The journey begins, 1:1-5:43

3. Conflict in the journey, 2:1-3:6

i] The authority of the Son of Man to forgive sins


Jesus returns to Capernaum, possibly to Peter's own house, and in so doing, draws a large crowd which presses in and around the house. Jesus is preaching to the crowd when four men, carrying a paralytic on a stretcher, try to gain entry. They end up on the roof, cutting a hole and lowering the man down in front of Jesus. Observing their "faith", Jesus addresses the man and says "your sins are forgiven." Such blasphemy causes a stir amongst the religious authorities, and so Jesus asks a which is easier? question. In order that they may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, Jesus orders the paralytic to stand up, pick up his stretcher and go home. To the shock of the crowd, he does just that.


Jesus' capacity to draw a crowd is again evidenced in a return visit to Capernaum. Yet, Mark's focus is not so much on the magnetism of Jesus, of his capacity to draw a crowd, but rather his authority. The healing of the paralytic reveals that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.


i] Context: See 1:1-8. In 2:1-3:6 Mark presents a series of five conflict stories.


ii] Structure: Jesus' authority to forgive sins:

The setting:

A paralytic and his friends act out a request for healing, v1-4;


Jesus provides forgiveness, v5;

Consequent healing, v11;


The paralytic gets up and walks and the crowd is amazed, v12.

The associated word - the conflict story proper, v6-10;

The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.


Although this episode may be classified as a conflict story, it is also follows a typical miracle story format. This is evident in the structure of the story: Setting; Healing; Response; Associated word.

Some commentators have argued for a linear structure, A, A1, B, C, C1, but it may well just be accidental. J.R. Edwards, in his book Markan Sandwiches proposes that 2:1-12 takes an A1 - B - A2, structure where each episode makes its own particular point, but together they also make a particular point.


iii] Interpretation:

Marcus notes that this first conflict story, in a series of five, is significant in that it is overtly Christological. The story focuses on Jesus' identity - he is the one with authority to forgive sins. Although this episode is primarily a conflict story concerned with the issue of the forgiveness of sins, it is also a healing narrative with all the typical elements found in such. The healing, of course, settles the issue of Jesus' authority to forgive sins. It is harder to pronounce forgiveness than to pronounce healing (or is it harder to pronounce healing than to pronounce forgiveness? See below), but by pronouncing healing, Jesus confirms his authority to pronounce forgiveness.


Source criticism: It is argued by a number of scholars that 2:1-3:6 evidences the blending of separate literary and oral sources and their adaptation / interpretation by Mark for his own literary purpose, cf., Boring. Note: i] the evidence of insertive elements, eg. "he said to the Paraclete" (such narrative elements are common throughout the synoptic gospels); ii] the thoughts of the Scribes are reported before Jesus reveals them (by no means an unnatural way to recount a story); iii] the unnatural reaction of the scribes, given that the Baptist was already calling for repentance for the forgiveness of sins (but was he pronouncing forgiveness?). Some commentators even question the inclusion of 2:1-12, eg., Pesch.

The debate is ongoing and not overly convincing, nor is it important for an understanding of the gospel. Mark obviously draws on the sources that are available at the time he crafts his gospel, and being the theologian he is, shapes that tradition to reveal the truth of the gospel as he understands it. Yet, there is little to suggest that he blasts off into creative la-la-land. The evidence is, as it is for Matthew and Luke, that Mark respects his sources. In the end, it is the final product that is God's word to us.

Edwards, taking a more conservative line, notes the use of the present tense in v3-11, evidencing a tradition of "eyewitness quality", possibly from Peter, and this framed in Mark's own narrative, v1-2, 12. The oral tradition of the church is the more likely source for Mark, but eyewitness accounts should not be discounted.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Jesus' authority to forgive sins.

Text - 2:1

The healing of the paralytic / forgiveness of sins, v1-12: i] The setting for story of the healing of the paralytic, 1-5. Jesus returns to Capernaum, but enters the town secretly. It takes only a matter of days before the population finds out where he is staying, which is most likely at the home of Simon and Andrew. Mark reminds us of Jesus' growing popularity by describing the townsfolk crowding into the house and out into the street. In response, Jesus uses the occasion as a preaching opportunity.

di (dia) + gen, "a few [days] later" - because of day = after many days. Temporal use of the preposition with the sense "through in time" = "after a number of days." Not necessarily one or two days. The phrase may refer to Jesus' return to Capernaum, "after some time he returned.....", or it may refer to the time he was in Capernaum before the population got wind of his presence.

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "when [Jesus again] entered" - having entered. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, as NIV. The subject "Jesus" is supplied for clarity, the participle providing no subject, but rather "left hanging by anacoluthon", Cranfield.

eiV + acc. "[Capernaum]" - [again] into [capernaum]. Spatial.

hkousqh (akouw) aor. pas. "the people heard" - it was heard. The wording carries on from 1:45 where Jesus no longer enters a town "openly". The point being, that Jesus has entered Capernaum secretly, although the population finally gets wind of his presence. "It was reported."

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the people heard.

en + dat. "[he was home]" - [he is] in/at [home]. Local, expressing space / sphere. Jesus is possibly back at Simon and Andrew's home if "in the home", although better, "at home."


sunhcqhsan (sunagw) aor. pas. "[so many] gathered / they gathered" - [and many] were gathering together. Usually treated as a middle / passive, the sense being middle, ie., the crowd is not being gathered together, but gathers of its own volition. Mark again illustrates Jesus' magnetism.

w{ste + inf. "that" - so that [not to have room]. This construction forms a consecutive clause expressing result; "with the result that." "Such crowds gathered that there was no room", Barclay.

ta + acc. "outside [the door]" - [nor] the thing (= space) [toward the door]. The article here serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "toward the door" into a nominal construction; "the space" at, around, on the other side of the door"; "Not even around the door", Barclay. The crowd is therefore bigger than on the last occasion where there was room to gather at the door, 1:33. Mark is illustrating Jesus' increasing popularity.

elalei (lalew) imperf. "preached [the word]" - [and] he was speaking. Imperfect = action in progress, although it is often used with speech as a matter of form. The word "preached" today is mainly used in religious circles such that a more general word like "communicated" would be more appropriate.

ton logon (oV) "the word" - the word. Accusative direct object of the verb "to speak." A reference to communicating the gospel which Jesus will soon proclaim in sign through the healing of the paralytic. The gospel proclaims forgiveness and the healing will proclaim that Jesus has authority to forgive; "he was communicating the gospel to them."

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - to them. Dative of indirect object.


The lowering of the paralytic, virtually into Jesus' lap, is vividly preserved in the gospel tradition, v3-5. There are four men, indicating the serious condition of the paralytic. They are men of faith in that they obviously believe Jesus can heal their friend. Although blocked by the crowd, they scale the roof, make their way to Simon and Andrew's courtyard, cut through the pergola, most likely covered in vines, and lower the paralytic down in front of Jesus on a camp stretcher. The punch-line comes in Jesus' declaration of forgiveness, declared in his own right, by his own authority.

ercontai (ercomai) pres. "some men came" - they came. Historic / narrative present. The "they" also being the object of the sentence, namely, the four friends of the paralytic, although note how the NIV has not specified the "they" as the particular four. The awkwardness of the sentence is improved by both Matthew and Luke, cf., Lk.5:18. Does this imply Markan priority, or that their oral source was more refined, or that they refined the oral source?

forenteV (ferw) pres. part. "bringing" - bringing, carrying. The participle may be treated as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the main verb "came", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their coming, as NIV.

proV + acc. "to" - [a paralytic] to, toward [him]. Spatial, expressing movement toward. The man is unable to walk by himself.

airomenon (airw) "carried" - being lifted up, carried. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "paralytic"; "a paralytic who was carried by four men." The description of four men carrying the paralytic serves to emphasise the seriousness of the disability.

uJpo + gen. "by [four of them]" - by [four men]. Instrumental, expressing agency.


mh dunamenoi (dunamai) pres. pas. part. "since they could not" - [and] not being able. The participle is adverbial, possibly introducing a causal clause, as NIV, "because"; "as they could not get near Jesus", Moffatt, although temporal seems more likely, "when they could not ...", Barclay, Cassirer. Hort suggests that mh dunamenoi reveals what is in someone's mind, "they saw that they could not."

prosenegkai (prosferw) aor. inf. "get" - to bring, carry. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "being able". Lit. "not being able to bring (the paralytic) to him (Jesus) on account of the crowd", so "they couldn't get to Jesus (come near him) because of the crowd".

autw/ dat. pro. "to Jesus" - the paralytic to him. The antecedent is unclear. If "Jesus" is the referent, as NIV, then the pronoun is a dative of indirect object with "him / paralytic" assumed, "they could not bring the paralytic to him." If the paralytic is the referent then the pronoun is a dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to bring in", serving as a verbal complement of the negated verbal participle "not being able", "they could not present him / the paralytic"; "they were not able to bring him in", NET. Decker prefers the second option.

dia + acc. "because of" - because of, on account of [the crowd]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the four men could not get the paralytic into the home.

oJpou "above Jesus" - [they removed, uncovered the roof] where [he was]. Local use of the conjunction; "above the spot where Jesus was", Weymouth.

exoruxanteV (exarussw) aor. part."by digging through" - having made an opening, dug out, torn out. The participle is adverbial, either instrumental, expressing means, "by digging through", or temporal, "when they had made an opening." This dramatic description serves to again illustrate Jesus' attraction, his magnetism. The digging is usually described in the terms of digging a hole through a flat roof constructed of branches caked with mud. Yet, Jesus is most likely in the open courtyard of the home and so they would be cutting through the vines etc. that made up a pergola around the edge of the inner courtyard. It would be rather bold to dig a hole in a person's roof, particularly if by doing so you collapsed the roof on those gathered below.

krabatton (oV) "mat" - [they let down, lowered] the pallet, bed, cot, mattress [where the paralytic was lying] Accusative direct object of the verb "to lower." A form of camp stretcher used by the poor.


idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when Jesus saw" - [and] having seen. The participle is adverbial, probably serving to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV, although also a touch causal.

autwn gen. pro."their [faith]" - the faith [of them]. The genitive is adjectival, usually treated as verbal, subjective, but possessive is also an acceptable classification. The faith of the paralytic is not mentioned. Although ambiguous, it would be natural to assume that the driving force behind the action is the desire of the paralytic to have Jesus heal him. There is no indication that the friends have dragged him to the house, and hauled him up onto the roof under protest. The implication is that the four men are helping the paralytic.

tw/ paralutikw/ (oV) dat. "[he said] to the paralysed man" - [jesus says] to the paralytic. Dative of indirect object.

teknon (on) "son" - child. Vocative. A term of endearment.

aiJ aJmartiai (a) "sins" - the errors, sins. The forgiveness is directed to the paralytic and to no one else, not even the men with faith. Are we to understand that Jesus would forgive the sins of a person who hasn't asked for forgiveness? This is unlikely, although as the occasion serves to reveal gospel truth, maybe the paralytic is caught up in a divine process that is independent of his will. The healing of the man born blind raises a similar problem, Jn.9:3.

sou gen. pro. "your" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, usually taken as verbal, subjective, "the sins you have committed", but possessive will suffice, "your sins." Note Luke who has "(sou possessive genitive) your sins are forgiven for you (soi dative of interest, advantage)."

afientai (afihmi) pres. pas. "are forgiven" - are released, forgiven. The present tense is probably aoristic, implying instantaneous action, "are forgiven" at the very moment when Jesus speaks. On the other hand, a durative tense is not unexpected in speech, as here. Some argue that Jesus is declaring God's forgiveness since he uses the passive voice, leaving the subject of the action undefined, but the sense of the passage (see v10) is that Jesus himself has the authority to forgive sins.


ii] Jesus' conflict with the scribes over the issue of the forgiveness of sins, 6-10. In v6-7 Jesus acts as the divine man, taking to himself a divine prerogative. Not even the promised messiah has the authority to forgive sins, yet Jesus exercises this authority and does so with an air of legitimacy. The religious in the audience react with skepticism. As far as they are concerned, it is blasphemy.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here to a new scene.

twn grammatewn (euV ewV) "[some] teachers of the law" - [there were certain] of the scribes. Genitive is adjectival, partitive, limiting the "certain / some". They often pop up in these stories, indicating that they are watching Jesus and assessing the worth of his ministry.

h\san ..... kaqhmenoi (kaqhmai) pres. mid. part. "sitting" - sitting [there]. This participle, with the introductory imperfect verb to-be, forms a periphrastic imperfect construction, "and some of the scribes were sitting". Possibly emphasising aspect; the inactivity of the scribes is contrasted with the activity of the men of faith.

dialogizomenoi (dialogizomai) pres. mid. part. "thinking" - [and] reasoning, pondering, debating, thinking about these things. The participle as above, "and were thinking". "Inward deliberation or questioning", MM. Mark gives an editorial impression of the scribes' inward critical inactivity.

en + dat. "to [themselves]" - in [the heart of them]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical. The "heart", for a Hebrew, is the centre of reasoning. "They started wondering", CEV; "but some of the scribes were sitting there silently asking themselves", Phillips.


tiv pro. "why does" - why is. Interrogative pronoun.

ouJwV adv. "like that" - [this one] thus, in this way [speaking]? Modal adverb with reference to what precedes. The language is contemptuous; "why would he say such a thing", CEV.

blasfhmei (blasfhmew) pres. "he's blaspheming" - he slanders god, blasphemes. Possibly a question, "Is he blaspheming?", but usually taken as a statement. In the eyes of the scribes, Jesus is blaspheming because he claims an authority that belongs to God alone. "Who is able to forgive sins except one, namely God?" Clearly Jesus does claim this divine prerogative which sets him apart as the divine man.

afienai (afihmi) pres. inf. "forgive" - [who is able] to forgive [sins]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able (can)." Not "his sins", referring to the sins of the paralytic, but "sins" absolute.

ei mh "but" - except. Expressing a contrast by designating an exception.

oJ qeoV "God" - the [one able to forgive sins], god. "God stands in apposition to "the one" = "one", nominative subject of an implied dunatai afienai aJmartiaV; "Can anyone but God forgive sins?" Barclay.


Throughout the gospels Jesus demonstrates a canny perception of the thoughts of those he comes into contact with. This is not necessarily a divine ability, given that we are all capable of reading body language. Knowing what the scribes are thinking, Jesus asks a "which is easier to say" question. Obviously, it is easier to say "your sins are forgiven" than say "rise ..." It's impossible to verify a person's authority to forgive sins, but their authority to heal is easily verified.

euquV adv. "immediately" - [and] immediately. Temporal adverb. Giving movement to the narrative and so heightening the drama, although sometimes kai euquV is little more than sequential; "then Jesus, perceiving ....."

epignouV (epiginwskw) aor. part. "knew" - [jesus] having known, perceived, recognised. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, but with a causal touch; "and immediately, when Jesus perceived ...", AV. "Conscious, at once, that they were arguing", Moffatt.

tw/ pneumati (a atoV) "in [his] spirit" - in the spirit [of him]. The dative is locative; expressing space, metaphorical. Jesus knew within himself what they were thinking. This is often regarded as a divine attribute, although it is more likely a human quality which Jesus had in spades - Jesus was exceptionally perceptive. "Inwardly aware of what was going on in their minds", Barclay.

oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus knew, "Jesus knew ..... that ...."

ouJtwV adv. "this was what" - thus, so, in this way. Modal adverb, expressing manner.

dialogizontai (dialogizomai) pres. "they were thinking" - they are dialoguing. Reasoning, either within oneself, or with others. The prefix dia probably intensifies.

en + dat. "in [their hearts]" - in [themselves]. Local, expressing space, "within themselves", but possibly with a distributive sense, "among themselves."

autoiV dat. "to them" - [he says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

tauta "these things" - [why are you considering] these things [in the hearts of you]? Accusative direct object of the verb "to reason, dialogue." Specifically referring to the thoughts of the scribes regarding Jesus' blasphemy.


tiv pro. "which" - what. Interrogative pronoun standing in apposition to the two infinitival constructions which stand as the subject of the sentence; "to say to the paralytic, the sins are forgiven you / your sins are forgiven, or to say, rise up, take up your bed and walk, which is easier?"

eukopwteron (eukopoV) adj. comp. "easier" - [is] easier. This comparative adjective is the predicate nominative of the two following infinitival clauses joined by h], "or". Obviously, it is easier to say "your sins are forgiven" since it is not possible to verify whether Jesus legitimately has the authority to forgive sins. It is far more difficult to say "rise ....." for the authority to heal is easily verified. None-the-less, it can be argued that the purpose of the comparison is to identify forgiveness as the harder act. Healing someone is not impossible, but forgiving someone is, unless you are God. Guelich opts for the first sense, given that "verifiability determines degree of easier / harder." Most commentators agree, eg., Boring, France, ... Easier to say, because it can't be verified; harder to do because it can be verified. If Jesus can do the harder, the verifiable, v11, then he can do the easier, the unverifiable, v10. Jesus is presenting an a fortiori argument; "if the more difficult can be achieved, this guarantees the validity of the claim to do the easier", France. "Which is more easily done?" Cassirer.

eipein (eipon) aor. inf. "to say" - to say [to the paralytic]. Introducing two infinitival clauses serving as the subject of the verb to-be estin; "To say to the paralysed man your sins ........ is easier"

sou gen. "your [sins]" - [the sins] of you [are forgiven]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but see above.

aron (airw) aor. imp. "take" - [or to say, rise, stand up and] take up, raise, pick up [the mattress of you]. The one who was carried now carries. "Rise, lift your pallet and go", Moffatt.

peripatei (peripatew) pres. imp. "walk" - [and] walk about, go about? Jesus' extended instruction to the paralytic serves to display the miracle and thus proclaim his authority over sin.


Although the words in v10 derive from Jesus, in this particular situation, they are more likely an editorial comment by Mark. Mark tells us that Jesus enacts this sign that we may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here to an editorial comment.

iJna + subj. "that" - that = in order that. introducing a purpose clause, "but in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." This is most likely an editorial comment by Mark and so should not be in inverted comers as in NIV. Mark is explaining to us that in light of Jesus' cross and empty tomb, this miracle demonstrates to us that Jesus has authority to forgive sins. Mark is encouraging us to rest confidently on this authority. It would be very unlikely that Jesus would reveal this authority to unbelieving "teachers of the law." This will be the only time in Mark when the title "Son of Man" is used by other than Jesus himself. Also, it is the only time where the authority of the Son of Man is "over the earth"; his authority is usually expressed in eschatological terms. "Just to show you (ie. this act was performed and recorded for the reader) that the Son of Man actually has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to the paralytic ...."

eidhte (oida) subj. "you may know" - you may know. The scribes and the crowd will know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins. They will know this through the authority of Jesus exercises in the healing.

oJti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they may know; "but to let you see that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins", Moffatt.

oJ uiJoV tou anqrwpou "the Son of man" - the son of man. The genitive tou anqrwpou, "of man", is adjectival, relational. This title, derived from Daniel 7:13 and referring to the one who comes to the Ancient of Days to receive an eternal kingship, is Jesus' favourite messianic title. At this time, it was not a widely understood messianic title, in fact, in Aramaic it can be taken to mean just "man". It seems likely that Jesus chose the title to further the messianic secret so that only those with eyes to see can recognise the signs of the time. The use of an impersonal title, rather than the personal "I", is typical of a person who has status and authority.

epi + gen. "on [earth]" - [has authority] upon, on [earth]. Spacial. The prepositional phrase "upon the earth" seems to limit / modify "sins", in which case it functions adjectivally, so Cranfield; "the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on the earth." Yet, as Decker notes, most prepositional phrases function adverbially, in which it would modify "forgive"; "the Son of Man has authority to forgive upon the earth sins."

afienai (afihmi) pres. inf. "to forgive [sins]" - to forgive [sins]. The infinitive is epexegetic, limiting by specifying the "authority".

tw/ paralutikw/ adj. "to the paralytic / to the man" - [he says] to the paralytic. Dative of indirect object.


iii] The healing of the paralytic, v11-12. Having addressed the scribes, Jesus turns to the paralytic and exercises his authority over sickness and disease in a healing word - "rise ...."

soi dat. "[I tell] you" - [i say] to you. Dative of indirect object, while the position of the pronoun indicates that it is emphatic. "To you I say."

egeire (egeirw) pres. imp. "get up" - rise up, stand, [pick up the mattress of you]. Boring suggests the word is used to echo the resurrection. Note that the next imperative aron, "take up", is aorist, unlike "get up" which takes a present tense. Obviously the third command in the present tense, "go home", is durative in nature, but what is the difference between "get up" and "take / pick up"? The choice of a present tense for the first command may be a discourse feature giving weight to the getting up over picking up.

eiV + acc. "-" - [and go] to [the house]. Spatial, indicating the direction of the action, and/or arrival at. The paralytic is brought from his home and he is now to walk to his home.

sou gen. pro. "-" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "your house".


In the presence of everyone, the paralytic gets up, picks up his camp-bed and heads home. The crowd responds in amazement at what they have seen, but not in faith at what they have heard. They fail to make the link between the forgiveness of their sins and the healing of the paralytic. Their praise to God is limited to what Jesus has done, namely, the exercise of his authority over sickness

kai euquV adv. "-" - and [he got up, arose and] immediately. Temporal adverb, but best treated as sequential, "then / and ...." The man is not staggering around, rather, he gets up, picks up his mattress and is off.

araV (airw) aor. part. "took [his mat]" - picking up, taking [the mattress]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "got up", "he got up and picked up ..."

emprosqen + gen. "in full view of [them all]" - [he went out] in front of, before [all = everyone]. Mark's emphasis here serves to verify the miracle. They all saw it.

wJste + inf. "-" - so as. This construction forms a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that / so that they were all amazed."

existasqai (existhmi) inf. "this amazed [everyone]" - to amaze, astonish [all, everyone]. This is an important word in the gospel of Mark. The common response of the crowd is amazement, but rarely faith. Amazement leads either to faith or unbelief, but sometimes just remains as amazement, which response leaves a person outside the kingdom of God. "Everyone watched in amazement", CEV.

doxazein (doxazw) pres. inf. "they praised" - to praise, give glory to [god]. This second infinitive again introduces a consecutive clause; "and [with the result that] they praised God." The praise to God indicates that the crowd recognises that Jesus' possesses divine authority to heal. Such will evidence the injustice of Jesus' crucifixion.

legontaV (legw) pres. part. "saying" - The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing how they praised God, ie,. in words, but possibly instrumental, expressing means, by words.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct speech, expressing what the crowd said.

oudepote eidomen (oJraw) aor. "we have never seen" - we never saw. The crowd is focused on the miracle and not on the forgiveness of sins. The sign is a powerful one and proclaims that the Son of Man has authority to forgive, but the fickle short-sighted nature of the mob fails to make the connection between the paralytic's healing and the potential for their forgiveness. Crowds will continue to be amazed by the miracles, rather than respond in faith to the gospel. This will lead Jesus to proclaim the gospel in riddles (parables), and to do his miracles (signs) in secret.

ouJtwV adv. "anything like this" - thus, in like manner, in this way. Adverb of manner. Here possibly serving as a substantive, so NIV, although Decker suggests a more technically correct approach with the addition of "something done"; "we have never seen something done in this way / in like manner / thus", ie., the clause is elliptical.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]