Mark Chapter 5:14-20

When last we saw our hero, he had just driven out two thousand demons from the tomb-dweller of the Gerasenes. The pigs had rushed headlong over the cliff and drowned. The story continues.

14 καὶ οἱ βόσκοντεςαὐτοὺς ἔφυγον καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν εἰς τὴν πόλιν καὶ εἰς τοὺς ἀγρούς: καὶ ἦλθον ἰδεῖντί ἐστιν τὸ γεγονός.

And the swineherds having fled and they announced in the city and to the fields. And they cam having been sent out to see the things having happened.

Standard operating procedure: send out a group of officials on a fact-finding mission.

14 Qui autem pascebant eos, fugerunt et nuntiaverunt in civitatem et in agros; et egressi sunt videre quid esset facti.

15 καὶ ἔρχονται πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ θεωροῦσιν τὸν δαιμονιζόμενον καθήμενον ἱματισμένον καὶ σωφρονοῦντα, τὸν ἐσχηκότα τὸν λεγιῶνα, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν.

And coming towards Jesus, and they saw the man having a demon seated, dressed, and of sound mind, the one having had the legion, and they (the officials) were afraid.

Recall back to the beginning of the story: this man with the legion was truly uncontrollable, with superhuman strength and with no inclination to sit quietly. So the officials fear what they cannot understand; which is, after all, a pretty typical reaction.

15 Et veniunt ad Iesum; et vident illum, qui a daemonio vexabatur, sedentem, vestitum et sanae mentis, eum qui legionem habuerat, et timuerunt.

16 καὶ διηγήσαντο αὐτοῖς οἱ ἰδόντες πῶς ἐγένετο τῷ δαιμονιζομένῳ καὶ περὶ τῶν χοίρων.

And those having seen (= witnessed) told them ( the officials) how it went down regarding the demonaic and about the pigs.

16 Et qui viderant, narraverunt illis qualiter factum esset ei, qui daemonium habuerat, et de porcis.

17 καὶ ἤρξαντο παρακαλεῖν αὐτὸν ἀπελθεῖν ἀπὸ τῶν ὁρίων αὐτῶν.

And they began to call upon him (Jesus) to go out of their borders.

The people of the town are afraid of what has happened, so they want Jesus to leave. Realizing what I said about fearing what you don’t understand, there is a certain false note to this. As a story, something doesn’t quite add up. A man comes and does you a service, so you react by telling him to leave town? What’s wrong with this picture?

So far, I’ve suggested that Mark inserts these little…disclaimers to explain the lack of followers Jesus had in his native land. There may be a better explanation for this tendency, but, so far, what it could be escapes me. 

17 Et rogare eum coeperunt, ut discederet a finibus eorum.

18 καὶ ἐμβαίνοντος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ πλοῖον παρεκάλει αὐτὸν ὁδαιμονισθεὶς ἵνα μετ’ αὐτοῦ ᾖ.

And he having embarked into the boat, the no longer having had a demon called upon (Jesus) in order that he (the man) might be with him (Jesus).

18 Cumque ascenderet navem, qui daemonio vexatus fuerat, deprecabatur eum, ut esset cum illo.

19 καὶ οὐκ ἀφῆκεν αὐτόν, ἀλλὰ λέγει αὐτῷ, Υπαγεεἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου πρὸς τοὺς σούς, καὶ ἀπάγγειλον αὐτοῖς ὅσα ὁ κύριός σοι πεποίηκεν καὶ ἠλέησέν σε.

But he (Jesus) did not take him, but he (Jesus) said to him, “Take yourself to your home and to those of yours, and announce to them how much the lord has done for you and how he took mercy on you.”

I keep translating the << άγγειλ- >> root as ‘announce,’ which is, perhaps, needlessly stilted. However, that is the root meaning of the word. It’s also the root of “angel”, which are, thus, “announcers.”  The double-gamma << γγ  >> in Greek takes on an “-ng-” sound, which is why it gets transliterated the way it does.

On the one hand (in Greek,  μεν), we have seen Jesus telling those he healed, the leper in Mk 1.43, not to tell people what happened.

OTOH (more elegantly, in Greek δε) by not taking the man with him, isn’t doesn’t the man become something of an advertisement? “Hey, look, it’s the guy who used to be a demonaic, until he was healed by that Jesus dude.” 

So there’s a bit of a mixed message, here, don’t we think? 

19 Et non admisit eum, sed ait illi: “ Vade in domum tuam ad tuos et annuntia illis quanta tibi Dominus fecerit et misertus sit tui ”.

20 καὶ ἀπῆλθεν καὶ ἤρξατο κηρύσσειν ἐν τῇ Δεκαπόλειὅσα ἐποίησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, καὶ πάντες ἐθαύμαζον.

And he (the former demonaic) went away, and he began to preach in the Decapolis, (saying) what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed.

20 Et abiit et coepit praedicare in Decapoli quanta sibi fecisset Iesus, et omnes mirabantur.

OK, let me apologize. I think I get it. The idea of the apparent contradiction of don’t tell/but they tell anyway is most likely not about explaining Jesus’ lack of followers. Quite the contrary: it’s part of the repeated message Mark broadcasts about how the crowds gathered, and how big they were. Jesus admonishes silence, but these folk are not to be suppressed. No, they go and shout it from the rooftops, as we will hear in Matthew.

Sorry to be so dense on this.

Anyway, we’ve come to the end of the story. A very interesting piece, full of lots of quirky details. It has all these details, in part, due to the sheer length of it. How much of this is Mark, and how much is tradition? I think a lot of it should be credited to Mark. I think this was the genius of the author(s) of this gospel, to make the whole thing a narrative.

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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 14, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I questioned whether they were wild pigs or not, but the term “swineherd” seems to indicate caretakers of domesticated animals. It could also be a term for someone who kept the pigs away from the crops, possibly.

    I do agree it appears to be domestic pigs, indicating non-Jews or a mixed population.

  2. Yes, it seems pretty clear that these were domesticated pigs. The other thing to consider is that I don’t get the sense that the area around the Sea of Galilee had much wildlife at all, and certainly not something like a herd of pigs. Plus, given the Gentile population thereabouts (the Dekapolis, for example), and one suspects that wild pigs would quickly have been hunted into extinction.

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