The Tradition of the Elders.* 1Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him,a 2they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. 3(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands,* keeping the tradition of the elders. 4And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].) 5So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders* but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” 6He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:b
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7In vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.’
8You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” 9He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’c 11Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’* (meaning, dedicated to God), 12you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. 13You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.” 14d He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. 15Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” *
17* e When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. 18He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19* f since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20“But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. 21g From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. 23All these evils come from within and they defile.”
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith. 24h From that place he went off to the district of Tyre.* He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. 25Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. 26The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.i 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.* For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 28She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
The Healing of a Deaf Man. 31j Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. 32And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) 35And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. 36* He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. 37They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”k
* [7:1–23] See note on Mt 15:1–20. Against the Pharisees’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of purification (Mk 7:2–5), external worship (Mk 7:6–7), and observance of commandments, Jesus sets in opposition the true moral intent of the divine law (Mk 7:8–13). But he goes beyond contrasting the law and Pharisaic interpretation of it. The parable of Mk 7:14–15 in effect sets aside the law itself in respect to clean and unclean food. He thereby opens the way for unity between Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God, intimated by Jesus’ departure for pagan territory beyond Galilee. For similar contrast see Mk 2:1–3:6; 3:20–35; 6:1–6.
* [7:3] Carefully washing their hands: refers to ritual purification.
* [7:11] Qorban: a formula for a gift to God, dedicating the offering to the temple, so that the giver might continue to use it for himself but not give it to others, even needy parents.
* [7:17] Away from the crowd…the parable: in this context of privacy the term parable refers to something hidden, about to be revealed to the disciples; cf. Mk 4:10–11, 34. Jesus sets the Mosaic food laws in the context of the kingdom of God where they are abrogated, and he declares moral defilement the only cause of uncleanness.
* [7:24–37] The withdrawal of Jesus to the district of Tyre may have been for a respite (Mk 7:24), but he soon moved onward to Sidon and, by way of the Sea of Galilee, to the Decapolis. These districts provided a Gentile setting for the extension of his ministry of healing because the people there acknowledged his power (Mk 7:29, 37). The actions attributed to Jesus (Mk 7:33–35) were also used by healers of the time.
* [7:27–28] The figure of a household in which children at table are fed first and then their leftover food is given to the dogs under the table is used effectively to acknowledge the prior claim of the Jews to the ministry of Jesus; however, Jesus accedes to the Gentile woman’s plea for the cure of her afflicted daughter because of her faith.
* [7:36] The more they proclaimed it: the same verb proclaim attributed here to the crowd in relation to the miracles of Jesus is elsewhere used in Mark for the preaching of the gospel on the part of Jesus, of his disciples, and of the Christian community (Mk 1:14; 13:10; 14:9). Implied in the action of the crowd is a recognition of the salvific mission of Jesus; see note on Mt 11:5–6.