The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52

2. Growing faith, 8:22-10:52

iv] The healing of a possessed boy


Leaving the majesty of mount transfiguration, Jesus and his three disciples come upon an epileptic boy. The boy's father is desperate because his child is now suicidal. The disciples, who had remained behind while Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus, were unable to exorcise the evil spirit and so now Jesus takes over and heals the child.


The journey to faith continues for the disciples. They may recognize Jesus as messiah, but they must "listen to him" if they are to discover the secret way into his messianic kingdom. From the incident of the epileptic boy the disciples learn that faith involves a total reliance on Christ rather than self. The father's request, devoid of confidence ("I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief"), sees the child hgeiren, "raised".


i] Context: See 8:22-30.


ii] Structure: This passage, Faith and Unfaith, presents as follows:

The healing of the boy with the unclean spirit, v14-29:

Jesus returns to the world, v14-16;

The boy's condition, v17-19;

The issue of faith and unbelief, v20-24;

The exorcism, v25-27;

The disciples' failure, v28-29.


iii] Interpretation.

This healing / exorcism narrative, as usual, points beyond itself, although here the focus is not so much on the exorcism, but rather the issue of faith which is drawn out in the developing discourse. The narrative gives account to Jesus return to the world, v14-16, the condition of the demon-possessed boy, v17-19, the issue of faith and unbelief, v20-24, the healing / exorcism, v25-27, the issue of the disciples' failure to heal the boy, v28-29.


The healing of the possessed boy and the transfiguration have the same feel as Jesus' baptism and temptation. The transfiguration, with its Exodus images (prefiguring the Exodus [release] about to take place on the cross), is set against Satanic attack, struggle and suffering. The story images "the overcoming of cosmic evil in the Christ event", Boring. "This incident brings us back down from the glorious height of the transfiguration experience to the earthly sphere, where the power of evil is confronted and where unbelief is a constant danger", Hurtado.

It is somewhat difficult to draw out the truth that Mark is wanting to make in this passage. Is he, like Matthew, exposing a failure in faith? The disciples had been given the authority to cast out demons, but on this occasion they had failed. Had they doubted the extent of their authority under Jesus? Boring questions whether we have here instruction on "exorcistic technique". He believes that Mark's point is that even with our standing as Christ's disciples we still face a faithless world and powers of darkness and thus "we must continue to depend on the power of God available through faith and prayer." Part of our problem is reflected in the two-level plane of the gospel narrative. As Marcus puts it "on one level the evangelist is telling a story about what happened 'way back when' in Jesus time, but on another level he is telling a story about what is happening now in his own Christian community, and the merging of these two narrative planes contributes to literary incongruities."

It is hard to know the degree to which Mark refers to type (cf. Biblical theology - the kingdom of God) in the formation of his gospel. The use of Sinai images in the account of the transfiguration story are patently obvious, but is the return of Jesus to the gathered crowd below imaging the return of Moses to the gathered people of Israel? Does Jesus visage shimmer as did the face of Moses? Does Jesus come with a law, as did Moses?

The weight of this story falls on the disciples, this faithless generation, and on a father and his impossible situation (impossible even for the disciples). His cry for God's forbearance for his faltering faith, secures the restoration of his son. Here then we find the substance of the story: restoration, resurrection, freedom, release, ..... life, rests on divine mercy, on grace, appropriated through faith, a reliance on the faithfulness of Christ, which reliance / faith can be as small as a mustard seed.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Faith and Unfaith.

Text - 9:14

The healing of the boy with the unclean spirit, v14-29. The return, v14-16. Jesus and the three apostles come upon an embarrassing failure. Members of the Sanhedrin, obviously gathering evidence against Jesus, are haranguing the disciples for a failed exorcism. Jesus asks what's going on.

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "when they came" - having come [to the disciples]. Variant, "when he came", but the plural reading is more likely. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. The "they" refers to Jesus and the three disciples who witnessed the transfiguration.

polun adj. "[they saw a] large [crowd]" - many, much. "Great/large crowd".

peri + acc. "around" - about, around [them]. Spacial. The "them" being the disciples who had remained behind while Jesus, Peter, James and John went up the mountain.

suzhtountaV (suzhtew) pres. part. "[the teachers of the law] arguing" - [the scribes] arguing, questioning. The present tense being durative serves to express ongoing argumentation, probably of the whole crowd rather than just the scribes. This may explain why "scribes" is anarthrous in that they are just one element of the crowd. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the experts of the law", "who were engaged in an argument."

proV + acc. "with [them]" - Here expressing opposition, "against", or association, "with".


euquV "as soon as" - immediately. Often used to heighten dramatic movement in an episode. "Immediately the whole crowd ...... ran forward", Weymouth, but it can also serve as a narrative connective, "then the whole crowd ...."

paV "all [the people]" - all [the crowd]. "The whole crowd". The reaction of the "whole" crowd heightens the impact of that reaction.

idonteV (eidon) aor. part. "saw [Jesus]" - having seen [him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "overwhelmed with wonder".

exeqambhqhsan (ekqambew) aor. mid./pas. "were overwhelmed with wonder" - were alarmed, astounded, astonished, amazed. The middle voice is often used with emotion. This is one of a group of key words in the gospel which express amazement. Amazement/awe is a proper initial response to Jesus, but a response which inevitably moves on to either belief, or unbelief. The word is a strong word and made stronger by the prefix ek producing an awe/amazement/wonder of extreme emotional distress and wonderment, reinforced by a perfective aspect, ie. the action is complete in itself. One wonders why the crowd reacts so strongly at the sight of Jesus. Is Mark suggesting that Jesus is still radiant after the transfiguration, in much the same way as Moses' visage was radiant after his meeting with God on Mount Sinai, ie. is Jesus showing "the lingering affects of his transfiguration", Guelich? We should remember that the people of Israel were so fearful that they were unable to look at the face of Moses after he came down from the mountain. Cranfield is not convinced as he thinks the reaction is due to Jesus' "unexpected and opportune arrival." "They were alarmed", BAGD; "greatly amazed", Torrey.

prostreconteV (prostrecw) pres. part. "ran" - running to, up to. Attendant circumstance participle, "they ran up to him and greeted him", but it may be taken as temporal, "when they ran ...." Further emphasizing the reaction of the crowd to Jesus.

hspazonto (aspazomai) imperf. "to greet [him]" - they were greeting, welcoming. The imperfect is durative, a normal tense for multiple greetings, but possibly iterative, expressing repeated greetings; "they hailed Jesus one after another", Gundry. Decker argues that here the imperfect is used "to recount background information."


suzhteite (suzhtew) pres. "[what] are you arguing ... about" - [and he enquired of them, what] are you arguing.

proV + acc. "with [them]" - to, toward. Here expressing opposition. Who are the "them"? In the Gk. Mark states that Jesus "enquired of them" and then Jesus refers to "you" plural, arguing with "them". There are numerous options, but most commentators take the view that Jesus address the crowd ("them") asking what they ("you") are arguing about with the disciples ("them"). This seems the best option because in v17 it is the father, a member of the crowd, who answers Jesus' question. Some commentators differentiate between the crowd and the scribes, but as already noted, the scribes are probably just one element of an agitated whole. Of course, the scribes wouldn't be passive onlookers, but obviously intent on stirring the pot.


The boy's condition, v17-19. The boy possesses an evil spirit which has not only destroyed his capacity to communicate, but has sought to destroy him. Jesus had given the disciples the power to exorcise, but on this occasion the powers of darkness were too strong for them. In the face of faithless humanity Jesus feels the burden of loneliness, anguish, and disappointment.

eiJV "a man" - [and answered him] one. Here instead of tiV, "a certain one / somebody", TH, so NIV.

ek + gen. "of [the crowd]" - Here the preposition serves instead of a partitive genitive.

didaskale (oV) voc. "teacher" - Vocative. Standing for the Aramaic "Rabbi" and indicating a limited understanding of Jesus' person.

econta (ecw) pres. part. "who is possessed" - having. The participle is possibly adverbial, causal, "I brought my son to you for he has a spirit that makes him mute", ESV, but given that it is accusative in agreement with uiJon, "son", it can be taken as adjectival, attributive, as NIV.

pneuma (a atoV) "by a spirit" - a spirit. Here obviously "evil spirit".

alalon adj. "that has robbed him of speech" - [a] speechless [spirit]. The adjective limits "spirit", accusative direct object of "has", but in what sense? Presumably the sense is that a dumb/speechless spirit, having possessed someone, makes that person speechless, ie. the person takes on the characteristics of the evil spirit. Best expressed "because he has a spirit which makes him dumb", Barclay, or adjusted for the PC police, "keeps him from talking", CEV.


The symptoms are now described indicating that the boy is an epileptic (explicitly stated in Matthew 17:15) - thrown to the ground, foaming at the mouth, gnashing of teeth, and becoming stiff. For Mark, the problem is demonic, not medical, and this because Mark is alluding to a struggle with dark powers that will find its climax at the cross in a victory of faith.

oJpou ean + subj. "whenever" - This construction normally forms an indefinite local clause (adverbial), so "wherever it comes upon him", Weymouth, although most translations opt for a temporal clause, as NIV. Either way, the evil spirit is powerful and can take hold of the boy at will.

katalabh/ (katalambanw) aor. subj. "it seizes" - takes, overtakes. In the sense "take hold of with hostile intent", TH, so "takes possession of".

eipa (eipon) aor. "I asked [your disciples]" - I said [to your disciples]. "I talked to your followers about casting out this demon", Junkins.

toiV maqhtaiV (hV ou) dat. "disciples" - Dative of indirect object.

iJna + subj. "-" - that [may you cast it out]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what he said/asked, although possibly forming a purpose clause, "I asked/told your disciples in order that they may cast it out."

kai "but" - and. Possibly with an adversative sense here, as NIV.

ouk iscusan (iscuw) aor. "they could not" - they were not strong. We might expect ou dunamai, "they were not able", but here as a stark statement underlining the disciples lack of strength, lessoned somewhat by the variant reading "to cast it out" - an obvious addition. "But they could not do a thing", Junkins.


de "-" - but, and. Probably adversative here introducing an adverse reaction by Jesus, "but".

apistoV adj. "[O] unbelieving [generation]" - disbelieving. Possibly "unfaithful", but better "faithless / unbelieving / disbelieving". Who is Jesus addressing? Is it the father, the Sadducees, the crowd, the disciples, or everyone? Cranfield argues that Jesus' words can apply to everyone there, but they particularly apply to the disciples since it is their lack of faith that is at issue; "the disciples not the least", Swete, so Marcus. Not all commentators agree, cf. Gundry, Taylor, Evans, "he differentiates himself from unbelieving humanity as such", Boring. Edwards argues that Jesus excludes the disciples from the "faithless generation". Cranfield goes on to suggest that the disciples' problem lay in taking their previous success for granted, but this is not the point that Mark makes.

oJ de apokriqeiV autoiV legei "Jesus replied" - and he having answered to them says. A typical long winded Aramaic introduction with the attendant participle treated as virtually redundant, as NIV.

eJwV pote "how long" - until when. Temporal construction; "how long", as NIV.

esomai (eimi) fut. "shall I stay" - will I be. "How long must the Son of Man strive with the disbelief of humanity?"

proV "with" - to. Here the preposition expresses association, "with / in company with".

anexomai (anecomai) fut. "shall I put up with" - will I bear, put up with, endure. As a verb of emotion it takes the genitive of "you", although not in classical Gk.

uJmwn gen. pro. "you" - Genitive of direct object after the ana prefix verb "to suffer, be patient with."

ferete (ferw) pres. imp. "Bring [the boy to me]" - bring, carry [him to me]. "Bring that boy to Me", Junkins.


The issue of faith and unbelief, v20-24. In the presence of Jesus, the Satanic power oppresses the boy. Jesus' question to the father demonstrates empathy and interest, yet after the disciples' failure, the Father's plea now carries with it doubt. Is Jesus really able to act for his son? Yet, the power and authority of Jesus is not limited, for nothing is impossible to God. The father affirms his willingness to rely on Jesus, but exposes his humanity in identifying himself with the "faithless generation". All he can do is seeks God's mercy in the face of his "faithless" faith.

idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when [the spirit] saw [Jesus]" - having seen [him the spirit immediately]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. The NIV is probably right in its translation, although both the subject and the object are unclear, eg. "when Jesus saw the boy, the spirit ...", "when the boy saw Jesus, the spirit ...." As Gundry notes, the nominative case of "having seen" requires that it modify the neuter subject "the spirit", ad sensum. Of course, we then have to recognize a change in subject with "he fell to the ground", ie. "the boy fell to the ground", but then there is often a subject interchange between a demoniac and their demon.

sunesparaxen (susoarassw) aor. "threw [the boy] into a convulsion - he convulsed, he pulled about. The prefix may serve to strengthen the verb ("to convulse completely"), but as it is only found here and in Luke there is no agreement as to the intention of the prefix.

peswn (piptw) aor. part. "he fell [to the ground]" - having fallen [upon the ground]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "convulsed".

afrizwn (afrizw) pres. part. "[rolled around] foaming at the mouth" - The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the action of the verb "he was rolling around", as NIV.


wJV (af oJu) "-" - [how much time is it] while/when. Here functioning as a temporal conjunction; "since", Cranfield.

autw/ dat. pro. "[has] he [been like this]" - [this has happened] to him. Dative of interest, disadvantage.

ek paidioqen "from childhood" - The preposition here is temporal; "ever since he was a child", CEV.


"The father's words leave a vivid impression", Taylor.

pollakiV adv. "[it has] often" - often, many times.

iJna + subj. "to [kill him]" - that. Here obviously forming a purpose clause, "in order to destroy him."

alla "but" - but. Adversative. The evil spirit is powerful, but Jesus is surely more powerful, so "nevertheless, if you are able ....", Gundry.

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true, "if, as is the case, .... then ...."

dunh/ (dunamai) pres. pas. "you can do" - you are able. The complementary infinitive poiein, "to do" is assumed, so "you are able to do." The issue is one of ability, not willingness. Due to the disciples' failure, they being representatives of Jesus, the father is unsure whether Jesus "is able" to perform the exorcism.

ti acc. "anything" - a certain thing / anything. Object of the assumed infinitive.

splagcnisqeiV (splagcnizomai) aor. pas. part. "take pity on" - having compassion, pity, mercy. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "help [us]", therefore imperatival, although in the terms of a petition rather than a command; "do help us, do have pity on us", Moffatt.

hJmaV "us" - Taylor notes that by the use of the plural the father has identified himself with the child's condition.

hJmin dat. pro. "[help] us" - Dative of direct object after the verb bohqew, "to help"


"The issue posed hopefully, but tentatively by the father, is whether Jesus is able to do anything. With divine indignation, Jesus rejects the inquiry as a non-question - the one who represents the power of God cannot be questioned about his ability", Boring.

de "-" - but, and. Adversative, introducing a counter point, even surprise, "`if you can do anything', retorted Jesus", Phillips.

to "-" - A neuter article is commonly used in classical Gk. to introduce direct speech, or a quote, but it is more likely serving here as a nominalizer turning the restatement of the protasis of the conditional clause, v22, into a nominative of exclamation, Wallace, 59-60.

panta adj. "everything" - all things. Adjective used as a noun.

dunata adj. "is possible" - [are] able. Predicate adjective. Again the infinitive "to do" is assumed, so "all things are able to be done".

tw/ pisteuonti (pisteuw) dat. pres. part. "for him who believes" - to the one believing. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage, as NIV. This rather bald statement is often removed from its context and used to support wishful thinking. Cranfield lists the usual suspects, opting for "a man who has faith will not set any limit to what I (Jesus) (or perhaps God?) can do". Effective faith entails reliance on the revealed will of God in Christ, a reliance that God will do what he says he will do.


The father's response causes the expositor no end of trouble. Calvin observes the contradiction of claiming to believe, but at the same time asking for help to overcome unbelief. "As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers." Calving suggests that the father is asking forbearance for his "little" / wavering faith. On the other hand, the father may wrongly think that the issue is quantitative? "Sir I do have faith - if it is not enough do help me (ie. help me to increase it)", Hunter. Of course, we do well to remember that faith is not quantitative since faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain and this because God does the moving. It is also possible that the father "believes, but does not have faith as a possession to which he can appeal, and he knows he must pray (an expression of faith) for faith (which he does not claim to have)", Boring. Calvin's approach seems best. So, the father's words remind us that "true faith is always aware how small and inadequate it is", Edwards. The father does indeed believe, since he brought his child to be healed, but he is also part of the faithless generation - simil justus et peccator, "at once righteous and a sinner", Luther.

euquV "immediately" - Expressing again dramatic movement; "he responds promptly and without hesitation", Decker.

tou paidiou (on) gen. "[the Father] of the child" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

kraxaV (krazw) aor. part. "exclaimed" - having cried out. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; "cried out and said." "At once the father of the boy cried out", Moffatt.

bohqei (bohqew) pres. imp. "help" - help, assist. Note the move from the aorist (punctiliar) "help", v22, to the present (durative) "help" here, expressing ongoing help for a lingering state of unbelief - a state common to humanity. As noted above, the father asks for forbearance.

th/ apistia/ (a) dat. "[my] unbelief" - [help] the faithlessness [of me]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to help."


The exorcism, v25-27. Release is again effected through Jesus' powerful and authoritative word. The description of the near-death struggle of the child's release is possibly intended to image the death and resurrection of Jesus through which the powers of darkness will soon be defeated.

Jesus continues maintaining the messianic secret by moving to complete the exorcism before the crowd can reform / increase. It is unclear what is happening with regard the crowd. Had Jesus moved away from the crowd to deal personally with the boy and his father, or is the crowd rapidly expanding, or is this a different crowd? It is likely that what we have is a crowd moving from one point to another. Initially gathered around the disciples, it moves, with some running, to meet Jesus as he comes down the mountain, reforming around him.

idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when Jesus saw" - having seen. The Participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV, probably with a causal twist; "As Jesus saw that .....", Moffatt.

oJti "that" - that [a crowd is gathering]. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus became aware of; "Jesus noticed that a mob was collecting", Berkeley.

episuntrecei (episuntrecw) pres. "was running to the scene" - The word is strengthened by its prefixes and may express "hostile intent", TH. "The crowd closed in upon them", Manson.

epetimhsen (epitimaw) aor. "he rebuked" - rebuked, commanded. Here obviously with the sense "command", a command with an implied threat. "It is I who order you", Barclay.

tw/ pneumati tw/ akaqartw/ dat. "the evil spirit" - the unclean spirit. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to rebuke." An example of the canon of Apollonius where two dependent nouns either both take an article, as here, or both lack it. We are now told that the "spirit" is "unclean", ie. of an evil force which makes a person ritually unclean and thus apart from the people of God; "a contaminating spirit".

to alalon kai kwfon pneuma "you deaf and mute spirit" - mute and deaf spirit. Again more information is supplied in that this spirit is deaf and thus by implication makes the possessed person deaf.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "he said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to rebuke / command."

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

soi dat. pro. "[I command] you" - Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to give orders to."

ex (ek) + gen. "[come out] of [him]" - [come out] from [him]. Expressing separation.

mhketi eiselqhV (eisercomai) aor. subj. "never enter again" - no more may you enter [into him]. A subjunctive of prohibition, Wallace p469.


kraxaV (krazw) aor. part. "the spirit shrieked" - having cried out. Both this participle and "having convulsed him" are attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the main verb "came out", although it is possible to treat it as adverbial, temporal; "after crying out and convulsing him terribly", ESV.

polla adv. "[convulsed him] violently" - many, much. Adverbial use of polluV. Probably referring to frequency, so "repeatedly", Gundry.

egeneto (ginomai) aor. "the boy looked" - he became [as if (wJsei, comparative) dead].

w{ste + inf. "that" - so that [to say]. This construction forms a consecutive clause, "with the result that many said".

pollouV adj. "many [said]" - many, much. Probably "most of the crowd", even "all the crowd", BAGD, "all who were present", Cranfield. Gundry argues that the crowd demonstrates by this statement, a statement which expresses the victory of the evil powers, that it is indeed the faithless generation. Boring, on the other hand, argues that Mark is simply emphasizing the boy's death-like state, as opposed to his being raised up, "to point to the Christ event as a whole and communicate resurrection faith".

oJti "-" - that [he died]. Introducing direct speech, what the crowd said.


krathsaV (kratew) aor. part. "took [him by the hand]" - having grasped [the hand of him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "lifted/raised up", "grasped his hand and helped him up", but it may be treated adverbially, instrumental, expressing the means by which he lifted him up. "Hand", ceiroV, is a genitive of direct object after the verb "to take hold of."

anesth (anisthmi) aor. "he stood up" - he arose, stood up, got up. Note, also used of resurrection, ie. "lived again, came to life" after having died. Probably the sense is that the boy, having been helped to his feet by Jesus, is able to stand by himself "demonstrating his restoration to health", Guelich.


The disciples' failure, v28-29. In a short epilogue, Mark records the reason for the disciples' failure. The disciples faced a power that was beyond them and they could do nothing more than hand the matter over to the divine restorer.

eiselqontoV (eisercomai) gen. aor. part. "after [Jesus] had gone" - having entered. The genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause, as NIV. Noted as a typical loose use of the genitive absolute reflecting Aramaic usage, cf. Zerwick #49.

autou gen. "Jesus" - he. "He" = "Jesus", genitive, in agreement with the participle.

eiV oikon "indoors" - into a house. Spacial; usually translated "indoors".

ephrwtwn (ephrwtaw) imperf. "asked" - were enquiring. Imperfect is probably progressive / descriptive expressing action that is in progress.

kat idian "[asked him] privately" - according to ones own. Idiomatic; "apart / privately", Zerwick.

oJti "-" - Usually classed as the interrogative use of hoti = oJ + ti, ie. introducing a question, as NIV.

ekbalein (ekballw) aor. inf. "drive [it] out" - [were not able] to cast out [it]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "were able".

en nhsteia/ "and fasting" - This variant is rejected by most commentators and translations. The preposition en is probably instrumental; "by fasting."


In Matthew's gospel Jesus answers the disciples' question with the words "because of your little faith", but Mark's point seems quite different. "This kind/type" of unclean spirit, a powerful kind (Mark has made this point in his description of the boy's symptoms), necessitates prayer. Seeing Jesus didn't pray, it is usually argued that the need for pray applies to the disciples. They needed to put the exorcism into divine hands, given its difficulty, rather than rely on their own abilities. This, of course, indirectly becomes a matter of faith; "prayer is faith turned to God", Grundmann. From the father we learn the lesson of faith. He asks Jesus for forbearance and his prayer is anwered. The point is, the powers of darkness have enslaved us and we do not have the power to secure our own release. Our only hope lies in the cry for divine mercy.

touto to genoV "this kind" - this sort, type. The kind of unclean spirit that is powerful.

exelqein (exercomai) aor. inf. "[can] come out" - [is not able] to come out. The infinitive of the verb, "to come out / go out", in this context, stands for the passive of exelqein, "to be cast out", cf. Swete. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "is able".

ei mh "only" - except. Introducing an exceptive clause, expressing a contrast by designating an exception.

en "by" - in, by [prayer]. Here taking an instrumental sense, "by means of".


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]