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Gospel of Mark

Mark 9 is the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It begins with Jesus's prediction that "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." (1) What exactly the kingdom of God refers to has been long debated. It immediately follows Jesus' statement of "... when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38) in the preceding chapter. This could simply refer to the following Transfiguration. Some have thought this refers to the Second Coming, an event most hold did not happen within the lifetimes of those present. This could be a prediction that came true if you take into account John's Revelation of the Second Coming while he was on the island of Patmos. Others have interpreted it as Jesus referring to his resurrection and/or the coming of Christianity. It is also recorded in Matthew 16:28 and Luke 9:27. Matthew adds the statement that "... then he will reward each person according to what he has done" between the two.

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration (1520) by Raphael

Six days pass then Jesus takes Peter, James and John up an unnamed high mountain, which many came to believe was Mount Tabor. Suddenly Jesus' cloths become dazzingly white "... whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." (3) and Elijah and Moses appear. The disciples are stunned (for the first time Mark uses the term Rabbi, Strong's G4461) and ask what they should do and offer to put up shelters for them. A voice comes from a cloud and says that "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" (7) which is what Jesus heard the "voice from heaven" say when he was baptised by John the Baptist in Mark 1 (Mark 1:11) but now Mark has Peter, James, and John as witnesses to this. Elijah and Moses disappear and they head down the mountain. On the way down Jesus tells them to keep what had happened to themselves until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They are confused as to what he means but do not ask him to clarify himself. They ask him about Elijah and he says:

... Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him. (Mark 9:12-13) KJV

It was commonly believed that Elijah would reappear before the coming of the Messiah, as predicted in Malachi 4. Matthew 17:13 states that the three of them believed Jesus was comparing Elijah to John the Baptist. Moses could be seen as a representative of the law and Elijah a representative of the prophets.

This whole passage has echos of Exodus 24 where clouds covered Mount Sinai for six days before Moses went up to receive the ten commandments.

The original Greek uses the word metamorphothe which was translated into Latin as Trans Figura, the changing of appearance or of the body itself.

The Possessed Boy

They arrive back and find the rest of the disciples (students) arguing with several teachers surrounded by a crowd. Jesus asks "what are you arguing about.?" (v 16) and a man says he brought his possessed boy for Jesus to heal. The boy ".foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid." , which sound like the symptoms of perhaps epilepsy, which Matthew ( states to be the case. The man says the boy has been made to fall both into water and fire by the demon. Jesus' disciples could not heal him. Jesus says "You faithless generation" (v 19). He commands the boy be brought to him. The father begs Jesus to help the boy if he can, to which Jesus replies ""Everything is possible for him who believes." and the man says "I believe. Help my unbelief!"(v 24) Jesus heals the boy: when asked by the disciples privately why they couldn't cast it out, he replies "This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting" (v 21).

Predictions about the crucifixion

Jesus tells his entire group that the Son of Man will be killed and rise after three days. They still don't understand what he means but are afraid to ask him to clarify himself. This is Jesus' second prediction of the Passion. Skeptics dismiss these predictions as not actually made by the real Jesus but regard them as an example of vaticinium ex eventu. Scholars such as Raymond E. Brown believe however "The difficulty in dismissing all these predictions as totally postJesus creations is exemplified in 9:31 where many scholars recognize Semitic features and old tradition." (140)

Teaching in Capernaum

They go back to Capernaum and Jesus asks what the disciples were arguing about on the trip. They don't answer, because they were arguing about who is the greatest disciple, probably because Jesus only took the three with him up the mountain and the remaining nine could not cure the boy. Jesus already knows what they were talking about however and says "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (35) He takes a child in his arms and says whoever welcomes children welcomes him and therefore God.

John says some other group of people have been healing people in Jesus' name even though they were not part of the group, but Jesus is pleased and says "... For he who is not against us is for us." (9:40). In Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 Jesus says: "He who is not with Me is against Me"; see also You're either with us, or against us. The disciples seem to think one needs to be part of Jesus' personal group but Jesus makes clear that anyone who works in his name and does his work is also for him.

He then gives one of the most forceful condemnations of sin in the Bible:

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. (42-50) KJV

What exactly the "salt" Jesus was referring to was is unclear. Jesus relates it to fire, the good, and peace. Salt was seen as a thing of purity, but salt also has destructive properties and was used as a preservative. "Salt" might simply refer to his teaching. It also might be seen as an interlocking double metaphor relating the salt required in sacrifices to God found in Leviticus 2:11,13 to the "salt" of the sacrifice of Christ and to the "salt" required to be in followers of Jesus as metaphorical sacrifices as in Romans 12 and also relating the salt of the old covenant from Leviticus 2:11,13 to the "salt" of the new or renewed covenant. See Salt in Mark. See also Salt and Light.

File:JPF - Hinnom Valley.JPG

The Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem

The original manuscripts use the word Gehenna for Hell. Gehenna was a trash dump next to Jerusalem in the Hinnom valley where the dead bodies of criminals as well as trash was burned. The valley was named after a man named Hinnom who had owned it. It had at one time been used as a place to sacrifice live children to Pagan Gods.

Luke 9 almost has the entire chapter of Mark 9 contained verbatim with the notable exception of the speech about sin that is partly contained in Luke, chapter 17. Matthew has the Transfiguration and the possessed boy followed by a slightly altered and expanded scene in Capernaum in chapters 17 and 18. John lists none of this, which has puzzled many scholars since one would think John, since he was one of the only three there, would mention the Transfiguration. This could mean that Mark is wrong about either the event or John being there, the Gospel of John was not written by the Apostle John, or John knew the synoptics were circulating and wrote his gospel to fill in details he thought lacking in them.


Chapters of the Bible
Preceded by:
Mark 8
Gospel of Mark
Followed by:
Mark 10