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

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

vi] Partners in discipleship


The disciples' meeting with an unofficial exorcist prompts a series of sayings on reward, stumbling blocks and salt.


The way of Christ involves including / accepting / welcoming a fellow believer.


i] Context: See 8:22-30. Many commentators link v38-50 to Jesus' prediction of his death, the question of precedence in the kingdom and its associated sayings, v30-37. Yet, we are best to follow those who see these sayings as related to the incident of the unofficial exorcist, v38-40, sayings which cover the subject of Christian living.


ii] Structure: Inclusion:

Pronouncement story - the unofficial exorcist , v38-39:

One saying on inclusion, acceptance, v40.

Two sayings on endangering the faith of others, v41-42;

A three-part saying on endangering our own faith, v43-48;

Three sayings about salt, v49-50.


iii] Interpretation:

In 9:38-50 Mark crafts a narrative with linked independent sayings. Jesus has just made the point that "greatness", rank / precedence in the kingdom of God, is assessed on the ground of service, not on a disciple's service, but the service of the servant par excellence, "the servant of all." True greatness is found only in Christ.

The unofficial exorcist, unlike the disciples, evidences a discipleship which seems to outshine the disciples; the exorcist successfully casts out demons in Jesus' name, while they argue about precedence. Jesus' disciples need to open their eyes before they lead themselves and others into the fire that is never quenched. The collection of sayings on Christian living will give some guidance to this end.

Of course, as to the exact intent of each saying, there is some dispute; see below, eg.: The sin of partiality has taken root within the disciples, possessing them and damning them, v43-48; "To avoid causing sin, be at peace in your own circles, with him, and with all who make up the body politic of God's kingdom", Gundry, v49-50.


iv] Synoptics:

The unofficial exorcist: Lk.9:49-50.

Occasions for sin: Matt.18:6-9, Lk.17:1-2:

Saying #1, v40. Matt.12:30, Lk.9:50;

Saying #2, v41. Matt.10:42, 12:30, Lk.9:50, 11:23;

Saying #3, v42. Matt.18:6, Lk.17:2;

Saying #4, v43-48. Matt.5:29-30, 18:8-9. Not all parts of this three-part saying are found in Matthew and Luke.

Saying #5, v49 "Everyone will be salted with fire";

Saying #6, v50a. Matt.5:13, Lk.34:35-36. Mark shortens this saying.

Saying #7, v50b. "Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another."

Arguments abound as to whether the sayings are independent sayings of Jesus brought together by Mark, whether they are an existing thematic collection of Jesus' sayings, or whether they represent a whole unit of teaching by Jesus. They do seem to represent Mark's theological construct, but either way it doesn't matter as we are bound to interpret them contextually, ie., God's word to us is the gospel as conveyed to us by Mark.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Temptations to sin.

Text - 9:38

Partners in discipleship: i] The pronouncement story, the strange exorcist, with its attached saying in v40, v38-40. Usually taken as a lesson on accepting a forgiven sinner, "anyone who would be a follower of Jesus must be received", Hurtado, but it is probably wider than that. The response of the disciples to the ministry of the unofficial exorcist is revealing in that they had only just shown themselves to be less than adequate when it comes to the ministry of exorcism, and seem more focused on determining precedence in the fellowship.

en + dat. "in [your name]" - [john said to him, teacher, we saw someone] in [the name of you]. Instrumental, expressing means, "by, with your authority"; see 9:37. "John" here is obviously the apostle John, son of Zebedee, brother of James.

ekballonta (ekballw) pres. part. "driving out" - casting out [demons]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting tina, "a certain / someone = a man"; "a man who was casting out demons."

ekwluomen (kwluw) imperf. "we told [him] to stop" - [and] we were hindering, preventing, forbidding [him]. The imperfect is obviously tendential / conative, ie. attempted action that is not completed; "we tried to stop him", Barclay. It should though be noted that the imperfect is often used in verbs of speaking, cf., Zerwick # 272.

oJti "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples sought to stop the exorcist from casting out demons in Jesus' name. Cranfield suggests that this causal clause, omitted in some texts (esp. Western), is an assimilation to Luke.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - [he was not following] us. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow." "He is not of our company", Cassirer.


Disciples are to welcome partners in the cosmic battle against the powers of darkness, not "stop" (forbid) them. In this battle there are only two sides, "for" Christ, or "against" Christ. The combatant "for" Christ will not speak against Christ, since it is unlikely that a person who is outperforming the disciples in Satan-busting would then speak against Jesus. The pronouncement, "no one who .......... says anything bad about me", may be sarcastic.

oJ de "-" - but/and he. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue, a change in subject from the disciples to Jesus.

mh kwluete (kwluw) pres. imp. "do not stop [him]" - [jesus said] do not hinder [him]. With this negation, the command possibly entails the cessation of action already in progress. "Him" = "the unaffiliated sympathiser", France.

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples should not stop him; "because ...." Because such is an evidence "that he will not immediately bitterly revile Jesus [but is rather] a pointer to a certain openness toward Jesus [and thus he] is not to be despised", Cranfield.

oudeiV ... estin oJV "no one who" - there is no one who [who will do a mighty work]. The presence of the verb to-be and the personal pronoun strengthens the negation. Doing miracles in Jesus' name, and slandering Jesus at the same time, do not go together - the one rules out the other; "each excludes the middle ground", France.

epi "in [my name]" - in [the name of me]. As in v37, referred to above, this preposition here is most likely used instead of en, "by / with the authority of my name", ie., instrumental, expressing means.

tacu adv. "in the next moment" - [and will be able] quickly, suddenly. Adverb of manner / time; "in the same breath", Mason.

kakologhsai (kakologew) aor. inf. "say anything evil" - to speak evil of [me]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "will be able".


Saying #1, a saying on inclusion, acceptance; "Whoever is not against us is for us", v40. It is likely that this saying is an attached independent saying in support of the pronouncement, v39, with gar serving as a stitching device (commonly found linking sayings). On the other hand, it may be integrally linked to the pronouncement in v39b. The saying was used in secular circles; "He who is not against you is for you. He who today is far from you may tomorrow be near you", Cicero, in his defence of the Pompeiani before Caesar. At any rate, the saying reinforces the point made in v39; "If anyone is working for the cause to which Jesus and the Twelve are committed, he cannot work against it at the same time", Lane. The struggle against the powers of darkness cause a clear division in the combatants and the disciples need to be with those who stand with Jesus in the fight, whether they are in their immediate team (church) or not.

kaq + gen. "against" - [for who is not] against [us]. Here expressing opposition.

uJper + gen. "for" - [is] for [us]. Here expressing advantage; "for the benefit of". "Is on our side", Phillips.


ii] Saying #2: Whoever gives a mere drink in Jesus' name will be rewarded, v41. Given that the sayings here are only loosely attached, commentators divide on whether this saying is linked to v38-40 (so France, Evans, Edwards, Taylor), or part of the unit v38-42 (so Lane), or part of a more general collection, v41-50 (so Cranfield, Marcus, Swete), or whether Mark intends all the sayings to exegete the narrative, v38-39 (so Boring, Gundry), and this under the general theme of the acceptance of a forgiven sinner. Although this saying is used by Matthew in Christ's evangelistic charge to the disciples, Matt.10:42, here in Mark's context, the evangelistic setting is replaced by a setting of inclusion, and therefore welcoming, showing hospitality, as someone who belongs to Christ. "Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side", Peterson. So here, the saying reinforces the idea of inclusion; "a third reason for openness to other Christians who work outside the purview of the authority claimed by the Twelve", Boring.

gar "-" - for. Here, a transitional stitching device, untranslated.

amhn legw uJmin "I tell you the truth" - truly i say to you. A phrase which serves to underline what follows; in the Gk. what follows is "he will in no way lose his reward".

oJV ... an + subj. "anyone who" - if who, someone = whoever. This construction introduces an indefinite relative clause, which in this verse is conditional, "whoever, as may be the case, gives you to drink a cup of water .... then truly I say to you that ....."

pothrion (on) "a cup" - [may give you] a cup. Accusative complement of the direct object "you", standing in a double accusative construction.

uJdatoV (wr atoV) gen. "of water" - of water The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of content; "full of water / containing water."

en onamati oJti "in my name" - in name. As Cranfield notes, this is a strange construction and has produced a number of variants, eg. en tw/ onomati mou, "in the name of me" = "in my name". He suggests "on the ground that you belong to Christ", cf., Moule IB p79, with "name" here meaning "title / category" BAGD. Yet, just because there is no article (although there is a variant with one) doesn't mean it wasn't intended, since an article "is not required when the noun is the object of a preposition", Marcus. So, "in the name" is intended, but whose name? Probably "in the name of Christ". The "because you belong to Christ" is possibly a gloss to explain "in the name", so Marcus. Cassirer transposes the causal oJti "because of the name you bear ..." In unusual "dynamic equivalent" mode the NRSV opts for "because you bear the name of Christ." Still, the sense is clear enough.

oJti gen. "because [you belong to Christ]" - that [you are of christ]. Possibly causal, "because .....", but as noted above, it may well introduce a nominal clause standing in apposition to "in my name", so Decker. Manson argues that this is an unusual use (late? = "because you are a Christian ...") and has probably replaced the personal pronoun, "you are mine". The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "being followers of God's anointed", Cassirer.

oJti "-" - [truly i say to you] that. This second use of the conjunction introduces an object clause / dependent statement, expressing what Christ emphatically states; "truly I say to you that ...."

ou mh + subj. "certainly not" - not not [will he lose]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation; "he will definitely not."

ton misqon (oV) "reward" - the wages, reward [of him]. Accusative direct object of "will not lose." Certainly not "reward" in the terms of "reward on the basis of merit", but rather reward in the terms of the promised eschatological blessings appropriated now / not yet on the basis of divine mercy / grace through the instrument of faith. The notion of reward as merit has no place in the NT since all rests on the grace of God, cf., Matt.20:1-16, Lk.17:7-10. The faith that accesses the grace of God by its very nature prompts love. Hospitality toward a brother evidences the sure possession of that grace and thus the sure reward of the promised eschatological blessings.


Saying #3; Causing another to stumble, v42. Again, this is another independent saying of Jesus and is used by Mark to further reinforce the idea of acceptance, inclusion, as opposed to partiality. Most translations link this verse to the following passage, although v43-48 is probably itself an independent saying. Undermining the faith of a brother is the most serious of sins, particularly someone outside the established discipleship community, someone who is now functioning in Christ's name. The rejection of such a brother may well undermine their faith, so we are reminded to beware; to destroy someone's faith is serious. The warning carries its own power; it forces us to consider our actions toward this other one - the outsider, seeker "little one."

oJV an + subj. "if anyone" - [and] if someone = whoever. Introducing an indefinite relative clause, which in this sentence is conditional, "whoever, as may be the case, causes one of these little ones ........ then it would be better for them if .. ....." The apodosis, "it would be ......", is itself a conditional.

skandalish/ (skandalizw) aor. subj. "causes ...... to sin" - causes to stumble. As of setting a trap for someone, so trip up. Given the context of acceptance, inclusion, we trip up a fellow believer if we do not accept them / welcome them, if we ostracise them, fail to offer the acceptance that Christ offers them. The "sin", "stumble / entrapment" presumably entails undermining their faith such that they no longer believe; "to destroy someone's faith, to cause to fall away from God", Cranfield. This verse is often wrongly used to support warnings against a wide range of entrapments. Even Paul's warnings about leading a weaker brother astray are in the terms of undermining their faith, and more often than not ,the entrapment is nomism (the use of the law in the Christian life for blessing - a behaviour trait which prompts "speck removal" / guilt dissipation and thus prejudice and partiality) rather than secularism. "To fall away", TNT.

twn mikrwngen. adj. "little ones" - [one] of [these little] ones. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive. Probably not children as such, possibly believers in general, but given the context, the child probably represents the believer on the edge, or even outside, the Christian community - someone like the unofficial exorcist.

twn pisteuontwn (pisteuw) pres. part. "who believe" - the ones believing. The participle is adjectival limiting "little ones", as NIV.

eiV + acc. "in [me]" - into [me]. Expressing the direction of the action and arrival at. Variant omitted in most translations. Note the preposition "into" used for en, "in".

kalon "better" - [it is] better, good. Predicate adjective. An example of an absolute use for the comparative.

autw/ dat. pro. "for them" - to = for them. Dative of interest, advantage.

ei + ind. "-" - if. Introducing a conditional clause 1st class where the proposed condition is assumed to be true for argument sake; "if, as is the case, a millstone is tied around his neck and he has been cast into the sea, then it is better for him." As noted above, this conditional clause serves as the apodosis of the opening conditional clause, so "...... then, if a milestone ...."

muloV onikoV "a large millstone" - a millstone for a donkey. Nominative subject of the verb "to hang around." "Not the stone from a small hand-mill worked by a human being, but a large, heavy one turned by donkey power", Marcus.

peri + acc. "around" - [is hung] around [the neck of him and he is cast into the lake, sea]. Spatial; the repetition of the preposition from the verb perikeitai is stylistic. The translation of this verb as a perfect tense, "to have been placed", Souter, although a present tense, expresses vividness.


iii] A saying in three parts #4; endangering our own faith, v43-48. This saying unit consists of a three-part saying, each part beginning with kai ean with the linking verb from v42, skandalizh, "causes you to sin / stumble." Of course, they may be three separate sayings which Mark has brought together; see Synoptics above. "These verses shift the focus from jeopardising others to endangering self", Edwards. Contextually, believers are being warned of the "seriousness of making others fall away form the faith", Boring. Mark is warning us of the seriousness of undermining the faith of a believer / seeker who is outside the discipleship community, by ostracising them / failing to include them / failing to welcome them, accept them, and thus Mark encourages us to undertake remedial action for the sake of our own standing before Christ. Of course, Mark may not intend the context to so tightly dictate application. Mark may reasonably expect that these sayings of Jesus will be used to address sin / evil in general, rather than the particular sin of partiality. Note how Matthew uses the sayings to address adultery and lust, Matt.5:27-30, and later communal discord, Matt.18:6-35, indicating that the sayings, in their own right, have a general application. Of course such doesn't overrule the intention of our author. Anyway, the point is that sin (here particularly the sin of partiality) is actualised by the hand, the foot and the eye and must be addressed before it eats away, not only the faith of other believers, but our own faith, cf. Marcus p696-7.

ean + subj. "if" - [and] if. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, .... then ....."

apokoyon (apokoytw) aor. imp. "cut [it] off" - [the hand of you causes you to stumble] cut off [it]. The aorist expressing punctiliar action. The point of the saying is that it is better to ruthlessly excise an advantage that we have which undermines the faith of others, than to go to hades with all our advantages. Of course, pragmatic perimeters exist, eg., Jesus is not suggesting castration as an appropriate means of addressing sexual thoughts!!!

eiselqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "to enter" - [for you] to enter [into life crippled is better]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb to-be, with the accusative se "you" functioning as the subject of the infinitive, although possibly epexegetic, ie., explaining what is "better", so Rogers; "it is better that you should enter into life maimed", Barclay.

kullon adj. "maimed" - crippled. Here as an adverbial accusative.

h] "than" - than. Establishing a comparison.

econta (ecw) pres. part "with" - having [two hands]. Adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the action "to go away", but possibly just an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the infinitive "to go away"; "keep your two hands and go to Gehenna", Moffatt.

eiselqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "to go" - to depart. This second infinitive is still probably functioning as the subject of the verb to-be estin, "to enter ....... than to depart ............. is better."

geennan "hell" - [into] gehenna. The ever-burning rubbish tip outside Jerusalem used to image the horror of being cut off from the divine. The only sin that can separate us from the living God is the rejection of the way of salvation in Christ (probably what is meant by "sin against the Holy Spirit"). Yet, if we are blind to behaviour which undermines the faith of others, we are most likely blind to the state of our own faith, and may well find ourselves blhqhnai eiV thn geennan "cast out into Gehenna" = a divine passive, v45.

asbeston adj. "never goes out" - [into the fire] unquenchable, inextinguishable, unstoppable. The phrase is possibly an explanation by Mark for his Gentile readers, so Taylor.


"Where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched". Also v46, obviously additions and so left out of most translations, cf. v48.


Parallel Gk. to v43, "foot" replacing "hand".


Parallel Gk. to v43, "eye" replacing "hand". Throw out the eye rather than be thrown into hell. "If your eye falls victim to a trap of Satan, by comparison, it would be better for you to gouge out the offending eye and enter the Kingdom of God as a one-eyed man, than to be forever sentenced to an eternal fire that burns on and on forever", Junkins. For "the kingdom of God" see Mk.1:15. Referencing the domain and dominion of God, but importantly here, the phrase parallels thn zwhn "life" in v43, 45, the term favoured by John, "eternal life".


A free quotation from Isa.66:24, referring to the eternal punishment facing a person who has rebelled against God. The image of ongoing punishment, the constant feeding worm, the unquenched fire, may express the eternal nature of punishment, but it probably only serves to heighten the extent of loss. The NT constantly offsets the horror of eschatological judgment with the wonder of new life in the kingdom. The fact that this reality is a now, as well as a not yet reality, serves to indicate that a loss / gain comparison is at least central to the image.

oJpou "where" - where. Introducing a local clause.

atwn gen. "[the worms] that eat them" - [the worm] of them [does not die and the fire is not extinguished]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, in the sense "the worm that feeds upon them", TH.


iv] Saying #5; Salted by fire, v49. Here we have another attached independent saying, cf., Lev.2:13. There are a number of variants, but this, the shortest of the variants, is usually read, cf., Metzger. As is often the case with conjoined sayings, the saying is stitched to the previous saying with a conjunction, here gar, "for", untranslated, and a link word, here puri, "fire". As Cranfield notes, a Jewish sacrifice is accompanied by salt giving the idea that "a disciple is to be a sacrifice to God", salted (purified!) for God. This sacrifice is accompanied by "fire", possibly "the fires of trials and persecutions", but more likely the struggle of resisting sin. Certainly in the narrow contextual sense of resisting the sin of partiality, but also the wider struggle against sin in general. Of course, the reason for the many textual variants is that copyists tried to give some sense to the saying in the terms of Christian self-sacrifice. Given that both Luke and Matthew avoid both this and the next saying, Boring may be right when he notes that "here we have one of the New Testament passages that defy interpretation." As is often the case with thematic collections of sayings (eg., James), the thematic association is not always overtly obvious! This saying and the next may do little to advance Mark's theme, but they do demonstrate the respect he has for his sources.

"And indeed, fire will be everyone's seasoning", Cassirer - here or there, which one do you choose?

gar "-" - for. Transitional use of the conjunction used as a stitching device - not translated.

paV adj. "everyone" - all, every = everyone. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of "to salt." Obviously "all believers" is intended.

alisqhsetai (alizw) fut. pas. "will be salted" - will be salted. "A causative derivative of 'salt'", LN. "Everyone has to be consecrated by the fire of discipline", cf., Moffatt.

puri (pur oV) dat. "with fire" - with fire. The dative is instrumental, "with / by fire", although Decker suggests a dative of material.


Saying #6; It is not easy for saltless believer to become salty again, v50a. This independent saying is linked to the previous one by the key word "salt". A salty believer is presumably a believer who is at peace with their brothers and sisters. Mark's thematic context serves to define this peace in the sense of being accepting / welcoming / including a brother and sister, as opposed to practicing partiality. A believer who becomes saltless will not easily become salty again. Matthew adds "it is good for nothing but to be thrown away and trodden underfoot", Matt.5:13b. Mark doesn't push the image that far, rather, he leaves it up in the air - how do we make a saltless believer salty again? Not easy! So, beware!

kalon adj. "good" - [salt is] beautiful, good. Predicate nominative adjective; "salt is indeed a useful thing", Cassirer.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point.

ean + subj. "if" - if [the salt]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as my be the case, .... then ..."

analon adj. "loses its saltiness" - [becomes] saltless, unsalted (leached salt leaving a useless chemical residue). Predicate adjective; "weak and tasteless", Junkins.

en tina "How" - by what [will you season it]? The preposition here is obviously instrumental, expressing means; "by what means will you season it?" = "how will you return it to its natural condition of being salt?" = "with what can you give it back its flavour?", Barclay.


Saying #7; Be a salty believer, v50b. This final saying is attached to the previous saying with the key word "salt"; "Avoid causing sin, be at peace in your own circle", Gundry. The actual function of the salt (savouring, preserving, or purifying) is unspecified, although many like to guess, eg. salt = "persecution", Edwards. The exhortation "have salt" probably encourages the fostering of attributes such as wisdom, purity, graciousness, ..... which promote peace ("good relationships", France) in the brotherhood, so Evans. Beyond the exhortation "be at peace with each other" little more can be gleaned, although speculation is rife, eg., "take care to maintain in yourselves that which is the saltness of the salt, namely the gospel, the word of God", Cranfield.

eirhneuete (eirhneuw) pres. imp. "be at peace" - [have salt in yourselves and] be at peace. "Be at peace" is probably consequential to "be salty" and so "preserve the peace", Peterson.

en + dat. "with" - in = with [one another]. Here expressing association; "in relationship with one another." We are to have salt with ourselves and be at peace with each other, ie., Jesus "implies a profound connection between internal substance (what the Bible calls "wisdom") and external harmony", Marcus. "Within the brotherhood".


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]