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

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

vii] Ideals and principles, 10:1-16


Jesus is asked a question on divorce by some Pharisees and in reply, he points out that divorce is nothing more than a concession by God, and this because of the inviable nature of the one flesh union of marriage. Later, Jesus explains to his disciples that divorce, by its very nature, is adulterous. Linked to the question on divorce is the blessing of children who come to Jesus, "for to such belongs the kingdom of God."


Full participation in God's righteous reign is by grace through faith and not by works of the law.


i] Context: See 8:22-30. Mark presents us with a new Markan Sandwich, this time with a Law - Grace - Law contextual relationship, 10:1-31. The teaching sandwich consists of three episodes: Law, the question on divorce; Grace, the visit of the little children, Law, the "rich young ruler."

The Sandwich is made up of three theologically powerful accounts. The first, in question / answer form, deals with the permanence of marriage, v1-12: The second, a teaching narrative, records Jesus' blessing of little children, v13-16. The third, a pronouncement story, deals with the impossible demands of the Law, v17-31. The punch line is found in the negative statement "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."


ii] Structure: Marriage and divorce, and the visit of little children:

The permanence of marriage, v1-12:

Setting and opening dialogue, v1-4;

Jesus' response to the Pharisees' proposition, v5-9;

Jesus' explanation to the disciples, v10-12.

Jesus' welcomes little children, v13-16.

Pronouncement story, v13-14, 16;

Saying, "anyone who does not receive the kingdom ......", v15;


iii] Interpretation:

The question on divorce, the visit of the little children, and the rich man's question, "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?", are used by Mark to establish the basis upon which a believer fully participates in the promised blessings of the covenant. The kingdom is not received by obedience to the Law. Who can fully obey the Law on divorce and marriage? Who can fully love their neighbour? The kingdom is received" in the same way that Jesus is receives (welcomed / accepted = believed) young children who come to him for blessings. Participation in God's righteous reign is by grace through faith and not works of the law.


Having examined the issues of humility (dependence on Christ's cross-bearing), listening (hearing Christ), acquiescence (greatness is not found in privilege) and inclusion (welcoming a fellow believer), Mark now examines the issue of receiving (kingdom blessings are received as a gift rather than earned by doing / law-obedience). As Jesus so often does when dealing with an issue of the law, he "fulfils" the law by extending its requirements such that no one can claim innocence before the law, ie., he uses the law to expose sin and thus the need for divine mercy / grace.

Given that marriages do break down, the law of Moses regulated separation to bring some order and fairness to a complicated social problem. Jesus, on the other hand, reveals the true nature of the divine will on divorce, an ideal that for many believers will be impossible to keep. In fact, Matthew records the disciples startled reaction in the words: "if such is the case of a man and his wife, it is better not to marry", Matt.19:10, and this because marriages do fail. So, in this incident Jesus uses the law to establish that the full appropriation of the promised blessing of the Kingdom can never be realised by obedience to the Law. This face is reinforced by the episode of the rich man and its associated discourse.

Mark's placement of the visit of the little children serves to provide the way around this impasse. Participation in the righteous reign of God and thus the full participation in the Abrahamic promises, is attained by coming to Jesus for blessing, in the same way as these children came to Jesus for blessing. Salvation rests on covenant mercy, not on covenant obedience; it is a gift of God's grace appropriated through faith. Such was the case for Abraham, and such is the case for all who follow in his footsteps.

Sot then, when Jesus "fulfils" the law, in the sense of completing it, he is not just reinforcing its difficulty, but is moving from the intent of the Mosaic law to the ideals that lay behind it, to "the revolutionary values of the Kingdom of God", France. The proclamation of such absolute values, of a righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, witnesses that the kingdom of God is at hand. Participation in such a revolutionary reality is gifted, not earned.


Divorce: In the history of interpretation, Jesus' instructions on divorce have been applied literally in the Christian church. In the face of the inevitable failure of the marriages of believing church members, these instructions have spawned numerous pharisaic get out of jail free cards, eg. annulment. In my church, the Anglican church, we spend our time trying to determine who is the innocent party (is there such a person?), extending leniency to those who should know better, namely believers, while refusing remarriage to those who don't know better, namely non-believers.

Jesus doesn't actually repeal the Mosaic regulations on divorce, he just reveals what lays behind them. In doing so, he confronts the Pharisees, as well as his disciples, with the reality that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Although the radical ethics of the kingdom expose our fallen state, they do also provide an ideal to aim at, an ideal that belongs to another age, to a brilliance that transcends this shadow land. We do well to aim at this ideal, for both its spiritual, as well as its pragmatic benefits. None-the-less, given that the hardness of our heart lives on, marriages do fail, and so the Church would do well to use the Mosaic law as its rule-of-thumb, while using Jesus' absolute law to remind all of us of the need for grace.


iv] Synoptics:

The Law on Divorce; Matt19:1-12. Matthew and Mark arrange the tradition differently, but in both gospels, Jesus argues that the Mosaic law on divorce is an accomodation, and does so from the creation ordinance on marriage.

The saying on divorce, v11-12: Matt: 5:32, 19:9; Lk.16:18. The different versions of this saying exhibit the subtle differences that oral transmission would likely produce. Luke uses Jesus' radical interpretation of Mosaic divorce law to illustrate the realisation of the long-promised kingdom of God. It is easier for heaven and earth to come to an end than to change one dot of God's law, but that is exactly what's happening - a new age is dawning, the kingdom of God is at hand. Matthew, on the other hand, in 5:32, uses the saying to further his exposition of the impossible demands of the Law, in order to make the argument that the righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees is gifted, not earned. Note only Matthew has the concession "except on the grounds of fornication", which, given the context, seems completely out of place.

Blessing little children: Matt:19:13-15, Lk.18:15-17. Only Mark and Luke record the saying, "a person who does not accept the kingdom of God in the way a child would, will never enter it." Note that from 10:13 to 12:37, Mark aligns with Matthew.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Marriage and divorce.

Text - 10:1

Law and grace: i] Jesus' teaching on divorce, v1-12. a) Setting and opening dialogue, v1-4. Jesus continues his journey toward Jerusalem. Now again in Judea, he resumes his public ministry. The Pharisees "came and tested" (tried to entrap) Jesus over the issue of divorce. They were obviously trying to embroil Jesus in what was at the time a hot issue. The Pharisees understood that the Mosaic provision on divorce rested on the ground of "something shameful", Deut.24:1. Shammai argued that the "shame" was a moral fault, eg., adultery. Hillel widened the "shame", eg., embarrassing a husband.

The structure of this teaching unit is typically Markan. The pericope's form-critical classification is a scholastic dialogue, and indeed it is an example of a teaching dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees, v2-9, and Jesus and his disciples, v10-12. The setting is established in v1, question and counter question, v2-4, and teaching response, v5-9.

anastaV "Jesus then left" - [and] having arisen [from there he went to the border of judea across, beyond the jordan]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "Then he left and went into the territory of Judea", Moffatt. Possibly peran, "beyond", ie. he went into Peraea travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem skirting around Samaria; "on the far side of the Jordan", Cassirer.

proV + acc. " to [him]" - [and again crowds come together] toward [him]. Spatial, expressing movement toward. Possibly "crowds went along with him", but more likely "gathered around him", NJB.

wJV "as" - [and] as, just as, like. Comparative.

eiwqei (eiwqa) pluperf. "was his custom" - he was accustomed [again he was teaching them]. eioqa is the perfect of eqw but is expresses the present tense "to be accustomed", while the pluperfect expresses the imperfect "as he was accustomed", TH.


proselqonteV (prosercomai) aor. part. "[some Pharisees] came" - [and pharisees] having come, approached. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they were asking"; "Some Pharisees came up and asked him", Moffatt.

peirazonteV (peirazw) pres. part. "tested" - [they were asking him] testing, trying, tempting. The participle is adverbial, introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order to test"; "this was to tempt him", Moffatt. In simple terms, the Pharisees put a "test question" to him, Barclay.

ei "-" - if. Here introducing an indirect question, although treated as direct by NIV, NRSV, ...; "asked him if a man was allowed to divorce his wife", Moffatt.

andri (anhr androV) dat. "for a man" - [it is permissible, right, proper] to = for a man. Dative of interest, advantage.

apolusai (apoluw) aor. inf. "to divorce" - to release = divorce [ the wife of him]. The infinitive forms a nominal phrase subject of the verb "is lawful"; "they were asking him if to divorce a wife is permissible for a man".


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue, a change in subject from the Pharisees to Jesus; "highlighting the back-and-forth of the ensuing dialogue", vv3, 4, 5", Gundry.

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

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

tiv "what" - what [did moses command]. Interrogative. "Command" in the sense of giving definite orders, implying authority, or official sanction*; "what was the regulation which Moses prescribed for you?", Barclay.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - you? Dative of direct object of the verb "to command."


oiJ de "-" - but/and they [they said]. Transitional, indicating a change in subject / speaker. Often with a lead article serving as a pronoun, subject of the verb "to say."

epetreyen (epitripw) aor. " permitted" - [moses] permitted, allowed. Mosaic law regulated divorce, but by his choice of the word "permitted" Jesus indicates that divorce is nothing more than a divine concession.

grayai (grafw) aor. inf. "a man to write" - This infinitive (assumed accusative subject, "a man = a husband"), as with apolusai, "send away / release / divorce" (assumed object, "a wife"), forms a nominal clause, direct object of the verb "to allow, permit"; "Moses permitted a husband to write a certificate of divorce and a husband to divorce his wife." Both infinitives introduce dependent statement sof indirect speech, expressing what Moses commanded / allowed.

apastasiou (on) gen. "of divorce" - [a scroll / letter (= certificate)] of departure, separation [and to divorce]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "certificate". The document, or certificate of divorce, "provides some protection for the woman", Cranfield, cf., Deut.24:1-4.


b) Jesus' response to the Pharisees, v5-9: Jesus adopts his usual stance with law-righteous legalists, he heads for the high moral ground. He tells them that there are no grounds for divorce. The Mosaic provision serves only as a rule of thumb for a people entrapped in sin, a rule which even then, most are unable to keep because their hearts are hard, their conscience calloused by sin. By quoting scripture, Jesus defines God's ideal for marriage. A man and a woman bonded socially, physically and psychologically, are in a one-flesh union - the two have become one. As this union is God designed, it is inappropriate for it to be severed for any reason; "What God has united, man must not separate", Barclay.

oJ de "-" - but/and he. Transitional, again indicating a change in subject / speaker.

proV + acc. "it was because" - [jesus said to them] toward = because of. The sense of "to / toward", present in this preposition, sometimes expresses reference,"with reference to / with respect to", and on rare occasions slips further toward a causal sense, as here; "because of / on account of", BAGD. Note Gundry who suggests that here it expresses purpose, to incite them to disobey.

thn sklhrokardian (a) "[your] hearts were hard" - the stubbornness, obstinacy, hardheartedness [of you]. The genitive "your / of you" is possessive. Probably "hard-heartedness", expressing an unwillingness (yes always, but inability is probably closer to the truth) to obey God's absolute will, which situation necessitates laws which "take account of men's actual sinfulness and are designed to limit and control its consequences", Cranfield.

uJmin dat. "[wrote] you [this law]" - [he wrote] to you [this commandment]. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.


Jesus supports his argument from two texts, Gen.1:27, and Gen.2:24, and then draws a conclusion, v6-9. The argument being "if the intention of the creation of male and female is for them to be united into "one flesh" so that they are no longer two, but one, then God's will simply cannot be that they divorce. "Divorce is tantamount to an undoing of the created order", Evans.

apo + gen. "at" - [but/and] from. Temporal use of the preposition.

ktisewV (iV ewV) gen. "of creation" - [beginning] of creation. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The creation is "the sum total of everything created", BAGD. Not "at the beginning of Genesis", but "from the beginning of the creation"; "when we go back to the foundation of all created things it has been thus ......", "therefore ......"

arsen kai qhlu "male and female" - [he made them] male and female. Accusative complements of the direct object "them", standing in a double accusative construction and stating a fact about the object "them".


eneken "for [this] reason" - because of, for the sake of, on behalf of [this]. Causal. The antecedent of toutou, "this", being the search for the missing rib!!!

kataleiyei (kataleipw) fut. "will leave" - [a man] will leave behind [the father of him and the mother]. The future tense is imperatival here, reflecting the OT quote.

proV + acc. "to [his wife]" - [and he will be joined] toward [the wife of him]. Here expressing association; a stylistic repetition of the proV prefix of the verb "to be joined together." The variant "and be untied to his wife" is possibly assimilated to Mt.19:5, so Metzger.


esontai ...... eiV "will become" - [and the two] will be into [one flesh]. This unusual use of the verb to-be with the preposition "into" derives from a literal translation in the LXX of the Hebrew, TH. The prepositional phrase introduces by eiV serves as the predicate of the verb to-be.

wJste "so" - so that. Introducing a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that ..." "And the two will become so completely one that they will no longer be two persons but one", Barclay.

alla "but" - [they are no longer two] but [one flesh]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.


Given the divine will for the integral unity of marriage, a will evident in the creation ordinances, Jesus issues an absolute decree on the matter of divorce.

oun "therefore" - therefore, thus, so then. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

o} pro. "what" - what [god has yoked together]. Neuter relative pronoun, accusative direct object of the verb "to be yoked together."

mh + pres. imp. "[let man] not" - [do] not [let man separate]. This construction may command the cessation of an action already in progress; "man (husbands) must stop continuing removing /separating from = divorcing [their wife/wives].


c) Jesus now instructs the disciples on the issue of divorce, v10-12. The disciples now ask Jesus to explain what he has just told the Pharisees. Jesus explains how divorce makes a person guilty of adultery. Based on the creation ordinance of the "one flesh", a husband commits adultery in divorce and remarriage, and is also technically responsible for his wife's adultery when / if she remarries. Matthew records the disciples' exclamation, "it is better not to marry." The ideal of a divorce-free marriage for the children of the kingdom is an impossible one; who can guarantee that their marriage won't fail? Of course, Jesus' argument aims at this conclusion. Perfect righteousness is a bridge too far for flawed humanity. If law-obedience can't save us, what can?

eiV thn oikian "when they were in the house" - [and] into the house [again]. Taken by NIV as an independent temporal verbless clause, or just "back home again", Manson.

ephrwtwn (eperwtaw) imperf. "asked" - [the disciples] were asking [him]. The imperfect is possibly inceptive, "the disciples began asking him"; "the disciples began to ask him a question about this matter."

peri + gen. "about" - about [this]. Reference; "concerning this, with reference to this."


Jesus' declaration of the divine will is is unequivocal - divorce is adulterous in that it leads the husband to form another one-flesh union, and will most likely force the wife into another one-flesh union. Mark's "against her" is particularly interesting. The phrase is virtually explanatory, "highlighting the explosive force of Jesus' pronouncement", Gundry. Under rabbinic law, a man may commit adultery against another man by bedding that man's wife, and a wife may commit adultery against her husband by bedding another man, but it was inconceivable that a man, by bedding another woman, has in this act committed adultery against his wife.

The lack of the exceptive clause on divorce, "except for adultery / fornication / unchastity", Matt.19:9, expresses the absolute nature of this kingdom law. In fact, the presence of this clause in Matthew is rather difficult to explain. Why, when outlining a divine ideal, would Jesus offer an exception?

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

oJV an + subj. "anyone who" - if someone = whoever. Introducing an indefinite relative clause which in this verse establishes a hypothetical condition, 3rd class, where the condition has only the possibility of coming true; "whoever, as may be the case, .... then [he commits adultery against her]".

moicatai (moicaw) pres. mid./pas. "commits adultery" - [divorces the wife of him and marries another then] he commits adultery. Decker notes that "to insist that the present tense means that the new marriage is one of continual adultery, is to press grammar beyond what it can bear."

ep (epi) + acc. "against [her]" - upon. Probably the spatial sense of "up against / against", as NIV, NRSV, NJB, NAB, REB, ..., but also possibly reference, "with regard / with respect", with respect to the wife's right to not have a third party intrude on the "one flesh" relationship she has with her husband. Although rather tenuous, it is possible that "upon" is intended, in that a husband forces adultery upon his wife by divorcing her, because to survive she will have to marry, or be partnered with, another man.

authn "her" - her. Presumably the wife, but the personal pronoun may refer to the other woman, so "commits adultery with her (the second woman)". Turner argues this case by noting that in Pss. Sol 8:10 moicasqai + acc. = "to commit adultery with" and so he suggests that moicatai ep means much the same. Marcus, following most commentators, argues that the wife is intended since epi is used frequently to express "against" and that this sense is supported by Matt.5:32 "which says that the divorcing man commits an offence against his first wife."


Given that a Jewish wife could not divorce her husband it is argued that this is an explanatory inclusion for Gentile readers, given that under Roman law a wife could divorce her husband, cf., Schweizer. There is though some second century documentary evidence that in some Jewish circles a women did have the right to divorce her husband. Either way, the statement reinforces the absolute nature of the divine will on the issue of divorce.

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 ...."

apolusasa (apoluw) "divorces [her husband]" - [she] having put away, having divorced [the husband of her and marries another then she commits adultery]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "marries"; "divorces and marries". Manson suggests that this active participle is the consequence of wrongly reading an Aramaic passive participle giving a translation in agreement with Luke 16:18b; "and if she who has been divorced by her husband marries another, he commits adultery", Torrey.


ii] Jesus welcomes little children, v13-16. Children are brought to Jesus to secure a blessing for their future life. The disciples, acting outside their authority, seek to "forbid them." Jesus responds sharply with both a positive and negative command. The disciples need to understand that the children's coming to Jesus, and Jesus receiving them, fully expresses how a person enters the kingdom of God. The kingdom can only be entered by someone who rests on God's mercy in Jesus, and not on any claim of merit before God. Jesus then takes the children and blesses them indicating that the blessings of the kingdom are freely bestowed on those who seek them.

Mark's linking of this pronouncement story with the question-answer story and the following question-answer story + discourse, is a highly theological move on his part. Confronting the reader with the absolute demands of the law, as they relate to divorce and the love of neighbour, reminds the believer that the promised blessing of the covenant can never be earned, but only gifted. Jesus blesses little children says everything about the gifting.

proseferon (prosferw) imperf. "people were bringing" - [and] they were bringing [little children]. Indefinite plural, the "they" not being identified. The imperfect may be iterative, expressing repeated action. The children are infants up to 12 years old, so Lagrange.

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

iJna + subj. "to [have him]" - that]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that he might touch them"

autwn gen. "them" - [he might touch] them. Genitive of direct object after a verb of touching. "Touching", obviously in the sense of laying hands upon for the conferring of a blessing, BAGD.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from the "they" to the disciples.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [the disciples rebuked] them. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to rebuke." "But the disciples told the people to stop bothering him", CEV.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from the disciples to Jesus; "but when Jesus saw ....."

idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when [Jesus] saw this" - [jesus] having seen the disciples blocking the children. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [he became angry, indignant, and said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

ercesqai (ercomai) aor. inf. " come" - [(you) allow, permit, the children] to come [to me]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing what Jesus allows, namely, that the children should be allowed to come to him. The accusative subject of the infinitive is "the children."

mh + pres. "not" - [hinder] not. It is often held that this negation with the pres. imp. commands the secession of action in progress; "stop forbidding them." This syntactical key is not as widely held today as it once was.

gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples should allow the children to come to him.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - [the kingdom] of god. Does the kingdom belong to God (possessive), proceed from God (ablative, source), is enacted by God (verbal, subjective), or simply, in general terms, God-like (adjectival, descriptive)? So the mystery of the genitive rolls on!!!! Possibly "the dominion of God", but probably better, "the righteous reign of God." For "the kingdom of God" see Mk.1:15.

twn .. toioutwn gen. "[belongs to] such as these" - [is] of these ones. "The proper force of the correlative demonstrative pronoun of quality should be observed", TH, ie. "such ones", not "these ones". Turner suggests that the genitive is epexegetic (Cranfield, Gundry, Taylor, Edwards, Evans, "belongs to such people as children", France, "not so much exclusive ownership, but having a rightful share in", .... all argue for a possessive genitive). "Children are the very nature of the kingdom", Turner, so "of such as these", rather than "belongs to such as these." Probably "is of such as these" in their child-like coming to, and accepting of, Jesus, cf., v15. "The statement is not an item in a doctrinal discussion on the innocence of children and the age of accountability, but a proclamation on the nature of the kingdom - being included is a matter of God's sovereign grace", Boring.


This verse may be an integral part of the pronouncement story, but given that Matthew doesn't use it, then it may be an independent attached saying of Jesus. Either way, it reinforces the point Mark is making. "The coming reign of God is a gift, which must be received as a child receives a gift - simply, and without any sense of having earned the gift", Mann. The sense is not that we must receive the kingdom as we would receive an innocent child. Rather, as Hunter puts it, "this is a parable of pure grace." "Unless we are prepared to receive God's kingdom (salvation) as a child receives a gift at his father's hand, we shall not have it", cf., Matt.11:25, Jn.3:5.

amhn lew uJmin "truly I tell you" - Affirming / underlining the following words.

oJV an + subj. "anyone" - if whom = whoever. Introducing an indefinite relative conditional clause, as above; "whoever, as may be the case, does not receive the kingdom of God as a child (would receive a gift), then they will never even enter into it."

mh dexhtai (decomai) aor. subj. "does not receive" - does not receive, welcome, accept. Children, in their "coming" and their "receiving" of Jesus, exegetes the nature of a person's coming and receiving the kingdom, God's reign in Christ, salvation. Those who do not come and happily receive God's blessing in Christ, as these children came and received Christ's blessings, will have no part in God's righteous reign.

wJV "as [a child]" - as, like. Establishing a comparison. "To receive the kingdom as a child is to allow oneself to be given it", Cranfield.

ou mh + subj. "[will] never [enter it]" - [may] no no = never, by no means [enter into it]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation. "He will certainly not get into it", Barclay.


enagkalisamenoV (enagkalizomai) aor. part. "he took [the children] into his arms" - [and] having taken into his arms [them]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he blesses"; "he took them in his arms and blessed them".

tiqeiV (tiqhmi) pres. part. "put" - placing [the hands]. The participle is adverbial, probably modal expressing the manner of blessing, or possibly instrumental expressing the means, "by laying ..." The use of hands in a blessing has OT precedence, cf. Gen.48:14-18.

epi + acc. "on" - upon [them]. Spatial.

kateulogei (kateulogew) imperf. "and blessed them" - he blesses. Hapax legomenon, only use in NT. The imperfect may be expressing durative action while the prefix is probably intensifying, "he kept on fervently blessing them", Wuest. "Tenderly / warmly / lovingly", TH, are other possible intensifiers. France suggests "a thorough blessing", but muses that it may be overexegesis.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]