Mark Chapter 3.13-19

Chapter 3 continues.  [Updated]

13 Καὶ ἀναβαίνει εἰς τὸ ὄρος καὶ προσκαλεῖται οὓς ἤθελεν αὐτός, καὶ ἀπῆλθον πρὸς αὐτόν.

And he went to the mountain, and he called those whom he wished, and they went to him.

This is interesting: he went up the mountain. This is sort of the time in Matthew when the Sermon on the Mount took place; however, Luke has Jesus coming down from the mountain when the twelve are appointed.

13 Et ascendit in montem et vocat ad se, quos voluit ipse, et venerunt ad eum.

14 καὶ ἐποίησεν δώδεκα, [οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,] ἵνα ὦσιν μετ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἵνα ἀποστέλλῃ αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν

And he created twelve, [ whom he called apostles ] so that they might be with him, and in order that he might sent them to preach. 

[ whom he called apostles ] This is about as obvious an interpolation as you will find, until you get to the next verse.

14 Et fecit Duodecim, ut essent cum illo, et ut mitteret eos praedicare

15 καὶ ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια:

And having power to cast out demons.

The twelve are to preach and to cast out demons. In Matthew, they actually go out, and then return, creating something of a hiatus in Jesus’ own preaching. More on that when we get there.

But that they are to preach is significant, if it’s true. This sort of indicates that Jesus had the intention of creating a movement larger that went beyond what he alone could do. And, given Paul’s letters, we know that members of Jesus’ circle did go out and preach. Was this Jesus’ intent? Did he want to found a movement, if not a religion?  Have to say, it seems likely. Or, it seems less likely that the followers would have done this on their own, after Jesus’ death.

As for the casting out of demons, this may be taken as sort of a badge of authenticity; that is having this power indicated that they were authentic agents of God. 

15 habentes potestatem eiciendi daemonia:

16 [καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς δώδεκα,] καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ὄνομα τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρον,

[ And he created the twelve, ] and he imposed the name Peter upon Simon.

Note that the Latin does not include the first part of the verse, in brackets in the Greek and my translation.  Note also that this is a repetition of the first words of the verse before. Is this an example of a copyist, who wrote down V-15, then glanced back at his original, and got the wrong line? Instead of going right to V-15, he caught the beginning of 15 again. Who hasn’t done this when copying? And, given that corrections were very, very hard to make, he just left it in? Perhaps the Latin is based on a different MS tradition, one that did not have the error. So as good as an example of an interpolation as you will get, until you get to V-32.

Having Jesus change the name of Cephas/Simon seems to be an after-the-fact insertion. What this probably represents is that Simon/Cephas was called “Peter” in Rome, because that is more or less the translation of Simon/Cephas into Latin. He was called “Peter” later, so move this back to Jesus to make it official.

16 et imposuit Simoni nomen Petrum;

17 καὶ Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ Ἰωάννηντὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ Ἰακώβου, καὶ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτοῖς ὀνόμα[τα] Βοανηργές, ὅ ἐστιν Υἱοὶ Βροντῆς:

And James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, and he put upon them the name Boanerges, which is the Sons of Thunder.

“Sons of Thunder” OTOH, may very well be authentic. Where else does this show up? If nowhere, or infrequently, then why bother inserting it? Of course, the possibility is that this name was given to them by the later community, so, as with Peter, the change was made retroactive.

17 et Iacobum Zebedaei et Ioannem fratrem Iacobi, et imposuit eis nomina Boanerges, quod est Filii tonitrui;

18 καὶ Ἀνδρέαν καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου καὶ Θαδδαῖον καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν Καναναῖον

And Andrew and Philip and Bartholemes and Matthew and Thomas and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot,

When did Levi become Matthew?

18 et Andream et Philippum et Bartholomaeum et Matthaeum et Thomam et Iacobum Alphaei et Thaddaeum et Simonem Chananaeum

19 καὶ Ἰούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ, ὃς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτόν.

And Judas Iscariot, who also handed him over.

IIRC, it was Bart Erhman who suggested that “Iscariot” is a version of “sicarii”, the assassins mentioned by Josephus. The sicarius was the knife they used. However, my suspicion is that the coincidental similarity of the words led someone to posit a connection.

19 et Iudam Iscarioth, qui et tradidit illum.

Just a note about the word “apostle.”  It is basically a transliteration of  the compound verb “apo-stellein”, which means “to send out.” Now, this would be an appropriate time to talk about this. To our modern ears, the apostles were the inner circle of 12, and we use this as a more specific term than ‘disciples’, of which the number was unlimited.  We accept this distinction, even though having an inner circle of apostles is close to a contradiction of terms. They can’t be close if they’re sent out.

At this point, it occurs to me to wonder if The Twelve, and The Apostles were not different groups that became conflated over time. Hence the need for the scribe to tell us that they were called apostles. Now, three of my four crib translations leave out the part [ whom he called apostles ]. If you do that, the word only occurs one other time in Mark (6.30), and once in Matthew (10.2). Luke uses it a handful of times, and John uses it exactly once. It occurs very frequently in Acts, but Paul uses it very often. And note that Paul calls himself “an apostle” at the beginning of Galatians. Since he could not possibly have been part of the inner circle, perhaps calling them “The Twelve Apostles” is not exactly accurate.

As for the whole idea or the twelve,  I had a period in which I wasn’t certain that there were twelve “apostles”.  The number very obviously relates to the 12 tribes of Israel, so it’s a programmatic number. I am frankly suspicious of the number, in large part because we hear nothing of many of them. Bartholemew? Thaddeus?  Philip had a number of legends grow up around him. Simon the Zealot, IIRC, will make a cameo in one of the gospels. James the son of Alpheus has the distinction of being known as “James the Lesser”, and not much else.

But, it must be said, I’m deeply suspicious that there were actually 12 tribes of Israel; the whole 12 sons of Jacob (Israel) has aitiological myth written all over it. A whole bunch of them were conveniently “lost”, swept away in the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel.

The one thing made me reconsider is Paul, who in 1 Cor, 15.5, states that Jesus appeared to Cephas and the twelve after the Resurrection. The completely off-hand nature of the comment argues strongly in favor of authenticity. He just tosses it off without thinking, and as if it would be accepted with no questions asked. While I have some qualms, it seems very unlikely that the idea could have inserted itself into the tradition within a generation.

So, while the twelve tribes may have been pure myth, Jews of Paul’s time (and way too many non-Jewish scholars) accepted without reservation the existence of the tribes. As such, Jesus may have felt the need, or had the desire to refer to the myth of the 12 tribes as something important. Much of this goes to the root of the QHJ and the question of how Jesus saw himself, and what his intentions were.

If indeed–and I’m not completely ready to concede the point–Jesus did choose 12 “apostles”, or had some sort of inner circle, the implication of the 12 tribes is probably hard to escape.  [ updated ]

Note, I did a search for Bartholemew the Apostle, and came up with some legends about him, and that he is identified with the Nathaneal that John–and no one else–names as an apostle. Now, IIRC the name “Bartholemew” is really “bar-Tholemew”, the “son of Tholemew”, so it could be that his patronymic is used here, and his personal name is used by John. That, however, requires that John had information that Mark, apparently, did not. IOW, that a) either John accessed a tradition to which Mark was not privy; or, b) that John, or someone along the line,  thought it odd that this man had no personal name, so the name Nathaneal was made up for him.

Then there’s the fact that the companion of Paul is simply known as Barnabas, which could easily be rendered as a patronymic as well. Why did this remain in the texts? The answer could be that this is how Barnabas was known, and that to change this would have been too difficult. Bartholemew, OTOH, was not known, so his name could easily be changed. This argues, IMO, that no one named Bartholemew was actually chosen by Jesus.


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 January 21, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Very interesting discussion on the apostles, disciples, and the twelve. Some items to add to your consideration:

    1. Twelve is also connected to the Zodiac, which appears in the floors and iconography of some ancient synagogues, BC and AD.

    2. If Jesus was running a movement, “those who were sent out” would have to be able to act at a distance from Jesus, so they are likely to be privy to some of his strategy, like a general or ambassador, but not necessarily to all of it. From the rest of his “followers”, among those who were nearby all of the time, he would have his co-strategists (at least Cephas and maybe James), his protectors, his messengers, and his “ears and eyes” amongst the people.

  2. Good points. Yes, twelve is very symbolic, and it does, ultimately, refer back to the Zodiac. And twelve is divisible by four and three, so those are also key numbers, especially four. Four cardinal compass points, four evangelists, four elements….All of them were conflated.

    Here’s something else: at the moment I’m toying with the idea that the Twelve were the creation of James the Just (brother of Jesus) rather than of Jesus himself. Jesus, I think, was teaching. James was concerned, I think, with founding a movement. Such would be the person who would need the generals, the protectors, the eyes and ears, & c.

    Remember: Jesus was in charge of the Jesus movement for, what, a few years? James was in charge for decades. That fact is almost completely overlooked from what I can tell. (But some more reading may take care of that!)

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