From: Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Mark Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2013
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Weymouth: When they were getting near Jerusalem and had arrived at Bethphage and Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples on in front, with these instructions.
WEB: When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethsphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,
Young’s: And when they come nigh to Jerusalem, to Bethphage, and Bethany, unto the mount of the Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
Conte (RC): And as they were approaching Jerusalem and Bethania, toward the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,
11:1 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem. The distance from Jericho to Jerusalem (about seventeen miles) would involve a journey of about seven hours. The country between Jerusalem and Jericho is hilly, rugged, and desolate. 
unto Bethphage and Bethany. It is from the height overlooking Bethany that the finest view of Jerusalem is gained. Bethphage literally means “the house of green figs,” as Bethany, lying a short distance west of it, means “the house of dates." The date palm growing in the neighborhood would furnish the branches with which the multitude strewed the way on the occasion of our Lord's triumphal entry. 
Bethphage. Some manuscripts omit the name in Mark, though it stands unquestioned in Matthew and Luke. Probably the place was a small hamlet, named from its fig trees. F. R. and C. R. Conder say: "It appears clear, from a number of passages in the Talmud (Menakhoth 11.2) that Beth Phagi marked the sabbatical limit east of Jerusalem. This limit was called the 'wall of Bethphagi' (Tal. Bab. Menakkoth 78b), and the position thus indicated would be two thousand cubits from the east wall of Jerusalem." 
Bethany. [This] was on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives distant from Jerusalem fifteen furlongs. This is Mark's first mention of this village, although Jesus previously visited it, and had, it appears, the freedom of a home for Himself and the twelve in the "Bethany family," consisting of Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Here He had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). 
at the Mount of Olives. It lay on the east of Jerusalem, separated from it by the valley of Kedron. David crossed it in his flight from Absalom, worshipping at the top (2 Samuel 15:30, 32); here Solomon, for the idolatrous worship of his heathen wives, set up "high places" (1 Kings 11:7), which 360 years afterwards were destroyed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:13-14). From this mount branches were brought for booths at the feast of tabernacles observed after the return from Babylon (Nehemiah 8:15). It has, too, a place in prophetical or typical prophecy (Ezekiel 11:23; Zechariah 14:4-9). 
He sendeth forth two of His disciples. Who were they? Bede thinks that they were Peter and Philip. Jansenius, with greater probability, thinks that they were Peter and John, because a little after this Christ sent these two to prepare for the Passover. But we know nothing certain on this point. 
A historical note on the entrance into Jerusalem: From Alfred Edersheim, The Temple (1874):
From whatever side the pilgrim might approach the city, the first impression must have been solemn and deep. But a special surprise awaited those who came, whether from Jericho or from Galilee, by the well-known road that led over the Mount of Olives. From the south, beyond royal Bethlehem—from the west, descending over the heights of Beth-horon—or from the north, journeying along the mountains of Ephraim, they would have seen the city first vaguely looming in the grey distance, till, gradually approaching, they had become familiar with its outlines.
It was far otherwise from the east. A turn in the road, and the city, hitherto entirely hid from view, would burst upon them suddenly, closely, and to most marked advantage. It was by this road Jesus made His triumphal entry from Bethany on the week of His Passion.
Up from "the house of dates" the broad, rough road wound round the shoulder of Olivet. Thither the wondering crowd from Bethany followed Him, and there the praising multitude from the city met Him. They had come up that same Olivet, so familiar to them all. For did it not seem almost to form part of the city itself shutting it off like a screen from the desert land that descended beyond to Jordan and the Dead Sea?
From the Temple Mount to the western base of Olivet, it was not more than 100 or 200 yards straight across, though, of course, the distance to the summit was much greater, say about half a mile. By the nearest pathway it was only 918 yards from the city gate to the principal summit. Olivet was always fresh and green, even in earliest spring or during parched summer—the coolest, the pleasantest, the most sheltered walk about Jerusalem.
For across this road the Temple and its mountain flung their broad shadows, and luxuriant foliage spread a leafy canopy overhead. They were not gardens, in the ordinary Western sense, through which one passed, far less orchards; but something peculiar to those climes, where Nature everywhere strews with lavish hand her flowers, and makes her gardens—where the garden bursts into the orchard, and the orchard stretches into the field, till, high up, olive and fig mingle with the darker cypress and pine. The stony road up Olivet wound along terraces covered with olives, whose silver and dark green leaves rustled in the breeze.
Here gigantic gnarled fig trees twisted themselves out of rocky soil; there clusters of palms raised their knotty stems high up into waving plumed tufts, or spread, bush-like, from the ground, the rich-coloured fruit bursting in clusters from the pod. Then there were groves of myrtle, pines, tall, stately cypresses, and on the summit itself two gigantic cedars.
To these shady retreats the inhabitants would often come from Jerusalem to take pleasure or to meditate, and there one of their most celebrated Rabbis was at one time wont in preference to teach. (R. Jochanan ben Saccai, who was at the head of the Sanhedrim immediately before and after the destruction of Jerusalem.) Thither, also, Christ with His disciples often resorted.
Coming from Bethany the city would be for some time completely hidden from view by the intervening ridge of Olivet. But a sudden turn of the road, where "the descent of the Mount of Olives" begins, all at once a first glimpse of Jerusalem is caught, and that quite close at hand. True, the configuration of Olivet on the right would still hide the Temple and most part of the city; but across Ophel, the busy suburb of the priests, the eye might range to Mount Zion, and rapidly climb its height to where Herod's palace covered the site once occupied by that of David.
A few intervening steps of descent, where the view of the city has again been lost, and the pilgrim would hurry on to that ledge of rock. What a panorama over which to roam with hungry eagerness! At one glance he would see before him the whole city—its valleys and hills, its walls and towers, its palaces and streets, and its magnificent Temple—almost like a vision from another world. There could be no difficulty in making out the general features of the scene.
Altogether the city was only thirty-three stadia, or about four English miles, in circumference. Within this compass dwelt a population of 600,000 (according to Tacitus), but, according to the Jewish historian, amounting at the time of the Passover to between two and three millions, or about equal to that of London.
Mr. Fergusson, in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible ,controverts these numbers, on the ground of the population of modern cities within a given area. But two millions represent not the ordinary population, only the festive throngs at the Passover. Taking into consideration Eastern habits—the sleeping on the roof, and possibly the camping out—the computation is not extravagant.
Besides, however untruthful Josephus was, he may, as a general rule, be trusted where official numbers, capable of verification, are concerned. In fact, taking into account this extraordinary influx, the Rabbis distinctly state, that during the feasts—except on the first night—the people might camp outside Jerusalem, but within the limits of a sabbath-day's journey. This, as Otho well remarks (Lex. Rabb. p. 195), also explains how, on such occasions, our Lord so often retired to the Mount of Olives.
Weymouth: "Go," He said, "to the village facing you, and immediately on entering it you will find an ass's foal tied up which no one has ever yet ridden: untie him and bring him here.
WEB: and said to them, "Go your way into the village that is opposite you. Immediately as you enter into it, you will find a young donkey tied, on which no one has sat. Untie him, and bring him.
Young’s: and saith to them, 'Go away to the village that is over-against you, and immediately, entering into it, ye shall find a colt tied, on which no one of men hath sat, having loosed it, bring it:
Conte (RC): and he said to them: "Go into the village that is opposite you, and immediately upon entering there, you will find a colt tied, on which no man has yet sat. Release him and bring him.
11:2 And saith unto them. In this case meaning “give His instructions as to where to go and what to do.” [rw]
Go your way into the village over agaaint [opposite, NKJV] you. Perhaps across a valley from the spot where they stood. What the village was we do not know, possibly Bethphage. 
"The road from Bethany to Jerusalem, as it passed along the Mount of Olives, encountered a deep valley, and made a long detour around the head of the valley to avoid the descent and ascent. A short foot-path, however, led directly across the valley, and it was probably from the point where this parted from the road that the disciples were sent to the village on the opposite side where the path again met the road--a site still marked by ruins" (Gardiner's Greek Harmony, 172).
If this is to be accepted, doubtless the Lord and His company had already passed the village, and the disciples were sent, not forward, but back by the short footpath, to bring an animal that Jesus had seen as He passed it. Having a Messianic entrance in mind, He would notice the animal, while His companions might not. 
As soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied. Matthew says, “an ass tied and a colt with her." According to both accounts, it was the colt that was ridden; so Mark, pursuing his characteristic method of singling out the one most important person or object in a group, mentions the colt and says nothing of the dam. (For other examples of this method, compare 5:2 with Matthew 8:28; 7:31-32 with Matthew 15:29-30; 10:46 with Matthew 20:30; 11:21 with Matthew 21:20; 12:2 with Matthew 21:34; 13:1-2 with Matthew 24:31). 
whereon never man has sat. In this it is supposed is implied, that He for whose use the colt was to be brought, was a sacred person; thus in Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3, we find that heifers to be offered in sacrifice were to be such as had never been employed in labor. 
Alternative interpretation: "Whereon never man sat"--i.e., young. 
Weymouth: And if any one asks you, 'Why are you doing that?' say, 'The Master needs it, and will send it back here without delay.'"
WEB: If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs him;' and immediately he will send him back here."
Young’s: and if any one may say to you, Why do ye this? say ye that the lord hath need of it, and immediately he will send it hither.'
Conte (RC): And if anyone will say to you: 'What are you doing?' Say that the Lord has need of him. And he will immediately send him here."
11:3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? A logical question! A locally unknown man walks up and starts to walk away with an animal that is clearly not his! [rw]
Say ye that the Lord hath need of him. If he was a disciple this simple statement was enough; if a stranger a divine influence made him willing to do as requested. 
Lord. Meaning, possibly, Jehovah, indicating that the animal was claimed for a religious purpose in the service of God; more probably for Jesus Himself, whom the owner knew to be passing. His disciples called Him "Lord" in a special sense, and at this moment He was openly performing a kingly act. 
and straightway [immediately, NKJV] he will send him hither. The Greek, according to the best authorities here, is literally, “straightway he sendeth it back hither again." The verb here in the present may represent the verb in the future, “he will send it back." But the word “again” is not quite so easily explained. There is strong authority for the insertion of this word, which necessarily changes the meaning of the sentence. Without the "again" the sentence would actually mean that our Lord by His Divine prescience here tells His disciples that when the colt was demanded by them the owner would at once permit them to take it. But if the word “again" be inserted, it can only mean that this was a part of the message which our Lord directed His disciples to deliver as from Himself, "The Lord hath need of him; and He, the Lord, will forthwith send him back again." The passage is so interpreted by Origen, who twice introduces the adverb in his commentary on St. Matthew. 
Weymouth: So they went and found a young ass tied up at the front door of a house. They were untying it,
WEB: They went away, and found a young donkey tied at the door outside in the open street, and they untied him.
Young’s: And they went away, and found the colt tied at the door without, by the two ways, and they loose it,
Conte (RC): And going out, they found the colt tied before the outer gate, at the meeting of two ways. And they untied him.
11:4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. While the parallel accounts simply state that the disciples went and did (Matthew 21:6) and found (Luke 19:32) as He had told them, Mark describes where they found the colt tied, namely "by the door without," i.e. just outside of the house and at the very door, no doubt that of its proprietor, who had probably just used or was about to use it. 
Weymouth: when some of the bystanders called out, "What are you doing, untying the foal?"
WEB: Some of those who stood there asked them, "What are you doing, untying the young donkey?"
Young’s: and certain of those standing there said to them, 'What do ye -- loosing the colt?'
Conte (RC): And some of those who were standing there said to them, "What are you doing by releasing the colt?"
11:5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them. The owners (Luke 19:33). 
What do ye, loosing the colt? Here Mark gives an incident which is omitted by the other writers. He states that the inquiry which was anticipated by the Savior, was actually made when the disciples were untying the colt. 
Weymouth: But on their giving the answer that Jesus had bidden them give, they let them take it.
WEB: They said to them just as Jesus had said, and they let them go.
Young’s: and they said to them as Jesus commanded, and they suffered them.
Conte (RC): And they spoke to them just as Jesus had instructed them. And they permitted them.
11:6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. This was another display of foreknowledge, showing that Jesus knew where the animals would be found, and what would be the mind and word of their owner. 
Weymouth: So they brought the foal to Jesus, and threw their outer garments over him; and Jesus mounted.
WEB: They brought the young donkey to Jesus, and threw their garments on it, and Jesus sat on it.
Young’s: And they brought the colt unto Jesus, and did cast upon it their garments, and he sat upon it,
Conte (RC): And they led the colt to Jesus. And they placed their garments on it; and he sat upon it.
11:7 And they brught the colt to Jesus and cast their garments on him. Their outer garments made a covering for the animal, on which He took his seat. 
and He sat upon him. Perhaps one of the apostles led it by the bridle, as some suppose. 
In the East there were no ignoble associations with the ass, but the very reverse. It was the ordinary riding animal of the country, used by kings, princes, and men of the highest rank, as well as by others; e.g., Absalom, Balaam, judges and their sons, the daughters of Caleb, Abigail who became David's wife. This act fulfilled, we are told by Matthew (21:5) and John (12:15) a prophecy of Zechariah (9:9): "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Therefore His entering the holy city thus mounted, according to the prophecy, was a proclamation that He was King Messiah; but this symbolical act presents Him not as a warrior king, but as the King of Peace; for whilst the horse, as mentioned in Scripture, is associated chiefly with war, even in the writings of the prophets who lived after Solomon had made them numerous in the land, the ass was associated with the pursuits of peace. 
Weymouth: Then many spread their outer garments to carpet the road, and others leafy branches which they had cut down in the fields;
WEB: Many spread their garments on the way, and others were cutting down branches from the trees, and spreading them on the road.
Young’s: and many did spread their garments in the way, and others were cutting down branches from the trees, and were strewing in the way.
Conte (RC): Then many spread their garments along the way; but others cut down leafy branches from trees and scattered them on the way.
11:8 And many spread their garments in the way [on the road, NKJV]. For [Jesus] to walk upon (2 Kings 9:13). 
This was a part of the reception given a king by an enthusiastic town. 
And others cut down branches off the trees and strawed [spread, NKJV] them in the way. The three separate roads from Bethany to Jerusalem passed by plantations of palm trees, and fruit and olive gardens. 
Weymouth: while those who led the way and those who followed kept shouting "God save Him!" Blessed be He who comes in the Lord's name.
WEB: Those who went in front, and those who followed, cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Young’s: And those going before and those following were crying out, saying, 'Hosanna! blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord;
Conte (RC): And those who went ahead, and those who followed, cried out saying: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who has arrived in the name of the Lord.
11:9 And they that went before, and they that followed. From John 12:12[-13], it appears that a second stream of people issuing from the holy city came forth to meet the Saviour, and those joining the others coming from Bethany, turned round and swelled the long procession towards Jerusalem. 
cried, saying, Hosanna! A Hebrew word meaning "Save now;" it was therefore a prayer to God now to save Israel, or to be favorable to Jesus, whom, as the rest of the verse shows, they meant to recognize as the Messiah. 
The word literally means “Oh, save!" It may have been originally the cry of captives or rebels for mercy; and thus have passed into a general acclamation, expressive of joy and deliverance. 
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Quoted from Psalms 118:26. 
Blessed. Adored, honored, praised, a word commonly used in ascriptions of praise and glory to God. 
He who comes. "The coming one" (ho erchomenos). The looked for Messiah was thus designated in the language of the day. See Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19-20; John 6:14; 11:27; Acts 19:4; Hebrews 10:37. This form of designation may have been derived from the Psalm here quoted, or from the last Messianic promise (Malachi 3:1). 
Weymouth: Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our forefather David! God in the highest Heavens save Him!"
WEB: Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
Young’s: blessed is the coming reign, in the name of the Lord, of our father David; Hosanna in the highest.'
Conte (RC): Blessed is the advent of the kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest!"
11:10 Blessed be the kingdom. As the several evangelists record their joyous strain in different forms, it appears that the multitude not only first quoted literally from the Psalm, but as they repeated it over and over again, they made various additions, all designed to apply the language to Jesus and proclaim Him as the messiah. 
of our father David. This recognizes clearly that Christ's kingdom is the continuation of the old kingdom of God's people, whose glories are prophesied so often in the Old Testament. 
kingdom . . . that cometh in the name of the Lord. This exclamation of the people shows that they expected Jesus to immediately set up the kingdom of David, and to assume the throne which had been vacant from the time of the Babylonish captivity. Luke, indeed, states it as a fact in connection with His journey to Jerusalem, that the multitude who followed Him “thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11). It was the exulting thought of nation independence and glory that inspired their acclamations; and the same feeling prepared them for the reverse of feeling toward Jesus, which occurred when they found Him a prisoner in the hands of Pontius Pilate. 
Hosanna in the highest. Not “in the highest degree,” but “in the highest regions"--i.e., in heaven. "God bless Him in heaven and send the blessing on Him here!" Equivalent substantially, though not strictly, to “God in heaven bless him!" 
Weymouth: So He came into Jerusalem and into the Temple; and after looking round upon everything there, the hour being now late He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
WEB: Jesus entered into the temple in Jerusalem. When he had looked around at everything, it being now evening, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Young’s: And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple, and having looked round on all things, it being now evening, he went forth to Bethany with the twelve.
Conte (RC): And he entered into Jerusalem, into the temple. And having looked around at everything, since it was now the evening hour, he went out to Bethania with the twelve.
11:11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem. At one point in the road the magnificent city burst into view. Then the procession may have paused, and our Lord wept over it (Luke 19:41-44). 
and into the temple. Mark alone follows Him to the temple. 
and when He had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come. At this point He is centered on observing rather than participation—either in a healing or teaching form. [rw]
He went out unto Bethany with the twelve. A lame and impotent conclusion it may well have seemed. One must imagine His friends walking out with Him at evening bitterly perplexed. They had their national hopes, of the carnal kind, which the event of the morning must have greatly encouraged; but He had entered the city and done nothing,--Notice the self-control of Jesus in never being driven a step beyond His own purpose by any expectations of His friends. 
We learn from Luke that He continued to make Bethany His lodging-place until the night of the Last Supper (Luke 21:37-38). 
A historical note on the Temple’s physical size and layout: From Alfred Edersheim, The Temple (1874):
The four principal entrances into the Temple—all of them from the west—the most northerly descended, perhaps by flights of steps, into the Lower City; while two others led into the suburb, or Parbar, as it is called. But by far the most magnificent avenue was that at the southwestern angle of the Temple. Probably this was "the ascent . . . into the house of the Lord," which so astounded the Queen of Sheba.
It would, indeed, be difficult to exaggerate the splendour of this approach. A colossal bridge on arches spanned the intervening Valley of the Tyropceon, connecting the ancient City of David with what is called the "Royal Porch of the Temple." From its ruins we can reconstruct this bridge. Each arch spanned 41 feet, and the spring-stones measured 24 feet in length by 6 in thickness. It is almost impossible to realise these proportions, except by a comparison with other buildings. A single stone 24 feet long! Yet these were by no means the largest in the masonry of the Temple. Both at the south-eastern and the south-western angles stones have been found measuring from 20 to 40 feet in length, and weighing above 100 tons.
Over the parapet of the bridge we might have looked into the Tyropoeon Valley below, a depth of not less than 225 feet. The roadway which spanned this cleft for a distance of 354 feet, from Mount Moriah to Mount Zion opposite, was 50 feet broad, that is, about 5 feet wider than the central avenue of the Royal Temple-Porch into which it led.
These "porches," as they are called in the New Testament, or cloisters, were among the finest architectural features of the Temple, They ran all round the inside of its wall, and bounded the outer enclosure of the Court of the Gentiles. They consisted of double rows of Corinthian pillars, all monoliths, wholly cut out of one block of marble, each pillar being 37 feet high. A flat roof, richly ornamented, rested against the wall, in which also the outer row of pillars was inserted.
The "Royal Porch," by which we are supposed to have entered the Temple, was the most splendid, consisting not as the others, of a double, but of a treble colonnade, formed of 162 pillars, ranged in four rows of 40 pillars each, the two odd pillars serving as a kind of screen, where the "Porch" opened upon the bridge. Indeed, we may regard the Royal Porch as consisting of a central nave 45 feet wide, with gigantic pillars 100 feet high, and of two aisles 30 feet wide, with pillars 50 feet high.
The view from the top of this colonnade into Kedron was to the stupendous depth of 450 feet. Here some have placed that pinnacle of the Temple to which the tempter brought our Saviour.
These halls or porches around the Court of the Gentiles must have been most convenient places for friendly or religious intercourse--for meetings or discussions. Here Jesus, when still a child, was found by His parents disputing with the doctors; here He afterwards so often taught the people; and here the first assemblies of the Christians must have taken place when, "continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, . . . praising God, and having favour with all the people, . . . the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Especially do we revert to Solomon's Porch, that ran along the eastern wall of the Temple, and faced its great entrance.
It was the rule when entering the Temple to pass in by the right, and when leaving it to go out by the left hand. The great Court of the Gentiles,' which formed the lowest or outer enclosure of the Sanctuary, was paved with the finest variegated marble. According to Jewish tradition, it formed a square of 750 feet. Its name is derived from the fact that it was open to all—Jews or Gentiles—provided they observed the prescribed rules of decorum and reverence.
In this court tradition places eating and sleeping apartments for the Levites, and a synagogue. But, despite pharisaic punctiliousness, the noise, especially on the eve of the Passover, must have been most disturbing. For there the oxen, sheep, and doves selected as fit for sacrifices were sold as in a market; and here were those tables of the money-changers which the Lord overthrew when He drove from His Father's house them that bought and sold.
Within a short distance, in the court, a marble screen 11 feet high, and beautifully ornamented, bore Greek and Latin inscriptions, warning Gentiles not to proceed on pain of death. Beyond this enclosure a flight of fourteen steps, each 9 inches high, led up to a terrace 1S feet broad, called the "Chel," which bounded the inner wall of the Temple.
We are now approaching the Sanctuary itself, which consisted, first, of three courts, each higher than the former, and, beyond them, of the Holy and Most Holy Places with their outbuildings. Entering by the principal gate on the east we pass, first into the Court of the Women, thence into that of Israel, and from the latter into that of the Priests.
This would have been, so to speak, the natural way of advancing. But there was a nearer road into the Court of the Priests. For both north and south, along the terrace, flights of steps led up to three gates (both north and south), which opened into the Court of the Priests, while a fourth gate (north and south) led into the middle of the Court of the Women. Thus there were nine gates opening from "the Terrace" into the Sanctuary—the principal one from the east, and four north and south, of which one (north and south) also led into the Court of the Women, and the other three (north and south) into that of the Priests.
These eight side gates, as we may call them, were all two-leaved, wide, high, with superstructures and chambers supported by two pillars, and covered with gold and silver plating. But far more magnificent than any of them was the ninth or eastern gate, which formed the principal entrance into the Temple. The ascent to it was from the terrace by twelve easy steps. The gate itself was made of dazzling Corinthian brass, most richly ornamented; and so massive (vere its double doors that it needed the united strength of twenty men to open and close them. This was the "Beautiful Gate;" and on its steps had they been wont these many years to lay the lame man, just as privileged beggars now lie at the entrance to continental cathedrals.
Weymouth: The next day, after they had left Bethany, He was hungry.
WEB: The next day, when they had come out from Bethany, he was hungry.
Young’s: And on the morrow, they having come forth from Bethany, he hungered,
Conte (RC): And the next day, as they were departing from Bethania, he was hungry.
11:12 And on the morrow [next day, NKJV]. The day after the triumphal entry. 
According to Matthew, it was in the early morning. 
when they were come from Bethany, He was hungry. Jesus had bodily wants as any other man. 
The breakfast hour in that region was as late as nine to ten o'clock. It could not properly be before the morning sacrifice, which was at nine. As our Lord has but little time remaining on earth, and much to do, He started to Jerusalem before breakfast. 
Alternative interpretation: The fact that He hungered would lead us to the conclusion that He had not been spending the night in the house of Martha and Mary. It is far more likely that He had been in the open air during the previous night, fasting and praying. 
He. So it was for Himself that He sought food, not for His companions, so far as we know. The principle of Matthew 4:4 always governed Him: no miracle for Himself. He would seek food like any other human being. 
Weymouth: But in the distance He saw a fig-tree in full leaf, and went to see whether perhaps He could find some figs on it. When however He came to it, He found nothing but leaves (for it was not fig time)
WEB: Seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came to see if perhaps he might find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
Young’s: and having seen a fig-tree afar off having leaves, he came, if perhaps he shall find anything in it, and having come to it, he found nothing except leaves, for it was not a time of figs,
Conte (RC): And when he had seen a fig tree with leaves in the distance, he went to it, in case he might find something on it. And when he had gone to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the season for figs.
11:13 And seeing a fig tree. In Matthew, "one fig tree"--i.e., a solitary tree. 
afar off. They weren’t close to it yet. Did His eyes fall upon it by coincidence (in spite of the distance) or was it due to hunger that had His eyes wandering both close and far? We don’t know. [rw]
having leaves. Peculiar to Mark. It was this fact that drew Him to it. 
He came, if haply [perhaps, NKJV] He wmight find any thing lying thereon. This was hardly to be expected, since, although in the fig tree the fruit forms before the leaves appear, it does not ripen till later in the season than this event is said to have occurred; as [this verse itself says] it was not the season of (ripe) figs. [Hence] Jesus must have come in the hope that possibly He might find a few figs ripe before the season. 
And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for the time of [season for, NKJV] figs was not yet. This is regarded as a difficult statement to explain in its connection here and many interpretations have been brought forward and ably argued. But the natural sense of the words themselves gives to the passage the meaning easiest to interpret. The season for figs had not yet come and therefore there were none on this tree nor on others. But why then look for figs? Because this tree, unlike the other leafless fig trees on the side of the mount professed to have fruit, putting forth its leaves in advance of the season.
By the parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9), Jesus had already taught that the nation or the man who did not bring forth the fruit of righteousness must be destroyed. Now by this acted parable, He teaches a similar but distinct lesson: It relates to a false hypocritical profession of godliness. This was the characteristic sin of the Jewish nation at that time, led and controlled by false scribes and Pharisees, showing much outward pretense of religion whilst they were hollow-hearted and godless. 
The date of this miracle has an important bearing on its meaning and purpose. It occurred on the Monday morning of the last week of Christ's ministry. And if you remember the foot-to-foot duel with the rulers and representatives of the nation, and the words weighty with coming doom which He spoke in the Temple on the subsequent days, you will not doubt that the explanation of this strange and anomalous miracle is that it is an acted parable, a symbol of Israel in its fruitlessness and in its consequent barrenness. 
Weymouth: and He said to the tree, "Let no one ever again eat fruit from thee!" And His disciples heard this.
WEB: Jesus told it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" and his disciples heard it.
Young’s: and Jesus answering said to it, 'No more from thee -- to the age -- may any eat fruit;' and his disciples were hearing.
Conte (RC): And in response, he said to it, "From now on and forever, may no one eat fruit from you again!" And his disciples heard this.
11:14 And Jesus answered [In response Jesus said, NKJV] to it. "And presently, i.e., immediately," writes Matthew (21:19), "the fig tree withered away," though the disciples did not notice it till the following morning. 
No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. The infidel sneer, that Jesus spoke those words in anger, is unworthy of the candor with which honest men seek for truth. Apart from all claims to Deity, such a supposition is so unreasonable as to show how hard pressed the enemies of religion are to find arguments against it. For scarcely the most wicked and passionate man would curse a tree for bearing on it no fruit! 
And His disciples heard it. The fig-tree being "afar off" (vs. 13), and Jesus having gone alone to see if there was fruit on it, it was well here to note the fact that the disciples heard what He said to the tree. He intentionally spoke loud enough for them to hear Him, because He wished to teach them a lesson. 
Peculiar to Mark and corresponding to his recognition of the interval between the two parts of the event [the "cursing" and the actual withering]. 
Weymouth: They reached Jerusalem, and entering the Temple He began to drive out the buyers and sellers, and upset the money-changers' tables and the stools of the pigeon-dealers,
WEB: They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple, and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold the doves.
Young’s: And they come to Jerusalem, and Jesus having gone into the temple, began to cast forth those selling and buying in the temple, and the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling the doves, he overthrew,
Conte (RC): And they went to Jerusalem. And when he had entered into the temple, he began to cast out the sellers and the buyers in the temple. And he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the chairs of the vendors of doves.
11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: And Jesus went into the temple. Doubtless the great court of the gentiles, so called because Gentiles were not allowed to proceed beyond it into the inner parts of the temple. The things bought and sold were animals for sacrifice (cf. John 2:14). 
There was a regular market in the outer court, the court of the Gentiles, belonging to the family of the high priest. The booths of this market are mentioned in the rabbinical writings as the booths of the son of Hanan, or Annas. But this market is never mentioned in the Old Testament. It seems to have sprung up after the Captivity. 
and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple. Our Lord adopted these strong measures (1) because the temple courts were not the proper places for merchandise, and (2) because these transactions were often dishonest (cf. vs. 17) on account of the avarice and covetousness of the priests. These animals were, of course, needed for sacrifices; and there was good reason why they should be ready at hand for those who came up to worship. But the sin of the priests lay in permitting this buying and selling to go on wtihin the sacred precincts and in trading dishonestly. St. Jerome notes Christ's action in driving out the profaners of the temple as a great proof of His divine power, that He alone should have been able to cast out so great a multitude. He says, “A fiery splendour flashed from His eyes and the majesty of Deity shone in His countenance." 
and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers. Those who exchanged large coins for smaller or foreign money for the half-shekel. Every Israelite, whether rich or poor, was required to give the half-shekel, neither less nor more. So when money had to be exchanged, an allowance or premium was required by the money-changer. 
The temple-tax was required to be paid in Jewish money, and as Jews came from many nations to attend the feasts, it was necessary that somewhere they should be able to exchange the money of other lands for Jewish coins. 
and [overturned] the seats of them that sold doves. When the temple was cleansed before, the dove-sellers were only ordered out (John 2:16), not driven out; but now their seats were overturned, like the tables of the money-changers, as if in sharper indignation at their daring to return. 
doves. Doves or pigeons were required on various occasions for offerings, chiefly by the poor, who could not afford more costly offerings. 
A historical note on the moneychangers: From Alfred Edersheim, The Temple (1874):
But by far the largest sum [of revenue for the Temple treasury] was derived from the half-shekel of Temple tribute, which was incumbent on every, male Israelite of age, including proselytes and even manumitted slaves. As the shekel of the sanctuary was double the ordinary, the halfshekel due to the Temple treasury amounted to about 1s. 46. (two denarii or a didrachmd). Hence, when Christ was challenged at Capernaum for this payment, He directed Peter to give the stater, or two didrachmas, for them both.
This circumstance also enables us to fix the exact date of this event. For annually, on the 1st of Adar (the month before the Passover), proclamation was. made throughout the country by messengers sent from Jerusalem of the approaching Temple tribute. On the 15th of Adar the money-changers opened stalls throughout the country to change the various coins, which Jewish residents at home or settlers abroad might bring, into the ancient money of Israel. For custom had it that nothing but the regular half-shekel of the sanctuary could be received at the treasury.
On the 25th of Adar business was only transacted within the precincts of Jerusalem and of the Temple, and after that date those who had refused to pay the impost could be proceeded against at law, and their goods distrained,1 the only exception being in favour of priests, and that "for the sake of peace," that is, lest their office should come in disrepute. From heathens or Samaritans no tribute money was to be received, the general rule in reference to all their offerings being this: "A votive and a free-will offering they receive at their hands ; but whatever is not either a votive or a free-will offering (does not come under either category) is not received at their hands." In support, Ezra iv. 3 was quoted.
The law also fixed the rate of discount which the money-changers were allowed to charge those who procured from them the Temple coin, perhaps to obviate suspicion of, or temptation to usury—a sin regarded as one of the most heinous civil offences. The total sum derived annually from the Temple tribute has been computed at about £76,000.
As the bankers were allowed to charge a silver mesh, or about one-fourth of a denar (2d.) on every half-shekel, their profits must have amounted to nearly £9,500, or, deducting a small sum for exceptional cases, in which the monk was not to be charged, say about £9,000— a very large sum, considering the value of money in a country where a labourer received a denar (8d.) for a day's work, and the "good Samaritan" left only two denars (1s. 4d.) in the inn for the keep of the sick man."
It must therefore have been a very powerful interest which Jesus attacked, when in the Court of the Temple He poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables while at the same time He placed Himself in direct antagonism to the sanctioned arrangements of the Sanhedrim, whom He virtually charged with profanity.
Weymouth: and would not allow any one to carry anything through the Temple.
WEB: He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple.
Young’s: and he did not suffer that any might bear a vessel through the temple,
Conte (RC): And he would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple.
11:16 And would not suffer [allow, NKJV] that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. It was a great temptation to make the temple--at least the great court of the Gentiles--a thoroughfare. It was so extensive that a long and tedious circuit would be avoided, in going from one part of the city to another, by passing through it. To those, for example, who were passing from the sheep market, Bethseda, into the upper part of the city, the shortest cut was through this court and by Solomon's Porch. The distance would be greatly increased if they went round it. So the priests permitted servants and labourers, laden with anything, to take this shorter way through the great court of the temple. But our Lord hindered them, forbidding them with he voice of one that had authority, and restraining them with His hand, and compelling them to go back. He would have the whole of His Father's House regarded as sacred. 
vessel. The word in the original is broader in meaning than the English word used. It includes vessels, articles of furniture, and implements for work. Alexander suggests "article" as the nearest English equivalent. 
Weymouth: And He remonstrated with them. "Is it not written," He said, "'My House shall be called The House of Prayer for all the nations?' But you have made it what it now is--a robbers' cave."
WEB: He taught, saying to them, "Isn't it written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?' But you have made it a den of robbers!"
Young’s: and he was teaching, saying to them, 'Hath it not been written -- My house a house of prayer shall be called for all the nations, and ye did make it a den of robbers?'
Conte (RC): And he taught them, saying: "Is it not written: 'For my house shall be called the house of prayer for all nations?' But you have made it into a den of robbers."
11:17 And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written. Two prophecies are quoted and connected together here--one from Isaiah 56:7, the other from Jeremiah 7:11. 
shall be called of all nations. Not for Jews only, but, as the very name "court of the gentiles" might have reminded them, for gentiles too. 
St. Mark, writing for the Gentiles, assures them that the God of the Jews is the God of all the nations; and that the court of the Gentiles, which was then so profaned, was a constituent part of His house of prayer. 
the house of prayer. According to the word of God, the temple was a house of prayer and should not be made a place of trade. The principle must be applied to the whole Christian church, of which the courts of the temple were a type. Not only is worldly business to be excluded from the place of worship, but money-making, buying, selling, and getting gain is no part of the design of the organized church. Its work is the service of God. 
but ye have made it. Although directly addressing the businessmen, none of this would have been possible except by permission of the governing authorities of the Temple. It is hard to imagine this being granted unless either the Temple treasury itself or, more likely, the High Priest and key allies as well were getting a sizable financial payment for the permission. [rw]
den. [The term] suggests their being leagued together, like a band of robbers, in their cheating. 
of thieves. The term used indicates dishonesty in their trading. 
Or: The word suggests that probably those who carried on the trade made extortionate profits. But apart from this the trade itself carried on in the temple court, destroyed it as a place of worship. 
Weymouth: This the High Priests and Scribes heard, and they began to devise means to destroy Him. For they were afraid of Him, because of the deep impression produced on all the people by His teaching.
WEB: The chief priests and the scribes heard it, and sought how they might destroy him. For they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching.
Young’s: And the scribes and the chief priests heard, and they were seeking how they shall destroy him, for they were afraid of him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching;
Conte (RC): And when the leaders of the priests, and the scribes, had heard this, they sought a means by which they might destroy him. For they feared him, because the entire multitude was in admiration over his doctrine.
11:18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him. Very likely they had been interested in the profits of this traffic; it could hardly have gone on, at any rate, without their consent. 
Or: The scribes and the chief priests were responsible for the corrupt teaching which had resulted in the desecration of the temple court, and therefore they were severely rebuked by the Savior's expulsion of the traders and by His remark that they had made His Father's house a den of thieves. This was the beginning of that final conflict which led to His condemnation and death. 
for they feared Him. This is given not as the reason why they desired to destroy Him, but as the reason why, instead of destroying Him at once, they sought how to destroy Him: and the difficulty which lay in their way is the one stated in the next clause of the sentence: "all the people was astonished at His teaching." His teaching was so new, so divine, and so amply supported by miraculous demonstrations, that the people received it with applause. 
because all the people was astonished at His doctrine [teaching, NKJV]. Another hint of considerable unrecorded [teaching]. 
Weymouth: When evening came on, Jesus and His disciples used to leave the city.
WEB: When evening came, he went out of the city.
Young’s: and when evening came, he was going forth without the city.
Conte (RC): And when evening had arrived, he departed from the city.
11:19 And when even was come. Until then He remained in the Temple and the city, going about His business. [rw]
He went out of the city. To go to Bethany. 
Or: Luke 21:37 declares that it was His habit to spend the night in the Mount of Olives, either at Bethany on the eastern slope of the mount, or in its solitudes engaged in prayer. 
Weymouth: In the early morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree withered to the roots;
WEB: As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots.
Young’s: And in the morning, passing by, they saw the fig-tree having been dried up from the roots,
Conte (RC): And when they passed by in the morning, they saw that the fig tree had dried up from the roots.
11:20 And in the morning. Matthew, choosing to finish the account of the fig-tree while he had it in hand, follows the statement of the curse with the remark, “and presently the fig tree withered away;” by which we understand that it began to wither immediately. Mark, preferring the chronological order here to the order of association, and designing to give more prominence to the incident, states that it was the next morning that they found the tree withered. In leaving the city the evening before, they had probably gone by a different path and had not noticed the tree. 
Or: They had returned probably after sunset and so, in the twilight, had not noticed the withered tree. 
As they passed by. They didn’t have to rely upon second hand reports; they could see for themselves. [rw]
They saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. It was no mere injury or weakening, no withering of the foliage; the tree was destroyed and already ruined. 
Weymouth: and Peter, recollecting, said to Him, "Look, Rabbi, the fig-tree which you cursed is withered up."
WEB: Peter, remembering, said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered away."
Young’s: and Peter having remembered saith to him, 'Rabbi, lo, the fig-tree that thou didst curse is dried up.'
Conte (RC): And Peter, remembering, said to him, "Master, behold, the fig tree that you cursed has withered."
11:21 And Peter. Who, as some suppose, may have related the incident, with all its attendant circumstances, to Mark. 
calling to remembrance. What they had heard Jesus say the day before (verse 14). 
saith unto Him, Bheold, the fig tree. Some have thought that the fig tree was the tree forbidden to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. 
which Thou cursedst. The language of Peter; yet our Lord's act was a curse, i.e., a judicial word and act of condemnation (compare Matthew 21:19). That it was judicial and just, not passionate and wanton is evident not only from the character of our Lord, but from the lessons He connects with it. 
is withered away. Jesus had not directly threatened it with this (verse 14), but the withering assured the fulfillment of the promise that it would never yield a crop again. [rw]
Weymouth: Jesus said to them, "Have faith in God.
WEB: Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God.
Young’s: And Jesus answering saith to them, 'Have faith of God;
Conte (RC): And in response, Jesus said to them: "Have the faith of God.
11:22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. If they would do a miracle of such power, “have faith in God." There is one peculiarity in this exhibition of power that may have arrested special attention: it was the first and the only recorded instance of destruction at the word of Jesus. 
Alternate interpretation: A very unexpected turn of discourse, the purpose of His act upon the tree being entirely ignored. Why did He not explain the symbolic meaning of the act? And why did He content Himself with giving an object-lesson in faith? It was on the principle of John 16:12: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." He preferred to leave the sad symbolic meaning to be perceived at a later time, when they could better understand it. 
Weymouth: In solemn truth I tell you that if any one shall say to this mountain, 'Remove, and hurl thyself into the sea,' and has no doubt about it in his heart, but stedfastly believes that what he says will happen, it shall be granted him.
WEB: For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and doesn't doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says.
Young’s: for verily I say to you, that whoever may say to this mount, Be taken up, and be cast into the sea, and may not doubt in his heart, but may believe that the things that he saith do come to pass, it shall be to him whatever he may say.
Conte (RC): Amen I say to you, that whoever will say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and who will not have hesitated in his heart, but will have believed: then whatever he has said be done, it shall be done for him.
11:23 For verily I say unto you, That whoever shall say unto this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea. Of course, no one could rationally believe this who was not possessed of miraculous gifts; but a man might have these gifts and fail to make them effective for want of this faith. 
Alternate, non-miraculous interpretation: Here is the lesson now: From the nature of the case put by our Lord--that they might wish a mountain removed--it is quite plain that what He designed to teach was the great moral lesson, that no obstacle shall be able to stand before a confiding faith in God. Certainly, one thinks of the “mountains” that have already been "removed and cast into the sea” by the victorious faith of Christ's disciples--the towering paganisms of the old world which have fallen before the Church of Christ. 
Or: Language like this was familiar in the schools of the Jews. They used to set out those teachers among them, that were more eminent for the profoundness of their learning or the splendor of their virtues, by such expressions as these: "He is a rooter up or remover of mountains." "They called Rabbah Bar Nachmani, a rooter up of mountains, because he had a piercing judgment."--Lightfoot. 
this mountain. Olivet, on which they stood. 
the sea. The definite article here neither in Greek nor in English points out a definite sea. It merely defines the sea, that is, the waters, as distinguished, from the land. 
and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass. To want the mountain to be moved might be a natural enough thought; to believe it will be with 100% conviction is something vastly greater. An immediately unspoken but implicit underlying purpose of the language is to convey a far more personally relevant truth: Do you believe in anything happening to this intense a degree? Few would even think of trying to “move mountains,” but how many prayers would fail for lack of faith in far “smaller” outcomes? Note how this point rises to the surface in verse 24. [rw]
he shall have whatsoever he saith. No man can expect, under this promise, that a mountain will be removed until he is convinced by good reasons that God wishes it to be removed. If he is sure of that, and sure that what God wishes can and will be done, he will believe that the mountain is to be moved. This promise gives no encouragement to random, enthusiastic prayers or to selfish petitions. 
Weymouth: That is why I tell you, as to whatever you pray and make request for, if you believe that you have received it it shall be yours.
WEB: Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them.
Young’s: Because of this I say to you, all whatever -- praying -- ye do ask, believe that ye receive, and it shall be to you.
Conte (RC): For this reason, I say to you, all things whatsoever that you ask for when praying: believe that you will receive them, and they will happen for you.
11:24 Therefore I say unto you. Because faith is so mighty. 
What things soever ye desire, when ye pray. "It is obvious that, as a rule, such words imply prayer for spiritual rather than temporal blessings."--Ellicottt. 
believe you will receive them and ye shall have them. The passage declares concerning prayer the same necessity for faith that is declared by verse 23 in reference to miracle working. 
Weymouth: But whenever you stand praying, if you have a grievance against any one, forgive it, so that your Father in Heaven may also forgive you your offences."
WEB: Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions.
Young’s: 'And whenever ye may stand praying, forgive, if ye have anything against any one, that your Father also who is in the heavens may forgive you your trespasses;
Conte (RC): And when you stand to pray, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your sins.
11:25 And when ye stand praying. This expression shows that it was usual for the disciples to pray standing; standing is here recognized by Jesus as a suitable posture and it is therefore not to be despised. Whether a worshipping assembly should habitually stand or kneel must be determined by each for itself in the light of surrounding circumstances; but it should be remembered that while standing and kneeling are both marks of respect in the presence of a superior, sitting is not; and consequently, sitting in prayer betrays a want of reverence. 
forgive, if ye have ought against any. i.e., any thing, any ill-will, or even any just ground of quarrel or complaint. 
The logical connection of this precept with its context is somewhat obscure, but it seems to be this: the disciples had seen Jesus curse and blast the fig-tree, and they doubtless understood the significance of the act. They might, from this example, when they encountered the hypocrites represented by the fig tree, be encouraged to curse them in a similar manner; but they are guarded against this by the precept, “When ye stand praying, forgive if ye have ought against any." Instead of praying for a curse on them, pray God to forgive them, and do so yourself. 
That your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespass. This saying is very similar to Matthew 6:14-15 and 18:35. Verse 26 is properly omitted by [critical] revisers as having been added here by free quotation from Matthew 6:15. 
WEB: But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions."
Young’s: and, if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in the heavens forgive your trespasses.'
Conte (RC): But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father, who is in heaven, forgive you your sins."
11:26 But if ye do not forgive. He who carries along with him to his prayers a spirit of dissension, bitterness, and revenge, brings back nothing but his own condemnation. 
neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. The solemn words were added, perhaps, partly to prevent misunderstanding of His act upon the fig tree and false inferences from it. Prayer is a tremendous power, but it cannot be used for the gratification of personal resentments. So far from that, the cherishing of such resentments is fatal to prayer itself. An unforgiving prayer against an enemy would be null and fruitless by its own nature according to this law. 
trespasses. The original word thus translated denotes a falling beside, a falling from the right way. 
Weymouth: They came again to Jerusalem; and as He was walking in the Temple, the High Priests, Scribes and Elders came to Him.
WEB: They came again to Jerusalem, and as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders came to him,
Young’s: And they come again to Jerusalem, and in the temple, as he is walking, there come unto him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,
Conte (RC): And they went again to Jerusalem. And when he was walking in the temple, the leaders of the priests, and the scribes, and the elders approached him.
11:27 And they come again to Jerusalem. They were on the way thither, early in the morning, when the instructions just recorded were given (verse 20). 
and as He was walking in the temple. Matthew, "teaching;" Luke, "teaching the people and preaching the gospel." Here, even in this full day, is the hint of much unrecorded labor. 
there come to him. In other words, they initiate the encounter. Nor does it occur spontaneously as He is observed and heard teaching, but out of predetermined decision by those desiring to cripple His prestige and authority in the public mind. [rw]
the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders. The three classes which, both as separate classes and as those from which the Sanhedrin was made up, were most influential among the Jews. Cf. 8:31; 10:33. 
the elders. Elders acted in concert as a political body in the time of the Exodus (Exodus 19:7; Deuteronomy 31:9). They exercised authority under (a) the judges (Judges 2:7; 1 Samuel 4:3); under (b) the kings (1 Samuel 30:26; 1 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Samuel 17:4); during (c) the captivity (Jeremiah 29:1; Ezekiel 8:1); (3) after the return (Ezra 5:5; 6:7, 14; 10:8, 14); under (3) the Maccabees (1 Maccabbees 12:6; 2 Maccabbees 1:10); (f) in the time of our Lord they were apparently ex-officio members of a local Sanhedrin, with other members. This is by no means certain, however.
Weymouth: and asked, "By what authority are you doing these things? and who gave you authority to do them?"
WEB: and they began saying to him, "By what authority do you do these things? Or who gave you this authority to do these things?"
Young’s: and they say to him, 'By what authority dost thou these things? and who gave thee this authority that these things thou mayest do?'
Conte (RC): And they said to him: "By what authority do you do these things? And who has given you this authority, so that you would do these things?"
11:28 And say unto Him, By what authority. A perfectly proper [question], except that by this time they ought to have understood His claim. In fact, they did understand it well enough; but the act of yesterday, the interference with the temple, naturally called out a fresh inquiry. His similar act three years before had evoked the same question (John 2:18). 
doest Thou these things? Referring both to His teaching there and to His cleansing of the temple on the previous day. 
And who gave Thee this authority to do these things? Even a rabbi, according to Jewish custom, must have his credentials from the rabbi who had instructed him, a kind of diploma for authority; and Jesus had gone far beyond the assumptions of a rabbi. He had claimed the office of the Lord of the temple. 
Weymouth: "And I will put a question to you," replied Jesus; "answer me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
WEB: Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Young’s: And Jesus answering said to them, 'I will question you -- I also -- one word; and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things;
Conte (RC): But in response, Jesus said to them: "I also will ask you one word, and if you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
11:29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Upon this verse Alexander makes this judicious remark: "This has often been mistaken by believing readers, and misrepresented by unfriendly critics, as a mere evasion, though a wise one, of the captious question which had been proposed to Him. But why should an evasion be more wise than silence or positive refusal to reply at all? The only way in which this difficulty can be shunned is by maintaining that the question which our Lord proposed was not intended merely to stop the mouths of His opponents, but to answer their demands for His credentials, by referring them to testimony which had been presented long before and was really decisive of the question. The meaning, then, of this verse is not merely that His question must be answered first, but that it involved the answer to their own." In John's answer to the commission they had sent him, he had given his testimony in behalf of Jesus (John 1:27); if they admitted John's claims, they must receive this testimony, which had come officially before them in the report of their commission; and this would answer their present inquiry. 
Weymouth: John's Baptism--was it of Heavenly or of human origin? Answer me."
WEB: The baptism of John--was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me."
Young’s: the baptism of John -- from heaven was it? or from men? answer me.'
Conte (RC): The baptism of John: was it from heaven or from men? Answer me."
11:30 The baptism of John. The "baptism" evidently included his ministry also. John had distinctly testified to the Messianic authority of our Lord (John 1:29-34, 36); from whom did he receive his commission to baptize and to teach? 
was it from heaven. Not merely of celestial origin, but also of divine authority. 
or of men? A negative answer will clearly annoy the many followers and admirers of the Baptist. Jesus’ foes wish to broaden the scope of opposition to Him beyond their own hard core supporters. With this question, Jesus threatens them with the opposite—to narrow their own base! Something far worse in potential immediate consequences (cf. verse 32). [rw]
Answer Me. i.e., if you can, or if you dare. 
If His method of reply would be familiar to them. The rabbis taught largely by questioning, and the practice of posing an opponent with hard questions was as old as the time of Solomon, and doubtless older. Logically, it was a true dilemma; and, like most dilemmas, it had an argument wrapped up in it. It led, too, directly to the answer to their question. 
Weymouth: So they debated the matter with one another. "Suppose we say, 'Heavenly,'" they argued, "he will ask, 'Why then did you not believe him?'
WEB: They reasoned with themselves, saying, "If we should say, 'From heaven;' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?'
Young’s: And they were reasoning with themselves, saying, 'If we may say, From heaven, he will say, Wherefore, then, did ye not believe him?
Conte (RC): But they discussed it among themselves, saying: "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?'
11:31 And they reasoned. The word means “considered, reckoned;” they calculated the effect of their answer. It shows the low religious and moral state of the nation, that the highest religious council should be guided by policy and not truth; for like wily politicians they looked only at the effect their reply would have. 
with [among, NKJV] themselves. Either aside from Jesus and the people in the temple-court, or very probably in their chamber or hall of assembly, which was within the temple area, or at a place to which it is said to have been removed about this time, a little farther from the temple-building, but still on Mount Moriah. 
saying, If we say, From heaven; He will say, Why then did ye not believe him? That question would be fatal, for it would mean, "Why did ye not accept his testimony to Me?" He had used a similar argument concerning their boasted faith in Moses (John 5:46): "Ha dye believed Moses, ye would have believed me." 
Weymouth: Or should we say, 'human?'" They were afraid of the people; for all agreed in holding John to have been really a Prophet.
WEB: If we should say, 'From men'"--they feared the people, for all held John to really be a prophet.
Young’s: But if we may say, From men,' -- they were fearing the people, for all were holding John that he was indeed a prophet;
Conte (RC): If we say, 'From men,' we fear the people. For they all hold that John was a true prophet."
11:32 But if we shall say, Of men. Luke: "All the people will stone us. 
they feared the people. They knew this would be pushing their forbearance too far. [rw]
for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. Notice, in passing, the hold that John still had upon the people. It continued for years. See Acts 19:1-7. 
Weymouth: So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." "Nor do I tell you," said Jesus, "by what authority I do these things."
WEB: They answered Jesus, "We don't know." Jesus said to them, "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Young’s: and answering they say to Jesus, 'We have not known;' and Jesus answering saith to them, 'Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.'
Conte (RC): And answering, they said to Jesus, "We do not know." And in response, Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
11:33 And they answered. They dared not face the alternative, and were driven to a weak and evasive reply. 
and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell [do not know, NKJV]. This was a false answer. Fear of the consequences and not ignorance was their reason. But if true, it were shameful ignorance in the chief religious counselors, whose business it was to guide the people in a matter of vital importance. 
They might have said, “We think it imprudent or inexpedient to say;” but for this they had not sufficient moral courage. 
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. He had before staked His replying to their inquiry upon their first answering His (verse 29), because in that answer, if honestly made, they would virtually answer their own question. And, since by their answer they showed their refusal to receive the testimony already before them, He acknowledged no obligations to give them any further proof of His Messiahship.