Satan against Satan

I have long found myself puzzled by the statement attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, depicted as a response to the accusation that he cast out demons through the power of the prince of demons, often rendered as Beelzebul. Jesus asks (Mark 3:23-26), “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.” Can you see what is puzzling? My impression had always been that Jesus thought that Satan’s kingdom would not stand, that he believed that he himself was overseeing its downfall. That is the assumption of scholars as different in their outlook as Gerd Luedemann and Christopher F. Evans. The former writes, “The end of the rule of the devil is the underlying conviction in Jesus’ religious life” while the latter says, “Jesus is not simply another exorcist, but the one who is to effect the ultimate destruction of the whole demon world.”

And yet the argument Jesus makes in this passage, unless I have misunderstood it, presupposes that Satan’s kingdom will stand, which it would not if it were divided against itself – and if it were divided against itself, then Jesus could conceivably have been using one demonic power to drive out another. For a long time, Joel Marcus seemed to be the only scholar commenting on this as a significant conundrum in making sense of the passage. His solution – that Jesus’ view of what his impact on the forces of darkness would be changed over time – is a real possibility, but one that deserves much more serious consideration than it has received.

Another possibility is that Jesus was confronting his hearers with a puzzle, one that he would himself later offer the solution to. Commenting on Mark 3:24–27, Morna Hooker writes:

Jesus’ initial answer is as logical as the charge brought by his opponents. It is absurd to suggest that he is using satanic power to cast out demons—Satan has more sense than to destroy his own kingdom. The argument in vv. 24–6 appears to assume that Satan’s kingdom still stands firm and is not breaking up: if his kingdom were crumbling, then we might conclude that civil war had broken out but, since it is not, the scribes’ accusations must be false (C.K. Barrett, The Holy Spirit and the Gospel Tradition, p. 61). But internal revolution is not the only way to topple a regime; an alternative method is invasion, and this, the true explanation, is set out in v. 27, introduced by the strong adversative but (ἀλλά). The assumption behind this second saying is that Satan’s kingdom is, after all, breaking up. Mark appears to have put together two separate sayings, and their juxtaposition shows that he believed that Satan’s rule was indeed crumbling, not because Satan was divided against himself, but because he had been overcome by someone stronger.

In that case, the puzzle used to stump his hearers is that the kingdom of Satan is doomed to fall. But it hasn’t collapsed yet, and so it isn’t internally divided. And the solution to the puzzle is that there is another way for a kingdom to be brought down: a stronger power conquering it.

I’m not sure that this resolves the issue in this text satisfactorily – what do others think?

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  • Iain Lovejoy

    A possible suggestion from the grammar: the text uses the present infinitive, which suggests ongoing action. Might Jesus’s question be better rendered: “How can the Accuser be casting out the Accuser…?” Jesus’s point may be that if the scribes really believed that, then they would be proclaiming that Accuser’s kingdom is indeed collapsing of itself and is at an end, but they are not.
    Jesus then goes on to say that the Accuser’s prisoners are indeed being released, but because the accuser is bound.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I think this is mostly a rhetorical argument than an argument that depends on Jesus’ thoughts on the status of Satan’s kingdom.

    Jesus is being accused of being able to cast out demons because he’s working for Satan, and Jesus’ counterpoint is that this doesn’t make any sense, because if Satan started empowering people to fight his own forces, his kingdom would come to an end. Whether Jesus thought Satan’s kingdom would end or not doesn’t really impact that argument.

    It may even provide horns of a dilemma: whether his accusers are right or wrong, Jesus would be bringing down the kingdom of Satan. Are they going to put a stop to that?

    • The Mouse Avenger

      That makes perfect sense to me! ^_^ Anyone else agree?

      • This has all been extremely helpful! I do think that setting it within the framework of disputes about whether the kingdom of God is arriving would resolve the issue.

        The logic might unfold something like this, with the implicit parts spelled out:

        1) Jesus claims the kingdom of God is dawning, the kingdom of Satan is being brought down, and he performs exorcisms as demonstration of this.
        2) Jesus’ opponents say that the kingdom of God is not arriving in connection with Jesus’ activity, and suggest that his exorcisms are performed by harnessing demonic rather than divine power.
        3) Jesus responds by saying that if demons are being cast out, even if it is by other demons, then the kingdom of Satan is divided and its collapse is still imminent, and so his opponents are wrong about at least that.

        It is a commonplace of Gospel criticism that the current placement of sayings is often a literary choice by the authors rather than historical information. Would moving the saying into a conversation like this one make it less problematic?

        • Phil Ledgerwood

          I guess, for my part, I don’t see what the problematic part is. Jesus’ saying does not seem (to me) to call into question whether or not Satan’s kingdom is ending. The question is whether or not Jesus is able to cast out demons because he’s in league with Satan. Jesus’ response is basically, “If that were true, then Satan is the stupidest person ever, because this is will bring his kingdom to an end.” I also like the addition in Matthew’s gospel, “Sooooo… how do YOUR exorcists cast out demons, then? Just curious.”

          I don’t see Jesus’ rejoinder implying that Satan’s kingdom won’t end if Jesus isn’t operating under Satan’s power. Satan’s kingdom is ending and Jesus casting out demons shows this, hence Jesus’ rhetorical point, which is basically, “Why in the world would Satan do something like that?”

          Jesus is not defending the notion that Satan’s kingdom is ending or that the kingdom has come (except implicitly); he’s taking the end result as a given and using that to refute the accusations against him as a person. He’s saying that the fact that Satan’s kingdom is coming to an end makes the claim that Jesus is working for Satan less credible; this does not imply that, if Jesus is not working for Satan, that Satan’s kingdom isn’t coming to an end.

          If Person A blows up Building B, and someone says that Building B’s owner paid Person A to do it, you might well argue that this was unlikely considering that he would be effectively destroying his own property. This does not imply, however, that Building B was not actually blown up.

          • If it weren’t for the precise language used, I might not think there was anything at all that calls out for further explanation. The way it is worded gives me the impression that there is an assumption shared by Jesus and his interlocutors that the kingdom of Satan is not collapsing, that its downfall is not imminent. When Jesus says, “If Satan casts out Satan, his house cannot stand,” if Satan’s house is indeed falling, then doesn’t that undermine this as a defense against the accusation of using satanic power to combat Satan?

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            It seems to me it’s the basis of the defense. It doesn’t work as a defense if Satan’s kingdom isn’t collapsing. If Jesus were casting out demons and everything was fine in Satan’s world, then the accusation that Satan was using Jesus would have some merit.

            It’s because Jesus is -destroying- the kingdom of Satan that the accusation lacks credibility. Why would Satan do this to himself? Why would he give someone the power to dismantle his kingdom? Satan would be fighting against himself in that case.

            I guess I don’t understand how Jesus’ defense makes sense as a defense without that premise.

          • John MacDonald

            Hey Phil,

            I don’t know if this advances the discussion any, but I had a thought:

            Phil said: “Why would Satan do this to himself? Why would he give someone the power to dismantle his kingdom? Satan would be fighting against himself in that case.”

            Paula Fredriksen argues that Paul seems to say the Gods of this age crucified Jesus (1 Cor 2.8, also see 1 Cor 8.5-6; 2 Cor 4.4), and these are the powers the returning Christ will subjugate (Rom 8.38, also cf Eph 6.12). Phillipians says these are the powers who will bend knees before Christ. The implication of Fredriksen’s position would be that “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8),” because in killing Jesus Satan sealed his own fate.

          • John MacDonald

            Satan could have given Christ the power knowing that through using the power Jesus, God’s chosen one, would end up running afoul of the authorities and get himself crucified (Of course, if Paul is saying the gods of this world crucified Christ, this could mean the Romans were “under the influence of Satan,” and hence crucified Christ: On Satan and mind control, see 2 Corinthians 4:4).

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Ok, but how does that impact Jesus’ point?

            I promise I’m not being purposefully obtuse to you and James! 🙂 Any thickheadedness is entirely unintentional. I still don’t understand what the tension is with Jesus’ point. It seems very straightforward to me.

            JESUS: I’m casting out demons. The kingdom of God has come. I’m binding the strong man to pillage his house and reclaim Israel. Etc. Etc.

            OPPONENTS: You only have authority over demons because Satan has given it to you.

            JESUS: If that were true, then Satan would be fighting against himself and destroying his own kingdom.

            OPPONENTS: …

            JESUS: That would be, you know, really stupid.

            OPPONENTS: Well…

            JESUS: Do you think Satan is playing the long con, here? Letting me destroy his kingdom so you’ll trust in me so he can really get you somehow in the end?

            OPPONENTS: Um, well, it made sense to us at the time.

            JESUS: I’m casting out demons by the power of God. It means his kingdom has finally come among you.

            Obviously, I’ve taken a lot of dramatic liberties, but I’m still not seeing where the complex tension is or why we’d need to turn to Pauline writings to sort it out. I’m not saying such a complex tension isn’t there, because you guys are very smart – but I don’t see what it is.

          • Thanks for this – I am inclined to share it, if you’re willing to let me make it the focus of a blog post. Indeed, I wish someone would turn it into a comic strip.

            But on the ongoing point of discussion, the only issue is that Jesus’ argument seems to be premised on the kingdom of Satan continuing to stand, when worded in precisely the manner that it is in the Gospels.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Sure, welcome to do so!

            As to the ongoing point, I guess I’ll just have to concede that what you’re saying is an issue. I still don’t see it, which is alarming to me. I’m used to being able to understand readings of Scripture that differ from my own, even if I don’t think they’re as likely or whatever.

            But in this case, I don’t even see it. I genuinely do not see anything in those passages that looks like Jesus is predicating his argument on Satan’s kingdom continuing to stand. It seems to me the exact opposite is the case and I don’t even recognize the basis for thinking otherwise. It’s not like I just disagree with you; I literally do not see what you’re saying is there. And that alarms me, because I have a lot of respect for you, and while I would anticipate we wouldn’t agree on every reading, I did not anticipate actually not being able to understand where you were coming from at all! And it appears you aren’t the only scholar to have seen this issue, so I can only conclude there’s something very basic here I just don’t understand.

            But we’ve probably just reached an impasse unless your educator instincts can figure out a new way of explaining your point to me that penetrates my thick skull. I’m just sort of repeating myself.

          • No, it is probably that I am making a mountain out of a rhetorical molehill. The logic of what Jesus says, for his argument to work, would seem to have to be:

            A) If Satan casts out Satan, his kingdom cannot stand.
            B) Satan’s kingdom stands
            therefore
            C) Satan doesn’t cast out Satan.

            Can you see what I am talking about now? And why, since I don’t think Jesus agreed with “B”, there is something quirky about the logic of the argument being made?

            Nevertheless, I think you are right that, if one frames these snippets of dialogue within a larger discussion the problem is at least mitigated.

            Thanks for the chance to talk about this so much. Let me know how my educator instincts were this time (although a genuinely good educator obviously would have made this clear from the beginning).

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Ok, that helps, thank you.

            I see what you’re saying by way of that syllogism. So, you would say this syllogism is potentially present in Jesus’ words because of his addition of the phrase about the kingdom standing? I’m still having trouble finding this syllogism in the passage, but it might just be because I’m used to reading it the one way. I’ll continue to read it with your syllogism in mind and see if that reading becomes clearer to me.

            To me, Jesus’ defense does not depend on the standing of Satan’s kingdom, but whether or not it makes sense to ascribe the agency of the fall of Satan’s kingdom to Satan, himself. The standing of the kingdom isn’t the issue; the issue is whether or not Satan is behind what’s happening. The reason Jesus can call this into question is because it doesn’t make sense that Satan would be working for his own downfall. It’s not because Satanic agency would bring his kingdom down, but Jesus’ own non-Satanic efforts don’t.

            I was thinking of this analogy, but I’m not sure it’s a good one.

            Let’s say I get tired of Wal-Marts moving into small towns and driving local mom and pop stores out of business. So, I start blowing up Wal-Marts in small towns.

            I become a local hero with the common folk, who rally around me as a champion for the people. However, this does not sit well with the local politicians. Their popularity and sway with the crowds declines while mine is on the rise.

            To turn the people against me, they announce that the only reason I am successful in blowing up Wal-Marts is that the Wal-Mart corporation is allowing me to do so. They’re paying me. I’m actually a corporate stooge working for Wal-Mart and everyone who supports me is actually supporting the very entity they claim to hate.

            To refute this charge, I might well respond, “If Wal-Mart were paying me to do this, then they’d be paying me to destroy their own stores. Destroying these stores would drive them completely out of business.”

            The force of this argument depends on the fact that destroying stores is actually harmful to Wal-Mart and actually driving them out of business. The argument is that it would make no sense for Wal-Mart to assist me in their own destruction.

            However, my argument is not that such a scheme of paying me to blow up their stores would guarantee their destruction, and since Wal-Mart is still in business, that must mean they aren’t paying me. I’m still blowing up stores just fine. It’ll still put them out of business. They might not be out of business right this second, but this is happening. I’m out there doing the work.

            The question is whether or not Wal-Mart is secretly behind the work I’m doing, not the efficacy of the work, and since the work I’m doing is destructive to them, this would argue against the idea that they’re secretly behind it.

            That’s how I see the exchange with Jesus on this issue and, as I’ve said, it seems fairly straightforward to my eyes.

            I suppose at this point, though, someone in the crowd could argue that Wal-Mart was in it for the long con. While it -appears- that I am damaging them, perhaps the secret reality is they wanted those stores destroyed the entire time, and this way they can collect insurance money and build even bigger stores. The people who are supporting me are actually helping Wal-Mart advance their larger plans even though, in the short term, it looks like I’m hurting them.

            In the Gospels, we don’t have an account of Jesus’ opponents taking that route, but that could be a potential flaw in Jesus’ argument.

          • It is interesting that, of all the possible analogues for demons in creating an analogy, you chose Wal-Mart… 🙂

            You’ll find a more elaborate discussion here: https://books.google.com/books?id=QO8noE-oIFEC&pg=PA69&dq=joel+marcus+satan+kingdom+stand&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiYuviFhfLbAhVL0oMKHYgBBksQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=joel%20marcus%20satan%20kingdom%20stand&f=false

            I think the key to all this is that you are making Jesus’ challenge to his opponents “Why would Satan do this?” rather than “How can his kingdom stand if he does this?” It is the latter that I am wrestling with, which is more the way it is put in Matthew than what we find in Mark, which may be coloring my thinking.

            I will share your fine retelling (not the WalMart parable, since I don’t want you to face accusations of plotting the downfall of a non-spiritual demonic corporation!)

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Well, consumerism is our golden calf, and in the absence of a Roman Empire to embody our spiritual oppression, I’m fine identifying it with the economic principalities and powers in high places. Besides, I needed an analogy that would represent some form of oppression without also attracting the attention of the Secret Service!

            “No, I swear. It was just an analogy.”

            What you did by contrasting our questions sums up the difference nicely, I think, and it also shows that there’s an overlap of concerns. I do, after all, think the central issue for Jesus is what’s happening to the respective kingdoms at that point in history and his own role in that.

            And maybe that last bit is where there’s potentially a degree of difference. I see Jesus (or at least his portrayal in this story) as being self-aware that he is in the process of bringing Satan’s kingdom down. He is binding the strong man so that the house can be pillaged. The fall of that house is a foregone conclusion. As such, it makes more sense to me read Jesus as challenging the notion that Satan would be assisting him in this enterprise.

            But if Jesus saw Satan’s kingdom as largely intact and potentially intact long term, as though the outcome were uncertain or the time frame of the potential destruction were very long, then I could envision the argument more in the way you describe. “If Satan were helping me, his kingdom would fall. But it isn’t falling, so do the math.”

          • John MacDonald

            I’m reminded of Genesis 3:15 where it says Satan will wound the heel that crushes him. This could have been creatively interpreted by Mark as Satan influencing the Jewish high council and the Romans to condemn God’s chosen one to the cross (like Ares influencing the Germans in the Wonder Woman movie – compare 2 Corinthians 4:4), where the plot twist is that this act of atonement defeats Satan by reconciling God to humans.

  • Gary

    My opinion – apocalyptic statement. Not so much reflecting “Satan”, “Kingdom”, and “House”. But reflecting Jesus’ current view of the geopolitical situation of his land, being from Northern Israel. Satan is current Priesthood. Kingdom is the historical situation of Israel, Northern Kingdom of Israel, Southern Kingdom of Judah, divided, fallen, and now in a total mess occupied by Rome. House is the Temple, which use to reside in two places, already fallen once, ready to fall again. Samaritans and Jews hate each other (much like Republicans and Democrats). Summary of Jesus’s comments – shit happens. And will continue to happen in the future. Mark is reflecting imminent 70 AD event. Whether Jesus actually said this, is a matter of debate. Maybe, maybe not.

  • John MacDonald

    The effects of demonic powers on humanity are interesting in the NT. As best as I can tell, the early church saw Demonic powers (and Satan in particular) as a problem because potential converts were viewed as being “divided” between their inclination to come to faith in Jesus, and the effect of the ‘theos tou aiones toutou’ who was “blinding people’s minds” against the gospel (2 Cor 4:4). The returning Christ would subjugate the demonic powers (Rom 8:38, also cf. Eph 6:12), and these are also the super powers who’s knees (according to Philippians) will bend before the returning Christ who will be, as Paula Fredriksen nicely phrases it, the “eschatological Lord Messiah.” Mark allegorically illustrates the influence of Satan on the minds of the righteous by having Satan tempt Jesus (Mark 1:12-13). This may be meant to illustrate the “divided self” struggle of the righteous person against the lures of earthly wealth/power (Mark 10:25, 10:21). As more and more people come to faith in Christ, demonic influence that causes things like avarice diminishes, but it is only on Christ’s return that these super powers will be completely subjugated.

  • Neko

    This reminds me of Amy-Jill Levine’s mention of the ancient Hebrews’ apparent aversion to category confusion. On one level, the opposition of Satan and casting out Satan might be an example of this essentialism.

    • Could you say more about what you mean? I’m intrigued by this suggestion but not certain I’ve understood exactly what you are envisaging.

  • From what I’ve read, the “Satan” referred to in the gospels developed in Second Temple Judaism as something similar to the Zoroastrian divinity of evil, with a host of other fallen heavenly beings to aid him.

    The “satan” of the pre-Second Temple Hebrew Bible, primarily the Old Testament, is a word for an accuser, sometimes a specific heavenly accuser when used with a definite article. The OT satan always works at the behest of, or at the very least with the permission of, Yahweh or Elohim. There is a sort of conflict between God and satan in the book of Job, at least a conflict of perspectives, but satan “tests” Job (by destroying his wealth and killing his children and servants) with God’s full permission.

    The OT Satan almost seems like an example of God divided against Himself.

  • AWRM

    Could it not simply be that there are various ways a kingdom can fall? A kingdom united could fall either by an overwhelmingly more powerful adversary or it could fall by itself and certainly more easily if it is disunited. Jesus was merely commenting on one way that a kingdom could fall. However, even if the kingdom of Satan is united, it will still fall in the face of the superior forces of our Lord.

  • Gary

    I still say it’s more to do with history. Long, but interesting.
    Elaine Pagels, “The Origin of Satan”.

    “But many other Jews, perhaps the majority of the population of Jerusalem and the countryside—tradespeople, artisans, and farmers—detested these “Hellenizing Jews” as traitors to God and Israel alike. The revolt ignited by old Mattathias encouraged people to resist Antiochus’s orders,…

    These divisions now intensified, as the more rigorously separatist party dominated by the Maccabees opposed the Hellenizing party. The former, having won the war, had the upper hand….

    Ten to twenty years after the revolt began, the influential Hasmonean family gained control of the high priesthood in what was now essentially a theocratic state. Although originally identified with their Maccabean ancestors, successive generations of the family abandoned the austere habits of their predecessors. Two generations after the Maccabean victory, the party of Pharisees, advocating increased religious rigor, challenged the Hasmoneans. According to Tcherikover’s analysis, the Pharisees, backed by tradespeople and farmers, despised the Hasmoneans as having become essentially secular rulers who had abandoned Israel’s ancestral ways. The Pharisees demanded that the Hasmoneans relinquish the high priesthood to those who deserved it—people like themselves, who strove to live according to religious law.

    During the following decades, other, more radical dissident groups joined the Pharisees in denouncing the great high priestly family and its allies.
    Such groups were anything but uniform: they were fractious and diverse, and with the passage of time included various groups of Essenes, the monastic community at Kirbet Qûmran, as well as their allies in the towns, and the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. What these groups shared was their opposition to the high priest and his allies and to the Temple, which they controlled.
    The majority of Jews, including the Pharisees, still defined themselves in traditional terms, as “Israel against ‘the nations.’ ” But those who joined marginal or more extreme groups like the Essenes, bent on separating Israel radically from foreign influence, came to treat that traditional identification as a matter of secondary importance. What mattered primarily, these rigorists claimed, was not whether one was Jewish—this they took for granted—but rather “which of us [Jews] really are on God’s side” and which had “walked in the ways of the nations,” that is, adopted foreign cultural and commercial practices. The separatists found ammunition in biblical passages that invoke terrifying curses upon people who violate God’s covenant, and in prophetic passages that warn that only a “righteous remnant” in Israel will remain faithful to God.
    More radical than their predecessors, these dissidents began increasingly to invoke the satan to characterize their Jewish opponents; in the process they turned this rather unpleasant angel into a far grander—and far more malevolent—figure. No longer one of God’s faithful servants, he begins to become what he is for Mark and for later Christianity—God’s antagonist, his enemy, even his rival.”

    “For Mark the secret meaning of such conflict is clear. Those who are offended and outraged by Jesus’ actions do not know that Jesus is impelled by God’s spirit to contend against the forces of evil, whether those forces manifest themselves in the invisible demonic presences who infect and possess people, or in his actual human opponents. When the Pharisees and Herodians conspire to kill Jesus, they themselves, Mark suggests, are acting as agents of evil. As Mark tells the story, Jesus has barely engaged Satan’s power before his opponents “conspired . . . how they might kill him” (3:6).
    Mark suggests that Jesus recognizes that the leaders who oppose him are energized by unseen forces. Immediately after this powerful coalition has united against him, Jesus retaliates by commissioning a new leadership group, “the twelve,” presumably assigning one leader for each of the original twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus orders them to preach and gives them “power to cast out demons” (3:13).
    This escalation of spiritual conflict immediately evokes escalating opposition—opposition that begins at home, within Jesus’ own family. Mark says that when Jesus “went home … his family . . . went out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is insane [or: beside himself]’ ” (3:21 ). Next “the scribes who came down from Jerusalem” charge that Jesus himself “is possessed by Beelzebub; by the prince of demons he casts out demons” (3:22). Jesus objects:
    “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house” (3:23-27).

    According to Mark, it is apparently the “house of Israel” that Jesus sees as a divided house, a divided kingdom. Jesus openly contends against Satan, who he believes has overtaken God’s own household, which he has come to purify and reclaim: Jesus wants to “bind this enemy” and “plunder his house.”
    As for the scribes’ accusation that Jesus is possessed by the “prince of demons,” he throws back upon them the same accusation of demon-possession and warns that in saying this they are sinning so deeply as to seal their own damnation (3:28- 30). For, he says, whoever attributes the work of God’s spirit to Satan commits the one unforgivable sin:
    “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven to human beings, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit is never forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—because they said, “He is possessed by an evil spirit” (3:28-30).

    Mark deliberately places these scenes of Jesus’ conflict with the scribes between two episodes depicting Jesus’ conflict with his own family. Immediately after this, the Greek text of Mark says that members of the family, who had previously declared him insane and had tried to seize him (3:21), now come to the house where he is addressing a large crowd and ask to see him. Jesus repudiates them:
    And his mother and brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him, and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And looking around at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (3:31-35).
    Having formed a new family, and having appointed twelve new leaders for Israel to replace the old ones, Jesus has, Mark suggests, “re-formed God’s people.” From this point on, Jesus sharply discriminates between those he has chosen, the inner circle, and “those outside.” He still draws enormous crowds, but while teaching them, he offers riddling parables, deliberately concealing his full meaning from all but his intimates:…”

  • Igor’s Pal

    As usual, Professor McGrath is trying to spread confusion.

    Your father is proud of you, Professor.

    • What an odd comment to make on a post that is entirely focused on understanding Jesus’ words and clarifying their meaning.