Mark Chapter 7:1-13
1 Καὶ συνάγονται πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καί τινες τῶν γραμματέων ἐλθόντες ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων
And some (lit = the) Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together to him, having come from Jerusalem.
It seems the point of this is to tell us that important people in the Capital had taken notice of Jesus, and were curious enough to make the trek out into the hinterlands of Galilee. So this sort of fits in with what Mark tells us about the vast crowds that followed Jesus everywhere.
1 Et conveniunt ad eum pharisaei et quidam de scribis venientes ab Hierosolymis;
2 καὶ ἰδόντες τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὅτι κοιναῖς χερσίν, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ἀνίπτοις, ἐσθίουσιν τοὺς ἄρτους
And seeing some of his disciples that with common hands, which is to say ‘unwashed’, they (the disciples) ate bread.
The Greek: << κοιναῖς >> is ‘common’, as in ‘common cold’, or ‘common language’. It’s also the word used to describe Greek as it became the universal ( = ‘common’) language of the Eastern Mediterranean: κοινη = koine Greek. (final e has e long a sound). Here, though, the idea of ‘common’ is more along the British ‘common’, as in ‘low-born’, or not sophisticated enough to wash their hands before eating like any civilised Jew would do.
2 et cum vidissent quosdam ex discipulis eius communibus manibus, id est non lotis, manducare panes
3 οἱ γὰρ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἐὰν μὴ πυγμῇ νίψωνται τὰς χεῖρας οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν, κρατοῦντες τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων,
For the Pharisees and all Jews, unless they diligently wash their hands, do not eat, holding the traditions of their forebears/elders.
This is telling: Mark feels the need to explain Jewish practice; this is excellent evidence to show that he was not writing for Jews, but for Gentiles.
3 — pharisaei enim et omnes Iudaei, nisi pugillo lavent manus, non manducant, tenentes traditionem seniorum;
4 καὶ ἀπ’ ἀγορᾶς ἐὰν μὴ βαπτίσωνται οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἄλλα πολλά ἐστιν ἃ παρέλαβον κρατεῖν, βαπτισμοὺς ποτηρίων καὶ ξεστῶν καὶ χαλκίων[καὶ κλινῶν]
And (coming) from the market, unless they baptize (= bathe) they do not eat, and there are many other things which receiving they maintain, baptism ( = washing) of cups and pots and bronze (utensils, or cookware) [ and tables ].
The Greek: this is interesting: ‘baptism’ is sort of, more or less, the standard word for ‘wash’ or ‘bathe’, here even including the notion of washing off tables. I was not aware of this.
This is a big deal.
It would seem that the base or root meaning of ‘baptize’, per Liddell and Scott, is ‘to dip’ or ‘to plunge’. In the passive, it can mean ‘to drown’. The common (here meaning ‘ordinary’, or ‘one most encountered’) came to be something like ‘to be soaked’. Here, the meaning seems to be closer to just plain ‘wash’, as in, ‘washing the dishes’. But given ‘soaked, we can see where The Baptizer came from, but we need to step back from that implication for a moment.
We are so accustomed to thinking of ‘baptism’ as a special thing, set aside from ‘washing’, that it’s good to realize that the word did not necessarily have this implication. In fact, we hear ‘baptism’ and we think ‘ritual’; it’s an automatic association. We imported the word whole into English, simply changing the letters to the Latin alphabet. We did not translate it; we transliterated it. Given our associations, we have to remember that, for the person in the ancient world, hearing ‘baptise’ would have been the same as ‘wash’. Think: “John the Washer”, or “John the Dunker”. Has something of a different implication, doesn’t it?
It’s on a par with ‘sacred breath’.
In fact, I simply assumed (bad idea!) that ‘baptizo’ had a special meaning in Greek as well. Wrong!
Once again, we are given a very sharp lesson in how what ‘everyone knows’ has accumulated and stratified over the past 2,000 years. Which is the motivation and the point of this entire exercise.
4 et a foro nisi baptizentur, non comedunt; et alia multa sunt, quae acceperunt servanda: baptismata calicum et urceorum et aeramentorum et lectorum —
5 καὶ ἐπερωτῶσιν αὐτὸν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς, Διὰ τί οὐ περιπατοῦσιν οἱ μαθηταί σου κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, ἀλλὰ κοιναῖς χερσὶν ἐσθίουσιν τὸν ἄρτον;
And the Pharisees and the Scribes asked him, “Because of what do your disciples walking around, against the traditions of the elders/forebears, but with common hands eat the bread?” (= Why do your disciples not wash their hands after going out? Instead of following our customs, why do they eat with unwashed hands?)
5 et interrogant eum pharisaei et scribae: “ Quare discipuli tui non ambulant iuxta traditionem seniorum, sed communibus manibus manducant panem? ”.
6 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Καλῶς ἐπροφήτευσενἨσαΐας περὶ ὑμῶν τῶν ὑποκριτῶν, ὡς γέγραπται [ὅτι] Οὗτος ὁ λαὸς τοῖς χείλεσίνμε τιμᾷ, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ:
He said to them, “Well (lit = ‘beautifully) did Isaiah prophecy about your hypocrisy, as it is written [that]:
This people honors me with the lips, / but their heart is far from me
This last bit of the stanza is interesting. The verb << ἀπέχει >> literally means ‘to hold’, but with the prefix, it is more specifically ‘to hold away (from)’. In English, it would be something like ‘the heart is held’, but the verb here in Greek is active. “Heart” is the subject of the sentence, so more literally in Greek it’s something like “The heart holds away from me”. That does get the sense across, IMO, but it’s rather an oblique usage. In contrast, “the lips” is in the dative (of instrument) in the first part, with “this people” doing the honoring. Nothing that really alters the meaning, but it’s kind of interesting to see how the subject changes in the middle of the sentence, and that it’s the heart that’s doing the ‘holding away (from)’.
For simplicity, I just copied what my crib translations pretty much all say. Again, this has become a convention, even though it’s not exactly true to the original. But it doesn’t really change the meaning significantly.
6 At ille dixit eis: “ Bene prophetavit Isaias de vobis hypocritis, sicut scriptum est:
“Populus hic labiis me honorat, / cor autem eorum longe est a me;
7 μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με, διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων.
In vain they worship me / teaching the teachings (and) commandments of men
7 in vanum autem me colunt / docentes doctrinas praecepta hominum”.
8 ἀφέντες τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ κρατεῖτε τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
Giving up the commandments of God / you hold the traditions of men
Just kind of interesting to note how the person of the subject changed; in V-6 & 7, it’s third person; in V-8, it’s second.
8 Relinquentes mandatum Dei tenetis traditionem hominum ”.
9 Καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Καλῶς ἀθετεῖτε τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν στήσητε.
And he said to them, “Well do you reject the command of God, so that you may maintain (lit = stand) your own traditions.”
Here we have pretty well the first instance where Jesus is doing a Paul and challenging the Jews on their conception and/or practice and/or interpretation of the Law, and what it may mean to be an observant Jew. The word we would expect in Paul would be ‘justification’, but it is not to be found.
Jesus does not necessarily contradict Paul; we had several stories in Chapters 5 and 6 in which faith was rather the sine qua non of being saved. But we discussed how ‘saved’ in the Greek use of the word, meant ‘save a life’; there is no truly real, really concrete evidence to indicate that ‘saving’ had anything to do with eternal life. So faith is important for Jesus, but he does not really, specifically say how or why, beyond a preservation of the body. At least, he has not said anything yet.
So the point here, IMO, is that Jesus is contrasting his view of Judaism with that of the Pharisees and Scribes. This does not seem to be connected to the idea of faith. Rather, Jesus contends that they follow the precepts and traditions of men, not of God. This means that what they do is not legitimate, or is liable to being superseded by the ‘true’ method, which is actually to follow God’s law. This is not how Paul makes the distinction; his solution is to invalidate the Law–at least, in a sense. Jesus is doing the same thing, but with a different emphasis, or from a different approach. In both cases, we start from the point that the God of the Jews is the One True Living God; the purpose, for both Paul and Jesus, is to prove that the way Judaism was practiced, or the way it was preached, was not the ‘correct’ way. For Paul, this meant to replace the strictures and prohibitions of the Law with Faith in The Christ; For Jesus here, this meant to show that the Pharisees and Scribes did not follow the Law of God, but the traditions of men.
Which of these positions is the more radical? The idea of faith over ritual, IMO. Much ancient religion was concerned with ritual process and procedure. That we are, to some degree, stepping back from Paul’s more extreme position indicates, IMO, that Paul’s position may have been too radical.
Is this why we have two–at least slightly–different approaches? This, I think, is the more useful question. Remember: Paul came first. That needs to be stressed, frequently, because it is too often forgotten in the ‘primacy of the gospels’ attitude. Why didn’t the notion of Faith over the Law catch on? Because it really didn’t, until Martin Luther made this the centerpiece of his new interpretation of the NT. Instead, we got the tenet that the Pharisees misrepresented Judaism, thereby failing to recognize the Messiah when he was in their midst.
9 Et dicebat illis: “ Bene irritum facitis praeceptum Dei, ut traditionem vestram servetis.
10 Μωϋσῆς γὰρ εἶπεν, Τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα σου, καί, Ὁ κακολογῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα θανάτῳ τελευτάτω:
“For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘the one cursing his father or mother, let him end in death’.”
10 Moyses enim dixit: “Honora patrem tuum et matrem tuam” et: “Qui maledixerit patri aut matri, morte moriatur”;
11 ὑμεῖς δὲ λέγετε, Ἐὰν εἴπῃ ἄνθρωπος τῷ πατρὶ ἢ τῇ μητρί, Κορβᾶν, ὅ ἐστιν, Δῶρον, ὃ ἐὰν ἐξ ἐμοῦ ὠφεληθῇς,
“For you say, ‘if a man might say to his father or to his mother, “Korban”, which is “(it is a) gift”, which is what you may profit from me. “
11 vos autem dicitis: “Si dixerit homo patri aut matri: Corban, quod est donum, quodcumque ex me tibi profuerit”,
12 οὐκέτι ἀφίετε αὐτὸν οὐδὲν ποιῆσαι τῷ πατρὶ ἢ τῇ μητρί,
“No longer do you let him do anything (lit = nothing) for his father and his mother.”
The Greek is kind of odd, and the thought is kind of odd, too. Basically, it seems to say that anyone who gives something as a gift to his parents, but doesn’t give it is not allowed to do anything else for his parents. But who the ‘you’ is that’s not allowing this double-dealer to do anything for his parents after that, is not entirely clear. My thought is that this simply doesn’t really make sense; I say this because the KJV, the NASB, the ESV, and the NIV all give fairly diverse translations for the two verses.
So, once again, it seems, we get a consensus translation. So far, we’ve been relatively free of these here in Mark.
And I’m not entirely sure, but it seems that ‘Korban’ is a Hebrew word. So, again, Mark feels the need to translate the word for a non-Jewish audience. At this point, we have to ask why he’s providing the original Hebrew (or Aramaic, which he has used elsewhere) at all. One supposes that it’s way of lending legitimacy to his story.
I came across the term “corban” in Eusebius. It is indeed a Hebrew word, and it refers to an offering that was made to the temple. Here is the explanation from Wikipedia.
…Jesus rebuked some of the Pharisees for their inappropriate position on Korban. Mark Chapter 7, also parallel Matthew Chapter 15. In these passages, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for “…making void the word of God by your tradition…” by violating the Fifth Commandment to <honor your father and mother>, when they rather followed their “traditions”. In the Gospel narrative, the Pharisees were keeping people obligated to their vow once something was set aside as Korban, prohibiting them to use it even in order to attend to the need of the parents. Many modern translations render Matthew 15:6 as if putting aside as Korban exempts people from their filial duty to the parents. Thus, it relieves people of any further responsibility to support their parents, whether it was actually turned over to the Temple treasury, being not important. This line of eisegesis interpretation is easily spotted in many Bible commentaries on this Gospel text….
Sometimes one doesn’t know enough to realize just how clueless one is! But seriously, this is why history is best written by someone with some background into the time period.
12 ultra non permittitis ei facere quidquam patri aut matri
13 ἀκυροῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ παραδόσει ὑμῶν ἧ παρεδώκατε: καὶ παρόμοια τοιαῦτα πολλὰ ποιεῖτε.
Having annulled the word of God by your tradition, which you have transmitted (= handed down) , and you have done many, many such other things.
The Greek: << παρόμοια τοιαῦτα πολλὰ >> both mean ‘many’. So Jesus is really, really emphasizing that the Pharisees have gone wrong many, many times.
So again, Jewish practice has been relegated to the status of ‘rules of men’ and mere ‘tradition’ (stop thinking about Tevye…) It is no longer the right way to be justified by the One True Living God (OTLG.)
What is interesting is that, so far, Mark has not given us much instruction on what it to replace it. At least, not yet.
note: I do not mean to be facetious, let alone sacrilegious by abbreviating OTLG. We are not theologians here. Rather, we’re engaged in the history of theology, which is a very different thing. As such, OTLG became a formulation, a way of thinking about the various divine, or at least supernatural beings that Jews and Gentiles and (eventually) Christians fully believed were real. The concept of the OTLG drastically separated Jews and subsequent Christians from the huge mass of pagans, who constituted upwards of 98% of the population of the Roman world at the time. Serious Greeks, by Plato’s day, had evolved into a de facto monotheism, but it was still highly qualified.
13 rescindentes verbum Dei per traditionem vestram, quam tradidistis; et similia huiusmodi multa facitis ”.
Posted on March 24, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged Bible, Bible commentary, Bible scholarship, biblical scholarship, commenting, gospel commentary, gospels, Historical Jesus, mark's gospel, New Testament, New Testament Greek Translation, NT Greek, NT Translation, religion, St Mark, theology, Translate Greek NT. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.