Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

1. A symbolic judgment upon Israel, 11:1-12:12

ii] The cursing of the fig tree and the temple


It is the day following Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Crowds of pilgrims had welcomed Jesus as he entered the city, he had then visited the temple, "looked around at everything" and returned to Bethany to spend the night. Now, heading back to Jerusalem, Jesus sees a fig tree and so looks to find some fruit on it, but finding none he curses it, even though it is some two or three months before fruiting season. Jesus then enters Jerusalem, heads for the temple and there, in the Court of the Gentiles, finds the dirt of a cattle market and the haggling of a money exchange, and so he sets about driving out the merchants - God's house is a house of prayer, but the temple officials have turned it into a "den of robbers." The next day, returning again to Jerusalem from Bethany, the disciples notice that the fig tree is withered away from its roots up. In response, Jesus addresses the subject of faith, prayer and forgiveness.


Israel has failed as a channel God's grace to the nations, and so stands condemned; the disciples, the new Israel, now have the opportunity to expedite that grace through faith.


i] Context: See 11:1-11.


ii] Structure: The withered fig tree:

The cursing of the fig tree, v12-14;

The cleansing of the temple, v15-19;

The withered fig tree, v20-22.

"Have faith in God"

Independent sayings on prayer, v23-26:

Saying #1; "If you say to this mountain ...,"

Saying #2; "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe ...."

Saying #3; "If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them ....."


iii] Interpretation:

The cursing of the fig tree has caused some difficulty. The question centres on Jesus use of his powers to destroy. As this miracle stands by itself in the gospels, many have taken it as a myth developed by the early church, but this is very unlikely.

In the first known commentary on Mark's Gospel, Victor of Antioch said that the cursing of the fig tree was an acted-out parable in which Jesus "used the fig tree to set forth the judgment that was about to fall on Jerusalem." This view is still the most favoured interpretation of the passage, and given Mark's weaving of the story around the cleansing of the temple ( "a sort of interpretive envelope", Marcus), a symbolic interpretation is obviously the approach he wants us to take.

The independent sayings of Jesus linked to this miracle have also caused some problems. Some commentators have taken the view that the early church used the cursing of the fig tree as an example of Jesus' power, and that Mark has added sayings on faith to support this approach. Yet, the cursing of the fig tree represents the cursing of Israel's religion, and so it is more than likely that the sayings serve as an overview for an alternate religious life, that of the new Israel, the church.


iv] Synoptics:

The cursing of the fig tree: Matt.21:18-20. A two-part pronouncement story. The Markan sandwich, v12-22, is stylistically impressive, and at the same time, is likely to be closer to the actual event than Matthew's amalgamation of the cursing.

Mark's attached independent sayings, v23-26, are crisp and unaffected by the context, whereas Matthew's record reflects an adjustment to the context. Markan priority is indicated.

Saying #1, v23 - Matt.21:21;

Saying #2, v24 - Matt.21:22;

Saying #3, v25 - cf., Matt.6:14-15. Bultman thinks that this saying is a variant of Matt.5:23-24, with Matthew's version more primitive than Mark.

The cleansing of the temple: Matt.21:12-17, Lk.45-48, Jn.2:13-22. Matthew doesn't record Mark's backgrounding, v18 - often indicated by Mark's use of an imperfect verb.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The withered fig tree.

Text - 11:12

Of fig trees and temples, v12-26: i] The cursing of the fig tree, v12-14. On the previous day, Jesus had entered the temple, surveyed the state of affairs, and then spent the evening at Bethany. Now, the next morning, Mark notes that Jesus is hungry. Having found a fig tree without fruit, Jesus curses it, even though it was out of season. Clearly, Jesus is performing an acted-out parable.

Some suggest that the miracle simply demonstrates Jesus' power, but If Jesus really wanted to demonstrate his power, there would be more sense in having the fig tree fruit out of season than having it wither and die. The episode certainly certainly poses moral questions - this is the only time that Jesus has used his power [spitefully, "with vindictive fury", Bertrand Russell] to destroy. Does Jesus really expect to find fruit on the tree, or is it a rouse? The episode also proses logistic questions - Is the story seasonally misplaced [ie. originally related to the feast of Tabernacles, autumn, for late harvest figs]? Is the tradition faulty [so Manson]?.

As noted above, it seems more than likely that Jesus uses the incident as an acted-out parable resting on Old Testament allusions, eg. Jer.8:13, 24:1-10, Ezk.17:24, Hos.9:10, 16-17, Mic.7:1-6. Like the fig tree, Israel has failed to bear fruit; she has failed to rest on the covenant faithfulness of God, on his abundant covenant mercy, and so has failed to be a light in the darkness, "a house of prayer for all nations". So, Israel stands condemned to wither and die. "A tree full of leaf at Passover season is making a promise it cannot fulfil; so, too, is Israel .... a barren temple", France.

th/ epaurion dat. "the next day" - [and] on the tomorrow. The dative is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. Cranfield argues that, given Marks limited temporal links, this link was obviously part of the tradition that Mark drew on.

exelqontwn (exercomai) gen. aor. part. "as they were leaving" - [they] having gone out. The genitive genitive participle and its genitive subject "they" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV; "when/after they left Bethany." Probably "after" indicating that the fig tree is related to the temple environment rather than Bethany.

apo + gen. "-" - from [bethany he was hungry]. Expressing separation; "away from." "Jesus was feeling hungry / getting hungry."


idwn (eidon) aor. part. "seeing" - [and] having seen [a fig tree]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, "when, from some distance away, his eyes fell upon ....", Cassirer, but possibly causal, "because he saw ....... he went (came) .."

apo + gen. "in [the distance]" - from [far off.] With the adverb makroqen forming an adverbial construction of place; "he saw afar."

ecousan (ecw) pres. part. "[a fig tree] in [leaf]" - having [leaves he came to find out]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "a fig tree"; "a fig tree which had leaves / was in leaf." Such would be the case at Passover time, ie., coming into leaf, but without fruit (fruiting occurs May/June). As noted above, it is possible that, given the parabolic nature of incident, the show of leaves without fruit alludes to the beauty of the temple, its ritual etc. but a place of worship devoid of fruit, ie. not a "house" for the nations. Plummer suggests that the fig tree is "a braggart tree."

There is an obvious ellipsis here, possibly of a verbal infinitive introducing a purpose clause, "in order to find out"; "(in order) to see", Moffatt. Although it seems clear that Jesus uses the cursing of the fig tree as an acted-out parable, it is possible that at least fig buds would have been on the tree and these can be used for a topping with bread. So, looking for something on the fig tree at this particular time in the season may not be as irrational as it seems, so Gundry. None-the-less, if Jesus is using the fig tree as a teaching tool, there is more impact if there is no fruit on the tree because it is out of season.

ei ara + fut. "if" - if therefore [he might find something on it]. Expressing an uncertain expectation associated with an effort to attain something; "if by chance", Zerwick #403; "to see if he could find any fruit on it", Phillips.

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "when he reached" - [and] having come. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

ep (epi) + acc. "-" - upon [it he found nothing]. Spatial. "He could find no fruit on it."

ei mh "but [leaves]" - except [leaves]. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.

gar "for" - because [the season was not figs]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why he found nothing but leaves; "because it wasn't the season for figs", CEV. The clause possibly alludes to Micah 7:1. Mark is quite clear that it was not the fruiting season and therefore arguments that the incident derives from a different time when the tree would have had fruit, or some late season fruit, etc., seem rather pointless.


apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "-" - [and] having answered [he said]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

auth/ dat. pro. "to the tree" - to it. Dative of indirect object.

fagoi (esqiw) opt. "may [no one ever] eat" - [no longer into the age from you no one] may eat [fruit]. The optative is used to express a wish; the only optative in Mark. Note the doubling up of negatives; "may no one ever again eat fruit for you", Cassirer. Or as Gundry would have it; "No buds now? Well, then, no fruit in June - or ever afterwards." The ever afterwards, eiV ton aiwna, is a temporal idiomatic phrase, "to the end of the age."

hkouon (akouw) imperf. "heard" - [and] were hearing [the disciples of him]. The imperfect possibly expressing attentive listening, although the imperfect is often used with speech as a matter of form, or to provide background information. This final clause seems rather redundant, but for the Master to go around cursing fig trees is not something we would expect of him, so Mark underlines the fact that this incident was verified by the disciples, particularly Peter, v21.


ii] The cleansing of the temple, v15-19. Leaving Bethany, Jesus travels to Jerusalem and enters the temple again. Israel was God's special people, a holy nation, and the temple was the visible expression of this reality before the whole world. Yet, the temple has been turned into little more than trash-and-treasure market. With righteous anger Jesus enacts God's condemnation. Jesus, having offended the holier than thou religious crew of his day, now find himself the focus of their hate - they fear his power and his popularity.

It was not inappropriate for traders, in the Court of the Gentiles, to exchange foreign money into temple money, or sell wine, oil, salt and animals for sacrifice. There may have been cheating, although it is hard to believe that this would be condoned by the authorities. Certainly v16 identifies a rule from the Mishnah maintaining the holiness of the temple. This would support the idea that the trading was "unclean", but would Jesus take issue on matters of "minutia", ie., cleansing laws, cf. Mk.7:1-23?

The substance of the offence is probably related the quotation from Isaiah 56:7. The context of this passage concerns the salvation of "others". "My salvation is close at hand" and it will be for the "foreigner" who thinks "the Lord will surely exclude me from his people." As well as gathering the "exiles of Israel" the Lord will also "gather still others to them". "My house (in the sense of the house of Israel, the family of God, the chosen people of God, the children of God) will be called a house of prayer for all nations." The actual temple building was but a physical representation of the substance of the people of God - the gathering of God's people indwelt by his presence.

So, the issue is not so much that the market desecrated the temple, but that it evidenced a deeper failure, a failure of faith. Israel no longer rested on the covenant faithfulness of God and thus its religious life was no longer "a light unto the Gentiles", a "house" for the nations, an access to God's covenant mercy for a broken world. Israel had failed to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 56:1-8; she was like a fig tree in full leaf, but devoid of fruit, and so now Christ will fulfil this role in his person and through his people. Israel is left abandoned and cursed - "a den of robbers", cf., Jer.7:1-29. For Israel, all is lost, for "the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath."

ercontai (ercomai) pres. "on reaching [Jerusalem]" - [and] they came to [jerusalem]. Historic / narrative present, probably indicating the next step in the narrative (ie., identifying narrative transition).

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "Jesus entered" - [and] having entered [into the temple]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, "on entering the temple", Berkeley. The NIV has "temple area" since trading was not allowed in the temple proper, but only in the court of the Gentiles.

ekballein (ekballw) pres. inf. "[began] driving out" - [he began] to cast out. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "began".

touV pwlountaV (pwlew) pres. part. "those who were [buying and] selling" - the ones selling [and the ones buying in the temple]. As with "the ones buying", the participle serves as a substantive. These merchants sold items for the temple sacrifices, eg., animals, wine, salt, ....

katestreyen (katastreyw) aor. "he overturned" - [and] he overturned, turned over, upset. The money changers were changing secular money into coinage accepted for temple offerings and for the payment of the half shekel temple tax.

twn kallubistwn (hV ou) gen. "of the money changers" - [the seats] of the moneychangers. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

twn pwlountwn (pwlew) gen. part. "of those selling" - [and the benches] of the ones selling [the doves]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being possessive.


iJna + subj. "-" - [and he was not allowing] that [anyone may carry]. An interesting use of hina, used here in place of a complementary infinitive. An infinitive with a cognitive verb, although usually classified as complementary, can be viewed as introducing a dependent statement of perception. So here, we may classify the hina clause as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception / indirect speech, expressing what was not allowed; "he would not allow that any person should carry an item through the temple." "He would not allow anyone to use the temple court as a short-cut between the shops and their houses", Barclay.

skeuoV (oV ouV) "merchandise" - things, objects, vessels. Accusative direct object of the verb "to carry through." Probably referring to merchandise, as NIV, cf., Zech.14:21, but possibly the word means "weapon".

dia + gen. "through" - through [the temple]. Here spatial; "through" in space. A stylistic repartition of the prefix of the verb "to carry through."


edidasken (didaskw) imperf. "he taught" - [and] he was teaching [and said to them]. Often taken as an inceptive imperfect, but it can just indicate a minor step / change in subject for a narrative discourse.

ou gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "is it not written" - has it not been written. The perfect tense is often used of revelation, ie., expressing a past act with ongoing consequences. The negation, in a question, assumes an answer in the affirmative.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, quotation, Isa.56:7.

mou gen. pro. "my" - my [house]. Possessive; referring to God, as per the quote from Isaiah. Often taken to refer to Jesus, but there is no indication that Jesus is applying the text to himself.

klhqhsetai (kalew) fut. pas. "will be called" - will be called. "Will be called", but better "will be known [as a house of prayer]", Knox, Cassirer, although it is likely that the Aramaic sense applies, "my house will be a house of prayer ...." The true nature of Israel's religion lies not in sacrifice, but in a prayerful reliance (faith) on the covenant mercy of God.

proseuchV (h) gen. "of prayer" - [a house] of prayer. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / local, limiting "house"; "a house where God's people pray." "A place of worship", CEV. Decker opts for a telic (goal / purpose) sense; "a house intended for prayer."

pasin toiV eqnesin dat. "for all nations" - to = for all the nations, gentiles. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV. Only in Mark. The Abrahamic covenant promised a divine blessing to the whole world. Thus the prophets spoke of the incoming of the Gentiles, of ten Gentiles holding onto the tassels of the faithful Jew as he entered the gates of Zion, cf,. Zechariah. Yet, "the buying and selling in the Court of the Gentiles was effectually preventing the one area of the temple that was open to the Gentiles from being a place of prayer", Cranfield.

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

uJmeiV "you" - you [you have made]. Emphatic by use and position. Probably alluding to Jeremiah 7:11. As Boring notes, the allusion is not to traders involved in extortion, but to the people of sinful Israel who use the temple as a place of refuge, to a people "who supposed that they could violate God's law at will, and then retreat to the inviolable temple."

sphlaion (on) "[it] a den" - [it] a cave. Accusative complement of the direct object auton, "it", standing in a double accusative construction, stating a fact about the object "it".

lh/stwn (hV ou) gen. "of robbers" - of thieves, bandits. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / local, limiting "den"; "a den where thieves live." "You have made it a place where robbers hide", CEV.


Jesus' antics in the temple, and his increasing popularity, prompts a hateful reaction from the religious authorities, v18.

hkousan (akouw) aor. "they heard" - [and the chief priests and the scribes] heard about jesus actions. We might have expected a participle here, "having heard" = "when the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard [what had happened]", cf. Matt. idonteV "what ..... saw".

ezhtoun (zhtew) imperf. "began looking" - [and] they were seeking. The imperfect stands with the main verb, "they heard", an aorist, providing a consequence or explanation for its action, so Decker; "they looked out for a means of making an end of him", Cassirer. Unlikely to be inceptive, as NIV.

pwV + subj. "for a way [to kill him]" - how [they might kill him]. This particle is used instead of the adverb oJpwV which would normally be used with an indirect question asking the manner in which the action might be played out; "how [might we kill him?]" Here with the deliberative subjunctive.

gar "for" - because [they were afraid of him] because [all the crowd]. Used to introduce two causal clauses explaining a) why they went into planning mode instead of arresting Jesus straight away, "for they were afraid of him"; b) why they were afraid of him, "for the entire crowd was carried away by his teaching", Peterson.

exeplhsseto (ekplhssw) imperf. "was amazed" - were amazed. Again Mark uses this important word to describe a positive reaction toward Jesus, but a reaction that falls short of faith. "The masses were amazed and captivated by his teaching", Junkins; "the awe-inspiring power of Jesus' teaching", Gundry.

epi + dat. "at [his teaching]" - upon [the teaching of him]. Here the preposition expresses cause.


o{tan + ind. "when" - [and] when. Introducing a temporal clause, definite rather than indefinite. During his ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus left the city at the end of the day and spent the evening in Bethany. "When it got late", Cranfield.

oye adv. "evening [came]" - [it became] late, after. Predicate adverb, here with the sense "evening."

exw (ek) + gen. "out of [the city]" - [they were going forth] outside of [the city]. Locative.


iii] The lesson of the cursed fig tree and Jesus' concluding pronouncement to his disciples to have "faith in God", v20-22. The message of the acted-out parable of the cursed fig tree is plain enough: faithless fruitless religious Israel, like the fruitless fig tree, will wither and die. Jesus' exhortation to the disciples, as they look upon the withered fig tree, is "take hold of God's faithfulness." Don't be like the people of Israel who have ignored God's gracious kindness, ignored his overflowing mercy. Note that a fig tree, representing Israel, is a common image in the Old Testament. cf., Jer.8:13, Ezk.17:24, Mic.7:1-6.

prwi adv. "in the morning" - [and] early. Temporal adverb.

paraporeuomenoi (paraporeuomai) pres. part. "as they went along" - walking by, passing by. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, "while they were walking by."

exhrammenhn (exhrainw) perf. pas. part. "withered" - [they saw the fig tree] having been dried up, withered. The perfect expressing "abiding results", Taylor. The participle could be classified as an object complement in a double accusative construction, but better, adjectival, attributive.

ek "from" - from [roots]. Expressing source / origin. "Jesus powerful word "struck first at the very source of the tree's life", Gundry.


anamnhsqeiV (anamimnhskw) aor. mid./pas. part. "[Peter] remembered" - [and] having remembered. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said", "Peter remembered and said." The middle voice is used for emotion, and in this voice the verb takes the sense "to remember."

autw/ dat. pro. "[said] to Jesus" - [peter says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

exhrantai (exhrainw) perf. pas. "has withered!" - [look, the fig tree which you cursed] has been dried up. The perfect again expressing abiding results.


The sense of the punch-line in the pronouncement story is anything but clear. Literally it is "have (take / seize / hold on to / recognise) faith / faithfulness of God." When Paul uses the phrase pistewV Ihsou "faith of Christ", often translated "faith in Christ" (ie., objective genitive), there is a good chance he means "faithfulness of Christ" (ie., subjective genitive) - "the righteousness of God (the righteous reign of God / "God's saving righteousness", Schreiner) through / by means of faithfulness of Christ (his obedience on the cross) [is] for/to all who believe", Rom.3:22. Is Jesus using the same terminology here?

If we are to read "hold onto the faithfulness of God", then Jesus is asking the disciples to take hold of / hold onto (= put their faith in) the covenant faithfulness of God exhibited primarily in his covenant mercy / grace / forgiveness. That which Israel had failed to do, Jesus calls on his disciples to do. The temple had functioned like a fruitless tree, barren and cursed. Now an alternative presents itself in Jesus and his community of believers. Israel has failed to rest in faith on the covenant faithfulness of God and so instead of serving as "a house of prayer for all nations", they have become "a den of brigands". God's new Israel in Christ must become that "house of prayer for all nations", a people of faith, resting on the covenant mercy of God in Christ, and so become a light shining into the darkness.

ecete (ecw) pres. imp. "have" - [and having answered (attendant participle) jesus says to them (dative of indirect object)] have, hold onto. See above. Variant ei ecete, "if you have faith in God", forming a conditional imperative, is disregarded by Metzger. Note that the verb could be indicative, "you have God's faithfulness", but most commentators think an imperative is intended.

qeou " [faith] in God" - [faithfulness] of god. With the genitive "of God", the obvious question is, are we dealing with a subjective, or objective genitive? Most commentators opt for an objective genitive, God being the object of the faith. Yet, subjective / possessive seems more likely = God's faithfulness, cf., Marcus. "Hold onto God's faithfulness" is not only logical, but better grammar. In fact, this is the only well supported objective genitive in Mark, which probably means that there are none in Mark (there are those who argue that there are none in the NT, ie. it is an invalid classification - a rather bold claim!).


iv] Linked sayings on prayer and forgiveness, v23-26. Mark now assembles three stitched independent sayings which serve to define the religious life of God's new Israel. This is presented as "an alternative: faith and prayer that bypass the sacrificial system of the 'den of brigands' and appeal directly to the heavenly Father for mercy", Marcus. The usual technical links apply to stitch the sayings together: i] faith; ii] faith / prayer; iii] prayer / forgiveness. We are best to follow Boring who argues that "the cluster of sayings on prayer and faith seems to be best explained as possibly his (Mark's) conception that the Jerusalem temple was being replaced by the Christian community as the place of faith, prayer and the presence of God", cf., The Church as Temple, Best.

Saying #1. The first saying concerns the exercise of a mountain-moving faith. It is suggested by some commentators that Jesus has in mind a particular mountain when he says "may God pick you up and throw you into the sea" (the passives "be picked up" and "be thrown" are probably divine passives). Boring and Marcus argue that the issue here is not "the power of faith", but "this mountain", the Temple Mount. It's impending destruction will be a severe test of faith for the New Testament church. "The mountain's removal is not a meaningless tragedy or frustration of God's plan, but in Mark's interpretation makes way for the ultimate house of prayer for all people, the Christian community", Boring.

The context (Mark's placement of the saying) certainly links the saying to the Temple Mount, but ultimately we are dealing with a metaphorical mountain, not a concrete one - a massive impediment that requires a steady reliance on (faith in) the revealed will of God. In fact, it is possible that the image of casting mountains (and trees) into the sea "was a recognised metaphor for doing things of great difficulty, eg., a rabbi who could explain difficult passages of scripture was known as a 'mountain-remover'", Nineham. Edwards is surely right when he says the temple is not the object of the faith. "By taking the destruction of the tree as a model for disciples ... [we can] expect to be able to achieve the impossible through faith in God", France.

The impossible mountain is best understood as "God's redemptive, mountain-moving activity .... his promised redemptive activity in the world", Evans. The consummation of God's covenant mercy was evident in the person and work of Jesus, it was indeed evident in the levelling of the Temple Mount, it is evident in gospel ministry today, and it will be evident in the eschaton. The instrument of God's redemptive mountain-moving activity is faith in his revealed will.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - [truly i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. The phrase serves to underline what follows.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, stating what Jesus says.

o}V an + subj. "if anyone [says]" - whoever [may say]. Introducing an indefinite relative clause, here conditional, 3rd class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true, "if anyone / whoever, as the case may be, .... then it will be so for him."

tw/ orei (oV) dat. "to [this] mountain" - to [this] mountain. Dative of indirect object. The close demonstrative pronoun "this" has led many commentators to identify a particular hill, eg., the fortress of Herodion which can be seen from the Mount of Olives, so Edwards, or the Mount of Olives itself, so Gundry, Hurtado .. , cf., Zech.4:7, 14:4. Marcus suggests that Jesus is speaking about the Temple Mount and is actually alluding to the destruction of the temple which Jesus has just symbolically enacted in the cursing of the fig tree. See above.

arqhti (airw) aor. pas. imp. "-" - be picked up, lifted up [and be thrown into the sea]. As noted above, both "be picked up" and "be thrown" are best treated as divine passives; "may God lift you up and throw you into the sea."

mh diakriqh/ (diakrinw) aor. pas. subj. "does not doubt" - [and] may not evaluate, doubt, waver. This verb is set in the subjunctive mood since it is the controlling verb in the protasis of the conditional sentence. Supplying a nice contrast to believing, such that believing is not "doubting". The word primarily means "evaluate", so "judge correctly / render a decision / differentiate". On some occasions in the NT, the word slips toward "doubt / waver". Surely here the sense is that a person does not waver in their decision to rest on the revealed will of God, rather than "that there are no doubts in their mind", Barclay. So possibly, "not doubting in his inner core where he tells no lies to himself", Junkins. Every believer has doubts; sticking with God's promises in Jesus, in the midst of all our doubts, is the substance of faith.

en + dat. "in [their heart]" - in [the heart of him]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical; "if there are no doubts in [their] mind", Barclay.

alla "but" - but. Adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but .....".

oJti "that" - [believes] that [what he says becomes, happens]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what he "believes". A very important reference indicating that the faith that moves mountains is a faith that relies on the revealed will of God. Christian faith is not doubt-free wishful thinking!!!

autw/ dat. pro. "for them" - [then it will be] for him. Dative of interest, advantage.


Saying #2. This second independent saying virtually restates the first, but without the mountain allusion. The prayer of faith [that which God wills, in particular, covenant mercy / redemption], is fully answered. As noted above, this saying is used by many to support the notion that all our prayers will be answered as long as we have faith. This proposition can be very damaging when the prayer is not answered, given that the quality of a person's faith is then to blame for the unanswered prayer. Some argue that all prayers are answered, either yes, no, or not yet, but this is a bit of a copout. Often the context, as here, defines the panta o{Va, "everything which / whatever", we are to pray for believing. The "whatever" is whatever God wills, rather than whatever we will.

dia touto "Therefore" - because of this. Sometimes taken as a causal construction, but usually inferential; "therefore, for this reason." It is very likely that this saying of Jesus came with his usual introduction, "truly I say to you", but Mark has made a slight change to facilitate the stitching of the saying to the first one, using dia touto as his stitching device rather than the usual gar, "for".

uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [i say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

panta o{sa "whatever" - everything whatsoever. Accusative direct object of the verb "to pray." Obviously "everything" God says he will give us when we ask him, ie., "what he says", v23. This qualification is made abundantly clear in the scriptures and for this reason we are not free to ignore it when unstated.

proseucesqe kai aiteisqe "you ask for in prayer" - [which] you pray and ask. Semitic construction, technically a hendiadys; "whatever you pray for."

oJti "that" - [believe] that. As in v24 introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what should be believed, namely I've got it.

elabete (lambanw) aor. "you have received [it]" - you receive [it]. Note the use of the punctiliar aorist; "believe you have got it", Moffatt.

umin dat. pro. "[it will be done] for him / [and it will be] yours" - [and] it will be to = for you. The NIV has taken the dative as one of interest, advantage, but this has been corrected in the TNIV which opts for a dative of possession. Note the similar expression in v24, "it will be to him".


Saying #3. The third saying, referencing the redemptive focus of prayer, reminds us that forgiveness rests wholly in the covenant mercy of God, and that the forgiven forgive.

The difficulty we face with this verse is the iJna clause, which, if taken to express purpose or result, undermines divine grace. The saying clearly relates to the Lord's Prayer, Matt.6:12, where "forgiving" and "forgiven" are related; "forgive .... wJV ("as") also we have forgiven." It is very unlikely that wJV serves here as a comparative, "just like we also have forgiven" - the last thing we want is for God to forgive us just like we forgive others. The wJV is probably causal, and kai ascensive, "because even we have forgiven" - not very often, but at least we can do it. So the verse is using a how much more God can do formula, eg., The Midnight Guest, Lk.11:5-10 (note context). Matthew then qualifies the request with the saying in v14-15 which illustrates the "righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees" with respect to forgiveness. Jesus' ethic / law on forgiveness underlines the fact that it cannot be done, so forcing the believer to seek the divine gift of forgiveness through faith, rather than obedience. Of course, the pharisee in each one of us claims the capacity to forgive, even at time believing that we do forgive, often with words like "I forgive you, but I will never forget how you hurt me."

If we take the hina clause as final, then the point of this saying is ethical, the new Israel "must be a forgiving community", Boring - "forgiving others is a prerequisite to praying for one's own forgiveness", Gundry, "forgiving of others must grow out of one's being forgiven", Evans, cf., Matt.5:23-24, 18:15-35, Lk.17:3-4, Eph.4:32, Col.3:12-13. Yet, the point of the first two sayings is that the new Israel's religious life must be about facilitating a house of prayer where the redemptive mountain-moving power of God is realised through faith. So, it is likely that this saying aligns with Matt.6:14-15, where an accepted principle of worship (cf., Sir.8:2-12) which serves to guide ethics (before seeking God's forgiveness, the supplicant is expected to forgive those indebted to him), is redefined by Jesus in such a way that the forgiveness demanded of us for God's forgiveness is beyond us, and therefore we are forced to rest for forgiveness, not on our works, but on faith in the one and only forgiving man.

The principle of God's prior grace, operative in his children, is well established in the scriptures, such that here the consecutive link is properly understood in reverse, namely, a person forgives as a result of being forgiven, rather than being a prerequisite for forgiveness / "effective prayer", France. See Luke 7:47 for the same ploy; "the many sins of her have been forgiven for (oJti) she loved much." Reversed in the following clause, "To whom little is forgiven, he loves little"

Of course, true faith bears the fruit of love, in this case, a forgiving acceptance of others with all their flaws. Given the context of Israel's failure to be "a house of prayer for all nations", it's failure to be "a light unto the nations", it's failure to shine the mercy / grace of God to broken humanity, the new Israel is given the task to bear this fruit to the nations. Against Israel's closed-shop and corruption, the Christian church is to be gospel orientated, grace orientated, accepting, forgiving. Our forgiving of other's does not earn, or cause, God's forgiveness of us. As James reminds us, faith produces works (love), faith without works is a dead thing (a pretence). So, forgiveness is not earned by forgiving, rather forgiving flows from our having been forgiven. Although our capacity for mercy / forgiveness is limited due to our sinful nature, if we are devoid of mercy / forgiveness, then maybe we have yet to experience mercy / forgiveness.

o{tan + ind. "when" - [and] when [you stand]. Serving to introduce a indefinite temporal clause denoting repeated action, "whenever", TH. Note the usual posture of prayer for a Jew.

proseucomenoi (proseucomai) pres. part. "praying" - praying. The participle is adverbial, probably best treated as final, expressing purpose, "whenever you stand up in order to pray"; "whenever you rise to pray", Berkeley. The durative aspect of the present tense may apply, here expressing repeated action over time.

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

kata + gen. "against [anyone]" - [you have something] against [someone, then forgive]. Here expressing opposition; "against [someone]."

iJna + subj. "that" - that. Best taken here as introducing a consecutive clause expressing result / hypothetical result; "so that", rather than a final clause expressing purpose. As noted above, reversed logic is probably intended - as a result of being forgiven, the forgiven person forgives.

oJ "-" - [and = also the father of you] the one [in the heavens]. This article, serving as a nominalizer, introduces a noun clause standing in apposition to "your Father."

uJmin dat. pro. "[may forgive] you [your sins]" - [may forgive] to you [the transgressions of you]. Dative of interest, advantage, "may forgive your sins for you"; "your Father in heaven will forgive your sins", Barclay.


"But if you do not forgive neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" - Variant, now regarded as taken from Matthew 6:15.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]