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Archive for the ‘Notes on Mark’ Category

Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 1:7-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 31, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

Mk 1:7 And he preached, saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.

after me. St John the Baptist was born about six months before our Lord. As no Jew was allowed to preach before his thirtieth year, Jesus began His public life about six months later than St John. I doubt the phrase there cometh after me one, &c, has anything to do with age. More likely it’s picking up on the theme of “before” in verses 2~Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. John is prophesying the coming fulfillment of the foundational purpose of his ministry. Indeed, in Mk 1:9 Jesus will come to the already ministering  Baptist, be baptized by him and then start his own ministry for which the Baptist’s was a prelude.

mightier than I. Note the Baptist’s humility, Jesus is “the Mighty One.” The Greek word ισχυροτερος (ischyroteros) means mighty or powerful one. As the Mighty One Jesus has come to subdue “the strong man” (ισχυρου = ischyrou) Satan (see Mk 3:23-27).

to stoop down. A minute detail proper to St Mark.

and loose. To loose and carry the shoes was the work of the slave, who performed this office for his master, when the latter entered a temple or banqueting hall.

Mk 1:8 I have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

I have baptised you with water, etc. The Baptist exalts Christ’s baptism, which conferred the Holy Ghost, and regenerated the soul.

Mar 1:9 And it came to pass, in those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in Jordan.

In those days. Either an indefinite formula referring to St John’s preaching, or more probably a reference to the days of our Lord’s hidden life at Nazareth, which ended when He attained His thirtieth year.

Nazareth. A small despised city on the southern slopes of Galilee. “Can any thing of good come from Nazareth?” (St John 1:46).

in the Jordan. One local tradition points out an ancient ford, near Succoth, as the spot where Jesus was baptized, another refers it to a ford near Jericho. The latter was easier of access.

Mar 1:10 And forthwith coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens open and the Spirit as a dove descending and remaining on him.

forthwith = immediately; both favourite words of St Mark. This adverb, as employed by St Mark, does not always express uninterrupted sequence. Mark’s repeated use of the various forms of the Greek word εὐθύς (= euthus), along with his chronic use of “and,” gives the narrative a fast paced feel and communicates a sense of urgency to it. 

He saw the heavens opened. “He” refers to Jesus Himself, but St John also saw the rent in the heavens, and probably the people present perceived the miracle.

Mar 1:11 And there came a voice from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

a voice from heaven. During our Saviour s lifetime a miraculous voice was heard three times :

(a) At His Baptism: Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.
(b) At the Transfiguration: This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him.
(c) In the Temple during Holy Week: I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

In verses 10 and 11 note the explicit mention of the three Persons of the Blessed
Trinity. God the Father spoke from Heaven. God the Son stood in the river. God
the Holy Ghost descended “in bodily shape as a dove.”

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 9:30-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 15, 2016

Mar 9:30 And departing from thence, they passed through Galilee: and he would not that any man should know it.

departing from thence. From the scene of the Transfiguration arid of the subsequent miracle.

passed through Galilee. Possibly they did not journey direct from the Mount of the Transfiguration to Capharnaum, but by less frequented routes to ensure privacy. This was the last time Christ was in Galilee, Jesus was now on His last journey to Jerusalem.

He would not that any man should know it. To avoid the multitudes and to be free to teach His disciples. It was their last year of training.

Mar 9:31 And he taught his disciples and said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise again the third day.

taught his disciples. The tense implies “was continually teaching,” saying, “Lay you up in your hearts these words” (St Luke 9:44). As the time of His Passion drew nearer, our Lord very frequently gave His Apostles private instructions.

betrayed into the hands of men. “He was delivered up by His Father, who gave Him over to their power. He delivered up Himself voluntarily. He was betrayed into the hands of men, by Judas, who handed Him over to the Scribes and Chief Priests: these delivered Him to Pilate, and Pilate to the soldiers” (MacEvilly, Commentary). This is the first mention of the betrayal.

hands of men. This was an expression signifying some great misfortune; thus David chose the pestilence, saying, it is better for me to fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercies are many, than into the hands of men (1 Chron 21:13).

they shall kill him. Notice the continual repetition of this prediction. He wished to prepare them gradually for His death.

after that he is killed he shall rise again. Christ s Resurrection is here very clearly stated, yet the disciples still “understood not the word.”

Mar 9:32 But they understood not the word: and they were afraid to ask him.

they understood not. St Luke adds, it was hid from them so that they perceived it not (Lk 9:45). These words show the mental state of the disciples. The meaning was like a hidden thing which they could not find. St Peter, however, does not again reject the idea with impetuosity. It was their false preconceptions about the Messiah which prevented them from grasping our Lord’s meaning. St Matthew adds, “they were troubled exceedingly” (Mt 27:22).

afraid to ask him: lest they should hear the worst; doubt left room for a certain hope.

Mar 9:33 And they came to Capharnaum. And when they were in the house, he asked them: What did you treat of in the way?

came to Capharnaum. It was on. this occasion that St Peter was questioned concerning the tribute money, and Jesus worked a miracle to pay it.

in the house, he asked them. Jesus avoided compromising the reputation of His followers in the eyes of the people. The true order of events is given by comparing the accounts of the three Evangelists, who complete each other’s narrative:

(a) And there entered a thought into them, which of them should be greater (St Luke 9:46).
(b) And they came to Capharnaum. And when they were in the house, he asked them, What did you treat of in the way? (St Mark 9:32).
(c) At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven (St Matt 18:1).

What did you treat of in the way? Apparently Jesus had walked on
ahead alone, or He was engaged in conversation with some of the other disciples.

Mar 9:34 But they held their peace, for in the way they had disputed among themselves, which of them should be the greatest.

they held their peace: conscience-stricken, for they had been giving
way to ambition. St Matt, says they asked our Lord, Who thinkest,
thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? (Mt 18:1). Evidently it was by a counter-question that they replied, but as regards answering our Lord’s question they were silent. Their thoughts reverted to the kingdom of the Messiah, not to Heaven.

they had disputed, etc. Perhaps the preference shewn to St Peter, St
James, and St John, and their silence as to what took place when our Lord “led them apart” had aroused the jealousy of the other apostles. They again disputed about this matter at the Last Supper. The Gospel shews us the Apostles as they were, with all their failings.

Mar 9:35 And sitting down, he called the twelve and saith to them: If any man desire to be first, he shall be the last of all and be minister of all.

sitting down, he called the twelve. Jesus took the attitude of a teacher. All were called to hear His reproof and to learn a lesson of humility.

desire to be first. If he desire to be first in the kingdom of heaven, let
him be content to be last in this world; i.e. true humility leads to
sanctity, which determines our rank in heaven. St Matt, gives the
fuller answer, Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me (Mt 18:4, 5). St Luke also gives our Lord s definite answer to the disciples question, For he that is the lesser among you all, he is the greater (Lk 9:48).

the minister of all. A second lesson is here inculcated. The Christian
must be desirous to serve rather than to be served, to obey rather than to rule.

Mar 9:36 And taking a child, he set him in the midst of them. Whom when he had embraced, he saith to them:

taking a child. St Matt, gives, calling unto him a little child (Mt 18:2).

Whom when he had embraced. Notice Jesus tender love for children. Thus He on another occasion called them to Him and blessed them.

Mar 9:37 Whosoever shall receive one such child as this in my name receiveth me. And whosoever shall receive me receiveth not me but him that sent me.

Whosoever shall receive, etc. Hence we see what a glorious work it is to train children for Uod s sake, as unto Him. By so doing we receive our Lord Himself.

Note. The following points in this narrative are peculiar to St Mark

(a) Jesus sat down.
(b) He called all the Twelve.
(c) He placed the child in the midst,
(d) He embraced the child.

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 9:14-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 15, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

Mk 9:14. And coming to his disciples he saw a great multitude about them and the scribes disputing with them.

coming to his disciples. To the nine who were at the foot of the
mountain. This happened the day following (Lk 9:37), as St Luke tells us.This seems to indicate night as the time when the Transfiguration took place.

he saw a great multitude. St Luke adds the multitude met Him.

the scribes disputing with them. They perhaps hoped to overcome
the disciples now that Jesus was absent. Probably they denied that
the Apostles could work miracles, even as they denied that Christ had the power to do so.

Mar 9:15 And presently all the people, seeing Jesus, were astonished and struck with fear: and running to him, they saluted him.

astonished and struck with fear. The original word denotes
extreme terror. The terror of the multitude on seeing Jesus might
arise from several causes.

(a) They did not expect to see Him appear so opportunely.
(b) Something of the glory of the Transfiguration may still have shone on His face, as the face of Moses shone when he came down from Mount Sinai.

running to him, they saluted him. Their fear did not overcome their
joy at seeing Him.

Mar 9:16 And he asked them: What do you question about among you?

he asked them, etc. Jesus inquired of those nearest, What do you question about among you? The father of the lunatic is the only one to answer, falling down on his knees before him saying; Lord,
pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water (St Matt. 17:14). These are the ordinary symptoms of epilepsy, which the demon probably aggravated, since the boy was possessed by a dumb spirit. The words he is a lunatic shew that the father connects the boy s convulsions with the changes of the moon.

Mar 9:17 And one of the multitude, answering, said: Master, I have brought my son to thee, having a dumb spirit.

Master, I have brought my son to thee. The man had brought his
son, hoping to find Jesus with the disciples.

a dumb spirit. Since St Luke tells us he suddenly crieth out (Lk 9:39), we may conclude the boy could not utter articulate sounds.

Mar 9:18 Who, wheresoever he taketh him, dasheth him: and he foameth and gnasheth with the teeth and pineth away. And I spoke to thy disciples to cast him out: and they could not.

wheresoever=whenever. The convulsions were intermittent.

he taketh him, dasheth him, etc. The father describes minutely the
effects of the natural disease of epilepsy, attributing them to the action of the dumb spirit.

I spoke to thy disciples to cast him out. The man had clearly heard of miracles worked by the Apostles.

they could not. He attributes the failure to want of power, not lack of good will. The Apostles had tried to cast out the devil, but had failed signally.

Mar 9:19 Who answering them, said: O incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto me.

O incredulous generation. A rebuke to the multitude in general, to the father of the child, and to the Apostles also (indirectly). St Matt.
gives unbelieving and perverse generation (Mt 17:16).

how long shall I be with you? To bear with and to teach you.

Mar 9:20 And they brought him. And when he had seen him, immediately the spirit troubled him and being thrown down upon the ground, he rolled about foaming.

when he had seen him, etc. When the devil in the boy was brought close to Jesus. The devils often troubled their victims thus, when in the presence of Jesus.

Mar 9:21 And he asked his father: How long time is it since this hath happened unto him? But he sad: From his infancy.

How long time is it, etc. Our Lord s question had for object to–

(a) show His compassion.
(6) to elicit faith,
(c) to call attention to the gravity of the boy’s condition.

Mar 9:22 And oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into the waters to destroy him. But if thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us.

if thou canst do anything, etc. These words shew that the man’s faith was very weak.

Mar 9:23 And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Jesus saith to him, If thou canst, etc. A better translation would be, “Jesus said unto him, as for thy,” “if thou canst,” “all things are
possible to him that believeth.” The granting of the grace depended
on the suppliant s faith.

Mar 9:24 And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears said: I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

the father …. crying out, with tears said. The man’s tears and
cries shew his earnest desire. He felt the weakness of his own faith ;
he believed, but would fain have a firmer faith.

Mar 9:25 And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, he threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him and enter not any more into him.

when Jesus saw the multitude running together. Apparently Jesus
had spoken to His disciples and the man a little apart; doubtless the
boy’s convulsions would have brought the multitude nearer, to see what was happening.

threatened the unclean spirit: “rebuked” (St Luke). This spirit is
characterised as dumb and unclean. These words shew clearly that the boy was possessed. This is an example of a double cure: of healing, and of possession of the devil.

I command thee. Words of authority. He speaks in His own Name, in virtue of His Divinity,

enter not any more. The child was thus preserved from future possession by this same spirit.

Mar 9:26 And crying out and greatly tearing him, he went our of him. And he became as dead, so that many said: He is dead.

crying out and greatly tearing, etc. Thus the devil shewed his impotent rage at being forced to relinquish his prey.

Mar 9:27 But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up (ηγειρεν = egeiren). And he arose (ἀνίστημι = anistēmi = literally, “he stood up”).

The manual offers no comment on this verse. I would like to note the following:

Taking him by the hand. This phrase is used 3 other times in Mark (Mk 1:31 5:41-42; 8:23). The first 2 uses, like the present verse, are related to the theme of resurrection: “And coming to her, he lifted her up (ἐγείρω = egeirō), taking her by the hand; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”  “And taking the damsel by the hand, he saith to her: Talitha cumi, which is, being interpreted: Damsel (I say to thee) arise (ἐγείρω = egeirō). And immediately the damsel rose up (ανεστη = aneste, from anistēmi)”

Mar 9:28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? 

his disciples secretly asked him. Naturally they felt the humiliation of having failed to cast out the evil spirit, and especially as their failure was witnessed by the Scribes, and they knew not to what it was to be attributed, since, hitherto, the devils had been subject to them. Only nine of the Apostles asked this question.

Mar 9:29 And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

he said to them, etc. St Matthew gives a longer answer, Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence thither, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you (Mt 17:19).

This kind. Particular kind of demon. As there are angels of different degrees of power and glory, so there are some demons who surpass their companions in wickedness, strength, and intelligence.

prayer and fasting. Some MSS. omit these words, but they are found in the greater number. Fasting was required to add intensity to prayer, and Origen says it should be practised both by the one possessed and by the exorcist. “The demoniac living luxuriously cannot be delivered from such madness.” (St Chrysoslom.) The exorcist should fast that he may first conquer his own inordinate passions before attacking God’s enemies, the devils. Prayer and fasting predispose man to receive graces from God

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 3:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 20, 2015


1. And he entered again into the synagogue, and there was a man there who had a withered hand.

He entered again. St Luke tells us this took place on another Sabbath (v. 7), not the Sabbath on which the disciples plucked the ears of corn.

the synagogue of Capharnaum, where the Pharisees, whom He had recently rebuked, worshipped habitually.

withered hand. It was his right hand (St Luke 6:6), the hand was dried up; such a disease was beyond medical skill.

2. And they watched him whether he would heal on the sabbath-days; that they might accuse him.

they watched him i.e. the Scribes and Pharisees of Galilee, together with those who had come from Judea and Jerusalem to find some accusation against Him.

watched. The word implies here, spying with malevolence, that they might accuse him.

3. And he said to the man who had the withered hand: Stand up in the midst.

Stand up: that the sad condition of the man might be seen, perhaps to induce pity in the hearts of the Pharisees, also to render the miracle visible to all present.

4. And he saith to them: Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy? But they held their peace.

He saith. Jesus replied to their question, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? (St Matt. 12:10), by the counter- question, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day?

do evil. To inflict some bodily injury, as opposed to saving a life. Not to deliver a person from suffering, when we can, is equivalent to inflicting the suffering. Sins of omission may be as grievous as sins of commission.

held their peace. To have answered that it was right to heal on the Sabbath, would have justified our Lord’s merciful deed. To have denied the right, would have been contradicting their own traditions, which allowed medical aid to be given on the Sabbath when life was at stake.

5. And looking round about on them with anger, being grieved for the blindness of their hearts, he saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth: and his hand was restored unto him.

looking round. Gazing on them with mingled feelings of anger and grief (or compassion) for their blindness. His divine regard fell on each as He looked round.

his hand was restored; “even as the other” (St Matt. 12:13). Jesus cured the man without any exterior signs or words, and thus gave His accusers no ground for bringing a legal accusation against Him, since the miracle was performed by a volition which could not desecrate the Sabbath. This is one of the seven miracles worked on the Sabbath day.

6. And the Pharisees going out, immediately made a consultation with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

made a consultation with the Herodians: “they were filled with madness, and they talked one with another, what they might do to Jesus” (St Luke 6:11),

Herodians.  It is generally supposed that the “Herodians” were the admirers and partisans of Herod, and hence their name. They constituted a political, rather than a religious, sect, and were generally bitterly opposed to the Pharisees. In joining with the Pharisees against our Lord (see St Mark 3:6) they were animated by the hatred of His Divine Person, which they had in common with them. The Herodians adopted certain tenets of the Sadducees. They looked to Herod for deliverance from the Roman yoke, and also for positions of wealth and independence. They again made common cause with the Pharisees during Holy Week, when questioning our Lord with regard to the tribute to Caesar (St Mark 12:13). They were self-indulgent, worldly men, and Jesus warned His disciples against them e.g., Beware of the leaven of Herod. As Galilee was Herod s tetrarchy, it was naturally full of his adherents. Jesus probably referred to them, when He said, “behold, they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings” (St Matt. 11:8), for Jewish historians tell us that those scribes who attached themselves to Herod the Great’s party laid aside the garments distinctive of their profession, and adopted the gorgeous apparel of Herod’s courtiers. The later Herodians probably did the same, and Christ’s reference to “the houses of kings” may refer to the palace of Herod Antipas. St Mark only mentions the Herodians on the two occasions referred to above.

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 1:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 19, 2014

Mk 1:1 THE beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Most writers regard this verse as the title of the book.

Gospel, i.e. the tidings of salvation, or the story of the life of Jesus
Christ (see Intro., p. 15).

Concerning the word “Gospel” the Glossary of the Catechims of the Catholic Church notes:

“GOSPEL: The “good news” of God’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is this Gospel or good news that the Apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the entire world (571, 1946). The Gospel is handed on in the apostolic tradition of the Church as the source of all-saving truth and moral discipline (75). The four Gospels are the books written by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which have for their central object Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his life, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance (124, 514).”

Jesus = Saviour. Christ = Anointed. Kings, priests and prophets were anointed, and Jesus was all three.

Concerning the name Jesus see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 430-435 (hereafter CCC). Concerning the title Christ see CCC 436-440. Concerning “Son of God” see CCC 441-445.

Mk 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee.

As it is written in Isaiah:  St Mark actually begins by a quotation from Malachi: Behold, I send My angel, and he shall -prepare the way before My face (Mal 3:1). Our Lord Himself applies these words to St John. This is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send, etc. (St Matt. 11:10.). For the Isaiah quotation see on verse 2.

The texts of Malachi and Isaiah are similar inasmuch as they both allude to the Exouds with it’s reference to an angel which will go before the people (Ex 23:20). Both also speak about preparing the way before the Lord.

St Mark, as historian, only quotes the Old Testament twice; here and in Mk 15:28, And with the wicked He was reputed. The passage concerning the angel who should prepare the way, referred primarily to the return of the Jews from their exile in Babylon, but the doctors of the law saw in this prophecy a secondary allusion to the Messiah.

Mk 1:3 A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.

A voice of one crying. A reference to a herald preceding a monarch and proclaiming his coming.

in the desert. The desert in which St John preached, was a tract of very thinly-inhabited land, lying east of Jerusalem and north of the Dead Sea.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord. St John exhorted his hearers to do this, by confessing their sins and bringing forth worthy fruits of penance. See Mk 1:5 and especially Luke 3:3, 7-14.

make straight his paths. An allusion to the Eastern custom of sending out workmen to prepare the roads for the passage of a monarch. It consisted in filling valleys, levelling hills, and making devious paths straight and even.

Isaiah 40:3 is almost certainly a mockery of the gods of Babylon. In ancient times highways were rebuilt for kings and gods (idols) so that they might enter their capital city in splendor, often as a celebration for the victory of the king and his gods over foreign people and their gods. The people of God and the utensils of worship taken from the Jerusalem Temple at the time of the Babylonian conquest and the exile that followed were, no doubt, led along such a road as they entered Babylon, with their conquerors celebrating their and their god’s victory over them and their God. Of course, they failed to understand that what they deemed the defeat of Israel’s God was, in fact, part of a plan orchestrated by him. The King of Babylon, like the King of Assyria before him, thought that he had conquered just another god, and for this both suffered the consequences (Isa 10:10-11; 14:13-15). Here God is declaring that he will have his own victory procession, triumphantly leading his people out of the pagan city he-not the gods of Babylon-had led them into. On this processional highway “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” and “all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”  (verse 5). His word stands forever (unlike “flesh”, see Isa 40:6-8) and accomplishes his will (Isa 55:10-11). Thus at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel we see a note of triumph and victory hinted at. Jesus will be confronted by Satan, the prince of demons and the one whose power is behind every false god, and He will be victorious (implied in Mk 1:12-13; explicit in Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13).

For the use of the Isaiah passage in reference to John the Baptist here and in Matt 11:10 see the CCC 719. One may also wish to consult the footnote to Mk 1:2-3 in the NABRE.

Mk 1:4 John was in the desert, baptizing and preaching the baptism of penance, unto remission of sins.

baptizing. The use of the present participle denotes an action frequently repeated. John was extremely busy with baptizing and preaching given the huge numbers who went out to him (see the next verse; also Mt 3:5 and note the reference to “crowds” [plural] in Luke 4:7, 10).

preaching. St John preached before he baptized; the order is here inverted. Baptizing was the characteristic feature of his ministry.

baptism of penance. Not the Sacrament of Baptism but a penitential rite to prepare them for the preaching of our Lord. This “baptism of penance” could not, of itself, take away sin.

Mk 1:5 And there went out to him all the country of Judea and all they of Jerusalem and were baptized by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

all the country, etc. This is one of St Mark s graphic touches. The other Gospels mention the various classes of people who listened to St John soldiers, tax-gatherers (St Luke 3:10-14).

river of Jordan = the river Jordan.

confessing their sins, i.e. “declaring their deeds.” These words do not refer to the Sacrament of Penance, which was not then instituted. The Law of Moses prescribed a detailed confession of certain sins, e.g. unjust or rash oaths. Leviticus: Let him do penance for his sin, and offer of the flocks an ewe lamb or a she-goat, and the priest shall pray for him and for his sin (Lev 5:5-6).

Mk 1:6 And John was clothed camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and he ate locusts and wild honey.

camel’s hair. A. rough cloth made from coarse camel s hair. St John the
Baptist led a life of penance, hence his clothes and food were of the poorest.

leathern girdle. The rich wore expensive girdles; the poor used a plain leathern strap such as the Arabs of the desert still wear. Recall Jesus’ words in reference to the Baptist in Mt 11:8~But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. The Baptist’s dress calls to mind the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).

locusts. A rather large-winged insect considered “clean” by the Jews. The food of the poor. The locusts were dried in the sun and sometimes made into cakes.

wild honey was found in quantities in the clefts of the rocks in the desert, or the term may mean the tree-honey, a gum found exuding from certain trees.

Mk 1:7 And he preached, saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.

after me. St John the Baptist was born about six months before our Lord. As no Jew was allowed to preach before his thirtieth year, Jesus began His public life about six months later than St John. I doubt the phrase there cometh after me one, &c, has anything to do with age. More likely it’s picking up on the theme of “before” in verses 2~Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. John is prophesying the coming fulfillment of the foundational purpose of his ministry. Indeed, in Mk 1:9 Jesus will come to the already ministering  Baptist, be baptized by him and then start his own ministry for which the Baptist’s was a prelude.

mightier than I. Note the Baptist’s humility, Jesus is “the Mighty One.” The Greek word ισχυροτερος (ischyroteros) means mighty or powerful one. As the Mighty One Jesus has come to subdue “the strong man” (ισχυρου = ischyrou) Satan (see Mk 3:23-27).

to stoop down. A minute detail proper to St Mark.

and loose. To loose and carry the shoes was the work of the slave, who performed this office for his master, when the latter entered a temple or banqueting hall.

Mk 1:8 I have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

I have baptised you with water, etc. The Baptist exalts Christ’s baptism, which conferred the Holy Ghost, and regenerated the soul.


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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 6:53-56

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2014

Text in red are my additions.

53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Genezareth, and set to the shore.

into the land of Genesareth. A plain on the north- western shore of the lake of Genesareth (i.e., Sea of Galilee), about three miles long and one wide. It has a most rich vegetation and a very warm climate, being 500 feet below the sea-level. All kinds of fruits, grapes, figs, dates, olives, etc. abound there.

set to the shore: moored the boat. St John tells us they disembarked at Capharnaum. In Mark 6:45 Jesus had instructed the disciples to precede him to Bethsaida. These differences vex scholars but the reader should keep in mind that none of the gospels claims to be presenting a strictly chronological presentation of Jesus’ ministry. Recall for example that Luke narrates Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth before any other event in his public ministry, fully aware that events in his ministry had preceded it (Lk 4:16-30, especially verses 23) It’s possible that they did first land in Bethsaida and then visited other cities on the lake, including the land of Genesareth, but Mark has skipped some of the itinerary.

54 And when they were gone out of the ship, immediately they knew him:

immediately they knew him. It was morning, and the people who were on the shore recognised Jesus.

55 And running through that whole country, they began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.

running through the whole country. St Mark s usual graphic style. See Mark 6:32-33.

56 And whithersoever he entered, into towns or into villages or cities, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch but the hem of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.

hem of his garment. Doubtless the miracle of the healing of the woman with an issue of blood had been noised abroad. In addition, Orientals believe that the contact with a holy person brings grace and blessing.

as many as touched, etc. This proves they had faith in Christ’s power to heal them.

The crowds gathering to Jesus in both the country and the cities is a common markan motif (Mk 1:32-34; 3:7-10, 20; 4:1, 5:21).

Besought him that they might touch the hem of his garment. The experience of the hemorrhaging woman (Mk 5:27-28) was not unique.

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 6:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 3, 2014

1 AND going out from thence, he went into his own country; and his disciples followed him.

Going out from thence. Either out of the house of Jairus, or more probably out of Capliarnaum, where He from this time ceased to have a fixed dwelling-place.

His own country: i.e. Nazareth, where He had been brought up.

followed him. Either Jesus walked on ahead of His disciples, or else He went alone to Nazareth and they joined Him there.

2 And when the Sabbath was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were in admiration at his doctrine, saying: How came this man by all these things? and what wisdom is this that is given to him, and such mighty works as are wrought by his hands?

to teach in the synagogue. As He had done at His previous visit.

were in admiration. Literally “were astounded,” according to the original signification of the word.

How came this man by all these things? Unable to deny the wisdom and miracles of Jesus, the unbelieving Nazarenes cunningly question the origin of His power, in order to justify their own incredulity. They knew that Jesus had not been highly educated, but that He had worked among them as a carpenter.

wisdom …. mighty works. Not only knowledge to teach and to convince, but also power to confirm His teaching by “mighty works.”

mighty works as are wrought. Those of which they had heard, not
those done on this occasion.

3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? are not also his sisters here with us? And they were scandalized in regard of him.

the carpenter. This word in the original may signify a worker in iron, stone, wood, etc., but more generally it refers to a worker in wood. St Mark’s is the only gospel in which we find our Lord called the carpenter. It was customary for every Jew to teach his son a trade, no matter how high his own station. One of their proverbs is, “He who teaches not a trade to his son teaches him to be a thief.” St Paul was a tent-maker by trade (Acts 18:3). Jesus, as a mere village carpenter, would not have earned high wages.

the brother of James, etc. (See Genealogical Table, p. 75.). I can’t reproduce this on the blog.

His sisters: daughters of Mary of Cleophas and of Alpheus (or

scandalized. This word is coined from the original provincial Greek word. The Greeks used a kind of trap (scandalon) for ensnaring animals. The “scandalon” was that part of the trap which gripped the animal running unwarily against it. Hence to scandalize a person is to entrap and destroy him (Morrison). Here the expression implies that our Lord’s humble origin was the great stumblingblock which irritated the envy and prejudice of His compatriots. See the note under the heading ON SCANDAL at the end of this post.

4 And Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and in his own house, and among his own kindred.

A prophet, etc. Jesus here quotes a Jewish proverb.

his own country …. house. …. kindred, i.e. Galilee, including the little town of Nazareth; His kindred or distant relations and His nearer relatives.

5 And he could not do any miracles there, only that he cured a few that were sick, laying his hands upon them.

He could not do any miracles …. because of their unbelief. Man’s incredulity circumscribed God’s power in a certain sense; Jesus always exacted faith as a condition for being healed.

6 And he wondered because of their unbelief, and he went through the villages round about teaching.

He wondered because of their unbelief. This shows how truly human
our Lord was. As man He could “wonder,” though as God He foresaw their incredulity. Jesus also “marvelled,” but with pleasure, at the faith of the Centurion. “Which Jesus hearing marvelled; and turning about to the multitude that followed him, he said: Amen, I say to you, I have not found so great faith, not even in Israel” (St Luke 7:9).

It is proverbially difficult for men to acknowledge one of their equals, with whom they have been intimate, as superior to themselves in intellect or merit. “Familiarity breeds contempt” of those who they deem ought not to surpass them. To His own family and kindred, Jesus was an ordinary man, excepting of course to our dear Lady, St Joseph, and those of His kinsmen who were His disciples. This fact alone shews how carefully Mary and Joseph had kept the secrets confided to them. Jesus has passed during the thirty years of His hidden life as the carpenter s son and for no more. The “mighty works” wrought in the neighbourhood of His own home could not convince the incredulous Nazarenes of His sublime mission. Resurrections had been wrought, and the report of these miracles must have reached Nazareth, but since the people wilfully closed their ears and refused to listen to the greatest of Prophets, “neither will they believe if one rise again from the dead” (St Luke 16:31).

through the villages. In the region of Galilee.


It must be carefully noted that giving and taking scandal are totally distinct from each other:

(a) To give scandal, is to lead another into sin, either directly or indirectly, and this sin may take a positive or a negative form. To advise or lead a person to tell a lie is a positive sin of scandal. To abstain without serious reasons from hearing Mass 0n Sundays, and thus by our own negligence, to be the cause of others missing Mass, is a negative sin of scandal. Our Lord strongly denounced the Pharisees for giving scandal. “But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you yourselves do not enter in, and those that are going in you suffer not to enter” (St Matt 23:13). “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Wo to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come : but nevertheless wo to that man by whom the scandal cometh” (St Matt 18:6, 7).

(b) To take scandal, is to take occasion of sin even from the good actions of our neighbours. It is called Pharisaical scandal, because the Pharisees were guilty of it. “And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand, and they asked him, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath-days? that they might accuse him” (St Matt. 12:10). “And the ruler of the synagogue (being angry that Jesus had healed on the sabbath) answering said to the multitude, Six days there are wherein you ought to work. In them therefore come and be healed; and not on the sabbath-day" (St Luke 13:14).

Speaking of the Pharisees taking scandal, our Lord says, “Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit” (St Matt. 15:14). Catholics who are ignorant of their religion and consequently weak in their faith, are apt to take scandal without a cause. In this, it is not their will that is perverse, but their instruction is insufficient, or their judgment is at fault. With regard to such “weak brethren” it is the duty of an earnest Catholic

(a) to refrain from what might be mistaken for a sin;
(b) to enlighten them as to what the Church teaches on the subject.

Our Lord even worked a miracle to avoid scandal being taken. “But that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea, and cast in a hook: and that fish that shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take that, and give it to them for me and thee” (St Matt. 17:26). The Scriptures frequently urge us to circumspection on this point. “All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12). “But take heed lest perhaps this your liberty, become a stumblingblock to the weak”  (1 Cor. 8:9). “From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:22).

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 5:21-43

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 2, 2014

21 And when Jesus had passed again in the ship over the strait, a great multitude assembled together unto him, and he was nigh unto the sea.

Over the strait. The western side of the lake near Capharnaum, which St Matt, calls His own city.

a great multitude. Probably those to whom Jesus had previously preached from the ship were waiting and watching for His return.

assembled together unto him. Literally upon Him, pressing closely around.

22 And there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue named Jairus: and seeing him, falleth down at his feet.

there cometh. According to St Matthew s account, Jairus did not come immediately when Jesus disembarked, but three other incidents intervened; viz., the healing of the paralytic, the call of Levi, the Pharisees taking scandal because our Lord took food with the publican (St Matt. 9).

One of the rulers. Each synagogue was ruled by elders, with a Ruler as head. Some more important synagogues seem to have had several Rulers. Their duties were to conduct the services, and they had the power of excommunicating evil-doers. Therefore they were feared and respected by the Jews and belonged to the highest class of society. (See also Jewish Synagogues, Part IV.)

named Jairus. The Hebrew Jair or Ya-ir, meaning “He will enlighten.” All Hebrew names had a meaning. The names of those whom. Jesus healed are rarely mentioned.

falleth down at his feet. Jairus made the usual oriental salutation, which consisted in kneeling and touching the ground with the forehead. Jairus bent in the direction of Jesus feet, not necessarily touching them.

23 And he besought him much, saying: My daughter is at the point of death, come, lay thy hand upon her, that she may be safe, and may live.

My daughter. From St Luke we gather that she was an only
child, almost twelve years old (Luke 8:42).

point of death. St Matt, has, is even now dead (Matt 9:18). Jairus evidently feared she might be dead by this time.

come, lay thy hand. Jairus must have heard how often our Lord had cured the sick by the imposition of hands. He had not the faith of the centurion who believed our Lord could heal from a distance.

may be safe. Saved from the disease.

24 And he went with him, and a great multitude followed him, and they thronged him.

He went with him. Jesus was satisfied with Jairus faith and went. He knew, too, that one would beg His mercy and compassion on the way thither.

thronged him: consequently our Lord would advance but slowly.

25 And a woman who was under an issue of blood twelve years,

A woman.

Eusebius, bishop of Cesarea (315-320 A.D.), states that she was a Gentile, named Veronica, of Cesarea Philippi (or Paneas). She is said afterwards to have pleaded with Pilate to spare our Lord. He also relates that, as a tribute of gratitude for her cure, she erected at the gate of her house a bronze image representing Jesus standing, while a woman knelt before Him with outstretched hands in the attitude of a suppliant. Julian the Apostate destroyed this image and placed his own statue on the pedestal, but this statue was destroyed by lightning.

An issue of blood. She evidently suffered from chronic haemorrhage. This affliction rendered her legally “unclean,” and unable to take part in ordinary religious and social life. It caused her isolation, acute pain, and prolonged suffering.

26 And had suffered many things from many physicians; and had spent all that she had, and was nothing the better, but rather worse,

suffered many things. Both from the disease itself and the way in which such diseases were treated in those days. Some of them were merely ridiculous superstitious practices, others consisted in potions made of most revolting ingredients.

spent all. She was evidently a person of the higher classes, which, the local tradition confirms.

27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the crowd behind him, and touched his garment.

heard of Jesus. Learned from eye-witnesses His marvellous works in Galilee.

came in the crowd behind him. In order to escape observation.

touched his garment, A cloak or outer garment having four corners, each of which was adorned with a tassel or fringe. It was prescribed by the law of Moses: “Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt tell them to make to themselves fringes in the corners of their garments, putting in them ribands of blue. That when they shall see them, they may remember all the commandments of the Lord, and not follow their own thoughts and eyes going astray after divers things” (Num. 15:38, 39).

The Pharisees wore very large tassels or fringes. It was considered a mark of esteem and veneration to touch the lower tassels.

28 For she said: If I shall touch but his garment, I shall be whole.

For she said: speaking “within herself,” as St Matt, explains; literally she
was saying or repeating to herself, If I shall, etc.

29 And forthwith the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the evil.

forthwith. This was another instantaneous cure.

the fountain . . . was dried up. The poor woman was healed the moment she touched our Lord s garment. Clearly, the fringe alone could not have healed her, but it was the instrument employed by Christ to restore her to health in reward for her faith. Our Lord here sanctions the use of relics, and in the Acts we find that God worked miracles by means of them. “$o that even there were brought from his body to the sick handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:12). It was the faith of the person that obtained the miracle in all these cases, and not some intrinsic magical power in the object by which the healing was conferred. The Church teaches us that the relics of the Saints are to be held in veneration.

of the evil. Of the “disease” or “scourge.”

30 And immediately Jesus knowing in himself the virtue that had proceeded from him, turning to the multitude, said: Who hath touched my garments?

immediately Jesus knowing. Jesus was conscious of His own power to heal, and also that the poor woman had profited by that healing power, in virtue of her faith.

Who hath touched my garments? Not by accident, but animated with lively faith, so that virtue had gone out from Him.

31 And his disciples said to him: Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou who hath touched me?

His disciples said. St Luke 8:45 says, “All denying, Peter and they that were with him” said; the all evidently does not include the woman.

32 And he looked about to see her who had done this.

He looked about to see her. He turned round, knowing well who it was. Probably the woman had shrunk back among the crowd.

33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

fearing and trembling. Because she had presumed to touch our Lord’s garment. The touch of the “unclean” caused ceremonial defilement until the evening.

told him all. The particulars of her illness, related in verses 25-26, adding the confession of how she had touched Him in order to obtain her restoration to health.

34 And he said to her: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole: go in peace, and be thou whole of thy disease.

Daughter. This is the only recorded occasion on which our Lord used this title.

thy faith hath made thee whole. His own power had operated the cure, but her living faith had elicited that power.

35 While he was yet speaking, some come from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying: Thy daughter is dead: why dost thou trouble the master any further?

Why dost thou trouble, etc., i.e. why fatigue Him by asking Him to go as far as the ruler s house?

36 But Jesus having heard the word that was spoken, saith to the ruler of the synagogue: Fear not, only believe.

Jesus having heard the word. The news of the child s death. He
at once encouraged the father not to lose heart.

Fear not, only believe: “and she shall be safe” (St Luke 8:50). The daughter was to be healed in reward for the father’s faith. So it is often now. The prayer of faith obtains graces for those for whom we pray.

37 And he admitted not any man to follow him, but Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.

Peter, James and John. These were the chosen three, who were
privileged to witness certain miracles and scenes when the other apostles
were excluded. As usual St Peter stands first. These three witnessed:

(a) The raising of Jairus daughter.
(b) The Transfiguration (St Matt. 17:1).
(c) The Agony in Gethsemani (St Matt. 26:37).

38 And they cone to the house of the ruler of the synagogue; and he seeth a tumult, and people weeping and wailing much.

people weeping and wailing. The tumult was caused by the hired mourners, chiefly women. The poorest Jew, on the death of his wife, was bound by the Rabbinical law to hire at least two flute players and one mourning woman. The men played mournful strains, while the women beat their breasts and uttered loud lamentations. The higher the class to which the deceased belonged, the greater the lamentations. The period of mourning lasted at least eight days; in the case of a king it extended to a month. For more on Jewish mourning customs see further below under the heading MOURNERS AND MINSTRELS.

39 And going in, he saith to them Why make you this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

ado. Tumult. The hired mourners would probably be in the outer court. St Mark distinguishes between our Lord’s entrance into the house, and His entrance into the room where the child lay dead.

not dead but sleepeth. Death is often spoken of as a sleep (St John 11:11). “These things he said: and after that he said to them: Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” Jesus meant that she would rise again, as from sleep. He had not yet looked on the child when He said this, though He knew she was really dead.

On the basis of the words the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth, some non-Catholic writers have concluded from these words that the child was in a trance, but there is no ground for thus construing our Lord’s words, since He used the same expression when speaking of Lazarus: “our friend sleepeth;” then finding that His Apostles had misunderstood Him, Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead” (St John 11:14). St Jerome, speaking on the subject, says, “for God, all are alive;” and St Chrysostom remarks, “in His presence, death was nothing but sleep.”

40 And they laughed him to scorn. But he having put them all out, taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

laughed him to scorn. They knew she was dead, and misunderstanding the sense of His words, they mocked at Him. The message sent to Jairus, the convoking of the mourners, and their incredulity when told she was sleeping, are all proofs that the child was really dead, and thus the miracle was more evident.

having put them all out. The hired mourners could easily be dismissed.

entereth in where the damsel was lying: in an inner chamber.

41 And taking the damsel by the hand, he saith to her: Talitha cumi, which is, being interpreted: Damsel (I say to thee) arise.

by the hand. Jesus does not refrain from touching a corpse. He was above all legal prescriptions.

Talitha cumi. These words belong to the popular Aramaic dialect, and, as such, would probably be the child s mother-tongue; literally they signify Maid, arise.

St Mark uses this tongue on other occasions. (See Object of St Mark’s Gospel, p. 33.) These examples are proofs that our Lord frequently, if not habitually, spoke Aramaic when treating with the people.

Note on The Aramaic tongue. This tongue was proper to the in habitants and literature of Syria and Mesopotamia. This language is of the Semitic family, and a sister language to Syriac and Chaldee.

(I say to thee). These words are put in parentheses because, though included in the sense of the words, Maid, arise (since every command presupposes a speaker), they are not expressed in words.

42 And immediately the damsel rose up, and walked: and she was twelve years old: and they were astonished with a great astonishment.

immediately. St Mark s favourite word.

rose up and walked. A proof of her perfect restoration to life and health. This is the only miracle of raising the dead mentioned by St Mark. In all, three such miracles are recorded by the Evangelists:

(a) Jairus daughter, raised immediately after death.
(b) The widow s son, who was being carried to the grave.
(c) Lazarus, who had been dead four days.

In addition to the three dead raised by our Lord, there are two others mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. See the raising of Tabitha in Acts 9:36-41; and the raising of Eutychus in Acts 20:9-12.

43 And he charged them strictly that no man should know it: and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

He charged them strictly, etc. Jesus probably wished to avoid renewing the opposition of the Pharisees and Scribes. The prohibition was laid on the parents chiefly. The multitude who had been dismissed could not fail to know and make known the miracle. Later, when Jesus raised Lazarus, He imposes no command to keep silence, for His hour being at hand, He allows his foes then to do their worst.

something should be given her to eat. To prove to the people that the child was really alive, and also to strengthen her. Thus Jesus after His Resurrection, partook of food in presence of His disciples as a proof that He was no phantom. Notice also in this injunction, the tenderness of our Lord.


They were of both sexes and various classes. The “mourning” of the lower classes consisted chiefly in lamenting, moaning and sighing, and calling on the dead. The educated mourners sang beautiful and impromptu elegies, commemorating the deceased s virtues, and extolling his great name and family. This custom of mourning or wailing over the dead is frequently referred to in holy Scripture. Dr Thomson says:

“There are in every city and community women exceedingly cunning in this business. They are always sent for and kept in readiness. When a fresh company of sympathizers comes in, these women make haste to take up a wailing, that the newly come may the more easily unite their tears with the mourners.”

The knowledge of these Eastern customs explains such texts as: “But Absalom fled, and went to Tholomai the son of Ammuid the king of Gessur. And David mourned for his son every day”(2 Sam 13:37). “And when I heard these words, I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days: and I fasted and prayed before the face of God in heaven” (Neh. 1:4). “And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the first-born (Zech. 12:10). “All Juda and Jerusalem mourned for him, particularly Jeremias: whose lamentations for Josias all the singing men and singing women repeat unto this day, and it became like a law in Israel: Behold it is found written in the Lamentations” (2 Chron 35:25).

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 5:1-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 2, 2014

PRELIMINARY NOTE ON “THE COUNTRY OF THE GERASENS~We are told that this miracle took place “on the other side of the sea” and in the country of the Gerasens. This latter statement has given rise to much discussion, because the best Greek MSS. name three different places as the scene of the miracle. In the revised Anglican translation we find accordingly that St Matthew localises the place as Gradarens, while St Mark reads Gerasens, and St Luke has Gergesens. Of these three places, for geographical reasons, the ancient Gergesa, now Chersha or Khersa, seems to have been the correct one, for it has all the geographical features mentioned by the Evangelists. Gerasa, on the other hand, is situated about thirty miles south-east of Galilee, while Gadara was a large city in Perea, about eight miles from the lake. There is, however, no real discrepancy, as these towns being on the same side of the lake and in the same region, the land between might be named after any one of them.

1 AND they came over the strait of the sea, into the country of the Gerasens.

Gerasens. A district south-east of the lake and opposite Capharnaum. They would probably have arrived early in the morning, as the distance across the lake was about a night s journey ; moreover, there had been a tempest, arid this would have delayed them.

2 And as he went out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the monuments a man with an unclean spirit,

immediately. Probably the demoniac had seen the boat coming in and felt drawn to meet our Lord.

out of the monuments. Throughout Syria there are many natural caves, and it was also customary to hew tombs out of the solid rocks.

“An immense mountain rises directly above Chersha in which are ancient tombs” (Thomson). Many of these tombs belong to very remote periods, even before the time of our Lord. These sepulchres were considered “unclean” on account of the dead having been buried there, hence no Jew would enter them, and demoniacs and other outcasts would hold undisturbed possession of these caves.

a man. St Luke also speaks only of one, while St Matt. (Mt 8:28) mentions two that were possessed. One does not exclude a second; probably the more violent of the two is mentioned as being more dangerous.

with an unclean spirit. The man was possessed by a demon of impurity. See note “Objections Against Demonical Possession Refuted at the end of this post.

3 Who had his dwelling in the tombs, and no man now could bind him, not even with chains.

his dwelling. The Jews made no provision for the mentally afflicted. They bound them when they became violent; otherwise the poor creatures roamed at will throiigh the land. Maniacs, demoniacs, and lepers were alike treated as outcasts.

no man now could bind him. Evidently he had become more and more violent. The devil gave him supernatural strength, as to the man mentioned in the Acts 19:16. “And the man in whom the wicked spirit was, leaping upon them and mastering them loth, prevailed against them, so that they fled out -of that house naked and wounded.”

4 For having been often bound with fetters and chains, he had burst the chains, and broken the fetters in pieces, and no one could tame him.

chains. Bonds in general, particularly for the neck and hands not necessarily metal chains.

no one could tame him. He could neither be restrained by physical force nor subdued by will-power.

5 And he was always day and night in the monuments and in the mountains, crying and cutting himself with stones.

day and night in the monuments, etc. Probably passing his days wandering over the mountains, and his nights in the tombs. St Luke 8:27 says he wore no clothes, and St Matt 8:28 points out that none could pass by that way for fear of the two demoniacs.

cutting himself with stones. Demoniacs were often urged to lacerate
and even to destroy themselves. “Who, wheresoever he taketh him, dasheth him, and he foameth, and gnasheth with the teeth, and pineth away. And I spoke to thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not. And oftentimes hath he cast him. into the fire and into waters, to destroy him.
But if thou canst do anything, help us, having compassion on us” (St Marl 9:17, 21).

6 And seeing Jesus afar off, he ran and adored him.

he ran and adored him. The devils feared Christ, hence their acknowledgment of His divinity. On the other hand, the poor demoniac
may have felt something drawing him to the feet of Jesus; and while the adoration was a forced one on the part of the devil, it may have been a willing homage on the part of the poor demoniac.

7 And crying with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus the Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.

What have I to do with thee? These words may mean “What is there in common between us?” or “Why do you trouble us thus?”

Jesus the Son of the most high God. Perhaps- the confession was forced from them, by the sense of power which they felt our Lord exercised over them. Certainly they had no good motive in confessing His divinity, and probably when the confession was publicly made, the devils may have hoped to throw discredit on our Lord, and by admitting that they knew Him, have led the bystanders to conclude that He worked in collusion with them.

This title Son of the most high God occurs here and in St Luke 1:32. From the earliest times we find the title “the most high” applied to God. Melchisedech was called “the priest of the most high God.”  “But Melchisedech the king of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen. 14:18).

Balaam employs it. “The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty,” etc. (Num. 24:16). Likewise Moses, “When the most high divided the nations; when he separated the sons of Adam, he appointed the bounds of people according to the number of the children of Israel” (Deut. 32:8). It seems to have arisen in consequence of the Jews having been in contact with Gentiles, who held polytheistic creeds. It was frequently used in the formula of exorcism, therefore the title was familiar to the devils, since they were expelled “in the name of the most high.” (See St Luke 8:28; Acts 16:17.)

I adjure thee. Whenever a demoniac comes in presence of our Saviour we notice a btrange mingling of su pplication and arrogance. They evidently feared, and yet would fain defy Him.

torment me not. St Matt, adds “before the time” (Mt 8:29). The devils
do not wish to be sent back to hell. They prefer to roam at will and
torment men. Though they carry their torments with them wherever
they go, yet, evidently from these words, we may infer that they suffered
more intensely when confined to their own place.

8 For he said unto him: Go out of the man, thou unclean spirit.

For he said unto him, i.e. Christ had said to the demon Go out, etc., before the demon adjured Him, saying, Torment me not.

9 And he asked him: What is thy name? And he saith to him: My name is Legion, for we are many.

What is thy name?  Thy: here our Lord addresses the spirit, not
the man. Though there were many devils in the man, one seems to
have acted as spokesman. What have I to do with thee? Torment me
not. Jesus asked the question for the benefit of the Apostles.

Legion. Perhaps the devils wished to strike terror into the souls of the listeners and to give a great idea of their strength and power. A Roman legion varied from 3,000 to 6,000 men, and was a terror to the Jews. The number is not here to be taken literally. It simply implies they were many.

10 And he besought him much, that he would not drive him away out of the country.

he besought him, etc. Notice the four requests made by the devil. He asked Christ:

(a) Not to torment him by driving him out (v. 8).
(b) Not to drive him away out of the country (v. 10).
(c) Not to command them to go into the abyss (i.e. hell) (St Luke 8:31).
(d) That he might go into the swine (v. 12).

11 And there was there near the mountain a great herd of swine, feeding.

near the mountain. There are in the environs of Chersha large plateaus of fertile soil, where abundant pasture and bulbous roots suitable for swine s food are still to be seen.

a great herd of swine feeding. Jews were forbidden to keep swine or to eat swine s flesh. These swine may have belonged to some irreligious Jews or to Gentiles. Probably the herd was the property of more than one man. The greater number of the inhabitants of this region were certainly Gentiles, but there were also Hellenistic, i.e. Greek-speaking Jews living there.

12 And the spirits besought him, saying: Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

Send us into the swine. If the devils could enter into a man’s body, still more would they be able to take possession of animals, but they needed our Lord’s permission to do this. The devils doubtless wished to go into the swine

(1) That they might, by destroying the swine, free themselves.
(2) In order to stir up the owners of the herd against our Lord.

13 And Jesus immediately gave them leave. And the unclean spirits going out, entered into the swine: and the herd with great violence was carried headlong into the sea, being about two thousand, were stifled in the sea.

the herd with great violence was carried headlong. Near Chersha, a little to the south, a steep mountain rises almost perpendicularly from the sea. The swine rushing down the sides of this mountain with great violence could not have checked their course on arriving at the edge of the abrupt descent, but must inevitably have fallen into the sea.

two thousand. St Mark alone mentions the number.

stifled. Suffocated in the water. Jesus, as God, has a right to give or take worldly possessions as He wills. If the owners of the swine were Jews, they were breaking the law and deserved to lose their herds. If they were Gentiles, they had probably induced the Jews, in view of profit, to trade in swine, and thus gave scandal. In any case God can always, without injustice, take back what comes from Him, and we know that famine and pestilence have been frequently sent as chastisements. This miracle and that of “the cursing of the barren fig-tree” are the only two miracles of destruction which our Lord wrought.

14 And they that fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the fields. And they went out to see what was done:

they that fed them fled, etc. They ran away in fear and told all whom they met. The owners of the herds would have dwelt in the city. Hence they went out into the plains to see what was done (v. 14).

15 And they came to Jesus, and they see him that was troubled with the devil, sitting, clothed, and well in his wits, and they were afraid.

they come …. and see him, i.e. the demoniac.

Mark the contrast:

(a) The demoniac, now well in his wits.
(b) sitting at His feet. No longer roaming about, crying out, or cutting himself with stones.
(c) clothed: instead of naked.

they were afraid. Awed by the evident miracle.

16 And they that had seen it, told them, in what manner he had been dealt with who had the devil; and concerning the swine.

In this verse St Mark relates the scene as an eye-witness might have done. Those who had seen the miracle are eager to give all details to the newcomers, and also they wish to exonerate themselves from all blame for the loss of the swine.

17 And they began to pray him that he would depart from their coasts.

they began to pray him, etc. They regretted the loss of the swine, and feared to incur other losses. St Peter, in his humility, once said, “Depart from me, Lord,” but the Gerasens did not ask our Lord to depart on account of their unworthiness, but simply from interested worldly motives.

18 And when he went up into the ship, he that had been troubled with the devil, began to beseech him that he might be with him.

He went up into the ship. Our Lord granted their request. He does not force His graces on the unwilling. These Gerasens were also selfish, not considering the blessings which the poor demoniac had received. Jesus returned there about a year later.

that he might be with him. He wished to accompany our Lord, either out of gratitude, or perhaps he feared the devils might again take possession of him when Jesus had left.

19 And he admitted him not, but saith him: Go into thy house to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had mercy thee.

tell them how great things, etc. The man now delivered was to be a disciple of Jesus and tell what God had done for him. Thus some at least, must have been prepared to receive our Lord when He returned there.

20 And he went his way, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men wondered.

Decapolis. A district containing a league of ten cities. It was established by Pompey the Great, in order to conquer and subjugate the native bands of robbers and Bedouins. (See Geog. Notes, page 83.)

Objections against Demoniacal Possession refuted

It has been objected by non-believers that there is no such thing as “possession by the devil,” but that what is and has been so called, is merely a form of disease, such as insanity, epilepsy, or some nervous complaint. They base their assertion on the fact, that many of the symptoms are similar, since maniacs and persons afflicted with fits, gnash their teeth, foam at the mouth, and strive to injure or destroy them selves. To this objection we can give the following answers:

I. The Jews (who had the true faith) believed in possession by the devil, since they attributed certain diseases to the power of the devil.

(a) “And when they were gone out, behold they brought him a dumb
man possessed with a devil” (St Matt 9:32). “Then was offered to
him one possessed with a devil blind and dumb : and he healed him so
that he spoke and saw” (St Matt. 12:22). “Master, I have brought
my son to thee having a dumb spirit” (St Mark 9:16).

(b) They distinguished between persons afflicted with disease and
those possessed by devils. “And when it was evening after sunset,
they brought to him all that were ill, and that were possessed with
devils” (St Mark 1:32). “Who were come to hear him, and to be healed
of their diseases. And they that were troubled with unclean spirits, were cured” (St Luke 6:18).

(c) They accused our Lord of being thus possessed. “Why seek you
to kill me? The multitude answered and said: Thou hast a devil; who seeketh to kill thee?” (St John 7:20). “And the scribes who were come from Jerusalem, said : He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of devils he casteth out devils” (St Mark 3:22).

II. A spirit or personality only could reveal the divinity of our Lord, could fear being cast into the abyss, or desire to remain in a given locality. Such manifestations are not within the compass of a mere disease.

III. Our Lord distinctly teaches that there is such a thing as possession by devils, since

(a) He gives His Apostles power to cast out devils, and they used this power. “Lord, the devils also are subject to us in thy name.”  “I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven.”  “But yet rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you” (St Luke 10:17, 18, 20).

(b) He warns them that certain devils are difficult to expel (St Mark 9:28).

(c) The sudden cure of the Gerasen demoniac, and the consequent possession of the swine and their destruction, shew that the afflicted man was not suffering from a disease, since this could not be transferred to animals.

IV. The Church, following the teaching of Christ, has always believed in demoniacal possession, therefore she has

(a) instituted, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, special ministers and rites in order to expel evil spirits:

(b) established and preserved the custom of blessing people and things, which has, among other objects, that of preventing them from being possessed by the devil.


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Bishop MacEvilly on the Martyrdom of St John the Baptist (Matt 14:1-12; Mark 6:17-29)

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 24, 2013

Text in red are my additions. This post was compiled from the Bishop’s commentary on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Mar 6:17  For Herod himself had sent and apprehended John, and bound him prison for the sake of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her.

St Matthew (Mt 14:1) introduces the account with the words at that time. What precise period is here referred to, is a subject of dispute. It happened after the beheading of the Baptist. It is inferred from the Gospel of St. John (6:4), that the Baptist was beheaded some time near the Pasch. For, the departure of our Redeemer on hearing of John’s death (v. 13 of this chapter), is identified with that recorded (John 6:1), when He performed the miracle of the multiplication of the bread.

Which Pasch it is that “was near at hand” (John 6:4) is uncertain. It most likely was the fourth Pasch, after our Lord’s baptism. Before this Pasch, John was beheaded. This occurred after the mission of the Apostles, recorded (10), as is clear from Mark (6:14), Luke (9:7), both of whom immediately subjoin John’s decollation to the narrative of the mission of the Apostles; and both say, that it was after the Apostles returned from their mission, our Lord was informed of the Baptist’s death; and then it was, the departure of our Redeemer recorded in verse 13 of this chapter took place. St. Matthew states in this chapter (v. 13), that it was after our Redeemer heard of John’s death while traversing Galilee, teaching and performing miracles, He retired and departed across the water.

“Herod.” Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who put the Holy Innocents to death. In Matthew 14:1 he is identified as the Tetrarch; his term designates the governor of the fourth part of a province or kingdom. Among the Romans, who divided the conquered kingdoms into Tetrarchites, the term, “Tetrarch,” was applied to all those who exercised supreme power, and enjoyed dignity next to that of king. This Herod Antipas, was Tetrarch of Galilee. He obtained the fourth part of his father’s kingdom. Archelaus, obtained one-half, with the title of Ethnarch, and Philip governed the remaining fourth with the title of Tetrarch. This was in accordance with the will of Herod the Great, which was confirmed by the Romans. This Antipas is styled “king,” verse 9 (Mark 6:14), on account of the similarity between the supreme power he exercised, and that wielded by a king.

“The wife of Philip, his brother.” Matthew has “Because of Herodias, his brother’s wife.” There is some difference of opinion as to who this Herodias was. The common opinion seems to be, that she was daughter of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great, by Mariamne, the last of the Asmonean kingly race. She was sister to Herod Agrippa, and, consequently, she was niece to this very Herod Antipas, who was brother to her father, Aristobulus, both brothers having different mothers. She was married to Herod Philip, brother to this Herod Antipas. Whether this was Philip, the Tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1), or a different Philip, also son of Herod the Great, of whom there is no mention made in Herod’s will and distribution of his dominions, and who must have, therefore, lived in a private station, is disputed. If the narrative of Josephus (Lib. Antiq. xviii. c. 5), be credited, it could not be Philip the Tetrarch (Luke 3:1). For, he states that Herodias’s daughter, by Philip—before she married Herod Antipas—named Salome, “was married to Philip, the son of Herod, and Tetrarch of Trachonitis.” The Philip, then, whom Herodias married first must be quite a different person. Others, rejecting this testimony of Josephus, who, they say, was deceived in this, assert, that the Philip referred to (Luke 3:1), as Tetrarch, &c., was the first husband of Herodias. Herod Antipas, on his way to Rome (as we are informed by Josephus, ibidem), in the sixteenth year of Tiberius, lodged in the house of his brother Philip, for whose wife Herodias, he conceived a wicked passion; and obtained her consent to leave her husband, and live with him on his return from Rome, on condition of his sending away his wife, who was daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. This latter, on being informed of Herod’s designs and resolution to espouse Herodias, fled to her father for protection, who, in defence of his daughter’s honour and rights, waged war on Herod, and cut his army to pieces. (Josephus, Lib. Antiq. xviii., &c.) The Baptist sternly rebuked Herod for his incestuous and adulterous connexion with Herodias, her former husband and his own wife being still alive. Even if we suppose Philip, her former husband to be dead, as some assert, though Josephus positively states the contrary; still, Antipas, though not a Jew, any more than his father, Herod the Great, was, however, like him, a Jewish proselyte, bound by the law of Moses, which forbade marriage with a deceased brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16; 20:21), save in the case of the deceased brother dying without issue (Deut. 25:5). In the present instance there was issue, viz., the wicked daughter spoken of in this chapter. The marriage was, therefore, unlawful. Hence, the zeal of the Baptist in reproaching Herod with this scandalous adulterous connexion—scandalous, especially, in one occupying his elevated station.

Mar 6:18  For John said to Herod: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.

“It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” (Lev. 18:16). Although this Herodias was niece of Philip, her husband, as well as of Herod Antipas, with whom she lived in adultery, this relationship was not an impediment to her marriage with Philip, nor is it anywhere reckoned among marriage impediments in the Jewish law. Hence, she is called by John the Baptist, “thy brother’s wife.”

Mar 6:19  Now Herodias laid snares for him: and was desirous to put him to death and could not.

“Laid snares for him. ” Some see in Herodias a connection with Jezebel (1 Kings 18:4, 13; 19:1-10). Some also see an allusion to the part played by Zeresh in the plot against Mordecai (Esther 5:9-14).

Mar 6:20  For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a just and holy man: and kept him, and when he heard him, did many things: and he heard him willingly.

“Feared,” is interpreted by many to mean, revered, stood in reverential awe of him, on being apprised of his virtues. Although, in the first instance, he may have been animated with feelings quite different, when he cast him into prison.

“And kept him,” guarded him against the violence and snares of Herodias. The Greek word συνετηρει can refer to guarding or conserving something, but it can also refer to a careful mental consideration. Most modern translations prefer the former meaning, the latter is rather tautological in light of the remainder of the verse.

“And did many things,” conformably to the counsels given by John.

Mar 6:21  And when a convenient day was come, Herod made a supper for his birthday, for the princes, and tribunes, and chief men of Galilee.

“A convenient day,” i.e., a festal day, convenient for Herodias’ wicked designs against the Baptist—a convenient day to work on the feelings of Herod. The Greek word translated as “convenient day” is ευκαιρου, it refers to an opportune time. The word is used in reference to Judas’ plot against Jesus in Mark 14:11.

“Herod made a supper…for the princes, and tribunes, and chief men of Galilee.” This may be intended to recall the banquet Ahasuerus gave in chapter 1 of Esther (see Father Eugene LaVerdiere’s THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL, Volume 1, pages 166-168 for more connections with Esther).

Mar 6:22  And when the daughter of the same Herodias had come in, and had danced, and pleased Herod, and them that were at table with him, the king said to the damsel: Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.

The circumstance of permitting dancing during the feast, shows the voluptuousness practised in the court of Herod; for, even amongst the most abandoned of the Roman Emperors, such was not allowed.

Mar 6:23  And he swore to her: Whatsoever thou shalt ask I will give thee, though it be the half of my kingdom.

Heated with wine and blinded by passion, Herod “promised to give her whatsoever she would ask” (Mt 14:7). St. Mark adds, “though it were half his kingdom.” This rash and foolish promise he confirmed with the solemn sanction of an oath.

Mar 6:24  Who when she was gone out, said to her mother, What shall I ask? But her mother said: The head of John the Baptist.
Mar 6:25  And when she was come in immediately with haste to the king, she asked, saying: I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish, the head of John the Baptist.

Instructed by her mother, whom she went to consult after receiving the promise (Mark 6:24), she asked to get on the spot, without any delay, the head of John the Baptist, lest, if time for reflection were given him, he might repent of the promise. “I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish, the head of John the Baptist”. She wished for this, to be the more certain of his death; for, her mother dreaded lest, through the influence of the Baptist, Herod would send her away in disgrace.

Mar 6:26  And the king was struck sad. Yet because of his oath, and because of them that were with him at table, he would not displease her:

“The king was struck sad.” Some are of opinion, with St. Jerome, that the king was really glad of the pretext this opportunity, as it were, afforded him, of carrying out his designs against the Baptist; and that the whole affair of the request on the part of Salome—the daughter of Herodias—was previously agreed on by common concert between Herod and his adulterous wife. Others, with St. Augustine, consider that Herod was really “sad.” For, besides that the Evangelist says so, in the plainest terms, it is most likely, that, although, Herod, in the beginning, when he cast the Baptist into prison, would have him slain, had he not dreaded a popular commotion (v. 5); still, in the course of his imprisonment, he began to reverence his sanctity, and willingly listened to him (Mark 6:20), and was, therefore, sorry for the rash promise he made. Moreover, all the circumstances under which he was called upon to put him to death, the time, the place, the odium, attached to so unnatural a proceeding, were calculated to cause him real sorrow.

“Yet because of his oath,” &c., that is, to avoid violating his oath, as if he did not add perjury to homicide in keeping so impious and rash a promise. The observance of an oath, having for object the perpetration of evil, is no less sinful and criminal than was its original utterance. It is an insult to God to invoke Him as witness to the perpetration of evil, as if this were pleasing to Him. St. Jerome asks, if it were the head of her mother she asked, would Herod have given it to her?

“And because of them that sat with him at table.” He did not wish to incur the reproach of fickleness or inconstancy, before the chief men of Galilee, whom he had assembled around him on the occasion.

Mar 6:27  But sending an executioner, he commanded that his head should be brought in a dish.
Mar 6:28  And he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a dish: and gave to the damsel, and the damsel gave it her mother.

“But sending the executioner…he beheaded him in prison”. Josephus says, the prison where John was incarcerated was in the castle of Macherus, near the Sea Asphaltites, or Dead Sea, beyond the Jordan. This castle was in Herod’s dominions; for, he ruled Galilee and the district beyond the Jordan. (Josephus, Lib. 12, Antiq.) Hence, it is inferred by some, that this great banquet was given in the castle of Macherus itself; otherwise, the head of the Baptist could not be called for and given on the spot. Others deny Josephus’ account of the prison of the Baptist. They maintain, that he was imprisoned in Galilee, and that it was there Herod gave this entertainment to his nobles.

“and brought his head in a dish, and gave to the damsel, and the damsel gave it to her mother.” The mother, the wicked Herodias, was the instigator of the entire barbarous proceeding. St. Jerome (Lib. 3, contra Rufin, c. 11), tells us, that this monster made it her inhuman pastime to prick, with a bodkin, the tongue of the Saint. The same is recorded of Fulvia, in regard to Cicero. This same Herod, four years after he had treated the Redeemer of the world, as a mock king and a fool, in the crowded streets of Jerusalem, was banished, with his wicked wife, after they had been deprived of all their earthly possessions, their kingdom being added to that of Agrippa, by Caius to Lyons, in Gaul, where, we are informed by Josephus (Antiq. xviii. 7), they died in great misery, although it is said by others, and by the same Josephus, that his place of banishment by Caius was Spain, whither his wife followed him (Josephus, de Bel. Jud. ii. 9). Nicephorus (Lib. i., Histor. c. 20), and others state, that Salome, by a just judgment of God, met with a most miserable, but appropriate death. While crossing the ice in winter, it broke; and she was plunged in as far as the shoulders; then, the ice coming again together, severed her head from her body.

Mar 6:29  Which his disciples hearing came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The disciples of the Baptist, who, it seems, had access to his prison (Matt. 11:2), came, and taking away his body, had it honourably interred. St. Jerome informs us that it was interred in Sebaste, formerly called Samaria. Joseph of Arimathea will do the same for Jesus after his crucifixion (Mk 15:42-46).

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