Mark, Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern

chapter 7
1. The P’rushim and some of the Torah-teachers who had come from Yerushalayim gathered together with Yeshua
2. and saw that some of his talmidim ate with ritually unclean hands, that is, without doing n’tilat-yadayim.
3. For the P’rushim, and indeed all the Judeans, holding fast to the Tradition of the Elders, do not eat unless they have given their hands a ceremonial washing.
4. Also, when they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they have rinsed their hands up to the wrist; and they adhere to many other traditions, such as washing cups, pots and bronze vessels.
The P'rushim had interpreted the Written Torah, and their sages and rabbis had decreed additional rules. Together these came to be called at first the Tradition of the Elders and later the Oral Torah (see Mt 5:17N. 12:2-1 l&NN, 18:18-20&N, 23:2&N); it was committed to writing, notably in the Mishna, in the second and third centuries. expanded in the Gemara in the fourth and filth (Mishna + Gemara = Talmud), and later in other works.

Mark's explanation of n'tilat-yadayim, ritual handwashing, in these verses corresponds to the details set forth in Mishna tractate Yadayim. In the marketplace one may touch ceremonially impure things: the impurity is removed by rinsing up to the wrist. Orthodox Jews today observe n'tilat-yadayim before meals. The rationale for it has nothing to do with hygiene but is based on the idea that "a man's home is his Temple," with the dining table his altar, the food his sacrifice and himself the cohen (priest). Since the Tanakh requires cohanim to be ceremonially pure before offering sacrifices on the Temple altar, the Oral Torah requires the same before eating a meal.

5. The P’rushim and the Torah-teachers asked him, “Why don’t your talmidim live in accordance with the Tradition of the Elders, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?”
6. Yeshua answered them, “Yesha‘yahu was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites — as it is written, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me..
7. Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines". (Isaiah 29:13)
Isaiah 29:3 is quoted in vv. 8-9 from the Greek Septuagint version. In the Hebrew Bible, the portion corresponding to v. 9 reads, 'Their fear of me is a [mere] commandment of men learned" by rote and therefore producing only mechanical outward obedience, unaccompanied by inward faith — an equally serious condemnation. Sometimes the New Testament writers are criticized for not quoting from the Masoretic Hebrew Tanakh as we have it today (even though this form of the text did not become fixed until around 800 C.E.). The critics forget that in Yeshua's time there were several different Hebrew texts of most books, and that the Septuagint itself was translated into Greek by Jews some two centuries before Yeshua from an obviously different Hebrew text which they presumably considered authoritative. To Greek-speaking Jews the Septuagint was the normal means of access to the content of the Bible, just as English-speakers today rely on an English version.

8. “You depart from God’s command and hold onto human tradition.
9. Indeed,” he said to them, “you have made a fine art of departing from God’s command in order to keep your tradition!
10. For Moshe said, 'Honor your father and your mother' (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death' (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9)
11. But you say, ‘If someone says to his father or mother, “I have promised as a korban” (that is, as a gift to God) “what I might have used to help you,”’
Korban, literally, "sacrifice," from the Hebrew word for "near." A korban is something brought near to God, and it brings the offerer near to God. Mark treats korban as a technical term, first transliterating it into Greek and then explaining it as "a gift to God." Yeshua's objection is to bad priorities. Vows and oaths are not to be used selfishly to give a pretext for avoiding doing what God. love and righteousness require. Compare Mt 5:33-37&N, 12:7, 23:16-23&NN, and see how Yeshua continues this teaching in vv. 12-23. The rabbinic elaboration of the formulas and rules concerning oaths and vows can be found in Talmud tractates Shvu 'oi and N'darim.

12. then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.
13. Thus, with your tradition which you had handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And you do other things like this.”
Many Christians think Yeshua's answer to the question of v. 5 condemns all of Pharisaic tradition. In fact, he objects only to those practices of the P 'rushim that place human tradition above God's command (v. 8). He is not opposed to tradition as such, but to your tradition (vv. 9, 13) — the operative word is "your" as shown by his example (vv. 10-12), where a "tradition" is allowed to nullify the fifth Commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," by letting people devote to Temple worship money which they should use to support their own parents.

On the contrary, Yeshua could not be opposing tradition as such because the New Covenant itself speaks favorably of its own traditions (1С 11:2&N, 2 Th 2:15&N). And at Yn 7:37&N we have an example of Yeshua honoring a tradition spoken of in the Mishna but nowhere in the Tanakh.

In fact, traditions are necessary in life. A state cannot be run by a constitution without legislation. Likewise the Jewish nation could not be run by the Written Torah alone, without the orderly application of it and addition to it implied in the concept of tradition. But just as a country's legislation cannot contradict or supplant its constitution, so too tradition (Jewish, Messianic, Christian, or whatever) cannot violate or alter God's word (see Mt 12:2-11&NN, Mt 18:18-20&N). The Oral Torah comes very close to implying that it can (Bava Metzia 59a, quoted at Ac 9:4N); but according to the present passage this position is inconsistent with Messianic Judaism.

14. Then Yeshua called the people to him again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand this!
15. There is nothing outside a person which, by going into him, can make him unclean. Rather, it is the things that come out of a person which make a person unclean!”
Some manuscripts include verse 7:16: “Anyone who has ears that can hear, let him hear!”

17. When he had left the people and entered the house, his talmidim asked him about the parable.
18. He replied to them, “So you too are without understanding? Don’t you see that nothing going into a person from outside can make him unclean?
19. For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and it passes out into the latrine.” (Thus he declared all foods ritually clean.)
Thus he declared all foods ritually clean, even if the participants at the meal have not washed their hands. But Yeshua did not, as many suppose, abrogate the laws of kashrut and thus declare ham kosher! Since the beginning of the chapter the subject has been ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah in relation to n 'tilat-yadayim (vv. 2-4&N) and not kashrut at all! There is not the slightest hint anywhere that foods in this verse can be anything other than what the Bible allows Jews to eat, in other words, kosher foods. Neither is kashrut abolished in Ac 10:9-28 or Ga 2:11-16; see notes there.

Rather, Yeshua is continuing his discussion of spiritual prioritizing (v. 1 l&N). He teaches that tohar (purity) is not primarily ritual or physical, but spiritual (vv. 14-23). On this ground he does not entirely overrule the Pharisaic/rabbinic elaborations of the laws of purity, but he does demote them to subsidiary importance. See Yn 7:22-23&N on the halakhic process of assigning ranks to potentially conflicting laws. Yeshua here is making Messianic halakhah.

The Greek text at this point is a dangling participial clause, literally, "cleansing all the foods." There is no "Thus he declared"; I have added these words for the sake of clarifying the one meaning I believe this passage can have, namely, that it is Mark's halakhic summary of Yeshua's remarks (see Section V of the Introduction to the JNT, paragraph on "The Translator and His Interpretations"). However, some believe this phrase is not a comment by Mark but part of what Yeshua himself said and render it: "a process which cleanses all food." According to this understanding, Yeshua is explaining that the body's ordinary digestive process makes all foods clean enough to be eaten, so that handwashing is of minor importance and the P'rushim shouldn't be giving it so much attention. Conclusively against such a rendering is that it suddenly puts the focus on hygiene instead of ritual purity, which is the topic of the rest of the passage. It does not answer the halakhic sh'eilah ("question"; see Mt 22:23N) about ritual purity posed by the P 'rushim, because food can have in it not a single germ and yet be ritually unclean.

Moreover, the nominative masculine form of the Greek participle "katharizdn" ("cleansing") agrees grammatically with "legei" ("he replied," literally, "he says") in v. 18, so that on the basis of the linguistic evidence it makes better sense to suppose that "cleansing all the foods," like "he replied," is a comment by Mark and not part of what Yeshua said.

20. “It is what comes out of a person,” he went on, “that makes him unclean.
21. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come forth wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
22. greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness…
23. All these wicked things come from within, and they make a person unclean.”
24. Next, Yeshua left that district and went off to the vicinity of Tzor and Tzidon. There he found a house to stay in and wanted to remain unrecognized, but keeping hidden proved impossible.
25. Instead, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit in her came to him and fell down at his feet.
26. The woman was a Greek, by birth a Syro-phoenician, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27. He said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to their pet dogs.”
28. She answered him, “That is true, sir; but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s leftovers.”
29. Then he said to her, “For such an answer you may go on home; the demon has left your daughter.”
30. She went back home and found the child lying on the couch, the demon gone.
See Mt 15:21-28&NN.

31. Then he left the district of Tzor and went through Tzidon to Lake Kinneret and on to the region of the Ten Towns.
32. They brought him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment and asked Yeshua to lay his hand on him.
33. Taking him off alone, away from the crowd, Yeshua put his fingers into the man’s ears, spat, and touched his tongue;
34. then, looking up to heaven, he gave a deep groan and said to him, “Hippatach!” (that is, “Be opened!”).
35. His ears were opened, his tongue was freed, and he began speaking clearly.
36. Yeshua ordered the people to tell no one; but the more he insisted, the more zealously they spread the news.
37. People were overcome with amazement. “Everything he does, he does well!” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak!”

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