illustrations: Or “parables.” The Greek word pa·ra·bo·leʹ, which literally means “a placing beside (together),” may be in the form of a parable, a proverb, or an illustration. Jesus often explains a thing by ‘placing it beside,’ or comparing it with, another similar thing. (Mr 4:30) His illustrations were short and usually fictitious narratives from which a moral or spiritual truth could be drawn.
tower: Used as a vantage point to guard vineyards against thieves and animals.
leased: A common practice in first-century Israel. In this case, the owner did much preliminary work, making his expectation of a return all the more reasonable.
this scripture: The singular form of the Greek word gra·pheʹ here refers to an individual Scripture passage, Ps 118:22, 23.
chief cornerstone: Or “the most important stone.” The Hebrew expression at Ps 118:22 and the Greek expression used here literally mean “the head of the corner.” Although it has been understood in different ways, it apparently refers to the stone that was installed atop the junction of two walls to hold them firmly together. Jesus quoted and applied this prophecy to himself as “the chief cornerstone.” Just as the topmost stone of a building is conspicuous, so Jesus Christ is the crowning stone of the Christian congregation of anointed ones, which is likened to a spiritual temple.
party followers of Herod: See Glossary.
head tax: An annual tax, probably amounting to a denarius, or one day’s wages, which the Romans levied on all those who had been registered by census.
Caesar: Or “the Emperor.” The Roman emperor during Jesus’ earthly ministry was Tiberius, but the term was not restricted to the ruling emperor. “Caesar” could refer to the Roman civil authority, or the State, and its duly appointed representatives, who are called “the superior authorities” by Paul, and “the king” and his “governors” by Peter.
denarius: This Roman silver coin with an inscription of Caesar was the “head tax” coin that was exacted by the Romans from the Jews. (Mr 12:14) In Jesus’ day, agricultural laborers commonly received a denarius for a 12-hour workday, and the Christian Greek Scriptures often use the denarius to show equivalent value. (Mt 20:2; Mr 6:
image and inscription: On the front side of a common denarius of this time, there was an image of the laurel-crowned head of Roman Emperor Tiberius, who reigned from 14 to 37 C.E., and the inscription in Latin, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the deified Augustus.”
Caesar’s things to Caesar: Jesus’ reply here, and in the parallel accounts at Mt 22:21 and Lu 20:25, is his only recorded reference to the Roman emperor. “Caesar’s things” include payment for services rendered by the secular government as well as the honor and relative subjection that is to be shown to such authorities.
Sadducees: This is the only mention of the Sadducees in the Gospel of Mark. (See Glossary.) The name (Greek, Sad·dou·kaiʹos) is likely connected with Zadok (often spelled Sad·doukʹ in the Septuagint), who was made high priest in the days of Solomon and whose descendants evidently served as priests for centuries.
resurrection: The Greek word a·naʹsta·sis literally means “raising up; standing up.” It is used about 40 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures with reference to the resurrection of the dead. (Mt 22:23, 31; Ac 4:2; 24:15; 1Co 15:12, 13) In the Septuagint at Isa 26:19, the verb form of a·naʹsta·sis is used to render the Hebrew verb “to live” in the expression “your dead will live.”
the second married her: Among the ancient Hebrews, if a man died sonless, it was expected that his brother would marry the widow in order to produce offspring to continue the dead man’s family line. (Ge 38:8) The arrangement, later incorporated into the Mosaic Law, was known as brother-in-law, or levirate, marriage. (De 25:
the Scriptures: An expression often used to refer to the inspired Hebrew writings as a whole.
in the book of Moses: The Sadducees accepted only Moses’ writings as inspired. They objected to Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection, evidently thinking that there was no basis for such a teaching in the Pentateuch. Jesus could have quoted many scriptures, such as Isa 26:19, Dan 12:13, and Hos 13:14, to show that the dead would rise. But because Jesus knew which writings were accepted by the Sadducees, he proved his point by using words that Jehovah spoke to Moses.
that God said to him: Jesus here refers to a conversation between Moses and Jehovah that took place about 1514 B.C.E. (Ex 3:
but of the living: According to the parallel account at Lu 20:38, Jesus includes the comment: “For they are all living to him [or, “from his standpoint”].” The Bible shows that living humans who are alienated from God are dead from his standpoint. (Eph 2:1; 1Ti 5:6) Likewise, approved servants of God who die are still living from Jehovah’s standpoint, since his purpose to resurrect them is so sure of fulfillment.
heart: When used in a figurative sense, this term generally refers to the total inner person. When mentioned together with “soul” and “mind,” however, it evidently takes on a more specific meaning and refers mainly to a person’s emotions, desires, and feelings. The four terms used here (heart, soul, mind, and strength) are not mutually exclusive; they are used in an overlapping sense, emphasizing in the strongest possible way the need for complete and total love for God.
soul: Or “whole being.”
mind: That is, intellectual faculties. A person must use his mental faculties to come to know God and grow in love for him. (Joh 17:3, ftn.; Ro 12:1) In this quote from De 6:5, the original Hebrew text uses three terms, ‘heart, soul, and strength.’ However, according to Mark’s account, written in Greek, four different concepts are mentioned, heart, soul, mind, and strength. There may be several reasons why different terms are used. The word “mind” may have been added to complete the meaning of overlapping concepts in the Hebrew language. Although ancient Hebrew did not have a specific word for “mind,” this concept was often included in the Hebrew word for “heart,” which refers figuratively to the whole inner person, including a person’s thinking, feelings, attitudes, and motivations. (De 29:4; Ps 26:2; 64:6; see study note on heart in this verse.) For this reason, where the Hebrew text uses the word “heart,” the Greek Septuagint often uses the Greek equivalent for “mind.” (Ge 8:
strength: As mentioned in the study note on mind, in this quote from De 6:5, the original Hebrew text uses three terms, ‘heart, soul, and strength.’ The Hebrew word rendered “strength [or, “vital force,” ftn.]” could include both physical strength and mental or intellectual ability. This may be another reason why the concept of “mind” has been included when this scripture is quoted in the Christian Greek Scriptures. This may also explain why Mt 22:37 uses “mind” but does not use “strength” in the same quotation. Whatever the case, when a scribe (according to Luke’s account [10:27] written in Greek) quotes the same Hebrew verse, he refers to the four concepts of heart, soul, strength, and mind, evidently showing that in Jesus’ time, it was commonly accepted that all four Greek concepts were included in the three Hebrew words of the original quotation.
neighbor: This Greek word for “neighbor” (lit., “the one near”) can include more than just those who live nearby. It can refer to anyone with whom a person interacts.
whole burnt offerings: The Greek word ho·lo·kauʹto·ma (from the word hoʹlos, meaning “whole,” and kaiʹo, “to burn”) occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at Heb 10:
marketplaces: Or “places of assembly.” The Greek word a·go·raʹ is here used to refer to an open area that served as a center for buying and selling and as a place of public assembly in cities and towns of the ancient Near East and the Greek and Roman world.
front seats: Or “best seats.” Evidently, the presiding officers of the synagogue and distinguished guests sat near the Scripture rolls at the front of the synagogue, in full view of the congregation. These seats of honor were likely reserved for such prominent individuals.
treasury chests: Ancient Jewish sources say that these contribution boxes, or receptacles, were shaped like trumpets, or horns, evidently with small openings at the top. People deposited in them various offerings. The Greek word used here also occurs at Joh 8:
money: Lit., “copper,” that is, copper money, or copper coins, though the Greek word was also used as a general term for all money.
two small coins: Lit., “two lepta,” the plural form of the Greek word le·ptonʹ, meaning something small and thin. A lepton was a coin that equaled 1/128 of a denarius and was evidently the smallest copper or bronze coin used in Israel.
of very little value: Lit., “which is a quadrans.” The Greek word ko·dranʹtes (from the Latin word quadrans) refers to a Roman copper or bronze coin valued at 1/64 of a denarius. Mark here uses Roman money to explain the value of coins commonly used by the Jews.
In Israel, grapes were gathered during August and September, depending on the type of grapes and the climate of the region. They were usually placed in limestone vats or troughs cut into rock. Men normally crushed the grapes barefoot, singing songs as they trod the winepress.
1. Freshly picked grapes
3. Drainage channel
4. Lower collecting basin
5. Earthenware wine jars
Some marketplaces, like the one depicted here, were located along a road. Vendors often placed so much merchandise in the street that it blocked traffic. Local residents could buy common household goods, pottery, and expensive glassware, as well as fresh produce. Because there was no refrigeration, people needed to visit the market each day to buy supplies. Here a shopper could hear news brought in by traders or other visitors, children could play, and the unemployed could wait to be hired. In the marketplace, Jesus healed the sick and Paul preached. (Ac 17:17) By contrast, the proud scribes and Pharisees loved to be noticed and greeted in these public areas.
The reconstruction shown in this animation is partly based on the ruins of a first-century synagogue in Gamla, a city located about 10 km (6 mi) northeast of the Sea of Galilee. No synagogues from the first century have survived intact, so the exact features are uncertain. This depiction includes some of the features that were likely present in many synagogues of that time.
1. The front, or best, seats in the synagogue may have been located on or near the speaker’s platform.
2. The platform from which a teacher would read from the Law. The exact location of the platform may have varied from one synagogue to the next.
3. Seating along the wall may have been occupied by people with status in the community. Others might have sat on mats on the floor. The synagogue in Gamla seems to have had four rows of seats.
4. An ark, or chest, in which sacred scrolls were kept may have been located on the back wall.
The seating arrangements in the synagogue were a constant reminder to those in attendance that some had greater status than others, a topic often debated by Jesus’ disciples.
According to rabbinic sources, the temple built by Herod contained 13 treasury chests, called shofar chests. The Hebrew word shoh·pharʹ means “ram’s horn,” indicating that at least part of the chest might have been shaped like a horn, or trumpet. Those who heard Jesus condemn people who symbolically blew a trumpet when giving gifts of mercy may have been reminded of the noise that coins made as they were dropped into these trumpet-shaped treasury chests. (Mt 6:2) The two small coins donated by the widow might not have made much noise when she deposited them, but Jesus showed that both the widow and her contribution were valuable to Jehovah.