Mark Chapter 2:1-12

And now (sounds like Mark’s writing style) we start Chapter 2.

1 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν πάλιν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ δι’ ἡμερῶν ἠκούσθη ὅτι ἐν οἴκῳ ἐστίν.

And coming again to Caphernaum after some days, it was heard that he was in his house.

This is interesting. Jesus is now in his house in Caphernaum. Did he move in with Peter? Or, had he been living there prior? While realizing that he is called “Jesus of Nazareth”, the fact is that almost none of the narrative takes place in Nazareth. Rather, it seems that Caphernaum is Jesus’ home. If this is true, then he may very well have been acquainted with Peter and the sons of Zebedee. This tends to detract from the idea that they dropped everything and followed a total stranger. We will look at this again when we come across later references to Jesus’ home and his family.

1 Et iterum intravit Capharnaum post dies, et auditum est quod in domo esset.

2 καὶ συνήχθησαν πολλοὶ ὥστε μηκέτι χωρεῖν μηδὲ τὰ πρὸς τὴν θύραν, καὶ ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον.

And many were gathered so that there was no longer space towards the door (around/outside the door), and he spoke the word to them.

This goes back to the end of  Chapter 1, when we were told that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. Jesus is very popular, a theme that Mark will continue to stress.

Quick note on the Greek: here, he spoke the word << ἐλάλει >>.This word has a conversational sense.  The word used before was <<κηρύσσω >>, the root meaning of which is ‘to announce’, often rendered as ‘to proclaim’. Perhaps the use of this word is to convey the idea that this setting was more intimate, less formal than the speaking he did out in the world. He is at home, after all.

2 Et convenerunt multi, ita ut non amplius caperentur neque ad ianuam, et loquebatur eis verbum.

3 καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων.

And coming towards him, bearing a paralytic,  carried by four (men).

3 Et veniunt ferentes ad eum paralyticum, qui a quattuor portabatur.

4 καὶ μὴ δυνάμενοι προσενέγκαι αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον ἀπεστέγασαν τὴν στέγην ὅπου ἦν, καὶ ἐξορύξαντες χαλῶσι τὸν κράβαττον ὅπου ὁ παραλυτικὸς κατέκειτο.

And not being able to bring towards him (Jesus) because of the crowd, they removed the tiles (over) where he was, and breaking up (the roof) they lowered the litter upon which the paralytic reclined.

This is a fascinating set of details. It really has the feeling of authenticity. How could you make this up?  Mark has a number of pieces like this, each with its own peculiar touches that really give it the sense of an eyewitness account. However, these are also the sorts of details that accrue to a story over time. As a result, I don’t think that one can simply take this at face value. [Here is where Bond’s book is already having an impact: I’m thinking in terms of the “historical Jesus”; what is authentic, and what isn’t?]

4 Et cum non possent offerre eum illi prae turba, nudaverunt tectum, ubi erat, et perfodientes summittunt grabatum, in quo paralyticus iacebat.

5 καὶ ἰδὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ, Τέκνον,ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.

And Jesus seeing the faith of them said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are taken away.”

This is really interesting. Why does one say this? Are we seeing an example of the belief that physical sickness is an affliction from God, that one has brought down upon oneself by being sinful? Is that Jesus’ implication here? After all, this sort of thinking is the at the root of the Book of Job: he’s upright, so he is rewarded by health, wealth, and sunshine and lollipops. The horror of the story is that, as an upright man, he is afflicted by all these terrible things.  

Is that what’s going on here?

Or, is Jesus being deliberately provocative? The provocation is indicated in the silent reaction he elicits.

5 Cum vidisset autem Iesus fidem illorum, ait paralytico: “ Fili, dimittuntur peccata tua ”.

6 ἦσαν δέ τινες τῶν γραμματέων ἐκεῖ καθήμενοι καὶ διαλογιζόμενοι ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν,

Some of the scribes were there sitting and were debating with themselves in their hearts:

First a quick word about the Greek: << διαλογιζόμενοι >> is what is known as a ‘middle’ form. It’s something kinda sorta like reflexive verbs in French or Spanish: it refers itself back to the person performing the action.  So the scribes are having a dialogue inside their hearts.  If you transliterate, it comes out as ‘dialogue-izomenoi’, so it’s obviously the root of ‘dialogue’.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Cue the reaction…

6 Erant autem illic quidam de scribis sedentes et cogitantes in cordibus suis:

7 Τί οὗτος οὕτως λαλεῖ; βλασφημεῖ: τίς δύναται ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός;

“Who is he to speak thus? He blasphemes. Who is able to take away sins other than God?” 

Blasphemy!  Love that word. So…visceral.

This is what I mean when I ask if Jesus is being deliberately provocative. The scribes represent the ‘official’ form of the religious establishment. Jesus has already made people mutter in synagogue with the authority of his teaching, and those hearing Jesus have already compared Jesus favorably to the scribes (Mk 1:22). We’ll pick this up again in a bit.

7 “ Quid hic sic loquitur? Blasphemat! Quis potest dimittere peccata nisi solus Deus? ”.

8 καὶ εὐθὺς ἐπιγνοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι αὐτοῦ ὅτι οὕτως διαλογίζονται ἐν ἑαυτοῖς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τί ταῦτα διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν;

And immediately Jesus knew in/by his spirit that they were thus arguing within themselves said to them, “Why do you consider this in your hearts?”

Here we get Jesus the Mind-reader. Or do we? He knows what they are thinking to themselves. Now, we could say that, as a divine being, he is omniscient, or he can tell what happens inside the mind of others. Or, we can say that he is a shrewd judge of character, with a good insight into how persons of authority might think. He has said something  that he knows will provoke them, and so he has a pretty good idea what they will think when they hear the words. It’s not so much mind-reading, as just having a good handle on his audience. This is the sort of skill we expect from an attorney who is good at cross-examination. At least, on TV.

8 Quo statim cognito Iesus spiritu suo quia sic cogitarent intra se, dicit illis: “ Quid ista cogitatis in cordibus vestris?

9 τί ἐστιν εὐκοπώτερον, εἰπεῖν τῷ παραλυτικῷ, Ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι, ἢ εἰπεῖν, Ἔγειρε καὶ ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόνσου καὶ περιπάτει;

“What is easier?  To say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Rise, and take up your litter and walk about’?”  

This is interesting.  “Which is easier?” Why would anyone think of putting it this way? What point is he trying to make? Actually, that’s rather apparent, but I have to give Jesus/Mark credit for thinking to encapsulate the situation by framing it in this question.

Which is easier? Of course, neither of them are easy things to do. Certainly, it’s not easy to tell a paralytic to walk. How easy is it to forgive sins?    

9 Quid est facilius, dicere paralytico: “Dimittuntur peccata tua”, an dicere: “Surge et tolle grabatum tuum et ambula”?

10 ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε ὅτι ἐξουσίαν ἔχει ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ,

“But so that you see that the Son of Man has authority to take away sins upon the earth,” he said to the paralytic,

10 Ut autem sciatis quia potestatem habet Filius hominis interra dimittendi peccata — ait paralytico:

11 Σοὶ λέγω, ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου.

“I say to you, rise, pick up your litter and go to your home.”

11 Tibi dico: Surge, tolle grabatum tuum et vade in domum tuam ”.

12 καὶ ἠγέρθη καὶ εὐθὺς ἄρας τὸν κράβαττον ἐξῆλθεν ἔμπροσθεν πάντων, ὥστε ἐξίστασθαι πάντας καὶ δοξάζειντὸν θεὸν λέγοντας ὅτι Οὕτως οὐδέποτε εἴδομεν.

And he rose and immediately taking up his litter he went out in front of everyone, so that all stood beside themselves (were astonished) and praising God saying that “This we have never seen before.”   

The last three verses provide the payoff. First, we get our first use of “The Son of Man.” There has been endless speculation about this wonderfully ambiguous phrase. One recent scholar has stated that it simply means ‘yours truly’, or something such. But this is not so simple. There is argument about whether Jesus is referring to himself when he uses it. Here, it seems fairly clear that he does. In other places, it’s not quite as obvious.

Another point about this is that it contrasts with “The Son of God” as Jesus was called in Mk 1:1, which led me to speculate if Mark had included this phrase in his original text. 1:1 is not Mark’s only use of the term “Son of God”, but there aren’t many, and I believe this lends weight to the idea that it was an early insertion into the text.

The word Jesus uses is, again, ‘authority’, rather than ‘power’. Granted, the two can be pretty much synonymous, as when my dad told me to use a hammer ‘with some authority’, but the nuance matters here. He has, or has been given authority in the sense, I think, of ‘office’, as in ‘official capacity’. This leads to the question, how does he have this authority? Who/what granted it to him? Again, it’s a bit on the ambiguous side. Why does Mark play coy like this? Why doesn’t he state his position more plainly?

This is, I believe, a very, very important question. Why does Mark play coy? By the time we get to John, all of this has become completely explicit. “In the beginning was the Word…” Not much subtlety there. Why the evasiveness here? This question is even more pointed when we remember that Paul was not at all shy about proclaiming Jesus as The Christ. Sure, the unclean spirit (1:24) proclaims Jesus to be “The Holy One of God”, but that and the Son of God in 1:1 and My Son in 1:11 are it so far. And “Son of God”, as we have noted, is not necessarily all that exclusive if we are talking about God our Father.

All in all, this restraint in the gospel seems to be a step backward from Paul. Not Mark as intermediate, but Mark as regression. Has the audience changed that much? Paul was addressing pagans for the most part, but wasn’t Mark? The tradition is that he was writing in Rome, so we have to presume that pagans were a significant part of the audience. Or is Mark simply building tension? Is this simply a literary device: pose intriguing questions, tantalize the audience, only give away a little at a time to create suspense. Who is he? Stay tuned….

I referred to Mark as a journalist; that may be underplaying his talents. We have the ideal of the journalist as a ‘just the facts’ sort of guy, but a good magazine journalist, who is writing longer pieces, has to be able to keep his audience interested. Perhaps Mark has that level, or that type of talent, for which he does not get sufficient credit given the more bare-bones tone of the work overall.

One final way to think of this: who are Mark’s sources? Does he have more than one? Seems likely. Remember, Paul complained–bitterly–about ‘other gospels’, that apparently imparted a somewhat different message than Paul did. Was Mark aware of more than one gospel, one message? Given that both Akenson and Bond stress that Judaism was a multi-faceted phenomenon, and that Paul complained about multiple gospels, how can we not conclude that the early followers of Jesus had more than one message? Different groups may have had different, differing ideas. Maybe one of them, that Mark followed here, is a bit less certain of Jesus as Divine.


12 Et surrexit et protinus sublato grabato abiit coram omnibus, ita ut admirarentur omnes et glorificarent Deum dicentes: “ Numquam sic vidimus! ”.

13 Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν πάλιν παρὰ τὴνθάλασσαν: καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς.

And he went out again along the sea (of Galilee); and the whole crowd came to him, and he taught them.

Transition passage. Comment to follow in the next section…

13 Et egressus est rursus ad mare; omnisque turba veniebat ad eum, et docebat eos.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on December 29, 2012, in Chapter 2, gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting question about the Roman audience of Mark, if true. The Jewish diaspora, trade, and the more modern Roman world led to a large Jewish population in Rome, the capitol. These Jews saw the slaves brought to Rome from the Jewish War. Therefore, it is not a given from the Roman location that it was a Jewish audience, and probably true for any large city.

  2. There were enough Jews in Rome that Tiberius and Claudius felt compelled to expel them from Rome. The level of success is debatable. Perhaps more important than the geographic location of Mark is the religious background. After all, the assumption that Mark was based in Rome is, to some degree, based upon his identification with John Mark, who was Peter’s interpreter. A lot of these ideas get entrenched to the point that they have become conventional wisdom, when in fact they are very far from settled.

    As is the case with a lot of these specific, or technical questions, I don’t have the chops right now to have what I would consider a worthwhile opinion on where Mark wrote his gospel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: