Mark 7 – What Defiles a Man & Messianic Conflicts and the Fall of Jerusalem

Finger Pointing Up1 5Wow, that sounds like the United States congress.  And Herod, I wonder if Bush or Obama are related to him?

Chapter five mentioned the town of Gadarenes, and Jesus made thedemons leave a man and enter into a bunch of pigs that ran over the cliff (Mk 5:3-13)

Tomorrow we’re going to look at…

Mark 7
What Defiles a Man

1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

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3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

“Market” – where Jews would come into contact with Gentiles, or with Jews who didn’t observe the ceremonial law and thus become ceremonially unclean.

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

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“Esaias prophesied” – Isaiah roundly denounced the religious leaders of his day (Is 29:13), and Jesus  uses a quotation from this prophet to describe the tradition of the elders as “the commandments of men.”

7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

“The commandment of God…the tradition of men” – Jesus clearly contrasts the two.  Go’s commandments are found in Scripture and are binding; the traditions of the elders (v. 3) are not Biblical and therefore not authoritative or binding.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

10 For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

4 5“Corban” – the transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “offering.”  By using this word in a religious vow an irresponsible Jews son could formally dedicate to God (i.e., to the temple) his earnings that otherwise would have gone for the support of his parents.

The money, however, didn’t necessarily have to go for religious purposes.  The Corban formula was simply a means of circumventing the clear responsibility of children toward their parents as prescribed in the law.

The teachers of the law held that the Corban oat was binding, even when uttered rashly.  The practice was one of many traditions that adhered to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit.

12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

“Making the word of God of none effect” – the teachers of the law appealed to Num 30:1-2 in support of the Corban vow, but Jesus categorically rejects the practice of using one Biblical teaching to nullify another.

The scribal interpretation of Num 30:1-2 satisfied the letter of the passage but missed the meaning of the law as a whole.  God never intended obedience to one command to nullify another.

7 314 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:

15 There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

“Defileth” Jesus replaced the normal Jewish understanding of defilement with the truth that defilement coms from an impure heart, not the violation of external rules.  Fellowship with God is not interrupted by unclean hands or food, but by sin.


21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

“Tyre” – a Gentile city located in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon), which bordered Galilee to the northwest.  A journey of about 30 miles from Capernaum would have brought Jesus toe the vicinity of Tyre.

25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:

26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

“Syrophenician” – at that time Phoenicia belonged administrative to Syria.  Mark possibly used the term to distinguish this woman from the Libyan-Phoenicians of North Africa.5 5

27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.

“Yes, Lord” – the only time in this Gospel that Jesus is addressed as “Lord.”  It’s astounding to behold the great reserve the Gospel writers used in not referring to Jesus as “Lord.”  At the time Mark was written, Paul and others had already spoken of  Christ (in their “epistles” or “letters”) as “the Lord” Jesus Christ.

But Mark is recalling the history of the developing awareness of this truth, during which time it was still not generally known that Jesus was God.

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29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.

“Departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, eh came unto the Sea of Galilee” – apparently Jesus went north from Tyre to Sidon (about 25 miles) and then southeast through the territory of Herod Philip to the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

The route was circuitous possibly to avoid entering Galilee, where Herod Antipas was in power and where many people wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him king.  Herod had intimated a hostile interest in Jesus.

32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.

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33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;

34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.

35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;

37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

Messianic Conflicts
and the Fall of Jerusalem

Messianic Movements and Other Conflicts

One of the most explicit Messianic images of the Old Testament, the vision of four successive empires in Daniel 2 and 7, was understood to signal the advent of the Messianic kingdom after the downfall of Rome.

10 Herod died in Jericho
Herod died in Jericho.
Since the work of Emil Schürer in 1896 most scholars have agreed that Herod died at the end of March or early April in 4 BCE. However, Schürer’s consensus has not gone unchallenged in the 20th century, with several scholars endorsing 1 BCE as the year of Herod’s death.

Evidence for the 4 BCE date is provided by the fact that Herod’s sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BCE, and Archelaus apparently also exercised royal authority during Herod’s lifetime. Josephus states that Philip the Tetrarch’s death took place after a 37-year reign, in the 20th year of Tiberius (34 CE).

Josephus tells us that Herod died after a lunar eclipse. He gives an account of events between this eclipse and his death, and between his death and Passover. A partial eclipse took place on March 13, 4 BCE, about 29 days before Passover, and this eclipse is usually taken to be the one referred to by Josephus. There were however three other, total, eclipses around this time, and there are proponents of both 5 BCE—with two total eclipses, and 1 BCE.

Bronze coin of Herod the Great, minted at Samaria.
Josephus wrote that Herod’s final illness—sometimes named “Herod’s Evil”—was excruciating.[50] Based on Josephus’s descriptions, one medical expert has diagnosed Herod’s cause of death as chronic kidney disease complicated by Fournier’s gangrene. Similar symptoms attended the death of his grandson Agrippa I in 44 CE.

For this reason a number of Messianic movements arose within this period. According to Josephus, the actions of Messianic teachers and the failure of Judean and Roman leaders to deal effectively with them propelled the nation toward open revolt.

A review of select Messianic incidents reveals the tension, potential violence and general atmosphere in which Jesus proclaimed the “good news of the kingdom” (Matt 4:23):

– Near the time of Herod’s death in 4 B.C., two leading Jewish teachers incited their students to remove the large, golden eagle (the symbol of Rome) that Herod had erected over the great gate of the temple.

Herod arrested the teachers and their students and proceeded to burn them alive, also deposing the reigning high priest for his assumed complicity (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.2).

– The census of Quirinius in A.D. prompted an open revolt, led by Judas of Galilee, which was violently suppressed (Antiquities, 18.1.1; Acts 5:37).

– When Pilate became prefect in A.D. 26 he commanded his troops to bring standards bearing the image of Caesar into Jerusalem. A large crowd followed him to Caesarea and sat outside his palace for five days and nights in protest.

When he surrounded them with troops, they fell prostrate, exposed their necks and confessed themselves willing to die rather than to have the (Mosaic) Law transgressed (Antiquities, 18.3.1).

– Pilate later used funds from the temple treasury to build an aqueduct and crushed all public opposition to this action. (Antiquities, 18.3.2).

He also slaughtered a group of Galileans while they were offering sacrifices in Jerusalem (Lk 13:1).

– John the Baptist appeared in Judea around 29 A.D., preaching repentance, the imminent advent of God and public criticism of Herod Antipas. He was arrested and subsequently executed (Mk 6:16-29).

– A few years later Pilate crucified Jesus of Nazareth on the charge that he claimed to be “the king of the Jews” (Matt 27:37; Antiquities 18.3.3)        .

– In 36 A.D. Pilate brutally suppressed a Messianic movement in Samaria, which precipitated his removal from office (Antiquities, 18.4.1-2).

– In 41 A.D. the emperor Caligula sought to have a statue of himself erected in the temple of Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Jews protested, demanding that they be slain first (Antiquities, 18.8.2-3).

Around 45 A.D. a would-be prophet, Theudas, led a large crowd to the Jordan, promising to part the river at his own command as the sign of a new exodus.  Roman troops slaughtered most of his followers and carried the head of Theudas to Jerusalem (Antiquities, 20.5.1; Acts 5:36).

Many other such incidents are described in ancient sources, providing an important window into the complex and challenging world of the Holy Land during the time of Jesus.

The End of Jerusalem11 2

All of these tensions ultimately led to the Jewish revolt and the destruction of  Jerusalem.  Josephus blamed the incompetence and insensitivity of the later procurators for the disastrous revolt.

Despite initial Jewish success, the rebellion was crushed and the temple destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 A.D. After the war Judea was governed by a legate of senatorial rank who was under the direct supervision of the emperor.

A second Jewish revolt in 132-135 A.D. led by the Messianic pretender Bar Kokhba (“son of the star”; cf. Num 24:17), resulted in a great slaughter of Jews and the forcible removal of surviving Jews from the land.


The Romans named the province Palestine and converted the temple into a pagan shrine. Jerusalem itself became a Roman city, named Aelia Capitolina.

…Gergesenes, Gerasenes or Gadarenes?

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