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.

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.

About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on May 25, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. To a Jew, a “child” would be someone not yet responsible to the Law, whether directly (as a male) or indirectly (as a wife).

    Were there any pagan equivalents to the Jewish Bar Mitzvah and Catholic Confirmation ceremonies?

  2. Thinking back to my anthropology classes, pretty much every culture has some sort of rite of passage to signify the transition to adulthood. One thing in Athens was joining the ephebes, sort of a pre-military group of adolescent males. This happened in or around 16; at eighteen, IIRC, they were eligible for full-blow military service. The Romans had a ceremony where the boy took off his childhood garments and put on the toga, showing he was now a member of the community. This also involved offering the first clippings of his beard to one of the gods. I’m hazy on the details; this is the sort of stuff you learn in a first-year language course and then never run across again. I would have to dig out my Ecce Romani books for sharper clarification.

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