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Mark 2 is the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It has the first argument in Mark between Jesus and other Jewish religious teachers. He heals a paralyzed man and forgives his sins, meets with the disreputable Levi and his friends, argues over the need to fast, and whether or not one can harvest food on Sabbath.

Healing of a paralytic

Mark says that Jesus returned to "home" in Capernaummarker. This might be Peter's house again or another house in Capernaum, Jesus' home at this time. Jesus is teaching in the house and a large crowd has gathered to hear him. Mark says he "preached the word to them" ( ) using logos for word.

A couple of men bring a paralyzed man to see Jesus but can not get past the crowd. Four of the men are carrying the paralytic. Who the men are Mark does not say. Since Mark has so far listed four disciples some speculate Mark might be indicating it is them doing the carrying, but there is no general agreement on this.

They then dig a hole in the roof of the house and lower the man in to see Jesus. That they dug through the roof indicated this is a poor house, with the roof made of leaves, bark, and dirt. It might also have had wooden beams for more sturdy support. This was the ordinary type of house in Palestine at the time.

Jesus is impressed by his effort, praising all the men's faith, and tells him that his sins are forgiven. He calls the man "Son" a term of affection.

Some of the teachers there are disturbed by this. "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" ( ). Mark says Jesus "...knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts..." ( ) and knows that they doubt his ability to forgive sins. He thus seems to have an ability to feel or know what other people are thinking, which might be seen as omniscience or telepathy.

He says to them "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He says to the man "...get up, take your mat and go home." ( 8-11)

It is easier to tell the man something than to demand he get up and walk. Jesus however proves his ability with a demonstration of the man's ability to walk. He heals by word alone, highlighting the power of Jesus' word's about forgiveness. Mark says that "everyone" was amazed by this, presumably including the teachers.

Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man, ho huios tou anthrĊpou (literally son of the human being), which he does many times in Mark. This is taken in several ways in Mark, but here probably refers to Jesus as God's representative on Earth. The term comes from many sources such as the Book of Daniel, Daniel for instance. It is also found in the Book of Enoch. In the Jewish apocalyptic tradition this title represents the judge during the final judgement. He was often viewed as angelic or as a heavenly being who comes as a flesh and blood person. Only Jesus mentions this title in the Gospels often using it to speak about himself in the third person. It has also been seen as symbolic of God's plan for all people.

By healing the man and then forgiving his sins, some have seen Jesus linking sins and illness, although Mark says Jesus healed him after he saw "their faith". Both in Luke and John Jesus rejects the notion that illness and misfortune are the result of sins. Other parts of the Bible, such as Book of Job, take a similar view of life's misfortunes as not being divine punishment. Other stories such as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis seem to stress that sins can result in worldly punishment.

The teachers say only God can forgive one's sins, some see Exodus and Isaiah and as proof of this claim. Mark thus leaves it implied that Jesus is God and that faith in his power will lead to not just a cure of physical ills but to a forgiveness of a person's sins. Early Christians may have used this story to buttress their claims of Jesus' ability to forgive sins. Thus to the teachers Jesus claim is blasphemy as they do not think Jesus is God, but to Mark's audience this confirms their belief in Jesus' divinity.

This is the first conflict between Jesus and other Jewish teachers in Mark. Mark might be starting his explanation of why these Jewish authorities later turned on Jesus.

This takes place in all the Synoptic Gospels, (Luke 5:17-26 and Matthew 9:1-8) and a very similar yet slightly different story occurs in John 5:1-14. John's healing takes place in Jerusalemmarker, yet the story in the synoptics takes place in Capernaummarker. All the synoptics agree that the man was paralyzed and then the teachers of the law got mad at Jesus because he said he forgave the man's sins. The story in John has the people getting mad at him because he did this on Sabbath.

The Discourse on ostentation after the Lord's Prayer states: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." ( )

See also Christianity and Judaism#Sin and Original Sin.

Calling of Levi

Jesus, while teaching a large crowd by the lake, finds Levi at the tax collector's booth and says "Follow me!" also calls him Levi. Matthew's version of this story clearly lists him as Matthew, the tax collector and apostle, in , . Mark lists him as the son of Alphaeus, although Alphaeus is also listed as the name of the father of James. A few manuscripts say James and not Levi, but most think this is an attempt by a copyist at correction. Some just assume he had two names, Matthew-Levi, maybe a middle or nickname, and both father's had the same name. Mark does not list a Levi as one of the Twelve Apostles in , so if one only considers Mark it is not clear this Levi was an Apostle.

A tax collector could mean two things. He could have been an independent contractor with the Roman government, who paid taxes to Rome and then got the right to extract taxes from the people in a certain area, with an added fee for the collector and people he would hire. He might have also been a toll collector for Herod Antipas, extracting the tolls people had to pay to enter parts of Palestine, and Capernaum was an area with a high traffic of movement of people and merchants. Either way, Levi would have been a very unpopular and even despised person.

Jesus and his disciples eat with Levi and his disreputable friends and the "teachers of the law who were Pharisees" ( ) ask his disciples why. Teaching the law was a profession, and the Pharisees were a group of men who were considered pious, so Mark states these people are both Pharisees who also taught the law. Whether they were at the dinner or passing by and saw this meal is unclear. The proper preparing and eating of food are very important in Judaism. It was even considered dangerous to eat with those who did not observe the same dining customs by some Jews like the Pharisees. See also the "Incident at Antioch" .

Most think, and most translations say, that this was at Levi's house, although the original texts state this was at "his" house, which could be Levi's or perhaps Jesus' house, maybe the one he was teaching in already mentioned. Mark says many people are now following Jesus, more than the four disciples he has already listed. See also Mark 6#Healing of the sick of Gennesaret. In contrast to the many followers Jesus attracted, it is not clear how many actual disciples (students) he recruited, only calls it a "great crowd of ... disciples" and says many left.

Psalm and speak of God's disfavor of sinners. Jesus replies the famous "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew has him say "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice." between the two sentences in Mark's version. Luke says "...but sinners to repentance." Jesus compares himself to a doctor to show that, as a doctor fights disease by working with the sick, so Jesus must go to sinners in order to help them overcome their sins. Jesus said he was seeking repentance in .

The Oxyrhynchus Gospels 1224 5:1-2 also record this episode of "dining with sinners".

Jesus thus ends the debate with a pithy statement with no rebuttal by his opponents. Many see this as Mark's way of telling the story to set up Jesus for his memorable words, which Mark uses in the next two incidents and others as well. Scholars have labeled this method of narration an apophthegm, chreia or pronouncement story. All three synoptics have this occur after the healing of the paralyzed man.

Fasting and new wineskins

It appears Mark then jumps to a future time, though it is possible he is still referring to Jesus' dinner with the sinners. Some (unnamed) people ask why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees are fasting (observing a fast, i.e. not eating), but the disciples of Jesus are not ( ). People fasted for many reasons, such as mourning or penitence, but another reason was to prepare for the anticipated coming of the messiah and perhaps even to speed up the process. demands fasting on the Day of Atonement, "a permanent statute", "whether the native, or the alien" (NASB). Luke has an unnamed Pharisee brag about his fasting. For what reason John's disciples were fasting Mark does not say. In , Jesus gives instructions about fasting, but see also Sermon on the Mount#Interpretation. Jesus also talks about fasting in the Gospel of Thomas in sayings 14, 27, 104, sometimes against it such as saying 14 but saying 104 closely resembles this story about fasting and weddings.

Jesus justifies this behavior and speaks of himself as the bridegroom and his disciples as his guests at his wedding and by giving the parable of the Patch and the Wineskins. Jesus speaking of himself as the bridegroom carries messianic overtones. Jesus is referred to as a bridegroom in several places in the New Testament such as John , 2 Corinthians , the Epistle to the Ephesians and Revelation and . In Thomas saying 75 Jesus talks about being alone and entering the bridal suite. Several books of the Jewish Bible speak of God as Israel's husband such as the Book of Hosea , the Book of Isaiah and , the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Ezekiel .

Jesus then says the bridegroom will be "taken from them" and then his disciples will fast, on that day, see also Lent. This is taken as an allusion to Jesus' death. For those who do not believe Jesus really had foreknowledge of his death this is taken as a product of the early Church. There is no purpose in fasting as the messiah, Jesus, is already here and his coming is like a wedding celebration, at which people do not fast.

Jesus then speaks of wine and wineskins:

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins. ( )

This is a very famous saying of Jesus. What its exact meaning is in the original context is not totally clear to even scholars today. It is easily interpreted to mean Jesus was proposing a new way of doing things. The new "unshrunk" patch for the cloth can not be melded to the old cloth as it will shrink and make the tear of the cloth worse. One can also not use "new" wine with "old" wineskins as the new wine will ferment and expand and break the old skins. Jesus thus seems to be concerned that the patch and the "new" wine as well as the "old" cloth and old wineskins be preserved. This might be Jesus trying to convey that one must shed those old things that are incompatible with his new way. Some of the old things however are worth preserving, but one must not mix the two.

Many, especially Christians, have interpreted it as Jesus saying he was the start of a new religion separate from John the Baptist and Judaism, called Christianity, for example see Ignatius of Antioch Magnesians X. Some Christians have used it to propose new ways of being Christian or even entirely new forms of Christianity. As early as the second century, Marcion used it to justify his doctrine, later called heretical Marcionism. Against these interpretations, adds: "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" This saying is also found partially as saying 47 of the Gospel of Thomas. This is the midpoint of Jesus' early conflicts with other Jewish teachers in Mark.

Plucking grain on Sabbath

Next, Jesus' disciples pick some grain on Sabbath, and the Pharisees accuse them of breaking Sabbath ( ). The command to observe Sabbath is found in Exodus , a "perpetual covenant ... [for] the people of Israel" (NRSV). Deuteronomy says one may pick grain from someone else's field. It would appear that the Pharisees were following Jesus or simply ran into him somehow in or near the grainfields. Some think this is not historical but is Mark's literary way of debating Sabbath observance issues. E. P. Sanders argues that these debates on Sabbath, handwashing, and food are artificial constructs of Mark as there were debates between Paul and other Christians ( ; ; ) about the issue after Jesus' ministry. The Jesus Seminar determined , , to be "pink" acts of Jesus, that is "a close approximation of what Jesus did" and call them "Sabbath observance."

Jesus points out to them a story about David found in 1 Samuel . David had been allowed to eat special consecrated bread reserved for the priests, detailed in Leviticus . Thus if David was allowed to break a commandment for hunger, so Jesus can do the same. In Mark Jesus says this was when Abiathar was high priest, while Samuel says the high priest was Ahimelech, Abiathar's father. Luke and Matthew both do not name the high priest. Mark may have simply made a reading error or had an incomplete or inaccurate copy of the Books of Samuel. A few early Marcan manuscripts omit this phrase, but most scholars think the name of the priest was originally written by Mark, not a later copyist.

Jesus then says "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." ( ) Thus human needs take precedence over strict observance of the law. Some see this as a radical departure from the Jewish understanding of the law (see also Christianity and Judaism). Both Luke and Matthew do not have the first phrase putting people ahead of Sabbath. Since form critics believe the Q hypothesis and that Luke and Matthew copied from Mark, many argue they might have found this too radical and so chose not to include it. Jesus here claims he knows what Sabbath is for, and thus that he knows the mind of God, something only God could do, and equates himself with the "Lord of the Sabbath", God. The passage thus has a christological climax.

Most scholars agree that Sabbath and proper observance of Mosaic law in general were a point of contention between Jesus and other Jewish teachers. A minority position, held by scholars such as E. P. Sanders, is that these do not constitute proof of a rejection of the law, e.g., Sanders claims there was no significant conflict between the Pharisees as a group and Jesus and that the Church took some time to reach its position on Sabbath, which makes it difficult to believe Jesus specifically taught one position or the other. The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Jesus argues the Halakah ("Jewish Law") was not in so definite a form at this period due to the disputes of Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai, see also Hillel and Shammai.

There were debates within Early Christianity, such as at the Council of Jerusalem between Paul and Jewish Christians, over just how much of the Law of Moses one should follow. See also Old Testament#Christian view of the Law for the modern debates. This passage might have been used by the early Church in defense of their less than strict observance of Sabbath against Jews like the Pharisees who held a harder line on Sabbath observance. The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Jesus notes: "...stricter rabbis allowed only the saving of life to excuse the slightest curtailment of the Sabbath rest (Shab. xxii. 6)." See also Council of Jamnia.

These stories are almost entirely the same in Luke 5-6, and in Matthew except for the story of Sabbath, which occurs in Matthew at Chapter 12. They do not occur in John except for perhaps the paralyzed man.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia: New Testament: Misunderstood Passages:

The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Gentile: Gentiles May Not Be Taught the Torah notes the following reconciliation:

See also Expounding of the Law from the Gospel of Matthew.


  1. Kilgallen 49
  2. Brown et al. 601
  3. Miller 16
  4. Brown et al. 602
  5. Miller 17
  6. Kilgallen 53
  7. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Matthew
  8. Kilgallen 55
  9. Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers see section titled: "THE INCIDENT AT ANTIOCH"
  10. Miller 18
  11. Kilgallen 58
  12. Brown et al. 603
  13. Kilgallen 59
  14. "Just how incredible many of them are, however, seems not to be realized by many." -Jesus and Judaism, 1985, ISBN 0-8006-0743-0, pp.264-269, Sabbath, handwashing, and food
  15. Kilgallen 61
  16. Sanders Jesus and Judaism, 1985, pages 264-269 on Sabbath, handwashing and food


External links

Chapters of the Bible
Preceded by:
Mark 1

Gospel of Mark
Followed by:
Mark 3

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