Mark Chapter 7:14-23

Chapter 7 continues.

14 Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος πάλιν τὸν ὄχλον ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀκούσατέ μου πάντες καὶ σύνετε.

And calling the crowd together again he said to them, “Everyone listen to me all understand.”

14 Et advocata iterum turba, dicebat illis: “ Audite me, omnes, et intellegite:

15 οὐδέν ἐστιν ἔξωθεντοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰσπορευόμενον εἰς αὐτὸν ὃ δύναται κοινῶσαι αὐτόν: ἀλλὰ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκπορευόμενά ἐστιν τὰ κοινοῦντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον.

(There is) nothing from outside a man having come in to him which is able to commonize (defile/corrupt) him; but the things coming out of a man is the thing commonizing (defiling/corrupting) him.

This is a shot at the Jewish dietary laws. Jesus here is saying, obliquely, that food does not make a person unclean, as opposed to standard Jewish custom. IOW, he is taking Paul’s line and telling his audience that it is not necessary to follow what would come to be called kosher.

The other implication of this is that some sort of actions are expected; this isn’t quite ‘do good works’, but we are told, again obliquely, that the acts or our speech that ‘come out of’ us is how we are shown to be corrupted, or bad, or whatever. No, it’s again important to note that the consequences of bad acts are not spelled out, but then the consequences to the individual for bad acts is a bit hazy in both Jewish and pagan thought of the time. Yes, there was a sense that God or the gods would reward or punish, but it was painfully obvious to anyone who thought about it that the bad often prosper while the good suffer. As a result, both Jewish and pagan thought from maybe the Third Century BCE had begun to move towards a sense of some kind of reward/punishment in the afterlife. But, if that is the context and perhaps the point understood, what happens to the person acting badly is far from clear here.

15 Nihil est extra hominem introiens in eum, quod possit eum coinquinare; sed quae de homine procedunt, illa sunt, quae coinquinant hominem! ”.

16/17  ὅτε εἰσῆλθεν εἰς οἶκον ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου, ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τὴν παραβολήν.

{Tr note: there is no V-16 in most editions of the Bible.]

When having gone home from the crowd, the disciples asked him about the parable.

Personally, wouldn’t have thought this qualified as a parable, but who am I to say? And, just to note, ‘parable’ is pretty much the same word as ‘parabola’.

(16) 17 Et cum introisset in domum a turba, interrogabant eum discipuli eius parabolam.

18 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀσύνετοί ἐστε; οὐ νοεῖτε ὅτι πᾶντὸ ἔξωθεν εἰσπορευόμενον εἰς τὸν ἄνθρωπον οὐ δύναται αὐτὸν κοινῶσαι,

And he said to them, “Are you really this dense (lit = lacking in understanding)? Do you not know that external things going into a man do  not commonize (defile) him, 

This is why I say it’s not much of a parable: rather than explain, as he did about the sower, he simply repeats himself. And I love the ‘Dullards!’ bit. However, we need to sympathize with the dullards here; they must be confused. All their lives, they’ve been scolded into following the dietary restrictions, and, suddenly Jesus says that this is ridiculous, and anyone who doesn’t get this is a dullard.

18 Et ait illis: “ Sic et vos imprudentes estis? Non intellegitis quia omne extrinsecus introiens in hominem non potest eum coinquinare,

19 ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἀλλ’ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν, καὶ εἰς τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται; καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα.

that does not go into his heart, but his stomach, and it comes out as excrement? Cleansing all the meats.

This last phrase, for it’s really not a sentence, is a really obvious interpolation. This has all the earmarks of a marginal gloss that eventually got incorporated into the main text after being recopied a few times.

19 quia non introit in cor eius sed in ventrem et in secessum exit? ”, purgans omnes escas.

20 ἔλεγεν δὲ ὅτι Τὸ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκπορευόμενον ἐκεῖνοκοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον:

But he said that, “That coming out of a man defiles the man.”

He was talking about excrement a few lines back, but that’s not what he means here. We are getting into a moral code, or just a code of behavior. Aside from having faith, this is the first real positive example of what we must do. But note that Jesus does not specify what happens if you do follow the moral code. He does not talk about being saved in this context.

20 Dicebat autem: “ Quod de homine exit, illud coinquinat hominem;

21 ἔσωθεν γὰρ ἐκ τῆς καρδίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἱ διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται,πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι,

“For coming from within, out of the heart of a man are the evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, 

21 ab intus enim de corde hominum cogitationes malae procedunt, fornicationes, furta, homicidia,

 22 μοιχεῖαι, πλεονεξίαι, πονηρίαι, δόλος, ἀσέλγεια, ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός,βλασφημία, ὑπερηφανία, ἀφροσύνη:

“adultery, greed, wickedness, guile, lasciviousness, eyes (presumably either evil eye or coveting: eying someone else’s goods), lechery, blasphemy, pride, folly;

We got much the same rundown of the Seven (thirteen, actually) Deadly Sins in Gal 5:19. The lists aren’t exactly the same, but I wouldn’t expect them to be. No doubt each person had his own particular issues or things he wanted to emphasize. However, the fact that both Paul and Mark have such a list is, IMO, very significant. This indicates that this may well have been something the historical Jesus was truly concerned about.

Perhaps especially telling is the fact that fornication makes the top of the list here, where it was only #2 on Paul’s list. However, it’s interesting to note that this is the only occurrence of the word in Mark; it shows up twice in Matthew, not at all in Luke (but thrice in Acts) and once in John. By comparison, it shows up a whole bunch of times in Paul’s various letters.

Here’s a bit of self-confession: one of the reasons I started actually reading the Bible was to sort out where the whole emphasis on sexual purity came from. I had the vague sense that it was St Paul, rather than Jesus, who made such an issue out of it. And it seems that this is, to some degree, borne out. I’m not suggesting that Jesus was a libertine, but he doesn’t seem to be as focused on it as Paul was, and certainly not to the degree the later Church was. Where the word does show up is in a list of major evil acts.

Part of the reason that the subsequent Church became focused on sins of the flesh is due to the background noise of dualistic thought that was permeating the Eastern Mediterranean. The Gnostics were dualists, and most dualists posit the distinction of flesh = bad and spirit = good. We mentioned this a number of times in discussing Galatians. Dualistic thought produced the Gospel of Thomas, so it was one strain among some of the communities of Jesus followers. It may have gone back to Jesus, but, IMO, it seems more likely that it was introduced more by Paul.

Of course, this is a highly contentious statement, but I’ll just leave it as my opinion. Feel free to disagree. Feel free to tell me why you disagree.

22 adulteria, avaritiae, nequitiae, dolus, impudicitia, oculus malus, blasphemia, superbia, stultitia:

23 πάντα ταῦτα τὰ πονηρὰ ἔσωθεν ἐκπορεύεται καὶ κοινοῖ τὸ νἄνθρωπον.

All these sorts of evil things (from) within come out and defile a man.

23 omnia haec mala ab intus procedunt et coinquinant hominem ”.

The conclusion here is that we are on notice that a certain level of conduct is expected. People do bad things. Dietary laws don’t matter; behaving badly does. But, what the consequences of this bad behaviour are, we still have not been told.

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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 March 24, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The Law’s relation to an afterlife in Judaism is not what most Christians think it is, as you note. It isn’t a uniform belief, either, and it has probably changed. I’ve heard a Jewish joke about God’s gift of the Torah that may illustrate how different it is from Christian thought:

    “God overheard some rabbis discussing the meaning of a passage in the Torah. God decided to offer a clarification to the rabbis, but he was interrupted by one of the them. ‘Is the Torah not a gift and does it not belong to us?’, asked the rabbi. ‘Yes,’ said God. The rabbi responded, ‘Then isn’t it ours to decide what it means? If not, then it is not a gift!’

    I think Jesus might appreciate this idea.

  2. My sense is that the Jewish notion of the afterlife was indeed changing in the couple of centuries on either side of the Common Era. As I understand it, the afterlife was viewed–if at all–as similar to the Greek notion of a shadowy, disembodied existence, as was portrayed in “The Odyssey”. But even that, I think, was a development. There was a good deal of ferment and cross-pollination occurring under the aegis of Greek rule in the Near/Middle East. However, the idea of the afterlife as Christians conceive it was, I believe, a Christian invention. I have always suspected that the Christian idea of the afterlife was one of its main selling points. Even so, that idea was still coming into existence when Paul and Mark wrote. It had not attained its final form, and would not do so, I believe, for a couple of centuries.

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