Mark 1:1 Commentary - Peake's Commentary on the BibleMar 1:1-13. A brief introductory section showing how the work of John the Baptist, and the baptism and temptation of Jesus, led up to the ministry in Galilee.
Mar 1:1 is perhaps best taken as the title to the whole book. It may be a late addition, but it represents the writer’s point of view. Like Luke, he relates what Jesus began to do. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus form in themselves the beginning: the end is not yet. Moreover, the gospel is the fact of Jesus Christ. For Mk. “Jesus is not the herald but the content of the gospel” (Wellhausen).
Mar 1:2-8. As was foretold in Isaiah, Christ’s coming was prepared for by the appearance of a prophet, in the person of John (p. 661), who called the Jewish people to repent, and to prove their repentance by baptizing themselves or letting themselves be baptized in Jordan, that they might be fitted to receive the Messianic forgiveness. His appeal had a profound effect, which Mk. describes with a characteristic touch of popular exaggeration when he says all the land of Judah responded. This response grew with time, for the imperfect tenses used in Mar 1:5 imply a continuous succession of hearers and converts. John wore the rough garment associated with earlier prophets (Zec 13:4), while his leather girdle recalled Elijah (2Ki 1:8). His food was drawn from the desert. His severe simplicity of dress and diet (cf. Ascension of Isaiah, 210f.) emphasized the call to repentance. It was a time to fast. One utterance of John’s arrests Mk., and seems to him worth recording. John spoke of a greater than himself, to whom he was not worthy to render even the humble service usually assigned to slaves. Through this mightier one would come the gift of the Spirit. John was essentially a forerunner.
Mar 1:2 f. The reading of RV in Mar 1:2 is probably correct, though the passage is not from Is. but combines Mal 3:1 and Exo 23:20, while Mar 1:3 reproduces LXX of Isa 40:3, which construes “in the wilderness” with “the voice of one crying,” and not as Heb, with “make ready the way.” The LXX rendering and some further alterations make the passages more readily applicable to John. Possibly they were linked together and ascribed to Is. in an early work of testimonies (i.e. a collection of OT texts intended to convince or confute the Jews; cf. p. 700) which Mk. used or from which they were inserted into his text.
Mar 1:8. Loisy thinks the reference to the Holy Ghost is due to Mk., who gives a Christian colouring to John’s saying. Elsewhere (Mat 3:11 f.) John anticipates a Messiah who comes to judgment. Did he contrast his own baptism by water unto repentance with Messiah’s baptism by fire unto judgment? If so, Mk. has changed an original “with fire” into “with the Holy Ghost.” But in view of Eze 36:25-27, John may well have spoken as reported in Mk. (see further ERE, ii. 375, 381).
Mar 1:9-11. The Baptism of Jesus.—While John was drawing crowds to the Jordan, Jesus came from Nazareth (p. 29, Mat 2:23*) in Galilee (an obscure village unknown except through the Christian tradition) and was baptized, thus recognising in John’s preaching the call of God to His people. In the very act by which He shared the national repentance and attributed Divine authority to John’s mission, He received a vision and heard a voice which revealed to Him His own place in this movement. The Spirit of God rent the heavens and came down on Jesus as a dove (the symbol to the Jews of purity and harmlessness: see Luk 2:24, Mat 10:16), thus marking Him out as the mightier one of whom John spoke. By Mk. the vision was probably regarded as objective, and therefore visible to John and the crowd if present. But it is not said that John saw the vision or recognised the Christ in Jesus. The vision is significant as being the consecration of Jesus to the Messianic office. (See further, pp. 661f.)
Mar 1:12 f. The Temptation.—Henceforth, in a new and special sense, Jesus is under the control of the Spirit, who now drives Him into the wilderness, where He is tempted by the adversary. He is alone amid the haunts of wild beasts, but the angels serve and sustain Him.MK’s verses read like a summary of a longer story, but the references to the wild beasts and to the apparently continuous ministry of angels, which seems to exclude fasting, suggest that the story summarised differed from the accounts of the Temptation given in Mt. and Lk. The length of time spent by Jesus in the desert is given as forty days. This is a conventional number, paralleled in OT stories (e.g. Gen 7:17, Exo 24:18, 1Ki 19:8). This and other details have sometimes been regarded as proof that the story of the Temptation is a myth. But that the decisive vision should be followed by a period of retirement and temptation is natural enough. (See further, p. 703.)
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Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Peake's Commentary was first published in 1919 as A Commentary on the Bible, edited by Arthur Samuel Peake, with the assistance of A. J. Grieve for the New Testament. There were 61 contributors, writing 96 articles. Its length was 1014 pages, plus 8 maps. Biblical quotation was from the Revised Version of the Bible. This edition was reprinted in 1937 with a 40-page supplement, edited by A. J. Grieve.