Today’s God Time was spent researching Mark 9:23 as part of my larger contemplation of Mark 9:14-24. Spent yesterday meditating on this verse and got to wondering if there was a specific reason it says, “for one who believes” (NIV) instead of “to one…”. Wondered if there could be something to that.
Discovered by observing the Greek and many English translations that there is no distinction between “to” and “for” in this verse; either English word is possible in this statement. Some say “to” while others say “for.”
While that failed to go anywhere, I did gain big insights into Jesus’ repeating the father’s words! (And yes, we do know that Jesus was quoting the dad and not just making a responding statement. In the Greek, there is a “the” before “if you can.” This was basically the Greeks’ way of indicating a quotation.)
Some versions have Jesus asking a question (“If you can?”), which puts the emphasis on either “if” or “can”—basically interpreting the father’s statement as questioning Jesus’ ability. Clearly, then, the dad lacks faith.
Other versions have Jesus making an exclamatory statement with the repeated phrase (“If you can!”). This allows for an emphasis on “you,” and thus subsumes the questioning of Jesus’ ability AND goes beyond it to infer that the dad’s ability to believe is just as critical to the miracle as Jesus’ ability. In fact, some old manuscripts include the word “believe” as part of this phrase, so that Jesus basically says, “If you can believe.” Versions like DARBY (which is the clearest) make it clear that Jesus is putting the contingency back on the father.
None of this diminishes or counters my insights from Wednesday. In fact, this enhances it more! Jesus is telling this impotent-feeling father that there is something this dad can do: he can believe!
So, the lesson learned from this verse alone: when you can’t do anything else, you can at least believe in the ability of the One who can do everything else! That’s the working arrangement God desires to have with us, making us an important partner with Him.
Thanks for reading!
 Vernon D. Doerksen, The New Testament Study Bible: Mark, vol. 3 of The Complete Biblical Library, internat’l ed. Thoralf Gilbrant (Springfield, Mo.: The Complete Biblical Library, 1988), 247.
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