The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52
1. Growing faith, 8:22-10:52
i] Christ opens the eyes of the blind and even the disciples begin to seeSynopsis
On arriving at Bethsaida, a blind man is led to Jesus for healing. The healing is gradual, with Jesus laying his hands on him twice before he is able to see clearly. Then, in the village of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples "who do people say I am?" After a little fudging, Peter exclaims "you are the Christ / the messiah".
Like the healing of the blind man, the disciples are slowly beginning to see the real Jesus - Jesus is the messiah.
i] Context: See 6:1-6. In the section Growing Faith, 8:22-10:52, Mark emphasizes the journey motif, of Jesus journey to Jerusalem and the cross. This journey, for the disciples, is a journey of growing faith.
An extended Markan sandwich is evidenced in 8:22 through to 10:52. The two-part healing of the blind man at Bethsaida and the healing of blind Bartimaeus, serve as the book-ends to three teaching units. All three units are headed with the revelation that the Son of Man must suffer, die and rise, which revelation the disciples fail to properly understand. This is then followed up by teaching on discipleship. Although cross-bearing is often understood in the terms of self-denial, for Jesus it involves reliance on the cross-bearing of Christ for salvation. Like the blind man at Bethsaida, the disciples only partially understand Jesus. For them he is the Christ, but that's all. Finally the disciples, like Bartimaeus, see; they understand that Jesus is the saviour of mankind through his death and resurrection, and that faith in the faithfulness of Christ, his act of obedience on our behalf, is the means by which we share in that blessing.
ii] Structure: The passage / episode, The blind begin to see, is part of a linked two part unit and presents as follows:
The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida, v22-26;
The confession of Peter, v27-30;
Jesus foretells his death and resurrection, v31-33;
Jesus' call to cross-bearing, v34-9:1.
The episode before us presents as two linked parts. The first is a simple narrative in the form of a healing story. The story focuses on Jesus' unique request as to the effectiveness of the healing, and on its step-by-step nature, again quite unique in the gospels. The second episode entails Peter's confession of the Christ, v27-30, which goes on to a command for silence, v31-33, and instruction on discipleship, v34-9:1.
See the interpretive comments on the parallel episode, Jesus heals the deaf and mute man, 7:31-37. Both stories serve to show that "blindness is not hopeless", Boring, and given the context, the disciples' spiritual blindness is well be in mind. The need for two visible symbols, of spit on the eyes and the touch of a hand, has prompted numerous allegorical interpretations, but we are probably best served if we don't make much of these acts; See v23.
With Peter's confession of the Christ we witness the disciples, like the blind man, slowly coming to faith. For the disciples at least, the messianic secret is out.
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The blind begin to see.
Text - 8:22
Christ opens the eyes of the blind: i] The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida, v22-26. Crossing over the sea of Galilee, 8:13, Jesus and the twelve enter the district of Gaulanitis and the village / town of Bethsaida Julias, beside the northeastern shore of the sea. There, some people bring a blind man to Jesus. Jesus attempts to limit public involvement in the healing by leading the man outside the town; Jesus always strives for a low profile. The miracle is there for eyes that see, but for the rest, the mystery must remain. Jesus uses spittle as an acted-out symbol of the healing process, and so reinforces the symbolic nature of what he is about to do. The healing is unique in that it is achieved gradually and with difficulty. It was only partially successful and so Jesus has a second go at getting it right. The incident is not used to expose limitations in Jesus' healing power, but rather to use the slow recovery of the blind man's sight as an illustration of the disciples' slow growth toward a full understanding of Jesus' person.
ercontai (ercomai) pres. "they came" - Indefinite plural. Who came? It's interesting that in this pericope and its parallel, the disciples are not mentioned.
Bhqsaidan (a) "Bethsaida" - A large town in the tetrarchy of Herod Philip about a mile from the north-east corner of lake Galilee, although note that Mark uses the word kwmh, "village", in v23, which may indicate that he is referring to a related lakeside village, rather than the main town.
ferousin (ferw) aor. "some people brought" - they brought, carried [to him]. The "they" expresses an impersonal group = "some people", as NIV.
autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [they bring] to him. Dative of indirect object.
tuflon adj. "a blind man" - blind. The adjective used as a noun, so "a blind man".
parakalousin (parakalew) pres. "begged" - they begged, urged, exhorted, beseeched, pleaded [to him]. Historic present.
iJna + subj. "-" - introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech / entreating, expressing what they asked, namely, "that he might touch him".
aJyhtai (aptw) aor. subj. + gen. "to touch" - he may touch, hold. "Him", functioning as the direct object of the verb, genitive following a verb to touch, take hold of.
"Just as, in the prophet's interpretation of the first exodus, God took Israel by the hand and led them out of Egypt, so in the eschatological exodus to come, God will grasp Israel's hand, lead them out of captivity and open their blind eyes", Boring.
epilabomenoV (epilambanomai) aor. part. + gen. "he took" - having taken hold of, grasped [the hand of the blind man]. The prefix epi indicates that Jesus must lay his hand "on" the blind man to lead him. A verb of touching/taking hold of, takes the genitive as a direct object. This participle is adverbial, probably consecutive, "with the result that / so that"; "So he took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village", Moffatt.
exhnegken (ekferw) aor. "led [him outside the village]" - he took out. Obviously "led out", seeing the man is blind.
ptusaV (ptuw) aor. part. "when he had spit [on the man's eyes]" - having spit [into the eyes of him]. This participle, and the one that follows, is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV; "then he spat into his eyes and laid his hands on him." Healing through gestures was common among healers of the day, but why does Jesus use similar gestures? Certainly the laying on of hands has Biblical precedence and obviously the use of spittle had a common therapeutic use (although not on the Sabbath!, cf. Marcus). It is clear that Jesus didn't need to use such actions for on many occasions he heals with nothing more than a word. We can only but assume that from Jesus perspective he considered that the actions would be helpful for the blind man and possibly the onlookers. Were they Gentiles? Jesus displays the outward vesture of a healer (for us, a white coat and a stethoscope), although unlike the healers of his day, he actually did heal.
epiqeiV (epitiqhmi) aor. part. "put [his hands]" - having laid, placed, put [the hands].
autw/ dat. pro. "on him" - The dative is locative, of place, "on / upon."
ephrwta (eperwtaw) imperf. "Jesus asked" - he was asking, questioning. Cranfield notes that only here in the NT does Jesus ask a question of someone he is healing. It's as if Jesus is asking whether the healing has worked, which of course, it has not. It is argued that Jesus knew that the healing hadn't worked properly which is why he asks the question, although if he knew it hadn't worked, why did he need to ask? Surely the way Jesus plays out this episode serves to reveal its sign value.
ei "-" - if. Here used as an interrogative particle in a direct question. Not classical and only used here in Mark.
ti blepeiV "do you see anything?" - anything you see. The "anything" is emphatic by position; "can you see at all?", Phillips.
anableyaV (anablepw) aor. part. "he looked up" - having looked up, recovered sight. Better "looked up", than "recovered his sight"; "at the question the man involuntarily raised his eyes", Swete. The participle can be treated as adverbial, temporal, "after he looked up he said", but better an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the action of the main verb "said", as NIV. The aorist is possibly inceptive, "he began to see and said", Moffatt.
blepw "I see [people]" - I see [men]. "Men" indefinite, so "humans" = "people".
oJti "-" - that. An unusual use of this conjunction here to form a dependent statement of perception and so dropped in some texts, see Cranfield for a possible Aramaic influence. Of course, a causal sense may be intended, so Taylor; "I can see the people, for they look to me like trees, only they are moving about", Goodspeed. Decker classifies it as epexegetic; "I see people, that is, like trees ...."
oJrw (oJraw) pres. "I see people" - The object "people" is unstated, but assumed.
wJV "like" - as, like. Comparative; "looking like trees", Cassirer.
peripatountaV (peripatew) pres. part. "walking around" - walking. The participle is probably adverbial, concessive, "I can make out people for they look like trees, although they are moving about", but possibly adjectival, attributive, even though anarthrous, "who are moving about", so Decker.
Jesus now attempts to complete the healing. As already noted, this two-stage healing "suggests a process of revelation as much for the disciples, we suspect, as for the blind man at Bethsaida", Edwards.
eita palin "once more" - then again. Referring back to Jesus' previous action of laying hands on the blind man.
epi "on [the man's eye]" - on, upon. Spacial. More detail is given, now indicating where Jesus placed his hands.
diebleyen (diablepw) aor. "his eyes were opened" - he saw clearly, distinguished clearly. The first of two aorist verbs ("signals the complete healing", Guelich) expressing the consequent action involved in Jesus' healing touch - he saw clearly (looked intently) and he fully recovered his sight (was restored, made sound). This is followed by the imperfect verb eneblepen, "he was seeing", expressing durative action, what he was able to go on to do - and he was able to look at [everything clearly/plainly].
thlaugwV adv. "clearly" - Adverb of manner; "clearly from afar", MM.
Jesus' command to return home and keep away from the crowded village may again reflect his preoccupation with maintaining a low profile so as to not stir up messianic fervor, but it may also serve as a prophetic allusion, cf. Isa.35:5f.
eiV oikon autou "home" - to his home. "He sent him to his house", Torrey.
legwn (legw) pres. part. "saying" - Attendant circumstance participle. Possibly "commanding"; "with the command", Torrey.
mhde .... eiselqhV (eisercomai) "don't go [into the village]" - you may not go. A subjective of prohibition forbidding an intended action, in this case, forbidding him to enter the village. There is a variant reading which is supported by some commentators, eg. Turner, Taylor, Cranfield, .. mhdeni eiphV eiV thn kwmhn, "do not speak to anyone in the village", effectively commanding the man not to speak of his cure there. Marcus dodges the problem by suggesting that the verse is a redactional addition - always a handy "get out of jail free" card. It does seem strange to send him home, but then tell him he is not allowed to enter the village. It is possible that Jesus is telling him not to enter the village in the sense of taking up his former profession of begging. At any rate, the command is but another example of Jesus strategic retention of the messianic secret.
ii] The confession of Peter, v27-30. Caesarea Philippi was some 50 kilometers North of Bethsaida, near the source of the Jordan River, on the slopes of Mount Hermon. Jesus sets out to reveal new insights to his disciples, and in typical form he does this through a question. What were the crowds saying of Jesus? The astonishing signs performed by Jesus produced quite a few reactions: they provoked the crowds to wonder; they left the disciples befuddled; they assured the religious leaders of Jesus' Satanic origins; and they stirred up the forces of darkness. Jesus now draws out the significance of his person with a question to Peter. Answering on behalf of the disciples, Peter proclaims his faith in Jesus as messiah. The term "messiah" means "the one anointed by God." The messiah was the righteous prophet, priest and Davidic king, God's special representative who would realize Israel's hopes - the establishment of an eternal theocratic kingdom secure from the powers of darkness.
The narrative serves to bind the passage together, but its substance rests on the recorded sayings of Jesus.
KaisareiaV (a) gen. "[the villages] around Caesarea [Philippi]" - [the vilages] of Ceasarea [of Philip]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / locative; "the villages located in the region around the town of Caesarea Philippi." The genitive "of Philip", again adjectival, idiomatic, named after Philip the tetrarch, was added to distinguish the town from the coastal town of Caesarea. "It was at the source of the Jordan on the slopes of Hermon in the midst of a very beautiful and fertile country", Cranfield.
en + dat. "on [the way]" - Temporal use of the preposition, "while on the way"; "As they went", TH. Note Luke, "as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him", 9;18.
ephrwta (eperwtaw) imperf. "he asked" - he was asking, questioning [the disciples of him saying to them]. The participle legwn, "saying" may be taken as attendant circumstance, or adverbial, manner / means (redundant), followed by the dative of indirect object autoiV. A disciple would normally ask questions of his Rabbi, not the other way around.
oiJ anqrwpoi (oV) "people" - the men. Again used in a general sense, "people" as NIV.
me acc. "I" - me. Subject of the infinitive verb to-be, accusative infinitive construction. Emphatic position "to emphasize the figure of Jesus", Gundry.
einai (eimi) pres. inf. "am" - [whom do men say me] to be. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement / object clause after a verb of saying or thinking; "whom do people say that I am?"
The point is simple enough, "popular opinion does not hold Jesus to be the Messiah", Taylor. Jesus is viewed as John the Baptist come back to life, a raised-up Elijah (the greatest of all prophets), or possibly just an honored modern day prophet, but not the messiah.
de "-" - but, and. Here adversative separating the disciples from those with a faulty opinion of Jesus.
oiJ "they" - Nominative subject of eipan, "they spoke."
logenteV (legw) pres. part. "[replied]" - [spoke to him] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing Mark's account of what they said. Not found in some texts, but probably original.
Iwannhn ton baptisthn acc. "[some say] John the Baptist" - The accusative infinitive construction is derived from an assumed infinitive verb to-be as used in v27; "[the men say] you to be John the Baptist", usually translated as if direct speech, "[they say] that you are John the Baptist". So also "Elijah". All three options are voiced by the people individually, so "some say John the Baptist and others say Elijah ..."
de "and still [others]" - and/but [others]. An adversative sense seems best, emphasizing a further item in the list, a move to direct speech, and more importantly, a devalued assessment of Jesus' person.
oJti "-" - that. Again used to introduce a dependent statement, although here direct speech expressing what they said; "but others [say] (that) '[he to be] (just) one of the prophets'". The infinitive verb to-be is again assumed (an ellipsis). "Others [say 'he is] one of the prophets'", Gundry.
twn profhtwn (hV ou) gen. "[one] of the prophets" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
Christ is the person in whom all God's saving purposes are consummated and so for one Jew to give this title to another Jew, is the greatest of all complements. Peter gives this recognition to Jesus, although unlike the blind man who now sees clearly, Peter and the disciples have a way to go in their understanding of the person of Jesus.
de "but" - [and he questioned / asked them], but/and [you]. Obviously adversative here, as NIV.
uJmeiV pro. "[what about] you" - Emphatic by position and use in the Gk. "But you yourselves, who do you say I am?", Weymouth.
kai autoV ephrwta autouV "he asked" - and he asked them. The autoV, "he", takes an emphatic position although Cranfield suggests that it simply stands for oJ de, "and he [asked them]".
tina "who" - whom [do you say].
me "I" - me. The position of this pronoun is advanced in the Greek, separating it from the infinitive, so giving emphasis to the one it references, namely, Jesus.
einai (eimi) pres. inf. - "am" - to be. Again Mark uses the infinitive verb to-be to form a dependent statement, indirect speech, "whom do you say that I am", here again taking the accusative personal pronoun as its subject, ie. the accusative infinitive construction.
apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Peter replied]" - having answered [Peter says]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "says"; redundant.
su "you [are]" - Emphatic by use.
oJ cristoV "the Christ" - the anointed one, the Christ = the messiah. The related verb to-be, ei\ is a historic present. The title "Christ" refers to someone consecrated to God's service, and in particular to "the hoped-for ruler who was to restore the kingdom of David to more than its former glory and prosperity", Cranfield. So, Jesus is the "one in whom the life of the whole nation of Israel finds its fulfilment and meaning ..... and in whom the new Israel now is the anointed people of God", Cranfield. Clearly Peter has caught a glimpse of this reality.
Jesus maintains the messianic secret, ie. he maintains a low profile with regard his messianic credentials (eg. miraculous signs which fulfil prophetic expectations) so as to quell popular political messianic aspirations, enabling an unclouded response to the gospel for those "with eyes to see".
epetimhsen (epitimaw) aor. "Jesus warned" - he rebuked, sternly warned. The word primarily means "to rebuke", here in the sense of a "stern command". "He strictly ordered them", Junkins.
autoiV dat. pro. "them" - Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to rebuke / warn."
iJna + subj. "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what he said; "that they should tell no one". "That they should not mention this to anyone", Phillips.
peri + gen. "about [him]" - about, concerning. Reference / respect.