with defiled hands, that is, unwashed ones: Mark’s explanation here and in verses 3 and 4 would benefit readers who were not familiar with the term “defiled hands” or the Jewish practice of handwashing. (See “Introduction to Mark.”) This practice was a ceremonial cleansing to adhere to tradition rather than a concern for hygiene. Later, the Babylonian Talmud (Sotah 4b) puts eating with unwashed hands on par with having relations with a prostitute, and it states that those who lightly esteem handwashing will be “uprooted from the world.”
wash their hands: The Mosaic Law required that the priests wash their hands and their feet before ministering at the altar or entering the tent of meeting. (Ex 30:18-21) However, as shown in the study note on Mr 7:2, the Pharisees and other Jews in Jesus’ day adhered to human tradition when they ceremonially cleansed themselves. Of the four Gospel accounts, only Mark’s account mentions that the ceremonial washing of hands reached up to the elbow.
wash themselves: Many ancient manuscripts use the Greek word ba·ptiʹzo (to dip; to immerse) here, a term that most often describes Christian baptism, but at Lu 11:38, it is used to describe a broad range of repeated ritual washings rooted in Jewish tradition. Other ancient manuscripts here use the Greek term rhan·tiʹzo, meaning “to sprinkle; to cleanse by sprinkling.” (Heb 9:13, 19, 21, 22) Regardless of which manuscript reading is preferred, the general meaning remains the same; devout Jews did not eat unless they in some way cleansed themselves ceremonially. In Jerusalem, there is archaeological evidence that the Jews used ritual baths at this time, which in this context could give support for rendering the verb ba·ptiʹzo, “immerse themselves.”
baptisms: Or “immersions into water.” The Greek word ba·pti·smosʹ is here used regarding cleansing rituals practiced by some religious Jews in Jesus’ time. They baptized, or immersed into water, the cups, pitchers, and copper vessels used at meals.
hypocrites: See study note on Mt 6:2.
corban: The Greek word kor·banʹ is a loanword from the Hebrew qor·banʹ, meaning “an offering.” This Hebrew word is often used in Leviticus and Numbers and applies both to offerings containing blood and to those that are bloodless. (Le 1:2, 3; 2:1; Nu 5:15; 6:14, 21) A related word, kor·ba·nasʹ, appears at Mt 27:6, where it is rendered “sacred treasury.”—See study note on Mt 27:6.
a gift dedicated to God: The scribes and Pharisees taught that money, property, or anything that a person dedicated as a gift to God belonged to the temple. According to this tradition, a son could keep the dedicated gift and use it for his own interests, claiming that it was reserved for the temple. Some evidently evaded the responsibility of caring for their parents by dedicating their assets in this way.—Mr 7:12.
Some manuscripts here include the words “If anyone has ears to listen, let him listen,” but they do not appear in important early manuscripts. Therefore, these words are evidently not part of the original text of Mark. Similar words, though, can be found at Mr 4:9, 23 as part of the inspired Scriptures. Some scholars are of the opinion that a copyist introduced these words here as a natural comment following verse 14 by drawing from the wording at Mr 4:9, 23.—See App. A3.
Thus he declared all foods clean: The Greek text allows for these words to be a continuation of what Jesus said, but they are generally understood to be Mark’s observation on the implications of what Jesus had just explained. It does not mean that Jesus was declaring that Jews could now eat certain foods that had been considered unclean according to the Mosaic Law. That Law remained in force until Jesus’ death. Mark’s comment must be understood in accord with this historical context. (Le, chap. 11; Ac 10:9-16; Col 2:13, 14) The tradition-bound religious leaders felt that even “clean” foods would make a person unclean unless he first followed elaborate cleansing rituals not required by the Law. Therefore, the meaning of Mark’s comment is evidently that Jesus declared that foods counted as “clean” according to the Mosaic Law would not defile the eater just because he had not ritualistically washed his hands according to man-made traditions. Furthermore, some have understood that Mark was also commenting on the future implications Jesus’ words would have for Christians. By the time Mark wrote his Gospel, Peter had seen the vision in which he was told, in language similar to this passage in Mark, that “God has cleansed” foods that were once considered defiled according to the Mosaic Law. (Ac 10:13-15) In either case, the words appear to be Mark’s inspired summary of the implications of Jesus’ words, not the words of Jesus himself.
sexual immorality: See study note on Mt 15:19.
acts of adultery: The plural form of the Greek word for “adultery” (moi·kheiʹa) is used here.—See Glossary, “Adultery.”
brazen conduct: Or “shameless conduct.” The Greek word a·selʹgei·a denotes conduct that is a serious violation of God’s laws and that reflects a brazen or boldly contemptuous attitude.—See Glossary.
an envious eye: The Greek word here rendered “envious” literally means “bad; wicked.” The term “eye” is here used figuratively of a person’s intent, disposition, or emotions. The expression “an envious eye” could also be rendered “envy.”—See study notes on Mt 6:23; 20:15.
a Greek: This non-Israelite woman was likely of Greek descent.
Syrophoenician: This expression, a combination of “Syrian” and “Phoenician,” probably originated because Phoenicia was part of the Roman province of Syria.—See study note on Mt 15:22, where the woman is called “Phoenician,” or “Canaanite.”
children . . . little dogs: Since dogs were unclean according to the Mosaic Law, the Scriptures often use the term in a derogatory sense. (Le 11:27; Mt 7:6; Php 3:2; Re 22:15) However, in both Matthew’s account (15:26) and Mark’s account of Jesus’ conversation, the diminutive form of the term meaning “little dog” or “house dog” is used, softening the comparison. Perhaps this indicates that Jesus used an affectionate term for household pets in non-Jewish homes. By likening Israelites to “children” and non-Jews to “little dogs,” Jesus evidently wanted to indicate an order of priority. In a household that had both children and dogs, the children would be fed first.
a deaf man with a speech impediment: Only Mark mentions Jesus’ healing of the deaf man who had a speech impediment.—Mr 7:31-37.
took him aside privately: This was not something Jesus usually did when healing the sick. He may have desired to avoid embarrassing the man. Jesus wanted to help him in the kindest way possible.
spitting: Some among both Jews and Gentiles considered spitting a means or sign of healing. So Jesus may have spit simply to convey to the man that he was about to be healed. Whatever the case, Jesus was not using his saliva as a natural healing agent.
sighed deeply: Mark often records Jesus’ feelings, perhaps as related to Mark by Peter, a man of deep emotion. (See “Introduction to Mark.”) This verb may describe a prayerful sigh or groan, reflecting Jesus’ sympathy for the man or even Jesus’ pain over the suffering of all humans. A related verb at Ro 8:22 describes the “groaning” of all creation.
Ephphatha: A Greek transliteration thought by some to derive from a Hebrew root word that is rendered “be unstopped” at Isa 35:5. Jesus’ use of this expression must have made an indelible impression on an eyewitness, possibly Peter, who may have related it verbatim to Mark. Like the expression “Talitha cumi” (Mr 5:41), it is one of the few times that Jesus is quoted verbatim.