In Mark 3:20-22, Jesus is accused of being "out of his mind" by his family, and of being "possessed by Beelzebul" by teachers of the law. In his response (v. 23-39), Jesus says

"In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house" (Mark 3:27, NIV)

What does this statement mean?

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  • I wish Gus would have explained his question further and seeing Gus has not frequented this site since 2015 I doubt we will get an answer any time soon. What does which part mean? The strong man’s house? Tying up the strong man? Plundering the strong man’s house? I could think of a few more questions but alas. Commented May 3, 2019 at 3:59

3 Answers 3


There are parallel passages in Matthew and Luke.

What Mark and the other Evangelists describe here are three refutations that Jesus made for the (unspoken) claim by some that By the prince of demons he is driving out demons (Mark 3:22).

First, he presents the common sense argument that if He were casting out demons, he would be working against Satan and not with him (Mark 3:23-26):

How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

Second - and this is recounted in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark - he questions them regarding His disciples:

Matthew 12:27 (NIV)

And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

Luke 11:19

Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

The phrase that the NIV translates as your people and your followers in Matthew and Luke, respectively, is in both cases υἱοὶ ὑμῶν (uioi umōn), which literally means your sons. The understanding in antiquity was that Jesus was speaking here of the Apostles.1 (The ESV and other translations render your sons in both cases; I don't think there is a solid basis for the NIV's your followers in Luke). He referred to the Apostles as your sons to show the Pharisees that the path the Apostles had taken was open to them as well.

The Apostles had also been casting out demons, but they are not being accused. Jesus raises the point that since the Apostles are casting out demons by His (Jesus') authority, and the Pharisees had not accused them, then how could they also not be guilty?

Mark 3:27 (also Matthew 12:29 and Luke 11:21-22) contains the third refutation:

In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.

The meaning here is that not only could Jesus not logically be casting out demons in the name of the devil, but that He would, in fact, have to have overcome the devil first to be expelling demons. "For that Satan cannot possibly cast out Satan", wrote John Chrysostom, "is evident from what has been said; but there is also no way to cast him out without first getting the better of him"2

1. See, e.g., John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homily XLI on Matthew
2. Ibid.


A legend would be helpful:

House : A person

Strong man : a strong force. In this story, the devil.

That statement simply means that a house can be occupied by a strong man, one at a time. If another is to enter a house, the current resident has to be forcefully removed.

A big part of the conversation is Jesus' ability to cast out demons from a person [house] Mark 3:22. The teachers say that Jesus casts devils out because he himself is the devil. Jesus' reply, and the text you asked about, says that there is an even stronger force that casts out the devil.

The identity of the "stronger force" is revealed later in the story in Mark 3:29. That stronger force being the Holy Ghost.


The answer Christ gave was specific to the forcefulness by which He, through the power of the Holy Spirit, began plundering Satan's kingdom.

The Scribes had charged Jesus with being in collusion with Beelzebub in His ministry of casting out demons. Jesus had also been charged with lunacy because of the zeal by which He went about his ministry; being thronged by massive crowds, suffering from exhaustion, little time to eat (see Mark 3:8-10, 3:20).

Despite the human effects of hunger and fatigue, Jesus pointed to the spiritual implications of His earthly ministry in verse 27. Jesus displayed his might over the powers of darkness by not only performing miracles like healing a withered hand in Mk 3:5, but by also restoring the souls of man by casting out unclean spirits by the power of the Holy Spirit. He compared this ministry to overwhelming a powerful man's domicile, taking the spoils, and converting them for His own use.

Reference: Matthew Henry Complete Commentary

  • 1
    Would be nice if you'd provide some specific quotes from your reference. Or if these are direct quotes, it's not clear.
    – JimLohse
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 12:51

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