Mark 1:22 Commentary | Teaching with Authority

Mark Commentary

Text & Translation

22 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ· ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς.1

And they were awestruck by His teaching, because He was teaching them as One having authority – and not like the scribes (Mk 1:22, AT)

Awe-some Authority

Mark uses six2 or seven different Greek words to describe people’s amazement.3 (cf. Mk1:27; 2:12; 4:41; 5:15, 20, 33, 36, 42; 6:50, 51; 9:6, 15, 32; 10:24, 32 (twice); Mk 11:18; 12:17; 15:5, 44; 16:5f., Mk 16:8).4

The verb translated were awestruck (ἐκπλήσσω | ekplēssō) literally means to “strike out of one’s senses”.5 It can imply both awe and alarm.6

In the gospels, many are awestruck by Jesus:

  • His parents in response to His precocious presence in the Temple (Lk 2:48)7
  • The crowds in response to His teaching (Mt 7:28-29; Mk 1:22; Lk 4:32;8 cf. Mt 22:33; Mk 11:18; Mt 13:54 par. Mk 6:2)9
  • People in response to His healing (Mk 7:37; Lk 9:43)10
  • The disciples in response to His tough teaching concerning the rich young ruler (Mt 19:25; Mk 10:26)11

Awe can be a first step towards genuine faith,12 but amazement does not = faith!13

It’s not enough to be amazed at Jesus. One must respond to His amazing grace with radical faith(fulness)/loyalty to the King (as exemplified by Simon and Andrew, James and John).

Jesus the Teacher

In Mark, King Jesus is often portrayed as a teacher.14

He is called a teacher (didaskalos) 12 times, His teaching (didache) is mentioned 5 times, and He is said to have taught (didaskō) 15 times.15

Jesus was called “rabbi” (Mk 9:5, 10:51, 11:21, 14:45) – a term also given to scribes/teachers of the law.16 Rabbi means “my great one”.17

Though other gospels are longer than Mark, Mark actually describes Jesus as a teacher more than the others.18

Nonetheless, Mark does not include as much of the content of Jesus’ teaching as the other Gospel writers.19 Mark, instead, has “pithy statements and dramatic action”,20 which demonstrate the inbreaking kingdom of God.21

Jesus the Teacher — with  Authority

Contrary to what many believe, in His earthly ministry, Jesus was not just a good teacher who taught good things. He came with kingly authority, proclaiming the kingdom of God.

The word authority (ἐξουσία | exousia) can mean “freedom of choice, right to act” or “ability, capacity…” or “authority, absolute power”.22

Here, exousia likely does not mean “right” but “power”.23 Jesus has more than the right to teach, He has divine power to teach — authoritatively.

We also find that Jesus has authority/power to forgive sins (Mk 2:6f.;24 Mk 2:10),25 cleanse the temple (Mk 11:28-33),26 heal (Mk 1:29-34),27 preach (Mk 1:39),28 and interpret God the Father’s will without relying on human traditions.29

Jesus also gives His disciples authority to drive out demons (Mk 3:14-15, 6:7;30 Mk 6:13; Mk 9:38-40)31 – in His Name.32

Every instance of authority (ἐξουσία | exousia) in Mark reflects Jesus’ authority – directly or indirectly (Jesus: Mk 1:22, 27; 2:10; 11:28, 29, 33. His disciples: Mk 3:15; 6:7; Mk 13:34, HCSB).33

It would be wise to remember that we have no power of our own; any power we have is derivative. He is the Vine; we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5). Later on, the disciples will have to learn this lesson the hard way (Mk 9:28-29).

Here, we’re not told what Jesus taught but how Jesus taught – with authority.34

That being said, His teaching likely concerns the inbreaking kingdom of God (cf. Mk 1:15).35 Christ’s teaching is not merely good advice or encouraging words – it’s an “exercise of power”.36

Whereas scribes make theological judgments (Mk 2:6-7, 9:11, 12:35)37 often based on scribal traditions (Mk 7:8-13),38 Jesus teaches with divine authority.39

Jesus will clash with the teachers of the law over issues such as the Sabbath (Mk 2:23-3:6), purity laws (Mk 7:1-23), and divorce (Mk 10:2-12).40

The Ultimate Author of the Law of Moses has the authority to interpret and fulfill (i.e., bring to its ultimate significance (cf. Mt 5:17)) the Law of Moses.

Interestingly, Jesus’ authority as a teacher is mentioned before His authority as an exorcist (cf. Mk 1:27).41

The Scribes/Teachers of the Law

Scribal Expertise

Scribes (γραμματεύς | grammateus)42 originally referred to those who would make copies of a law43 (a “clerk, secretary…”)44 or a sacred text.45

Eventually this term referred to authoritative interpreters and scholars of the Law (of Moses) – experts.46

Similar to synagogues, scribes likely emerged during or after Babylonian exile.47

In the Old Testament, Ezra is called a scribe (Ezra 7:6, HCSB; Ezra 7:11-12, HCSB; Ezra 7:21, HCSB).48

Scribes also wrote down/interpreted legal documents for the village, and taught the Bible to children49 and students.50 In a context where many people were uneducated and illiterate,51 people respected their expertise.52

So much so, people actually moved out of scribes’ way when they walked through the streets and stood up when they walked into a room.53

Precursors of modern ordained rabbis,54 scribes made judgments on the meaning and application of the Scriptures,55 in addition to judgments on legal matters.56

As it’s been said:

“Scribe” thus combined the offices of Torah professor, teacher and moralist, and civil lawyer, in that order.57

Scribal Traditions

Scribes would expound upon the Scripture after it was read by explaining its proper translation (in synagogues, Old Testament Scriptures would be read out loud and then translated/paraphrased in Aramaic and/or Greek) or citing traditions.58

As did many Pharisees, advanced scribes would cite earlier scribal traditions.59

Scribes produced a large collection of oral traditions that applied to all facets of life.60 These traditions were eventually was put on the same level as the written Old Testament Law.61

Circa AD 200, these oral traditions, which were addressed by Jesus in Mk 7:1-23 || Mt 15:1-2062 written down and compiled in a collection called the Mishnah.63

Scribal Opposition

Though they could belong to any Jewish group,64 scribes were often Pharisees (cf. Mk 2:16;65 Lk 5:30; Ac 23:9).66 In the gospels, Pharisees and scribes often appear together (cf. Mt 5:20, 12:38; Matthew 23; Mk 7:1, 5).67

Only the scribe who discusses the greatest commandment with Jesus (Mk 12:28-34) is portrayed positively.68

Scribes recognize that Jesus has authority — but they claim He is empowered by the devil (Mk 3:22).69

They often oppose Jesus (Mk 3:22, 7:1, 5, 8:31, 10:33, 14:1, 43, 53, 15:1, 31;70 cf. Mk 2:6, 10; 11:27-29, 33).71 and eventually join the elders and chief priests in their plot to kill Him (Mk 8:31, 10:33, 11:18, 14:1, 43, 53, 15:1).72

The Greater Authority of Jesus

Nevertheless, Jesus’ authority far surpasses that of the scribes73 (cf. Mk 1:21-27, 2:5-12, 11:27-33).74 He does not cite scribal traditions;75 His authority was not derivative, but direct from God (the Father).76

All in all, in Mark, the scribes represent the “old régime, challenged by the fresh new teaching of Jesus”77 (cf. Mk 2:21-22).78

In spite of their opposition, from the outset, Mark makes it clear that Jesus has more power than both the religious, earthly authorities (e.g., scribes cf. Mk 1:22) and the irreligious, supernatural authorities  (e.g., the demon cf. Mk 1:23f. esp. Mk 1:25-26).79

Conclusion

In the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus teaches with divine authority that far surpasses that of the scribes (i.e., teachers of the Law) — who will opppose Christ throughout Mark.

The people are awestruck at Jesus’ authoritative teaching — but awe does not = faith.

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:22.
  2. English, 53; Witherington, 92; Stein, 85
  3. Bock, 412
  4. English, 53; cf. Witherington, 92; Lane, 71; Brooks, 50.

    “Mark employs a variety of terms to express the astonishment of the multitude and the disciples at the word and deed of Jesus: ἐκπλήσσειν ([Mk 1:22; 6:2; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18]); θαυμάζειν ([Mk. 5:20; 15:5, 44]); ἐκθαυμάζειν ([Mk 12:17]); θαμβεῖσθαι ([Mk 1:27; 10:24, 32]); ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι ([Mk 9:15]); ἐξίστημι ([Mk 2:12; 5:42; 6:51]); cf. φοβεῖσθαι ([Mk 4:41; 5:15, 33, 36; 6:50; 9:32; 10:32; 11:18]) and ἔκφοβος ([Mk 9:6])” (Lane, 71 FN).

    “Compare ‘astonished’ (ἐκπλήσσομαι, ekplēssomai; [Mk 1:22; 6:2; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18]); “amazed” (θαμβέομαι, thambeomai; [Mk 1:27; 10:24, 32; cf. also 9:15; 16:5, 6]); “marveled” (θαυμάζω, thaumazō; [Mk 5:20; 15:5, 44]; cf. also [Mk 12:17]); “feared” (φοβέομαι, phobeomai; [Mk 4:41; 5:15, 33; 6:50; 9:6, 32; 10:32; 11:18; 16:8]); “amazed” (ἐξίστημι, existēmi; [Mk 2:12; 5:42; 6:51]); “amazement” (ἔκστασις, ekstasis; [Mk 5:42; 16:8]). This often results from Jesus’s teaching ([Mk 1:22, 27; 6:2; 10:24, 26; 11:18]; cf. also [Mk 12:17]), healings ([Mk 7:37]), exorcisms ([Mk 1:22, 27; 5:20]), passion predictions ([Mk 9:32; 10:32]), as well as at various divine epiphanies ([Mk 4:41; 6:50–51; 9:6; 16:5, 8])” (Stein, 85) .

  5. BDAG, 308
  6. Lane, 71
  7. NIDNTTE, 153; cf. EDNT, 420
  8. NIDNTTE, 153
  9. EDNT, 420
  10. NIDNTTE, 153; cf. EDNT, 420; Hurtado, 27
  11. NIDNTTE, 153; cf. EDNT, 420
  12. Bock, 412
  13. Hurtado, 27; Witherington, 92
  14. Evans, 95; Stein, 86; Schnabel, 57
  15. Evans, 95; cf. English, 53; Brooks, 50; Guelich, 55
  16. EDNT, 260)
  17. Edwards, 54
  18. France, 101; Stein, 86
  19. Brooks, 50; Strauss, 90
  20. Garland, 70
  21. Strauss, 90
  22. UBS, 46 cf. Bock, 412
  23. Bock, 413; Witherington, 87
  24. EDNT, 260
  25. Hurtado, 26
  26. Hurtado, 26; Stein, 89; Stein, 89
  27. Guelich, 56
  28. Guelich, 56
  29. cf. EDNT, 260
  30. Hurtado, 26
  31. France, 100; Stein, 89
  32. France, 100
  33. Edwards, 55
  34. Hurtado, 26; cf. English, 53; Witherington, 93; Cole, 113; Lane, 71; Brooks, 50; France, 102; Edwards, 56; Strauss, 91
  35. Lane, 71; Strauss, 91
  36. Kernaghan, 45
  37. Garland, 70
  38. Edwards, 55
  39. Garland, 70
  40. France, 102
  41. Strauss, 88
  42. Luke refers to them as “teachers of the law” (nomodidaskaloi) (UBS, 46; Strauss, 91). Lawyers (nomikoi) is not the best translation (Strauss, 91). “Law-experts” is better (cf. Lk 7:30, 10:25, 11:45; cf. Mt 22:35; Strauss, 91).
  43. UBS, 46; cf. Stein, 86
  44. NIDNTTE, 593
  45. Bock, 412
  46. UBS, 46 cf. Hurtado, 26; Witherington, 90; Brooks, 50; Guelich, 56; Edwards, 54; Schnabel, 57-58; Strauss, 91
  47. Hurtado, 32. However,

    “The Hebrew word for scribes, sopherim, has to do with counting, reckoning, and keeping written documents, thus providing an initial understanding of the functions of a Jewish scribe. The term “scribe” occurs early in the Davidic monarchy for a royal official who was a general secretary and recorder (2 Sam 8:16–17; 20:24–25; 1 Kgs 4:3…” (Edwards, 54).

  48. Brooks, 50; Edwards, 54
  49. Keener, 131
  50. Guelich, 56
  51. Edwards, 53
  52. Hurtado, 32; Garland, 70; Edwards, 54
  53. Edwards, 54
  54. Hurtado, 32; Witherington, 87
  55. Bock, 412; Guelich, 56
  56. Edwards, 54
  57. Edwards, 54
  58. Keener, 131
  59. Keener, 131
  60. Hurtado, 32; cf. Witherington, 90; Brooks, 50; Strauss, 91
  61. Hurtado, 32; Brooks, 50
  62. “Mishna. Series of interpretations of the meaning of the Law; according to rabbinic tradition, they were given when Moses received the Law from God on Mt Sinai and were to be passed down in oral form. This “oral tradition” was the “law” to which Jesus referred, for example, in Matthew 15:1–9. By about AD 200, under Rabbi Judah, the work begun by Rabbi Akiba around AD 120 was completed, and the oral tradition was finally written down. This written material is called the Mishna. The word is derived from a verb which means “to repeat something,” and reflects the way the material had been repeated orally from teacher to disciple for many generations.”

    Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Mishna,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1475.

  63. Strauss, 91; BEB, 1475
  64. Bock, 412
  65. Bock, 412; cf. Guelich, 56
  66. Stein, 86
  67. Strauss, 91
  68. EDNT, 260; Bock, 412; France, 102; Stein, 86
  69. EDNT, 260
  70. Guelich, 56; Bock, 412
  71. Witherington, 90; Strauss, 91
  72. Stein, 86; cf. Strauss, 91
  73. Hurtado, 27
  74. Bock, 412; EDNT, 260
  75. Cole, 113; Brooks, 50; Guelich, 56; Strauss, 91; cf. Lane, 71; Schnabel, 57
  76. Bock, 412; cf. Witherington, 90; Lane, 72; Garland, 70; Edwards, 55; Schnabel, 57; Strauss, 91
  77. France, 102
  78. Edwards, 54
  79. Edwards, 55
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