also on trial for his life. For many of these people, Jesus would most certainly have been a curiosity, but he would not have drawn their attention. Those who support political insurrection aren’t usually drawn to someone who preaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” That doesn’t mean they were antagonistic to Jesus, but they probably didn’t “get” him. Of course, they would not have been there on Barabbas’ behalf if they did not “get” Barabbas. They had come out early to call for the release of someone they supported, and probably admired.

When we understand these details, details that Mark so helpfully provides, it makes the events in front of Pilate much more accessible. The crowd had come to call for Barabbas’ release. Those who wanted Jesus crucified only had to support the crowd in their original intent. While the crowds may have initially felt as if they were on the horns of a difficult dilemma when confronted with the choice Pilate presented, those who wanted Jesus dead only needed to support the crowd in their original quest, and provide justification for the crowd to carry through with its original desire. They easily did that.

Mark’s background detail clarifies one of the questions surrounding Jesus’ trial. The crowds who supported Jesus at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem had not suddenly become murderously fickle. Those who gathered before Pilate would not have been among their number.

Now, on to the translation of Mark 15.

Mark 15:1-47
A Translation by Randal Cutter

15:1  Shortly after that in the early morning, the chief priests, in consultation with the elders, scribal scholars, and the whole Sanhedrin, made a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

15:2  Pilate questioned him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” In response, Jesus said to him, “Are you yourself asking this?”

15:3  For the chief priests were bringing many accusations against him.

15:4  But Pilate again questioned him asking, “Won’t you respond to anything? Pay attention to the many charges they are bringing against you.”

15:5  But Jesus no longer responded to anything. This amazed Pilate.

15:6  Now during the feast, Pilate customarily released to them one prisoner whom they requested.

15:7  There was one man named Barabbas in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion.

15:8  The crowd came before him* and began to ask that he do what he normally did for them during the feast.

15:9  So Pilate responded to them asking, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?”

15:10  For he knew that the chief priests had handed him over because they were jealous.

15:11  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd that he might instead release Barabbas to them.

15:12  Pilate again responded to them asking, “What do you wish that I do with the one you call King of the Jews?”

15:13  They again shouted, “Crucify him!”

15:14  But Pilate asked them, “For what? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”

15:15  Because Pilate wished to pacify the crowd, he released Barabbas to them, and after he scourged Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

15:16  The soldiers led him away out of the governor’s residence, that is the Praetorium, and they called together the entire Roman cohort.

15:17  They dressed him in a purple cape, and wove a crown made of thorny branches, and put it on him.

15:18  They began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews.”

15:19  They repeatedly struck his head with a reed staff, and kept spitting on him. They also knelt before him and bowed to him.

15:20  When they had finished mocking him, they took the purple cape off of him, and put his own clothing back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

15:21  They pressed a man into service* who had come from the countryside and was passing by; Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.

15:22  They brought him to the place called Golgotha, which means, “Place of the skull.”

15:23  They gave him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

15:24  They crucified him, and distributed his garments, throwing dice* to decide what each soldier would get.

15:25  It was the third hour when they crucified him.

15:26  There was a notice of the charge against him. It was inscribed, “King of the Jews.”

15:27  Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

15:28  The scripture was fulfilled that said, “He was counted with the lawbreakers.”

15:29  Those who walked by ridiculed him shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! This is the one who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”

15:30 “Come down from the cross and save yourself.”

15:31  Likewise the chief priests and the scribal scholars were also mocking him among themselves saying, “He saved others. He does not have the power to save himself.”

15:32  “The Messiah! The King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross so that we might see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with him heaped scorn on him.

15:33  At the sixth hour, darkness fell across the whole land until the ninth hour.

15:34  At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a thundering voice, “Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani?” When it is translated, it means, “My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?”

15:35  Some who were standing nearby said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”

15:36  Then someone ran and filled a sponge with cheap wine. He put it on a reed stick and gave him a drink saying, “Allow me to do this! Let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”*

15:37  After Jesus released a piercing cry, he breathed out his last breath.

15:38  Then the curtain of the temple was split into two from top to bottom.

15:39  When the centurion who was standing facing Jesus, saw the way that he had breathed his last breath, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

15:40  There were also women who were observing events from a distance. The group included Mary Magdalene; Mary the mother of the less prominent James,* and Joseph; and Salome.

15:41  When Jesus was in Galilee, they followed him and served him. There were also many other women who traveled with him to Jerusalem.

15:42  Since evening was already upon them and it was the preparation day—the day before the Sabbath—

15:43  Joseph from Aramathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was also waiting for the Kingdom of God, acted with courage; he approached Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus.

15:44  But Pilate was amazed that he had already died. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.

15:45  When he learned the details from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

15:46  Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down, wrapped him in the linen, and placed him in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. He also rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

15:47  Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joseph were watching where they laid placed him.


15:8  The crowd came before him: Since Jesus’ arrest had been secret, and was still not common knowledge, this crowd consisted of Barabbas’ fellow zealots, or sympathizers, who were seeking his release. Pilate attempted to get Jesus released in front of the wrong crowd.

15:21  They pressed a man into service: The Roman soldiers had the legal right to force any citizen to carry a burden one mile for them. Jesus had spoken about this in the beatitudes when he had mentioned going an extra mile when so impressed. When Jesus could no longer bear the burden, the soldiers took advantage of this law.

15:24  Throwing dice: The more traditional translation is “casting lots.” However, we know this particular method of gambling among the Romans as throwing dice. In ancient times, people cast lots in many different ways. However, among the Romans, dice was the standard method among the soldiers.

15:36  Allow me to do this: Most translations drop this phrase because they miss the wider context, and do not understand what is being said. When a crucifixion was taking place, a centurion was in charge (see verse 44). The man who gave Jesus the cheap wine needed permission to do this, or he would not have been able to approach Jesus. When Matthew describes this scene, he uses the same verb, but changes the verb to the plural in order to show that all of the soldiers were asking the centurion to allow this action on Jesus’ behalf. The soldiers were far from disinterested observers at this time. They were enthralled by the spectacle, and what to see how it would be carried out.

15:40  The less prominent James: The Greek phrase I have translated here is often translated “James the Less” (NASB) or “James the Younger (NIV).” I agree with the NASB that it refers to his prominence among the disciples, not his age. However, I have translated in a way that brings out what “James the Less” means. It simply means that James, the Son of Thunder, was far more prominent and well known than this James.


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A Translation of Mark Chapter 14

RomansText1“The Son of Man will go just as it is written concerning him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:21)

Ultimate reconciliation is the false teaching that all people, even those who rejected God, will be reconciled to him in the end. I call it a false teaching, because Jesus clearly demonstrates that it is so in this verse.

I understand the allure of the theology of ultimate reconciliation. It certainly is far more appealing to our natural minds to imagine that God will save every person, rather than contemplate the fact that there is a place of unending separation from God. Those who champion the theology of ultimate reconciliation usually frame their defense of this theology by pointing out the relatively few number of people who have had a chance to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As they share their arguments, they make it sound as if God is somehow unfair to those who have rejected his truth, if in fact he does not ultimately reconcile them.

While I understand why they believe this, I believe that they are certainly wrong. While proponents of ultimate reconciliation make it sound as if few people actually get the chance to respond to God, that is not what the Bible, or our own experience, teaches us. All people who have reached what is popularly known as the age of accountability have the opportunity to respond to God. The Psalmist tells us,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
(Psalm 19:1-3 NIV)

The incredible majesty of our creation is a voice calling out to all people. They proclaim that there is a creator, and our conscience calls us to know him better, to get in right relationship with him. This witness has called all truth seekers since the creation, and will continue to do so. When a truth seeker responds to the twin voices of creation and conscience, the God who created the expanding vastness of the universe is more than able to get more truth to the seeker.

That, in an incredibly condensed form, is why I do not except the premise of those who believe in ultimate reconciliation that only a few people ever have the opportunity to experience God’s truth. The Bible says otherwise.

If that isn’t enough reason to doubt the theology of ultimate reconciliation, Jesus’ words in Mark 14:21 certainly put a knife through the theology’s heart. Jesus, speaking of Judas, the one who would betray him, stated that it would be better if he had not been born. If ultimate reconciliation is true, then Jesus’ words make no sense. If everyone is reconciled, then Judas will also be reconciled, and the glories of an eternity in the presence of God certainly outweigh any pain, torment, or censure that Judas has or will receive for his perfidy and betrayal. If ultimate reconciliation is true, then there is no person who has ever been born for which non-existence trumps the eternal reconciliation to come; not being born would be far worse than living forever in the bliss of the eternal presence of God.

Ultimate reconciliation, thus, is wrong. God’s inviting voice continues to go out to all creation inviting and wooing us. Our response opens the door so that we can hear him even more clearly.

Now, on to the translation of Mark 14.

Mark 14:1-72
A Translation by Randal Cutter

14:1   Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away. The chief priests and the scribal scholars were seeking how they might arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.*

14:2   For they agreed, “Not during the feast, or there could be an outcry among the people.”

14:3   While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper* reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfumed oil made of pure nard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it out on his head.

14:4   But some were murmuring indignantly among themselves, “Why has this ointment been wasted?”

14:5   For it could have been sold for over three hundred denarii,* and the proceeds given to the poor. Then they began to correct her harshly.

14:6   Then Jesus said, “Leave her. Why are you causing her grief? What she has done for me is appropriate.”

14:7   “For you will always have the poor living with you, and whenever you wish, you may do well by them. But you will not always have me.“

14:8   “What she could do, she has done. She has anointed my body in preparation for burial ahead of time.”

14:9   “I am telling you the truth, wherever the good news is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

14:10   Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus to them.*

14:11   When they heard, they were glad and promised to give silver coins to him. So he began seeking an opportunity to betray him.

14:12   On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day they usually sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare in order that you might eat the Passover?”

14:13   In response, he sent two of his disciple and said to them, “Go into the city, a man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him,”

14:14   “and whatever house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The teacher says, “Where is my meeting room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?””

14:15   “Then he himself will show you a large room on the second floor, it will be furnished and ready. You will prepare for us there.”

14:16   The disciples left him and came into the city. They discovered everything just as he had told them, so they prepared the Passover.

14:17   When evening arrived, Jesus came with his disciples.

14:18   While they were eating at the table, Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: One of you who are eating with me will betray me.”

14:19   They began to grieve and to say to him one by one, “It isn’t me, is it?”*

14:20   But he said to them, “One of the twelve, one who is dipping in the bowl with me.”

14:21   “The Son of Man will go just as it is written concerning him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had not been born.”

14:22   While they were eating he took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take this. It is my body.”

14:23   He also took a cup, gave thanks and gave it to them. They all drank from it.

14:24   He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant that is poured out on behalf of many.”

14:25   “I am telling you the truth, I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it afresh in the Kingdom of God.”

14:26   After that, they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

14:27   Jesus had said to them, “You will all fall into a trap, for it is written, ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’”

14:28   “But after I have risen from the dead, I will go before you into Galilee.”

14:29   But Peter had responded to him, “Even if everyone else falls, I will not.”

14:30   But Jesus said to him, “I am telling you the truth, today, this night, before the rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny me three times.”

14:31   But Peter said emphatically, “Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you.” The rest of them repeated the same thing.

14:32   They came to the place whose name was Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray.”

14:33   After that, he took Peter, James, and John with him and began to struggle with anguish.

14:34   He said to them, “My soul is profoundly sorrowful even unto death. Remain here and stay alert.”

14:35   He traveled a short distance, fell upon the ground, and began to pray that if it was possible, the hour pass from him.

14:36   But he added, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. But not what I desire, but what you desire.”

14:37   He came and found the three disciples sleeping. So he said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Were you not able to stay alert for one hour?”

14:38   “Stay alert and pray, in order that you do not enter into temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”

14:39   Again he left and prayed, saying the same words.

14:40   When he came back, he found them sleeping again, for they were very sleepy. They did not know how to respond to him.

14:41   He came the third time and asked them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that; the hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

14:42   “Get up and let us go. Look, the one who is betraying me is near.”

14:43   At that moment, while Jesus was still speaking, one of the twelve, Judas, arrived. A crowd was with him sent from the chief priests, scribal scholars, and the elders. They carried swords and clubs.

14:44   Now the one who betrayed him had given a signal to them saying, “Whomever I kiss, he is the one. Arrest him, make him secure, and take him away.”

14:45   When he came, he immediately went to Jesus and said, “Rabbi,” and kissed him.

14:46   Then they arrested him and took him into custody.

14:47   But one who had been standing there drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

14:48   Jesus responded and said to them, “Have you come with swords and clubs as if I was a rebel to capture me?”

14:49   “Each day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this is happening in order that scriptures might be fulfilled.”

14:50   Then the disciples abandoned him and everyone fled.

14:51   A certain young man was following him wearing only a linen sheet to cover himself. They seized him,

14:52   but he left the linen sheet and fled naked.

14:53   They led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests gathered along with the elders and scribal scholars.

14:54   Peter followed him from a distance into the courtyard of the high priest. He sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.

14:55   Meanwhile, the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were seeking testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they could not find any.

14:56   For many people were bearing false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.

14:57   Some arose giving false testimony against him saying,

14:58   “We heard him saying, ‘I will destroy this temple made by hands, and after three days I will build another not made by hands.’”

14:59   Even then, their testimony did not agree.

14:60   Then the high priest stood up in their midst, and questioned Jesus asking, “Aren’t you going to answer what these men are testifying against you?”

14:61   But he remained silent and did not answer a thing. Again, the high priest questioned him and asked, “Are you the Christ, the son of the blessed one?”

14:62   Then Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

14:63   Then the high priest tore his clothing and said, “What more do we need of witnesses?”

14:64   “You have heard the blasphemy. What is your decision?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.

14:65   Some of them began to spit on him, and to cover his face and strike him repeatedly saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also struck him as they took him away.

14:66   While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s servant girls approached him.

14:67   When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.”

14:68   But he denied it saying, “I don’t know or understand what you are talking about.” Then he went outside into the front courtyard; and a rooster crowed.

14:69   When the servant girl saw him there,* she again began to tell those standing around, “This man is with them.”

14:70   But he denied it again. After a little while, those standing around said to Peter, “Surely you must be with them, for you are a Galilean.”

14:71   Then he bound himself under a curse and swore, “I do not know this man you are talking about.”

14:72   Immediately a rooster crowed for the second time. Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” When he realized this, he began to weep loudly.


14:1  The chief priests and scribal scholars: All those who labor in my profession understand the temptation these men faced toward expediency. None of us can understand the incredible pressure they faced as they attempted to maintain order in a fractious time period, facing the demands of a brutal governor. These pointed accounts about the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day were not written so that we could excoriate their evil choices, but rather so that we can confront our own temptations. We, too, can turn aside from God’s new things because of the competing pressures of any ministry. That must be our lesson about our own humanity as we read this chapter, or we have missed the point.

14:3  Simon the leper: It goes without saying that Simon was a former leper who had been healed, or observant Jews could not have gathered in his home.

14:5  Three hundred denarii: A denarius was normally given as a day’s wage for a working man or soldier. Some translations, recognizing that there are about three hundred working days in a year, translate this as “a year’s wage.” While not inexact, I chose to translate the exact amount and type of currency mentioned.

14:10  To betray Jesus to them: Often movie makers attempt to psychoanalyze Judas looking for clues to his betrayal. The gospels are fairly clear. Judas used to help himself to the funds that Jesus and his disciples had at their disposal. It is probably not a coincidence that Judas’ betrayal is listed right after the incidence with the alabaster jar. Judas was the ringleader of those who attacked Mary (see John 12:4-6), and Jesus’ rebuke may have moved Judas to pursue other profit opportunities.

14:19  It isn’t me, is it?: I have tried to retain the force of their original question to show how they asked the question. They were looking for a “no” answer. Judas did not get one.

14:69  When the servant girl saw him there: The other gospels, especially John’s, give much more detail about how this confrontation developed. Mark’s account focuses the camera on this persistent servant girl, and Peter’s fear of exposure at her hands.


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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.’”


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.


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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