Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mark Chapter 10:32-45

Chapter 10 continues.

32 ησαν δὲ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀναβαίνοντες εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, καὶ ἦν προάγων αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, καὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο, οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο. καὶ παραλαβὼν πάλιν τοὺς δώδεκα ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς λέγειν τὰ μέλλοντα αὐτῷ συμβαίνειν,

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem and Jesus was the leader, and they were amazed, but those hearing were afraid and again taking aside the Twelve he began to speak to them the things intended (= ‘to befall’) to him (Jesus).

The Greek: the prefix << ἀνα >> has the sense of ‘up’, which is why I translated this as ‘up to Jerusalem’. And the verb here, <<ἀναβαίνώ>> is the basis for the title of the book The Anabasis, by Xenophon. It has been rendered as “The March Up Country”.

Going to Jerusalem: this is the final journey Jesus will make. The QHJ people make a big deal about Jesus’ reason for going to Jerusalem. One (at least) has said that this was intended as a final showdown between Jesus and the religious authorities. I don’t know, but I think it’s more likely that they were going to celebrate Passover. In the three Synoptics, this last trip is the only time Jesus went to Jerusalem; John, however, has Jesus making more than one. This is one of the few instances where I think John might be more historically accurate than the other three. Mark’s tone here is very casual. They’re going to Jerusalem. No big deal. Nor does he feel the need to explain why, almost as if that would be understood: of course, they were going for Passover. This was the biggest festival of the year, and Jews from all over came to Jerusalem. So of course, they were going for Passover.

Note: one good objection to ‘everyone would assume it was for Passover’ theory is that Mark may have been writing for non-Jews. There is a lot of contention about this, a lot of it probably artificial. Much of it is due to the idea that “Mark” = “John Mark”, companion of Peter, and that the gospel was written in Rome. While I agree that this gospel was not written for a Judean audience, I’m not sure the evidence for Rome is all that compelling. We have noted that Mark feels compelled to translate Aramaic words, and that his geography is (supposedly; I can’t verify) a bit off, but ‘outside Judea/Galilee’ is not equal to ‘Rome’. It is at least as possible that he was writing for an audience that could have been significantly, if not predominantly Jewish, but that did not speak Aramaic. However, this is one of those arguments that will never end, because there is no real evidence; just inference and supposition. Like I’m doing.

Aside from that, note that Jesus ‘took aside the Twelve’. This would imply that there was a larger crowd accompanying him. Otherwise, he would not need to take them aside. But why are those hearing afraid? What is Jesus discussing? His coming demise? But Mark doesn’t say this was the topic until he takes them aside. Most likely, IMO, this a bit of journalist compression: Mark, for once, doesn’t repeat that Jesus was talking about his coming demise in this verse, but intends the announcement of topic in the next to do double duty.

 32 Erant autem in via ascendentes in Hierosolymam, et praecedebat illos Iesus, et stupebant; illi autem sequentes timebant. Et assumens iterum Duodecim coepit illis dicere, quae essent ei eventura:

33 ὅτι Ἰδοὺ ἀναβαίνομεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδοθήσεται τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς γραμματεῦσιν, καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτὸν θανάτῳ καὶ παραδώσουσιν αὐτὸν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν

(he said, cont’d from prev verse) “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the son of man will be handed over to the high priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and he will be handed over to the peoples (usu trans: Gentiles)”,

This is the third or fourth time we’ve heard this now.

33 “Ecce ascendimus in Hierosolymam; et Filius hominis tradetur principibus sacerdotum et scribis, et damnabunt eum morte et tradent eum gentibus

34 καὶ ἐμπαίξουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐμπτύσουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ μαστιγώσουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν, καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται.

(cont’d from prev verse) “and they will make sport of him and  spit on him and flog him and kill him, and after three days, he will rise.”

The habit of Jesus of speaking in the third person has sometimes led to the suggestion that he was actually talking about another who would come after. I’m not sure how much support this idea really has, but I don’t think it is worthy of serious consideration.  And again, the detailed accuracy of all this provides all the earmarks of a prophecy after the fact. And, since Mark was writing forty years later, well, it makes sense.

Now, the thing about this is that Paul really has no details about Jesus’ death; simply that he was crucified. However the site Early Christian Writings ( http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ ) indicates that a Passion narrative had begun to circulate fairly early on. This is certainly possible, but the early date doesn’t necessarily indicate accuracy. Still, I find it entirely credible that such a narrative came into being quickly; the movie “The Passion Of The Christ” demonstrates the universal interest in lurid details. Some of what Mark recorded is, possibly accurate, in some degree, but a lot of it was, I suspect, filled in later.

34 et illudent ei et conspuent eum et flagellabunt eum et interficient eum, et post tres dies resurget ”.

35 Καὶ προσπορεύονται αὐτῷ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης οἱ υἱοὶ Ζεβεδαίου λέγοντες αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, θέλομεν ἵνα ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωμέν σε ποιήσῃς ἡμῖν.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him, saying, “Teacher, we wish in order to ask you to do something for us.”

35 Et accedunt ad eum Iacobus et Ioannes filii Zebedaei dicentes ei: “ Magister, volumus, ut quodcumque petierimus a te, facias nobis”.

36 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί θέλετέ [με] ποιήσω ὑμῖν;

And he (Jesus) said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

36 At ille dixit eis: “Quid vultis, ut faciam vobis?”.

37 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Δὸς ἡμῖν ἵνα εἷς σου ἐκ δεξιῶν καὶ εἷς ἐξ ἀριστερῶν καθίσωμεν ἐν τῇ δόξῃ σου.

They said to him, “Give us in order that on your right and on your left we will sit (when you are) in your glory.”

This is interesting for two reasons. First, that they asked in the first place. We recently got the lesson about the first being last, and yet here they go asking to be placed in positions of prominence. 

The second thing is the bit about ‘in your glory’. This picks up on the cite in 8:38/9:1 (actually part of the same passage) about the son of man coming in glory, but it’s the glory of the father in 8:38.  So at first glance, this may seem to be a bit of a different twist on the theme; a second glance, however, indicates something more. IMO, this represents another layer added on, a further step in the deification of Jesus that culminated some 25 or so years later with “in the beginning was the Word”.

37 Illi autem dixerunt ei: “Da nobis, ut unus ad dexteram tuam et alius ad sinistram sedeamus in gloria tua”.

38 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε. δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω, ἢ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼβαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι;

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the drink that I drink, or to be baptised in the baptism   (in which) I will be baptised?”

Note that Jesus is trying to dissuade them, but he doesn’t throw the last/first thing at them. Why not? And, it’s interesting because tradition has it that John was the only Apostle to die peacefully of old age; the others were martyred. So how will John be subjecting himself to what Jesus will suffer? Of course, this doesn’t actually say he will suffer, but that he’s willing to do so. Still, it’s a bit odd.   

38 Iesus autem ait eis: “Nescitis quid petatis. Potestis bibere calicem, quem ego bibo, aut baptismum, quo ego baptizor, baptizari?”.

39 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Δυνάμεθα. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε,

“They said to him, “We are able.” Jesus said to them, “The drink which I drink you will drink, and the baptism in which I am baptised you will be baptised, 

39 At illi dixerunt ei: “Possumus”. Iesus autem ait eis:“ Calicem quidem, quem ego bibo, bibetis et baptismum, quo ego baptizor, baptizabimini;

40 τὸ δὲ καθίσαι ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἢ ἐξεὐωνύμων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι, ἀλλ’ οἷς ἡτοίμασται.

(cont’d from prev verse), but the sitting at my right or my left is not mine to give, but for those who ave been prepared.”
 
40 sedere autem ad dexteram meam vel ad sinistram non est meum dare, sed quibus paratum est”.

Guess I should have left my comment about John here. Jesus seems to be saying that John will experience what Jesus did, but later tradition says otherwise. This is, perhaps, an indication that the tradition went off on its own track, with its own momentum, not necessarily keeping all that had been written firmly in mind. This is, it seems, another indication of how fragmented the traditions became, which meant it was difficult to round them all back into an ‘orthodox’ position.

41 Καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ δέκα ἤρξαντο ἀγανακτεῖν περὶ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωάννου.

And hearing, the ten began to become indignant about James and John.

41 Et audientes decem coeperunt indignari de Iacobo et Ioanne.

42 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱδοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι αὐτῶν κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν.

And calling them, Jesus said to them, “Uou know that those of the peoples ( = Gentiles/pagans) appearing to rule lord it over them (the others) and the great of them have power over them (them = the others).

42 Et vocans eos Iesus ait illis:“Scitis quia hi, qui videntur principari gentibus, dominantur eis, et principes eorum potestatem habent ipsorum.

43 οὐχ οὕτως δέ ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν: ἀλλ’ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ μέγας γενέσθαι ἐν ὑμῖν, ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος,

“Do not be like this among you. Rather, the one who wishes to be great among you will be the minister of you.

Note that the word here is ‘diak0nos’. The deacon.

43 Non ita est autem in vobis, sed quicumque voluerit fieri maior inter vos, erit vester minister;

44 καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος, ἔσται πάντων δοῦλος:

“And he who wishes to be first among you, let him be the slave of all.

While here the word is ‘doulos’. The slave. Now, there may not be as much difference in these words as we would find in our modern usages, but I still have to wonder if the choice had to do with more than rhetorical/literary reasons: not wanting to be redundant, for example.

And I still want to know why James and John didn’t get this speech.

44 et, quicumque voluerit in vobis primus esse, erit omnium servus;

45 καὶ γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.

For the son of man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life as ransom for all.”

45 nam et Filius hominis non venit, ut ministraretur ei, sed ut ministraret et daret animam suam redemptionem pro multis”.

This really steps into a big theological debate: what was the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice. The base root of the Greek word, << λύτρον >> is ‘ransom’, but the meaning can also be as neutral as recompense for labor. In between is the sense of being the price of manumission for a slave. Now, if Jesus was ransom, to whom was it paid? The Devil? But then, does this not imply that the Devil had some sort of hold over God, so that God has to send his son to pay off the Devil? That is what ‘ransom’ means. And this isn’t much changed if we prefer ‘price of manumission’, because we still have to ask to whom this price was paid, and we are presented with mostly the same choice(s).

There is much, much more to this discussion. Norman Cantor, in his most highly excellent “Medieval History” has a terrific discussion of the main points of this debate, but handled as an historian, so it doesn’t get too bogged down in the minutiae of the theology. Suffice it to say that, really, this issue has never been settled conclusively, to anyone’s full satisfaction. As for Cantor’s book, I’ve read the first edition probably a dozen times, and it’s easily on my ‘favourite books’ list. I have also read the second edition, but only once. I prefer the first.

Mark Chapter 10:17-31

There is no logical break, so I left this as one longish piece. I don’t think this will require a lot of comment, at least in the sense that it’s all rather a single block, so the comment will likely come in large chunks.

17 Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ εἰς ὁδὸν προσδραμὼν εἷς καὶ γονυπετήσαςαὐτὸν ἐπηρώτα αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ποιήσω ἵνα ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;

And having gone out onto the road, (a man) ran to (him = Jesus), and genuflecting he (the man) asked him (Jesus), “Good teacher, what shall I do in order that I will inherit eternal life?”

First and quickly, this time the supplicant genuflects (lit= bends the knee; perhaps kneels); prior supplicants have fallen, presumably prostrate, at his feet. This is, as we find out, an man of some social status, so perhaps he doesn’t feel compelled to grovel as the others have. Although checking back to 5:22, even Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, feel at Jesus’ feet. Apparently, this man’s wealth carried more status than being a leader of the synagogue? Because this is very much a status issue. The giver has status; the recipient is dependent. The degree of dependence would dictate the degree of supplication. Or–this just occurred to me–perhaps Mark is signalling to us that this guy is not entirely serious; even Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet, but this guy only kneels. It’s possible, I suppose.

But the real issue here is ‘eternal life’. We saw this phrase in Gal 6:8, and Paul uses it three times in Romans. Thus we know that Paul was talking about eternal life some twenty years before Mark was written. But this is the first use of the term in Mark. Back at the end of Chapter 9, we were told about entering life/the life lame or one-eyed, but it was not eternal life. So why hasn’t this been part of the story so far? To me, that is the real question of the passage, or of the whole gospel so far.

Really, the concept salvation leading to eternal life is arguably the central tenet of Christianity. That’s kind of the whole point. For a lot of Christians, for Paul, for Martin Luther, being saved was it; good works, leading the Christian life were important, but it was justification, which led to salvation, based on faith that was the real issue. So where has this been? Or even, why didn’t Paul stress this more? The idea comes up only in two of his authentic–which means early–epistles. Where this idea really comes into its own is in John; Matthew and Luke sort of echo Mark without adding anything; it’s John that develops the idea and gives it the central role that the concept has had ever since.

And this is what I mean about the development of ideas. One would think that this would be the Grand Prize right from the start. Or, rather, that if this was what Paul was preaching,  then why wasn’t it the main idea of Mark and the rest? Why did Mark wait until Chapter 10–two-thirds of the way through–to bring it up? I suppose this discussion should be saved for Romans, but Romans sort of represents the apex and culmination of Paul’s work and thought. So, even for Paul, this idea only came, seemingly, late to the party. I find this odd, because who doesn’t want to live forever? This is a powerful idea, and a very desirable one. Why not put it front-and-center right from the start?

And this is also, IMO, further indication of how fragmented Jesus’ message had become. I am of the opinion that Mark was probably aware of Paul’s thought, even if it was by way of oral summary. If eternal life was the centerpiece, or even a significant part of Jesus’ teaching, then why do we not hear about it until Chapter 10? Why does Paul wait until Romans to talk about the idea, aside from the one-off in Gal 6:8? IMO, this all means it probably wasn’t all that central to Jesus’ teaching. Rather, this was something that was worked out over time, so that it did not take pride of place until sixty or seventy years later, when John wrote. Every0ne was aware of it, but it was sort of a second-tier idea until the turn of the Second Century CE.

Trust, me, reading The Christian Tradition: A History Of The Development of Doctrine, Vol 1 by Jaroslav Pelikan, will give you tremendous insight into how a lot of the ideas of the Nicene Creed did not exist until 200 or 300 years after Jesus’ death. 

My thoughts here do not feel quite complete. There is more to be said about this. It’s like taking your main thesis and putting in a footnote a hundred pages into the book.

17 Et cum egrederetur in viam, accurrens quidam et, genu flexo ante eum, rogabat eum: “ Magister bone, quid faciam ut vitam aeternam percipiam? ”.

18 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴεἷς ὁ θεός.

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God.”

Sorry, this is borderline bizarre. Which, by the rules of the QSJ folk, means it’s probably authentic Jesus. I mean, this is a snarky answer. It’s the sort of smart-ass comment that I would reprimand my kids for making. Yes, it’s true, but it’s really kind of beside the point, isn’t it? I mean, we can understand Jesus saying this. And maybe if he was the Cynic Sage that Burton Mack (The Gospel of Q) suggests, this may give us some idea of how Jesus actually spoke. Diogenes the Cynic, the founder of the Cynic movement, is famous for his reply to no less than Alexander the Great: when Alexander asked what he could do for Diogenes, the latter’s response was “stand out of my light” because Diogenes was in the bath, and Alexander was blocking the sun. 

18 Iesus autem dixit ei: “ Quid me dicis bonum? Nemo bonus, nisi unus Deus.

19 τὰς ἐντολὰς οἶδας: Μὴ φονεύσῃς, Μὴ μοιχεύσῃς, Μὴ κλέψῃς, Μὴ ψευδομαρτυρήσῃς, Μὴ ἀποστερήσῃς, Τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα.

“The commandments you know: do not kill, do not adulterize, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.”

About half of the Decalogue.

19 Praecepta nosti: ne occidas, ne adulteres, ne fureris, ne falsum testimonium dixeris, ne fraudem feceris, honora patrem tuum et matrem ”.

20 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα πάντα ἐφυλαξάμην ἐκ νεότητός μου.

He (the man) said to him (Jesus), “Teacher, I have guarded/conserved all of these from my youth.”

Note he doesn’t have to be told twice. This time it’s just ‘Teacher’.

20 Ille autem dixit ei: “ Magister, haec omnia conservavi a iuventute mea ”.

21 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εν σε ὑστερεῖ: ὕπαγε ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι.

And Jesus looking upon him loved him and said to him, “There is a final (one/thing): take up whatever you have, sell it, and give (it) to the poor, and you will have your treasure in the sky, and follow after me.”

The “Jesus loved him” is interesting. This, I think, is meant as a second clue that the guy just isn’t going to cut it. The fault isn’t on Jesus’ side, for he loved the man, but the man is not quite up to it.

Now, ‘treasure in the sky’. We’ve discussed this before. That is what <<ἐν οὐρανῷ >> truly means. And the Latin is the same: << caelo  >> “Our Father who art in heaven” could properly be translated as “who art in the sky”. In English, we use ‘the heavens’ as a synonym for ‘the sky’. The English ‘heaven’ is a Germanic root, from a word that originally meant ‘sky’. So when did it become ‘heaven’ as in pearly gates and harps? For the most part, a glance through the places and ways this is used, ‘the sky’ would almost always be an appropriate translation. This is one of the few places where it doesn’t quite work. Why would you have treasure in the sky?

In fact, this equation of sky = heaven (as in, where God–or the gods–live) was probably taking place in pretty much all of the Mediterranean world at the time Mark wrote. So the mystery of when/why the evolution of meaning took place is not, or should not be, isolated solely to Christian usage.

Note: I was looking for some other reference, when I happened to notice that Matthew seems to prefer “Kingdom of Heaven” to the phrase “Kingdom of God” as Mark uses. This may help answer the question posed about when “sky” became “heaven”, because “kingdom of the sky” really doesn’t make a lot of sense. That is just not a usage one finds. In fact, Liddell and Scott show the word as meaning of “home of the gods” as far back as the Odyssey. So my questioning of the usage is not exactly proper. This is one of those situations where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My bad! And my apologies. But this is a voyage of discovery.

21 Iesus autem intuitus eum dilexit eum et dixit illi: “ Unum tibi deest: vade, quaecumque habes, vende et da pauperibus et habebis thesaurum in caelo; et veni, sequere me ”.

22 ὁ δὲστυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος, ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.

He having saddened at this speech went away sorrowing, for he was having many possessions.

This is very significant, too. This is the first time we are told that being wealthy is an impediment to salvation. And, interestingly, this sentiment does not seem to be present in Paul. Why would that be? Because Paul wasn’t as fixated on a code of behaviour? But we saw that Paul seemed to have sexual promiscuity as an issue; he seemed to go out of his way to enjoin against it. But sexual misbehaviour is very different from the sins of greed that the wealthy would be most prone to committing.

It is very tempting to see this injunction against wealth as something that was more of a issue for the living Jesus. It would be something that a Cynic Sage would complain about. We have noted that Paul was not overly concerned with Jesus before the Resurrection; as such, the message about ‘poor in spirit’ would not have been something that  he would have necessarily given much heed. The whole message of the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount in general are thought to have been preserved in Q, which the QHJ folks believe are mostly traceable to the living Jesus.

Which leads us once again to the question, why do we not get to this theme until Chapter 10?

22 Qui contristatus in hoc verbo, abiit maerens: erat enim habens possessiones multas.

23 Καὶ περιβλεψάμενος ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Πῶς δυσκόλως οἱ τὰ χρήματα ἔχοντες εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελεύσονται.

And looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “How difficultly those having money will enter into the kingdom of  God.”

Jesus leaves us no doubt here. 

Had to twist a bit to get the English to give a sense of the Greek. The word for “difficult” is an adverb in Greek.
 
23 Et circumspiciens Iesus ait discipulis suis: “ Quam difficile, qui pecunias habent, in regnum Dei introibunt”.

24 οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο ἐπὶ τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς πάλιν ἀποκριθεὶς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τέκνα, πῶς δύσκολόν ἐστιν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν:

The disciples marveled at his words. But Jesus again answering said to them, “Children, how difficult it is to get into the kingdom of heaven.”

First of all, addressing them as ‘children’ is unique. He doesn’t do this again. Second, he’s changed up the syntax here, so ‘difficult’ is an adjective.

Third and most importantly, he does not qualify the difficulty. It’s simply ‘difficult’, for everyone (understood). Again, this seems or feels rather different from ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’ from Chapter 1. You may not agree with that assessment of mine, but it feels very different.

24 Discipuli autem obstupescebant in verbis eius. At Iesus rursus respondens ait illis: “ Filii, quam diffficile est in regnum Dei introire.

25 εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλονδιὰ [τῆς] τρυμαλιᾶς [τῆς] ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν.

“It is easier for the the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God.

25 Facilius est camelum per foramen acus transire quam divitem intrare in regnum Dei ”.

26 οἱ δὲπερισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες πρὸς ἑαυτούς, Καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι;

They were even more amazed, saying to each other, “But who can be saved?”

Taking verses 25 & 26 together: in 25, Jesus once again stresses that it’s difficult specifically for the rich. More interesting, though, is the disciples’ reaction. For, couched in their amazement is the assumption that it should be easier for the wealthy. Throughout pretty much all of the ancient world, the equation of wealth = moral stature was an underlying assumption. The Romans were, perhaps, the most explicit about this. There, the Senatorial class was the wealthiest class of citizens. They came to be called “Optimates”, which should be recognizable as the root of “optimum”, or simply, “the best”. But this is the assumption that underlies the story of Job: his wealth was a mark of God’s favour. He was assumed to be an upright man because he was so wealthy. That’s why his adherence to YHWH was so striking; the outward favour had fallen away, but he remained steadfast. 

This underlying assumption was brought to the New World in particular by the Puritans. Sober living and hard work were seen as the means to a good life, the outward mark of which was material wealth. Not only that, but the Puritans were Calvinists, believers in double predestination. People were either saved or damned, and there was nothing one could do to change one’s destiny. However, it was assumed that material wealth was an indication that the holder of the wealth was in God’s favour. IOW, the wealthy were saved, and the poor were reprobate, and were damned. Unfortunately, this idea has run like a scarlet thread throughout the history of the US; the Robber Barons of the late 1900s were taken to be men of high moral value because they were men of high material wealth. And this attitude still pervades a lot of the attitudes in the US, which is why the whole argument over the social safety net is so bitterly contested.

So the disciples reflect this attitude.

26 Qui magis admirabantur dicentes ad semetipsos: “ Et quis potest salvus fieri?”.

27 ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει, Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις ἀδύνατον ἀλλ’ οὐ παρὰ θεῷ, πάντα γὰρ δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ.

Looking at them Jesus said, “For humans, they cannot, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

This sentence has gotten a lot of play as a statement of God’s omnipotence. That is the apparent implication. But there’s a bit more than that as well, and it’s gotten attention for other reasons. In time, the discussions about salvation, who would and/or should be saved came back to this statement. At its narrowest, it is probably to be taken as ‘God will save whom he pleases”. That may sound arbitrary, but for folks like Augustine, God was arbitrary because humans are so vile and depraved we all deserve damnation.

27 Intuens illos Iesus ait: “ Apud homines impossibile est sed non apud Deum: omnia enim possibilia sunt apud Deum ”.

28 Ἤρξατο λέγειν ὁ Πέτρος αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήκαμέν σοι.

Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have given up everything and followed you.”

This is a really human reaction. It captures exactly the sort of feeling someone like Peter would have experienced, but it also reinforces the whole wealth = moral value. Because as Peter sees it, if the rich can’t be saved, how can someone who has nothing be saved?

28 Coepit Petrus ei dicere: “ Ecce nos dimisimus omnia et secuti sumus te”.

29 ἔφη ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐδείς ἐστιν ὃς ἀφῆκεν οἰκίαν ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ μητέρα ἢ πατέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦκαὶ ἕνεκεν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου,

But Jesus said to him, “Amen I say to you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields on account of me and because of the good news, 

29 Ait Iesus: “ Amen dico vobis: Nemo est, qui reliquerit domum aut fratres aut sorores aut matrem aut patrem aut filios aut agros propter me et propter evangelium,

30 ἐὰν μὴ λάβῃ ἑκατονταπλασίονα νῦν ἐν τῷ καιρῷ τούτῳ οἰκίας καὶ ἀδελφοὺς καὶ ἀδελφὰς καὶ μητέρας καὶ τέκνα καὶ ἀγροὺς μετὰ διωγμῶν, καὶ ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τῷ ἐρχομένῳ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

“unless you receive a hundredfold in this season, and brothers and sisters and mother and children and fields with persecutions, and in the age to come life everlasting.”

OK, this is a bit confusing. The natural reading is ‘fields with persecutions’, but that’s over-literalising, I believe. But the points to be gotten is that Jesus seems to be promising that, in this season–as in, ‘in this life’–his followers will receive tangible rewards; that is, the hundred times return. I am not sure how that is supposed to work. Now, the return of mothers and brothers (but not fathers) is easy to explain, in the sense of the new community of believers that would come into being. But he’s promising a hundredfold and all this with persecution. Now it’s possible that this all means that you’ll get the hundredfold return in being persecuted, but this is all rather awkward Greek. But, awkward or not, it seems to be the most likely way to take this? Jesus is being somewhat ironic, promising that, if you give up everything, you get a whole heap of trouble in return.

Then, though, Jesus picks up on the eternal life theme brought up by the young man. So, maybe the ironic reading is correct? In this world, you get trouble; in the next, eternal life. Maybe not such a bad deal after all?

Please realize that I’m making this up as I go along. My intent is to look at this and see what it says, and what that reading could imply. As such, I’m necessarily pushing the envelope; as a result, I’m bound to go off the rails from time to time. And forgive the mixed metaphor!

30 qui non accipiat centies tantum nunc in tempore hoc, domos et fratres et sorores et matres et filios et agros cum persecutionibus, et in saeculo futuro vitam aeternam.

31 πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ [οἱ] ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι.

“For many (who are) first will be last, and those last (will be) first.

 31 Multi autem erunt primi novissimi, et novissimi primi”.

Good epigrammatic Greek. Just get the essentials in. Much is made of how crude the grammar is; perhaps, but Mark can pull off the occasional mot, as it were.

Aside from that, we get the linking of the last in this life, being first in the eternal life. That is a new piece of information, or a new concept. We got the last/first paradox a while ago, but we didn’t get the explicit connection with the eternal life. Thinking about it now, we can fill in the part about eternal life after the fact. It seems like that implication is there when we read back into it. But that’s exactly the problem with too much biblical analysis: it assumes that what came later was there explicitly from the start.

Is this getting confusing? From where I sit, it seems to be getting more convoluted, with the back-and-forth between the what was said before, and what’s being said now. These are, I think, the seams giving us a rough ride.

Mark Chapter 10:1-16

Now we start Chapter 10.

1 Καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἀναστὰς ἔρχεται εἰς τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδαίας [καὶ] πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ συμπορεύονται πάλιν ὄχλοι πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ὡς εἰώθει πάλιν ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς.

And then leaving he went to the territory of Judea, in the area of the Jordan, and  once again the crowd gathered towards him,  and according to (his) habit, he taught them.

The Greek: “according to his habit” overlays a verb that I can’t twist into anything reasonable in English. “As he was used to doing” would, perhaps, come closest, but the critical word “used to” is really an adjective. Or a gerundive, I suppose, to be precise.

I have begun counting theme words in Mark; well, actually, I’ve sort of been doing it all along. One of them is “popularity”; these are references like this one where we are told a crowd has gathered, or he’s had to sneak away. This is like reference #15; it’s mentioned frequently.

Now, Judea, the Jordan, these are the Baptist’s (the Dunker’s) old haunts. Why is he going back there? Is this another attempt by the evangelist to tie Jesus to John’s heritage?

1 Et inde exsurgens venit in fines Iudaeae ultra Iorda nem; et conveniunt iterum turbae ad eum, et, sicut consueverat, iterum docebat illos.

2 καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνδρὶ γυναῖκα ἀπολῦσαι, πειράζοντες αὐτόν.

And coming towards him, Pharisees asked him if it was allowed to unbind a woman from a man (for a man to divorce his wife), (for they were) testing him.

Once again, Jesus has run into opposition with the Establishment. This is another common theme so far, but not nearly so common as his popularity. 

2 Et accedentes pharisaei interrogabant eum, si licet viro uxorem dimittere, tentantes eum.

3 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί ὑμῖν ἐνετείλατο Μωϋσῆς;

He, answering, said to them, “What did Moses command you?”

3 At ille respondens dixit eis: “ Quid vobis praecepit Moyses? ”.

4 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Ἐπέτρεψεν Μωϋσῆς βιβλίον ἀποστασίου γράψαι καὶ ἀπολῦσαι.

And they said, “Moses allowed the book of standing apart (= decree of divorce) to be written and (the wife) to be dismissed.” 

4 Qui dixerunt: “ Moyses permisit libellum repudii scribere et dimittere ”.

5 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πρὸς τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν ἔγραψεν ὑμῖν τὴν ἐντολὴν ταύτην.

But Jesus said to them, “To (= F0r) your hardened hearts (a single word in the Greek) he wrote for you that commandment.”

5 Iesus autem ait eis: “ Ad duritiam cordis vestri scripsit vobis praeceptum istud.

6 ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς:

“From the beginning of creation, he made them make and female.

FYI: these excerpts are from Genesis. 1:27 and 2:24.

6 Ab initio autem creaturae masculum et feminam fecit eos.

7 ἕνεκεν τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα [καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ],

“Because of this, a man leaves his father and his mother [and attaches himself to his wife ]

7 Propter hoc relinquet homo patrem suum et matrem et adhaerebit ad uxorern suam,

8 καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν: ὥστε οὐκέτι εἰσὶν δύο ἀλλὰ μία σάρξ.

“And the two will become one flesh, so that they are no longer two but one flesh.

8 et erunt duo in carne una; itaque iam non sunt duo sed una caro.

9 ὃ οὖν ὁ θεὸς συνέζευξεν ἄνθρωπος μὴ χωριζέτω.

“Therefore, what God has joined together, a person must not separate.”

Not a whole lot to say about all of this. Once again, Jesus is having a disagreement with the Establishment (that word should resonate for anyone of a certain age) about the practice of Judaism. Except this time, Jesus is tightening the Law, rather than relaxing it as he did when he said that it’s not what goes into a person that make him unclean.

This is a situation where a much deeper level of expertise than I possess is required to put this into context. The only thing I can suggest is that this is, seemingly, of a piece with the more general trend towards stricter enforcement of the Law that is also manifest in the Essene movement. As mentioned before about the Baptist, some of this was no doubt due to the pervasive influence of  Graeco-Roman thought and practice. This stimulated a certain amount of what we might call nationalist backlash among the Judeans; remember, they had staged a minor insurrection at the death of Herod the Great; they would mount a full-scale rebellion in the years 67-70 that would result in the destruction of the Temple; and there was a third major uprising in the 130s CE, which resulted in the total extirpation of Jerusalem. A city was re-built on the site, but it was called Aelia, after the emperor, and the name of the territory was changed from Judea to Palestine.

Divorce was fairly common among the pagans, especially among the Romans, who saw marriage as a legal contract entered into by parties wishing to further their interests, rather than anything like the later Christian concept of an indissoluble sacrament. The reaction against the more lax attitude is likely, IMO, what prompted Jesus in this direction.

I’m sure there’s more I could or should say about this, but I’m really not sure what that might be.

9 Quod ergo Deus coniunxit, homo non separet ”.

10 Καὶ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν πάλιν οἱ μαθηταὶ περὶ τούτου ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν.

And (going) home again the disciples asked about this.

“Going home.” Once again, the most natural reading of this is that Jesus was going to his house. Back in Chapter 1, when they went to Simon’s house, we were told they went to Simon’s house. Now, perhaps we’re to continue to understand that reading, but that is not the most obvious reading of the Greek.

10 Et domo iterum discipuli de hoc interrogabant eum.

11 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην μοιχᾶται ἐπ’ αὐτήν,

And he said to them, “He who would dismiss his wife and marry another adulterizes with her (the second wife).

Yes, I realize ‘adulterize’ is not a verb in English. But it is in Greek.

11 Et dicit illis: “ Quicumque dimiserit uxorem suam et aliam duxerit, adulterium committit in eam;

12 καὶ ἐὰν αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς γαμήσῃ ἄλλον μοιχᾶται.

“And if she dismisses her husband and marries another she adulterizes.

Again, not much to say here.

12 et si ipsa dimiserit virum suum et alii nupserit, moechatur ”.

13 Καὶ προσέφερον αὐτῷ παιδία ἵνα αὐτῶν ἅψηται: οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτοῖς.

And they brought to him children so that he would touch them. But the disciples rebuked them.

Now, the context on this is a bit unclear. Is he still at home? Were people in the habit of bringing their children round for a blessing? I suppose it’s not out of the question. Mark doesn’t imply that this is out of the ordinary.

13 Et offerebant illi parvulos, ut tangeret illos; discipuli autem comminabantur eis.

14 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἠγανάκτησεν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἄφετε τὰ παιδία ἔρχεσθαι πρός με, μὴ κωλύετε αὐτά, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

But seeing, Jesus became indignant/was displeased and said to them, “Allow the children to come towards me, and do not prohibit them, for of this sort is the kingdom of God.

First, just to note Jesus’ emotional reaction to this. Most of these references do not recur in Matthew or Luke, and certainly not in John. Here again, we are seeing an earlier stratum of the story, when Jesus is still portrayed as very much being human.

As for content, we’re back on the kingdom of God, and this is one of the first times we really get a sense that Jesus is attempting to define or refine what it means, and perhaps restrict entry. To this point, it’s been rather vague; we were told it’s ‘at hand’ back in 1:15 and we had some parables likening it to a mustard seed and such. It was only at the end of Chapter 9 that we got an inkling that entrance might be restricted. Here, we pick up on that again. That it goes to such as children implies the innocent nature one must have. “The Innocent” is one of Jung’s archetypes, one of the basic categories of human experience. The Innocent is the part of  us that loves unconditionally, cuddles kittens, enjoys flying a kite, and go out for ice cream. So here we’re getting a pretty serious description of the attitudinal requirements for membership in the kingdom of God.

So far, we have not explicitly been told if the Kingdom and the Life are references to the same thing. However, it’s starting to come to [ if a=b, and b=c, then a=c ]. We got some of the prescriptions for entering into the Life back at the end of Chapter 9, where we talked about cutting off hands or feet if they prevented you entering into the Life. The idea of becoming, or being innocent, is, while not explicitly identical, is moving along the same lines.

As an aside,  My wife actually wrote a kid’s book about the archetypes; the best part is it’s a coloring book! In a shameless commercial plug, here’s the link to Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Know-Thyself-Kids-Guide-Archetypes/dp/110572090X

14 At videns Iesus, indigne tulit et ait illis: “ Sinite parvulos venire ad me. Ne prohibueritis eos; talium est enim regnum Dei.

15 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὃς ἂν μὴ δέξηται τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς παιδίον, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς αὐτήν.

Amen I say to you, “He who does not accept the kingdom of God as a child, will not enter into it.”

Here we’ve taken another step in the identity of the Kingdom and the Life. Way back in Chapter 1 Jesus said ‘the kingdom is nigh’; what followed were a series of actions that gave the impression that this kingdom could be seen as a sort of universal brotherhood: the calling of the disciples, eating with sinners and tax collectors and such. Now, we’re getting the idea that there is an exclusionary process occurring that will limit access to the Kingdom: those not accepting it as a child will not enter. And the rich will have more trouble than others. Just so, people who are ‘skandalized’ by part of their body will not enter the Life.

And note, once again, that this exclusionary precept really only seems to kick in after the Transfiguration. To that point, it was all sort of vague; since then, Jesus has been making an effort to pin this down with some specifics. Here, I think, is good (or possible) evidence for a seam in the weaving, where Mark brought two pieces together.

There is so much information out there on the literary form of Mark, on his authorship style, on his sources, on his techniques…I am simply not well-versed in any of this. And I’m probably at the point where I know just enough to be wildly and ridiculously wrong about things. But what I’m getting, innocent (pun intended) of any of this scholarly apparatus, is that Mark was both an author and an editor. Or that his editing was so extensive as to amount to authorship. But the basic problem, IMO, remains: Mark had a number of sources that said rather (or very) different things about Jesus, and he saw it as his goal, or responsibility, to weave them together as best he could into something coherent.

Incidentally, I was on another website debating whether Jesus actually existed. The editorial opinion was “no”; I argued ‘yes’. And it’s exactly this variety of opinion that, IMO, helps prove Jesus’ human existence. The fact that Mark had such a daunting task of making it all fit together, about 35-40 years after Jesus’ death, indicates that Jesus had a huge impact on a large number of people, who then told rather (or very) different stories about him. If he had been invented, then the record would have been, IMO, a lot more consistent, and we would not be finding these ‘seams’ in the narrative.

15 Amen dico vobis: Quisquis non receperit regnum Dei velut parvulus, non intrabit in illud ”.

16 καὶ ἐναγκαλισάμενος αὐτὰ κατευλόγει τιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐπ’ αὐτά.

And taking them into his arms, he blessed them, laying his hands on them.

16 Et complexans eos benedicebat imponens manus super illos. 

My first inclination was that there’s not much to say about that, but I’m wondering if this emphasis on children might not represent a new attitude towards kids. If so, this would fit into the ‘inclusive’ idea of the Kingdom. Childhood wasn’t really invented until the Victorian era, and not refined until the 50s. So, perhaps this is more revolutionary than I’m giving it credit for being. It may have had some impact on why Christianity became so popular; Mithraism excluded women,which was a huge drag on its ability to capture market share. By welcoming both women and children and slaves, Christianity was well-positioned to take over entire households. Which is exactly what happened.

A Commercial Announcement

I came across this site yesterday.

http://biblelad.wordpress.com/

He’s got some really interesting stuff posted; I would recommend that you take a look. Or more than one, actually.

Summary Mark Chapter 9

Chapter 9 starts with a verse that, IMO, should have been attached to Chapter 8. I honestly don’t know who or when these divisions into chapters and verses was done; I don’t believe it was done by the original author(s), but I cannot state that with certainty.

After that we get the Transfiguration. Like some of the other episodes in Mark, such as the Gerasene demoniac, the death of John the Baptist, and even the intertwined stories of Jairus and the bleeding woman, this has the feel of a story that was told in its entirety as it came down to Mark. These stories feel very organic, with a beginning, middle, and end, and they all have a moral, or a lesson, sort of like Aesop’s fables. Not saying that Mark was imitating, but just noting the similarity. I suspect that this sort of set-piece tale is fairly common in didactic writing. The lesson is that Mark is telling us with Jesus’ divinity. There were doubts in Chapters 6 and 7; in Chapter 8 we get what amounts to a run-up to the final confirmation of Jesus’ identity. It could be said to begin with the feeding of the 4,000 in the wilderness, connecting Jesus to God the Father feeding the Israelites with miraculous manna in the desert. Then we get Peter’s declaration: “You are the Christ.” This is the first use of the term since 1:1. Then, as the climax, we get the Transfiguration, which should remove all doubt.

There is also a more formal or stylized, or style aspect of this story. In a sense, this is the complement to Jesus baptism, or even something like a second baptism. It could be argued that this is the moment when Jesus becomes the Christ, or is confirmed as the Christ. He is shown with Moses and Elijah, two major pillars of Judaism; and he is now the central figure, standing between the other two. Jesus has become the culmination of the process the other two set in motion, or something along those lines. I’ve always been a bit puzzled why Abraham was not chosen; my suspicion is that Elijah was put in the group because of the subsequent discussion about Elijah coming first, and Jesus flat statement that Elijah has come. The implication is that, since Elijah has come, there is no impediment to the arrival of the Day of the Lord.

This event is tied together with Jesus prophecies and references to the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah and eschatology: the Day of the Lord. The implication of Malichi is, seemingly, that Elijah will come again. As such, it becomes an important prelude to the idea of Jesus’ return in the Parousia. And, since the Parousia was introduced at the end of Chapter 8, which spills into Verse 1 of Chapter 9, we can see a little more clearly how these concepts all fit together. In doing this translating, and in presenting is as I am, it is easy to lose sight of the forest because we become so engrossed in the trees. Again, I’m not well-versed on scholarship about who or when the chapter/verse numerations were added, but I think they sometimes create what may be artificial divisions in the narrative. We can see how this episode may, more naturally, fit with material in Chapter 8.

Then we get an interesting tale about the expulsion of an unclean spirit. The story is interesting because the disciples were unable to drive out the spirit. The problem was the lack of faith; whether the child’s father did not have enough faith in the disciples, or the disciples lacked confidence in their abilities for whatever reason. If the latter, this provides another…gap?…salient?…cross reference (?) in the narrative. Back when he sent out the Twelve back in Chapter 6:7, he gave them power to expel demons, and in 6:12, we are told they expelled many. Now, why couldn’t they expel this one? The most compact and consistent answer is because the lack of faith was on the part of the child’s father, which is why Jesus had to emphasize “all things are possible, if you believe” in 9:23. The other possibility is that the group of disciples in question were not members of the Twelve. Less likely, perhaps, but still possible and something to be noted and considered, even if it’s ultimately dismissed. This is how the historical process has to work. Otherwise, there are Ernest Hemingway called “holes in your story”. You have to know what you leave out; otherwise, there’s a hole. Later in the chapter, we are told of the person expelling demons in Jesus’ name. John said they stopped him, but Jesus said to let him because ‘who is not against us, is for us’.

Here is a very radical thought. I have never read this anywhere, so all the blame should fall on me if this turns out to be a ludicrous proposition. We noted how certain themes have only started to crop up here in Chapter 9. This led to me speculating that maybe Mark’s original narrative was added to later, by well-meaning Christians (as they probably were by then) who wished to make Mark sound more like Matthew. What if the original version of “Mark” (or what became “Mark”) originally ended with the Transfiguration? Start with the baptism, end with the Transfiguration; two similar episodes, the beginning and the apotheosis of Jesus. I would include some of the stuff in late Chapter 8 as later additions, especially the part with Jesus predicting his suffering and death. Just think about that? It’s a very compact, tidy narrative of Jesus the wonder-worker. Because, not only do themes start to appear, other themes start to disappear in Chapter 9. The healings and the exorcisms have played a prominent role so far, as has the wilderness theme. They all more-or-less disappear from the rest of the narrative. It’s almost like there are two separate narratives woven together. Or, perhaps the account (written or not) that came down to Mark ended with the Transfiguration; he was the one who then started to add some of the ideas that were more fully developed in Matthew.

As I said, speculation. However, now that the idea has occurred to me, I will keep an eye on it from here on out. If I were composing an essay on the topic, I would note the idea and see what the text told me; then I would decide if the idea has merit. So, I will do this, but with you as an audience. Perhaps this will elucidate the historical process a little more clearly.

Mark Chapter 9:41-50

Chapter 9 concludes. This probably could have been squeezed into the last post, but better too short than too long. Or maybe not. (Update:  on second thought, this could not have been squeezed into the previous post! Much longer than I’d anticipated.)

41 Ὃς γὰρ ἂν ποτίσῃ ὑμᾶς ποτήριον ὕδατος ἐν ὀνόματι ὅτι Χριστοῦ ἐστε, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ.

For who (gives) you a drinking-measure of water to drink in the name that is the Christ,  amen I say to you that you will not destroy your recompense (often translated as ‘reward’, which is a legitimate, if secondary, meaning.)

This really should have been included with the previous verse, the one about “who is not against us is with us”. The idea here concludes the notion of being united in the Christ. Now, there’s the old joke about the kid skipping school who calls up to say he won’t be there. He tries to deepen his voice to sound like a man. But then the school asks who’s calling, and the kid says, “this is my father” and gives the game away. 

Here, Jesus says ‘he who does this in the name of the Christ’. This is definitely  a third-person construction. Why does he not say ‘in my name’? What this suggests is one of two things: this is a corruption; that a copyist, accustomed to thinking about “the Christ”, wrote “the name of the Christ.” Or, that this was added to the record between the time of Jesus and Mark, and Mark made much the same initial error as the copyist. Hard to say, and doesn’t really matter, but it’s the sort of thing that should give one at least a moment’s pause.

“Destroy your recompense” is stilted, but that’s what the Greek says. The question is, what does it mean? For us–or for me, anyway–it’s impossible to read this and not think ‘eternal reward in heaven’. The problem is, we have seen nothing in Mark to make us think that we are getting any reward in heaven, or anywhere else. We are told to believe, and on occasion to behave in a certain way (sort of), but we are not told what this will get us. We were told that we would save our lives back at the end of Chapter 8, but that doesn’t seem at all like the same thing. Or, perhaps it doesn’t feel like the same thing, to me, anyway.

The word translated as ‘reward’ is << μισθὸν >>. This is the only time the word is used in Mark; it is, however, used several times, and specifically as ‘reward in heaven’ in Matthew. This story is also repeated, more or less verbatim, in Matthew. And while Paul does use it a couple of times in 1 Corinthians, it’s more like the base meaning of ‘recompense’, as in ‘wages’.

So my conclusion is that this passage, or some portion of it, was inserted into Mark at a later time. Now, I am probably making a fool of myself with this sort of speculation; I have not really seen it suggested that Mark continued to evolve after it was first written, but I find it impossible to believe it did not evolve. There was no central printing press where the words were set in type and then copies were mass-produced. Each copy was copied by hand, and it seems highly unlikely that there wasn’t some effort, even if unconsciously, to make the different gospels merge together as time went on. I realize there have been a hundred years (or more) of form and/or literary criticism of the NT, but I really and truly get the impression there has been way too little historical analysis.

41 Quisquis enim potum dederit vobis calicem aquae in nomine, quia Christi estis, amen dico vobis: Non perdet mercedem suam.

42 Καὶ ὃς ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων [εἰς ἐμέ], καλόν ἐστιν αὐτῷ μᾶλλον εἰ περίκειται μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ βέβληται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν.

And he who may offend one of the least of these believers [in me], better it is for him if  a mill stone lies in a circle around his throat and he be thrown into the sea.

This is interesting. The verb << σκανδαλίσῃ >> is a creation of the NT. It does not really exist in Classical authors. As such, it’s really difficult to know exactly what to do with this. And the Latin is no help, since it’s basically a transliteration from the Greek. And this is a popular word in the NT; at least, it is in Matthew. This is the second usage in Mark; the first was back in 6:3, when the residents of Jesus’ home town were offended by Jesus’ presumption to teach with such authority. It’s interesting that I didn’t give the word much thought; it appears I became desensitized to the word after translating Matthew.

The root of the word is “skandalon”, which is a snare, or a trap such as one would use militarily. So we can see where it evolved to be used as ‘stumbling block’ in the NT.

42 Et quisquis scandalizaverit unum ex his pusillis credentibus in me, bonum est ei magis, ut circumdetur mola asinaria collo eius, et in mare mittatur.

43 Καὶ ἐὰν σκανδαλίζῃ σε ἡ χείρ σου, ἀπόκοψον αὐτήν: καλόν ἐστίν σεκυλλὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν ἢ τὰς δύο χεῖρας ἔχοντα ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν, εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἄσβεστον.

And if your hand offends you, cut it off. It is better to enter the life debilitated than having two hands to go down to gehenna, to the fire that never burns out (lit = the asbestos fire).

The life. What life? Where did this come from? How is it that we are introduced to the idea of “the life” without any sort of prelude, or warm-up, or hints? It’s just dropped on us.  And, this is the first time this word is used in Mark.  It will be used twice more. OTOH, it crops up in Matthew 7:14, and again six more times after that.

My first impulse is to speculate that this is another case of ‘reverse chronology’, where later editors sought to bring  Mark more into line with Matthew and Luke. To reiterate: this view that I am putting out is wholly my own (as far as I know). As such, to the best of my knowledge, it has no support from any reputable scholars anywhere. That being the case, I could be flat, dead wrong on this. I put this forward as a possibility based on what I think is likely to have happened. The earliest manuscript of Mark that we have dates to 250 CE, but this is only a substantial fragment. As such, we have no way of knowing how many revisions the ‘original’ text underwent between the first writing and the mss that we have.

Now, we know that there were a multitude of different gospels written. Given that, why do we think that there weren’t multiple versions of Mark floating around?  IMO, to think that Mark was transmitted without revision for 250 (at bare minimum) years without undergoing ‘corrections’ is to ignore completely human nature. The final canon of the NT was not set until the Fourth Century CE. Until that point, different church traditions accepted different books as canonical; the “Shepherd of Hermes” was considered canonical by some traditions. Given that there was no agreement on which books to include, why do we assume there weren’t different versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John passed down in different traditions?

The temptation to smooth out differences between Mark, Matthew, and Luke must have been enormous. And remember, the person making such corrections would have seen himself as divinely inspired, carrying out the will of God to spread the Good News. Our notion of ‘forgery’ would have been incomprehensible to such a man. He would not see himself as trying to deceive, but as trying to illuminate.

For the life of me I can’t find the reference, but there was a piece of Isaiah that contained a few extra sentences in all the MS traditions. But the Dead Sea Scrolls contained a version of Isaiah that was a thousand years older than any other MS, and this older version was missing these sentences, which, apparently, had started as a gloss that was eventually incorporated into the text of the prophet. Unless and until an earlier version of Mark is found that is absent these verses, my theory will remain a crackpot idea. But it is an idea that is based, IMO, on likely–very likely–probabilities, even if the probabilities are based on analogy.

The alternative explanation is that Matthew found the more minimal ideas in Mark, and then Matthew elaborated the ideas, fleshing them out with more detail, and more uses of some of these key words. This is what most people will tell you happened.

Next we have gehenna. I’m not even going to try to explain this; I’m by no means clear on it. Suffice it to say that it demonstrates a significant step in the development of what JB Russell would call the concept (as separate from the doctrine) of Hell. This is the first inkling we have of eternal punishment for sins. There is nothing about this in Paul. It shows up, again, more frequently in Matthew than in Mark. Luke uses the word once, and in a sense that shows even further development of the concept. 

IMO, this supports my idea that this was back-filled into Mark. The idea of Hell was slow to come about. In actuality, Gehenna started as a physical place outside of Jerusalem. The transition to a place of damnation took time, perhaps longer than the amount of time between Jesus and Mark.

But the other thing to note is that Gehenna is below us, just as Hell was later seen to be. Indeed, the Greek underworld was, well, under the world. So we’re seeing, IMO, a bit of syncretism, as Greek ideas percolate into Jewish thought. More generally in the First Century, demons were often believed to inhabit the air rather than the underworld, and I believe we will see a few inklings of this belief in Matthew, and maybe moreso in Luke.

But the big step is the idea of the unquenched, or unquenchable fire. Burning was part of the idea of Gehenna, so it is once again a logical connection to make, but it’s still significant. Someday I will make a more thorough examination of the Jewish ideas about the afterlife.

43 Et si scandalizaverit te manus tua, abscide illam: bonum est tibi debilem introire in vitam, quam duas manus habentem ire in gehennam, in ignem inexstinguibilem.

44 καὶ 45 ἐὰν ὁ πούς σου σκανδαλίζῃ σε, ἀπόκοψον αὐτόν: καλόν ἐστίν σε εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν χωλὸν ἢ τοὺς δύο πόδας ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὴν γέενναν.

And if your foot offends you, cut it off; it is better for you to go into the life lame than having two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.

First, there are some mss differences, which is why we have 44/45 and 46/47 compressed together. Second, this verse and the next (or next two) are rhetorical reiterations of the sentiment expressed in V-42.

I really do need to take another, deeper look at <<  σκανδαλίζῃ >> “skandalize”; “offend” really isn’t the best. I’ve seen this as ’causes you to offend’ or even ’causes you to sin’. The idea is that it leads you to do things you shouldn’t. “To become a scandal” might be better. But I don’t want to belabor it here; the comment is already very long for the section.

(44) 45 Et si pes tuus te scandalizat, amputa illum: bonum est tibi claudum introire in vitam, quam duos pedes habentem mitti in gehennam.

46 καὶ 47 ἐὰν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σουσκανδαλίζῃ σε, ἔκβαλε αὐτόν: καλόν σέ ἐστιν μονόφθαλμον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἢ δύοὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὴν γέενναν,

And if your eye offends you, cast it from you; it if better being one-eyed to go into the kingdom of God than having two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,

(46) 47 Et si oculus tuus scandalizat te, eice eum: bonum est tibi luscum introire in regnum Dei, quam duos oculos habentem mitti in gehennam,

48 ὅπου ὁ σκώληξ αὐτῶν οὐ τελευτᾷ καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐσβέννυται:

where the worm of them does not end and the fire is not extinguished.

In this case, I think that the NIV’s more loose translation actually gets the point across better: what I render as “their worm” comes out in the NIV as “where the worms that eat them do not die”. That, I think, is the sense in which to take this. I was otherwise a bit perplexed by the idea of them having a worm. This is exactly the sort of imagery that the late Middle Ages was very fond of: corpses being eaten by worms and such.  “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi”.  (Thus passes the glory of (this) world).

48 ubi vermis eorum non moritur, et ignis non exstinguitur;

49 πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ ἁλισθήσεται.

for all will be salted with fire.

Now, why ‘all’? All who go to Gehenna? Or all of us? It is one-off passages like this that led the Roman Rite to infer the idea of Purgatory. If we’re all to be salted (as in, cured–but in the sense of ‘cured’ meat), then would this not imply that we all have to pass through some sort of transition before entering Paradise?

49 omnis enim igne salietur.

50 Καλὸν τὸ ἅλας: ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας ἄναλον γένηται, ἐν τίνι αὐτὸ ἀρτύσετε; ἔχετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἅλα, καὶ εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.

Salt is good: but if the salt becomes unsalty, how will you season it? Have salt within yourselves, and be at peace within yourselves.

First, I took the ‘en’ in the << ἐν ἑαυτοῖς…ἐν ἀλλήλοις >> to be a dative of condition, especially interior state, as of feeling(s). The second part makes sense enough, ‘be at peace with yourself’, but, ‘be salty within yourself’?

I guess the thing to realize here is that salt was a valuable commodity; the Latin for for ‘salt’, << sal >> is the root of our English word ‘salary’, as in wages. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. So it’s essentially telling them to feel valued within themselves, sort of like the self-esteem mantras that have become cliché in 21st Century America.

But that’s not the real point. Is it me, or does this last line not really go with the rest of it? We jump from Gehenna to an aphorism about salt. In Matthew and Luke, this passage is set in much better context. It is likely that this (or something similar) may have been one of the things Jesus supposedly said. In order to fit it in, Mark saw the ‘salted with fire’ as a segue, however awkward. Or, a later editor saw the opportunity to back fill some of the Q stuff in Matthew and Luke here in Mark. In fact, it’s entirely possible, from a textual perspective, that the passage about the worm and the fire were also added.  It is unique to Mark; Matthew and Luke do not repeat it. The passage seems a bit clumsy, not so much in the grammar, but in the way the thought is constructed. It seems belabored, as if someone had to work in a way to make this all fit, and wasn’t able to do a good job. In short, it’s one of the seams between the disparate narratives that I’ve been discussing. Except, IMO, this seam is so rough, that I’m not sure that Mark should take the blame for it. He’s usually better than this.

50 Bonum est sal; quod si sal insulsum fuerit, in quo illud condietis? Habete in vobis sal et pacem habete inter vos ”.

Mark Chapter 9:30-40

The rest of this chapter is pretty much Jesus talking for much of the time. As such, it’s likely to be programmatic, and to require a fair bit of comment. So, while there’s no real logical break in here, I inserted one anyway. I hope it doesn’t spoil the continuity too much.

30 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντες παρεπορεύοντο διὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἵνα τις γνοῖ:

And then coming out (of wherever it was that Jesus exorcised the mute spirit from the boy) they proceeded through Galilee, and they didn’t want anyone to know.

The first word, << Κἀκεῖθεν >>, is a compound of two words, <<καί>> (= ‘and’) and <<ἐκεῖθέν>> (= ‘then’). I point this out because this is the first use of this in the NT. Mark uses it twice; Luke, perhaps once, and then it’s used nine times in Acts. I only mention this because it’s a great example of how words come into fashion.

Jesus is trying to move about incognito. Why? Is not the mission to preach? Then why not announce oneself? Would he not reach more people by being open? Or are we to take this that he was coming under the tightening scrutiny of Herod? Some of the QHJ folks have taken this need for secrecy to mean just that.

30 Et inde profecti peragrabant Galilaeam; nec volebat quemquam scire.

31 ἐδίδασκεν γὰρ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι Ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀποκτανθεὶς μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται.

For he taught his disciples and he said to them that “The son of man will be handed over into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and three days after having been killed he will rise.

Well, should have been more patient. This is why Jesus didn’t want anyone to know his whereabouts: he wished to teach the disciples in private. 

There are a few things we can take from this. First, that he’s teaching his disciples things that are not revealed to the rest of the world. This is exactly the definition of a ‘mystery’ religion, in which the initiate are made privy to a secret. In such a religious context, the Greek word << μυστηρίον >>, which transliterated is mysterion‘, may be better rendered as ‘secret’ than our word ‘mystery’, given that this latter now has connotations of detectives andAgatha Christie. So, technically, telling the disciples of his impending death and resurrection is, technically, a “mystery’.

Given that he’s imparting a secret that is not for the common mass to know, we can see how this would give impetus to the Gnostic tendencies that are latent in some of Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings. As we have discussed, ‘gnostic’, in its narrow meaning, can almost function as a synonym for ‘mystery’; however, ‘gnostic’ has a lot of other connotations.  But, we can see, perhaps, how some who followed Jesus in this direction ended up as Gnostics.

Finally, we have to understand that this was probably added to the underlying message after Jesus’ death. Those who had come to believe that Jesus was also divine–a process by no means complete in Mark’s gospel–felt the need to layer in these ex-post predictions. These lines may not even date to Mark “himself”, but may have been added in as the message of Jesus’ divinity took deeper hold. The idea of Jesus the Man also being Jesus Is God was simply not present in Paul, but had more or less become the prevailing belief by the time Matthew and Luke, and certainly by the time of John’s gospel.

31 Docebat enim discipulos suos et dicebat illis: “ Filius hominis traditur in manus hominum, et occident eum, et occisus post tres dies resurget ”.

32 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουν τὸ ῥῆμα, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι.

But they did not know (understand) the thing having been said, and they were afraid to ask him.

Think about this. They were afraid to ask him. Why? Because they didn’t want to seem like dullards? Is this the fear of the ill-prepared schoolboy who doesn’t understand what the teacher just wrote on the board? Or the junior executive who didn’t follow the CEO’s line of reasoning at the big meeting? Where they both sit there, pretty sure that no one else understood, either, but damned if they’re going to be the one who actually asks.

That, IMO, seems like a fairly plausible explanation; however, I can’t but wonder if there isn’t something else to this.

32 At illi ignorabant verbum et timebant eum interrogare.

33 Καὶ ἦλθον εἰς Καφαρναούμ. καὶ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ γενόμενος ἐπηρώτα αὐτούς, Τί ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ διελογίζεσθε;

And they came to Caphernaum, and they were in the house/in his house, and he asked them “What on the road were you debating?”

In the house. Whose house? The house. My sense is that the most natural way to read this is that they were in Jesus’ house. But for once, let’s defer till V-36.

33 Et venerunt Capharnaum. Qui cum domi esset, interrogabat eos: “ Quid in via tractabatis? ”.

34 οἱ δὲ ἐσιώπων, πρὸς ἀλλήλους γὰρ διελέχθησαν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ τίς μείζων.

But they were silent, for amongst themselves they had been discussing on the road who was the greatest.

About the Greek: because there is no verb in the “who was the greatest” part (the last two words–who greatest), it is possible–indeed, it’s imperative–to supply the tense, voice, and mood of the verb: “who was” being pretty neutral and pretty idiomatic to American usage; but the KJV renders this as ‘who should be’, which is subjunctive, and takes us into a whole other realm of the unreal-but-possible.

Note how this comes out of nowhere. We went from being afraid to ask Jesus to them discussing who was, or should be, the greatest of them. One sense that I get is that the three verses at the beginning of this post, 30-32, feel very much like they’ve sort of been stuck in at a reasonably opportune moment, but perhaps not an ideal moment. We had the prediction about the son of man having to suffer in V-12, as they were coming down from the mountain; and then we get it again half-a-chapter later. Does it feel like someone is sort of making up for lost time? Cramming a bunch of these predictions in whenever it’s possible?

This is what I mean about Mark weaving things together. It’s almost like he had several different records, written documents, stories that he’d heard, and he was trying to make them all fit, whether they did or not. Verses 30-32 sure feel like a seam to me.

34 At illi tacebant. Siquidem inter se in via disputaverant, quis esset maior.

35 καὶ καθίσας ἐφώνησεν τοὺς δώδεκακαὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Εἴ τις θέλει πρῶτος εἶναι ἔσται πάντων ἔσχατος καὶ πάντων διάκονος.

And sitting, he called the Twelve, saying to them, “If someone wishes to be first, he must be last of all, and the minister to all.”

Before I get into what this all means, I’d like to make note of what we can call the stage directions for want of a better term. In V-31, he was talking to his disciples. Here, he is calling the Twelve. Are they the same group? It almost doesn’t feel that way. What I get out of this is that the narrative as Mark found it, and re-created it, was fairly short on detail. So Mark either had to work from a limited palette, or make stuff up to suit his needs. Some of the time, here perhaps, he wasn’t all that concerned with internal consistency. He said what needed to be said, without a lot of attention to how it all fit together. But again, this could be another seam. 

The word here that I’m translating as ‘minister’ is ‘diakonos’ (the final word of the sentence). If you say it aloud, you will recognize it as the root of our word ‘deacon’. For the most part, the ancients did not have ‘servants’; generally, they had slaves. We discussed this in Paul, who often talks about being a ‘servant’ of Christ; or, at least, that’s how it’s often now translated. The word used, however, is ‘slave’.

The root meaning of ‘diakonos’ is ‘messenger’. It’s secondary meaning, per Liddell & Scott, is the attendant, or official at a temple. The KJV, NASB, ESV, and NIV–my four ‘crib’ translations’–all translate this as ‘servant’.  Latin chooses ‘minister’, which has a lot of the same connotations: it’s someone who is responsible for taking care of–for ministering to–the needs of others, but it’s not a slave. I dislike the word ‘servant’  because it has too many anachronistic connotations. Generally, people did not work for wages in the sense that we think of it. Yes, there were wage-earners, but they were generally not household help, which is what ‘servant’ means in modern English.

So, the point is, the one who would be first, has to be the one looking after the others. This is certainly a revolutionary idea for the time. The ancient world was class-conscious to a degree that we can’t begin to imagine. Royalty was tended to like, well, royalty, and a social ‘better’ could literally have the power of life and death over all manner of commoners. So, for Jesus to suggest that the first should be last, was a very big deal, to a degree pretty much beyond the comprehension of most modern folk, and especially (I think) for Americans, given the whole mythos of our republican form of government.

What is interesting, is that this is the first bit of social engineering we’ve come across since back in Chapter 2, when Jesus was consorting with sinners and tax collectors. That is, IMO, an interesting observation. It’s also another bit of the behavior code that was expected of the followers of Jesus. This is another theme that has largely been left to languish for much of the gospel so far.

35 Et residens vocavit Duodecim et ait illis: “ Si quis vult primus esse, erit omnium novissimus et omnium minister ”.

36 καὶ λαβὼν παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐναγκαλισάμενος αὐτὸ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,

And taking a child, he stood him in the midst of them, and embracing him he said to them,

A child? Where did the kid come from? This goes back to the question in V-33: whose house is this? My point there was that the most natural reading of this was that it was Jesus’ house. So whose kid is this? Is it Jesus’ kid? Wouldn’t that explain the gesture of love that follows? Now, I’ve never read the DaVinci code; did Dan Brown pick up on this?

The idea of Jesus having a house, and seemingly not having to work to support it is one thing. It means he was a man of some substance. But Jesus having a kid is entirely a different matter altogether. Did he move to Caphernaum after he got married? Where’s his wife? Not, it’s not Mary Magdelene. Jesus’ wife is like Peter’s: someone entirely behind the scenes.

36 Et accipiens puerum, statuit eum in medio eorum; quem ut complexus esset, ait illis:

37 Ὃς ἂν ἓν τῶν τοιούτων παιδίων δέξηται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐμὲ δέχεται: καὶ ὃς ἂν ἐμὲ δέχηται, οὐκ ἐμὲ δέχεται ἀλλὰ τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με.

“He who one of these sorts of children receives in my name, he receives me. And he who receives me, does not receive me, but the one who sent me.”

One almost gets the sense that this somehow got truncated. The message is good, but it seems to be too short, needing some follow-up, or a lesson of some kind at the end of this. 

Now, what does it mean to be ‘received’? As much as I want to read into this, I don’t think it’s necessary. I think this can be taken on a purely worldly level. Remember back in Chapter 2, when Jesus and the crew were eating with taxpayers and sinners? There was nothing beyond that. And remember when Jesus sent out the Twelve back in Chapter 6? The idea of being received by someone in the community played a significant role, and that was purely a here-and-n0w thing.

I mention all of this because we have not yet had a discussion on the idea of the Kingdom. We were told back in Chapter 1 that ‘the kingdom of God’ was at hand, but we haven’t had a lot of follow-up, or explanation of this concept. What, exactly, did Jesus mean by this? Here’s my thought: Consorting with sinners, being welcomed into a new town, receiving a child, these are acts that could be seen as sort of the fellowship of humanity. And there was Chapter 3, when Jesus says that whoever does the will of God, those are his siblings and his mother. This will require a further stand-alone post, probably when I finish Mark, but here’s my thought.

The QHJ people have spent a lot of time in the past few decades explaining how Jesus fit very well into the milieu and attitudes of a Jew of the First Century. This has corrected the previous century of thought that did everything possible to distinguish Jesus from the Jewish world-view. Jesus was a Jew; but, he also stood apart from the Jewish community. That is why we are Christians and not Baptists. John was wholly Jewish, and most likely so were the Essenes. Jesus shared common beliefs with both these groups, but he had something else that set him apart. It was something that, ultimately, won over the pagan community. The pagans were the future of Christianity.

What was this? My thought is that what Jesus included that his more completely Jewish contemporaries lacked was the idea of a Universal Brotherhood (Siblinghood?) of the human race. Remember, being Jewish was to be part of a corporate idea, a chosen People. And Greeks, to some lesser extent, separated themselves from those wretches who babbled because they did not speak Greek, calling them “barbarians”. But the expansion of Greek thought and culture into the wider world had led Hellenistic philosophers to a more universal sense of the human condition. The mystery religions admitted anyone (mostly), which was part of their popularity. And so I think that, perhaps, this is an attitude that Jesus inculcated and shared, one that became a greater part of the message as time went on.

This idea of a Universal Siblinghood was also a leading tenet of the Stoics, especially as exemplified by Marcus Aurelius in his masterpiece of reflection, “The Meditations”. But Marcus wrote 150 years after Jesus’ death; I don’t know this for certain, but my sense is that the idea of a Universal Siblinghood was really just starting to take hold at the time of Jesus, and that it didn’t flourish for another century. Jesus, I think, tapped into this concept as it was born.

37 “Quisquis unum ex huiusmodi pueris receperit in nomine meo, me recipit; et, quicumque me susceperit, non me suscipit, sed eum qui me misit”.

38  Ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰωάννης, Διδάσκαλε, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ  ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια, καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτόν, ὅτι οὐκ ἠκολούθει ἡμῖν.

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone in your name casting out demons, and we stopped him, since he does not follow us.”

This is a complete change of course from the bit about the child. Or is it?

And the other thing, someone is able to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. One suspects that he was able to do this by virtue of his very strong faith.

38 Dixit illi Ioannes: “Magister, vidimus quendam in nomine tuo eicientem daemonia, et prohibebamus eum, quia non sequebatur nos”.

39 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Μὴ κωλύετε αὐτόν, οὐδεὶς γάρ ἐστιν ὃς ποιήσει δύναμιν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου καὶ δυνήσεται ταχὺ κακολογῆσαί με:

But Jesus said, “Do not stop him. For there is no one who does these miracles in my name is then able to speak badly of me.”

Overall, the part after ‘do not stop him’ is impossible to render into English in any way that even vaguely resembles the grammar of the Greek. Well, impossible for me, anyway.

If I’ve mentioned this before, it’s worth reminding: the word that gets translated as ‘miracle’ literally means ‘power’. And in Latin, it’s ‘virtus’, the root of ‘virtue’. So, ‘by virtue of conquest’ = ‘by power of conquest’.

39 Iesus autem ait: “ Nolite prohibere eum. Nemo est enim, qui faciat virtutem in nomine meo et possit cito male loqui de me;

40 ὃς γὰρ οὐκ ἔστινκαθ’ ἡμῶν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐστιν.

“For he who is not against us, is for us.”

To be honest, I find this a bit problematic, simple as it seems to be. The problem is the preposition, << ὑπὲρ >>. The basic meaning of this is ‘above’, and it is the same word as the Latin ‘super’. But the Latin reads “pro“, which is ‘for’. Really, though, prepositions are enormously elastic, and Greek as a language is also very elastic. It’s a language of metaphor, not of science and precision. One function that << ὑπὲρ >> frequently fills is the idea of “among”. Literally, it means ‘over/above’; transliterated, it’s ‘hyper’, as in ‘hyperactive’. So here, someone not against us is ‘over’ us, which stretches to include is ‘among’ us, which gets pinned down in Latin to mean ‘for’ us.

40 qui enim non est adversum nos, pro nobis est.

Let that last bit sink in: If you’r not against him, you’re for him. Doesn’t this sound like Universal Siblinghood? Notice how Mark did that? He made the (seemingly) abrupt transition from accepting a child, to someone driving out demons in Jesus name, which led Jesus to make this proclamation: he who is not against us, is with/for us.

Or, to paraphrase, we’re all in this together. This is very, very good writing. Subtle, but it sure gets the point across; but only if you have ears and use them.

Mark Chapter 9:14-29

Chapter 14 continues. This is a longer piece of text than I prefer to do, but it may not require a lot of comment.

14 Καὶ ἐλθόντες πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εἶδον ὄχλον πολὺν περὶ αὐτοὺς καὶ γραμματεῖς συζητοῦντας πρὸς αὐτούς.

And coming towards the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and scribes seeking towards them.

14 Et venientes ad discipulos viderunt turbam magnam circa eos et scribas conquirentes cum illis.

15 καὶ εὐθὺς πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἰδόντες αὐτὸν ἐξεθαμβήθησαν, καὶ προστρέχοντες ἠσπάζοντο αὐτόν.

And immediately the entire crowd seeing him, was struck by marvel, and running towards (him), they greeted him.

So far, there’s nothing really remarkable about any of this. It’s all of a piece with what we’ve seen so far. Nothing really jumps out at me as new or noteworthy or unusual.

15 Et confestim omnis populus videns eum stupefactus est, et accurrentes salutabant eum.

16 καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτούς, Τί συζητεῖτε πρὸς αὐτούς;

And he asked them, “What do you discuss?”

16 Et interrogavit eos: “ Quid inter vos conquiritis? ”.

17 καὶ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ εἷς ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου, Διδάσκαλε, ἤνεγκα τὸν υἱόν μου πρὸς σέ, ἔχοντα πνεῦμα ἄλαλον:

And one from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, he having a mute spirit.”

That’s different. A mute spirit. 

17 Et respondit ei unus de turba: “ Magister, attuli filium meum ad te habentem spiritum mutum;

18 καὶ ὅπου ἐὰν αὐτὸν καταλάβῃ ῥήσσει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀφρίζει καὶ τρίζει τοὺς ὀδόντας καὶ ξηραίνεται: καὶ εἶπα τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου ἵνα αὐτὸ ἐκβάλωσιν, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσαν.

“And whenever it takes him (it) shakes him, and he foams (at the mouth) and gnashes his teeth and makes him go limp. And I asked your disciples in order that they might cast it out, and they did not have the power.”

A couple of interesting things here. First is the word << ξηραίνεται >>. Modern translations render this as ‘go rigid’; the KJV renders it as ‘pine away’, which is the secondary meaning in Liddell & Scott. However, the primary meaning is ‘to wither away’. Just to check, the Latin translation << arescit >>has basically the same two meanings as the Greek word, so it’s pretty much a one-for-one substitution. But this is the same word used in Matthew 21:19 to describe the ‘withered’ fig tree, and Liddell & Scott cite Mark 9:18 as using in the passive to mean paralyzed. It is my understanding of paralyzed that it means to lose muscle control, so that the limbs are limp rather than rigid.

More, thinking about what ‘to wither’ and ‘to pine away’ have in common, it seems like ‘going limp’ might be the better sense of the word. I am not sure how or why this came to be seen as ‘rigid’, but I don’t believe that to be the best sense of the word. But, as always, I could be wrong about this. I just want to point out that we seem to have another ‘consensus’ translation here. Not that it honestly makes a big difference. I suppose the foam (at the mouth) could indicate an epileptic, in which case ‘rigid’ might make more sense, but I’m not entirely sure that’s what the Greek says. Plus, epilepsy was known as the ‘sacred disease’, and Julius Caesar suffered seizures. This indicates that there was some knowledge of epilepsy as something other than demonic possession in the ancient world. Now, whether this knowledge penetrated to Galilee is an entirely different issue.

Upon further review, I can see a connection between ‘wither’ and ‘rigid’. When plants are green, they are supple; when they wither, they become rigid. It’s perhaps a stretch, but words do go in many different directions, often simultaneously.

Secondly, the speaker asked the other disciples to heal the boy, but they did not have the power. Not that they weren’t able, but that they were too weak, in the sense of strength. The standard verb for ‘to be able’ is <<δυναμαι>>, which is ‘I am able’ in the broadest sense. This word, <<ἴσχυσαν>> is much narrower in its meaning: they were too weak.

But I will leave it at that for now.

18 et ubicumque eum apprehenderit, allidit eum, et spumat et stridet dentibus et arescit. Et dixi discipulis tuis, ut eicerent illum, et non potuerunt ”.

19 ὁδὲ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτοῖς λέγει, ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος, ἕως πότε πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἔσομαι; ἕως πότε ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; φέρετε αὐτὸν πρός με.

Then, answering them, he said, “Oh faithless generation, how long will I be among you? How long will I bear up (among) you? Bring him to me.”

We have the faithless generation, and the implied lack of faith preventing a cure. In addition, we have Jesus getting a bit exasperated: How long do I have to put up with this? He does not always seem to suffer what he considers fools gladly.

19 Qui respondens eis dicit: “ O generatio incredula, quamdiu apud vos ero? Quamdiu vos patiar? Afferte illum ad me ”.

20 καὶ ἤνεγκαν αὐτὸν πρὸς αὐτόν. καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν τὸ πνεῦμα εὐθὺς συνεσπάραξεν αὐτόν, καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐκυλίετο ἀφρίζων.

And they brought (the son) to him (Jesus). And seeing him (Jesus) the unclean spirit tore him (the boy) in pieces, and falling on the ground he rolled frothing (at the mouth).

The Greek: << συνεσπάραξεν >> literally means ‘to tear’, as in ‘to tear to pieces’. Here, it is obviously used in a figurative sense, so I completely understand–and more or less agree–why it’s most often rendered as ‘convulsed’ in this passage. Consensus translations are not always so wrong.

I have never witnessed a grand mal epileptic seizure; however, this description does seem to fit what I understand about them. But, do not put much faith in my word on that.

The point is, the seizure was triggered by Jesus because, presumably, the spirit recognized Jesus, as so many others have before this.

20 Et attulerunt illum ad eum. Et cum vidisset illum, spiritus statim conturbavit eum; et corruens in terram volutabatur spumans.

21 καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ, Πόσος χρόνος ἐστὶν ὡς τοῦτο γέγονεν αὐτῷ; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ἐκ παιδιόθεν:

And he asked his (the boy’s) father, “How long (lit = ‘how much time’) has it been thus that has befallen him?” He (the father) said, “since childhood”.

If this had a juvenile onset, this is taking on more and more of the traits of a physical ailment. I know that epilepsy does often manifest in childhood.

21 Et interrogavit patrem eius: “ Quantum temporis est, ex quo hoc ei accidit? ”. At ille ait: “ Ab infantia;

22 καὶ πολλάκις καὶ εἰς πῦρ αὐτὸν ἔβαλεν καὶ εἰς ὕδατα ἵνα ἀπολέσῃ αὐτόν: ἀλλ’ εἴ τι δύνῃ, βοήθησον ἡμῖν σπλαγχνισθεὶς ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς.

“And many times also into the fire he throws (= the spirit throws the boy towards the fire), and towards the water in order to destroy him. But if you are able, help up and have pity on us.”

Now we have left the world of somatic illness behind. Or, at least, we have left epilepsy behind. 

22 et frequenter eum etiam in ignem et in aquas misit, ut eum perderet; sed si quid potes, adiuva nos, misertus nostri ”.

23 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τὸ Εἰ δύνῃ πάντα δυνατὰ τῷ πιστεύοντι.

And Jesus said to him, “If it may be done, all is able (to be done) by believing.”  

I tried several different arrangements, but I’m still not happy with the way the direct speech came out. I cannot get it to bring out the Greek properly. My apologies.

23 Iesus autem ait illi: “ “Si potes!”. Omnia possibilia credenti ”.

24 εὐθὺς κράξας ὁ πατὴρ τοῦ παιδίου ἔλεγεν, Πιστεύω: βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ.

Immediately, crying out, the father of the boy said, “I believe.  Help me in my non-belief.”

Again, we have the necessity of faith if the cure is to be successful.

It’s interesting to note how the role of faith is prominent both in Mark and in Paul, but in such different ways, or perhaps to such different ends. Here, it’s the means to effecting a cure of an affliction, whether physical or spiritual. In Paul, it was the means of been justified before God.

24 Et continuo exclamans pater pueri aiebat: “ Credo; adiuva incredulitatem meam ”.

25 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἐπισυντρέχει ὄχλος ἐπετίμησεν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ λέγων αὐτῷ, Τὸ ἄλαλον καὶ κωφὸν πνεῦμα, ἐγὼ ἐπιτάσσω σοι, ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ μηκέτι εἰσέλθῃς εἰς αὐτόν.

But Jesus seeing that the crowd was running together upon them, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Speechless and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and never again go into him.”

In the discussion about epileptic symptoms, I had lost sight of the fact that the spirit prevented the boy from speaking.

Here’s an observation,  or, more likely, a bit of speculation: after telling a dozen stories of healings and/or the exorcism of unclean spirits, Mark has been looking for ways to tell the stories in more interesting ways. So we’ve gotten the spitting and other details. Here, we have the injunction to believe, and the details of the spirit throwing the boy into fire or water. Saying that, there are likely to be some elemental-magic connotations to those two ‘basic elements’ of the ancient world.

25 Et cum videret Iesus concurrentem turbam, comminatus est spiritui immundo dicens illi: “ Mute et surde spiritus, ego tibi praecipio: Exi ab eo et amplius ne introeas in eum ”.

26 καὶ κράξας καὶ πολλὰ σπαράξας ἐξῆλθεν: καὶ ἐγένετο ὡσεὶ νεκρός, ὥστε τοὺς πολλοὺς λέγεινὅτι ἀπέθανεν.

And crying out, and much tearing, it came out. And (the boy) became as dead, so that many said (that) he had died.

Again as in V-20, the verb literally means ‘to tear’, but it’s usually rendered as ‘to convulse. Both here and in V-20, the KJV renders this as ‘tore’.

26 Et clamans et multum discerpens eum exiit; et factus est sicut mortuus, ita ut multi dicerent: “ Mortuus est! ”.

27 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ ἤγειρεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀνέστη.

But Jesus taking hold of his hands lifted him and he (the boy) stood.

27 Iesus autem tenens manum eius elevavit illum, et surrexit.

28 καὶ εἰσελθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς οἶκον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ κατ’ ἰδίαν ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν, Οτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό;

And he (Jesus) coming into his home, his disciples in private asked him, “Why were we not able to cast him out?”

28 Et cum introisset in domum, discipuli eius secreto interrogabant eum: “ Quare nos non potuimus eicere eum? ”.

29 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τοῦτο τὸ γένος ἐν οὐδενὶ δύναται ἐξελθεῖν εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ.

And he said to them, “This type cannot come out of anyone unless in prayer.”

29 Et dixit illis: “ Hoc genus in nullo potest exire nisi in oratione ”.

Whoa! Check this out. We have demon taxonomy. He talks about “this type”, and “type” could easily be rendered as “genus”, as in genus and species. Jesus has classified this demon, and has field notes on how to handle them. It reminds me of Harry Potter and the different types of dragon in The Goblet of Fire.

But what is even weirder, Jesus says that this kind has to be expelled with prayer, but there is no prayer in the description of the exorcism.

All in all, we are compiling a fair number of details about magical practice in the First Century. In his Antiquities, Josephus called Jesus a “wonder worker”, and R L Fox was very clear that wonder workers were a common site in this era, so Mark may have seen more than one on his own. And let us not forget the infamous Simon Magus of Acts. I mention all of this because it’s sort of a dusty little nook that doesn’t often see the light of day in discussions of the NT, or even religion as a whole.

Sometimes I think that, as residents of the ‘scientific’ 21st Century, we find it hard to credit that our ancestors could believe in such nonsense as magic. Hence the spate of  ‘scientific’ examinations of non-natural events in the past; for example, I saw something on The History Channel (or similar) about the witch craze of the 1500-1600s. The show took great pains to try to convince the viewer that it was all due to ergotism, a fungus that grows on cereal grains. When ingested, it can cause symptoms similar to those described in the trial records. But to try to write it off like this is an incredibly narrow-minded attitude. People believed in witches; people still believe in magic of all sorts.

Passages like this are invaluable for historians; everything written contains certain assumptions that the writers and their contemporaries held; these assumptions are baked right into the words. A bit of examination and reflection will reward the careful reader with real insights into what people actually thought and believed 2oo or 2,000 years ago.