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Mark 7:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Came from Jerusalem - Probably for the express purpose of disputing with Christ, that they might entangle him in his talk. Malice and envy are never idle - they incessantly hunt the person they intend to make their prey.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-23

See this passage explained in the notes at Mark 7:1

Came from Jerusalem - Probably to observe his conduct, and to find matter of accusation against him.

Mark 7:2

Defiled hands - The hands were considered defiled or polluted unless they were washed previous to every meal.

Mark 7:3

Except they wash their hands oft - Our word “oft” means frequently, often. The Greek wore translated oft has been rendered various ways. Some have said that it means “up to the wrist” - unless they wash their hands up to the wrist. Others have said up to the elbow.” There is evidence that the Pharisees had some such foolish rule as this about washing, and it is likely that they practiced it faithfully. But the Greek Word πυγμή pugmē- means properly the “fist,” and the meaning here is, “Unless they wash their hands (rubbing them) with the fist” - that is, not merely dipping the finger or hands in water as a sign of ablution, but rubbing the hands together as a ball or fist, in the usual Oriental manner when water is poured over them. Hence, the phrase comes to mean “diligently, carefully, sedulously.” - Robinson, Lexicon. The idea is, unless they pay the utmost attention to it, and do it carefully and according to rule.

The tradition - What had been handed down; not what was delivered “by writing” in the law of Moses, but what had been communicated from father to son as being proper and binding.

The elders - The ancients; not the old men “then living,” but those who had lived formerly.

Mark 7:4

Market - This word means either the place where provisions were sold, or the place where men were convened for any purpose. Here it probably means the former.

Except they wash - In the original, “Except they baptize.” In this place it does not mean to immerse the whole body, but only the hands. There is no evidence that the Jews washed their “whole bodies” every time they came from market. It is probable that they often washed with the use of a very small quantity of water.

The washing of cups - In the Greek, “the baptism of cups.”

Cups - drinking vessels. Those used at their meals.

Pots - Measures of “liquids.” Vessels made of wood, used to hold wine, vinegar, etc.

brazen vessels - Vessels made of brass, used in cooking or otherwise. These, if much polluted, were commonly passed through the fire: if slightly polluted they were washed. Earthen vessels, if defiled, were usually broken.

Tables - This word means, in the original, “beds or couches.” It refers not to the “tables” on which they ate, but to the “couches” on which they reclined at their meals. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. These were supposed to be defiled when any unclean or polluted person had reclined on them, and they deemed it necessary to purify them with water. The word “baptism” is here used - in the original, “the baptism of tables;” but, since it cannot be supposed that “couches” were entirely “immersed” in water, the word “baptism” here must denote some other application of water, by sprinkling or otherwise, and shows that the term is used in the sense of washing in any way. If the word is used here, as is clear it is, to denote anything except entire immersion, it may be elsewhere, and baptism is lawfully performed, therefore, without immersing the whole body in water.

Mark 7:7

For doctrines - For commands of God binding on the conscience. Imposing “your” traditions as equal in authority to the laws of God.

Mark 7:8

Laying aside - Rejecting, or making, it give place to traditions; considering the traditions as superior in authority to the divine law. This was the uniform doctrine of the Pharisees. See the notes at Matthew 15:1-9.

The tradition of men - What has been handed down by human beings, or what rests solely on their authority.

Mark 7:9

Full well - These words are capable of different interpretations. Some read them as a question: “Do ye do well in rejecting?” etc. Others suppose they mean “skillfully, cunningly.” “You show great cunning or art, in laying aside God‘s commands and substituting in their place those of men.” Others suppose them to be ironical. “How nobly you act! From conscientious attachment to your traditions you have made void the law of God;” meaning to intimate by it that they had acted wickedly and basely.

Mark 7:17

The parable - The “obscure” and difficult remarks which he had made in Mark 7:15. The word “parable,” here, means “obscure” and “difficult saying.” They could not understand it. They had probably imbibed many of the popular notions of the Pharisees, and they could not understand why a man was not defiled by external things. It was, moreover, a doctrine of the law that men were ceremonially polluted by contact with dead bodies, etc., and they could not understand how it could be otherwise.

Mark 7:18

Cannot defile him - Cannot render his “soul” polluted; cannot make him a “sinner” so as to need this purifying as a “religious” observance.

Mark 7:19

Entereth not into his heart - Does not reach or affect the “mind,” the “soul,” and consequently cannot pollute it. Even if it should affect the “body,” yet it cannot the “soul,” and consequently cannot need to be cleansed by a religious ordinance. The notions of the Pharisees, therefore, are not founded in reason, but are mere “superstition.”

The draught - The sink, the vault. “Purging all meats.” The word “purging,” here, means to purify, to cleanse. What is thrown out of the body is the innutritious part of the food taken into the stomach, and leaving only that which is proper for the support of life; and it cannot, therefore, defile the soul.

All meals - All food; all that is taken into the body to support life. The meaning is, that the economy or process by which life is supported “purifies” or “renders nutritious” all kinds of food. The unwholesome or innutritious parts are separated, and the wholesome only are taken into the system. This agrees with all that has since been discovered of the process of digestion and of the support of life. The food taken into the stomach is by the gastric juice converted into a thick pulp called chyme. The nutritious part of this is conveyed into small vessels, and changed into a milky substance called “chyle.” This is poured by the thoracic duct into the left subclavian vein and mingles with the blood, and conveys nutriment and support to all parts of the system. The useless parts of the food are thrown off.

Mark 7:20

Hat which cometh out of the man - His words; the expression of his thoughts and feelings; his conduct, as the development of inward malice, anger, covetousness, lust, etc.

Defileth the man - Makes him really polluted or offensive in the sight of God. This renders the soul corrupt and abominable in his sight. See Matthew 15:18-20.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
One great design of Christ's coming was, to set aside the ceremonial law; and to make way for this, he rejects the ceremonies men added to the law of God's making. Those clean hands and that pure heart which Christ bestows on his disciples, and requires of them, are very different from the outward and superstitious forms of Pharisees of every age. Jesus reproves them for rejecting the commandment of God. It is clear that it is the duty of children, if their parents are poor, to relieve them as far as they are able; and if children deserve to die that curse their parents, much more those that starve them. But if a man conformed to the traditions of the Pharisees, they found a device to free him from the claim of this duty.
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 395-7

This chapter is based on Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23.

The scribes and Pharisees, expecting to see Jesus at the Passover, had laid a trap for Him. But Jesus, knowing their purpose, had absented Himself from this gathering. “Then came together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes.” As He did not go to them, they came to Him. For a time it had seemed that the people of Galilee would receive Jesus as the Messiah, and that the power of the hierarchy in that region would be broken. The mission of the twelve, indicating the extension of Christ's work, and bringing the disciples more directly into conflict with the rabbis, had excited anew the jealousy of the leaders at Jerusalem. The spies they sent to Capernaum in the early part of His ministry, who had tried to fix on Him the charge of Sabbathbreaking, had been put to confusion; but the rabbis were bent on carrying out their purpose. Now another deputation was sent to watch His movements, and find some accusation against Him. DA 395.1

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 408

The disciples were inclined to think that their Master should have granted the demand for a sign in the heavens. They believed that He was fully able to do this, and that such a sign would put His enemies to silence. They did not discern the hypocrisy of these cavilers. DA 408.1

Months afterward, “when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another,” Jesus repeated the same teaching. “He began to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1. DA 408.2

The leaven placed in the meal works imperceptibly, changing the whole mass to its own nature. So if hypocrisy is allowed to exist in the heart, it permeates the character and the life. A striking example of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Christ had already rebuked in denouncing the practice of “Corban,” by which a neglect of filial duty was concealed under a pretense of liberality to the temple. The scribes and Pharisees were insinuating deceptive principles. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines, and improved every occasion to instill them artfully into the minds of their hearers. These false principles, when once accepted, worked like leaven in the meal, permeating and transforming the character. It was this deceptive teaching that made it so hard for the people to receive the words of Christ. DA 408.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 603

No sooner were the Pharisees silenced than the Sadducees came forward with their artful questions. The two parties stood in bitter opposition to each other. The Pharisees were rigid adherents to tradition. They were exact in outward ceremonies, diligent in washings, fastings, and long prayers, and ostentatious in almsgiving. But Christ declared that they made void the law of God by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. As a class they were bigoted and hypocritical; yet among them were persons of genuine piety, who accepted Christ's teachings and became His disciples. The Sadducees rejected the traditions of the Pharisees. They professed to believe the greater portion of the Scriptures, and to regard them as the rule of action; but practically they were skeptics and materialists. DA 603.1

The Sadducees denied the existence of angels, the resurrection of the dead, and the doctrine of a future life, with its rewards and punishments. On all these points they differed with the Pharisees. Between the two parties the resurrection was especially a subject of controversy. The Pharisees had been firm believers in the resurrection, but in these discussions their views in regard to the future state became confused. Death became to them an inexplicable mystery. Their inability to meet the arguments of the Sadducees gave rise to continual irritation. The discussions between the two parties usually resulted in angry disputes, leaving them farther apart than before. DA 603.2

In numbers the Sadducees fell far below their opponents, and they had not so strong a hold upon the common people; but many of them were wealthy, and they had the influence which wealth imparts. In their ranks were included most of the priests, and from among them the high priest was usually chosen. This was, however, with the express stipulation that their skeptical opinions should not be made prominent. On account of the numbers and popularity of the Pharisees, it was necessary for the Sadducees to concede outwardly to their doctrines when holding any priestly office; but the very fact that they were eligible to such office gave influence to their errors. DA 604.1

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Ellen G. White
Education, 75

As they ceased to recognize the Divine, they ceased to regard the human. Truth, honor, integrity, confidence, compassion, were departing from the earth. Relentless greed and absorbing ambition gave birth to universal distrust. The idea of duty, of the obligation of strength to weakness, of human dignity and human rights, was cast aside as a dream or a fable. The common people were regarded as beasts of burden or as the tools and the steppingstones for ambition. Wealth and power, ease and self-indulgence, were sought as the highest good. Physical degeneracy, mental stupor, spiritual death, characterized the age. Ed 75.1

As the evil passions and purposes of men banished God from their thoughts, so forgetfulness of Him inclined them more strongly to evil. The heart in love with sin clothed Him with its own attributes, and this conception strengthened the power of sin. Bent on self-pleasing, men came to regard God as such a one as themselves—a Being whose aim was self-glory, whose requirements were suited to His own pleasure; a Being by whom men were lifted up or cast down according as they helped or hindered His selfish purpose. The lower classes regarded the Supreme Being as one scarcely differing from their oppressors, save by exceeding them in power. By these ideas every form of religion was molded. Each was a system of exaction. By gifts and ceremonies, the worshipers sought to propitiate the Deity in order to secure His favor for their own ends. Such religion, having no power upon the heart or the conscience, could be but a round of forms, of which men wearied, and from which, except for such gain as it might offer, they longed to be free. So evil, unrestrained, grew stronger, while the appreciation and desire for good diminished. Men lost the image of God and received the impress of the demoniacal power by which they were controlled. The whole world was becoming a sink of corruption. Ed 75.2

There was but one hope for the human race—that into this mass of discordant and corrupting elements might be cast a new leaven; that there might be brought to mankind the power of a new life; that the knowledge of God might be restored to the world. Ed 76.1

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