Mark Chapter 4:35-41

We conclude chapter 4.

35 Καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης, Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πέραν.

And he said to them that day, when it had become evening, “Let us go to the opposite (shore)”.

Mark has a number of set-piece stories. We will encounter two in the next chapter. This, and most of the others, have the feel of something that either the tradition handed down to Mark, or they’re something that he created himself. I tend to suspect–based on no real evidence except a gut hunch–that Mark got the outline, and he crafted it into the piece that it has become. For example, in this piece, apropos of nothing Jesus decides to go across the lake (Technically, the “Sea” of Galilee is a lake. It’s fresh water). There’s no apparent reason for his doing this; rather, it seems like a literary device to get him in the boat.

35 Et ait illis illa die, cum sero esset factum: “ Transeamus contra ”.

36 καὶ ἀφέντες τὸν ὄχλον παραλαμβάνουσιν αὐτὸν ὡς ἦν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ, καὶ ἄλλα πλοῖα ἦν μετ’ αὐτοῦ.

And leaving (behind) the crowd, they received him so that was in the boat, and there was another boat with him.

Another boat. This second vessel plays no subsequent role in this story. This is the one and only time we hear of it. My conclusion is that the outline of the story as Mark heard it included the second boat, and he decided to retain this detail, even though it really serves no function after this point. It could be argued that such a non-essential detail augurs in favor of the story being factually true.  You could argue this, but I don’t see how it increases the probability of truth. Details get added to eyewitness accounts all the time. Play “Telephone” with a group of people some time. See what gets added to the original narrative.

36 Et dimittentes turbam, assumunt eum, ut erat in navi; et aliae naves erant cum illo.

37 κ αὶ γίνεται λαῖλαψ μεγάλη ἀνέμου, καὶ τὰ κύματα ἐπέβαλλεν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, ὥστε ἤδη γεμίζεσθαι τὸ πλοῖον.

And there happened a storm, with a great wind, and the waves cast into the boat, so that the boat was already being filled.

37 Et exoritur procella magna venti, et fluctus se mittebant in navem, ita ut iam impleretur navis.

38 καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἐν τῇ πρύμνῃ ἐπὶ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον καθεύδων: καὶ ἐγείρουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα;

And he was in the stern, upon some cushions sleeping; and they roused him, and they said to him, “Teacher, does it not concern you that we will be destroyed?”

I love this: he was sleeping on some cushions. And, the Greek for “cushion”, literally, is something like “at the head”, or “to the head”. 

38 Et erat ipse in puppi supra cervical dormiens; et excitant eum et dicunt ei: “ Magister, non ad te pertinet quia perimus? ”.

39 καὶ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο. καὶ ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη μεγάλη.

And rousing himself, he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Be silent! Be still!” And the wind stopped, and there became a great calm.

39 Et exsurgens comminatus est vento et dixit mari: “ Tace, obmutesce! ”. Et cessavit ventus, et facta est tranquillitas magna.

40 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί δειλοί ἐστε; οὔπω ἔχετε πίστιν;

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still not have faith?”

40 Et ait illis: “ Quid timidi estis? Necdum habetis fidem? ”.

41 καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν, καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι καὶ ὁ ἄνεμος καὶ ἡ θάλασσα ὑπακούει αὐτῷ;

And they feared a great fear, and they said amongst themselves, “Who is he, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

41 Et timuerunt magno timore et dicebant ad alterutrum: “ Quis putas est iste, quia et ventus et mare oboediunt ei? ”.

Who is he? This is another literary device that Mark uses. He has the disciples more or less play dumb so that they can ask the obvious questions like this. Offhand, I do not know to what extent Matthew and Luke do this; for John, Jesus is The Word right from the opening sentence.

It’s things like this that make me say that Jesus’ identity is a bit more ambiguous in Mark than in the other gospels, or is ambiguous, at least, to a greater degree than in Matthew and Luke. It’s not that Mark hasn’t answered this question for himself; he has. Rather, it’s that he is trying to re-create some of the suspense that must have accompanied the unfolding of Jesus’ career. He wants the revelation to come to us, while it is not very clear to those who were with him.

In a way, this is a gnostic (small-“g”) trait. We, the readers, get the nudge-wink because we’re on the inside; to us the truth has been revealed. Remember that in V-34 we were told how Jesus explained the parables to the disciples in private, bringing them into the inner circle. Here, Mark does the same with us. We see Jesus command the storm; we know who he is, even if those around him still had questions. And this obtuse trait of the disciples is a theme throughout; on a number of occasions, Jesus all-but calls them “Dullards!”; the exclamation point very much there.

So the point of this story is to reveal the true stature of Jesus. So far, he has cured people, and exorcised demons, but here, we see him commanding nature. This is truly the trait of someone divine. Now Mark has removed all doubt: Jesus is more than just a wonder-worker, for wonder-workers were not all that uncommon. No, Jesus transcends that. Wonder-workers are often considered conduits; stilling the wind and calming the sea, however, is the work of no mere conduit.



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 February 8, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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