Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The transfiguration of Christ, and the discourse occasioned by it, Mar 9:1-13. He casts out a dumb spirit which his disciples could not, vv. 14-29. He foretells his death, Mar 9:30-32. The disciples dispute about supremacy, and Christ corrects them, Mar 9:33-37. Of the person who cast out demons in Christ's name, but did not follow him, Mar 9:38-40. Every kind of office done to the disciples of Christ shall be rewarded by him, and all injuries done to them shall be punished, Mar 9:41, Mar 9:42. The necessity of mortification and self-denial, Mar 9:43-48. Of the salting of sacrifices, Mar 9:49; and the necessity of having union among the disciples of Christ, Mar 9:50.
There be some - This verse properly belongs to the preceding chapter, and to the preceding discourse. It is in this connection in Mat 16:27-28 (note). See the notes there.
And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, etc. - For a full account of the nature and design of the transfiguration, see on Mat 17:1 (note), etc.
A high mountain - I have conjectured, Mat 17:1, that this was one of the mountains of Galilee: some say Hermon, some Tabor; but Dr. Lightfoot thinks a mountain near Caesarea Philippi to be more likely.
Was transfigured - Four good MSS. and Origen add here, And While They Were Praying he was transfigured; but this appears to be added from Luk 9:29.
And they kept that saying - This verse is wanting in two MSS. and one of the Itala.
What the rising from the dead should mean - Ὁταν εκ νεκρων αναϚῃ, When he should arise from the dead, is the reading of D, six others, Syriac, all the Persic, Vulgate, all the Itala, and Jerome. Griesbach approves of it. There is nothing that answers to this verse either in Matthew or Luke.
And how it is written - Rather, as also it is written. Instead of και πως, And How it is written, I read καθως, As Also it is written of the Son of man, etc. This reading is supported by AKM, seventeen others, the later Syriac in the margin, Slavonic and Armenian. Some think the propriety of adopting this reading is self-evident.
Were greatly amazed - Probably, because he came so unexpectedly; but the cause of this amazement is not self-evident.
A dumb spirit - That is, a demon who afflicted those in whom it dwelt with an incapacity of speaking. The spirit itself could not be either deaf or dumb. These are accidents that belong only to organized animate bodies. See this case explained, Mat 17:14 (note), etc.
Pineth away - By these continual torments; so he was not only deaf and dumb, but sorely tortured besides.
When he saw him the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, etc. - When this demon saw Jesus, he had great rage, knowing that his time was short; and hence the extraordinary convulsions mentioned above.
If Thou canst Do any thing - I have already tried thy disciples, and find they can do nothing in this case; but if thou hast any power, in mercy use it in our behalf.
If Thou canst Believe - This was an answer to the inquiry above. I can furnish a sufficiency of power, if thou canst but bring faith to receive it. Why are not our souls completely healed? Why is not every demon cast out? Why are not pride, self-will, love of the world, lust, anger, peevishness, with all the other bad tempers and dispositions which constitute the mind of Satan, entirely destroyed? Alas! it is because we do not believe; Jesus is able; more, Jesus is willing; but we are not willing to give up our idols; we give not credence to his word; therefore hath sin a being in us, and dominion over us.
Lord, I believe - The word Lord is omitted by ABCDL, both the Syriac, both the Arabic later Persic, Ethiopic, Gothic, and three copies of the Itala. Griesbach leaves it out. The omission, I think, is proper, because it is evident the man did not know our Lord, and therefore could not be expected to accost him with a title expressive of that authority which he doubted whether he possessed, unless we grant that he used the word κυριε after the Roman custom, for Sir.
Help thou mine unbelief - That is, assist me against it. Give me a power to believe.
I charge thee - Considerable emphasis should be laid on the pronoun: - Thou didst resist the command of my disciples, now I command thee to come out. If this had been only a natural disease, for instance the epilepsy, as some have argued, could our Lord have addressed it, with any propriety, as he has done here: Thou deaf and dumb spirit, come out of him, and enter no more into him? Is the doctrine of demoniacal influence false? If so, Jesus took the most direct method to perpetuate the belief of that falsity, by accommodating himself so completely to the deceived vulgar. But this was impossible; therefore the doctrine of demoniacal influence is a true doctrine, otherwise Christ would never have given it the least countenance or support.
Prayer and fasting - See on Mat 17:21 (note).
This demon may be considered as an emblem of deeply rooted vices, and inveterate habits, over which the conquest is not generally obtained, but through extraordinary humiliations.
This case is related by both Matthew and Luke, but it is greatly amplified in Mark's account, and many new circumstances related. Another proof that Mark did not abridge Matthew.
They - passed through Galilee - See on Mat 17:22-27 (note).
But they understood not - This whole verse is wanting in two MSS., in the first edition of Erasmus, and in that of Aldus. Mill approves of the omission. It does not appear likely, from Matthew's account, that three of the disciples, Peter, James, and John, could be ignorant of the reasons of Christ's death and resurrection, after the transfiguration; on the contrary, from the circumstances there related, it is very probable that from that time they must have had at least a general understanding of this important subject; but the other nine might have been ignorant of this matter, who were not present at the transfiguration; probably it is of these that the evangelist speaks here. See the observations on the transfiguration, Mat 17:9 (note), etc., and Mat 18:1 (note).
And being in the house - That is, Peter's house, where he ordinarily lodged. This has been often observed before.
Who should be the greatest - See on Mat 18:1-5 (note).
We saw one casting out devils in thy name - It can scarcely be supposed that a man who knew nothing of Christ, or who was only a common exorcist, could be able to work a miracle in Christ's name; we may therefore safely imagine that this was either one of John the Baptist's disciples, who, at his master's command, had believed in Jesus, or one of the seventy, whom Christ had sent out, Luk 10:1-7, who, after he had fulfilled his commission, had retired from accompanying the other disciples; but as he still held fast his faith in Christ, and walked in good conscience, the influence of his Master still continued with him, so that he could cast out demons as well as the other disciples.
He followeth not us - This first clause is omitted by BCL, three others, Syriac, Armenian, Persic, Coptic, and one of the Itala. Some of the MSS. and versions leave out the first; some the second clause: only one of them is necessary. Griesbach leaves out the first.
We forbade him - I do not see that we have any right to attribute any other motive to John than that which he himself owns - because he followed not us - because he did not attach himself constantly to thee, as we do, we thought he could not be in a proper spirit.
Forbid him not - If you meet him again, let him go on quietly in the work in which God owns him. If he were not of God, the demons would not be subject to him, and his work could not prosper. A spirit of bigotry has little countenance from these passages. There are some who are so outrageously wedded to their own creed, and religious system, that they would rather let sinners perish than suffer those who differ from them to become the instruments of their salvation. Even the good that is done they either deny or suspect, because the person does not follow them. This also is vanity and an evil disease.
He that is not against us, is on our part - Or rather, Whosoever is not against You, is for You. Instead of ἡμων, us, I would read ὑμων, you, on the authority of ADSHV, upwards of forty others, Syriac, Armenian, Persic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Gothic, Slavonic, Vulgate, Itala, Victor, and Opt. This reading is more consistent with the context - He followed not us - well, he is not against You; and he who is not against you, in such a work, may be fairly presumed to be on your side.
There is a parallel case to this mentioned in Num 11:26-29, which, for the elucidation of this passage, I will transcribe. "The Spirit rested upon Eldad and Medad, and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua, the servant of Moses, said, My lord Moses, forbid them! And Moses said unto him, Enviest Thou for My sake? Would God, that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them." The reader will easily observe that Joshua and John were of the same bigoted spirit; and that Jesus and Moses acted from the spirit of candour and benevolence. See the notes on Num 11:25-29 (note).
A cup of water to drink - See the notes on Mat 10:42; Mat 18:6-8.
Thy hand - foot - eye - cause thee to offend; - See the notes on Mat 5:29-30 (note).
The fire that never shall be quenched - That is, the inextinguishable fire. This clause is wanting in L, three others, the Syriac, and later Persic. Some eminent critics suppose it to be a spurious reading; but the authorities which are for it, are by no means counterbalanced by those which are against it. The same clause in Mar 9:45, is omitted in BCL, seven others, Syriac, later Persic, Coptic, and one Itala. Eternal fire is the expression of Matthew.
For every one shall be salted with fire - Every one of those who shall live and die in sin: but there is great difficulty in this verse. The Codex Bezae, and some other MSS., have omitted the first clause; and several MSS. keep the first, and omit the last clause - and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. There appears to be an allusion to Isa 66:24. It is generally supposed that our Lord means, that as salt preserves the flesh with which it is connected from corruption, so this everlasting fire, το πυρ το ασβεστον, this inconsumable fire, will have the property, not only of assimilating all things cast into it to its own nature, but of making them inconsumable like itself.
Scaliger supposes, that instead of πας πυρι, πασα πυρια, every sacrifice (of flour) should be read, "Every sacrifice (of flour) shall be salted, and every burnt offering shall be salted." This, I fear, is taking the text by storm. Some take the whole in a good sense, as referring to the influence of the Spirit of God in the hearts of believers, which shall answer the same end to the soul, in preserving it from the contagion that is in the world, as salt did in the sacrifices offered to God to preserve them from putrefaction. Old Trapp's note on the place pleases me as much as any I have seen: - "The Spirit, as salt, must dry up those bad humours in us which breed the never-dying worm; and, as fire, must waste our corruptions, which else will carry us on to the unquenchable fire." Perhaps the whole is an allusion to the purification of vessels, and especially such metallic vessels as were employed in the service of the sanctuary. Probably the following may be considered as a parallel text: - Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shalt make go through the fire, and it shall be clean; and all that abideth not the fire, ye shall make go through the water, Num 31:23. Ye, disciples, are the Lord's sacrifice; ye shall go through much tribulation, in order to enter into my kingdom: but ye are salted, ye are influenced by the Spirit of God, and are immortal till your work is done; and should ye be offered up, martyred, this shall be a means of establishing more fully the glad tidings of the kingdom: and this Spirit shall preserve all who believe on me from the corruption of sin, and from eternal perdition. That converts to God are represented as his offering, see Isa 66:20, the very place which our Lord appears to have here in view.
If this passage be taken according to the common meaning, it is awful indeed! Here may be seen the greatness, multiplicity, and eternity, of the pains of the damned. They suffer without being able to die; they are burned without being consumed; they are sacrificed without being sanctified - are salted with the fire of hell, as eternal victims of the Divine Justice. We must of necessity be sacrificed to God, after one way or other, in eternity; and we have now the choice either of the unquenchable fire of his justice, or of the everlasting flame of his love. Quesnel.
If the salt have lost his saltness - See on Mat 5:13 (note).
Have salt in yourselves - See that ye have at all times the preserving principle of Divine grace in your hearts, and give that proof of it which will satisfy your own minds, and convince or silence the world: live in brotherly kindness and peace with each other: thus shall all men see that you are free from ambition, (see Mar 9:34), and that you are my disciples indeed. That it is possible for the salt to lose its savor, and yet retain its appearance in the most perfect manner, see proved on the note on Mat 5:13 (note).